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December 26, 2005

Tools for the Future

Many people define a good investment as something that provides a good return after some period of time. It implies that we have to put something into it and we get something more valuable in return. The problem with investments are this: We cannot control the future. It happens. We happen. We can make plans and there are some predictable results if all things go according to plan. For instance, we can invest money in the bank and earn interest on that money. It's a predictable, published amount that we can count on to give us a return on our investment after a specific amount of time. That is if we are alive to collect the return on investment or that we don't have to spend the money to pay our bills. Savings have a habit of disappearing when we are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and that's the way life is sometimes. Emergencies happen and life is unpredictable sometimes. But we can predict logically what the most likely outcomes will be given our current thoghts and actions.
I like Idea of investing in people. What does that mean to me? I like teaching people things they can do for themselves. I like giving people skills they can use for their own benefit and that they can use to benefit others. There is a huge multiplying effect of investing in people. For example, the beautiful old Ukranian woman that I took Russian language classes from believed in investing in people. Svetlana taught Russian and Ukranian to hundreds of people in the Twin Cities. One day a long time ago we were sitting in class and she mentioned the traditional Ukranian artform of Pysanki. Ukranian Easter Eggs are made by a wax-resist dye method of applying wax in layers and successive dying in different colors of dyes. Then at the end, the wax is removed to reveal the beautiful image on the egg. We were amazed at the beauty of these eggs and she offered to teach us in her home. She was making an investment in us students, from one artist to many artists. The investment was not lost on me. I have produced hundreds of beautiful eggs over the past 5 or so years of doing it. Though she may not realize the return on her investment, it's happening in me. I am carrying on a 2000 plus year tradition, in the traditional way using traditional tools and methods and designs. And they are beautiful! I am creating beautiful things. She didn't try to hide her skills and techniques from others to make more money for herself, she invested her gifts and talents in other human beings. I am truly thankful for Svetlana. Her investment in me has changed me forever. When we took the class from her we paid her a small amount for the class, which barely even helped pay her living expenses and was affordable for a starving student to take. When we take classes we are investing in ourselves. We hope there is a dividend in the future. We don't know what the future holds but there are some predictable results based on what we do know about education. Education when applied can be wisdom. It can have measurable and amazing return on investment. If I took a class on making Pysanki and never made any after the class was over, I would lose the skill and not produce results. Education builds on itself through experience and makes the education more valuable. In a sense it changes us and therefore changes the world. I like investing in other people. I taught computer classes and art workshops and was a scout leader for 7 years. I loved teaching young boys how to survive in the woods and be self-sufficient, how to climb the tower, shoot, make projects, tie knots, build self-confidence and so on. With almost all of these boys, I will never see the results of my investment. But just as something has been invested in me and I applied it to my life, there will be a return on my investments in them.
Teaching people how to fix bikes for themselves is a natural fit for this kind of philosophy in life. What a better way to use our gifts and talents than teach someone else how to use theirs and be able to do for themselves what they previously had to rely on others for? One artist becomes ten! Ten pieces of art become hundreds!
Today I went to the Ukrainian Gift Shop and invested in another kind of tool. I bought an electric Kistka with interchangeable tips to draw wax onto the eggs. This should save me considerable time and reduce the risk of 'blobbing' of the wax on the egg. I'm excited to use it. The tool is locally produced by an experienced egg decorator and gives me a wider range of tip sizes than I currently have (5 instead of 3). This kind of investment is a tool for the future also. It is a tool to create with. Just as a carpenter needs a hammer to build, an egg decorator needs a tool to draw the wax onto the egg. For wood carving I have knives and gouges and a special jig for the table-top. Today I invested in a tool to create eggs faster and more detailed and beautiful. Now I have to apply that tool to create something beautiful or it's a wasted investment. I am expected to use these tools or lose the investment in myself by Svetlana and by my own practice. It is up to us to find a use for the investments made in us that return a positive result. We definately cannot control what others do with their gifts, talents and resources, but we can choose what we create. I am excited to use my new tools. I am working on displaying these beautiful eggs in a local coffee shop downtown in February or March, so I have to get busy now!
Today on a related topic, It dawned on me that my language learning is the same. Teachers have made an investment for the future of their own language in me. There will be a return on their investment though they do not know what it will be and they may never see it. I have made a considerable investment in the future by applying myself to learning. It would be a shame to waste that investment and not use it. Use of those language skills is a high form of compliment. There are other human investments that we cannot measure with tangible results. If I even read one story that was written in German, Russian or Korean, in the author's native thoughts and language, and understood it, then I have already provided a return on the investment. How do you measure that? It's beautiful though. Today I ran into Doug at the coffee shop, who is in his 40's and studying Japanese. He inspired me to pick up my learning tools and start again. Today we excitedly talked about all the similarities between the Japanese and Korean languages. It was totally motivating and engaging. Spending time together talking about learning languages was also an investment in each other and a forming relationship. His enthusiasm for studying Japanese and encouraging me to pick up my studies again is an investment. This is investing in people. There are predictable results based on current actions and attitudes and I like the results I see. We all can make a difference in this world. Every one of us can make a difference by investing in others and ourselves as human beings.

Posted by carl1236 at December 26, 2005 6:40 PM | Attitude