There is no such thing as good or bad

You may think success means that you have to drive a certain car, buy a certain house, wear certain clothes or consume whatever material goods the media is selling you at a particular point in time. The moment you subscribe to such notions, you internalise somebody else’s notion of what happiness or success means. You internalise some marketing person’s definition of who you are.

Young people are tortured endlessly by advertising. They’re sold promises that people will like them or find them more attractive if they buy certain products. I remember being at school, we are talking over 40 years ago now, and being heavily criticised because I chose to wear Amco jeans instead of Levis! That’s the power of advertising. I’m sure you can think of similar examples from your childhood.

One of the interesting phases of human development is the transition from childhood to adulthood. As a toddler, there is only one person in the world and that person is their mother. As the child grows, their perception increases to include dad and as they develop further, other members of the family are included. Around puberty, this arrangement flips on its head for the teenager as other people and things become more important than parents and family. Hormones are clearly a factor, but at the end of the day, it is the peers of the teenager that will become their sexual mates and their hunting party. Therefore, where they fit within the hierarchy of society among their peers will determine every action that they take from that point on. When you look at it this way, it becomes obvious that they must rebel against the family in order to determine exactly where they fit within society.

As parents, you can make that process simple or you can make it torture. Each generation has its own river that they need to evolve into. When I was at school, the most rebellious thing was a bit of tobacco. Today they are dealing with all sorts of things. School kids of 13 and 14 in today’s society will know more about sex than prostitutes of 60 years ago! They are exposed to more things of an erotic nature than at any other point in history. That is the river that kids have to navigate today. As parents, you really need to respect and accept the river that your kids are falling into as they mature. It is not right or wrong and it has its own benefits and disadvantages.

Today’s river is completely different from the river that you looked into as a kid. When you were a kid, before all of this mass media and technology, what was the scope of your penetration into the world? What did your world consist of? Playing outside with friends, riding your bike? What were you doing at the weekend? Today’s kids are faced with a barrage of information and are living in all corners of the world through the technology that is available today.

The fact that all of that information is pouring into young nervous systems that are not fully developed and they are handling it is nothing short of spectacular. I expect, therefore, that there will be a number of behavioural issues that are directly associated with this volume of information. If you put a loaded gun into the hands of a child with the hammer back, it will go bang. I am not saying that there will not be casualties or that there will not be brilliant things that emerge from this generation because there will be. Every generation produces casualties and every generation produces brilliance.

I watched a program about a group of children that were taken to England to learn how to operate Wellington bombers. The kids chosen for the documentary were the grandchildren of people who had done this themselves during the Second World War and were at the same age that their grandparents were when they went through the same process. The kids really struggled to hit the targets and there was no one shooting back at them. Yet back during the war, the kids did it. For the kids in the show, there was a sudden realisation of what their grandparents had gone through to allow them to exist. It was a real awakening.

I am always thankful for the people that have gone before, even if they have made mistakes. You are here because of all of the events that have occurred in the past. Good, bad or indifferent.

Was Adolf Hitler a good or bad person? The fact is. that without him certain technological advancements would never have occurred. The Boeing Corporation was put on the map specifically because of the Second World War. Computing systems were specifically developed for one purpose, to break the German coding systems. That event propelled all computer technology maybe 100 years into the future. The Motorola Company sold walkie talkies to the US government. Motorola chips were the first chips to be used in all mobile communications devices which set the standards for mobile phones. Penicillin was pushed forward in leaps and bounds because of the Second World War.

You must understand that events are neither good nor bad. They have consequences; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. But you may not know the consequences for many years after the event itself because none of us can account for the price at the point in time when the event is occurring.

This charming story of two neighbouring farmers illustrates the point very well. One of the farmers was a widow who had a son and a horse. The father and son used to plough the fields with the horse. One evening, a herd of wild horses appeared from nowhere, causing the mare to break free and run off with them. The neighbour leaned over the fence and said, “Bad news about your horse running away. You guys are going to have to plough the fields by hand.” The farmer replied, “It may be good or it may be bad. I don’t know”.

About a week later, the mare, being the dominant female in the group, came back with the entire herd of wild horses. The old guy from next door leaned over the fence and said, “Good deal you have got with all those new horses.” The farmer replied, “It may be good, it may be bad. I don’t know”.

A couple of weeks later, the farmer’s son had an idea to break in some of the wild horses and sell them to make some money. The young boy fell off one of the horses and broke his leg in the process. The old guy from next door leaned over the fence and said, “Shame about your son’s leg.” The farmer’s reply? “It may be good, it may be bad. I don’t know”.

The neighbour was by this point thinking the farmer must be a bit crazy. A couple of weeks later, however, the army came to town looking to conscript young men. The young boy could not go because he had a broken leg. Maybe good, maybe bad. You cannot garner the full consequence of an event at the time the event is occurring.

I once asked an electrical engineer how you could tell if a battery was good or not. He told me the process of checking it. He said that basically, you put it into a testing unit where you discharge it through meters and record the voltage being pushed out by the battery over a period of time. You can then see how long it lasts and when it collapses. I said, “Yes, but by that time, the battery is dead!” To which he replied, “Yes, you acknowledge that it was a good battery and throw it away.” You only know if a battery was any good AFTER it has lived. You cannot tell during the process.

So let’s be careful when we look at the world as good or bad. You can become imprisoned inside this concept and it locks you into a mindset of fear that can be avoided.

There is really no such thing as good or bad, only the consequences that come from a choice. Teach your children this and you will teach them how to be at cause, the most empowered position to be in when you play the game of life.

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