Yes, we should encourage our kids to take risks. Of course
I don't mean foolish or dangerous risks, but those that will help them succeed in life. In our contemporary world, it's the
risk-takers who will succeed. Too many kids feel entitled, have been pampered or helicoptered, and the idea of taking a risk
is completely foreign to them. Thomas Edison is a perfect example of a man who not only took risks, but also didn't allow
failures to deter his determination.
not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work ~ Thomas A. Edison Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The
most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time ~ Thomas A. Edison Many of life's failures are people
who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up ~ Thomas A. Edison
In essence, I'm equating success with taking risks. And, I'll back it up with several
examples in my own life. I would define my life as a combination of passion, perseverance, and risk-taking. Within that definition,
there were plenty of misses and failures. If I allowed those failures to either define or discourage me, I'd not be writing
this column right now.
Let's be clear on what
I am calling a risk. I do not mean jumping out of a plane with a parachute, skiing over a cliff that appears not to have a
landing clearly in sight, or bungee jumping a deep cavern or high bridge. Those certainly have their place, and in fact, I've
taken my share of that kind of physical risk though I think with care, thought, and preparation. The risks I'm referencing
are those that involve putting yourself out there, taking a chance on rejection whether personal or professional, and maybe
venturing outside your comfort zone.
family example is what my older son, Arnie, did when he was sixteen. It has become - in so many ways - the defining moment
of his life, so far.
My son found his passion
in music. I did everything in my power to steer him toward sports but upon giving him an electric guitar when he graduated
elementary school, it was clear where his future was heading. He took to it like the proverbial bee to honey. I recognized
that passion as the same I had for tennis, which was my first big life passion. And, wisely, I let go of my hopes for a future
NBA or baseball hall-of-famer.
his music tastes ventured all over the music landscape. But, a singular hero for him was Chris Cornell, who was part of two
major rock ‘n' roll groups, AudioSlave and Soundgarden. He is a premier rock guitarist and vocalist. . My son literally
knew how to play every song of his. I supported my son's love of music by first taking him to concerts of the greats of rock
such as Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen. As his own tastes developed, he would "take" me to his favorites such
as Green Day and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
time, we attended dozens of concerts including twice going to the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco. I came along
both times and I was the old man on the festival grounds. He also got to see his idol, Chris Cornell, a couple of times at
smaller music events.
When he learned that
Chris Cornell was going to give an acoustic performance for a charity, he begged to attend. It was expensive, but I knew it
would mean the world to him. So, I sprung for two tickets. He was now just sixteen, with a girlfriend, and this was clearly
a time that dad was not needed or wanted as a chaperone. I was simply the driver.
That day, at school, he exclaimed to all his friends that he was going to jam with Chris
Cornell at this show, where it was a small venue and he expressed this with unwavering conviction. His friends indulged his
claim with good humor and considerable skepticism, as did I.
Given that it was an acoustic concert at The Roxy, where attendance was limited to 300 or so standing-room
only fans, Arnie was able to get a prime position near the stage. Cornell was performing with an acoustic guitar and a cello
as his only back up.
Much as Eric Claption
did in his first unplugged concert, Cornell did his heavy rock music in a passionate but slower style. Also, given the nature
of this concert, there were short, quiet breaks between songs. During one of those breaks, as recounted to me, the following
dialogue took place between Arnie, Cornell, and the audience:
Arnie: Hey Chris, can I ask you a question? Note: At the time, Arnie had very long red-hair and stood
6'2". Cornell (looking a bit confused): Yeah kid, what is it? Arnie: It's been my lifetime dream to jam with
you! Cornell (more confused): Oh, what instrument do you play? Arnie: I've played guitar since 6th grade! Audience
(getting into it): Let him. Let him! Arnie's Girlfriend: He can do it! Cornell: What song would you like to play? Arnie: Fell on Black Days Cornell: Heck, that's our next song. Audience (louder now): Let him. LET HIM! Cornell
(looking around, a bit bewildered): Okay, what the heck. Audience (shouting): YEAH!
Arnie heads to the stage
where Cornell helps him up. He whispers in Arnie's ear, "What's your name kid," to which Arnie answers. Cornell
takes off his guitar from around his neck and hands it to Arnie. Cornell pulls a chair up and motions to Arnie to sit in it
while asking someone backstage to bring him another guitar. An electric guitar is brought out. Cornell checks the tuning,
looks at Arnie and they exchange that Are-You-Ready look between musicians and then Cornell launches into the nearly seven-minutes
Arnie matches Cornell note-for-note,
including the somewhat complicated solo, which you can see in the YouTube video that we fortunately got from another spectator.
The audience is whooping it up and some are shouting to Arnie's girlfriend, "This was a set-up, wasn't it?" because
they played so well together.
When the song
ends, Cornell gives Arnie a bemused expressed and says in the mike something to the effect, "Not bad. Not bad at all."
Throughout the song, the expression on Arnie's face was one of
unmitigated joy - an expression I hadn't really seen since he'd become a teen.
The YouTube (http://ow.ly/jKPGw) of that performance, in my opinion, was one of the factors
that contributed to Arnie's acceptance at The Berklee College of Music in Boston, given he had poor grades and didn't even
take the SAT. By then, Arnie's primary instrument was drums so he had auditioned at Berklee on drums.
How many young kids would take that risk? And, really, what did
he have to lose?
I had a 25-year career in
showbiz that was defined by taking such risks. I brought a baby black-spotted leopard to a series pitch about a wild animal
vet. I brought two WWF famous-at-the-time wrestlers to another series pitch that involved the participation of wrestlers.
They came in full regalia. In recent times, I walked up to Guy Kawasaki at a conference and asked him to be a guest on #DadChat
after he'd just given a keynote speech. He said, "Yes" (Note: He's coming back to #DadChat on April 25).
Had I held back out of fear or embarrassment, where would my
life be? Had Arnie not gone for it at that concert, where would his life be now as he's finishing his freshman year at Berklee?
Taking risks can be a good thing. Teach your kids to go for it.
Teach them the when and when-it's-not boundaries and perhaps model some risk-taking yourself since our kids learn so much
from what we parents do. Mostly, don't be afraid. Don't let them be afraid.