Category Archives: Teaching

You Are the Weed in My Garden of Knowledge.

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.

Doug Larson

A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.

Dogen


     “You are the weed in my garden of knowledge”…and thus one of my favorite high school teachers kicked me out of her humanities class…I think I was just talking to someone. She made me go stand in the hall which was really not that bad as I could still talk to whomever passed by.

     I have always loved her nice way of setting me straight. She did not yell at me. She did not shake her finger at me. In a nice but matter of fact way she solved the problem of me disrupting the class while at the same time avoiding a blistering and harsh condemnation of my soul.

In fact it was almost comical the way she said it. It catches you off guard and makes you think of something besides the disrupting behavior I was displaying. It was so clever and well said that I remember it more clearly that any lesson she ever taught in class.

What does it mean to be the weed? We normally associate that with being unwanted and in need of removal. However, since it was a humanities class I think I will take the liberty to take the title “weed” and interpret it as a compliment. Perhaps she was just saying that I was a non-conformist and that her garden of knowledge was holding me back. Perhaps she was saying that I was a survivalist and that her garden of knowledge was slowing me down. Perhaps she was challenging me to discover my hidden virtues that were muffled by the bland nature of her garden of knowledge.

Or perhaps she was just trying to get me to shut up so she could get on with her class. Sometimes there are profound and deep thoughts that we need to ponder to get
the most out of life. However, it gets a little frustrating when we make simple things harder and more complex than what they really are…sometimes we just think too much!

I attended a philosophy class in college and on the first day (and last day for me) the professor asked us a question that went something like this: “How do you know that right now we are in reality dreaming and that what we think is our dream is in reality reality?” For a country boy like me that question seemed like a waste of time. But not for the class. Someone piped up… “but first we need to define what reality really means”.  I dropped the class.

Though it is nice to seek the profound, do not be found to be the pro thinker and not the  pro ducer. Think and work. Think while you work. Think on the drive home from work. Be a weed if you want but don’t waste a lot of time being a profound weed. Just survive and grow and do what you were meant to do and most things will work out just fine.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Though it is nice to seek the profound, do not be found to be the pro at all thinking and no productivity. Think while you work.

Tell a Story

The Power of the Wedge

“In time the savage bull sustains the yoke, In time all haggard hawks stoop to lure, In time small wedges cleave the hardest oak, In time the flint is pierced with softest shower.”

Thomas Kyd

 

     The tornado left a lot of clean up for us in the yard and we were still burning broken limbs and fallen moss a month later. For the biggest limbs we decided to rent a log splitter so that we could move them around and burn them more easily. It was a lot of work and I was glad my son Taylor was in town to do the heavy lifting!

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     The design of the log splitter is simple but very functional. A small motor powers a hydraulic system that moves a wedge up and down. A log placed underneath the wedge is easily split in half as the hydraulics push the wedge downward with significant force. The secret is in the shape of the wedge which starts very narrow and sharp and then tapers wider and wider.

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      These oak logs were so tough that the chain saw had trouble cutting through them but the wedge split them in seconds. It is particularly effective when it goes with the grain of the object it is trying to split.

     A wedge is a formidable opponent or unfailing friend depending on how it is used. Take for example a seemingly innocent incident where you said something that was unflattering about another person to a close friend. Somehow your small indiscretion is shared with that person who then begins to see your friendship from a different perspective. Every thing you do, even if it is nice, is seen as a lie or done for some veiled but unkind reason. You notice this person’s hardened feelings towards you and so begin to harbor your own negative feelings about that person. With time it becomes more serious for both people until finally the relationship shatters. The one seemingly harmless comment was the beginning of the wedge that finally drove the two people apart.

On a good note, a wedge can be used for long-term positive change also. You may be seeking a change in behavior from your children or a loved one. Direct “in your face” scolding and nagging has not worked. You change your tactics to include a “spoonful of sugar which helps the medicine go down”. Gradually over time your show of love and continued heartfelt support begins to drive a wedge between the person you love and the unwanted behavior. This is a hard road but can work quite successfully.

So the wedge is a powerful tool for good or bad depending on how it is used. A wedge is not a sledge hammer that simply uses brute force to cause a massive impact. The wedge is best used against you when it starts with a crack in your armour…when it splits going with your “grain” or your weakness. It is best used to your benefit when you apply it in the grain or weakness of the behaviour you are trying to change.

     HighFive Your Life Principle: Don’t underestimate the power of the wedge for both positive and negative change.

Tell a Story

Soft Shell…Hard Life…Adjust to Meet the Challenges of Raising Your Kids

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Recently a soft-shelled turtle climbed the hill towards our house and began to dig her nest about 200 feet away from the lake in our backyard. I grabbed my camera and took some pictures trying to be careful not to disturb her. She worked and worked with her back legs trying to dig a hole while keeping her head high in the air alert for any danger.

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She did not seem to mind our presence but when a cat made her appearance some thirty feet away she decided that the timing was right and she needed to head for the water which she did. The cat followed her down the hill back towards the lake but stayed a good ways behind.

I was impressed by the strong instinctive drive that this soft-shelled turtle had in order to make such a journey up that hill and travel so far from the comfort and safety of the lake to lay  her eggs. I pondered why make it so hard for the young hatchlings to travel so far to get back to the lake once they hatched. I did some brief research on-line to no avail. Whatever the answer, the reason must be that it gives the greatest chance of survival for the young.

Each of us seeks the same for our children. Though most of the time it is not a life or death situation, the instinct is the same. We want to give our children the best possible chance for a wonderful and successful life. I find it interesting that for the soft-shelled turtle this must offer the best chance of survival though it does not guarantee their success. As soon as the mom is done she books it back to the lake. If the eggs do hatch the baby turtles have a long arduous walk with many birds of prey flying over head before they make it back to the lake. Once in the lake they still have some time in the gauntlet before they are big enough to survive the hungry predators found waiting for them there.

Compare this to some of the other birthing and child rearing in the animal kingdom. The owl outside our window sat on her nest for weeks and then once the baby owls hatched she continued to bring food and stand guard for what seemed like many more weeks. When a calf or foal is born, it stays with the mother and is fed and protected by her for months. I have seen the bedding of bass where the male bass stays near the eggs and swims in a small circle darting out and attacking anything that attempts to come near the eggs. There are countless examples of different birthing and off spring raising in the animal kingdom.

My wife and I have raised four kids and it has not been an easy job…We have generally agreed on the way we should teach and discipline our children. However, we have not been perfect and have learned and adjusted as we went along. This is an important principle in raising a family. It is perfectly ok to watch what other families are doing, to watch how other children behave, to listen to parents and grandparents and consider their advice. My wife and I spoke often of our child rearing failures but also observed what was going on around us. By watching the results of others going through this same process you can filter through the best practices that might work in your own family.

Unlike the turtle or the bass or the cow, whatever our instincts are that we start with, we have the ability to adjust our child rearing to fit the needs of our children and the environment in which we find ourselves. Do not be afraid to make those moves to give your kids the best chance for success. In some cases you may think that making your children crawl 200 feet back to the lake is a good idea and in other cases you may think that staying by their side and protecting and nurturing and lifting them may be the best idea. Just know that it is a never-ending consideration that needs your attention and contouring to get the best results.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Stay diligent in adjusting your strategy to raise your children to meet the demands of a fast changing world.

Tell a Story

Our Youth Are Worth It

The scoring was quietly but quickly tallied. As the first through third place finishers in the 4th and 5th grade speech contest were announced, there were smatterings of applause and then pictures and hugs. I walked to the stage and shook the hands of the other 8 contestants before I shook the hands of the winners.

I felt the pride from the parents of the winners and the distressed feeling and sadness from the parents of the losers. I felt like they were staring at me, one of three judges that somehow had made or ruined their child’s day. I did not like that feeling. It brought back feelings of various times in the lives of my children when their performance in a particular sport or school activity was not rewarded in the way that seemed fair to me. Perhaps they sat the bench in a game or didn’t win an election or weren’t asked on a date.

I love competition. It has fueled me and provided much of the energy for most of my life…from high school and college athletics in my younger life to business in a competitive market place in my older years. Competition is healthy because it makes us be better. Basically, you win or you go home so you just fight hard to always be your best. I do not think that games should end in a tie and that those with greater skills should be made to “lose” because the rest of us can’t catch up.

However, I think it is important with our youth to also provide support so that they never associate their performance with their personal worth. It is easy to make that assessment when you do a lousy job in front of your peers. The embarrassment is possibly more dreadful than the disappointment. I loved that the teachers in charge of this speech contest started out by telling each one of them that they were already winners regardless of the outcome…and they were correct.

My wife taught me a great lesson one long football season when my son got very little play time and in our opinion was not given a chance by the coaches. Her opinion was this: I do not care if he plays in the game but with all of the effort he is putting in, you had better give him back to me better than when I gave him to you.

I love that lesson and it has stuck with me as a father, employer and a youth leader. Regardless of the talent or skill or emotional status of our youth, when we have an opportunity to be in a position of leadership over our youth we need to give them back better than when we got them. It takes extra effort and additional attention to detail but we need to do that to insure that these people know that they are worth the effort and capable of finding their place in the world…not the place that is determined by those judging them, but a place determined by them and them only.

They may not win the event but they are already winners in their core…in the things that matter most. This personal belief of self-worth then allows people to enter into competitive battles knowing that if they fail they can get up and try again. It is the process of rising to the occasion that unleashes brilliant performance…ordinary people doing extra ordinary things.

Give our youth the power of belief in themselves.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Give youth the support, coaching, teaching, love and attention to make sure that when they leave our area of responsibility they leave better than when they came in.

Tell a Story

I Think Somebody Told Me a Story (lie)!

” A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith;sees your anxieties but frees your spirit;recognizes your disabilities but emphasises your possibilities.”

William Arthur Ward

 

 

When I was a small child my grandfather (PePa) took several of us to a small country store. We were each allowed to buy a piece of candy but bubble gum was forbidden. PePa always had a pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum when we came visiting but for some reason he just didn’t like bubble gum.

I eyed my choice which was a piece of candy that looked like a big round jaw breaker. I knew inside that it had a bubble gum core but when he asked me if it was bubble gum I said no. Back in the car as we neared the farm he apparently saw that I was chewing bubble gum and simple said, “I think somebody told me a story”. That was it. No lecture. No spanking. No restrictions. Just “I think somebody told me a story”. Nearly fifty years later, his disappointment still stings. I learned a lesson about honesty that has been a guiding post for me throughout my life.

There is another lesson to be learned here however and that is the power and impact of saying nothing or at least very little. It does not work in every circumstance but in situations where there is a lot of trust or love or history, the mere acknowledgement of the infraction is generally enough to make a lasting teaching moment. The continuation of a brow beating session after the acknowledgement may actually begin to tear into the fabric of the trust/love relationship that already is in place.

In high school I played multiple sports but especially loved football and baseball. Our rival team in both sports was a neighboring town named St. Cloud. At that time there were only two high schools in our county so the rivalry was at times bitter.

During a baseball game as I slid into one of the bases I came in with my cleats a little high, not a good show of sportsmanship. I played third base on defense which put me in close proximity to the opposing team’s coach who was also the base runner coach positioned at third. I do not remember anything about the game other than this head coach saying something to me like “Gary you are better than that”, referring to when I slid in with my cleats too high. He didn’t have to say anything more than that. Even as the coach of the opposing team, I knew he respected me as an athlete and I knew that I had disappointed him. Again, 40 years later I remember that teaching moment when, with very few words, he helped me be a better person.

HighFive Your Life Principle: When possible, teach using the least amount of words and don’t be afraid to let silence be your partner.

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