Written by: Kim Antisdel
When you’re young, your Dad is everything. He’s the one who reminds you to check your oil (which you lie and say you already did), call when you get home (which you forget to do), and change the clock on the stupid oven at Daylight’s Savings Time. He’s the person who teaches you to stand tall, be proud, and make yourself better every day.
And as an adult, you still carry those lessons with you.
On Father's Day, I found myself thinking about one of the greatest lessons my Dad ever taught me. It’s a simple one and in hindsight, I’m 99% certain my dad literally pulled it out of his backside in the moment. Regardless, it has stuck with me:
Try Three Times.
What is that supposed to mean, you ask? It’s exactly what it sounds like, and I promise, it absolutely works. Let me tell you how it all went down.
When I was about 11 years old, my dad sent me to get a pound of hamburger from the deep freeze. You know what I’m talking about. That huge, white, frozen rectangle that held everything from frozen pizzas to three year old bags of frozen veggie medleys that would never get eaten. (Who in their right mind eats lima beans?) I swear that freezer was like Mary Poppins’ grab bag. You could reach in and pull out a mauve lamp shade on a 12’ pole and I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Anyway, I lumbered down the stairs like the bratty tween I was, irritated that Dad would dare ask me to contribute my time and energy to help create a meal. I reached the deep freeze and opened it up, the cool air hitting my face in an icy blast.
“Ugh,” I thought, rolling my eyes at no one. “I don’t know where the stupid hamburger is and I don’t care. I’ll just say I can’t find it.” So I counted to 60 and headed back up the stairs empty handed.
“Hey, I couldn’t find the hamburger,” I announced, quickly popping my head into the kitchen. My Dad, busy cutting up potatoes for homemade french fries, turned to me and smiled.
“Oh really? That’s interesting because I know there’s plenty down there.”
“Well, I looked and couldn’t find any, sorry.” I shrugged my shoulders and headed back toward my room to stare at my Joey McIntyre poster.
“Hold up, young lady,” Dad replied. “Let’s go look together.” He took my hand and back down we went. Dad opened the freezer lid and we surveyed the assortment of frozen goods, all stacked on top of each other and covered in a thin layer of crystal diamonds.
“Now look,” he said, hands on his hips. “I know there’s hamburger in here. I want you to try, really try, to find the hamburger. If you don’t find it the first time, try again. If you still can’t find it, try one more time. If you try three times without success, come and get me and I’ll help you. Okay?”
I don’t know if it was the fact that he gave me a challenge, or if the knowledge that I wasn’t going to get out of this was the deciding cause, but suddenly I was determined to find the dang hamburger. And so I dove in. I moved packages of chicken, lifted bags of peas, and rearranged tubs of vanilla ice cream.
Nada. Zilch. “HA!” I thought to myself. That was try number one. Two more to go.
The second dive into the freezer wasn’t successful either. All I got was increasingly numb fingers and a package of fundraiser cookie dough from two years prior. No way try number three was going to turn up anything new.
But somehow, as my brain shifted gears and started planning all the gloating I would do when Dad realized that there was no hamburger after all, I saw it. Right there, tucked in the lower corner of the deep freeze were three packages of hamburger. I’ll be darned.
When I returned to the kitchen, a pound of hamburger in hand, Dad didn’t wallow in triumph or say “I told you so.” He simply said, “Thank you! I knew you’d find it if you tried three times.”
As a young kid, I thought this “try three times” business was quite possibly the stupidest thing ever. (Next to the episode of “Saved By the Bell” when Kelly develops a crush on Screech. As if.) But years have passed and I have found the Try Three Times rule to be eerily reliable.
Like that time in my first apartment when I bought a DIY storage cart for my bathroom. All the parts and pieces looked like an impossible puzzle hell bent on making my life miserable. I considered picking up the phone and having my boyfriend assemble it for me. But there was Dad’s voice in my head. “Try three times and then get help.” The first and second try were nothing short of disastrous. Screws and allen wrenches were all over the floor. There were tears. But by the third pass things got easier, and soon enough I was looking at a completed project. No need to call boyfriend after all. I got this.
The Try Three Times rule isn’t an exact science. It’s merely a way to not give up right off the bat. It forces me to try something a different way to see if the results change. It’s a challenge I give myself and occasionally I find myself on the fourth or even fifth try, just to be sure I really gave it my all. And you know what? There is something to be said for figuring out a problem without asking for help. It makes you a little smarter, a little more confident, and stand a little taller.
Just like Daddy taught me from the very beginning.
Kim Antisdel is a Kansas City writer, interior designer and sales rep. She's also a total know-it-all. Her favorite place to write is curled up on the sofa with her small zoo of rescue animals. She currently lives in Liberty with her husband, two stepdaughters and son.