This past year I started playing footbag, which is essentially another name for hacky-sack. It’s actually a competitive sport (believe it or not) and a lot of fun. For a quick preview, check out the video below of the Penn State Footbag Club playing this past March:
In addition to playing the sport, a few weeks ago I tried stitching a footbag (the little ball we play with – take a peek at the picture below for an idea). Luckily, I had the help of my friends (and grand-master footbaggers) Nathan and Nick, because it was certainly harder than I expected.
I believe that anything and everything is a learning experience, and stitching a footbag is no exception. Although the lessons from this experience are by no means novel, the best lessons in life are always worth reiteration.
So here’s what I learned at each step of the process:
Step one: make key decisions. First, pick enjoyable colors because you will be stuck with them for a while! If you replace the word “colors” with “jobs” or “friends” you will quickly see how this can be generalized. Pleasant colors are important because you don’t want to waste your time working toward something you are not going to enjoy anyway! Next, decide what pattern you want to make (14 panel, 32 panel, etc.) because success comes easier when the end is in mind at the beginning! Your anticipated final product will help to clearly define what action steps you need to take to get there.
Step two: get organized. Things you need to stitch a footbag: fabric, scissors, pattern templates, lead shot, a needle, nylon thread, tweezers, superglue, and a small funnel for filling it. Without these resources it will be rather difficult to succeed. Life lesson: acquire the tools and resources you need for any endeavor before you start. If you can’t acquire them beforehand, make sure they can be accessed somehow or that alternatives are readily available.
Step three: begin! “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu. With footbags, the first step is stitching two pieces of fabric together along one side. That’s about as much technique as I’ll describe in this post, but check out YouTube or do a Google search if you want more stitching advice. Either way, the life lesson here is this: you can only finish if you start. You can only succeed if you try. Get going!
Step four: quality counts. Obviously, my first footbag isn’t the greatest creation of all-time. But it was the best I could do. With each stitch I made, I knew that a sub-par job could lead to failure down the road. If the bag is stitched without the strictest attention to detail, weak spots and holes will form. If weak spots and holes form, the filling will fall out. If the filling falls out, you don’t have a footbag anymore, you have a pile of empty, heartbroken fabric because nobody will want to play with it. Do you want that for your footbag?! Of course not. So watch for the little things. And demand quality from yourself in all of your endeavors. As Ben Franklin said: “Watch the little things; a small leak will sink a great ship”.
Step five: finish strong. With so much excitement escalating as my bag came to completion, I just wanted to play with it. It’s easy to rush at those times. Luckily, I had grand-master Nathan helping me pull together the loose ends of my bag, otherwise I may have skipped some key steps, blinded by anticipation. The lesson here is this: don’t nullify your hard work by making a hasty mistake at the end. You wouldn’t conclude a great speech by saying the last paragraph and fast as possible and running away, right?
Step six: playtime! When all is said and done, congratulate yourself by enjoying the fruits of your labor! In the case of my footbag, after taking some pictures I had a very lengthy playtime session It was wildly invigorating. Do the same for anything you accomplish in order to reinforce the behavior. Don’t just tell yourself that there is a reward for working hard, but give yourself a reward for working hard.
Below is a picture of the final product. You may be thinking, “Is that a Christmas-themed bag? In May?” You bet it is!