The 10 Responsibilities of a Leader... a Parent or Grandparent

By Susan Ford Collins

As the stages of life advance, the stages of our responsiblities advance too. From taking care of ourselves, to taking care of our spouses and businesses, to most exciting and most challenging of all... taking care of our children and our children's children. What is expected of us then?

First, we are responsible for being trustworthy leaders, for allowing those who follow us to have confidence in us until we can help build their self-confidence. We are responsible for keeping them safe and educating them until they can take over these responsibilities themselves.

Second, we need to sense when those who follow us need more freedom, when they’re ready for more independence. We must sense when to shift from acknowledging compliance to our rules, to acknowledging their production and competition, their creativity and innovation. And teaching them how to acknowledge themselves.

Third, we need to assist our children as they begin dreaming their own  dreams—pre-experiencing desired outcomes with them and assisting them in finding appropriate methods for completing them.

Fourth, we need to communicate patiently and skillfully, making it safe for them to share likes and dislikes, choices and preferences—handling their “infant dreams like tiny precious butterflies.” By respecting their wishes now, we encourage them to respect others’ wishes in the future.

Fifth, we must provide the expertise they will need until we can find other experts to assist them, or they learn how to select experts on their own.

Sixth, we are responsible for updating their fears and disappointments, for learning how to do this ourselves or finding experts who can. We need to regularly update old rules and limits we’ve set for them, helping to expand their Safe Zone and contract their Danger Zone. Opening the door to The Potential Zone, the zone where they will create our future as well.

Seventh, we need to hold their outcomes with them, especially when they don't have the foggiest idea what to do next, when they get discouraged or fall into the depths of impossibility. We need to cheer them all the way to completion and greater self-confidence.

Eighth, we are responsible for shielding their dreams from the cold drafts and scorching heat of others’ disagreement. We need to say things they will need to say to themselves. Yes, you can.(Yes, I can.) You need to think of another way. (I need to think of another way.) Or, let's hold this dream together until we can find co-dreamers who will nurture it with us.

Ninth, we are responsible for switching negative thoughts to positive ones. I know you feel you can't, but I know you can. What do you really want? How will you feel when you've completed it? What difference will it make in your life, and others’ lives? Even when they’re frustrated or disappointed in us, we need to encourage them to keep asking for what they want from us, and from others.

Tenth, as leaders, we are responsible for maintaining our health and balance—monitoring our food and exercise and the effect it is having on us, on our moods and emotions, so they will know how to maintain their balance as well. We need to remember… we are leading by example 24/7.

And, of course, we need to extend the same care and sensitivity to our followers at work and in the world.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…
the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

 $14.95 paperback  $3.99 eBook or susanfordcollins *at* msn *dot* com


Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins

Becoming a Grandparent... a Hard to Believe Moment!

By Susan Ford Collins

Exhausted from a 14 hour day, I had been asleep for 15 minutes when a call from my daughter Cathy suddenly woke me up, "Mom, I think my water just broke."

Those words took me back to 31 years before. I had been baking cookies with one eye on late news, when a sudden gush of warm water rearranged our evening’s plans. Grabbing pre-packed bags, my husband and I immediately headed for the hospital and, in less than two hours, I was holding Cathy in my arms.

With that memory prodding me, I packed quickly and drove an hour and a half north to West Palm Beach, praying I would arrive there before the baby did, and rehearsing what I'd say if I was stopped by a state trooper.

But what happened to me didn't happen to Cathy. After two hours, anesthesiologist Dad-to-be Alan and I were still tossing and turning on lumpy cots in her room. At sunrise we took pictures of her sitting up in bed, ready and beautiful. But she wasn't in labor. The birth was 34 days early, so the doctors ran tests to determine her baby's maturity. Twelve hours later, the results were all positive. They would induce labor the next morning at six.

After 20 minutes on Pitocin, a printout of high spikes and low valleys confirmed that Cathy was in labor. Alan stood to her left, breathing through the pains with her. Her sister Margaret and I took turns on the right.

The pain increased and she needed anesthesia, but the anesthesia failed to work for this anesthesiologist’s wife… despite three painful attempts at correctly inserting the needle in her spine. My doctor-daughter Margaret and I winced as we watched her husband stand helplessly by observing a procedure, he had done successfully 200 times, go wrong on his wife. Having instantaneously assessed that jumping over the bed and jerking the needle out of that doctor's hand was illegal and inappropriate, he remained as calm as those circumstances allowed.

Cathy rose to the occasion. Focusing on her breathing, she managed herself masterfully for 12 grueling hours with only a minute between pains. As the baby’s head crowned, the obstetrician shouted, "Keep your eyes open!” On the next push, he helped Cathy reach down and deliver her own baby. At 5:47 p.m. Dylan's cone-shaped head and slippery supple body finally emerged, and Cathy pulled him up to her chest lovingly, gasping and sobbing as she glimpsed their new son for the first time. We all stood awed by the miracle of birth.

His waxy face looked exactly like Cathy's had when she was born—the same tiny nose, the same peachy complexion. But this baby was my daughter's, not mine. Our babies looked alike, but our deliveries were quite different. I had been taken off to labor alone, comforted only by a call button and overwhelming anesthesia. My husband paced the halls while my mother, recovering from electroshock therapy, sat limply by in the waiting room, knowing I was her daughter but not remembering my name.

As Cathy began to nurse her new baby, I reflected on the profound changes that had occurred in the generation between these births, changes in my life and my society. Today I can ask for what I want, and, even when I'm told No, I still hold my outcome. And I've long since learned how to avoid individuals who try to manipulate and control me—attempting to get their way by blocking mine.

But I hadn't known how to ask for what I wanted when I was Cathy's age, and even if I had, the hospital staff would have told me no. What I wanted didn't matter to them, bound by procedures, right ways and wrong ways, have tos and musts. So I simply did what I was told.

This birth was different. First and foremost, Cathy and Alan focused on their baby's safety and health. Second, they expected their staff to perform effectively and efficiently. Third, and most satisfying, Cathy and Alan had made choices. Dylan's birth was their creation. They had been preparing for months—visiting local hospitals to discover the one they wanted, interviewing obstetricians, pediatricians and delivery nurses to ensure their personalities would be compatible. Cathy had chosen a room with a sunrise view of the water.

It had never occurred to me to look at rooms when I delivered, to find which ones I liked and I didn't. So when Cathy asked me to walk through the halls to check out rooms with her, I was constrained by a certain residual compliance. I had taught her to make choices and she was comfortable doing it—even more comfortable than I was at times.

Cathy and Alan chose to leave the phone turned on during labor so friends could check on her progress. Nurses came as needed, doctors did too. There was no secrecy, no separation or aloneness. Anyone could hold her hand. Anyone could brush her hair, not just genetic family but family of heart. The entire birthing process took place in her room. Alan and I slept there the whole time. Dylan stayed there too, his tiny rolling glass-sided bed always within eyeshot. We bonded as a family in those precious first days.

I had reached a new level—The Grandparent Level. My leadership responsibilities had expanded again.

The Grandparent Level

My children are now asking me how to raise their child—how and when to feed him, when and how to bathe and pick him up. I am no longer just parenting, I am teaching them to parent.

Cathy and Alan are temporarily dependent on me, not knowing how to handle their screaming child in the night. Not knowing what to do when a fever spikes suddenly, or a rash erupts painfully. Their phone calls have increased. Their visits have increased. And my perceived value has increased as well. Oh how I wish I’d known about this stage when we were going through the rebellious and unappreciative teenage years. The years when I was viewed as "stupid and out of touch.” The years when my only value seemed to be paying their way.

Soon we will be teaching Dylan how to deal with new experiences—which ones are safe for him and which ones are dangerous, which things he can reach for and which ones he should draw back from. What’s possible and impossible for him, temporarily. We are installing his “basic life program.” And we’ll be responsible for updating it as he grows.

By the second week, I began noticing Cathy's resistance to my input. Her self-confidence was building and she was beginning to feel competent again. I was already backing off, remaining nearby in case she needed me. Even when there was nothing she needed, I was busy holding the vision of Cathy and Alan as successful parents and looking forward to Dylan's creations and inventions, to what he will teach us, to what he’ll contribute.

For the 10 Responsibilities of a Leader... a Parent or Grandparent, go to the Resources page or The 10 Responsibilities of a Leader... a Parent or Grandparent.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…
the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

 $14.95 paperback  $3.99 eBook or susanfordcollins *at* msn *dot* com


Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins

Secrets Two White Rats Can Teach Your Kids About Health!

By Susan Ford Collins

Mrs. Hepplewhite was my very wise second grade teacher who assigned us a class project that changed our lives forever! The first day of class, she introduced us to two identical young white rats that would be living in our classroom all year. She said they would teach us how to eat, and how not to.

We would feed the rat in Cage 1 a typical kid's diet—peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hot dogs and buns, pizza and spaghetti, donuts, cupcakes, cookies and sodas. We made signs that listed what he would eat...only.

The rat in Cage 2 could eat lean fish and meat, whole grains, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, but no pizza, spaghetti, donuts, cupcakes, cookies and sodas. We made a list of what he would have... only. We felt really sorry for poor Rat Number 2!


Both rats were fun to play with... at first. Sometimes we were allowed to take them out of their cages and put them in the rat playground Mrs. Hepplewhite had set up. They loved running around and around their exercise wheels for hours on end. They were gentle and friendly, sitting up on their haunches and wiggling their long-whiskered pink noses. We enjoyed stroking their smooth, shiny white fur.

But after a couple of months, we started noticing changes. The rat in Cage 1 was biting our fingers. He was snarly and snappy. So we started playing more and more with Rat Number 2.

In another few weeks, rat Number 1 began to lose his hair. It started falling out in large ugly patches. His eyes were all red, and he got fatter and fatter. Nobody played with Rat Number 1 any more... except the poor boy or girl whose turn it was to take him home for the weekend and clean out his cage.

Rat Number 2 was more fun than ever! He could run longer and faster. He could even do tricks, like jumping over his food bowl in one easy leap, while the other rat slept in a corner most of the time.

Mrs. Hepplewhite asked us to draw pictures of our rats and give them each a name. By unanimous vote, we chose the names Happy and Grumpy. The pictures we drew were great. Happy looked healthy with a smile on his face, and Grumpy was really fat with scraggly fur, long scary teeth and red eyes.

Next Mrs. Hepplewhite showed us pictures she had taken the first day of school, and we talked about what made our rats change so much, about the food we were feeding them, and what it had done to them. Then we talked about the food we were eating ourselves, and what it was doing to us! We also decided to change our eating habits and wrote letters to our parents to tell them what we had learned.

Now we felt sorry for Grumpy. It wasn't his fault! He hadn't meant to bite us. He didn't really want to be snarly and snappy. It was the food we were feeding him. Then Mrs. Hepplewhite had a wonderful idea. She said, from now on, we could feed Grumpy the foods that had made Happy happy.

By the end of the year, both white rats were healthy and happy again. And all thirty of us were far wiser too. Thanks Mrs. Hepplewhite. I still remember!

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…
the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

 $14.95 paperback  $3.99 eBook or susanfordcollins *at* msn *dot* com

Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins

The Little Boy in the Bathroom Story

By Susan Ford Collins

While I was doing a Technology of Success seminar for customer service supervisors at Florida Power & Light, a participant asked me about a problem he and his wife were having with their six-year-old son. They were concerned that he might have a learning problem. He just couldn't follow instructions. Tom felt the information I was teaching might be relevant. And it was.

"What exactly does your son do?” I asked.

"Well, every night he takes a shower and he does the same dumb things over and over. He leaves the shower curtain hanging outside the tub so water pours all over the floor. Then he leaves the towels in a pile sopping wet on the floor, and the soap floating in the tub till it melts into a thick, sticky goo. We go through a bar of soap every couple of days. And my wife hates scrubbing that soapy goo off the sides of the tub."

"And what exactly do you do when your son does all that?” I asked.

"Pretty much the same thing every time. I get mad and I yell: “I’ve told you a million times not to leave the shower curtain hanging out, not to leave the wet towels in a pile on the floor, not to leave the soap floating till it melts into a thick, sticky goo. Son, I can't believe you're so stupid. You must be slow. Then our son starts to cry and we send him to bed. What do you think, Susan?"

"Well, I have good news and bad news," I replied with a chuckle. "The good news is, based on what you just said, I see no reason to think your son has a learning problem. The bad news is... you and your wife are responsible for creating this problem!

Think about the instructions you're giving your son. He’s done exactly what you told him to do, if you take the not out of every sentence!” We all laughed and started talking honestly about where and when we were doing the same thing. I asked the group what they thought this father could do to turn the situation around. and developed a plan for what he could do that evening. The next morning we were eager to hear how it had gone.

"It was amazing," he said with a smile. "I told my son that I wanted to show him how to take care of the bathroom. I was sorry that I’d forgotten to teach him how to do it right in the first place, but I'd be happy to correct that now… if he'd let me. I know you’ll be able to do the job perfectly from now on. And hesitantly, he said yes.

First I showed him how a shower curtain works. Turning on the water, I pushed the curtain in the tub and aimed the shower head in that direction. The water ran down the curtain into the drain. Did you see that? ‘Yes, Dad, I did.’

Next I pulled the shower curtain out of the tub and turned on the water. As the water headed down the curtain toward the floor, he quickly pushed it back in the tub. Good son, you've got it. You're a very quick learner! He was smiling and proud, happy to know he’d finally done something right!

Next I told my son he could choose between two ways of folding the towel. First, there's the one-fold method. I laid the towel on the floor, folded it down the middle lengthwise, picked it up carefully, hung it over the towel bar, and straightened out the edges. My son nodded OK. Then he laid the towel on the floor, folded it down the middle lengthwise, picked it up carefully, hung it over the towel bar and straightened out the edges perfectly. His confidence was growing.

Now how about the two-fold method. I laid the towel on the floor again. This time I folded it lengthwise twice, one third and one third. He followed my example and liked this way even better.

OK, son, there's just one more thing—the soap. Could you figure out a way to make a bar last a week if I promise to take you for ice cream? "I sure could! Dad, let’s go buy a soap holder with points on the top and points on the bottom. I'll use it to keep the soap high and dry. And, if it lasts two weeks, would you get me two cones?”

You bet, as long as you still manage to get yourself clean! Son, you're no only smart but you're one heck of a salesman!

Then my son started to cry. Oh no, what's wrong? "Dad, I thought you didn't love me. You always said I was stupid. I couldn't do anything right. I'm a good boy, aren't I Dad?"

Yes, son, you’re a good boy.

"I love you, Dad."

I love you, too. Not only are you a good boy but a very smart boy as well! We hugged each other hard. OK, let's go get your soap holder!"

We were touched by this Dad's story and spent hours talking about how supervisors and managers could use these same understandings. He said this experience would help him at work too “because I’ve been making the same mistakes with my employees as well!”

What is the real message you’re sending yourself and others? Take the not out of the sentence and you’ll immediately know.

Not creates stress and uncertainty. And, it also signals opportunity… the opportunity to make a more thoroughly considered choice. A healthier, more loving choice. Starting today, let’s resolve to think and communicate what we do want. And when we catch ourselves not-ing ourselves or not-ing others, let’s resolve to take that extra life-saving, love-saving step by simply asking, What do I want instead?

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

* For more on The Positive Command Brain, read Skill 3: The Science of Dreaming in The Joy of Success. And Skill 3: Hologramming in Our Children Are Watching

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

$14.95 paperback$3.99 eBook

Don't Play with Matches... a Life-Threatening Instruction!

By Susan Ford Collins

A sales manager at Kimberly-Clark told me a story that tragically reinforces the danger of giving not instructions, especially to kids. Three months before my seminar, Kevin and his wife Barbara had left their son Bobby with a babysitter. As they pulled on their coats, Kevin heard Barbara say, “Don’t play with matches while we’re out. Promise me that you won't.” Kevin thought it was strange because Bobby was afraid of striking matches but they were late so he didn't say anything then.

In the car, Barbara told Kevin she'd seen a show on TV that afternoon about children setting fires while they were staying with sitters. Those scenes of badly-burned, heavily-bandaged kids kept playing over and over in her mind so she felt she had to say something to protect their son. Kevin said he understood.

They enjoyed dinner and headed home. When they turned into their street, they saw fire trucks on their lawn. Their son had followed her not instruction. He had played with matches and set fire to the drapes! The sitter called 911 and Bobby had been rushed to the hospital where he was being treated for life-threatening burns.

Why did this tragedy occur? Let's take a closer look!

Understanding not instructions or negative commands requires two essential steps.

First, our brain automatically and unconsciously disregards the not and experiences what the message looks, sounds, feels, smells and tastes like. This is because we have a Positive Command Brain. Yes, bottom line... in our brains ALL instructions are positive. Think about the power of that information for a minute! Think about the laws, rules and corrections we're given. So understanding that immediately leads us to the second crucial step.

Second, we must quickly think... and say... what you do want instead? We must create a Positive Command that we want to go into action!

So for example, if this mother did not want her son to play with matches, what did she want him to do instead? She could have created a specific action plan… choosing games, TV shows or movies, or invited over a friend… and thoroughly discussed that plan with her sitter, son and his friend. Plus... remembering to put the matches out of reach, of course! But when we speak to kids or there's imminent danger, we frequently fail to take that life-changing, life-saving second step!

Years ago I was a consultant to a government agency that was struggling to create a now-familiar sign. They considered two possibilities: In case of fire do not take the elevator, leaving people frightened and undirected.  Or taking the switching step and providing a specific life-saving action plan? In case of fire, use the stairs… and post clear directions to all nearby stairwells. After numerous tests, it was clear which choice worked to calmly and safely move people out of the building and away from danger. Which one do you think worked better?

When you give negative instructions, what is the real message you are sending to your brain, and others' brains? Take the not out of the instruction and you’ll immediately know. Whether we realize it or not, don't play with matches = play with matches... to the brain. Don't use the elevator = use the elevator... to the brain. Unfortunately not statements create stress and uncertainty at the very times when ease and certainty are needed.

Fortunately, not instructions also signal opportunity… the opportunity to deliver a more thoroughly considered plan. The opportunity to make a healthier, more loving choice.

Starting today, let’s resolve to think, and communicate, what we do want. And whenever we catch ourselves saying or hearing not, let’s commit to take that life-saving, love-saving extra step by asking ourselves, What do I want instead? Or, by asking others, what do you want instead? And taking a few seconds to answer those questions clearly... before it automatically goes into action.

Don't play with matches. Play these games or watch these shows or movies with your friend.

In case of fire, don't use the elevator. Use the stairs and here's a map for exactly how to get there.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

* For more on The Positive Command Brain, read Skill 3: The Science of Dreaming in The Joy of Success. And Skill 3: Hologramming in Our Children Are Watching. And Skill 9, Switching in both books.

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful… the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

$14.95 paperback$3.99 eBook

Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins




Heads Up... Guidance May Arrive in Disguise!

By Susan Ford Collins

After graduation, my husband and I moved to Washington, D.C. where I interviewed to be a supervisor at the phone company. They asked me to roleplay a call with a customer. He couldn’t pay his bill on time and who wanted to pay it over time.

Simple enough now but, in my childhood world, people had to follow rules; exceptions were impossible. So I said, "I’m sorry. You have to get your payment in on time. There's nothing I can do.” And I was shocked when, with all my credentials and honors and having said what I was sure was the right thing, they weren't interested in hiring me.

That job rejection affected me deeply. For the first time I saw myself from the outside. I had learned about life from my parents, teachers and bosses, from their attitudes about what was possible and impossible, what could be changed and what couldn't.

Weeks later that turndown turned into a blessing. I was hired as a Research Psychologist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After studying illness and dysfunction for a year, an idea started waking me at night. What more could we learn if we studied highly successful people (HSPs) too? What could we discover about how success is learned and passed on?

After weeks of sleepless nights, I headed into one of our prestigious weekly conferences and raised my hand. “I think that we’re only doing half the job. Instead of simply studying ill and dysfunctional people, we need to begin studying highly successful people as well. What are they doing that the rest of us are not? Are they using specific skills? If so, how can we teach "their skills" to individuals who are missing, or misusing, one or more?”

I was sure my colleagues would be excited with my idea, but instead they laughed… and laughed loudly. I was forced to make a life-changing decision on the spot. Were they right that I was wrong? That my idea was laughable? Or was I onto something BIG they just couldn’t see yet? Red-faced, I silently vowed to pursue this research on my own, trusting I would be guided.

As a girl, I understood all too well what happens when the baton of a child’s leadership gets dropped along the way. When a parent is ill, drunk, or absent and no one else steps in. I knew I was missing skills as a result. Weeks after my proposal was laughed at, I discovered I was pregnant and I felt an even more profound sense of urgency. My child is watching! I need to discover more about success so he or she can be successful.

Clear about my mission, an unexpected event occurred. My husband was offered a position that was too good to refuse so we packed up and moved our family to suburban Philadelphia. With no research opportunities available and two young daughters to mother, I accepted a teaching position in a middle school. I felt blown off course at first, however those classroom years let me share workdays and holidays with my girls and gave me time to begin shadowing gifted kids as well as highly successful adults. Through an almost incomprehensible maze created by divorce and my new responsibilities as a single mom, I was led by three questions: What is success? What skills make people successful? How can these skills be taught? But my route—filled with detours and roadblocks, starts and restarts, conflicting needs and priorities, inner guidance and divine intervention—would turn out to be similar to those HSPs would describe to me later.

Then an unanticipated opportunity presented itself. My school asked me to attend World Games at the University of Massachusetts where I met Buckminster Fuller, one of the greatest architects and innovators of our time. Seizing the opportunity, I shared my mission and asked Bucky what he thought made him successful. After suggesting a few possibilities, he said he wasn’t sure, but he applauded my “spunk” and agreed to let me spend time with him. Months later when I described the skills I had observed, he realized he had been using those skills unconsciously. Eager to know more, he introduced me to other HSPs, who introduced me to still others. Like a tree, my connections branched and multiplied. Since NIH, I have shadowed people in a wide range of fields—business people, coaches, athletes, writers, entertainers, parents, teachers, musicians, astronauts and inventors. Year after year as I studied their work strategies, leadership styles, decision-making processes, family and personal lives, the same 10 skills kept showing up. I named this skillset The Technology of Success.

Next I began designing and facilitating The Technology of Success public seminars. Group after group, the process flowed naturally from Skill 1 to Skill 10. Some participants knew a few skills. Others knew them all but were using them incorrectly. After the seminar, companies started calling me. They were noticing significant improvements in the attitudes and performances of employees who attended my seminar. Top corporations—American Express, Florida Power & Light, Ryder System, The Upjohn Company, Dow Chemical, Kimberly-Clark and CNN—invited me to teach The Technology of Success in-house.

Most of the participants in my corporate seminars were also parents, and many of the questions they asked me on breaks were about their leadership role as parents. Teaching these skills in the workplace was extremely valuable but not nearly as life-changing as teaching parents how to use these skills at home, then helping teachers reinforce them in school so our next generation can bring them full-blown into our workplaces and communities. Into their own families.

One morning I had a call from a director at The Upjohn Company who invited me to speak at their regional sales conference. We chatted for a few minutes about agenda and details. Then he said he had something special to tell me. "We will be honoring your daughter Margaret as our top sales rep that day. When we told her she'd won, we asked what her secret was. She said it was the 10 Success Skills you taught her as a girl and you're teaching in businesses around the world. We want you to share “Margaret’s skills” with the rest of our sales team. There's just one thing! We don't want them to know you're Margaret’s mother until it's over. We want them to hear you for the professional you are." I chuckled but gladly agreed.

I flew into Washington, D.C. Arriving at the hotel, I mingled with participants, not stopping when I passed my daughter in the lobby, not chatting when she stood beside me in the lunchline. At the end of the day, I was standing in a knot of question-askers and hand-shakers when concluding remarks began. "Our award-winner Margaret Collins has an announcement to make.” She stood up slowly and pointed her finger straight at me, "That's my mom!"

The room fell silent for a moment, then in one voice the group roared, “No fair, Margaret—no wonder you won!” Although Margaret’s colleagues shouted those words with good-natured laughter, their “complaint” troubled me. Shouldn’t every child have parents who can teach them all 10 Success Skills? Shouldn’t every child have parents who live these skills every day, not just enjoying their own dreams but leading the way so their children can enjoy theirs?

Several months later, I was invited to teach The Technology of Success to the entire staff of a middle school—administrators, teachers, counselors, PTA members, police, hall aides and custodians—everyone who had contact with students. I trained parents and caregivers, spoke in classrooms and assemblies, and interviewed hundreds of students as well.

Suddenly my classroom years were making sense. I asked each student two questions: What does success mean to you? And what are you doing to get it? Their answers stunned me. Very few students saw a connection between their future goals and what they were doing day to day. Those who planned to be music stars were rarely studying music, let alone practicing. Those who expected to be professional athletes were hardly ever on teams. Most disturbing of all, many students—including ones from affluent families—said they didn't want to be successful.

Yes, you read that right. More times than I could count, I heard, “I don't want to be successful.” Why? “Because if you’re successful, you never have time for friends, family or fun. You’re always working and your boss never appreciates you.” These students were deciding their futures by what they saw happening in their parents’ lives.

In 2006 I was invited to speak at the National Grant Management Association in Washington. I told them about my red-faced day at NIH. After I finished speaking, a crowd of smiling participants headed straight for me. They were the NIH people who were currently deciding on grants. They said they thought my idea was brilliant and only wished they could have been in the audience that day so that, instead of laughing, they could have all shouted together, “Yes, Susan. Yes!”

And I was reminded that it had been a long and convoluted journey but nevertheless it was clear… whenever I ask for guidance I get it. But sometimes it seems to arrive in disguise. Or years later.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. Contact me for permission to use it.

* For more on the 3rd and 7th Success Skills, read The Joy of Success and Our Children Are Watching.

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

$14.95 paperback  $3.99 eBook