Of course, when we ask young children what they want to be when they grow up, it’s cute when their answers are pro-football player, ballerina, astronaut, president. We laugh about it as we repeat it. “Said he wants to be a football player. Isn’t that cute?”
Here’s a new question. When did we become so jaded? So disbelieving? So doubtful.
We tell those kids, “You can be anything you want to be.” But do we believe it?
We don’t tell them, outright, that they can’t do it. But we start to make it sound less and less possible. Eventually we make comments even to them. “Well, maybe you should pick something a little more plausible.” Counselors in school want to know what career path they’re going to follow. When someone announces that they’re going to Hollywood or New York to make their band famous, the counselors get that look on their faces. And they say, “Well, maybe you should pick a couple of things to “fall back on”.
Many people start to say things to their children like, “It will take a lot of work to be a football player.” But they really mean is, “I don’t think you will work hard enough.” These people believe that their kid will never make it big. Whatever the lofty goal is – those goals that only the best become – they honestly believe that those dreams are for “other” people. They say, “You can be anything.” But they mean, “You can be anything ordinary.”
“It has to be someone’s kid.”
I have always taught my children that they really can be anything they want. However, I have always also told them that some things take a lot more work and dedication than others. With my belief in my children, I have also had the dedication myself to do whatever they needed me to do.
My son wanted to be professional hockey player. He was not the best. (Nor the worst.)
I told him that he could absolutely still go pro. But it would come at a cost. He would need to have year-round training. He would need to skate before and after school, even when his team was not. He would need to work harder than everyone else. He would need to be the first one on the ice and the last one off. He would have very little time for socialization. However, he would still need to keep his studies on track.
In the end, he decided that he loves to play hockey; but that he did not want to put that much work, dedication and sacrifice into it. That’s ok with me because above all – it needed to be his decision. To play, to not play; to become the best, or to just enjoy the game with his friends. It all needed to always be up to him.
Do I really believe he could have made it to the NHL? Absolutely. But not without a lot of hard, hard work.
One of his coaches once said, in a parent meeting, “None of our kids are ever going to go to the NHL. We’re just here to have fun.” What a terrible attitude! It’s great to have fun and have that be the priority in kids’ sports. But again, someone’s kid has to make it. Why not ours? Imagine what could be done if that coach had said, “I want this season to be fun; but I’m also going to challenge your kids to be the best of the best. I’ll teach them to work together as a team and we’ll work on fundamentals. I think any of our kids could go pro if he works hard enough!”
Most people who reach professional status in any area have the full support of someone. Usually their parents. Look at the Olympians. Do you think any swimmer, runner or gymnast got there without a lot of parent hours? Those parents are driving their children to practices before school, taking them to a second practice after school, helping them with homework at night. They are planning everything around training. They are helping their young athletes eat right and get good nutrition, even when the constant running makes it hard. They are making sure their children sleep enough, even though they might be losing out on their own sleep. They are in the gym watching the failures, at the ice rink while their child practices, by the pool day in and day out. If the parents weren’t dedicated to helping their child reach those goals; those children just wouldn’t.
Here is a perfect example: My father was a professional trumpet player in the Army Forces Command Band stationed at Ft. McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia. He grew up playing trumpet and was a very dedicated musician. When he was in high school, he won the John Philip Sousa Award which recognizes superior musicianship, dependability, loyalty, and cooperation. By the time he was 30, he was a successful musician in the Forced Command Band and played piano and guitar as well. He even wrote two full-band marches – with the help of friends and colleagues. The first, “Freedom’s Guardian” became the band’s “official march” and the second, “The Red Piping” was also played on occasion. Unfortunately, that same year, he got cancer and died within six months.
Years later, one of his very close friends and fellow musicians told me this, “I don’t think that your dad was just very talented. He was a very hard worker. He practiced his craft as often as he could. That’s what made him the best.”
So next time you ask a child what he’s going to be when he grows up, make sure you don’t dismiss his answer.
You never know. He or she could do it. And you should believe in that dream and help it come true!