Happy Tuesday #Jontourage,
Welcome back to the “Classy Gent Chronicles”, where staying classy is the only way to be. On this week's edition, you get to learn about one of the things I HATED the most during my childhood...
As humans, we all develop reputations. Some people are known for their athletic ability, some people are known for their cooking, others are known for their singing. For me, it’s for how I think about the world and I go about things. Since I was a kid, I was always told by peers, teachers, and my extended family that I see the world differently and that I have a good head on my shoulders. As I got older, that turned into people leaning on me for advice and guidance.
Well, I am not being 100% honest with you all. At home, I had a different kind of reputation... lazy! Yes, lazy!!! Growing up, I was not seen as someone who never wanted to help with housework. Unfortunately, that reputation was true but until today, I have never really explained why. Growing up, I hated criticism worse than a kid hates their favorite toy being taken away. Ironically, my dad and I never really fought a lot but the one area where we clashed was when it came time for me to do household chores and yard work. He would correct me while trying to do something so I always left discouraged. I am a person who loves hands-on learning so I am okay with messing up until I get it right. My dad back in the day was more of a two plus five is the only solution for getting seven type of guy so we often bumped heads when it came time for chores. On top of that, my older brother caught on to physical labor a lot faster than I did.
As a kid, I do not think I fully understood the difference between criticism and hurting my feelings. So of course, I took any type of critique as an insult. At the time, it was about being called out for my mistakes that I never realized the road to improvement includes messing up. I was not the person I am now so after a while I stopped trying, at least in front of others. If I ironed my clothes or washed dishes, I would wait until everyone was asleep or was not home to do it. This phobia of looking incompetent in front of others lasted well over 15 years. Unfortunately, it crept into other areas of my life. There were a lot of things I would never do for fear of looking stupid in front of others. This included dancing, playing sports, and even making videos for my Youtube channel. After a while, I realized how many areas of my life were affected by being so worried about messing up that I prayed to God to please fix this mindset. I prayed for strength and most importantly a better mindset focused on what I wanted and not what others might say.
Fast-forwarding to this summer, my dad asked me of all people to cut the grass. I guess no one else was available to help. At this point, I’m 28 years old. I’m terrified, not because I have a phobia of grass (I wonder if that’s even a real thing) but a phobia of messing up. It had been so long since I had touched a lawnmower, I just knew it was going to be a disaster. Well ironically it was a disaster but it turned out to be a beautiful disaster. I finished cutting the front yard and it turned out nicely if I would say so myself. Then the unthinkable happens, I ran over something on the side of the house and messed the lawnmower. All of those feelings of inadequacy from my childhood came rushing back. In my head, I’m thinking how if I had just said no I wouldn’t have messed up the lawnmower.
Much to my surprise, my dad was very understanding and even fixed the lawnmower. One of the blades was hitting up against the bottom of the lawnmower so my dad fixed it with a mallet. He told me he was proud of me for trying and said the grass looked nice. I finished the entire yard and it turned out great. The irony of it all is that I was no longer in a place where I was looking for his compliment (although I did appreciate it). I was in a place where I was proud because I tried. Many people would have let their childhood reputation/mindset define the rest of their life but I was ready for a change. I said from that day moving forward, I would never let something in my life go that long again without working on it.
For those of you who also consider yourself to be efficient people, you will appreciate what I am about to say next. When you are seen as a person who has it together, it can be a challenge to allow others to see any other version of you. Granted, no one is perfect and I do not think perfection has ever been my goal but I do see the cruelness of the world when you’ve been stripped of your identity. Does a dancer who can’t dance anymore still have a place in society’s heart? What happens to a politician after they are not re-elected? Nonetheless, all things and all people have value in society even past their peak or less than holy moments but unfortunately, the younger version of me could not understand that. I did not like being “Jonathan who couldn’t figure it out” because my identify for most of my life has been “Jonathan who can figure it out” If I could go back and have a conversation with 10-year-old Jonathan, I would tell him to stop worrying about what everyone thinks and have fun looking foolish every now and again. Lastly, I would tell younger Jonathan that it’s not foolish to mess up, it’s foolish to quit too soon.
That day I cut the grass, I carved a new identity for myself. Now whenever I am visiting my family, I proudly help around the house. I do not worry about messing up, I do not care who sees, I do not worry about the critiques, instead, I worry about doing my best.
Moral of the story: Trying is scary, failing is even scarier, but getting stuck in a bad habit out of fear and pride is the scariest of them all. Do not think about where you are, think about where you are going. Each day, you will get better if you keep trying. Don’t let things from your childhood affect your adult life. “Cut the grass” in your life so you can see clearly. As you can see below, the final product didn't turn out too bad if I could say so myself.
Remember, in order to live out your dreams, you have to think it, feel it, live it! Until next time, stay classy...
For more Classy Gent Chronicles blog post, be sure to visit https://www.authorjon.com/blog
Jonathan C. Harris is no stranger to leadership, hard work, or success. At the age of ten years old, he earned the right to be a guest weatherman for a day on Fox 5 DC News. He has already received over 100 honors and awards including Forty Under 40 for Prince George’s County, MD, TEDx Talk speaker, American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Outstanding Men’s Program, high school Valedictorian and the Kiwanis Club Citizenship Award. Raised in Fort Washington, Maryland, he has served in leadership positions his entire life, from being the manager of the school store in elementary school to the president of the Homelessness Awareness Club in middle school to the president of the National Honor Society in high school.