This week we choose to honor our fathers and our founding fathers prior to Independence Day. I choose to remember my father for the great things he taught me. He taught me to learn from my mistakes, to continually make improvements and to learn and grow personally and professionally. He taught me that learning does not end after college or formalized education. Learning is a lifelong process. In many ways, directly and indirectly, he taught me that I could learn and grow to potentially surpass him in some ways. And so can our sons and daughters.
None of us are perfect. Our fathers are not perfect, and we are never going to be perfect in raising our children. However, we can strive to be the best we can be, however. We owe this to our children. We owe it to them to release our baggage and be the best parents we can be. I have thought deeply about this over the last couple of weeks and have realized I need to pursue a better path as a father, husband, business partner and leader.
On our trip to Germany, at the urging of a good friend of mine, my wife and I took a trip to the Dachau concentration camp to connect with the atrocities of past generations and feed our souls.
The Nazis who controlled Germany at the time chose to imprison and enslave everyone who disagreed with them. At the Dachau concentration camp the focus was more on forced labor than extermination. Toward the end of their regime, as it continued to fall upon hard times, this camp and others like it became more and more overburdened with those they were forcing to build their missiles and military armaments. Those who didn’t fall into compliance were tortured or killed. This was an extreme example of the powerful controlling the less powerful and destruction of basic freedoms.
During this same trip, I started reading a book series that my eleven-year old son Jack introduced me to. The Unwanted series of books is about an Island where teenage children are sentenced to die if they display too much creativity, independent thought or deviation from the norm. In reading the book, I realized that I and probably all my children would have been sentenced to die if we lived on this Island.
In the book, the “Necessary” and “Wanted” islanders are not aware that all the “Unwanted” children who are sentenced to die are instead transported to a magic land where they get to be themselves, develop their creative talents and learn how to develop their own magic.
I found an interesting parallel between the island people and those in Nazi Germany. They both chose to accept the status quo and look the other way in the face of grave injustice. Great evils where perpetuated because it was accepted and freedoms were compromised in the name of control.
Dictators and tyrants tend to focus on control for the “good of the people”. The powerful rulers and politicians choose, sometimes with good intentions what is best for their subjects. But all too often, when freedoms are compromised, atrocities are committed. In America, we are truly blessed that our founding fathers chose to establish our country with a bill of rights and checks and balances to preserve our freedoms and protect us from these potential tyrants.
During my late adolescent years, I realized I wanted freedom more than most anything else. If I was free, I was safe. If I was free, I could do most anything. This freedom has empowered me ever since I was a teenager and into adult life. I wanted to be free from physical control, emotional control and financial control.
To the extent any authority tried to control me, I rebelled. Sometimes this rebellion did not produce optimal results for a young man, but I rebelled, nonetheless.
The scene where the Scottish rebels are yelling FREEDOM in Braveheart is one of the most inspirational scenes for many red-blooded males in contemporary history. I’m one of them.
I want my children, partners and friends to experience FREEDOM to the greatest extent possible. The problem is that I sometimes also fall into the trap of trying to control others “for their own good”. In trying to do what is best for my children, employees and business partners, I have tried to control them rather than let them choose their own path.
I discovered that I have been holding myself and others accountable to unattainable standards of perfection and things outside of our control. I have been trying to control others rather than allowing them to be free and pursue their own path. I am truly passionate about helping others succeed in whatever they set their mind and soul to, but I have been pushing my personal agenda upon some rather than allowing them to find what works for them. This past couple of weeks has allowed me to realize to a greater extent that everyone has their own path and I want to be there to help them along the path and not force them to go the way that was best for me or someone else.
Recently I realized I valued freedom but tried to control those I loved, threatening their freedom.
I will forever more stand for Freedom, Purpose, Understanding, Communication, Collaboration, Commitment and Love.
I’ve still have a lot of improving to be the husband, father and leader I want to be, but I think I’ll eventually get there.
Fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live. At least for a while.
And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they’ll never take OUR FREEDOM!
William Wallace in Braveheart
Joe D. Franklin, CFP is Founder and President of Franklin Wealth Management, and CEO of Innovative Advisory Partners, a registered investment advisory firm in Hixson, Tennessee. A 20+year industry veteran, he contributes guest articles for Money Magazine and authors the Franklin Backstage Pass blog. Joe has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Magazine, USA Today and other publications.
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