Make Way for Youth

The ABC’s of Professionalism

What do kids have to do with a series of essays about professionalism? Everything! Let’s start with legacy. A professional takes his legacy seriously, knowing his “self portrait” will create a ripple effect through multiple generations. Youth, especially those within his circle of influence, are influenced by what they see probably more than anyone will ever know.

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
— John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America, 1983

“Young people need models, not critics…”
— John Wooden

“What we desire our children to become, we must endeavor to be before them”
— Andrew Combe

While children are especially aware of how adults manage their lives they also learn from their own experiences. Allowing children to participate with adults in challenging, real life situations is just as important as what they learn through observation.

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
— Abigail Van Buren

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”
— Stacia Tauscher, Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 1997, p. 57.

These are times influenced by the mindset that childhood and adolescence are periods of freedom from any real responsibility. “Let kids be kids — don’t rush them through their childhood.” reflects the predominant contemporary philosophy. As warm and fuzzy as this attitude seems, it is cheating our kids. There is a more significant role kids can and should be playing in the adult world long before they turn 21. If we don’t allow and encourage this, we are stealing their opportunities for success.

“Society doesn’t expect much of anything from young people during their teen years – except trouble. And it certainly doesn’t expect competence, maturity, or productivity.”
– Alex & Brett Harris, Do Hard Things, 2008, p.36.

“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
— Robert A Heinlein (1907–1988), American novelist, science fiction writer. Time Enough for Love, 1974, p. 270.

“Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s a long and challenging process, making responsible adults from helpless infants. Raising children means loving and respecting them enough to make personal, continuous, and substantial investments in their lives.

“If you haven’t time to help youngsters find the right way in life, somebody with more time will help them find the wrong way.”
— Frank A. Clark

A generous portion of this investment can be in the form of good old-fashioned fun. Children are usually better at fun than adults. Before they get hooked on video games, kids will spend hours exercising their imaginations by playing make-believe games. (Maybe they don’t know this is part of the learning process.)

“Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.”
— Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837), Italian poet, essayist, philosopher, philologist.

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”
— Walt Streightiff

“I always won in my imagination. I always hit the game-winning shot, or I hit the free throw. Or if I missed, there was a lane violation, and I was given another one.”
— Mike Krzyzewski

In the area of creativity, adults can learn from kids. In their spare time, adults could be engaging their minds with mental exercises instead of “vegging-out” in front of a television.

“That’s another thing, we made up games. We didn’t have equipment. When it snowed, we would play slow motion tackle football. We would play hockey, but we wouldn’t skate. We just made things up. I loved doing that.
— Mike Krzyzewski

At the risk of sounding like an advocate for child labor camps and sweat shops, I propose that a healthy childhood should also include a substantial measure of work. Children are not helpless creatures. They deserve the opportunity to mature and learn responsibility through work experiences.

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world”
— Maria Montessori

“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right”
– Bible, Proverbs 20:11

“If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.”
— Norman Douglas

Most kids are willing and even waiting to be challenged. When adults care enough to provide challenging opportunities, it is amazing to see how often kids meet our expectations. Set the bar low and that’s what they aspire to. Set it higher and they rise to meet it. How else do you explain 14-year old world class gymnasts, 18-year old world record holders, and teenage entertainment icons? Now, if we ever become as serious about our minds as we are about our sports and entertainment, watch out!

“Youth is a period of missed opportunities.”
— Cyril Connolly

Children are born with no fears — adults have many. Between birth and adulthood, something must happen to create fears where none existed at birth. The fact that we have the capacity for fear implies that it must have survival value. But, how many fears are irrational, unnecessary, and stifling? Which ones are caused by well-meaning parents trying to protect their children? How many could be avoided by helping children experience new things before they learn to be afraid?

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fear breeds fear.”
— Byron Janis

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
— Frank Herbert (1920-1986), American science fiction author. Dune, Litany Against Fear, 1965.

So, for the good of our children and the future of mankind, we need more adults to challenge our kids, nurture their creativity, and resist the temptation to shelter them from every difficult situation.

“In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”
— Ann Landers

There’s a second and perhaps less obvious reason for including youth in adult opportunities. Adults learn from kids. Children can introduce fresh creativity to a conversation. Their questions and comments can help adults see the world in a new light. A child’s innocent inquiry can cause an adult to rethink an old opinion or idea. Wouldn’t it be a powerful combination for adults to combine the benefits of their experience with the optimism and unconstrained creativity of a child?

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
— Pablo Picasso

“A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.”
— Author Unknown

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”
— Franklin P. Jones

“Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next.”
— Franklin P. Jones

So, what should we do? Here are four practical suggestions for adults who accept their responsibility toward our youth.

Say “Yes!” to Youth — When a child asks to join the party, let him. When he wants to help clean the garage, find a way to include him. Of course, not every project or adult gathering is appropriate for every child. My observation is that the more wholesome an adult’s lifestyle, the fewer gatherings are off-limits to children.

Invite Youth — People are sometimes leery about asking to join in — kids more so because they have been trained to believe they don’t belong. Adults probably need to make the first gesture and always with sincerity. Not every invitation will be accepted. That’s okay. Treat that first invitation is an icebreaker and keep on inviting. When the kids in question are not your own, invite them several at a time. There is safety and comfort in numbers.

Engage Youth — When children are included, help them feel the value of their presence. Ignoring them or treating them like they are “in the way” is not very uplifting. Introduce them. Brag on them. Include them in the conversation. Let them join the fun. If it’s a work project, give them a task and the appropriate responsibility. Show them how to be successful. Praise their efforts and results and help them improve as necessary. Treat them like partners.

Join Hands With Youth — Kids really can contribute. When we create in ourselves and in the minds of our youth an attitude of partnership, they will respond accordingly. As they reach their objectives, raise the bar. Give them more responsibility. Help them find opportunities to branch out on their own toward larger challenges. For example, demonstrating proficiency in cutting grass in your own yard qualifies them to volunteer their skills for an elderly neighbor or start to a yard care business.

Please don’t misconstrue these four ideas. None of them is intended to imply that adults should forfeit their rightful status as authority figures in order to make friends with children. Folks who trade authority for friendship will always lose respect during the exchange. The professional approach requires preserving one’s roles as parent, teacher, mentor, and/or coach.

George Zimmerman taught music first throughout the City of Dayton public schools and later at the University of Dayton. Many thousands of people, I’m guessing, know George as a musician, artist, writer, entertainer, teacher, broadcaster, organizer, and/or a great cook. Many also knew him during their childhood and young adult years as a mentor and friend. He excelled in teaching people to appreciate music and theater. George was also fond of inviting college students, two or three at a time, to his home for a special meal and pleasant conversation. I remember his home being filled with photographs and other artifacts of his personal treasures. What are these treasures? To this day, George’s trademark of professionalism is displayed in the kids he’s taught, his treasures. His life has been dedicated to taking excellent care of them and helping preserve, enhance, and showcase their unique qualities. Our youth need more friends like George.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
— Frederick Douglass

God Bless,

— CC

[ X=eXcellence | Index | Z=Zone ]

© Copyright February 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Joy Means “Grinning Inside”

[ I=Integrity | Index | K=Kindness ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Jovial: full of joy and happiness; merry”http://www.Dictionary.com

“Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.” — Melba Colgrove

Based on public image, whom would you rather hang out with, Woody Allen or Steve Allen? (Forget for a minute that Steve Allen is dead.) Both made a lot of money, achieved significant fame and are known for the funny things they said. Whom would you choose? (It’s okay to make a quick trip to Wikipedia before answering.)

“My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.” — Woody Allen

“Asthma doesn’t seem to bother me any more unless I’m around cigars or dogs. The thing that would bother me most would be a dog smoking a cigar.” — Steve Allen

If you like being with people who are jovial over people who are sour, then based on public personae, you would have to choose Steve Allen. The alternative, Woody Allen, is the poster child for the sad, lonely and pathetic human being.

In reflecting how joviality is linked to professionalism it becomes apparent that the journey of becoming a professional produces joviality. Joy is the fruit of a positive attitude, good character and other aspects of professionalism. In other words, joy is a personal choice.

“Who decides whether you shall be happy or unhappy?  The  answer — you do!” — Norman Vincent Peale, “The Power of Positive Thinking”

This raises the question, “Can someone who is unprofessional be jovial?” Sure. Joy is not a black and white condition. Joy occurs in shades of gray, reflecting the personal satisfaction someone feels in response to the amount of professionalism he has achieved. If it were possible to measure joy, psychologists might establish a joviality index with theories about how it rises and falls relative to changes in attitude. We would probably learn that the more professional a person is, the less volatile his hypothetical joviality index.

“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” — Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search For Meaning”

The greatest most enduring joy comes from knowing one’s life purpose and living accordingly. To me, purpose is a God thing. So is joy. God intends each of us to have joy and the path to joy begins by discovering His purpose for us. Joy is our reward.

“Someone once said there are two great days in life — the day you were born and the day you discover why.” — John C. Maxwell, “Success” August/September 2008

“In the world to come, I shall not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I shall be asked, ‘Why were you not Zusya?'” — Rabbi Zusya

“Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.” — Viktor Frankl

Now if God intends for us to be joyful and purpose is a precondition of joy, it follows that He must have installed in each of us the ability to discover and the capacity to achieve our intended purpose. In other words, potential accompanies purpose. Therefore, if ‘X’ is your purpose, by definition you have the capacity to fulfill it. More importantly, with potential being granted by God, you have the responsibility to put your gifts to use.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

“For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

— Bible, Matthew 25:14-30

Remembering that joy is an effect, not a cause, it follows that pretending to be jovial and pursuing joy for its own sake are both ill-conceived strategies. That’s not to say that we have no control in the matter. As long as we focus on the causes rather than the effect, there is much we can do. It’s the little things we do everyday that produce fertile soil capable of sowing and sustaining joviality. We choose our friends, television shows and movies, books and music as well as the places we go and ways we spend our time and money. Collectively, these seemingly trivial choices affect our professionalism level leading to changes in our joviality index.

“Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast.” — Norman Vincent Peale

“Nothing on earth is so well-suited to make the sad merry, the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing, to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate, as music” — Martin Luther

“The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy.” — Eudora Welty

In pondering life’s choices, it’s critically important to differentiate between pleasure and joy — they are not the same. “Looking for joy in all the wrong places” is a character flaw and contrary to the definition of professionalism.

“Joy comes from using your potential.” — Will Schultz

“I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.” — C.S. Lewis

“One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.” — Robert A. Heinlein

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” — Bible, James 1:2-3

“Joy is not in things; it is in us” — Richard Wagner

“A joy shared is a joy doubled” –- Unknown

“I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted to pleasure.” — John D. Rockefeller

Professionalism is defined internally by our attitudes and externally by our actions. To the extent that they move in a positive direction joy tends to increase and the joviality index become less volatile. What hasn’t been mentioned, but is probably intuitive is that this is neither quick nor easy.  Achieving professionalism is a lifelong, challenging endeavor.

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” — Kahlil Gibran

God bless,

— CC

[ I=Integrity | Index | K=Kindness ]

© Copyright October 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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