Niagara Gazette


January 12, 2014

SINGER: The perils of underestimation


Niagara Gazette — But again, I’m not preaching from some moral summit, given how I’ve embraced certain enterprises that turned out unduly daunting, when they didn’t need to be. Trying subconsciously to impress someone? But one shouldn’t — better to value oneself by putting fences around things you do, keeping within manageable parameters.

Because you and your rational choices matter, not old demands handed down from parents, nor the people in your current milieu you feel you must wow. I’ll give you a story from childhood on exceeding one’s grasp — a tale that interests my grandchildren via its vulnerability, but which also shows the inception of a pattern. In school around age 11 we had to do a project on a country of our choice, and the normal way to do so was making a cardboard thing to hang on the wall, and if it was, say, Colombia, putting a bit of coffee in one packet, maybe some sugar in another, stencilling a title on the thing, and you were done.

But deadlines must have been elastic and I’d seen this non-descript guy in class create an unexpectedly marvelous tunnel with lights flashing and somehow, all the requisite stuff that elucidated Russia, Turkey, or whatever country it was.

And I thought: why not me? So I decided to do something similar. Not wishing to face the fact that I wasn’t very technical, I let things go. Finally, needing to submit my project, I took an old cardboard box, slathered paint on it, glued in some pages on my chosen country, and for good measure, dropped a flashlight into the box! I would have been far better off, including grade-wise, with a simpler, more direct approach.

We all underestimate on larger issues, too, thinking, for instance, that “the economy” (the very term simplistic) can just be fixed in Washington. Examples abound right in your own backyard, or in places like Rockford, Illinois, once a thriving manufacturing center sprouting the electric garage-door opener et al., but now leading the way in underwater mortgages!

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