We’ve told the story a bunch of times, but it’s so good, it’s worth repeating. In high school, Jim Valvano told his dad he was not only going to be a college basketball coach, but he was going to win a National Championship. A few days later, his dad pointed towards the corner of his bedroom, “See that suitcase?” “Yeah,” Jim said, “what’s that all about?” “I’m packed,” his dad explained. “When you play and win that National Championship I’m going to be there, my bags are already packed.”
But as Nils Parker pointed out in a recent weekend episode of the Daily Dad podcast (which you should subscribe to!), it’s worth pointing out: The suitcase is transferable. Jim Valvano’s father was not making a statement about basketball. He wasn’t even telling his son that he expected him to be a great coach. What he was saying was much simpler, much more visceral. He was saying, I believe in you. He was saying, I support you.
Had Jim decided to trade basketball for baseball, if he’d decided to forgo coaching for scouting, or if he’d traded in sports for literally any other profession, the suitcase would have remained packed. Because it was a metaphor. It may have literally contained clothes, but it was really full of love and faith and limitless support.
And we have to remember this with our own kids. They are going to cycle through different dreams. They are going to go through different phases. They will change their minds. They will struggle and fail. They will succeed…and get burned out and change their mind. They will succeed and build on that success in other domains.
No matter what it is, or where life pulls them, we owe them that gift that Jim got. We can give them the most priceless thing in the world. We can believe in them. We have to. The suitcase is transferable. It’s packed and ready to go…anywhere they want to go.