Thursday, September 10, 2020

What would I do differently?

 Last week's article brought a rush of comments and suggestions. Thanks to all who contributed. The one that struck me the most though was from the Headhunter Dad's Dad who asked, "Would you do anything differently?"

Many of my friends responded saying that they are happy with their lives and would change nothing. I found that a bit pretentious and/or downright dishonest. At the very least it showed that they were not thinking seriously about the question and about all the different moments and decisions in their lives. My friends are not young, I hit 50 this year and most of my crowd are around the same age. It is just not possible to live for 50 years and not make mistakes. There are many decisions I would gladly change and there are certainly mistakes I made along the way.

I am convinced that I could get these friends of mine to admit that there are changes they might have made if I pointed the question away from them. If I asked them what advice they would give someone else who is faced with a similar situation or challenge. For example,  a friend who married young saying that he would not change that decision when faced with giving advice to a young couple might urge them to wait a little longer.  

But this question, "What would you do differently?" is too broad for this newsletter/blog. While the Headhunter Dad's Dad probably meant it in a broad sense, for the purposes of this article I am looking at it from the point of view of my kids and their future careers. Rephrased it would go something like this:

Is there anything I would have done differently that I think would have better prepared my kids for their future jobs and careers?

This is a more complicated question and it is made more difficult by the fact that my kids have still not started their careers. One is a freshman in college and the other is in the middle of middle school. Maybe everything I did was correct so far and they are the optimal path to a life of financial security and career gratification? It would nice if life worked that way and you had instant feedback on your decisions related to your kids. 

I am going to start with a few things I would not change. For one, I am happy with where my kids are with language. My wife and I seem to have done things well enough in that department to have raised two bilingual kids. Having a second language can certainly be a benefit to one's career and Japanese and English are a good job hunting combination. If my kids seek their future in Japan there is always a demand for bilingual talent and usually a premium in terms of salary as well.

Both of them are generous and friendly and are able to deal with people well. I am not sure how much credit I can take for this but I am going with the assumption that Mom and Dad showed them enough love and attention for them to feel good about themselves and therefore spread that out to others. We also must have set a good example of how to act. Kids are always watching and learn a lot more from what they see than from what we tell them.

While on the topic of my kids' personalities we can pivot to the things I might change. For one of them (to remain unnamed in case they read this) I would like to see more motivation and discipline. Motivation is a tricky one and I am still trying to figure out how to get the "yaruki" switch turned on but I think by being more disciplined in the home, the kids would have become more disciplined themselves. The other one could be more confident. I have written about confidence before and certainly try to follow my own advice but it is not easy to be consistent every day. I can recall situations where I resorted to yelling to push my kids to achieve something and it did not work out as planned. Certainly, those are moments I could have handled better.

Sports, interestingly, has a very positive effect on your kid's career options. It teaches teamwork, encourages discipline, builds healthy habits (leading to more energy), etc. Most of these benefits can come from just participating. There is no need to be a star. However, there are a few perks that come from excelling. The obvious financial one is the potential scholarship and entry in a prestigious university that might otherwise be out of reach. Yes, the name on your diploma is not the only thing that matters with a career but it certainly does not hurt. Additionally, the effort and discipline it takes to achieve a high level in a sport are visible to admissions counselors and interviewers. I am certainly aware of it when I see a resume and give additional points to such applications (all else being equal). For my elder one, I wish I had pushed harder on getting him out to practice in the mornings, maybe forcing myself to get up and do it with him. While other fathers were videoing and editing their son's games making montages to send to college coaches I was just sitting on the bleachers. It would not have been so hard to make that change.

When I started writing this article I promised myself that I would finish it on a positive note (again, because my kids might read it!). There are definitely mistakes that I made as the Headhunter Dad. Mistakes that a perfect career counseling father would have handled with finesse and vision. I am far from being a perfect father and with that said, I can only look in amazement at how well my kids have turned out. The biggest fear when faced with the question of "What would you do differently?" is that by making one small change, all the wonderful things you love about your family and your life might also change. I think that fear of losing what we have is why we respond with a confident "no, I would not change a thing".

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