5 years, 2 months, and 20 days. Be true to you and worry not about others.

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Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.
— ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I apologize for the long silence.  It has simply been a very difficult spell.

Other than you boys, what I miss most of our home is the small community in which we lived. For the most part, our neighbors were well-educated and well-mannered.  I have had the fortune of reaching a level of professional success which enabled us to live far from the ghettos and the accompanying filthy environment and vices. Being refugees now, we are no longer as fortunate.  (A friend, who was a judge on the appeal panel for refugee and immigration determination, advised us that what happened to us qualified us as refugees under international law.)

Today, I simply want to touch on two things. The first, I think, is the most important.  As per Abraham Lincoln and others, it is

[b]etter to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Many forget this lesson and speak of things about which they know little or nothing.  By doing so, they prove themselves fools and erase all doubts that may have been accorded them before they opened their mouths.

Be disciplined.  Avoid saying things that cannot be validated with documentary or testimonial evidence.  This strategy ensures you do not overspeak and protects your reputation.

Furthermore, be given to action rather than words.  It is better to do and show people what you can do than to tell them about how great you are … unless you are pitching to a potential client and telling him/her what you can do for his/her company.  Even then, the successes of your past projects speak louder than any words you may use in your pitch.

My second lessons to you, my sons, is to choose your battles wisely.  Let not anyone and everyone provoke you.  The world is full of ankle-biters who can never reach the heights for which you are destined; thus, they take to nipping at your ankles to annoy.  Ignore them.  Use your God-given talents to make positive changes in the world.  You will have to account for your talents when you meet your Maker.  Let the others account for the talents with which God entrusted them.  If they failed to live up to His expectations, that’s a problem between them and God, not you.

https://i0.wp.com/img.picturequotes.com/2/457/456402/dont-wrestle-with-pigs-you-both-get-dirty-and-the-pig-likes-it-quote-1.jpg

Focus on doing your best and being your best.  Don’t worry about what “others” may think.  Why should you give them such power?

Regardless of whether others are showering you with praise or vitriol, would your believing in those praises or vitriols add minutes to your life? brain cells to your head? beauty to your face? dollars to your bank accounts?  No.  Either way, thank them for their input, put it aside, then refocus on doing your best and being your best.

Remember the wise words of Teacher Mary, Shosh: you have control only over yourself and not others.  Thus, don’t worry about others, don’t take ownership of the foolishness of others, don’t let others live your life, etc.

All my love, always, my sons,

Dad

 

 

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5 years, 2 months, and 10 days. Beware: pride comes before a fall.

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https://noapologiesallowed.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/naa_127.jpg?w=656

My most dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I apologize for not writing the past several days.  They have been among the darkest.

As I come away from the morass, I am reminded of the above proverb.  As I’ve said earlier, pride is one of the 7 Deadly Sins, yet so many are afflicted by it…myself included.  This is the challenge of life, isn’t it — to struggle daily to live right?

"Any idiot can face a crisis; it's this day-to-day living that wears you out." -Anton Chekhov [800x600]

(https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/06/14/face-crisis/)

There is a fine line between confidence, pride, and arrogance.  You can be proud of your achievements, your heritage, etc., but don’t hold it over others as if they are your inferior because they are found wanting, they didn’t measure up.  Remember,

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/71/42/b9/7142b93582cb21abbf3c2682f572c333.jpg

Nothing in life is a given.  The gifts of today may be taken away tomorrow … or even sooner.

Work hard to be your best.  Strive daily to improve.  But, always be grateful for what you have.  You stand on the shoulder of giants.  Without the knowledge and contributions of those who came before you or I, we’d still be standing there trying to figure out how to rub sticks together to create fire.

We’re not where we are today due solely to our own efforts.  We were fortunate enough to be born into good families and to live in a safe and secure country, where — thanks to the grace of God — we have the economic means to nourish our bodies and our minds.  Millions of American children are not so fortunate. See, e.g., http://abcnews.go.com/US/hunger_at_home/hunger-home-american-children-malnourished/story?id=14367230; and, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/majority-of-us-public-school-students-are-in-poverty/2015/01/15/df7171d0-9ce9-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html?utm_term=.cbbe42e79afd.  The problem is even more acute worldwide.  http://www.thp.org/knowledge-center/know-your-world-facts-about-hunger-poverty/.  We are where we are today because fate was kind to us.  We were not born deformed and in impoverish countries, where hope is in short supply.  Count your blessings.

https://www.livelifehappy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/if-you-have-food-in-your-fridge.png

Recently, I came across two elderly PhD’s who stayed in youth hostels during their travels, but who could not stop bragging about how great they are, how much they knew, how no one was better than they, etc.  Their pride and arrogance blinded them to the irony that they were making such claims even as they, as old people, were staying at cheap youth hostels that catered to young and poor travelers.

If they were so brilliant and great, how is it that financial and professional success eluded them?  Are the rest of us simply too stupid to appreciate their greatness?  Is that why society, as a whole, has failed to shower them with adulation and success?

It does happen that a genius is misunderstood and underappreciated by society.  It happens, but it’s rare.  For example, Galileo was a man before his time and was punished by the Church for asserting that the Sun is the center of our galaxy and not the Earth, as the Church taught at the time.  It took the Church more than 300 years to forgive his “error”.  See, e.g., https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/galileo-is-convicted-of-heresy; and, https://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/31/world/after-350-years-vatican-says-galileo-was-right-it-moves.html.  But, in the history of mankind as written over the tens of thousands of years of our existence and the billions who have lived, how many Galileos have we?  Few and far in between.

Given the remoteness of the probability that these elderly doctorates were cut from the same cloth as Galileo, we turn to the more likely answer:  they are simply not as great as they claim to be.  They stay in youth hostels because they do not have the financial means to stay in a more comfortable, upscale, and expensive hotels.  Financial and professional success has eluded them because their egos far exceeds their actual skills.  They would be wise to boast less and do more.

For the most part, society pays people their worth.  Elite athletes, doctors, lawyers, etc., are paid handsomely to compensate them for their superior skills … which are in short supply in society.  We pay the less skilled significantly less money because they are easily replaced, i.e., there are many workers available in the marketplace with similar skills as theirs.  Thus, with rare exceptions, it is folly for someone to claim greatness when professional success eludes them.  (Again, with few exceptions, most of their peers in their profession should be able to assess their true value, don’t you think?  Exceptions exist, but are few and far in between.  See, e.g., http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-people-who-became-famous-after-death.php.)

Be not like those braggarts.  Focus on being and doing your best; fame and fortune will follow.  Concern yourself not with self-praise.  Let your praise be the domain of others … if they see fit.

(A corollary is to always watch what people do, but not accept as truth what people say.  Listen to what they say, thank them, but hold it at bay until you could confirm the veracity of their statements.  Then, and only then, act on the information as you see fit.  If it is true and wise counsel, take it to heart and internalize it.  If it is false, discard it.  If it has contains both truth and falsehood, then select the best part and discard the remainder.)

Be yourself, but be your best self.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

5 years, 2 months, and 4 days. Arrogance prohibits you from being the best you can be, so don’t be arrogant.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/47/69/4e/47694e4319ae46dbc7d552528137541f.jpgMy dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Because of the ubiquity of the problems of, relating to, and caused by arrogance, allow me to expand upon it a bit more before we move on.  Before we get into the nitty-gritty of that conversation, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite shows, “The Newsroom”.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1870479/.

In one episode, MacKenzie, who is the executive producer in that newsroom, said of Will, the star anchor of the newsroom:

You know what I like about Will? He’s not absolutely sure about anything. He struggles with things. He’s never certain he’s right and sometimes he’s not. But he tries hard to be. He struggles with things.

https://www.quotes.net/show-quote/60552 (emphasis added)

I love those lines because they put into practice another teaching to which I aspire to live by:

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Stated differently,

https://i0.wp.com/img.picturequotes.com/2/21/20093/a-wise-man-never-knows-all-only-fools-know-everything-quote-1.jpg

Perfect knowledge rarely, if ever, exists.  Life and circumstances will always dictate how much time and resources you can devote to any given decision.  Thus, all you can do is make the best decision you could under the circumstances — given the time and resource constraints.

Absolute knowledge is an illusion most often grasped by self-delusional fools.  Thus, I love that Will struggles with decisions.  Getting it right is hard!  Making the right decision is a struggle if you really cared about the outcome of that decision.  It is a challenge to identify all the appropriate and relevant stakeholders, the appropriate and relevant data points on which your decision should rest, and the appropriate analytical strategies and processes that should be brought to bear in making your decision. Only fools claim otherwise or think otherwise.

As an aside, this reminds me of a great advice that originated from Dartmouth College on how to organize and structure your paper when writing: once you’ve finished brainstorming and data-gathering,

Keep working [your outline] until … [it] fits your idea like a glove.  When you think you have an outline that works, challenge it. I’ve found when I write that the first outline never holds up to a good interrogation. When you start asking questions of your outline, you will begin to see where the plan holds, and where it falls apart. Here are some questions that you might ask:

  • Does my thesis control the direction of my outline?
  • Are all of my main points relevant to my thesis?
  • Can any of these points be moved around without changing something important about my thesis?
  • Does the outline seem logical?
  • Does my argument progress, or does it stall?
  • If my argument seems to take a turn, mid-stream, does my thesis anticipate that turn?
  • Do I have sufficient support for each of my points?
  • Have I made room in my outline for other points of view about my topic?
  • Does this outline reflect a thorough, thoughtful argument? Have I covered the ground?
 https://rosenenglish.weebly.com/uploads/1/4/1/4/14147635/how_to_structure_and_organize_your_paper.pdf (emphasis in the original)

Planning your decision-making strategies is not that different from outlining your paper.  Both require you to ensure you have the most relevant and appropriate data points, that the process and logic of getting from where you start to where you hope to end are sound, and that your arguments are coherent and cohesive.  If you replaced the words “goal” for “thesis” and “decision-making process” for “outline”, then you may find useful the above-listed questions in your decision-making process.

With that background, we now turn to our original point: the arrogant thinks he know all, and this delusion inhibits his motivation to reexamine his data or analyses.  Thus, he fails.  Thus, he can never be the best he could be.  As my mother always said, “Even a dog can catch a fly every once in a while when he yawns.”  Luck may intervene and produce a good outcome from a bad decision-making process, but Lady Luck is fickle.  It is best to not leave in her hands the outcome you hope to achieve.

Think critically and plan your decision-making process carefully.  Don’t let pride, arrogance, etc., interfere with critical, clear, and appropriately expansive thinking.  If you do this, success will find you.

Critical thinking is necessary to problem solving, and the world always needs problem-solvers.  What does it take to solve problems?  You must

  1. identify with clarity and precision what is the problem you’re tying to solve — in graduate school at Duke University, we spent a significant amount of time on this step for each project;
  2. know intimately the stakeholders involved and what their objectives, interests, needs, and fears are — without the support of stakeholders, your strategy will likely fail (even if it were the best and most appropriate strategy) because the key players will not help you and may even work against you;
  3. find a pathway that achieves your goal and gets the relevant and critical stakeholders on board — you can’t please everyone, but you must gain the support of the most critical players;
  4. execute according to your plan — too many fail this step; and
  5. continue to revisit and update your data and strategies as necessary during the execution stage to ensure you remain on track to achieving your goal and are using the latest and most relevant information available — don’t forget: it’s a reiterative process.

(If you think about it, the above problem-solving/decision-making process is not unlike the writing process where you must identify the purpose of and audience for your writing, brainstorm for ideas, outline your arguments, write, and rewrite.  Thus, the above-reference to the Dartmouth method of outlining is not wholly inappropriate.)

Anyway, I digressed.  My sons, always think critically.  Don’t allow pride or arrogance to interfere with your critical thinking process.

Too often, people fail because they think they know it all (i.e., they are arrogant) and fail to understand their audience, markets, or stakeholders.  As a result, they fail to gather all the necessary and relevant data point in order to devise the best strategy for outcomes which would meet the needs of their audience, markets, or stakeholders.

Be not like them.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

5 years, 2 months, and 3 days. Beware of the ignorant and arrogant. A wise man knows what he doesn’t know.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today’s lesson is really a permutation of the last.  Emotion (in this case, pride) interferes with critical thinking and produces bad results.

We see this all the time in both the young and old.  For example, when you were a toddler, Shosh, you once said, “I know French — ‘french fries’!”  You were proud — rightfully so — of having made the connection between “French” as a language and the use of that word in “french fries”.  What you said as a two-year-old is adorable.  However, when such sentiments are expressed by adults, they only make the speakers appear foolish.  For example, a college graduate — who is a teacher no less! — once explained to me that drinking coffee will darken your skin, and drinking milk will whiten it.  Yeah, right….

Unfortunately, such foolishness is not limited to those without advanced degrees.  For example, someone who attended Tuft University’s Graduate School of International Affairs for a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy claimed she knew as much law a lawyer with a Juris Doctor.  Another, who claims to have two master’s degrees and worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative, claimed she knew as much about medicine as a Medical Doctor.  Recently, I overheard two Ph.D.’s assert that government issued driver licenses and other identification papers based on a fraudulent birth certificates (i.e., not one’s own) are valid because the papers are government issued.  Wow…

(Regarding the latter, it should go without saying that anything achieved under fraud pretense cannot be cured by a subsequent lawful act because that latter was obtained under false pretense.  For example, if someone stole my car and sold it for good money to an unsuspecting buyer on Craigslist, although the purchase may have followed all legal formalities [i.e., the seller forged my name on the car registration and the buyer successfully submitted it to the DMV to obtain a new DMV-issued registration for the car in the buyer’s name], the sale would still be invalid because the “seller” stole the car and was not its true owner.  This is not hard to understand.  See, e.g., https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-99-00570.pdf.)

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Remember when I said what people say tells you something about them?  What do these things tell you about the speakers?  Are they wise or are they foolish?

Don’t be like them.  Don’t let emotions, including pride and arrogance, cloud your judgement.

Likewise, don’t let cultural mores blind you and cloud your judgement.  For example, in the Asian tradition, age is respected.  As my mother always said, “70 learns from 71”.  While that may have once been true in olden times, when formal education was limited to the few and experience was the teacher for the masses, in modern age, when education is accessible to the many, it is no longer valid. A  17 year-old with the academic degree Doctor of Medicine knows significantly more about medicine than a 90 year-old layman.  http://www.kansashealthcarecareers.com/10-youngest-doctors-in-the-world/.  Out of politeness, accord your elders a modicum of respect.  However, that respect is temporary and lasts only until you have gathered sufficient information to judge on your own whether respect is appropriate.  In other words, an elder telling you to do something doesn’t not entitle you to suspend your critical thinking faculties.  Any failure resulting from your action would remain with you, not the person who told you to take that action. Thus, don’t let cultural norms, like respect for the elder, cloud your critical thinking.  Sometimes,

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Remember, your mind is your greatest asset.  Money, title, fame, etc., may come and go, but if you have a sharp mind, you will always be able to rebuild.  Friends of ours lost everything to a false friends who robbed them blind, but they were able to rebuild their lives to a higher degree than it was.

Because your mind is your greatest asset, make the most of it.  Be informed.  Think critically, broadly, and clearly.

Also, protect your greatest asset.  Take good care of it.  Nourish and use your mind well.

As reported in an article in The Lancet, researchers in San Diego examined the death records of almost 30,000 Chinese-Americans and compared them to over 400,000 randomly selected white people. What they found was that Chinese-Americans, but not whites, die significantly earlier than normal (by as much as five years) if they have a combination of disease and birth year which Chinese astrology and Chinese medicine consider ill-fated.

The researchers found that the more strongly the Chinese-Americans attached to traditional Chinese superstitions, the earlier they died….

The researchers concluded that they died younger not because they have Chinese genes, but because they have Chinese beliefs. They believe they will die younger because the stars have hexed them. And their negative beliefs manifested as a shorter life span.

It’s not just Chinese Americans whose fears about their health can result in negative health outcomes. One study showed that 79% of medical students report developing symptoms suggestive of the illnesses they are studying. Because they get paranoid and think they’ll get sick, their bodies comply by getting sick.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-9690/scientific-proof-that-negative-beliefs-harm-your-health.html#. (emphasis added)

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My dearest sons, I love you more than words can describe, and I want the best for you.  Surround yourself with good people and positive role models. Avoid, like the plague, bad elements.  They do nothing but hurt you — even if only by modeling bad examples, limiting your world view and dreams, etc.  This includes relatives on your mother’s side who have felony conviction, who have been banned from driving because of repeated substance abuse, and whose friends got into a knife fight during the wedding ceremony.  Try to spend more time with my side of the family, where most of use have college degrees, many of us have advanced degrees, and most of us hold notable positions with prestigious organizations.

All my love, always,

Dad

5 years, 1 month, and 27 days. Avoid regrets — think critically and act boldly.

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How to Avoid Regret!

What we can learn from people who have faced death
 Posted Feb 09, 2013

In 2003 the New Yorker magazine published an article entitled “A Letter from California” about the suicide capital of the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, in San francisco. At that time the reported statistic was that someone leapt to their death from the bridge every two weeks. Among the most most memorable features of the piece– indeed, it is easy for me to recall a decade later– is a passage about the small percentage of people who survive the jump from the bridge. The author of the article asserts that instant regret is a common experience among those who jump to their deaths only to later survive. One young man, for example, was quoted as saying ” I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable– except for having just jumped.” This is a powerful testament to the idea that life is largely what we make of it and that our moment to moment perceptions can have a strong impact on our decisions, behavior and relationships.

Never is this more true than in the case of regret. Regret happens when we feel we have “mis-lived.” That is, when we feel that we have made mistakes from which we cannot recover or which we cannot undo. All of us harbor some form of regret. Sometimes they are small, such as wishing you would have attended a dinner party. Other times they are large, such as wishing you had never invested in a certain company or gotten married.

Recently, a hospice nurse in Australia cataloged the common regrets of the dying patients with whom she worked. The two top regrets are interesting and fundamentally relatable. First, people generally wished they had had the courage to live a more authentic life. They looked back on life and realized the many occasions in which they had capitulated to external pressure. They wished they would have taken a few more opportunities to follow their own hearts. The second regret on the list was “I wish I wouldn’t have worked so hard.” In a world where success is often measured by what we do and how well we do it the blur between job and identity appears not to be fulfilling in the long-run. If deathbed wisdom is any guide than people would prefer, at least in retrospect, to have taken off a few more Fridays and spent a bit more time with friends and family.

When you think about your life you likely have regrets large and small. Instead of dwelling on them here consider what you might do to avoid them in the first place. Are you willing to take a sick or vacation day to spend time with those you care about? Are you willing to take it a little easier at work this week? Are you willing to say no to someone else or take the risk to pursue a private passion? Take bold action now to avoid regret later.

Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener is fascinated by the way people avoid the difficult aspects of human psychology despite their benefits. He has written about these topics in his new book, co-authored with Dr. Todd Kashdan: The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why being your whole self—not just your “good” self—drives success and fulfillment. It is available from Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Booksamillion , Powell’s or Indie Bound.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/significant-results/201302/how-avoid-regret (emphasis added)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

In the post-Jaialai birthday moment, I am filled with regrets.  Would our circumstances have been different had I not followed your mother and returned to racist Oregon and the suburb of the place known as one of the most racist cities in the U.S.? See, e.g., https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/racist-history-portland/492035/; https://gizmodo.com/oregon-was-founded-as-a-racist-utopia-1539567040; https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/31/portland-white-supremacy-racism-train-stabbing-murder; http://www.oregonmag.net/OregonRacismTrib.html; https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/northwest-front-americas-worst-racists-119803; http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2015/07/oregon_history_of_racism.html; https://www.cbsnews.com/news/portland-race-against-the-past-white-supremacy/; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/06/07/when-portland-banned-blacks-oregons-shameful-history-as-an-all-white-state/?utm_term=.25ae7756d407; etc.

We all have regrets.  (Only liars and those who fail to live an examined life would deny them.)  As stated above, regrets are moments of life mis-lived — moments you wish you would had experienced differently based on YOUR choice of action at the time.

Some regrets are unavoidable, to some extent.  For example, as played out in the news recently, the Bachelor experienced regrets about who he chose and took bold actions to rectify the situation before it was too late.  https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/03/06/the-bachelor-after-the-final-rose-what-went-down-after-mondays-debacle/.  (We fault the man not for his bold action but for his lack humanity in handling the break up with the woman he regretted proposing to.)  The heart does as it wishes.  We love who we love without rhyme or reason.  But, the head and the body need not (and should not) heedlessly follow the romantic and mercurial heart on its misadventures.  Humanity, morality, responsibility, etc., often serve to restrain the desires of the heart.  This dynamics often sets up the inevitable conflict and results in regret.

Aside from matters of the heart, other regrets are often avoidable IF, at that moment in time, we think critically, broadly, and clearly through the issues and choose bold actions, if appropriate, instead of giving into fear and timidity.  Let’s look at each component of my assertion.

First, critical, broad, and clear thinking is necessary to avoid most regrets.  Why?  Too often, regret results from rushed decisions (fools rush in, remember?) or poor decisions based on imperfect analysis or data.  A common error, especially for decisions made during the heat of the moment, is that we analyze things too narrowly in terms of time as a dimension or in terms of other relevant factors.  For example, during the heat of the moment, we often erroneously think the issue confronting us will last forever or for a long time.  Then, too often, we further exacerbate poor analysis with poor data: we fail think through the matters sufficiently to understand fully what data is necessary and, as a result, we fail to gather all the necessary and relevant data from relevant stakeholders before making our decision.  In hindsight, we often regret these decisions for having failed to think through the problem more clearly and broadly.

Second, containing our emotions is also necessary to avoid most regrets.  Beware, emotions  — both positive and negative — can overwhelm and blind us to reality.  Thus, it’s best to give time for emotions to subside to avoid making rash decisions.

Let me give you an example of how joyful emotions could lead us to make foolish decisions that could haunt us for life.

IN 2010 at a mate’s party, strapping 19-year-old rugby player Sam Ballard swallowed a garden slug as a dare.

A group of young friends was sitting around at a table drinking red wine when a slug was produced and one of them said: “Eat it, I dare you”.

Sam swallowed the slug.

Prior to this, Ballard’s mother Katie had thought her son as a “larrikin” but “invincible”, that nothing could ever happen to him.

She described him as “my rough-and-tumble Sam”.

But the teenager’s life was to take a devastating turn.

Sam, from Sydney’s north shore, fell ill and was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital where he was diagnosed as having been infected with rat lungworm.

The worm is found in rodents, but snails or slugs can become infected when they eat the faeces of rats with the parasite, known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis.

Sam Ballard was a cheeky ‘larrikin’ before the devastating effects of the infection from a garden slug.

Sam Ballard was a cheeky ‘larrikin’ before the devastating effects of the infection from a garden slug.Source:Supplied

Sam (above, with mother Katie) now needs 24/7 care and his family are in debt after the NDIS slashed funding.

Sam (above, with mother Katie) now needs 24/7 care and his family are in debt after the NDIS slashed funding.Source:News Corp Australia

While most people develop no symptoms, very rarely it causes an infection of the brain.

Sam contracted eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis, which many people recover from and which Sam initially seemed to be rallying.

But he then lapsed into a coma for 420 days and became a quadriplegic.

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/teenager-who-swallowed-garden-slug-as-a-dare-fights-government/news-story/7ada8f58d03de391055b13e9dade320d

We’ve all been there.  We’re having fun with friends, and in the heat of the moment, someone suggests a stupid idea.  Unfortunately, often, in the heady moment of euphoria the idea doesn’t sound so stupid, and someone ends up getting hurt by it.

Stop.  Think.  Don’t allow emotions to cloud your judgement.

If fear of failure, of looking stupid, etc., or another negative emotion holds you back from doing what your head tells you is the best decision, be bold.  The moment of absolute certainty never arrives.  If you’ve engaged in the appropriate analysis and have made the best decision possible under the circumstances, believe in yourself and boldly embrace your decision.  If you fail, so what?  Learn and do better next time.

Now let me give you the clearest example of how fear and short-sighted thinking beget regrets: suicides.

[O]ne of the saddest realities about suicide is that it often results from impulsive decisions that might have never occurred again if the person had survived or backed out.

Anywhere from one-third to 80% of all suicide attempts are impulsive acts, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. 24% of those who made near-lethal suicide attempts decided to kill themselves less than five minutes before the attempt, and 70% made the decision within an hour of the attempt.

Suicidal urges are sometimes caused by immediate stressors, such as a break-up or job loss, that go away with the passage of time. 90% of people who survive suicide attempts, including the most lethal types like shooting one’s self in the head, don’t end up killing themselves later. That statistic reflects the “temporary nature and fleeting sway of many suicidal crises,” reports The New England Journal of Medicine.

http://www.businessinsider.com/many-suicides-are-based-on-an-impulsive-decision-2014-8

 

Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before. Ken Baldwin and Kevin Hines both say they hurdled over the railing, afraid that if they stood on the chord they might lose their courage. Baldwin was twenty-eight and severely depressed on the August day in 1985 when he told his wife not to expect him home till late….  As he crossed the chord in flight, Baldwin recalls, I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped. ….

When Paul Alarab was pulled from the Bay at 11:34 a.m., he was unconscious and badly bruised. The impact had ripped off his left glove and his right shoe. The Coast Guard crew, wearing their standard jumper-retrieval garb to protect against leaking body fluids—Tyvex biohazard suits, masks, gloves, and safety goggles—began C.P.R. Half an hour later, Alarab was pronounced dead. Gary Tindel, the assistant coroner of Marin County, who examined the body on the dock at Fort Baker, at the north end of the bridge, observed that “massive bleeding had occurred in both ears, along with apparent grayish brain matter in and around the right ear.” Tindel brought Alarab’s … cell phone back to the coroner’s office in San Rafael. Soon afterward, the cell phone rang. It was Alarab’s ex-wife, Rubina Coton: their nine-year-old son had been waiting more than two hours at school for his father to pick him up.

“May I speak with Paul?” Coton asked.

“I’m sorry,” Tindel said. “You can’t.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/10/13/jumpers

In other words, a break up, a job loss, or crisis point often triggered fears about the overwhelming nature of life AT THAT MOMENT and caused people to make rash decisions without thinking broadly about how that moment will pass, how other people would be adversely affected by the person’s bad decision, etc.  If they had taken time to let their emotions and fears subside so that they could think more clearly and broadly about the problems confronting them, they would realize that the problems are often solvable and that the crisis will pass.  As with Ken Baldwin, the one regret that most of those who survived suicide attempts has is the suicide itself:  they realized the only problem they could not fix was their death — all their other problems were fixable or tolerable.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/ea/dd/29/eadd29a11ec1338c0c35ab1816706fd8.jpg

No one promised you that life would be easy.  If they did, they lied.  Life isn’t easy.  It has its beautiful moments that could bring boundless joy.  But, it also has dark moments that could bring deep despair.  Both are part of life.  What you do during those moments matter.  Enjoy the beauty and wait out the despair for both will pass.  Cling to neither.  https://www.thoughtco.com/life-is-suffering-what-does-that-mean-450094.

When faced with challenges, I am often reminded of the Serenity Prayer.

https://shoshandjaialai.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/ac62a-serenity2bprayer2b1.jpg?w=707&h=943

For a discussion about the teachings of the Serenity Prayer, see https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/18/serenity-prayer-wisdom_n_4965139.html.

I grew up Catholic, and you boys were baptized as Catholic.  Regardless of whether your mom brings you to church service regularly, let the teachings of the Catholic traditions help guide you.  There is wisdom there.  The Church is animated by men, and men are not infallible.  For example, vanity once ruled the Roman Catholic Church and three separate popes vied for power at the same time.  See, e.g., https://www.britannica.com/event/Western-Schism.  You may not agree 100% with all of the Church’s teachings, but don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.  Accept the good.

After you boys were wrongly taken from me, I struggled to find meaning for life.  After having spent years of my life helping the homeless, the poor, the elderly, the infirm, the refugees, the victims of domestic violence, etc., I couldn’t understand how racist thugs could collaborate with a known pedophile to frame Ms. L and me to place her son with the pedophile.  Racist thugs physically assaulted Ms. L, a slight woman of 100 lbs., and sent her to the emergency room.  They illegally seized confidential documents that were clearly marked “Confidential and Subject to Attorney-Client Privilege” that any court would forbid.  How could these systems I’ve spent years supporting failed us so drastically?

The first place where Ms. L and I found refuge sat next to a huge and open construction site.  Metal bars grew out of those massive pits.  Not a day passed where one or both of us didn’t think about jumping from the highest point we could find and impaling ourselves onto those metal stakes.

Three things stopped us.  The first was our children.  Kids who lose a parent to suicide are more likely to commit suicide.  Thus, suicide couldn’t be the legacy we leave for you kids.  The second was each other.  You boys have your mother, but we had no one but each other.  The thugs threatened and harassed everyone dear to us.  The third was hope: we would fight, clear our names, and get you back.  Thus, we live to fight another day, and we do not regret that decision.

Be strong, my sons.  We fight for you, and will continue to do so.  It took me more than five years to expose the Enron of Healthcare, who defrauded the sick and dying out of the health care for which the latter have paid.  Five years where we struggled because I lost my job when I blew the whistle against the corrupt.  This struggle is greater.

All my love, always

Dad

P.S., I leave you with another article that you may find informative.

The 25 Biggest Regrets In Life. What Are Yours?

We are all busy. Life happens. There’s always something to distract us from getting around to certain things we know we should do.

Soccer practice.  Work. Home renovations. Getting that next big promotion.

And with the explosion of always-on smartphones and tablets delivering a fire hose of urgent emails, not to mention Twitter and Facebook (FB), in recent years, things have only gotten busier.

In the backs of our minds, we know we’re neglecting some stuff we should do. But we never get around to it.

Then, something happens.  A good friend or loved one – maybe close to us in age – drops dead unexpectedly.  We begin to think about what our biggest regrets would be if we were suddenly sitting on our death bed.

 Here is a list of the 25 biggest ones we’ll probably have.

The question is, are you going to change anything this afternoon or tomorrow in light of this list?  Or are you going to go back to your busy life?

 1. Working so much at the expense of family and friendships.  How do you balance meeting that short-term deadline at work and sitting down for dinner with your family?  It’s tough.  There are always worries. “What will my boss and co-workers think? It’s not a big deal if I stay late this one time.  I’ll make it up with the family this weekend.”  But the “making up” never seems to happen.  Days turn to months and then years and then decades.

2. Standing up to bullies in school and in life.  Believe it or not, a lot of our biggest regrets in life have to do with things that happened to us in grade 4 or some other early age. We never seem to forget – or forgive ourselves – for not speaking up against the bullies.  We were too scared. We wish we had been more confident.  And by the way most of us have also met up with a bully in our work life.  Maybe he was our boss.  We remember that one time we wish we’d told him off – even if it cost us our job.  We usually take some small solace in hearing that that bully later on made some unfortunate career stumble.

3. Stayed in touch with some good friends from my childhood and youth.  There’s usually one childhood or high school friend who we were best buddies with.  Then, one of us moved away.  We might have stayed in touch at first but then got busy.  Sometimes, we thought to pick up the phone, but maybe we don’t have their number or email any more.  We always wonder what it would be like to sit down with them again for a coffee.

4. Turned off my phone more/Left my phone at home.  Many of us can’t get off our phone/email addiction.  We sleep with it next to us. We carry it with us constantly. It’s right next to us in the shower, just in case we see a new email icon light up through the steamed up shower glass.  We know constantly checking email and Twitter in the evenings and on weekends takes us away from quality time with family and friends. Yet, we don’t stop.

5. Breaking up with my true love/Getting dumped by them.  Romance is a big area of regret for most of us.  Maybe we dumped someone that we wish we hadn’t. Maybe they dumped us.  Most play a never-ending game of “what might have been” for the rest of their lives.  It is tough to simply be happy with the love that you’ve found and takes away from the special moments you have today, if you’re constantly thinking back to what you once had — which actually might not have been half as good as we think it was.

6. Worrying about what others thought about me so much.  Most of us place way too much importance on what other people around us think about us.  How will they judge us?  In the moment, we think their opinions are crucial to our future success and happiness.  On our death beds, none of that matters.

7. Not having enough confidence in myself.  Related to the previous point, a big regret for most of us is questioning why we had such little confidence in ourselves.  Why did we allow the concerns of others to weigh so heavy on us instead of trusting our own beliefs?  Maybe we didn’t think we were worth having what we wanted.  Maybe we just thought poorly of ourselves.  Later on, we wish we could have been more self-confident.

8. Living the life that my parents wanted me to live instead of the one I wanted to.  Related to that lack of confidence, a lot of us get sucked into living the life that we think a good son or daughter should live.  Whether because we’re explicitly told or just because we unconsciously adopt it, we make key life choices – about where to go to school, what to study, and where to work — because we think it’s what will make our parents happy.  Our happiness is derived through their happiness – or so we think. It’s only later – 1o or 20 years on – where we discover that friends around us are dying and we’re not really doing what we want to do.  A panic can start to set in.  Whose life am I living any way?

9. Applying for that “dream job” I always wanted.  Maybe we didn’t apply for that job we always wanted to because of a child, or because our spouse didn’t want to move cities.  It might not have been the perfect job for us, but we always regret not trying out for it.  Do you think Katie Couric regrets giving the nightly news gig a shot?  No way. Sometimes you swing and you miss, but you have no regrets later on.

 10. Been happier more. Not taken life so seriously.  Seems strange to say, but most of us don’t know how to have fun.  We’re way too serious.  We don’t find the humor in life.  We don’t joke around.  We don’t think we’re funny.  So, we go through life very serious.  We miss out on half (or maybe all) the fun in life that way.  Do something a little silly today. Crack a joke with the bus driver – even if he ends up looking at you weird.  Do a little dance.  You’ll probably smile, on the inside if not the outside.  Now keep doing that, day after day.
 11. Gone on more trips with the family/friends.  Most folks stay close to home. They don’t travel all that much.  Yet, big trips with friends and family – to Disney World, to Paris, or even to the lake – are the stuff that memories are made of later in life.  We’re all thrown in to some new unfamiliar situation together.  We’ve got to figure it out as a group – and it’s fun, even when it rains.  We really remember trips.

12. Letting my marriage break down.  Back to romance now. More people will divorce than stay together.  If you ask these folks, they’ll tell you that it was for the best. They couldn’t take it any more.  And, of course, there are some marriages that shouldn’t go on and where divorce is the best for all parties involved.  However, if you talk to many people privately, they’ll tell you they regret their marriage breaking up.  It’s never just one thing that ends a marriage – even if that one thing is infidelity. There are usually lots of signs and problems leading up to that.  The regrets most of us have is that we didn’t correct some or most of those “little things” along the way.  We can’t control our spouse but we can control our actions and we know – deep down – we could have done more.

13. Taught my kids to do stuff more.  Kids love their parents, but they love doing stuff with their parents even more.  And it doesn’t have to be a vacation at the Four Seasons.  It could be raking leaves, learning how to throw a football, or cleaning up a play room together.  We learned all the little habits that we take for granted in our own behavior from mimicking our parents.  If we’re not making the time to do stuff with our kids, we’re robbing them of the chance to mimic us.

14. Burying the hatchet with a family member or old friend.  I know family members that haven’t talked to a brother or sister for 30 years.  One’s in bad health and will probably die soon.  But neither he nor the other brother will make an effort.  They’ve both written each other off.  And there’s blame on both sides – although I take one’s side more.  But these were two guys that were inseparable as kids. They got washed in a bucket in their parents’ kitchen sink together.  Now, neither one will make a move to improve things because they think they’ve tried and the other one is too stubborn.  They think they’ve done all they can and washed their hands of the relationship. They’ll regret that when one of them is no longer around.

15. Trusting that voice in the back of my head more. Whether it’s as simple as taking a job we weren’t really thrilled about or as complex of being the victim of some crime, most of us have had the experience of a little voice in the back of our heads warning us that something was wrong here.  A lot of times, we override that voice. We think that we know best.  We do a matrix before taking that job and figure out a way to prove to ourselves that, analytically, this makes sense. Most of the time, we learn later that voice was dead right.

16. Not asking that girl/boy out. Nerves get the best of us – especially when we’re young.  We can forgive ourselves that we didn’t screw up enough courage to ask that boy or girl out on a date or to the prom.  But that doesn’t mean that we still won’t think about it decades later.  Sometimes people regret seeing someone famous or well-known in real life and not going up to them and telling them how much they inspired them in our lives.  It’s the same underlying fear.  We always we could have just said what we really felt at that moment.

17. Getting involved with the wrong group of friends when I was younger.  We do dumb stuff when we’re young.  We’re impressionable.  We make friends with the wrong crowd, except we don’t think there’s anything wrong with them.  They’re our friends and maybe the only people we think that truly understand us.  However, we can really get sidetracked by hooking up with this group.  Sometimes it leads to drugs or serious crimes.  We never start out thinking our choice of friends could lead us to such a difficult outcome.

18. Not getting that degree (high school or college).  I’ve spoken with lots of folks who didn’t graduate with a high school or college degree.   When I met them, they were already well-known at their job.  And there are many examples I can think of where their jobs were very senior and they were very well-respected. However, if the education topic ever came up in private conversation, almost universally, you could tell they regretted not getting their degree.  It made them insecure, almost like they worried they were going to be “found out.”  Most of these folks will never go back to get it now.  Whether they do or not, they’re great at what they do and don’t need to feel bad about not having that piece of paper.

19. Choosing the practical job over the one I really wanted. I was watching CNBC the other day and one finance guy was being asked for advice on what college kids should major in today. He said: “It sounds corny but they’ve got to do what they love.” He’s right. Of course, as a country, we need more engineers, scientists, and other “hard” science folks.  But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to live your life, not the government’s.  There are many who think they need to take a “consulting job” to build up their experience before settling in to a job they love.  Although there are many roads that lead to Rome, you’re probably better off just starting immediately in the area that you love.

20. Spending more time with the kids.  I had an old mentor who used to tell me, “when it comes to parenting, it’s not quality of time that’s important, it’s quantity of time.”  When we get so busy at work, we comfort ourselves knowing that we’re going to stay late at the office again with the idea that we’ll make it up by taking our son to a ballgame on the weekend.  As long as I spend some quality time with him, we think, it will all balance out.  It probably won’t.  There are lots of busy executives who take control of their schedules in order to either be at home for dinners more or be at those special school events with the kids.  Kids do remember that.

21. Not taking care of my health when I had the chance.  Everyone doesn’t think of their health – until there’s a problem.  And at that point, we promise ourselves if we get better we’ll do a better job with our health. It shouldn’t take a major calamity to get us to prioritize our health and diet.  Small habits every day make a big difference here over time.

22. Not having the courage to get up and talk at a funeral or important event.  I remember at an old Dale Carnegie class I attended, they told us more people were afraid of public speaking than dying.  They’d rather die than give a speech apparently.  Yet, when you’re close to death, you’re probably going to wish you’d gotten over those fears on at least a few occasions, but especially at a loved one’s funeral or some important event like a wedding.

23. Not visiting a dying friend before he died. I had a buddy I went to high school with who died 3 years ago.  He was in his late 30s with a great wife and 3 great boys.  He had cancer for the last 3 years of his life. We’d talked off and on over that time. Two months before he died, he called me and asked if I could come by to visit. I was in the process of moving and too busy with my own family.  I said I’d come soon.  A month later, it was clear he had days to live.  I rushed to the hospital and did get to visit at his bedside before he passed, but he was a different guy from the one I’d spoken to only a month earlier on the phone. He was just hanging on. We hadn’t been best friends and we hadn’t seen much of each other since high school, but I know I’ll always regret not going to visit him earlier when I’d had the chance.  What I’d give to have one last regular chat with him.

24. Learning another language. A lot of us travel a lot. Fewer still have studied a second language. And this is a big regret down the road for many of us, even though it might seem like a small thing next to family, career, and romance.  A lot of us wish we’d made the time to learn a new language to open up a whole new culture to us.

25. Being a better father or mother.  There’s no bigger legacy than our children.  Often, they turn out great.  When our kids struggle though, there’s nothing bigger than makes us feel guilty.  Yet, when they start showing signs of problems – with school, or friends, or otherwise — there’s often been many years that have passed in which we could have and probably should have been spending more time with them.  No situation is ever lost though.  There is always time to improve our relationships with our kids.  But, it can’t wait another day, especially if it’s a relationship that’s been neglected for years.

We can all relate to most of these regrets. We can’t change the past, so this list isn’t meant for you to start a pity party.

The question is what are we going to do with the rest of our lives to ensure we don’t experience any of these regrets later on when we’re in the hospital preparing to say goodbye.

If you have some regrets you’d like to share, please leave them below in the comments for all to read.  I’ll call them all out.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/10/18/the-25-biggest-regrets-in-life-what-are-yours/3/#494967b22b27

5 years, 1 month, and 26 days. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JAIALAI!!!!!!

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My most dearest Jaialai,

Happy birthday!  Today you are 12!  Wow!!!!

What a special young man you are!  I can’t wait to see what you will be like as an adult, what you will achieve, how you will change your corner of the world.

You have already done the latter.  I remember how, in preschool, your classmates laughed when you told them you liked to watch “My Little Pony”.  They claimed it was a girl’s show.  You quickly disabused them of that misperception by discussing the cool characters in the show.  Soon, all the kids loved “My Little Pony”.  You did that.  You opened their eyes and enabled them to look beyond mere labels to truly see the merit of the thing itself.

Do you know how often I encounter adults who lacked the ability to look beyond labels and names and are unable to truly see the quality inherent in the thing itself?  Daily!  Yes, it’s sad, but true.

Yet, you managed to teach your classmates to look beyond labels and to assess value on the merits of the thing when you were in preschool!!!!!  Wow!

I remember when you first came to us.  Even back then, you were a sprite…always mischievous but with a good heart, a strong personality, and a good mind.  When I can bring myself to do it, one of my favorite family videos to rewatch is when you were about two.  We were sitting at the kitchen table in the nook overlooking the park below.  I asked you, “Who do you love?” and you’d respond, “Mom!” I laughed and asked, “Who else do you love?” and you’d  pause then say, “Brother!”  I laughed again and ask, “Who else do you love?” and you’d pause, look at me with that mischievous grin of yours then say, “Mom!”  We’d go around and around until I had to tickle you to say “Dad!”

But, forever etched in my mind will be that three-year-old boy who said to me — as I laid on the couch, exhausted and depressed from my uphill battle against the Enron of Healthcare who was defrauding the sick and dying — “Dad, are you sad?  Let me dance to make you happy.”  How lucky am I to have special sons like you and Shosh?!!!

Have a wonderful day, Jaialai!  Be you.  Be happy.

Know you are loved, always…

Dad

 

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5 years, 1 month, and 25 days. Fools rush in, don’t be a fool, plan first.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Everyday, I’m reminded of the adage that fools rush in.  I see and hear evidence of it everywhere.  A nearby restaurant opened to nonexistent customers of the type of food it sells.  A woman, thinking she knows everything, rushed to open on her own a company in one corporate form only to subsequently find out she wasted a significant amount of money to comply with the requirements of that corporate form when a good lawyer would have told her about a less restrictive and more economical corporate form which would have better suited her needs.  A man opened a storefront to sell commercial equipment in a predominantly residential area, then complained about having no foot traffic and little business at the location.  Fools rush in.  How do you think their efforts ended for the above?

Don’t be a fool.  ALWAYS TAKE TIME TO PLAN, GATHER EVIDENCE, ANALYZE THE EVIDENCE, AND FIND THE MOST EFFECTIVE PATH TO ACHIEVING YOUR GOAL. Let’s call this entire process “planning”.  Also, it is a reiterative process and you must stop occasionally to reexamine the data during execution to update the plan as necessary.

The steps are simple, but their execution can be challenging.  Often, people rush these steps, thinking they’d reach their goals sooner if they went faster.  However, more often than not, by failing to plan, they ensure failure and often must go back and redo many of the steps they had rushed through.  Thus, ultimately, their journey to their goals — if they reached their goals at all! — would take longer than it should have because they rushed and failed to plan properly.  Go slow to go fast.

More often, though, circumstances deprive us of the time we need to do a thorough job of planning.  But, if so, it is what it is, and we do the best we can under the circumstances.  If time or opportunity permits us to revisit the project, then we learn from our experience and do better next time.

In the planning process, be sure to gather hard facts and data (e.g., documentary evidence, studies, etc.) as well as get input from relevant stakeholders.  Despite the adage, perception is NOT reality.

For example, during my many years as a professional, on average, I sleep only a few hours per night.  Often, I wake up long before the sun rise and use the quietness of those hours to write, conduct research, and perform tasks that are challenging to perform during business hours because of constant stream of client phone calls, e-mails, crises, etc.  Even after I cease to hold those lofty positions, for years, I find myself continuing to wake up during those unGodly hours.  That was my perception.

Recently, I purchased a machine to track my sleep pattern.  Lo and behold, it appears I now average 5-6 hours per night, instead of my usual 3-4.  There still are nights when my slumber is limited to a few hours (as in the last few nights) and I still wake up in the middle of most nights for a chunk of time, but the reality is I have finally adjusted to my reduced schedule and am getting more sleep.

Perception is not reality.  Always take time to get stakeholders’ perceptions (because you also need their buy-ins to your resulting proposal and they won’t buy into your solution unless they were engaged in the planning process), but also get hard data.

Once you have gathered the necessary data and have spent sufficient time studying the audience and problems standing in the way of your goal, use your critical thinking skills to find the most effective solution.  Don’t rush.

For example, a man owned a plot of land next to a thriving wedding planning and hosting facility.  The owner of the latter sought to expand and sought to purchase the adjoining plot of land owned by the former.  The landowner asked for the price of X.  The wedding planner declined.  A while later, the wedding planner again approached the landowner about his lot.  This time, the latter increased his price to 2X.  Angrily, the wedding planner left.  A while after that, the wedding planner approached the landowner the third time about his plot of land.  The latter increased his price to 3X.  The wedding planning angrily declined and said he’d never approach the latter about the land again.  The landowner, wanting to sell his lot to the wedding planner, devised a simple solution to achieve his goal: he commissioned and installed a large sign in front of his lot, stating that a funeral home will open at that location.  Shortly thereafter, the wedding planner paid 6X for the latter’s plot of land.

Fools rush in.  Wise men plan.

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My sons, remember to set your goals then plan carefully on how best to achieve your goals before setting out to do so.

All my love, always,

Dad