5 years and 21 days. Listen. Just be present and listen. Do that and you will go far in life.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Learn to be present and to listen to the person or persons you are with at that very moment.  Your time and attention are the greatest gifts you could give anyone.

My single, greatest regret, Shosh, is not being present and not listening to you all those years ago when you were a toddler and full of stories and life.  You had amazing tales and a wonderful imagination.  I failed to nurture that by failing to pay attention to you when you were recounting the imaginary adventures that occupied your days while I was at work.

I was a busy professional and exhausted from the long days that often started at 3:00 A.M., but that was no excuse for failing my duties as your father.  It was (and remains) my duty to help nurture your talents and passions, not nod absentmindedly as you talked while mentally deconstructing clients’ problems in my mind.  In time, you stopped recounting your stories.  I only discovered my failings after your passion for storytelling had ebbed.  By then, I had already failed you.  I am SO sorry, my boy.  I AM sorry.  I will spend a lifetime to find ways to make it up to you.

Please, whatever you do, please do NOT make the same mistake as I.  Listen, really listen, whenever you are with a loved one.  Listen to understand, not to respond, not to judge, not to prepare a better story in rebuttal, etc.  Listen with an open mind and an open heart.

Be present.  Learn this skill, and you will go a long way in life to make friends, to find happiness, and to add value to the lives of others around you.

Now, be advised that listening and being present are NECESSARY skills for success, but they may not be SUFFICIENT for success.  It takes more than these skills to succeed in life, but having these skills is a good start. Too often and too many people in life fail these simple tasks to their detriment.

All my love, always,

Dad

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5 years and 18 days. Be confident in who you are and the value you bring to the world, but don’t be arrogant.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Always be yourselves and always believe in the value you bring to the world, but never be arrogant about it.  Why?  As a social matter, it is unseemly; as a practical matter, there is always someone better or more gifted than you.

For example, hubris is what caused BUFU to claim that he is always the smartest guy in the room — until he moved to New York City and got his shorts eaten by the really smart guys.  BUFU didn’t last more than few months in NYC, and had to run back home to his small city with his tail tucked between his legs.  Don’t be like that.

Don’t rest on your laurels either.  You are only as good as your last project.

For example, my sister, who graduated from high school when she was 14 years old, has earned her doctorate but has not much to show for her intelligence.  Why?  She rests on her laurels.  Yes, you can tell people how smart you are, how young you were when you graduated from high school (many many years ago), how you have a doctorate, etc., but at the end of the day, people only care about what you can do NOW.  Can they partner with you to achieve greatness?  to make money?  to build something worthy?  to leave a legacy for future generations?

Don’t worry so much about what others think of you.  Focus on improving yourself daily, on gaining knowledge about the world around you, and on making the world a better place for yourself and others, and people will see value in your work.  Your value is intrinsic and not dependent on what people think of you.  You don’t gain a penny in your bank account, or an ounce of health, or an extra second of time just because someone thinks better of you.

Your reputation only helps pave the way for you to accomplish your goals, to find people to collaborate with, etc., but it does not define you.  You define you.  No one else does.  Never let others define you.

Be good, my sons.  Be the best you can be, but be yourselves.  You are good kids.  I know.  I’ve watched your intrinsic goodness reveal itself as you grew up.  Shosh, you used to cry when friends get hurt, and offer candies and nice things for them.  Jailai, you used to save all your treats from school each day to share with Shosh, Little V, etc., and you used to befriend kids who had no friends.  You brought them into your circle of popular kids.  Don’t change!

I love you so much and miss you much!

All my love, always,

Dad

5 years and 13 days. My #1 rule in life is simple: help others if you can, but don’t make their situations worse if you can’t help. That’s just cruel!

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My dear Shosh and Jaialai:

There are few truly evil people in this world — Hitler, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahlmer, etc.  For the most part, people try to do the right thing, but, too often, their egos and failings get in the way and they lost sight of the purpose of their engagement.  For example, people often want to help, but the helpers often do so without bothering to ask the people they want to help (the helpees) what the helpees need or want.  The helpers assume they know better — sometimes simply by virtue of the fact that the helpers are in a position to help whereas the helpees are in the position of requiring help.  Thus, those helpers do whatever THEY think the helpees need, regardless of whether the “help” provided really meets the needs of the helpees.

Is this right?  No, it isn’t.  In addition to being ineffective at achieving the goal of helping those who need help, it also smacks of rudeness and arrogance.  It smacks of ill-bred behavior.  Worse yet, other helpers may see that the needy person already has “help” and apply their energies elsewhere, leaving the needy person’s needs unaddressed.

This happens more often than you think.  People “help” others not because they care about the helpees as individuals, but because helping others is good for their resume, is required by their religion, makes them feel good about themselves, etc.  In other words, they help others, but the focus of the efforts is really to benefit the helpers, not the helpees.

Be better, my sons.  No matter what you are doing, always place your focus on your audience, your target population, or the person you are talking to or helping.  What do they want or need?  Ask.  It’s so simple.  Yet, so many fail to do this simple task of treating people as persons and asking what the person needs. (Now, that’s not to say, you’d give in if the poor sod said he needs a stiff drink!)

Years ago, I staffed the Low Income Task Force (LITF) for one of the county government for one of the richest counties in the U.S.  Members of the LITF consisted of the directors for the various departments within the government.  We were tasked with finding out what the poor people in our jurisdiction needed, and how we could help them meet those needs.  Their needs were many.  To help guide our analysis, we created a matrix of specific needs, existing programs designed to meet that need, and the level of success such program is having at ameliorating that need.  The needs include, among other things, food, shelter, employment, education, healthcare, childcare, and transportation.

While we were discussing the needs, I shall never forget that the Director of Parks and Recreation opined that transportation is not a problem for the poor because “all poor people have cars.”  As evidence to support his claim, he pointed to all the cars parked on the front yards and streets in the poor neighborhood he’d visited as part of his job.

Now, he’s not wrong that many poor people own cars.  But, is he right that they don’t have a transportation problem?  No!  Many of those cars were parked in the front lawn precisely because they were jalopies!  They don’t run they are broken, they are unreliable, etc.  Yes, for $200-$500, you could buy a used car.  But, how reliable is it?  Will it get you to work on time everyday or will it leave you stranded more often than not?  If we want to help the poor, should we leave them to that fate, or should we try to provide access to more reliable transportation to ensure that they could get to work on time everyday, so that they could hold a job, pay their bills, keep their homes, feed their children, etc.?

(My first car, for example, was purchased for $300 while I was in college.  Eventually, it burst into flames — on the day I had my wisdom teeth removed, no less.  Wonderful, right?!!  You should have seen it: people around us ran over with their fire extinguisher to put out the flames, then the firemen showed up and doused my entire care with water.  Then, they tried to ask your uncle (who drove me to and from the dentist) and I what happened: he pointed to me as the car owner, and I tried to answer with a mouthful of bloody gauze from the removed wisdom teeth.  Good times, right?  My second car — which was given to me by a friend and for which I paid $200 to avoid a social debt — fared no better.  One of your other uncles was driving the car over a mountain pass when it gasped its last breath, exhaled a plume of white smoke, and died.  He was stranded on some mountain top in the middle of nowhere.  Great, right?!!)

Now regarding the LIFT, thankfully, one of the other directors disabused this director of his misconceptions.  We then went on to discuss options such as free tokens for public transportation, providing more low-income housing that have easy access to public transportation, etc.

This is an example of the helper making ignorant assumptions about the needs of the helpees without bothering to take the time to verify for himself the accuracy of his assumptions.  Do better.

Help others when you can, my sons.  Life is more beautiful when shared.

But, if you cannot help, don’t make it worse for them by blindly and arrogantly imposing your will on them.  You will do more harm in the process.   As mentioned above, even if the helpees ignored your ineffective “help”, other helpers may see that this target population already is getting help from someone, and they may move on to other target populations, thereby denying this group of the help they truly needed.  Be better.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

5 years and 10 days. Life is sales. Be good at it by focusing on the needs of others, instead of on what you are selling — your talents, your candidacy, your idea, etc.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

It has been said that all of life is sales.  I cannot disagree.  Whether you realize it or not, you engage in sales tactics everyday.  You persuade a friend to go to see this movie instead of that, or do this activity instead of that.  That’s sales.  You try out for the school team or newspaper.  That’s sales.  You write an essay for college admission.  That’s sales.  You try to persuade a girl to go to the prom with you.   That’s sales.

In light of the above, in my opinion, the last image above is the most powerful.  People give up too easily.  They tried and failed, and they never try again.  That’s the Homer Simpson approach to life.

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Don’t be like them.  Perseverance is critical to success.  Learn from your mistake and try again.  Success comes to those to forge on, not those who give up.

More importantly, often, people fail because they focus on themselves or their products, but not on the needs of their customers.  They forget — it’s not about them; it’s about the customer.

If you meet or exceed the expectations of the person you are pitching to, you will succeed.  Learn to focus on the needs of others and how you can help others, and you will be surprise at how people will be drawn to you.

This reminds me of additional quotes by Zig Ziglar.  Read on.

Zig Ziglar: 10 Quotes That Can Change Your Life

Zig Ziglar died today at age 86. A World War II veteran, Zig Ziglar became the top sales person in several organizations before striking out on his own as a motivational speaker and trainer. With a Southern charm and lessons grounded in Christianity, Ziglar wrote over two dozen books and amassed a following of millions who were encouraged by his lessons for success.

Below are 10 quotes from Zig Ziglar that have the power to completely change the direction of one’s life.

10) “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

9) “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

8 ) “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

 7) “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”

6) “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”

 5) “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”

4) “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

3) “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

2) “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

1) “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

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Have a good attitude, be a good friend, work hard, and enjoy a good life, my sons.

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., please do not mistaken this post as an encouragement to become a salesman.  It is an honest profession and there is nothing wrong with it, but I would rather you pursue a career in which you can create something for the betterment of the world — be it an idea, an improved product, a new product, or simply something that brings light into someone’s life.  You are capable of so much more than selling the wares of others.  I, for example, sell ideas and solutions to people’s legal and healthcare problems.  That said, if sales is your vocation or avocation, then I fully support you.

 

4 years and 6 days. Self care is critical. Make time to interact with nature and enjoy life.

 

Just looking at nature can help your brain work better, study finds

[T]he psychological benefits of green roofs to busy office workers may also be substantial, according to new research. In a study published in the journal Environmental Psychology, the University of Melbourne’s Kate Lee and a group of colleagues found that interrupting a tedious, attention-demanding task with a 40-second “microbreak” — in which one simply looks at a computerized image of a green roof — improved focus as well as subsequent performance on the task….

Other psychological benefits of nature views have also been captured in recent literature. In one study, research subjects who viewed a 12-minute nature documentary before playing a game that involved managing a fishery resource engaged in more sustainable behavior.

The new study appears to break ground by showing an effect — and a benefit — from a much smaller and shorter-lived nature exposure.

In the research, 150 students were asked to perform a cognitively demanding task called the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART). In the task, respondents view a series of individual numbers, between 1 and 9, on a computer screen. Each number flashes by very rapidly — in under a second — and the research subject has to press a particular keyboard key as rapidly as possible — unless, that is, the number is 3.

In that case, subjects have to catch themselves and not respond — which is difficult to do, given the habit built up of repeatedly and rapidly clicking the key.

This goes on for a large number of trials — 225 of them, requiring about five minutes in total to complete — making the task both difficult and also fairly taxing. No wonder, then, that it is regarded as a test of one’s ability to keep focus and attention over a period of time.

In the current study, students had to complete the SART task not once, but twice. However, they received a 40-second “microbreak” in between the two trials. During that break, their computer screens flashed either to a digital image of a city building roof covered in concrete, or one covered with grass and flowers. Then, they completed the remainder of the SART trial.


The green roof view that half of research subjects observed during their “micro-break.” (University of Melbourne)

Afterward, the students exposed to the green roof scene not only reported that it felt more “restorative,” they performed better on the task. In particular, they showed less fluctuation in response time, and made fewer errors of “omission” — failing to tap the keyboard key when they saw a number other than 3.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/05/26/viewing-nature-can-help-your-brain-work-better-study-finds/?utm_term=.e9487faa71fc

 

 

How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative

We are spending more time indoors and online. But recent studies suggest that nature can help our brains and bodies to stay healthy.

Here are some of the ways that science is showing how being in nature affects our brains and bodies.

1. Being in nature decreases stress

It’s clear that hiking—and any physical activity—can reduce stress and anxiety. But, there’s something about being in nature that may augment those impacts.

In one recent experiment conducted in Japan, participants were assigned to walk either in a forest or in an urban center (taking walks of equal length and difficulty) while having their heart rate variability, heart rate, and blood pressure measured. The participants also filled out questionnaires about their moods, stress levels, and other psychological measures.

Results showed that those who walked in forests had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress), and reported better moods and less anxiety, than those who walked in urban settings. The researchers concluded that there’s something about being in nature that had a beneficial effect on stress reduction, above and beyond what exercise alone might have produced.

In another study, researchers in Finland found that urban dwellers who strolled for as little as 20 minutes through an urban park or woodland reported significantly more stress relief than those who strolled in a city center.

The reasons for this effect are unclear; but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces. In a now-classic laboratory experiment by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and colleagues, participants who first viewed a stress-inducing movie, and were then exposed to color/sound videotapes depicting natural scenes, showed much quicker, more complete recovery from stress than those who’d been exposed to videos of urban settings.

These studies and others provide evidence that being in natural spaces— or even just looking out of a window onto a natural scene—somehow soothes us and relieves stress.

2. Nature makes you happier and less brooding

I’ve always found that hiking in nature makes me feel happier, and of course decreased stress may be a big part of the reason why. But, Gregory Bratman, of Stanford University, has found evidence that nature may impact our mood in other ways, too.

In one 2015 study, he and his colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants to a 50-minute walk in either a natural setting (oak woodlands) or an urban setting (along a four-lane road). Before and after the walk, the participants were assessed on their emotional state and on cognitive measures, such as how well they could perform tasks requiring short-term memory. Results showed that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety, rumination (focused attention on negative aspects of oneself), and negative affect, as well as more positive emotions, in comparison to the urban walkers. They also improved their performance on the memory tasks.

In another study, he and his colleagues extended these findings by zeroing in on how walking in nature affects rumination—which has been associated with the onset of depression and anxiety—while also using fMRI technology to look at brain activity. Participants who took a 90-minute walk in either a natural setting or an urban setting had their brains scanned before and after their walks and were surveyed on self-reported rumination levels (as well as other psychological markers). The researchers controlled for many potential factors that might influence rumination or brain activity—for example, physical exertion levels as measured by heart rates and pulmonary functions.

Even so, participants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety—a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.

Bratman believes results like these need to reach city planners and others whose policies impact our natural spaces. “Ecosystem services are being incorporated into decision making at all levels of public policy, land use planning, and urban design, and it’s very important to be sure to incorporate empirical findings from psychology into these decisions,” he says.

3. Nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity.

Today, we live with ubiquitous technology designed to constantly pull for our attention. But many scientists believe our brains were not made for this kind of information bombardment, and that it can lead to mental fatigue, overwhelm, and burnout, requiring “attention restoration” to get back to a normal, healthy state.

Strayer is one of those researchers. He believes that being in nature restores depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving.

“When you use your cell phone to talk, text, shoot photos, or whatever else you can do with your cell phone, you’re tapping the prefrontal cortex and causing reductions in cognitive resources,” he says.

In a 2012 study, he and his colleagues showed that hikers on a four-day backpacking trip could solve significantly more puzzles requiring creativity when compared to a control group of people waiting to take the same hike—in fact, 47 percent more. Although other factors may account for his results—for example, the exercise or the camaraderie of being out together—prior studies have suggested that nature itself may play an important role. One in Psychological Science found that the impact of nature on attention restoration is what accounted for improved scores on cognitive tests for the study participants.

This phenomenon may be due to differences in brain activation when viewing natural scenes versus more built-up scenes—even for those who normally live in an urban environment. In a recent study conducted by Peter Aspinall at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and colleagues, participants who had their brains monitored continuously using mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) while they walked through an urban green space had brain EEG readings indicating lower frustration, engagement, and arousal, and higher meditation levels while in the green area, and higher engagement levels when moving out of the green area. This lower engagement and arousal may be what allows for attention restoration, encouraging a more open, meditative mindset.

It’s this kind of brain activity—sometimes referred to as “the brain default network”—that is tied to creative thinking, says Strayer. He is currently repeating his earlier 2012 study with a new group of hikers and recording their EEG activity and salivary cortisol levels before, during, and after a three-day hike. Early analyses of EEG readings support the theory that hiking in nature seems to rest people’s attention networks and to engage their default networks.

Strayer and colleagues are also specifically looking at the effects of technology by monitoring people’s EEG readings while they walk in an arboretum, either while talking on their cell phone or not. So far, they’ve found that participants with cell phones appear to have EEG readings consistent with attention overload, and can recall only half as many details of the arboretum they just passed through, compared to those who were not on a cell phone.

Though Strayer’s findings are preliminary, they are consistent with other people’s findings on the importance of nature to attention restoration and creativity.

“If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover,” says Strayer. “And that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving, and feelings of well-being.”

4. Nature may help you to be kind and generous

Whenever I go to places like Yosemite or the Big Sur Coast of California, I seem to return to my home life ready to be more kind and generous to those around me—just ask my husband and kids! Now some new studies may shed light on why that is.

In a series of experiments published in 2014, Juyoung Lee, GGSC director Dacher Keltner, and other researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, studied the potential impact of nature on the willingness to be generous, trusting, and helpful toward others, while considering what factors might influence that relationship.

As part of their study, the researchers exposed participants to more or less subjectively beautiful nature scenes (whose beauty levels were rated independently) and then observed how participants behaved playing two economics games—the Dictator Game and the Trust Game—that measure generosity and trust, respectively. After being exposed to the more beautiful nature scenes, participants acted more generously and more trusting in the games than those who saw less beautiful scenes, and the effects appeared to be due to corresponding increases in positive emotion.

In another part of the study, the researchers asked people to fill out a survey about their emotions while sitting at a table where more or less beautiful plants were placed. Afterwards, the participants were told that the experiment was over and they could leave, but that if they wanted to they could volunteer to make paper cranes for a relief effort program in Japan. The number of cranes they made (or didn’t make) was used as a measure of their “prosociality” or willingness to help.

Results showed that the presence of more beautiful plants significantly increased the number of cranes made by participants, and that this increase was, again, mediated by positive emotion elicited by natural beauty. The researchers concluded that experiencing the beauty of nature increases positive emotion—perhaps by inspiring awe, a feeling akin to wonder, with the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself—which then leads to prosocial behaviors.

Support for this theory comes from an experiment conducted by Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues, in which participants staring up a grove of very tall trees for as little as one minute experienced measurable increases in awe, and demonstrated more helpful behavior and approached moral dilemmas more ethically, than participants who spent the same amount of time looking up at a high building.

5. Nature makes you “feel more alive”

With all of these benefits to being out in nature, it’s probably no surprise that something about nature makes us feel more alive and vital. Being outdoors gives us energy, makes us happier, helps us to relieve the everyday stresses of our overscheduled lives, opens the door to creativity, and helps us to be kind to others.

No one knows if there is an ideal amount of nature exposure, though Strayer says that longtime backpackers suggest a minimum of three days to really unplug from our everyday lives. Nor can anyone say for sure how nature compares to other forms of stress relief or attention restoration, such as sleep or meditation. Both Strayer and Bratman say we need a lot more careful research to tease out these effects before we come to any definitive conclusions.

Still, the research does suggest there’s something about nature that keeps us psychologically healthy, and that’s good to know…especially since nature is a resource that’s free and that many of us can access by just walking outside our door. Results like these should encourage us as a society to consider more carefully how we preserve our wilderness spaces and our urban parks.

And while the research may not be conclusive, Strayer is optimistic that science will eventually catch up to what people like me have intuited all along—that there’s something about nature that renews us, allowing us to feel better, to think better, and to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others.

“You can’t have centuries of people writing about this and not have something going on,” says Strayer. “If you are constantly on a device or in front of a screen, you’re missing out on something that’s pretty spectacular: the real world.”

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Go outside.  Get some fresh air.  Wander among the grass and trees.  I cannot emphasize enough how important being connected to nature is to your mental and physical health.

Do you remember how we used to go to the park or on a walk everyday when you were with me?  Do you recall all the trips we made to the beach, even if it were just for the day?  Why do you suppose we did all that?  Did you enjoy our walks and outings?  Why do you suppose that is?  Do you recall all the games we played and made up?   Remember the draw in the sand game, where we each tried to outdo the other with our sand art creatures and story lines?  Nature is stimulating in many ways, right?

Life is hard enough as it is, my sons.  Don’t make it harder than it has to be?  Exercise self-care: do the things that lifts your spirits and improves your physical and mental health.

Yes, I know you enjoy video games.  Fine.  Play video games.  But, limit your screen time!  You know the sedentary lifestyle (where you spend a lot of time indoors and in front of electronic screens) is bad for you.  For example, Johns Hopkins Medical Center found:

What health risks are linked to physical inactivity?

Lack of physical activity has clearly been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other conditions:

  • Less active and less fit people have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Physical activity can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Studies show that physically active people are less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who are inactive. This is even after researchers accounted for smoking, alcohol use, and diet.
  • Lack of physical activity can add to feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Physical inactivity may increase the risk of certain cancers.
  • Physically active overweight or obese people significantly reduced their risk for disease with regular physical activity.
  • Older adults who are physically active can reduce their risk for falls and improve their ability to do daily activities.

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/risks_of_physical_inactivity_85,P00218

After a short time on video games, turn them off.  Exercise self-control.  Go outside.

Be well, my sons.  Be happy.  Do what you need to make yourself happy.  No one can do that for you, but you.  Miserable people are miserable because they make themselves miserable.  They look for others to cheer them up, but those interactions can only momentary episodes of respite from their misery because they are ultimately miserable within their own skin.

Don’t be like them.  Find joy in every thing you do.  We did that often remember?  We had fun even doing the dishes, setting the table, or cleaning up after dinner, remember?  Why?  We enjoyed ourselves and each other’s company?  Life doesn’t have to be that hard.

Exercise self-care and make yourself feel better.  Do this everyday!

All my love, always,

Dad

5 years, and 4 days. Why not?

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

If you want to be successful, be insatiably curious.  Ask, “Why NOT?!!!” Do it a lot and often.

Don’t accept the status quo.  Don’t accept when people sell you their limitations.  Let them keep their limitations and let not their limitations define you.

For example, years ago, when I worked for the Enron of Healthcare, lawyers from their Legal, Compliance, and Regulator departments tried and failed repeated over the course of three consecutive years to obtain a new and more expansive insurance license that would enable them to sell additional insurance products.  Instead of listening to the insurance regulators and working to find a common path would both meet the regulator’s interpretations of the law and the organization’s business imperatives, the staff at the Enron of Healthcare chose to disparage the regulators instead.  After being promoted to managing the regulatory function for the organization, I was asked by the Vice President to lead efforts to obtain the new insurance license.  My first step was to meet with the relevant stakeholders both within the company and with the regulators to find out what happened, why the efforts failed, what the legal impediments were, etc.  Repeatedly, the staff from the company told me their efforts failed because the regulators were “idiots”, “morons”, etc.  They blamed their failures on the regulators.  They saw no failings of their own.  They told me my efforts were doomed to fail because the regulators were stupid and would never grant us the new license.

Well, they were wrong.  Within months of my submission, the regulators told me they had approved my application for the new license, but they would not issue the license until my organization fix years-long violations of insurance laws that the regulators had repeatedly told the organization and that the organization had repeatedly promised to fix.  (For example, there were emails and written communications going back FIVE YEARS that the organization was illegally denying contraceptive coverage in violation of federal and state laws.  For years, the organization promised to make the necessary changes to bring their insurance polices and administrative practices into compliance with the law, and for years they failed to do so.)

Had I listened to the “counsel” of my failed predecessors, I would have given up and not try to find a common path that satisfied the requirements of the law and regulators as well as the business requirements of my organization.  In other words, I refused to let others define my strategies and worked to forge my own path to success.

Boys, ask, “Why NOT?!!!” often.  Ask, “So what?” often.  Don’t be satisfied with what you’re fed by others.

Success requires you to make use of the best and most complete information you have at your disposal at the moment of the decision.  Don’t rest on your laurels.  Don’t rely on dated and stale information.  Ask for more and better.

Be more and be better!

All my love, always,

Dad

 

5 years, and 1 day. Have faith in your ability to overcome the unimaginable.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, Ms. L has been away from Little V more days than she had been with her.  For parents who adore their children, that is unimaginable.  The grief of losing our children to racist thugs who collaborated with a known pedophile to take our children overwhelms.  The other day, while watching The Light Between Oceans,” we both broke down and cried inconsolably.  A story of the loss of a child cuts too close to home.  We live it daily and need not be reminded of the immeasurable pain.

Yet, we live on.  We breathe in and out.  We put one foot in front of the other.  We put food in our mouths and force ourselves to swallow the tasteless morsels.  We marshal our energies and live to fight another day.

If I were all powerful, I would have saved you from all of this pain.  But, we are but humans and not all powerful.  Life can be unimaginably cruel for no reason at all.  You must forge your path in life to the best of your abilities, but also accept the vagaries of life as presented.  Wailing about them does nothing.  Deal with the challenges to the best of your abilities, then move on towards your goals.

We are not the only ones to suffer.  Look at the Myanmar refugee crisis for example.

Twelve-year-old Sukhutara said she watched her family’s final moments from a hiding place in the bushes.

She had just finished taking the cows to pasture that morning when soldiers in olive-green uniform stormed her village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. She said her absence saved her life.

“The military shot my father, and then as he lay on the ground a soldier cut his throat,” she said.

In a refugee camp on the border, Sukhutara, who goes by one name, sobbed as she described how troops dragged her mother and several other women into a hut. She heard screams from inside. Then the soldiers came out and set the hut ablaze….

Sukhutara, a 12-year-old Rohingya girl, inside a makeshift camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh. She said the Myanmar army killed eight members of her family in an assault on their village in Rakhine on Aug. 30.
Sukhutara, a 12-year-old Rohingya girl, inside a makeshift camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh. She said the Myanmar army killed eight members of her family in an assault on their village in Rakhine on Aug. 30. Photo: Syed Zain Al-Mahmood for The Wall Street Journal

Tulatoli, the village where Sukhutara lived, was home to between 4,000 and 5,000 people before the massacre. It was victim to among the worst violence in the military’s campaign, with witnesses saying that at least several hundred people were killed.

Sukhutara said she lost eight close relatives: her parents, grandparents and four brothers. Her uncle, Jahur Alam, with whom she now lives in the refugee camp, said there were no militants in Tulatoli when the army swept in on Aug. 30.

“If there were militants in the village, we would have fled as soon as the troops approached,” he said at a camp in Bangladesh, his arm in a sling after he was shot. “The military killed the men, raped the women, they threw little children into the water.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/myanmar-refugees-tell-of-atrocities-a-soldier-cut-his-throat-1506677403.

Her story is not unique.  Having worked with refugees for years, I am aware of countless horror stories from numerous people from countries all over the world.  I have helped a refugee from Asia, who had burns covering more than half of his body, from Africa, whose ear was cut off before her throat was cut.  The stories never get easier to stomach.

The experience of helping other refugees never prepared me for my own experience of dirty prosecutors stealing notes and files of documents and communications between us and our lawyers, of the thugs keeping our lawyers outside so that they could hurriedly finish their dirty deeds, of thugs collaborating with a pedophile to take Ms. L’s son away from her to place with the pedophile as a foster parent.  Being a Constitutional Republic meant nothing.

Thugs are thugs, and they are the same the world over.  When they work for the government, who can you turn to for protection but the international community?  See, e.g., http://time.com/3609811/police-brutality-united-states-un-ferguson-torture/;  https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/police/uspo14.htm;  http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/ngos/usa/USHRN15.pdf; https://www.propublica.org/article/who-polices-prosecutors-who-abuse-their-authority-usually-nobody; and, https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/05/prosecutors-shouldnt-be-hiding-evidence-from-defendants/275754/.

Innocent people are harmed daily by thugs and evil-doers.  That’s part of life.  You take the card you’re dealt and do your best to overcome whatever evil may bring.  We will prevail.  We will clear our names and expose the evil.

Until then, you fight on, my sons!  Breathe in and out.  Put food in your mouths, chew, and swallow.  Put one foot in front of the other, and marshal on.  For now, focus on being the best students you can be, the best person you can be.  Learn all you can from life because, some day, you might be called upon to use your knowledge to fight for the greater good.

All my love, always,

Dad