I would like to start by saying that I am not a parent, therefore, take this advice as you will.
During my freshman year of college I was approached by a fellow student named Steve who spoke to me about a summer internship opportunity. Over the phone, Steve told me all about this program where “the average student made $9000 for the summer and there was an opportunity for travel and gain college credit”. My parents raised me to live by my word and, because I had committed to going to this informational session without thinking twice, I went reluctantly.
It was here that a young woman named Megan went through her powerpoint on all of the advantages of the summer program. She informed me that this program was with Southwestern Advantage, a one hundred fifty year-old company based in Nashville that published educational systems made up of books and websites. Students were in charge of selling these products through a system of referrals and recommendations all over the United States. It was a twelve week long program where every student faced the challenge of working eighty hours per week while being away from their hometown. Here Megan claimed that the sales training and challenge would give me a great experience to show in my resume and share during interviews in the future while seeking employment after graduation. They mentioned the all-inclusive vacation awarded to the students who earned anything above the average of $9000 over the course of the summer. Megan enthusiastically explained the adventures of the northeast coast of the United States, where students could visit landmarks and participate in activities that the typical college student did not get to enjoy.
I listened and learned. I was intrigued by the idea of this company so I applied for an interview.
If you are still with me, I promise this is going somewhere.
Following the informational session, I realized not everyone is as open minded as I believed. It would be a lie to say that I was supported in my decision after mentioning this to my social circle. Skeptics lined up to chime in on how this whole program sounded like a scam. Everyone gave me their own version of the old “sounds too good to be true” mentality.
So, I decided to call the only people in the world who I knew would support me: my parents. Even this didn’t work out as well as I had planned. My mother was skeptical and my dad was indifferent. But I explained everything I had learned and everything I wanted to gain, and in the end I gained their support. They explained to me that they did their best to raise me in such a way that they hoped by now I had learned to make good decisions.
I got accepted as one of the 3000 students who were going to participate that summer. The first week I went through an electric crash course on sales. I was moved by the fascinating speakers and the incredible students that were also selected for the program. From there, I moved to upstate New York to a small town named Canisteo. I lived with two roommates (Steve and Josh) in a beautiful home owned by an elderly woman named Rita. Our host mom inspired us with her wonderful attitude and optimistic view of the world. I spent the entire summer approaching families and talking to them about the industry leading products that the company offered and was touched by the receptiveness of the people of the western part of the state of New York. I learned about connections, networking, and making effective first impressions. I learned how to run a business and to push my mind and body further than I thought I ever could. My skin turned to steel through the rejection of close-minded people who refused to sit with me for ten minutes to talk about education. I learned the value of treating everybody with respect regardless of their behavior towards me because simply put: it was not my place to judge a person’s character by their actions when I was clueless to what led to their behavior in the first place. I learned the importance of living by discipline and that hard work beats talent when talent does not want to work hard. I saw a part of the country that I had never seen before and visited some of the most astonishing locations on the planet; places like the Empire State building, New York City and Niagara Falls. I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane two miles off the ground and I lived to tell the tale. Most importantly, I met some life long friends that forever impacted my life for the better. These were the people who encouraged me and believed in me even when I did not believe in myself. These were the people who reminded me that life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent what you do about it. These were the people who showed me attitude isn’t everything, it is the only thing.
Then I came home.
Oh and about the money. I made $20,000, and although Universities would like to claim otherwise, I will never find a place where I can pay twice that amount, and from that same place gain half the experience that I did during the summer.
This experience is not the point I am trying to make. This is: Your children will never gain anything from your protection, however, there is nothing they can’t do with your support.
Let them fail. Let them fall on their face. All you have to do is be there to help them get back up.
After my first summer, I was selected to return as a mentor to other students on campus and have been doing so for the last four years. Through this process I found not all parents believe what mine did. I was raised to have an open mind. I was raised to understand one of the most valuable lessons I have learned: Life’s not about making the right choice, life is about making the choice right. I found that the parents of other students were a lot more skeptical near the point of aggression. I have dealt with students who had a strong desire to gain everything I have, and were instructed by their parents to not even consider the opportunity. I was shocked to see parents indirectly telling their sons and daughters that they had no belief in their abilities to succeed in adversity. Ridiculous.
Do not forget for a second that before and after you had children, you made mistakes. Likewise, do not forget the success you found from decisions you made against the instruction of the people you regarded as mentors, especially those who may have been skeptical towards your endeavors.
Your children will always see you as their greatest system of support. Be that. Their success will be the living representation of that support. They trusted you with your choices while growing up. Now that they have, you should trust them with theirs.
Let your kids live their life, not yours. If you have done well, they should know what is right and what is wrong. For that, they will thank you in the end.