The poet Carl Sandburg once said, “I won’t take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth.” Sandburg’s point crosses all disciplines and certainly is a precept that dads and moms can share with their teenagers: Talk is cheap. If you want to get ahead in the world and make your mark, you have to get involved and invest sweat equity. It’s popular to say, “If you talk the talk, you must also walk the walk.” It’s popular because it’s true.
The following is not original, but for the life of us, we can’t find the source. So we share it anyway because the message is important:
A story about everybody and nobody
There were four persons named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to pitch in. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.
Holding the bag
If you need to pause here to clear your head, that’s fine. Then ask your teenager if or she has ever been the victim of an unfinished job—or has ever been left “holding the bag,” as another popular saying goes. It is especially unsettling when the job may have been someone else’s in the first place and all he or she got accomplished was to talk about doing the job. Then somehow the expectation became someone else’s burden to carry.
Things go wrong and projects fall through because someone assumes that someone else will gather and tie up the loose ends. What if the stage crew at school failed to fasten down the flats for the school play? What if your teenager’s teacher graded only the first two pages of the term papers? What if the football team practiced offense all day and never worked on defense?
Work or watch
Following through when you say you’re going to do something can be a positive ID tag. Leaving loose ends dangling can be a negative label. We all know people who are eager self-starters—they start jobs but never see them through. You’re familiar with those professional movers—those who pick up the load and move it to your shoulders?
Remind your teen that leaving a job unfinished is a bad habit that comes with a surefire guarantee. When a person fails to finish the job, s/he seldom is called upon for another job. S/He becomes a spectator, watching others reach success.