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The Dandelion Manifesto

If you were to look around in nature for something to emulate you could do worse than a dandelion.

Hear me out.

Dandelions are survival machines. Dandelions flourish anywhere and in any weather.  Dandelions will punch through concrete to live. Poison may wilt them but they will come back, again and again and again. If you are a gardener and you want to assure that your seeds will grow, cultivate dandelions.

It’s not a big stretch as metaphors go to compare parenting to gardening. As a parent your children are a bit of yourself that you hope will grow and flower, bear fruit, and endure. I look around – most frequently at people whose financial status or color afford them a privileged existence – and don’t see many dandelions.1 Rather, I see parents who think and act as though their kids are special little snowflakes; children whose uniqueness implies some sort of fitness or usefulness.  I’m going to be as honest as I can with you here: special little snowflakes may look pretty but they are fragile; they are destroyed in all but an ideal environment. If it gets a little too hot or a little too cold, those special little snowflakes melt or freeze solid.

Special little snowflakes may look pretty but they are fragile; they are destroyed in all but an ideal environment.

In my own quest as a parent I’ve spent the last 16 years trying to cultivate a dandelion. Given that I’ve gotten phone calls from Central American jungles three years in a row to tell me about an injury he’s sustained contrasted with his unwillingness to slow down or stop working and exploring after those injuries, or having him share with me just the other week that after “Fighting the ocean and loosing” (and winding up with the Red Cross picking gravel out of his face) that he immediately went back surfing, during a recent college visit, I feel like he’s blossoming just fine. Beyond raising my son however, I have spent last decade mentoring adolescents and young adults to become men and women of character. I’ve spent nearly a decade and a half teaching adults how to thrive in high risk, dynamic environments. With both groups – Adults and Proto-Adults – I’ve applied the same toolkit aimed at developing robust and resilient individuals. I like to cultivate dandelions.

The dandelion can be typified by a singular mantra – “Fuck it, I’ve got it.”

“Fuck it, I’ve got it,” hence forth FIGI (pronounced like the island, and yes I know that is spelled differently), is my mantra.2  The FIGI mantra is fairly simple, though not always easy, to live in an authentic way. That may seem counter-intuitive. It may seem like a recipe for toxic stoicism.3 When the Dandelion Manifesto is lived intentionally with core values of the Adult Academy Ethos – Empathy, Agency, Mutual-Aid, Self-Reliance, Resilience and Kindness – it is an antidote for the toxic elements in the world. I know that’s a tall claim. We’ll show you it’s true. Most importantly – and on this you will need to trust me for now – it’s worth it.

  1. I’m part of this demographic. While I may not even be close to the 10% let alone the 1%, the settings in the game of life were designed for me; a middle class white guy.
  2. A note on language is warranted. The language we use on this site and in our curricula is generally rated-PG. However, I also agree with the late George Carlin that there are no bad words, there are just bad intentions. So, from time to time I’m going to say “Fuck.” You may find it course, or vulgar, I respect your right to feel that way. Just know that my language is always a choice; it should never be interpreted as a paucity of intellect or erudition. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  3. Toxic Stoicism would be a great band name

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