All Men Seek One Goal

You can’t make people do things.

Well; you can; but they won’t be happy about it.

And so, if we are to produce something worthwhile and be happy doing it, pushing from behind simply does not do the trick.

Push a mule from behind and it will demonstrate perfectly that law of physics. For each action on earth there is an equal and opposite reaction.The mule will very likely refuse point-blank to move.

But suspend a tasty snack inches from the nose of a mule who has no reason to suspect he will not get it; and he will follow that snack to the ends of the earth.

Thus, a clever man creates a desire for success in another which just happens to coincide with his own.And lo! Man-made synchronicity.

The man who taught Alexander The Great, leader of the known world, had simple words to say on the subject. Aristotle wrote a book on ethics and dedicated it to his son. I feel in my bones that I know why he did this. The motivation and ethics of little boys – it is both art and science. If you do it right it is the pinnacle of achievement.

I know this because I live alongside Big Al, the four-year-old with motivations which change by the millisecond.

So this is what Alexander The Great’s teacher has to say about the whole business: “All men seek one goal, success or happiness.”

Aristotle’s most famous writings on ethics are said to have been based on lectures he gave at the Lyceum, dedicated to his son Nicomachus. Had I been sitting in the Lyceum the day he delivered this pearl of wisdom I might have coughed politely and raised my hand. “Er, Mr Aristotle,” I would have piped up preppily, “I think you’ll find that’s two things.”

Happiness is not success, nor is success happiness. But both are very nice indeed, and both were on the mind of the small boy who arrived yesterday morning for two hours of action.

Big Al, my four-year old nephew, was coming to play, whilst his father took his sister swimming and his mother visited my mother in hospital.

I chose that bastion of additives and black hole of pocket-money, The Sweetie Shop. On the way to the Sweetie Shop we pass spectacular playgrounds, so that if Al’s short-lived motivation should waver we have an understudy goal in the wings.

Felix, my eight year old son, loves sweetie shops too, and playgrounds. And Al loves Felix. In fact, in the tradition of little boys, he worships grown-up boys and will follow them to the ends of the earth.

But was that enough to guide us through our odyssey?

I threw in a set of wheels for good measure. The most ancient wobbly scooter you can imagine, made some time in the 1960s, red metalwork, yellow wheels.

And just before we were ready to go  – with our coats on and one foot out of the door – Felix asked if he could bring Macaulay the dog.

Had anyone ever packed more motivational punch than me, this Saturday morning?

We set off walking: Al working the scooter, Felix leading the dog, the sun shining brilliantly, the daffodils nodding gently.

The playground is not far away: we stopped. I was bequeathed coats, dogs and a scooter; and waddled around after Al trying to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. He never did. Al bounces.

And then onwards, with the processed sugar ever beckoning. But the carrot had changed: Al didn’t want the scooter any more.

Fortunately, Felix did. For who can resist a set of wheels and a downward slope?

Felix jumped on, and whizzed off, an eight-year-old human carrot, and Al flew after him shouting encouragement. My heart almost stopped when I saw them heading for a great concrete downward spiral path, a chance to plummet without brakes and really do some damage. The dog and I broke into a run: but Felix was hurtling off oblivious, and Al after him.

I need not have fretted. They had a blast. So far I had not had to carry the scooter, or indeed utter one word of motivational encouragement.

Sweeties and another playground later we were ready to come home. The scooter was losing its lustre for Felix: until he decided to harness the dog’s fervour. He looped the lead on the scooter and Macaulay became a trusty cart-dog, puling the scooter along with Felix as passenger.

Felix did not lose his lustre for Al, however. It will be some 20 years before that happens.

And so picture a boy on a scooter, tugged by a trusty terrier, and a little blonde assistant running behind, with every inch of his energy, all the way home.

The epitome of both success: and happiness.


45 thoughts on “All Men Seek One Goal

  1. The sun is out today and after being caught in the hail yesterday that fact brought a smile – then coffee and Kate – what a brilliant picture you paint – a plan – and a result – magic – that was an expedition fraught with potential disasters – please, please will you gather all these blogs into a book so it can sit on our shelves.

    1. Thanks Alberta for those lovely words! Strewth, as my father often says, that’ll take some doing 😀 My first step is to organise the posts into tabs so you can all access Big Al stories, historical posts and so on. At least that way you can go and access more of the same. So glad you enjoyed this!

  2. what a lovely picture. motivation indeed for success in flying along on the scooter which in turn produces happiness in boys.

    I guess the only time you can push from behind and have the pushee grateful is in climbing upwards – a hill maybe?

  3. What a very cool story, young Felix the scooter master, bouncing Al a vision of energy unleashed, and, of course, Macaulay the wonder dog making us smile at the image of his leading the imaginary chariot filled with fearsome warriors.

  4. Wonderfully penned moment the like of which, I’m happy to say, no longer occurs very often in my life. One of my successes has been achieving the status of a “hands off” grandpa. I have created the aura of being “busy” which is accepted in good spirit by the grand children. I bet Aristotle didn’t make a habit of running around with children, scooters and terriers – he would have been far too “busy”:)

  5. I most definitely can picture this, Kate, and I admire your ability to hold it all together when they were hurtling downward! There is something about the quality of the energy in little boys I so adore, but they scare me! Pure joy in the speed and the adventure…priceless! Sophia, who is four, loves her cousin who is 7…follows her around with total adoration. I can just see Big Al with Felix. I’m so glad Macaulay got in on the action, too, and I hope you had a treat at the Sweetie Shoppe…you earned it! Debra

  6. you manage to motive two very different characters in one outing- very impressive. I’m finding teenagers a different kettle of fish….

    1. They motivated each other, in a strange kind of way, Pseu 😀 I think the dog, the scooter and the sweeties helped enormously! Not sure they’d help if Felix were teenage though…

  7. I’ve always said that people only do things because they want to. They do things they don’t want to do because they HAVE to, all other things being equal. That makes me sad, sometimes, the things people don’t want to do.

    I love Felix’s pants. Oops, I mean his trousers.

    This sounds like a Saturday brilliantly spent, Kate.

      1. It certainly was. Although I will not tell a lie: a quiet morning in watching Saturday morning TV would not have been unwelcome.
        Still, at least everyone got some stiff exercise 😀 Including me! Chasing after them was exhausting!

  8. Dig the picture of the boys…love the words even more. Frankly, I’m surprised you’re not hoping they will leave the scooter so you can have a go… wheeee ~

  9. This is a beautiful, homely piece and I love your descriptions. Success and happiness together and at once, now that is a miracle. Maybe we all need to visit sweet shops more often. 🙂

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