The Dinner Table (EP.42)

Dinner Table


Some of the most valuable and enduring lessons that we need to learn are best taught at home. Conversations at the dinner table is one way, but activities and conversations in the car, during exercise, or while just hanging out are all wonderful opportunities. I include all of it under “The Dinner Table.”

Links and References

“Give a Man a Fish…”
“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”


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This podcast makes the case for the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture discussion. And let’s take the vs. part out; both are powerful influencers, and should not at all be looked at as being in opposition one to the other. Nature and nurture. And we are also going to talk about the different roles and responsibilities we all have around the dinner table–part of the nurture element. The family dinner table is the metaphor we’ll use, but the roles and responsibilities are transportable to other settings. Conversations at the dinner table can certainly be effective, as are doing activities together, conversations in the car, during exercise, and talking while just hanging out. I include all of this under “The Dinner Table.”

For the dinner table to work, to start with someone has to know something worthwhile. No, I am not talking about biases or opinions based on preconceived notions. And I am not talking about lecturing anyone, or trying to be right simply because you know, by God, you’re right. I am talking about things that will make the people around you better if they listen and take action on what you said or showed them by example. Making your case verbally with logic, making your case by example, making your case with care and with the other person’s benefit in mind can open a path for you to be heard. Share what you believe if you can also share, calmly and logically, why you believe it. And for the dinner table to work, someone else has to be willing to listen. Not be willing to buy into everything that’s said, but to be respectful enough to listen. Imagine that; a conversation where the speaker has something valuable to say, and the listener has enough intellectual curiosity and respect to actually listen.

The evidence of the power of the dinner table is all around us. I’ll pass along some examples I have read about, and some from my own experience. And, my guess is, you have examples of your own.

In sports, one of the first examples that comes to mind is the Manning family. Archie, Dad, and sons, Peyton and Eli, were all starting NFL quarterbacks; the sons have two Super Bowl rings each. Had the eldest son, Cooper, not been diagnosed with spinal stenosis the summer before he was to play football at his Dad’s alma mater, the University of Mississippi, he could easily have been the best of the three sons. How did that happen? Football, specifically quarterbacking, was discussed at the actual dinner table, and frequently practiced in the backyard and other settings. For many years.

Here’s another football family: the McCaffrey’s. Ed, the Dad, won three three Super Bowl Rings; one as a wide receiver with the 49ers, and two with the Denver Broncos. The oldest son, Max, is a wide receiver with the 49ers. Christian McCaffrey plays in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers. Dylan plays for the University of Michigan, and the youngest, Luke, is a rising Junior at football powerhouse Valor Christian High School, and has already received offers from two major football colleges. Why? The primary answer is the same as above. The dinner table.

We can see the same thing with families in politics and acting: Henry Fonda was Dad to Jane and Peter; Lloyd Bridges was Dad to Beau and Jeff; Kirk Douglas was Dad to Michael; Tony Curtis was Dad to Jamie Lee; Debbie Fischer was Mom to Carrie–the list is almost endless. Connections plays a part here, but the dinner table–with the extended definition we are using–has to be the strongest reason.

In politics, I give you the Adamses, Kennedys, Bushes and Clintons.

Closer to home, the person I know who is by far the best at individual investing and using money to make money, on a small, but highly profitable scale, first learned from his Dad at the dinner table.

We started today’s podcast by defining the term dinner table as being far broader than one location to include almost all the places we interact with family members, but we preserved the family metaphor. Now let’s expand the term family from nuclear family, immediate family, to the family of man. Yes, all of us.

At Revolution 2.0, we share a growing number of podcasts and blogs about what we feel is needed to succeed personally, financially and politically as a society. And those rules of the road, those ways of thinking and being are all the same. There are not three different ways of success thinking in the three areas; personal, financial and political. So, shamelessly stealing a concept from the bible, the two greatest of all these rules, ways of thinking, are:
Personal Responsibility; practice it, teach it and
Be Your Brother’s Keeper

Our personal responsibilities include being that person who has something valuable to say, something important to contribute. And that takes focus and effort. Being our Brother’s Keeper in part requires that we extend the dinner table to include the part of the world we live in, and to extend the definition of family to include everyone with whom we come into contact. Even fleeting contact can have profound and lasting effects. And don’t be frustrated if you don’t seem to be making any headway. People do listen and remember. To coin a phrase, the world is your dinner table. Bring the power of your dinner table to the world.

Now it is time for our usual parting thought. For us at Revolution 2.0, it is not only change your thinking, change your life. It is change your thinking, change your actions, change the world. And if you can do it in love and enjoy the people around you at the same time, all the better. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.

Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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6 Responses

  1. Tim Larson Reply

    I love the family dinner table. The analogy that the world is your dinner table extrapolates the impact the table and conversation can have. In a more humble sense, the dinner table is a critical tool in raising kids, learning how to have conversation, impart values, connect and essentially be a family.

    One of my favorite examples is the TV show Blue Bloods. Tom Selleck as Dad presides over a large table with lots of kids, and grandpa, who preceded him in police work. They frequently deal with some weighty issues. Wisdom comes from Dad, grandpa, and many times the kids, as they make observations about topics they’re addressing.

    My childhood memories of the dinner table are less earth shattering. I remember my grandfather as a diabetic, could only have fake sugar jellies. When the real stuff would go by, he’d dip his knife in it and get it to his mouth before my parents could say anything, much less do anything. Most of the time wed’ just laugh and Mom would “tsk tsk” Grandpa. I learned that when I’m 85, I’ll eat what I want, thanks very much. It’ll be real jelly for me too. Have you tasted the fake stuff?

    More recently we’ve enjoyed being at the dinner table with our daughter and her family while they lived here. The discussions were rich with love, grace, teaching/learning, and humor. More than once I doubled over with laughter ’til I hurt at what was said, or thought and cleared up, by our grandkids (age 12, 10 and 6). Wouldn’t trade those times for anything.

    So whether the dinner table is the world or our home, it is an institution we should value and commit to more!

    • Will Luden Reply

      Tim, I dearly love Blue Bloods, and treasure the Sunday dinner scenes. Sharing a memory from my youth, if you will allow me. We were visiting my Aunt Catherine and Uncle Dick’s home–as we did often. They had eight children, and a full household staff. As dessert was being served to a full table with both families in attendance, I jumped the gun and dove in without waiting for everyone to be served, The chants of, “Billy couldn’t wait, Billy couldn’t wait…” called out loudly by the younger four still ring in my ears…:).

  2. Jeff Gonyea Reply

    “The world is your dinner table.”
    The best ideas are the simplest, and this one is gold.
    Thank you and keep sharing, my friend!

  3. Charles Cabral Reply

    Will, I agree. The key is having a receptive audience. Unless there is a mutually respectful relationship or you have achieved/discovered something that others want, any advice or revelation will likely be perceived as criticism or a threat to the listener’s world view. And yes, don’t expect to see results instantly or ever. You may be only laying a foundation while other people or circumstances erect the building.

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