I wanted to start with a series entitled, “What Our Kids Teach Us About Leadership." Everyone loves those “aha” moments you get when you hear a great speaker or teacher. But how many times do we look for those moments from our kids?
Do you think I’m crazy? They’re there. They don’t sound like those moments from a polished professional — more like a series a high-pitched shrieks or a bunch of non-sense syllables. The amazing thing is that those moments are just as powerful as when you’ve paid a bunch of money to hear them from a pro.
My wife and I have been blessed to have two wonderful, amazing little girls who have taught us a lot. If you never thought kids could teach us a thing or two, I hope you enjoy . . .
When our oldest daughter, Ava, was a newborn, we had no idea when she was going to wake up from a nap. We’d be checking the mail, taking a shower, or in the middle of a book and she’d decide to let the entire ZIP code know she was awake. Of course, this made our dinner time look like Speedy Gonzalez inhaling his tamales to run from Sylvester the Cat. If we didn’t devour our entire plate in exactly 52 seconds, we weren’t going to get back to our food until well after it was cold. So how did we adapt? We ate our entire dinner in 52 seconds! I think one time I hit 49 seconds, but my wife Carey said I cheated. As Ava got older and saw us inhaling the plate, she picked up the same habit.
Then she turned 3 and something amazing happened. She decided that 52 seconds was too quick. She felt dinner should take 52 hours. All of a sudden, a spoonful of mac and cheese would be stretched out more than an opera song. I tried talking her down to 49 minutes, but she said that’s cheating. And so it began.
We had fallen into a routine of finishing our food quickly and then working on the dishes or picking up the kitchen while Ava took 51 more minutes to savor her meal. Then one night it hit me — she’s onto something! I have been fortunate to take quite a few business trips to Europe, and it takes them two to three hours to eat dinner. But what do they do during those hours? They enjoy each other’s company, socialize, and rest.
We get so hurried in our lives that if we aren’t talking on the phone, Facebooking, working, and feeding the kids all at the same time, then we’re somehow not measuring up. What if we slowed down to enjoy our dinner as a family? What would happen to our kids as they grew up knowing that mom and dad are truly interested in what they did that day instead of just asking the obligatory, “How was school?” Of course, it’s become perfectly acceptable to answer with “fine” and move on from there.
Let’s try an experiment.
Eat slowly like Ava for a week. Do it at work, with your friends and at home. Take the time to truly connect with the people you are with. How much more substance is there with the relationship when you don’t just accept “I’m fine” and you truly see what’s going on? I’m willing to bet that you'll learn a little bit more about those people that you didn't already know.