Low Expectations, Grit, And Tasting The Future

crispydoc Uncategorized Leave a Comment

In the FI blogging world, certain names get referenced by folks whose opinions you respect until you reach a tipping point and decide to spend a few hours digging through their website to see what the hype is all about. Ms. Montana at Montana Money Adventures was toasted by so many of the bloggers I admire that I prepared myself for disappointment.

This had nothing to do with Ms. Montana and everything to do with the way I approach overly hyped books, films, or people. I prefer the under-promise/over-perform approach to discovery, so I tend to be wary of items in the spotlight. As academics will tell you, the secret to happiness is low expectations.

Here’s the thing: Ms. Montana’s posts were every bit as thoughtful, remarkable and moving as my big sibs in blogging had alluded to. She’s brilliant. A giver. Every post I read made me want to read another, and all of them were consistently high quality. She did not take shortcuts. Montana Money Adventures has been my go-to insomnia reading for the past couple of weeks.

Rewind to Thanksgiving night, when our guests had started to meander off to bed to sleep off their food coma and I was sitting on the sofa next to my ten-year-old daughter. She’s our tough kid – when she puts her mind to a task, she pursues it with single-minded vision. So it was entirely foolish of me to invite her to what I thought would be a minor physical challenge: a competition to see who could keep both arms extended perpendicular to their body the longest (think Superman getting ready to fly).

Twenty minutes later, my upper arms were on fire, and my daughter was looking me square in the eye with a Clint Eastwood sizing up that rattled me. At the half hour mark, she told me outright that she was not going to lose. After negotiating a face-saving truce, we put down our arms simultaneously. Forty minutes had elapsed, and I’d come to accept this was more than a father’s anecdote about tenaciously conquering monkey bars in kindergarten, this was a fundamental character trait. She was letting me know, for those who speak David Sedaris, You can’t kill the Rooster.

There are two ways to interpret what others might view as a non-event. The first is to fear her coming adolescence (which I already do). In fact, it’s hard to understate precisely how much it frightens me. I read once that the kid you get is a seed with her own growth trajectory, and the best you can do as a parent is optimize the conditions to help her take root and thrive. So I’ll focus on the factors within my control.

The second is to appreciate that she’s got grit, and to help her channel it in ways that will ultimately serve her greater goals in life. This is where a Ms. Montana post entitled, “Do The Unnecessarily Difficult Things,” came to mind. She argues persuasively that it’s the voluntary clenched-teeth experiences that teach you to endure the hardships and move on. My daughter’s arms will burn for several days, and then they won’t. People and disappointments will cause her periods of pain over the course of her life…and then they won’t. There’s added value in pushing your limits, learning what you can endure to reach an objective.

My daughter is tough as nails. I’m worried at how she will work to define herself in contrast to her parents, a normal stage of development that could prove to be painful. At the same time, I’m committed to her flourishing, and I’m thrilled to see early signs of a resolve that will contribute to her success. I’ll accept the seed I was entrusted, and hope the water and horseshit I keep shoveling on it nourishes more than it smothers.

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