Life Memories: The Dime Theory

As a trainer, the most-dreaded question is “why do I need this.”  Especially if the person signed up to take my class. I can tell you then and there, they are going to be obnoxious from here to next week.  Everyone remembers in school the question “why do I have to learn _______” whether it was math, history, a foreign language, or Shakespeare.  How many teachers had good answers?

My mother is the one who always gave me the best answers to this.  “Why do I need to learn Shakespeare, it’s sooo boring.”

“You’re learning how people interact. Shakespeare lived hundreds of years ago, but people still behave like idiots and make these types of crazy choices and look what happens.”

As the youngest of three, I had already learned the lesson that I could avoid making the same mistakes my siblings made… so the idea that even “old” books could teach me about people…. suddenly opened a world of literature up to me.   My mother did the same with other subjects as well (the rare days I asked).

This same application came to life-skills as well.  And sometime in high school my mother and I were talking about skills and I complained how I seemed to “get it” yesterday but not today. I managed it all yesterday, but today… it was like I couldn’t keep my life together and everything was spiraling out of control.

“You dropped a dime,” my mother said.


“Ok, skills are like dimes.  You need to do all these ten things today – you need these ten dimes to accomplish them.  One for showering, one for cooking breakfast, one for homework… got it?”

“Yeah, ok.”

“Well, you have to hold all these dimes in your hand at the same time and then at the right moment use your other hand and pluck out the dime you need.  Sometimes you have too many dimes, or your finger gets in the way, or you are also walking on a tightrope and loosing your balance… and you drop a dime. Maybe that was the homework dime. Or the how-to-keep-temper-in-check dime.”

“And that’s ok?”

“No. But it happens. As you get older, you have to try to keep more and more dimes in your hand, and they are everything from finding the right thing to say to reading to making dinner. Part of growing up is learning to hold more dimes. And good parents help you learn how to hold more dimes. You are going to spend your life trying to pick up new dimes and add them.  The trick is to realize when one of them is falling out of your hand and try to catch it.  If you can get really good at it, you’ll catch the dime before anyone else realizes you dropped it.”

When I graduated from college, my mom gave me a little round frame with a dime glued to some felt backing. Most people thought it was the weirdest present ever. But to me, she was saying how proud she was that I had those dimes.

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