When my son earnestly asked me to help him catch his first fish, I realized it was I who was the fish out of water (pun intended). Not only did we not own any rods or tackle, I’d only been fishing a handful of times, and never since 2008. It was quickly apparent that I was going to have to break the so-called man code of “I’m a man, I know the way, never ask for directions” if I was going to help him.
By the end of the summer, I did help him catch his first and second fish. In the process, I learned a lot, including some good strategies I could use in more serious situations when I don’t know what to do. Here’s a list of 5 things to do when you don’t know what to do.
1. Admit your weakness.
It helps to acknowledge that you don’t know what to do. I could have walked into the outdoors section of the department store, bought some equipment, and headed for the lake. But it would be a sure recipe for disaster for me to head to the wrong spot to fish with the wrong sort of gear. The same is true when your son or daughter comes home with a problem you never expected. It would be a mistake to pretend you know how to handle things when you really don’t. No matter what you’re dealing with—sport fishing, home renovations, or parenting—admitting you need help is an important first step.
2. Do some research.
For me, one of the next steps was trying to read as much as I could on the topic of fishing. I watched YouTube videos, subscribed to a fishing website, and ordered Fishing for Dummies off of Amazon. Living in the twenty-first century, we have a wealth of information literally at our fingertips, no matter the topic. We have no excuse not to do the research. And so, one of the things to do when you don’t know what to do is search, read, and learn all you can on the topic.
3. Ask others.
The more reading I did about fishing, the more I realized people have a variety of opinions on what sorts of lures and bait to use in particular situations. Often the advice conflicted from place to place. The most helpful thing was talking to people who I know love the sport. I asked where, when, and how they choose to fish. Whether your marriage is in trouble or you find out one of your kids has a disability, remember you’re not the first (or only) one facing this type of crisis. As a husband and father and simply as a man, one of the things to do when you don’t know what to do is be willing to ask others for help.
4. Find a mentor.One of the most effective things you can do when you don’t know what to do is find a mentor.
The best fishing experience we had this summer was when a friend took my son and me out in his boat. Beyond the opportunity to catch more fish, we enjoyed the thrill of being on the water together. For me, it was an eye-opening experience to watch how my mentor fished, and I was grateful to get some hands-on pointers on how to be a better fisherman moving forward. Whatever you’re doing as a dad, a husband, a homeowner, or a man in general, one of the most effective things you can do when you don’t know what to do is find a mentor. Learn from the way a mentor does things, ask questions, and give him or her permission to correct you.
5. Try, fail, and try again.
Armed with information on how to fish, my son and I went fishing a dozen times over the summer. We got skunked a number of times but he did get his fish—and a second one at the end of the summer, too. The smile on his face was priceless, and we got in a ton of father-son bonding. I’m looking forward to fishing (and hopefully catching) a whole lot more next summer. There’s very little in life that we’re going to do that’s going to come out perfectly the first time. Sometimes we need to fail and try again. So if, for example, you find that you’ve overreacted while disciplining your kids, apologize and try to do better the next time. Ultimately, no matter what you are taking on, persevering may be one of the most important things you can do.
Sound off: What helps you learn new things?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What have you learned from the things you see me do each day?”