Sunday, October 16th was declared “Steve Jobs Day” in the State of California by our Governor, Jerry Brown. The acknowledgement pays homage to the tech genius who transformed the way we lived and who passed away years too soon from a long battle with pancreatic cancer. His memorial took place on Stanford University’s campus, the same grounds where he recited his now infamous commencement speech for the graduating class of 2005 http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/oct/09/steve-jobs-stanford-commencement-address.
On the day of his passing, the commencement address circulated like wildfire and I re-read it again, along with so many others, with tears in my eyes and feelings of grief for yet another life taken before their time. I thought about my two young girls and how they have their whole lives ahead of them to hopefully discover something they are passionate about so that they can begin to make their mark in the world.
As parents, we spend a great deal of time banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out the best course of action for our children that will provide them with the skills to evolve into happy, successful, fulfilled adults. While there are no sure things and, I personally feel a lot of parenting has to do with prayer and luck, I do feel there are some extremely valuable lessons to be learned from this pioneer who broke out of the norm, stayed determined and triumphed over and over again. Steve Job’s achievements were enormous and took tremendous imagination and tenacity, but to me it was his remarkable grit, resilience and gratitude that kept him going and allowed him to attain such colossal success.
In a world where parents are overly protective of their kids, will do anything to prevent them from experiencing hardship and mistakenly provide them with all they desire leading to entitlement, the life lessons learned from these three traits are more critical now than ever. There is nothing wrong with helping our children develop a thicker skin, encouraging them to work through difficulty even when it feels uncomfortable and inspiring them to forge ahead on the road less traveled if it is their passion. It’s called building good character.
Grit. Especially today, when our young children are faced with so many challenges, grit stands out for me as a characteristic that is vital to their survival. If my girls have an altercation with another child, I encourage them to try and work it out amongst themselves rather than stepping in to save the day. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little adversity. Although I speak to my girls about inclusion, I also share with them that not everyone has to love everyone all the time. This is part of life and sometimes they will be disappointed and their feelings will be hurt. I want to encourage my daughters to stand up for themselves and be able to speak their minds if they are not being treated with respect. I want them to have the tools to fight their own battles rather than interceding, unless of course, things get out of hand and it is necessary for a parent to step in. I would much rather my girls learn how to be courageous and determined on the playground in the hopes that they might have an easier time applying these skills to the boardroom. Steve Jobs showed grit when he dropped out of college after realizing that his parent’s money would be better spent by him taking courses that truly interested him rather than those that were required.
Resilience. Equally important, in my book, is raising children with resilience and the ability to bounce back. As much as I wish this wasn’t true, life is full of disappoint and set back’s and the earlier children are familiar with this notion, the better. While I don’t wish to scare my daughters or prevent them from being happy, carefree kids, I feel it is critical that they develop a healthy layer of thick skin so that they can forge through an uncomfortable situation or learn to finish what they start to feel that sense of achievement. I believe it’s my job to motivate them, to help turn their hesitance into confidence. I want them to understand that a silly fight with a friend does not have to be debilitating, that they have the power within themselves to turn a situation around or move on if they so choose to. I want them to feel confident with their decisions, but if they discover something isn’t working to have the strength and perseverance to go in a different direction rather than throw in the towel in defeat. After Steve Jobs got fired from Apple, he didn’t lose faith, he didn’t settle. Instead, he displayed surprising resilience by picking himself up and starting a new venture which also became wildly successful called NeXT.
Gratitude. I cannot think of a more valuable asset than the ability to be grateful, particularly when there are so many children that seem to err on the side of entitlement. To teach children to apply themselves, to respect themselves and to be thankful each day will ensure their happiness, for it is virtually impossible to be happy if you are not grateful for what you have. I hope to impart this concept to my girls so that they will never take anything for granted, but rather learn to appreciate the miracles of life both big and small. Whether they write a thank you note to a friend for a sleepover or give a giant hug to their grandparents for taking them to Disneyland, I want them to learn that being grateful not only feels good personally, but it reaps everlasting rewards with others. Steve Jobs exemplified gratitude in the tremendous effort he put into his work, from painstakingly figuring out the colors of each new product to taking such pleasure in personally presenting them to his audience at each new launch. He seemed eternally grateful for his amazing success and it showed up to his very last day…