As you read this article, think back over the previous 24 hours. What was the best thing that happened to you? What was the worst? What did you learn from those experiences?
My family goes through this exercise every evening when we sit down to dinner. We call it “The Peach and the Pit.” Everybody shares a peach from the day (something positive), and everybody shares a pit from the day (something not so positive).
It started as a way for me and my husband to stay connected to our two young boys. But in the six years we’ve been doing “Peach and Pit,” one of the surprising outcomes has been this: I think the experience has helped our kids get a real feel for what it’s like to be a leader — for better and for worse.
It was probably inevitable. A lot of the things I talk about during Peach and Pit are things that make me happy, or things I’ve struggled with, at work. I recently shared a story about sending out requests for feedback on my team, and I got one reply back right away from a colleague in another department that was over-the-top amazing for one team member. So instead of waiting for her review to share the news with this person, I brought it to her office and said, “I just want you to have this now because it’s so great.” That was my peach — that the person I chose for the job and helped coach in the job was really successful and having a great impact on the business.
By sharing stories like these, I hope my boys will see how fulfilling it can be to have a positive impact on the lives of others — and that they’ll want to do the same. So when one of my sons goes to basketball camp, for example, I hope he’s thinking, “All right. The best job I can do is to help the whole team play better, not just for me to play better than everybody else.”
When my husband and I share our pits, I think we’re sending equally powerful messages: We’re human. We make mistakes. We have regrets. We have worries. “My pit is that I’m disappointed that I didn’t do as well as I could have on this presentation; I should have practiced more.” Or “I should have been more thoughtful about the impact I had on someone else when I shared my opinion.” Or “I’m disappointed that somebody else made a decision that makes my life at work really hard.” Many of our pits involve work-related stress and anxiety, and if we can show our kids how we’ve handled it (or how we wish we had handled it), I can’t help but think they’ll learn from those experiences.
As parents, we get a lot out of it, too. It keeps us engaged with our kids. We knew there would come a time when the dinner conversation with our boys would go something like this: “How was your day?” “I don’t know.” “Anything interesting happen?” “Nope.” The Peach and Pit keeps the conversation going because it requires a little more specificity. Our kids know we expect them to come to the table each night with at least one pit and one peach; they have no choice but to share something about the highs and lows of their day. (Full disclosure: One day, one of the boys suggested that his peach was that he didn’t have a pit, and his pit was that he didn’t have a peach. Clever, but not a valid response.)
I hope my boys will see how fulfilling it can be to have a positive impact on the lives of others — and that they’ll want to do the same.
As they talk about their highs and lows, the exercise also gives us great insights into how our kids view their lives and themselves. When they talk about their peaches, we learn what makes them feel proud. “I’m proud of how I helped my friend find her gloves,” or “I’m proud of how I did as the TV news reporter at school.” And when they share pits — like getting stressed out about homework — these dinnertime conversations are a great way to help them work through their worries.
I said to my youngest boy this morning on the way to school, “I’m going to talk about Peach and Pit today with some friends at work. I was curious — why do you think we do this at home?” He said, “So we can share our feelings.” I think that’s right.
Peach and Pit allows our family to feel vulnerable in the safest place imaginable, home. And as we all get more comfortable with vulnerability, my hope is we’ll feel increasingly confident about sharing our thoughts — and inviting others to share theirs — at school, at work or wherever we are. That’s the mark of true leadership.