Five Reasons That Fatherhood is the Toughest Leadership Position You Will Ever Hold  

Posted by Brock Booher

Recently, I stood in front of a group of Japanese exchange students holding an index card with a question on it. “What has been your most difficult leadership position?”

The answer popped into my head almost immediately. I didn’t think of the many leadership positions I have held in my church. The stressful Air Force leadership positions I once filled didn’t cross my mind. I never even gave my titles as an airline Captain or Check Airman a thought. “The most difficult leadership position I have ever held,” I told them almost without hesitation, “Is being a father.”

Before any of you mothers out there get your dander up, I tip my hat to motherhood as well. I merely stated that being a father is the most difficult leadership role I have ever held, not that fatherhood is the most difficult leadership role out there. I have never been, and never will be, a mother. So, in answering the question, I was limited to the roles I have held. This is an expression about my experience as a father, but it certainly applies to a woman’s experience as a mother. Parenting is the most difficult leadership role in the world.
Trying to organize the family photo

Leading a family is the most difficult task in the world for several reasons.

1) Your family knows where you buried the bodies. Remember that time you decided to burn the leftover boxes from Christmas in the fireplace and set off all the smoke alarms after midnight and almost burned the house down? Or how about the time you backed into a telephone pole with your minivan because you were shouting at your boys for fighting? If you have done something in front of your family that is embarrassing, shameful, or might land you in jail, your family will remember. It’s tough to lead a group of people who know how imperfect you are. You can’t pull the wool over their eyes, or pretend that you’re perfect. They know who you really are. They know where you’ve buried the dead bodies of your temper tantrums, your broken promises, your lies, and your failures. It’s tough to lead a family, because your family knows you aren’t anywhere close to perfect.

2) Your children will pick up your bad habits before they develop your good habits. Have you ever had to wash your child’s mouth out with soap because they repeated a swear word they heard you utter? Have you ever put your child in time out for behaving like you? Bad habits will always be duplicated sooner, and more often, than good habits. A child will do what you do long before they will do what you say, even if what you are telling them is better for them. You can put on a good face at work and hide or minimize your bad habits, but not at home. It’s tough to lead an organization that is quick to repeat your bad habits, and slow to develop your good habits.

3) Your children know where you sleep. Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” When you have worked a long day and your toddler crawls into bed with you because he’s afraid of the dark, you find out what you are really made of. It’s tough to be brave and lead when it’s 1:00 AM and your teenager is still out on prom night and you can’t sleep even though you have to get up at 6:00 AM and go to work. Everybody can keep their cool and make good decisions when they get eight hours of uninterrupted rest. Only a parent understands the challenge of running a household full of energetic grade-school children when you’re sleep deprived, without snapping someone’s head off. Only a parent can appreciate the struggle to remain sane when you can’t remember what it’s like to sleep without someone kicking you in the kidneys all night long. Leading a family is difficult because you are constantly fighting fatigue.

4) Your children don’t know and don’t care how important you are at work. I don’t care if you are the CEO of Apple, the Rear Admiral of a Naval shipyard, or Supreme Court Justice, and neither do your children. Your children don’t care about how many lives you saved that day, or how much money you made on that big deal you closed. Your children aren’t impressed by some fancy title or corner office with windows on two sides. All your children care about is what you are going to fix for dinner and if you will let them stay up and play a game past their normal bedtime. The world may bow at your feet or shower you with accolades, but when you cross the threshold of your home the only title that matters is Daddy. To lead a family you can’t pull rank or rely on some earned status. Leading as a parent is difficult because parents have to lead in the moment without the help or trappings of authority.

5) You can’t quit from being a parent. No matter how old you get, you will always be the father of your children. There is no finish line. There is no retirement. There is no quitting. It is true that you can simply give up, or abandon, your children, but that only shifts the burden to someone else, not the responsibility. Children will look to you as a parent (good or bad) for the rest of your (and their) life. The job of a parent does evolve over time, and the task loading does wane as children grow older, but the job is never complete. Once a parent, always a parent. Parenting is not for quitters.

Yes, leading as a father is the toughest thing I have ever done, but it also the most rewarding. Your children may know of your biggest faults, but they will also love you when you don’t deserve it. Your children may pick up your bad habits, but they will also surprise you with their ingenuity and accomplishment. Your children may deprive you of sleep, but they will also reenergize you with their sense of wonder and zest for life. Your children may not respect you for your titles and accomplishments in the workplace, but they will look up to you because of (and in spite of) who you really are. You may not be able to quit being the father to your children, but why would you ever want to?

Nothing I have ever done has been as difficult as being a father, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Family Photo



 

Thailand: Adventure Into the Unfamiliar  

Posted by Brock Booher

The view at the top of Tiger Cave Temple

The sound of metal crashing against metal made my heart skip a beat. It was our last night in Thailand and I didn’t want to spend it in some urgent care, or police station, where nobody spoke English. However, I had taken a few risks on this trip and although risk can produce rewards, it can also produce injury, and incur cost.

I like to take a few risks while traveling. I’ve raced horses on the beach, whitewater rafted, rappelled down waterfalls, explored caves, ziplined above the rainforest, jumped off cliffs, boated down the Amazon (the river not the website), scuba dived shipwrecks, and swam with sharks. A bit of adventure gets the heart pumping and makes travel more memorable. Sitting by the pool or on the beach is boring. I like a little more adventure. My trip to Thailand incurred a few risks, but it was packed with once-in-lifetime adventures as well.

At the Grand Palace
When my daughter suggested Thailand for her Senior trip, I must admit that I wasn’t enthusiastic about it. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to travel that far when perfectly acceptable destinations were within a few hours of air travel. What could possibly be worth spending twenty hours in an airplane and crossing the International Date Line? She promised it would be an adventure into the unfamiliar.

From the moment I stepped off the airplane onto the streets of Bangkok, I felt like I was swimming in the unfamiliar. I couldn’t speak the language. I didn’t know much about the culture. I struggled to hire a taxi. The money was strange. I had trouble finding my bearings. I was in deep water of the unfamiliar and all I could do was tread water. The streets of Bangkok enchanted me with the intoxicating smells of street vendors, the melodic sound of the Thai language, and the rhythmic movement of a city in motion. I went for a walk the first night and soaked it all in. I wanted to communicate and my brain instinctively began searching in vain through my rolodex of languages for phrases I could use, but found nothing useful. I was relegated to pointing, smiling, and hoping that I could get my point across. Just finding a place for dinner was an adventure in the unfamiliar.
 
After a good night’s rest, we embarked on the first thrilling quest—feeding tigers and riding elephants. Growing up on a farm you develop a healthy respect for large animals. You learn that no matter how loyal or docile, large animals have the propensity to injure or kill you at any time. In spite of that learned respect, I found myself bottle-feeding juvenile leopards in a cage. They tugged at the bottle like baby calves I used to feed, but I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen when the bottle was empty. Of course, I found out. I fed them raw meat at the end of a rawhide bone while they sat on my lap. I was relieved to emerge from the cage with all my fingers.

Next we boarded a safari bus with open windows and passed through areas with lions, tigers, and various other wild animals capable of eviscerating a human without breaking a sweat. I felt pretty safe, until I realized that my window was broken and wouldn’t close. When we finally arrived in the herbivore section, our bus was bombarded with giraffes, zebras, and one aggressive ostrich looking for the sliced carrots we had on board. Luckily, when we ran out of carrots they went back to standing in the shade and let us move on.

We topped off the day by riding elephants bareback along the banks of the Kwae Noi River. As we approached the lumbering beasts with bananas, their long trunks greeted us like groping hands. I climbed aboard Mayura, my ride for the day, straddling her neck with her coarse hair poking at my legs and her ears flapping against my hips. The trainer grunted and she sauntered forward to follow the other elephants, but every chance she got she stopped to eat, pulling up small trees and clumps of grass. The trainer dismounted and I sat atop of that great beast feeling completely out of control. I knew no commands. I had no bridle or saddle. I was keenly aware that had she wanted to, Mayura could have yanked me from her back with her trunk and ripped me limb from limb. Instead, she was content to pull saplings out of the ground from their roots and get me soaking wet in the river. I was a helpless passenger in this adventure into the unfamiliar.

The next day we traded our four-legged transportation in for long-tail boats and tuk tuks (open air taxis powered by motorcycles) as we toured the sights of Bangkok. We visited several Buddhist temples as the oppressive heat beat down on us. We followed the masses through the opulent Grand Palace. We weaved in and out of gnarled traffic in the back of a tuk tuk and explored the city from a water taxi on the Chao Praya River before heading to the airport and our flight to Krabi. The mix of unfamiliar sights and sounds kept me off balance and intrigued me the entire time.

Riding in Ao Nang
Our first day in Krabi and Ao Nang began with a little slower pace. Our villas were nestled in the countryside away from all the hustle and bustle of the town. After breakfast we ventured into Ao Nang to stroll along the beach but found ourselves peppered by shop owners hawking their wares. The streets were filled with motorcycles and scooters creating a cacophony of revving two-cycle motors and the air smelled of lingering oily exhaust. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, we rented a couple of scooters for the afternoon and were soon dodging in and out of traffic along the beach on 
the wrong side of the road. By the end of an exhilarating afternoon cruising around on two wheels, I 
was starting to find my bearings, and we decided to rent them again the last few days of the trip.
Britt with Natty

We thought we booked a private boattour across the Straits of Malacca to Phi Phi Island, but soon realized as our flatbed truck-cum-taxi filled up with people, that we were part of a bigger tour. After some heated and somewhat confusing negotiations, we cut the price in half for the tour and were assigned to Boat 21 and lined up on the beach to load up. Our guide, Natty, burst on the scene with great fanfare dressed like a banana with shorts on. His flamboyant delivery of instructions and coquetry kept us entertained as we island hopped our way to Phi Phi Island.

Unfortunately, the tour on Phi Phi Island was overcrowded and didn’t deliver the adventure experience we wanted, until the ride back to Ao Nang. On the way out that morning the water was smooth and the skies were clear, but when we started our return a squall line loomed on the horizon. The seas became rough and the wind whipped at our faces as we headed towards the storm. We were at the mercy of the capable Captain and his First Mate as we ploughed forward into the waves. I was sitting at the back of the boat with the sound of the two outboard motors pounding in my ears as the waves continued to build and crash over the side of the boat on top of me. Each time we crested a wave with the bow of the boat I got soaked in the back. For thirty minutes the warm water of the Indian Ocean pummeled me and soaked me through and through and I laughed a nervous laugh as we headed into the teeth of the afternoon shower. By the time we pulled into port, the rain was coming down in sheets, but we were all laughing at the thrill of the ride.

Monkeys at Tiger Cave Temple
It was foggy and cooler the next morning, but that was perfect weather for the next adventure—climbing 1237 uneven and steep steps to a Buddhist temple atop a limestone mountain. Tiger Cave Temple overlooks Krabi from the North and boasts incredible views of the surrounding geography, but you will pay a price for those views. My daughter wanted to race to the top, so we split off from the rest of the group and kept a grueling pace. We stopped for photos and to catch our breath, but made it to the top in about forty minutes covered in sweat. The breathtaking vistas made the climb worthwhile. I sat and took it all in as everyone else climbed to the top. As I sat enjoying the view, I met people from the Philippines, Malaysia, Germany, France, Canada, and Spain. I guess the desire to climb is universal and the risk was certainly worth the reward.

The last day we rode our scooters back down to the beach and hopped a long tail boat over to Railay Beach. This gorgeous beach boasts white sand with the consistency of brown sugar, clear blue waters, and great kayaking. We kayaked out to the nearby limestone islands and explore the caves carved by the ocean. The lack of waves made for great kayaking, but monotonous beach time. After a few hours we headed back to Ao Nang and toured the area on the scooters enjoying the afternoon sun.

For our last dinner in country, we rode to a restaurant where we could watch the sunset. The view was spectacular, but like almost every other meal ordering food was an adventure in itself. When we finished, we hopped on the scooters in the dark for one more jaunt along the beachfront road. One more chance to take a risk and glean the reward of soaking in the sights and sounds of Thailand.

The sound of metal crashing against metal made my heart skip a beat. My daughter, riding double with her friend, had gotten off balance during her start and crashed into two parked cycles. I pulled over and went running back to the accident. She had banged her ankle in the mash up, and they were both shaken a bit. I picked up the other bikes and examined them. They didn’t appear to have any damage. Her scooter had a broken headlight and damaged fairing. As I examined the rented scooter, a policeman came up and started taking notes. For a moment I regretted taking the risk of riding in a foreign country. I worried that my propensity for adventure might cost me more coin than I anticipated. Maybe I should stay home and watch TV like everybody else. Perhaps taking risks is not the smartest course of action when you are a long way from home and don’t speak the language.

With the help of a local hotel employee (Holiday Inn no less), we got it all sorted out. The other bikes were not damaged. No laws had been broken. Although my daughter and her passenger were shaken a bit, they had suffered only minor bruises. The only problem remaining was the cost of repairing the rented scooter. As my wife and daughter got one last massage, I solicited the help of a local shopkeeper and got an estimate on the repair. In the end the damage came to about $160, a small price to pay for the fun we had.

Yes, I like to take a few risks when I travel, probably too many risks. But the very nature of traveling is risky. We leave the safety of our home to visit places where we don’t understand the language, the culture, the food, and the customs not because we are looking for the familiar. No, we travel because we are looking for an adventure into the unfamiliar. I took a few risks while traveling in Thailand, but the trip certainly was a pleasant adventure into the unfamiliar that I will never forget.

Railay Beach
Rylee on her to Railay Beach

Scared of Getting Old  

Posted by Brock Booher

My Dad used to say, “You can’t scare a man who ain’t afraid to die.” I don’t think I’m afraid of dying, but I must admit that I am afraid of getting old. Aging is an easy process. No matter what you do the clock keeps on ticking and with each passing second, we age.  But aging without getting old is difficult. I don’t mind aging, but getting old scares me to death.

Every time I look in the mirror I see more wrinkles, more pronounced lines, and more gray hair. In fact when the stylist finished cutting my hair the other day she asked if I wanted hair gel in my hair. When I replied that I did, she looked around for a minute and said, “Let me get the gel that looks better in gray hair.” I guess that means I’m aging, or at least my hair is turning gray. I’m not ready to get old, but that doesn’t stop my biological clock from ticking away.

The problem with aging is that the person inside my body doesn’t know it. I still feel like I’m in my twenties or thirties (at least in my mind). I still think I can haul hay all day long, play tackle football, take a tumble from a horse, and any other laborious, or possibly injurious, activity. The truth is that I can still do all of those things, but the recovery time is about ten times longer than when I was younger. In my mind I don’t feel any different. My skills are essentially the same. My physical abilities are still pretty good. My desire to take on a bit of adventure is still strong. The difference is that my body isn’t capable of recovering from the aches, pains, or injuries of strenuous and taxing experiences. It takes me weeks instead of days for my body to put itself back into working order, and that is only if I take copious amounts of ibuprofen. My mind is still young and doesn’t want to accept the fact that my body is aging.

As I come to grip with my own gerontological journey, I realize that I am becoming the “crazy old man” I used to make fun of as a teenager. You all know some version of the crazy old man I’m talking about. The one who wears socks with sandals, Bermuda shorts, and a funny fishing hat as he sits in the local diner all morning ranting about the government and the sad state of society. (By the way, the root word for gerontology comes from the Greek word geront which means “old man” lol.) I find myself wanting to wear only long pants with an elastic waistband to hide my aging legs and cover my increasing paunch. I catch myself talking about the way things were when I was growing up. I hear myself say things like, “Kids these days…” about some random twenty-something punk with his hat on sideways. Yep. I am becoming that crazy old coot that teenagers laugh about, and ignore. Some days I fight the urge to become the crazy old man, and some days I embrace that persona.

Old people aren’t any smarter than young people, but they do have more experience. That experience speaks to them and guides them. Young people have no seasoned guide, no intuition, to carry them through difficult choices. They have no tingle in the hairs on the back of their necks warning them of danger. Their brains haven’t developed the ability to process large amounts of input in short order and produce a conclusion that manifests itself in the form of a hunch. Old people aren’t smarter, but they do have the advantage of experience, and that experience is worth all the exuberance of youth when it comes to making quick decisions.

Of course there are some other advantages to aging. Discounts. I often get asked if I want the senior discount and save lots of money on purchases. Time. I don’t waste time on things I know don’t work. I have made most of the big mistakes in life and I don’t waste any time on making them again. Emotion. I expend less emotional energy on things that don’t matter. I don’t get as angry as I used to. I don’t get as worried as I used to. I don’t get as stressed as I used to. I figure if the whole world goes to pot, I don’t have that long to live anyway and it doesn’t matter. Lust. The drums of lust don’t beat as loud as they used to, and I’m okay with that. I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve got. Spirituality. I don’t know if I feel more connected to God because I am closer to seeing Him again, or because I have seen a lifetime of His hand in my life, but the things of the unseen spiritual world have more impact on me now. Aging does have a few perks.

If I want to age without getting old, I must refuse to accept some of the negative things that come with getting old. I refuse to stop learning. I refuse to stop trying new things, as long as I can avoid injury. I refuse to become pessimistic about the future. I refuse to waste the time I have left on trivial things. I refuse to carry grudges or seek revenge. I refuse to spend all my time looking back at the past. I refuse to spend all of my time chasing a dollar bill. I refuse to look in the mirror and only see someone who is getting old. I will continue to live as long as I have breath, and I will fill each day with twenty-four hours of living (as long as I get to take a nap from time to time).

I think maybe you can scare a man who’s not afraid to die. I’m not afraid of dying, but getting old scares me death.

A projection of what I will look like in another 20 years