My dad was always saying “If you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you’re right”. He even had it engraved in a rock on his office desk.
On his 65th birthday, in April 2013, he was looking forward to enjoying his retirement, getting involved with a bunch of “seniors” groups and travelling. A week after his birthday, he was diagnosed with oesophageal / stomach cancer. Being the positive guy he was though, I assumed (and hoped and prayed) that he’d beat it. But on 20th January 2014, he passed away.
Anniversaries are usually a pretty sad day, but this year I found it particularly tough. I assumed it was because of the inauguration of He Who Shall Not Be Named in the US, or the sickening events on the streets of Melbourne that unfolded that afternoon. All this heartbreak surely marks the 20th January, 2017 as an awful day in history. But on a much more personal level, it was an awful day for me because I realised just how much my dad was missing in seeing his grandkids grow-up.
Next week, my youngest is off to school. My dad only knew him as a toddler, and now the cheeky 5-year old is ready to venture into the big world of primary school. My daughter was a pre-schooler, and now she is a drama loving, budding scientist and avid bookworm, ready to take on Year 2 at school.
He would be so proud of who they are becoming.
On Friday morning I discovered (thanks to someone’s timely retweet) that actually, my dad’s favourite quote was from Henry Ford.
Later that day at my mum’s place the kids had commented again on Grandpa’s rock on his desk with his favourite quote. But the power of this message really hit home to me the following day.
Saturday morning is now swimming lesson day in our house.
My son had just begun the week prior (please don’t condemn me as a bad parent for beginning lessons so late in life…) and that lesson had ended in tears (basically had a fear of putting his head under the water and drank a fair bit of the pool as he tried to). This Saturday as he got dressed at home, there were more tears about not wanting to go. Rather than trying to reason with him, I decided instead to take a leaf out of my dad’s book.
I explained that if he thought he can’t do it, that he was right, he wouldn’t be able to do it. But if he changed his thinking around and starting saying, “I think I can learn to do this”, that he will. The pep talk seemed to dry the tears, so we got into the car and drove to swimming.
His lesson began and quite fortunately the other 2 kids in the class were late, so he had a solo lesson for the first 10 mins. In that time, I was amazed to see him putting his face under and doing everything the teacher asked him to. He even managed a few thumbs up to be on the side and some smiles. I was so surprised to see him actually enjoying the lesson after the nightmare of the week before.
When it was over he came running up to me and said “I remembered Grandpa’s saying!” I was a bit confused at first as I’d already put our conversation out of my mind, but he said that throughout the lesson he’d been saying to himself “You can do it” and he was so pumped that he actually had. It just melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
Oh dad, I wish you were here to see this….
It got me thinking today about my own journey and the things that I think can’t be done. Can I really finish this PhD in the next 18 months? Can I really get this current paper published? Can I really get all the testing completed this year?
Can the world really survive the next 4 years without major calamity?
I don’t know the answers. But I do know that if I continue to doubt and live in fear then I’m going to be part of the problem and not the solution.
My one word for 2017 is #intentional.
Today I realise that part living intentionally is choosing to believe this can be done. I choose hope. It’s not about measuring up to others – its about living my life as authentically me as I can.
So today I choose to believe I can finish this PhD in 18 months. I can get this paper submitted (and eventually published) in the next 2 months. I can finish my testing. And while the events of the world seem beyond my ability to change, I can make an impact to those around me: to the people I meet, my friends, family, colleagues.
We can do this. Yes we can.