father and son standing in field

What’s your goal?

Home Front: That question has helped more than one member of the Smiley family overcome “stupid” rules and reach their goals in life.

I just received a text from our middle son. It read (and I quote): “My schedule is getting messed up. Have to run out and help with a surgery. I’ll try to give you a call after I get out of a meeting today around 5 ET.”

Although I didn’t know another detail, I knew the surgery would be performed on an animal. I knew that because Aaron is a veterinarian — the career path he declared when he was in third grade.

Admittedly, announcing your plans for the future when you’re only 9 years old is unusual. Perhaps even more uncommon is actually finding yourself living that dream years later. But in retrospect, we’re not really surprised. Aaron came out of the womb with a love for animals.

He and his older brother bottle-fed orphaned calves, raised little pigs in our basement when the sow gave birth to more than she could feed, and took care of the dogs and cats that ended up on our farm.

And it was Aaron who managed to acquire not one, but two horses. It was Aaron who actually played with the dogs and cats. And he was the one who went to the sale barn with his grandpa, my dad, guaranteeing the price of the calf they were selling would go up as the auctioneer pointed to Aaron and declared, “This calf belongs to the cute little boy sitting by his grandpa.”

We weren’t surprised when Aaron announced his future profession, or years later when he reached that goal. He had a love for animals, and beyond that, he was a young man with determination, willing to work hard for something he wanted. Those are attributes he shares with John, and additionally, they both have a strong distaste for doing things they consider “stupid.”

Believe it or not, Kendra is the one who is more of what I call a “rule follower.” It’s tough for me to blindly follow if I think something is stupid.

As an Air Force officer for many years, it’s obvious I learned how to follow rules that I may have considered stupid. And how did I acquire that skill? By asking and honestly answering the question: What is my goal?

The answer each time was to do the best I could at the job I’d been given. If I had been asked to do something illegal or immoral, obviously, I would have refused. But if it was just something I thought was “stupid,” and if refusing did not help me reach my goal, I acquiesced. 

That was the all-important question John taught Aaron to ask and answer. “What’s your goal?” Our son’s goal was to be a veterinarian, and doing a “stupid” assignment in freshman English in high school was obviously a necessity.

Still today I find myself asking that same question: What’s my goal? The answer typically has very little to do with a career pursuit or a long-range goal of any kind. More often, it’s something of the “interpersonal relationship” variety. 

So, when I received that text this morning, I was quick to reply: “No problem! Talk with you then. (followed by a smile emoji)”  What’s my goal? Connecting with our son — whenever it’s convenient for him.

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email [email protected], or visit kendrasmiley.com.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.