Yesterday we took our daughter on her final, final college visit, the one that cements the decision to attend the college that had your heart all along, and that seems the right fit for you. As I sat on the bench in the sunshine with my wife, waiting for Katie to emerge from a dormitory, I recognized what a crossroads these moments are. My daughter is making decisions that will affect her for the rest of her life. The stakes are higher than they used to be for her and, for the most part, the stakes will remain relatively high for the rest of her life.
Katie is a unique and wonderful girl, and I am confident that hers will be a life that greatly impacts people for good. We have been blessed to raise her for the past eighteen years, but being on campus with her reminded me how much she will need wisdom in the years ahead to make good choices. As a dad, my tendency is to protect my children and to minimize risk in their lives. As a business professor, looking around on that campus, I thought to myself, “Higher risk, higher return.”
But the truth is that every day we are making decisions that require significant wisdom and that will affect future decisions and opportunities. The decision to write this column has helped me more effectively wrestle with some of these issues rather than avoiding them. Teaching ethics helps as well. But there is nothing in life like raising children that makes me truly want to understand what it is to be wise. And it makes me want to help my daughter live wisely as well.
This search for wisdom will likely be a regular theme of this column in the months ahead. Though people disagree over what wisdom means, most people seem to recognize it when they see it. It involves, at a minimum, being teachable and listening to those with more insight than you have. It also involves developing a long-term perspective, rather than just looking at short-term pleasure or returns. In other words, there is not much wisdom in the business world nowadays.
We are susceptible to certain fallacies in thinking that short-circuit wisdom, and I will talk about some of these in the weeks ahead. One of the most common ones among college students is a sense of invulnerability that makes them believe that the crushing consequences of others’ decisions could never happen to them. Practically every day we read about middle-aged men like me or star athletes who have fallen prey to that same fallacy.
But today, as a dad, I sit here quietly praying for my daughter to be wise, and to choose well. A great adventure lies ahead of her. May she ignore the siren song that calls her to the rocks. May she have courage to live by the values she has learned and embraced. And may God’s grace blow full in the sails that call her to her destiny.
Categories: Bottom Line Ethics