16 June 2013

6 – Good Advice Never Grows Old

I always did really well in school. Even high school. But I didn't always want to go. Everyone remembers feeling like that. But what I remember most is the little trick my dad taught me to make it a little more bearable.

I don't remember how old I was. Probably 9 or 10. I was feeling down, and my dad asked me what was wrong. The exchange went something like this, more or less. 

Summer holidays are over now, and I gotta go back to school and it's gonna take for ever before Christmas holidays get here, I said. 

You're going about it all wrong, my son, said Dad. 

What do you mean?

You're making it seem bigger and more difficult than it gotta be.  

I suspect I gave him a puzzled expression that compelled him to explain. Thankfully, explanation is a strong suit of his.  

You gotta break it down into smaller bits. Smaller blocks of time. It'll go by faster then, he said. 

How do I do that?  

I'm pretty sure Dad paused and probably frowned while he thought of what to say next. In hindsight, he did a damn good job of thinking on his feet. 

When's your birthday? he said. 

Now he could've been asking that question because he wasn't sure, but that's beside the point. Let's continue. 

October 8th, I said. 

Okay, and sure that's only a month away, isn't it?


What's the next holiday after that?


So that'll be another holiday about a week after, right?


What comes after Thanksgiving?


And sure that's only a couple of more weeks after Thanksgiving, isn't it?


Exactly. And sure by the time you get there, you'll be halfway to Christmas holidays, won't you?


My short answers masked the excitement I was getting from this earth-shaking revelation. Why hadn't I thought about this before?  Back in those days however learning to manage time and tasks was not the priority that watching 'The Transformers' or playing with my friends was. Surely, if Optimus Prime had said something like this I would've listened? Who wouldn't listen to a red cab-over truck with a voice like that? And while Dad didn't transform he did carry on. 

And then Remembrance Day'll only be a couple of weeks after Halloween. And that'll be another holiday won't it? he said. 


Exactly. And guess what?


Once you gets to Remembrance Day you only got about another month or so left until the Christmas holidays, don't you?


That's not too bad now is it?


I imagine Dad paused again at that point to let his wisdom sink into my little boy-brain normally concerned with things like burning stuff, hockey sticks, and collecting beer bottles on Saturday mornings. 

So that's what you gotta do. Break it down into smaller chunks. Focus on getting to the first hurdle first. Once you're past that, then worry about getting to the next one. If you treat it like a long time, it'll take forever. If you break it into smaller bits, it'll be over before you know it.  

That made sense to me, and I kept reminding myself of that during the school year. And the fall term went by quickly and was nowhere as horrible and dreadfully long as I thought it would be.

Dad's advice didn't become outdated once I finished school though. If anything it's even more relevant in the hectic, 'hurry-up-and-get-this-done-yesterday' world that most of us grapple with daily. Big complicated tasks do become simpler and manageable when we break them down into smaller pieces. Handy piece of advice to a 9 or 10 year old, don't you think?

And that's the thing about good advice, even if it is given to a kid. It'll never grow old.

Thanks Dad. Happy Father's Day.

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