Is your measuring stick too tall? or are you just using the wrong one?

I introduced my granddaughter (one of them, at least) to Lindsay Stirling and Pentatonix a little bit ago. At 18 months, she's a little young to find the music or videos herself, but that's what grandpa is around for - that, and engaging a little brain with occasional weirdness. She gets that both acts are very cool and dances that little toddler dance, bopping up and down when I put them on. My daughter hadn't heard of Pentatonix yet so she looked them up on Wikipedia from her phone.

And went into a minor case of shock.

They are younger than she is. Not by much but they are and, as she read about how they got started, she kept marveling at how young they were to have already become so accomplished. The core of the group (Kristi, Mitch, and Scott) started together in high school. After two of three graduated, they split, Kristi for Oklahoma and the Musical Theater program, Scott for USC and the Popular Music program.

Then life took an odd a cappella turn that ended up with the trio getting back together to win The Sing-off, a show that I had never heard of, dedicated to a cappella singing. By rule, competitors had to have at least four singers. The call went out to Mitch, who skipped his high school graduation to make the first addition. Avi, the bass, was recruited from the local scene in L.A. and Kevin was spotted on YouTube when a cellobxxing video of his went viral.

They ended up winning season three of The Sing-Off, a contract from Sony, and set a goal of a goal of the group becoming the first mainstream a cappella group in recent times.

Pentatonix is well on their way.

Back to my daughter and the psychic jolt from discovering that these already accomplished musicians are younger than she is. I'm pretty sure that she was measuring herself to them and feeling a tad discouraged.

She shouldn't but she's making a pretty common mistake. Young people often do. Old people like me make different mistakes. Welcome to being human.

Her mistake? She's using the wrong measuring stick.

Her accomplishments won't land her a recording contract but they are still accomplishments.

She's in school, working on a degree in Electrical Engineering. She worked at an ammunition manufacturer until her hubby got his degree. She stopped working when they discovered that birth control is 99.999 percent effective.

She went back to school anyway (she hadn't really left, part-time in school while working full-time) and changed majors to the EE. Dug in and started to do the hard work of becoming an engineer while raising a daughter. She has an advisor who is terrific (though the institution is NOT very family friendly!) who understands that this life will be balanced.

Which is good, because she's growing another human. If everything runs to plan, the next baby will arrive right before the fall semester but after summer school (yep, she's taking extra classes - and thinking double major.)

She a determined young lady, and stubborn. All my girls have some moxie, each in their own way.

Sometimes they get a little sideways though, and pick up the wrong measuring stick. They have to chart their own courses. Each is on a different path. One is a stay-at-home mom for now, until the kids are grown. One is pursuing a difficult degree - there are darn few women engineers. One is already on working to be an independent business woman.

Separate paths, just as Kristi and Scott choose when they dropped out of school to chase a dream. By a conventional measuring stick, the two Pentatonix singers were taking an enormous gamble because performing is such an uncertain venture.

Sometimes my girls need a reminder, but they get to choose their own lives, to define their own successes, and live with their mistakes. It all goes together.

And when you take measure of your life so far - make sure the measuring stick is the right size and shape. I have no illusions that my writing will ever be mentioned in the same breath as Hemingway or Fitzgerald or Vonnegut. It won't be a remunerative as Lee Childs or Grisham. But I have a few people that I want to write for, even if I don't make money from it.

Likewise, I won't ever be an electrical engineer. That daughter has already surpassed me in mathematics. The youngest is likely to be very, very good at her ventures because she's smart, and caring, and tough as heck when she needs to be. The eldest? Different dreams. She's already a great mom with great kids. When the kids are bigger, she'll probably return to school and work on becoming a great teacher, her early dream. Or she may choose a different path, now.

For each path, I have one piece of advice.

Make sure your measuring stick fits you.