Opportunity is a confusing concept.

169How do you really know what is in the best interests of your kids?  They aren’t you, and each one is so different.

Every parent wants the best for their kids, regardless of who the parents are and regardless of their circumstances.

We want to provide opportunities we might not have had ourselves.  And if we cannot provide our kids with opportunities whilst they’re growing up, we sure as hell want to be able to set them up for their future.

But opportunity is a very relative term.

Many parents in South Africa would like nothing more than to provide for the basic needs of their children. A roof over their kids’ heads, regular meals, or maybe just a flushing toilet and a basic education of sorts. Let alone their own bedroom and the latest Transformer or Barbie doll.

Poles apart, you’ll find wealthy parents who believe that opportunity means expensive private schooling, international tertiary education, and pretty much anything else that their money can buy.

Somewhere in the middle the average parents encourage their kids to play sport, pursue cultural interests, and get good grades. Opportunity for these parents relates to social status, religious life-ever-afters, and perhaps even any passport other than a South African one.

My viewpoint as a dad is that all of the things I’ve mentioned above – whilst I’m not knocking any of them –  mean very little  unless your children feel loved, important, and secure in who they are. And to a very large extent that’s your job as a parent.

What I know for sure is that opportunity is not necessarily a thing, an object to be provided, a certificate, or a piece of paper.

I’ve seen far too many young adults fail because they were spoilt and over protected. They never learned to face their fears and overcome failure because mommy or daddy always jumped in to shield them from the ugly side of life. Standing on your own two feet is pretty hard when you’ve never had to do it before.

I’ve seen far too much wasted potential resulting from a total lack of parenting stability. One or both parents MIA. One or both parents emotionally unstable. Parents who just don’t spend enough time with their children, or who force adult issues on their kids.

And I’ve seen far too many graduates battling to pay the bills because they are academically brilliant but suck at life skills and interpersonal relationships.

From where I stand, the greatest gift is the gift of self-belief, of self-confidence and of independence.

Gifts that come from parents who encourage their children to dream, to believe in something greater for themselves, and to believe that there is absolutely nothing that they cannot achieve if they are prepared to believe and work hard. Parents who encourage as much social interaction as possible, and encourage their kids to be independent from a young age.

Parents who provide stability, predictability, dependability, security, and solid roots. Who promote emotional independence, positive habits, and routine.

Parents who impart mechanisms for the handling of failure and of defeat. Because defeat and failure are inevitable.

And preferably, two equally involved parents, no matter if they live apart.

girlsSkill-sets can be learned, passports can be gained, money can be earned, but self-confidence is hard to develop later in life. Ask me, I know all too well. I have struggled most of my life to develop self-confidence.

Consider for a moment the tycoon, Donald Trump. All the money and power in the world, but still such an insecure, small man inside. Hence the trophy wife, the comb over and the need to splash his power and influence across the globe. His need to defend himself by bullying his haters on Twitter.  All hinting at compensation for a lack of self-confidence and needs that were not met as a child. My opinion only I admit…

Would I wish that for my children? Absolutely not!

Intrinsically we are subjective beings, and it’s almost impossible not to project our own fears and shortcomings onto our children, but our job as parents is to do our damnedest not to.

I intend to keep trying my best. Only time will tell.

 

 

 

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Self belief has to ooze from your pores, your very being.

IMG_20140125_114256When I was little my teacher once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I didn’t become a fireman, nor an astronaut, and I am not Batman – well nobody has ever seen Batman and me in the same room…
Instead I am something I never imagined I would be. And I kinda got here by default. Stuff just sort of happened. I don’t regret it, I love what I do! But at some point I stopped believing that anything is possible, and I’ve held myself back from all sorts of things as a result.

For most of us, the last time that we truly believed we could do anything we set our minds to was at the age of 6.

We were moulded by life, by choices our parents made, by choices we made, where we grew up, and by the generally subjective opinions of the influential people around us.
No Richard, you can’t do maths, you’re not smart enough. Really? No Richard, you wear glasses, you can’t become a swimmer. Really? No Richard, she’s too good for you, set your sights lower. Well maybe….

And so it continued.

Some of the constraints were real, some were obstacles that others had experienced in their lives, and the intent was to protect me from experiencing the same disappointments myself. That is a natural, understandable, and although good intent, it is not necessarily in my best interests. The reason is simple, I am not you.

1743689_704539719566636_1543313980_nUltimately though, my biggest constraint has been the person looking back at me in the mirror. My own lack of self-belief and lack of self-confidence has been the greatest inhibitor on the journey my life has taken.

As much as I would like to blame those around me for robbing me of the ability to believe in myself, especially in those hugely influential formative years, the power to change that has been in my hands ever since. It is hard to realize how great that power is when you’re trapped in a mire of self-denigration.

So essentially it is the biggest word in the English dictionary that has tripped me up – fear.

Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of disappointing others and fear of not being good enough are just some of my fears. I have always put huge pressure on myself to do everything ‘right’. Now there’s a play on words… But right in whose eyes, and what is right anyway!

As a deep thinker, and an intense over analyser of life and stuff in general, it is easy to get caught in the trap of trying to figure out what caused my lack of self-belief, and how best to turn it around. I have a doctorate from the University of Over Analytical Thinking.

But the fact of the matter is that no amount of philosophizing will affect one iota of change. In the words of Richard Branson – a man who was handed a raw deal in life and who believed in himself enough to change it  – “Screw it, let’s do it”

Besides, what have you got to lose?

Failure? Rejection? Disappointment?

Ironic that we fear the very things that already prevent us from succeeding.

Waiting for others to believe in you before you dare to believe in yourself is a recipe for failure. But that’s what we do. We wait until we’ve already proven ourselves, not realising that that is failure in itself, and I know all too well the disappointment that accompanies the look in the eyes of the man looking back at me in the mirror.
Most of us live our lives based on what we already know to be true. And so our life becomes a repeat of exactly that – our past – a comfort zone if you will. We keep making beef lasagne because we know we’re already good at it.
Our comfort zone is not the place where magic happens. Magic happens when you step outside of that zone.

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When you come into contact with someone who oozes self-belief from every pore (not arrogance and not attitude, but a genuine self-acceptance and self-confidence) it’s hard not to believe in them. In fact, dare I say it, it’s nigh impossible. Self-belief is contagious. I believe in you, because you believe in yourself!

It is not too late to become all you ever wanted. Because ultimately what you wanted was to feel that anything is possible. To feel capable. To feel the confidence associated with a deep seated belief in whom you are.

The secret is simple. Stop wasting time whining and trying to figure it out!
Screw it, just do it! Make a conscious decision. Today!

You truly do have nothing to lose.