Before you start reading this you should know this is mostly opinion:
- Don’t listen to me because I don’t have any kids.
- The kids (THESE DAYS) I coach have a million more distractions than I ever had, which begs the question, what are the ramifications and adjustments for raising kids in this digital environment?
- As a former pro athlete and basketball coach of thousands of kids in the last 15 years, the kids, the clothes, the shoes, the words, and everything in between changes year after year. Nothing matters to me but one thing: their mindset.
- I observe kids with different mindsets, and I’ve growth mindsets are typically taught or modeled by the parents (or guardians). In other words, parents must lead by example.
So yeah, the people, parents, coaches, mentors, and grandparents that connect with the youth are very important. You if you are reading this; the teachers of America; the parents on Main Street, in the country, or in the city; the AAU and high school coaches that lead our youth; the poor, the rich, the ugly, the pretty, it doesn’t matter.
We can all lead by example:
Successful leadership and parenting comes down to the three things: 1. teaching and leading your kids how to fail, and grow by bouncing back with resiliency and effort. 2. playing with your kids and loving your kids unconditionally while setting boundaries 3. I don’t know three yet because I don’t have any kids.
But I do coach kids. All the time.
Teachers, coaches, mentors, and parents are doing the most important job our country and society has ever needed — to raise radically self-reliant, self-aware, disciplined, happier, emotionally intelligent, gritty little boys and girls that know how to keep a positive outlook on life; kids that know how to handle failure and bounce back from adversity with more effort.
Yet, I’m convinced USA is headed for the last place on chart of happiest (okay, another word for well-being) countries in the world. Why? Because our polarized value system and economic inequality. Because our media moves us like cattle at a burger company.
Yes, many of our values suck America, (no, not all of them) and if our values didn’t suck, maybe our well-being rating wouldn’t be so low. But since our well-being scores are so low, compared to our GDP per capita versus all other countries, I wonder: is it our materialistic and consumptive values or the constant distraction addiction to electronics? Is this the real reason we continue to diminish our lives, even as the growing gap between the rich and the poor accelerates?
Costa Rica is poor, has a huge gap between poor and rich, and does surprisingly well on the happiness/well-being scale (I really love traveling to Costa Rica for this reason).
I’ve lived outside this American value system for 12 years, in Europe and South America. Now that I’m back stateside, I question the value of the things I buy, the people I hang out with, and the jobs I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to define what values I stand for — and thus create the theoretical structure I build for my life — which includes my values for more time, autonomy, and freedom to live unconventionally.
In return, the execution of this unconventional life and thinking provide me with a structure of living whose byproduct is a higher sense of well-being and happiness.
If you can’t question your mindset as an adult towards new ways of living (investing in a rental), facing fears (going on that third world trip), doing something different (signing up for that class you always wanted to take), all of which will create more joy, freedom, and happiness, how will your kids know how to grow inside the American struggle?
One way to start down this path is to ask yourself this question: if this doesn’t add value to my life, why am I doing it, buying it, giving it my time, or watching it?
Another thing on my mind: it’s better to hear the truth.
Parents, mentors, coaches, can’t give a kid critical insights or truth without fear of another parent or kid getting sensitive about that truth.
All throughout life, failure happens constantly and yet, we don’t want our kids to ever fail?
Someone explain that to me.
Parents without the growth mindset don’t want to hear the truth because the truth can momentarily hurt feelings.
Working through hurt feelings, tough emotions, and failure is part of life. Why can’t parents allow their kids to fail, play, grow, and still help them learn grit, effort, listening, and leadership through real life encounters.
Bye all star mentality. Bye participation ribbons.
How about effort ribbons? Leadership ribbons? Grit and hard work ribbons? Not MVP medals and “you get to play with a bad attitude” mentality.
Just to get this off my chest, teachers don’t get paid enough.
My opinion: the very people that work with our kids the most get paid way too little.
Coaches, parents, mentors, community leaders, pro athletes, and the media all influence kids to build their values early and often. This is a huge task. But our media has shitty way of making it look like we are all trying to kill each other. Be on opposite sides. Teams. Nothing is black or white anymore.
How do we navigate this world with kids and still invest in timeless values, habits, and qualities that will help them succeed?
Turn off the phones?
Hack the computer lines?
Change the channels to something positive, while understanding there is a real discussion about what matters to you and your kids?
Our social media tries to make us compare ourselves to one another.
Trump (sometimes) divides us.
And radicals of liberalism demand ribbons for participation and take it personal when there is a loser and winner. I may have just made that up, but it seems like a truth.
Dear Highly Sensitive White People,
We are fine. We’ve been winning the genetic lottery for hundreds of years, we don’t need to make up for it with more sensitivity about displaying our own emotional fanaticism for anything but ensuring our next generation learns the values that will make them more successful, empathetic, and happy.
There is a spectrum of our society polarized by hate and emotional out rage, on both sides. Be angry about the fact we have less vacation than almost any European country in the world (off the top of my head). Be mad about our kid’s school fitness and gym class programs disappearing.
But let’s think about your kid’s future.
This life isn’t about only our feelings and our direction. I want kids to succeed at what they want do in life, not be put on anxiety meds, SSRI’s, while being told to conform to what society expects of them. Perpetuating the kid problem is kicking the can to the people that see your kids more than you and hoping they do a better job than you are.
More parents should lead by example, the kids I see that are a joy to coach and be around usually have amazing, engaged, positive, growth mindset parents.
So be the secret gummy bear juice. Draw the boundaries. Have fun, but create positive routines for learning new skills, habits, exercise, effort, and grit. Show them how to stay positive, engaged, and listen.
I am fortunate to know these types of awesome parents.
Success doesn’t start with intelligence, or passing on talents. Success starts with your kid creating joy through effort in learning and curiosity in the face of adversity. The ability to self-regulate, motivate yourself, demonstrate grit for something you want, while using self-awareness to auto-tune your direction is one of the highest forms of emotional intelligence.
Kids that can lead themselves, can eventually lead people.
Lastly, being able to learn new skill sets quickly and effectively prepares kids for success in a world where technology changes or doubles in capacity every 18 months.
Parents that only foster participation without applied passion or effort are losing the competitive drive to improve oneself. If real talk is needed to apply a kid’s passion as presently as possible, then critical insight (real talk) is the last defender for our youth in this great world of ours.
It’s why sports are so crucial — it teaches us through life lessons that
A. failure happens when we have shitty effort/passion, haven’t demonstrated grit for long enough, or
B. the other team was just better because they had more skills, talent, and had been practicing longer than you, which is okay, if you competed and fought.
Do we measure competition in youth enough, but have critical talks about about how to change the course of your success through GRIT, practice, and learning how to win?
Like with my startup HoopsLink Fitness, I actually hope someone smarter than me gives me critical feedback and says, “Trevor, no actually, I see what you are trying to do, but you are doing a shitty job. Do this instead. Practice this. It’s a healthier, more efficient way to do things.”
Like when I dated my first girlfriend, I thought, “Damn, I am such a good boyfriend. I got this beautiful lady, over-kicked my coverage, and she is so smart, funny, weird, athletic, beautiful — look at me now.”
I wish someone had told me, maybe even slapped me in the face and told me the real talk; that complacency in about anything is the curse of progress.
Unless of course, you are trying to relax. Then complacency is exactly what you need to do (which is also a very important skill to learn).
Progress isn’t greed, or money, or power, or status.
Progress is learning values that play inside the infinite game of happiness. This, my friends, is focused on the process, not the result.
Fuck the result, focus on the right type of effort!
Get your kids practicing new skills. Jumping in with effort into new challenging tasks. Demonstrating grit. And show them how you dooooo it while talking through their emotions, thoughts, and feelings as give you them critical feedback about how to do it in a different way.
Shit, parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there and I’m no parent.
Look, sports taught me critical things and qualities about life that will help your kids learn, succeed, and bounce back from failure.
My conclusive pro athlete parenting advice:
Show up to be their parent first, their coach second.
Do the work you love to do. Teach your kids how to jump forward and practice the growth mindset when it comes to building new skills.
Be an example of building grit and effort by teaching your kids the value of discipline, taking challenges head on, and doing things outside your comfort zone.
Figure out how to work together with a team of people from different backgrounds.