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:


Stated differently,


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,




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!


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.


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.


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,




5 years and 23 days. Keys to success: (2) be of value, i.e., solve problems, work to build and improve, help others, etc.






My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

There is so much I want to say to you — I need to tell you.  But, here we are.  Life gives us a lemon, so we make lemonade.  These letters will do until circumstances change.

Ok, we were talking about how you  must fit in and be likeable to achieve a measure of success in this life.  Now, to be clear, I’m NOT telling you to become a sycophant, a flatterer, a “yes” man.  No, be yourself.  Be true to yourself, but be your best self.  Be kind.  Be well-mannered.  Be pro-active.  Be humanistic.

Being kind and well-mannered gets you over that first hump of being rejected off-hand.  Would you want to spend time associating, playing, or working with a person who is rude, has disgusting hygiene, and has terrible manners?  No, who would?  But, being likeable and being able to fit in are not enough.

To be invited to the table and join the ranks of the successful few, you must also bring value.  The best path I’ve found to give value is to use my critical thinking skills to solve problems that challenge others.  Be a problem-solver and you will also be of value.  The world needs problem solvers.  By all means, solve problems that plague you, but also make time to solve problems that confront others.  The latter will take you far.

In most jobs I’ve had, I managed to solve problems critical or important to the organization, and gained the attention of the leadership team as a result.  One of my firm’s clients, for example, operates in almost every state in the U.S., and my firm used to send them several binders each year to update key laws affecting their operations.  These binders would be filled with the actual text of new statutes, regulations, court decisions, etc., and would be sent to the client’s legal counsel.  While that is useful, when asked to take over that project, instead of continuing what other lawyers had done in the past, I opted to create a chart by each legal issue affecting the company and by each state in which the company operates.  Then, I provide a brief summary of the relevant law in each state as well as citations to the relevant sections of law.  This made it much easier for the company’s lawyers to explain to its staff what the company may and may not do in each state.  Both the client and my firm were happy with my approach.  In other words, I brought value.  As a result, my billing rates were higher than those of some of the partners at the firm, and one of the founding partners promised to let me go straight from being an associate to an equity partner when the time came, instead of having to become a contract partner first.

In numerous other circumstances, I brought value by solving long-standing problems that others before me could not solve.  How?  By listening carefully to the issues, needs, and concerns of all the relevant stakeholders, and using my critical thinking skills to find a pathway that satisfied the needs of the various stakeholders.

Listen, and bring value by using your problem solving skills.  Do that, and you will go far.

What that means is that you MUST work on your critical thinking skills daily.  Pay attention to whatever you are doing at each moment, and use your critical thinking skills to find ways to do better.  If you are reading for class, for example, put down your highlighter and stop painting the pages yellow as your eyes roam over the pages while your mind day-dreams about what you’ll do after you finish painting the pages of your required reading.  Reading is not a visual exercise: it is a mental one.  So, think!  Think about what you are reading, why your teacher asked you to read it, how it fits in with what you have learned in class thus far, how it moves forward the subject matter you are studying, and what you are supposed to get out of that reading.  Then, as you read, search for that information.  Read with purpose.  Don’t read mindlessly.  Your job is not to process words so much as to look for ideas those words purport to convey.  Do that, and you’ll succeed in reading tasks in school.  I promise.  https://guides.library.harvard.edu/sixreadinghabits.

All my love, always,


5 years, and 4 days. Why not?







My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be more and be better!

All my love, always,



4 years, 10 months, and 27 days. The art of deconstruction cont.








My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, let’s continue our conversation about the art of deconstruction.  To deconstruct is to break things down to their constituent parts.  Once you do that, it is amazing what you can see about how the thing works (or fails), and how much you can reimagine the thing itself.  That’s the art of deconstruction, and it is an invaluable tool for problem solving.

Years ago, within a couple months of joining an organization, I was asked to resolve a compliance issue that plagued the company for half a decade.  Literally, there were communications with regulators going back five years, telling the organization that its conducts were illegal.  Yet, the organization was unable to bring their practices into compliance with the law.  Instead of resolving the problem, staff from organization made all sorts of excuses and complaints about the competency of the regulators.  As you can imagine, the regulators — charged with protecting the public from illegal and fraudulent practices — were not happy.

Into that mix, I was thrown.  My first steps were to read all available information about the problem, meet with all the relevant players (both from within the organization and within the regulatory agency), and ask for their perspectives on the problem.  Then, I took apart the “problem” as enshrined in writing and in practice to review it against applicable laws.  That assessment enabled me to identify where entrenched positions were consistent or inconsistent with legal requirements and find a pathway that mutually satisfied both the regulators and stakeholders from within the organization.  In a matter of weeks, the problem was resolved to the satisfaction of both parties, and a heavy penalty was averted.

Shortly thereafter, I was promoted and asked to resolve a different problem that the organization had failed to resolve in the preceding several years.  Again, I researched the matter and met with relevant parties to gain a better understanding of the problem.  Again, there were much recrimination from within the organization about how the regulators were “morons”, “idiots”, etc., which made the problem personal and was not useful to the resolution of the problem.  Over the years, instead of focusing on the problem, each party had turned its attention to criticizing the other, which then caused each party to become more entrenched in its position.  The organization behaved as if the “problem” was a fixed entity and it would succeed in its objective if only the regulators were more enlightened: the regulators thought the opposite — that the interpretation of the law was established and the organization would be successful if only it were more enlightened in its understanding of the law.   They failed to recognize that each parties had its mandate, and the path forward was to find a way where both parties were able to meet their objectives.  By reviewing documentation, business practices, and stakeholders’ perceptions, I was able to take apart that problem and find a mutually satisfactory resolution.

Don’t underestimate the power of deconstruction.  When faced with a challenging sentence, paragraph, math assignment, physics problem, a challenging essay, etc., break it down and look at it from different angles and perspectives.  If a solution doesn’t work, try approaching it from a different angle.  Don’t keep butting your head against the same wall.  Try different.


All my love, always,