6 years, 1 month, and 3 days. Life is about choices; choose wisely.

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Yesterday, I earned the first B of my life. An 89.16 percent, to be exact.

It’s really not a big deal, in the cosmic sense of things, because (a) it was in AP Calculus BC, which is notorious for near-impossibility, (b) I’m a writer, not a mathematician, and (c) it’s my senior year of high school, for crying out loud.

But still, my first reaction was to mentally start packing my bags, retreat to the Himalayas, reject formal schooling and become a female monk. I don’t have tiger parents, in case you’re wondering. That’s just the way I am — a chronic perfectionist, who also happens to be a model minority and also a writer from one of the most underrepresented racial groups in America’s literary scene….

Whenever I write publicly about my experiences, I often delve into issues that are personal — gun violence, racism, femininity — because I know that perspectives like mine are not often shared. The responsibility to speak for my generation is one that requires perfection. Issa Rae’s hit show “Insecure” nails exactly what it’s like to speak as the sole representative for billions of people — frustrating. “You are so articulate!” I’m often told with surprise: a well-meaning compliment from those who have never been underestimated. I’m 18 years old, but mediocrity is not a luxury I can fathom.

Because when you’re a young writer of color, and your success is predicated on your acceptance from the majority, perfection can feel like the only real option. It’s not only that you need to be perfectly articulate, perfectly reasonable —you’ve also got to be twice as likeable. It’s a fine line to tread — you’ve got to be kind of ethnic, like a margarita, but you can’t offend anyone, and you certainly can’t be an angry woman of color. The numbers are stacked against us — only 12 percent of children’s books feature POC, and over 80 percent of publishing staff are white. My path to success is along a percentile-skinny tightrope, so it only follows that I’ve got to be a darn good acrobat….

Last week in my English class, when my best friend and I were discussing a poem by Robert Frost, I felt myself getting irrationally angry. Angry at the fact that Robert Frost could earn a Pulitzer Prize for composing rambling stanzas of sweet nothings about nature, or something basic like that, but as a WOC, I’d have to write about immigration or cultural assimilation or hate crimes in order to be even a blip on the screen.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/perfectionism-woman-of-color_us_5c61a34fe4b0eec79b267aab

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I am sorry for the long absence.  It has been extremely difficult.  Parents are not meant to be apart from their children, especially not a father who, despite being a lawyer with a busy schedule, had attended every single one of his children’s medical appointments (when their mother hadn’t), who had paid out-of-pocket for his children’s weekly appointments with a child therapist for more than a year (when their mother refused to even pay for one hour to debrief with the therapist, claiming she couldn’t afford the payment despite her bank records — obtained during the divorce — showing that she’d spent almost $1,000 in a month on eating out, going to Starbucks, etc.).  People lie in your name and at your expense to advance their causes and cheat you out of a future you deserve.  How is that right?  How is that fair?  How is that just?  But, the world isn’t right.  It isn’t fair.  It isn’t just.  It just is.  We can only endeavor to make our little corner of the world a little more right, a little more fair, and a little more just than when we found it.  My world isn’t right without you; thus, I endeavor to remedy that.  But it is a tough row to hoe.

Enough about me.  Let’s talk about you, Shosh.

Your heart was broken for the first time in preschool, Shosh.  It was your first experienced with rejection.  You’ve always been an extrovert and people have always liked you.  In fact, they liked you so much so that, during preschool, one girl even asked you to marry her. You told us you liked her, but then you came home to tell us you married a different girl during class!

But, this is not that story.  Your first best friend was a boy you met in preschool.  You were buddies.  He was a good boy from a good family and was well-behaved.  (Most of the kids from that program had parents who were doctors or lawyers.)  We liked him as well.

One day, you came home all dejected.  You told us your BFF, without explanation, said he didn’t want to be friends with you any more.  I suspect the pain was caused by both the rejection and the lack of explanation.  You wanted to know why he ended the friendship, but he never told you.  He simply moved on to play with others.  You were crushed.

Not everyone has to like you, Shosh.  I know that’s a hard lesson, but it is one worth absorbing into your bones and the very core of your being.  Not everyone has to like you.

There doesn’t have to be anything sinister about their not liking you.  It may be something as simple as the fact that your tastes are different.  “Birds of a feather flock together,” remember?  Some people may not like the color of your hair — be it red, brown, black, blonde, or green.  They may not like your height — too tall, too short, too average.  Whatever.  The point is they don’t have to like you.

That’s just a fact of life.  Get over it.

Don’t bother wasting energy trying to get everyone to like you.  That’s an impossible task.  You are sure to fail.  So, why bother?

Instead, focus on being you, being the best you.  Celebrate who you are.  Celebrate your accomplishments.  Celebrate those who love you and who share their happiness with you.  Do what is right.  Pursue your passions.  Remember, you are only the boss of you.  Let others be: they are responsible for themselves.  Be it good or evil, they will have to answer for themselves.  Focus on making the right choices for you, and doing the right things.

https://i2.wp.com/bewellplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Not-Everyone-Has-To-Like-You.png

Too often, people self-harm by losing sight of what they have while chasing after that which they don’t.  It’s a sad mistake.  Don’t be like them.

Find joy in your lives, my sons.  Be happy.  Celebrate life and all she’s given you.  Strive to be a better person, but never strive to win the affection or admiration of others.

Too often, we Americans treat life as a popularity contest.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others feed on this at our peril.  For example, studies show a strong correlation between social media and depression.  See, e.g., https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.pn.2017.1b16. 

People spend too much time chasing after meaningless “Likes” on social media — a click of a mouse or a tap of the screen that most people perform without much thought.   Why people allow such meaningless gestures to hold significance in, and over, their lives is beyond me.  People today live for “Likes” from unknown faces and strangers who are often not who they appear to be, who may only be a facade of who they are in real life.  Why?  People don’t have to like you!  If you are lucky, they do.  If not, that’s okay too.  Let them be.  Let them live their lives in peace.  Celebrate them for their achievements, but don’t feel bad if they don’t reciprocate.  Instead, focus on being the best you and on leaving your corner of the world a better place.

All my love, always,

Dad

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5 years, 11 months, and 25 days … an eternity. “Suicide Christmas” and three lessons for the new year.

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My Dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

This has been a particularly difficult holiday, and we have taken to calling it our “Suicide Christmas”. No, we will not be “suiciding” ourselves as the Okinawans did during World War II, driven to do so by the Japanese military which spread tales of horrors to be inflicted upon the civilian population by the advancing American army. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/20/world/asia/okinawa-suicides-and-japans-army-burying-the-truth.html.  (Do you recall our trip to Okinawa and Uncle H taking us to the spot where many Okinawans jumped to their deaths. There, Shosh, you coined the phrase “they suicided themselves.”)

First, although the thought has crossed our minds numerous times after having lost you, our children, we would never commit suicide for one simple reason: children who lose a parent to suicide are more likely to commit suicide themselves (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/children_who_lose_a_parent_to_suicide_more_likely_to_die_the_same_way.) We would NEVER do anything that would endanger you or put you at greater risks.

Second, we are strong and will not allow racists and evil doers to break us.  Our fate rests in our hands, not theirs.  Let them kill us if they wish and let our blood stain their hands and souls for eternity.  (Sometimes, I wish they would as death would be welcome respite from the pains of life without you, our children.)

OK, that said, let’s leave behind the dark thoughts and focus on the path ahead … the three lessons learned from the miseries of “Suicide Christmas”.

1. People are weak-willed and are more inclined to give in to their insecurities than aspire to their better selves. 

Since my days of selling books door-to-door in Texas following my first year in college, I have held firm the belief that people are inherently good.  Everything I witnessed that summer pointed to the goodness of people … from the guy who saved me from the approaching “Ghostbusters” storm clouds and invited me to join his family for dinner to wait out the storm; to the family who sold/gave me the bicycle their child outgrew in order to help ease my life as an itinerant book seller; to the Josephs and the Luppes who took me into their homes and their hearts that summer; to the countless people who shared their lives with me, who offered me cold drinks after being out in the hot and humid Texas summer, who invited me to refresh myself in their restrooms, who offered treats or a few moments’ respite from the oppressive heat outside when they were unable to purchase my books.  Now, I’m not saying the summer was perfect.  It was far from it.  Selling books door-to-door in the oppressive heat of a Texas summer is a foolish endeavor I wouldn’t wish upon most of my enemies, but it was something I had to do to avoid having to return to the even more oppressive household that your grandmother ran back then.  Further, some members of our small band of college students did experience hardship — as did I — but overall, my summer selling books door-to-door in Texas was a life affirming experience.  People were willing to open their homes and their lives to me, a complete stranger in a strange land. (Yes, Texas is indeed a strange land for our band of college students from the West Coast.)

Throughout most of my adult life, I held dear this belief in the goodness of human nature.  It informed my decisions and animated my actions.  This held true even as I engaged in public service and in the practice of law.  While everyone makes mistakes, I found that most people do try to be good, to be compliant. (Here, I should note two things.  First, I was an advise lawyer for most of my career and mostly helped clients comply with legal requirements.  In other words, clients engaged my services to help them do the right thing and comply with the law.  Second, my positive experience was likely the fortunate by-product of my working for good law firms and/or with good companies.  I chose employers with care and refused to work for sketchy organizations or clients that prey on the weak.)

It was not until my years working for the Enron of Healthcare that I experience first hand true evil — where criminal and fraudulent misconducts were passed off by vice presidents, directors, and other individuals as “business decisions”.  The adage that “management gets the culture it wants” was true with respect to the Enron of Healthcare.  Yet, even then, there were a few good people who were willing to stand up for the sick and the dying, who were willing to do right by the policyholders.  Ultimately, though, as in the Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the bad far outnumbered the good, and I had to report their criminal and fraudulent misconducts to government regulators.  (FYI, government regulators validated my allegations and found numerous additional violations.)  Yet, even then, I clung to my tattered belief in the goodness of people — I happened to find myself in a den of vipers, but, outside of that environment, some good people still existed.

(Here, I should also note that after having been fired for blowing the whistle against the Enron of Healthcare — I was there not as its legal counsel — I became a litigator and fought against those within that industry and fought for the legal rights and medical benefits of those harmed by those corporate evil-doers.  However, even then, even as I fought against specific bad actors and corrupt organizations, I found islands of goodness and held on tentatively to my belief in the general goodness of most people.)

I am now fully disabused of that viewpoint.  Suicide Christmas was the last straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. 

People are weak, and are given to their insecurities.  It is NOT their goodness that most often informs their judgements and animates their actions, but it is their insecurities that do so.

Beware of people’s insecurities.  People will betray you, defame you, cheat you, or otherwise wrong you if required by their insecurities.  (How many times had someone lied about you to avoid looking bad or stupid?  How many times have you done it to others?)  Worse, often, the people will likely feel little to no shame or remorse because their insecurities will help them rationalize their misconducts.  (How many times have you told yourself the person you wronged deserved it?)

I say this not as an indictment of people in general, but as a recognition of reality.  We ARE weak-willed creatures.  Too often, we give in to our insecurities when we could aspire to better.  Remember, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone:” who among us has NEVER lied to save face?

I say this to help you develop better strategies to inform your decision-making process.  People do try to be good, but more often than not, their insecurities will win out; their insecurities will animate their actions despite their better selves.

So, what are your best strategies to deal with this fact?  Whatever they may be, they should include taking time to get to know the stakeholders (i.e., the relevant people) in order to discover what animates each party.  Take time to find out what motivates each person.  You’ll be more successful in your personal and professional endeavors by doing so.  Don’t rush in.

https://i0.wp.com/www.quotehd.com/imagequotes/authors2/alexander-pope-poet-fools-rush-in-where-angels-fear-to.jpg

2.  Trust yourself and few others.

We all have insecurities, and most of us are very good at hiding them.  What are we do to then if most people are driven by motives and insecurities hidden from others?  The answer is self-evident: trust few.  Self-reliance is best.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/e3/3b/63/e33b63e634f17ea96c78a30841b6f356.jpg

Note: I’m not saying trust NO ONE.  No man is an island, and we cannot succeed without the help of others.  In fact, as numerous studies have found, our happiness and sense of well-being is linked to being socially connected.  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/happiness_is_being_socially_connected.

The point here, again, is to not rush in and to carefully vet others before you open yourselves fully to them.  Treat each according to your assessment of his/her degree of trustworthiness.  Only admit into your inner most sanctum those you deem most trustworthy.  Admit others into your lives only to the degree to which they are deemed trustworthy.  For example, an acquaintance may be worthy of being a tennis partner, but no more, while another may eventually become a business partner or confidant.

The take away here is that when it comes to matters of great import, trust only yourself or your most trusted confidants.  Blood may be thicker than water, but even there, beware.  Not all relatives are trustworthy.  In fact, part of the reasons for the “Suicide Christmas” is that the liars and thieves who stole more than $1,700 from me and who happen to be related to us had the audacity to lie to falsely claim another $1,000, and some people dear to me were stupid enough to believe them.

(This is a good case study of how to assess the validity of another’s statements.  These liars and thieves cousins have repeatedly claimed to be impoverished.  However, their lifestyle belies their words.  A cursory look is all it takes to ascertain their lies.  For example, when we briefly tried to help them five years ago at the behest of your grandmother, a Sony 65-inch 3D LED television sat prominently in their living room.  Next to it was a Sony PlayStation 3 and four two-foot high stacks of Blu-ray discs of games and videos.  These items are worth thousands of dollars, especially back then when the technology was fairly new.  Poor or impoverished people do not have the financial means to waste precious resources on large 3D LED televisions, the latest Sony PlayStation video console, and stacks of Blu-ray discs.  Only idiots would tell, and only idiots would believe, such outrageous lies.

Oh, I should also note that the home of these lying and thieving cousins is filled with crucifixes and other religious symbols, and they regularly attend church service.  They make a show of being good Catholics, but their lifestyle is devoid of Catholic values.  They are such good Catholics, for example, that they even stole from an elderly relative who tried to help them.

Apparently, these facts failed to enter into the calculus of my dear friends who deemed the lying and thieving cousins trustworthy and credible.  Actually, I should state more clearly that it is the insecurities and machinations of these dear ones that animated their actions which ultimately resulted in my betrayal. One friend, because of her nasty disposition and disingenuous lifestyle, is so fearful of dying alone that she purchased the lies of these lying and thieving cousins in hope that they would take her in when she can no longer care for herself.  The other friend harbors of lifetime of fear that no one listens to her and that she is invisible to all; thus, she often inserts herself in matters in which she knows nothing in order to validate her “village elder” persona.

I, on the other hand, trust the lying thieves only as far as I can throw them.  I leave it to karmic justice to give them their just deserts.)

3.  Do your best, and don’t give up.  Forge on: live to fight another day.

As upset as I am that my friends are stupid enough to believe the lies espoused by these thieving cousins and to even attempt to pull me into their evil schemes, it is best to let karma determine their fate.  Their fate is out of my hands.  As Teacher Mary used to say, “You are only the boss of you.”  Do you remember that Shosh?

I can only control what I do — no others.  Thus, it behooves me to make the best of myself and not worry about the actions or characters of others.  Let God judge them.  My place is only to stay away from them and prevent them from hurting me and/or those I love.

In closing, I want you to know that I miss you terribly.  Life sucks without you.  The holidays suck without you.  It has been a miserable Christmas, this “Suicide Christmas”, but we forge on.  This year, I resolve to adhere more closely to these three lessons and hope for a better year.

May 2019 bring you peace.  Study hard. Exercise.  Limit your screen time.  Spend time with loved one, and choose carefully who you spend time with.

Shosh, apply early to colleges.  More kids are applying early, but you still have a better shot at getting into top colleges through the early admission process than through the regular process.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/early-applications-surge-at-prestigious-colleges-so-does-early-heartache/2018/12/28/12479e66-078c-11e9-a3f0-71c95106d96a_story.html.  (Most kids are lazy and/or are so fearful of being rejected that they put off applying.)  You are one of the smartest kids I know.  My staff, in fact, were thankful that they didn’t have to parent such an intelligent child: you scared them.  You pair that intelligence well with your good and kind heart.  Those are your gifts.  Nurture them.  Don’t waste those talents.  I expect great things from you.

Jaialai, you are brilliant in your own way — in an unconventional way.  For example, at two, you knew to say, “It’s not a fish” when I asked you what an aardvark was.  I also expect great things from you.  Know also that you are loved … greatly, significantly, and hopelessly.  Your child therapist said you feared that no one will take care of you, but know that many would happily do so.  Because your brother was a demanding child (as encouraged by your mom who gave into his every whim), your mom paid him more attention while leaving you, the quiet and self-sufficient child, alone.  That was a function of poor parenting on our part: it was not a function of our loving you less.  So, be happy.  Eat.  Play.  Make believe.  Feed your imagination.  Study.  Aspire for better.

All my love, always,

Dad

5 years, 9 months, and 21 days. Don’t give in to fear and hatred!

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https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/28/us/72-hours-of-hate-in-america/index.html

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2018/10/30/im-dr-cohen-powerful-humanity-jewish-hospital-staff-that-treated-robert-bowers/?utm_term=.0de955f61b55/

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https://hateandanger.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/if-people-are-good-only-because-they-fear-punishment-and-hope-for-reward-then-we-are-a-sorry-lot-indeed-albert-einstein.jpg?w=656

 

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

It’s been a difficult week for America.  Our country — our home — is being torn apart by hate and fear.  Hate is animated by fear, which, in turn, is animated by ignorance.  Hate mongers are often ignorant of the changing world around them, and are fearful for their future, for themselves.  Don’t be like them.

Change is the ONLY constant!  Things change.  What worked once has no assurance it would work again given the quickly changing circumstances.

To survive — no, to THRIVE — we must adapt.  In order to understand the ever-changing world so that we may best adapt to changing circumstances, we must first arm ourselves with knowledge about current scientific, social, political, cultural, and spiritual/moral developments.

In 1983, A Nation At Risk, a report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, found that many 17-year-olds did not possess the “‘higher-order’ intellectual skills” this country needed. It claimed that nearly 40 percent could not draw inferences from written material and only one-fifth could write a persuasive essay.

Following the release of A Nation At Risk, programs designed to teach students to think critically across the curriculum became extremely popular. By 1990, most states had initiatives designed to encourage educators to teach critical thinking, and one of the most widely used programs, Tactics for Thinking, sold 70,000 teacher guides.3 But, for reasons I’ll explain, the programs were not very effective — and today we still lament students’ lack of critical thinking.

After more than 20 years of lamentation, exhortation, and little improvement, maybe it’s time to ask a fundamental question: Can critical thinking actually be taught? Decades of cognitive research point to a disappointing answer: not really. People who have sought to teach critical thinking have assumed that it is a skill, like riding a bicycle, and that, like other skills, once you learn it, you can apply it in any situation. Research from cognitive science shows that thinking is not that sort of skill. The processes of thinking are intertwined with the content of thought (that is, domain knowledge). Thus, if you remind a student to “look at an issue from multiple perspectives” often enough, he will learn that he ought to do so, but if he doesn’t know much about an issue, he can’t think about it from multiple perspectives. You can teach students maxims about how they ought to think, but without background knowledge and practice, they probably will not be able to implement the advice they memorize. Just as it makes no sense to try to teach factual content without giving students opportunities to practice using it, it also makes no sense to try to teach critical thinking devoid of factual content.

http://www.adlit.org/article/21409/

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Dale Carnegie has it right.  Go forth and get busy.  Learn about the world.  Get to know your neighbors, the barista who makes your coffee and the janitor who cleans  your building, your boss and coworkers, etc. — get to know the challenges each faces daily.  These are the stuff life is made of … the real stuff through which we connect with each other — other human beings — on a fundamental and humanistic level.

Reserve judgement unless and until necessary.  You can ALWAYS judge.  But, until necessary, seek first to understand. Read voraciously.  TALK TO PEOPLE…not about silly and empty stuff, such as their clothes or the weather, but about things that matter TO THEM!

Be safe.

All my love, always

Dad

P.S., I leave you with the following thoughts:

 

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5 years, 8 months, and 25 days — an eternity. Regardless, remember: character matters

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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/opinion/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court-vote.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/us/politics/john-paul-stevens-brett-kavanaugh.html

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/03/opinion/kavanaugh-law-professors-letter.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I fear we’ve failed you.  America is an uglier and less civil place today than it was when we were your age.  That is our collective failing.

We failed because many of us have forgotten (or have chosen to ignore the fact that) character matters.  We failed because we have cast aside our humanity and are now too busy praying at the altar of Money, Power, Greed, Entertainment, Adrenaline, Likes and other false gods.

Character matters, my sons.   Don’t forget.  It always has, and it always will.

History will not be kind to those of poor character.  I pray that those who rush to seats of power give pause and think of the legacy they’ll leave behind long after they’ve vacated those seats.  Power is fleeting, whereas our legacies endure.

I’ve often said that intelligence and hard work are the stilts of success.  Many a genius slave away in obscurity, bitterness, and resentment, blaming others for their own failure to work hard to reach their true potentials.  On the flip side, many more work long hours for pittance because nature had denied them the intellectual gift it had bestowed on others or had handed them the misfortune of being born into a poor family, an uneducated family, a family stuck in a war-torn or otherwise impoverished nation, etc.  (There but for the grace of God, go us.)

Character is the third leg that forms a stool upon which your success rests.  The first two traits are all about you.  The third is about how you interact with others, or they you.  No matter your brilliance or industry, if you are nasty, false, or otherwise of low moral character, no one would want to interact with you, support you, or befriend you.  That, ultimately, is why character matters: we are not islands.  We are social creatures and need the support of others.

https://i1.wp.com/static1.quoteswave.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/If-you-want-to-go-fast.jpg

Be you, but be the best you, my sons.  We have but one life to live.  There is no dress rehearsal.

We are humans, and we make mistakes.  It’s okay.  But, when you err, own up to it.  Admit it.  Apologize for it.  Learn from it.  Promise to redouble your efforts to avoid repeating it in the future.  Then, move on.

Remember also Fr. Dave’s prescription: before you speak, ask

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it helpful?
  3. Is it inspiring?
  4. Is it necessary?
  5. Is it kind?

Of these, I think the first and last most important.  Don’t bear false witness and treat others with kindness.  Embrace your humanity.  If you and others remember to do that, I promise our world will be a better place.

All my love, always,

Dad

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

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Are you proud of the person you see in the mirror?  Live so that you are.

5 years, 8 months, and 10 days. Success requires you to extend yourself beyond your comfort zone.

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My most precious Shosh and Jaialai:

5 years, 8 months, and 10 days.  That is 5 years, 8 months, and 10 days which I will never be able to recapture and those are lost moments I could never spend with you, my most precious sons.  How have you grown?  What are your dreams?  What are your fears?  What stands in the way of you achieving your dreams?  Oh how I wish I could be there to guide you in person!  Until that happens, this must do.

Okay, today I want to talk to you about comfort zones.  They are overrated.  Most of us are most comfortable in our pajamas, hanging out in our living room.  However, greatness rarely results from us hanging out in our living rooms in our PJs.

Greatness and success require you to be uncomfortable … to stretch beyond your comfort zone.  Being comfortable usually means doing the same things you’ve done before and that you are used to doing.  In other words, being comfortable often means running in place.  What do you achieve by that?  More of the same!  Not much else.

To get better, do as Jaialai had once said to me when he was about four years old, “Let’s go somewhere where we’ve never been, Dad!”  Break out of your comfort zone!  Try new things!  Get used to trying new things, and embrace the discomfort of ideas and things new and foreign to yourselves.  Success lies there.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have witnessed clients repeatedly executing the same failed strategies, then wondering why they were not successful.  As our dear friend Albert once said,

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Dare to do different!  Be bold!  Reject mediocrity!  Reject that which is staid!

Where would be we be today if Steve Job hadn’t bucked convention (computers were accessible only to engineers and geeks then) and pushed to make computers operable by all?  Where would we be today if Bill Gates hadn’t envisioned a world where there is “a computer on every desk and in every home[?]”  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3357701/Bill-Gatess-dream-A-computer-in-every-home.html.

Don’t let WHAT IS prevent you from pursuing WHAT MAY BE!  This is critical!  For example, this “boys will be boys” bullshit that is playing out in the news is simply that … bullshit!  Be better!  We are men, not animals.  We can grow and change.  We must aspire to be better than our forebears!  We owe it to them for having made the sacrifices that enabled us to be better and more successful than they.

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Be better, my sons.  Be better.

All my love, always,

Dad

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

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my love, always,

Dad