By Andy Andrews
While most know me as an author and speaker, the most important identity I have is one carried deep within my heart and soul. I am a husband and father. My wife and I have two boys, 11 and 14 years old. I watch life’s horizon in a different way now. It’s not just my future or even our future I contemplate. It is theirs.
My father once told me I would never understand the intricacies of love until I had children of my own. He probably didn’t say it quite that way, but he was right. Everything I think and do these days is affected in one way or another by the love Polly and I have for Austin and Adam.
In this way, I am no different from you. I believe I understand the hope and dreams you have for the future of someone you really and truly love more than your own life. With this in mind, please consider the following:
- I believe that our society is at a critical tipping point.
- I don’t find many people who disagree with that conclusion.
- Those who do disagree, seem only to do so in order to argue—some quite effectively—that we are not at the tipping point, but have indeed passed it sometime back.
So what would you say if I told you that I have found the solution—a proven, tried-and-tested action plan, that can move our society back to the level of greatness we once knew?
No, this solution does not involve a single politician or even a political party. In fact, it’s something just about everyone already says they want in the first place.
Stop for a moment and think back several decades. About 70 years ago, our society was made up by a group of people who, we all agree today, embodied the very definition of greatness. We may disagree on many of today’s issues, but the one thing we do agree upon is that those people were the best we’ve ever been. After all these years, we still even have a name for them: the Greatest Generation.
Scholars and historians have taken the time to document the results of this generation and it is obvious that they were kinder, they worked harder, they sacrificed more, they believed more, they produced more, and they became more. In the process, they created a nation whose society was a reflection of their greatness. Unfortunately, the most brilliant among us have spent very little time figuring out how they became so great in the first place.
Curiously, after exploring that very question for some time, I’ve come to a stunning realization. Those people were not, in fact, the Greatest Generation . . . Their parents were.
You see, it was their parents and their grandparents. They were the ones who instilled a specific set of values and a particular way of thinking that led their children and grandchildren to results that ultimately labeled them the greatest.
And if we have any hope that our society might once again rise to great heights of achievement, we must do the same.
To the point, this is why my latest book, The Noticer Returns, is a story about parenting. How might this book and its concepts apply to you as a leader?
Well, the secret to successful leadership on any team or in any workplace or business starts at home. You and I will never fulfill our potential as leaders in our public lives if we are failing as leaders at home.
Think about it. When do you do your best work? When your personal life is terrible, or when your personal life is great? I think you know the answer.
So if leadership in the home is the key to unlocking our potential as leaders, how do we become the best possible mothers and fathers, the best possible husbands and wives, we can be? Start with three things:
- Define exactly what “the best” means to you. Over and over again we say, “I just want the best for my family.” But we don’t often stop and take the time to determine—with pen and paper—just what “the best” actually looks like. I don’t know about you, but aiming becomes awfully difficult for me when I don’t know where the target is . . . or what the target is.
So what’s your target? If you could take a magic wand and create the results you desire in every aspect of your family’s life, what would you create? Start writing. Create a list right now of your family’s ideal results. What qualities do you want your children to possess? What do you want their lives to look like when they’re adults? How much time do you want to be able to spend with them? Write it all down.
- Commit to living an extraordinary life. As I said earlier, The Noticer Returns is a story about parenting. I wanted to write a book about parenting that would actually be fun to read, so I wrapped real-life principles around an entertaining story about an old man named Jones who calls himself a Noticer. He notices the often-overlooked little things in life that can make a big difference.
One of those overlooked things is what Jones calls the Secret Principle of Extreme Achievement. Here’s the beginning of how he describes it in the book:
“If you are doing what everyone else is doing, you are doing something wrong. Why? Because most people are not obtaining results that are considered extraordinary. If your thinking is causing you to do what everyone else is doing, you are only contributing to the average. Even if you are contributing to the average at a high level, it is still . . . average.”
If you are truly committed to leading your family to “the best,” then you must also be committed to doing unusual things. Achieving “the best” takes doing what average (most) people will not do.
Avoid average at all costs.
- Find your own Noticer. If you’re avoiding behaving like average people behave, whose behavior should you model? Those who have already achieved success in the area in which you are trying to be successful—in this case, parenting.
You need a mentor, a Noticer of your own—someone who has successfully navigated the pitfalls of parenting. To find this person, or people, you need two critical things:
- A spirit of openness. Be open to the possibility that you don’t know everything or that some of what you do know might be incorrect. You have to accept that there may be a few things wrong with your thinking.
- Awareness. Be constantly on the lookout for people with “fruit on the tree”—people who have visible results in their lives. When you find those people, don’t walk up to them and say, “Will you mentor me?” Instead, look for ways that you can provide value in their life. Here’s another gem from Jones: “What can you do to become a person whom other people want to be around?”
Jones, the Noticer in the title of the book, was actually a real person who really did call himself a Noticer. I first met him at the age of 23, when I was homeless and living under the Gulf State Park pier in Gulf Shores, Alabama. He told me the truth about myself when no one else was willing to.
He was one of the most important mentors I ever had in my life. I wrote The Noticer Returns so he could be the same for you. So we could all be reminded of the timeless wisdom that once shaped and defined our society.
The Greatest Generation was not an accident. Our current society does not have to be one either. Are you ready?
Andy Andrews is the New York Times best-selling author of The Noticer Returns. Order your copy today.