RV Electricity Issue 13 – Road Signs – YWYD


YWYD (You’re wasting your dad – pass it on)

As many of you know, I’m an adjunct professor at a music conservatory that’s part of a large university. And I get a lot of really intelligent students in my audio electronics class, since they’ve already had to pass a number of juries in music performance and theory before they make it to junior level and into my class. So this really is the crème de la crème of students.

Since this is a practicum class (which means “hands-on”), I have my students build something as part of the class. In this case it needs to include soldering and basic assembly techniques. But instead of having each of my students build individual kits, we decided to pool our resources and build one BIG kit. In this case it was a small guitar amplifier (5 watts), that the class would donate to the school’s recording studio once we finished it. This would be perfect for recording, and since each of the students would have a hand in building it, I felt the emotional ownership would instill a sense of pride, something that’s sorely lacking in many students nowadays.

After the first class one of my young female students, Kaela, volunteered that her dad had a side business designing and building boutique guitar amplifiers, which he sold for 2 or 3 thousand dollars each, instead of the 2 or 3 hundred dollars for a basic transistor amp you can buy in any music store. So she showed the class his website, and it was filled with really cool guitar tube amps, many in custom wood cabinets with dovetail joints and beautiful finishes. I was a little shocked and a bit jealous, since one of my students had a dad who obviously knew as much, and probably more, than I do about designing guitar amplifiers. Then she casually mentioned that her dad was starting a Pink Floyd tribute band (one of my favorite bands from the ’70s), but she only knew a little about what he was doing. When I asked if there were lasers involved, she said yes. And then I asked if there was surround sound, and she said he was working on a quad-surround playback system.

So I asked her why she was in my basic audio electronics class when it was obvious she was exposed to this stuff since birth. But she was never really interested in what her dad did, and didn’t know anything about what he built. My other students (including several guitar players) were shocked as well. Here was a real resource on how to sound like a ’70s guitar player (Hendrix and Santana come to mind, as well as David Gilmour from Pink Floyd), and she was wasting him. And while Kaela is a very smart young lady (possibly the smartest one in this class), she didn’t recognize her own dad’s genius until we pointed it out to her. One of my other students kept telling her, “You’re wasting your dad,” and he was right. Every time I would teach a new design element in class (a tone circuit, overdrive gain stage, or effects loop) and she would ask a question, someone would say Y-W-Y-D for “You’re Wasting Your Dad.” She eventually told her dad about how much she had missed from the last 20 years of ignoring what he did, and said he was quite pleased that a college professor (me) would help get her interested in learning how he designed and built these sonic works of art. She was going to help start soldering some of his guitar amps.

Now what does this mean to you and your own kids? Well, I’ll bet that many of you have a special skill set or hobby that the next generation needs badly. Maybe it’s as simple as how to change a spark plug on a lawnmower. Or perhaps it’s building a rotary airplane engine out of scrap Volkswagen engine pieces. Maybe you know how to can tomatoes, name the constellations or make a great beef stew. What if you’re really good at computer programming, or have a background in gardening? The point is that the next generations need you. Please don’t let your knowledge pass away with you when you pass away from this earth. Teach Your Children Well (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young).

This is also one of the reasons I’m working so hard writing articles on everything I know about electrical troubleshooting. I’ve been doing it professionally for more than 50 years, and many of the troubleshooting techniques I now use were invented by me on the spot when I really needed a way to figure out an “impossible” problem. So when I die, they die with me, unless I pass them on to someone else. My No~Shock~Zone and RVelectricity articles and videos are a direct offshoot of me wanting to pass on this valuable information to everyone else.

So find a kid, neighbor or even senior citizen who needs to know what you know and pass it on. Don’t just weld the broken handle on their lawnmower for them. Teach them a little about welding. Don’t just spray paint their lawn furniture for them. Show them how to select the right paint, prep the surface and do the job perfectly.

And if you know someone who has a skill set you might be interested in, then ask for them to teach you. If you find a neighbor in your campground who really understands cameras, ask for a lesson in photography. Or get tips from someone who’s a great public speaker and you won’t be so nervous the next time you have to stand up at your local city council meeting.

The point is, never stop learning and never stop teaching. One supports the other, and knowledge is one of the most important legacies we can leave behind. And if your dad or another relative knows something interesting, learn it. Don’t make me say YWYD. Pass it on….

Mike Sokol (Forever Student and Teacher)


Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. Visit NoShockZone.org for more electrical safety tips. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.


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John T
1 year ago

It’s very true that we older folks don’t realize how important it is to pass on our knowledge. I had to be convinced by a number of people that I needed to write a textbook. I so enjoyed the process, and am so amazed that a detailed book on the most obscure of subjects would sell well worldwide, that I’m now working on my second textbook.

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  John T

John, that’s great. What’s the title of your book?

John T
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Principles of Aerostatics. It’s on the theory of lighter-than-air flight (blimps and balloons). Over 600 equations!

Roy Christensen
1 year ago

I really enjoyed this essay about teaching and learning. I was a science teacher in a high school for 33 years. Near the end of my career, some of the younger teachers would sit in the back of my classroom to watch how I taught a particular lesson. I was also lucky enough to demonstrate lessons to interested teachers when I became a science coordinator for grades 6-12. My own two sons did not want to learn some tasks that I offered to teach them. I have a good relationship with both of them (they are fine, young men) but they wasted their dad in some ways. I don’t have any specialized skills but I know how to fix things around the house. They ask me for advice about many things but not hands on type of problems. I will speak to them about this. Thanks for your excellent mentoring!

Bob Godfrey
1 year ago

Very good article Mike and I think it has to do with respect. Respect for knowledge and wisdom and I sometimes think that during the 60s the notion of “Don’t trust anyone over 30” began the decline in respecting the wisdom and knowledge of “older folks”. I remember very well a conversation I had with my youngest son when he approached me one day about my 1978 Toyota Celica and he asked me why I didn’t buy a new car. When I asked him why I should he stated “because it’s old” and when I explained to him that it was fully paid for, got great gas mileage and ran like a top he stated “Yeah, but it’s old”! Far too often when something gets old we simply toss it in the trash and buy a new one but there are still those of us out there that repair the “old” thing and continue to use it. The same goes for the knowledge and wisdom of age, far too many younger folks simply do not appreciate that knowledge.

Keep up the great work Mike, I’m still learning at 71!

Benny H Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob Godfrey

This mistrust of the elders is not new as you point out above. It has been building for decades. Commercials push, out with the old and replace only with the new. I can count on one hand the TV shows produced in the last 20 years where the parents are not a drain on society; let alone have any skills worth learning. To be fair I don’t blame the TV shows but ourselves for allowing those lessons to be repeated over and over to our kids. If a concerned parent would block all TV shows without good adult role models you may have to spend time with your kids. Also you can save money on new TV’s. The TV last forever because it will never be on.

Wolfe Rose
1 year ago

Quite the timely article… last month my kids started making up wishlists for Santa, and an overpriced robot-toy-thing was on my 11yo’s list. He’s going to be very surprised when Christmas morning he’ll open a box with strips of resistors, capacitors, transistors, CdS varistors, servos, steppers, etc… of course, the real gift is intended to be the hours with his Dad as I teach him what each component does and solder them up into proto PCBs… if that goes well, maybe I can teach him realtime programming in a few months and how to build and launch satellites in a few years…

1 year ago

I totally understand the YWYD phenomenon. Except in my case it is YWYM. : ) I am sure I am not alone. I would LOVE to teach my children what I know and have lived my life learning. But the problem is not that I won’t teach them, it is that they don’t want to learn it. Like your student who was WHD (wasting her dad), I am sure her dad had tried to teach her things but clearly she wasn’t interested. It is a typical family syndrome. He is my dad/mother/brother/sister. What does he/she know. And whatever they know can’t be worth much of anything because they are just my dad/mother/brother/sister. Some parents are lucky when the children see the value in learning what the parents have to teach. But unfortunately this is not the norm. It is so sad really. Because, yes, parents are often wasted.

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  Megan

Best to get the kids interested in learning new things when they’re very young. By the time my first kid was 4 years old I was already teaching him Corel Draw and Autocad, and when my twins were 8 they were asked to train all the school teachers in Powerpoint techniques. And they want to learn EVERYTHING I know, so it’s always a brain drain when they come over or we work on a project together. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Unfortunately I see a lot of parents nowadays who simply hand their kids a smartphone or iPad, and then tune them out. Teaching is a contact sport, so you have to work at it. And many parents won’t put in the time and effort. It’s WAY more work to teach your kid how to change a tire than to simply do it yourself. But it’s rewarding when they tell me mom’s car tires need rotated and they bring out the jacks and torque wrench to take care of it for her.