Maybe It’s The Secret Ingredient

The joy of middle school might lie somewhere between the craziness that comes with the onset of puberty and hormones that turn half or more of the kids into crazy people who don’t know if they are coming or going.

Add in interactions with other students, teachers, parents, homework and life in general and things get even more interesting.

The middle schooler in this house once asked me if I could help him navigate things better by providing him with a secret ingredient he could use to make life easier.


I paraphrased the Mark Twain quote above and told him people always remember how you make them feel and said if he could figure out how to make people feel valued and wanted it would go a long way.

And then he asked how to do it and I told him if figured out the secret ingredient for doing that he’d be able to make billions.

Charisma is a funny thing, it is that indescribable something or other that let’s some people belch in the cafeteria and be applauded while others are met with scorn.

Mind you I didn’t suggest he try that route or be the class clown either.

What Is The Alternative?

That apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because he didn’t walk away and figure there was only one way of doing things, nope, he asked for an alternative.

I told him to be himself and to ignore the people that try to knock him down. It is smarter and easier than being someone you are not, but it doesn’t mean you don’t get upset or messed with.

From my high level view it seems like he has had the usual middle school experience with the standard ups and downs.

I’ll concede that though I sound blase about it I hate hearing about kids messing with him. But you don’t get far in life without learning how to deal with people and this should help him or at least that is the theory.


I once unsuccessfully tried to convince a college professor that the problem wasn’t with the paper I submitted, it was with his lack of understanding of the angle I had approached it.

He smiled and suggested I come up with a different argument and I pointed out how I had answered the question and he had missed it.

Instead of smiling he got icy and the 19 year-old I was learned how sometimes you can be right and still be wrong.

Don’t ask me to tell you what the paper was about because I don’t remember many of the specific details other than he told me I was the worst writer he had ever read.

I still managed to get an ‘A’ but I made certain to never take him for a class again.

Somewhere during that semester I came upon the Emerson quote above and that too has stuck with me.

The Quest For Greatness

It is fair to say I won’t be listed among the great pro athletes but my quest for greatness isn’t limited to athletics.

With effort and luck you’ll get to hear me complain that my body doesn’t give me what it used to for the next 75 years but what means more to me is the quest to become a great writer.

One of the things I want for my children is for them to find their own quest for greatness. There are some valuable life lessons in that and the chance to touch upon opportunities you might not otherwise experience.

Perhaps the most important is to figure out what their personal definition of greatness is and to work upon meeting that.

Maybe one day my name will be added to a list like Emerson’s and maybe it won’t. Ultimately what matters most is how I feel about it.

In the interim I’ll keep searching for that secret ingredient because if I find that I can make billions selling it and then I’ll have plenty of time to do nothing but work on becoming better writer or buy my own island and enjoy drinks on the beach…

What about you? What do you think?

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