5 years, and 4 days. Why not?

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be more and be better!

All my love, always,

Dad

 

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5 long and excruciating years. Don’t let others control the narrative, especially your narrative.

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Are Lying Children Naturally Smarter?

A new study suggests that how well you lie as a child is a strong indicator of how successful you’ll be as an adult.

Research conducted by the Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto indicates the skills needed to tell a convincing lie, such as quick thinking and the ability to use information to your own advantage, demonstrate a highly functioning brain.  And the younger children demonstrate these skills, the better developed their brains are.

Are Lying Children Naturally Smarter?

 

 

Is Your Child Lying to You? That’s Good

Lying is not only normal; it’s also a sign of intelligence.

Kids discover lying as early as age 2, studies have found. In one experiment, children were asked not to peek at a toy hidden behind them while the researcher withdrew from the room under false pretenses. Minutes later, the researcher returned and asked the child if he or she peeked.

This experiment, designed by the developmental psychologist Michael Lewis in the mid-1980s and performed in one form or another on hundreds of kids, has yielded two consistent findings. The first is that a vast majority of children will peek at the toy within seconds of being left alone. The other is that a significant number of them lie about it. At least a third of 2-year-olds, half of 3-year-olds and 80 percent or more of children 4 and older will deny their transgression, regardless of their gender, race or family’s religion….

Why do some children start lying at an earlier age than others? What separates them from their more honest peers? The short answer is that they are smarter.

Professor Lewis has found that toddlers who lie about peeking at the toy have higher verbal I.Q.s than those who don’t, by as much as 10 points. (Children who don’t peek at the toy in the first place are actually the smartest of all, but they are a rarity.)

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/opinion/sunday/children-lying-intelligence.html

My dearest and most precious Shosh and Jaialai:

I hope 2018 finds you well and joyful.  Choose to be happy, my sons.  Life is suffering (per Buddha), but we don’t have to let the suffering control either us or our lives.  We are the authors of our own fate.

In that vein, recent news stories suggest that kids who lie are smarter than average.  Lying requires higher brain function for a number of reasons:

[K]ids with better cognitive abilities who lie more. That’s because to lie you also have to keep the truth in mind, which involves multiple brain processes, such as integrating several sources of information and manipulating that information … The ability to lie—and lie successfully—is thought to be related to development of brain regions that allow so-called ‘executive functioning,’ or higher order thinking and reasoning abilities. Kids who perform better on tests that involve executive functioning also lie more.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/05/are-kids-who-lie-smarter/340897/

As interesting as that may be, note that neither Time nor The Atlantic mentioned what The New York Times noted in a parenthetical statement — children who exercise self-control and obviated the need to lie in the first place are the smartest children of the bunch!  So, no, the narrative is not that children who lie are smart, but that children who exercise self-control are the smartest.

Other psychological studies have borne this out.  For example, the famous “Marshmallow Experiment” by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University and his colleagues.  They tempted 4 year-olds with treats, telling them they could eat the one cookie or marshmallow in front of them immediately or wait a little and get two cookies or marshmallows.

“Sometimes experimenters had not even finished talking about the experiment when the kids already ate the marshmallow or cookie,” said cognitive neuroscientist B.J. Casey at Weill Cornell Medical College, who has taken part in follow-up studies on this work. “Other 4-year-olds were able to wait by sitting on their hands and turning away, or creating imaginary friends to distract them.”

Since Mischel’s daughters attended nursery school with many of these children in the study, he began noticing that whether or not the kids delayed gratification appeared linked with many other factors in their lives. Kids who succumbed quickly to temptation often had lower SAT scores, a higher body-mass index and a slightly increased risk of substance abuse later on.

Casey refers to those who quickly gave in as low-delayers and those who can delay gratification high-delayers.

https://www.livescience.com/15821-cookie-test-control.html.

So, the story isn’t really about encouraging your kids to lie or being proud of the fact that their lying is a sign of intelligence.  If you want kids to be among the smartest, teach them self-control.

In fact, even the focus on intelligence may not necessarily be the best approach or benchmark for child-rearing.

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

HINT: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on “process”—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life

A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 35 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential. On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on “process” (consisting of personal effort and effective strategies) rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids1/

Thus, as I’ve said before, try your best and try to improve a little each day.  Don’t worry so much about the immediate outcome.  Life is the long play.  Work to succeed in life by striving to better yourself day by day.

Exercise self-control.  Our instant gratification culture is toxic.  Don’t give in to it.

Shosh, as a young child, your mother taught you it was okay to scream until you get what you wanted immediately.  For example, as a two-year-old, while in the car, you’d shout out “Two!” and your mom would immediately change the CD to track 2.  Grandmother used to tell me that when you guys drove by an excavator, you’d scream and cried until your mother had to turn back and let you look more closely at it.  That was bad parenting.  She abdicated her parental duties by letting you call the shots.  That was lazy of her because it was the path of least resistance for her.  She was doing you no favor.  Why?  By telling you that you can get whatever you want whenever you wanted it, she is preparing you for failure.  In life, you cannot do whatever you want whenever you want to.  For example, despite our Freedom of Speech, you could get arrested if you shouted “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater when there was no fire.  I hope you have gained better self-control and are better suited for success in life.

It’s not just about having self-control over your words, but also your every action.  It’s effortful, but success is effortful.  If it were easy, everyone would be successful.  Look at your mom’s side of the family and my side of the family.  Where are they in life and what have they achieved?  It is no mistake that more of our side have doctorates and advanced degrees and are in management at major organizations.

Be successful, my sons.  Try your best.  Try to be better each day.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 11 months, and 9 days. Nurture your imagination. Learn to see possibilities and have the courage to pursue them.

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Imagining bodily states, like feeling full, can affect our future preferences and behaviour

Our current bodily states influence our preferences and our behaviour much more than we usually anticipate – as anyone who has gone shopping hungry and come back with bags full of fattening food can attest. “Even when people have previous experience with a powerful visceral state, like pain, they show surprisingly little ability to vividly recall the state or to predict how it affects someone (including themselves) when they are not experiencing it,” write Janina Steinmertz at Utrecht University and her colleagues in their paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The good news is their research suggests we can exploit this phenomenon – we can trick ourselves into thinking we’re feeling differently, thereby influencing our preferences in ways that help us. For instance, one potentially important finding from their paper was that people who thought themselves full went on to choose smaller food portion sizes.

The research builds on earlier work that’s found that getting people to consider a particular experience can have a similar effect as actually doing it. For example, people who looked at pictures of salty, savoury foods and rated how much they’d enjoy them, subsequently enjoyed eating peanuts less than others who’d first looked at images of sweet foods. It’s as if merely considering salty food had led to a degree of satiation.

Steinmertz and her colleagues wanted to investigate whether mentally simulating feeling warm or cold, and also hungry or full, affected people’s subsequent preferences, and even their actual behaviour.

For the first study, 119 participants spent 30 seconds imagining themselves in a picture that either depicted a very cold environment (a snowy landscape or a picture of a glacier) or a hot environment (a desert or a lava lake). Afterwards, people in the cold condition reported feeling colder and were more likely to say they preferred “warming” activities, like a hot bath, to cooling activities, like a “cool, refreshing shower”.

A similar effect occurs based purely on our imagination, without the aid of pictures. For the second study, 300 participants were spent 60 seconds imagining, in detail, feeling very hot – or cold, hungry, or full. They then wrote about how they thought they would feel, and how they would act. This kind of purely mental simulation also influenced their reported preferences for related activities – people who’d imagined being hungry were more likely to say they’d prefer to go on a date to a restaurant than a date to see a movie, for example.

To find out if we can exploit these effects to our advantage, the researchers recruited another 111 people to explore the effects of imagining bodily states on subsequent food choices. Participants spent a minute imagining either being hungry or full. Then they were asked to choose between a variety of rewards, including varying sizes of popcorn, chocolate ice cream and crisps, one of which they were told they would receive. Crucially, the participants who’d imagined being full chose smaller food portion sizes than those who’d imagined being hungry. This showed, the researchers write, that mentally simulating visceral states “can affect real choices with immediate consequences”.

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/12/13/imagining-bodily-states-like-feeling-full-can-affect-our-future-preferences-and-behaviour/

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Remember how I have always told you that the mind is your greatest tool?  As seen above, research continues to bear this out.

You are what think; thus, don’t embrace the suck but do embrace the best possibilities.  Many much greater than I have stated this much better than I.  For example,

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The commonality here is your mind.  That’s the control mechanism for your life.  Don’t let others take control of your mind or your life.

But, the mind is like a garden.  You must tend to it.  You must nourish it and water it daily.  Give your mind healthy things like nutritious food, sleep, literature, music, silence, joy, friendship, etc.  Also, take care to control harmful weed and pests.  Don’t embrace or dwell on pettiness, dark thoughts, negativity, failures, hate, vengeance, etc.  Put only as much thought in each of those negative thing AS IS NECESSARY to deal with it, to learn from it, etc., then MOVE ON!

Focus on the what you must do TODAY to get to your goals for tomorrow and the future.  DON’T waste your life away reliving the past or dreaming of the future.  Deal with TODAY.  Deal with this very moment!

If the moment is filled with negative thoughts, change it.  Refocus.  Don’t give life and energy to what will only harm you. Why would you do that?!!  A friend of mine in college once marveled at the fact that if I don’t want to think about something — like ghosts in the middle of a stormy night when the power is out — I simply won’t.  He, on the other hand, couldn’t help indulging himself.  That’s all it is:  self-indulgence.  Don’t do it.  It’s like having the discipline to not pick at that scab on your wound.  You know it’s the body’s way of healing, but your curiosity can compel you to peel off the scab to see how the wound is faring.  Don’t.  Let it be.  The wound will heal faster if you let it work its magic.

I love you, I miss you, and I want the best for you always.  Be well, my sons  Be happy.  Be good to yourselves and others.  The world really is your oyster.  Let your mind lead you to success.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

4 years, and 11 months. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: be afraid of NOT LEARNING from your mistakes.

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The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Not so much afterward, when I got driven downtown in handcuffs for spray-painting “Corporate Deathburgers” across a McDonald’s.

I earned myself a long night in jail for my lack of judgment. But my family and friends — and perhaps most important, my college, the University of Michigan — never learned about the episode (until now). Because in 1985, a college student could get a little self-righteous, make a bad decision, face consequences and then go home, having learned a “valuable lesson.”

These days I work as the senior communications officer at another college, where I spend a healthy fraction of my time dealing with students who’ve made mistakes of their own. I recognize myself in them: intellectually adventurous, skeptical, newly aware of life’s injustices. They’re also different from me in many ways: less Grateful Dead and Dead Kennedys, much more technology.

That’s the important bit. Because for all of the supposed liberating power of their digital devices, they might as well be wearing ankle monitors. Technological connectedness has made it much harder for them to make mistakes and learn from them.

Today’s students live their lives so publicly — through the technology we provide them without training — that much simpler errors than mine earn them the wrath of the entire internet.

 

Usually, the outrage is over things they say, for example a campus newspaper editorial that grapples with balancing free speech and appropriate behavior. That’s a quandary that has occupied American legal theorists since the founding of the country. It’s certainly one any young citizen should think through.

But last year, when Wellesley’s student paper ran an editorial wrestling with this same idea — and advocating limits on hate speech — it was widely read and criticized in the media as if it were enormously consequential.

Were the authors’ arguments entirely mature and well reasoned? No. But students deserve the chance to try out ideas. When they do, sometimes they’re going to botch it — sometimes spectacularly. And that’s why we have learning spaces.

Thirty years ago, college students could have tried out radical ideas about limiting free speech in print. The results might have been simplistic or doctrinaire. But readership would have been largely restricted to campus, and the paper would have been in circulation for only a day or two.

In this climate, there is little room for students to experiment and screw up. We seem to expect them to arrive at school fully formed. When they let us down by being just what they are — young humans — we shame them.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I demand better of you because I want you to be better.  I do that because I care.  You are my sons.

Don’t mistake the lack of constructive criticism and the lack of expectations from others as love.  It simply means they don’t care enough to invest their time in you to help you grow and become better.  False friends often exhibit such behaviors.  They heap praise on you when things are going well, but abandon you when things get difficult.  Don’t waste your time with the likes of them.

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You have but one life to live, so I want you to embrace it!  Dare to try new things.  Be bold in your efforts, not timid.  If you are going to try, why not do it with gusto?  Mistakes will be made.  But, who cares?  So long as you have thought through the consequences of your actions, no one is hurt, and there are no lasting adverse effects from the mistake, then embrace the lesson learned from that mistake.  That’s how you grow and expand your horizons!!!!

Timid, fearful, and inferior people often tell you to stick to what is known, tried, and true.  But, if no one explores beyond the confines of existing life and knowledge, where would human beings, as a species, be?  There would be no new discovery.  There would be no expansion of territory.  There would only be staleness and death as we deplete known resources from over-use, over-populate the small territory into which we were born, degrade the land from over-use and over-population, etc.

No, don’t heed the nay-sayers.  Hear them and thank them for their counsel, but determine for yourself the wisdom of a certain course of action.

Be you.  Be the best you.  Dare to try new things and to experience the beautiful things in life.

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All my loves, always,

Dad