In the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the important parts of my life that have taught me some really important lessons that I wanted to share with you.
My friends Nick Nanton and JW Dicks threw a fundraiser for Dave Valle and his Esperanza project the other night in Orlando. They also showed a video called Jacobs Turn. I sent the DVD to my older brother Bill.
It was a great video. Jacob is 4 years old and is just like all the other kids – he plays baseball and does his own thing and obviously feels connected to them.
Except that he is a bit different. You see, Jacob was born with Down Syndrome. Some children with Down Syndrome have serious physical disabilities and developmental problems. My brother Bill lost a new born son to Down Syndrome. Jacob’s family is fortunate in a way because Jacob is physically healthy except for some low muscle tone. And it appears he learns and does things more slowly than other kids. But what hit me during this video was how naturally he seemed to fit in. Although he’s a little boy who’s “different,” on and off the field he was just one of the other kids, and they treated him like anyone else, just as family and neighbors do.
The party and the video made me think about a lot of things — for example, how we all have expectations about how life is going to be, and what happens when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would. When Jacob was born and his family discovered that he had Down Syndrome, I suppose it was natural for them to feel overwhelmed at first.
But as I was watching him play baseball, I realized how much I’ve learned since I too have experienced so many disappointments and setbacks in my personal and business life.
Here is some of what I’ve started to call “Jacob’s Lessons” that may help your day or week get on the right track:
Wherever you are, be there
Although Jacob is different, he’s also just like every little kid before they start learning to spend most of their time in the past or the future the way we do as adults. During the game, he was in the present moment with the other kids — running around the bases, bowing to the crowd when he reached base safely, and enjoying watching his fellow teammates.
So some of the most important things I’ve learned in life are that:
- I have to let go and let God.
- To see things as they are. Not better or worse.
Here’s the key though:
- To see things better than they are
- To know what I’m willing to do to make them the way I want them.
I have also learned to let go of my concerns and just be there with friends and family. I really value being with family, especially my children. I love seeing their delights and supporting them during their upsets.
I could relate to Jacob’s Dad and how he sees things and interacts with his son and his other children. I’ve realized how much I miss if I’m not in the present moment too.
My mentor Jim Rohn used to say:
“Wherever you are, be there.”
Slow down and focus
In the movie, because Jacob does things more slowly, his folks and coaches have to listen and pay close attention to him. For me personally, if I start speeding on ahead, the connection between my family, friends, clients gets lost. Seeing Jacob has reminded me to focus and slow down. Remember the “good old days” before we all got used to the idea that we should be multitasking at every moment? It’s apparent that Jacob can’t multitask. He does one thing at a time, and more slowly than other kids, but he does everything with total focus. That’s been such a valuable lesson for me.
Don’t let things get to you
Jacob has also taught me to not let things get to me so much. I am guessing he rarely gets upset, and he appears to laugh at everything, and he basically loves everyone he meets. He somehow seems to intuitively respond to them as whole human beings because he’s too young to do any judging.
Stop judging — none of us is perfect, but we’re all unique
Jacob’s openness and lack of judgment has made me think a lot about what we tend to think of as “normal” — how our expectations and preconceptions sometimes blind us to what’s there in front of us. I know that sometimes other people may see that Jacob looks “different” and perceive him as not being “capable,” when in a lot of ways he just does things more slowly. But people who don’t know him may judge him as “less than…,” rather than someone with special, unique qualities.
This is ironic because aren’t all of us vulnerable to being judged as “less than…” in some area? After all, as human beings we all have our “imperfections.” We want other people to be open to learning who we are. I guess the main point I want to make is, maybe it’s time for us to let go of ways of thinking about how we view the world and other people that may be holding us back.
At his baseball game, Jacob was just like all the other kids, and also as unique as they all were, and as we all are. Maybe if we can learn from him how to be a little more in the moment, with more patience and openness, and to recognize that we’re just like everyone else — and also uniquely ourselves — we’ll find it easier to reconnect with the best parts of ourselves as human beings.
In that way, maybe Jacob is the way we all ideally could be.