DaMoKi - Thoughts About Family Stuff and Raising Great Kids
DaMoKi - Thoughts about Famiy Stuff

The Next New Thing!

The American consumer pattern is often to seek the next new thing, not just for the stuff, but for the status.


The “new” next new thing arrives, and the “old” next new thing is now the next old thing: a typical pattern of the American consumer. However, consider that consume means “to destroy”; does that make all the good consumers good destroyers? Most manufacturers and marketers count on it, and so it is, in virtually every aspect of product development and delivery: from cell phones morphing into multi-faceted electronic tethers, to more economical, safer, faster cars; from razors with ever-increasing blades and longer-lasting lubricant strips, to the predictably unpredictable changes in fashion… the examples continue seemingly ad infinitum. Better, faster, prettier, sexier, longer lasting, and brimming with status directly transferrable to the consumer… so they say; so we believe.



Almost from birth, external influences push and prod us to use, discard, and replace as required for social acceptance based on the perception of status.


Consumer training begins early; we are driven by the actions we witness, words we hear, pressures we endure, and their accompanying, albeit transient, patina of satisfaction born from the consumption of “stuff”. However, consumption is not merely destroying or “using up” material things; it is also the process by which we benefit from burning the log of status. The perception of value is in our minds, and in our lives, and therefore within us; though the value is not real, perception makes it seem so. We want to acquire the next new thing for the perceived status, or more importantly, to avoid its loss… this is clearly seen as important and necessary by many, if not most of the American consumers.



Stuff is OK until the fear of losing it causes anxiety over loss of status.


Let me be clear, I like stuff, and getting stuff is fine when it does not share the stage with the fear of loss: not so much the loss of stuff, but the loss of stuff status. It is not just the product development and marketing departments that understand this; I think most of us understand it to. Yet we trade our knowledge for the armor of ignorance, so we can feel good, feel important, and it helps us avoid the one action considered anathema by consumers… devaluation due to a loss of stuff status.



We fail to act in our best interests when we trade self-definition for definition from others, and that is sort of, well… dumb.


The status in the next new thing acquires its value from those who bow to external judgment. They rely on the observations and opinions of others to find not only definition, but acceptance. They are defined from the outside, by the outside, and for the outside based on the status of their stuff. They fear the thought of defining themselves for themselves and see no future in that anyway, because there is no new status in settling for the real constant and consistent you, without your stuff. Again, most of us understand this, but often reject or ignore it: we fail to make it a priority. We are conditioned to accept that it is the new stuff that is necessary for happiness, and this is where the dumb arrives. It is dumb, and ultimately self-defeating, to know how to behave in the best interest of yourself and those you care for, but choose not to.



Negative lessons learned in childhood, when embraced and perpetuated, can establish behaviors that render adults less than self-confident and self-directed.


I do not believe childhood experience is an excuse for wrong action, yet there are fully-grown, intelligent, seemingly successful adults, who often behave in a manner ill fitting their best interests, denying what should be obvious. Childhood experience can teach not only the fear of being at odds with the opinions of others, but eventually the habit of relying on outside judgment. Decisions are molded to avoid negative external returns rather than to reflect internal integrity. They believe without the next new thing, others will see them as inferior, and unqualified for acceptance into the status driven social level they have been trained to desire. Oddly, much of the fear’s justification is only surface deep, and not supported by the opinions and actions of others: fear and anxiety can distort reality.



The knowledge of how little others think about us can be a shock to those who believe they always do.


To paraphrase an old saying: “If you knew how little others think about you, you would not be so concerned about what they think about you.” Yet the fear of judgment from others drives the consumer frenzy for the next new thing. Wearing out-of-fashion Manolo Blahnik’s; a dated pants suit to a business meeting; driving a mid-sized American car to a High School reunion; watching the Super Bowl with your buddies on a 24” screen; having a flip-phone that is just a phone; and heaven forbid, being “sooo yesterday!” can drive to irrational action those who labor under the illusion that status must be made manifest in that it defines your place in the world.


What lately is referred to as the “New Normal” might better serve both individuals and the whole of our culture if one of its components was the ability to self-value.


Self-valuing, when done in conjunction with the other “selves” (confidence, reliance, respect, and even healthy self-love) not only benefits the individual, but like the ripples from a stone thrown in a pond, the effects spread to family, friends, business acquaintances, casual observers, and others. It is an internal process of evaluation and judgment, observing one’s actions in the context of both circumstance and personal consideration. Ultimately, we must wean ourselves from the next new thing concept, and refocus, so we can exhibit the right kind of example for the next new generation.


This could be the “Next Right Thing”


The ability to gain internal satisfaction, approval, and even status, and then measure oneself against your potentials and capabilities, may not be the next new thing, but it would be the next “Right” thing. When you rely on “your” talents, behaviors, self-evaluation, and judgment, you are better able to learn from mistakes, heal your wounds, and reach your potentials as you pursue our passions.


What do you think?


What about you? How confident are you about being a self-defined consumer? Have you considered the effect your purchase patterns have on those around you… especially your kids? Do you see this as a problem? Is the next new thing for you a new phone or car… or a new approach?

Lawson Meadows

Note: This article was originally published as a guest blog for Judith Acosta’s site. She is a twice-published author a respected clinical psychotherapist, classical homeopath, hypnotherapist, and crisis counselor. She has written on a variety of projects: novels, editorials, consumer advertising, and commercially for major clients such as American Express, CIBA-Geigy, and Cannon. Her scholarly work has appeared in various journals. She has much to say and I strongly encourage a visit to both of her sites: (www.thenextosama.com and www.wordsaremedicine.com).


Five Elements of Successful Living that Your Kids Need to be Fully Functional Adults > Financial Knowledge (1)

Money is possibly the subject most written about this side of true love; but considering the current economic situation - credit issues, lack of savings, deflated investments, skewed priorities, and more - maybe we are not looking at it in the right way, or just maybe we do not want to hear the truth.

To some, the idea of money being one of my five elements of successful living is odd, and some think any discussion of money, crass and beneath loftier concepts like loyalty, education, love, or my other four elements. But, money is such a ubiquitous item, used worldwide in the same way, it is just too important to be ignored. It represents value, and by extension, to many it represents concepts like security, power, stability, and status. However, in reality, money is only a symbol of value. The security, power, and other attributes are merely the result of money’s use - subjective interpretations, often fleeting, and often wrong.

It is important that your children learn to make good decisions with what money they have, however, it is equally important that they have few inclinations to make wrong decisions. Both are based in what they learn about money… their “money behaviors”, which consist of basic skills, reflexive habits, and a supportive attitude. Learning Money Behaviors includes how, why, and when to use it. Along with a clear understanding that money is only a tool and it is possibly most pragmatic of the five elements.

William Somerset Maugham said, "Money is like a sixth sense - and you can't make use of the other five without it." I see the same relationship to my remaining four elements. Unless your kids spend their life in contemplative isolation, or in retreat on a mountaintop,money is how they will handle most exchanges in life.

Understanding money allows the exercise of beneficial behaviors; without money, there is poverty, and parents, no matter what their economic level, should ensure their children avoid a future of poverty, because poverty changes everything. When, where, and how does this money knowledge begin? For adults (18+ yrs old), I suggest you get started right away by cruising the many bookstores and libraries with shelves bulging with financial self-help books. My focus is on how kids develop correct behaviors within the family. When done correctly they will benefit from them for a lifetime. The concept of “Catch ‘em while they are young!” is applicable,but even for older children, you, the parent, can and must provide influence in the development of your children’s money behaviors.

How? Let’s first look at the process of learning, for example…

When first learning a computer keyboard, it is easy to mistype because your fingers simply will not behave. You overcome this lack of skill with sufficient and persistent practice, and a supportive attitude: replacing keyboard ignorance with the “right” behaviors; changing the unknown or difficult to the easy and naturally accomplished. It is the result of forming a habitual behavior set of right actions that occur naturally with little thought or overt consideration, and then the keyboard can be used efficiently and effectively as a tool for communicating your choice of words to your computer.

Money is also a tool for communicating choices. When using money - as is often the case with tools - the quality of the results is more often a reflection of the user than the tool. There is an old saying, “A good guitarist can make a bad guitar sing, but a bad guitarist might as well drive a truck.” Being good with your money tool is what matters.

Like money, most think cars are a necessity.We consider the art of driving important enough to formalize the learning process. We have classes, certifications, insurance obligations, lines on the roads to help people navigate, and signs to increase safety.

Money is no different. There are classes to teach everything from its history to its use in areas like family budgets,business financing, and investments. Though necessary and important, most classes are like teaching teenagers to drive by telling them how to crank the car, how the knobs, buttons, peddles and levers work, and that they should obey traffic laws. What is missing is judgment, which comes from suffering consequences of bad decisions, which of course is where the propensity for making good ones originates… it is called experience. Unavoidably, we all really learn to drive “on the job” so to speak, and too often, we learn to use money in the same way. Thankfully, with money there is a way to avoid this “on the job” training problem.
In my next post in this series, we will begin examining how you can ensure your childern develop behaviors resulting in beneficial money decisions; how you can encourage and support your children's efforts to adopt the skills required to evaluate their use of money, engage in habitual reinforcements and learning about money, and adopt attitudes aupporting continual effort toward improvement in judgment, self-evaluation, setting and achieving goals... and a few more.

Remember, money knowledge is only the first of five elements of successful living, but it may be the cornerstone for the other four, which is not to diminish their importance or impact. However, remember the old saying, "Money makes a good slave and a poor master." ... too many of us suffer from the latter more than benefit from the former, but you can ensure your children's relationship with money yields more benefit than suffering.

I hope you will continue reading my posts on important issues about what children need to be fully functional adults, and how they can find their own success and happiness. If you have any comments or questions, please leave a note in the comment section, or if you like, send an email to info@damoki.com.

Sincere thanks and gratitude!
Lawson Meadows

Five Elements of Successful Living that Your Kids Need to be Fully Functional Adults > Introduction

There are five elements needed to become a fully functional adult. We all know about them, but too often fail to attend to them enough with our children. Here is the list:

Financial Knowledge

Physical Health

Mental Capacity

Emotional Stability


That's it... now we can all go home, right? No! Lists are easy; implementation is quite different. What is a parent to do?

How do you ensure your kids acquire and master the five elements? Parental influence is the key, but before we examine the five elements individually let us look at how parents do what parents do. I will address in summary, three general categories of parental technique: Autocratic, Permissive, and Engaged. I know there are many ways to categorize techniques, and many ways to shuffle the parenting deck, but we need to start somewhere, and these three are generally representative of the approaches often taken by parents. I am excluding physical and mental abuse styles. If you are a being abusive with your children, you need professional assistance, incarceration, or both… not a blog.

The Autocratic Parent:

The "I know best" parent expects obedience without question, and is in charge of the way their children think and behave. They tend to believe they are always right and should instruct, then correct or punish children in the event of error or failure. They believe kids will learn from this approach and some do learn some things, however, they are learning from the experience of others (parents first, then others later). These children are in danger of never learning from their own experience of effort and failure. Therefore, their ability to develop and internalize judgment is restricted. They can grow into adults who are mostly dependent and tend to rely on others to assign right and wrong, good and evil, fair and unfair, do or do not, and other dichotomous comparisons to their actions and even their thoughts.

More importantly, they will accept, with little challenge, the judgment of others because of their childhood... it is the way they were raised. As children, they had responsibilities, but hardly ever any control; as adults, the story continues: they may seek responsibilities, but they tend to avoid authority. They do not see themselves as being in charge of their lives, or their destiny. In fact, they are not.

The Permissive Parent:

They believe kids learn regardless, and most all behavior (short of small animals in a blender) is OK; they tend to limit rules and set few boundaries. You all have seen them in the mall, letting their kids terrorize businesses and patrons, and if confronted, they may seem puzzled, or be offended, insisting their kids are “just being kids.” These children tend to have good relationships with their parents, but are less able to grasp and internalize the concept relating responsibility and authority due to the lack of consequences encountered during childhood. They are in charge of their lives, but are often sub-par at making good decisions, setting goals, and self-control, all for the same reasons. They can learn from consequences, but the effect is limited due the decreased nature of parental oversight and the typical lax and inconsistent application thereof. Barring severe injury or trouble with the authorities, they may have a fun filled childhood. However, when required to maneuver the rule and consequent laden arena of adulthood, it is a scary new place where they can be, and often at a great a disadvantage.

The Autocratic Parent gives a child responsibility with little authority, whereas, the Permissive Parent gives a child authority with little responsibility. Both can yield sub-sufficient adults, who often struggle for a lifetime with the lessons learned as children. Ingrained personality characteristics can be as difficult to get rid of as that annoying weekend guest who unexpectedly arrives with kids, pets, and in-laws.

The Engaged Parent:

They have the more difficult, but more rewarding path to navigate. As an involved parent more than a “friend” or  “commanding officer”, they know the job is to mentor and guide, by setting standards and rules for the entire family, and being an example for their children rather than controlling or being passive. They hold themselves and their children to high standards thereby commanding respect without demanding obedience. They ensure children are subject to the consequences of their decisions, both good and bad, and instill value and self-worth by letting kids know they fill the parents with joy and gratitude by being not only part of the parent’s lives and part of the family, but for being themselves.

An engaged parent knows the function of parenthood is to help children develop confidence and self-assurance, to support and encourage efforts and interests, and to consider when and how to model behaviors to emulate. Additionally, and possibly most important, the purpose of parenthood is to guide each child in discovering individual talents and interests. The engaged parent is a “doing” parent. It is easy to say you love your child, all types say that… hopefully… but it is more important to show it, every day, through your actions, your decisions,your examples... Remember, love is more a verb than a noun.

If you want to increase your parental effectiveness score, evaluate your style, and consider the information herein as it may relate to you. Are you over-controlling or under-concerned? Hopefully, you fall, as most do, somewhere on either side but not far from the middle. The danger is in believing you do not need to evaluate your style. You do, because as your children grow and change, so should you: it is too important to your children's future. Try asking yourself this question when you are about to make a parenting decision, “Am I doing this particular parenting task for my benefit more than my child’s?” If the honest answer is yes… change! You have an abundance of love to give each child, and that is important, but equally important is raising each of your children to have an abundance of love for themselves.

As for the five elements, I will discuss each one individually over the next few posts. I will address them in order, not because one is valued over another… I just want to. In reality, a deficiency in any one spills over into the others… they are all related and entwined such that the sum of the parts concept is truly applicable. Therefore, the next post will be about Financial Knowledge… Money: what it is, what it does, what it will not do, how your kids can learn the difference, and why that is so important.

Hope to see you there!

Lawson Meadows 

Gimmie More Stuff!!!

Kids are not born with mature consumer behaviors… they develop them through a learning process; of course they must be trained, and they are. Yet there is a problem in that today’s children are being trained, less by parents, society’s elders, altruistic institutions like schools or churches, and the vague yet ubiquitous “village”, and more by larger forces fueled by economic factors and institutions relying on successive generations of consumers being conditioned as consumption hogs rather than self-directed, discriminating adults. This process has been ongoing for many years… generations of encouragement to gather unto ourselves “stuff” we generally do not need, often do not really want, and at times, do not even use. However, though our role as the parent has diminished, we cannot displace all of the blame; we must accept some contribution to the problem - whether born from apathy, ignorance, or a misguided intent. In a nutshell, the parental effect is born from modeling and example, and the kids are always watching. They learn how to be “good” consumers as mom and dad gather their own stuff… how much stuff?

Consider that in 2009, self-storage space in the US was 19.2 sq. ft. per U.S. household, which translates into 7.0 sq. ft. for every man, woman and child in the nation. It is physically possible for all 350+ million of us to stand, at the same time, under the total canopy of self storage roofing, but of course we cannot do that because so many of us put our excess stuff there… why? Not why do we store it, but why do we have so much stuff to store? More directly, why do we feel the need to continually acquire more and more stuff?

Some answers are revealed in “The Story of Stuff,” a video on Annie Leonard’s site (thestoryofstuff.com), which with clarity, details our obsessive focus on acquiring stuff and the widespread deleterious behaviors surrounding consumption and how businesses drive the processes. After watching the video, I realized her ideas mesh well with much my family oriented interests.

When bottom-line concerns of business supersede those for the individual, I consider that though they may have the right to do so, that does not make it right to do so, however, dash from your mind the idea that I am against profitability, efficiency, and focused growth. I simply believe there is space in the boardroom for human concerns as well as growth projections, pie charts, and increased profits, and that businesses should weigh the effect of their decisions beyond the bottom line for both now and the future.

A significant point in Ms. Leonard’s video concerned advertising’s negative message, which succinctly put means “You suck!” and is designed to convince viewers about their unworthy status if they fail to purchase the hawked product. However, I believe there is more to the message: When a viewer is already purchasing an advertised product, the ad serves to both reward and reinforce the consumer’s opinion of “rightness” and “superiority” in that choice; it also restricts consideration of competitor’s products. Another significant point of ad effectiveness involves comfort. We like people we like, we like to be associated with people we like, and we like to feel we are like people we like, therefore, we will like ourselves better if we buy the same stuff bought by people we like. This explains why famous people are used in so many commercials… we like them, want to be like them; they make us feel comfortable with, and confident in our decisions.

With ever-increasing ease of communication, the media saturation serves as a virtually complete and very efficient message delivery system for the mantra of consumerism. For example, a couple of years ago, there was a Target Store ad in which a song delivered a lyric message summed up in the phrase “gimme more, gimme more”. The got-to-have-it thinking was clear and constant… a mantra… as is most of the “got to have it, give it to me, I want it now” consumer thinking established through thousands of subtle and less than subtle ads to which kids are exposed each year… training, reinforcing, rewarding.

So, let’s review: If we obey the ad masters, we are filled with self-perceived elevated status, albeit shallow. If we pass on this “rite of consumption”, we are destined to wallow in the pit of low expectations and poor self-image… yuck! Either way, we really do suck… according to them.

That is what we are faced with now and in the future, if parents continue to miss opportunities to guide their children in the direction of selfishness; the emphasis on the “self”, not the “ishness”. OK, I’m not sure what that last part means, but I am sure the “self” portion is important. Maybe a better word would be “selfness”, but selfish still has its place. Children should care more about control of their “self”: taking time as they mature to think for themselves rather than simply chanting some media driven mantra. In order to do that, they need self-confidence, self-respect, self-awareness, self-control, and other “self-stuff” which they can keep self-stored, between their ears. If your kids do not engage in selfish selfness, using self-focused efforts to become the best they can be for themselves, how can they be the best for others? You know… like your grandchildren!

Is this not what you want for your children: the superiority of selfness? True selfness is the result of a selfish focus on the awareness of, and progress toward one’s passion in life: their purpose, if you will. However, there are too many who raise their children in the same manner they were raised, giving little to no thought to the impact of the generational burden of tradition and thinking processes learned from parental behavior. Some call this cultural influence, and deem it OK. Some examples support the concepts of spankings, unquestioned obedience, and of course the rational of tradition (if it was good enough for me, it is good enough for my kids). There are others of course, and many are balanced and applied sparingly thereby reducing any deleterious impact - particularly because kids themselves are resilient. However, remember that your kids will have a tendency to learn and repeat what they observe and how they are treated.

This may be ok if all you wish for your children are the limits of your experiences. But if you wish for them to step beyond into the unknown of their own experiences and gain for themselves their own level of accomplishment, appreciation, and achievement, then consider a twist on the old saying: “If you continue to do what you’ve always done, don’t expect to get more than you always got.”

To borrow from Dorothy Nolte’s poem “Children Learn What They Live”: each child is a reflection of experiences, and of the effect each experience has on their “self”. As parents, we must understand that one’s culture, though rooted in the past, should not be limited to the past.

It seems much of our culture is mired in the worship of stuff to the point of self-evaluation and self-worth being dependent on which stuff we have. In the end, our children would receive greater benefit if we focus our efforts on educating today’s parents regarding the bad stuff about stuff. This would enable them to adjust their behaviors and influence their children in a manner that would prime them for a future filled with a greater appreciation of the inner stuff over the outer stuff, and the relative value of each. Then they can become good consumers of the former rather than the latter: the inner stuff is all that matters when you are driven by your passion down the road toward your purpose in life.

Let us strive to teach our kids to be good consumers of stuff they can store, not in external storage units, but in their internal units called the heart and the mind.

Lawson Meadows

Carpi... just a day?

Seize the Day! Ok, sounds good, but many moments fill each day. Maybe we should focus on each moment: seize all the moments… maybe.


Many people use, and often over-use, the quote from Horace’s Odes “Carpe diem” - Seize the day. In the current vernacular, it reflects as a positive, represented by Robin Williams in the movie, Dead Poets Society, when he said to the young men, “Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” An argument can be made that an extraordinary life is derived from seizing the day… each day. But consider Horace’s entire quote: “Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.” which means, “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next.” (A concept often popular with those who think they know all the answers, though they have yet to hear many questions). This sends a different message: seize each day with little regard for the future: seek comfort now, worry on tomorrow, tomorrow. I am not so sure this is the message we parents wish on our kids, and I am positive it is not the path to extraordinary, but to the ordinary: to a place back in the pack rather than up front. However, be aware of an eternal truth: what you are to be, you are now becoming.


We are all becoming what we will be, each moment of each day. To become extraordinary, we must use our days to their best advantage, taking care to focus on the process of becoming, rather than on what we wish or hope to become. With no focus on our behavior of choice, our point of passion, and our need to succeed, like a ship with no rudder, our path will be erratic and not fulfilling, and we never would achieve excellence, experience the heat of passion’s reward, or become extraordinary: We will never be great. Therefore, it is the manner of motivation and focus within your moments that propel you through life toward what you will become.


It is important that you continue the quest of becoming, by engaging in what the philosopher Tom Morris calls “consistent persistence” to seek excellence and greatness in your passion. If you live only for the reward of each moment, you will, in your final moment, die with potential unfulfilled and greatness un-achieved. However, if you live for your moments to move you toward your destiny, that which you want and can achieve, at the least, you will reap the reward of a well lived journey, and at the best, well… you get the same. Yet too many live each day hoping and wishing, intending and dreaming, even planning and preparing, when what they need to do is more “doing”. If you remain in the shadows, shy to the world, only watching, you will miss your destiny, you will miss your dream, you will miss your mark.


Learning to persevere is important for you and for your kids. Although each journey begins with a single step, each step that follows, right up to the final one, are equally important. Consistent effort is required to finish the task. Carpi Diem… yes. Seize the day boys: have yourself an extraordinary life by becoming greater each day at that for which you have talent to be excellent and passion to pursue. But what of your kids?


You, the parent, can affect passion and perseverance in your kids; you are the first, and can be their most important and effective model and teacher. If you want your kids to be part of a great family, remember that having a great family is less about having great kids, and more about being great parents. If you truly want your kids to excel at their achievements, the best leg-up you can give them is the right example. Use the time you have with your kids to show them the behaviors needed not only to seize the moments and the days, but in the end, “Carpi Vita” - to seize life!

Lawson Meadows

To Try or Not To Try -- There is Really No Question.

It may seem obvious, but if you do not try, you can never know the warm after-glow of success, and there is too many who do not. Trying is the tool of learning, the salve of failure, and those who understand are the ones who suffer gladly the bumpy uphill journey toward success. Trying is in fact the only way to gain experience, master your talents, and grow into greatness. 


Consider four famous quotes about “Trying”:


“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Thomas H. Palmer


“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There is no point in being a damn fool about it.”  W. C. Fields


“Try not. Do, or do not, there is no try.”  Yoda


“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett


Although each quote is about trying, they reflect different perspectives, and you might think at least one would be wrong, but in truth, they are all correct in their own wau. The manner in which they are correct is important to you and your children. The primary focus of trying is not only on the result of your efforts, but also, on what you become during the process. Each attempt, whether deemed success or failure, is in fact a success in that, besides the obvious concept “success is success”, every failure is a success too, if a lesson is learned and growth occurs.


We often focus on the first and probably the most well known quote about trying again and again. It first appeared in a book by the nineteenth century educator, Thomas Palmer, to encourage his students to continue their efforts to accomplish homework. Initial failure or disappointment in a task is often seen as a sign that it is time to pack up and head in another direction because of frustration, lack of preparation, disinterest, or just plain fatigue. Apparently, he wanted his students to work through these problems and eventually succeed.


It is important to develop a consistent approach to trying and repeat trying in the face of obstacles: mental, physical, or otherwise. Kids acquire their behaviors from a variety of sources, but the most important source, the most influential source, is parental example. There are teachers and preachers and partners-in-crime; influential as they are, parents should top the list.


There is a biblical passage, which says, if you teach children the right way to behave, they will not stray from it as adults. The“right way” is composed of habits and attitudes that will direct their approach and reaction to trying. Along with the recognition and development of relevant skills, you have the basics of behavior: skills, habits, and attitude.


If a child’s reaction to a failed attempt is to not try again, and if that pattern continues, an expectation of first attempt success will become a habit in which the need for additional effort will not appear on their behavioral radar. Even worse, because of the general tendency to attribute failure to external influence, a child will begin to blame failures on circumstance or other “stuff” rather than taking personal responsibility, thereby further retarding their chance of success.


Therefore, the need to ensure your children know and believe in the “try, try again.” approach should be important enough to ensure that you, the parent, adopt my variation on the above reference: “As you train your children in the way they should go, ensure you go that way yourself.” Be the model; set the example. 


It is important to examine W. C. Fields opinion on trying, then quitting to avoid looking like a fool. The basis of his “humor” is that we all have been in that situation: repeated attempts to succeed at an impossible or ridiculous goal, or more often, to achieve something for which we are simply not suited. But, for one reason, we continue to travel the same road, ignoring the “Wrong Way” signs. There is a time when we must recognize the reality of our diminishing returns, and accept that repeating the same actions while expecting a different result is as they say, insane. This is not a reflection of effort or focus on goals. It is about self-evaluation in order to match your talents, capabilities, and interests with the demands and requirements of a particular goal. Try, try again, but evaluate all the parameters to ensure that you are “trying” the right activity.


This relates to children too. Parents often have kids involved in many things, doing lots of stuff, and expect them to excel at them all; even report cards are rife with examples of parental expectations. When did we begin to believe kids must be 'A' or 'B' students in all subjects? I believe in a rounded education, but do not believe it necessary to be the best at all things: there are some will, most cannot. People generally have a high interest and aptitude for only a few things. It is the parent’s job to help their their kids discover what interests and goals fall into that category... or not. It is NOT the parent’s job to predetermine or assume interest and subsequent goals for their children, especially when born from those of the parents.


Within childhood activities, are the seeds of undiscovered talents and interests. Over time, an attentive parent should be able to observe and identify those areas and actions toward which their children are drawn,excel, and display extended interest, aptitude, and joy. In the absence of these qualities, and after sufficient effort and adequate exposure, the utility of W.C Fields words should be obvious to both you and your child. This is where you must be supportive and positive about their choices to seek another direction when it is obvious they are on the wrong path.


This actually ties in with the cosmic comedian Yoda’s view on trying. The problem is, people often try with a built in anticipation of failure. Trying does not guarantee success; it does guarantee the opportunity for success, through learning and gaining experience. However, there are those who are short sighted and hold to the “I’ll try, but it probably won’t work”school of thought. They lack a basic belief in their efforts and abilities, and are not committed to giving “try” a chance, or giving themselves one either… they expect to fail. They simply do not understand trying. Yoda’s comment would reverse that line of thought. He simply means you must commit to an action, a project, or a goal with no anticipation of failure. You cannot swim across a stream by sticking your toe in the water; you must dive in with head and heart first, and handle the difficulties along the way as part of the journey.


So let us look to the last quote, by Samuel Beckett. He urges us to try again, and not let failure discourage our continued attempts; to in fact, embrace and address the road blocks, set-backs, and disappointments seen as failures, so that each successive failure will be less and less “bad” and more and more “better”… in his words, “fail better”. The way to fail better is to learn through observing, making adjustments - both analytical and creative- then trying again. The path to success is often complex or convoluted and requires consistent effort and committed behavior dedicated to advance you toward your goal. Consistency must accompany commitment or the “trying” is no different from the limited attempts Tom Palmer was guarding against, or the anticipated failure forewarned by Yoda.


I believe the only real failure in life involves premature quitting. "Trying" is a learned behavior, which includes the development of potential skills, an attitude supportive of your efforts, and the habitual cycles of attempt, failure and correction. Helping your children discover talents, then combine consistent goal-oriented effort with a committed attitude, will guide them toward feeling that warm after-glow of success.

Lawson Meadows

Sponge Bob's Birthday!

Sponge Bob Square Pants is 10 years old, at least his show is, and for the last seven years, the multi-billion dollar undersea merchandising behemoth and his friends at The Krusty Krab have been the most watched animated TV show by kids from ages 2 to 7. The neat thing is, there are many people, as in adults, with and without kids, who like it too: at least I no longer feel alone.


Think about it, a show about a sponge and his friends might seem implausible; it did to its creator, Stephen Hillenburg, an apparently unassuming man who said, “I never really imagined a show about a sponge going past our first season.” Hillenburg is an artist and a scientist who taught at the Ocean Institute. He combined the two by creating a comic called “The Intertidal Zone” in an effort to teach students about tidal pool characteristics; the inspiration for many Sponge Bob characters started there.


Broadcast in 25 different languages around the world, the popularity of Sponge Bob is firmly established. Additionally, at least two world leaders admit to watching with their kids (President Obama and PM Gordon Brown), and during the many of the 125 episodes there have been guest“appearances” by many TV and Sports personalities like Whoopi Goldberg, RayLiotta, David Bowie, LeBron James, and the first two, Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway.


If all this is not enough, Sponge Bob is now enshrined not only in the hearts and minds of most kids and many parents, but also at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New Your City for any kid, or adult, to visit. For the lessons taught, the wholesome entertainment, and the greater positive effect on our kids, Sponge Bob Square Pants is a true American Icon.  


Happy 10th Birthday to Bob and his friends! Do you and your kids watch?


Lawson Meadows

Gambling with your kids?

Of the four addictions - tobacco, drugs, alcohol, and gambling - which one is easy to hide from other people, including parents? The answer is gambling of course. No odor, no strange behavior, no chemicals in the system… perfect to conceal until you run out of money. That is what adults face, but what about kids?


Most kids have no steady income, so if they get into gambling, they get the money from some place. They sometimes steal it from their parents in the form of cash or credit cards, they may take other kids money, or sell stolen items, all bad enough, but even worse, they are potentially setting themselves up for a lifelong addiction to gambling. The percent of kids who develop into problem gamblers is relatively low, but the number who become involved at a young age and are then at risk of becoming a gambling addict should still cause any parent to pause and evaluate their own actions in the gambling arena.


Parents mostly influence kid’s behavior by setting the example. When parents openly gamble in front of their kids, it is seen as approval. Additionally, in states where lottery tickets are sold, parents often purchase them as presents for children’s birthdays and such. This diminishes the effect of outside admonitions not to gamble, because their parents, the most influential people in their lives, approved of it by buying lottery tickets for kids, even when the kids are underage and unable to claim a prize.


There is a high correlation between heavy gambling and involvement with drugs and criminal activity. It would seem the urge to “take a chance” to gain riches would be a lesson parents would want to avoid teaching their children, along with doing a line of cocaine, or chugging a six pack of beer… considering the detrimental potentials for those who get hooked on any of them.


I am not against recreational activity of almost any kind for adults. I am against the systematic and surreptitious nature of prepping the next generation of addicts to any addiction. Kids should be off limits, but we all know that is not the way of the world. Therefore, it is up to us, the parents, to arm our kids with the tools to resist and defend against those considerable and constant external messages and urgings to partake of the “high life” characterized by the media, advertising, and already prepped peers.


As an example, I goggled “baby toy ‘slot machine’” and instantly found many machines for kids, like the following ad: 

Hit the jackpot in your own home with this fun and functional Las Vegasslot machine replica. Bring the excitement of a Las Vegas casino into your living room, bedroom or office. At over a foot tall, this slot machine makes a great coin bank that holds hundreds of coins. Realistic winning sounds and lights when you hit the jackpot. Automatic jackpot button releases the coins at any time. Slot machine requires two AA batteries (not included). $29.87


Just what a kid needs, a savings bank that conditions them to pull that arm down to get money. There were literally dozens of sites with similar equipment for sale.

Possibly the biggest threat is the spread of poker. There is no way to keep kids from exposure to it or other games of chance, nor should you. Surprised? You should not be. There are potentials for harm in many things, gambling is only one of them. I buy lottery tickets, and on occasion, will bet on a sporting event, but only sparingly, with full knowledge of the risks and within a predetermined budget.


Hiding gambling from your kids, or your kids from it, is not the answer. Setting a good example, and making sure your kids are knowledgeable of money - its purpose and function - is better, and will go along way toward supporting positive decisions regarding gambling.


How do you feel about gambling? Do you see as potential problems for kids? Would you buy your kid a toy “pay off” machine to play with?

Lawson Meadows

To Hunch or not to hunch; that is my question.

If you want a little help making a decision, www.hunch.com may be of use to you. Co-created by one of the people who launched the photo-sharing site “Flickr”, the idea is to help anyone make literally thousands of decisions in an orderly fashion. It is a user built decision-making tool, which in ten questions or less gives you its best hunch about what you are asking.

Hunch.com covers a wide variety of topics, each with a number of sub-topics; just to name a few: autos, food, gifts, parenting,sports, hobbies, travel, politics, and kids. The user is lead through a series of bracketing questions to arrive at a “hunch” which is expressed as a percent or probability comparison, and often multiple choices are presented by priority. Users have the opportunity to comment on the pros and cons.


It is important to know “hunch” does not evaluate or guarantee accuracy… the user/contributors “group edit" and control via feedback and so forth, which is not a bad way to approach this type of site. Nevertheless, be advised the information and paths created are not necessarily correct or right for any particular person, and like all information, can be used or abused by those who possess it.


The real boon is the free exchange of ideas and the community effort evident with serious and casual “hunchers”. Additionally,there can be the added benefit of guidance for those with little training, formal or casual, in areas of logic, critical path, setting priorities, or decision-making. Being stumped often starts at the first step, and “hunching”serves to kick start considerations past that point.


This site is new (June ’09) and better yet, it is free, easy to access, informative, and fun. It has my recommendation, so try it, I have a “hunch” you will like it.

Lawson Meadows

3 Good Things and Happy Thoughts


Small School – Big Result


The Validus Preparatory Academy in New York City is a fine school, a public High School in the South Bronx that takes an active and possibly unique approach to learning and life. Founded 4 years ago (2005),this Expeditionary Learning School,gets some funding through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is affiliated with Outward Bound.


Validus Prep has just 432 students and uses a “hands on” teaching method: they study evolution through tracking 20 years of cell phone feature adaptation, and science by testing the Bronx River water. The low number of students and the hands on methods are keys to success,and besides, Principal Brady Smith knows all the students. Additionally, it is evident from student statements that they have both one-on-one support from and deep respect for the staff: both are keys to a positive result. Examples of student statements about their teachers’ reveal respect and support on both sides: “Teachers push you to figure out what you want to do in life.” and“(They would) probably find a kidney if you needed one.”


More positives… their first senior class graduated this June with 80 percent receiving diplomas, and many are college bound, Compare this accomplishment by kids from 5 of the poorest congressional districts in the country to New York City’s55 percent graduation rate, and the level of success becomes clear.


Maybe the greatest success is in the future of education, if this seed grows and bears fruit that spreads more seeds across the country. Imagine, all kids with positive support developing positive results and looking forward to positive futures. 




The Humane Banker


As bosses go, this one went, and boy did he. After selling the bank his father started in 1946 for $60 million profit, Lenard Abess could have withdrawn to wherever and whatever he desired; he did not do that. Mr.Abess did do something he claims to have considered for 20 years; he gave most of it away to the bank’s 399 employees, and 72 retirees. The amounts were based on longevity, and many received over $100,000.


What! A banker with a heart? Then, to top it off, he is humble and did not make a big deal of it… just sent an internal memo. Alas, you cannot hide the extraordinary; some people blabbed… and well they should have. He mostly avoided the subsequent attention, but did accept an invitation to Washington to attend the President’s first congressional address. He expanded his consideration by taking a surprised Geneva Lawson, an employee at the bank for 51 years and once his boss in the print shop.


When asked why he shared as he did, his “in character”response was, “I owned the bank, but there were 400-plus people doing the work.I felt they were owners too.”


If a number of other “bankers” had in their arsenal of emotions the empathy Mr. Abess displays, our current economic morass of job loss, home loss, and hope loss could probably have been avoided. One would think he should chair a panel, not to advise the financial industry on ethics, procedure, and morals, but to plan how future leaders will learn what he knows, so they can perform as he did, for the benefit of all.




The real Dr. Feel Good – Dr. Susan Love


The fight against breast cancer needs volunteers for research, and Dr. Susan Love, 61, has found a way to recruit them... fast. Her technique was borne from her belief that the key to curing and preventing breast cancer requires the study of a variety of women with and without breast cancer, rather than studying lab rats. Note - breast cancer appears naturally in women, but not in rats. She compares the current methods of examining the same risk factors ad nauseam, to a person searching under a street lamp for lost keys because that is where the light is.


The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation has affiliated with the Avon Foundation for Women to form a partnership, the Love/Avon Army of Women. The goal is to register one million volunteers at their site, www.armyofwomen.org , thereby creating a large database of women that researchers can contact to participate in their projects. Dr. Love believes this type of research is the way to not only treat or cure breast cancer, but to find its cause and thereby work toward prevention and eventual eradication.


Over 250,000 women have registered; more are needed. Even so, the benefits are evident. When a researcher needed 5000 women who had sisters with breast cancer, only two e-blasts (mass e-mails) were required: 2400 within one week on the first, and 2600 from the second. That would have taken four months using the usual channels. If the difference seems minor, consider this: if a cure were found in twenty years at the usual research pace, the new pace might accelerate it to two or three years. Speed is important in research. Being able to start a project in 1/8th the time is not minor. This may be why Dr. Love said “That’s the way we’re going to change things for the next generation.” Pre-volunteered, pre-screened, pre-sorted, and predisposed… that describes the army of women ready to fight in the war against breast cancer.


For your wife/sister/daughter/mother/friend/half our population, check out the army of women site above and learn more about what you can do to help.

Lawson Meadows