Learn Something New

Several years ago, I took an art class. The class was on “scratch art” and it turned out that I was pretty good at it. The art board was made up of layers of white on top of each other and topped off with black. Using a little stylus, you scratch away the areas on your subject where the light hits. It’s a very unique form of art and my instructor was so impressed with my work that he insisted that I do a “one man” show at one of the big hotels here in Tulsa. I was so scared, seeing all my work matted and framed and hanging on the walls. I didn’t tell anyone who I was. I just wandered around listening to what people had to say about my work. It really felt good. Everything sold except for one piece. I kept it and hung it in my home.

You may think that this Scoutmaster’s Minute is about art. Or you may think that I am just taking this opportunity to tell you how cool I am and about the art work that I can do. You would be wrong. This Scoutmaster’s Minute is about failure.

My failure. I’ve always been good at art. I practiced drawing a lot in elementary school and junior high school. And none of it was in art classes. I was drawing in classes that were addressing other subjects. Subjects that I should have been paying attention to. Instead, I was drawing. My teachers and my mom thought that this was wasting my time. I used the excuse…”Well, it’s something that I am good at!” I was using one talent as an excuse to avoid learning anything else.

You know, sometimes the road to being a successful person goes through places that we don’t want to go. Sometimes we have to study things that we don’t want to study and read things that we don’t want to read. Some times we have to listen to some people that we don’t want to listen to. We can’t just hide behind the one or two things we are good at.

Here is an example. I was asked to fix a toilet once. Actually, I was asked to just change the toilet seat. That had to be easy, I told myself. All I had to do was loosen the screws that held the seat to the porcelain. But they were rusted shut. I couldn’t get them to move. But I had a hammer. A gentle tap on the screw should do it. I hit the screw with the hammer and the toilet bowl cracked in half. I was sitting on the floor trying to keep the two halves together when I noticed that the water was turning red. I had cut my hands on the porcelain. In an attempt to get the water to go away, I reached up and flushed the toilet. Mistake!!! More water rushing in.

How about the plumbing Merit Badge? Wouldn’t it have been great if I had spent a little time with this one when I was in scouts.

My challenge for you in 2002 is this. Learn something you don’t want to learn. Take a merit badge about a subject that you are not interested in. Stretch your talents. Grow in your ability to handle different things.

Don’t be like your old Scoutmaster. Don’t be standing there at age 56 and talking about the only thing you are good at. That’s not success. That’s failure.

© Bill Shaffer 2004