The Essence of Self-Leadership: Start with the End in Mind

Tim with his Daisy Air Rifle

My 10-year-old son, Tim, has been passionate about the military and weapons of war for years. He’s grown up knowing that his aunt was serving in the Armed Forces, and taking every opportunity he could to learn things from her. He loves watching historical, military documentaries and sharing interesting details with me.

As he’s gotten older, he has become increasingly adamant about wanting a BB gun, specifically, a Crosman Stinger S32P Airsoft Tactical Carbine. However, I’m missing that chromosomal gene that thinks this all sounds neat. So, it’s been a bit of a battle in our household for years. Sounds a bit like “A Christmas Story,” doesn’t it? “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

About a year ago, his friend, Luke, got a BB gun and Tim got to shoot one for the first time. That fueled his fire further, and became part of his argumentation whenever I said “no.” “But Luke got one!”

In speaking to Luke’s mother, Laura, I learned that she too had been totally against the whole idea, but he had saved up the money himself and so she had allowed him to get it.

The next time Tim asked me about getting one and used the “Luke excuse,” I felt prepared. I told him about how Luke had bought it himself and then we researched prices for BB guns, pellets and safety glasses. I made it clear that there was no gun without the glasses, and we determined that the whole thing would cost around $50.

He was frustrated initially because he had no idea how he could earn that much money himself. I shared that other boys his age sometimes mow neighbors’ yards, or offer to rake in the fall, or trim hedges. To my way of thinking, everything was going according to plan. It’s summer vacation. He’s enjoyed a lazy summer. He’d actually have to work for it!

When he looked thoughtful and walked off, I thought “End of story!” But about an hour later, he came back in the room announcing that a neighbor had hired him to mow their lawn. Keep in mind, he had never mowed a lawn in his life, and didn’t know how to use our tractor or anything!

But he had his goal in mind, and he believed he was capable. He assessed what it was that he personally could do to reach his goal, mapped out a plan, began enacting the plan and identifying issues, consulted others, and adjusted the plan as necessary. While he needed my support and help in some of the things he was doing, I purposefully handled the situation with the viewpoint that it was his mowing business. I provided technical expertise (and parental supervision), but he did the work.

In the end, he didn’t end up with a Crosman Stinger S32P Airsoft Tactical Carbine. Not yet, at least. After 3 weeks’ time, he’s earned his $50, been given a working push mower by someone who wanted to get rid of it, and been given a beautiful old BB rifle by someone who was inspired by his dedication. That friend told him to “put is money in the bank” instead.

I’m inspired by my son’s self-leadership. He knew what he wanted to achieve and didn’t let seemingly insurmountable obstacles keep him from pursuing his goal. How often do we, as adults, give up before we even get going because something’s going to be “too much work,” or hold on to one outcome without being willing to adjust the goal? Mastery of self-leadership is a lifelong occupation, but I am so grateful to know that my son is off to a fantastic start!


  1. Vanessa Van Horn says

    Wow, what a great story. You must be proud of your son! You are certianly doing a fine job and raising a leader. Thanks for sharing and reminding us to all start with the end in mind!


  1. […] recently wrote a post on my own blog entitled “The Essence of Self-Leadership: Start with the End in Mind.” In it, I shared a lesson I learned from my 10-year-old son, Tim. He’s been wanting […]

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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kim Smithes and Janet Avery, Tara R. Alemany. Tara R. Alemany said: Leaders lead themselves when they start with the end in mind. #leadership #leadchange […]

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