Is my son a crook or a capitalist?


It’s been a few years ago now. My older son walked through the door after school one day with something clutched excitedly in his hands. I didn’t recognize the item, so I asked him what he was holding. He proudly held out a shiny metallic blue GameBoy and said, “Look what I traded for today!”


My heart sank. As I listened to him rattle on about how he had traded a few toys for this handheld video game player, I was almost embarrassed, and then angry. I assumed that he had swindled another child out of this expensive toy. Great. This was going to get ugly.


But something stopped me from jumping in with another lecture that would lead to a screaming match.


I began to ask him questions. The more questions I asked, the more I began to understand that my headstrong, creative boy had actually handled the situation well. But let me fill you in…


The toys my son had traded were a popular collectible called Bakugan. These small spheres pop open to reveal powerful characters that can battle each other. They were the latest rage, but we had never actually bought any for our son. Many of his friends had them, and a few had lots of them. One of those friends gave him a Bakugan that wasn’t very powerful, and was a little bit broken.


That one Bakugan is what started it all. Over the course of several weeks, that single toy was traded for slightly more desirable Bakugan. One toy became dozens, of all different strengths and values. It was this carefully curated collection that our son traded for the Game Boy – one that was old and partially broken, and about to be tossed aside.


Let’s be honest – after we realized it was a fair trade (and the other child’s parents agreed), I became pretty proud of my son. Here’s what my son’s wheeling-and-dealing taught me (other than the fact that he very much takes after my entrepreneurial husband….)


Recognize the value of what you already have.

So often we are focused on what we don’t have – as leaders, as parents, as employees, as people. When we are able to see the value in what we already possess, we are able to harness it’s worth and create even more value.


You can’t wish for it – you have to work for it.

My son could have whined about not having Bakugan. He could have whined that everyone else had a handheld video game player, while he didn’t. Instead of wishing for what he wanted next, he decided to work for it. It took time. It took commitment. It took overcoming some misunderstandings. But the payoff was worth it!


Sometimes what looks unfair may not be when you hear the whole story.

Had I not chosen to ask questions and listen to what had really happened, I could have allowed my preconceived ideas to keep me angry and embarrassed with my son. When you see the tip of an iceberg, you assume you’re seeing the whole picture. You’re unable to see the huge mass of ice underneath the water unless you take time to look. Don’t assume the worst about people. Don’t assume the worst about situations. Ask questions. And listen.


When you’re faced with an uncomfortable situation this week, stop and look for the good in it. Recognize the value of what you already have. Stop wishing for a solution and start working toward one. And don’t assume you know the whole story – ask questions and listen!



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