5 years, 1 month, and 14 days. Always be you, and beware of hypocrites — those who pretend to be someone they’re not.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Beware of hypocrites, my sons.  They are abound and they often assume leadership roles after donning the mantle of virtues to cover up their vices.  A cursory search of the Internet and you’ll find lots of stories about “leaders” who publicly extol the virtues of family values while bedding prostitutes or otherwise cheating on their spouses, who publicly decry the harms of homosexuality while engaging in homosexual conducts behind closed doors and in dark corners, etc.

For example, there is an elderly woman who goes to church 3-4 times a day, befriends mostly priests and nuns and other members of religious orders, constantly talks about her charitable work helping the poor and the disenfranchised, and loves visiting the Holy Land and the Holy See.  From all appearances, one would think her place in heaven is assured.  However, her conducts do not always conform with her words. More often than not, she “helps” the poor while helping herself.  She uses the poor and the cripple to raise funds, a sizeable portion of which goes to support her lavish and jet-set lifestyle.

At least she is small fry and those she professed to help actually do receive help, albeit not as much as they would have had to minimized her expenditures and maximized benefits to those she promised to help.  There are scammers out there who steal millions from the poor and the dying, all while basking in the lie that they’re there to help the poor and the dying.  https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/13/us/worst-charities/index.html.

Much has been said in the news recently about the egregious conducts of Oxfam “leaders”, but I am not surprised.  The adage that people kiss up and shit down comes to mind.  While there are lots of good people out there who work hard to help the poor, the homeless, the elderly, and the disenfranchised, too often the dishonorable infiltrates their ranks and besmirch their good names by claiming to help those less fortunate but, in actuality, abusing the latter.

Years ago, while working at a refugee camp to provide free legals services to asylum seekers, I came across a little toad of Vietnamese man from Australia who claimed to volunteer overseas “to help” his people.  In truth, he was there to prey on the weak and helpless and to coerce one into becoming his bride.  Shortly after arrival, reportedly he pointed to the most beautiful young Vietnamese woman helping out in the office and announced that he’d marry her.  True to his words, shortly thereafter, he married her and quit his voluntary position.  (Asylum seekers in those days could spend years languishing in refugee camps and often look for marriages as the way out.  Often, the women would even offer to pay men to marry them.  Of course, this constitutes marriage fraud, is highly unethical, and is illegal.  Love can flourish even in the most dire of circumstances, but these sham marriages are often unbalanced relationships between those with power — the man with an overseas passport (often a loser who has been rejected by his female compatriots at home) — and those without — the powerless woman who has given up everything she’s known to face an uncertain future while languishing in a refugee camp.  There is nothing fair or virtuous about these sham marriages.)

At the same time, I met another winner who repeatedly tried and failed to gain admission to law school then who went about bragging how he intends to get “an MBA in history.”  Another winner.  Unfortunately, they were not alone.

The trick is to watch what people do, and not put too much faith in what they say.  If their conducts conform with their words, then believe them.  If not, then stay clear of them.

A man is only as good as his word.  If a person has no honor and use his or her words only to further his or her deceptions, then be wary of him or her.  It is only a matter of time before you, too, fall prey to his or her lies.

We are raised in honest households; thus, we are no match for those who spend their hours and minutes scheming to defraud others.  Thus, it is best to give such ilk wide berth.

Likewise, do not do anything that would cause you to fall among the ranks of the hypocrites and liars.  Be you.  Be the best you possible.  Live right.  It will not always be easy, but it will always be right.  And, who promised you that life would be easy?  It isn’t.  Regardless, you can still live well, my sons, and leave the world a better place than when you found.

I love you with all my heart,

Dad

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5 years, 1 month, and 13 days. Given the current tone of discourse, I remind you again to SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND.

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Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

AKA:
Peace Prayer of St. Francis
CCLI Song Number 649264

Author(s):

Auto Scripture:
2 Samuel 14:25; 1 Corinthians 14:9; 2 Peter 3:16; 2 Corinthians 12:15; Psalm 108:1; 1 Corinthians 9:22; 2 John 1:8; 1 Chronicles 2:9;
Lyrics:
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

The Prayer of Saint Francis has always been one of my favorite hymns growing up.  It’s a simple, yet powerful, prescription from one of the humblest of our saints for how to live well.  The lesson, albeit deeply challenging to put into practice, is eminently simple: put the needs of others first.

Imagine a world where each of us tried to put others before ourselves.  Think of  all the rancor and distrust we’d give up!  Divorce rates, for example, would be greatly reduced.  How could marriages fail if each member puts the needs of the other before his/her own?  (The key here is reciprocity.  If one member puts the needs of the other first, but the second does not reciprocate, then the relationship will be challenged to succeed.)  If you took care of your friends and family and they you, then how could those relationships fail?

As I’ve always said, we are bottomless pits and our thirst for self-fulfillment never ends.  Recall the story of the simple fisherman and the magic fish?  Having caught and released the magical fish that could speak, at the behest of his ungrateful wife, the man asked for a cottage to replace their shack, a castle to replace the cottage, a kingdom in lieu of the castle, an emperorship, the papacy, and ultimately dominion over the sun and the moon.  Because she was never content with each acquisition, she ultimately ended up with nothing.  http://storyberries.com/the-fisherman-and-his-wife/.

We are wired to be dissatisfied: our brain adjusts to whatever is new and resets that threshold as the new normal.  This is true of drugs and of all  things in life.  Thus, if we give in to our baser instincts, we will forever be unhappy because no amount of money is enough, no number of cars will keep us satisfied, etc.  A guy we know who is a philanderer, for example, is learning this lesson the hard way.  He cheated on his beautiful wife with one woman.  Over time, he found that being with one woman is not longer enough and he needed two.  Two turned into several.  Where will this end?  In this day and age of AIDS, STDs, etc., what risks is he exposing himself and his poor wife to?  When is enough enough?  Never.

The importance of self-control and self-discipline can never be overstated.  The best meals, for example, are not the ones where you are overstuffed, feel like puking, and have to undo your belt ad unbutton your trouser.  No, the best meals are those that are just shy of being satiated and leave you wanting.  So, put down that fork and appreciate the wonderful experience you have enjoyed.  Overindulgence will ultimately result in your losing appetite for that favorite dish of yours.

I  bring this up today because I am deeply sadden by discourse following the school massacre in Florida.  Children and their families suffered and continue to suffer, but the lack of humanity has caused many to rush to label these kids and marginalize them without listening to their pleas and hearing their pains.  Why?  Where is our humanity?

Listen and try to understand the person speaking to you.  Don’t worry about what you’ll say after the person is done speaking; if you truly listened, the questions will present themselves and you will have endless matters to discuss.  If you do these things, you will find that life will be better.  People will often respond in kind, and you will attract the right sort of people to your circle.  I promise neither utopia nor the absence of the crass and the vulgar, but their effects will be limited.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

5 years, 1 month, and 12 days. Live with purpose.

Intergenerational care: Where kids help the elderly live longer

‘Good things are happening’

“When we bring children and residents together, the elderly together, you can see right away that good things are happening,” Somers said.
These “good things” are evident to any observer.
More than 10 children make their way along the garden paths into the lounge where the residents are stretching their arms and shaking their legs. Most faces in the room are smiling, and a few residents reach out to encourage the kids to come toward them specifically.
As small children roam about, trying the exercises themselves, cuddling up to residents and in some cases performing headstands, the rest of the room comes alive.
“They’re responding to an external stimulus, which is a toddler with an adorable grin fumbling towards them, carrying a toy, trying to interact,” Somers said.
The benefits in terms of health are also clear to see.
Residents “very often forget their own physical limitations, and they find that they are encouraged; they stretch themselves; they will lean up out of their chair, extend a hand, engage in conversation,” she added.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/16/health/longevity-intergenerational-care-elderly-children-intl/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_health+%28RSS%3A+CNN+-+Health%29

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

First, I give you Schubert’s Ave Maria.  It is more beautiful than I can describe and my go-to when I am overwhelmed by the ugliness in the world today.  I hope it will give you as much comfort and delight as it has given me over the years.

Second, I updated the homepage for this blog to provide a roadmap.  What started out simply as letters to you about lessons I have learned over the years — hoping these lessons would help you avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes I and others have made — has given rise to certain themes that if articulated might  help you better put these lessons into perspectives.  I copied the revised version below for your convenience.

Finally, I wanted to remind you to live life with purpose.  For some (many, actually), money or wealth is their raison d’etre.  But, that is an unwise choice.  On their deathbeds, no one asks for more time at the office making money.  Often, retirees lose their zest for life upon retirement because they lost their raison d’etre, their purpose in life.  As alluded to in the CNN article above, purpose is the zest of life … without it, we are lost and simply exist, not thrive.  I want you to thrive.

Years ago, when I sold books door to door, I met an elderly woman one early morning.  I knocked on her door, and, as we started to chat, she unloaded upon me a litany of ills that have befallen her.  After listening for a while, I asked, “Why do you get up in the morning, then?”  (Yes, I was young, and I was an idiot.  I would never be as blunt or rude today. Well, hopefully, I wouldn’t.)  At that point, she became upset and reversed herself, listing all the important things she had going on in her life and why it was important for her to get them done.  In other words, she changed her tune because she refocused on her purpose for living.

What do you live for?  I submit that you should live life to the fullest and make the world a better place along the way.  Below, in the revised homepage, are my thoughts on that.

I now leave you with my favorite quote from Hunter Thompson:

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Enjoy your ride!  But, remember that you can do well by doing good along the way.

All my love, always,

Dad

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My Dearest Shosh and Jaialai,

Life has its challenges and obstacles, but nothing changes that most basic, fundamental, and unadulterated truth: you two are the best things that have ever happened to me.  I am lucky to have you for my sons.

I love you with all my heart … always and forever.  Not a day passes that you are not in my thoughts, and your absence do not weigh heavily on my heart.

Current circumstances conspire to keep us apart.  But, that is only a temporary condition.  Know that everyday, I am doing my best to fight my way back to you so that I may be there to help you grow into the amazing men you will become.

These posts are but temporary solutions to fill the gap until my return. Through them, I hope to give you guidance and continue the lessons that were started from the moment you took your first breath — and took my breath away.

You will find that the overarching theme for this blog (and my life — and, hopefully, yours as well) is that WE SHOULD STRIVE TO LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR HAVING LIVED.  That’s my Golden Rule.  Consequently, the Corollary is to HELP IF YOU CAN, BUT DO NO HARM IF YOU CANNOT HELP.

Specifically, how do you make the world a better place?  First, be the best YOU can be. No one can ask for more of you.

To achieve that goal, I share with you lessons I’ve learned about how to live well and what it takes to be successful in America.  Note two things: (1) I am talking specifically about what it takes to achieve what is considered to be professional success in the U.S. and not elsewhere in the world; and, (2) the focus is on success as defined by society at large and not on your personal definition of success.  Your definition may be different.  That’s OK.  But, know that if you chose that path, it would be a rougher road to hew.  The choice remains yours.

Second, fight evil wherever you find it.  This is your duty as a human being.  We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.  If not us, than who?  I am always mindful of the words of Martin Niemoller, the Protestant pastor who spoke out against the Nazi and suffered in the concentration camp as a result.  He said,

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392

Regarding my prescriptions for a life well-lived, all I can say is be brave, my sons.  Be courageous enough to be the real you and the best you possible, despite the niggling comments of others.  Be strong enough to stand up for yourselves and your visions.  Be willing to fight for them.  Also, fight injustice.  Speak out against evil.

I know these are not small things I ask of you, but the world will tend towards disorder unless energy is expended to counteract the disorder.  If not us, then who?  We are the stewards of our world.  Do try to leave it a better place by actively working to make your little corner of the world a bit better than when you first found it and by stopping those who try to destroy whatever beauty lies there. A world without beauty is not a world in which we are meant to live and thrive.

Regarding our situation, be patient, my sons.  Be strong.  Be good.  The truth will prevail.  I promise.

It took me five years to fight the Enron of Healthcare and expose their corrupt practices.  How much longer will it take to fight and expose corrupt government officials?

Until we reunite, know that I love you always and forever.

All my love, always,

Dad

5 years, 1 month, and 11 days. Always put first thing first.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Recently, we heard a friend may be coming into bad news shortly.  She works very hard as a teacher and has gained much respect from the parents of her students; is a nice person as far as we are aware; and, despite her already long days, often volunteers to help others from her school and church.  Recently, she asked for another position at work, and a raise.  Unfortunately, the principal of that school made passing remarks that suggest our friend may be disappointed shortly.

The problem is that our friend over-extends herself with secondary and tertiary matters instead of focusing on first things first.  She’s a teacher.  Teaching is her most important task.  After that, her duties as an employee of the school is to help elevate the school and not cause problems for the school.  She failed the latter.  By not being mindful, she had put the school in a difficult position for the past few months.  The costs of this negates much of the good things she’s done.  Further, instead of focusing on her primary tasks and doing what is important for the school, she expends a significant amount of energy doing things that are unimportant to school and that are ultimately harmful to her health and well-being.

She failed to take care of the most important things first.  Doing well on secondary or tertiary matters can never make up for not performing your primary duties or tasks.

Remember to ALWAYS do the first things first.  Often, the first thing is what is most important and most urgent.  However, when those moments of crises have passed, then it is what is most important but not urgent.  These include, but are not limited to, exercising, planning the steps necessary to achieve your goals, doing your daily homework and class work in order to build up your body of knowledge, volunteering and helping to improve your community, taking leadership roles in your daily lives, nurturing friendships and relationships, taking time for leisure to nourish your own soul, etc.  Do unimportant or non-urgent things ONLY IF AND WHEN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

Too often, people waste time on unimportant and non-urgent matters. For example, how much time have you spent today on television, video games, texts, Facebook, Whatsapp, or other social media?  How many hours have you spent doing those things this past week? this past month?  How have they helped you?

(Don’t tell me you get your news from Facebook!  That’s foolish.  Why would you allow someone to choose for you what you may read?!!  Decide for yourself what you should read, not allow some algorithm created by some billionaire to limit what you may read.  Go to original and reputable news sources, e.g., the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Guardian, etc.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/college-inc/post/what-if-the-rankers-ranked-newspapers/2011/10/04/gIQAYZl6KL_blog.html?utm_term=.5f075803f775.)

Use the Eisenhower Matrix (the last graphics above) to help you prioritize your tasks.  http://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/.  This requires using your head and planning to manage your time.  (These are critical skills for success, my sons; don’t make short shrift of them.)

Because you are most productive in the morning, after you’ve had rest, don’t waste those precious moments on menial tasks such as planning your to-do list.  Do that in the evening — or at least draft a tentative list.  Then, after you’ve done your most intellectually challenging tasks in the morning, return to the list to update and finalize it.

Use the Eisenhower Matrix to help you stay focused and on task.  Take time to enjoy life and those important to you, but don’t waste time on unnecessary things.  If I could, I would go back in time and relish every moment I had with you and not waste a single second on unimportant and non-urgent things.  Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

I love you always,

Dad

 

 

 

5 years, 1 month, and 10 days. Always be the well-mannered gentlemen I raised you to be.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Always be polite — it warms the hearts of those who matter, and rankles the uncouth who expect you to descend to their level.  More importantly, what you say and do reflect on you, and I want the well-bred and the people of quality to count you among their number.  The alternative is highly undesirable, even if their number grows by leaps and bounds everyday.

It seems politeness and manners have fallen out of fashion.  How unfortunate!!!  Life is hard enough as it is without additional friction, vitriol, and rancor added to the mix simply because people cannot conform themselves to the rules of social behavior.

These people lack discipline.  One of your aunts, for example, is known for telling people off — including her bosses, siblings, or whoever — whenever she felt like it.  As you can imagine, she is the least successful among us, has been in one abusive relationship after another, and has condemned her daughter to a life of misery.  She ruined her life and the lives of those she professed to love because she simply lacked the discipline to conform herself to the rules of social behaviors.

If she’d live by herself in the wild, then she would be free to do as she pleased.  No one would care because no one would be around.  However, as soon as a community exist (and that may be a community of two), then understandings must be reached to foster better cooperation between members of the community for the good of the community as a whole.

Garrett Hardin states this best as the Tragedy of the CommonsSee, e.g., https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-tragedy-of-the-commons/; and, https://pages.mtu.edu/~asmayer/rural_sustain/governance/Hardin%201968.pdf.)  If the community has a pond from which members were free to fish and feed themselves, for example, and each member took as much as he pleased and wasted what he caught without regards to other members of the community, then, in time, there would be no more fish for anyone to enjoy.  Everyone would suffer. However, if everyone exercised discipline and conformed their behaviors to the rules of the community, then all members of the society could enjoy the fruits of the pond for a long time — assuming they used good aquaculture management and care techniques.

To put it another way, communal life is like the waltz or other fine-tuned dance.  If everyone follows the rhythm of the music and the steps of the dance, then beauty ensues.  Everyone could enjoy him or herself.  If, however, some members of the party decide to dance off-beat and to whatever steps they fancy, then chaos ensues.  Dancers around them would not know what to expect and would be unable to avoid colliding into them.  These dancers would move away, stop dancing altogether, or leave that party to find their own venue where they could dance in peace.  Joy is thereby reduced the many because of the few.  Thus, the uncouth enjoy themselves at great expense to others and exact a high price on society as a whole.  The community is fractured.

Don’t contribute to the decline of the community.  It doesn’t matter if others do.  That’s on them.  You behave well because you are well-bred and well-mannered.  If you don’t, that would be on you.

I recently heard about a couple who refused clothing ensembles carefully selected and assembled by the grandmother of the couple’s new born, who hand-carried the ensembles to give to her new grandchild.  The couple broke her heart by saying their child only wore “organic cotton grown and processed in the U.S.”  The couple claims to be highborn, but their actions belie their words.

When given a gift, the ONLY permissible response is “Thank you”  — this is especially true when you are accepting the gift on behalf of another.  To respond in any other way is simply rude and unbecoming.

Now, if the gift should be inappropriate (because it is given with expectations of returns which you find intolerable or unacceptable, because it is given to make the giver look good and you look bad, etc.), then you may say, “Thank you, but I cannot accept this gift.”  To do otherwise would be to allow them to bring you to their levels.  They cannot ascend to your level; thus, they aspire to bring you down to theirs.  Don’t let them.

Manners matter, my sons.  Behave well.  You will find yourselves in better company by behaving well than by behaving badly.  “Bad boys” may be popular in high school and later in life to the ill-bred, but they rarely ascend the ladders of success and time/history will rarely treat them kindly.

All my love, always,

Dad

5 years and 30 days… an eternity. No matter how successful, be true to yourself.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I’m a fan of good literature and of Kurt Vonnegut.  Maybe one day, you will get to know him and his colleagues, and befriend him and his friends as well.

One of my favorite essays by Kurt Vonnegut is entitled, “How to Write With Style.”  It is a refreshing, light-hearted, and insightful analysis by one of the masters.  His advice is simple, understandable, relatable, and straightforward.

But, what I really like about his essay is that, maybe with the exception of Advice #8, his nuggets of wisdom apply to life in general, not just to writing. By this, I mean the following:

  1. “Find a subject you care about” — this is true about writing, but about life as well.  Find and pursue your passion.  Without passion, life is flat and stale.
  2. “Do not ramble, though” — pursue your passion, but over-indulge.  Too much of a good thing renders it undesirable.  Practice self-discipline.
  3. “Keep it simple” — keep your life and your passions simple.  Learn to appreciate the small miracles of life — smile on your loved one’s face, a great smelling rose, a sunrise, for example — instead of focusing only on the grand moments, such as our vacations in Kauai, Okinawa, etc.
  4. “Have the guts to cut” — if something or someone is not working for you, e.g., they are bringing you more negativity than joy or beauty, then let them go.  Be okay with it.  Thank them for being a part of your life, but don’t carry their burden.  Some people never have a chance to grow because others around them enable them to be their worse selves.
  5. “Sound like yourself” — be you.  Who else can you be but you? Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.  Posers are a dime a dozen.  They are everywhere.  People see through them.  Don’t be like them.
  6. “Say what you mean to say” — this is my favorite.  Call a horse a horse.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Be honest with yourself and with others.  Life and time (the currency of life) are too precious to waste on falsehood.  Just be honest.  If someone is not going to like you, then they won’t like you.  So what?  What do you buy with falsehood other than a little time?  When the real you is revealed, if they would have liked you in the first place, they would continue to like you; if they wouldn’t have liked you in the first place, they wouldn’t after the reveal.  So, what have you gained?  Nothing, but a little time, operating under false pretense.  Why waste that time?  Who cares if they like you or not?  You are still you no matter their opinions.  Not one molecule of your being had changed, not one moment of your history had been rewritten.  Move on.  Also, be true to your words.  A gentleman is only as good as his word.  Keep your word.  I raised you boys to be gentlemen.  Remember that.  You can always be gentlemen regardless of your career choices.
  7. “Pity the readers” — here, I would modify that to say pity your audience, whoever he or she may be.  You never know what crosses the person you encounter bears.  Go easy on him/her.  Give him/her a break.  Grace him/her with a smile and with your full attention.  You’ll be surprise at how many friends will find their way to you if only you’d listen and give them the gift of being present.
  8. Read The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White.  It will help improve your life by helping improve your writing.  Successful people tend to be good communicators.  Learn to write well and write clearly.  Those skills will serve you well.  I was introduced to it at Duke and am forever grateful for that introduction.

Now, without further ado, I give you Mr. Kurt Vonnegut:

Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writing. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and intentional, elements of style.

These revelations tell us as readers what sort of person it is with whom we are spending time. Does the writer sound ignorant or informed, stupid or bright, crooked or honest, humorless or playful–? And on and on.

Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your reader will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an ego maniac or a chowderhead — or, worse, they will stop reading you.

The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not. Don’t you yourself like or dislike writers mainly for what they choose to show or make you think about? Did you ever admire an empty-headed writer for his or her mastery of the language? No.

So your own winning style must begin with ideas in your head.

Vonnegut goes on to outline eight rules for great writing

  1. Find a Subject You Care About

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.

2. Do Not Ramble, Though

I won’t ramble on about that.

3. Keep It Simple

As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story ‘Eveline’ is just this one: ‘She was tired.’ At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.’

4. Have the Guts to Cut

It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

5. Sound like Yourself

The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was the novelist Joseph Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

[…]

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

6. Say What You Mean to Say

I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more. I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant them to say. My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable — and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledly-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.

7. Pity the Readers

Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school — twelve long years.

So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify, whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.

That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.

8. For Really Detailed Advice

For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, a more technical sense, I commend to your attention The Elements of Style, by Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White. E. B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced.

You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

5 years and 25 days. Keys to success: (3) work hard and persevere — believe in yourself and the value you bring to others: don’t give up!

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Success is hard!  If it weren’t, everyone would have been successful.  No, success takes hard work and perseverance.  Most people fall short because they lack the self-discipline to push on when the road gets difficult.

Successful people push on when others give up.  The former creates winners; the latter creates losers.  Choose which type of people you want to be associated with, and stick to your goal.

#5 – J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

Photo Credit: Telegraph.co.uk

Rowling is one of the most inspirational success stories of our time. Many people simply know her as the woman who created Harry Potter. But, what most people don’t know is what she went through prior to reaching stardom. Rowling’s life was not peaches and cream. She struggled tremendously.

In 1990, Rowling first had the idea for Harry Potter. She stated that the idea came “fully formed” into her mind one day while she was on a train from Manchester to London. She began writing furiously. However, later that year, her mother died after 10 years of complications from Multiple Sclerosis.

In 1992 she moved to Portugal to teach English where she met a man, married, and had a daughter. In 1993, her marriage ended in divorce and she moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to be closer to her sister. At that time, she had three chapters of Harry Potter in her suitcase.

Rowling saw herself as a failure at this time. She was jobless, divorced, penniless, and with a dependent child. She suffered through bouts of depression, eventually signing up for government-assisted welfare. It was a difficult time in her life, but she pushed through the failures.

In 1995 all 12 major publishers rejected the Harry Potter script. But, it was a year later when a small publishing house, Bloomsbury, accepted it and extended a very small £1500 advance.  In 1997, the book was published with only 1000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries.

In 1997 and 1998, the book won awards from Nestle Smarties Book Prize and the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year. After that, it was one wild ride for Rowling. Today, Rowling has sold more than 400 million copies of her books, and is considered to be the most successful woman author in the United Kingdom.

 

#6 – Stephen King

Stephen King

Photo Credit: Bangor Daily News

Stephen King is famous for many critically-acclaimed novels, most of which have been made into movies. However, Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times before it was published.

Not only that, but King actually threw the manuscript into the garbage, only later to be retrieved by his wife who wildly believed in his dream of becoming a published author.

Yet, King’s earlier years were also nothing to rave about. As a child, his family barely made ends meet, and in his later years as an English teacher, he supplemented his income by selling short stories to magazines.

Today, King has over 50 novels and has sold over 350 million copies of his work. Can you imagine what King’s life would be like had he given up? It’s difficult to imagine that such a successful author was once rejected so many times.

In his earlier years, King talks about submitting short stories to magazines beginning at the age of 16, and hanging the rejection slips on a nail until the slips were so heavy he had to change the nail to a spike.

 

#7 – Bill Gates

Bill Gates

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Before Microsoft was born, Bill Gates suffered failure in business. Known today to be one of the wealthiest men in the world, Bill Gates’s upper middle-class family is a stark contrast from some of the other successful failures out there that didn’t have well-off parents.

However, Bill Gates didn’t rely on his family. His business acumen was second to none. But his first business was indeed a failure. Traf-O-Data was a partnership between Gates, Paul Gilbert, and Paul Allen. The goal of the business was to create reports for roadway engineers from raw traffic data.

The company did achieve a little bit of success by processing the raw traffic data to generate some income. But the machine that they had built to process the data flopped when they tried to present it to a Seattle County traffic employee. Yet, this business helped to set Gates and his partner Paul Allen up for major success with Microsoft.

Although Gates failed at his first business, it didn’t discourage him from trying again. He didn’t want to give up because the sheer notion of business intrigued him. He was cleverly able to put together a company that revolutionized the personal computing marketplace. And we all know just how successful that was for him.

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So, the lesson is don’t give up.  If you’ve done the hard work of critically analyzing your goals, strategies, and tactics, and if you believe in your idea, then push on … even when it’s difficult and when you don’t feel like it.  Don’t give up!  Rethink your strategies and tactics.  Learn from your mistakes, and redouble your efforts.

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If, however, you discover during your efforts that there is a fatal flaw in your analysis, then stop and critically reexamine your project.  Can the flaw be mitigated, or is it truly fatal?  If it’s the latter, let it go, and move on.  Don’t throw good money after bad.

The point is to know when to stop.  Persevere even against overwhelming odds if you have critically thought through your project and find it of great value, but drop it if you discovered fatal flaws that are unforeseeable or simply unforeseen, and unmitigatable.

So, to recap, to be successful in life, you must (1) be present and truly listen to others; (2) be of value, e.g., think critically to solve problems; and, (3) work hard and persevere despite set-backs and failures.  Be well, my sons.  Be successful.  Life is more rewarding and interesting when you are a success.

Success doesn’t necessarily promise you happiness, but happiness is more likely to visit when you are successful than when you are unsuccessful and filled with misery.

All my love, always,

Dad