The Whys and Wherefores of School At Home.

School at home - coloured alphabet letters pinned on to string.

We are currently in a bit of a ‘process’.  As you already know, we home school our kids.  Up until recently, that has pretty much looked like ‘school at home’.

Obviously there are different philosophies when it comes to home educating, and different approaches to actually doing it.

There are unschoolers, who do not have set study, but who believe that children through life, and that they learn best when they are interested in the subject matter, and so their learning is child-led.

There are those who do a formal version of ‘school at home’, still working with the National Curriculum, and still working towards whatever exams the students take in their particular country.

And then there is everything in between.

We were in between, but I’m not really sure what we are any more.

I’ve got to be honest; we have been internally swayed from one end of the spectrum to the other over the years that we have been doing this.  Not that what the kids are doing has changed that much, but we have read about all the different approaches, and why each one works best, and the arguments for both sound great.  So what is a parent to do?

Well, I guess what we need to look at first, are our goals for our kids.  What do they actually need to know?  And on the other hand, what do they learn at school that is actually pretty useless?

From my own perspective, and that of my husband, neither of us have used anything we learned at school, out here in the real world, with the exception of three things: reading, writing and basic math.

I have not used anything that I learned in Geography.

I vaguely remember from History that the date 1066 is a well-known one, and that at some point the Magna Carta was signed, though this is perhaps only of interest if your schooling took place in the UK.

I enjoyed learning French and German, and I loved Biology, but have never used them since being at school.

I did learn how to regurgitate facts for exams; facts that I would forget the day after the exam, and which I would never use, ever again.

Another really important thing I learned from my school experience, is that forced association with classmates, is not the same thing as socialisation.

I also discovered that being myself was just not acceptable, and so I tried really hard to be what I thought others wanted me to be.  That didn’t work out really well, either.

Other important things that school did not teach me are these:  I did not learn how to budget, how to run my own business, how to think creatively and look for solutions.

I did not learn to be definite about what I wanted in life, or how to go about achieving that.

School did not teach me how to be self-disciplined; or that thought patterns and habits become fixed, and therefore to develop good habits that lead to independent thought while I was still young.

I did not learn to look for good in difficult situations, or learn to find that teeny seed of benefit that comes in each setback that we endure.

Another thing I did not learn, was to express my own thoughts fearlessly and to decide for myself whether to accept or reject the ideas of others.

I was not taught how ridiculous it is to believe a thing merely because a teacher tells me it is so.

I wasn’t taught that my only real limitations are those that I set up in my own mind.

And I did not learn to be true to myself, and find out that you can’t please everybody all of the time.

I also did not start to find out who I was as a person, and what my real passions were, until I hit about the age of 30.

So…here’s where we are as a family right now:

My 10-year old is currently half way through Grade 7 math, and my 8-yr old is a couple of topics into Grade 7.  Unless they go on to a career in engineering, or science, or something where they need more advanced math, I’d say they have already learned everything they’ll ever use in everyday life.  In fact, they probably learned all that at least a year ago.

So here’s the question: will my son learn the more difficult math better if I keep on pushing him through it, or will he learn it better if it’s something he’s motivated to learn because he wants a career in engineering or something math related?

Is it best to push him onwards, or to let him find out for himself where his interests lie?

If he is allowed to find out who he is as a person, and what his passions are, then he himself will be able to discover what path he needs to take in order to achieve his dreams.

Will that make him more motivated than if I push him to study something he’s not interested in?  For sure.

Actually, I guess I’m preaching to myself here.

I see the total senselessness of forcing children to memorize things they have zero interest in, and will never use again.

And I see the total obviousness of letting them discover their dreams and passions, and letting them throw themselves into that with all their hearts.

One approach will create a robot, and the other will produce a creative, passionate, motivated human being.

One approach will create a nagging parent/child dynamic, and the other will create a loving, nurturing environment where we are all excited about learning, and where we as parents become facilitators instead of dictators.

I think I know which direction we are headed in.  We can at least give it a year, and the kids will still be ahead if it doesn’t work out.

Why we choose to home school.

Man standing at top of mountain, looking out across valley.
All the world a classroom.

 

I may have mentioned it a time or two before, but I have five kids who I home school.

What do you think the most common reaction is, when people meet us?  If you thought it would be, “How on earth do you manage to home school?  You must be a saint,” you would almost be right.  That part question, part statement is up there in the list of most common reactions.

The other reaction is the one I get when people don’t even get past the bit about my having five kids; the home schooling part doesn’t even register on their radar.  Those are the people who say, “Five kids?  Five.  And all with the same husband?”  Erm, yes.

And here is where I apologize to the ladies in Hong Kong, who I may have mistakenly misled.

We were waiting in a mob (there was no orderly line-up for this), for a 3D show at Disneyland in Hong Kong, when some of the ladies noticed that we had five children with us.  So one of the ladies held up five fingers, with a questioning look on her face.  “Five?  Five?”

“Yes, five,” I nodded my head with a big grin on my face.

The ladies whispered together for a few seconds, then turned back to me.  “How many?”

So I held up five fingers again, and with the same big grin, told them, “Five.”

“Ooohhhh.”  Smiles all round.  A pitying glance at my husband.  No more questions.

Apparently, as my husband informed me later, they were not just confirming the amount of kids; they were asking how many husbands, and I had told them five.  No wonder they looked like they wanted to hug my hubby.  They obviously thought I’d be moving him along soon to pave the way for number six!

So yes, five children, one husband.  And we home school.

We don’t often get asked why we home school.  Mostly we get statements about why the person we are talking to, just couldn’t do it.  Usually because they think they just wouldn’t have the patience, or because the kids drive them nuts over the school holidays, and they just can’t wait to ship them back off to school at the start of the new term.

Anyway, we home school because we want flexibility and freedom.  My whole mission in life, along with my husband, is for us to live a life of freedom.  We want to be able to pack up whenever we want, and go where we want.  We want to be able to stay there for however long we want to, before we decide where to go next.  And we also want to be able to get on a plane and go and spend time with our families, without having to worry about pulling the kids out of school.

But it’s more than that.

We want to be able to learn about Rome, and then visit the place ourselves.  Or learn about megalithic structures before seeing them in person.  We want to experience different places, different cultures, different ways of doing things.  We want to laze on a beach one week, and be learning to ski the week after.  Perhaps after that we could learn to sail.  We want to be free to travel for business, and do this as a family, so that the kids can learn about the different aspects of running a business, and so that they can learn to spot opportunities when they come.  We want to explore together, learn together, discover, dream and create together.  We want to be part of their lives while they are growing up, and build a bond with them that will echo through a thousand lifetimes.  We want to share experiences with them, build memories with them, become friends with them as they grow older and we grow old.

We want to spend our time enjoying and loving these beautiful people we created, and we don’t want to miss their childhoods, because those years are few and short.  And we can never get them back.

The video below is of my three year old, who is currently teaching himself to read.

The Magic of Belief In Achieving Your Dreams.

You have to have belief. The word 'impossible' on a chalkboard. The 'im' crossed out, leaving the word 'possible'.

Yesterday I wrote about the things that hold us back.  Today is all about how belief will propel us forward.

You gotta have belief In order to succeed at something; without it, success will elude you.

Say for example, that you decide on a goal you want for your life; maybe you want to be mortgage free within eight years.  Or maybe, as a salesperson, you want to double or triple your income within the next year.

Which of the following people stand a really good chance of achieving their desires?

Person A, who has an “Okay, I’ll do my best, but I just don’t see how it’s possible,” kind of attitude?

Or perhaps it will be Person B, who says, “Right, I believe this is totally doable.  I know someone else who has done it, and I believe I can, too.  Now I just need to find a way.”

One of those people will thrash around a bit, look for a way, and then give up, concluding that it’s just not possible.  They’ll feel justified, because they knew all along it wasn’t going to happen, and they were right.

But what about the second person who believes that what they want is achievable, and who is determined to get there?  Well, they will be the one turning over every stone, looking for ways to do what they set out to do.  They won’t give up, and when one thing doesn’t work they’ll look for another way, because they have their mind set on their goal, and they’ll be determined to get there one way or another.

Person A has a fear of failure.  Maybe it has even gone past that, to the point where they just know that nothing ever works out for them, so what’s the point in even trying.

Person B has confidence and self-belief, along with a healthy helping of determination, and this is what will see them through.  This is what will grant them success in their undertaking.

The really magical thing, is that opportunities come to those who are looking for them, and who are ready to receive them when they show up.

When my husband was in his early twenties, he was living in a place which did not have much opportunity, and was working for a sign writing company.  He decided that he had to get to London and get into I.T because he wanted to do well, and earn enough to have his own house and not have to worry about how he was going to pay the bills.  The only problem was that he didn’t have enough money for the airfare.  And it would take him years of saving to be able to pay for it.

However, he knew he needed to leave, and he was determined to do so.  He also totally believed that he’d manage it somehow.

And then his opportunity came.

A lady came into his workplace, asking if they did a particular type of work, but it wasn’t something the company did, so the lady was turned away.  My husband, seeing a quick buck to be made, approached her and told her that he would personally do the work for her.  She agreed to let him.  He had no clue how to go about it, but he decided he’d better learn, and fast.

So he took the work home, and over a couple of months in their spare time, he and his dad put signs on hundreds and hundreds of model trucks.  At the end of it, once they had split the profit, my husband ended up with more money in his pocket than he would have earned in over two years of working at his normal job.

So he bought a one-way ticket to the UK, and the rest is history.

It almost seems as though the opportunities are out there waiting.  They are waiting for the person who is looking for them.  Can you imagine it?  A whole bunch of opportunities floating around in space, just waiting for people to be receptive to them.  One opportunity goes floating off and presents itself to a person.  That person is too busy worrying about things not working out, to even notice the opportunity hovering just in front of him.  So the opportunity goes floating off to try the next person.  Oops, rejected again.

Eventually though, the opportunity will go knocking on the door of a person who is looking for it; who is looking for a way of getting closer to their goal.  And that person will be the one who sees the opportunity, and snaps it up before it has the chance to drift away again.

Opportunities come to everybody.  The only differences are the mind sets of the people to whom they come.

So how about it?

If you have something you want to achieve, how about starting off by believing in yourself?  By believing it can be done?  You don’t have to achieve your goal today, or tomorrow.  But if you believe it can be done, then you can at least look for ways to start working towards it.

Have a great weekend!  I’ll be back on Monday.

 

 

 

Breaking Free – What Is Holding Me Back?

Chain breaking.
Can’t hold us back!

I think that when trying to create a life of freedom, it’s really important for me to look at what’s holding me back.

I don’t mean what’s holding me back from my end goal.  My end goal could be that I want to fly the world in my own plane (it’s not), but before I can do that I need to be able to pay for flying lessons.  Then I need to clock up the required amount of flight hours.  I might need to do a quick hop from one country to the next and back again, to make sure I can manage longer flights. And so on.  There are a lot of steps along the way.

So when I talk about creating the life of my dreams, well, it’s a process.  And it might be a long one.

But what is holding me back from starting?  I may not have the finances to jump straight into the life I want, but why can’t I seem to take the first step towards eventually getting there?

You know the saying, I’m sure, that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The other thing is, that you might not know exactly what it is you want.  It has taken 12 years for hubby and me to work that one out.  We’ve been so bogged down with how we thought we should be, and what we thought we were supposed to do, that it’s taken this long to throw all of that off, and embrace who we actually are.

But, assuming that I know what I want, what’s stopping me from making a plan to achieve it?  And what stopping me from making the first move in carrying out that plan?

To be honest, I can only think of a single answer.  A single, one-word answer.

Fear.

It might be fear of a multitude of different things, but it still basically all boils down to that one word.

Fear of getting it wrong; of making the wrong choices.

Fear of poverty.

Fear of death.

Fear of loss of love.

Fear of criticism.

Fear of failure.

Fear of change.

Fear of the unknown.

I’m sure the list could be as long as my arm.

For me, I think my personal biggie would be fear of making the wrong decision, and it therefore affecting my children negatively.

I’ve been getting over the fear of criticism for years, and I think that one is almost dealt with now.

My fear of death suddenly appeared after I had children, because I didn’t want to do anything that might leave them motherless.  But I am learning that I can’t live that way, expecting the worst all the time; because then it stops me from living while I am alive.  So that one is being dealt with, too.  My son’s serious illness last year helped me along with that.

Really, the only one that really affects me in that list, is the fear of making the wrong decision, and it being bad for my kids.  But again, it’s not really relevant, because if we make the wrong decision we can just backtrack, and make a different choice next time.

I also read somewhere that ‘over-caution’ is just thinly disguised fear.  That rings true.  It’s wise to be cautious and make sure all your ducks are in a row before making a move.  But…if all your ducks are in a row, and you are pretty sure everything will work out, but still put off making that choice; that is fear, and not caution speaking.

So, what is holding you back from taking the first step in creating your dreams?  Think about it for a while; write down your fears, and then look at them rationally.  See if they are really worth worrying about, or not.  Find out if there’s anything you can do to reduce your fears to a minimum, or even to get over them entirely.

Then take that first step.  You can even make it so teensy weensy that you don’t even notice it.  One micro step at a time.  You’ll still get there, as long as you are moving forwards.

Have a great day!

 

Why A Bit Of Steely Determination Is Needed.

Plant growing up through concrete.
Steely determination.

Determination is essential for any plan.  Without determination, nothing will work and we’ll give up when the going gets tough.

I’ve also heard it called ‘definiteness of purpose.’  Without it, I don’t think we can get that much achieved.

Napoleon Hill is the author of a book called The Science of Success.  He died some years ago, but his story is remarkable.

He was born into poverty in the early 1900s, and lost his mother at a young age.  After his father remarried, his step mother played a massive role in his life.

She told them that she would not accept poverty; that she didn’t like poverty and would master it.  And she was determined that, as a family, they would find whatever opportunities they needed to help them out of their situation.  Moreover, if opportunities did not come their way, then they themselves would create opportunity.  But she would not ever accept their poverty as being permanent; they would rise above it.

And they did.

With the life insurance pay out from her first husband’s death, she put her new husband through dental school.  Then from the income which he brought in, they put three children through college.

This amazing woman also put Napoleon himself into a position to interview Andrew Carnegie, from which came his life’s work: that of providing the world with its first philosophy of success.  This philosophy has since inspired millions of people throughout the world.

And all because of this woman’s absolute determination that they would make something of themselves, and gain for themselves a more comfortable life than the one they already had.

Napoleon himself, had a son who was born without ears, and without any hearing ‘equipment’ inside his head.  The doctor told him that his son would be deaf for life, with no chance of ever hearing anything.

Napoleon disagreed.

The doctor politely disagreed back.

Napoleon Hill told the doctor that all the time, medical advances were being made, and that perhaps, someday, the doctors would be able to help his son.

But he said he also believed in the power of the mind to work miracles, and even if the medical advances were not made, he didn’t believe that his son had to be deaf forever, and was determined that it wasn’t going to be that way.

At a later age, Napoleon’s son was tested.  He was found to have 65% of normal hearing; and that without ears!  He was also able to speak, and his hearing functioned well enough that he was able to get through college and his work life.  Quite understandably, the doctors were stunned.

Amazing!

So, what’s holding us back?  Anything?

Are there things we want, but we’re not sure how we’ll get there?

When hubby and I first married, we both wanted to spend pretty much all of our time together.  So he decided that he was going to look for an opportunity that would allow him to work from home.

The opportunity came along, and he started off by returning people’s phone calls in his lunch hour.  After a few months, he was receiving far too many calls to deal with on his breaks, and so with six months’ worth of money to live on, stashed in the bank, he left his well-paid job to work from home.  Twelve years later, he is still working from home.

All we needed was a goal, and the determination to achieve it.

Our next major desire, was to emigrate.  Hubby and I originally hail from different parts of the world, and he was never happy living in my country.  I also had the itch for adventure, so we decided to apply to emigrate.  In order to do this, we had to qualify on their points system.

We didn’t have enough points.  But we were determined that this was what we wanted to do.

This time, no magical opportunity showed up.  Hubby had to work, and work damn hard for it.  Fortunately, he was self-employed and worked from home, so it meant he could do this (and maybe that was the magical part of the whole process).  He decided to do a part time degree, which was relevant to his line of work, and it took him five years to complete.

When he started it, we had no children, and when he finished it, we had three!  It sure took a while.

Then there was the two-year application process for emigration itself, along with the usual bumps in the road, requests for more information, troubles finding old records.

Oh, and even, on one occasion, the packing up of our documents, and sending them off with all our earthly goods, in a shipping container, on a four-week journey to another country, only to receive an email two hours later, saying that the Immigration Department needed some of those documents.

We didn’t have them anymore!  And wouldn’t get them for weeks.

The Immigration Department gave us 28 days to upload the documents, and the clock was ticking.

Long story short, the container arrived at our new house on Day 28, and the first thing we did was haul that particular box out of the container.

We uploaded the documents with hours to spare.

Anyway, we eventually were given permission to emigrate, seven years after we had originally decided to go for it.

Along the way, we had many times where we found ourselves saying, “They want what?  How on earth will we be able to get that?  We just can’t do it.”  But we, or should I say, my hubby, always found a way.  I didn’t really have anything to do with it, because I was looking after three littlies and home schooling the eldest.

Plus, my hubby loves a challenge anyway.

But we (he) did it!  It took seven years, and without steely determination, we would have given up.  Without being absolutely definite about what we wanted, and without the determination to get there no matter what, we would have given up.

And we’d still be in my country, longing for adventure, longing to see the sun rise over different horizons (thanks Mike), longing to swim in different oceans, to feel warm winds caressing us.  We’d be longing to sail the Whitsundays, laze in the Seychelles, go tobogganing in Canada, RVing across the US.  We’d be longing to do the school work under a palm tree, or in a log cabin in the morning, with skiing in the afternoon.  And we’d be longing to learn about Rome, and then actually see it for ourselves.

But instead, hubby would still be doing the nine to five in London, riding the underground to work every day, while I stayed at home and trudged through the school work with the kids, trying to find them regular playdates.

Instead, because of determination and a few opportunities thrown our way, along with some we have created for ourselves, we are now in a position to do all of the things we have always longed for.

It takes a bit of guts, a bit of courage.  And it takes finding the steel in your heart.  But you can do it; we can all do it.  We can all achieve the life of our dreams.  It just takes determination, along with a bit of action wherever possible.

We might achieve our goals quickly, or it might take years, decades even; but what is life without a challenge, or something to strive for, anyway?  That’s what makes it all so exciting!

What do you dream of?  Do you have anything that you’d love to achieve?  Decide to go for it, no matter how long it takes.  If it’s worthwhile, it’ll be worth the wait.  And the hard slog to get there?  That will just make it all the more beautiful when you do.

 

 

My Choices Meant That Life Was Running Me.

Shutterstock image "Options Just Ahead." Making choices.

Continued from yesterday…

Choices, choices, choices.  Life is full of them.  And the thing we choose means that our lives will then possibly head in an entirely new direction.  Choices are important.  Really.

When I left school, I dropped out of further education to go and work with horses.  If you’re not already aware of this, working with horses does not generally enable a person to make a living.  The work is exhausting, it comes with a guarantee that you’ll do a minimum of a sixty-hour week, and you will do it all for a pittance, just for the love of horses.

I did it because I loved horses, and horse riding.  So maybe I wasn’t that great when I started, but I did become pretty good at the whole thing.  I eventually became a freelance rider and trainer and had plenty of work, sometimes working fourteen-hour days.  The only thing I didn’t have, was firstly, any money, and secondly, any time off.

So my choice, even though it was doing something I was passionate about, did not grant me freedom.  Instead, it turned me into somewhat of a slave, and ruined any enjoyment I found in riding.

I remember one day before I was freelancing, a certain horse owner rode their horse in the evening, and put a very hot and sweaty animal back into its stable at about 8pm.  They didn’t cool their horse off at all.  Instead, it was left to the poorly paid groom (me!), to work late and come out to look after the horse.  It took until 10pm for me to be able to put the horse away with a feed and some hay, and be all rugged up for the night.

What starts off as a passion, soon becomes a situation where you are taken advantage of and treated as a person who is at the horse owner’s disposal, just because they have the money to own the horse, and you don’t, which is why you work with them instead.

The next day I complained to some of my co-workers that I had been working until 10pm, and before I knew it I heard some other horse owners saying,

“Well, if I want my groom to come and hold my horse at 2am, then she will!”

I was duly horrified.

So, the question is; does following your passion lead to freedom?

And the answer is; not always.

Did following my passion lead to my own personal freedom?

Not at all.

I had made a really, really short term decision.

I would have been far better off deciding that I wanted to ride horses, and taking a path that would reward me enough financially that I would be able to have my own four leggers, and maybe even pay some people to look after them for me.  Though I certainly wouldn’t expect those people to work all the hours of the day and night.

That would have been the path to freedom.  Not the one that I chose.

Then there was the time that I discovered I loved to travel.  I had just come home from a working holiday in Australia, and I wanted to get back there as soon as I could.  So I again made the choice that gratified me in the short term.  I got a temporary job, and when I had saved up enough cash for a three month stay in Australia, I left my job and hopped on the first available plane.

When my stay was over, I came back and got another temporary job, saved some money, and went again.

I did this for three years, until I came home one day and met the man I am now married to.

What I would have been better to do, would have been to set up a business that I could run remotely, and then work and travel at the same time.  Then I wouldn’t have had to have come back after three months to earn more money.  I would have been free to pursue the lifestyle I wanted.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this.  If you have a passion that you want to pursue, be a bit creative about it.

Don’t do what I did, and leap into a job which ends up killing that passion, because it’s all that’s available at that particular moment.

No.  Bide your time.  I should have asked myself whether I wanted to work with other peoples’ horses, or have my own.  And then I should have come up with a longer term plan to achieve that.

I should have asked myself whether I wanted to travel, exhaust my funds, come home and work, travel, exhaust my funds, come home and work, or whether I wanted an income which would allow me to travel indefinitely.

One choice led to freedom and the other didn’t.  Out of those choices, one gave me what I wanted in very limited and finite amounts.  The other would have been unlimited.

One decision means I am just drifting along on default mode; the other means I have a plan, and I have taken charge of my life, and intend to achieve my goals.

And one path leads to passivity, and the other to assertiveness and confidence.

Which would you choose?  It took me many years to learn not to do everything by default.  But making that change meant that my life changed, one bit at a time.  And if you are unhappy and need a change, then it’s totally doable for you, too.

Have a great day!

True freedom, or running on ‘default’ mode?

The road to freedom.
The road to freedom.

This post is a bit of a follow-on from Natalie Sisson’s 10 Day Blog Challenge, which I recently took part in.

It got me to thinking about freedom, and what freedom is, and what freedom is not.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that freedom is the lifestyle of the person who travels incessantly.  Maybe it’s the person who scuba dives at every good dive site in the world.  Or maybe it’s the person who makes it their goal to travel to every continent in the world.  Maybe it’s the family who ‘unschool’ and just wander the earth.

But what if, just what if, it’s the person who is content living in their town house?  The one who just wants to hang out with their extended family on a regular basis?  And the one who wants to be involved in their local community, and is content with that?

You see, it’s so easy for us to think that ‘freedom’ is the lifestyle that we ourselves are striving for, and we forget that some people already feel free with what they have.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I reckon there is a huge difference between the person who has a certain lifestyle because it just kind of, well, happened to them, and the one who has a certain lifestyle because they chose it and worked to achieve it.

I never want to have something because it came about while I was in default mode.

I love to travel, and my sister loves to stay in the same house.  The thought of waking up in the same house every day for twenty years, well, it fills me with despair.  But for her, the thought of never settling anywhere fills her with dread.  It makes me feel free.

You see, freedom looks different to different people.  Not everyone is the same.  We don’t all want the same thing, or see things the same way.

I love it when people are happy with their lot.  Not just content with the life that’s been given them, but happy, because they chose it and wouldn’t change a thing.  And I love it when they are happy with their life, but see no problem tweaking it and streamlining it, to make it even better.

Are we in the life we are in, because we just grabbed the first job that came along?  Because we just needed a job, any job?  Or are we living our passion?

Are our jobs our lifestyle?  Or do they facilitate the lifestyle that we want and love?

Did we choose our occupation because it was what we wanted more than anything else?  Or did we kind of fall into it, because it was all that was available at the time?

One of these is servitude, and one is freedom.  Taking something because we are running on our default setting, our ‘path of least resistance’ setting, well, that is servitude.

Taking on a job because it is serving us, propelling us towards our goals, helping us along with our passions?  That is freedom.

Are we serving the job and the paycheque?  Or is what we do for a living serving us?

There is a huge difference.  And the start of creating a life of freedom, of taking positive steps towards the life we want, is to recognise this difference.

Once we do this, we can start to make changes.

To be continued…

What is failure, but a chance for a fresh start?

Failure or success?

Good morning everyone.

Today’s topic is failure.  What it is, and what it isn’t.

Is failure just a blip which we then move on from?  Or is it what defines us?

I would say that our failures can never define us until we let them.

How many times do you think a person will keep on getting up and fighting on, after being defeated?  Three or four times perhaps?  More than that?  Less than that?

And is a failure in something an actual failure, or just temporary defeat?  I’m going to go with temporary defeat.  You see, failure is only permanent if I refuse to get back up again.  Otherwise it’s just a temporary blip on my path.

In fact, failure can actually be a good thing.  But it all boils down to that Positive Mental Attitude I wrote about a couple of days ago.  It all comes down to perspective.  If we choose to see the good in our failure, is it still a failure?  Or is it something we become happy about, because without it we wouldn’t be where we are now?

Thomas Edison, the creator of the light bulb, tried 10,000 times before he was successful.  When asked what it was like to fail that many times, he responded, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

At least failing at something shows you what is not going to work!  And then you get to move on from there, knowing what not to do the next time.  That’s pretty cool in itself.

When I built the horse arena and had my own horses, and found I hated nearly every moment of it, I felt bad.  I felt as though we had wasted money, and that all the years I had spent training horses pre-kids, had been a waste of time now that I was about to throw it all away.

But you know what?  I now look at it as a good thing.  You see, I had a radical change of perspective.  I realised that enjoying my children and hanging out with them, was far more important to me than training a horse to get round a course of show jumps.  That my children and what I put into them and their lives, was of far more lasting value than training a horse could ever be.

I remember driving home one evening from a hockey match, and thinking about the two different directions my life could have gone in.  Yes, I could have given it my all, and become a great horse trainer and riding coach, and at a very high level.  But you know, I still wouldn’t have been indispensable.  If anything had happened to me, or I got to the age of retiring, or decided to give it up for any reason, I could easily be replaced by dozens of people just as good as me.

With my kids it’s different.  I’m not replaceable.  Sure, if anything happened to me, and my husband remarried, they would have someone to raise them and look after them.  But it wouldn’t be the same.  I’m their mother.  They love me, and for them I can’t be replaced; I am indispensable.  I am loved and appreciated, and I am doing something really important;  I am raising decent, hardworking, responsible adults.  Hopefully they will be compassionate, caring individuals, who will be the types of people that contribute to the world.

All of that is far more important than being a good, or even a great horse trainer.

So perhaps my ‘failure’ in building the horse arena and then hating it, was not really a failure at all.  I like to think of it as a venture which showed me what is of importance to me, and what is not.  And I like to see it as an experiment which altered the course of my life, and pointed me firmly in the direction of giving my all to my kids, instead of leaving them alone for hours every day while I play with horses.

That is no failure at all.  What would have been a failure, would be the failure to recognise my true priorities, and carry on with it anyway.

Failure is not necessarily failure.  It can be the very thing which shows you that you are on the wrong path, and can be the catalyst for a change of direction.

My husband and I have had plenty of failures along the way, but without fail, when looked at from a different perspective, we can see good in each of those experiences.  We would not have the life we are creating for ourselves right now, had we succeeded in any of those things.  And I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that those things would have been diversions or even a total re-routing from the path we are now on.  That would have been a total disaster.  What we are creating now is a zillion times better than any of the outcomes which would have been possible if we had succeeded in those ventures, rather than failing.

I like to think of failure as a redirection.  It’s a temporary defeat which causes me to pause and take stock of my situation, to re-evaluate and take a breath for long enough to realise what I actually want, and what I don’t want.  And it sets me on a new and improved course.

So really, where’s the failure in that?  There is none.

Failure is only failure if I let it be; if I feel sorry enough for myself to give up and not take stock of things.  To not look for the good, and change direction.  It’s only failure if I lay in a heap licking my wounds, and don’t move on from there.

Other than that, it’s just redirection.  No problem.

What do you see as some of your biggest failures in life?  If you look back at them, can you see any good that came out of the situation?  Any lessons you learned?  Or any positive redirection?

Try it.  I’ll bet you can find something positive that came out of it.

I’ll leave you today with some of my favourite quotes on failure:

“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Robert F. Kennedy

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

“We are all failures- at least the best of us are.”
J.M. Barrie

“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”
Benjamin Franklin

Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

How NOT to travel with a bunch of kids.

plane

You want to know how not to travel, when you have a bunch of kids?

Well, probably something like this:

It is 2011 and we have just been granted Permanent Residence visas for Australia.  I am more excited than my husband, because I spent some time in Aus before, and loved it.

We argue back and forth, the merits of flying straight through, versus having a stopover half way.  I consult ex-pat forums, where of course, the advice is mixed.  Just get it over with, some say.  Pick a night flight and you’ll be ok.  Have a stopover of at least two or three days, others say.

But what if we have a 12-hour hotel stopover half way, and the kids don’t sleep because they slept on the first flight?  That’ll be an extra 12 hours that we have to go without sleep, on top of the 24 hours flying.  We’ll never survive.

That turns out to be the clincher.  We decide to suck it up and fly straight through.  With four kids aged 5 and under, and a three-hour connection time at the airport in Dubai.

I am really excited.  This is what I’ve been dreaming of for years.

We head to the airport, and get on the first 7-hour flight to Dubai.  It is a doddle.  The kids all sleep for a couple of hours.  The hubby and I get to relax.  So far, so good.  Until we have to wake the kids up to disembark in Dubai.  Now they are tired and grumpy, having been disturbed from their wonderful slumber.

We now have three hours to sit and wait for the next flight with kids who are frowning about as much as they would if we’d just thrown their favourite toys away.

Then they start to properly wake up, and that’s even worse.

Now I have the three-month old on my lap, and the older three wanting to scatter and meander all over the departure lounge.  And they just can’t sit still.  And to be honest, I don’t want to make them, because they have a fourteen-hour flight coming up, and will have to sit still for that.

Eventually it’s time to board the second flight.  My husband was assigned seats with the oldest three kids, a couple of rows back from me.  I have the baby in a bassinet seat.  The only problem is that I’m stuck in between two rather tall guys who have obviously booked that row for the extra leg room.

“Ugh, babies,” they complain as they take their seats.  Er, yes.  If you will book the bassinet rows, you are likely to have to sit next to a baby, and most likely, a breast feeding mother.  The lady on the other side of the row, cradles her baby and rolls her eyes, too.  Her husband is also a row or two back, having been relegated in favour of the single guys who wanted their legroom.

I speak to a member of the cabin crew.

“I’m sorry, but I need to breastfeed my baby, and I have these strange guys either side of me.  I don’t have enough elbow room to whip my boobs out discreetly, and they don’t look like the type of guys who would be able to be sat next to a breastfeeding mother, without wanting to hurl.”

What I am really thinking is somewhat less gracious, and concerns their stupidity in putting rugby player type guys next to nursing mothers.  Don’t they have a brain?

Nowadays, I’d probably just whip out my boob, and they’d have to deal with it.  After all, they did request that seat.  Stupid them.  That’ll learn ‘em.  Don’t think they’ll do that again.

Back then I was a little more concerned, and was not wanting to put everything on display to guys whose faces would be about eighteen inches from my boob.

So the cabin crew lady arranges for me to swap seats with another rugby player type, who is in a different bassinet row, ten rows further forward.

I send an apologetic look to the lady with the baby, who now has three guys next to her, but at least she’s on the end of the row and can turn away if she wants to.  And I walk up the cabin, leaving my hubby with three wide awake littlies all to himself.

Then we are delayed for two hours on the tarmac, because there is a medical problem on board.  The passenger and her husband are offloaded, and the hunt for their baggage ensues.  Eventually it is offloaded too, but not before the internal phone in my seat rings, and I pick it up to find a very distressed hubby on the other end.

“I’m not going to make it.  Really.  I haven’t slept in about 20 hours already, and we’re still on the runway.  The kids are wide awake and annoying everyone.  I can’t do this.”

Hmm…maybe we should get them to offload our baggage, too, and we can just hang out in Dubai for ever.

Anyway, hubby’s rant is over, and everything settles down again.  Our plane eventually takes off, and we try to relax.

A few hours later, the cabin crew bring out the landing cards.  When you fly to Australia, each passenger has to fill in a card with their details and also letting the authorities know if they have anything to declare.  I tell my hubby that I can’t fill them in, because the baby is in the bassinet which prevents me from getting my little tray table out.

“But,” I tell him.  “We do have six cards to do, so perhaps we should do them before we land, to save time.  I can swap seats with you for a bit if you want me to do them.”

“No.  The girls have just fallen asleep.  I can’t move.  And I’m not filling in six cards.  Surely it’ll just be one per family.”

Well, I don’t think so, and I say as much.  But he’s tired, and stressed, and the oldest child has not slept yet and doesn’t look like he’s going to any time soon, and it’s quite clear that these cards are not getting filled in before we land.  Big mistake.  Huge.  As we will find out later.

We spend sixteen hours in total on that plane, and my oldest child sleeps for only twenty minutes.  The others manage a few hours.  My husband manages none.  Me either.

Eventually we land, and file our way into the airport.  Hubby fills in the landing card for himself, and is absolutely determined that it’s one card per family, so internally shaking my head I follow him to passport control with the kids in tow.

They send us back.  “Sorry, it’s one card per person.”

Okay.  We walk back to the desk where we can fill out the cards, and we start writing.  The kids are beyond tired, and are rolling all over the floor, crying.  Loudly.  My husband and I are about to start crying, too.  We haven’t slept in 36 hours, and now they want us to fill in one card each?  It’s too much.  At least, it is when you’re about to keel over on the spot.

It’s amazing what lack of sleep will do to a person’s brain, and their usual good sense.

“That’s it.  I wish we’d never come,” hisses my husband.  “Let’s just get on a plane and go back home.”  Bahaha!  Yes, ok then.  Let’s get back on a 24-hour (plus layover time) flight, and spend the next 36 hours awake, too, just so we don’t have to fill in these stupid cards.  You know, the ones I thought we should do while we were still in the air.  The ones, which admittedly, my poor hubby couldn’t do, because he was so busy pushing the kids’ feet and knees down off the backs of the seats in front, the whole time.  Sixteen hours of constant foot removal, one kid then the other, almost like playing a rather large piano, only with feet and knees instead of keys.  The kids were only trying to get comfortable, but the people in front didn’t see it that way.

Actually the kids were really good on the flight.  We were just undone by the stress of trying to make sure they didn’t annoy anyone else.

We finished the cards.  By this time, the entire plane load of people have gone through to collect their luggage.  We are the only ones left in the whole place, except for two immigration officers who are waiting behind their little booth to check our passports.  All the other booths have been vacated, too.  At least the kids can roll around to their hearts’ content now.

We eventually make it through to the luggage carousel, where our lonely suitcases and car seats are still making their solitary way around and around.  Fortunately, we have rented a massive car, which takes all of us and our luggage, without a problem at all, and we start driving.

After 25 minutes, I have to take over because hubby is falling asleep at the wheel; unsurprising considering how he was taking so much strain the whole way.  At last we make it to our friends’ house.  They tell us to go and sleep for a bit, and within 20 minutes everyone is comatose.

At least we made it.  And we didn’t get on the plane back to where we had come from.

We now fly with a 12-hour layover time, and we sleep and eat at a hotel in between flights.  It works fantastically.  We keep the kids awake watching movies on the first flight, and by then they have been awake long enough that they will actually sleep at the hotel.  Then they are rested enough to behave beautifully on the second flight, and are happy to watch the same movie ten times over.

In fact, since then we’ve always had comments about how excellent the kids are.  One guy said to me once, “I’ve got to be honest; when I saw I had to sit near your kids, I was really concerned.  But they were awesome.  I didn’t hear one sound from them, the entire flight.  I was pleasantly surprised.”  Well, I do like to pleasantly surprise people.  But it would be a lot harder, maybe impossible, without a proper rest half way and a whole lot of in-flight movies.

At least after that one awful experience, where hubby and I had lost the plot just as much as the kids did, we learned our lesson.  And since then, it has always gone pretty smoothly.  I’ve also taken it upon myself to fill in any landing cards while we’re still airborne.

Writing your own ‘Not A Bucket List’.

Writing down my goals in the lovely fluffy pink notebook my kids bought me.
Writing down my goals in the lovely fluffy pink notebook my kids bought me.

You know the movie ‘Bucket List’?  And you know that many people talk about a certain thing being on their bucket list?  The list of things they want to do before they kick that bucket?  Well, perhaps it’s not such a bad idea.

Did you ever think of writing a list of things that you want to achieve?  Not as long term as a bucket list, but a short term list?  Maybe it can be your ‘not a bucket list’. Of goals you want to achieve in the next two or three years?  Or maybe even in the next five years?

There’s something almost magical that happens when you write your goals down on paper, or computer.  It kind of makes them definite, and somehow, they just kinda happen.

For example, a smidgen over two years ago, I wrote down a list of twenty-two things that I wanted within the next ten or so years.

So far, nine of those things have been achieved, four don’t apply anymore, and two should be achieved within the next four to six months.  So within the next half a year, that will be fifteen out of the twenty-two things done and dusted, or done away with altogether.  And though my goal was to achieve these things over ten years or so, that’ll be fifteen done within two and a half years.  Pretty impressive when I think about it.

Some of the things I wrote were pie-in-the-sky kind of goals; things I wanted but was pretty sure could never happen.  Well, though they haven’t happened yet, I now have no problem believing that they actually can, and therefore that I will achieve them at some point over the next bunch of years.

And other things were really long term; like when my kids are all grown up, kind of long term.

But here’s the thing; I wrote them down, so they went from the realms of being airy-fairy wishes, up there floating around somewhere, to being concrete desires, written down goals.  And now I’ve done that, I get to look back and see exactly what has been achieved, and give myself a big pat on the back.

I also got to test out a theory; that writing things down helps them to happen.  And I’ve proved to myself that it’s actually true.

So…

What about your list?  Have you thought about writing down your goals for the next few years?  Will you do it?  And then every year or so, look back and see what’s been accomplished from when you wrote your goals, to where you are now?

I bet whatever you like, you’d be pleasantly surprised.

I think I need to go and add some more to my not-a-bucket-list.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  See you tomorrow! 🙂