The principles I'll teach my kids
Be a leader
Tell the truth
These came to me after hearing Coach K (Duke University's famed men's basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski) speak at a conference I attended for work. He was an incredible speaker. He is honest, he’s humble, he’s experienced, and beyond anything else—he’s motivational. He makes you want to trust him, because he’s authentic. He makes you believe in yourself. He’s a winner, at heart, from within. He’s funny. And man, is his track record impressive. Check out this.
He credits a lot of who he is and where he’s been to his parents. Just before his first day of middle school, his mom had a talk with him in which she told him to make sure he got on the right bus. He responded with how he’d known the bus routes his whole life—he was used to getting around Chicago and she had nothing to worry about. But she corrected him. She told him how she wasn't talking about that bus. She said for the rest of his school career, and the rest of his life, he needed to make sure he got on the right bus with the right people, and didn’t let the wrong people on his bus. She said that if he surrounded himself with good people, he’d be better because of it. It’s a lesson that Coach K has lived by his entire life, and he has always made sure to be part of the best team. He has gotten better because of others, and he is thankful for, and proud of, the people with whom he surrounds himself. He says that two are better than one, but only if two can act as one.
He told a rather funny and self-depricating story about how at the end of his high school career, his parents essentially forced him to go to West Point, against his will, after arguing in Polish and letting out just enough words like “stupid” and “Mike” for him to know just how they felt about his initial decision not to go to the military academy. So, he went, and it was there that he says he really learned how to be a leader, and that going to West Point was the best decision he “never” made.
His talk went on for much longer, with great tales of being a coach, being a husband, and being a friend, and the many incredible experiences he’s had coaching basketball at West Point, Duke, and the US national team at the Olympic games. He was, unsurprisingly, one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever heard speak, not just for what he’s accomplished or what hardships he’s overcome, but for who he is, and how he’s chosen to live his life.
It just sort of came to me, upon some reflection, sometime in the few days that followed, four simple principles that I want to teach my kids, perhaps even before they’re really able to grasp the meaning. I think if I live by these principles, talk about them, and teach them, they are encompassing of everything I value most and hope to be able to pass along to my children. They are words to live by, everyday. Life should always be marked by goals to strive for, of course, but these aren’t things to strive for; they’re tenets to live by.
Be kind. To yourself, to others, to the world you live in.
Be a leader. Walk the path you believe is right. Lead by example, and be confident in it.
Be interested. It’s so much more important than being interesting. Breathe life in and soak it up. Learn from the people around you.
Tell the truth. Always tell the truth.