Have you ever felt what someone else was feeling? If you have, then you know what empathy is. In a nutshell, empathy is the connection to another person, established through understanding their feelings and their needs.
At the pace the world currently moves at, it’s difficult to connect to people. We’re always moving, always chasing something. When we exercise empathy, we stay in the moment with them and understand where they are and what they experiencing.
Empathy let’s us celebrate with other people in the good times and mourn with people in the bad times. Let’s revisit Rachel and Rebecca to see empathy in action.
There’s no inbetween. One minutes it’s dark and the next minute, the light is blinding. Rachel shields her eyes as the rickety steel door opens.
“Time’s up,” says Denise. Rachel doesn’t like prison guards, but she respects Denise. Denise is fair and she doesn’t cut corners like the other guards.
“This one went quickly,” says Rachel.
“Break someone’s nose again and it’ll be two weeks next time.”
Rachel stands up and steadies herself. “Well, then, I might as well get ready. Because it’s going to happen again.”
“I don’t get you, Rachel,” says Denise. She shakes her head. “No one likes spending time in solitary confinement. And as much as you want to tell me that you do, I know you don’t. It’s miserable and it’s cold and it’s the closest thing to inhumane treatment we have.”
“So why do you use it?” says Rachel.
“Because some people don’t listen to a warning. And some people don’t listen when someone’s underneath them, begging them to stop hitting her.”
Rachel shakes her head and looks the other way. “She had it coming.”
“She had it coming? So the next time someone scores twenty points against you in a game of basketball, they’ll have a beating coming to them?”
“She kept going on about the points. She kept throwing it in my face.”
“Rachel, every time you do something like this, your prison sentence gets stretched out further.”
“I don’t care,” says Rachel. But she does. She cares a lot. Basketball has always been her favourite game. As a little girl, there were only two reasons why she went to school. Basketball and her best friend, Rebecca.
It’s the championship game and Rachel is ready. She’s on the starting line up for a change. And she’s earned her place. She may be stubborn, but she’s done everything coach said.
Coach told her to change her attitude and she did.
Coach told her to watch her temper.
Now’s the game. She’s playing defense against one of the strongest schools in the district. This is the moment. It’s time. She’s been practicing for weeks now. She’s ready.
But five minutes into the game, Rachel knows that she has a problem. There’s a girl on the attacking team and she’s good. In fact, this girl is better than Rachel. She’s tall, she’s quick and she’s accurate. At the end of the first half, she’s snuck past Rachel half a dozen times and she’s got points on the board.
Rachel is losing her cool. The girl doesn’t even acknowledge her. She doesn’t even say a word to her. Worse, she celebrates every point, looking into the crowd and smiling as if she owns the support. Rachel is angry.
The second quarter starts and the girl gets the ball. She starts running down the court. Rachel doesn’t even try and get the ball, she leans into the girl, raising her elbow. There’s a squishy sound as cartilage is broken and then the girl hits the deck. There’s blood everywhere. The ref sends Rachel off. But she’s smiling. There’s nothing like stopping someone who’s making your life difficult.
It’s Friday and Rebecca is celebrating her company’s new mobile app. In the first week of launching it, there have been 100 000 downloads in the app store.
“You did it, Rebecca,” says Stacey. “I had my doubts, but look at these results. You know how to make magic happen!”
“It’s not magic,” says Rebecca. “It’s the power of people. Everyone has a problem and if you can feel that problem, you can own it and you can do something about it. That’s what our app is doing. It’s something I learnt when I used to watch my best friend play basketball.”
Stacey says something, but Rebecca hardly hears her. She’s far away now. So far away that she might as well be…
13 years old. Yes, she’s thirteen again. She’s watching Rachel play basketball. She shows up for every game. She knows Rachel’s parents are never going to be there. So she makes an effort to be her support. Not that she needs a reason. Rachel is an amazing player and watching her is inspiring.
The more Rebecca watches the games, the more she begins to understand the people playing it and the people watching it. Seeing a game of basketball from the stands is a little like watching the world in action. Today, within five minutes she knows that Rachel is angry and losing her cool. She feels that anger boiling over inside herself, even though she’s not even playing.
“Why’s she angry?” Rebecca whispers under her breath.
And then she sees it. Rachel is angry at one of the opposition players. Rebecca’s eyes pan across to the other team and she sees the player. The girl is tall and fit, but she’s no match for Rachel. There’s something about the way she’s playing that makes Rebecca think there’s more to this story. There’s some sort of anxiety about her. Rebecca watches the girl closely for the next five minutes. And in watching her, she understands everything.
While Rachel sees an opponent who is making fun of her and making her life difficult, Rebecca sees the truth. She sees a girl who is desperately seeking her father’s attention, by being the best basketball player on her team. All she wants is love. All Rachel wants is respect.
“Everyone’s got their struggles,” says Rebecca.
Relationships are a line of communication. They teach us about ourselves in ways that we could never understand. Empathy, is your ability to relate to other people. Empathy is the foundation of tolerance and patience. It starts with understanding that no one thinks exactly like you. It’s then followed by understanding that everyone is dealing with their own issues.
Here are a few question to inspire empathy in your children, when they’re relating to another person:
Empathy lies in the values, needs and driving forces that we all have. When we teach our children to tap into empathy, we give them a chance to build it into the connection that bridges the divides that fear and greed create.
The world needs more empathy.
The world needs more people who are willing to feel someone else’s perspective.
Until next time…
Standing in the heat is simply your ability to stand by the decisions that you’ve made, even when the pressure around you is simmering. Eventually something’s going to give, but can you stand in the heat long enough to achieve your goals? Let’s revisit Rebecca and Rachel. We’ll use their experiences to gain perspective on pressure.
It’s 1995 and the girls are about to go to their first school dance. There’s a lot of hopefulness in the air. Being thirteen is like finally being tall enough to ride that rollercoaster you’ve had your eye on for years. Being thirteen is the first invitation to the freedom of being an adult.
“I know James is going to ask you,” says Rebecca.
“Shut up,” says Rachel, going red in the cheeks. “Why do say that?”
“I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
“I think he looks at a lot of girls like that. It would be great, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. But I’ll wait and see. I want him to ask me. If he doesn’t, that’s fine, but I’m not going to ask him.”
“I like that,” says Rebecca. “Hey, why don’t we make a pact?” She sits up and stretches her pinky out towards Rachel. “We’re not going to ask anyone. No matter what happens, we’re going to wait for someone to ask us to the dance.”
“Deal,” says Rachel, hooking her pinky finger around Rebecca’s.
The girls spend the rest of the afternoon reading magazines, listening to music and talking about what they’re going to wear to the dance.
Two days later the weekend is over and the pressure is on. There are only five days left until the dance. Everywhere Rachel looks, she sees happy girls who have a date. Rachel is in a state. She finds Rebecca outside her locker.
“Have you been asked yet?” asks Rachel.
“No, Raych. Not in the last five minutes since you asked me the same question.”
“What if no one asks? What if we end up going alone? Even Stacey has a date already. Stacey. What if—“
Rebecca grabs her by the shoulders and looks her square in the eyes. “It’s going to be okay. Just breathe.”
“I am breathing.”
Rebecca turns to close her locker.
“Becks, what if we had to ask someone? You know, just as a backup plan?”
Rebecca’s lips thin into a pale line. She stares at Rachel.
“We made a pact, Rachel.” She leans in now, kindness filling up her eyes. “It’s okay to be scared. I’m scared too. But so what if no one asks us. We’ll go together. That’s the worst thing that can happen. Personally, I want someone to care enough to come to me and ask me.”
“What if we’re the only ones that don’t have dates?”
“Then we’ll be the only ones who were strong enough to go without dates.“
Rebecca smiles and Rachel gives her a hug and then leaves for her next class. Rachel watches her go. She feels helpless, as if she sitting in a pot of water that slowly starting to heat up.
By the end of the next day, Rachel has just about chewed every fingernail down the quick. Everywhere around her she sees smiling boys and girls, holding hands and talking about the dance. She sees all the boys as numbers being ticked off an imaginary list of potential dates. Another one gone. Then another one. Then another.
“All the good dates are being snapped up,” she whispers in a croaky choke.
Just then she sees someone. It’s Thomas King. He’s an average boy, but he’s decent and he’s kind. Chances are, he doesn’t have anyone. She walks up to him. It’s her last chance.
“Thomas, what’s happening?”
“Hey Rachel, nothing much. Just getting ready to go home. I’m exhausted.”
“I’m sure. With all this talk about dances everyone must be tired.”
“Is that happening this week?”
Rachel forces a laugh. She wonders how girls can put on this ditzy act. “Yes, silly. It’s Friday night. Are you going?”
“I wasn’t planning on going. I was going to stay up all night and play my Nintendo. Super Mario Brothers has been whipping me and I want to finish the game.”
“If you’re going to be up all night, you can still go to the dance. Why don’t you go for a little while?” asks Rachel.
“I suppose I could, but none of my friends want to go.”
“I’ll go with you… I mean, we can go together.”
Rachel waits for an eternity as Thomas thinks about this. She’s back in the pot and now the water is bubbling. This is hard.
“I don’t know. I don’t even know how to dance.”
“Neither do I. Who says we need to dance. We can just stand there and hang out. What do you say?”
Thomas shrugs. “Okay, but only for like an hour. Then I’m going to get that princess out of the dungeon!”
Rachel walks away, breathing a sigh of relief. She doesn’t have to worry anymore. She has a date! She’s not going to be alone. But more than this, she’s learnt a valuable lesson: In life, whenever she feels the pull of strong emotions, it’s okay to change the rules. The pressure of being anxious isn’t worth the trouble of sticking to what you say you’re going to do.
It was the day before the dance. Just about the whole school was buzzing with the idea of the big night. No one was in class, learning. Everyone was out in the hall, putting up decorations and turning the gym into a place where slow dance dreams come true.
In the days leading up to the dance, Rebecca had seen it all. Girls elated after they’d been asked to the dance. Girls wailing when a boy had rescinded an invite and asked someone else. Angry girls fighting over boys. Angry boys punching and pushing each other over girls.
Rebecca had suffered through many emotions over the days as well. She didn’t talk about them, but she felt them. No one had asked her to the dance yet. Anxiety slowly crept up on her. It was like a shadow that grew bigger the closer the dance came. But she watched that shadow and she remembered the promise she had made to Rachel.
She realised something important on this day, a valuable lesson: When emotions are high, they challenge the promises that we make to ourselves. This was a lesson that she would carry with her for the rest of her life. When times were tough and the world’s problems lay in her shadow, growing scarier each day, she remembered the day before the dance, where she had first seen herself making a choice: to stick with her promise…or to give in to the pressure. One day the pressure of the dance would be over and she’s be able to celebrate the fact that she had stuck to her promise.
Does it matter whether or not Rachel and Rebecca went to the dance? No, it doesn’t. Not when we take the full picture of life into account. One moment doesn’t define the course of an entire life. But a single moment where we learn something does. And a moment where we make a conscious choice through that discovery makes an even bigger difference.
Standing in the heat is a powerful quality when you can use it. And you can only use it, when you know where you’re going. You can only use it when you’ve agreed to something that you want and stated what you’re willing to do to have it.
When you make a decision and you’re clear on what behaviours you’re willing to accept for yourself, that’s when you’re ready to Stand in the Heat. Unfortunately, that’s also when something is going to come your way, to challenge you.
For example, let’s say I agree not to have coffee for the next week. Why? Because I want to ween myself off stimulants. Okay, great. It’s simple. I stay away from coffee. I don’t drink coffee. When things get tough and I need something to wake me up in the morning, I don’t renegotiate the terms of my decision. I don’t make excuses and quit on the path.
I stick it out for a week.
And I stick it out because I remember why I’m doing this.
I stick it out because I remember the benefits that I’m about to receive from not drinking all this coffee.
Then, at the end of the week, I celebrate the victory.
Standing in the Heat is a pearl of a quality on your child’s road to success.
Until next time,
In this post we’re going to briefly explore, persistence. What is it? How do we create and grow it in our children? How do we nurture it into something formidable? By the end of this article you’re going to know just how to do these things.
Let’ had back to the story about Rachel and Rebecca. If you missed the introduction, you can access it here and read about them.
“What day is it?” asks Jess.
“Friday,” says Rachel. “Not that it matters. Friday night in prison is like a Monday night and or Saturday afternoon. It’s all the same.”
It’s quiet within their cell.
“Well, you wanna play a game to pass the time?”
“I don’t play games anymore,” says Rachel.
“Everybody plays games!” says Jess. “What do you mean, you don’t play?”
“I stopped playing games a long time ago.”
“What happened?” asks Jess.
Rachel thinks back to her childhood. The memory is still clear in her mind. It’s a clear summer day. She’s with Rebecca. They have found a couple of pieces of discarded chalk, outside one of the local school’s windows. They’ve searched all afternoon for the cleanest piece of sidewalk and they’ve now found it. It’s outside the Cash and Discount convenience store. It’s a busy place and there are many people who walk past this stretch of sidewalk. But it’s perfect for the game they want to play.
“Becks, why here?” asks Rachel.
“Because it’s the only place we can actually draw the hopscotch lines. Every other sidewalk is cracked or filled with glass. Anywhere else in the neighbourhood isn’t safe, we might be trampled by a couple of drunks. This spot is perfect.”
Rachel isn’t convinced. “But look at all these people. They’re going to walk right over us.” Rachel steps out the way, avoiding a shopper leaving the store carrying plastic bags.
“Maybe,” says Rebecca, squatting down and drawing the outlines. “But we’re not hurting anyone by doing this, are we?”
Rachel yields and helps Rebecca draw the lines. Shoppers walk by as if the girls are invisible. They have to redraw the lines over and over, every few minutes.
“This is crazy!” says Rachel, dusting her hands. She’s had enough now. “We’re spending more time drawing lines than we are playing hopscotch. I’ve had enough of this. Let’s get out of here.”
“Raych, it’ll be okay. Trust me. People are starting to walk around us. See? They’re not stepping right on the lines anymore. We need to draw it less and less.”
Rachel wants to hear none of this. She’s tired of drawing lines. She’s tired of people shuffling their feet over their hopscotch lines. “I’m going home. Enough of this.”
“Raych, wait! I have an idea! I know how we can make this fun!”
Rachel walks away.
“Games are stupid!” she says, as she crosses the street.
“Games are stupid,” she says to Jess, back in her prison cell. She rolls over and goes to sleep.
Back at Jumpstart, Rebecca is having a meeting with her design team. They’re pitching a new design for a projection the company is working on.
“I don’t like,” says Rebecca. “It’s boring.”
“Well, what do you want us to do about it?”
“Make it fun.”
Tina and a few of the other art directors scoff at this idea. “It’s not meant to be fun. It’s meant to be functional.”
“Everything can be fun. Make it fun and we’ll have people using it every day.”
While her team look confused, Rebecca tells them a story from her childhood.
“Did I ever tell you about the time we played hopscotch, when I was a kid?”
Rebecca is 10 years old again. She’s carrying three pieces of chalk in her left hand. Rachel has the rest. They’ve been looking all afternoon for a place to sketch out their hopscotch track. Finally, they find the perfect place. It’s outside a busy convenience store. She can’t remember the name anymore. That part of her memory is fuzzy. But the sidewalk outside the place is perfect. It’s clean and it’s light and long enough to make a long hopscotch track.
But there’s a problem. The store is busy. The door jingles every time someone leaves. And every time the girls hear that bell they know that someone is going to walk right over their chalk lines. Most times people erase the lines without even looking down. They need to redraw the lines every few minutes.
Rebecca thinks about leaving. She wonders if they could find another place to play the game.
“Let’s get out of here,” says Rachel.
“Look, it’s not a perfect place to play the game, but it’s the safest place we can play,” says Rebecca.
Rebecca feels a hint of irritation about these people. Don’t they have any regard for her? As soon as she notices the irritation start, she stops and stands up.
“This isn’t going to work,” she says.
“Exactly,” says Rachel. “Let’s go.”
“No, I mean, the way we’re doing this isn’t going to work. We want to play hopscotch, right? And we want to play here. At least I do. We have chalk and we have a sidewalk. Those are the things we can do something about. We can’t do anything about the people that walk out of the store.”
“You mean these rude people!” Rachel shouts at a customer that leaves the store and walks right over the chalk, erasing it with every shuffle.
“Don’t you see, Raych,” says Rebecca, excited now. She grabs Rachel’s arm. “We can turn this into the game. Hopscotch is great, but what’s better than that? How about, Hopscotch with a time limit!” She runs to the place where the lines have been erased. She whips out the chalk and lays down fresh lines over the old ones. “We turn this into the game. How many times can we do the track, back and forward, before someone comes out of the store and erases the chalk!”
Rebecca skips across the track and then turns and comes down the hopscotch line again. She manages to get through it 3 times before a family of four come out of the store and destroy the hopscotch lines. She laughs, reaches into her pocket for the chalk and redraws the lines.
“This is a waste of time,” says Rachel. “I’m not going to do this. I’ll see you later.”
“Ah come on, Raych. This is fun! Try it out.” But Rachel is gone.
Rebecca watches her go. She looks at the store’s exit door as a heavyset man from their neighbourhood leaves with 3 bags dragging on the ground. He practically erases even the deepest chalk lines of their hopscotch track. Rebecca laughs.
“Challenge accepted,” she says. Rebecca spends the rest of the afternoon laughing as she draws the lines, skips, redraws lines and skips. Over and over again. By the time 5pm arrives, she’s exhausted. But she’s happy. She’s created a new recorded. 15 times criss-crossing the hopscotch track before having to redraw the lines. 15 times!
She remembers this as she returns from her memory and steps into her boardroom. “There’s always a way to make it fun, people. Functional is great. Fun is forever. I know you can make it happen.”
Persistence is a difficult quality to master. However, it’s one of the few things that will take you wherever you want to go. In the film The Shawshank Redemption Tim Robbins’ character, Andy Dufresne decides to ask the state for new books for the prison library.
He writes a letter a week. Each week he writes and they ignore him. Eventually, months later, they send boxes and boxes of new books along with a letter. “Thank you, Mr Dufresne. Now please, stop writing to us!”
Persistence is the ability to follow one course until you’re successful.
There are many ways to build persistence in your children. These 5 steps are a simplified version that you can test out and adapt. Find a way that works for you.
It all starts by getting your children to see where their persistence will take them. You need their buy-in. There has to be something that they’re willing to work towards.
After you’ve found something that they want to pursue, the next step is to create a plan of daily effort to get there. Persistence is grown through small, deliberate, daily efforts. Small is key here. Something that will take a few minutes. I’ve written more about this on my article on Compounding and Momentum.
Doing something every day is hard work. We don’t often see the results of what we’re doing today until a lot of time and effort has passed. When most people don’t see results right away, they tend to quit. Children are no different. Help them continue the journey by celebrating their small victories each day. This can be as simple as acknowledging their efforts to be persistent. Get excited about it. Remind them that they’re learning something more important than they realise. This is one of the only ways to keep your children in the game and actively working towards something.
If there’s a way that you can measure their progress, do it. When we see ourselves progressing towards something and we can measure how far we have come, we see the real magic that comes with persistence.
When something is boring, there’s not much value in doing it. When you help your children create a fun way to achieve their goals and build their persistence, you teach them to see their challenges as an opportunity.
I’ve written about persistence first because it’s critical to success. It’s not the only quality you children will need, but with persistence, they can have just about anything they want. Show me a successful person and I’ll show you a long history of conscious persistence that led them to where they are today.
Until next time,
As a parent, you have the power to shape your child’s life. You have the power to grow qualities within them, character traits, that will be their greatest asset in the years to come. Children need time to hone and master their qualities. Success takes time.
Two girls grow up in the same crumbling neighbourhood. It’s a place where industry has left a long time ago. Prosperity followed industry out of town. It’s a place where you’ll find overturned trashcans and stray dogs on just about every dirty street corner. Loud, distorted music bray from many windows in crumbling buildings. Babies cry and people are shouting and laughing. This is a tough neighbourhood where the sun doesn’t shine.
The two girls, Rachel and Rebecca, are both poor. They need to work and often fight for every scrap of food, clothing and love. They’re not fortunate children. Twenty years later, one of them is in prison and the other runs a successful business. How did that happen?
From the outside, everyone make look the same. They may look like they’re receiving the same education. It may appear as if they have the same circumstances. But there’s one thing that we cannot see. It’s the invisible. It’s the stuff that’s happening in their thoughts. The stuff that churns and shapes children, teens and adults, all day long.
Let’s head back to the story for more clarity:
Both children grow up in poverty. But each night, Rachel goes home to an empty house. Her parents are out drinking. It’s also safer this way because they’re mean when they’ve been drinking. She makes herself something to eat, sits in front of the tv and falls asleep. It’s been a long time since she’s slept well. Eventually she will forget what it means to dream.
Rebecca’s parents ask her to be home by 6pm. Her parents work two shifts at odd times, receiving minimum wage, but they make sure that at least one of them can be home in the evenings. They have dinner with Rebeca. Then they tuck her into bed and listen to all the challenges she has faced today. She’s had a long day and they know it. They listen and give her advice. They remind her of the woman that these challenges are shaping her into. She goes to bed feeling proud of the work that she has done. She goes to sleep feeling like she’s achieved something.
We may have a similar experience to someone else, but our memories will never define us. It’s the meaning we create from our experiences that sits in our memories.
Let’s head back to the story.
Twenty years later, Rachel is sitting with her cellmate, Jess, eating lunch. They’re discussing their family lives. Their childhoods.
“Where’d you grow up?” Jess asks.
“In hell,” says Rachel. “Why do you think I’m in here? I didn’t get any handouts. I had to fight for everything. And I learned that no one is going to help you, so you need to take what you want. You can’t give a damn about people. Everyone’s only looking out for themselves. I’ve been in and out of prison since I was a kid. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But no one cut me any slack. No one gave me a second chance. I’m in here because people turned their backs on me.”
On the same day, one of Rebecca’s new employees, Thomas, asks her the same thing.
“Where’d you grow up?”
“In hell,” says Rebecca. “Why do you think I’m in here? I didn’t get any handouts. I had to fight for everything. And I learned that if you want something you’ve got to earn it yourself. No one is going to magically take you out of hell. Not because they don’t want to. No, they’re stuck there, too! So, each day I learned to work a little harder, a little smarter, so that I could get out of that place, and take my parents with me. It was long and hard and I had to make some tough choices. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’m here today because of those mistakes.”
The women in these stories are in two very opposite positions. It’s an extreme example and I’ve used it for effect. We may have similar experiences, but each of us interprets the experience, the memory in a unique way. How we decide to see it will determine what sort of memory we have. Either it becomes a memory that weighs us down and makes us angry. Or it becomes a memory that inspires us.
Let’s head back to the story again:
Jess eventually becomes Rachel’s cellmate. They become good friends. One night, Jess asks Rachel a personal question.
“Hey, Raych. You ever have a best friend?”
Rachel shuffles onto her side and props up her head. “I did. A long time ago. We were kids. We did everything together. Then one day she stopped hanging out with me. She became too good for me. After that, we drifted apart.”
On the same day, Rebecca throws a part for her social media marketing company, Jumpstart. The business is ten years old today and it’s stronger than ever. She sits down with June, one of her business partners. Together they share a drink.
“You know, Becky, I’ve never been close to anyone, but I trust you,” says, June. They clinked their glasses together. “To Jumpstart’s success.” They complete the toast. “What about you, have you ever had a best friend?”
Rebecca’s smile slips from her eyes. “I did. A long time ago. We were kids. We did everything together. We played in the park and on the streets. We did odd jobs here and there, making just enough to buy sweets. You know, June, those were some of the best times of my life.”
“So what happened to you two?” asked June.
“One day she wanted to cross the line. There was an opportunity to get into some petty crime. Simple stuff. Delivering messages and then packages. She asked me to join her. I told her I wouldn’t do it. I begged her not to do it, either. She ignored me. The next day I told her again to quit it, but she went back. It became a cycle. Eventually, she wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say.” Rebecca pauses. “Saying ‘no’ to her that day was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I’m glad I did it.”
WE create OUR memories. WE define our experiences. This becomes tricky when we share an experience with other people, because we can often define it and shape it into something that the experience was not. Our relationships are filled with interpretations. Our relationships are filled with experiences that we see uniquely. It’s up to us to get the most out of them.
By following these two ladies in their experiences, we’re going to see the value of teaching children certain qualities. Most of these qualities are free. They don’t cost a cent. But the success they create are tremendous. Imagine these qualities as if they are seeds. You will need to plant them and nurture them in your children and grow their roots within your child. Once they take root, your child will be ready to implement them. That’s where success begins – in implementation.
Each week we will explore a quality or two and show you how you can start activating these qualities in your children.
Until Next Time…