More Growing Up . . .

Well, if you followed my last post, Growing Up and Experiential Learning, you are probably wondering how the driving lessons are going.  Here’s an update on the current state of affairs.

I am pleased to report that there have been no tears (either of us) nor shouting matches, so far.  In fact, Stephanie is a very good little driver, as a learner she is quick to make corrections, understands the concept of using a stick shift, and is cautious enough on one hand and bold enough on the other to make this a good learning experience.

Yesterday we did more practice driving up and down our  3/4 mile driveway, then ventured out onto the country road near our house.  She made it into third gear as we moved slowly down the valley, executed a three-point turn, and drove back.  Her main concern was crossing the little concrete bridge over the stream – so guard rail on either side and not that wide.  I think I took three breaths the entire time.

I must admit that I am very cautious and concerned about teen driving ever since one of my classmates in High School was killed in a pickup truck which turned over on the beach.  Kids having fun driving recklessly up and down the beach.  Teens may be good drivers, but it’s the experience of driving they lack.  A driver’s license is not the same as 5 years of driving experience, and equating cars with fun can be tragic.

When we finally pulled into the parking area below the house, she jumped out, and with a swagger of confidence and self-delight, gave me a hug and whispered – “you’re the coolest Dad.”  That was my reward.

Then it was on to learning to shoot a shotgun.  Let me say that I am not in favor of the lax gun laws in the US and elsewhere.  I firmly believe in the right of responsible citizens to bear arms for hunting and self-defense, but being able to purchase Uzis, M-1 military rifles, AK-47s, and other weapons only designed for war and killing other people is, to me, stretching too far.  Growing up we hunted quail, doves, pheasant, goose with shotguns and belonged to a gun club where we shot clay targets, but the thought of owning, or even wanting, an arsenal of military weapons at home, without any real training in the responsibilities of gun ownership, not even crossed our minds.

Today extremely dangerous weapons are available over the internet, and the consequences have been catastrophic when young teens and irresponsible adults acquire guns and kill innocent people in schools and movie theatres.  This is no longer a public right, but rapidly becoming a public problem.

On the other hand, there are people who hate and wish to inflict harm on others, and learning to protect one’s self, through martial arts training, boxing training, and learning to shoot a gun are some of the life skills that I believe it is important to possess, and hopefully never need to use.  A good community, working together, is a much better way to protect our freedoms from burglars and others who mean to do harm, than hiding behind barred windows with an arsenal of heavy weapons.

We have a small .410 side-by-side shotgun so Stephanie and I went into the vineyards behind the house, set up some clay roof tiles as targets, and began our education.  Gun safety and understanding was the first agenda, and after a considerable amount of time on theory and safety, it was time to shoot.

We both shot up a box of shells.  I had just been at a gun club in Michigan with friends a few weeks before so this was all comfortable to me.  I was amazed to find Stephanie both thrilled, and highly respectful, at the power and consequences of gun ownership.

She walked away sober, respectful and confident.  I walked away a proud parent.  Next on the agenda, a BB gun so she can practice target shooting and understanding the finer points of gun ownership, with a much less dangerous weapon. The guns will stay at our country house in the care of our staff, but the experience will stay with her for a long time.

I would enjoy hearing of your experiences of driving and other “growing up” experiences. It might help this struggling Dad do a better job of coaching and guiding.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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6 Responses to More Growing Up . . .

  1. Raunak says:

    I’m not as courageous as you. Can’t sit with a learner for more than 5 minutes. My legs start hurting after 300 secs of pressing the imaginary brake on the passenger side.


  2. Mark McNeil says:

    I took me eldest, Shannon, out in the vegetable fields behind Mom’s farm house. I did about an hour instructing her on the nuances of gas pedal, clutch, and manual floor shift. Then I had her drive me (truck lurching…) back to Mom’s house where I drank wine while she practiced.


  3. Good for you AND Stephanie, John. No blood spilled with blood. 🙂 Inspiring…


  4. You are to be commended for teaching your daughter to shoot. Firearms are a great equalizer, particularly for women. In truth much of the hoopla about military style weapons is political grandstanding. Distinguishing between a modern hunting rifle and a ‘military style assault weapon’ is almost impossible.

    My thirteen year old daughter has unforgettable memories of pushing herself to the limit backpacking in the Sierras, rappelling off a (small) rock face and more recently hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park. The key is choosing activities which require focus and self-control and that have some real risk, however controlled. That’s where the confidence and character building comes from.


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