dad from day one: The Benefits of Responsibility and the Inevitability of Learning from Mistakes

Thirty-three weeks.

Something I have learned in my adult life so far is that when I am offered more responsibility, it’s almost always the best decision to take it.  Sure, there is such a thing as wearing yourself too thin by agreeing to too many things, even (and especially) with church activities, but that’s a whole different story.  When the company I work for asks me on short notice to leave for a trade show which begins two days after returning from my vacation, or I realize I can save an errand and $20 by activating our new cell phones myself instead of going down to Verizon Wireless, I do it.  Responsibility is an important key in maturity.  And maturity is a key to quality of life.

Hence, parenthood.  Responsibility is almost always attached to loss of time, space, and freedom.  But there are certain life experiences that can never be known and certain character elements that can never be built until responsibility is tackled head on.  Of course, when any person adopts a new important role in their  life, it means they will consistently make mistakes while doing it (since new life experiences don’t usually come with a detailed user’s guide).  And those mistakes become the actual footnotes for every future reference.

I am prepared to lose my sense of freedom, my time, my space, and especially my sleep.  I am prepared to make mistakes constantly, yet learn from them.  I am prepared to become more responsible than I’ve ever been before.  Most importantly, I am prepared to be more blessed than I’ve ever been before, as well.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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Unsolicited Advice is Like Fruitcake

Like fruitcake, it’s a popular gift.  And like fruitcake, it’s usually not received with sincere grattitude.

Yesterday I read someone’s facebook status update saying they are “sick and tired of getting unsolicited advice about how to raise my kids”.  A flood of comments followed from people who agreed, along with several “likes this”.  Good call.

Because there is actually a difference between constructive criticism and unsolicited advice- the “unsolicited” part.  And of course I’m not referring to family or close friends- it’s their job to give you unsolicited advice, because they’re more apt to “get through” to you in their approach, as well as knowing you well enough to give relevant advice.

And “relevant” is an important word.  Because part of the reason unsolicited advice is so obnoxious is that it’s often irrelevant to to us.

There are many times in my life where I really want someone’s advice.  So I ask for it, specifically from the people who I believe have the most intuition and wisdom on the subject.  The irony of receiving unsolicited advice is that the people most likely and eager to give it are often the ones who I would never ask anyway.

Which means sometimes I have to stay strong to resist from giving others advice when they haven’t asked for it, lest I be “that guy”.

It all comes down to a social cue that many people feel is disregarded- like their personal life is being intruded upon when someone gives me advice they didn’t ask for.  Because giving advice (warranted or not) is a form of giving criticism.  And when it comes to receiving criticism, most people aren’t truly that open to it- unless they are directly asking a specific trusted individual for it.

Granted, there are times when people put themselves in a situation that invites advice, indirectly.  Any kind of public facebook message will do the trick.  Anything I write about on my site is always open to criticism and advice; that’s why I allow comments.  I like hearing others’ perspectives on raising a kid and I welcome comments on my “dad from day one series”.  That’s intended as a shared experience.

But it’s those people in our “outer circles” that tend to be the key offenders.  The ones most likely to bring to your attention that you’ve gained some weight, got a big zit on your forehead, are starting to lose your hair,  or announce in front of everyone that you appear to be in a bad mood.  These people obviously don’t intend to offend us; they honestly mean well.

It’s just that no one taught them basic social behavior lessons.  And the thing is, they’ll probably never get a clue.  So what do I do when I get unsolicited advice from a person who isn’t too keen on social clues?  Give ‘em a half-sincere smile, shake my head “yes”, and change the subject.

And I’ve also noticed that these same people so eager to help us are often the most likely to go into details about their personal life, telling everyone stories that no one asked to hear.  They are eager to “help” us because they need help themselves.

I guess ultimately, being given uninvited advice is in a way like someone telling you who to be.  And for those of us who definitely know who we are, it’s if nothing else, plain annoying, to be told we are going to become like someone else who lives their own life by a different code.

There’s something that keeps us from wanting someone else to be able to figure us out.  It’s accurate to say that there’s nothing truly new under the sun.  But still we thrive on the freedom to live life as an individual, not based on both the idiots and geniuses who have done this thing before us.

P.S.  By the way, in my opening I had to use fruitcake as a universal example that most people would relate to- when in fact, I am actually a big fan of fruitcake.

Would You Define Your Life as a Comedy or a Tragedy?

The same question goes for the movie Garden State.

I have struggled for a solid ten years trying to figure out what makes things funny. Universally, seeing someone fall down (who doesn’t get hurt) is always funny, but I don’t know why. Defining what humor is, is almost impossible to simply and briefly put into words. What I can do is make a judgment call on whether something as a whole is a comedy or a drama.

One of my college professors taught me there is a clear way to distinguish between the two: Comedy involves a protagonist who in the beginning of the story is standing outside the borders of his society and by the end of the story is accepted into it. Therefore a tragedy is when the protagonist in the beginning is accepted as part of the society but by the end is expelled from it.

To test this theory on comedies, I will take Adam Sandler for example: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Water Boy, The Wedding Singer, and Big Daddy all involve a character who starts out as one or more of the following: incompetent, poor, lonely, selfish. By the end of the movie, Adam Sandler’s character is accepted into the fold as these previous attributes are resolved. So I can see how the definition of a comedy works here.

For tragedies, I will take some horror movies for example: The Blair Witch Project, Skeleton Key, The Strangers, Quarantine, and Carrie. The protagonists end up either dead or in a really bad situation by the time the credits roll. So I can see how the definition of a tragedy works here, as death or loss of freedom is a way of being ousted from a society that the protagonists were once a part of.

The end of a movie ultimately defines it as a comedy or tragedy. Garden State, which is more a drama than anything, ends with Zach Braff’s character being able to overcome his dependence on his doctor’s/father’s misdiagnosed prescription of anti-depressants and feel alive for the first time as he moves back home to New Jersey, making new friends and finding love: That’s a comedy.

Using this theory, these other genre-vague movies would also be considered comedy: Fight Club, Forrest Gump, and Elizabethtown. And these would be tragedy: Into the Wild, Vanilla Sky, and One Hour Photo.

Life is comprised of rotating moments of comedy and tragedy. Times where I’m on the outside looking in and I get in (comedy) and times where I’m inside but am pushed out (tragedy). In ways big and small. But a person’s general perspective will cause him or her to see it ultimately as one or the other:

If life is comedy-in-progress, then life is me trying to figure out how to be normal enough to succeed in being accepted by my immediate society, eventually dying satisfied, knowing I’m surrounded by those who love me.

If life is tragedy-in-progress, then life is me already having everything I need and want in life but having it all taken away from me in the end, eventually dying sad and alone.

Big decisions, big decisions. I’ll go with comedy-in-progress.

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