On Habits and Systems

Son,

::Fireside Chat::

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There is a lot I want to teach you in life, but one of the most important things I can tell you about achieving your goals is to set habits and systems in place early and often. Here’s why:

[sips whiskey]

If you have a dream, which we adults call “goals,” then the only way to achieve that dream/goal is to set systems and habits in place to reach that dream/goal. If your dream is to be an astronaut, then the only way to do that is to learn as much as you can as often as you can about space, astronauts, NASA, etc. You can’t want something bad enough without putting in an equal amount of action to make it real.

[pats you on the back]

You’re too young to worry about this now, but this is something your mom and I are trying to do to ensure that you have every opportunity to realize whatever dreams you have as you grow up. We are making new habits and systems for ourselves in what goals we’re trying to accomplish for ourselves, as well as habits and systems as parents to ensure you have the best childhood.

And the best childhood doesn’t mean you’re happy and laughing 24/7. Here’s an example:

When you were young (you’re 1, so saying when you were young sounds funny), your mom bought video that taught us how to create sleep habits for you. This system allowed us to teach you how to sleep, and now you are a rock star sleeper, at least at night, which allows you to wake up every day with energy and that big smile on your face.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits

I love the above quote because it is so true. Goals are not reached because of one massive action that you take, day after day, because that is not sustainable. You’ll burn yourself out and eventually relapse. Find a system that allows you to be happy, and set that trajectory upward.

[sips whiskey; jingles ice in glass; finishes whiskey]

Like I said, this is all for down the line. Your mom and I will worry about setting systems in place as parents for you now, and you’ll hopefully take our example and set them up for yourself once you’re ready. All you have to do now is continue to be you, maybe be you without throwing your food on the floor so Rogue can share your dinner with you, but otherwise be you.

The last thing I’ll say about habits and systems is that they encourage you to take your time, which is something I want to make sure you do in life. The key is to take your time while always taking action. Don’t procrastinate, but understand that small actions early and often will lead to big changes later in life. Effort is compounding.

[stands up and ushers you toward the door]

Now get some rest son.

I love you.

-Dad

 

On Growing Up

Son,

There is going to be a time when you grow up. It seems like it happens a little bit each day, and I look back a month ago at who you were and it blows my mind how much you’ve changed. I think that growing up is something that is so much more apparent when you’re young, but seeing you grow into a little boy reminds me that we’re all growing up a little bit more each day.

There is going to be a time, maybe 18 or 19 years from now, when you and I sit down and listen to a John Mayer album called Continuum. The whole thing is about John growing up from your 20s into his 30s, but also about how that looks from his dad’s point of view. As we listen to the songs, I am going to remind you that while time feels like it drags on in the moment, there is a much bigger picture with a much bigger story to learn from.

Right now, you’re in the room next to me fighting a nap. You have your whole life in front of you and it’s been the best thing in the world seeing you grow from an infant into this little boy that I love so much. I think your mom wants to hit the pause button and keep you young forever, but I am most excited to learn, teach, and grow together with you.

Because that’s the thing. Until your mom and I got married, I kind of felt like I was growing on my own. I had my own things and sure, my parents guided me in a lot of ways, but I never felt like it was something that we did “together.” Then when your mom and I got together, it felt a little bit like we were on this single path. We stopped eating meat together. We focused on happiness, fitness, and then family. Now that you’re here, I feel like this whole new stage of growth is happening to all of us.

I love seeing you learn things by experiencing them. I love seeing you stand next to a door, look around, and decide whether or not to try stepping away from the door. I love seeing you laugh after you get everyone’s attention by clap-clap-clap — pause — and go about your business. You are going to be something else as you continue to grow, and I can’t wait to be by your side as long as you’ll let me.

Growing up is something that only seems to happen in the past. Plans, dreams, goals all happen ahead of us, but growth is only realized by looking backward. If I could teach you one thing, it would be that growth DOESN’T actually happen in the past, but it is a constant in our lives. You are growing all the time, developing all the time, and evolving into who you are and who you’re meant to be all the time. Growth leads us to where we want to go, and it’s so important to realize that as you make daily decisions in the present.

Now that you’re done fighting your nap and settled in, I’m also reminded that it is OK to slow down. Growth might be happening all the time, but we have to be OK to take a step back, take a good nap, and reset.

I love you with every part of who I am, who I’ve been, and who I’ll be. You are my absolute favorite thing and you always will be. Don’t be afraid to be who you are, and understand that you can still grow up and be the goofy, super-smart, amazing person that you are and will always be.

-Dad

On Starting With The End In Mind

On Starting With The End In Mind

Son,

There is a line in an Avett Brothers song that goes, “When nothing is owed or deserved or expected, and your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected. If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected. Decide what to be and go be it.”

Hopefully you will appreciate the Avett Brothers when you’re older because, if not, your mom, dad, Aunt G, and team Mayberry will all be very sad at you. But even if you don’t like the band, there is a lot of truth in that line, particularly the first and the last parts. To illustrate my thought, I want to focus on the last line, “Decide what to be and go be it.”

Decide what to be and go be it

When you start something with the end in mind, you are working toward a goal and you’re free of circumstance. No matter what each day brings, you can navigate the challenges by deciding what action you take will get you toward your goal. Decide what to be doesn’t have to mean what your career will be, but decide what kind of person you want to be, and live each day in a way that makes that a reality.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t… you’re right.” — Henry Ford 

Perspective is a powerful thing.  I think when you’re young, and even a lot of people who are older, you can’t grasp the gravity of what these expressions mean. You might hear it, and say, “yea, I get it.” It’s the same thing as when I would tell you to start with the end in mind. If you take it to heart and adjust your perspective so that you make that expression a rule you operate by, you will find that you achieve those things you set out to achieve — you reach the end instead of stall along the way.

As you grow up, I promise to teach you to take on challenges with the end in mind, whether it be in sports, school, relationships, or anything else you ever need help with. I will show you how to visualize the things you want, and let the goal be your compass that guides each decision you make along the journey.

Decide what to be a go be it, son. And if you have confidence in what you want to be, there won’t be any person, situation, or circumstance that will keep you from that goal.

 

On Music, Rhythm, and your Mom’s Singing

On Music, Rhythm, and your Mom’s Singing

A yin-yang is a symbol that is shaped like a circle that is split into two parts — one side black and the other white. Within each side of the circle, there is a smaller circle of the opposite color, and it’s meant to represent the idea that there is good and bad (lightness vs. darkness) inside each of us. The idea is that nobody is 100% one thing — there is always a little bit of something else in every aspect of our lives.

Often times, a yin-yang can represent a relationship between two people. A perfect example of this can be understood with your mother and I, and our relationship toward music. You already know that I play guitar and sing.

I was never meant to give Justin Timberlake a run for his money in the talent department, but I do OK for it just being something fun that I enjoy. Your mom has rhythm. She can dance, shake her booty, and find a beat to just about any song and come up with some pretty entertaining/interesting/interesting moves.

The yin-yang of it all is that your dad can’t dance, and your mom…

bless

…can’t sing (sorry babe).

Now I can bop around with you when we’re listening to music, and your mom can surprise me sometimes by hitting some notes when she’s feeling it (aka – wine), but for the most part, we are just two opposites that kind of make a musical whole (it’s why we’re a good match).

My hope for you is that you get the best of both worlds, and are a musical triple-threat — sing/dance/play. Even if you choose not to do any of those things, I hope that you’ll find a love for music through your mom and my efforts to sing, play, and dance with you as often as we do.

Bonus points if you follow my tastes in music. Your mom and I also have a little yin-yang when it comes to musical tastes. Her side is full of Timberlake, Beyoncé, things she used to dance at the club to in her red hat, and girl-anthem songs spanning the last 30 years (Janet-Clarkson). My side is a HOF-worthy playlist of modern classics, all-time great artists, and the unsung heroes that make up the fabric of quality music. You mom appreciates a few of the things that I play, and I will grant her that Timberlake has some ability.

 

 

On Fear

Why I won’t let fear hold either of us back.

On Fear

When you are young, fear is a very real thing. Right now, you are afraid of your mother or I stepping away from you because you lose your sense of space. Your arms lock out and your eyes show genuine fear. As you grow, your fears will change into things your mind imagines, like scary things in the dark or movies about monsters.

Older still, you’ll begin to fear things like lost friendships, lack of popularity, or embarrassment in front of classmates. Then grades, girlfriends, money… If you are like your mother, you’ll be afraid of leaving your hair straightener plugged in or a candle lit, which will ultimately lead to the house burning down along with half the neighborhood.

The point is, there will be fear present in your life, in one form or another, for your entire life. It’s OK to be afraid, but the key is to not let that fear stop you from doing whatever needs to be done.

Let’s say you get a little older and have a fear of the dark — the unknown can be scary sometimes. When it’s time to go to bed, you might be afraid of things your mind might make you think is there. But you can’t let that stop you from getting a good night’s rest. That is what needs to be done, and you have to believe that you are braver/stronger/capable of defeating any monster that is dumb enough to hide in the dark in your room. Plus, you should remember that I also have special powers that can detect monsters anywhere within 100 miles from home, and if one came into your room, I would beat him up and send him back to Monsters, Inc.

Fear has a funny way of keeping people from doing things they want to do when they’re older. Grown ups get comfortable doing things that they don’t really like to do because it’s easy or they know how to do it. Just because we know how to do something, doesn’t mean we like doing it. We do something for so long, we are afraid to do something else sometimes because we have a fear that we will fail at it.

Grown ups have a great imagination when it comes to failing at things. We are afraid to exercise because we think we’ll hurt ourselves. We are afraid to leave our job because we fear that doing the thing we love to do won’t work out. We have a constant fear of not being good enough, so we continue to do the things we hate because there is comfort in complacency (that is a word that means doing boring things over and over and over again).

Here is the point of all of this. If I ask you to not be afraid of the dark, I should also ask myself to no be afraid of doing the things that scare me. Sometimes, starting something new can feel like standing at the bottom of a mountain that you need to climb. You might think that it will take forever, or that it would be easier to turn around and start your climb tomorrow/next week/ next year, but the truth is, the more you climb, the small the mountain begins to look. And before you know it, you’re at the top.

Here is my deal with you, son. If you promise to be brave whenever you are afraid, then I promise to do the same, and we both will achieve everything we set our minds to.