Don Shomette

People are the Prize


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What I learned About Young People From Homemade Cherry Cheesecake

For my birthday, my 15 year son made two of my favorites foods from scratch. Beef Burgundy and cherry cheesecake. It was delicious and impressive all at the same time as well as instructive. Awesome people living everyday life to its fullest are some of the world’s greatest teachers.

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Here’s 3 lessons I learned from my 15 year old son.

1. Don’t sell young people short.
If I was to ask 1,000 adults, “How many 15 year old boys do you think could make a from scratch meal of Beef Burgundy and cherry cheesecake, on their own, with little or no help?”

What do you think they would say?

A few, some, none? I’m guessing that most adults would say very few could do it. And yet, the correct answer to the question is of course, “All of them.”

How do we know? Because Noah did it and what one young person can do so can another. It may be a little tougher for some and easier for others, but if Noah can do it then so can every other 15 year old boy.

This statement in no way diminishes Noah’s awesomeness. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I think he’s so awesome that he just set the bar high for the other boys (and girls) to strive. There is now, because of Noah, no reason that all 15 year old boys (and girls) could not make the same meal if they are willing to just try and….we adults are willing to just believe that they can do it.

Let homemade cherry cheesecake be a sober reminder for us adults not to sell young people too short, especially teenage boys who in my opinion are held to ridiculously low expectations outside of sports. Consider that before the age of 15, Benjamin Franklin was an ambassador to France, George Washington was the Surveyor for Virginia, and David Farragut commanded his own ship in the Caribbean Sea fighting against pirates…and he was 12 years old.

Don’t sell young people short.

2. Baby steps not always needed.
Homemade cheesecake and Beef Burgundy is not a simple meal and typically not the meal that one would recommend a young person try for his or her first meal. And yet, Noah did it.

He did it.

Conventional wisdom would have told Noah to strive for baby steps, first try making something simple like Mac & Cheese and to go from there. Start small and build up momentum. This strategy makes lots of sense in many situations, but not all. Sometimes a slow start will only lead to a slow death of motivation. Consider the person, the place, what’s being attempted, and the possible outcome. Noah is psyched about cooking and now wants to try making even more difficult meals. Very much a win-win for our family.

Do you think he would have felt the same way after making grilled cheese sandwiches?

No, of course not, but some may ask what if he would have failed? My reply would be, “So what.” Any person who has ever cooked a meal knows that failure is inevitable in the kitchen. A burned meal, overcooked pasta, watery eggs. It happens and continues to happen. Throw it out, start over, and try to smile. That’s a great lesson to teach a young person too.

Michaelangelo said that our greatest fear is not that we aim too high and miss, but that we aim too low and hit it. I know there’s risk in trying big things, but sometimes big rewards are worth more than the price of failure or worse, succeeding in mediocrity.

3. A Clean Kitchen Makes for Better Cheesecake.
After dinner was over, Noah was discussing what it was like to cook an entire meal with his mother and he commented, “It’s easier to cook in a clean kitchen.”

This may seem like a minor observation, but I consider it perhaps the most important lesson learned. In fact, as a dad I couldn’t be more thrilled. Noah attempted a big activity, one that most kids (and adults) would not be willing to try. He figured it out on his own and succeeded by following the directions and asking for help when needed. But then, when it was all over, and this is the kicker for me, he self-evaluated.

Why is this such a big thing for a dad? Mothers tend to value how much their children can love, share emotions, and be happy. Dads tend to be driven by a duty to ensure that their children can survive, thrive, and succeed in the world. Not that dads don’t want their children to love and to be happy, but we often, right or wrong, tie our self-worth to our children’s ability to make it in the world.

And Noah proved he’s got the one thing that every person must have to be successful and that’s the ability to self-evaluate—to perceive what’s happening—to discern a better way.

And I learned it, we learned it, when he made a cheesecake.

P.S. Well done, son. You’ve got it all and we’re incredibly proud of you. I’m certain that you can do it or you’ll figure out the better way.

Just keep those cheesecakes coming…


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How To Teach Our Kids to be Funny

We teach kids lots of things, but I’ve never heard anyone teach kids how to be really funny. And this is a skill that is desperately needed. Not only for their sake, but for our sake since lots of kids think they’re funny but they’re really not. If you’re not sure how to teach a lesson in humor, here’s a sure fire trick to always telling a great joke.

It’s really simple and here it goes.

It’s not a great joke if everyone can’t laugh.

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That’s right. If everyone can’t laugh it’s not a real joke. If there’s one person who found it crude, demeaning, or insulting, and they didn’t laugh, then it’s not humor and therefore by default it’s not a joke. This type of comedy, while it can get some giggles, is the lowest form of humor and is just plain lazy.

Come on, our kids can do better.

Let’s continue to encourage as well as teach excellence to our children. Excellence in academics, sports, arts, music, and telling jokes. Don’t accept anything but the best from them and be quick to tell them that if everyone is not laughing, it’s not funny.

Try again, but make it really funny.


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Thomas Edison was a Loser

A well-known person recently stated that if you’re going to take advice, only take it from someone who is exactly where you want to be and doing exactly what you hope to become. In other words, only take advice from someone who has already succeeded.

Does that mean that a freshman should refuse the advice of a sophomore simply because that person hasn’t graduated high school yet? Should we decline to listen to a financial accountant about how to become a millionaire because the person only has $650,000 in the bank? Does that mean that Thomas Edison was a loser at his 9,999 attempts to create an electric light bulb and that his advice on the subject of electricity only became valuable after he tried one more time (it took 10,000 attempts).

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This post is less about who to take advice from and more about giving advice to our kids about how to become successful.

Our kids have to know that success is not an all or nothing and a person’s worth does not suddenly appear after a certain level of success is reached. What makes people successful is a determined effort to succeed. It’s in this upward struggle that a person will learn, grow, change, and transform into the person they want to be.

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I once heard a famous motivational speaker say that he didn’t know that he had succeeded until after ten years of being successful. It just dawned on him one day after a decade of telling others how to be successful that he had finally arrived where he wanted to be.

It’s because he rightly saw success as a process, something to constantly strive to maintain and not simply a designation to reach.

We should remind our kids that success is a process and not an event.


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Two Critical Words in Helping Kids be Successful

Let’s imagine for a moment that during a conversation, a kid reveals that they have a dream of becoming a famous actress.

This is how I would respond.

I would rip out a clean sheet of paper, slide it in front of them and tell them to sign it. When they ask why they’re signing it, I’d explain that when they become world famous I’m going to sell their autograph on eBay and makes lots of money. Purely selfish reasons…

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For a few seconds I would simply enjoy that beam of happiness.

Then, I’d get to work.

I would slide another piece of paper in front of her and have her write two words on the very top in large, bold letters.

UNTIL & UNLESS

I’d explain why I chose those two words. That success is dependent on two critical elements which are 1) change and 2) sacrifice and that for our little exercise, we’re going to rename them until & unless. In other words, until you’re willing to change and unless you’re ready to sacrifice, your dream will remain a dream.

Near the top of the same piece of paper, I’d have her write this sentence.

I won’t be a famous actress UNTIL (change)

With the kid’s help, we would identify all the ‘untils’ or changes that need to happen in order to become a famous actress and I would have her list them underneath the same sentence.

For example, I won’t be a famous actress until…

…I graduate high school
…I attend drama school or college
…I get an agent

These are only a few examples and obviously some are short term and others long term. List them all and remember nothing is too impossible. In the end, you’ll know what to pitch and what to keep.

Then, we’d do the same thing with the sentence for unless.

I won’t be a famous actress UNLESS (sacrifice)…

…I put the time into really practice being an actress
…I increase my ability to remember lines by practicing
…I risk the embarrassment of failure by trying out for different parts

I would then identify in each category the priorities that must be done first in order to be successful and that’s it. All that’s left now is to feel good about yourself because with your help, a young person is on the road to success and that much closer to accomplishing their dreams.

One last point.

Most mentoring fails because the mentor tries to shape the mentoree to be just like themselves instead of helping the other person to become the best version of themselves. I’m not a fan of Hollywood or actors or actresses. In a world full of possible heroes, they’re simply not mine. To be an actor would never be a dream of mine, but that doesn’t matter. Please don’t squash a person’s dreams because it’s not your dream or is a dream that you don’t find valuable. To do so is a far greater disservice to the young person than doing nothing.

Most dreams don’t fail because of a lack of skills, they fail because of a lack of application. Your job is not to decide what they do, just to help them apply themselves to be successful.