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Let her fall

Our daughter, Karolina, was born about nine months ago.

She is perfect.

Thankfully, my wife and I are compatible at parenting. Together, we can overcome the usual social pressures and parenting stereotypes that revolve around us. The mythical ‘your personal life is over’ and ‘you will never sleep again’ hasn’t smashed our dreams. Better yet, our aspirations are now brighter and more vivid.

We are still very different people, and we’re not trying to change each other. Though, we try to change ourselves to accept and respect the other. Like this, we achieve the fulfilling growth that fuels happiness in our relationship.

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.
— William Butler Yeats

Although we’re conquering struggles on a regular basis, I couldn’t be happier. We learned to appreciate the opportunities to grow together. We’re learning together, about each other and ourselves.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
— Proverbs 22:6

I had to grow up to realize that these are skills rather than personality traits. In fact, as parents, we should be encouraged to teach these skills. In her book Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky talks about seven essential life skills every child needs to be successful in life. To be able to focus, persist and form relationships.

When we let our girl fall, she trains most of the essential skills Ellen mentions in her book. These are the thoughts I’ve observed in my daughter’s expression when she’s doing something challenging:

  • Focus and Self Control — ‘I have to be patient and approach this carefully.’

  • Making Connections — ‘When I dangle from the table, I might fall and hit my bum. That might hurt.’

  • Critical Thinking — ‘When I’m approaching a new table I have to evaluate if the benefit is worth possible pain on my bum.‘

  • Taking on challenges — ‘I can do this because even if I fall, I’ve fallen before and it’s nothing to worry about.’

  • Self-Directed and Engaged Learning — ‘Hmm, my bum hurts. I will try not to fall next time.’

On the contrary, when we keep saving our children from a possible danger creeping around every corner, we keep our children away from the valuable early opportunities to learn. These events shape how we approach learning and difficult situations throughout the whole life.

Dr. Carrie Masia Warner, associate professor of child psychiatry at NYU, argues that keeping your child happy all the time is unrealistic. As long as we give them enough attention and affection most of the time, it’s helpful the let the baby fall and cry a little bit.

Jessica Lahey goes further in her book Gift of Failure:

Kids who were raised by controlling or directive parents could not contemplate tasks on their own, but the kids who were being raised by autonomy-supportive parents stuck with tasks, even when they got frustrated. Kids who can redirect and stay engaged in tasks, even when they find those tasks difficult become less and less dependent on guidance in order to focus, study, organize, and otherwise run their own lives.

Certainly, it’s our responsibility to judge the situation and filter the learning opportunities. I don’t let my daughter hurt herself nor do I leave her unattended. Yet, when I see her trying something that is potentially harmful, I let her know that she can hurt herself. If she falls and cries, I observe and let her figure it out. And she does.

The baby is going to hit her head, eat stuff off the ground and crawl around a cold floor. Let her find her way. The lesson will stay with her throughout her entire life.

Failure is nothing to fear

She used to dangle around the coffee table and learn to stand on her feet. She fell twice on her bum and cried. We were there to support her, but not to fix it or make it easier.

When she fell the third time, she gazed my way and went on with her baby business. Now, she knows that she can fall and that it’s nothing to fear.

She knows that failure is nothing to fear.

Adapting time

Life is not short.

I used to consider myself an ambitious person though I never knew what it really meant. And what is ambition without action?

The real damage happened in the 80 percent of time. After a few lost opportunities, you stop trusting yourself. I would gradually circle down to self-loathing. But being brutal with yourself never helped anyone. I recommend Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Tara Brach and her book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. This helps addressing negative thoughts towards yourself.

What is ambition without action?

In the remaining 20 percent, I learned to settle down and force myself to work as we all have to at some point. Doing these simple things, I achieved most of what I can show for today. But in the 80 percent of time I would obsess about things I should and would do. None of them were things I truly wanted and none of them happened. I was living life according other people’s expectations.

I never looked at what all the blessings we received. Where we have come as a family and as partners with my wife. Although I would spend all this time thinking, I would never stop and look at the road we’ve covered.

And that’s what it takes. Being aware and grateful of all the wonderful things in our lives is the one thing that changes the way you look at things. Besides, it changes the way you spend your time.

You are not special

You can be distracted easily, you can have all sorts of conditions and flaws. It’s easy to fall into fear of societal expectations. Yet the way you spend your time is your own choice. Your responsibility, your equity in the world. Accepting yourself for who you are and where you come from is how you take that responsibility.

When I took responsibility for myself it became clear that I don’t care about most of the objections I would create in my mind. ‘I can’t because this and that’ is now ‘why don’t I do that?’. Life is easier and way more exciting. I create my own opportunities to grow. Time slows down relative to that guy who used to think about growing and wouldn’t do anything about it.

Only action inspires motivation.

My Imperfect Story

My morning pages practice is 90 days strong, and I finally decided to share my thoughts out here. I want to discuss and connect with anyone that finds these ideas compelling. Anyone who might have gone or is going through something similar. The decision to publish on Medium, as you will find out soon, is far from simple in my mind.

As an individual with a balanced personality type, I’m inclined to overthink everything. In fact, my thoughts get so complex I get physically exhausted and stressed. I have gone through college chronically exhausted and I never thought it could be an issue. I wasn’t aware of this until I went through a psychometric assessment recently.

In high school, it was easy to blame it on ADHD. Can’t focus? Bam, you have ADHD. Can’t get shit done? Adderall, here you go. Lots of kids use it. A friend suggested it and I said what the hell.

It was a remarkable experience. I could get my work done immediately. In fact, in one day I completed two months worth of assignments. When I finished at 2 AM, my hyper-focused mind was asking for more stimulation. So I read about 200 pages from New Ideas from Dead Economists. It was mandatory reading for economics. Senior year of high school.

I knew it wasn’t me. Instantly, I could feel my left hemisphere overdriving. But so did the right hemisphere. I could feel the imbalance. I struggled to control myself. Trapped in my mind, by myself, with my thoughts, and emotions.

I never went down that road again. Nowadays, I feel like I haven’t genuinely liked anything I worked on for most of my professional life. What’s more, I’m still confused about my professional aspirations.

Sure, if I were diagnosed with ADHD I may have achieved most of the things I thought I wanted all these years. But I would never realize something was wrong. That I didn’t accept myself for what I was.

I would’ve never achieve the state of awareness and gratitude.

For the past few years, I’ve been following thought leaders in technology and business. I would get so inspired and I would crave getting to know these guys in person. All I wanted was to discuss and learn from the vast experience and success they’ve achieved. See how and why they did things the way they did.

I thought I’d have to become like them if I wanted to talk to them. I pretended to be a born business person, a marketer, and a software salesman. I thought I needed to make a genius product or work at the fastest-growing startup to prove I’m worth talking to.

All this time, I would want to talk to people. To have valuable conversations. To share wisdom. Most of the time, I wouldn’t come close to a fulfilling discussion. I would spend all this time planning if-that-then-this scenarios in my head.

I would want to write, but I wouldn’t consider anything the right opportunity. Or the right audience. Or the right medium. Or the perfect story.

Not today.

This is me sharing my imperfect story.