A few posts back, I referenced The National Outdoor Leadership School and something called the Time Control Plan. According to Bruce Martin’s Outdoor Leadership: Theory and Practice, “A competent leader develops a time control plan that matches the goals and ability level of the group. Time control plans can be developed for any adventure travel mode such as canoeing, backpacking, mountain biking, and so on.” I’ve always listed my education at NOLS on the top of my resume. I learned so much more than how to use a camp stove, build a snow cave, or set up belaying anchors. For almost 20 years, I’ve often remarked that what I learned about goal and people oriented planning, risk assessment, team dynamics, and task execution served almost as a wilderness MBA for me. I was very amused then, when I read Adam Grant’s 2013 business book Give and Take, a Wall Street Journal and New York Times Bestseller.
“in the world of mountaineering, it’s called expedition behavior. The term was coined by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), which has provided wilderness education to thousands of people, including crews of NASA astronauts. Expedition behavior involves putting the group’s goals and mission first, and showing the same amount of concern for others as you do for yourself.” Jeff Ashby, a NASA space shuttle commander who has flown more than four hundred orbits around Earth, says that ‘expedition behavior – being selfless, generous, and putting the team ahead of yourself – is what helps us succeed in space more than anything else.’ “
Not only have these lessons informed me as a business owner, manager, and coach, but they’ve also provided perspective and a realistic anchor to some of the many challenges I face as a father. Foremost on my list are:
- Forgetting what our goals are!
- Trying to do too much shit!
I guess both are different sides to the same coin. But they crop up on a constant basis. Do these sound familiar to you?
- “My child can’t tie his shoes. We just don’t have time in the morning to work on it.”
- “We probably don’t eat as well as we should. We just don’t have time to cook healthy meals.”
- “We don’t spend enough quality time with the family. What with our hectic schedules and lessons and appointments and recitals and activities.”
The questions I ask myself when I hear myself saying such things are
- “WTF else are you doing with your time?”
- “WTF exactly are you trying to accomplish?”
- “Is it that really effing’ important?”
My own mother will often fuss that her children really didn’t grow up with many useful skills. Before 7am she could cook, clean, run a business, babysit grandkids, fix a sink, climb a roof, climb a tree, cut the damn thing down, swing a hammer, go for a hike, and tell you all about it while you’re picking eye boogers out of your tear ducts and pulling your head out of your ass. And she’d do all of it in a sports bra, some mules, and a frigging bandana. But you were hosed if you asked her to teach you any of that stuff. As a kid, when she asked us to do something or if on the rarest of occasions we offered to help – we were often met with “Oh God – you’re taking forever (or not doing it right). Get out of the way. I’ll just do it”! She would say we were paspasali*.
We laugh about it now. She’ll complain about us being kind of lame and I’ll tell her: “You never taught us any of that stuff. You just said we were paspasali and shoved us out of the way. How the hell were we supposed to learn anything?” Like I said, we have a good laugh about it. And chat quite a bit about it now that I’m trying to raise my own kids. Just a few weeks ago, she admitted something interesting to me. My grandfather (who was a pretty cool dude) had so much patience with her. As a child, she would meddle with his things. She would grab his tools and ruin many of the projects he was working on. According to mom, he just smiled and let her do her thing. He would never get upset or punish her. He would wait for her to mess up, clean up after her, and finish whatever work he was trying to do. Eventually, she became pretty competent at stuff. Sounds like a dude who knew exactly what he was trying to accomplish. She said she wished she took more after her father. “Never too late” I told her, “You still got time”.
I have to constantly remind myself that bad management on my part is not the fault of my children. They don’t ask to be scheduled for 3 birthday parties on Saturday, Kumon, RexKwonDo, and interpretive trigonometric ballet hip hop. They’re not obligated to make nice with the Joneses because the Joneses have a pool or are on the PTA or the HOA. And they would happily spend an hour learning how to tie their shoes because it’s fun. Getting yelled at and being expected to do it in “five minutes because I’m leaving for school with or without you Mister” is not the best or funnest learning environment. I need to let them blow up the first dozen bowls of oatmeal in the microwave because it’s fun. And I need to show them how I clean it up. Because maybe, they’ll learn how to do it themselves. And isn’t that what we’re trying to accomplish? Isn’t that what’s really important?
By the way, this is totally random. But I think this is probably one of my favorite “parenting songs”.
*You linguists might find this amusing. Much like the Germans have a phrase for gaining pleasure from the misfortunes of others (schadenfreude), the Filipinos have a word for “Get the Fuck Out of the Way, You’re Making It Worse”! Paspasali! I thought that was our last name when were growing up.