Don Shomette

People are the Prize

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.


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…

Author: Don Shomette

Don Shomette is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and owner of People are the Prize, a violence prevention company that helps people to prevent and survive a school attack. He has spent a lifetime working with police officers and principals and is consistently evaluated by those who attend his trainings as one of the best instructors ever. Don challenges, entertains, and helps school personnel to think of preventing violence in a new and positive way.

4 thoughts on “What I learned About Young People From Homemade Cherry Cheesecake

  1. Love this, Don!!

  2. Happy Birthday and lots of love from Kentucky! Really liked this post….Go Noah!

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