Friday, August 29, 2008

Taking Risks: Let's not be instant mashed potatoes

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. ~Pablo Picasso

Recently I've been reading several books that have brought up the subject of risk taking. One is about quitting school and getting a real education, and the other is a Brave Writer publication on writing with kids (homeschoolers). I have been pondering this aspect in everything around me.

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise. ~Author Unknown

I have tried to eliminate my negative attitude and I often encourage the boys to try new things; if you do nothing, you get nowhere. Yesterday I was telling Gideon, 19, who is enrolled in a special governor's entrepreneur class in college (there's big prize $ for one winning team): "This will be a rewarding learning experience. If you don't succeed in all the ways you want to this time, think of all you will learn in the process and can use for future endeavors. It's ALL a great learning adventure regardless." He knows this. Why risk? It's worth it.

I love to write and it's very therapeutic for me to do so. I like to share my delight of writing with my sons and it's important for me that they express themselves comfortably and skillfully in words. To be proficient at it though, takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and toy with words and expressions
, enjoying the process and being unafraid to embrace the unknown and take some risks. I had not quite thought of writing that way before, but it seems true. You simply don't grow (or don't go) anywhere if you don't stretch yourself. Maybe it'll help me in my writing to think of it in this way. I've always enjoyed poetry but my simple attempts at writing it have felt like failures. Maybe I shouldn't give up so easily.

We've been doing some free writing exercises several times a week where you start with a subject and write nonstop for 5 to 10 minutes. You are not allowed to put your pen down. This helps to encourage those thoughts get down on paper regardless of spelling, grammar, or punctuation. What you do with it then is up to you. After many free writes your child could choose one and spiff it up. This week Benjamin wrote about "rutabagas." It seemed a silly topic and as he was writing, it started taking on the appearance of a rhyme. He was letting go and it was funny; a bit bizarre in a Dr. Seuss sort of way. But he took a risk and maybe he'll grow into liking poetry! Jeremiah took my suggestion and started his own blog featuring his superior photography. I'm not touching it with my teacher's pen; it's all his and I adore it!

We are always getting ready to live, but never living. ~Emerson

Grace Llewellyn says many typically schooled people fit the description: "Be all that you can be, according to somebody else." She claims that many hide from the chance to direct their own lives and minds-which is why a lot of them stay in safe jobs they detest all their lives and fantasize about the career risk they will take when the kids are grown, or when they retire. She continues: "Life is scary stuff, but it's real. Don't give in to fear, dance bravely and brightly. Learn to be a human bean and not instant mashed potatoes." I like that. She's a very brave writer!

A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for. ~John A. Shedd

I started thinking about this in reference to my life. So many of my early years were spent in someone else's shadow. I was an introvert and shy. Pleasing someone else seemed to be my motto for much of my existence. I did take risks but they were often someone else's idea. Even though they were good things for me to have done and I learned much, they were not MY risks.

The gift of risk lies not in what you achieve, but in who you become by taking them.

Now in my old(ish) age, and with a bit more wisdom (I believe) I am searching for myself. Who am I? Or who could I still be? Have I really lived LIFE the way I was meant to live? I'm not going to ponder that one too much as I can't go back and change anything, but I want to be in charge of who I am today. I have ideas and choices to make and lessons to learn and things to do and see in my quaint, short life. What do I really want to do that I haven't done just yet? If I wanted to make a list I could and probably will in private. Then I'll ask myself, "What is within my reach, and does it matter?" I'd like to expand my mind a bit more, tap into my creative modalities and produce something great (artistic or written?) and certainly nurture my spirit to a new level. Hey, I want to leap small buildings and let those instant mashed potatoes rot!

ScienceDaily (Sep. 19, 2005)

Tall people are more prepared to take risks than small people, women are more careful than men, and the willingness to take risks markedly decreases with age: these are the findings arrived at by researchers from the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), the University of Bonn and the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin. For their study they evaluated more than 20,000 interviews with people from all over Germany and additionally confirmed the findings by experiment. What is particularly striking is that people who enjoy taking risks are more content with their lives.

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