How the hell are you Men of Dadliness?
We’re excited to release an article written by our first guest author: Adam Marsh. Adam is a dear friend of mine, fellow veteran, and a successful Aerospace Engineer currently changing the world in my hometown of Colorado Springs, CO.
In this post, Adam touches on many topics us Men of Dadliness hold dear in our hearts. The power of interpersonal communication, the willingness to be wrong, and confidence. Previous articles that touch on these topics can be found below:
- A Guide to the Virulent Echo Chamber
- The Hell with X-Ray Vision
- Lets get (inter)Personal
- Exercising Ownership When it Seems There is Nothing to own
Adam paints a wonderful picture by showing us how personal improvements on his end translates to life lessons he instills in his four-year-old, Asher. Adam doesn’t claim to be an expert in all things “dad,” but is offering his bit of experience for all of us to benefit from. I learned so much from this narrative, and I hope you all do too!
This is what it’s all about. Empowering fathers with tips, experiences, and failures. We are all here for each other and can all change the world; one little one and a time.
Adam & Asher
I’m just a kid from Maine who grew up in the woods. My friends and I were generally the trouble makers or “hellions”… I more often than not chose to take the “difficult path.” Sacrificed the future for the “now” on more occasions than I can count and didn’t necessarily set myself up for success later in life. That led to a lot of “poor me, life isn’t fair” in my early twenties. I worked in a beer warehouse and blamed circumstances for all my faults. Then one day, I hit rock bottom and decided the path I was currently traveling wasn’t congruent with my envisioned future. Instead of blaming circumstances I took responsibility for my decisions. I made my way out the only way I knew how.
I was always the underdog in every sport I played, I was almost always the smallest and never the fastest but the one sport I loved was wrestling. What wrestling taught me was if I worked hard enough, I could overcome any of my perceived weaknesses. I couldn’t change that I was smaller, slower, weaker, and maybe not as smart as some but I could work harder than anyone else if I chose to. That was the key; that was my way out.
So I followed the lead of a good friend and joined the Air Force. I gave myself a new start. I went from a college dropout sleeping on friend’s couches (I’ve always had some of the best and most reliable friends) to an aerospace engineer with a bachelor’s, master’s, and a graduate certificate from Stanford. After 6 years enlisted in the Air Force I worked for a couple large defense contractors and a small aerospace company. Every job interview I did ended with the same phrase, “I don’t promise to be the smartest person in the room but I am willing to put my work ethic up against anyone”. I don’t say that as a knock on my intelligence; I imagine I am at least somewhat intellectually capable or I would have never made it this far. I say that as an understanding of only promising what I can control. I can’t change some things, and I won’t try, but I will always push the boundaries of my capabilities for things I can change.
Now I am the very proud father of a 4-year-old. I say he’s my best friend and I mean it. I say he’s changed my life in the most incredible way and it’s true. I take it as my greatest responsibility to raise him so that he gets the best out of life. I want only happiness for him, but that’s not how life is. So I try to provide him the tools he needs to get back to happiness as quickly as possible when things don’t go his way. His easiest path to happiness in our house, is conversation. Fits and anger, while completely acceptable as a toddler, will not get him nearly as far as sitting on my lap and talking about why he is upset.
The Art of Conversation – with a toddler
I have conversations with my son about marshmallows to help prepare him for the world as it comes at him, more importantly, the people of the world. There seems to be a common opinion these days that the root of our problems is that we no longer have conversations. We make assumptions, we get angry, we get defensive. You can’t find common ground if you shut down before you even start. We are all human; we were just raised differently. The sooner we understand and accept that the better chance we have of communicating, finding that common ground, and beginning to move forward together. Okay, let’s lighten this up a bit. I agree with Jordan Peterson’s specific rule: Don’t try to change the world before cleaning your own room. If we all try to make ourselves better, then we collectively make the world better. I start by talking to my 4-year-old and it started as soon as he was born.
Do you want to smile? Do you want to laugh? Of course you do. Go talk to a toddler. The innocence is hilarious. The emotions that they allow to permeate their stories are shockingly honest. It makes you think, where in the path of life did we as adults lose this? When my son tries to get my attention to tell me something, I stop what I’m doing, I generally kneel down to his level, and I listen. I engage. I want him to feel like everything he says is truly important and I want to hear every word of it. We don’t always agree (he wants marshmallows for breakfast, I want him to have fruit or eggs or… not marshmallows) but we always have a conversation about it, and I always listen.
I have conversations with him because I want him to feel like he has a say. Which he truly does. I want to set the example that if he is willing to talk to me, rather than throw a fit, or a toy, or the occasional punch…. then we can find a common ground and I will almost always concede a little. You want marshmallows for breakfast? I can’t allow that but I am willing to give you some marshmallows as a snack if you eat a healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch. If he is unwilling to have that conversation and chooses to throw the fit, chooses not to listen then there is no bend in the rule. Life is about choices isn’t it? If you try to have a conversation with someone and they just come with anger or ridicule, isn’t the conversation over at the point? No chance at common ground and no chance at moving forward.
So how often in raising our children is it just “no, no, no”? Of course you have to say no to a 4 year old, you have to do it all the time but does it have to be a hard no? Or can we make room for the conversation? The answer for me, is sometimes it has to be a hard no, but most of the time we can talk about it, come to a solution together, and move forward. Let that translate to adulthood, let’s not just say “no”, let’s try to find the common ground. Now this backfires a little as he’s become quite the little negotiator now that he knows his numbers. He once talked me into 8 mini marshmallows when I started at 0 and he started at 10… I’m a little embarrassed about that one. But mostly proud.
The goal for me is to raise someone that thinks before he reacts. That listens to other people, expands his thought process, and makes kind and educated decisions. He can certainly learn that on his own along the way but that is a tool that I want to arm him with from the beginning. It is the key to being respected. People respect those who listen, think, and talk. They don’t respect people that shut others down because why? They are better or more powerful? No, they aren’t, they are afraid of what a conversation will expose. Conversation is a willingness to be wrong, to be honest, to be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean you don’t stand by your beliefs, it means you are willing to put your beliefs out there to be challenged, and maybe be changed. That’s an openness that would change the world but I can’t change the world I can only clean my own room and hope it permeates.
My 3 Dadly Principles
Be confident in you
The one thing wrestling taught me more than anything was confidence. I didn’t fear the bullies because I knew I could defend myself. I didn’t fear my weaknesses because I knew I could overcome them. I don’t necessarily want Asher to wrestle, but I do want him to challenge himself. A challenge that puts you on your ass and forces you to make a decision to get up and face it or walk away. In life, you will be put on your ass a lot. Only confidence in yourself will pick you back up. I want him to see that it’s much harder to be broken than people think. I prefer he learn that lesson under the safety of an athletic field. A lesson that is necessary for health, happiness, and success. If you truly internalize those three things, then build them within your children.
Be okay with being wrong
As I said in the opener, it wasn’t until my 20s that I truly took responsibility for my situation. I made excuses for everything. Nothing was my fault. Turns out, that just made things harder and I was headed for more failure. At one point I hit the bottom and there was no one and nothing else to blame, it was on me. I got myself there and I was the only one that could get myself out. So I owned up to my mistakes and I started moving forward. It turns out that people respect those that admit to their flaws. Makes you real, believable, trustworthy. So I learned that it was okay to be wrong.
This allowed me to take risks. Allowed me to make the difficult decision to leave my friends and family who are my greatest supporters to join the Air Force. It gave me the courage to apply for that job and to go for that interview. It allowed me to leave a cushy stable job for a risky one. One that turned into far greater success. So when he does something wrong, I don’t chastise him for it. I tell him it’s okay. Maybe he needs to apologize, maybe he needs to pick up the toy he threw, but we can move past it immediately. I want him to know it’s okay to be wrong, be honest about it, and move forward. Life is too short (cliché but it is) to hold onto mistakes. Don’t fear being wrong, go for it, the landing is never as rough as you think, but the possibilities are greater than you can imagine.
Work ethic is the great equalizer
So we hope we have raised a confident young man that owns up to his mistakes. That doesn’t mean he won’t make a decision that sets him back. He most certainly will, we all do. I just want him to understand that there is nothing to fear in that setback because hard work will fix it, just a little elbow grease will get you right back. Change what you can change, work hard for what you want, you will find most people aren’t willing to do that. Maybe he won’t have to go all out like I do, I hope he doesn’t. The point isn’t that you have to work yourself into the ground every day and just grind, grind, grind your life away. The point is that you don’t have to live in fear because you are capable of working hard, getting through, and moving forward.
Let’s wrap this up. I’m just a kid from Maine that has conversations with his son about marshmallows. I don’t know if this is the right way to do it. This is my first child. I believe however, that these principles are important. I think we could all have a few more conversations about marshmallows or whatever it is that divides us. I guarantee, if you try hard enough, you will find common ground. I hope to teach my son to always look for the common ground, it is the greatest educator. I believe with these three principles Asher will be confident enough to engage in these conversations, he will be okay with being wrong, and he will be willing to listen. If he chooses a wrong path, he will work his way out of it and it will only be a lesson in the end. I think that all starts with me showing him from the very beginning that having the conversation is worth it.