The other evening, I had the great pleasure of participating in an advisory panel discussion with a group of Indiana University undergraduate students. No different from any other time that I am asked to speak to the “future”, I had an absolute blast learning from and sharing with the insightful students. Plus there was an added bonus for me, like Vanilla Tofutti on a vegan apple pie. I had an opportunity to engage in thoughtful face to face dialogue with people who remind me of my favorite person in all the world – my main man Soop!
The Greek philosopher Diogenes said that “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” I believe Diogenes statement to be true. Thus, I consider myself blessed each time the foundation of our nation bestows upon me the privilege of being a part of their educational process. I’m eager and happy to speak to young people every chance I get.
Part of my enthusiasm is derived from the recognition that there is a grave communication gap between parents and children. Consider how frequently, adults characterize children especially millennials as aloof or entitled. I can tell you that more often than not, the adult perspective is wrong.
Our children aren’t aloof or entitled. Our children are seeking answers to questions that they have been left unprepared to answer. Our children are searching for the best ways to navigate unfamiliar terrain.
When we label children as being standoffish, we do them a disservice because actually they are thinking. They are reflecting on the ambiguous purpose and covetous meaning of life which adults model daily.
When we describe them as spoiled, we unjustly associate them with a word which carries a meaning of being “beyond redemption”. Our children aren’t spoiled or hopeless. Our children simply need guidance – worthwhile direction and useful leadership – that we, their parents and adults, so often fail to provide.
Proof that our children are thinking and searching was evident by Saturday evening’s line of questioning. One of the first things we were asked to discuss was adversity. A-D-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y, a word commonly used to express a recent unlucky incident or current state of one’s life. A word Dictionary.com defines the following way:
- Adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress:
- An adverse or unfortunate event or circumstance:
I don’t know about you but the way Dictionary.com defines adversity makes the word appear sinister. Adversity sounds almost like Count Dracula, lurking in the dark waiting to attack an unsuspecting victim.
I’m fairly certain that the student who asked the question about adversity thought of adversity similarly – as some powerful, omnipresent distressing menacing force. Adversity, a tuxedo dressed vampire who confesses to his prospective victims “I want to drink your blood”.
Horror movie references aside, if I was a gambling man, I would be willing to bet that the student’s perspective of adversity as that of a calamitous, ruinous situation originates from her upbringing. While it cannot be denied that adversity is both powerful and omnipresent, adversity is neither unfortunate nor sinister.
Adversity is an essential requirement for personal growth and development. In the voice of Tony the Tiger, I proclaim “adversities are greeeeeaaaaat!”
BRING OUT THE TIGER IN YOU!
Of course, I realize that proclaiming that adversities are great may sound like the ramblings of a certifiable lunatic. Determining whether I’m one of the “Crazy Ones” is truly a waste of time. This is a question that has been answered over and over and thus requires no further contemplation.
I’ll say it loudly and proudly for those of you who have not been listening. I am now and promise to forever be one of the “Crazy Ones”. So putting aside my questionable mental health for a moment, let’s turn our attention to the unmistakable value of adversities.
Adversities have the same effect on us that Frosted Flakes has on Tony the Tiger. When Tony the Tiger eats a bowl of Frosted Flakes he becomes supercharged. When we think we are being consumed by hardship, we are actually being supercharged by adversities.
Just like Tony the Tiger we grow stronger and more capable. Just like Frosted Flakes, adversities brings out the Tiger in you!
AN APPLE SEED WITH OR WITHOUT PURPOSE
If adversities are indeed greeeeaaaaat, why did the student ask “how do you handle adversity? She asked for the same reason most children ask. She viewed adversity as something to be feared.
It’s likely that she adopted an influential adult’s panicked outlook on adversity. My best guess is that she asked about adversity because she needed to be reminded that challenges must not cause us to lose sight of our purpose. I believe that with a purpose adversity leads to progress and without a purpose adversity causes decay.
To digest my philosophical perspective about adversity, picture your child as an apple seed. I don’t know if you realized this or not but in order for an apple seed to fulfill its destiny of becoming an apple tree, it has to experience lots of adversity.
First, the seed has to be separated from the cozy confines of an apple and be willing to go it alone. Imagine what would happen if at any point in the process, the apple seed decided the journey was too tough or that it didn’t want to be separated from the other seeds. Bam no more apple juice! Bam no more apple pies! Bam no more apple turnovers! Bam no more apples period!
Fortunately, for lovers of apples, the apple seed doesn’t view adversity the way we do. The apple seed understands that there is a larger purpose – a purpose greater than themselves – that must be fulfilled. The apple knows that not only does it exist to provide food and drink but the apple understands its purpose for providing shade to weary travelers.
We would be wise to teach our children to experience adversity like apples. For example, children should be taught that like apples they must:
- Risk being swallowed – Accept and expect that there will always be people who will want to usurp our independence and act as if we don’t exist. Refuse to shrink, speak up, and don’t be invisible.
- Risk being sliced – Acknowledge that there are people who would carve us up if that meant they could keep us from fulfilling our purpose. Avoid these people whenever possible.
- Risk being chewed – Understand that there will be times when being chewed, criticized, is probable. If the criticism is constructive use it; if the criticism is destructive lose it.
- Placed in prolonged darkness – Realize that life requires times where everyone has to go it alone and sometime the people around us are gloomy. It’s better to be alone than to be around those who drain your spirit.
- Covered with manure – Appreciate the unfortunate reality that some people will want to pour their droppings on us. Recycle their garbage and use it as your personal renewable energy.
- Surprising sprinkling – Remember that even when things seem their worst, if we pay close attention we will notice and feel a positive outpouring. There are showers of optimism everywhere.
- Unable to acknowledge sunshine – Embrace the reality that even when we are not aware that good fortune is shining on us, good things happen every day. Rays of hope are always waiting on us.
- Endure inclement temperatures – Understand that rarely is life one temperature and it’s okay if your disposition occasionally vacillates between hot and cold. An ability to thrive in changing conditions is a must.
- Glimmer of Hope – Acquire patience because all the adversity is preparing you to rise above the surface and extend towards the heavens. Adversity is not intended to deter; adversity is intended to develop.
- Take Root – Recognize the value of hardship because it is hardship that best provides you with a well-grounded and solid foundation.
- Shade and Fruit – Value your adversity because without it you would not be able to provide cover or sustenance for you or those you love.
Don’t leave your child clueless or powerless to move beyond challenging circumstances. Make sure your child has the answers and the directions they need to overcome adversities. Make sure your child knows that you can’t eat even one slice of apple pie until you make it through a hole heaping of adversity.
How do you deal with adversity? How do your children handle adversity?