Wax on. Wax off.

As a young child I learned how to wash and wax a car. Because I was the youngest and shortest member of the family I always had the bottom (and, in my humble opinion, the muddiest) part of the car to clean. It was wet, soapy, and messy work, but it paid enough to go get an Icee from the local Pack-a-Sack when we finished.

However, after watching The Karate Kid (1984), washing and waxing my vehicle has never been boring. In fact, it is quite entertaining as I repeat the lines “Wax on” and “Wax off” as I clean. No, I never learned karate, but I did learn a few life lessons from watching that movie. Here are my top five.

1. Yes or No. There is no “guess so.” When Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) asked Daniel (Ralph Maccio) if he was ready to learn Karate, Daniel’s response of “I guess so” angers Mr. Miyagi. Miyagi compared Daniel’s lame response to walking down a road: walking on left side of road is fine, walking on right side of road is fine, but walking down the middle of the road will eventually get you squished. You have to make a choice.

If you are going to eat healthier, you can’t try it for a week or two while going out every night to McDonald’s. If you want to lose weight, you have to eat less and move more. You can’t just think about doing it and wish you could do it. As Yoda, my favorite Star Wars character would say, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

2. First learn stand, then learn fly. Mr. Miyagi has agreed to teach Daniel karate on the condition that Daniel does everything he says to do and doesn’t ask questions. Daniel desperately wants to learn how to do the Crane Kick. In order to do the kick, one has to have incredible balance, intricate form, and a lot of confidence.

If Daniel had gone straight to the stump to learn the kick, he would have failed. He had to build up to being able to accomplish his goal. Oftentimes, we want to rush our growth, but it’s unnecessary and can even be counterproductive. If you put in the hard work, the rewards will come.

3. No such thing as a bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do. Mr. Miyagi repeated this to Daniel to reinforce that the responsibility for learning is placed first upon the teacher who will deliver instruction and guide students. As teachers, parents, friends, and family members, we need to look at our own reflection first, before we ever criticize the learner.

It’s also essential that the student does what the teacher tells him or her to do. Daniel wanted to ask questions about Mr. Miyagi’s methods of instruction, but he didn’t have the experience or knowledge to know what was best. Following the instruction was key to his winning the competition.

4. There are 2 rules of Miyagi Karate. Rule Number 1: Karate for defense only. Rule Number 2: First learn rule number 1. Just because you can overpower someone, doesn’t mean you should. This can be physical or mental. Most people understand Rules 1 & 2 when the person is bigger or knows martial arts. It should be for defense only.
I’d like to share an example of Mental Rules 1 & 2. One of the greatest educational theorists I’ve ever met is Bob (Robert) Marzano. At a learning conference we were asked to form a value line indicating our level of understanding of his theories. We tried to put him at the front of the line. After all, they were his theories. Marzano wouldn’t do it. He said that others understood it better and were the practitioners using the strategies on a daily basis. He went to the middle of the line. His humble attitude helped us all to learn more from him.

5. Wax on. Wax off. Mr. Miyagi has Daniel doing chores around his house such as waxing all of his cars, painting his fence, and sanding his floors. Daniel fails to see any connection from the chores to his Karate training. He thinks Mr. Miyagi is using him, not teaching him. (Sound familiar parents?)
Finally, after much practice with specific movements (wax on and wax off are clockwise and counter-clockwise motions), Miyagi reveals that Daniel has been learning defensive blocks through muscle memory performed by the chores. Daniel is then amazed at what he has learned through what he thought were mundane tasks.

After becoming a parent and teacher, I’ve gained a lot of admiration for Mr. Miyagi. He persevered in teaching Daniel—even when Daniel was griping and complaining. Miyagi remained calm and persistent in his expectations for what he knew was best for his student. In today’s world of 90-seconds-or-less satisfaction, sticking to your principles and doing what is best for your students/children is challenging. Those who do it have my greatest admiration!

Miyagi: First, wash all car. Then wax. Wax on…
Daniel: Hey, why do I have to…?
Miyagi: Ah ah! Remember deal! No questions!
Daniel: Yeah, but…
Miyagi: Hai! [makes circular gestures with each hand]
Miyagi: Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.

Last life lesson from Karate Kid?
Remember to breathe!

Speaking of life lessons… there are so many you can hear in a classroom if you stop to listen. Click here for a few ways to personalize learning in a student-centered classroom.

Crab Bucket Mentality

Have you ever heard about crabs in buckets? I’ve heard the “stories” about crab buckets for years. Here’s a synopsis:

If you put one crab in a bucket, put a lid on it.
Things change when you have two or more
crabs in the bucket.
When one crab begins to crawl out and attempt an escape,
the other crabs pull it back down.
No need for a lid.

Just for the record, I tried to find scientific proof for this assertion. I used three different search engines. Google even gave me 8.5 million hits, but none were based in true science. After an hour of clicking on every link, I still couldn’t find proof for the hypothesis. If I liked to catch or eat crabs I would have driven a few hours to the ocean and done my own study. But, that’s not what is at the heart of this Motivational Monday.

The characters in these crab bucket illustrations vary. The details of the stories vary. Even the science behind it may vary. But, the human analogy of crab bucket mentality is the same. When some humans see others escaping the “bucket,” they pull them back. In crab bucket mentality, the members of a group will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others. This could be out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings. It’s all done to halt progress. Their actions prove the statement –

I found a lot of articles and blogs describing crab mentality. Victorino Abrugar lists Ten Signs That a Person Has a Crab Mentality, but this is Motivational Monday. Overcoming and defeating a crab mentality are the skills we need to help ourselves and others. The image below is a great illustration of what might happen if we added a new component to Crab Bucket Mentality… ESCAPING the Crab Bucket.

What if, instead of picking apart brilliant ideas that would threaten our mediocre existence, we began listening to them. We developed a plan for helping all improve. Or, imagine a crab, or a group of crabs on the other side of the bucket building a ladder to aid our escape. They are wearing “noise cancelling” headphones and have quit listening to the negative. Because they’ve tasted freedom and they know about the struggle, they are putting their energy into helping others. They know how to get out of the bucket!

Nelson Berry describes a few simple, but effective ways to escape crab bucket mentality:

1. Stay away from negative people as soon as possible. If you have friends or even family members who are trying to put you down for no reason, it’s a good idea to just stay away from them. Create a whole new circle of friends or stay close to those that you trust the most.

2. Share your feelings. You should never allow the anxiety to build up inside you. Otherwise, it may lead to depression or too much stress. Rather, share your feelings. There are many ways to do that. You can grab a pen and paper, then write everything you want to say to those people. When you’re done with the rant, you throw them away. The purpose of writing is to let your negative feelings out, not to remember them over and over.

3. Be nice. Do you know that these people don’t want you to be nice? They are very observant. They want to find even the minutest mistake about you and utilize it to bring you down. But if you’re nice, it will be hard for them to do that. Second, you’ll feel good about yourself.

4. Practice affirmations. It’s normal to lose a sense of confidence when you’re presented with a lot of negativity, but you can always counteract that with positive internal messages. You can fill your mind with positive thoughts each day. If you’re feeling sullen, you can repeat the following messages:

I am the author of my life.
I know that I am a good person.
I am self-reliant and very strong.
I have a wall that keeps negative people away from me.

I think Ron Clark, author of the Resilient Worker, summarizes it best,

“A pot of boiling crabs does not have to be a metaphor for your life. Focus on your own journey to success and happiness. When you get there, realize that others may still be suffering. Reach back down and lend them a helping hand (or claw!). Some will still try to pull you back down into the boiling pot. Do not pay attention to them.
You will be too busy celebrating the accomplishments of others.
You will be too busy inspiring others to succeed.
You will be too busy leading the resilient and
healthy lifestyle you were destined to live!”

I’m here to lend a helping hand when you need one…

I’d love to share the story of Reggie with you. His overcoming of obstacles and learning the value of thinking critically is worth your time. Grab a tissue!