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There’s a freedom in allowing people to be who they truly are.

Recently, my family and I met with quite an emotional day. After nearly 20 months of bold, loving, joyful life on this earth, my second child started attending daycare. My wife and I knew it would be difficult letting go as we said goodbye to him on day one. In life, no matter how much we mentally prepare for big days like these, there’s simply nothing like the real thing in action.

We thought he would cry when we started to leave but we also imagined the possibility that he’d be so happy around his new peers, he’d quickly forget Mom and Dad. We kept reminding ourselves that beginning daycare — and reaping all of the social and educational benefits that come with it — was in his best interest for development.

As my wife and I motioned toward the door, the tears began to flow, setting off a chain reaction of crying from little children that rivaled the collective unison of a stadium-level wave. It was day one on his journey. And he… all right let’s be honest — my wife and I started the wave. We were a wreck.

My son started his (hopefully) two-decade long (or more — there’s always medical school!) educational career. Yes, the daycare that he attends calls itself a “school.” Despite our emotions, being there and living in the moment was a beautiful thing. We watched our son get his bearings, figure out his new surroundings and playfully greet his new classmates.

We took it all in, realizing that despite how young he is, it was a landmark day for his growth as he begins to see more of this world.

Even if it’s in the confines of an 8 x 14 room.

New Beginning

That day also marked a new beginning for me as I learned that just like my Mom and Dad and millions of parents before me — at various intervals along the way, I needed to let go. Very slowly, very gradually — but surely — my child and millions of others will continue to grow and become young people.

The thrill of raising my son is providing him with a rock-solid foundation of education, discipline and love, while still allowing him to be himself, and discover the things that will make him become who God has destined him to be.

I take a tremendous amount of pride in how I educate my son, so I’m always mindful of identifying teachable moments that will help him learn; even at such a young age. I’m interested in teaching him good morals, re-enforcing virtuous behavior and righting wrongs. I am cognizant of letting him discover things for himself, while not limiting his imagination.

I want to provide him with an awesome environment and abundant opportunities for success, but I need to let him use his creativity to explore and learn more about himself.

My Teaching Philosophy

My coaching and teaching philosophy can be summed up in a few words:

“Provide a winning structure — then let the players play.”

People perform at their best when their mind is clear. As legendary basketball coach and champion Phil Jackson promotes in his book, Sacred Hoops, it is a beginner’s mind that is required to leave us open to everything. This below quote is from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki:

“When the mind is allowed to relax, inspiration often follows… If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” — Shunryu Suzuki

I’ve learned throughout all of my relationships that having true power often requires us to cede power to others. When we forfeit control, we enable others to exercise their mental muscles and employ their own brilliance in action. We allow them to play the game the way they were meant to play it — by figuring out this great, big world with their own remarkable brainpower and curiosity.

Power and Control

I’ve learned in life, the more I relinquish control and the notion that I know all the answers, the better I am. This logic is counter-intuitive to many people. How could we be more powerful and influential when we are not the ones in control? Pride and ego can cloud our minds, as pride is anathema to developing a beginner’s mind.

However, we find that when we espouse the mindset of a servant leader, we grow by putting others first. We strengthen our willingness to trust because we are implicitly trusting others to be themselves.

Service comes through self-giving love, empowerment and by understanding an individual’s talents, needs and wants — then leading them in that direction. Coach Jackson further explains:

“My approach was always to relate to each player as a whole person, not just a cog in the basketball machine. That meant pushing him to discover what distinct qualities he could bring to the game beyond taking shots and making passes. How much courage did he have? Or resilience? What about character under fire?” — Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson understood precisely the approach that elicits the most creativity, joy and organic growth out of each individual. I try to take the same approach into all of my interactions; modifying my tone and speech toward each individual.

The words reserved for my son, particularly when we’re cuddling, are probably not the same words I’ll use to a VP of a Fortune 100 company!

But the approach, intentions and desired outcome visualized in my mind is the same. Provide structure and allow the individual to reach their potential. By letting go of control, we empower others and serve them as God calls us to do.

I’m no Zen Master, so I’ll defer to a giant leader of men who formed lasting, personal relationships each day that led to greatness on and off the basketball court.

“If you place too many restrictions on players, they’ll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to buck the system. Like all of us, they need a certain degree of structure in their lives, but they also require enough latitude to express themselves creatively… Empower the players, offering each one a vital role to play as well as a high level of creativity within a clear, well-defined structure.” — Phil Jackson

Whether it’s family, peers or those we lead, it’s best to give people the freedom to be who they’re truly destined to be. That’s love. That’s show you truly care.