It’s about the struggle

Maslows pyramid

Why do parents try to eliminate the struggle from their kids lives?

A long time ago I realized that every human is doing the best they can given who they are. When someone is rude to you, they probably don’t know any better. It changed how I look at people in general. I judge a lot less now and try to understand. I believe we are the output of a simple formula that changes daily, and yes I believe most people can change. There are some drugs, events and experiences that can cause so much damage it is unrecoverable.

The Aha Moment.

Years ago I was a bit of a Tyrant boss. Sorry Brian, Pat, Adam, and anyone else I made cry at work. Yup my wife said I was an ogre. But at the same time I had two people who had real potential, and while they only lasted a year at my business, we keep in touch to this day. It was working with them where I realized that one of the variables in the formula is “others decisions”. These two were hindered by their parents decisions and their teachers decisions.

I am left eye dominant. This means I am supposed to be left handed. That little fact helped me in marksmanship competitions, because many require shooting from both hands. My teachers decided to make me right handed like the rest of the kids in my class. The fact that I write and throw right handed is a result of my teachers decisions which oddly were supported by my two left handed parents.

The Formula Begins To Make Sense

At the end of pilot training in the Air Force, my boss wrote a letter that my attitude “was not conducive to being a fighter pilot”. At the time I thought that was only him inflicting his decision on me. Over time I began to understand that he wrote that, after observing Air Force Academy grads and being trained by others that those pilots had the right “attitude”. I chose not to conform and remain the jackass that became the ogre earlier in the story.

With that I started to understand that my decisions were an important part of the formula as well. I made the decision to not try and act like a “Ring Knocker” and just be the bum I was. Fortunately the struggle of pilot training and my bosses letter changed my formula. It forced me to struggle with a lot of things. Then the Desert Storm war ended and the Air Force didn’t need pilots at all.

There I was sitting in my truck driving from Mississippi to California knowing I would not be flying a fighter, I would only get paid for one weekend a month and I burned my bridges at Stanford and Cisco, so I had no real job prospects. Imagine being essentially homeless with a four year degree after graduating from Air Force Pilot training. It was bazaar.

Another Variable in the Formula

It was during that drive that another variable in the formula that makes us was planted in my head. It didn’t mean anything for years, but it did sit there and grow until it became part of the formula. Other peoples decisions and our decisions create events and experiences in our lives. When I got the letter in pilot training and realized my goal of flying an F-16 had just been tossed in the trash, my reaction didn’t help the situation. Looking back I reacted like a 15 year old, not a seasoned veteran who had been given a chance to step out of being a Security Policeman, into the life of a pilot.

Our reactions to our own decisions and the decisions of others is another major part of the formula. Once I put the whole formula together and understood the implications, a lot more about life in general made sense. Without the struggle I don’t think I would have ever put all of this together.

The Boomerangs

I was thinking about this today after talking with several of my neighbors. Three of the four with kids in their late 20’s to mid 30’s just had them boomerang. They all had the same story. “Houses are too expensive here, so they are going to live with us until they can afford a place.”

When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I couldn’t afford a place anywhere near my parents. When they look back the same was true for them. When my dad was 32 and a practicing dentist already, he lived with four men in a small house they rented. Parents today are taking away an essential part of the formula for success. It took me until I was in my late 40’s to buy a place similar to my parents home, and I don’t have kids.

The one standout among my neighbors is a young lady that had a horrible first boyfriend. He was strung out on drugs and fortunately, she didn’t fall in the same trap and eventually moved on. She finished a teaching credential and moved way out in the desert where she could find a job and a small apartment on her salary. As her salary grew, she saved a little and improved her living situation a little. Eventually she met someone, and they now are a combined household of two incomes continuing to grow.

One of the oddest things to me is kids that never left home. They just stayed waiting for the parents to pass away and get a free house. They never struggled, never built any personal character.

Struggle is a Decision

When I consider the formula that makes me, and you for that matter, it is clear that struggle is buried in all three variables. We can make decisions or react to decisions to avoid struggle or others can do it for us and we can accept those decisions. Frank Sinatra was famous for the song “I did it my way”. I grew up listening to that song regularly, and wonder if my Dad’s decision to play that song is part of why I am so harshly independent?

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I suspect that struggle is opposite security. For me, every time I have taken the safe road, my life has stopped moving forward. We should always have a little struggle and insecurity to keep us working to make our lives a better experience. Now that you know the formula, I hope your world will be a better experience.

(Experience+Decisions)/(Others Decisions+Reactions) = Me