Over the past nine months or so, I've gone through an entrepreneurial adventure that, oddly enough, has taught me just how little I know about parenting.
It started earlier this year when I launched Get the Most Out of High School with the goal of making a positive impact on student athletes. I had put together some nice academic and athletic accolades during my time in high school, and I thought I had enough knowledge to help current student athletes do the same.
I also noticed a gap in the marketplace that I thought I could fill. I saw countless personal trainers and tutors out there focusing specifically on academic and athletic performance, but I didn't really see anyone looking at the experiences of a student athlete within the bigger picture.
From my perspective, it isn't simply performance and accolades that matter for a student athletes, it's the lessons and skills that they pick up through the years and transfer to the rest of their lives that really matter.
So based on that premise, I got my thoughts in order and dove in head-first.
I put together a course on succeeding in high school; started talking with local kids and parents; and reached out to hundreds of coaches, counselors, and parents around the country in an attempt to spread the word. I thought I had a perfect plan to help student athletes "get the most" out of their experiences in high school.
Until I ran into a glaring road block.
Within my initial efforts, I was effectively trying to teach student athletes how to have a high school experience like mine. While I really wanted to help student athletes use their experiences in school and sports to prepare them to excel in college and into their adult life, all the initial material I put together were centered around the idea of helping student athletes be like me.
And I quickly learned that this wasn't the right approach.
My high school experience had been straight from a storybook. I won't go into the details, but basically I checked off every box for the stereotypical high school dream. And I'm grateful for that experience. It aligned with what I had wanted at the time, and in the process of accumulating different accolades, I picked up countless lessons that have served me well as I've transitioned into adulthood.
But as I interacted with more and more students and their parents, it became apparent that I had only followed one of many paths to a "successful" high school experience. Not everyone has to be a sports star or a top student to get the most out of their experiences in high school.
I talked to kids who wanted to make it through school so they could study music and move on to their lives as a musician, and I saw kids who just weren't built for the traditional school system.
And the best part is that these kids have every opportunity to go on to lead fantastic lives, despite the fact that they were well removed from what I pictured to be a "successful" high school student.
So as my definition of success crumbled, I did some reflection and came up with two key takeaways.
First, I realized that I needed to change the path of my writing efforts if I really wanted to make a positive impact in the world. Since that time, I've shifted my focus from promoting academic and athletic success to simply sharing life lessons and viewpoints that I think can help people to define and pursue their own vision of success. And aligned with this new approach, I've just recently transitioned my writing to brandonbartneck.com.
Second, I've developed an appreciation for parents beyond what I could've ever imagined.
Based on the oversimplified definition of success that I used to hold, I had a similarly oversimplistic definition of good and bad parenting. I had assumed that kids who led stereotypically successful lives had good parents, and all others had parents who weren't as effective.
But now that I'm beginning to understand how difficult it is to simply define success for a given individual, I can only imagine how complex parenting must be.
If there are countless positive paths that kids can take, how can parents possibly guide their kids with any degree of confidence? How do you know if your kid is just following their own path to fulfillment, or if they're making serious mistakes that will have longterm implications?
I have some thoughts about just how much guidance I want to give as a parent, and how much I think my kids should figure things out for themselves, but if my recent experiences are any indication, I'm expecting that these views will change significantly once I get to see what parenting is like firsthand.
So simply put, my confidence in my prospective parenting plans has taken a hit over the past few months. More than anything, I've realized just how little I actually know.
But I'm ok with that, and I'm happy to be going through this process. Maybe I can avoid potential pitfalls down the roads if I'm able to identify my shortcomings beforehand.
Or maybe I'm just making that up to make myself feel good.
Either way, I'm happy for the learning experiences and I'm looking forward to the journey.