My wife and I move our family every year. We’ve lived in Vermont, China, Vancouver … and many places in between. We do this to learn new cultures and embrace new adventures.
It’s awesome. And also very hard.
Every time we move, we leave behind friends, a home we’ve made, and our comfort zones. We also uproot our children just as they’ve made new friends and settled into a new routine.
Studies suggest that moving as an adolescent can have a negative impact on your health, behavior, and education. So, my wife and I are always wondering: Are we setting our kids up for trouble down the road?
I’m all about running headfirst into a challenge and working my way through. I call this purposeful suffering, and I’ve been practicing it for years. Behavioral scientists refer to it as stress inoculation. You can combat anxiety by repeatedly exposing yourself to the thing you fear.
But when it comes to my kids, I’m not as cavalier. A parent’s number-one job is to set their children up for success, after all, so it’s tempting to shield them from adversity. But I’m learning not to, because here’s the thing my children have taught me over the years: Kids are braver than we think.
With every move, our children have adjusted more quickly than my wife and I. They don’t fear new environments or strange languages. They embrace new cultures and are curious about new traditions. They make new friends with the snap of a finger.
My kids have tried more foods in the past three years than I did in my first 30. They can ski and wrestle. They speak multiple languages. Pushing them out of their comfort zone hasn’t destroyed them. Quite the opposite. It’s showed them how to unlock some of the potential within themselves.
Rather than trying to teach your kids how to be brave, it’s time to become the student. Here are four things children can teach us about courage.
1) Be Yourself and You’ll Never Go Wrong
My kids aren’t afraid to sing or dance in public—or order a stranger to drop and give them 30 burpees (I might have played a role in that one)—because they know who they are. They know what they like. And they’re not afraid to show it.
The world rewards the ambitious—those who know what they want and are willing to run through walls to get it. And it all starts with being the purest version of yourself possible.
2) Tomorrow Is a New Day
With every move, I see the same pattern. Day one: The kids hang around the house, afraid to venture too far. Day two: They’re so busy playing with new friends outside that they don’t want to come home for dinner.
As adults, we have a tendency to dwell. Fumble a presentation at work and it feels like the end of the world. Will your boss forgive you? What will your colleagues think of you?
Who cares? Tomorrow’s a new day. Wake up and kick some ass.
3) Wear Your Scars with Pride
Q: What do you call a kid with a new cast?
A: The most popular kid in school.
As adults, we try to smooth our wrinkles, comb over our bald spots, and pretend our jobs and lives are perfect. Kids don’t do that. They embrace their scrapes, bumps, and bruises as bragging rights.
Life is like a sports car. If you don’t ding yourself here and there, you’re probably taking the corners too slowly. Life’s little fender benders lead to big learning.
4) Curiosity Opens Doors
I’m endlessly fascinated by new people and things. That’s why I accept every networking meeting I can—and perhaps that explains why I burned through several different careers so far.
I see that same inquisitiveness in my kids, and nothing makes me happier. Why? Because curiosity is the key to success in business and in life. It constantly leads you down new paths and positions you in front of new doors.
Sure, you never know what awaits you at the end of those paths—or on the other side of the doors. That’s what makes this journey so exciting. Sure, you’ll have doubts. But for best results, make like a child and be brave.