parents

Become a Public Person

It's a real wrenching thing to go from being a private person to being a public person. But it's what everyone wants - to get everyone's attention, to have your music make a living for you, to be validated in that way. --James Taylor

My Dad Roderick Yoshimi Kobara lived a full and fulfilling life. He died peacefully just before his 90 birthday.  His life was a version of the American dream. He grew up in poverty outside of Salinas California. His father, my grandfather, died before he was 50 and only had one good profitable year as a farmer. I never met my grandfather, he was a hard living and hard drinking man of few words. From the little bits I have pieced together it was a brutal life. Dad decided to go to college and forge his own path. His entire family was interned in the concentration camps in Poston Arizona in WWII and lost everything. Nevertheless, he enlisted in the army to serve his country. He emerged out of the camps with a hunger to prove he was an American. He legally added Roderick to his name to become more accepted in the mainstream culture. He got admitted into the University of San Francisco and got straight As his first year. He knew he was not that smart so transferred to UC Berkeley to be challenged. He wanted to be a medical doctor, but his inferior camp education set him back and he pursued business and ultimately accounting. He faced enormous discrimination on campus and after he graduated from Berkeley to pursue a career in accounting. Finally a Jewish accountant in Stockton hired him as an apprentice. He passed his CPA exams and became one of the first Japanese-American CPAs in California. He opened his practice just outside of J-town in San Jose, where he built and operated his firm for more than 50 years. He was a self-made man who valued his heritage, education, hard work, and service to community and family

Despite his success he saw his own potential to do more.

Dad

He had high expectations of his children. He desperately wanted his kids to become successful and named them John, Mitchell, Katherine and Elizabeth. Assimilation and fitting in was an essential value. He was a man of few words, not unlike other Nisei men (second generation Japanese-Americans). Hugs and the words “I love you” came decades later when he was a grandparent. Yet he provided for his kids to have every opportunity he did not.

We all want to please our Dads. I was no different.

More than any other person my Dad is responsible for my development as an evangelist for networking and mentoring. 

In the early 60’s my parents would have friends over to play bridge or to socialize. He told us many times to come down from our rooms and to shake the hands of his friends and introduce ourselves. We rarely did. It was an exhausting loop of unmet expectations that irritated and I think embarrassed our father. One night, he called Mitch and me into the kitchen for yet another lecture on self-introductions. We were oblivious and disinterested teenagers and this pissed him off. He talked for a few minutes about what it takes to be successful in America. That meeting people, shaking hands, speaking well and becoming a “public person” were critical skills. He talked of his own struggles and wanted us to have an advantage. (I am giving him some eloquence here) A speech he never gave again. We looked lost. So he grabs me by the shirt, just to get my undivided attention while Mitch braced himself for something worse. He says, “If you do not become a public person, I am sending you to a psychiatrist!” More confusion washed over our faces. He left us exasperated and angry.

I never forgot that night and those words. I tried to give speeches in high school; I joined the band and student council. But I was so uncomfortable with myself. In college I continued to push myself to fit in and to become a better speaker and meeting others. But they remained elusive skills. I was introverted and an inauthentic speaker. I sought advice and eventually took public speaking classes. In graduate school, the idea of a public person returned to me and I continued on a winding uphill path of developing my public person skills.

After decades of trying to interpret my Dad’s goal for us, I found my own way. Years ago I invited him to hear me lead a workshop, where I told this story. I introduced him to the class and asked him if the “public person and psychiatrist” part was true—he nodded affirmatively. Then he said, “See and you turned out pretty good!” High praise from my father. But I also saw a flash of parental satisfaction as we both enjoyed a moment from the sculpted versions of our histories.

Today, my goal of being a public person has evolved. How do we reveal our true selves? How do we see as much as be seen? How do we help others without expectation? How do we engage others to pursue our common pursuit of meaning and fulfillment? How do we become part of something much larger than ourselves?

How do we become and how do we help others become a public person?

Bottomline: He mentored me and introduced me to networking. He planted a seed within me that I made my own. He inspired SWiVEL.

Although many think I need a psychiatrist, my Dad’s antidote has worked so far. :)

Thanks Dad for your sacrifices, for giving me so many opportunities, for teaching me how to play golf, for loving me in your own way and encouraging me to “smell the roses”. Thanks for giving me the challenge and satisfaction of trying to become a public person. Your life and your advice will continue to inspire me.

Roderick Y. Kobara   9.19.25 to 8.20.15

Thanks for reading.


Parallel Parenting and Our Tattoos

I would rather talk about people's politics or religion than their parenting. When I see, hear, and discuss people's theories about parenting, I have to take a large dose of chill pills. We all know that there any many roads to a destination and no one parenting method assures success. Believe me I am no expert. Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Doing it well requires all of your abilities. But the differences in theory, practice, and outcomes are enormous. What manifests is the parents upbringing and values and often less about the uniqueness of their children. Because there is this little thing that needs to be accounted for----The DNA of the child! Once you recognize and understand these differences, you become focused on them, not your expectations. Sorry to digress into a much bigger topic but what I have learned that parenting, like most of life, is about others not me. When I remind myself that I am the student not the teacher--that is when I have grown as a parent, as a mentor, and as a human being.  Philanthropy

There are thousands of examples where the children mentor the parents, if the parents are open to learning. This has been dubbed by some parallel learning--where the students start teaching each other to deepen learning. And formal and informal programs which help parents and students learn together to strengthen each other. This is very prominent in new immigrant families where the kids, often very young kids, guide their parents through the maze of American life. The kids assimilate, learn the language and then teach and mentor their parents to assimilate as well. Parallel learning is part of life, if we embrace the opportunities. If we are open to being mentored from anyone anywhere, then your kids, all kids, will teach you. If only to reacquaint ourselves with joy and wonder! So the potential for parallel learning, mentoring and parenting exists all around us. As I have discussed here mentoring always benefits the mentor more than the mentee. Once you know that, your design and goals for any mentoring opportunity gets altered.

Our parents can show us a lot of things: they can show us how we are to be and what things we ought to strive for, or they can show us how not to be and what things we ought to stray from, then you may have the kind of parents that show you all the things about you that you want to get rid of and you realize those traits aren't yours at all but are merely your parents' marks that have rubbed off onto you. C. Joybell C.

What marks have influenced you and others? How about tattoos?

For the last several years I have been observing how selected tattoo removal programs are transforming the lives of former gang members. Forty years ago, my first work was as a volunteer counselor in the California Youth Authority and I have gravitated to this work with at-risk youth over my career.  Stay with me. 

I have been pushing for an increase in the capacity of tattoo removal resources as part of the pioneering work of the Gang Reduction Youth Development work in the City of LA. What I saw and learned is that the removal of tattoos which can take between 6-10 painful sessions, is part of a spirtual and emotional healing for these former gang members. Literally a removal of layers of their past that reinforces their commitment to change. These tattoo removal sessions are an external cleansing that clarifies the identity of the person inside and propels them forward. 

Tattoo removalI recently witnessed the removal of prison tattoos on the hands of a young man. I watched with protective eye wear as the nurse bearing down on the laser gun within a half of inch of one of his hands burned off the ink. He said he did not hurt, but I watched his feet curl up after each segment was completed. The nurse said we should be done in 6 more sessions. He asked, "For each hand?!!"  Yes. she calmly said. That translates to 12 sessions because they can only work on one hand at a time. So this 20 something year old told me he has got to "straighten out" his life. "I have to get a job and no one will hire me if I have these"--showing me his hands. I asked what brought about this desire to change. He smiled and said sincerely, "I have a 2 year old daughter now. And I have to do right by her."

Despite all of the stereotypical and tragic stories, here is a father who woke up and is changing himself to be a better parent. But who changed whom? His daughter started asking questions about his hands and then he started to ask questions. And questions about who we are and what are we doing can sometimes disturb the tectonic plates and the ground opens up and a new world emerges.

Not sure how this story will end, but it has a new beginning. One where the parent is more self aware of his looks and behavior. He will be a better father. She will gain his attention and time. Will he stick with it? He has 12 sessions left. I was convinced he will. Once you hear and see and experience hope, it empowers you--especially when you can see thate future in the eyes of your  2 year old.

Talking to the case workers, they told me me that taking the kids to school, the perceptions of other parents and the friends of their kids also weighed in. 

We all want the same things. To fit in. To raise good kids. To leave a legacy.

All of us have tattoos we need to remove, that hold us back. But few of us will go through the pain and inconvenience of going under life's laser.

Are we open to learn from our kids? To engage in parallel mentoring? Who do we influence and who COULD influence us? 

 Thanks for reading. John

 


Applying Your Passion to College and to Life

I was with a donor at a Hollywood eaterie. We both ordered ice teas. The waitress asked if we wanted regular or passion. I said regular and my guest ordered passion. The teas came and neither of the teas were passion. We called over our beautiful wannabe actress to correct her inadvertent mistake. The donor said, "Hey I ordered the passion ice tea and got regular." She leaned in close to him without missing a beat and said, "Didn't I serve it with passion?!" He reflexively said, "You did!" Glasses-of-iced-tea

Is our tea of life supposed to have passion it? Do we have to order it or make it ourselves? Or do we merely have to serve it with passion? 

I am pretty obsessed with living life with passion and helping others find their passions. To be perfectly honest, I help myself by helping others. Other people's passions get me psyched to be more diligent about my own. I use other people's passions to add to my passion river. Kind of a passion junkie. I must confess, I am trying to inspire and motivate yours truly. I have  learned that successful networking, mentoring, and careers are based on this principle of engaging  others' passions and defining my own.

This was a big week for the topic of passion: 

  • I gave a short speech on passion for my colleagues at a national conference of community foundations to add a little kindling to their belly fires. 
  • I led a  session for a giving circle to re-energize their collective passion around community needs and their personal definitions of meaningful giving. 
  • Lastly, I appeared on a friend's local radio show to discuss how the true passions of the students applying for college admission make a difference.

You don't need to be applying for college to articulate your passions. We all have a constellation of passions within us that we nurture and ignore. That we pursue and neglect. True passion involves others and the needs of others. It starts with the pain of our lack of personal fulfillment, the suffering of others we care about, and the the unmet needs of people we may never know. It can come as easily from disappointment or from total engagement. It is the basis of your emotional connection to what you do and WHY you do it. 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Mark Twain 

You can discover it and have an aha moment. Or it can sneak up on you and scare you into understanding yourself.

Always taken by my mother's story of the moment she knew painting would define her life. She was 49 with 4 kids under the age of 10 she decided to take a sumi-e Japanese brush stroke painting lesson. She lifted the brush with fresh black ink on it and struck the canvas and she was transformed in that moment. She remembers it like it was yesterday, "I said to myself, "Where have you been?" She found herself and has been painting ever since. Her ability to express herself through oil paints changed her and everything around her. It centered her. Gave her energy and vitality. She had a purpose like no other. 

Sumi eWhen you share or when others share their passions it shines out of the eyes, the body language and the voice. We exude an extra energy when we connect with passion. It is when we present our best selves. You have to help others recognize this when they do it!

It is when work and play blur. When Mondays and Fridays are exactly the same.

I try to find and associate with very competent people who are also passionate about their lives. You have to have both! Because competence in the absence of passion is not only boring but is limited to mediocrity. And passion without competence is shrill and a waste of time. I look for both in every hire I make, every board I join, every job I take, and every one of my relationships.

A job is never just a job. A life is never just a life. We can't be waiting for something better. Or to do it all when we retire. How will we leave our imprint?

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  Jack London

Help your son or daughter see their inner strengths and talents before you tell them what their career will be. Explore with your friends why they aren't doing more of the things they say are important to them. Assist people who are nearing retirement age to explore their passions now. Make the pursuit of passions

This is the hardest work we can do--to help others and ourselves find passion. For there is no other work. We need people's passions to engage our total selves in our work and our lives. We need passion to innovate, to solve problems, and to wring out the potential in our world. 

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela

Move passion up on your to-do list. Serve and live with passion!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Lessons from My Mom

We honor all the mothers for their love and for their nurturing of the children. Kinda silly to have one single day for Hallmark and FTD to make money, when we should be honoring our moms everyday.

Mothers are what power our society. They bring us into this world and they nurture our talent and our dreams. I have had the great fortune to work for a number of moms who have endured more work-life pressure, challenges, and sheer discrimination than any man has ever encountered.

Last week, I laughed when Norm Mineta, former Secy of Commerce and Secy of  Transportation, began his lifetime award acceptance speech like this:

I was very fortunate to have chosen my mother,  father and family so well.

There are an infinite series of events and factors that brought us into the world that you had nothing to do with. One thing is certain, you have a mother. And she made great sacrifices and taught us great lessons. Bottomline: we are here because of her and the only way to fully repay her is to make her proud of you and of the job she has done.

Like everyone's mom, my mother is very special. :) She has been my primary mentor and teacher about life and how to live. I have learned as much from observing the way she lives as from her words of wisdom. She was born in 1927 on a poor farm in the San Joaquin valley right before the Great Depression. She was the second to the youngest of 11 who grew up to "appreciate every grain of rice." With only one sister she had few female role models and had to develop her own sense of destiny in a world dominated by men. At the age of 15 she and her family where placed in the internment camps for almost 4 years. So she "graduated" from high school in the camps. She went to nursing school, met my Dad, raised a family and decided to become an artist at the age of 49. She has never complained about her hardships. She has always lived life with gusto and made everyone around her feel special and loved. Mom

Just wanted to share five of the many lessons she taught me:

  1. Always Look like You Know What You are Doing: Whatever role you take, job you accept, even sport you play--look the part. Study people who do these things well and try and do what they do. Look like they do. This was a very early version of the advice to dress for success. If you are serious about mastering a role, make the effort to look like it. Met so many young people who are ambitious with no ambition. They want to be given opportunities and even request to be mentored when they neither act or look as if they are mentorable. Youwill never be taken seriously unless you start looking like you know what you are doing.
  2. Always Treat People as They are Going To Be: If you pay attention you can see people's potential. You can see that they are working on who they are and where they are going. My mother was big on treating people you encounter as if they have become their potential. You meet, work with, and are connected to people who have many failings and shortcomings. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don't be quick to judge people by their initial actions, see them for what they are becoming. Clearly, this is great advice as a parent, or a teacher. All children are becoming, and treating them with respect and without prejudice is essential for their development. But my mom extends this to all adults too. Everyone has something to offer and you should never do anything to undermine the best intentions and potential of that relationship.
  3. Give First: Living is not staying current on your debts. Life is about being generous. Reciprocity is not the goal. Keeping score is not worth the effort. Always be generous with your time and resources. We never went to someone else's home without food or a gift. Be the best of who you are all of the time. And being the best is about giving first and giving often without expectation.
  4. Being a Host is an Art form: Learn how to be a host of events. How to take on a Host mindset. Being a host means you rarely think of yourself as a guest who must be served and entertained. You take on a host mentality to help people engage and not allow the other guests to disconnect even if it is not your party. You host many events at your home to become a hub for activities and connections. You want people to feel at home in your home. And when you host events, you make it special even if it is a routine gathering. You don't have to spend a lot of money to present the food and your home with style and elegance. It just takes a little effort and a bit of creativity.
  5. Draw Outside of the Lines: We were encouraged as children to color outside of the coloring book lined figures. My mother's right brain orientation told her that creativity comes from using and understanding the positive and negatives spaces. Outside of the lines is always a bigger and better place to create and learn--she would say. Never be confined by or make assumptions about, the boundaries that have been imposed upon you.

I love my mom for what she has taught me and teaches me. I work hard at trying to use these lessons and many others to realize my potential. Her lessons have shaped my views of mentoring and networking.

Every mom teaches us lessons we should appreciate. How do we take what we have learned and make her proud everyday?

Aren't we lucky we picked our mothers well? ;)

Thanks for reading. John


Let Your Inner Child Fly

The holidays bring back a flood of memories for me. I love being around kids who open up their Hanukah and Christmas gifts with reckless abandon and express real joy out loud.

Adults are obsolete children.  ~Dr. Seuss

Some people think I have never grown up. Okay a lot of people! But who is counting anyway?!!

More than anything I wish you more childishness, more foolishness, more fun and joy. We are so serious. We take ourselves way too seriously.

The grand metaphor of the metamorphosis. How the baby caterpillar develops into a cocoon and goes through the pain and suffering of the metamorphosis of pubescence and emerges as a beautiful high flying adult butterfly. This seemed correct until I heard a scientist describe the caterpillar as the one that was the adult--slow and wingless. A plodder limited by physical and mental capacities, afraid of then consequences. And the butterfly is the child who can fly, flit and explore, fearless and free. Caterpillar

Kids are always flying and adults are more often stuck out on a limb. Children are free of the self consciousness and adults suffer from looking good and being right. If we succumb to the inexorable decline of our freedom to create and be, then we become old and sedentary without regard to our chronological age. When risk aversity beats us into a locked step conformity with what is expected of us and we comply.

Neoteny is the retention of juvenile characteristics.  I like Joi Ito's take on it. Not talking about our obsession to LOOK young, I am talking about keeping the spirit of the child alive within us. The ability to play and to see the possibilities. To say and think things that speak to our possibilities and dreams. Relentless curiosity and free of what you fear others may think.

Remember the movie Big?

Play is important and necessary. All work and no play makes you a dull person!

I have a friend who won't play board games with his son because HE doesn't like board games. He is so hung up on getting him to grow up.

My childhood may be over, but that doesn't mean playtime is.  ~Ron Olson

We become progressively blind as we age. We see the world from our selfish and narrow perspective. A child sees so much that we can no longer see. They see the real things that exist between and amongst the things we create and impose on the world. They see the colors, and hear the sounds.Big

Ask kids what they want, besides a material thing. The answer will stun you. They have not been burdened with all of the reasons they can not or should not do things. Their imaginations are fertile and unfettered.

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.  ~Pablo Picasso

Our kids grow up too fast and they lose their sense of play and fun. We need to enjoy and let go of all of the ridiculous expectations we impose on ourselves and others. We need to have fun by experimenting and exploring. Kids take chances by doing foolish things where they express themselves freely and naturally. They are vulnerable and open to what happens.

We need to laugh more--at ourselves--and less at others.

Not going to ignore my responsibilities as a parent, a citizen, or an adult, but I want to fly more like a butterfly and crawl less like a caterpillar. How about you?

How do we do this?

Take a chill pill.  Relax. Everything is not a federal issue that requires a no prisoners approach. Remain urgent about your goals but enjoy what is happening to you and what you are doing.

Value fun and play around us. Schedule time to play that you look forward to--a hobby, games with others, and just discovering an unscheduled time for fun.

Hang out with kids. Kids, young people, or just people younger than you, will give you energy and perspective. They will also teach you things if you are present! If you pay attention they will mentor YOU!

For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. ----Benjamin Button

Thanks for reading. John


Stop Listening to Your "Asian" Parents!

Hard for anyone to miss this intense national discussion generated by Amy Chua's WSJ article, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior and her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Yale prof Chua asserts her "Chinese" parenting and philosophy that includes rigid rules about discipline, academic success, and limiting social distractions. This has triggered crazy comparisons and accusations. The good news is people are talking about parenting.

We all know that engaged parenting may be the single most important factor in determining the development of children. Behind the greatest American stories both famous and obscure is usually a parent who sacrificed, who provided, who pushed, and dreamed. Respecting parenting styles can be very difficult when what is being done or not done conflicts with our values and upbringing. Asian parents

Asian immigrant families, like all immigrant families who came to this country to find a better life, were hungry to succeed. Hungry to build a better life for the next generation. These families pushed their kids using their own values and cultures to shape their children's futures. Invariably these parenting methods caused friction with the new world of American principles and the process of assimilation. As Americans, we are so ethnocentric, while we copy business ideas from all over the world, we believe our family values are second to none. The truth is most of the developed world has passed our kids in academic performance, including most Asian countries, (also Estonia by the way) in almost every category, except self-confidence! Do we think parenting is a factor in this difference?

We all have "Asian" parent stories. Stories of discipline, deprivation, and unreasonable standards. Stories of our mother and father's love and vicarious desire for our success that was translated into parenting and high expectations. So in a way, we all have had Asian parents.

My son Bobby is pretty funny and when we put pressure on him to study and make more academic progress, he sarcastically declares: "So glad I have ASIAN parents!" The stereotype of Asian students and their parents being so focused on education and academic achievement has strands of truth and fiction. Asian students have been characterized as "curve busters" hurting the chances of non-Asians to succeed. I remember when I was in high school and teachers expected me to excel in math and science just as the other Asian students who proceeded me. I never did and left a slew of disappointed teachers. I personally broke the stereotype in my high school!

I am invited to meet with and conduct workshops for Asian students and Asian employees all over the country. I often tell a story or two about how my parents formed my values and work ethic but then gave me choices.--An Asian American experience where Asian and American values were intertwined. Self reliance with family pride. Focus on academic and competency growth as well as social skills. Succeed AND fit in. Every succeeding generation loses more of the immigrant mentality and assumes more of the American mindset. Not good or bad just the reality of being integrated into another society. But how is hunger sustained? Still not doctor

Despite what these Asian students and professionals have achieved, their parents' expectations still rule their lives. Graduate school and the pursuit of a "better" more "prestigious", and higher paying profession are still unfulfilled goals their parents have for them. I recently saw Tony Hsieh and Jenn Lim from Zappos on their Delivering Happiness tour. Two very successful Chinese American entrepreneurs. Tony summarized his parents expectations into 3 categories: 1) Academic: Get straight As and go to an Ivy league school 2) Career: Become a doctor, medical or PhD. 3) Music: Play at least three instruments to impress parents friends. Both of them did all of these things, "We have been very successful despite our Asian upbringing," they told the audience.

I tell these groups I address, "First of all congratulations on what you have achieved and what opportunities lie ahead. But stop listening to your parents! Now is the time for you to pursue your ambitions and not theirs. Now is the time for you to control your destiny. In many ways, you have already impressed and disappointed your parents! Get over it and now become who you were meant to be!"

Countless 20, 30 and even 40 year old Asians have confided in me about their futures. The reveal how their parents' expectations follow and even haunt them. Despite the greater sense of themselves they now know their parents vision is in conflict with their own. We all want to please our parents, but like Tony and Jenn we need to make our own paths and destinies.

Being a good parent is such a tough job. Every parent wants their kids to have more and better. But whether Asian or non-Asian, every parent has to establish expectations. But eventually they must let go of the nurture and let the nature take over. Parents have to restrain themselves from trying to impose their dreams on the next generation.

So thank your parents for all they have done for you. Then stop listening to them and start listening to your own heart.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Parents guide to your kids career development

"Would you mind talking to my kid?", maybe the number one question I get today. Responsible and/or doting parents want to help their children make the connection to find a job. I become an attractive resource when people find out I was an average student and a rebellious teen and young adult! And of course because I am free :) These parents perceive their kids to be stuck and need a bit of outside encouragement and motivation (every self respecting parent knows that advice from outside the family, even if it is exactly the same, has more truth and brilliance!) That's what parents want. That is not what the kids want. Although a few more doses of encouragement and positivity are welcomed, the new gen wants a safe place to discuss their often very mal-formed thoughts about their futures (that do not seem to be going over with the older people) As I have advised hundreds of times and in every speech I give, always and enthusiastically agree to help your close network"s family members in their search for life, liberty and the pursuit of a career. Why? because you will always, always, always, get more out of it than you deliver!Helicopter parents  
 
Back on parent front. This job of trying to steer our heirs into the "right careers", the "right jobs" and our obsession to make them happy (if they just knew what was good for them) is extremely challenging. Why? The whole parenting thing is based on how we were parented, good or bad. And we pass down whatever our notions of career development, job and life values, by what we do not we say. Your kids have watched you, idolized you (until they are 14), mimicked you, whether you like it or not. So now your offspring are facing the worst job market in memory and anxiety and stress are running high. Both parents and their kids are going a little crazy, maybe the parents a tad more! 

You have to invoke mentoring and networking to help your kids.

All of our kids need guidance from us to maximize their options and to realize their potentials. To be honest, we are over bearing as parents. We hover, we nudge, we complain, we want them to be like us OR avoid the mistakes we made. The nurture thing is really important but the nature thing is so much more powerful. Their chromosones give them choices. Their DNA give them decisions. What young people need after they get the basics from Maslow's hierarchy is to be loved and to be supported for who they are and what they were meant to do. There is a wonderful Nigerian word amachi, loosely translated to, "Only God knows what each child brings."

  1. Help your kids find themselves. What are their passions and interests? Not what you want them to know and experience. This applies to pre-teens, teenagers, picking a college major and even later. Met a guy in Baltimore last week, he was bragging about his two sons. The "genius" older son was admitted to Annapolis on a scholarship, but his mom forbid him to go into the military. So his son went to Cornell against his wishes, quit and joined the Navy! Spent 4 years in officer training and returned to Penn St to study nuclear engineering. Once he graduates he returns to the Navy. Mom is proud now. The book Hand Me Down Dreams by Mary Jacobson, describes how we try to control our kids. After I read that book, I became more conscious of my kids strengths. The other day, I advised my daughter to drop her initial major of biology and consider the classics or greek mythology, because she loves those subjects. She was surprised and said sarcastically, "What kind of Dad are you?! How am I going to get a job?" We discussed the merits of picking a major based upon a future job that may not exist or be of interest. We concluded that a college education is much more than a major. I meet dozens of kids who lie to their parents to keep them off their back. They aren't lying about drugs or their sexual escapades. The lie about their career interests so that mom and dad aren't mad and worse, disappointed. These bright and talented young people are so frustrated and anxiety ridden by the dreams that are being forced upon them by their parents. Such a shame.
  2. Help you kids become well-lopsided. I have written here several times about how top schools are now rejecting the "well-balanced" students. Students with good grades and scores and a couple years of community service, couple years of leadership/student govt, a couple years of art or music, a couple years of work experience etc. These applicants have become parent created "commodities" and are being rejected for students with deeper personal interests and passions.
  3. Help your kids meet other people and express themselves. Other people's parents, uncles or aunts, people who care about your kids can be wonderful sounding boards. Help them network, for college choices, for career decisions, for narrowing and focusing their job search. They need other people's opinions and perspectives to shape their search for meaning and a job. These are not necessarily interviews for an opening, these are informational interviews. People to review the resume and to hear the strategy. I never liked it when my Dad and Mom arranged these meetings in my life, but it always helped me see the possibilities. More important it helped me understand how I could discover things on my own and I know it made me a better parent.
  4. Sponsor a career tour. If your kids are younger, this is more important than the college tour-- the exposure to jobs, industries and employers. Meeting people in your network to see and hear what people do. It is amazing who you know and what they do. All of it is interesting. Sure not all of the jobs are super cool, but all offer insights into worlds they don't know. Again, if these jobs involve any of your kids interests that will make a big difference. It may be a product, or a service that your kids love. Meeting an exec, a manager, or another young person at the bottom of the org will be insightful and open their minds to new avenues.

Some of your kids are preparing for college, others will get their college degree soon, still others have returned to the nest to re-tool and find employment. While you can find a lot of things on the intenet, you have to use the power of mentoring and networking to make new connections. Frankly it gets much more difficult after your kids are in their late 20's. But before then, there is so much you can do. First back off your dreams and get tuned into theirs. Second, open up your network for introductions to opportunities. Lastly, connect your son or daughter to trusted members of your network to provide "external" advice and counsel.  

Being a parent is so tough. The tension between pushing and pulling is ever present. Once you start to fully appreciate the extraordinary and unique talents and gifts of your kids, the sooner you will be able to help them fulfill their dreams and find gainful employment. 

Thanks for reading. John.