Rush of Achievement

There’s weird. There’s wonderful. And then there’s David Rush. The man is in a class by himself.

Several classes by himself, actually.

You see, Rush is an Idaho man who’s trying to become the Record Holder of Record Holders – the man who holds more Guinness world records at once than any other person. It’s a quest that has led to some extremely bizarre accomplishments.

Such as being the fastest person to sort M&M’s by color.

Or popping 200 balloons in less than 12 seconds.

Or, just last Thursday, hitting a target with a pump-powered rocket 37 times in a row.

Right now, according to UPI, this gold-level master of strangeness holds 163 simultaneous records, 20 short of his goal. He’s actually achieved 250 different records but – inevitably with a goal this long-term – some of them then got broken by others while he continued his journey. They had to move fast, though: at one point, Rush broke 52 records in 52 weeks.

Why do it? As he’s mentioned to Guinness and many others, he’s a promoter of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) who simply wanted to show what focus on a goal could achieve.

“Too many students try, fail, and give up with a fixed mindset,” he says on his website, where he encourages a “growth mindset” instead – the idea that abilities aren’t simply innate, but can be developed through time, effort and help from others. “I can only do a very small part, but I’d like to do that part as well as I can.”

I suspect that hits home for a lot of us. It’s a message of hope, which I’ve described here before as “optimism plus sweat”: the willingness to commit to something better and then see it through.

And it remains powerful even when we’re aware that it’s not always that simple.

We’re all aware of boundaries in our lives. Some are more pliable than others. Some may be physical limitations, whether they’re as everyday as nearsightedness or as profound as severe childhood brain damage. Some have been set by society – we’ve all seen (or even experienced) stories of the additional challenges and barriers set due to poverty, race, gender, or an array of other qualities that can become a dividing line.

Can sufficient work, time and help overcome those? In many cases, sure – but the definition of “sufficient” is going to vary widely between individuals. For one person, a particular achievement may be as easy as a walk in the park. For another, it may be the equivalent of designing an entire space program from scratch.

Does that mean we should all give up? Heck, no. But it does mean  we all have a few additional lessons to remember.

First, be kind. Don’t assume that someone else is lazy just because they haven’t achieved what you think they should. You don’t know their burdens, their battles, or what they may have going on where no one else can see.

Second, try to see. Be aware of those around you. Understand as you would like to be understood, care about them as you would about yourself.

Finally, be the “help from others.” Encourage, teach, stand alongside. Find the boundaries that shouldn’t be there and help bring them down. Even when the limits are severe, work to grow what you can, like a garden behind a stone wall. Create opportunities – not all of them will be fulfilled, but you may be surprised at the ones that flourish.

Together, we can help each other grow. And help ourselves in the process. That’s an exciting feeling.

You might even say it’s quite a Rush.

Into the Cone

Our dog Duchess has gone bonkers.

BONK! She ricochets off the kitchen’s doorframe.

BONK! She bounces off the bookshelf while charging in to get her food.

BONK! She rebounds off the nearest family member as she tries to hurry past.

“Careful!”

Yes, our little border collie-lab mix has been fitted with what the books call an “Elizabethan collar” and what everyone else calls a Cone of Shame. You know the thing. Everyone knows the thing: a big plastic cone fitted around a dog’s neck so that its head looks like it’s growing out of a cheap, old-fashioned record player.

It’s not about humiliation, of course, but about safe healing. A veterinarian uses the collar to keep a dog from getting at wounds while they’re healing – in this case, to keep Duchess from getting at a bandaged-up ear, acquired after an argument with our other dog Blake over whose bone was whose. Blake weighs 80 pounds, Duchess 45, but when her stubbornness is brought to the surface, it can be a pretty even match.

Naturally, he’s curious about her new headdress. Enough so that we’ve wondered if he needs his own, to keep Blake from sticking his big head into her constricted space. But I’m not sure our giggle reflex could survive two dogs in the cone, especially one as clumsy as Big Blake.

BONK!

It’s her first time in the big cone – quite an achievement for an 11-year-old dog. It does mean she has no previous experience to call on, though, so she’s had to figure out exactly what she can and can’t do. Her usual habit of slipping through the edge of a doorway is out, for instance. Meal times took a little practice, though now she’s able to fit her cone directly over the dish as she eats, which not only gives her a private dining space, but makes her look like a vacuum cleaner with fur and legs.

In short, Duchess has had to learn her limitations. And provided some harmless amusement while doing so.

As it happens, the laughs have been welcome. After all, this is fall in a “swing state,” meaning a barrage of political ads from every direction. On the television. On the phone. On the Internet. I’m waiting for one to show up in a Happy Meal. (“Do you want those fries? Shady McCandidate does. And he wants to give them to his special-interest buddies….”)

It’s tedious, repetitive and mind-numbingly counter-productive. If anything, the zeal ad vitriol of the ads make me less likely to vote for their sponsors. What’s needed is a way to lighten the proceedings and maybe inject a little humility into what can be a very proud profession.

Which is why I suggest that all politicians running for election be required to wear the Cone of Shame through Election Day. Both live and in all advertising.

Think about it. Even the most apocalyptic of speeches and commercials lose some of their punch when delivered by someone who looks like a failed auditioner for the Tin Man. Fundraising dinners become a challenge and broadcast interviews nearly impossible. (“Dang it … can someone help me get this microphone on? Please?”)

As with a much-loved pet, it might inspire some harmless laughter while teaching the new “conehead” their limitations and keeping them from doing excessive harm. None of these are bad things in a political process. In fact, judging by many of the candidates, a little less self-assurance might be very welcome. (There’s a reason I’ve pushed Charlie Brown for president before.)

Until that wonderful time, we’ll have to do the best we can with imagination and the mute button. And of course, a lot of patience. We’ll get through this season. Even if it’s uncomfortable and awkward and we can’t quite figure out how …

BONK!

Hmmm.

Maybe Duchess and I have more in common than I thought.