Today, we offer you a conversation with some guy I met online, which isn’t really the best way to meet someone. However, his daughters are both adults and they still talk to him, so it’s probably safe for us to hear what he has to say about life, fatherhood and the things young adults wish they’d known before they graduated into the real world.
Michael Rosenbaum is author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life, a snappy little volume of life lessons that every graduate could use on the way to adulthood. So, Michael, what’s the story behind the stories?
When my dad died a number of years ago, I was thinking about the legacy he’d left me and the one I would leave to my children. I realized that the best lesson he ever taught me was how to teach without lecturing. When I was screwing up or looking for answers, he never told me what to do, but he would tell me a story that contained the answers.
So what’s the difference?
When someone tells you what to do, your defenses go up. When someone tells you a story about themselves or some friend of a friend, you can absorb it and learn without as much resistance.
You never lectured your daughters?
Well, never is a long time, but mostly we’d have long dinner-table conversations about what was going on in their lives and I almost always resisted the use of those deadly words: This is what YOU SHOULD do.
Did you get all the stories and lessons from your dad?
No, luckily I made enough bad decisions in my life to have plenty of cautionary tales of my own that I could share with my girls. In addition, I was a newspaper reporter for many years and I had a habit of taking notes when people said something particularly smart—or dumb. I incorporated those lessons into the dinner table conversation…and into the book.
Okay, share a story that’s based on your own stupidity.
Can we focus on delusion instead of stupidity? I was talking with some people about my goals and my frustration with not reaching them. I told them I wanted to be recognized as the leader, the visionary, the person other people would follow anywhere. And a friend asked me, “Mike, have you EVER been that guy?” Suddenly, I realized that I never had been and I never would be THAT GUY. I changed the direction of my life after that and actually became more successful.
What are the most important lessons your daughters picked up from you?
The one that we talk about most is time. It’s the greatest gift you can give someone, because it’s the gift of your life. We also talk a ton about choices. Many people decide they can’t do something because another person is preventing it. Sometimes, it’s a person who is dead or living in another city, a person they never see. And yet, they put their lives on hold because of something this other person did or said. They can make that choice, but they can also choose to move on. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can almost always choose how to respond.
These sound like lessons we should all know by the time we get out of school.
We have heard about many of these lessons, but we need reminders of why we should follow them. And kids getting out of school and becoming adults respond better when they hear the lessons from someone other than their parents.
What if their parents have told them all these things already?
No difference. The parental lessons have been spread out over 18 or 20 years. If they haven’t been internalized yet, it’s unlikely they’ll be absorbed now. If only there was some book of life lessons that could deliver those lessons in a friendly, non-threatening, entertaining way.
Like your book?
Well, now that you mention it, I think “Your Name Here: Guide to Life” fits the bill nicely. I would never tell you that YOU SHOULD buy it, but you might decide to do that on your own after checking out my blog site or reading the reviews on Amazon.
Thanks for your thoughts and for giving me some material to fill my blog today.
[True confession: I know Michael through 5 Minutes for Parenting, where I occasionally blog. I wanted to post something to help him get the word out about his book and he came to my aid with this handy-dandy interview. He wrote the whole thing but if I had more time and brain cells, I would have composed the questions myself!]