Are You Happy with Who You Are?
“People focus on role models; it is more effective to find anti-models — people you don’t want to resemble when you grow up.”
by Greg Hague
This morning a Savvy Dad friend and story contributor (and really smart guy), Michael LeBoeuf, reminded me of that quote from a great book, The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb.
It made me reflect back to a Saturday breakfast with Dad at Perkins Pancake House in Montgomery, Ohio. I was 12, maybe 13. It was our father-son tradition — the highlight of my week for years. We were sitting across from each other in a dark-red shiny booth next to the window, looking out at the road. It was a cold, icy morning. I can still picture the massive platter before me, stacked high with five syrup-laden pancakes, hash-browns and a double order of crispy bacon.
As we casually chatted about my week at school, Mom, my sister, cute girls and such, Dad discreetly nodded for me to look over to the people sitting at the table in the center of the room. “Pretty seedy looking,” I commented, without thinking much more.
Chubby then said, “Greg, do you want to grow up to be like them?” “What do you mean?” I asked. “I mean,” he said,
“do you ever think about who you would most NOT like to be like when you grow up?”
It didn’t take long. I named names and quickly said why. With each person, Dad would then ask, “Greg, why, exactly, do you think they ended up that way?” We each gave our opinion. It became a game of how NOT to make it in life.
Lack of effort? No self-discipline? C’s in school? Eating too much? Afraid to ‘go for it’? Worried about looking bad?
Dad even asked if perhaps these people had just meandered through life with no clear vision of what they wanted to be. He suggested that maybe they hadn’t done anything wrong. He said,
“‘Wrong’ presumes they tried to be something more. Many don’t.”
We had previously talked a lot about how to make it in life. We had never discussed how I might look back disappointed with mine. It was scary. Toward the end of our discussion, Chubby asked me a piercing question.
“Greg,” he said, “Right now, , with what you’ve so far accomplished in life?”
I knew the answer was “no.” I envied my friends who had better grades, played better ball, or headed a club. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do what they’d done. I just hadn’t. I doubt I had the courage to tell Dad.
Dad taught me a lot. Often, at the time, I didn’t realize the remarkability of his lessons. This time, I did. When my father asked me if I was satisfied with “me”, it really drove the point home.
Writing this brought back some pretty poignant memories. It had been quite a while since I reflected back on that “how not to succeed” conversation with Dad. I had never considered how easy it would be to mess up my life. In the car on the way home, I remember thinking,
“I am not going to become a me I don’t want to be!”