Wednesday, 26 May 2004

The Black-and-White World

got this bit of gem from Robert Kiyosaki's "Rich Kid Smart Kid" ... i don't know if the story is true or not (as many people have sceptically questioned everything he's written) and it's rather long but i love how much this story strikes a chord with me on what "real intelligence" really is:

"Lessons from Mom and Dad

The number of single-parent families I see today concerns me. Having both a mom and a dad as teachers was important in my development. For example, I was bigger and heavier than most kids, and my mom was always afraid that I would use my size advantage and become a bully. So she really stressed that I develop what people today would call "my feminine side." As I said, she was a very kind, loving person, and she wanted me to also be kind and loving. And I was. One day I came home from the first grade with my report card, and on it the teacher had written, "Robert needs to learn to assert himself more. He reminds me of Ferdinand the Bull [from the story about a big bull that instead of fighting the matador sat down in the ring and smelled the flowers the fans were throwing...coincidentally one of my mom's favorite bedtime stories for me]. All the other boys pick on him and push him around, although Robert is so much bigger than they are."

When my mom read the report card, she was thrilled. When my dad came home and read the same report card, he turned into a raging bull, and not one that smelled the flowers. "What do you mean the other boys push you around? Why do you let them push you around? Are you turning into a wimp?" he said, noticing the comment about my behavior rather than my grades. When I explained to him that I was just listening to Mom's instructions, my dad turned to my mom and said, "Little boys are bullies. Learning how to deal with bullies is important for all kids to learn. If they do not learn how to deal with bullies early in life, they often grow up allowing themselves to be bullied as adults. Learning to be kind is one way of dealing with bullies, but so is pushing back, if and when kindness does not work."

Turning to me, my dad asked, 'And how do you feel when the other boys pick on you?"

Bursting into tears, I said, "I feel terrible. I feel helpless and afraid. I don't want to go to school. I want to fight back, but I also want to be a good boy and do what you and Mom want me to do. I hate being called 'fatty' and 'Dumbo' and being pushed around. What I hate most is just standing there and taking it. I do feel like I am a sissy and a wimp. Even the girls laugh at me because I just stand there and cry."

My dad turned to my mom and glared at her for a moment, letting her know that he did not like what I was learning. "So what do you want to do?" he asked.

"I'd like to hit back," I said. "I know I can beat them. They're just little punks who pick on people, and they like picking on me because I am the biggest in my class. Everyone says don't hit them because I am bigger, but I just hate standing there and taking it. I wish I could do something. They know I won't do anything, so they just keep picking on me in front of everyone else. I'd love to just grab them and punch their lights out."

"Well, don't hit them," my dad said quietly. "But you let them know in whatever way you can that you are not going to be picked on anymore. You are learning a very important lesson in self-respect right now and standing up for your rights. Just don't hit them. Use your mind to find a way to let them know that you will not be picked on anymore."

My crying stopped. I felt much better as I wiped my eyes and found some courage and self-esteem reentering my body. I was now ready to go back to school.

The next day my mom and my dad were called to my school. The teacher and the school principal were very upset. As my mom and dad entered the room, I was sitting in a chair in the corner, splattered with mud. "What happened?" my dad asked as he took his seat.

"Well, I can't say that the boys did not have it coming to them," said the teacher. "But after I wrote you the note on Robert's report card, I knew something would change."

"Did he hit them?" my dad asked with great concern.

"No, he didn't," said the principal. "I watched the whole thing. The boys began teasing him. But this time, Robert asked them to stop instead of just standing there and taking it . . . yet they continued. He patiently asked them to stop three different times, and they just taunted him more. Suddenly Robert went back into the classroom, grabbed the boys' lunch pails, and emptied them into that big mud puddle. As I rushed over from across the lawn, the boys then attacked Robert. They started hitting him, but he did not hit back."

"What did he do?" my dad asked.

"Before I could get there to break it up, Robert grabbed the two boys and pushed them into the same mud puddle. And that is how he got splattered with mud. I sent the other boys home to change their clothes because they were soaking wet."

"But I didn't hit them," I said from my corner.

My dad glared at me, put his index finger over his lips indicating that I should shut up, then turned back to the principal and teacher and said, "We will take care of this at home."

The principal and the teacher nodded their heads as the teacher said, "I'm glad I was witness to the whole event developing over the past two months. If I had not known the history leading up to the mud puddle event, I would have reprimanded only Robert. But you may rest assured that I will be having the parents and the other two boys in for counseling also. I do not condone throwing the boys and their lunches into the mud, but I hope now we will see an end to this bullying that has been going on between the boys."

The next day there was a meeting between the two boys and me. We discussed our differences and shook hands. At recess that day, other kids came up to me and shook my hand and patted me on the back. They were congratulating me for standing up to the two bullies who were also picking on them. I thanked them for their congratulations but also said to them, "You should learn to fight your own fights. If you don't, you will go through life being a coward, letting the bullies of the world push you around." My dad would have been proud hearing me repeat his original lecture to me. After that day, the first grade was much more pleasant. I had gained some valuable self-esteem, I gained respect from my class, and the prettiest girl in my class became my girlfriend. But what was more interesting was that the two bullies eventually became my friends. I learned to bring peace by being strong rather than allowing terror and fear to persist because I was weak.

Over the next week, I learned several valuable life lessons from both my mom and dad from this mud puddle incident. The mud puddle incident was a hot topic of discussion at dinner. I learned that in life there is not a right answer or a wrong answer. I learned that in life we tend to make choices, and each choice has a consequence. If we do not like our choice and consequence, then we should look for a new choice with a new consequence. From this mud puddle incident, I learned the importance of being both kind and loving from my mom and being strong and prepared to fight back from my dad. I learned that too much of one or the other, or only one and not the other, can be self-limiting. Just as too much water can drown a plant dying of thirst, we humans in our behavior can often swing too far in one direction or the other. As my dad said the night we got back from the principal's office, "Many people live in a black-and-white world or a right-and-wrong world. Many people would have advised you, 'Never push back,' and still others would have said, 'Push back.' But the key to being successful in life is this: If you must push back, you must know exactly how hard to push back. Knowing exactly how hard to push requires much more intelligence than simply saying, 'Don't push back,' or, 'Push back.'"

My dad would often say, "True intelligence is knowing what is appropriate rather than what is simply right or wrong." As a six-year-old boy, I learned from my mom that I needed to be kind and gentle...but I also learned that I could be too kind and gentle. From my dad I learned to be strong, but I also learned I need to be intelligent and appropriate with my strength. I have often said that a coin has two sides. I have never seen a one-sided coin. But all too often we forget that fact. We often think the side we are on is the only side or the right side. When we do that, we may be smart, we may know our facts, but we also may be limiting our intelligence.

One of my teachers once said, "God gave us a right foot and a left foot. God did not give us a right foot and a wrong foot. Humans make progress by first making a mistake to the right and then making a mistake to the left. People who think they must always be right are like people with only a right foot. They think they are making progress, but they usually wind up going in circles."

I think as a society we need to be more intelligent with our strengths and our weaknesses. We need to learn to operate more intelligently from our feminine side as well as our masculine side. I remember when I was angry with another guy at school back in the 1960s, we would occasionally go behind the gym and fight with our fists. After one or two punches were thrown, we would begin to wrestle and get tired, and then the fight would be over. The worst that ever happened was an occasional torn shirt or bloody nose. We often became friends after the fight was over. Today kids get angry, start thinking in the less intelligent "right and wrong" thinking, break out their guns, and shoot each other...and that goes for both boys and girls. We may be in the Information Age and kids may be more "worldly" than their parents, but we could all learn to be more intelligent with our information and our emotions. As I said, we need to learn from both our moms and our dads, because with so much more information, we need to become more intelligent."

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