Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Fantasy imagines success; striving asks: What do I do next?

Fantasy imagines success; striving asks: What do I do next?

The line utilized to headline this posting has been borrowed from a recent op-ed piece by William Raspberry a Washington Post syndicated columnist. It appeared in the December 27th edition of The Seattle Times and stopped me in my tracks with its own headline, “The what-next question”.

For as long as I remember, I’ve felt “driven” ever onward. In a blink, Raspberry re-framed that feeling for me by suggesting it’s a matter of striving more than being driven. Striving seems much more internally centric as opposed to being driven by an outside force as the source of one’s motivation. For that reason, striving as a means of moving forward seems inherently more positive than being driven forward. Taskmasters drive their teams forward. Leaders create within their teams the need to strive ever forward for mutual benefit. And while the crowds at any sports arena may feel they can drive or spur their team forward with their cheers, it usually comes down to the individual athlete’s desire to strive forward inch by inch toward the goal fueled by a source of personal energy that enables the progress.

With such a simple turn of phrase; striving as opposed to being driven, I read Raspberry’s piece with a new energy. He quickly sets up the view that being willing to constantly ask the “what-next question” is a source of fuel for striving ever onward. He also suggests that working to embed the question during the early education of our youth is the key to enabling whole generations to ask the question and thus continue to strive onward. Raspberry founded an organization called Baby Steps and it is in part the answer to his personal what-next question.

As Raspberry writes, “It comes down to priorities that are intensely personal: What's worth doing, and what is within my reach? …

What's worth doing? One answer is helping to save an endangered generation of children. I still believe in the magic of education, a belief instilled in me by my teacher-parents. It scares me that the parents of so many young children today don't believe in the magic. It's almost as if they are afraid to believe in it, afraid to dream of success because they've become convinced that only failure is real. They may fantasize, but they don't strive.

What's the difference? Fantasy imagines success; striving asks: What do I do next?I've taken it as my next-step project to help restore the faith that education can work wonders and to help another generation of young people learn to ask: What's next?”

As an aside and as a now fully engaged reader, I quickly e-mailed Raspberry for more details as to his Baby Steps project.

How can we spread the “what-next question” in our own lives? As a father of two teenage sons, I often wonder how and if I’m instilling in them the ability to drive (from now on I’ll substitute the word strive) toward what they want/need in life; for what will better themselves and those around them. Am I doing this job adequately? Will they have the gumption to ask “what do I do next” and then the fortitude to follow through? Time will tell of course. Until then, I appreciate Raspberry’s thought and the new lens he has given me for considering what’s next in my own life.


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