Poet Carl Sandburg once said, "I won't take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth."
Sandburg's point crosses all disciplines and certainly is a precept that dads and moms can share with their teenagers: Talk is cheap. If you want to get ahead in the world and make your mark, you have to get involved and invest sweat equity. It's popular to say, "If you talk the talk, you must also walk the walk." It's popular because it's true.
The following is not original, but for the life of us, we can't find the source. It remains anonymous, but we share it anyway because the message is important.
A story of futility
There were four individuals named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to pitch in. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.
Picking up the loose ends
If you need to pause here to clear your head, that's fine. Ask your teenager if he or she has ever been the victim of an unfinished job — or has ever been left "holding the bag." It is especially unsettling when the job may have been someone else's in the first place and all he or she got accomplished was to talk about doing the job. Then somehow the expectation became someone else's burden to carry.
Things go wrong and projects fall through because somebody assumes that someone else will gather and tie up the loose ends. What if the stage crew at school failed to fasten down the flats for the school play? What if your teenager's teacher graded only the first two pages of the term papers? What if the football team practiced offense all day and never worked on defense?
What's on your ID tag?
Following through when you say you're going to do something can be a positive ID tag. Leaving loose ends dangling can be a negative label. We all know people who are eager self-starters — they start jobs but never see them through. You may be familiar with those professional movers — those who pick up the load and move it to your shoulders.
Summer job hunting
Now that we're in the season when your teenager is looking for a summer job, just remind him or her that leaving a job unfinished is a bad habit that comes with a surefire guarantee. When a person fails to finish the job, he seldom is called upon for another job. He becomes a spectator, watching others succeed from the sidelines.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.