Recently my wife and I took our oldest son to his College orientation. I have to tell you the production put on by this University was absolutely spectacular and nothing like my college orientation almost 30 years ago.


After a brief welcome presentation for the families, our sons and daughters were whisked off in their respective groups to learn about college life, meet some other students and most importantly decide on their fall and winter class schedules.


At that moment it began to set in… our son was going to college, out on his own, without us!


It was an interesting moment and the facilitator for our session acknowledged how many of us were feeling. She even joked that there were probably a few in the audience that were secretly plotting how to escape the auditorium to find their student and help them make their class choices.


It was then that the Parent Orientation began. They addressed all of our anxieties about sending our pride and joy off to some strange place, and yet they also reminded us why we were actually sending our kids off to college in the first place. To create independent critical thinkers needed in the workplace today. Also to build them into type of young men and women that will someday go off into the world and become productive members of our culture and society.


They also shared with us the obvious- these kids are going to make mistakes and struggle at times during their journey. And you know what. That’s a good thing.


Think about it for a minute. Getting good grades and having a perfect attendance record is fine, yet that’s probably not what will make our kids successful in their professional and personal lives. How they deal with adversity and setbacks, when things don’t go as planned, maybe even failing a few times is what will shape them and illuminate a path for success.


Study after study shows us that those with the emotional resilience to stay positive and keep moving forward in the face of challenges and obstacles is what separates high performers from everyone else. It’s who shows up in the worst possible moments that builds our personal brand and help us create the outcomes we desire.


I realize that everyone wants to be successful, but unfortunately as human beings we tend to learn more from our mistakes than from our success. Maybe during the process our students will receive some critical feedback that may be hard to hear, but in the long run will help them on their journey, as I certainly know that I did.


The point that our facilitator was attempting to display is the exact conversation I’ve had with many in leadership roles. As parents and as leaders there are times when we feel it’s our responsibility to make our kids and our teams successful, yet intellectually we all know we can really make anybody do anything, at least not for long term sustainable results.


Our job as parents and leaders is to create the environment for those that wish to be successful those opportunities. We get to make that offer over and over again and provide encouragement, support and feedback along the way, but at some point it’s up to the individual to get out there and make a few mistakes, screw a few things up and learn those valuable lessons that will make them successful in leadership and in life.


As scary as this all sounded I knew it was right on target. My wife and I have done our best to prepare our son for this moment. All the talks and dinners and drives and conversations, as well as the times when we had to hold him accountable to the consequences of his actions, well I can only hope that some of those lessons have somehow made their way into head or even his heart.


The same can be said of our teams in our workplaces. We set the vision, and the expectations, and provide the tools and training needed and consistently reinforce the message with the hope that those messages somehow set in with our teams. At some point however, success and or failure is ultimately up to them.


We can’t motivate people, but we can create motivating environments. We can’t make people learn, but we can create those learning opportunities over and over again. We can’t make people successful, but we can illuminate a path and process that allows for successful destinations.


As we left the auditorium I still felt nervous and anxious about sending my son off into the world, but I assume this is something every parent experiences. It’s probably because I care so much and want so many things for him as he begins his journey. I also now know that this is all part of the process and caring doesn’t mean I get to do if for him.


So our journey begins- I’m certain now that he will make many mistakes, stumble at times and maybe actually fall flat on the concrete. I also know that while I will be there to support him, give him a hug when he needs it, a pat on the back when it’s earned and maybe even a swift kick in the rear when it’s required, I realize that I get to do so on the sidelines and from afar.


His are not my lessons to learn and not my mistakes to make. I’ve already made them, and still have many more to make ahead of me. I cherish those mistakes and the learning’s they have taught me, and can only hope that my son will find the value from his own lessons.


And hey, if all else fails I have a younger son J



This week ask yourself:


Where in my business or my life am I not allowing those around me to fail or make mistakes?


What is the impact on them and on me?


What will I need to change to create an environment for those around me to be successful?


What will be the impact on them?


What are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years from my biggest mistakes or when things didn’t go as I had planned?


Where would I be today without learning those lessons?


What is one thing I can apply today that will allow those around me to feel empowered to make some decisions?



Thoughts for the week:


Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be. –John Wooden


Everything you want is on the other side of fear. – Jack Canfield


Only those that dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. – Robert F. Kennedy


It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success. – Ellen DeGeneres


I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison


The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. –Henry Ford


It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts. – Zig Ziglar



Looking forward to our next connection