Why I Took My Son To Jail

Posted on: Jun 11, 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

prison sonI’ve been invited to speak at a juvenile detention center a few times – a very different venue for me. When I received an invitation to speak at a juvenile detention center about an hour-and-a-half drive from my home recently, I decided to bring my son Noah along, even though it would have been much easier (and less stressful) to just go, do the event, and come home.

He was uneasy. Unlike me, who grew up poor and in a very unstable home, his childhood has been relatively quiet and uneventful. While I’m glad to provide that for him, I also know that when we’re uncomfortable, we’re growing. So after some thought, I decided this would be a valuable experience for him.

As we drove, I tried to ease his mind a bit, describing what he might see the next day: the bare cells, which are just a cube of space containing only a thin mattress (no pillow), a sink, and a toilet. He listened to the talk I gave about old scripts and new scripts. I challenged the kids in the center to use the time there to reflect on their lives, to identify the scripts they’ve been using, and to decide how they will rewrite them when they get out. I shared some of my own story – growing up on the streets of L.A. – to help them see that they don’t have to let circumstances or past poor choices dictate their futures.

As we drove home that evening, I stayed quiet for the most part. Rather than telling Noah what happened, I asked him to share what he saw. I listened to what he said so that I could learn what he understood and what he may have missed. He asked questions, and I answered.

Who is your Noah? Who will you take somewhere new, even if it is uncomfortable, this week? Your employees need this kind of thoughtful exposure to different and even scary experiences, whether sales calls or briefings, to grow. With prep ahead of time and a debrief after, a listening ear who can help them understand and learn from mistakes or different approaches, they will grow in their capacity to handle new responsibilities.

Identify someone this week, bring them along, and then let me know how it went.

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