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The Celery Test

A34N46It rained this weekend.  Not surprising because I live in the Portland area, but my girls were disappointed because they had planned on biking.  Since we couldn’t do that, we decided to put together my LEGO police station.  This was one of my favorite sets from when I was a kid and includes not only the police station with a jail, but also a car, motorcycle and helicopter.  It’s great because it has a pay phone which I think is the first my girls have ever seen.

So, we are sitting on the floor putting together this set and things are a bit confusing because the directions sheet is a two sided paper the size of a small sail.  There aren’t any words – just pictures – and each picture is a bit different than the last.  The way to build is to figure out what is different and not move to the next step until the LEGO in front of you looks like the one in the picture.

My girls were doing great except for one major LEGO blunder.  The Lego pieces they were working on would face any direction they fancied and rarely lined up with the one in the directions.  This doesn’t sound like too big of a deal but it meant they were putting things on the wrong end.  Steering wheels faced the wrong way and pieces wouldn’t fit right.

I finally convinced them that the easiest way to build was to keep the LEGOs lined up with the picture.  Once they realized that was easier, faster, and more fun, they just started to line things first and then build.

It takes discipline to line things up before building.  I’m optimistic and so I assume that things will go well and I just start building rather than getting perspective and a plan.  For me, I don’t make mistakes with LEGOs but rather IKEA furniture and making curry.  I tend to rush ahead and only go to the plans and get perspective when parts are missing and I’m forcing pieces together.

Keeping the right perspective isn’t easy but it really is key in all that we do, especially as parents.  When perspective for parents is off, we make short-term decisions, work on the wrong things, and tend to confuse our kids.

I think Simon Sinek has it right when he suggests that we “Start With Why.”  He argues that if you don’t know your why, then you have no business focusing on “what” or “how,” which is where most of us start.  He teaches a simple concept called the “Celery Test” which requires a story to understand.

Imagine being told by a bunch of people what you need to be successful.  One person says M&Ms, another touts the virtue of bacon, your third friend only eats cake, a fourth says only almond milk, and a fifth insists on celery.  Because you want to be successful you go to the supermarket and buy all five items.  People look at your cart and can’t future out what you’re making or what you’re about.  You end up not really hitting any goal because you aren’t sure why you have all these things.

You end up not being successful because you are focusing on a bunch of “whats” and “hows” but don’t know why.  If you have a clear why, the decision becomes much easier.  For example, if you have a “why” what says, “If I have a choice, choose healthy because I want my body to work well” then you’d end up with celery and maybe almond milk in your cart.  You’d eliminate personal confusion as well as confusion for other people.  It would be more likely that someone would ask you for advice about health because you clearly are focused on healthy things.

I know this seems a bit weird, but the Celery Test can work for you as a parent because if you have a strong why then it is much easier to know whether your decisions line up with your “why.”

Why am I doing this?
What do I expect to happen because of doing it?
What will happen if I don’t do anything?

Just because you have perspective doesn’t mean you are done building.  You still need to follow directions and build but the good news is that your building will be easier and it will be more likely that you end up with a product you can be proud of.

Question:  How do you maintain your perspective when working with your kids?

Image credit: carolsfoodbites.blogspot.com