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This past week I had the chance to hang out with a group of teenagers and I caught myself listening and absorbing way more than contributing and talking. I’d like to tell you that I made this decision with deep thought and wisdom, but it was truthfully my wife Dana telling me to “keep my mouth shut, just let them talk and act invisible.” I do fancy myself a pretty good listener, but acting invisible was a tad tougher, see picture above, might have failed that part of the assignment.

As a student of life, I gleaned three “things” from listening all week.;

Our Future is Bright.  

Once you get past some of the way discussions happen, and listen to the embedded conversation, our kids are way smarter at 16, 17, and 18 than many of us were. Their thinking is broader and much richer. They seem much more in tune with what is happening in the world than I ever was. Technology, for the good, plays a big role in this. Through social media platforms, they are exposed to worldly issues, political issues, national issues, social issues and much more. A lot of times we focus on the negative of social media, but there is also a lot of positive. We had discussions about deficits, China, racial equality, stock markets, EVs (yes, we did), sports, friends, boys and girls. Technology has shrunk the world and expanded their minds. Based on the knowledge and thoughtfulness I listened to last week, our future is bright.

The World is Complex.

It was great to listen to how “worldly” the teenager’s thoughts were, but it also made me think, “how complex a world they are growing up in?” Back in my day, the conversation would have been about sports, friends, boys, girls, cars and college. I honestly don’t think I am downplaying my generation, we were smart too, but without the same technology we didn’t have the same level of knowledge of world affairs. And I am not sure that was a bad thing. I grew up more simply. It seems like with the increased access and knowledge, they are also growing up with a greater burden…..or opportunity. So, my second conclusion was these kids are growing up in a very complex world, but they appear to be thriving in it.

Kids are kids.

Some things never change. The world has changed, technology has changed but at the core of a 16- or 18-year-old, you still have the same general principles at work. Smart one minute debating corporate social responsibility, and “young & dumb” the next. And I say “young & dumb” with great love, affinity and a splash of envy. At times I saw genuine grown-ups, and at other moments I wondered if I had done a good job with my kids and wondered about the parents of my kid’s friends – in a “how did they do that” kind of a way. The ability to not see a mess, when there is a big mess, the ability to be tired, shortly after sleeping 8 hours, the ability to be bored, minutes after getting off a 4-hour ATV ride, and the ability to generally answer any question with “I don’t know” have been preserved and are alive and well. Phew!

In the end, the biggest lesson I learned this week is that time flies by and to cherish every moment with family. Our family is our core, our family is our balance, our family is our legacy. We all come from different families, some Norman Rockwall-ian, and many not so kind. But the family we create, is our choice. And we make that choice every day by the choices we make every day. Are we present? Do we tell them we love them? Do we listen? Do we encourage them? Do we seek to understand before being understood? Easy yet tough questions.

I still remember in 2002 at a board meeting in Silicon Valley, I announced that Dana was pregnant and that we were going to have our first child. After the meeting, my favorite board member walked me back to my office and told me a few things that stuck with me the rest of my life.

  1. You are about to get the best title of your career and it’s not CEO, you have that, it’s DAD.
  2. Being a parent is the toughest job you will ever have, but the most rewarding.
  3. Every job you have held, has prepared you for the next job. Nothing has prepared you to be a parent. You have the least amount of experience of any job you have ever held.
  4. You will be a great Dad, follow your instincts, your instincts are unconditional love.

So, when my son flipped over our ATV, pictured above, and we were hanging upside down, all I could think of is unconditional love and laugh, which made him giggle like when he was a small 5-year-old boy riding a tricycle, not a 250 hp ATV.

Enjoy your JOURNEY in life and remember,life is not a dress rehearsal.




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