What I Learned From A Six-Year-Old Mentor

Inspiration into Action
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
(Buddhist Proverb) 

I’ve only had a few mentors in my life. My parents have taught me how to love and lead a family. Two life-long friends have had a special hand in my development as a businessman. I dedicated The Belief Road Map to the memory of two men whose teaching of the Tao Te Ching has had a dramatic and very positive influence in shaping the philosophies of my life: Jim Sochor, who coached me in college football, and Dr. Wayne Dyer, who coaches me still to this day through his books. But I have also learned that life lessons can come from anywhere, from anyone, and at any time, as long as I am paying attention.

I learned an important lesson about leading change from a six-year-old, thumb-sucking boy while driving across the country to a new home more than twenty years ago. Here’s how I told the story in Turning Inspiration into Action:

The Pittsburg house was good for us. We grew our family there with the birth of our son Kyle in 1989. Kaileen attended the local elementary school from kindergarten through fourth grade and also started a swimming career that would one day earn her a college scholarship. Kyle had peaceful years as a toddler under the loving care of his mother and attended his first year of school there. I continued to learn and develop as a Buyer at the hardware store, and remained there for a total of eight years, until, in 1994, I was presented with an opportunity to switch from buyer to seller. I left the hardware store and joined a small manufacture representative firm where I worked and learned another aspect of retail business. Less than a year later, I was offered another job, as an auditor, and that changed everything. I jumped at it, and after five happy years in our Pittsburg house, we were on the move again.

It was the first day of our cross-country move from California to Kansas. I was driving my beautiful, black Infiniti Q45, and my wife was driving her white Jeep Grand Cherokee. She had Cody, our big black Doberman, with her. Ten-year-old Kaileen was in Washington State, as she had qualified for a regional championship swim meet. After the meet, her chaperone would escort her to the airport and she would be flying to our new home. Kyle, now six, would alternate between riding with his mother and me.

This was a big move. I had grown up figuring I would always live in California, and now it was in my rearview mirror, rapidly disappearing. We were leaving our families behind. I was leaving the retail business and beginning anew, in an industry I knew nothing about. I was thinking about the magnitude of this transformation for all of us.

As I glanced at Kyle in the rearview, I felt so lucky to have him, and Kaileen – my two adorable, healthy, happy children.

Inspiration into Action

Kyle was a beautiful boy. He had a natural affinity for numbers. And he loved balls. We would play catch and count the number of times we passed the ball without a drop. And for some reason, he loved the Miami Dolphins football team. He actually cried upon learning that Head Coach Don Shula had retired following the Dolphins 1995 season.

Kyle was peaceful, happy and healthy… and he loved sucking his thumb. He had used it to comfort himself to sleep every single night. “You know, Kyle, if you decide to stop sucking your thumb, no one in Kansas will ever know that you did,” I said to him, as we drove along. I don’t recall that he said anything back to me when I made my comment, but he never sucked his thumb again. That was his quiet way, and still is. He takes information in and processes it on his own time. All previous attempts by my wife and me to stop the thumb sucking had failed. But that day, those twenty-one words did it.

Teachers appear in all shapes and sizes. That day, my son taught me an important lesson about leading change. The right timing is important. The environment must be prepared properly. Most importantly, though, you have to clearly anchor the benefits of changing to something important, and create the power needed to overcome the forces of Gravity maintaining the status quo. I had Kyle at, “no one in Kansas will ever know.”

Thank you Kyle! Many years ago you helped me learn to be a “ready student” and I’m sure that’s why my teachers have appeared in the perfect timing throughout my practice of lifelong learning.

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