5 years, 7 months, and 14 days. Aim High (Part 2)

[Pre-school education creates a gap between rich and poor children from which the latter cannot recover]

Limos and nannies drop off 3- and 4-year-olds every weekday morning at New York City’s most exclusive preschools. Tuition is more than $30,000 a year. The schools boast that young kids learn French, Chinese, violin, yoga and robotics — all before kindergarten.

Just a few subway stops away in the Bronx, home to one of America’s poorest congressional districts, there’s a very different morning drop-off routine going on. Many working parents leave their children with a relative or at the home of a lady down the street. They can’t afford formal preschool or day care, which now averages almost $10,000 a year, according to the Care Index.

Inequality in America is apparent by age 3: Most rich kids are in school, while most poor kids are not, according to a new book, “Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality.”

Only 55 percent of America’s 3 and 4-year-olds attend a formal preschool, a rate far below China, Germany and other power players on the global stage.

It’s a problem for the kids left behind — and for the U.S. economy. Companies are already complaining they can’t find enough skilled workers. It’s only expected to get worse if the United States doesn’t do a better job educating its youth.

“Early care and education in the United States is in a crisis,” education scholars Ajay Chaudry, Taryn Morrissey, Christina Weiland and Hirokazu Yoshikawa conclude in the book.

Parents who can’t afford preschool typically leave their kids with a grandparent or someone nearby. Some of these informal child-care providers do offer rigorous educational activities, but others just leave kids in front of the television. The quality is more haphazard, and there’s a higher risk the option won’t work out. The book chronicles the awful experience of one low-income family in New York City that had to make 25 different child-care arrangements for their daughter by her fifth birthday.

The inequality that begins before kindergarten lasts a lifetime. Children who don’t get formal schooling until kindergarten start off a year behind in math and verbal skills and they never catch up, according to the authors, who cite a growing body of research that’s been following children since the 1940s. In fact, the gap between rich and poor kids’ math and reading skills has been growing since the 1970s. The “left behind” kids are also more likely to end up in lower-paying jobs.

“The earliest years are the most promising for brain and skill development, yet it is when the U.S. invests the least,” says Yoshikawa, an education professor at New York University.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/09/26/by-age-3-inequality-is-clear-rich-kids-attend-school-poor-kids-stay-with-a-grandparent/ (emphasis added)

 

[Cognitive exposure and growth leads to larger brain in rich children]

Social scientists have found that by the time children enter kindergarten, there is already a large academic achievement gap between students from wealthy and poor families. We still don’t know exactly why that’s the case. There’s a sense that it at least partly has to do with the fact that affluent mothers and fathers have more intensive parenting styles—they’re more likely to read to their kids, for instance—and have enough money to make sure their toddlers grow up well-nourished, generally cared for, and intellectually stimulated. At the same time, poor children often grow up in chaotic, food-insecure, stressful homes that aren’t conducive to a developing mind.

A new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience adds an interesting biological twist to this issue. Using MRI scans of more than 1,000 subjects between the ages of 3 and 20, it finds that children with poor parents tend to have somewhat smaller brains, on some dimensions, than those who grow up affluent. Specifically, low-income participants had less surface area on their cerebral cortexes—the gray matter responsible for skills such as language, problem solving, and other higher-order functions we generally just think of as human intelligence. Poorer individuals in the study also fared worse on a battery of cognitive tests, and a statistical analysis suggested the disparities were related to brain dimensions. 

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/04/17/family_income_and_brain_development_poor_children_have_less_surface_area.html (emphasis added)

 

[Good teachers out-teach bad teachers by as much as a year’s worth of material in one year]

One of the most important tools in contemporary educational research is “value added” analysis. It uses standardized test scores to look at how much the academic performance of students in a given teacher’s classroom changes between the beginning and the end of the school year. Suppose that Mrs. Brown and Mr. Smith both teach a classroom of third graders who score at the fiftieth percentile on math and reading tests on the first day of school, in September. When the students are retested, in June, Mrs. Brown’s class scores at the seventieth percentile, while Mr. Smith’s students have fallen to the fortieth percentile. That change in the students’ rankings, value-added theory says, is a meaningful indicator of how much more effective Mrs. Brown is as a teacher than Mr. Smith.

It’s only a crude measure, of course. A teacher is not solely responsible for how much is learned in a classroom, and not everything of value that a teacher imparts to his or her students can be captured on a standardized test. Nonetheless, if you follow Brown and Smith for three or four years, their effect on their students’ test scores starts to become predictable: with enough data, it is possible to identify who the very good teachers are and who the very poor teachers are. What’s more—and this is the finding that has galvanized the educational world—the difference between good teachers and poor teachers turns out to be vast.

Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a “bad” school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile. And remember that a good teacher costs as much as an average one, whereas halving class size would require that you build twice as many classrooms and hire twice as many teachers.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/12/15/most-likely-to-succeed-malcolm-gladwell (emphasis added)

 

[Disadvantages faced by poor children hold them back]

Education is historically considered to be the thing that levels the playing field, capable of lifting up the less advantaged and improving their chances for success….

But a study published in June suggests that the things that really make the difference — between prison and college, success and failure, sometimes even life and death — are money and family.

Alexander is one of the authors of “The Long Shadow,” which explored this scenario: Take two kids of the same age who grew up in the same city — maybe even the same neighborhood. What factors will make the difference for each?

To find the answer, the Hopkins researchers undertook a massive study. They followed nearly 800 kids in Baltimore — from first grade until their late-20s.

They found that a child’s fate is in many ways fixed at birth — determined by family strength and the parents’ financial status.

The kids who got a better start — because their parents were married and working — ended up better off. Most of the poor kids from single-parent families stayed poor.

Just 33 children — out of nearly 800 — moved from the low-income to high-income bracket. And a similarly small number born into low-income families had college degrees by the time they turned 28.

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/07/335285098/rich-kid-poor-kid-for-30-years-baltimore-study-tracked-who-gets-ahead (emphasis added)

 

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

We last spoke of striving to be extraordinary — to make a difference — even the mundane.  Too many people oday simply care about nothing but themselves, their comfort, their entertainment, etc.  Be not like them.  Give a shit.  Help others.  Matter.

Today, let’s talk how best to position yourself so that you can maximize your efforts.  It doesn’t matter if you ultimately choose to devote yourselves to serving others one-on-one (retail) or as a group (wholesale).  The point is (1) to do something to help your world be a better place, and (2) to maximize your efforts.

(These points should be self-evident.  However, to make these points crystal clear, let me state them in the negative.  First, why wouldn’t you want to make your world a better place?  The state of nature leans towards disorder and decay.  For example, unless you mow your lawn, it would soon become a weed-filled jungle.  Unless you make efforts to clean up after yourselves, your neighborhoods, streets, and parks will be filled with trash and broken bottles.  Is that how you wish to live?  I assume not.  Second, why wouldn’t you want your efforts to be as effective and as efficient as possible?  If you’re going to spend the time and energy to do something, why would you not want to do your best to maximize the use of your time and energy to bring about the best outcome possible under the circumstances?  Only fools would wish otherwise.)

So, how do you best position yourself for success?  As evident from the above-referenced articles, numerous studies have shown the important roles family background and education play in preparing children for success.  Rich families, or those from families with means, expose their children at a VERY young age to music, art, vocabulary, information, and social and cultural experiences that help develop their young brains and give them a significant leg up on the road to success.  Poor children, or those from families with few means, are unable to provide give their children such opportunities.

This has devastating consequences which make it harder for children from poor families to succeed in life.  For example, children from poor or disadvantaged families have smaller brains than their affluent counterpart (see, e.g., http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/04/17/family_income_and_brain_development_poor_children_have_less_surface_area.html), have poorer vocabularies than their affluent counterparts (see e.g., https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/tackling-the-vocabulary-gap-between-rich-and-poor-children), and are much less likely to join the ranks of the affluent (see, e.g., https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/07/335285098/rich-kid-poor-kid-for-30-years-baltimore-study-tracked-who-gets-ahead).

While we were together, I have tried to expose you to as many diverse as well as culturally, socially, and academically meaningful experiences as possible.  We traveled far and wide.  We hiked and camped.  We attended musical events and theaters.  I paid nearly $1,000 per month for you, Jaialai, to attend an elite preschool where you were exposed to music and the arts as part of he curriculum.  Likewise, Shosh, I enrolled you in a private and well-regarded preschool program that required the parents (most of whom were doctors and lawyers) to volunteer and help out at least once every month.  Because of the adverse impact the death of your grandmother, who lived with us, and my divorce from your mother, I paid out of pocket for child therapy for you boys for more than a year so that these unfortunate events would not unduly encumber your growth and future.  (N.B.: despite my paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for your years-long therapy, your mother refused to pay $60 to meet with your child therapist to discuss how best to help you through the difficult circumstances — she claimed she had no money, yet bank records from the divorce showed she spent more than $900 a month on Starbucks coffee and eating out.  I met with your therapist weekly.  Your mother met with her only once.)  I wanted to give you a leg up in life, and made the necessary sacrifices to do so.

Unfortunately, fascist thugs interfered and have denied you the road I had planned for you.  But, all is not lost.  You have had the necessary head start during the developmental years.  Now, it is up to you to pursue that path while we’re apart.

Work hard to be accepted into magnet programs and accelerated classes in middle and high schools and to gain admission to top colleges so that you’d be surrounded by good teachers and good students.  As evident from the article above, good teachers are significantly more effective at expanding your minds and helping you learn.  Being around good students and students from good families establishes good behaviors and hard work as the norm.  You would then conform your behaviors to such norms and behave well, work hard, etc., as a result. On the flip side, if you were surrounded by kids who aspire for mediocrity — or worse  — that would be the new norm and you would race towards the bottom in your efforts to gain acceptance.  (Your cousin on your mother-side has a felony conviction because he hung out with the bad crowd while studying at a mediocre school.  On the other hand, your cousins on my side attends, or have attended, good schools, and those that have graduated have successful careers.)

Be self-disciplined.  Do your best always.  Don’t turn in shit-work.  If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing well.  I have seen too many wasted lives and lost opportunities simply because the people were unwilling to work hard.  Be not like them.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

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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.

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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 2 days. Trust not the talking heads and marketers: they have no love for you, only themselves.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg got into an awkward exchange with a top Democratic senator on Tuesday when the lawmaker began asking him personal questions.

During the blockbuster hearing on Capitol Hill, Sen. Dick Durbin asked Zuckerberg, “Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?”

“Um,” Zuckerberg said before a long pause. “No.”

The audience and panel of senators erupted in laughter at Zuckerberg’s hesitancy to answer the question, but Durbin used it to make a point about personal privacy, which was the focus of the joint hearing between the Senate’s Judiciary and Commerce committees.

“If you’ve messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?” Durbin asked.

“Senator, no, I would probably not choose to do that publicly here,” Zuckerberg said.

“I think that might be what this is all about — your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy, and how much you’d give away in modern America,” Durbin said.

http://www.businessinsider.com/dick-durbin-asks-mark-zuckerberg-what-hotel-he-stayed-at-2018-4 (emphasis added).

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Zuckerberg allowed a full eight seconds to lapse and grimaced and chuckled before he finally said he admitted that he wouldn’t share the name of the hotel he stayed at the night before.  http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/11/mark-zuckerberg-got-flummoxed-asked-share-something-private-7456950/.  We’re talking about just the name here, not even the room number.  Yet, Zuckerberg was unwilling to share that information while his company (Facebook) not only scanned your postings and data-mined them, but sold and shared them with complete strangers who used that information to manipulate you, to target you for ads and misinformation.

(To be clear and to be fair, Facebook claims it gives you control over your data, and you can opt out.  However, such controls are often buried in obscure provisions under mounds of legalese that would bore most people to tears and cause most people’s eyes to glaze over.  So, did Facebook effectively give you control, or only the illusion of control?

This strategy is nothing new.  At the Enron of Healthcare, despite insurance laws requiring insurance policies to be written in clear and easy to understand language, they buried and obfuscate critical provisions such that they were able to tell policy holders certain benefits were not covered when, according to internal emails, they knew full well those benefits were covered.  They knew full well few people have the time, resources, and ability to fight them.  They bank on that.)

How is that right?  Does Zuckerberg care about you, one of the billions of Facebook users?  Does he give damn about your privacy, your protection?  No.  His actions speak much louder than his words: he wouldn’t share with the public even the name of his hotel, yet he mined all of your posts and sold them to complete strangers.  He cares about himself, not you.

That’s reality.  Businesses and business owners are there to make a profit for themselves.  That’s their primary motive.  If their interests and yours should align, then that’s a bonus.  However, if their interests and yours diverge, know that they will protect their business interests and profit motives first and foremost.  Only fools think otherwise.  Thus, be not surprise that a businessman sold you out for profit.  You were a fool to think he wouldn’t.

Don’t be fools.  Never trust a business or businessman to have your best interest at heart regardless of what he says.  He only has his best interest at heart.  Remember that always.

Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, said he’s left Facebook on account of its data collection practices.  https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2018/04/08/apple-co-founder-steve-wozniak-says-hes-leaving-facebook/497392002/.  Others have also.  You may wish to consider doing similar.

You have a voice.  Use it.  Vote with your feet and/or your wallet as appropriate.

Remember, you are responsible for teaching others how to treat you.  If you let them abuse you, then you must accept responsibility for allowing it — and they for their misdeeds.

Now, let me be clear that I’m not a fan of Facebook.  I dislike it for several reasons.

First and foremost, studies have found Facebook use positively correlates with depression.  See, e.g., http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0069841; https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/21st-century-aging/201308/facebook-depression;  https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2016/04/30/study-links-heavy-facebook-and-social-media-usage-to-depression/#385bdfa64b53; https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/how-facebook-makes-us-unhappy.

Second, Facebook creates echo-chambers and encourages users to limit their exposure to the world.  For example, studies show that more than 60 percent of Americans get their news from Facebook and Twitter.  http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/07/new-pew-data-more-americans-are-getting-news-on-facebook-and-twitter/.  The danger is that the algorithm for those social media sites limits and tailors what they post to each user’s based on the likes and preferences of that user.  In other words, you will only see and hear what you want to see and hear.  Echo-chamber.

The danger of echo-chambers cannot be over stated.  For example, America’s first attempt at creating a union under the Article of Confederation failed because the states balkanized.  Today, the nation is fractured because people balkanize by confining  themselves to silos of only like-minded individuals.  In other words, they limit themselves to echo-chambers.  Facebook plays a significant role in creating this phenomenon.

We while away the hours with phantom “friends” on Facebook instead of walking down to the local park to hang out with our neighbors, or to the local outdoors market and expose ourselves to the wide variety of people who inhabit our communities, our country, our planet.

Groupthink causes all sorts of problems.  It can whip us into a frenzy because outside perspectives are disallowed or discouraged — they are not part of the echo-chamber.  Groupthink encourages mob mentality, and that is never a good thing.

No, my sons, limit your use of, and exposure to, Facebook and other social media.  It’s a tool.  Use and control it, instead of allowing it to control and use you.

As I have said before, limit your screen time to no more than a couple of hours a day — including TV, computer, smart phone, video games, etc.  Step outside.  Enjoy the fresh air, grass, and people.  Embrace life.  Don’t live vicariously through others.

Now, turn off the computer and grab your brother to go for a walk around the neighborhood as we used to do.

All my love, always,

Dad

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5 years, and 3 months. You can do well by doing good. Strive to do good well.

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My dearest and most precious sons, Shosh and Jailai:

You often hear it said that the good guy always loses.  I beg to differ.

Although the bad guy — who is willing to lie, cheat, and steal — may get ahead in the short run by skirting the law and morality, he/she loses in the long run.  First, note recent reports of the downfall of the mighty, e.g., Samsung’s chief and heir face prison time for their corrupt practices, a former president of South Korea has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for corruption, and a former president of Brazil has been sentence to 12 years in prison for corruption.  Crime catches up with you partly because you make enemies.  That leads to my second point: bad guys live in constant fear of being exposed or on the receiving end of their misdeeds.  A thief, for example, fears being discovered and thinks everyone is out to get him.  Thus, he must constantly be on guard and trusts few .  Is that a good way to live?  Are those the makings of a good life?  No.

You can do well by doing good in the world, by helping to make the world a better place.  For example, at a time when computing was limited to the few, Steve Job envisioned a world where there is a computer in every home and that technology is accessible to all.  As a result of his efforts, most homes today have one or more computers.  At the time of his death, Mr. Job’s net worth was $10.2 billion.  https://www.investopedia.com/university/steve-jobs-biography/steve-jobs-net-worth.asp.  He did well by doing good, wouldn’t you say?  (Now, reports are that Steve Job is not the easiest man to get along with and has his own issues.  But, who among us is perfect?  Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Acknowledge his contributions to the world, but hold him accountable for his less stellar aspects as appropriate.)

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The undergirding of today’s lesson is the same fundamental lessons I’ve always harped on:  be you but be the best you can be, and try to leave your corner of the world a little bit better than when you first found it.  I leave you with another wise word from one of my favorite people.

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Go forth, do good, and do well.  Live a purposeful life.  Happiness lies therein.

All my love, always,

Dad

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

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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

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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.

 

 

5 years, 2 months, and 29 days. Don’t be monkeys: don’t vape, use e-cigarettes, or smoke pot!

When Irfan Rahman talked to young vapers, some complained of bleeding mouths and throats. And these bloody sores seemed slow to heal. Such reports concerned this toxicologist at the University of Rochester in New York. So he decided to investigate what the vapors inhaled from electronic cigarettes might be doing to mouth cells.

Last October, his team showed those vapors inflame mouth cells in ways that could potentially promote gum disease. That gum damage can destroy the tissues that hold teeth in place. So severe gum disease could lead to tooth loss.

But that’s hardly the end of it.

Vapers inhale those same gases and particles into their lungs. Rahman wondered what effects those vapors might have on cells there. One gauge would be to test how long any lung-cell damage took to heal. And his latest data confirm that e-cigarette vapors also make it hard for lung cells to repair damage.

Students as young as 12 or 13 are now more likely to vape than to smoke. Many are under the impression that because e-cigs don’t contain tobacco, they pose little risk to health. Wrong.

Over the past few months, research has turned up evidence that vaping can pose many brand new risks. The vapors mess with immunity, some studies show. “Smoker’s cough” and bloody sores have begun showing up in teen vapers. The hotter a vaped liquid gets, the harsher its effects on human cells. And a relatively new vaping behavior called “dripping” ups the heat. This threatens to intensify a teen’s risks from those vapors.

Some new data even suggest that e-cig vapors may contain cancer-causing chemicals.

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/concerns-explode-over-new-health-risks-vaping (emphasis added)

 

[I]t would be fallacious to conclude that because the chemicals in marijuana have been found to present fewer dangers than some very harmful substances, the medical or recreational use of marijuana is perfectly safe. In a recreational context, marijuana has been shown to affect health, brain function, and memory. And in a medical context, marijuana is like any other powerful prescription drug: it has potentially dangerous side effects, and the decision to use it to treat patients must involve the same balancing test as the one required for chemotherapy or AZT: do the therapeutic effects of the drug outweigh its harmful effects? Though there are many more studies to be done on this issue, current data shows that the answer to this question may not always be “yes.”

EFFECTS OF HABITUAL MARIJUANA USE ON THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The most potent argument against the use of marijuana to treat medical disorders is that marijuana may cause the acceleration or aggravation of the very disorders it is being used to treat.

Smoking marijuana regularly (a joint a day) can damage the cells in the bronchial passages which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms and decrease the ability of the immune cells in the lungs to fight off fungi, bacteria, and tumor cells. For patients with already weakened immune systems, this means an increase in the possibility of dangerous pulmonary infections, including pneumonia, which often proves fatal in AIDS patients.

https://cyber.harvard.edu/evidence99/marijuana/Health_1.html (emphasis added)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Dangers lurk around every corner.  That’s the reality of life, and we cannot insulate ourselves against every risk, known and unknown.  Examples  abound.

Authorities in Toledo, Ohio, have charged four boys with murder after a sandbag they allegedly dropped from an interstate overpass killed a passenger in a car.

https://www.ksat.com/news/national/boys-charged-with-murder-after-sandbag-thrown-from-overpass-kills-man

9. John Bowen, 1979.

Mistake number 1, attending a Jets football game at Shea Stadium. Mistake number 2, staying in his seat during the half-time show. In this case, the show was a demonstration of a remote control 40 pound flying lawn mower (we do not make this stuff up!) which was not under control after all, and struck the New Hampshire resident causing head injuries that he died of 4 days later. Should have gone to a Patriot’s game…

8. Humberto Hernandez, 2007.

Mr. Hernandez proved that walking is an unsafe form of transportation as he was walking on a sidewalk in Oakland when a car struck a fire hydrant, breaking it free. The water pressure sent the hydrant flying right into Humberto’s face, killing him.

7. Jon Desborough, 1999.

A gym teacher at Liverpool College, Jon was hustling out to retrieve a javelin stuck in the ground after a throw, tripped and fell into the (blunt) end of the javelin causing the shaft to penetrate his eye socket and skewer his brain, killing him.

https://www.historyandheadlines.com/10-fatal-freak-accidents/

However, just because risks exist, it doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind and engage in every stupid idea and fad that comes along.  One of the stupidest fads these days is the condom-snorting nonsense we discussed recently.  Others include vaping, using e-cigarettes, and smoking pot.

Smoking sucks.  It doesn’t matter if you smoke cigarette, e-cigarette, or pot.  Smoking pumps chemicals into your body, ruins your gum and teeth, destroys your lungs, etc.  Wow, smart move, right?  Kids are foolish to copy others.  They think it makes them look cool.  It doesn’t.  It makes them look like monkeys and sheep who are unable to think for themselves and who are easily persuaded by marketers and others who have no love for them.

Be of strong character.  Never allow anyone to pressure you into doing something stupid or something bad that you don’t want to do — or pressure you out of doing something smart or something good that you want to do.  Be you, but be the best you.

As Catholics, we believe our bodies are God’s temple, where His Spirit resides.  But, even if you are no longer practicing Catholics — on the Sundays where you were with me, I took you to mass, but your mom did not on weeks when you were with her — remember that you have but ONE body to last you a lifetime.  Do you really want to destroy or weaken it with chemicals and unhealthy habits?

Take care of your body, and it will take care of you when you need it.

https://kerricox.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/outrun-the-bear.jpg?w=656

Exercise daily.  Go outside and get fresh air.

Be well.  Your brain and your health are your greatest assets.  Protect them at all costs.

https://i0.wp.com/theathleticmindset.com/site2013/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/health-wealth-gandhi-quote.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/f5/fa/93/f5fa93a0b6e79e0b3eff578ce0e617c9.jpg

All my love, always,

Dad

5 years, 2 months, and 26 days. Find joy. Cherish and be grateful for those joyous moments.

https://shoshandjaialai.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/63fdf-sunrise2bin2bmountain2bnature2bwallpaper.jpg?w=1415&h=943

https://i2.wp.com/drivenoutside.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/lawn.jpg

https://i0.wp.com/www.anywherethatswild.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/P10308461.jpg

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Life is tough.  There is no getting around that.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding him- or herself.  Life’s challenges worm their way into everyone’s life.

Thus, find joy where ever you may.  The smell of the first rainfall on parched earth.  Sunrise.  Freshly cut grass.  How your little hand felt in mine when we went for walks back then.  The sound of your laughter.  That mischievous glint in your eye.  The feel of waves.  The beach.  Sand.  A smile.  Hummingbirds.  A cool breeze.  Heat.  Salty butter on crunchy baguette.  The smell of coffee.  Home.

Be present, immerse yourselves in the joyous experience, and be grateful for them.  Don’t let the travails of life detract from its beauty. Hold on to the good and beautiful.  Be present, but revisit these moments of beauty as necessary to keep your spirits up.  Remember, self-care is critical.  Live to fight another day.

Life is what you make of it.  If you focus on the negative, then life will be the shits.  Why would you want to do that to yourself.  Feed the positive and work towards the possible.  Whatever challenges currently plaguing you will pass.  Don’t let it consume you.  Where’s the joy in that?

Make your life a testament to its beauty.  Let it be a symbol of hope for those without.  But, more importantly, immerse yourselves in that which is beautiful and joyous so that YOUR LIFE WILL BE BEAUTIFUL AND JOYOUS.  That is my wish for you, my sons.  Enjoy life regardless of the bitter cup presently set upon your lips.  This too will pass.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/24/e3/07/24e3073f9d7b9ed160ffaa8a3ea0d2c3.jpg

All my love, always,

Dad