I’ve thought from time to time I’d like to go back and talk to historical figures. Who would I choose? –Lincoln, Einstein, Napoleon?
Rather than famous figures, however, I’ve thought lately I’d like to go back and to talk to the young Jack Speer–at the age of 8 years old. What would your 8 year old you be like if you could visit him or her now? That’s a question to think about all day today, don’t you think?
Visiting with Jack Speer at 8 years old would take you Tomball, Texas, a little town close to Houston. You’d walk into a modest house close to the Humble oil refinery where my dad worked (now Exxon).
I’d like to talk to little Jack and ask him what his life was like and was he getting the kind of support he needed. I’m sure nobody ever asked him that question.
I’d start by asking him:
- What Jack liked to do most
- What he was best at
- What he feared
- What bored him
- What he wanted to do when he grew up
I think young Jack would tell me he most liked to read, which he hid in the back room and did all summer. He would say he was best at writing stories. He would say he feared bullies, teachers and kids that didn’t like him. School bored him, and his parents really didn’t make it clear if it was important or not. He didn’t have a clue about what he would do in the future. He had seen firemen’s helmets, and they were cool, so he thought he might want to be a fireman.
Of course I can remember to a certain extent the thoughts I had as a child. But going back to talk to young Jack and experience the context of the world he lived in would allow me to understand why his life unfolded the way it did.
I could understand the fluid forces that formed the young Jack Speer and understand how they later hardened around me like feet set in concrete that is impossible to escape from now.
When I left home for college I left the young Jack Speer back in Tomball, Texas. He was kind of a cute child but was really going nowhere, and to tell you the truth, I’ve been running from that 8-year old Jack ever since. I had to get organized and get some goals. The 8-year old Jack was a cute kid, but he was unfocused and directionless. I had places I wanted to go fast.
Now I find that I need to visit with the 8-year old Jack to recapture the awe and wonder of his mind, every day an adventure and surprise of new things. At the same time I need for the young Jack Speer to escape with me from the assumptions of the world around him that so limited him, a world that died decades ago.
Young Jack’s parents wanted him to fit into the then stable world of companies that hired you forever. If you got out of school it was a real accomplishment–that phase of your life was over thank goodness. That you would have to re-educate yourself for a new role was an unknown concept. Young Jack’s world was the world of followers, and leadership never occurred to him as a possibility.
I’m now in the process of connecting with the 8-year old Jack Speer that is still very much a part of me today. I think it’s useful to step back to our childhoods and as an adult to see the forces that formed us, how they made the best in us today, and what we hold onto from the past that keeps us from moving into the future.
We’re given the challenging task of disrupting the forces of our past that push us toward what seemed to be a logical path when we were younger to develop the vision of who we want to be now.
Our lives get set in a direction from our earlier life and that momentum pushes us in a direction that seems to be an inevitable path.
Changing the course of our lives from past momentum to an intentional direction forward is the most difficult, challenging, and exciting things we can do. What does that life look like to you? You have to beat the odds of your own embedded genes and your own history.
One thing I know, the 8-year old Jack Speer didn’t very well understand his present or his future, but he had the highest of hopes for a great life beyond any expectations he might have. I owe it to that child not to lose faith in his dreams, but to go forward and achieve them.