IF YOU WANT A HIGH ACHIEVING CHILD, LEARN HOW TO BACKWARD DESIGN
Several months ago, a friend, who happens to be an estate planning attorney, made a profound but unusual request. Jennifer asked if I could help her make sure her son got the best educational start possible. Jennifer’s exact words were “can you help my son become Naeem 2.0?”
I’ve known Jennifer for several years and remember when her son who is now three was born. And as is the case with anyone who asks for my assistance, I told Jennifer that I would do my best to help.
I must admit that at first, Jennifer’s request seemed unreal. I heard her request loud and clear but my mind was having a hard time processing why anyone especially a highly educated, supremely intelligent, and successful attorney needed my help.
IT ALL STARTED WHEN
The first time Jennifer broached the topic, I simply understood or perhaps more honestly tried to pretend her question was a compliment. I knew she considered me to be a good dad so I elected to receive her words as only a compliment. It was much easier mentally to process Jennifer’s words as praise than it was to accept the responsibility for helping someone whom I respect and admire greatly with their child.
In retrospect, I’m sorry that I procrastinated. Jennifer wasn’t asking for anything daunting. There was no reason for me to be apprehensive or evasive. She merely wanted to do for her son what was done for my son. Jennifer wanted to make sure that her son also had a personalized plan – a process of anticipating and arranging his life.
PLANNING FOR DEATH BUT NOT FOR LIFE
As an estate planning attorney, Jennifer was keenly aware of the need to prepare. She’s seen firsthand the horror stories of those who die intestate. She knows the burden placed on the living when clients don’t prepare adequately for death. Just like estate planning, she wanted a process that might provide her with the opportunity to eliminate some of the uncertainties of parenting and a process that might also enhance her son’s chances to maximize his potential.
So a few weeks later, after having finally moved beyond my initial reluctance, Jennifer and I sat together and began to do what was done for my son 21 years ago. Jennifer with my assistance began to chart her son’s course. Jennifer began the astute process of anticipating and arranging her son’s life.
CRAFTING THE LIFE TEMPLATE
First, we had to make sure Jennifer agreed with me that if we plan for death it seems irresponsible and inconceivable to do anything less when it comes to making plans for life. After all, who in their right mind would create detailed plans and spend thousands of dollars organizing things for a time when they will no longer breathe but will not expend the same time, energy and resources on the very life they are presently living and hope to live?
Second, I shared with Jennifer two concepts that would be at the core of everything she would do for at least the next eighteen to twenty-one years. Those two concepts are Backward Design and Reverse Engineering.
In short, I explained to her that we would set a target for her son’s life and backward design a personalized life plan to help him reach whatever goals she established. Further, I explained we would examine other people and prospective professions to engineer a process to meet the landmarks and benchmarks necessary to help her son meet the desired destination.
Third, and the importance of this step cannot be understated, we talked about the hopes and dreams she has for her son. We moved from normal surface discussions down to the core of who she wanted him to be. We covered questions such as:
- What kind of man did she want him to be?
- What does she want others to say about him?
- What does she want him to know and think about himself?
- What college or colleges would she like him to attend?
- What skills does she want him to know?
- What things does she believe he should master?
The fact finding was intense. We talked for hours. Actually, Jennifer and I are still talking. You see Jennifer is the catalyst for the parenting workshop I’ve created known as “The G.P.S.” Now she and other parents meet with me biweekly to discover ways to eliminate some of the uncertainties of parenting and to learn how to craft their own personalized plans which might aid in helping to maximize their children’s potential.
SOMETHING ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW
Armed with a clearer insight into the hopes and dreams she has for her son, we started outlining his plan. Today, we call the plan and the process The Life Template. No different from any other template, the construction of The Life Template requires thoughtful consideration, detailed investigation, and the time sensitive implementation of a number of strategies.
As is the case with estate planning, our goal is to leave no stone unturned. We examine and plan for a wide range of things including but not limited to the following:
- The profile of the students admitted to the college she’d like him to attend.
- The national and global economic climate forecast fifteen to twenty years from now.
- Global employment trends.
- Tools and strategies to expedite her son’s learning curve.
- Investigating the track record for the K-12 schools he may attend to assess whether they have the ability to help him maximize his potential.
- The common extracurricular activities of certain professionals.
- The typical non-school activities which enhance scholarship offers and national recognition.
- A focus on global academic measurements, not state or local benchmarks.
- The type of people who should make up his village.
The aforementioned are just the tip of the iceberg. And there is one other teeny tiny thing we did before we started drafting the specifics to her son’s plan. We examined who she is.
We probed deeply into her identity. We started with her because too many parents want to make plans for their children and hold their children and others to lofty standards and otherworldly expectations without having ever looked at the person in the mirror.
*Note to parents, you are your child’s first and primary role model. Your children are always watching which means you better be absolutely sure you are both comfortable with what they are seeing and that you are mirroring what you want them to be.
FIRST THE TREE, THEN THE FRUIT
Lastly, I explained to Jennifer and have shared similar discussions with the class what I believe is the First Incontrovertible Truth of Parenting. “The fruit is NEVER responsible for the tree, the tree is ALWAYS responsible for the fruit.”
Jennifer and the “Hyperion Parents” – as I am apt to call them – understand that they must embrace the aforementioned quote. They all know that The Life Template is not a quick fix nor does it have magical power. They all know that The Life Template forbids outsourcing, feeling entitled, making excuses, having a fixed mindset and living without dreams.
Each parent knows the precise value of The Life Template. They know that The Life Template appoints, certifies, and charges the parent with all the rights and responsibilities of being the official Case Manager of their child’s life. And every parent understands that The Life Template works best and only when parents plan and when parents and children both do the work.
BLAME JENNIFER AND THANK NAEEM
Thanks to Jennifer’s relentless inquisition, we are now sharing The Life Template with other families. Thanks to Naeem, I have the ability to share with other parents through the G.P.S. course a process for making what at times seems like an overwhelming dead-end excursion a fantastic hopeful journey that includes step by step detailed instructions and a clearer than ever destination.
It’s hard to believe that several months ago, I almost balked at Jennifer’s request. She was simply asking for what I’ve come to understand is the desire of most parents – an opportunity to give their children a chance to fulfill their God-given potential.
I can hardly wait to see what becomes of the children whose parents are now learning how to engineer The Life Template. I know very soon other parents will simply ask one of the “Hyperion Parents” what Jennifer asked me a while ago. “How do I make my child a 2.0 version of yours?”
Are you using backward design to help your child? How are you planning to give your child a chance to fulfill their potential? Could your child benefit from The Life Template?