The longer Rachel and I apply the 7 Keys and other principles of TJEd, the clearer it becomes to us that modern society has made four dangerous mistakes. Since I prefer to emphasize the positive, I consider them four opportunities to do things better than the past two generations.
Each of the four is a life-changing choice for any parent or mentor. And all of us need these four changes. They are profound, and they are realistic. Most importantly, they will make an immediate and lasting positive difference in your life, your home and family, and the educational environment around you and those you care about.
1. Little, not Big
People who emphasize big projects, plans and goals frequently deliver a surprising amount of mediocrity, while those who focus on the little things—delivered incredibly well—frequently create greatness.
Great results are the natural consequence of small and simple things.
For example: A picnic is nearly always more fun as a date than going to a restaurant.
A hike together is almost always more fun than watching TV. Reading together as a family is almost always better than TV, too.
Playing basketball or catch with your son or daughter is pretty much always more fun than going out for a burger, and playing hide-and-seek or kick-the-can is a better evening than ice cream from the drive-thru!
Note that in all these examples some activities are both more educational and more fun than others. The little things almost always trump the big. One year our big trip to SeaWorld was “ruined” when the kids begged to stay at the hotel and spend a lot more time at the pool. It was the best vacation we ever had! And the most memorable part of that family trip even at SeaWorld wasn’t the whale show, but the downpour of rain that we thought would ruin everything (but didn’t)!
The $350 third grade curriculum wasn’t nearly as good as 9 excellent classics and a lot of discussion together, doing projects inspired by the books. There are so many other examples.
Focus on the Little things, not Big. That’s TJEd.
2. Silence, not Noise
Something magical happens when we turn off the radio, the television, FaceBook, and even iPhone in the house. Try it when it’s time to wash dishes, or drop off your daughter at soccer.
When it is silent for a few moments, an amazing thing will happen. Your six-year-old will look up from the plate she is drying and start asking you questions. Your boy scout will turn to you as your drive and begin to tell you about his day (this is akin to a modern-day miracle to get him talking so much).
Find times for silence, real silence. And then watch what happens. Hold hands with your spouse outside in the twilight of evening and say nothing. Just stand there watching the horizon change.
Our modern world is too noisy. We don’t listen enough. We don’t even ask enough questions. But if we purposely find times of silence, and wait for our students to speak, we’ll be amazed at what will happen.
3. Genuine, not Shallow
So much of what passes for life in our modern times, from food to education to entertainment to romance, is caught in the trap of instant gratification.
Try the following exercise: For the next week, don’t do anything that brings instant gratification. Don’t buy instant rice, cook the slow kind. Don’t use a microwave. Don’t give your family juice from a bottle; juice it from apples—and get the apples from a farmer or roadside stand where they are freshly picked, not from a store.
Don’t read any prepared curriculum; read from an original book.
Don’t try to impress anyone, for any reason. Just try to be a much better, more genuine, you.
Look for the most genuine option in everything.
That’s leadership. That’s Leadership Education.
4. Confident, not Cocky AND Confident, not Doubtful
Ask yourself if you are getting the education right now that you should be. Then ask yourself the same question about each of your kids and students. Really think about this, and brainstorm and plan until you are clear on what kind of education you truly should be getting right now—and do the same for each person you mentor.
Then focus on that kind of learning. Forget the rest, and emphasize what you know to be the right thing.
As you do this, something amazing will happen. Your confidence will greatly increase. You won’t feel doubtful, or cocky. You’ll just feel secure, happy, and engaged.
As you focus on what really matters, and on doing it better, you’ll sometimes find yourself “lost in the flow.” Time will pass quickly, and you’ll be amazed at how much fun you’re having.
Your students will catch your energy and do the same.
You’ll do the little things that matter most, you won’t get distracted by the noisy things, and you’ll find yourself happily engaged in the genuine, real, exciting world of learning and family. You’ll feel a rising sense of confidence and new-found energy.
Another way to summarize these four choices, in one quick phrase, is “Secure, not Stressed.” It’s as simple as “Classics, not Textbooks,” “Inspire, not Require,” or “Structure Time, not Content.”
And it works! The little things. Done well. Quality. Silence. Example. Fun. Talks that happen naturally between you and your son—and that change everything, but seem very small at the time.
A genuine depth that comes when you ask what your daughter really needs right now, and then do it. And when you ask her what her biggest strengths are, and then really listen to her answers.
And you have all the power to do it … or not. It’s up to you. All it takes is four simple choices.
For help in mastering and applying the principles and techniques of coaching and seminar learning, check out our award-winning TJEd Implementation course, “Mentoring in the Classics” >>
Oliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd. He is the NY Times Bestselling co-author of LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through Leadership Education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.