The Best Lesson That Dr. Seuss Taught Us: Stay Out of the Waiting Place

Stay out of the waiting place!

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Steve Jobs

There are moments of decision in our lives where it is easy to make a popular choice. Some of these are trivial (i.e. what do you want to eat when out with a group of friends) but others are important. Maybe it is choosing a college. Are you choosing the college because of what everyone else says or what you want? Maybe it is choosing a career path, or significant other, or how you spend your free time. In all of these choices there is what your friends are doing, what your family expects you to do, and what society believes is the right thing to do. Then, deep down inside, there is what YOU want to do. Most of the time, it may be difficult to uncover. It may feel unnatural to unleash your true passions.

Passion and Curiosity

Amber Rae talks about finding and accepting her true passion in her article “8 Signs You’ve Found Your Life’s Work”:

Though I’ve known for many years that my purpose is to unlock human potential, it took me some time to fully embrace my intuition, to figure out how to actualize this vision, and to build the courage to lean into my fears.

For me, courage and curiosity go hand-in-hand. They are both covered by our fears. If being courageous was the popular and easy choice then we would all do it, but it’s not. We respect courage because it is hard to do. The same goes for being curious and having ideas and passions that aren’t always the popular choice.

Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The truth is we all have the ability to be courageous, but for me I lived most of my teen years and college life closed to the possibility. I needed to open myself back up to curiosity in order to see new possibilities. That’s when I decided to become a teacher. My friends were in business, accounting, and other degree programs that led to careers with money…which was the path I had planned on traveling. Until I realized it wouldn’t make me happy, and wouldn’t be fulfilling. Education was it for me. When I finally made that choice the world opened up.

Here are some other moments of curiosity I’ve had since then (and they’ve all changed my life in one way or another):

– wondering what it would be like to marry my high school sweetheart

– going for more job interviews after I had already been offered a teaching job

– publishing an ebook with no real reason other than I wanted to do it

– enrolling my students in our first flat classroom project

– spending time looking for a master’s program in global and international education

– learning html, css, and the basics of web design

– searching through adoption options with my wife that led to an amazing journey with our son

– getting a coaching job I had no business applying for

– emailing a programmer that led to a failed startup (Colllabo) but also this blog

Stay Out Of the Waiting Place

The list could go on. If I had never allowed myself to be curious then I would never have had these amazing experiences and opportunities. One can go through life waiting for opportunities to come their way…but chances are slim unless you go out and grab them yourself. Now I try to live my life looking for opportunities and giving myself time to be curious.

My 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son are incredibly curious. Sadly, that curiosity fades away sometimes as we get older. As I was reading, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” to them, I was struck again by Dr. Seuss’s words and view on life.

Sure, he wrote “kids books”, but I never doubt for a moment the lessons his books can teach us adults as well. Dr. Seuss urges kids (and all of us) to stay out of the waiting place…

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

-Dr. Suess “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

As a teacher when I gave my students the freedom to be creative and curious I was consistently surprised by their reactions. What truly got me was how difficult a time many of my students had coming up with something to do…when given the freedom to choose their learning activity. They were so used to receiving and completing tasks that it never occurred to them what they would do with their own time.

Our job as educators can be boiled down to one statement: Help kids achieve and succeed in school and life.

Yes, there are a whole host of other responsibilities that come with being a teacher (just like being a parent). But a big part of our work is allowing students to find out what they want to be successful at, and what goals they have for themselves.

The best way to teach this is to model it ourselves to students, friends, parents, and anyone we meet. Don’t let the youth of the world stay in that waiting place. Don’t let yourself stay in that waiting place. Be curious. Be courageous.

Thanks for the reminder Dr. Seuss.

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