The Birth of Plot-A-Course
Every year for his birthday and Father’s Day, my father has always only asked for one thing: Time.
And I mean always.
The only time he has ever expressed a materialistic desire was when the excessive gift-giving queen herself (my older sister Marlaina) got fed up with her lack of ability to give material gifts and threatened to spend money on him regardless. She’s an extreme giver. She needs to give at all costs and if you take that away from her for too long? Well, keep your signature hand strong because you will be blasted with gift deliveries until she feels justice has been served! #LeoProblems
My father would ask for variable, but specified, amounts of time, in addition to, the undivided attention of myself, my mother, and my three sisters. Though he probably would have lovingly accepted the time and attention of the neighbor’s gardener, our cats, the suited missionaries spreading The Book of Mormon, and the resident living room daddy long legs spider...really anyone who would give it.
So what does it even mean to ask for time?
Well, what it meant to my father was a time to teach, motivate, and inspire us to be “the best versions of ourselves we can be.” He would often start out with what he refers to as “The State of the Union Address” or “SOTU.” This is where he would review the state of our family unit, including overviews of accomplishments, financial projections, personal goals, and any area of life that we could improve upon overall. It probably isn’t shocking that four adolescent kids who just wanted to do hoodrat stuff with their friends and a woman who has spent most of her life acting like she’s living in a Disney musical (avoiding anything that even slightly resembled a problem), would be less than thrilled to listen.
This is how it would almost always play out:
“Five minutes until take off people! Five minutes!”
My father would glide around the house, gently and excitedly reminding each of us of our previously committed gift of time.
We would all begrudgingly congregate in the living room on the couch, where he had set out writing supplies, a stack of paper, and what I assume to be the first set of clipboards ever made. After we got out all of our eye rolls, exaggerated exhales, wrinkling of chip bags, and arguments about who gets the crappy pen, chewed up pencil, or the reclining part of the couch, it would commence.
He would start out by addressing us in a satirical manner, using a phrase that was coined by my adolescent sister in 7th grade when she came home from school and felt it was her royal duty to bestow upon us, her familial peasants, her most recent scholarly accomplishment. #LeoProblems
He would then start in on his lengthy and energetic sermon. Like a well-rehearsed monologue in a play, he would seamlessly mesh body movement with the ebb and flow of his rhetoric, glancing around from time to time at his painfully unenthusiastic audience. He would passionately glide through points touching on the metaphysical, life goals, and overall, self-improvement and self-actualization. The whole shebang was very interactive and always required some sort of effort on our part (that we would usually scoff at) such as writing down our dreams, goals, and values and then categorizing and prioritizing them. He was always encouraging us to ask questions and challenge his beliefs or stances, which we (naturally) took as an opportunity to throw jabs at one another and mock the process. In retrospect, the entire thing was really impressive and must’ve taken him weeks to coordinate. I mean it was like a motivational, sermonous, self-help workshop, theater performance, and life planning course all rolled into a one-man show. A show of which I’m fairly convinced only the resident living room spider was fully attentive towards.
Our max listening capacity was generally about an hour or two. Anything past that and one of us would end up saying a snarky comment about how someone else’s expressed goal was stupid or start flicking eraser dust at one another, while my mother would go to the kitchen for the 48th time to crinkle what sounded like every bag she could find. Then, we would all shout about not being able to hear, and it would all unravel from there.
Despite the consistent obstacles, my father persevered in his attempts to create a space for each of us not only to explore what we wanted out of our lives, honestly and authentically, but also, to provide us with the tools to create a pathway towards attainment of our goals.
After each State of the Union Address, my father would review what happened in the meeting and explore ways to enhance our ability to absorb the lessons he was teaching. It was his mission to make sure that, above all else, each of us felt good as often as humanly possible throughout the course of each of our respective lives. He knew that there would be times of confusion. He knew that there would be less than optimal moments. And he wanted to equip us with a set of tools to guide and remind us in the times we may be lost. He felt that in order to convey this in the most impactful way, he should devise a system we can refer back to at any point in our lives when we may feel lost, confused, stuck, unsure, or simply, less than optimal.
Year after year, drip by drip, SOTU meeting after SOTU meeting, perfecting things little by little, he diligently worked on this system, this life approach, until one day...he finally did it!
He developed a final, easily digestible, ultra-system to help us navigate the uncharted waters of life. A system that would meet us where we were at in life. A system malleable enough to be adjusted to fit each of our unique goals, lifestyles, and personalities. A system meritorious and formidable enough to withstand any attempts to discredit or affect the integrity. A system that could be used to nurture our best selves, manage our resources mindfully, and take action! A system that employed some of the most important life lessons and fundamental attainment strategies. A system that could truly stand the test of time. He developed a system called…
And this is the basis of the book I write for you today.
This book is a recounting of lessons, tools, techniques, and strategies that my father turned into a system to help produce clarity, answering the “who am I?” “what do I want?” “why do I want it?” “how do I plan on getting it?” questions. Quite simply, Plot-A-Course is designed to induce forward motion towards our shared ultimate goal of good feelings.
So as much as I’d love to say this concept was my creation, I had nothing to do with it other than begrudgingly donating small portions of my, very divided, adolescent attention over the years. I’m really just the messenger of what I deem to be one of the most influential life-changing systems. It changed my life and I know it will change yours.
Growing up, I really did not like having to give my father the gift of my time. I was young, antsy, unreceptive, and couldn’t understand the importance. I would often wish I could just buy my father a gift like a normal person and be done with it. Happy Birthday pops! Here’s an impersonal, hackneyed card I purchased from the store and signed my name at the bottom of. And uh, here’s a grill apron with flames on it.
I know my sister felt the same because she would usually storm off after each family meeting, leaving a trail of eraser dust, shouting, “Why can’t we just be a NORMAL family?!”— while occasionally kicking a hole through the hallway drywall in an episode of misplaced teenage anger. Again, #LeoProbs.
Retrospectively? I see that it was much less about us giving him a gift than it was about him giving us gifts. The gift of not only time, but also knowledge, experience, and love.
And these are the gifts I want to give back to each of you through this book.
Plot-A-Course transformed my life and I want it to do the same for you. I could get started by giving you a clipboard with chewed up pencil taped onto the top and a stack of previously used computer paper (because per section 13.4 “Frugality and Resourcefulness” in the Schroeder Rule Book, all paper must be used at least twice for writing purposes and once as either a paper airplane or an origami Tsuru before being recycled). Then, I could gas you up through a sermon-like monologue, multiple times a year, for the next 20 years…. But this book seems like a better option.
That being said, if you are interested in the lengthy sermonous version, feel free to stop by the Schroeder house anytime. My father will likely be in the backyard with one pair of glasses on his face, the other on his head, and the last in his pocket, while trying to find his glasses so he can continue fixing some assortment of broken things that he dug out of the trashcan that are still “perfectly usable with a little TLC and J-B Weld!”
As a final note, I want to remind you that self-discovery and personal development are ongoing and ever-evolving processes. You’re never “done” nor should you want to be. There will be moments where you feel stuck or confused. There will be moments where you are frustrated and want to kick a hole in the hallway drywall. That’s perfectly okay and expected. The path of self-discovery is exciting, ongoing, and always changing. Who you are today may not be who you are tomorrow. Embrace this.
So without further adieu,
Five minutes until take off people! Five minutes!
(P.S Now would be the time to grab a bag of kettle chips, a couple of cans of carbonated water, and (if you’re a fire sign) the drywall repair kit, because it’s time to get started!)
... My People!