Last Tuesday, my daughter Madeline and I were in the car together — on our way to t-ball practice — when she piped up from the backseat. “I don’t want to go to practice, I already know how to play t-ball. I’ve eee-ven played in games before, Daddy”
From the mouths of babes …
She’s right though. She does know how to play t-ball. And based on the three hours that I spent out in the hot sun, last Saturday afternoon, watching t-ball tryouts [penance for being the head coach], she’ll likely be one of the better players on the team this year.
But that’s beside the point.
My reflexive, 6pm-after-a-long-day-with-two-kids, voice wanted to spin around and say, “Madeline, don’t be crazy. Remember how much fun we had last year? You’re gonna do great. Besides, you asked me to coach and that’s the whole reason we’re doing this again.”
But, of course, I didn’t.
Knowing that Madeline hangs on every word, I’ve learned, or perhaps more appropriately I should say, I am learn-ing, to watch my responses. With her, each message sets a standard or worse yet, an expectation.
Instead, I shared with her a story about how, in college, at the age of 20+, I used to spend hours each week hitting balls off a tee — repetition after repetition after repetition. And then I told her, “Did you know that the objective of going to practice is not actually to get great at t-ball?”
Naturally, this threw her for a loop.
See, both my wife, Kristin, and I are always harping on the importance of intentional & consistent practice, as a means to improve at anything. And it’s a tough sell. Madeline’s a typical six year old and it’s the rare activity that can hold her attention for more than 20 minutes at a time.
“No,” I told her, “the objective is not to get great a t-ball. The objective is to show up ready to give great effort, push through, learn new things, and continue to grow.”
Because there is a whole world of opportunities past t-ball.
It might be softball or dance team, track or theater, choir or basketball . . . I have no idea what she’ll be interested in, down the line. But what I do know is that, in my eyes, the goal in any endeavor is not necessarily to master that one domain, as much as it is to use the experience as a stepping stone for whatever new challenge is on the horizon.
It’s the whole growth vs. fixed mindset discussion that Carol Dweck talks about in her book Mindset.
She writes, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach them to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning. That way … they will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
I know, growing up, I was not conditioned that way. Nor is it the prevailing discussion that the world is having today. And as a result, I find that each day, it’s a decision I must make, to not only pay lip-service to the growth mentality but to model it — in action.
Yesterday afternoon I met with Tim and Maureen. Back in the summer of 2013, I helped them sell their home in Cedar Park and purchase a condo in Avery Ranch. This go round we were meeting to take a closer look at options and strategy for a property that Maureen inherited from her parents last year.
It’s actually the third time we’ve met but the first time we’d sat down to talk numbers and opportunities. I spent the better half of my day on Wednesday reviewing pre-listing inspection reports, combing through market data and establishing three tiers of options for them to look at, in terms of the financial viability of repairing, remodeling or selling the home as-is.
I could have chosen to wing it. They know me well enough and quite frankly, after ten and a half years, I know the ins and outs of real estate. As Madeline might put it, I’ve eee-ven sold houses before.
But the fact is, my job is NOT to sell houses.
As I see it, my duty is to immerse myself in each client’s situation. To help spot the opportunities. To advise from an informed position. To help determine the best course of action. And to use my knowledge, resources and experience to contribute to a better outcome.
There’s an adage that states, there’s a big difference between having ten years of experience and one year of experience, ten times over. I think it all boils down to the mindset with which you attack your work.
At heart, I am a teacher. A coach. And I believe the best teachers and coaches are the ones with enough humility to realize that there is a whole world of things that they don’t know they don’t know.
There is a certain power and a freedom to being able to admit when the answer lies just outside of your grasp of expertise.
As Dweck writes in Mindset, “An extraordinary teacher is not interested in teaching. She’s interested in learning … alongside the students.”
In that way, the practice always serves a purpose. And for that reason, I will always attack my work as if I am learning for the first time. I know that skills are the hinges that swing big doors.
But more importantly, I know that Madeline is always watching.
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