The Young Man At McDonalds And John Quincy Adams

Stopping by a local McDonalds to work and enjoy a cup of coffee, I chanced to sit near a young man being interviewed for work at the franchise.

He was maybe late teens, wearing a backwards cap on top of unkempt hair. Earrings. A couple of piercings in his lower lip. Very thin and pale. I'm guessing that, on any given day, you and I see probably a hundred young men who fit this description. Some of them, like this one, are seeking work.

Now, let me describe what I was doing. I was working on an upcoming Creative Conversation (my one-to-one coaching that uses a historical figure to help a client grow and develop). The historical figure I'm researching at the McDonalds was John Quincy Adams.

I couldn't help but think of the link between JQA and this young man seated near me.

Before anyone gets offended, I well understand that Adams had umpteen advantages that the young man in McDonalds likely didn't have (or that I didn't have, for that matter, expect for one key commonality, which I'll explain in a minute). JQA had a famous father and mother, had a stable family, had an incredible education, had childhood experiences that were even more amazing than his education, had important family connections, and likely had an inner will or personal nature that set him apart from most other folks.

So yes, with all these advantages in his favor, JQA ultimately became the sixth president of the United States, the first presidential son of a presidential father, and a person who would go down in history as an early and courageous opponent of slavery.

But in researching JQA for my Creative Conversation, the first installation of which will focus on his youth, I encountered something that I would wish my young man in McDonald's had, something that my parents gave me despite their very modest circumstances.

JQA's parents groomed him to be somebody.

That sort of grooming is critically important to a person, whether it's me, or you, or that young man in McDonalds. Becoming somebody starts with the expectation that you'll become somebody.

Like JQA's parents, my parents gave me an air of expectation. They expected me to do something worthwhile. They expected me to achieve. They expected me to work hard and to act with effects that rippled positively outside myself. As I now approach my 53rd year, I place more value on that air of expectation than anything else they gave to me. I hope I'm passing it on to our two children.

Maybe I'm off-base. Maybe that young man got all the grooming (in my use of the term here) that he could ever have wanted. Maybe I'm coming to all the wrong assumptions, the wrong conclusions, the wrong lessons and extrapolations. Maybe somebody's looking at me and writing down in their heads the wrong things not to do, the things they think this graying 52-year old in blue jeans and a blue shirt must do in his life as he sits there tapping on a laptop.

Fair enough. Maybe that's true.

But I stand on the point. Regardless of anything else, the best thing to give your child, after unconditional love, is an air of expectation.

I know it worked for John Quincy Adams. I think it's working with me. I want it to work for those who don't yet have it.