Think you're screwing up as a parent? Terry Crews turned out okay.

Terry Crews (@terrycrewsshould have grown up to be a nobody. Statistically speaking anyway.

But instead he grew up to play in the NFL, star in movies and TV shows, and along the way, never ceased pursuing his real passion: creating art.

Image credit: The Tim Ferriss Show
I heard Terry Crews discuss his youth on an episode of the Tim Ferriss Show podcast. In addition to being hilarious (as you'd expect from Crews), it was incredibly inspiring. It helped put in perspective that no matter how poorly I think I'm doing as a parent, there are a lot of very successful people - like Terry Crews - that came from way worse.

Terry Crews grew up in Flint, Michigan during some pretty bad economic times (the crash of the auto industry) and at the height of the crack epidemic. Not only did he have to deal with the poverty, he had to dodge gangs, crack heads (literally), and his father.
“My father, he was a drunk. He was abusive. My earliest memory is him hitting my mother in the face hard as he could and her getting knocked out. And I knew for a long time that I had to do something to get out. What that does to a five year old child is…he says he loves her, and he just knocked her out. So what’s he gonna do to me?"
It's probably no wonder Crews grew up to become as buff as he is. He had to be tough to get by in life.
"So I remember trying to be very very strong as a young kid. I remember I would lift up couches... I became obsessed with becoming strong.”
He also understood early that he'd need that toughness to carry him forward - and out of - the life he had in Flint. "There were two ways out," he says in the podcast. One was music, the other was athletics.

What I find so inspiring here is that he didn't grow up aspiring to be a football player. He grew up being an artist. And thanks to a few people that who truly saw him as an artist (including a school art teacher and his mother), he never had to stop being an artist.
"My mom would tell me...whatever you do...never forget you're an artist."
He even went to art school (who knew!?) and has since designed furniture and illustrated the cover of Ad Age's "The 2017 Creative 50" issue.

Image source: Ad Age
Sure, football might have been his ticket to college but that wasn't his motivation for going to school. He went to school to become an artist, football was just the means to that end. He even ran a side hustle doing larger than life portraits of his fellow players.

"Football players are the most egotistical people in the world..." he said. So of course they wanted portraits of themselves "like giants over the city...with wings."

And in that, there's another good lesson for parents: Embrace your kids' unique talents and interests. Sure, give them the opportunity to explore and build talent in an array of things, but don't steer them away from what really drives their passion. Terry obviously had a talent for football, but his true passion was (and still is) art. He used one as a means to the end for the other, and that's fine.

It seems too many parents these days push their kids to be great athletes, often at the expense of other passions. But let's not forget that, statistically speaking, very few kids really will make a go of athletics as a means to get through college. And even fewer will make a career out of those sports. So while I think it's fine to foster athletic ability, there's diminishing returns if doing so is at the expense of those kids' true passions, especially as they get older and nearer to choosing what they'll do with the rest of their lives.

And before you discount that line of thinking with a rebuttal like, "yeah, but there's no future in ___" (fill in the blank with whatever seemingly useless activity drives your kid's passion), consider the fact that you couldn't have predicted today's world when you were a kid. Lord knows I couldn't have. Nobody had thought of Facebook, Virtual Reality, Spotify, or self-driving cars. Actually, some people did. We just called them science fiction writers at the time.

If we can't predict what our kids' futures will look like, we'd do well to recognize that what drives the interests of today's youth will probably manifest itself in future innovations that we haven't yet considered possible. And that's exactly the type of thing that moves the world forward.

Okay, enough of that. Back to Mr. Crews.

I also found it interesting that he notes that all that physical toughness and athleticism wasn't enough.
"...I became obsessed with becoming strong. What was wild is that right along with that, you had to be smart."
Kids want to learn. They want to understand things. Hell, even adults want that. And if they aren't getting the knowledge they desire from those closest to them, they'll find it elsewhere. Crews says in the podcast:
“When I was a kid, no one would tell us anything...Me and my best friend made a vow that ‘whenever you learn something that I don’t know, you are gonna hafta tell me. And if I learn something you don’t know, I promise to tell you.’"
Now it begs the question: short of having a best friend to share life knowledge with, where do our kids get their information? The internet? Social media? Television?

Which begs the next question: Are you okay with that?

Where do you get your information? And how much of it is actually worth knowing? And right there is another lesson I took away from this interview: Include your kids in conversation, and teach them how to learn.

Don't worry about talking above your kids' intelligence levels. There's real value in including them in "adult" conversations. They may not understand everything you say, but it'll force them to start thinking beyond their current level of understanding. I believe that's a good thing, no matter how old you are.
"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." -Albert Einstein
And finally, something we could all probably take to heart are Terry's words for new or expectant parents regarding raising kids:
"They're going to be fine."
He says that parents, especially new ones, get so concerned about the details (yep, nailed it!), when in reality, "it's not that big a deal." As long as you "love them till they can't stand it anymore," and "let their consequences teach them," while never, ever shaming them (though a little guilt is okay). Chances are, they'll turn out just fine.

After all, Terry Crews did.

Listen to the whole interview with Terry Crews on The Tim Ferriss Show.

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