Passing It Down

Yesterday was a great day. I taught Jessica how to solder. And I taught Josh how to drive a stick shift. I enjoyed doing both very much.

Jessica is preparing for an art exhibition and wanted to make some light boxes she saw on the Internet. We went to the hardware store in town and bought a soldering iron and some electrical solder. It has been at least 20 years since I had soldered anything, but it came back to me like riding a bike. I soldered the first electrical connection. Then she soldered the second. It was a success. I gave her the soldering iron and solder to keep as a present. I hope she solders a lot in the coming years.

Josh has been driving for several years and got his drivers license a few months ago. He’s been driving our car and his sister’s car a bit. But he could not drive our 10 year old Jeep that we keep at our beach house. So yesterday afternoon, I took him out and showed him how to use the clutch and manually shift. He got it on the first try although we did stall out a few times as we drove around our block. The next step will be driving into town with either me or the Gotham Gal. I really enjoy driving a stick and that Jeep is my favorite car to drive out east. I am excited that Josh can experience the joy of driving a stick shift.

One of the many joys of parenting is passing down the things you know how to do to your kids. We do that from the minute they come out of the womb and for many years after. Our kids are all adults now, but the passing it down thing keeps going on. And that’s a really good thing for us and them.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. paramendra

    One of the best things about your blog is your ability to talk about your family in just the right way. You don’t overexpose, but then you don’t struggle at it either. You do it just right.(If I woke up early, it is to write a blog post about YOU! I am not a morning bird at all. πŸ™‚ Also , wanted to work out for unusually long hours.)Fred Wilson, Google, Facebook, Apple, USV

    1. fredwilson

      thank you. i learned that by doing both of those other things early on.

  2. takingpitches

    β€œTell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” β€”Confucius

    1. fredwilson


    2. Avi Deitcher

      I had a high school math teacher who used to start every class with that… notice I still remember over 25 years later!

    3. Donald E. Foss

      That’s the basis of the Inquiry-based learning model. My wife is a 7th grade science teacher, teaching middle school physical and chemical sciences and running the Virginia Junior Academy of Sciences for her school. Her classes are different from all of the others. Her class is noisy, she lets them go off on tangents, asking questions about the material that has nothing to do with the standardized testing. She had a light-bulb poster on the wall that a student can get up and any time, run over and slap to poster to let everyone know that they just had a light bulb moment, an epiphany or that they “got” a difficult concept. She hardly lectures and doesn’t give homework. 100% of her advanced and IB students have passed their HAT tests. She does it all by making them do everything possible hands on and instead of giving them answers to things or lecturing them, she presents a topic and makes them figure it out.This sounds like bragging, and it is–I can’t brag enough on how talented she is and how many students she is turning from indifferent into dedicated STEM students. Forget the lecture, which they’ll forget anyway. Teach them to think and how to work out questions and problems themselves. Teach them not to be afraid to ask questions or to be wrong, and to learn from their mistakes. It sounds a lot like Entrepreneurism, doesn’t it?

  3. jason wright

    i like the concept of hack spaces, crowd sourcing the cost of potentially rather expensive tools and equipment. I went along to my local hack space recently and discovered that their latest piece of kit is a GBP 4,500 (about $6,500) laser cutter machine. Used with a computer it takes CAD files and precisely cuts wood, plastics et.c. to make all kinds of things (including tablet stands), things that would be much more difficult to cut precisely with a saw by hand. They even have a soldering station.i am considering becoming a member, although i have some concerns about their approach to the principles of true openness and inclusiveness. there’s a overly strong white boy geek factor in play there. the location is also an issue. i can’t imagine a woman wanting to walk those streets on a dark evening in winter. they need to relocate.

  4. Paul Sanwald

    awesome. I have very clear memories of my dad showing me both these things: soldering when I was in middle school, and driving a stick in high school. it’s great to think back on that stuff.

    1. bsoist

      I can remember my dad showing me how to solder and I remember showing both my kids.

  5. Avi Deitcher

    That is just great. I bought my pre-teen daughter one of those electronics kits, and she loves building circuits with me. Not as convinced that it is the electronics as the time spent with an often-traveling Dad, but even so, she loves making the connections and seeing the end result.Maybe you’ll inspire me and next year we will get a soldering iron and circuit boards. I still have my breadboard from college….Here’s the kit, for anyone who wants to buy it for their kids…

    1. JimHirshfield

      YES! Loved this when I was a kid. Got one for my son. It’s hard for it to complete for his attention what with Minecraft and iPhone games.

      1. Avi Deitcher

        I know. Call us “bad parents”, but we have been pretty restrictive about screen time. Less restrictive than when I was a kid, but there were fewer screens then.A few weeks back, they were fighting over the TV and tablet all the time, so we banned both for a week in a fit of anger.We should get angry more often; they did more outdoor activity, more book reading, more getting along, more *everything* positive in that week than in the 3 months before!

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Good for you. Our kids won’t limit themselves so we have to do it for them. Even still we don’t limit as much as we should. Will do so this summer. It will he hard.But I love the results.

  6. William Mougayar

    Today’s soldering guns are easier to use, but the technique is pretty similar. Back in the day, one of my EE university projects was to build / solder a power supply from scratch, and it is still working. It powers an old car stereo just for fun in the garage.Wow 11K in 10 years! Lucky car.

    1. JimHirshfield

      They don’t make ’em like they used to.I remember burning all sorts of things with the soldering irons we had in our home workshop. Had a soldering iron with a relatively huge tip…like 1 inch across. I’m still not sure what we needed that for; way too big for circuits.

  7. bsoist

    Billy graduated from NYU this past week. After the Tisch salute on Friday, we had some family back to his place for a celebration. My in-laws were very proud of how we’ve taught our children ( 20 and 15 ) to navigate the city streets and subways.We show our kids even when we don’t realize. Every once in a while, I’m awestruck at how I do certain things just like my dad – stupid things he didn’t really “show” me how to do, like eating a sandwich. We intentionally decided someone else should teach our kids how to drive ( one of us is too aggressive, the other not enough ), but when Billy is driving, it’s almost like I’m driving – and I expect it will be the same in about six months when Becky starts.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Eating a sandwich can be hazardous if you do it wrong. Could get jammed between your teeth.Anyway, congrats on the graduation of your son!

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Congratulations on Billy’s graduation. And at 20!

  8. pointsnfigures

    Miss driving a stick. We are a one car family, and my daughters don’t know how to drive a stick. It’s a life skill that we didn’t pass on, but everyone should know.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      My 15 y.o. and I were admiring a Ferrari on the road the other day and I mentioned that driving a car like that would be more fun if it was a stick shift. Blank stare. Had to explain the concept of manual transmission.

      1. LE

        Yeah I really can’t get into having any kind of performance car w/o a stick. That said I had a loaner Porsche with a PDK and have to admit I really liked driving it.One of the reasons I can’t get into a Tesla (well many reasons actually) is that there are no gears and no noise. The gear shifting and the sound are integral parts of the experience that I have been programmed to enjoy.In any case if you live in Malibu (you do, right?) the car you need to buy is a Mini Cooper S convertible. They are a blast.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          We have some amazing driving roads nearby (Pacific Coast Highway, Mulholland Hwy, Kanan Road, Encinal Canyon) but we also drive canyon roads so with that and a largish family our default car type has been SUV. But as our kids are getting older and the need for larger cars diminishing I have been eyeing convertibles.

          1. pointsnfigures

            I would love an old Porsche. But, in the city it’s just cost prohibitive and impractical. Took the L to the Logan Sq. farmers mkt today and back. I really don’t need a car except for trips to the liquor store and grocery.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            A friend on the North Shore bought a Maserati as his midlife crisis car. That didn’t last long. πŸ™‚

          3. sigmaalgebra

            Maserati was famous for a while in European racing a little after WWII. For their aluminum body, supposedly they stole aluminum traffic signs and used the aluminum! Those were the days of flimsy, open cars where any crash was a danger and a roll over a death trap.Soon Mercedes came along with some serious engineering, Fangio as driver, and won nearly everything.Talk about overkill engineering: (1) No valve springs and, instead one cam to open a valve and another cam to close the valve. (2) Connecting rods solid, and the crankshaft made of pieces. (3) A straight 8 engine but with the power takeoff via a gear in the middle of the engine. (4) And, as I recall, direct fuel injection.I.e., as a teenager, before discovering mathematics and girls, I read car magazines!

          4. Brad Dickason

            My wife and I live in New York City and had gone without a car for seven years. We’ve been spending so much on zipcars that we finally decided to buy one.We have always loved driving manual cars and I’m a sports car nut, so we ended up purchasing a 1980 porsche 928 that is in great shape with only 40,000 miles. (On a sidenote, it’s amazing how cheap the 928 is).It’s a fantastic automobile on the open road with a 4.7L v8 and a really stubborn clutch/transmission, so it’s a ton of fun to drive at high speeds. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ve gotten it last 3rd gear in a few months. Additionally, the streets in the city are TERRIBLE and I’m sure we will need a new suspension soon πŸ™ in short, I wish we’d have gone with something like an SUV.

        2. sigmaalgebra

          Sure, for high performance or just simplicity and ruggedness, an old stick beats an old automatics. But at its best, and for some recent ‘automatics’, for very high performance, an automatic can beat a stick.And there’s the ‘dual clutch’ or some such idea: Apparently have two clutches with a lot of concentric circles, and have one clutch for the even gears and the other one for the odd gears. Then, to shift from an even gear to an odd one, tell the transmission the odd gear want and then, in 10 ms or some such, release the clutch for the even gear and engage the clutch for the odd gear. BAM. Super fast shift.

  9. Vineeth Kariappa

    Really well written; Soldering sticks πŸ™‚

  10. Steven Seagal

    @fredwilson”Josh has been driving for several years and got his drivers license a few months ago.”How is that legal? That he has been driving for several years without a license?

    1. JimHirshfield

      Learners permit I guess

    2. andyswan

      I’ve been driving since I was 9 years old. Many people see age-based laws as “suggestions”

      1. JimHirshfield

        We’re talking golf?

      2. ErikSchwartz

        Age based laws like you have to be 21 to drink whiskey for instance?

      3. LE

        The demarcation point for me is always “what is the stick?”.Everything is evaluated based on the downside outcome vs. upside.As such not having a front license plate is a suggestion and has worked well for me for many years. The “stick” is getting stopped (don’t care about that) and if I can’t convince the cop to not give me a ticket (I carry around a copy of the law which is fuzzy on having the plate in the front window (I don’t do that of course)) the ticket is like $80. Much better not to mess up the front of the car. I’m actually amazed at how many people don’t do the same thing. Programmers with aspergers of course will focus on the corner case scenario.So far, never been stopped. It’s almost like a game at this point.I think in business you have to have the right degree of chance taking in order to be able to get by. If you follow all the rules to a t you will never make any money in business.

    3. fredwilson

      Learners Permit

      1. Donna Brewington White

        So I believe Josh is 18? Ah, and graduating this year! Congratulations!So I guess he wasn’t in a huge rush to get his license? Same with my kids — although not as understandable since we live in an area where you can’t get anywhere without a car. When I was a kid we would get our license on our 16th birthday or shortly after. Life felt like it began with being able to drive.

  11. Lee Blaylock

    Wonderful post. For me, passing it down is especially sweet when I learned it from my father, mother or grandparents. One example, my dad, who died when I was 22 and he 46, used say “what do buddies do?” and my brother and I would say, “stick together!” I say that with my son and 2 daughters on monthly or so basis since they were little. It is the little things in life that can bring such great joy.

    1. fredwilson


  12. JimHirshfield

    Reminds me of the great fun I have helping the kids with their science projects. They have an “invention convention” every other year at their school. Really pushes them to be creative and use what they’ve learned. One year my daughter made a dog leash with LED lights on it. I had so much fun spec’ing it out with her, going to Radio Shack, and guiding her through assembly.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      Other day I was walking on the street with my son and saw 2 girls posting signs for a missing cat. They could have used something like that, perhaps along with a Tiles/StickNFind

      1. JimHirshfield

        What’s a tiles/sticknfind?

        1. Avi Deitcher

          low-power bluetooth tags almost bought some stick n find for my luggage – love the idea of waiting until my phone alerts me my bag is within 50 feet – but the reviews were pretty bad on Amazon.

          1. JimHirshfield

            What’s the TSA say about that?

          2. Avi Deitcher

            Why should they care? It isn’t liquid in your carry-on! πŸ™‚

          3. sigmaalgebra

            You mean our National Security Theater?Let’s see: Sometimes really good security takes a lot of work and creates a lot of bother. Sooooooo, install a system that creates a lot of bother and, thus, let people feel that they are getting security. At least they are reluctant to ask for still more security since that would result in still more bother.

          4. JimHirshfield

            Theater, for sure.

  13. kirklove

    One of my favorite father/son moments is similar and involves my old ’93 Jeep Wrangler (loved that car). A manual as well. I left the lights on and the battery died. I called my pop (from a pay phone!) to come help or pick me up. He said just pop the clutch. I had no idea. He walked me through it on the phone. A stranger helped push and I popped her on the first try. It was like magic! That was a neat day.

    1. JimHirshfield

      That trick doesn’t work on modern cars, does it?

      1. kirklove

        Car just needs to have a manual transmission.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Good to know. Tried this once with my rider mower. Couldn’t get it to work. Just bought a new battery.

          1. William Mougayar

            i think if it has an electronic ignition, you can’t do that. it works on some motorcycles though.

          2. JimHirshfield

            Is it a function of the ignition? I would think it was the transmission. In any event, aren’t all ignitions electronic?

          3. William Mougayar

            you might be right because it bypasses the ignition.

          4. sigmaalgebra

            Usually the battery is not quite so dead that it can’t power the ignition. Also, if pushing the car and turning over the engine, then are also turning over the generator, and powering the ignition takes only a tiny fraction of the electrical power from the generator, even with the engine running slowly. I’ve never had a battery so dead that a push start failed due to no electric power for the ignition.

          5. JimHirshfield


          6. LE

            It does work on the electronic ignition on a Porsche.

          7. William Mougayar

            got it.

    2. William Mougayar

      that’s the first trick you learn driving a stick shift. it is like magic the first time you do it. but you need to be in 2nd or 3rd gear, depending on the speed you’re un-clutching at. then you stop it on neutral and rev it a bit or continue.

    3. LE

      “He said just pop the clutch.”An example of why it’s good to understand how something works, the concepts. Then you can dig yourself out of a mess. Today that type of thing is lost on the web with step by step instructions. You want to know how to countersink wood screws? There’s a video for that. But you shouldn’t need a video for that it’s common sense if you visualize what is going on even if you aren’t a woodworker. “Hmm if I make a slightly bigger hole at the top the screw won’t clamp down and split the wood. Let me experiment with that and a larger bit..”.If you just learn the actions and the motions you don’t know how to fill in when there is a problem. [1]I always took apart, messed with and experimented with things as a kid so the pop the clutch was something that I figured out pretty quickly. For that matter as a kid I took apart a lawn mower centrifugal clutch and saw how that worked and thought it was pretty cool.[1] The example I like to use is washer dryer. The purpose of the dryer is to take the wetness out of clothes and to fluff them and perhaps sanitize them a bit more with the heat. If you teach someone to always put the clothes in the dryer after the washer for “x minutes”, if the clothes have sat in the washer (with the lid open) and are already dry obviously “x minutes” isn’t going to be correct and have the right outcome. You would need to either skip the drying phase or wet the clothes a bit in order to have the right outcome. While this example is obvious you’d be surprised how many people learn things without understanding the reason behind all the steps.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        As a child, our tools had a special, little bit that drilled a cone with the point at the bottom of the hole. Then get out a drill for the screw and start it at the point of the cone. Then put in the screw, and, presto, the truncated code on the underside of the head of the screw fits next to the walls of the cone, and the head of the screw is below the level of the surface.When in my senior year in college I moved from my house into the college dorm, I wanted a shelf unit for my stereo and books. So, in the garage I selected from our scrap lumber collection and built some pieces. One of the pieces I still have; it’s in the basement holding my circle saw, etc.For that piece, I counter sunk all the screws. It was all-night, ad hoc ‘furniture’ making but, surprisingly, still looks better done than might be expected. I used some left over paint and actually painted the thing.

        1. LE

          I remember that drill bit that you speak of.I have a similar one like that which is a hole saw. Used as an example for cutting into a desk and then being able to insert those plastic wire corralers. I bought a premade laminate conference table and cut a bunch of holes in the top so I can use it with computers and not have the wires draped over the top.I guess my issue as far as how things are now is that since people don’t understand they can use things they only know what they can buy pre-made (or at least most people).

    4. sigmaalgebra

      All the time! Did that all the time! So, gave the car a gentle push, jumped in, and let the car roll down the driveway and into the street. The street had a little slope to it, so I aimed the car down hill. I put the shift into neutral, stood outside the car with the driver’s side door open, and pushed on the windshield post. Once I got the car going maybe 2 MPH I reached in and swatted the gear shift into third (high) gear — right with no use of the clutch; that actually works well. So, the engine turned over a few times and started to run, and I jumped in, pushed on the clutch to take the load off the engine, punched the gas a little, and let the engine really get going, pulled the door shut, put the shift into second, and drove off, usually to school! Of course, by the time I got to school, the generator had charged the battery enough to be able to use the starting motor on the drive home!Why swat the gear shift into third instead of first or second? Because I was still pushing to turn the engine over, and first would have had the engine turning over so much faster that there would have been too much load on my pushing and the car would have stopped. Right: I learned that little lesson in mechanics the hard way. Having the gear in third when trying to start by pushing at only 2 MPH sounds strange, but that’s the best way.It would be neat if someone would build a really simple, rugged, easy to maintain car. Actually, there are plenty of good parts in the auto parts stores — really would need as new just a body and frame or just a ‘unitized’ body.

  14. Kirsten Lambertsen

    This made me think about the opportunities I had in school to learn things like soldering. I never came close to taking any classes like that because they were all considered “vocational” classes — classes for kids who weren’t going to college. A college-bound kid wouldn’t be caught dead in a vo-tech class.It’s too bad. I would have really enjoyed an electronics class, and it would have informed other courses that I was required to take. Hopefully the newly revived maker culture will take the vo-tech ‘stigma’ off those kinds of classes.

    1. Twain Twain

      In school, we did Craft, Design & Technology alongside Home Economics (cooking, sewing, embroidery) as compulsory subjects until we were 14 — boys and girls.Then when we were 15 we chose the subjects we wanted to take for national exams and spent the next two years compiling our work portfolios and for the final exam.The timetable for CDT clashed with Physics so I took Physics instead. We still got to play with IoT-type instruments which is why years later I get IoT.The craft part I learnt in Comp Sci and building our own computers and the design part I got from Art class so it worked out ok.It would have been fun to make more jewelry in CDT class, though, lol. My friend just put herself through a jewelry design night class and is thinking of quitting her fin tech job to become a jewelry designer.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Maybe the maker movement is a response to the loss of all this stuff in school.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      These kinds of classes have been being eliminated from school systems for a long while now. There was also a corresponding number of male dropouts.Learning has been geared towards mind-skills, not physical body and feeling-related skills.This causes all kinds of problems when you start to systematically plan to eliminate connection to the body, to the heart – especially when you incentivize people away from it with mind-related work, and perpetuate it with the work they must do to maintain their way of living, quality of life – which is at a constant negative pressure because of increasing costs – most of which is artificial and perpetuated by for-profit businesses, all of which these different businesses and sectors amplify the overall negative impact on a person and on society.I want to have the time, energy to write this all in a book. I’d rather be able to continue building practical tools and implement these systems – though speaking of incentives, hard to be motivated when having to look for a “regular” job, of which I don’t think will motivate me enough to get all of the thoughts down in a very long-form way.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Sigh. It’s also just strange to think that we’re not preparing anyone for any kind of gainful employment right out of high school. I guess I’m in the last generation that did that. You could be qualified to work in an office or, say, as an auto mechanic, right out of high school.

    3. Matt Zagaja

      Yep we had “tech ed” and “web design/powerpoint” classes but you had to choose them as an alternative to band, chorus, etc. and they were considered vocational in my high school as well. I took them anyways even though it was considered strange for me to do so being on the “college track.”

  15. bob

    You’re just young…spent the morning teaching my magnificent four year old granddaughter to swim. There’s nothing better. Call it passing it on 2.0 πŸ™‚

  16. Richard

    ” I don’t always drive, but when I do, I prefer Manual Transmissions” Stay Thirsty My Friends.

  17. Twain Twain

    Big thumbs up to all the fathers who pass technical knowhow forward to their daughters on a par with their sons.My father did that with my brother and me, and it’s enriched my life.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      My Dad did this with his toolbox. He had a humongous set of every kind of tool you could use around the house. It lends a certain confidence to know you could do certain things if you chose to do so.

  18. ErikSchwartz

    I love teaching the kids stuff. I shoot field archery and I have been teaching our middle daughter Elisabeth who is 9. This year at the National Championships up in Redding she won the girls cub division. It’s a big long three day shoot, the top archers in the nation are there, it’s hot, you hike between targets. She held her focus and shot strong. I was as proud as can be.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s awesome

    2. Donna Brewington White

      That’s great Erik. I am looking for archery lessons for my 15 y.o. Thanks to Legolas for making it “cool.”

  19. Elton

    Like that both examples involved “physical” and interactive teaching moments. As a parent myself, these teaching moments begin by taking the time to “be there” with your kids. Reminds me of this thoughtful book:

  20. panterosa,

    Fred, so Iron Man. I love it! Can you make a palladium reactor?

    1. fredwilson


  21. David Semeria

    Um, my weekend project with my boys (9 & 11) was to build this Lego plane. As usual they were in a mad rush to get it finished but I tried to explain that if you don’t get the gears and cogs just right, it won’t work and we’d have to dismantle it to fix it. So slow and careful was best…Yeah right. After 10 minutes they got bored and went back to the instant gratification of games on their Nexus 7s.Made me think: I would have killed for a plane like that at their age….Edit: photo upload doesn’t seem to be working so here’s a link

    1. David Semeria


    2. LE

      Why not try to make it a contest to see which one solves the problem (or as a team actually is better) with some desirable outcome that they covet? An outcome that will motivate them to stick with it and not get bored?Manipulating by way of a contest has worked pretty well for me in the past with my stepkids.

      1. David Semeria

        It’s more of a question of attention spans: they seem decrease with every generation. Mine was a lot shorter than my father’s and my kids are no different.

        1. LE

          Yeah but you yourself saidAfter 10 minutes they got bored and went back to the instant gratification of games on their Nexus 7s.While of course they could be bored as well it seems like the games provide the proper level of variable ratio reinforcement [1] as well as obviously get your kids into a “zone” that could last for hours.It’s really really hard to complete with that I agree. It’s the basis of many leisure activities (golf for one, sailing is another actually).My step kids also do lego. Personally I’m not a fan of lego because I think the end product has no sex appeal. It has no art and kinda looks dorky and clumsy. It’s not a work of art.Buy 2 of these v911’s for your kids. You can crash them and they are intermittently reinforcing because there is a degree of difficulty to flying them . After they get hooked you can then buy kits and build other models.They are real and actually quite well crafted:…Less than $40 and they are really durable. Make sure to use indoors outdoors would have to be < 2mph wind.[1] http://www.internettexashol

          1. David Semeria

            Thanks LE. The problem is not the playing, it’s the building. It took me all of Saturday to build the bloody plane, but then they spent most of Sunday playing with it.I guess they’re a bit spoilt (they’ve got several helicopters like the one in your picture, for example).

  22. Emily Merkle

    Great post. Great comments. Not all of us are able to have these firsthand experiences of “passing it down”, so we “pay it forward” – or at least try to. I have been working for a couple of years on a literacy project for children, both for and non-profit. I’m not going to plug it here, but it has and does bring me the joy you all describe herein, even without being a parent. Without the dirty diapers and Cheerios up the noses…

  23. sigmaalgebra

    Yes, teaching kids, and wives, girlfriends, can be a lot of fun.My parents taught me a lot, but as I look back I can think of a lot more that they likely knew at least something about, didn’t teach me, could have taught me, and that took me far too long at far too high a price to understand myself.Driving a car was easy: One day I was at home alone, and the family car was in the driveway. So, I got in and taught myself and drove right away. Drove about a mile, did a U-turn, returned, and did fine. It was an automatic. Later I drove my brother’s car, a stick. Did fine. But I had long been a ‘car nut’. E.g., once Dad explained to me how a car differential worked, just in words, and I got it, built an image, and still have it. When I had to work on a real differential, my image was correct. Later I taught a girlfriend — she was 15 and I, 19. Yes, I showed her how to parallel park, starting with “The big point is that you can steer the front wheels but you can’t steer the rear wheels so that the first thing to do is to back in and get the rear wheels about where you want them and then use steering of the front wheels to get them also where you want them.” She took her driver’s test and was asked how she learned and said, “My boyfriend taught me.”, and was told, “That’s often the best way.”. When she was 16 her father bought her a new stick shift, and she did fine.Dad knew a lot about people, and Mom knew much, much more, but that’s the one crucial subject they taught me next to nothing about. I had to learn catch as catch can, from my wife in our early years, and then from some reading until I had some ‘critical mass’ of understanding and could get the rest by observation, media, etc.Yes, Dad taught me about soldering, both metal and electronic, along with much more in such ‘trade skills’. He was also good at welding, e.g., at one time had a certificate for high pressure steam boiler welding; but we never had an opportunity for him to teach me welding and, thus, never did. For math and science, early on I taught myself and, with just a few good exceptions, just stayed with that through Ph.D., research, and the present. Being in good schools is crucial for knowing what the good materials and standards are, but in the end nearly all the work of learning is for the student to do.

  24. george

    My 8th grade science teacher stands out, he taught us all so much about electronics, rocketry and mechanics, he was our real life MacGyver!Charming memories + meaningful lessons…

    1. fredwilson

      Everyone should have a teacher like that in middle school

  25. Donna Brewington White

    Thank you for sharing this, Fred, and for the inspiration. What you have shared seems so simple and yet it is so important. Not just the skill but the circumstances in which the skill is learned. These are the experiences that bond and bind. My Dad was a doer — gardening, household projects, building things — and there were lots of opportunities to come alongside him doing things and to learn from him, not just skills but life lessons.One of my challenges is the balance between making the life I want for my kids (i.e., earning a certain income) and having the time to spend with them to pass things down. The first takes up so much time and energy that there is not as much time as I’d like for the second.It is a constant challenge to try to combine the two without letting the things suffer that really matter.

  26. Tereza

    Soldering and driving stick….both rock.

  27. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    I remember at Oxford Uni Engineering Week One.”The basis of a good electrical connection is a good mechanical connection”It’s obvious yet somehow overlooked in poor consumer products. For my money the higher abstractions of theory and conceptual engineering are like this. They buiid on what you understand – and in general that starts with what can do with your hands.For this reasons I feel programming courses should start with simple electrical relay circuits (open closed to represent on off)It gives logical AND OR NAND NOR a totally intuitive underpinning when you can SEE that two contacts in series must be closed to light a lamp, but in parallel an OR will do the trick.

  28. awaldstein

    I really don’t like building things and it was not for my dad’s lack of trying.Science teacher that he was, he made his three sons head on on trash day when people put TVs and toasters on the curb. We had to come back with components to build stuff which he did with us for the weekend.My brothers (scientists) loved it. I did it with skill only so I could move on. But then again, till I came on my own, I did rebuild everything from the engine of my Chevy, to rebuilding a house or two, to whatever broke.He was a great teacher and his result, cross the brothers was outstanding.

    1. GCSal

      I love that your dad did that! Problem solving, building mechanical/electrical aptitude, repurposing and family time all rolled into a weekly project.

      1. awaldstein

        Truly an amazing father and teacher.i have a terrific pic of him reading to me when I was 3 or 4 that is how I remember him the best.

        1. GCSal

          Sounds like an awesome person πŸ™‚ And although you didn’t relish it at the time, looks like the skills you developed served you well in your adulthood, and you have all those memories!! My brothers are handy (something that my dad passed down to them), but unfortunately I grew up in a household and in a time that favored specific gender roles. They didn’t encourage education bc they thought I would just get married anyway. Got scholarships, finished college (first in my family) and now co-founding a tech startup. Would love to rebuild an engine one day πŸ™‚

          1. awaldstein

            Great share!I rebuilt all of mine till I had the money not to and when they became to complex to do yourself in the backyard.Your startup is__________?

          2. GCSal

            Nerdular – content and commerce platform for nerds (comics, video games, table top games, anime, cosplay, etc.). Bootstrapped and in private alpha now but hope to launch in late summer.

  29. Brad Dickason

    Fred, if your son ever gets too confident in his ‘stick’ ability, I’ve got a 1980 porsche 928 with one of the most stubborn clutches known to man. To me, it seems like the final boss of manual transmissions :)Would be happy to let him take it for a spin near the city if he enjoys driving stick and wants to improve his skills.

  30. Mark Essel

    I can remember my first few experiences driving a stick, one a friends compact another a friends jeep. The jeep was more fun (no roof / doors off), but my shins hit the dash which made it tough.Ended up sticking with automatics with a healthy dose of horsepower.Great time of year to be outdoors on on the island, enjoy!