You would think the scoreboard would indicate how successful a professional football team is. “That’s only part of the equation” explained Jamie Roote, President of the Houston Texans. We were discussing what it took to build world-class high-performance teams. “One of the key questions we ask ourselves is are we creating memorable moments?” His belief is each week not only the players, but also everyone from the parking lot to the front office is responsible for what fans experience.
As Father’s Day approaches, I started reflecting on the importance of memorable moments in all aspects of our lives.
My dad, Joe, loved taking his grandkids to the farm. One day, out of curiosity he asked one of my nieces, Amanda, (who is now has a household with five kids) if she had a special memory from adventures on his farm. She went into great detail of the special swing Dad made for her and the other young ones in the family. Now, this was a unique swing, not purchased from Home Depot or bought online from a high-priced swing manufacturer touting the aerodynamics and safety features parents of today brag about. This flying platform was forged from a throwaway piece of timber and an old rope. The excitement reappeared as Amanda told how, as soon as she and her cousin Brittany reached the farm, the first thing they wanted “Pappa Joe” to do was to hang the swing on the arm of the walking wheel he tied his race horses to exercise. The squeals could be heard across the hayfields as their personal merry-go-round spun counter clockwise.
This adventure continued even as their legs grew so long they had to hold them up to avoid making trenches from dragging in the dirt. To increase the adrenalin rush, when they thought Dad wasn’t looking they would stick their feet in the ground to stop the motion, causing tension to build on the rope as the engine pulled against them. At just the right moment their legs would fly up catapulting their version of a jet plane around the circle, seemingly close to the speed of sound.
I look back on my shift from boyhood adolescence to my perception of what manhood should be as the right dad or husband: the provider, the disciplinarian, the director, the protector. What struck me as I heard this story was that the true calling that men have as fathers, husbands or friends was not power, provision or protection but rather the memories we choose to create.
Our children and wives (and yes, employees) yearn to laugh and be loved. They need to feel chosen over our toys, work, hobbies or other attempts of distraction or escape. Have we lost our ability to find ways to be playful with simple gestures like an unexpected card or phone call in the middle of the day? Giving our children a new laptop can be meaningful, yet playing a game on the new machine reaches inside of their spirit so much more. Taking a night to sit and watch their favorite television show – without commenting on what doesn’t make sense or appease your funny bone – creates a moment that is burned onto their relationship meter.
Can we dial down the impulse to correct and simply connect?
When was the last time you acted silly with someone in your family? Do you allow your children to see the ‘child’ in your heart? Your playfulness has a more lasting impact than your provision. These lighthearted, carefree experiences build bigger-than-life memories that sustain throughout the years.
My daughter, Nikki, told me her college boyfriend asked her about special memories from growing up. She called to ask “did we really play in our front yard ditch after a big rainstorm when I was four?” I smiled and described carrying her to the edge of the water (which was only 18 inches deep) and then both of us jumped in. We jumped and frolicked for 45 minutes until we were both soaked to the bone and exhausted. She and I still remember it, with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts, a precious moment chiseled in our hearts forever.
It’s never too late to create a memory. Nikki has now graduated from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. A few weeks ago, she accompanied me to a speaking engagement for one last Father-Daughter outing before she headed off to start her life as Dr. Nikki. After the program, we raced to the car and bolted to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. We spent the day walking from the entrance to the back lot in search of magical moments. For us, it was the pursuit of having our pictures taken with the Fab Five: Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Donald & Daisy Duck and my personal favorite – Goofy.
We stood in lines snaking back and forth, the front seemed to be in another time zone. My competition for the celebrities’ attention barely reached my waist. Parents intent on providing their screaming kids a special Disney experience valiantly shuffled along, eyes seeming to dim with each step. Yet Nikki and I maintained a goofy smile, simply delighting in each other’s company and the fact we were sharing a childhood like moment at our age. Simply put, we were playfully present with each other.
Do you have someone at home or work that needs the child in your heart to impact theirs? One of the great tools of leadership is the ability to be open, transparent, vulnerable. We connect in this manner far greater than a benefit laden retention strategy or giving the latest technology to our children.
Find a way to create a memory today. You won’t forget it… you won’t regret it.
A Perfect Father’s Day Gift!
.Mike and Nikki published A Father’s Love: The Generational Bridge that Changes Hearts Forever. Journey with them as they open doors to show the importance of how a father’s love profoundly impacts his children.