It seems appropriate to share this with you on Father’s Day. It’s something that’s come to me as I’ve blundered through being a dad. It’s one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. Fortunately, the difficulty has been commensurate with the value.
When my daughter was a little less than a year old, she, like all babies, was struggling to stand and take those first steps. I would walk behind her, her hands wrapped tightly around my forefingers to provide some stability, and together we would walk.
Of course, I was handling most of the balancing. She was just putting one foot in front of the other and sort of lunging. If I had removed my hands, she would have fallen. So I didn’t.
My mistake. Once I let her fall a couple times, she figured it out. And took her first steps.
Flash forward a few years. My daughter loved riding her bike and was ready to go sans training wheels. So we took them off. We started out slowly. I’d walk (then run) behind her, holding onto the seat so she wouldn’t fall. Every time the bike would start to tip to the side, I righted it and we kept going.
My mistake. Once I let her fall a couple times, she figured it out. And rode down the street, triumphant and training wheel free.
I’ve observed this pattern in our lives together many times. When I hang on too tight out of fear or protectiveness, she doesn’t grow. She doesn’t master something new. She doesn’t get to be all that she can be.
I know, as we approach the dating years, I am going to be painfully reminded of this lesson. And I know I won’t always heed the little voice in my head that’s whispering, "let go." But I’m going to try.
Beyond parenting, I believe the "let go" lesson is incredibly relevant in marketing.
We can craft our marketing messages and our brand promises until we think they’re perfect. But sooner or later, we have to let go. We have to recognize that it’s a conversation, not a monologue.
When we hang on too tight out of fear or protectiveness, nothing grows. We can’t master something new. And the relationship we’re trying to forge with our community of customers doesn’t get to be all that it can be.
What’s something that you held onto for too long? Or, tell us a success story of what happened when you let go.
Believe me Drew, my experience is that the the “let go” lesson is a constant struggle to learn. Someone once said to me she reminds herself that when she gives unsolicited advice to her children she is actually robbing from them the opportunity to learn. Wow. Pretty tough thought that I’m actually placing my discomfort at seeing them stumble above their own needs to have their turn at learning life’s lessons and taking their journey.
I’m always asking myself, “Is this reaction I’m having about me or is it something I’m doing out of love for them? If I’m just focused on me then I need to evaluate my mood, recognize it as a mood and know that it will pass. Things, most things, will be fine and my judgment of them is the only thing stressing me out. Mistakes are mostly opportunities to learn.
A few years a mother of a young man who was about to leave school asked me to coach him. She felt that his decisions about his future were not the right ones. I pointed out to her that as a coach I could not ( and would not ) influence his choice. What I would do would be to challenge him to think it through and understand it fully and then he would maybe be in a better place to explain to her that she should trust him on that. I bumped into him last week and he is about to graduate from the course he chose. He says his Mum is delighted!
I am a Mum of 2 grown up kids. I agree fully with Sherry – it is important for me to be clear if the “issue” is about me and my needs rather than them and theirs!
Drew, you’re making me tear up as I imagine my triplets (who will be 3 in July) growing up!
In terms of marketing, I can’t agree with you more. My motto as I’m creating a new marketing piece like an ad or brochure is, “it’s a throw away piece.” This reminds me not to get too close to the piece. It’s not a work by Shakespeare. It’s a brochure that most people will look at (hopefully) and toss in the trash can, not put in their photo album to treasure forever (unless they’re my mother).
Strong lessons indeed. And so true of staff leadership. It is so hard to stand back and empower your team, but at the same time provide healthy coaching and inspiration. Finding that balance of neglect and overmanaging is a daily pursuit at home with my two children and at work with our team. But the rewards can bring tears to your eyes.
I suppose it is one of those life lessons that they say will make us stronger!
How do you see this concept in your work environment or for you is it just a personal thing?
First…I have seen your picture. You cannot be the Mum of two grown children!
Second…whether it is our kids or our customers — no one wants to feel powerless. Sometimes our desire to help just gets in the way of them helping themselves.
I like it — the “throw away” concept. It sure takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?
As for your three year olds — be careful not to blind. About an hour ago…my 14 year old was 5. ;-}
Triplets and you find time to write??
Hmm, I had been thinking about it more in terms of marketing efforts, but you are so right when you look at the concept from a staff perspective.
I can remember in my early days of running my company, I created a book club that was mandatory. (I know, I was a lot dumber back then.) Boy…did that bomb. But when left to their own devices almost all of my employees read the kinds of business and marketing books I would have prescribed!
Gosh had almost forgotten our discussion and was reminded by a google alert – everything happens for a reason – I have been overcrowding my 4 year old this last week – a valuable reminder this is. And thanks Drew flaterry is my favorite language.
Funny how life delivers what you need, isn’t it? Glad the conversation can still prove useful.