ALL PRO DADSeven Essentials to Be a Hero to Your Kids
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Mark Merrill
All right reserved.ISBN: 978-1-59555-507-6
Foreword by Tony Dungy...............................................................ixIntroduction: Why the Quest?.........................................................xiii1. Fatherhood Fundamentals...........................................................12. Know your Makeup—Who Am I?..................................................273. Know your Mind-set—What's My Purpose?.......................................514. Know your Motive—Why Do I Do What I Do?.....................................815. Know your Method—How Can I Better Love My Family?...........................1016. Know you're a Model—What Should I Model to My Children?.....................1257. Know your Message—What Do I Need to Share with others?......................1498. Know your Master—Who or What Am I Living For?...............................171Conclusion: Striving for the Summit..................................................193Acknowledgments......................................................................201Appendix: Additional Suggestions for the Seven Essentials............................205Notes................................................................................213About the Author.....................................................................219Note from the Author's Wife..........................................................222
Chapter One Fatherhood Fundamentals
Champions are champions not because they do anything extraordinary but because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else.
—Chuck Noll, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and four-time Super Bowl winner
Gentlemen, this is a football." With those five famous words, legendary NFL football coach Vince Lombardi communicated his point to his players each year at the beginning of the Green Bay Packers training camp. With pigskin held high in the air, he was telling his team that they must always start with the fundamentals.
"I can remember my first team meeting ever in the National Football League," Super Bowl–winning player and coach Tony Dungy shared with me as he reminisced about his days playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I was a rookie.
Chuck Noll was the coach and the Steelers had won two Super Bowls already. And I thought I was going to hear some fantastic stuff describing how you get to be Super Bowl champions; how you get to be a great player.
"Coach Noll—I'll never forget it—said, 'Champions are champions not because they do anything extraordinary but because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else.' What he was saying was, you've got this misconception that you've gotta do these spectacular highlight-reel type things, you've gotta have special gifts and special talents to be a Super Bowl winner or an All-Pro. He said, no, that's not it. There are fundamentals that it takes to play the game. Executing those fundamentals, not forgetting them, and executing them day in and day out, that's how you become great. That's how you win. That's how you become an All-Pro. And he was right."
Just as knowing and executing the fundamentals of football are key to a player becoming an All-Pro, knowing and executing the fundamentals of fatherhood better and more consistently than everyone else are key to a father becoming an All Pro Dad. Many books, blogs, and seminars do a good job listing things men should say and not say, do and not do as fathers. Men need lists, and lists are good. But we can't skip the fundamentals. And the two most important fundamentals of fatherhood are love and leadership. Before you think I'm getting soft by talking about love, you need to know that love is anything but soft. It's strong. James "JB" Brown, host of The NFL Today, is a big man with a big heart. During one of our visits, JB shared with me that "People think love is soft and weak, but it is really a sign of strength." It's strong. It's powerful. It's courageous.
What drives a fireman to put on a fifty-pound tank and climb the stairs of the World Trade Center? What inspires a G.I. to storm omaha Beach under a cloud of enemy gunfire? As author G. K. Chesterton wrote, "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." Love for others is what makes a man a man. And a man's love, his manhood, starts with what is right behind him—his family.
So in this chapter, we'll focus on the fatherhood fundamentals of love and leadership. We're going to learn what they really are and why they are so important for fathers. In the next seven chapters we'll tackle the "7 Ms" that are essential for every man to know to effectively execute those fundamentals—Makeup, Mind-set, Motive, Method, Model, Message, and Master. Every father must know these 7 Ms to expand his capacity to love and, in turn, lead his children well.
The First Fundamental—Love
"Truly, truly, truly love. That's the most powerful thing there is." Those are the words spoken by UCLA's legendary basketball coach John Wooden, at the age of ninety-nine shortly before his death. Love's power is apparent. But its essence can be tough to grasp. Bookstores and shelves in homes are filled with books on what love is, how to love, what love does and does not do. Unfortunately, many miss the real mark of love.
If you asked ten adults what love is, you'd probably get ten different answers. Love is tough to define. Coach Wooden went on to say, "The most important word in our language is 'love.'" Love is the greatest word with the greatest value and the greatest power in the world. The Roman poet Virgil said, "Love conquers all things." The great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy said, "All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love." And the political leader of India, Mahatma Gandhi, said, "There only is life where there is love. Life without love is death."
The Author of Wisdom clearly tells us that love is the greatest. When the cunning Pharisees asked Jesus of Nazareth, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Okay, if you still don't believe love is the most important thing, just go and ask someone who has never really been loved.
Myths and Misunderstandings About Love
Love is the greatest, but it is also undoubtedly the most overused and underused, misapplied and misunderstood word in the English language. It is overused and misapplied with reckless abandon on most television shows and commercials you watch. Remember the "I love you, man" beer commercial? For decades, musicians such as the Beatles have made love their hallmark—"She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah." The books you read and websites and blogs you look at talk about love as well. It's so apparent, examples are probably unnecessary. But I don't want you to think that it's mostly bad. I like a lot of those shows and songs. I'm just trying to make the point that we use this amazing word without even thinking about it. As a result, we perpetuate myths about its meaning.
Love is also underused and misconstrued in word and deed by husbands, wives, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, relatives, friends, and coworkers. Loving others doesn't mean liking. We can love others without having to like what they do. My wife, Susan, and I, especially when we're having a disagreement, will sometimes say to each other, "I love you. But I sure don't like you right now." What we're really saying is, "I love you no matter what, but I don't like the way you are acting right now."
We apply the word love when we speak of things as well. We say, "I love my car." "I love their french fries." "I love that dress." Sure, those things may be appealing and pleasing to one of our five senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell—but it is not the right application of our love. We weren't designed to love inanimate objects. objects are not capable of receiving and giving love; only people are. If we attempt to "love" things, then, more often than not, we'll use people and end up with shallow relationships, meaningless stuff, and no one to share it with. But if you and I love people, and use things for their intended purpose, we'll have rich relationships and lasting joy in life.
The Risks of Love
Be aware. We may invest a lot of personal time and emotional capital in our spouses or children and not see any kind of RoI—return on investment. But, as we'll soon see, that's what love is all about—investing with no expectation of return. Having said that, we need to remember that all loving involves some risk. Author C. S. Lewis observed:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
Do you know how U.S. Secret Service agents determine if money is counterfeit? They don't start by studying counterfeit currency. They start with the real thing. They learn that genuine currency has a texture of raised ink; sharp, fine printing; red and blue color strands; a watermark; serial numbers; and other security features. When they know the real thing, they can easily spot a fake. As we saw earlier, there is a lot of counterfeit love talk in our world today. The best way to spot it? We've got to study the real thing. So let's get to it.
While searching for this Holy Grail definition, you need to know something right up front. Thousands of people over the course of thousands of years have worked to define the word love. There are as many definitions out there as there are grains of sand on the beach. I shared just a few of them with you earlier. Although I've spent a lot of time researching definitions of love, I'm not going to rehash all of those definitions. I've done the work for you, so let me give it my best shot. you ready? Here is the treasured definition: God is love. That's it. But I know that definition may not satisfy your curiosity, so let's continue to study the genuine nature of love. As we do, please remember that I just gave you the best and most genuine definition of love you'll ever find and nothing else will ever match it.
Picture in your mind a wedding at a church. The young bride and groom are on the altar facing each other, hand in hand. Their sparkling eyes and glowing faces complement the flowing wedding gown and tux. The pastor stands before the excited and hopeful couple and says with confidence, "Love is patient when you feel like being patient, love is kind when you feel like being kind ..." Right? of course not. He says, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
In doing so, what is he really saying about love? He's saying love is not just a feeling; it is a decision. Love does not say, "Feel this way." Love says, "Act this way." Love is an act of the will to be patient, kind, gentle, humble, sincere, compassionate, giving, faithful and trusting, forgiving, uniting, and persevering. Love is all about serving and giving selflessly and sacrificially to another person. The best way to spell love? G-IV- E. It's looking not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. It's doing what's best for others no matter what it costs you personally.
Love says, "I want what's best for you! That is why I'm talking to you about this, that is why I'm doing this, that is why I'm making this decision."
Love says, "No longer will I live my life for me. I will think about self less and you more."
Love says, "I'm choosing to be at my best even when you're not at your best."
Love says, "What I want isn't important, but what you want is paramount."
The Unconditional Nature of Love
As a real estate attorney, I drafted many contracts. In every valid contract there is something called "consideration." Consideration is when you give something knowing you will get something else in return. It's conditional. It's an "if I do this, then you'll do that" kind of thing. But love is unconditional. Love is not a transaction; it's an action. Love is not reciprocal; it's sacrificial.
"So, are you doing this?" my wife, Susan, asked me as we sat on the couch after she had just read the first draft for this chapter.
"Doing what?" I responded.
"Are you exercising this fundamental of love, unconditional love, with our children?" she continued.
I really thought it was an off-base question. "yes, of course I am. I'm constantly telling them that I love them no matter what, and they know I love them unconditionally."
Susan then dug deeper in, saying, "I know you say that a lot and really mean it, but do your facial expressions, tone of voice, and actions always show it? Think about Marky. Sometimes your looks of disapproval for what he did or didn't do, or not being excited about something he is doing might send the opposite message to him." Susan then went on to give me a couple examples of this.
It was a full body slam as I had never thought about it that way. And it hurt. But I thanked Susan and stopped writing for the day as I pondered what she said. I then determined in my mind that I was going to really work on this fundamental. I need to show unconditional love not only with my words, but also with my tone of voice and facial expressions. I've got to get this right!
Grammy Award–winning recording artist Michael W. Smith, father of five and grandfather of five, is a living testimony to the fact that love is never wasted and must be unconditional. "I'm a perfect example of a guy who had amazing parents—still do, they're my biggest fans," Michael shared with me. He then paused as his mind went back many years ago. "But, you know, I started playing with the fire— alcohol and drugs. I didn't think I could get burned. And for four years, I was a mess. I mean, I was a complete mess. I almost died a few times. It's crazy."
Michael then seemed to say with a great sense of gratitude, "And I'm convinced to this day that part of my rescue was my mom and dad loving me unconditionally, even knowing everything that I was doing. They just loved me. It was unconditional love and they were on their knees for me, especially in my crazy party days here in Nashville. And I think that's what you gotta do as a father if your kids have wandered. The best thing you can do for them is just love them and pray for them." Michael's parents' love for him was not reciprocal during those years; it was sacrificial.
Love in Action
As I sat with the popular former governor, now businessman, Jeb Bush, in his modest Coral Gables, Florida, office, he paused from his busy workday to reflect upon his life. He thoughtfully shared these intimate thoughts with me, which I pass along to you. "We all have loving thoughts, but if they remain passive, they're completely useless because they don't nourish anything. They can actually create resentment. Converting those thoughts into action shouldn't take half a lifetime, but in my case, it has. But I've noticed I'm getting better at loving. I look back at my life and realize things are not as complicated as I thought. Why does it take a half-a-lifetime experience to get to the simple things?" Love is not passive; it is an action. It's something we must demonstrate day in and day out, even when everything inside of us screams, "No, that person did me wrong, they don't deserve it!"
Let me give you an example:
"Hello, Mr. Merrill? This is John Johnson from Tampa Fire and Rescue. Do you know what's happened to your home?"
"No," I said into the phone with a questioning tone.
"Well, you have a major problem in your home. It's flooded," he added.
"What?" I gasped. "What happened?"
"I would just suggest you get here quickly," he exclaimed.
"Thank you," I said hurriedly as I hung up the phone. I jumped into my car and raced home from the office in the pelting Florida rain. once I pulled into the driveway, I realized what had happened. We were getting a new roof on our historic old house and the workers had taken off the old one but, for whatever reason, they were not able to get a tarp secured to cover the house. So, in came the heavy rain. The attic, second floor, and first floor were all inundated. Beautiful old plaster ceilings fell to the floor, antique furniture was ruined, and clothes were soaked. That night, June 1, 2011, we moved out.
Sure, it's tough for my family to be houseless. You get kind of disoriented and feel as though you're in a fog. But we're not homeless. We know where our permanent home really is. And nobody was injured. So basically it was just stuff that was destroyed. Stuff that can be replaced or wasn't really needed.
Over the course of the next few days after the flood, we had to do many things, including finding a place to stay for the next eight to twelve months while our home was being rebuilt. But as I thought about it, I determined that the most important thing I needed to do was to be a good example to all the people I would have to deal with through the process— the insurance companies, the adjusters, the contractors, the cleaners, and so on.
This incident, which occurred right in the middle of writing this book, would test my resolve. Would I just write about love? Or, would I really live it out? Well, I can tell you that I've failed in some ways, especially in the area of patience, but I'm grateful that I've been given opportunities to increase my capacity to love and demonstrate love to others despite my failures.