My son sets out to change the world. What am I going to do with what my son has taught me?

Last week my youngest son asked me if I would help him build a desk for his room.  I asked him what he was going to use for materials.  He said that he had found stuff in the garage and had a plan in mind.

Each night he would ask if I would come out to the garage and cut some pieces of wood that he had measured and marked.  It was hot.  I was tired.  I put him off.  He kept asking.  Finally after four days, the guilt had built up and I went out in the garage (with added prompting from my wife) to build a desk and “make a memory” that he would look back upon as he grew older.

I have to admit though, that I was just waiting for the obstacle to appear that would postpone our project.  In the garage it was 104 degrees F and my t-shirt was soaked through in the first 15 minutes.

You see, as we were cutting wood, and fastening the pieces together according to my son’s master plan, he stopped what he was doing and he says, “Dad, I’m going to change the world with this desk.”  My jaw dropped.

At this point I realized that I was being schooled.  I thought that by going out into the garage and helping my son, I was helping him make a memory.   The tables had been turned.

I had forgotten what it was like to be 11 years old, when anything was possible – a time when we could build amazing creations out of stuff that was just lying around.   As adults, it seems, we always need to have a detailed plan, a list of all the right materials, the precise tools for the job, the perfect weather, the best helpers, and also be in the mood.

7 Lessons I learned from my son

  1. See what others don’t see. In a pile of scrap lumber in the garage my son saw the makings of a desk.  He sees potential.  I most often see the pitfalls.
  2. Absolutely everything is possible. An 11-year-old knows that everything is possible.  Be 11 years old forever.
  3. Don’t take no for an answer. He asked me four nights in a row to help him build that desk:  I said, “not tonight.”  Eventually I said, “yes.”  Keep at it.
  4. Don’t get discouraged. Even when I told my son “not tonight,” he didn’t get disheartened.
  5. There’s no time like right now! He had an idea and was determined to make it happen.  How many times have I caught myself making plans like:  When the kids are grown then we’ll do this thing?  Seize the moment.
  6. Use what you have right now – talents and materials.  To make something happen, you don’t need investors, money, tools, office space, staff, or anything other than what you already have been given.   Don’t set up hurdles that don’t exist.
  7. Perfection is not necessary. My 11-year-old’s plan for his desk was his own.  I would have probably done it differently.  I would have over-engineered it.  I would have used special wood and hardware.  I would have measured everything just so.  However, “My” desk still wouldn’t be built.  Life is not perfect.  Just do it – or you will never do it.

My son’s desk is finished and he’s been using it in his room – to change the world as he draws and writes and designs his many ideas.  And for the past week I’ve been thinking… what am I going to do with what my son has taught me?   How am I going to change the world?



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