It’s been a long time since I picked up a paintball gun. It was my exercise of choice for many years when I was younger. To be honest, the only reason I haven’t done it lately is the cost – wow, it can be an expensive hobby. The guys I played with learned a lot about themselves and each other and had a great time doing it. It was exciting to running around an obstacle-filled playing field with paint flying everywhere. As well as watching out for the other team who wanted to inflict a little pain at the same time. Sometimes I think back about everything involved in playing that sport. When I do, I realize how some of the things I learned can apply to my role as parent and leader too.
In paintball, there were two main types of obstacles; natural and man-made. Natural obstacles might have been a creek or a hill we’d have to figure out how to navigate. Man-made obstacles included walls, vehicles, or anything else they could put in our way. It might have even included a massive barrage of oncoming paint at times. Obstacles were used by others who had been working to plan our imminent demise. We had to learn how to deal with obstacles, in a quick and efficient manner. Otherwise, our opponent would have a much easier time dealing with us. Sometimes, I find being a dad is quite similar. I deal with obstacles in my family life all the time. I won’t be removed from the game if I’m not successful navigating obstacles. However, they can cause pain, even if it’s not physical. Consider the obstacle of time and busy-ness. When our kids are young, we go from changing diapers to starting school to coaching soccer games to watching them start puberty to graduation in what feels like the blink of an eye. The only thing that gets old faster than we do are our kids. We have stop to think about how to deal with that obstacle. We have to plan our time most as efficient as possible. If we don’t, they’ll be out of the house before we know it and then we’ll wish we had.
Leading, managing, and getting the job done at home or work. Those are things I learned about while playing paintball too. Sometimes, when I work to get the job done, I become task-oriented and laser focus on it’s completion. During those times, I concentrate on and get very good at what I have to do. Usually, it’s due to performing them over and over again. In paintball, that type of player was the defender. They were the ones who would wait at the base. They would watch opponents work their way down the field. Then, with precision accuracy, they would complete the task they’d practiced over and over. With a well-placed shot, they would remove those other players from the game. It might have even taken a lot of time for them to get good at that task. They were effective because they could focus on specific targets. Many times, they didn’t have to even select a target. They were provided a specific area of assignment. If anyone came into that area, they would only have to focus on their one task. Much of the game, things moved slower for them. They were usually quite contented and happy to perform their role as base defense. They wanted to see the team be successful but not get to deep in the action. This was the safest approach to the game and where many started. There are some parents who use this approach and see success. Personally, it’s not the role I’ve chosen to take.
To me, managers could be compared to the second type of player. This player spends much of their time near the base as well. Many times, these players had been task-oriented, but grew tired of sitting and waiting. They wanted a little bit more action. They also didn’t want to stray too far from the safety of the base walls. They would move forward now and then hoping to determine the opposing team’s tactics. It wasn’t long before they’d move back to the base though. They would help point out opposing players to those task-oriented players I mentioned earlier. There were risks associated with this style of play. Playing like this was a bit more dangerous but still relatively safe and secure. Parents who rely solely on themselves to watch for opposition can also be successful. In my opinion, however, it may not be as fulfilling as the third option. It is also more difficult to be the lone ranger in parenting.
Finally, the last type of player was the leader – leaders were offensive players. These players didn’t start the game when the whistle blew. For them, it started weeks or months in advance during their preparation time. When the game did start, these players would sprint down the field. Their teams took ground and got closer to the enemy base in their quest for the flag. These multitaskers could move, identify, and engage opposing players, while dodging oncoming paint too. They watched the other team’s movements. They could determine how to adjust their strategies on the fly. They might even call on another teammate to take the reigns and lead. This was so they could step back and reassess the situation. They would do all this while always knowing the location of the other team members. They were even able to call out the locations of upcoming dangers too. Much of the time, these teams would overpower their targets and win. Rarely though, they would miss the goal and might even end up losing the game. When this happened, they’d inevitably discuss what didn’t work and figure out a solution. They would also practice again to be better prepared next time. These teams performed at a higher level than many others. I think it was due to certain common traits.
- They would regularly prepare for the game together. This way they could be ready for as many scenarios as possible.
- They were always flexible.
- They were always moving forward toward a common goal.
- They always relied upon each other, knowing the other players would have their back.
One other thing about these players, they always put the team ahead of personal goals.
I find my parenting journey to be a lot like the last player. There are still things I want to do to improve, but I have a plan to get there. The first thing we should remember is we don’t have to be in this alone. Everyone knows other parents who also strive for excellence. We need to lean on each other. We need to learn from the experiences of friends and family. We need to be there to watch out for each other and call out any dangers we see to each other. All those things can help us be the best parents and leaders we can be. There are times we sprint down the field of parenting. We’re watching and hoping to figure out our kid’s next move. Sometimes, we think we know what they’re going to do. It’s at that point they grow up a little more and change. They may have a conversation at school with a friend. They might see something online or television that affects their perspective. Now, their reactions are a little different. It is at these times, when we have to be the most flexible and adaptable. We need to be able to call out to a team to find wisdom and direction. They may have another idea about how to approach the ever changing parenting landscape. Sometimes, we even need to call an audible, take a breather and let our spouse take the lead.
Nobody is a great parent by default. We may think our parents were great role models but that doesn’t guarantee our success. Conversely, nobody is doomed to fail either. Even if they think their parents weren’t the best example. We should all find our own offensive parenting team we can rely on and learn from. It takes time and preparation to improve, but with the right resources and support, we can all lead our legacies more effectively.
Do you have a group you can call your parenting leadership team? Who do you include on your team as you work to be better parent leaders? Are there related strategies you’ve tried and seen success? Tell us about them in the comments section below.