If The Only Tool You Have Is A Hammer, Then Every Problem Begins to Look Like A Nail
“You can’t change people.” That’s what my mom told me during more than a few very difficult periods of my life. Throughout my life, I’d run into people who wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do. I’d ask them to do something and they would not do it. I’d ask them to not do something and immediately, they’d do it.
I also found that when I suffered, I wanted others to suffer. I did not want others to have fun while I was suffering. I wanted to join in the fun but didn’t know how to invite myself in. I was a grumpy cat.
As a boy in school, I was teased relentlessly by some of my classmates. In response, my dad taught me to fight my adversaries rather than to make more friends. I didn’t know any better, and as far as I can tell, neither did my father, as he was the one who taught me to hit, to fight. If he knew how to make friends, I am sure he would have taught me how to make friends.
Unfortunately, friends don’t come with manuals, so I didn’t do so well learning on my own. And I had no other mentors in school to help me. I didn’t even know what a mentor was. I didn’t know I could ask for one.
I was also raised in a world of punishment and reward. A world where people more powerful than I would say, “Do what I say and I will reward you. Fail to heed my words and you will be punished.” I spent many years vacillating between punishment and reward. And no one was teaching me how to learn the skills I need to avoid the punishment and get the reward. I was expected to know all that stuff as if I was born with it.
If I got good grades, I got $5 for every A in school. If I failed to get good grades, I got grounded. I was grounded for an entire summer once. I could only do homework until it was all done. Lots and lots of math homework. My stereo and all of my albums were taken from me. I had no phone, no TV, and could not go outside to play. It was just me, an 8-track player and two tapes, ELO’s “Out of the Blue” and the soundtrack to the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and my homework for the whole summer.
Did I learn anything from that? I learned how to live in isolation. I learned how to make myself busy to avoid boredom. I spent a lot of time reading. I spent a lot of time…