It seems so obvious.
And yet, we wait. We hide, we defer, and we even use excuses – all so we can wait for something to happen. It is an act of denial – just one we don’t want to admit. The denial exists because we have a choice: to do or to not do.
We can wait for things to happen, or we can make them happen.
It transpires there is a truth about success no one wants to hear. The successful make things happen, the unsuccessful don’t. The desire to do – to make things happen is the key to a successful life. No one puts it on a plate for you, you must make things happen. How do we miss this?
Success comes from doing, not waiting.
If you do, you might fail – but with it, you get the opportunity to learn, and that is far more precious than we dare to appreciate. As Edison said, "I have not failed 10,000 times – I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work." All those failed attempts – just to create a lightbulb. The point isn’t the failure – it’s the reframing of it. The point is this – Edison didn’t wait, instead, he reframed failure so he could learn and make things happen.
I doubt Edison efforts played any part in mums’ decision to take me to the cub scouts, but the outcome for me was arguably as rewarding.
Becoming a cub scout
I had never been in a church hall. The room felt huge, bigger than the hall at school I had been used to. I could see dust and cobwebs garnishing the rafters high above. On the floor, children my age were running around the hall, the squeals and screeches echoing as some of them tried excitedly to dodge the one who was ‘it’. They were cub scouts and my mum wanted me to become one.
Mum and I glanced at each other, both trying to reassure each other without saying a word. I was eight, a serious and rather reserved boy and my mum wanted to change that. It didn’t bother me. I was happy, comfortable at home – either reading – or playing football in the garden with my brother. At school, I had a few friends, although I didn’t see much of them away from the playground.
I might have been happy, but my mum was worried. She couldn’t see any curiosity in me, let alone some ambition to push myself. Mum felt I needed to be challenged – and so one Thursday night, she took me to the church hall, not in search of religion, but to become a cub scout.
No more Waiting
Mike, the leader, or Akela as I would call him, explained that we would meet every Thursday night at the hall. To begin with, I wouldn’t be a cub, I would have to learn the cub scout promise and law and get my uniform before I could be invested. Each week, we would play games and learn new skills. It was fun, Mike asserted, trying to make himself heard above the din from the others.
Mike raised his arm, and the noise dropped as the cubs noticed his instruction. “Alan, come here please,” he called. Alan was a year older than me and although I had seen him at school, I didn’t know him. However, his job was to help me settle in. “Alan, can you take Darren over to your six, he is new, so look after him.” Mike’s tone was friendly but clear. “Thanks, Alan.”
A nervous wave to mum sent her on her way as turned to follow Alan. His six included Domonic, Mark, Scott, and Steve, - all new faces to me. Akela, called order as his colleagues moved us into a circle. Each of them also had jungle book character names. Baloo, Bagheera and others I can’t remember led us through games, singing, reef knots and more.
My Thursday nights would never be the same again – in fact, I was never the same again.
Making Things Happen
The cub scouts changed my childhood, I would confidently argue it changed my life, just as mum hoped. New friendships evolved as I shared new experiences with them. New experiences reshaped my approach to making friends and building trust.
My first summer camp led to nights under canvas – something new to me, but maybe the best bit was the campfires at night. The warmth from the glowing embers as they crackled and spat melted more than the marshmallows we waited to eat. The campfire gave me security. Then there was the singing – campfires burning, along with a cup of drinking chocolate to settle us down before bed.
We sweated over assault courses and long dusty walks during the day, cooking our meals on the fire. Those are the memories from my childhood. Of course, I didn’t wait either. For thirteen years I was in the scouts – and I did so much in those thirteen years. 80-mile hikes, – our lives in our backpack for the four days we walked. We raised thousands and made it an annual challenge.
The real value was the teamwork and leadership skills I learnt. First from seeing others lead me, to then me having to lead others. The attention to caring for those in your team – the acceptance of responsibility defined me as an adult far more than I can ever appreciate.
Don’t wait for things to happen – make them happen
Mum made that happen. She didn’t wait for me to grow out of my shyness, as others might have chosen. No, she decided not to wait. Complacency – accepting that I was quiet or that I would grow out of it – which would have been easy – weren’t in her mind. Waiting wasn’t in her mind.
Complacency fools us in much the same way as waiting does. We think accepting something as it is, is okay. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it goes the saying. The sad part, if we accept life as it is, we don’t grow. We don’t learn – or improve. It is this approach that means we can now travel in cars, rather than horseback. Now, I can message, video call, or email my friends in India, rather than smudge ink as I write on parchment paper.
Our lives change because we make things happen. Rarely do they change for the better when we wait. Maybe this was in my mother’s mind when she decided I needed to become a cub scout. There is another point to this as well. Making things happen means trying – and this means doing. When you do something – anything – your actions create consequences, which creates feedback.
Edison had 10,000 pieces of feedback, 10,000 types of materials that didn’t make good elements for the lightbulb he was inventing. He used this feedback to refine his search – to find the right material.
So don’t wait for things to happen, go out and make them happen.