28 Jun 10 Life Lessons from My 10-Year-Old Daughter

On June 28, 2008, our lives changed forever when our eldest daughter, Ellie, was born. Our family was overwhelmed with happiness as we welcomed this precious baby girl. We became a family of three and immediately couldn’t imagine our lives without her. Today, seemingly in the blink of an eye, Ellie turned 10. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned from her over the last decade.

10 Life Lessons from My 10-Year-Old Daughter

#1: Dream big. One night, while I was tucking Ellie in for bed, I asked, “What’s your dream, Ellie Bear?” With her head cocked to the side and a beaming smile on her face, she replied excitedly, “Well, I have 600 things I want to be when I grow up!” Ellie never thinks small. I always look forward to the first and last days of school because she writes down what she wants to be on our playroom chalkboard. Over the years, her answers have run the gamut — teacher, popstar, professional basketball player, and 597 other things. Don’t let “adultitis” get in your way. What is your dream?

#2: Live with passion. On the day before Ellie’s first hip hop dance show, we were chit-chatting about her upcoming performance and she wondered, “Have you ever been so excited that you couldn’t sleep?” Why yes, that’s definitely me the night before speaking engagements … the adrenaline keeps me up. Ellie finds the things she loves to do and gives them her very best effort. Do what you love! Without passion, life is boring. What gives you goosebumps or gets you excited?

#3: Mentor someone. A mentor shares his or her own experiences. Ellie takes great pride in her big sister role and loves to share her life’s adventures with her little sister, Mia. Whether it’s how to practice yoga, what to expect in school, or how to shoot a basketball…she loves to be Mia’s teacher and counselor. At some point, you’re going to find yourself playing the role of a mentor. Who could benefit from having you be their guide or advisor?

#4: Be present. During one of our annual staycations, I blocked out a day to participate in kid-directed fun. I started out by asking Ellie and Mia what they wanted to do. They gave me quite the list, and we ended up doing everything. We gave each other makeovers, played Legos, dressed American Girl dolls, went to the pool, kicked the soccer ball around outside, created an obstacle course, made art projects, and ate at their favorite pizza place. They wanted to end the day with a sleepover in our basement, so they could fall asleep watching the movie Barbie and the Dream House. After we got comfortable, Ellie quietly said something so small, but ever so meaningful. She said, “Daddy, that was the best day ever.” At that moment, I was overwhelmed by how truly impactful being present really is to others. How can you be in the moment with whatever you are doing?

#5: Play every day. I’ll never forget the time when our family was sitting in the living room on a rainy Friday evening trying to decide what to do. We went back and forth and back and forth sharing different ideas. Finally, Ellie spoke up and proclaimed, “It doesn’t matter what we do. Let’s just have fun!” With that declaration, Ellie and Mia changed into their jammies, put on their fancy sunglasses and performed their very best version of the Whip and Nae Nae. How do you incorporate fun into your days?

#6: Explore the unknown. A few weeks ago on the last day of the school year, my family joined me for an overnight stay where I was speaking at a conference. The venue happened to be a resort that featured a large indoor waterpark and many children’s activities. After tubing and making ooey gooey s’mores, we walked back to the elevator to go back to our room on the third floor. I noticed that Ellie pushed the fourth floor button. I quickly went to correct her — “You pushed the wrong…” Without allowing me to finish, she said, “I know. We’re going to the fourth floor to explore.” Her curiosity routinely leads us to new adventures, so we rolled with it. What is something that you want to explore or learn?

#7: Practice consistently. While Ellie doesn’t always want to do ball-handling drills or work on her swim stroke on multiple days every week, she understands that she has to do so if she wants to improve. She’s usually pretty willing to work hard in order to excel. Think about a skill or activity that you want to master. Be honest with yourself and embrace the discomfort that the learning process brings. What action or actions do you have to take to get you where you want to be?

#8: Recognize others. This past year, Ellie played on the Fever, her first-ever basketball team. What I found inspiring is that ALL of the kids were filled with joy when teammates scored, stole the ball, or did anything to help the team. Ellie talked excitedly about all the girls who played well during a game, and always rooted for each of her teammates. Do you always root for others, or do you get jealous of other people’s success? Stop comparing yourself to others. They’ll be much more likely to help you on your journey if you acknowledge and appreciate them.

#9: Write regularly. Over the years, Ellie has written hundreds of notes and stories. I recently stumbled upon a short story called “Daddy” that she created while I was writing my book, SHIFT. In it, I noticed that Ellie had expressed how she was feeling when she wrote, “Dad is never home because of a book. He is trying to get it done by March. I miss him. I love my dad. When he comes home, I hug him.” I totally realize the importance of the written word. Ellie’s honest feelings that she had so painstakingly written down certainly had an impact on me. Your story, voice, and words have the ability to impact the world. My goal is to positively influence just one person per article that I write. How can you leave your stamp on others?

#10: Be happy. For an entire year, Mia wanted to listen to Pharrell Williams’ song, “Happy,” in the car on the way to school. Ellie regularly protested that the song was annoying and gave her a headache. Thankfully, Ellie ultimately said, “Mia, just be happy. You don’t need a song to make you happy.” Fast forward a few years. At Ellie’s fourth grade parent-teacher conference, I noticed that all of the kids had a framed mantra. I walked up to Ellie’s picture and read, “Be happy. Be bright. Be you.” Are you waiting for “success” to be happy, or are you happy right now?

Happy Birthday, Ellie!

As a new parent, you often focus on what you are teaching your kids, and how you will guide them throughout their lives. What you come to realize is that your children will teach you things you never even knew you needed to learn. It’s an eye opening experience to be inspired by the innocence of their childhood, and the unconditional love and passions that your little people bring to your life. Thank you, Ellie, for teaching me so many life lessons over the past decade. I’m blessed that you are my daughter and I love you more than you’ll ever know. I’m overwhelmed with joy as your sweet smile and giant bear hugs greet me when I come home after a long day. It is the best feeling, when I feel your arms around me.

ACTION: For the next 10 days, take action on 1 of Ellie’s 10 lessons per day. For example… Day 1: Write down your dream. Day 3: Offer to mentor someone. Day 9: Write.

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