In the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on an important part of my life that has taught me some lessons I wanted to share with you.
Dec. 2005, Toby blowing his candles
at his second birthday
Something happened to me on my son Toby’s second birthday. We had a party for him with about 15 other little kids aged from about 2 to 5.
It was a great afternoon. Some of the kids played together, while others played on their own. And there in the middle of it all was Toby, riding his little red-and-yellow car around the room and climbing up his climbing steps, just like all the other kids — doing his own thing but obviously feeling connected to them.
Except that he is a bit different. You see, Toby was born with Down Syndrome. Some children with Down Syndrome have serious physical disabilities and developmental problems. We’re fortunate because Toby is physically healthy except for some low muscle tone. And he learns and does things more slowly than other kids.
But what hit me during his party was how naturally he seemed to fit in. Although he’s a little boy who’s “different,” on his birthday he was just one of the other kids, and they treated him like anyone else, just as Michelle and I do.
Toby showing off his climbing skills
The party made me think about a lot of things — for example, how we all have expectations about how life is going to be, and what happens when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would. When Toby was born and we discovered that he had Down Syndrome, I suppose it was natural for us to feel overwhelmed at first.
But as I was watching him playing at his party, I realized how much I’ve learned since he came into our lives. Here are some of what I’ve started to call “Toby’s Lessons” that may help your new year get on the right track:
* Live in the present moment
Although Toby is different, he’s also just like every little kid before they start learning to spend most of their time in the past or the future the way we do as adults. At his party, he wasn’t wondering when it would be over or what would happen next. He was just in the present moment with the other kids — riding around, eating his cake, enjoying watching them.
So one of the most important things I’ve learned is that when I’m with him, I have to let go of my other concerns and just be there. I really value being with him — seeing his delights, his upsets, how he sees things and interacts with them — and I’ve realized how much I miss if I’m not in the present moment, too.
* Slow down and focus
Dec. 2007, Toby’s
turns 4 years old
Because Toby does things more slowly, I have to listen and pay close attention to him. If I start speeding on ahead, the connection between us gets lost. So he has taught me to focus and slow down. Remember the “good old days” before we all got used to the idea that we should be multitasking at every moment? Well, Toby can’t multitask. He does one thing at a time, and more slowly than other kids, but he does everything with total focus. That’s been such a valuable lesson for me.
* Don’t let things get to you
Toby has also taught me to not let things get to me so much. He seldom gets upset, he laughs at everything, and he basically loves everyone he meets. He somehow seems to intuitively respond to them as whole human beings because he’s too young to do any judging.
* Stop judging — none of us is perfect, but we’re all unique
Toby, his brother Nathan, mom and dad at
Toby’s 4th birthday party 2007
Toby’s openness and lack of judgment has made me think a lot about what we tend to think of as “normal” — how our expectations and preconceptions sometimes blind us to what’s there in front of us. I know that sometimes other people may see that Toby looks “different” and perceive him as not being “capable,” when in a lot of ways he just does things more slowly. But people who don’t know him may judge him as “less than…,” rather than someone with special, unique qualities.
This is ironic because aren’t all of us vulnerable to being judged as “less than…” in some area? After all, as human beings we all have our “imperfections.” We want other people to be open to learning who we are, just as I want to be open to learning who Toby is, and I hope that other people will be open to that, too.
I guess the main point I want to make is, maybe it’s time for us to let go of ways of thinking about how we view the world and other people that may be holding us back.
Toby’s 5th Birthday, Dec. 14, 2008
At his birthday party, Toby was just like all the other kids, and also as unique as they all were, and as we all are. Maybe if we can learn from him how to be a little more in the moment, with more patience and openness, and to recognize that we’re just like everyone else — and also uniquely ourselves — we’ll find it easier to reconnect with the best parts of ourselves as human beings.
In that way, maybe Toby is the way we all ideally could be.
Peace and happiness in the new year,
If you’ve been a subscriber of mine for some time now, you probably know about the article I wrote about my son Toby’s second birthday called “Lessons From Toby”.
Well, I just finished writing a new book that was inspired by the immense reaction to that article about the life wisdom I’ve gleaned from Toby.
It was shortly after his second birthday that I decided to write the “Lessons From Toby” article because of the profound impact that he has had on me and my ability to live in the moment.
Only a few minutes after this article was sent out via email, hundreds of heart-filled responses to the article started pouring in from around the world with messages like this:
“Thanks for bringing things into perspective and reminding me to view things with an open heart as Toby does. Also a wonderful lesson for all of us who are constantly pushed to do more in 24 hours than ever before. Good to hear from you and how generous of you to share this with us”.
“Toby is the true ‘guru’…his wisdom about slowing down to focus is more applicable as each day passes”.
“God bless you Toby for being the special person you are and for teaching us all such valuable lessons! You are much loved by many”.
“Thank you for helping us all be better people and to treat each other a little more humanely”.
“Thank you, Toby – thanks for helping us focus on what truly is important in life…and realizing that it’s not what we tend to spend most of our time on. I would also like to thank you, Ari, for sharing your family with us”.
And those are just a few of the hundreds of responses that have come in ever since I sent out that article.
On Toby’s fourth birthday, I felt inspired to send out the article again to my subscribers at the beginning of the new year, because I realized that Toby’s wisdom is timeless, and everyone could probably use a reminder of what’s most important in life.
To my surprise, sending out the same article again two years later got an even larger reaction. More and more emails flowed in saying, “We want more lessons from Toby” and “Help us stay centered in our business and personal lives as our lives move faster and faster.”
Well, I was so inspired by how much the “Lessons From Toby” article meant to all of my clients and subscribers, I decided to sit down and write 52 life lessons inspired by all the comments and emails from the reactions to the article.
I combed through hundreds of them, looked for the “wisdom nuggets,” and then wrote 52 “life lessons” that I felt Toby would write one day after living more years in his life.
And that’s how this book came to be.
This isn’t a “how to” book, it’s a “how to be” book.
Many of you have already ordered copies of the book for your friends, family, and clients – thank you so much for that.
How to order Lessons From Toby
When you order “Lessons From Toby: 52 Life Lessons – Weekly Reminders to Keep You Centered in Both Your Personal and Business Life” you’ll get the:
1) Hard book mailed to you
2) 52 lessons from the “Toby Book” emailed to you, one every week, first one arrives a few minutes after you place your order
(you can order more than one copy from the order link above)
This little book has changed lives, and there’s no reason why it can’t change yours.
To your success,