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7 Life Lessons I Learned From My Son

7 Life Lessons I Learned From My Son

As much as I would like to think that I am a great shining influence on my son, imparting golden nuggets of sage-like wisdom from high atop my throne of adulthood and responsibility, I realize something every day; that little guy already knows way more about life and living than I could ever teach him.

Sure, he is full of all kinds of beautiful nonsense. He has an encyclopedia-like knowledge of the entire Pokemon universe, and he has decided that every car ride we take is a perfect opportunity to explain to me the nuances of that world. He can regurgitate an endless stream of Minecraft facts with such gravitas and sincerity that he sounds like he is reciting holy scriptures and ancient commandments. He is a normal kid in those ways. Children are mostly filled with useless crap that means the world to them, but doesn’t matter to the grand scheme of things, and they like to take every opportunity they can to tell everyone they meet about it.

Yet, every so often, if you are really paying attention, children are freaking brilliant! I mean, yogi-zen-sage-jedi brilliant! They say and do some shit that adults have no idea you can say or do and I love that part of being a parent; the fact that I get to learn as much as I teach. Parents and children are in a symbiotic relationship, just like any other, where we make each other better or worse based upon the things we see the other do and say. It’s a reciprocity of lessons, and if we take the time to pay attention, and filter through the crap, there is a lot we can learn. This is what I have learned so far:

Every rainy day is a good excuse to splash in some puddles.

Never be so tightly tied to a plan that, if it doesn’t go your way, it is the end of the world. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to stop the universe from conspiring to throw you some curve balls. Instead of cursing your luck, use it as an excuse to get messy and have some fun!

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I am a control freak. A planner. I hate when plans change or when something derails my plans. I plan to go to the zoo. I have exhibit maps, timetables, concession stand funds allocated, line length calculators memorized. I have this shit optimized. I have the freaking migratory patterns of the zoo crowds mapped out so that we can hit every exhibit without a crowd. I have committed to NASA-space-shuttle-launch amounts of preparation. And… then it rains. Of course. I throw a shit fit and my son just shrugs and says , “Ah well.” He doesn’t know or care about all the planning I did and all the hard work I put into making this zoo trip absolutely epic and mind blowing. He was able to forget about the zoo as soon as the rain came. He just wanted to splash in some puddles.

He didn’t tie everything into the zoo trip and therefore, when that plan was derailed by circumstances beyond our control, he saw another instant opportunity for some fun in something he didn’t even expect. His mind was free to just go with whatever came up. The time you spend cursing your bad luck because something out of your control happens could be time you spend splashing in the rain puddles of life and kicking up a storm of impromptu fun you never expected. As a general point of fact, non-metaphorical splashing in puddles is literal fun as well. You need to go do that!

There is no race, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation or other stereotypes. There are only people who are nice and people who are mean.

The only thing my son sees about people is their propensity for certain actions. He does not give a damn what race, what religion, what sexual orientation, whatever anyone is. All he sees is people who are mean to him and people who are nice to him, because people really have no more powerful identity in this world aside from that. He does not judge, he does not ridicule, he does not care. All he wants is someone willing to watch him play Minecraft and listen to his never ending diatribe of monsters you can kill and things you can build. If you do that, you are nice and you rate highly in his book.

Judgment is an adult disease, contracted in our teenage years, that typically spreads as we get older. It erodes our ability to see events and people clearly and to remember that each individual should be taken on their own merit of ability and action to be good or bad. I can not believe this lesson still has to be learned in this day and age and that children are the primary ones teaching it.

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Everyone is a friend. Unless they are mean.

This is related to the lesson above. As an adult my human radar is always set on paranoid mode. I am skeptical of people’s intentions and keep them a safe distance away so they can’t peek behind the curtain and see the crazy man running the show in my head. Children’s human radar, on the other hand, is always set to acceptance mode. They think everyone is worth getting to know and could be called a friend. As long as they aren’t mean, of course.

Kids are just not as jaded and cynical and mistrusting and they approach people in a way that gives them the benefit of the doubt. It usually makes their interactions with others more open, honest, raw and enjoyable. Now, I am not saying there are not bad people in the world. There are plenty. Be vigilant of them, but don’t assume the worst of everyone. It’s like never approaching any dog you see because you think you might get bit by one. Yes. Some dogs bite, but I would rather get bit by one bad dog than give up the joy of petting every crazy, fluffy, slobbering monster I meet!

The toys I paid a lot for, that are just for him, are never as fun as the cheap ones he can play with everyone.

Quality time is a valuable commodity these days. We have thought to replace the acts of simple togetherness with the constant, proximal isolation of technology, but if you look at most children, and you watch how they play, it will get you thinking.

It is usually the silly thing that they made up, but can all do together, that is the most enjoyable thing for them. They don’t care how much something cost, how well it is designed, the replayability. They only care if they can all be involved and all have fun, because they know that doing stupid stuff with a bunch of people is a lot more fun than doing stupid stuff by yourself. I don’t need to spend so much of my money or time on things or experiences that cost a lot and only I value. The things and experiences I spend my money or time on can be cheap, but made priceless, if the value is shared with the people I care about.

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Sometimes, you have to have dessert before dinner.

Because, stuff the rules! You can’t just go through life following all the rules and expect to have enough fun to satisfy your soul. Sometimes, you just have to say screw it and do something totally crazy, like having dessert before dinner. I just want to be clear that, I am in no way sanctioning dessert before lunch or breakfast. That is not cool under any circumstances. Although… breakfast dessert does sound pretty awesome…

Anyway, some rules are arbitrary and we only think of them as rules because somebody else told us to think of them that way. If you can look at all the things you do and ask yourself why you really do them, you are going to find some really arbitrary reasons for doing some stuff that you really don’t have to or want to do. Learn to break some rules and have fun with it. Just because it has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it that way.

A hug fixes everything.

I wish that hugs were a recognized currency among adults. I wish that I could hug my boss when I mess up at work. I wish that I could hug the lady at the DMV – who is so annoyed by a simple question that her face turns red and the vein above her eye starts bulging. Hugs make almost any sadness or anger or pain or wrongdoing smaller, because there is just no way you can hold on to it while you’re arms are filled with someone else. Physical contact of any kind is a mood stabilizer and antidepressant. Spread that medicine around, and get closer to the people you care about and who need you.

Why and how are the greatest questions there are.

Why can’t I go play outside? Uh, because there is a tornado warning and we are all going to stay in the basement and constantly refresh every weather app we have to make sure we are safe. But why? Because tornadoes are dangerous and they can seriously hurt people. How? They hurt people by moving at really high speeds and destroying everything in their path. Why? Because that’s just what they do! I don’t know why! Do I look like damn meteorologist?! Go play outside!

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Kids want to soak up as much as they can about everything. The world is a place to be discovered; to be questioned and probed and understood. How and why are two incredible questions that can foster a lifetime of learning. I secretly love when my son asks me how and why, because it forces me to think deeply about things that I always just take for granted and rarely consider. If I can’t answer a question that he has on his mind, I typically go find an answer, because every excuse is a good excuse for learning something new and learning new things is what life is all about. Why is life all about learning new things? Because I said so!

The most important lesson of all.

My son has taught me a lot and I am grateful for that. He has also taught me a bunch of useless junk that sometimes spills out when I am talking to adults, but the good of his lessons always outweighs the bad. And of course, I have passed on valuable lessons to him that he will not appreciate until he is old and wise like me, just as I did to my mother. Aside from these lessons we have shared, I also realize something else that I really need to give him. Something that my mother gave to me, and something that every parent should give to their child.

I need to give him the ability to hold on to all his brilliant plans, ideas, questions, lessons and knowledge before the world strips it all away and replaces it with the standard, stock, work-till-you-die and do-as-you’re-told, just-make-it-through mentality that tends to settle in when you are not paying attention. The best gift I can give that boy is an open ear for all his crazy ramblings, an open mind to understand the genius of them, and an open heart to help him follow through with them. No matter what other lessons we share, this one is the one that will make the most lasting difference on his life and the one that should always be passed down.

Featured photo credit: Brookie via commons.wikimedia.org

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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