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December 16, 2015

The Either/And

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
(Steve Jobs)

As leaders of our families, we walk a precarious line between establishing high standards for our kids on the one side, and loving them unconditionally on the other. It can feel like a paradox of sorts, as if one nullifies the other.

But that’s the beauty of paradox-upholding both ideals equally leads us to new, higher truths. The mistake, however, is trying to uphold them at the same time; it always leads to the dreaded “yes, but.” Like this:

“Honey, you know we love your no matter what, but we expect better effort around here.” The “expect” cancels out the “love;” the “but” cancels out the “yes.”

Instead, try something else: the “either/and.” Here you absolutely uphold both ideals, but you can only choose one to emphasize at any given time. Good coaches do this all the time. When their team is up big on an opponent and getting complacent, the coach will become more demanding of excellence. When a team is misfiring on all cylinders and getting trounced, though, the coach softens up a bit and nurtures with encouragement.

Over time, as the coach does this consistently, the team begins to believe both: they are capable of excellence, and they are loved no matter what.

Of course, none of this works unless the coach herself does it all first, calling herself to a level of excellence, and loving herself unconditionally.

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