What do you want to be when you grow up?
Back in November, I came across an article titled “Planting Seeds For College Early” which told the story of a 3rd grade class at Linden Elementary in California. While the ‘What do you want to be?’ question has always been a common one for young kids, Linden Elementary was taking it a step further and actually having a career day of sorts – Pam Knapp, the high school college and career counselor, spoke to the kids about not just doing well in school and getting into college, but why it’s so important to find your passion and begin following it early.
In the end the class was asked that famous question and a few of the answers ended up quoted in the article – the one which brought the article to my attention in the first place, was from 8 year old Mario Ruvalcaba:
“I either want to be somebody that gets to test out hammocks, or be a spy”.
Mario’s hammock tester comment was considered off-beat enough to make the article and he obviously caught the adults off guard a bit with it: “Knapp said he might start in the military and be trained in espionage to be a spy. Hammock testing hasn't made it into Linden High's guidebooks just yet.”
Something about it immediately resonated with me – here was a young kid saying he had a dream of making a living in the hammock biz and whether he was 100% serious or not, I knew he was likely hearing the same reaction I heard from so many people over the years:
A hammock is an easy symbol of laziness to so many, the ultimate ‘I don’t want to work right now’ slacker accessory.
And 10 years ago I set out on a mission to change that perspective - to show people that a hammock can take you to the top of mountains and be a symbol of an incredibly active lifestyle. It can bring stress relief and balance to the busiest of lives, cure insomnia, make you healthier, be the source of your best ideas, and it even can be used as a tool to save the environment and help find a cure for cancer.
So I sent an email to the reporter and asked to be put in touch with the class. I heard back from his teacher, Ann Sisson, and immediately sent off a hammock for Mario to test and the rest of his class to enjoy. I wanted Mario and anyone who may have heard his comment and in some way laughed it off to realize that the craziest sounding ideas are often some of the best – and if he wants to be a hammock tester, he was going to have the chance to start right away.
On December 14th I received an incredibly appreciative email from his teacher Ann saying that they had set the hammock up outside for Mario and the entire class to test out. She included a number of photos (see below) showing how happy it made everyone.
A short while later I also received an email from the reporter who wrote the original article and he wound up publishing a great follow-up story on what happened after Mario received the hammock. The story was featured in their local paper, the Stockton Record and was printed on Christmas Day with the headline Dreams Can Come True. Rather than repeat most of the short story, I encourage you to read it:
This story though, and what it means to me, wouldn’t be complete without pointing this out: December 14th (the day Mario and the class tested out the hammock) was no ordinary day for anyone in the U.S. and even around the world. It was the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and right before the email showed up my head was spinning – I know I wasn’t alone in being unable to shake the thoughts of all the innocence lost and wishing for something to put a smile on my face.
This is what did it:
Seeing it in some ways made that morning’s tragedy sting a little bit more, but the overwhelming thought that put a smile on my face is that this also happened at the very same time that so much tragedy was occurring elsewhere. While there’s evil in the world, there’s still a lot more good - and it will overcome. It got me through a tough day and helped me find optimism where there seemingly wasn’t any and I hope it in some way does the same for you.
In my mid-20's I decided that I wanted to do something I enjoyed in my life, and I knew I wasn’t finding it in my cubicle. At the time, I was just on a simple mission to find a better way to sleep when I camp, not trying to start a business, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it could be done. And I knew that if it could be done, I’d enjoy it much more than the job I had at the time. Running a small business means I’ve still got a long way to go to get back to the salary I had when I left my corporate career, but it’s given me more reason to be happy than anything I would have gotten from a career that didn’t fit who I was as a person.
You don’t have to invent something the world has never seen before (I certainly didn’t invent the hammock from scratch) you just have to have a vision and a passion to share that vision with others. You don’t have to know what you want to do for a living in 3rd grade and you don’t even need to know it 30 years later. What’s important is that you continue to find ways to make your passion work for you, even when your passion changes as you change (hint: it will).
And no matter what you do, don’t forget to relax along the way - a hammock and a smile just might have the power to change the world.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering…..
Mario’s official review in his first gig as a hammock tester: “It feels like I’m laying on 100 pillows”.
Well done, Mario – you’re off to a great start.