Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What You Teach

Growing up with my dad was often challenging for both of us. We thought differently and we learned differently. The things that came most naturally for him were nearly impossible for me and vice versa.

My dad went to great lengths to teach me what he knew and found interesting. The vast majority of his efforts yielded little. It wasn't until I was in my twenties, when left to my own devices, that I was able to learn the things my dad had tried to teach me in my adolescence. 

All this doesn't mean that my dad failed to teach me in my youth. It's just that the things he taught me were (as far as I can tell) unintentional. In fact, had he known he were teaching me what he did, he might have dones something to avoid it.  Nonetheless, I'm thankful for what he taught me, unintentional or not.

For example, my dad has a dry sense of humor. His whit is quick and razor-sharp. He likes to toss out little quips to see who gets them and who doesn't. If he aims his whit in your direction, you may find yourself shredded before you even know he's aiming at you. When he gets frustrated with someone, he would often go into shred-mode.

Being a frequent source of frustration, I often found myself the object of shredding. For whatever reasons, rather than shrink away from his rapid-fire pokes and jabs, I began to return fire. At first, he'd ignore my vollies as a large dog ignores a small one yapping. Overtime though, I learned to land a few hits of my own. By high school, I could hold my own. By college, there was no contest. 

Although he hadn't intended to teach me verbal and mental sparring, he had, simply by the way he interacted with me. It had nothing to do with the topic he was trying to teach me. It was just how he was and how he responded to unpleasant stimuli, in this case, um... me.

Fortunately for me, I was able to separate the frustration part from the reaction part. I enjoyed the rapid exchange. I experienced the development of mental agility like a weight lifter might experience the development of his biceps. What my dad inadvertently taught me became one of my more useful and potent skills.

I guess it's easy to completely miss what you're actually teaching someone who experiences you frequently and over time.

What are you teaching?

Happy Tuesday,

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