Harry Chapin wrote and sang a song: As Dreams Go By.

I urge you to listen to the lyrics. It is the story of a couple who had dreams about their future but never acted on those dreams. Near the end of the song:

You say you should have been a ballerina, babe
There are songs I should have sung
But I guess our dreams have come and gone
You’re ‘sposed dream when you are young

I owed at least part of my success practicing law to the fuel coming out of my dreams. Unlike the couple in the song, I acted on those dreams.

In my case, when I was a junior partner, my dream was to become the best lawyer on transportation construction projects (highways, rail, airports, mass transit) in North America. I was told by other lawyers that my dream was stupid and that I should stick to commercial litigation.

When I left my law firm in 2004 to become a coach and mentor to lawyers and law firms my dream was to reach out and inspire young lawyers on what they could achieve and coach them to achieve it. Again I wanted to become the best in North America. My partners at Jenkens & Gilchrist told me I was crazy to be giving up my lucrative law practice at the peak of my career.

I understood their point, but I followed my dream of teaching and coaching young lawyers. While my dreams focused on becoming the best at something, in truth the I was focused on the journey of striving to be the best, not reaching the end result.

Years ago when I was coaching I read a great book titled: Overachievement by John Eliot.

Eliot believes that all great performers have extraordinary dreams. He says:

Dreams make you click, juice you, turn you on, excite the living daylights out of you. You cannot wait to get out of bed to continue pursuing your dream. The kind of dream I am talking about gives meaning to your life. It is the ultimate motivator.

He describes the story of Michael Dell fixing computers in his garage with a dream of competing with IBM in the computer market. When Michael thought of dropping out of the University of Texas and told his parents what he wanted to do, imagine what they said. His father did not think that was funny.

Eliot describes the story of Richard Branson. What do you think people told Richard Branson when he decided to compete with British Air? Elliot ends the chapter by saying:

The kind of dream I am talking about is a feeling that excites you, that sticks, that propels you and gives meaning to your life.

For me, that was powerful stuff. I had those kinds of dreams long before reading the book, but reading it helped me understand what enabled me to persist when I wasn’t seeing results.

So, Dream big dreams.  As an unknown author once said,

“The bigger you dream, the higher you go.”

Dad’s: What will you be doing with your children during the holiday break from school?

There are two stories about fathers and sons that I believe illustrate the difference between how fathers interacted with their children.

Father-Son Fishing

My minister related the first story to our congregation a few years ago. It was about a day of fishing long ago.

Charles Francis Adams, the son of John Quincy Adams took his son, Brook fishing. Brook kept a journal and his entry for that day was:  “Went fishing with my father–the most wonderful day of my life!” It turns out that Charles Francis Adams also kept a journal. His entry for the very same day was: “Went fishing with my son today–a day wasted.”

That entry might seem incredible today, but I do not think so.  I remember Harry Chapin’s wonderful song “The Cat is in the Cradle” and the lyrics:

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play”
“Can you teach me to throw?”
I said, “Not today, I got a lot to do”
He said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah”
“You know I’m gonna be like him”

I read  about a Cornell University study from several years ago that found the average father spends 38 seconds per day being totally attentive to his children’s needs and about 20 minutes a day being partially attentive. The same children spend 54 hours per week watching television.

I am hopeful things have changed since that study. I recently saw an article: Today’s parents spend more time with their kids than moms and dads did 50 years ago.

Green and Clean

The second story is “Green and Clean” and I read it many years ago in Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Stephen Covey told about giving his seven year old son responsibility for the yard work and making the yard “green and clean” and volunteered to be his son’s helper.

For several days, Stephen Covey looked at the yard and nothing had been done. Stephen Covey asked his son: “How’s the yard coming?” The son replied: “Fine, Dad.”

After dinner Stephen Covey suggested they take a look at the yard. As they walked out in the yard his son began to sob and said: “It is so hard, Dad.”

Stephen Covey asked if there was anything he could do to help. That broke the ice.

His son went in the house and got a bag for Stephen Covey to use to pick up garbage from a barbeque. According to Covey, his seven year old son only asked for help a couple of more times that summer and the yard was greener and cleaner than ever before.

You can watch Dr. Covey tell the story in the video below.

Do you have the patience to be your children’s helper and teach them to take responsibility, or would you just take over the task? 

 

To those of you who subscribe by email and got one on Sunday about this post, I apologize. I was up early after staying up late at our 50th high school reunion. I pushed the wrong button and all of a sudden my blog was published.

Five years ago I wrote about our 45th reunion and I want to share some updated thoughts with you.

We began our 50th Glenbard East High School reunion on Friday night and ended it with a breakfast together on Sunday. Unless we schedule a 55th or 60th, I’m not sure I will ever see my lifelong friends in person again. It all makes me thankful we stay in touch on Facebook.

On Saturday morning we toured our old school. It has been meticulously maintained. The hallways look as new as they did when we were the first class to have gone all four years there.

In the halls we have sports photos for each decade, theatre photos from each decade. I missed it, but I bet there are music photos also. I also saw iPad charging stations. Our tour guide told us freshman are issued iPads.

IMG_0624

There was a girls volleyball tournament going on in the gym and in the field house. It was neat to see the enthusiasm for the girls teams.

I loved my high school and my classmates. I started in grade school with many of them. The guys played sports together from grade school through our senior year. We were the “Rams,” and that was a great mascot.

My life was shaped by my experience in high school and what happened immediately after high school. By far the most important thing that happened to me in high school was that I gained self confidence. I needed it later.

I give credit to my teachers, coaches and classmates. The teachers and coaches encouraged us and we encouraged each other.

I played football, basketball and baseball. I experienced great successes on the field and some failures. I did well in the classroom, but did not have to work at it very hard.

Ram's Sink York 65-58 Cop Regional Title

In September, 1965, I left the area and after 900 miles of driving, my father dropped me off at Virginia Tech. Other than summers during college and our wedding in 1970, I really never came back.

My four years in Blacksburg shaped my life even more.  Instead of being a “big time” somebody playing three sports, I was a small time “nobody” lost at sea at a big college.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I “needed” to get outside my comfort zone if I was going to doing anything meaningful in my life.

When I  arrived, I didn’t know a single person. I was lonely beyond words, and I wanted to be back with my friends.

When I came home for Thanksgiving, I told my dad I was not going back. I was going to transfer to Elmhurst College, a college close by where my former high school coach had become the head coach.

My father grabbed my shirt with both his hands and lifted me off the ground and shared with me in a very personal way that I was indeed going back to Blacksburg and I had better get my act together.

Being a nobody, meant I couldn’t coast. I had to start all over again to build new relationships. I played baseball for two years and learned my sophomore year that my dreamed career as a major league baseball player was not going to happen.

That devastating news meant I had to actually do well in school if I hoped to have a meaningful career. I began to work harder and sought leadership positions. That effort prepared me for law school.

Seeing my oldest friends made me nostalgic about our life growing up together. We danced to 60s music. We hugged each other. We thought about the 60 plus classmates who had passed on, especially those who died in Vietnam. We talked about getting back together again.

My final thought about the reunion brought me back to one of my favorite Harry Chapin songs: “Circle” Here are the lyrics I love:

All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

What’s the lesson for you here? Actually, Seth Godin answered it in a blog: Winning on the uphills.

We get better on the uphills. I needed to go from a somebody in high school to a nobody in college to become a somebody in my life.

But, there’s a second point some might gloss over. To get through the uphill, you and I need the love, caring and respect we get from lifelong friends and our families.

Harry Chapin also had an answer. You see, our lives are circles with no clear-cut beginnings and so far no dead ends.

This past weekend was really great. I loved learning about my friends, their children and grandchildren. So, to all of my lifetime Glenbard East friends, I hope we have at least one more chance to quote a Beach Boys song to: “Do it Again.”

 

 

For those of you who are young lawyers, you likely saw the headline and thought: Who is Harry Chapin?(Click to find out). He is a singer who inspired me early in my adult life and continues to inspire me today.

Even if you are a young lawyer who never heard of him, you probably know his most famous song: “Cat’s in the Cradle.” It is about a father who is too busy with work to be present for his son’s birth and too busy with work to play catch with his son. Later, the son has his own family and is too busy to bring the family to visit his mom and dad. The father laments:

As I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.

Through that song, I determined I would always make time to be with Jill and we would regularly have special father-daughter times.

I learned from another Harry Chapin song: “Dreams Go By.”  It is about a couple who has dreams while in school, but they must wait to pursue them. They get married and decide to have children first. Later when they are getting ready to pick up their grandchildren, they lament:

But I guess our dreams have come and gone. You gotta dream when you are young.

From this song, I learned to have big dreams and not to put off trying to accomplish them. After Jill was born, I decided to take control of my future. Much to the chagrin of my partners who wanted nothing more of me than to litigate their clients’ cases, I decided I would focus on construction law and issues faced by highway and bridge contractors. My career dream was to become the best transportation construction lawyer in the United States, and I developed a plan to pursue that dream.

I learned from the way Harry lived. Harry was one of the first to raise consciousness and funds to change the world. Some singers would sing at one benefit, but not Harry. It is reported that he contributed the proceeds from 130 of his more than 200 concerts each year to help the cause. He was on his way to perform a free concert in 1982 when he was killed in an automobile accident.

So, learning from Harry Chapin ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you spending quality time with your family?
  • Are you living the dream you have for yourself?
  • What are you doing to help those in need and to make the world, your country or your community a better place?

P.S. I have six copies of DVD featuring Harry Chapin in concert and his family talking about him. Here is a link to one of my favorite parts that I watched yesterday for inspiration. “Yes, we’ll all get together again and again” :

If you would like a one, let me know and I will send it on a first come first served basis.