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This post was originally published on October 4, 2009. 

TYLER, Texas – Spending a weekend away from the office and the hustle and bustle of the city is a good thing. You can sit back, enjoy a cup of hot tea, and reflect on all manner of subjects, ideas, and remembrances. Since I have been speaking on career management a great deal of late, it is small wonder that I thought back on my efforts to guide my two wonderful sons.

In those earlier years when I was in the business of regularly providing unsolicited career advice to them, I began to notice that some of my advice sounded strangely familiar. Oh heaven, spare me. I was sounding just like my father. The incredible thing about that similarity is that he was an extremely talented and successful retail baker, not an executive recruiter.

There was another similarity – my sons were tuning me out just as I flipped the channel on my dad’s sage counsel even though I did have considerable insight — free for the taking.

If you are a parent, I am not going to begin to tell you how to avoid that blank look/tune out phenomenon except to say that you might consider practicing your best lines on the neighbor’s unsuspecting kids first. I can advise you that if you are foolish enough to try to advise your own children on career choices or career management strategy, the session should be anchored around one theme. Not two or three because you will be lucky if they listen to one so do not waste ammunition. Save those ideas for future attempts.

One of my all time best themes was:

Life is not about finding yourself, but about creating yourself.

I was so sure that statement was a real winner. Since I did not personally write that platitude — the author is unknown but I am betting that it was probably a parent from an earlier time – I could protect myself against personal rejection if they laughed, groaned or silently protested with the roll of the eyes. However, over time I learned that my boys were equal rejecters. They did not care who wrote the theme of the day. If dad was going to lecture on career choices, it was a dumb idea.

All of this ignoring of dad’s great advice was so frustrating. I did not want my kids to be the analogous symbol of the professional painter’s house that was perpetually in need of a coat of paint, or the mechanic’s car that belched smoke and leaked oil. I kept trying. They kept groaning and silently protesting with a practiced roll of the eye which all but screamed, “Here we go again.”

Now the good news. They have turned out splendidly. Moreover, I am very proud.

My more lovely stepdaughters, who came into my life when they were in high school and college, were spared. Early on, I made a rule: I would not offer unsolicited advice on any matter, especially regarding their careers.

My sons only wish I had been equal in applying that rule.

© 2012 John Gregory Self