On this week’s Keepin’ It Real, Cam Marston reflects on a lesson he learned the hard way and what he’s done since.
Young men have always been warriors. They’d go fight the battles while the elders sat around the campfire. The elders decided if fighting was the right thing and when and how to do it. The warriors executed the plan. When they returned, they were glorified for their success, or they were coddled in their loss. Either way, they were praised for their efforts.
Most old men don’t seek glory like young men do. Something happens after about forty years old, where glory no longer drives behavior. Old men prefer instruction and guidance. Not glory. Learning from mistakes is more important than celebrating victories, and old men want to help others learn, too.
In today’s parlance, the young warriors seek celebration for kicking tail and taking names. It’s been this way forever. The old ones seek correction, guidance, and offer feedback. “What did I do wrong,” they ask, “and how can I get better?” It’s mankind, it’s human. It existed before any of us and will continue well beyond us.
Which brings me to football.
My favorite youngest son watched the entire game from the sidelines a few weeks ago. He followed his coach up and down the field, never more than a few feet distant, like a puppy hoping for a treat. He wanted in, but the game was against our school’s biggest rival and it was close, and my son, a sophomore, wasn’t yet ready for that stage in a tight game.
I found my son after the game. I hugged him and told him I loved watching him out there. I told him his time in practice had helped ready his team for a well-deserved, hard-earned close victory. I told him I was proud of him. He flashed a tiny smile. He shook his head. He said he had wanted to play. “I know. I was watching. Keep working hard,” I said. “Your time will come.”
I did this and said this because I did it the wrong way a couple years ago. I made a mistake. My favorite oldest son had walked off the football field after several great catches and a couple touchdowns. He was beaming. That young warrior had conquered and had conquered well, and I…I immediately pointed out a block that he had missed. I had offered him the feedback that I, an old man, might have wanted. Not what a young warrior aches to hear. My son’s face changed. I immediately realized what I had said, and what I had done, and how I had made him feel, and my guts hurt to this day. Catches, touchdowns, yards after catch, a great team win, and I start with his mistakes. Ugh.
I tell this story often. It’s my penance.
Warriors need to be praised. Warriors need to be praised. Remember that. Warriors are not always right. Warriors are not above discipline. Warriors aren’t infallible. Warriors are not above correction, but, whenever possible, warriors need to be praised. It’s ancient. If you, too, are an old man, I hope you’ll learn from my mistake.
I’m Cam Marston, and I’m just trying to Keep it Real.