My Father's Lesson, Courtesy of the Pinewood Derby


Cars are cued up for the Pinewood Derby on the Central Congressional Church in Chelmsford, Mass., Jan. 6, 2018.


Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe by way of Getty Images

At the ripe outdated age of 11, I realized an necessary lesson from my father: While failure will be bitter, success will be extra so.

It was May 1968, and I used to be in sixth grade. I participated in an area Boy Scouts of America pinewood derby, a car-racing competitors held by native Cub Scout chapters. Boys, usually with a mother or father’s assist, design and carve miniature wood vehicles, which race on sloped tracks, because the vehicles are powered by gravity alone. The quickest vehicles win trophies and ribbons, and there may be usually a separate award for finest design.

There was one drawback. As a bookworm who might barely hammer a nail, I had completely no expertise for any form of carpentry or handiwork. Unlike me, my dad, a white-collar govt by day, cherished nothing greater than tackling a difficult home-improvement venture in his off hours—one 12 months, he drywalled and paneled the basement, then put in a moist bar and an indoor swing. A Saturday with out a journey to the


software division was an anomaly in our home.

The arrival of the pinewood derby was a dream come true for my father. The rudimentary job of choosing the proper light-weight wooden and wheels was baby’s play for him. He actually outdid himself within the design. The miniature automobile my father conceived was half spider, half ant: the Spant. Dad carved the intricate physique of the hybrid bug with the ardor of Michelangelo within the Sistine Chapel. Fascinated however ineffective, I might solely watch in filial awe. The completed product—purple and black, modern and menacing—received accolades from everybody who noticed it. Although it didn’t take first place within the race, the Spant crushed the competitors in each idea and execution. It simply snagged the best-design award.

On the evening of the derby, my father generously advised everybody that I used to be an equal associate within the creation of the Spant. I knew higher, and the kudos I acquired from my associates and their dad and mom left me feeling empty. Getting reward for another person’s expertise and arduous work appeared like stealing. The subsequent day, I made myself a promise: In all future endeavors, I’d depend on my skill alone. Even if that meant failing.

I by no means advised my father how I actually felt about our pinewood-derby journey. He by no means knew that he had taught me a useful reality: It’s higher to fail by yourself than to take credit score for an additional man’s success.

Mr. Opelka is a musical-theater composer-lyricist.

Journal Editorial Report: The week’s finest and worst from Kim Strassel, Jason Riley and Dan Henninger. Images: AFP/Getty Images/Reuters/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared within the June 16, 2022, print version as ‘My Father’s Pinewood Derby Lesson.’