The year was 2007, the dog days of summer, and my wife and I were expecting our second child—and first son—at any moment. The day of his birth was just like the movies, with contractions starting at 2am, followed by a rush to the hospital. The intensity of labor led to the miracle of birth. And there he was, my son! He was perfect!
Then the doctor told me that my boy, Nash has Down Syndrome and fear of the unknown flooded my body. I had questions. I had concerns. It took me time to realize that my first impression was the right one after all; Nash is perfect, just the way he is.
I’ve learned many lessons, thanks to my son. Many of those lessons are about life, but some are also applicable to my business.
For example, from the day Nash was born, I knew he would face a lot of extra challenges from having special needs. I wanted to protect him. Over the years, I found myself treating him differently than my other children, and having different expectations of him. It wasn’t until he started preschool that I realized that my own beliefs were holding Nash back. I saw this boy learn to read, write, and live a very normal life. I had to take a long, and very difficult, look in the mirror.
I then realized I was guilty of doing the same thing in some of my professional relationships, as well.
I began that day to see in others a new potential. I gave key responsibilities to employees and allowed them to take on difficult challenges that I had thought only I could handle. Just like my son, these employees rose to the challenge and flourished. It was a humbling experience for me, one I am thankful for.
Having Nash in my life opened my eyes to a whole range of new experiences. For example, when we went out running errands together, I noticed a level of kindness and friendliness from strangers that I’d never seen before. When I was alone, strangers had mostly kept to themselves, but people go out of their way to be nice to Nash, and are genuinely interested in him. To put it simply, people seem to be their “best selves” when they are around my son.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I wondered if it was just a super power that only Nash has, or if I could learn to bring out the best in people, too? I thought about how kind and how non-judgmental Nash is. He has the greatest smile, and he isn’t afraid to give complete strangers a big hug. Simply put, he offers love, so he receives it.
I decided to try it out myself (except the hug part, of course).
Over the next month, I took every opportunity I could, in both my personal and my professional life, to see people as my son sees them—not as competitors or problems, but as individuals with hopes, dreams, and fears, just like me. I looked for ways to lend a helping hand and a word of encouragement, just like Nash would. As you might guess, the experiences I’ve had as a result have been wonderful.
When Nash was born nine years ago, I never would have guessed all the good that knowing him would bring. He has helped me to be a better father, a better husband, and yes, even a better businessman.