When I read Angela Ahrendt’s letter to her daughters on International Women’s Day it suddenly dawned on me that there might be a reason why I am a hopelessly directionless single parent and she is a hugely successful international leader. She is Senior VP of Apple Retail. I am not. My advice to my daughter could not be more different to hers and that is probably where I am going wrong. This is not a criticism of a lovely personal letter to your child, but just an analysis of how we as parents couldn’t be more different bringing up our children. We are all mother’s trying to do the best that we can, it’s just that I have a different, more relaxed approach to life I suppose.
My letter to my daughter would include things like “Live, Love, Laugh. Embrace everyone and everything, pick yourself up and brush yourself off when things go wrong, keep learning, keep being you, keep strong, be kind, work hard, play hard, clean your teeth, wash your face, wear clean pants every day, don’t drink or smoke too much and please don’t die.”
Whereas Angela Ahrendts advises her daughters to “Always be present, read the signs, stay in your lane and never back up more than you have to.”
She says that she has always been present for them “spiritually, emotionally and digitally.” “Digitally??” Does she mean via Apple technology do you think? Now that is the definition of someone who loves her job. I, on the other hand have only been present for my daughter “actually, physically and in the flesh.” Whilst my daughter always had my physical presence when she was growing up, she didn’t get much else, as I was too busy attempting to focus on all number of different things at the same time and multitasking my way through life (badly) whilst not really listening. Angela suggests we need to be “fully present, by listening, feeling, empathizing — always holding serious eye contact and often the touch of a hand — builds trust.” If I suddenly started doing that to my daughter whilst were together she’d think I’d lost the plot. Spiritually, she is on her own. I can’t help there. Also, I’m sorry, but the more I think about it the more I don’t understand how you can possibly be present digitally. Yes OK you can be responsive on the end of the wire (as it were) or on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram all at the same time, but that does not make you present. That is not a real life experience and it is all too new for us to understand how it is going to affect our children in terms of their self esteem and mental health.
Angela says “Being present is the greatest gift you can give another person, and the greatest way to more closely connect with them. When you are present, you are living in the moment vs in your mind. You are seeing, hearing, and feeling another person, and together you are even more empowered to do great things. This is a gift that often comes more naturally to women.” I just wonder how that is possible as a full time working parent?
She then tells her daughters to “Stay open; always try to read the signs as you pass by them or they pass by you. There are no coincidences. Everything that happens in your life is for a reason or was predestined. Every book you receive, every new person you meet, everything you call lucky is a sign just waiting to be read.” So what about the unlucky bits? When you clearly haven’t read the signs and your marriage breaks down? Was that also predestined? If so, I wish I’d known. I love signs, but honestly some of my signs have lead me way off track as surely you tend to see what you want to see in them.
She also pleads for them to stay in their lane “So please, please, please connect to your passion, and then just stay in your lane. Great athletes, musicians, scientists, etc., all have an expertise that they focus on and perfect. Don’t let anyone persuade you to do anything that doesn’t feel natural or isn’t aligned with your values or God-given gifts. You know what excites you more than anyone else. The sooner you recognize your passions, and the more you focus, the happier you will be and the greater success you will achieve. Still, don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what your lane is yet. The path will illuminate itself so long as you stay present, open to the signs, and follow your passions. It’s all related.”
That’s all very well, but what if you don’t have one true passion? What if you are the sort of person who might have lots of passions? What if you get your first, second or third choice wrong and want to change your mind and your track? Should that be frowned upon? I must have had about 10 different work passions in my life (so far) so I will clearly not be an expert in any of them. I have meandered up many paths, none of them were wrong, they just weren’t exclusively right either. Is it wrong to back-track, circling around or test new waters as you travel through life?
Lastly, she tells her daughters to “never back up more than you need to, and this means in life, not just when driving.” She tells them not to “keep looking back in life and focus too much on the past because living in reverse blinds you to what lies ahead.” But how can you appreciate your destiny if you do not learn from your past? I agree that it is good to try not to dwell (coming from the worst dweller on the planet), but there is nothing wrong with learning from history. That is the way we move forward surely?
So ho hum. I’m off to sit down and try to think of my one true passion in order to see if it’s not too late to become an athlete, a musician or a scientist. Maybe it’s not too late to change lane.