I suppose I began telling stories out of necessity rather than pleasure – I had to “come clean” to my parents whenever I got into trouble as a kid (which happened pretty often). In fact, my four brothers and I talked ourselves out of as much trouble as we got into (again, a lot). You actually have to be pretty creative to explain why the car got totaled – 10 miles away from home when you were only supposed to drive “to the corner, nowhere else or your father is going to beat the living crap out of you.” Anyway…
The love of reading had a lot to do with me wanting to tell stories, too. I tell students and parents that I’d dive into stories headfirst, the way a kid cannonballs into a lake on the first day of summer vacation. Books are the modern day teleport, capable of beaming us anywhere. Books allowed this kid from West Texas to go to outer space, become a sea captain or float down the Mississippi River with his best friend. I explain to them that at some point, I too, wanted to take people on similar journeys.
But I couldn’t do it alone.
In this third installment of the Three Rules To Happiness, we see how each rule plays off of each other. Rule #1, Be Better Than Good, calls for us to be better than average. It allows us to raise the bar, not just for students, but also for all of us. It’s an attitude adjustment. We should strive to be better than good in everything we do.
Rule #2 is about dreams – specifically it’s about understanding the difference between dreams and fantasy. Always work hard to follow your dreams. Don’t be the person that waits for their dreams to come true or for that door of opportunity to open. Be the one that kicks open the door. As I said last week, not working hard for the dream is like wishing you won the lottery but never bothered to buy the ticket. It’s hard to win if you don’t put yourself in the game. Dreams are more prone to come true if you’re willing to put seriously hard work behind them.
And that leads us to Rule #3:
Always be willing to help other people with their dreams (you never know when you’ll need help with yours).
Look, I’ll be honest; if you were to ask me to draw a circle it’s going to look like a potato. There’s no way my books get published without the help of talented illustrators willing to adopt my projects as if they were their own and make the words come to life. In other words, my dream of telling stories, taking people on journeys, doesn’t happen with their help. They helped foster my dream. And in the cases of two of the illustrators I’ve worked with, I helped foster their dreams, as I provided them with their first book illustration gigs.
In short, we can’t achieve our dreams by ourselves. We can’t go through this world alone. We need help. We need people to bounce ideas off of, people that are willing to listen and support us.
So how does this translate in the lives of our students? Well, if we all have a dream, how terrible would it make us feel if people laughed at our dreams?
“We’d give up and settle for less,” one student replied.
Think about that for a moment. What if we all got used to settling for less? Where would we be; where would our communities be like if this was a common way of thinking?
The simple truth is that when we put someone down or make fun of their goals, we’re really bullying them. We don’t let them grow. Out in the “Real World” there are people that do this all the time to other people, either because they’re jealous or insecure (or both). How refreshing is it when you come across someone who is always there to help, always giving you good advice and offering support – even it’s to just listen.
Helping others achieve their dreams helps us grow as people; it’s an obstacle that jealous and insecure people can’t quite jump over.
Putting it all together
It’s a three-step cycle, these three rules. When we’re better than good, we make sure that we’re putting forth a better than good effort when working hard for our dreams. But rarely can we achieve our dreams by ourselves. That’s why it’s important to help foster the dreams of other people (because we never know when we’ll need help achieving our own dreams).
But it all starts with being better than good – to each other.
Phillip D. Cortez has published 3 children’s books. His latest, Summer Son, will be published by Floricanto Press in 2016. Reach him @phillipdcortez