Dear Mr. H…..

This is not an advice column…it’s just a new feature on my blog where I will share some of the more interesting questions I get from students. My answers are my thoughts to that student at the moment…but I’m sharing them with you to ask for feedback. What did I miss? Where am I wrong? I appreciate any accolades as well, but mostly I’m looking for insights of what else I should have told the student. Oh, and I’m going to keep the names of the students anonymous, but to help me remember I’m going to give them a coded name that only I remember (or at least hope to!).

So without further ado, here are two questions from this week’s batch that I think are worth sharing and throwing out for public scrutiny….

A student with a name shared by a character in Pulp Fiction asked,
Question: “Why do kids’ parents limit their potential?”
Mr. H. responded:  “That’s a tough one to answer. Being a parent is a tough job. If you do too much for your kid, that makes their life too easy. If you don’t do enough, it makes their life tough. But sometimes having an easy life is good because it gives you opportunities later on. But sometimes having a less-than-easy life is good because it makes you better know how to do things for yourself. A lot of things that provide potential cost a lot of money. You can’t give your kids all the things they want if you can’t pay the bills for the house. 

Potential is something you have an unlimited supply of all on your own. If a child’s potential is being limited by parents, it’s not being taken away, it’s just being given time to cook longer, to percolate. Sometimes this feels like it’s limiting us, but a lot of times it actually gives us time to be more ready to use it later on, when parents aren’t able to have as much control. The main job of parents is to keep their kids safe and secure. If a child has those things, then their potential has space to grow and build-up. It might not be able to come out just yet, but the more you look for ways to express your potential, the more ways you’ll find. So keep looking. Keep asking. Keep building your potential so when the opportunity presents itself, you are ready. 


Another student, whose name could be a nickname for Babar, asked, “Is everyone a leader in their own way? How do you know when you have become a leader? Some people won’t come up to you and say, ‘You have really inspired me or something like that.’ So how do you know?”

That’s a great question and I think that was the point of the TED Talk video by Dudley Drew you don’t really know when you are making an impact so keep on trying. I think there are two things to think about by your question:

  1. Can you make sure to thank people who inspired you and led you to great things? Can you be one of those people who helps others see their leadership and their impact by recognizing them? It doesn’t take much, but you can help people realize their power by telling them how they empowered you.
  2. I think Dudley Drew’s point was that leadership is what we do when we are sharing our passions, when we are working harder than others doing what we enjoy or feel is important. It’s more of the daily greatness on a regular basis, than some great thing on a single day.

When we think leadership has to look magnificent, we wonder if we are capable and doubt we could do it. Great leaders wouldn’t exist without the work of many leaders working with them. Martin Luther King, Jr. is known as a great leader, but the work of the civil rights movement was done by hundreds of people in hundreds of towns. Each of those thousands of people were leaders who greatly impacted the lives of other people. Each of those thousands also put their lives at risk, and some of them lost their lives, just as much as a person who happened to get the spotlight and the cameras. In a classroom, the teacher is seen as the leader, but every student has the potential to be a leader. When you were put into a group and you helped others in group get started. When you told other people in your group that it’s okay to work slower than you wanted to so that a student who read or processed slower could understand, you were being a leader. That student might never tell you “Thanks for sticking up for me” but did you do it because you’d get thanked or because it was the right thing to do? There’s not enough space in this world for everybody to have a statue built in their honor, but there are plenty of spaces where you can lead by showing others the right thing to do and then doing it.

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