I have gathered several pages of the research I have done about what the leading experts have to say about our nation’s youth, their education and what is lacking from it. The things that are most lacking are what I like to call life-skills. They are the skills we need to function successfully in society. These skills aren’t the math, science, history and language taught in school. Those aren’t skills at all, but they are knowledge areas that we can leverage using our skills. Knowledge areas are things we can learn about, but life skills are thing we can learn to do. Life skills are applicable no matter you choose as a career path and are the tools that kids need to work through their personal challenges.
For our youth these challenges are usually either academic or social, but could also include sports and hobbies. As parents we have the challenge of watching our children struggle with homework, or trying to fit in at school, or maybe even trying to fit in at home. Maybe they procrastinate with their homework because they have a problem with attention. Attention problems can be truly painful. Although it’s not the same kind of pain as physical pain, it is akin to holding your hand too close to a fire and trying to hold it there. You have the need and instinct to pull your hand away, and it’s just as hard for those with attention deficit problems to stay focused on something relatively disinteresting to them. Look at the signs, the fidgeting the leg bouncing, constant shifting of position, the need to pee…ANYTHING to save one self from another minute of the dreary home work. Those are the same responses to real physical pain.
For adults, maybe it’s focusing on finishing the sales presentation due in the morning, or paying attention during a large and way too long meeting. Whether is struggling through homework, or the board meeting, it’s the very same challenge, and that’s why it important to learn these life skills early whatever the challenge is, whether it’s attention based challenges, difficulty of the assignment, or getting along with and being part of a team. It doesn’t matter what the challenge is, having a strong set of core life skills will help our youth all the way through adulthood succeed in life no matter which knowledge area they have chosen for their career.
The real secret of course is to find something you love and are passionate about. Then these challenges seem to melt away, however our kids don’t have that choice while in school, and college or university, and if we end up in a career in which we are good at but not necessarily passionate about, we may face these challenges for our adult lives. Our kids need to learn to succeed thru their own self esteem, grit, tenacity, and optimism.
Today, I’d like to discuss that optimism and what it means. This isn’t the kind of optimism that means you have a great outlook on life, although that certainly is a part of it. The kind of optimism I am talking about I like to call functional optimism. Functional optimism is what allows a person to approach a challenge rather than run from it. It is a combination of grit and self esteem, but it’s also more than that. It is how we approach a challenge. People who have a functional optimism approach challenges as gateways to success and see the positive outcomes of properly facing life’s challenges. Regardless of the result, each challenge we face makes us stronger, more resilient, and more ready to face the next challenge. Optimists see the benefits of putting effort into the challenges set before them, and working through the choices of which challenges to face. People without optimism become victims and view challenges as preventative obstacles rather than as gateways to success, they get stuck never finishing what they aimed to accomplish, they let their mountain of unfinished homework grow and grow and break down with anxiety when their parents make them sit down to work through it, and they become functionally paralyzed and unable to make a decision, get through their task, or get themselves up to go to work. If we face our challenges, whether we get what we wanted, we take something away from each of life’s challenges whether that’s new knowledge, experience or perhaps just more grit and readiness for the next. That is why a functioning optimism is so key to a person’s success. Functioning optimism means the difference between being a leader and a do-er or being a victim.
Optimism comes from both nature as well as nurture. We are all born with a greater or lesser baseline tendency to be an optimist, but our experiences as young people and young adults can affect our optimism. Through guiding our kids successfully through progressive challenges our kids start to develop and grow their optimism and ability to show their grit when tackling even tough challenges that require more than just a little effort. While continually allowing our children to fail time and time again, including the simple failure to just go do something, increases the chances that our children will continue to give up when they really need to step up.
At American Seafarers, we believe that a sailing ship is a perfect platform for working with youth to introduce them to small challenges at first and progress through new tasks and team dynamics to keep that optimism expressed thru each other their individual contributions and the greater outcome of the team bringing us from one awesome place to the next to enjoy our summer that wasn’t handed to us, but a real summer expedition that was created by us.
It takes a lot of sail a boat. Each small task is easy, but it’s a gathering of skills that allows a person and team to operate a vessel from launch to voyage to docking. We may start one person with manning the helm, first by reading and discussing a little theory then practice while underway and reinforcing with some follow-up discussion. Then we move on to learning how to keep the boat going straight ahead despite wind and waves. When they see that wasn’t so hard to learn, we move on to tacking into the wind to continue moving towards an upwind destination, and continue through tougher and and more complex tasks while continuing to reinforce older individual skills learned until we get to things like docking practice.
Try to show someone to dock before learning the other necessary skills and we show them they’ll fail. Working through each task and skill and building their optimism at each step, our young person will have the esteem to keep working at it, even when we get to docking and we bump the dock a little harder than we really wanted too, it will be OK, because we had the opportunity to learn from it. After six weeks of progressive challenges and successes, and being an active part of the team that made the six weeks of voyaging, exploring and vacationing a major success your kids will come home true and experienced sailors, capable of sailing large sailboats, as well as leaders and community organizers, and have that optimism to continue tackling personal challenges through the school year and throughout their lives.
The six weeks spent with American Seafarers will be a summer that is never forgotten and one that leaves a positive lifelong impact to your kid’s self esteem, optimism and grit.
I figured you’ve seen enough afternoon and sunset pictures. When I came into work is was just a few minutes before dead low tide, so you can see under the docks and where the sea walls have pulled away over the decades.
I find it very interesting to see what the tide brings in and deposits the stuff that gets trapped when the tide changes.
In the following pictures is the underside of a larger dock where boats up to 100 tons get hauled out, it’s hard to tell the scale, but you could kayak under there if you wanted to. I bet there are some good fish in there.
Next you can see the public water access for dropping smaller tailered boats. I wouldn’t want to drop or pickup anything larger than a small skiff, and I personally haven’t seen anyone use it yet. There are other, more easily accessed ramps not too far off that can handle larger boats and trailers.
Finally, below are some poor pictures of some Moss Bunker aka Menhaden that have been swimming around here all summer. The are pressed up against the surface of the water by schoolie stripers below them which stun the bunker with their tails before swallowing them whole.
I show these things, because it’s not something you see every day. American Seafarers wants to promote youth exploration of the coast, and we don’t have to go very far to explore. Just being here at low tide to see things that are normally hidden is really interesting. It’s not exotic and it’s not something I want to spend days looking at, but having the chance to just look and see what it’s all about before moving on is really neat. This is the sense of exploration we want to promote, and show the kids that life doesn’t have to be mundane, that we can be excellent by looking for what not always in plain view. It give everyone something to look forward to knowing that even right here where I work every weekend, there is always something new to see and new people to meet.
The largest evacuation by boat in recorded history. Narrated by tom hanks.
So Elyse and I took to kids to go see the USS Ramage that is docked at Ft. Trumbull in New London. Unfortunately we should have camped out over night to get in line this morning. The line to get in approximated a quarter of a mile long, and the wait was something like 5 hours. We couldn’t ask the kids to wait in line for so long, so we changed plans and went to get a late lunch instead.
Elyse managed take a few pictures from from the other neighboring pier, while I managed to forget to take any.
For lunch we went to Castello’s in Niantic. It’s a relatively new restaurant, and it’s rather fantastic. It’s an Italian restaurant like many others, but has its own interpretation of the standard Italian fare. Everything is so very fresh, and it’s really hard to stop yourself from eating everything put in front of you. It’s on the corner of pattagansett and hope st., across from the school. Now I am letting it all settle before I have to hop in the car and drive to DC later tonight.
These last several weeks have been a lot of fun running the Essex island ferry. I have made some great friends of the regular Marina guests. However, these last two evening have been especially fun. I had an amazing time visiting and chatting with some very cool people off of some very large yachts, both crew and owners. It was a gathering of a yacht club from elsewhere not too far off, but the members and their crew were all very nice and very personable. Three people of note I think I made a great personal connection with, it’s to my disappointment that we couldn’t spend more time just chatting, but they weren’t here to see me. They had their own things to do. To John and Howard, cheers, glad to have met. And the fellow from Dallas, man you are a hoot…I hope we get a chance to cross path’s again and not too far in the future. Maybe next time any of you are in the area, I can show you some of the places I like to go and visit for a good meal and fun.