Tag Archives: Success

On Being Savagely Successful

Only through failure can we learn to succeed.

While I believe that’s one of the most important life lessons we can learn, it’s all to often overlooked when we, as parents, attempt to shelter our little dudes and dudettes from this sort of thing, to ensure a failure-free lifetime for our spawn.

The problem with that plan is that it ensures the growth of a no-longer-child who cannot cope with setbacks, who doesn’t know how to learn from mistakes, use that knowledge to correct his or her errors and move on to the next aspect of his or her life. Those of us of the adult persuasion understand that learning from our mistakes so we don’t make them again is essential in just about every aspect of our daily existence.

Folks shouldn’t look at failure as a bad outcome, as long as they contain the persistence to continue working toward the goal they, at first, didn’t attain. Heck, listen to huckster and part-time inventor Thomas Alva Edison: I didn’t fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated, ten thousand times, materials and combinations which wouldn’t work.

Adam Savage is a Maker, sort-of scientist and best known as co-host of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters series. Yesterday, I ran a list of his 10 rules for success. One of those rules said — simply — fail.

If you’ve ever watched Mythbusters, you know one of his sayings is that “Failure is always an option.” He’s not a defeatist, rather he understands that by examining why something failed and how it failed, he can apply those lessons to make the endeavor succeed.

Another of his rules that I particularly like would have to be: If you want something, ASK. I’ve a feeling this should be self-explanatory, but, for too many dudes and dudettes, this completely escapes them.

Too many people seem to believe that their only choices are the ones actually offered to them. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

One of the most important lessons that Zippy the College Boy learned in high school and that, hopefully, Hyper Lad will learn now that he’s attending the same high school, is to self advocate. Which means, in a nutshell, ask for what you want.

If you don’t understand something in class, ask the teacher for clarification. If you still don’t get it, don’t worry. Just keep asking and trying until you do.

If you see someone doing something cool? Ask them how they did it, how they learned it? Where can you learn it?

Looking at Savage’s list, I think the most important thing you can take away from it is that you should approach life as a participatory sport, rather than something you should watch happen.

Get involved! Get motivated!

Work, as Savage said, your ass off to achieve your goals. If you don’t have what you need to accomplish those goals, don’t collapse into a weeping pile of angst. Ask for help. Get what you need, practice the new skills and get good. Then go out and accomplish your goals.

Success takes more than just hard work and diligence, but you can’t succeed without either of them.

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Binky Bucks

The concept of money, superficially at least, is an easy one for most adults to grasp.

You’ve got these little slips of paper with different numbers written on them. You give these slips of paper to someone and that person will give you, well, stuff.

Easy, right? Until you start getting into just what — exactly — that slip of paper is worth. Because, when you get down to it, that slip of paper is only worth something because we — all of us — choose to continue to believe that it’s worth something. The same goes for almost every single currency. If we suddenly believed that the Beanie Baby was the preferred currency. . . It could work.

Still, this abstract sort of thing is difficult for a lot of young dudes and dudettes to grasp.

I don’t think I or my wife, known to me then as She Who Must Be Making Deals, made things any easier for our middle little dude, known to us now as Zippy the College Boy, when we let him pay for something using his binky. For those of you who don’t know, a binky is what we called a pacifier.

So here’s the deal: Zippy the Binky Boy loved his binky. And when I say loved, I mean LLLLOOOOOOVVVVVVEEEEEEDDDDD his binky. He’d pop it in when he got angry. He’d pop it in when he was contemplative. He’d pop it in when he was sleepy. And, you know the opposite of all those things? Also occasion for him to pop the binky into his mouth and start sucking.

Unfortunately for him, it was time for him to give it up. Mostly because we were getting tired of the sound. Slurp, slurp, slurp. It gets old. And, when he’d lose it in his sleep that led to a lot of loud late-night screams. For his older brother, the proto-Sarcasmo, giving up the binky was easy. He had a horrible cold at 6 months and couldn’t breathe through his nose. So he gave up the binky.

Zippy the Binky Boy? Not so easy.

After more unsuccessful attempts than I care to remember at renaming Zippy the Binky Boy, his mom and I finally hit on a solution. We figured that, since he loved animals, possibly more than he loved his binky, we could use that love to leverage the binky away. If we worked it right, we could actually get him to give away his binky and like it.

So we went for a walk down near a nice bunch of shops, one of which sold toys. We took Zippy the Binky Boy by the place, pointed out the really cool clear plastic tube of animal figures, got him really interested and then forced him to keep walking. He was livid. He wanted that tube of animals.

At that point, his mom snuck away and went back to the store. She went in and found out how much the tube of animals was and then paid for it. Then she put back the tube and told the guy that we’d be coming back and asked if he would pretend to accept the binky as currency to pay for the animals.

He said sure. As long as he didn’t have to actually touch the slimy thing. The binky, not the boy. Not that I could blame him.

And so we took Zippy the Binky Boy back into the store, him sniffling and rubbing away snot and tears on his arm. He saw the tube of animals and clutched them to his chest.

“Mine,” he said.

Then we told him he had to pay for them. He managed to say he didn’t have any money. The store owner played his part perfectly. He leaned down and said that he’d gladly take a binky in payment for the tube of animals.


Out came the binky and Zippy the Animal Boy clutched his tube even closer. He stayed happy all the way home until it was time for bed. Then he climbed into bed with his tube of animals and asked for his binky. He needed it to sleep, you see.

We reminded him about how he paid for the tube of animals with his binky.

“Oh, yeah.”

Then he snuggled up to his tube of animals and went right to sleep.

He never looked back, but he did have a habit for several years after of hauling out an old binky he’d found and trying to pay for things with it. We had to tell him it had been a special binky or a special store.

So, why did I go through all this trouble to tell you the story?

No real reason. It’s just that I found the tube of animals in the attic the other day and I couldn’t stop smiling for a long while after so I thought I’d share it with you dudes.

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Awesome Elementary Brings The Awesome — Again!

Mrs. C is a fifth-grade teacher at Awesome Elementary School in Charlotte and she’s bringing a great, African philosophy into the classroom to help her kids find a more harmonious path through life.

Just for the record, there is no Awesome Elementary School. I’m using a nom d’frenchwordforschool. Also? Mrs. C does have more letters to her last name, but we’ll keep it that way because I’m all about not using actual names here. Just ask my kids, Sarcasmo, Zippy the College Boy and Hyper Lad. Or my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Kept In The Dark.

Moving on.

The philosophy, as I talked about yesterday, is Ubuntu. Which, according to Mrs. C, translates loosely into “I am what I am because of who we all are.” I love this philosophy because it says, basically, that no one can succeed if he or she doesn’t bring the rest of society with them to that success. We stand on the shoulders of giants, but we need to stand also in the company of giants.

Ubuntu is all about treating others with respect, with helping others who don’t have your knowledge or skills, receiving help from others who have different knowledge or skills than do you, and working for the good of the community as well as your own good.

“At the beginning of the year, I had my students read am article about Ubutnu,” Mrs. C told me. “It was a story about an experiment in South Africa and an anthropologist who was studying Ubuntu. To test it, he put a giant bag of candy under a tree and told a group of kids that the person who reaches the bag first can have all of the candy.

“The kids ran towards the candy, so excited, and, once they got to the tree, they started dividing it equally. My students were blown away, but really understood that Ubuntu is a way you live, a way to share, a way to care about others, a way to live in balance.”

If you’ve stuck around here long enough to have read at least one or two entries, you’ll understand I’m not some hippy-dippy treehugger. I’m not about to go raging on about how values from different societies, more traditional societies, are always better than our own because they’re closer to nature. That’s bunk. Culture is culture.

That said, however, you’ve got to love this sort of thing. If Ubuntu philosophy can get a group of kids to share candy equally without any kind of force, to have them do it spontaneously. . . There’s something pretty darn special about it. That was Africa, though. How would it work here in America?

That’s something I’d really like to know. Good thing, then, that I asked Mrs. C about it. I asked her how Ubuntu was going in her classroom, in which it is an integral part of the culture there.

“Does it work? Well, the kids have definitely internalized it,” she said. “They will say things to each other like ‘That’s not showing Ubuntu’ or ‘I’m putting this on my Ubuntu tracker.’  (They track the ways they show Ubuntu every day.) That being said, my students still do not treat each other the way the philosophy dictates. Not all the time. Sometimes they get frustrated, use words that are not so nice, or are nasty towards each other. Like I said, its a process.”

Still, I think we can agree that it’s a process that needs to continue. In a world where kids have to be worried about being bullied, and where we as a society have to worry about bullies deciding enough is enough and going back to school with a weapon and a bad attitude. . . Isn’t it about time we decided to try and nurture a little caring and community spirit?


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