Understanding Exploration

“Jon, look at what’s there.”

My dad said these words as my 16 year old self stared hard right onto the highway that ran through town. I gripped the steering wheel, panting breath with my heart racing. I did try to see what’s there or in this case, what wasn’t there. A quiet lonely open road was all that lay across the Ford van, but my imagination kept drawing cars speeding towards me in all of the blank space.

Blank space.

I had a lot of it. And upon this white canvas I drew all the scenarios of what could happen. It was like something in my teens and early twenties, my mind was let loose to explore, regardless if I wanted it to or not. Taking a simple car ride led my mind to wonder what would happen if I pulled the car off the freeway? Talking to a stranger made me wonder what would if I pretended to be their long lost kindergarten friend? I remember one time I locked myself out of my dorm room and literally thought it would be easier to crawl under the door space than to find the security guard to unlock my room.

I say this to lay down the precedent of embarrassing myself first. You see, there are a number of people who use a learning style called extroverted intuition. Personality Hacker describes it as always seeking the novel, or taking a machete through 5 foot tall grass, tigers be damned. This learning process doesn’t care we already invented the wheel, it wants to know 500 other ways we could travel. It loves could it, would it and what if?

People who use this learning style don’t see what’s there, they see what could be there. This present moment could all be improved with a little exploring and ingenuity. I bring all this up because while this process developed for me in my teens and late twenties, my son is using it in his early childhood.

I study Meyer’s Briggs typology and it has proved to significantly assist me in understanding myself, how I work and function, and also knowing my loved ones, family, friends, coworkers, even patients and clients. I can’t help but use this tool as often as I can. Like a welder with a blowtorch, musician with her guitar, or a baker with his yeast, I will find a reason to use typology to help me understand the people around me.

And it works! Like, in a scary accurate way. I’m a geek with this stuff, so I use it when watching a series on Netflix, or listening to a pastor speaker at church or even while interviewing a candidate for an opening at my company. And also, more intimately, with my kids at home.

Now they have a lot of growing up to do and plenty of time to develop into who they are becoming. However, looking back on my own life, I see that the INFP type holds up pretty well to how I showed up as a child. Meaning, INFP kids act a lot like I did! So, in perceiving my kids, I see them use specific learning styles to observe their world which confidently means I have their personality typed correct.

So, back to the matter at hand. My son, who is not like my type, learns using a process that breaks rules and questions the status quo. This scares me because without this map to navigate through parenting, I would have thought he was insubordinate, disobedient, rebellious. However, I know now that he uses a debate to solve his questions. He sees what could be there before the rest of us have a chance to perceive his question. He’s 5 miles ahead of the group and wants to know why haven’t we caught up to his ambition?

Of course, everyone needs temperance, self control, tweaking and correction. Any finely tuned machine, any perfected athlete, any renowned public speaker will tell you that hard work and self improvement is the path for success. But hear me that self improvement is the goal,  not self – destruction. This does mean, that sometime during the day, you will have to like who you are. And you can’t like who you are, if you don’t know who you are.

This all means, that as often as I can, I make sure there is plenty of room for him to question, explore, risk and question. And i might add, that he lights up with joy while doing so.

Finally, a toast to Dads. To the Dads who are farther along in their parenting skills because their dads took the time to go farther than their dads before them. They give their children a chance at becoming better in life. And that’s what this is all about, son. Machete in hand, tigers be damned, I’m cutting through the grass to find a better way for you and a chance for you to go farther than me.

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