The rules of climbing

My Regular Mind, June 20, 2018 at 09h57

I’ve been teaching my son The Rules of Climbing since he was young. He’s still young so it sounds much more adorable when he recites them, but here they are:
1. Foot is secure
2. Good grips
3. Watch what you’re doing, not what other people are doing
4. I’ll always help you down if you need it, but I won’t help you up beyond your own ability

He’s been repeating these rules to himself any time he climbs, which is great… but he’s starting to understand more complex ideas now, and I’m afraid it won’t be much longer until I have to tell him the ugly truth. These rules, and climbing itself, is actually a metaphor for life. And this is how I’ll tell him:

1. Foot is secure. You need to have a solid foundation or else it doesn’t matter how high you build or how far you reach, you’ll fall every time. You have to know who you are deep down, even though you’ll change so much and there will be times you won’t even recognize the person you once were. You’ll be passionate about so many things in your life and you’ll be able to succeed with any of them as long as you’re grounded.

2. Good grips. Physically and figuratively, with every new level you reach for, you have to know what you’re holding onto. Make sure it can support your weight. This is especially critical and impossible with people; you will meet all kinds in your life, and not all of them will be dependable. Some will seem like it, some will claim to be. Some will have the best intentions but still, no matter how hard you’re holding on, will let you fall. When you find something to hold, maintain a good grip. Be strong.

3. Watch what you’re doing, not what other people are doing. As you climb higher and higher, there will be more to see. You may even be the first person ever to see it. But distractions are dangerous. Even for a moment, if you forget what you’re doing or where you’re going, you may never get there at all. Other people will be climbing too. Let them. It doesn’t matter if they’re climbing faster than you, or higher, or easier. None of that matters. It’s your climb, and you’ll get there at your own speed. Just keep going, that’s what’s important.

4. I’ll always help you down if you need it, but I won’t help you up beyond your own ability. Sometimes we get so eager to reach new heights that we don’t think about whether we’re ready for them. Achievements are amazing things. They make you feel powerful, successful, proud. But climbing to the top without knowing what the top might be like and whether you can get back down, that’ll leave you scared. What you don’t want in life is to put yourself into a situation where you can’t predict how you might react. There are plenty of people who find success before they learn how to handle it. Their feet aren’t secure, or maybe they don’t have good grips. That will always lead to trouble.

I want the best for you. I want you to be successful at whatever you’re passionate about. But as much as you can, I want you to figure out how to do it yourself. You learn a lot about how to get down while you’re climbing up. It builds the strength you need to keep going, and lifting you up past the hard parts won’t help you. I tell you over and over, “good decision-making,” because that’s the skill I want to foster. Sometimes your foot slips, but you’re still holding on, and you put your foot somewhere better. Good decision-making, keep going. Sometimes kids run up below you and start shouting, but you keep your eyes on where your hand is going next. Good decision-making, keep going.

I love you, son. Be clever, curious, and kind. And keep going.


My Regular Mind, January 3, 2018 at 08h14

Years ago I found some really groovy-looking wood that was being wasted as a warehouse pallet. I took the nails out, ran the boards through a thickness planer, and began preparing them for their new life as a headboard.

I used tongue-and-groove joinery to assemble the boards as the main decorative piece, then acquired a 2×4 from an old building demolition in Vancouver to use for the decorative frame. After running them through a thickness planer, I ripped them so they had a square plane, routed a groove to receive the main decorative piece, then mitred the corners to fit nice and flush. Glue. Clamp. Continued…