5 years, 4 months, and 14 days. Keep your eyes on the prize.

 

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The Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt

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TR’s life shows us that hard work, tenacity, and a desire to do the right thing can get you far in life. In the most memorable section of his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, Roosevelt captured his life philosophy in just a few sentences. “The Man in the Arena” tells us that the man we should praise is the man who’s out there fighting the big battles, even if those battles end in defeat. In our day, when cynicism and aloof detachment are considered hip and cool, TR reminds us that glory and honor come to those “who spend themselves in a worthy cause.”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/manvotional-the-man-in-the-arena-by-theodore-roosevelt/ (emphasis added)

My dearest dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I apologize for the absence.  The days have been challenging.

When the going gets tough, I seek comfort in the words of T.R. Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech.  It is far better to have tried and failed (even failed greatly) than to have never tried at all.  People can bitch and moan all they want, but unless they are willing to pitch in and help bring about improvement, they are just wasted breath.

Unfortunately, too many these days are but useless talking heads.  I shall never forget a Superbowl ad I saw years ago:  two consultants were pitching an action plan to a company executive who replied, “Great!  I want you guys to execute that plan.”  The two consultants then laughed and said something to the effect of, “We are consultants.  We come up with the ideas, but we don’t know how to do it.”

Consultants these days are a dime a dozen — many are fresh out of college.  Without substantive knowledge and experience, on what are they basing their critical thinking and analytical skills?

Can critical thinking actually be taught?  Decades of cognitive research point to a disappointing answer: not really.  People who have sought to teach critical thinking have assumed that it is a skill, like riding a bicycle, and that, like other skills, once you learn it, you can apply it in any situation.  Research from cognitive science shows that thinking is not that sort of skill.  The processes of thinking are intertwined with the content of thought (that is, domain knowledge).

….

Thought processes are intertwined with what is being thought about.

Willingham, Daniel T., “Critical Thinking: Why Is It So Hard to Teach?” American Educator (Summer 2007), 8-10.

Thus, the lesson of the day is two-fold: gain substantive knowledge, and use it.

Be good, my sons.  Live well.  Be happy.

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., I leave you with two additional thoughts.

 

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5 years, 4 months, and 4 days. Be open-minded.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

We see them everyday … closed-minded people who hurt themselves and others because of their unwillingness to consider other perspectives.  They think they know it all already.  Often, their resistance stems from fear … of the unknown, of looking foolish, etc.  For example, when hand washing — something do as a matter of course as a matter of hygiene — was first introduced and suggested to physicians and surgeons, they resisted, claiming they have always went from patient to patient without washing their hands in between.  The “always done it that way” is but a cry of fear.

Don’t be like that.  What’s the harm of trying, assuming you have fully explored the new concept and understand that it does not pose a harm?  (For example, experimenting with drugs or doing dangerous stunts with neither experience nor safety precautions are simply stupid.  You do not need to touch fire to know it is hot.  You can learn vicariously.)

We visit the three month old son of a friend this weekend.  The baby is hospitalized for pneumonia because fluid is getting into lungs while he’s nursing.  The solution is simple: hold the baby up when he’s nursing instead of leaving him horizontal.  Unfortunately, the mother insist that’s how babies have always been nursed in her family, and refuses to change her nursing behaviors.  Why?  What’s the harm of trying?  The benefits are significant (the baby no longer has fluid going into his lungs while nursing) and the costs/efforts are minimal.  Being closed-minded results in continuing harm to her son, but she refuses to see it.

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She is not unique.  Many an “educated” man remain closed-minded.  For example, a professor of “23 years” — as he proclaimed — was observed by another doctorate that his teaching was ineffective because he was talking AT the kids instead of engaging them and talking to them.  He was talking above their heads.  Instead of acknowledging the constructive feedback, he dismissed it and reasserted his claim that he has taught at universities for 23 years.  Because he stressed his robust university teaching experience, I asked why he is not tenured.  His response was that the tenure process is nothing but a popularity contest.  In other words, he failed to get tenure (which usually occur withing 7-10 years of teaching) because people did no like him.  But, doesn’t that go to the root of his problem — he lacks the requisite soft skills to engage effectively and communicate with his students and colleagues?  His protests stem from his fear and insecurities, and he is not helped by being closed-minded. How does it benefit him to brush off all suggestions that he has weaknesses? It doesn’t.  He continues to move from school to school, with each subsequent school being less reputable than the preceding one.  You know how his story will end.

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Be open-minded my sons.  Eleanor Roosevelt said you can learn something from everyone.  She’s right.

This reminds me of a story.  Once, there was a great swordsman.  He came to this small town, and boasted to the barkeep about how great a swordsman he is.  The barkeep, not missing a beat, refilled a bottle of house wine from the cast without spilling a drop.  He then turned to the swordsman and asked, “Can you do that?”

The lesson is that we each have our strengths and weaknesses.  Don’t be blinded by your skills and arrogance and fail to recognize the gifts of others.

All my love, always,

Dad