“Not Enough Time” Is Simply A Damn Poor Excuse

This past holiday season my 10 year old stepson wanted a chemistry set in the worst way.   It was an item near the top of his “wish list,” and as things turned out his Grandma and Grandpa eventually came through with a nice set that should have made any kid his age quite proud.

Yesterday he finally got around to playing with it in earnest and I watched as he sat somewhat befuddled and with waning interest in the particular gift idea.   You see, in his young mind it didn’t turn out to be as much fun as he imagined it to be.   He figured a chemistry set is something that you can quickly mix a few things together and see some cool results.   He never expected that he would have to read some lengthy instruction book and learn about each chemical reaction.

After playing with the set for about 15 minutes looking through the contents and casually reading the instruction book…he declared to his mother and I that the chemistry set was no fun.   He just never imagined that it would be so much work…and such little fun.   Particularly in the early stages of playing with it.

Hmmm…as I quietly watched this little scenario play out I thought back to my youth when I got an electronics set.   I made transistor radios, timers, buzzers, literally hundreds of different experiments with a kit that required me to learn about using capacitors, resistors, etc.   Thirty years ago I accepted the fact that to use the toy it would require me to self-teach myself and to stay committed.   My, oh my, how times have sure changed.

Nowhere has it been more obvious to me than watching my stepson require immediate gratification from the toy or it simply gets relegated to the back of the closet.   Perhaps his mother and I are partially at fault as we always spoil him a bit too much during the gift-giving season.   When I was growing up I generally got just a couple of prime toys…and I quickly learned to appreciate them.   Nowadays, there are way too many options in life.   If something is boring…well, a kid of the 21st Century simply moves on to another toy that has proven to provide more fun.

I’ve written about it before in this blog but I will say it again.   Today’s kids largely find hunting and fishing boring.   I know this is a terrible blanket statement to make, but I challenge you to prove me wrong.   Given the choice to sit indoors and play some electronic game…I would bet money that most kids in the influential age bracket would much prefer playing Tony Hawk on the PlayStation than walking out in the woods learning about nature.   You see, the one option provides immediate satisfaction simply by picking up a joystick and becoming mesmerized by the visuals.   The other…well, it requires physical effort and a desire to be inquisitive about various curiosities of nature.   After all, to really enjoy nature and the outdoors requires a concerted effort on the part of the enthusiast…or it simply will not happen repeatedly.

This past week outdoors writer Chris Niskanen wrote an interesting article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.   It discusses the how the Minnesota DNR is deeply concerned about the lack of youth hunters and fishermen in the younger age groups.   Most of the decline in numbers seems to be attributed to a lack of time with so much going on in the lives of today’s youth…and I don’t dispute that fact one bit.   I still maintain, however, the main culprit preventing even more youth from getting involved in our beloved sports is the instant gratification component.

Let’s face it…a child who has such a short attention span and interest to stick with something for only ten minutes would not be a pleasure to have out in the boat.   And we all know how fishing can at times have some long lulls in the action.   Same with hunting.   How can a kid justify in his or her mind sitting for hours on end in a deer stand when they know a more comfortable chair and guaranteed fun awaits them back home in the form of a video game.

Folks, I don’t have the answers…other than I know we all have to do a better job at marketing the outdoors fun.   When I was growing up coming home from the woods with frozen feet from leaky hip boots didn’t deter me…rather, it embolden my outdoor spirit to dry out and get back outdoors to what I enjoyed doing the most.   Today I fear that many kids would use such a discomfort only as reasoning NOT to go outdoors again.   I could be wrong, but as a youth I made my fun by being outdoors exploring and discovering.   Catching a daytime glimpse of a big buck mink was my sense of accomplishment.   Today, accomplishment is more likely measured by what level the kid has achieved in the video game being played or how many points got racked up.

All I know is kids “not having enough time” is a big cop-out excuse.   Sure, life seems busier today than it was perhaps in years gone by…but is that the real reason?   My hunch is kids today want to be able to take the chemistry set out of the package and immediately derive pleasure.   To hell with reading owners manuals and learning about chemical reactions first…they just want to see things explode or do extraordinary things.   I fear, to some extent, our generation only has ourselves to blame for allowing all of this to happen right before our eyes with the youth.   I just hope it’s not too late to turn back the negative trends we are now all witnessing.

© 2007 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.

Looking Forward To The 2007 SHOT Show

Just six more days and counting.   That’s how long it is until the 29th Annual 2007 SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show) kicks off in sunny Orlando, Florida.   This trade-only show now boasts being the 27th largest trade show of any kind in the nation.   Attracting buyers and exhibitors from all 50 states and over 75 countries, it’s quite easy to see how this event has grown into one of the premier gatherings for the hunting and shooting industry.

I’ve been a regular attendee at SHOT since 1988.   I think there has been only one or two years during that period when I have missed the show—Atlanta being one of those years.   Otherwise, I’ve been in Houston, Dallas, Orlando, New Orleans and Vegas for this annual big get-together.   In fact, most years the show is located in Las Vegas…but sometimes due to scheduling conflicts it will be held in one of these other cities with a large convention center.

SHOTshowfloorThis year more than ever I am excited to see what is new and upcoming in the outdoors sporting world.   It’s a great place to not only see the new products, but also to meet some of the movers and shakers behind the scenes.   One of the truly exciting aspects of the show can also be found in the PRESS ROOM where you can go on just about any day and hear the latest industry buzz.   Lots of deals are cut at these shows and by just walking the 13 plus miles of showroom isles you can sense the excited and truly palpable pulse of the outdoors industry.

This year my main purpose for attending is to make some new contacts for my upcoming podcasting endeavors.   Not only will there be every industry expert imaginable, but there also tends to be lots of celebrities with whom I hope to make some key contacts.   All in all it will be a fun four days and I am starting to anticipate it with a great deal of excited energy.

If any of you loyal blog readers happen to be attending the SHOT Show and would like to hook up for a quick introduction and greeting…drop me a line.   I would love to meet with you briefly and chat.   As always, you can reach me at jim7226@hotmail.com.

Expect that I will be taking lots of notes once again and talking about the SHOT Show for several days after my return.   I also will have my laptop with me so if anything important breaks that is newsworthy I will try to blog about it from my hotel room.   Otherwise, if any of you have questions about specific product or the industry, in general…please do not hesitate to drop me a note.   I’ll do my best to hunt down the details for you and to provide you with the answers.

© 2007 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.

Baby It’s Cold Outside…Well, Not Really!

Last summer while I was traveling north into Maine through New Hampshire I stopped at the Maine Visitor Center just across the border to pick up some tourist literature.   I struck up a conversation with one of the travel hosts and he inquired where I was from.   When I told him MINNESOTA his immediate reaction was…“oh, it’s sure cold up there.”    My response was it can’t be any worse than it is in Maine now, can it?

A few years back I was at the Detroit airport on a lay-over and a similar conversation came up with a bartender.   When he heard I was from Minnesota his instinctive reaction was…how can you guys live up there?   It’s so damn cold all the time.   At first I thought he was joking…but his dead-pan face indicated he was completely serious.   Correct me if I’m wrong…but Minnesota can’t be that much colder than it is in Detroit, I responded.   His retort was…oh, yes…we’re much farther south than you are…just look at a map.

It must be about four years ago I was riding in a Las Vegas taxi cab and the driver asked the same question.   When he heard Minnesota he got all excited.   Asked me if I knew where the city of Red Wing was.   Of course, I live about 35 miles from the city.   Turns out this African American gentleman of about 60 years of age had a lifelong adventure he was scheduled to live out in Minnesota in just two weeks.   His plan was to go snowmobiling and to ice fish—two activities he had never even remotely experienced but wanted to before he died.   He couldn’t talk any of his friends into going with him…and neither would any of his sons tag along.   Everyone told him he was a fool for doing it because he will probably end up dying in the cold.   He said to hell with everyone and booked the trip anyway.   Literally spent thousands of dollars in warm weather gear, lodging, guide services, a new camera outfit, etc. so he could enjoy and remember this exciting, albeit, frigid experience in the North Country.

As my wife and I sat in the back seat of the taxi we could not believe what we were hearing.   First, most people from our country travel to Vegas to get away from the cold for a few days.   Helps to break up the monotony of a long winter.   Here we were now sitting listening to an older gent excitedly explaining to us how he was going to Minnesota to live out a lifelong dream to experience wintertime fun.   He just couldn’t wait to stand on a frozen river or lake and try catching fish through a small hole in the ice.   And the anticipated thrill of driving a snowmobile for hours and hours was just about getting the best of him.

That’s when my wife and I had to sober this poor guy up with some harsh facts.   Truth is, that year when we left the airport in Minneapolis the pilot told us that it was actually warmer in Minnesota than it was in Vegas on that particular day.   Everyone aboard the flight booed…but it was the truth.   There was no snow to be found…heck, that year you would be hard-pressed to even find any safe ice to walk out on for fishing.   The perception lots of folks have about Minnesota and how cold it is often times just does not compare with reality.   As this poor taxi cab driver soon learned when he finally arrived in Minnesota…there’s a definite difference between perception and reality.

I fault those old Sears Die Hard Battery commercials of the 70s and 80s for creating much of this false perception.   Remember the commercial where they were in International Falls, MN and they purposely left the car outside in the -40 degree extreme cold, but it started right off.   Hell…that must be a damn good battery if it performs like that.   Hell…Minnesota must be a terribly miserable state in the winter to live if they all must use Diehard Batteries just to exist.

Truth is Minnesota winters as of late have proven very wimpy by most accounts.   Seriously, again this winter most of the usual winter activities have been curtailed because winter has once again failed to rear its ugly head.   Been happening like this now for several years.   I don’t know if I’m a full fledged believer in global warming quite yet…but I’m starting to think that something has to explain what is going on beyond mere coincidence because Minnesota winters sure aren’t what they used to be like for severity.

So, the next time you take pity on someone for living in Minnesota or for having to travel to this great state in the wintertime…just remember, perception does not necessarily equate with reality.   Now, where did I put down my sunglasses and tanning lotion again?

© 2007 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.