Photo by Dave Laus
What Can We Learn From A Toddler?
One of the most important roles a parent has is to be a teacher and mentor to their kids. From learning how to sit upright, to taking their first steps, to reading, counting and beyond, a parent is there every step of the way to ensure their child learns all the skills needed to eventually become independent and successful at life. Ironically, throughout this amazing journey known as parenthood, the child ends up teaching the parent many invaluable lessons.
My two and a half year old son (better known as Kayden Blade) is the 2nd love of my life. He’s a 35 lb. fire breathing bundle of energy that is always on the go and always getting into something. He’s also become one of my greatest teachers. Here are a few pearls of wisdom this pint-sized philosopher has taught me that I’d like to share with you:
Repetition Creates Excellence
In today’s hyper-connected, frenetic paced society where everyone wants everything instantly, we often forget the steps involved in learning a skill. Observing the way my son approaches any new task has helped me to appreciate what it takes to get good at anything. If he’s learning a new word, he will repeat it over and over, literally hundreds of times. He’ll ask you to spell it and will practice spelling it relentlessly until the word is hardwired into his brain. Once he’s confident with the word, he will start experimenting with different ways to pronounce it and then add extra letters to the end of the word for his own amusement (i.e. Daddy becomes Daddy-O or broccoli becomes broccolina).
This is no different from NBA MVP Steph Curry shooting hundreds of three point shots and thousands of free throws in practice and then fooling around with half court shots at the end. The process is the same for any high level athlete.
All elite achievers develop and hone their skills through constant repetition while keeping the process fun through experimentation. From Steph Curry to Sidney Crosby to Georges St. Pierre, the common denominator with these greats is a love of practice and the willingness to drill the basics more than their peers.
We need to accept that excellence takes time. Making it to the NHL starts with learning how to skate. The path to a 600 lb. deadlift starts with a 45 lb. bar. And losing 50 lbs. of body fat happens one excruciatingly slow pound at a time. Whatever the goal, accept the reality that you will need to practice, rinse and repeat until you get there.
Love Learning for Learning Sake
This second lesson is closely tied to the lesson above. The realities of life and pressures of adulthood can slowly make us cynical and set in our ways. We spend the early part of our lives intensely focused on acquiring knowledge and degrees and certifications. Once we start our careers, this learning often comes to a grinding halt. Our actions suggest that we believe we know all there is to know. To combat this we need to return to our inner child and rediscover the joy of learning for its own sake.
If you spend enough time with young children, you will constantly be amazed at how excited they are to learn and absorb new information. They are in a state of constant wonder and excitement about their surroundings and see endless possibilities. If we can adopt this mindset into adulthood, we will open ourselves up to opportunities and appreciate that one of the joys of life is exposing ourselves to new ideas and learning just for the sake of learning. A love of learning will allow us to continually grow and evolve during our short time on this planet.
Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up Eight
None of us remember learning how to walk but if we did, we would realize that we are all born with an unbreakable resilience to learn new skills and overcome obstacles. Watching Kayden learn how to walk really highlighted this for me. No matter how many times he would stumble or trip over imaginary objects, he would just get back up and try again. And again and again and again. Quitting was a totally foreign concept to him. Eventually, like almost every infant, he figured it out.
As adults, we are far too quick to throw in the towel when things inevitably get hard. We lose the relentless drive and can-do spirit that we all had as kids. We forget that anything that we have accomplished of significance is a by-product of hard work and dogged determination. This is another reason why I think channelling our inner two-year old could do many of us some good. Think about what it took to learn how to walk. You would try, fail and try, try again until you succeeded. Apply this mindset to any goal you want to achieve and you will make it happen.
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Team Strong Athlete