The following is a true story.
My 10-year-old son came up to me the other day, sad and distraught.
“Daddy. I made a really cool super hero gun in my art class today. But now all the kids in my class want me to show them how to make their own.”
“That’s great Bub.” I said filled with paternal pride.
Tears began to fill his eyes.
“No it’s not. If I teach them how to make it, then everyone will have the same gun as mine.”
“What’s wrong with that Bub?”
“Then I won’t have the only one anymore. Everyone will have one.”
As my son told me this story, my first thought was “Oh no! I’ve failed as a parent! My son doesn’t want to share.” But then I quickly got over that because my son is actually an incredibly kind and compassionate little boy who loves to share. It wasn’t about sharing; it was about feeling like he and his creation would no longer be special if he showed his secret to everyone.
“You know what Bub. I think it’s a great thing. Go ahead and teach everyone how to make your super cool super hero gun.”
“It’s not a Super Cool Super Hero Gun, daddy, it’s just a Super Hero Gun.”
“Whatever. My point is, teach everyone in your class how to make it. And you know what, the teacher will recognize you as the person to go to whenever she needs special help.”
“Absolutely. And besides, no one else will make the gun like YOU. The way you make it will always be special, because no one else has your brain and your ideas.”
“It’s good for us to share our ideas and skills Bub. The more we help others with what we know, the better everyone will be, and that will make playing more fun. Also, whenever you need help, people will remember that you helped them first.”
“Okay. I see.”
“Remember that sometimes, the more we squeeze and hold onto things, the more they may actually slip through our fingers.”
[Yes, I actually said this. I think the Star Wars reference was lost on him. I AM a bad parent!]
“And you know what else? After you teach everyone how to make your Super Cool…, I mean your Super Hero Gun, you should make something new and even better! Super Hero Guns will be old news. You’ll be on to the next thing when everyone else is still playing and making that old Super Hero Guns.”
“Oh I know! I could make my Space Patrol Delta headquarters with the shooters!”
“Um…Yeah, sure. Make one of those.”
“Okay! Here I go.”
“Go get ’em Bub!”
Filled with a newly found joy and enthusiasm, my son ran upstairs to begin planning his next great creation.
Does this story sound like anyone you know? Have you or a colleague been reticent about sharing your skills with others for fear you will no longer be unique or special? What lessons can we learn from this story? Share your thoughts in the comments.