Building Blocks for Life

Building Blocks for Life
Epiphany 41

Get a group of people in a room whose interests are in the varied fields of science and ask them what are the building blocks of life and you will receive ten more answers than there are people present. Their answers will make perfect sense based upon their field of study but their different answers are indicative of just how complex life can be. The fact that they all have a ready answer illustrates just how common life can also be. Thus, the answer to one of life’s most difficult questions is found in the approach…..just like finding success in one’s living.

He was the tenth son of a rather poor family. Growing up in western Denmark, Ole Kirk learned the basics of life quickly and carpentry was very much a necessary skill for such a large family. Carpentry was a trade always in demand and Ole Kirk Christiansen made a good living at it for his wife and children until the depression of the 1930’s occurred. With no job, he picked up work where he could find it, building furniture and toys. He opened his own carpentry shop which burned down and then rebuilt it, this time focusing on toys, miniature versions of the larger pieces of furniture he had once produced. During the 1940’s he began working with plastics and a new company was formed.

Ole Kirk originally thought of naming the company “legio” to indicate a legion of toys. Then a combination of two Danish words, “leg” and “golt” meaning play well, was suggested – lego. Lego became the company’s name and it would grow to producing plastic blocks for building. It turned out to be an apt name when someone realized an ancient Latin word meaning to assemble was also “lego”.

Christiansen promoted his modular plastic and wooden toys as items that could be taken apart and rebuilt. Using an idea from another toy company in Britain, the Lego Company began making plastic bricks that would snap together. Consumers preferred the wooden toys but another fire resulted in the company doing away with their wooden toy line completely.

As plentiful and popular as they are, it is hard to believe that the plastic brightly colored bright idea of plastic bricks that could be assembled into items did not reach the United States of America until 1961. Now one of their biggest markets, the fifty-three year old legacy of lego bricks in the USA is unparalleled by any other European toy or toy company.

Ole Kirk Christiansen might never have invented his empire if he had not been the tenth son of a family who needed every penny and more. Being trained in a usable trade, he turned to toys when he lost his job during an economic downturn. Then the eternal and perpetual enemy of trees and their wood, fire, led him on yet another path toward the plastic interlocking brick that could be made into toys, towns, and figures. Today there are even computer animated programs based upon the lego brick.

Each of these instances in Christiansen’s life became building blocks for his eventual success. Even when he lost his wife and became a single parent to four sons, he persevered, climbing the ladder of his life, using the blocks of his life’s circumstances as steps instead of roadblocks. Last year the Lego Movie was released and became one of the world’s highest earnings animated movie openings ever. The Lego Company has had its ups and downs but, like the blocks it builds, it continues to rebuild and interlock into the world market, building the imaginations of children everywhere.

American John Wooden knew something about building blocks and using them to achieve success. A very successful basketball coach, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year, Wooden was not just successful on the basketball court but also in his life. He instituted summer basketball camps among other things but it will be his teachings that will forever keep his name notable.

Wooden defined success not in terms of championships won or the size of one’s bank account or car but as something much more personal. “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” In explaining his Pyramid of Success, Wooden referenced industriousness. “There is no substitute for hard work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.” The building blocks of Wooden’s epiphany, his Pyramid of Success, also included enthusiasm, friendship, cooperation, loyalty, self-control, alertness, initiative, intentness, condition, skill, team spirit, poise, confidence, and competitive greatness.

As soon as Ole Kirk Christiansen’s were old enough, he passed onto them the skills he had been taught. These building blocks enabled them to carry on his legacy and the company into the twenty-first century. The children of John Wooden’s summer camps are now adults themselves, many continuing his legacy and teaching others that which Wooden enable them to learn.

We are all members of a team. Whether we win or lose, we all are climbing the building blocks of our life. No matter how you define them, they all teach us, strengthen us, and enlighten us. Ralph Ransom, author of “Steps on the Stairway” wrote: “All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.” We will become successful when we realize our own epiphany that each step interlocks into building the man or woman we wish to become. The potential is there. We just have to imagine the design we wish to develop and start building not only a better person, but also a better world.


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