5 years, 8 months, and 7 days. We are but stewards of our planets, our talents, and our time; it is our duty to nurture and not squander each.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Too often, people blind themselves to problems occurring outside their homes and occupy themselves only to what immediately affects their own lives.  They leave the problems at large (e.g., pollution, injustice, fascism, racism, environmental degradation, etc.) to the care of others.  This is known as the “free-ridership problem”.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains the problem as follows:

In many contexts, all of the individual members of a group can benefit from the efforts of each member and all can benefit substantially from collective action. For example, if each of us pollutes less by paying a bit extra for our cars, we all benefit from the reduction of harmful gases in the air we breathe and even in the reduced harm to the ozone layer that protects us against exposure to carcinogenic ultraviolet radiation (although those with fair skin benefit far more from the latter than do those with dark skin). If all of us or some subgroup of us prefer the state of affairs in which we each pay this bit over the state of affairs in which we do not, then the provision of cleaner air is a collective good for us. (If it costs more than it is worth to us, then its provision is not a collective good for us.)

Unfortunately, my polluting less does not matter enough for anyone—especially me—to notice. Therefore, I may not contribute my share toward not fouling the atmosphere. I may be a free rider (or freerider) on the beneficial actions of others. This is a compelling instance of the logic of collective action, an instance of such grave import that we pass laws to regulate the behavior of individuals to force them to pollute less.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-rider/

Greater minds than mine have argued the morality of free-ridership, i.e., whether it is immoral for me to sponge off another or whether it is immoral for another to impose their collective will upon me.  Id.  But, I think they miss the point: I have a moral obligation to not waste finite resources.  For example, if I were given a basket of food sufficient to feed 10 people, would it not be morally wrong and morally repugnant of me to pick a few items out of the basket then waste the rest as target practice, especially when there are others who go without food and could have used the food I wasted?  If that’s true and if my moral duty is to keep myself alive and not burden others, then my obligations must include nurturing and making the best use of the finite resources which sustain life and an orderly society.  Whether I do this individually or collectively is a separate matter.

Your maternal grandmother, imperfect as she may be, has done us a great service by teaching us at a young age to care others.  We used to tutor children, help carry groceries for our elderly neighbors, mow their lawns, push cars stuck in ice and snow as we walked to church, translate for schools and churches, etc.  In other words, she taught us to be activists.

Her teaching is in keeping with our faith.  As stated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where I once worked:

16 The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.k

17If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?l

18Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.m

http://usccb.org/bible/1john/3/

Although not religious, I am spiritual and try to live right.  Thus, I have spent years working with refugees (in the U.S. as well as overseas), caring for the homeless (by both creating policies and homeless shelters for them as well as feeding and caring for them during the freeze of winter), helping the poor and the elderly (by building homes and improving the safety net for those in need), protecting children and victims of domestic violence, etc.  I believe we are called to actions not just by our faith, but by our humanity.  For example, how can we blind ourselves to the fact that “40 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 12 million children” … innocent children like you?  http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/facts.html.

Yet, for my efforts, I have been accused of, and admonished for, harming you, my own children, because I once lost my job and harmed my career by fighting the Enron of Healthcare to stop them from harming the sick and dying, to stop them from denying the insurance coverage and medical care for which policy holders have paid and for which they were then in great need.  My accusers missed the point: by fighting the corrupt insurance company, I protected you and them from the corrupted practices of that particular insurance company and of other insurance companies in general.  (The Enron of Healthcare is one of 10 largest health insurance companies in the U.S., and covers you guys as well as my accusers.)  By taking the fight to insurance regulators and to the court, after failing to stop the illegal practices internally, I exposed those corrupt practices.  Insurance regulators spent a year investigating that insurer.  They corroborated all of my allegations and found numerous other violations.  By publicizing their findings and issuing fines, they gave notice to that insurance carrier and all others that such harmful and corrupt practices would not be tolerated.

We live in a closed system, my sons.  Pollutants and poor environmental policies adversely affecting the South and Midwest affect us in terms of rising food costs and societal costs.  Chemicals dumped into rivers harm our fish, hurt of water system, and poison our oceans … all of which comes back to haunt us.  Our silence when others are bullied is assent and emboldens the bullies.  Can we then complain when the bullies move past their targets to us?

I am always mindful of the lessons of Martin Niemöller.  Speaking about the fascism of the Nazis, he states:

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://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin-niemoeller-first-they-came-for-the-socialists.

Live well, my sons.  Live right.  I never promised you that life would be easy, only that you would find life rewarding if you lived well and helped others.

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., I leave you with this thought.

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5 years, 8 months, and 2 days. Embrace the wisdom of our forefathers.

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If immersed in ink, you will be stained dark.  If bathed in light, you will be enlightened. — an ancient Vietnamese saying.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Dark days lie ahead.  I don’t know how this journey ends.  None of us do.

I want you to know that, in my life, I am guided by the wisdom of the ages.  Fads come and go.  But real knowledge has a way of sticking around.  For example, we still today immerse ourselves in the learnings of the ancient Greeks and Chinese philosophers, who lived thousands of years ago.  Why? It’s because those lessons have been tested in the crucible of time.

Today’s teachings are often lacks depth.  They are devoid of long-term wisdom.

For example, when I did research for my Honors Thesis on “Child Rearing Practices an Prosocial Development” for the Honors Program in Psychology in undergraduate, studies at the time and from earlier times state corporal punishment is one tool in the arsenal of tools parents must use to help raise altruistic and healthy children who will become contributing members of society.  In other words, measured spanking is but ONE tool among many.  It is a necessary tool because consequences and accountability are important parts of life.  Both the carrot and the stick are needed to encourage good behaviours and discourage bad ones.  (See, e.g., https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1655269.html, a court case which states it is not abuse, in the process of preventing their once-good child from joining a gang, for parents to use a wooden spoon to spank a child after trying all other forms of punishment.  Note also how the court took pains to enshrine in writing in footnotes and to make part of the record the lies told by CPS in its efforts to assert its power without any regards for the true interests of the child … that she stay on the good path and not go down the destructive path of gangs and violence.)

These days, the “wisdom” is for parents to not even yell at their kids, much less spank them.  See, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/well/family/why-you-should-stop-yelling-at-your-kids.html.

Is that wise?  Does that solve the problem and help raise better and more well-adjusted kids?  No!  With horrible consequences, it only shifted the burden from parents and teachers disciplining kids to school police to do so.  Troubled behaviors that once would have resulted in admonishment in class, detention, conversations with parents, suspension, etc., now results in tazing, physical assaults, arrests, handcuffs, jail time, juvenile criminal records, etc.  See, e.g., https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/school-safety-students-police-abuse_us_5b746a4ce4b0df9b093b8d6a; https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/why-do-most-school-cops-have-no-student-training-requirements/414286/; https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/29/us/police-officers-in-schools.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/police-in-schools-keeping-kids-safe-or-arresting-them-for-no-good-reason/2015/11/08/937ddfd0-816c-11e5-9afb-0c971f713d0c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.006da1640595; http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-aclu-report-20161017-snap-story.html.

 

No, my sons, think for yourselves, but use as guides the wisdom of the ancients.  For example, we are rediscovering the positives benefits of copper in medical treatment, something the ancients used to use before that practice fell out of favor for more modern pharmaceuticals.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-bacteria-fighting-super-element-making-a-return-to-hospitals-copper/2015/09/20/19251704-5beb-11e5-8e9e-dce8a2a2a679_story.html?utm_term=.16210f211e7a.

With the above said, let me share that I am guided by three adages, which capture relevant wisdom of the ancients.

(1) All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  This is your world and your community.  You have but one world.  Protect it.  Fight for good and fight against evil.  Be prone to action.  Words are cheap.  Everyday, you see people give lip service to what is good and right, but wouldn’t lift a finger to protect what is good and right.  Don’t be like them.  Be prone to action.  Remember Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Man in the Arena” speech.  It is noteworthy.  Remember, too, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

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(2) If immersed in ink, you will be stained dark.  If bathed in light, you will be enlightened.  Surround yourselves with good people, who will inspire you and help you aspire to be better. Work towards continuous incremental improvements, so that you will be better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than today.  We need more good people in the world: builders, problem solvers, helpers … those with good hearts and good intentions.  Surround yourselves with good peeps.

On the other hand, stay away from evil because it will drag you down to its level.  Your cousin on your mother’s side ignored the warnings and was caught in a car carrying drugs.  The police charged all the occupants of the vehicle with possession with the intent to sell.  He claimed he was just hanging out with friends and knew nothing of the drugs.  Regardless of the truth, the consequences were dire.  He now has a felony conviction and will forever by marked by that. 

Wrongful convictions are a major problems in the American justice system.  See, e.g., https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/09/10/report-wrongful-convictions-have-stolen-at-least-20000-years-from-innocent-defendants/?utm_term=.a643e396962d; https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cost-of-convicting-the-innocent/2015/07/24/260fc3a2-1aae-11e5-93b7-5eddc056ad8a_story.html; http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-texas-judge-20131109-story.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/magazine/she-was-convicted-of-killing-her-mother-prosecutors-withheld-the-evidence-that-would-have-freed-her.html; http://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/wrongfulconvictions/aboutus/; https://www.innocenceproject.org/.  It’s a reality.  Avoid putting yourselves from that situation if you can.  .

(3) A frog at the bottom of the well thinks the sky is only as big as the mouth of the well.  Learn and expand your horizons.  Read voraciously.  Engage with others, those who are good-hearted and who have good intentions.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You can learn something from everyone.”

Ignorance begets fear.  Don’t live in ignorance and fear.  Arm yourselves with knowledge.  Reserve judgement and try to see things from the other’s perspective.  Keep an open mind.  Give people a chance, but don’t waste your time on every sob story.  The world has 7.6 billion people.  You don’t have time to meet and measure everyone.  Use heuristics and rules of thumbs to help you more efficiently find the good.  For example, you are more likely to find the good among kids who volunteer to help the homeless, clean up the environment, or feed the hungry than among kids who hangs out at corners, smoking cigarettes or pot, who sneak out in the cover of darkness to tag walls and paint graffiti.  Not all of the kids in the latter group is bad, but your time is better spent interacting with kids in the good group and helping others.

One of my regrets is that I didn’t involve you when I volunteered to feed the hungry; build homes for the poor; help the disabled, the elderly, and the victims of domestic abuse; etc.  I wish I had.  Your mother doesn’t do those things so you have never seen such behavior modeled.  That is my failing. I am sorry.

Be well, my sons.  Learn from life and the wisdom of those who came before us.  Be good.  Be happy.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

5 years and 4 months. Extend yourself, and empathize with others.

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“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Love is a choice.  Choose to love … life, the good people who positively affect your lives, the forests that clean our air, the ocean that provides for and recharges our soul, etc.  Go forth.  Experience life.  Extend yourself.

There are many whose advice is contrary to mine.  Ignore them for their words come from fear.  To them, the world is a dangerous place, where their feelings might get hurt, where they might get hurt, where they might be lead astray, etc.  “Might” is the operative word here.  All things are possible, but few are probable.  Do you lock yourself away from the world and live in a cocoon for fear of something improbable?

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131219-lottery-odds-winning-mega-million-lotto/

Based on the above information, do you not go to the toilet because there is a 1 in 10,000 chance you could get injured by it?  In other words, if you go to the toilet 10,000 times, you may get hurt by it one time.

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Do you never step foot into the ocean because there is a 1 in 3.7 million chance that you could get killed by a shark?  Do you avoid going outside for fear of dying from a bee sting … even though the likelihood of that happening is 1 in 6 million?

Bad things CAN happen.  It’s possible.  However, the bad things that most people fear are often unlikely to happen … if they take the usual precautions.  For example, the likelihood of getting hit by lightning is 1 in 3,000.  However, if you are foolish enough to go out during a thunderstorm and stand in a pool of water on an empty field while holding an umbrella or metal club, then you’ve drastically increased your chances of getting hit by lightning.

All of the good stuff happens in the little moments where you just say to yourself, “A “heck with it, I’’m going for it.” When you extend yourself beyond what you thought was possible.

You’ll never see what the Grand Canyon looks like from an eagle’s perspective unless you have the guts to step out onto the Skywalk.

http://www.successful-blog.com/1/extend-yourself/

Everyone searches for success, however it is defined by that individual.  Often, social acceptance (e.g., being famous or popular), social rewards (e.g., making a lot of money), and happiness are components of how most people define success.  Yet, they act contrary to their goal by contracting into themselves instead of extending themselves to others.  You are unlikely to be successful sitting by yourself in a cave.  Your chances for succeeding are better if you go forth into the world and try your best.

Empathy is also a key to success.

This article by Dr. David Tobin, Senior Lecturer in Communication at Rice Business, was originally published as part of the curriculum in his class, Leadership Communication.  

In the business world, the problem with empathy is that too many people don’t understand what it really means and how big a factor it is in successful communication.

Houston Chronicle business columnist Chris Tomlinson sums it up well: “Surveys show that many managers consider empathy a sign of weakness or femininity, not the kind of thing macho businessmen embrace.” Quite simply, these managers are wrong. “Researchers who study leadership and corporate culture are turning up more and more evidence that empathic leaders build better teams, negotiate better deals and produce happier clients” (26 July 2015).

New York Times columnist David Brooks, who was the Rice University commencement speaker in 2011, makes the same point when he describes the rise of the “relational economy.” Computers are doing more and more of the cognitive tasks that used to be accomplished by lawyers and financial analysts–but they fail dismally compared to humans when it comes to handling a position of authority or accountability, or being part of a team. “Empathy becomes a more important workplace skill: the ability to sense what another human being is feeling or thinking” (4 Sept. 2015).

Here’s Tomlinson again: “Empathy is not mollycoddling, and it’s not a synonym for sympathy. It’s not solving someone’s problems for them or feeling pity . . . Empathy is an advanced communication skill that requires . . . understand[ing] the other person’s perspective by identifying his or her problems, needs, feelings, thoughts and values.”

Sound familiar? In Leadership Communication, we call it audience analysis. You know the mantra: “Business communication is goal-oriented and receiver-focused.” The best business communicators try very hard to know what their receivers are thinking, feeling, and worrying about. This knowledge (which, again, is not the same thing as sympathy) shapes how they communicate.

The last word on empathy I’ll leave to a Houston physician. Internist, hospitalist, and essayist, Dr. Ricardo Nuila spoke at a Rice TEDx event about the importance of paying attention to patients’ stories. Inevitably, empathy came up: “Teaching doctors to empathize,” he said, “is modern medicine’s Higgs boson [the elusive “God particle” of subatomic physics] – how do we keep our doctors competent and simultaneously empathetic? . . . This is the essence of empathy: using your brain to extend yourself into someone else’s story” (14 February 2015).

The problem with empathy is the assumption that it’s mostly about flexing your emotional muscles–but it’s not. It’s about using your brain.

https://business.rice.edu/wisdom/commentary/empathy-about-using-your-brain (emphasis added)

 

Empathy is the ability to share another person’s feelings and emotions as if they were your own.

noun

1. 

the projection of one’s own personality into the personality of another in order to understand the person better; ability to share in another’s emotions, thoughts, or feelings
2. 

the projection of one’s own personality into an object, with the attribution to the object of one’s own emotions, responses, etc.
Sympathy

1. 

sameness of feeling; affinity between persons or of one person for another
2.  Rare

agreement in qualities; harmony; accord
3. 

a mutual liking or understanding arising from sameness of feeling

In other words, empathy is putting yourself into another’s shoes.  If you are to reach your audience and truly understand the person you are speaking to, you must empathize with him/her.  “Seek first to understand,” remember?

All my love, always,

Dad

I leave with one last article

Extend Yourself

snowThe half life of an average new year’s resolutions is about a day or so. Just my guess, since that’s what this type of resolution usually looks like in my mind. “Tomorrow I’ll start to diet.” “Come Monday I’ll plan to go to the gym three times a week.” “I’ll meditate every morning.” “I’ll call one of my old high school friends once a week.” Blahblahblah.

It’s not about planning to get started. It’s about doing it. Right now. There is no time like the present time.

Our self improvement culture is relentless. We all get caught up in those muddled thought loops about what we should do and how to be a better person. It takes up an enormous amount of time and space – energy that could be spent to get up and just engage in whatever you think is good for yourself.

Engaging is not always easy for the Gentle Self. We get self conscious and are plagued by self doubts. It’s very tempting to just withdraw and avoid what makes us uncomfortable. We come up with all kinds of deals that we try to make with ourselves. Ok, I hid away all day behind my desk at work, but tomorrow at the family party, I’ll finally talk to uncle John. I’ll think of something to say, other than the weather…

Never mind that these plans mostly go unrealized, so we feel bad about it, and we come up with a plan how to make up for our failures. And fail again.

Engaging doesn’t have to be scary. It’s just a small piece of life we are looking for, and in order to get it we have to extend ourselves. Stretch yourself a little. Step out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just an inch.

All it takes is turning off your computer, pack yourself in some warm clothes and step outside the house. Breathe in the cold afternoon air. Notice the birds up in the sky. Touch the bark of a tree. Put your hands on your eyes and pay attention to how your senses sharpen. Play with your neglected cat. Meet the gaze of a person in the street, or at the supermarket register. Crack a smile. Make contact with the world.

There are millions of ways to engage, many of them too subtle for our clumsy minds to even recognize them. Extend yourself. Just a little. Again and again. Stop planning. Just do it.

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/gentle-self/2012/01/extend-yourself/ (emphasis added)

 

5 years, 3 months, and 10 days. Living a good life is challenging. Live well anyway.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today is a hard day.  Actually, it’s been a hard week.

But, no one promised you life would be easy.  If anyone did, he or she lied.

Life is a struggle … to do the right thing, to do the best you can under the circumstances, to be true to yourself despite pressures from all sides to conform to the wishes and demands of others, etc.  As Anton Chekhov said, “Any idiot can deal with a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”

Live well anyway.  What choice have you?  You could lie, cheat, steal, and boot-lick your way up, but there is no honor in that.  Further, you will find that path unpleasant on the way up and that it never ends.  Change is a constant, and you must constantly kiss ass to remain in the position.  Is it really worth it?  Would you rather live honestly or would you rather be a two-faced, back stabbing bootlicker who’d sell his own mother for profit?

Be true to yourself, my sons.  It’s a tough road, but it is one that will enable you to look back on your life with pride.  It will give your life meaning, and will give reasons for those who matter in the world to celebrate your life instead of long for your death.  See, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/17/us/barbara-bush-dead.html; and, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/04/18/southwest-airlines-victim-jennifer-riordan/527363002/.

Buck up!  There will always be difficult days. But, strive to live such that more of your days are pleasant than unpleasant.

We are surrounded by ankle-biters, who will never amount to much.  But, that is the nature of ankle-biters: they are often of low- or poor-skills, will never make much of their lives, and are best at pulling others down to their levels.  Ignore them if you can, deal forcefully with them if you must, but spend most of your time pursuing your goals and dreams.  Your success is what they fear most … because it makes more stark their failures.

Be you.  Be the best you.  Find joy wherever and whenever you can.  Make it a priority to spend time with friends and people who love you.  Make friends.  Let nature nourish your body, heart, mind, and spirit.  Experience life.

Love with all you heart and soul because that is the only way to love and live.  To hedge your bet or to reciprocate only the feelings of another is to empower your mind to cage your heart and imprison it in fear.  Don’t do that.  Experience life.  With great love may come great loss, but at least you would have loved and lost rather than to have never experience such miracle and exquisite beauty.

https://quotefancy.com/media/wallpaper/1600x900/2008601-Alfred-Tennyson-Quote-It-s-better-to-have-loved-and-lost-than.jpg

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All my love, always.  You are the best of me.

Dad

P.S., don’t buy the “fake news” crap that the dishonest espouses.  Reputable newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post build their reputations over decades, and have processes in place to protect the hard-earned good-will and reputation they cultivated.  They make mistakes, as all humans are want to do, but they try to be fair and accurate.  That is a lot more than others who won’t even bother to be fair, accurate, or even truthful.

Congratulations to the New York Times, Washington Post, Arizona Republic, and others on their Pulitzer Prizes.  http://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-year/2018.

5 years, 3 months, and 8 days. Make a good first impression: be well-informed.

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A Harvard study revealed that it typically takes eight subsequent positive encounters to change another person’s negative opinion of you.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2015/02/10/the-do-over-how-to-correct-a-bad-first-impression/#3dece3f055f6

 

 

Recognize that changing someone’s perception will take time. As stated earlier, no matter who you are, you will inevitably make a less than positive impression on someone. While some have suggested that it can take months or even years to erase a bad first impression, a Harvard study suggests that it will take eight subsequent positive encounters to change that person’s negative opinion of you. In this context be persistent and patient.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140424005629-3411076-how-to-overcome-making-a-bad-first-impression

 

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

People are often full of shit.  Many will bluster or drone on and on about that which they know little.  They may cite one study or one source to validate their point.  Be not like them.

Be well-informed.  Read voraciously.  Read from diverse sources from different continents to combat biases and to gain greater perspective.  Think deeply and critically about what you read, see, and hear.  Never swallow wholesale what someone pitches; everyone has his/her biases.  Figure why they’re saying what they’re saying (e.g., are they paid to say it?), what they are omitting, what their assumptions are, etc.

One of my favorite dialogues are from the movie, The Negotiator, with Samuel Jackson and Kevin Spacey:

Now you're a history buff?
                 
I generally read histories and biographies.       

Don't believe everything you read.              

I didn't say I read just one book.                

I try to read all books on a subject.  You know, try to get all the facts...                

...and then decide for myself what really happened.

http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/n/negotiator-script-transcript-kevin-spacey.html (emphasis added)

Too many people are careless with their reputation.  They say or repeat nonsense and expect there to be few consequences for spouting crap.  They are wrong.  People of caliber notice.  They, then, give wide berth to the uninformed for, except as sheep and mindless consumers, not much good come of being uninformed.

Remember, everything we say and do reflect well or poorly on us, as individuals.  Everything about us communicates something about ourselves.  Thus, strive to make a great impression.  Speak well.  Be thoughtful.  Be well-mannered.  Exude confidence.

Bad first impressions are extremely difficult to correct: people rarely give you eight chances to counteract that one bad first impression.  Their impression of you will color their view of all you do.  If they think you are smart, they will pass off a mistake as a one-off event and not let that affect their judgment of you.  Conversely, if they think you are an idiot, they will think something you did well is but a fluke and you remain an idiot.

Life is hard enough as it is.  Why would you choose to make it harder on yourselves by giving bad first impressions?  Don’t do it.

Be well-read, thoughtful, well-mannered, and kind.  Make a great first impression.

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., all is not lost if you made a bad first impression.  It just means you have a lot of hard work ahead of you to correct it.

The Do-Over: How To Correct A Bad First Impression

 Last year I wrote about the nature of first impressions. We’re continually told of the importance of making positive first impressions, especially given how quickly we determine them. Some research suggests that first impressions can be so powerful that they’re weighed more heavily than fact. We know that making a good first impression is critical to success in both our jobs and personal lives, but the fact is that sometimes we flub them. Whether because of pressure, nervousness, a wrong approach, or distraction, we don’t always show up the way we intended.

The question then becomes, how do we correct a bad first impression?

Here’s the good news: impressions evolve over time. You may not get a second chance to make a first impression, but you can create an opportunity to correct one. Here are five ways to do so:

Realize that an initial impression is just that – a beginning.

We’ve all changed our opinion about someone the longer we’ve known them. Consider a colleague that you initially thought was standoffish, but after sharing a project realized was someone who just took a while to warm up.

If we look at first impressions as make-or-break opportunities, then it’s easy to make excuses for not trying to correct them. Instead, consider that impressions continuously evolve with multiple touch points. If you want someone to get to know the real you, then put yourself in front of them. Ask the person to lunch or volunteer to help them. By witnessing your skills and personality over a longer period of time, their perception of you can grow.

 Remember that repeated, small interactions build trust fastest.

A Harvard study revealed that it typically takes eight subsequent positive encounters to change another person’s negative opinion of you. So be persistent and play the long game.

Further, small, predictable interactions increase trust greater than a one-time splashy event. Take the pressure off yourself to knock someone’s socks off, and instead focus on demonstrating your value over an extended period of time. Strive to be consistent, follow up, and follow through.

Ask for a chance to correct.

Being straightforward can help minimize misunderstandings and reframe the discussion. Consider simply saying, “I feel like we got off on the wrong foot. Can I take you to lunch?”

Honesty can be a game changer in any relationship and goes a long way toward changing someone’s perspective. If you feel that there’s a failure to connect interpersonally, provide your view of the situation and then vet it with the other person. Admit what caused your behavior that may have led to a wrong impression. If you have a family issue that caused you to be disengaged during a meeting, then say so. If the other party is as open minded as most people hope to be (more on this next), then they should give you the benefit of the doubt.

Remind the other person how open-minded he or she is.

Many people have what psychologists call an egalitarian goal, which means that they work hard to be open minded and fair in their interactions with others. Research shows that when you remind someone of their fairness, they will more conscientiously work to live up to that assessment.

Practically speaking, this means that after a less than stellar first interaction, you can send a follow up email and compliment the other person on their open mindedness or fairness in evaluating people. Or recognize how their perspicacity must be a real asset in their job. Reminding the other person of their egalitarian goal will help them remember to be more open minded in their perceptions of you.

Ask them for advice – on anything.

According to Wharton School professor Adam Grant, asking for advice is a smart way to be influential. Grant discusses one study in which researchers asked people to negotiate the possible sale of commercial property. When the sellers asked the buyers for advice on how to meet their goals, 42% were able to come to an agreement that made both sides happy.

“Asking for advice encouraged greater cooperation and information sharing, turning a potentially contentious negotiation into a win-win deal. Studies demonstrate that across the manufacturing, financial services, insurance and pharmaceuticals industries, seeking advice is among the most effective ways to influence peers, superiors, and subordinates,” Grant writes.

If you feel that you didn’t make a positive impression, follow up and ask the other person for advice on some aspect of work. This also allows you to get in front of the person again and make a new impression. Psychologist Robert Cialdini says that by asking for advice, you suddenly “have the basis of an interaction.” Advice can always be returned, as can a thank you.

Comment here or @kristihedges.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. She blogs at kristihedges.com.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2015/02/10/the-do-over-how-to-correct-a-bad-first-impression/3/#7bbbb0f874de

 

5 years, 3 months, and 6 days. Be kind to your audience.

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https://i1.wp.com/suitcaseentrepreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/228-Quote.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/quotescloud.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/The-size-of-the-audience-doesnt-matter.jpg

 

Pity the readers.

https://kmh-lanl.hansonhub.com/pc-24-66-vonnegut.pdf (emphasis added)

http://kmh-lanl.hansonhub.com/pc-24-66-vonnegut.pdf

My dearest and most precious Shosh and Jaialai:

Kurt Vonnegut said it best and most succinctly:  “Pity the readers.”  Be kind to your audience.  They occupy not your life and live not in your head; thus, they have the difficult task of trying to follow your thoughts — be it in written or oral form.  Help them.

First, know your audience.  Who are they?  What do they want out of the interaction with you?  What are their interests?  What are their levels of education?  What is their frames of reference?  For example, if you were talking to high school graduates who are sports fanatics, and you peppered your conversation with quotes from a philosophy book, do you think your audience would be hooked by your presentation or bored?  Know your audience.  Speak their “language” — be it words, anecdotes, imagery, etc.

Second, as the speaker or writer, IT IS YOUR JOB to communicate your thoughts clearly to your audience.  Don’t shirk your duties.  Worse, don’t blame your audience for your failure to do your job.

For example, your job as the writer is to help your readers understand what you are saying by clearly giving them roadmaps and textual clues for them to follow along.  Thus, use signals – such as commas, and words like “but” – to tell readers what to expect and to better help them understand your points.

Shosh, when you were a toddler, you visited me at the office and scared my staff.  Ms. T asked why you liked construction equipment or something that simple.  You responded with, “Well, I like them for three reasons.  First, …”  Your detailed analysis as well as clear and organized thinking freaked them out.  Mr. D said he’d rather have kids who are not as smart since they would be easier to teach.

In life, you will find that if you care about your audience, they will care about you in return.  Do the hard lifting and complicated analyses for your audience and explain complex ideas in simple terms for your audience, and they will knock down your door to get to you and your services.  I promise.

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

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

5 years, 2 months, and 30 days. Live your passion and aspire to be better.

https://i0.wp.com/godhearme.org/tenCommandments.jpg

https://image.slidesharecdn.com/only2commandments-13438724310121-phpapp01-120801205638-phpapp01/95/only-2-commandments-6-728.jpg?cb=1344317147

My dearest and most precious Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, I write with a heavy heart.  It just is.  But, it’s ok.  Sadness is a part of life.  Accept it, deal with it, move on.

It’s apt as, today, I’d like to talk about being positive.  They say, “Misery loves company,” but that is true only for the miserable person.  Unless we’re down in the dumps, who among us enjoy hanging out with someone who is always mopey and miserable?  Not I.  I suspect not you either.  It’s probably true of most people.

Misery exhausts us.  It’s draining.  It takes our life force.

Thus, be a good friend and empathize or sympathize with your friends as necessary when they face difficulty.  However, at all other times, focus on the positive.  (Thus, Jesus, when addressing a more enlightened crowd, distilled the more negative 10 Commandments given to a people during the infancy of their civilization — after years of slavery in Egypt — to the two life-affirming Two Commandments of “Love God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”)

Life is miserable enough as it is without you feeding the beast called Misery.  Feed Joy and Beauty, and you shall be well-rewarded.  Focus on that which uplifts you, makes you happy, and makes your life worth living.

a recently-published study by Toshimasa Sone and colleagues at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan. In a seven-year longitudinal study of 43,000+ Japanese adults, these researchers found that individuals who believed that their life was worth living were less likely to die than were their counterparts without this belief.

One focus in this study was the Japanese notion of ikigai, translated by the researchers as believing that one’s life is worth living. In Japan, ikigai is apparently a common term for what English speakers might term subjective well-being, and it includes purpose and meaning, with connotations of joy about being alive. So, one’s hobby might provide ikigai, or one’s family, or one’s work.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-good-life/200809/ikigai-and-mortality (emphasis added)

What makes your life worth living?  Numerous talking heads, philosophers, and thought leaders offer countless solutions.  See, e.g., https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hot-thought/201002/what-makes-life-worth-living.  But, they can’t help you.  Only YOU can decide what makes you happy, gives your life meaning, and makes your life worth living.

Find your ikigai.  How?  Live.  Experience life.  Embrace it.  Find joy where ever you are.  Stop and pay attention: it’ll reveal itself to you, be it a leaf that flutters vigorously while others are still, a bird song, or the murmur of the grove.  Find your passion.  Find what gives your life meaning.  Do all the positive things that makes life beautiful and avoid, to the extent possible and practicable, all things that detracts from the beauty of life … including hours wasted on video games and social media (where, studies show, you end up more depressed from all the false fronts “friends” post on their feeds).

Others have other suggestions for finding your ikigai.  I leave you with two.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

Discover Your Passion — Or ‘Ikigai’ — With 4 Simple Tips

,

Earlier this year, a friend from Denmark shared with me how she felt contented and happy in all areas of her life except for her career. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and struggled to discover her passion.

The question, “how do I know what my passion is?” is one I have asked myself many times and is something I often get asked. I once thought that it was only the younger generation (i.e. Millenials or Gen Y’s) who were concerned about this. But research from IBM Institute of Business Value (2014) says otherwise. Millennials (20%), Gen X’s (21%) and Baby Boomers (23%) see doing work they are passionate about as an important long-term goal.

Finding your passion can seem like a very western concept but it actually isn’t. In Japan there is a term called “ikigai,” which means, “reason for being.” This is similar to passion but holds a strong “purposeful” connotation. Ikigai is also believed to be the union of 4 elements: What you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. The Japanese see the discovery of your ikigai as requiring a deep, long search within yourself that can bring about satisfaction and meaning to life.

So how can you go about discovering your passion or ikigai? Here are some tips that will help you:

Tip 1: Find a purpose you strongly believe in

People discover their passions or “ikigai” through a number of ways, such as going through life-changing experiences (both positive and negative), deep inner-reflection, by chance or by an inner-determination to make a change. Finding a strong purpose or something you deeply care about will keep you on the path to staying true to yourself and focused on persisting through difficult times. A great starting question to reflect on is, “what would I like to see different in the world?”

Tip 2: Stop thinking and start doing

If you are someone with many passions or you’re waiting for the right moment, there is no perfect time or age to pursue your passion. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook FB -1.34% aged 19 and Charles Flint on the other hand founded IBM IBM -2.25% at the age of 61. The only way you can find your true passion is through trying. Every small step counts and will lead you closer to discovering your passion.  And if you’re passionate about many things, narrow it down to the top 2 and try those long enough so you can decide if that is what you want to do.

Tip 3: Speak to people with similar passions

Speak to people with similar passions, interests and even those who have been there and done that. You may be surprised by the complementary ideas they’ll share with you, the opportunities to collaborate and even the mistakes they’ll share with you from their journey (which you can learn from). But if you are blazing an unknown trail, don’t underestimate the impact you can make. Malala Yousafzai, an inspiring female activist for girl’s education in Pakistan, was one of the few who would speak and write about this from the young age of 11. When she was 15, a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her. But she didn’t stop campaigning for girls’ education and is now the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Tip 4: Accept that setbacks are normal

Whilst pursuing your passion or reason for being, you may experience many set backs such as the lack of support from peers, your ideas being dumped, not receiving financial help, etc. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, shared that he was rejected from Harvard Business School 10 times but that didn’t stop him from starting his company, which is now valued at $264.9 billion. Recognize setbacks as normal and learn from them, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

Discovering your ikigai, or passion, can be one of the greatest journeys you will embark on. It will be challenging and there will be many ups and downs.  Just remember it won’t happen overnight. As Diana Ross once said, “you can’t sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.”

 

How To Find Your Ikigai And Transform Your Outlook On Life And Business

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One of my favorite things about my work at BodeTree is the fact that I get the chance to learn from amazing entrepreneurs every day.

Recently, one such entrepreneur by the name Maria Turco, Chief Yogini of Honor Yoga and a client of BodeTree, introduced me to a concept that I’ve been unwittingly searching for my entire life.

The concept is called Ikigai, and it is a Japanese term that roughly translates to “reason for being.”

I was immediately intrigued and set about learning everything I could about this framework and how it applies to my life as an entrepreneur.

What I discovered helped to bring into focus a “theory of everything” that I’ve struggled for years to articulate on my own.

What is Ikigai?

 Ikigai (pronounced “eye-ka-guy”) is, above all else, a lifestyle that strives to balance the spiritual with the practical.

This balance is found at the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for.

 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a certain existential frustration that stemmed from the conflicting desires. One one hand, I wanted to live a life of meaning and consequence. On the other, I wanted to enjoy the lifestyle that came along with money.

The result was an infuriating struggle between the things that made money and the things I truly cared about.

I set out to solve this with a concept I called “Enlightened Entrepreneurship,” which tried to find the right balance between these seemingly conflicting goals.

However, I always felt it was missing a certain something that I could never put my finger on.

I now believe that Ikigai is the refined version of the concept I was looking for. It is, simply put, your reason for getting out of bed every morning.

Discovering your Ikigai

One of the many mistakes I’ve made in my life was believing that money led to fulfillment. That’s largely why I went into finance in the first place.

When I think back on those days, I can’t help but think of the James Taylor lyric “you can play the game and you can act out the part,even though you know it wasn’t written for you.”

It never felt right, but I thought that if I had money, then I could have an impact on the world.

What I learned, however, is that form follows intent.

To discover you Ikigai, you must first find what you’re most passionate about. Then, you find the medium through which you can express that passion.

Steve Jobs is a fantastic example of this idea. It’s easy to think of Jobs as a titan of technology, but that would be inaccurate. Jobs was a lover of fine craftsmanship, first and foremost.

Whether it was a matter of collecting handmade Japanese tea cups or obsessing over design details of various products, he wrapped himself in his passion for finely made items.

Apple and Pixar were merely his chosen mediums of expression.

This is something that I can relate to. I’d be lying if I said that I always cared deeply about finance, technology, or franchising. Truth be told, those things are not particularly meaningful to me in and of themselves.

What I am passionate about is transparency, truth, and helping people live up to their highest potential.

My company is simply the vehicle through which I can take these passions, apply them to the things that the world needs, and make a profit in the process.

In other words, BodeTree is my Ikigai.

A transformative realization

This is not to say that work is the most important thing in my life. That honor falls to my faith and my family. While I’m far from perfect, I strive to make sure that they are the center of my life.

However, there’s a difference between the things that are important in your life and your life’s work.

Ikigai is about finding joy, fulfillment, and balance in the daily routine of life.

 It’s all too easy to fall victim to siloed thinking, that our job, family, passions, and desires are all separate and unrelated aspects of our lives.

The fundamental truth of Ikigai is that nothing is siloed. Everything is connected.

This realization has changed my outlook for the better. Whether you call it Ikigai or Enlightened Entrepreneurship, the truth remains. It is possible to be true to your passions, live a life of consequence, and still use business as a medium of expression.

At the intersection of all of this are feelings of peace and lasting happiness that can sustain us throughout our entire lives.