by Dave Markwell

A couple of days ago, I had the privilege of speaking to some 8th graders at Pacific Middle School in Des Moines, WA. My presentation was a part of my Rotary Club’s vocational program series. I spoke about my path to business ownership and my day-to-day duties, what I like and don’t like and the importance of doing both to have a successful business.

While preparing for my chat, besides feeling that I am probably the worst example of how to get anything done, I wanted to say something more than simply discussing the pretty mundane details of my days. I wanted to leave them a little inspired and a little hopeful.

Junior high is probably the worst years in a kid’s life, at least mine were. Rife with all of the transitional challenges of growing up, these years are a boiling cauldron of fears, insecurities and uncertainties. They are miserable in ways that the kids suffering through them don’t yet understand, thankfully.

During my speech, I enthusiastically chronicled my own“road less traveled” path to today. I passionately spoke of my quest for some level of fulfillment and my need to move forward which often involved taking risks. I, as much as anything, wanted to communicate that it really doesn’t matter what anyone one does, as long as it makes them happy. Of course, I ruled out criminal and hobo as potential employment options, but it was pretty wide open from there.

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life believing it is stupid.” –Albert Einstein

I referenced this quote as a foundational principle necessary to finding a proper career path. Self-belief and trusting that little voice which knows the truth is vital to a good life. Understanding that we already have what we need to succeed is an important recognition. Some of us come to this late and some of us don’t ever come to this. As kids, it is beautiful thing to know. I wish more people knew this.

Another quote I mentioned (I use a lot of quotes, because I think they make me sound smarter than I really am) was Thomas Edison’s: “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 1,000 ways how not to build a light bulb.” I used this to illustrate that failure is important to finding success. We learn and we grow and we try again. This is life. Mistakes happen. Corrections happen. Forever this pattern continues. Being afraid of a making a mistake is perhaps the most dastardly, limiting and diabolical fear we possess. We were born to screw up. It’s what we do. So what? Get better. Be better. Learn from it. Move on.

While reflecting on the things I said to these kids and the things I didn’t say, I came to a remembered realization that life is built in a moment: a simple moment when we, as kids or grown ups, “get it”. We understand where we belong and begin our journey to getting there. My own path is worn with ruts and potholes and deep, soggy puddles of bad choices and magnificent screw ups. My life is pretty normal.

Through my mistakes, I have learned many ways how not to build a light bulb. Sometime the contrary truth is more powerful than getting it right the first time. Failing leaves an imprint that is often unforgettable, but rarely unforgivable.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

This was my last pilfered bit of insight. I don’t know who said it, but whoever it was truly is a genius to me. This is a liberating idea. It frees one to explore the infinite ways to construct a light bulb or a life and truly being alive is the best thing there is.

As my own search for illumination continues, I will keep tinkering and changing and fixing and trying, with a hope that the light will shine. This is living. And it’s good.

I’ve not failed. I’ve found 1,000 ways that won’t work.

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]


One Response to “FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: Light Bulbs.”
  1. Teryl says:

    As a proud mama of a Pacific Student I am so impressed with you taking the time to talk with the kids as a positive mentor! Thanks coach Dave!

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