Leadership Lessons Inspired by a 9-Year-Old

Dec 9, 2022 | Main Blog | 2 comments

One Sunday afternoon earlier this fall, my 9-year-old had a rough day. Tejay had just lost 10 minutes of device time for being rude. I had caught him sticking his tongue out while my husband wasn’t looking. He had just scolded him for not being willing to help me with a home project. And, if I’m honest, I was a little surprised by his behavior as this isn’t typical of him.

I had an old wreath that was falling apart. Rather than shopping for a new one, I had the bright idea that my son and I would redecorate it. My summer wreath, covered in faded dried peppers, would be renewed with festive fall décor. All we needed to do was remove the old items and create our new masterpiece.

Since Tejay had just lost 10 minutes of game time, our activity began with him regaining composure. He approached the project humbly with swollen eyes and damp hands, only to pick off a few faded peppers and wipe his eyes again. (And yes, if you have cooked with peppers and wiped your eyes, you know where this story is going.)

Immediately, I began to question my ability to parent. What was I thinking? Suddenly there was no composure and a scene on my front porch. “Owwwww!” I knew he wasn’t faking it. I brought him inside, quickly turned on the shower, let the water run down his face long enough to calm him down, and promptly scrubbed his hands.

Within a few minutes, my normal loving 9-year-old returned, and I had the opportunity for a deeper dialogue. I admitted my idea probably wasn’t the best, and I told him how sorry I was about what had happened to him.

We then shifted the conversation to the situation that occurred beforehand. I reminded him how bad decisions could resemble touching a spicy pepper. It can sting. And we talked about the impact and importance of good daily choices.

“I care about the person you are becoming,” I said. “I care about Tejay at 15, 23, 43, and 73! I’m raising a respectful man.”

In all honesty, I’m not sure how much he digested my words of wisdom as he eagerly wanted to know how old I would be when he turned 70. But we continued our conversation, and he ended it with a long hug. At that moment, I realized that though he couldn’t see what was ahead, he was comforted that I could see beyond our frustrating afternoon.

Take the Long View

I have been reminded that taking the long view means actively preparing and thinking about the future, even if I know that some of what lies ahead might be uncomfortable. We’re taught to take the long view when planning for retirement, saving for a house, and preparing for a college education. Yet, as much as I am taught this, I sometimes forget to take the long view personally.

Later that afternoon, we shifted our attention and did other things. I was engaged in my room, writing my weekly goals and plans. In the background, I faintly heard my son talking to my Alexa in our home office but didn’t think much about it until he popped his head into my room and said, “Mom, can I show you something?”

With a grin, he showed me a 10-page book he had worked on all week. I realized that while thinking he was wasting time asking Alexa to tell him the Pokémon of the day, he was getting her help spelling to surprise me with his masterpiece.

He saw my black planner and said, “Mom, are you also writing a book?”


“Well, what are you doing?”

“I’m working on my planner. Let me show you how I have it set up.” I opened it up to the front and said, “This is how I want to live my life.”

Then, I flipped to my one-year goals, “Look, this is where you turn 10!” I turned the pages to the back of the book, showed him the spot for my five-year plan, and began saying, “Look here, you’re almost 15! In 5 years, I will be driving you around to more activities. We’ll probably be going to youth group and school or sports activities. Who knows what else?”

“And here’s ten years.” I flipped the pages and pointed to his name.

“What am I doing there, Mom?”

“I suspect you’re in college.”

“Well, what did you write for that one?”

I paused and said, “I look back at the investments we made, and I am proud of who he has become.”

And just like that, the tears burst again. “Why are you crying?” I asked.

“Mom, these are happy tears,” and he hugged me tightly. Yet again, he had found comfort that I could see when he couldn’t.

Now, before you think this woman is stuck in her plans and goals, I recognize we all have different strategies that work for us as we charge ahead. Yet, I can attest that I have had many years where I had little vision and much confusion, and I have found planning to be a demanding discipline that I constantly need to work toward improving.

As a reminder of the ground I’ve gained, I keep a page in my planner that says, “Big Goals.” It has nothing written on it. That was a prompt from a monthly journal I have used for four years, and month after month, I couldn’t fill this out. And some months, under ”Big Goals,” I would sarcastically write that “I will get some.” So, while you take the long view, don’t forget to look in the rearview and celebrate how far you’ve come.

The other Leadership Lesson that presented itself to me that afternoon was a reminder to take the broad view.

When we take the long view, we charge ahead. But, when we do so without focusing on those around us, we might miss the opportunities to contribute to our and their personal growth. Taking the broad view may mean putting your present agenda aside to help prepare others for their future.

When my 9-year-old walked into my room with a 10-page book that he had made, I knew that wasn’t a common thing for him to do. I also recognized that I was given the opportunity to possibly help him learn something new about himself. And, while I shared my “book” with him, I recognized I needed to dig into his story to help him develop his craft.

That day with my son inspired and challenged me to savor the simple lessons right before me. It’s causing me to ask myself: “What’s happening when I’m not looking? Am I aware of what’s going on around me? Where do I need to grow?”

So as a reminder:

Take the long view

Recognize the “why” of what you do and prepare for what is ahead.

Don’t forget the rearview

So often, we keep charging ahead and we do not stop to celebrate or savor the moments of our personal growth. As you embrace the holidays, take time to think about your wins and allow it to fuel your fire as you go into the next year.

Always, take the broad view

Taking the broad view means providing resources for others to succeed, and it can only cause you to grow and succeed yourself. It also reminds us to collaborate, not compete and work together for the common good.

Whatever your role is, whatever you do, you have the ability to positively influence someone else with the gifts inside you.

Embrace the daily lessons you are given, and may they sharpen your view and your perspective.

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  1. Peggy Easterling

    Great life lessons. One of my best takeaways from it is “don’t forget to look in the rearview and celebrate how far you’ve come.”

    I am a forward thinker and often fail to celebrate the moments.

    This was applicable on so many levels: in entrepreneurship, in relationships, and life in general.

    Thank you for a great article.

  2. Sara Sawatzky

    Thanks for sharing Laurene! Such great advice! Certainly TG (and you, as well) will benefit greatly from your knowledge and wisdom in applying that knowledge!!


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Laurene Klassen
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