Teach Them About This Choice

Michael Lewis tells the story of a coach named Jack Kenney who changed his life. One morning at an overnight tennis camp, all the campers stormed the dining hall to try to get their favorite box of cereal. The options ranged from Froot Loops every kid likes to the dark bran stuff no kid likes.

So after the pushing and elbowing, there were winners and losers, happy and unhappy campers. Then there was a lecture from Kenney:

“You don’t realize it, but you have a choice. You can be a giver or you can be a taker…You make that choice every day. You make that choice at breakfast when you rush to grab the cereal you want so others can’t have what they want.”

From then on, Lewis and his friends began to categorize the world not into winners and losers, but givers and takers. And, Lewis would say, “there was not a shred of doubt that everyone felt happier for it.”

Of course they did. As we’ve talked about, the Stoic philosophers talked about how our chief task in life is distinguishing between what you can and can’t control. And that we always have the choice, have the ability to control, what kind of person we are. People who only focus on what they can control are much happier than those battling against what they can’t control. Being a winner or a loser is often out of our control. But being a giver or a taker? That’s a choice.

This is a great lesson to teach your kids. Teach them to choose to be a giver. Teach them that they’ll be happier for it.

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