3 lies we were told about how the world works

The following blog is by Jared Rendell.

Two children walk away on a sunny pathA few weeks ago, I got the chance to offer some closing words to a couple hundred high school kids after their week at BestPrep’s Minnesota Business Venture. I’m a camp guy by heart, so any chance to connect with youth in a focused setting like that is a chance to make an impact.  So, naturally, I started off with something really inspiring — I told them they were lied to. “What a great closing speaker,” I thought to myself, “tell them their parents are liars.”  Encouragement was dripping from my lapel mic. 

But, these ideas continue to roll over and over in my head and heart, and so I’m sharing them with you. Hopefully this doesn’t wreck your day or make you question your parents' motives.

1.  You can be anything you want to be.

I looked these poor kids in the eye and told them in no uncertain terms, “You can’t be anything you want to be. You were lied to.” I felt a little bad-but only for a moment-because while I am more optimist than realist, I’m also 5’8” and lack the muscle tone to play, oh let’s go with…professional lacrosse.  There is a long list of jobs and activities that I can't do, even if I wanted to.

It’s not about what you want to do; it’s about who you were made to be. Or better yet, who you are making yourself to be.

When we say you can be anything you want to be, we’re saying you get to design your life by choosing your relationships and experiences. I’d encourage you to take a Human Centered Design approach. In its simplest form, it goes something like this:

  • Listen really well to the people around you
  • Define your purpose
  • Ideate around that purpose
  • Create a prototype (a smaller focused version)
  • Test it out, repeat, and reiterate until you find the best version
  • Implement your purpose with regular evaluation

This method applies to designing innovative products, and it applies to designing our lives.

2.  It’s a free country, you can do whatever you want to.

Right now my three year-old is obsessed with the phrases “I want to” and “I don’t want to.” The word “want” has governed our lives and our values for much too long, and it has turned into the personality trait that we all dislike in others, yet often display ourselves without noticing:entitlement.

Notice when kids use the “It’s a free country” line it's always in defense of something they want to do, but is not best for the situation, the relationship, or the world around them. The freedom we enjoy in this country in particular has little do to with being able to do whatever we want.

This is the conversation we’re trying to have with him, and it is the question we could all ask ourselves. Rather than “What do you want?” what if we started asking, “What is best?”

3.  If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.

This is the mantra of the high-performing loner and, unfortunately, this statement is most often true. The outcome may be better if we do it ourselves. There have been plenty of posts on this blog and others on the value of failing well. Better even to fail well and fail together. The learning is richer with diversity in how we experienced that failure.

This gets right to the heart of what matters most, or maybe who matters most. Life changes when we begin to consider a point of view in which success isn’t measured in power, but in people.

To flip the script a bit, if you want something done that matters you have to do it together.

I’m sorry you (and I) were lied to. No one meant to do it, and it all starts from wonderful, lofty ideals. So here’s hoping, as we get into the moments of a regular Tuesday morning, that we tell ourselves the truth.

Are there other “lies” we were told? Share in the comments, and tell us the truth.

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