Ranch scene

We grow older. But wiser?

Indeed, sending a child off to college is a major event in the life of both the child and the parents. It’s at junctures like this that we analyze our lives and make course corrections based on strengths and weaknesses, good decisions and poor decisions.

Next week we will send our second off to college. With a little Grecian Formula and a weight loss of about 10 pounds, I’m crazy enough to think I might still fit in.  

Indeed, sending a child off to college is a major event in the life of both the child and the parents. Aging is such a strange thing. I’m sure we gain perspective and wisdom with all our experience, but maybe not as much as we would have hoped. It’s at junctures like this that we analyze our lives and make course corrections based on strengths and weaknesses, good decisions and poor decisions.  

I don’t feel old, and I certainly believe my best times are yet to come. But like most of us, if I were able to go back in time, I probably would have expected to be farther along in certain areas than I am. Perhaps to have made more progress, more impact; spiritually, socially, financially, I could have been a lot farther down the road. 

I’ve made a few mistakes along the way. The biggest mistakes are probably common among us—not utilizing our time as effectively as we could, occasionally not acting with that sense of urgency. Too often, I was worried about those who have a casual or simply financial relationship, and investing more time and effort in those relationships than in those who will actually be crying at my funeral.  

Our kids had to take ACT tests, which at this point in life are kind of a scorecard on their high school years. I’ve told them that once they get accepted, decide on their school and get that first wave of scholarships, nobody will ever care about their ACT score again.

Of course, they may have their LSAT, GMAT or GRE scores to slot them once more, but they, too, are temporal and nobody cares what their lawyer got on his or her LSAT. The same can be said with one’s GPA. It’s terribly important and critical in getting that first job or scholarships, but once you have started down your career path, nobody will ever ask what your GPA was again.  

As a parent, you want your kids to value classroom work a lot more than is probably justified. You can be hesitant to explain what you now realize about college; how it is the people you meet and the network you create, that it is not so much what you learn, but that the fact that you have learned how to learn. That the business plans you learn to create are great, but they are great because of the process they force you to go through. In reality, they are rarely followed to a T; the business environment changes too rapidly and flexibility and adaptation is the key. And there are rarely any analytics or metrics that point out the truly major shifts in your operating environment. Intuition, observation and open-mindedness are the attributes that help you most.  

I wish I could explain to them that the initial decisions that seem so monumental almost become irrelevant once they are made, and that momentum, action and the aggregate of decisions that occur are what determine success. 

I hope my kids acquire a lot of necessary skills through their college experience and meet a lot of great people, but even more, I pray that they emerge with an understanding of what their passion and purpose is.

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