September 14, 2018
Greg Lukianoff was recently on the Cato Daily Podcast to discuss his new book with Jonathan Haidt, the ”The Coddling of the American Mind.” Around the 8:30 mark, the conversation touches on the increased involvement of parents in decision making even among college students.
It reminded me of my own college experience unfortunately.
While I was in college, I got in the (great) habit of calling my mom every day on my way to class. Unfortunately, over time, I began to use that time to ask for advice. A lot of it.
Eventually, my mom gently, but sternly, reminded me that I had a head on my shoulders too. With it, I was capable of thinking through problems and arriving at my own decisions independently. She was happy to be a sounding board, but encouraged me to come to her for feedback, not advice.
It was one of the moments that didn’t seem like much at the time. Looking back, however, it’s definitely changed the way I approach problems - and specifically roadblocks. I still ask for help plenty, but it’s rarely the first thing I try. I also always try to present an option for response rather than a blank canvas for suggestion.
Fortunate for me, my mom had both the insight to understand the problems associated with my growing dependence and the willingness to push me out of the nest to avoid them growing.
I’m a big fan of asking for advice. Surrounding yourself by people smarter than you are is a battle tested strategy. But how you ask is important too. I’d used asking for help as a crutch - as if the act of asking were enough and I could offload the critical thinking.
With a little encouragement, I’ve found it much more fulfilling (and fruitful) to think through topics up front. Then, once that’s done, I’m able to discuss them much more intelligently with others and come away with new ideas and solutions that would have never come up had I not put in the work initially.
I may call my mom less these days - without a commute, I don’t have that built in routine - but I try to call her at least once a week. No matter the frequency, the call is always a highlight of my day.
Link to the book: The Coddling of the American Mind
Thanks for reading! My name's Stephen Weiss. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn.
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