On the second Sunday of every month my family gets together to have dinner. During that dinner we celebrate whatever holiday or birthdays are happening that month. It’s a great way to optimize our time and stay connected.
In June we celebrated father's days. To celebrate we exchanged gifts and watched this:
I knew that my parents sacrificed a lot to raise me. Now that I have kids I have a greater understanding of the things they sacrificed to provide the life that we have now.
For that, I am grateful.
There have been a few times that my wife has asked me if I had a good childhood. Despite typical teenaged angst I am able to recognize the incredible experiences that I had. So, yes, I had a pretty great childhood.
At one point my mom and I ended up sitting down and having a conversation about sacrifice. Rather than the typical conversation about ancestral sacrifice she told me about her friend that doing some missionary work on a Native Reservation.
They are working specifically with high school aged youth. At one point the youth were invited to their house. I don’t know what this missionary did before he retired but he made a good living. He and his wife live in a very nice house.
For one particular young man it was the first time he had come across this kind of money in real life. Experiencing something that is so far from reality has the ability create a paradigm shift.
This young man asked the missionary, “How do I get here? How do I get what you have?”
The answers to these seemingly impossible questions are always simple.
The missionary responded with, “Stay in school and work hard.”
While the answers may be simple the process of putting them into reality are never easy.
My brother and I often talk about a sociology study that looked at the projects in New York. The researcher talked about how the only thing that young people need to do to make it out of the projects is to get a minimum wage job. Yet, almost none of them do it.
After telling this story to my mom she talked about my dad. My dad was the first in his family attend college. He's told me on more that one occasion that during high school he felt like he was destined to graduate from high school and get job. That was the norm for his friends. Lucky for me he was driven for something different.
He broke the social expectation he grew up in. He saw what his potential was and stretched himself to make it happen. Because of his sacrifice I have enjoyed privileges I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
I like to think I am making similar sacrifices for my kids. But I don’t want to focus on sacrifice in this post, although that has a bit to do with it. I want to focus on breaking out of social expectation.
I am inherently social. Who I surround myself with has a big impact on who I am. When I spend longer than a couple of days in Canada I will start to speak like a Canadian.
There is a theory that we are the average of the five people we spend our time with.
I have spent most of my life thinking that I was the exception to everything. I was somehow a maverick in everything I did. The more I learn about evolutionary psychology and my own biology I realize that a lot me is natural response not deliberate choice.
This concept of being the average of the people I spent my time with became very clear when I tried to start going to the gym.
The only reason I had any success going to the gym was because of my friend Mark. If ever had a chance to see Mark you’d understand. It wasn’t uncommon for people to come up to me in the gym and ask me what I was paying Mark to be my personal trainer. He’s a big dude.
Eventually his habits eventually became mine.
If I want to change my situation, whatever that might look like, I can do it myself fighting agains the social expectations of my circle of friends. Or, I can change my social circle and let their influence help me develop new habits.
Not only is the social plan easier it’s way more sustainable.
Changing social circles is intimidating. Reaching outside of my comfort zone causes fear and anxiety. That’s why teenagers don’t get jobs at McDonalds to get out of the projects. Social fear is very real.
Here’s what I’ve found, especially recently. When there is genuine interest in other people, those people will open up.
We live in an age of facade and filters. Authenticity is hard to come by. When I am authentically interested in another person they open up. There is real connection. When that happens my social circle grows and starts to change.
I’ll give you an example.
I recently met a successful real estate agent. We had a few things in common but mostly I was very curious about real estate. That genuine interest got him to open his mouth and gave some insight into a different way of thinking. I learned a lot and got a new friend. It was a win/win.
Real change doesn’t happen overnight. Just like friends aren’t made in one 15 minute conversation. Things take time and they take work. Just like the advice that the missionary gave that kid. Stay in school and work hard.
What level do you want to get to and what social expectations are preventing you from getting there?