Family Life


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The 10 rules for a great life – Rule #6: Be ready for anything

Fsb teen play - the 10 rules for a great life - rule #6: be ready for anything

My 13-year-old doesn’t like to listen to the radio.

It’s not because she thinks regular radio is insipid (most is) or that she’s got better choices (from iTunes to rdio), it’s that…well, she doesn’t like that she doesn’t know what song the station is going to play next.

At first glance, this appears to be one of those fun little quirks every kid has, but I spend a little too much time thinking about patterns and cycles around here, and in this, I noticed a pattern. This one little quirk tells me a whole lot about my teen’s future, and it’s the specific reason I included “Be ready for anything” in my list of 10 rules for a great life.

The radio thing is really an emblem for the way she organizes her life. She likes order and she likes to know what the next step in the process is. In a way, this is the dream scenario for any parent. Because the child is a planner, we’re rarely surprised by any of the choices. She’s low maintenance. It’s wonderful.


While this is the dream scenario for the 13-year-old, it becomes somewhat more of a challenge when she’s 18 and entering the topsy, turvy first year of university. Or when she’s 22 and looking to land that big job. Or the time(s) she gets her heart broken.

You know life is wildly unpredictable, you’ve lived it. So how do you help a growing child to understand, accept and thrive through the turbulence?

As usual, I’ve been looking at the emotional intelligence parenting stuff that’s getting popular, in particular, the idea of making my kids “meta cognitive.” One thing that always frustrated me when I was a student is that teachers never seemed to tell me where a certain line of learning was going. Nobody ever said, “you’re writing an essay to sharpen your research and data organization skills.” I believe that when you include your kids in the conversation, when you say “this is where I’m going with this,” they follow the line of logic a little more easily.

And so, that’s what I’ve done here. I’ve told our teen that flexibility becomes more important the older she gets – and that she has to find a way to balance her need for order with the realities life has waiting for her. It’s not a lecture so much as it is providing a tool she can use to her advantage.

At the same time, I’ve also been looking to those I think that already have that balance of flexibility and order, and asking about their best practices. How do they achieve that balance? I include myself in that list. I run a handful of small businesses and constantly need to be flexible, yet keep bringing in revenue every month.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Great flexibility can grow from great order. By doing things like building To Do lists and simple planning, you can save money that you might need some day or generate the time to devote to that next surprise. I know that I can handle 10-15 projects at a time because I’m hyper organized and because I know that something is going to go differently than I expect in any given day. By meal planning for the week, I make more time for the kids to hang out at the park.

I’ve been passing it along to the teen and she’s getting the chance to stress test it. She recently re-injured a knee in dance class and after initially being overwhelmed by it, she created a plan to make it better. Life threw her a curveball and her organizational skills meant she was ready to hit it out of the park.

Be ready for anything by being organized. That’s how you handle the long term stress of life.

a man carrying two children

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