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I remember when I was three years old that I asked my mom to teach me to tie my own shoes. She told me to wait until I was older. Then I went upstairs and my dad was putting on his big work boots to work outside. I watched as he tied the big laces into a bow and double-knot. Then he watched as I followed what he did with my shoes. My parents were amazed that I learned how to tie my own shoes at that age without specific instruction.

I think it is interesting that when I had a desire to learn and confidence in my ability to learn, I was able to learn quite quickly because I believed that I could do it. After all, my dad could tie his shoes and my mom and older siblings could as well—so I believed I could learn too.

We all have "windows of opportunity" when it is the ideal time to learn something because we have a desire and believe we can do it.  When children express an interest in doing something, that is probably the best time to help them learn it. If we put it off, sometimes they lose the desire or the confidence that they can do it. But I also believe that even if it isn't the "ideal time" to learn something that it is still possible—it just may take more effort as we overcome discouragement, lack of motivation, or lack of confidence that we can do it.

Learning requires a sense of adventure. It involves exploring the unknown and risking the comfortable. It requires us to admit what we don’t know and to be willing to make mistakes. Most importantly, learning requires a willingness to expand our minds to unheard of ideas and to submit ourselves to new beliefs.

I had the opportunity to live in Romania—a country the size of Oregon, located south of Ukraine—for a year and a half. While there, I learned Romanian, as most of my work involved speaking with the people.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to teach Romanian to him. As we began, I remembered some important things. First of all: Romanian is hard. As a romance language, it is related to Italian, French, and Spanish, and they say it is the closest living language to Latin. Because it is a Latin language, one might assume that it is easy to learn. But the truth is on the contrary.

When my 9-year-old son announced he wanted to do a bake sale, I was hesitant. The idea was perfect for him. For a long time he has said he wants to be a cook when he grows up and own a restaurant (a couple of days a week; during the other days he will invent things). I also knew that he had been wanting to find some ways to make extra money, but there had to be better ways. I think my wife felt the same way. But where I suggested other jobs he could do for money, my wife offered support by helping him put together a list of items he would like to bake, establish prices, and make and distribute a flier to neighbors he knew.

When I was studying at a university, I thought it would be fun to take a guitar class. I had taken piano lessons when I was younger, and I had played the trumpet in the school band until I reached 10th grade. I had basic skills in those two instruments. But the guitar seemed fun, more cool. It was something I wanted to do. So I thought about it. I may have even looked up the class description in the school catalog. I considered it for about five minutes, but I didn’t take the class. Why not?

I don’t really remember all my reasons. I may have wondered whether I would be good at it. I may have thought that I did not want to risk a bad grade. I may have thought I needed to focus my energies on classes in my major so I could get done with my degree and get on with my real work in life. It could have been any of those things or all of them. Whatever the reason, I never took the guitar class. Learning to play the guitar had to wait until years after I left the university.

Dedicated to all who see themselves as disabled

It’s not easy for a 5th-year Parkinson’s patient to commit financially to an event taking place a year later, let alone commit to go on a bear hunt. But that’s what I did.

We were with Jim McKinley of Cameron Accounting of Missouri, completing our tax return. Jim was telling Sharon and me about his hunt at Tyler Kelly’s Camp in Allagash, Maine, and that Wade Kelley, the outfitter and owner, was a Master Maine Guide with 25 years of tracking experience. He said they averaged 85 percent success for hunters, with his group achieving 100 percent success last year. He then asked if I wanted to go with them the next fall, the cost being $1,500, plus travel, with guns, ammo, three meals a day, lodging, game dressing and skinning and freezing included.

What could I say? Who would turn down the chance to get attacked by a bear?