Reflections: Fun vs. Fail — The Super Mario Effect|Mark Rober

So… this one is a long time coming. I actually have an even OLDER post, something in the order of over two years old that I’ve left in queue… mostly because it contains some strong thoughts for which I believe strongly… some which may be considered controversial, others may label it extreme or wrong… not even worth entertaining (which is a shame)… or maybe, just maybe — thoughts that just need to be shared.

Well… I’m not there yet. But, we can start here as a primer.

TLDR…errr. “W” – Watch??? 1:01 and 9:55 are PURE PARENTING GOLD.


Why this topic? Well… it’s not a secret that I have a certain disgruntled ness towards “formal” and/or “standard” schooling. This is mostly the case because of how the system betrays itself and its students from stage to stage — the goal isn’t learning, the goal is testing… and, as Master Yoda would say….

“That is why you fail.”


The purpose of education SHOULD BE learning… not memorizing and regurgitating… not testing and scoring well… not be swayed one way or another from an educator’s individual world view… learning.

Unfortunately, when you look at the behaviors of what we have today… it’s really more of education = testing well, scoring well, making it to the next level… and, then what??? It has more to do with existential crises of grades vs. self worth. It has more to do with extreme short sighted behaviors despite the promise of investment in long term goals.

ANNND… the thing is, none of how GPAs, test scores, or anything of that nature is FUN. It teaches you to survive or fail — but, not to THRIVE as one should in life. Besides, life is a Pass/No-Pass event. You either go, or you stop. You either finish, or you give up. You aren’t graded on your life.

Yet… that’s what we do to our kids.

Get ready to get gritty… it’s gonna get real.

Of course, at higher levels, learning how to learn, learning to discern — that’d be great, too. What is learning? To me, it’s simple: Gathering an accurate understanding of the world.

If you consider say what a puppy does to “learn” or what a baby or toddler does to “learn” — beyond formal didactic studies or any of that nature, they are trying to gather some sense of certainty in a world that began for them as completely uncertain. Therefore, understanding of the world isn’t readily measured by testing per se. That is why I feel that “failure” opposite the “A+” marks goes completely against how we are biologically wired to understand the world around us.

And, let’s think on this one step further: How well did you feel you understood the world after 6th grade, after 12th grade? How prepared were you to use that understanding to live a productive and meaningful life?? Even after college — how well did that bachelor’s degree prepare you for the job market???

When it comes to the present day customary understanding of the schooling systems… not well… not well at all.

NOW… this isn’t a dig at our educators. I’ll explain more about this in that long awaited post I’ll probably publish next. This is a dig at the systems in place; how these pieces in play force students and educators to betray the mission of learning — and, everyone knows it. No one wants to be measured up against a test score. We’re more than that.

So, ultimately… what I’m trying to share in this post is that we need to change our expectations of learning… make it about FUN, not about failure. We need to use failure as a mechanism to improve learning, not as a potential result… a label one must wear because they tried… for such a thing causes people to lose will to try and try again.

That, would be the greatest tragedy to the spirit of learning.

Failure is the mother of success.

—A Chinese Proverb

3 Hindsight Thoughts Through COVID Quarantine

I have to give full credit to my wife… she saw this one coming. Day after day, week after week… all through the build up of it all — I kept thinking, “Nah… it’ll pass… it’s isolated in Asia… it’s not as bad as all that… blah blah blah.”

Well. I was wrong. The world is getting rocked… and, **shrugs** — I’m not too big to admit when I’m wrong. LOL, I’m wrong all the time. However, through this learning experience, as a husband and father… and, a somewhat-protective-paranoid one at that… here are some hindsight thoughts that have surfaced — not just on the quarantine and all… but also about life approaches in general.

1. Wait For Nothing

As I mentioned on my 10 Year Wedding Anniversary post: We went to Disney World… for business trip 😉 … the Fall before COVID-19 broke the world in Spring of 2020.

For that trip in Fall: We had the best time ever. THE BEST.

We were SUPPOSED TO go to Disney World again for our 10 year… but yeah… that didn’t happen.

It came to me, more solidly than every before… if you have a desire, a goal, a dream — WAIT FOR NOTHING. Go get it.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed to you. Next week is not a sure thing. The coming month, who knows what will happen? Next year? HA.

Have a goal? Start now.

Have a dream? Take action.

Want swag? Buy it… it may not be there anymore “next time” — this is something we found especially true as huge fans of all things Disney. Soooo many times, there was something at Disneyland or some Star Wars swag we had our eye on. Too many times, we said, “if it’s there next time… we’ll take it as a sign and get it.” More and more often as of late, there was not a next time. It was gone… forever.

Time is the one precious resource you can’t get back, make more of, exchange, or cheat. It keeps going, with or without you.

So… why let it pass you by?

Life: Wait for nothing.

PS. This doesn’t mean I’m encouraging you to be frivolous, foolish, or capricious. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to liquidate everything, run out to Vegas, and place everything on black at the roulettes. What I AM saying is this: If there is something existentially precious to you — then wait for nothing. Be it. Get it. Form it. Find it!

2. Get Everything In Twos

Supplies come to mind. On our final grocery run, my wife and I divided and conquered. I went to one store, she went to the other. We were texting back and forth to make sure we got what we needed.

And, I realized that no matter what I got that day… we would likely need more. Now, there were plenty of times I grabbed stuff in “extra” to my current needs. HOWEVER, I didn’t clear shelves.

I grabbed stuff in Twos.

Whether its supplies, inventory, swag, or even shoes — to which, for running… having two pairs of the same running shoes is very helpful — stuff works better in twos.

We had already done this at a habit with jugs of milk, cartons of eggs, and the like. However, in this crisis… it only made things more real… if you need, desire, or think you might want something… grab two of them.

3. Don’t Be “More Professional Than Thou….”

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay. This is something we talked about on an up and coming (given that I’m writing this 4/9/2020) episode on The Duck Legs Podcast.

Typically you hear the phrase, “Holier Than Thou.” Well, here in 2020, we seem to have this strange fixation on that if you are a professional, then you must be held at a higher standard in everything.

I’d like to suggest that such is true — to be held in a higher standard… but, in MOST things… not all.

Right now this worldwide lockdown, shut in, quarantine is a great example about how disruption of normal daily life is creating an enormous mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual strain on individuals of all types of backgrounds — many who are at the forefront of dealing with this crisis — highly intelligent, well trained, thoroughly educated, healthcare professionals.

It’s a tough and sucky time right now.

It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to not be professional when you’re not at work, when you’re not in clinic, when you’re not on campus, and/or when you’re not on the air.

It’s okay to be human.

And, it’s okay to not have anything positive to say, anything optimistic to uphold, or anything hopeful to cling to. Sometimes… the situation just sucks.

Being a licensed professional doesn’t make you immune or some how more resilient to the suck factor. Let it suck. Accept it. Deal with it. Then, push through.

Lives depend on it… yours included.

The sooner you embrace the suck, the sooner you’ll be able to adapt and adjust to this new normal.

The 5 Love Languages & Their Dialects

The 5 Love Languages book by Gary Chapman became quite popular as it displayed the way people express and receive love in rather concrete conceptual behaviors. This is something I’ve broadcasted about, blogged about, posted about — and generally feel confident in some rather involved discourse.

However, through this lock-in-corona-pocalyptic-lifestyle….. I made a rather striking realization.

And, noted: This is likely not ground breaking… but, it was in those precious moments… for me any way. So, I thought to share 🙂

THE STORY BEGINS: Some mornings ago, my son discovered this love note written by my wife (words of affirmation written, love expressed) to my son (words of affirmation read, love received).

To me, this was a generally standard expression and reception of love within the framework of the 5 love languages.

I had long appreciated that how you give love isn’t the same as how you speak it. For myself, I tend to express through acts of service. However, I receive through quality time and physical touch.

THEN, it dawned on me — while “how you speak” isn’t how you necessarily “receive love;” there are additional complexities to dialects within each major love language. It dawned on me because my son didn’t initially have much interest in that love note.

Then, I told him that the way he feels when receiving gifts (one of his primary love languages) is the way your mom feels when she gets your snuggles. This is another way she wants to show how much she loves you. He immediately ran back to the love note to read it. Then, ran to his mom to give her the snugs.

I thought… this is different. There are nuances in translating each language to each other; YET, even within these love languages… there exist dialects!

So, without further ado… here are my April 2020 interpretations of The 5 Love Language & Their Dialects.

1. Words of Affirmation

Again… nothing earth shattering, just a moment of clarity. It came to me that affirmation comes in many nuanced shades — and, that even within this language there are dialects that are both receptive and expressive in nature. So, without making a thing of it… here are some ideas of how your loved ones might appreciate in precision “Affirmation” as a love language.

  • Words of encouragement.

  • Words of love.

  • Word of affection.

  • Words of recognition.

  • Words of compassion.

  • Words of empathy.

  • Words of understanding.

  • Words of assurance.

2. Quality Time

Quality Time is another interesting, but perhaps more salient language with more distinct dialects than words. Words, of course, mean more than what is said and many times it is what isn’t said which means most. However, with Quality Time, you have to be spending time together. So, much of the dialects within this language is related to what is being or not being done with that time.

  • Time doing nothing — just being.

  • Time doing an activity.

  • Time spent in a hobby.

  • Time completing a task or errand.

  • Time shared in entertainment.

  • Time shared in fandom.

  • Time playing board games

  • Time playing video games.

  • Time relaxing.

  • Time spent in physical touch.

3. Physical Touch

Similar to the concept of the three dimension’s of love: Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment — a la Sternberg’s Triangular Theory… I feel that Physical Touch exists in similar planes.

  • There is obviously physical touch that is sensual (or, passionate) in nature.

  • There is also physical touch that communicates commitment.

  • There is physical touch that conveys intimacy (or, trust).

  • Physical Touch can also exist in combination sets such as romance or companionship.

And, I do also believe that physical touch can be expressive and receptive in nature — that one may “speak” more fluently in say sensual love but requires receiving commitment love in physical touch in order to fill that meter of love going out and coming inbound.

4. Acts of Service

Acts of Service was really what struck me as intriguing regarding dialects of love. Nuanced much as in Words of Affirmation, there are parallel similarities with Quality Time in what is done or not done through actions.

  • Things done for the beloved.

  • Things done so that the beloved doesn’t need to perform those tasks.

  • Things done in addition or in conjunction to customary acts of service.

  • Things done as a surprise or bonus on top of acts showing love through service.

  • Things done with specifically loving intents.

I’ve learned much of these from my wife. Christina has routinely pointed out that I express much love through my actions. There are things she feels loved by which I do all the time; other actions I do only during special occasions; others matter because of the intent; and yet others, to alleviate the pressures to Christina, my beloved.

5. Gifts

Here’s another gem wisdom as pointed out by my wife. Gifts are big for kiddos because they don’t have the capacity or capability to afford their own. They don’t get to just spend money on toys or swag because they want to — they rely upon parents to buy it for them, which can both make it a battle and a joy, depending on how the family units responds.

That said, if done right: gifts, presents, treats, bonuses… these can become a huge deal and a great source of receptive and expressive love.

As mentioned above, I realized the depth of this when I told my son something to the effect, “You know how much you feel loved when you get presents and toys? That’s how much mom feels love when you give her the snuggles.”

This, on a separate day — he immediately RAN OFF… and, snuggled my wife for the longest and sweetest time.

While this is perhaps my weakest area in terms of love language fluency, I’ve began to appreciate it more because my son LOVES GIFTS. And, he legitimately feels loved through gifts. We crossed this stumbling block early one when we put his toys in time out… it CRUSHED him.

It took us quite some time to realize… putting toys in time out wasn’t crushing because he was losing privileges. It crushed him because to him… those toys EMBODIED our love for him.

To our son: Putting toys in time out meant that we were putting our love for him in time out.


So… (and, on such a positive note, LOL!) to close out today’s blog: Here are some examples of dialects within Gifts as a love language:

  • Gifts given because the gift reminded the giver of the beloved.

  • Gifts given because of a special occasion.

  • Gifts given for whimsical reasons — “just because I love you.”

  • Gifts given because it fills a long awaited need or desire.

  • Gifts given to match or add upon other gifting themes — such as collections or fandoms.

  • Gifts given to celebrate achievement or landmark/life-tile moments.

  • Gifts given because it was merely asked — like when a child sees an amazing toy and wants to have it. You surprise them by saying, “Yes. Yes, you may.”

The conveying of love and the receiving of love is highly interpretive. Context matters. Timing matters. The language used and the dialects chosen, matter.

So… what languages and dialects to you speak, and… hear???

They Were Wrong | Dad Thoughts While “Sheltered in Place”

Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve all had a lot more time to… think. At least, that’s the case if you’ve been living in a “shelter in place” / don’t leave home situation — thinking is the one thing you’ve probably had too much time for. That said, I wrote this list before the outbreak… and, today’s post is really more of just that: A list of short thoughts.

They Were Wrong About…

1. Pens vs. Pencils

“When you grow up, adults use pens… not pencils.” WRONG… And, NEITHER. The most common way we write… is with our fingers… in the sand — I mean, on a screen.

Grown ups don’t write in cursive with a fountain pen… they mash on letters with their thumbs. You know… because, I said so!

2. “When you grow up, you won’t be carrying a calculator everywhere you go.”

Guess teachers didn’t see that coming when they made us buy TI83s! 😒

3. “Video games will melt your brain.”

Playing Video Games Really Does Make You Smarter, Study Finds. Not to mention, most of our learning software and e-learning platforms are essentially video game platforms in their own way… they may not exactly look like a real time strategy game or a scrolling game like Super Mario — but, it IS a digital interface with rules, goals, and aims.

The thing is, you aren’t going for coins or points — your gaming for grades and degrees.

4. Cartoons Distort Your Sense of Reality.

There are waaaay too many examples — but, I have to say that productions in the 90s were WAY ahead of their time. My example of the day: X-Men, with great social lessons on discrimination, women in leadership; “different yet same” as with the character Master Mold, stating that there are humans that hate mutants — this is an oxymoron as mutants ARE human.

“So often in our history, unhappy misguided people have created scapes goats — blaming those that are different for the problems in their own lives.

Professor X, X-Men The Animated Series

Wow… right???

5. Sci-Fi is Pure Fantasy.

First off… in Star Trek, everything became real or is becoming real… and, very likely will otherwise be as such in due time… mostly. Maybe not Q… maybe? Who knows! But, here’s something for consideration:

ALSO: The Next Generation (TNG), Deep Space Nine (DS9) and Voyager also had some of the best “early” examples of inclusivity; strong female characters, women in leadership/career paths, diversity driven story arcs, females in story arcs that don’t necessarily involve a romantic interest, etc.

So yeah… They were wrong 😉

Just because something worked for one generation doesn’t mean that such success will transplant across to the next.