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

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

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

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

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

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

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

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

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All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 10 months, and 12 days. A person’s past acts are the best predictor of his/her future acts. Foster good habits.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

The above is simply a useful rule of thumb.  By no means is it infallible.  But, simply because it is not a perfect tool doesn’t render it useless.

We are creatures of habit.  You would do well to pay attention to the habits of others — as they relate to you — and how those habits guide their actions in certain circumstances.  For example, your cousin B, on your mother’s side, used to lie about his three Nintendo DS game consoles being “broken” or uncharged in order to not let you play with them, pocket your toys when you’re not watching then lie about it when caught, etc.  I suspect his lying and thieving ways haven’t changed much and have only grown in dimensions as he’s gotten older.  Be wary of him.  His older brother has a felony drug conviction because he “happened to be” hanging out with friends who were dealers.  Regardless of the veracity of his claim, the damage is done: he is a convicted felon, and that criminal record will make it hard — if not impossible — for him to get good jobs, secure loans at good rates, etc.  Watch the behaviors of those around you, and choose your company wisely.

Note: the caution about our tendency to follow our habits applies equally to you as well.  Develop good habits.  Shosh, you know what I mean about the nail biting, right?  I hope you’ve kicked that nasty habit.

Continuous incremental improvement, remember.  Don’t worry about perfection and reaching those distant goals.  Break them down into baby steps and try to achieve one of those baby step each day.  In time, you’ll look back and recognize how far you’ve gone with those baby steps.

I want you to use that same approach to get into top colleges in the U.S. as I did.  Getting into good colleges will put you on the road towards success.  Again, graduation from a top college doesn’t guarantee success, but it will significantly help.  A top college will give you good first opportunities and open doors for you.  It is then up to you to work hard and make a name for yourself.

Start now.  Create good study habits.

Learn to study more effectively. Learn to read more efficiently so that you understand more and remember more.  Don’t bother to read every single word as you were taught to do when you were 3 or 4 years old.  That’s how children read, and you are ready to leave your childish ways of reading behind.

Reading Techniques

Strategies for improving reading rate and comprehension.

SQ3R Method for Thorough Study

  • Step 1: Survey
    • Skim through the book and read topical/sub-topical headings and sentences. Read summaries at the end of chapters and books. Try to anticipate what the author is going to say. Write these notes on paper, then look it over to get an overall idea.
  • Step 2: Questions
    • Turn paragraph headings into questions (e.g. “Basic Concepts of Reading” to “What are the Basic Concepts of Reading?”). Write these questions out.
  • Step 3: Read
    • Read with alertness to answer the questions you came up with. Write notes, in your own words, under each question.
  • Step 4: Recall
    • Without looking at your books or notes, mentally visualize, in your own words, the high points of the material immediately upon completing the reading
    • ** More time should be spent on recall then reading
  • Step 5: Review
    • Look at your questions, answers, notes and book to see how well you did recall. Finish up with a mental picture of the WHOLE

Adapted from F.P. Robinson. Effective Study. New York: Harper and Bros. 1948. Chapter II

Steps to Follow in Skimming for the Main Ideas

  • Read the title of the selection carefully. Determine what clues it gives you as to what the selection is about. Watch for key words like “causes,” “results,” “effects,” etc., and do not overlook signal words such as those suggesting controversy (“versus”, “pros and cons”), which indicate that the author is planning to present both sides of an argument.
  • Look carefully at the headings and other organizational clues. These tip you off to the main points that the author wants you to learn. You may be accustomed to overlooking boldface headings and titles which are the obvious clues to the most important ideas

Vary Your Reading Rate

A few broad suggestions may help you to select your rate(s) within the particular article:

Decrease speed when you find the following:

  1. An unfamiliar word not made clear by the sentence. Try to understand it from the way it’s used; then read on and return to it later.
  2. Long and uninvolved sentence and paragraph structure. Slow down enough to enable you to untangle them and get an accurate idea of what the passage says.
  3. Unfamiliar or abstract ideas. Look for applications or examples which will give them meaning. Demand that an idea “make sense.” Never give up until you understand, because it will be that much easier the next time. Find someone to help you if necessary.
  4. Detailed, technical material. This includes complicated directions, abstract principles, materials on which you have scant background.
  5. Material on which you want detailed retention. The key to memory is organization and recitation. Speed should not be a consideration here.

Increase speed when you find the following:

  1. Simple material with few ideas new to you. Move rapidly over the familiar.
  2. Unnecessary examples and illustrations. These are included to clarify ideas. If not needed, move over them rapidly.
  3. Detailed explanation and elaboration which you do not need.
  4. Broad, generalized ideas. These can be rapidly grasped, even with scan techniques

Skip that material which is not suitable for your purpose. While the author may have thought particular information was relevant, his/her reason for writing was not necessarily the same as your reason for reading. Remember to keep your reading attack flexible.

Shift gears from selection to selection. Use low gear when the going is steep; shift into high when you get to the smooth parts. Remember to adjust your rate within a given article according to the type of road you are traveling and to your purposes in traveling it. Most important, remember: You must practice these techniques until a flexible reading rate becomes second nature to you

The Pivotal Words

No words are as helpful while reading as the prepositions and conjunctions that guide your mind along the pathways of the author’s ideas. Master these words and phrases and you will almost immediately become a better reader. Here’s what they are and what they say:

  • Additive words: “Here’s more of the same coming up. It’s just as important as what we have already said.”
    • Also, further, moreover, and, furthermore, too, besides, in addition
  • Equivalent words: “It does what I have just said, but it does this too.”
    • As well as, at the same time, similarly, equally important, likewise
  • Amplification words: “I want to be sure that you understand my idea; so here’s a specific instance.”
    • For example (e.g.), specifically, as ,for instance, such as, like
  • Alternative words: “Sometimes there is a choice; other times there isn’t.”
    • Either/or, other than, neither/nor, otherwise
  • Repetitive words: “I said it once, but I’m going to say it again in case you missed it the first time.”
    • Again, in other words, to repeat, that is (i.e.)
  • Contrast and Change words: “So far I’ve given you only one side of the story; now let’s take a look at the other side.”
    • But, on the contrary, still, conversely, on the other hand, though, despite, instead of, yet, however, rather than, regardless, nevertheless, even though, whereas, in spite of, notwithstanding
  • Cause and effect words: “All this has happened; now I’ll tell you why.”
    • Accordingly, since, then, because, so, thus, consequently, hence, therefore, for this reason
  • Qualifying words: “Here is what we can expect. These are the conditions we are working under.”
    • If, although, unless, providing, whenever
  • Concession words: “Okay! We agree on this much.”
    • accepting the data, granted that, of course
  • Emphasizing words: “Wake up and take notice!”
    • above all, more important, indeed
  • Order words: “You keep your mind on reading: I’ll keep the numbers straight.”
    • Finally, second, then, first, next, last
  • Time words: “Let’s keep the record straight on who said what and especially when.”
    • Afterwards, meanwhile, now, before, subsequently, presently, formerly, ultimately, previously, later
  • Summarizing words: “We’ve said many things so far. Let’s stop here and pull them together.”
    • for these reasons, in brief, in conclusion, to sum up

https://students.dartmouth.edu/academic-skills/learning-resources/learning-strategies/reading-techniques

 

Likewise, learn to take good notes.  Use the Cornell notes method and study system.  There are many different note-taking systems out there; find one that works best for you.  See, e.g.,

The underlying theme of both the reading lesson and note-taking lesson is active engagement.  Actively participate in the learning process.  Don’t simply read mindlessly or write down words mindlessly.  Think!  You should spend half your time thinking about what you’re reading or writing.  Your recall and grades will improve as you actively engage more in your studies.

Spend an extra few minutes each night reviewing your notes.  This keeps those memories and synaptic connections fresh.  If you don’t, you’ll end up having to spend more time later relearning the material.  You’ve already made the huge investment of time and energy to learn it the first time: spend the little energy necessary for upkeep.

Last, but not least, don’t fear failure.  Those are learning opportunities.  The man who has never failed has never tried his hands at anything worthwhile.  All worthwhile things are difficult.  Aim high, then try and try again until you succeed.

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Be well, my sons.  Be happy.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

 

4 years, 9 months, and 7 days. Be smart. Think, always. Don’t just react.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

In the dark of nights, in the deepest parts of our hears, and in the places where we are often too afraid to dwell, Ms. Jean and I fear that you’ve forgotten us.  Do you still think of us often?  Does your heart ache and the universe collapse when you do?  I pray that you are spared such pain.  Maybe it is a good thing if you’ve forgotten…  If you have, don’t worry.  We have enough love and memory to cover everyone.

Meanwhile, be mindful about how you approach life.  First and foremost, find joy and find peace.  Without those, the travails and vagaries of life will prevail.  The Buddha said, “Life is suffering.”  Remember?  Find balance.

Part of that effort is choosing your battles wisely.  Jaialai, do you remember how you once told your mom that Ms. L’s food tasted better than hers?  She was so angry she smashed the frying pan.  Now, we appreciate the nod of support, but that wasn’t the wisest of moves.  (Yes, you were seven at the time, so it was understandable.)  Since Grandma and I are no longer there to cook for you when you were at your mother’s, she’s all you have in terms of food preparer.  (Your grandmother and I often ended up doing the cooking because your mother never cared enough to learn to cook well — despite her being a housewife during most of our marriage and my working very long hours at top firms.)  Your comments, although it may be accurate and honest feedback, didn’t get you the desired outcome of encouraging your mom to prepare better tasting food, did it?  Shosh resorted to spicy Korean instant noodles more and more as a result.  At our place, cooking and meal time was a family event, remember?  We had fun cooking and eating together, didn’t we?

Pick your battles, boys.  Before you go into battle, know what you are fighting for, what you hope to gain, and what you are willing to lose.  And, most importantly, never, ever, ever allow stupid people to simply goad you into doing battle with them.  That’s stupid for many reasons, including allowing them to choose when and where the fight takes place.  Why would you want to give up those advantages?

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Once you have chosen to fight, though, fight with everything you have.  Use your head.  Don’t let others drag you down. Remember, sometimes, you must lose a battle to win the war.  Use whatever gambit is necessary to throw the opponent off his/her game.  I remember sitting around the table once with Mr. T. and a small group of lawyers to strategize for impending battles against multi-billion corporations which were hurting working men and women and violating laws designed to protect people.  We may have been a small group and out-resourced, but we were never out-witted nor out-matched.

Last, but not least, always, live to fight another day.  Preserve your strength.

Pick And Choose Your Battles Quotes. QuotesGram

All my love, always,

Dad

4 year, 9 months, and 3 days. Be bold.

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A few years ago, at Easter dinner with my in-laws, I noticed my husband’s grandmother dipping pieces of yellow cake into her glass of soda. She’s a woman of nearly 90 with a preternatural grip for hugs and pinching cheeks but, in this, she was gentle: letting each bite soak into her orange Crush, allowing it to achieve full saturation before popping it in her mouth.

“Ew, Nonna!” someone chuckled in protest. But it was her table and home, and she’d apparently been doing this for years, so no one said much more about it.

Some seasons later, maybe a Thanksgiving, my other nonna-in-law did something similar with her dinner roll, tearing it into strips and letting the red wine from her glass climb up into the bread before eating it. This time, I resolved that I would ask why. But first — wanting my question to come across as the genuine curiosity it was, rather than an accusation of bad table manners — I decided to try it myself.

Those first few dips completely changed the way I eat at family meals. Part of what won me over was the pleasure of the thing itself: Wine-soaked bread is sharp, puckery and delicious, a double hit of fermented tang. But more important, I soon came to realize, was the role it can play in pacing out a marathon meal.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Be bold.  Don’t be timid.  There is no rehearsal in life.  This is it.  You get one chance to make the most of each moment because you can never have that moment back.  Try new things and new ways of doing things.  If you fail, fail spectacularly, then try again.

Don’t fear failure.  How else would you learn what works?

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Don’t worry about what other people think or say?  They have their own crosses to bear and who knows how well they carry on with their own burdens?  They have their own lives to live.  Let them worry their insecurities and failures.  You just focus on what you have control over:  yourself.

Do your best.  The hell with the rest.

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What is the commonality of those listed above?  They tried and failed, but never gave up.  Be persistent.  Be bold.  Be you.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

 

4 years, 9 months, and 2 days. Don’t be a snowflake. Be resilient.

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In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/magazine/why-are-more-american-teenagers-than-ever-suffering-from-severe-anxiety.html?action=click&contentCollection=Europe&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

 

When Mr. Hanks was 5, living in Redding, Calif., his parents separated. His mother, a waitress, kept the youngest of the four children while Tom went with the other two to live with his father. He was playing with his siblings one night when he was told he had to go with his father. He was a cook who married twice more and Tom had lots of stepsiblings and lived with a lot of upheaval. “By the age of 10, I’d lived in 10 houses.”

“By and large, they were all positive people and we were all just kind of in this odd potluck circumstance,” he said, adding that he still vividly recalls the confusion of being that little boy. “I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was in a room alone with my mom, or in a car alone. That is not exactly what happened to me, but there were times when either my mom or my dad — the same thing was true for both — in which being alone with them, I realized, was like, ‘This is a special time.’ For other people, it’s not a special time. It’s just part and parcel to the day.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/style/tom-hanks-uncommon-type-harvey-weinstein-donald-trump.html?action=click&contentCollection=Magazine&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

 

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Be like Tom Hanks.  He’s had his share of rough times in life, but he remains strong, good, and talented. He doesn’t adopt a “Woe is me!” attitude.

Everyone in life has his or her own cross to carry.  It is no use to cry about it all the time.  Deal with it and move on.

Victimhood is becoming an art, and it is making us weak.  Yes, mourn when bad things happen.  Take time to recover and heal.  Then, get back on the horse and move on!

Don’t wallow in the misery, the misfortune, the bad.  Without the negative, how could you fully appreciate the beauty of kindness, of goodness, of fortune?  Take the bad with the good.  Learn from each.  Keep what you must.  Then, move on with the business of growing as a person and living as a person.

According to the article above, 18% of incoming college freshmen felt overwhelmed in 1985 versus 62% today.  Has college gotten harder?  No.  Has the challenges of living on your own for the first time gotten harder?  No.  Yet, why are more incoming freshmen overwhelmed?  Maybe they lack the survival skills and fortitude of earlier generations for whom life was more challenging, and for whom less was given.  These days, we have too many helicopter parents whose life’s mission is to not let their child fail.  (Of course, I’m oversimplifying.  The factors are many, and too much to go into here.)  They intervene at the most inopportune times, when children are presented with opportunities to test themselves, learn, and grow.  Without challenging ourselves, how will we ever know what we are capable of? how good we are?

Giving everyone a gold star for showing up is doing a disservice to our children.  It fails to reward each individual child’s effort.  Empty praises help no one.

He goes on to admonish against today’s culture of excessive parental praise, which he argues does more for lifting the self-esteem of the parents than for cultivating a healthy one in their children:

Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.

To explore what the healthier substitute for praise might be, he recounts observing an eighty-year-old remedial reading teacher named Charlotte Stiglitz, the mother of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who told Grosz of her teaching methodology:

I don’t praise a small child for doing what they ought to be able to do,’ she told me. ‘I praise them when they do something really difficult — like sharing a toy or showing patience. I also think it is important to say “thank you”. When I’m slow in getting a snack for a child, or slow to help them and they have been patient, I thank them. But I wouldn’t praise a child who is playing or reading.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/23/stephen-grosz-examined-life/

Be present.  Do your best — neither I, nor anyone else, can expect no more than that.  Keep trying.  Keep moving forward.  Keep learning.  Keep growing.

Be thankful for what you have, and the many blessings in your lives.  However, that does not mean you can rest there and stay where you are.  Life continues to flow around you.  If you don’t move forward with it, then you will be left far behind your friends and cohorts.  And, I’m not talking about things and acquisitions.  I’m talking about life, maturity, and the unique experiences that only living will afford you.  You do not want to be a man of 90, but stunted in emotion, intelligence, and life’s experience.  It would be unbecoming.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

4 years, 9 months, and 1 day. Make it your goal to be better today than you were yesterday.

 

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

So it is with life.  Take it one step at a time.  Nothing changes overnight … not even you (even cosmetic surgery takes days).

Have you noticed how difficult it is to keep your New Year’s resolution about studying better, playing video games less, etc.?  That’s because most of us have these grandiose plans (like “I’ll lose 35 pound this year” or “I’m going to get straight A’s this quarter”) and find it very hard to follow through.

That’s because we’re creatures of habit.  We gain weight or hold our weight steady because of our eating habits.  Our grades in school are a reflection of our study habits.  We cannot expect a different result if we keep doing the same thing — by force of habit.

Unfortunately, habits don’t change overnight.  People say, it takes 21 days to form a habit, but that’s a misinterpretation of the originating study.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2013/04/15/habit-formation-the-21-day-myth/#6160c47debc4.

Most people believe that habits are formed by completing a task for 21 days in a row. Twenty-one days of task completion, then voila, a habit is formed. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. The 21-day myth began as a misinterpretation of Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s work on self-image. Maltz did not find that 21 days of task completion forms a habit. People wanted it to be true so much so, however, that the idea began to grow in popularity.

Tom Bartow, who successfully started advanced training for Edward Jones and has since become a highly sought after business coach, developed the following model of what habit formation really looks like:

 The 3 phases of habit formation:

Phase 1: THE HONEYMOON

This phase of habit formation is characterized by the feeling of “this is easy.” As all married people will tell you, at some point even the greatest honeymoon must end. The honeymoon phase is usually the result of something inspiring. For example, a person attends a highly motivational conference, and for the first few days after the conference the individual is making positive changes in his or her life.

 Phase 2: THE FIGHT THRU

Inspiration fades and reality sets in. A person finds himself struggling with the positive habit completion and old habits seem to be right around the corner. The key to moving to the third phase of habit formation is to win 2 or 3 “fight thru’s.” This is critical. To win the fight thru, use the following techniques:

  1. RECOGNIZE: Recognition is essential for winning the fight thru. When you have entered the fight through, simply say to yourself, “I have entered the fight thru, and I need to win a few to move past this.” Winning each fight thru will make it easier to win the next. Conversely, when you choose to lose a fight thru, you make it easier to lose the next one.
  2. ASK 2 QUESTIONS: “How will I feel if I do this?” and “How will I feel if I don’t do this?” Bring EMOTION into the equation. Let yourself feel the positive in winning the fight thru and the negative in losing.
  3. LIFE PROJECTION: If the above 2 techniques haven’t moved you to action, then imagine in great detail how your life will be in 5 years if you do not begin making changes. Be totally honest with yourself, and allow yourself to feel what life will be like if the changes are not made.

Phase 3: SECOND NATURE

Entering second nature is often described by feelings of “getting in the groove.” Once in second nature, the following are 3 common interruptions that will send a person back to the fight thru:

  1. THE DISCOURAGEMENT MONSTER: An individual allows negative results discourage him or her into thinking, “This isn’t working, and there is nothing I can do.”
  2. DISRUPTIONS: An individual experiences significant change to his or her current pattern (e.g., vacations, holidays, illness, weekends).
  3. SEDUCTION OF SUCCESS: An individual begins to focus on positive results and begins to think, “I’m the special one. I have finally figured out how to have great results with not so great process.”

If a person experiences an interruption that sends him or her back to the fight thru, winning 2 or 3 fight thru’s will bring him or her back to second nature.

Most people want positive habits to be as easy as brushing their teeth. HELLO…LET’S BE ADULTS HERE…being great isn’t easy. In fact greatness requires sacrifice. It requires doing things that others won’t or can’t do. GREAT HABITS ARE FORMED DAILY. Truth be told, good habits require consistent commitment. Highly successful people have learned to develop good habits. Make the commitment to make it past the fight thru, no matter how many times you go back to it, to reach new levels of success.

I like that: “greatness requires sacrifice.  It requires doing things that others won’t or can’t do.  GREAT HABITS ARE FORMED DAILY.

There is a concept out there that might help.  It’s contained in the title of this blog.  It’s called the Kaizen method.  In essence, it’s the power of continuous incremental improvement.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  You’re more likely to follow through if your goals are simple and achievable.  For example, if you want a stronger core, have it a goal to hold a plank position for 30 seconds.  Do it tomorrow when you first get out of bed.  It’s only 30 seconds.  Then, increase that pose by 30 additional seconds everyday.  It’s only 30 seconds more.

Likewise, if you want better grades, for example, start by spending 5 minutes everyday (1) thinking about the (a) main points of your readings, (b) what the teacher wanted you to get out of that reading, (c) what the key points of the reading was, and (2) making good  notes.  Being able (1) to extract the (a) important points from your readings and (b) how those points relate to the overall goal of the class or the body of knowledge you’re trying to learn and being able (2) to retrieve that information are more important how much time you spend reading or how fast you read.

Make it a habit to spend more time THINKING about what you read instead of the mindless process of reading and highlighting without real comprehension of what the material says and how it relates to other things you’ve studied.  Every subsequent day, make it a goal to increase the amount of thinking time by 5 minutes.  You’ll find that, over time, you’ll understand more about what you read, and that you remember more about what you read.  I guarantee that there have been times when you have highlighted a significant portion of a page only to discover that you remember nothing about the highlighted portion: you had to reread it.  That is inefficient.

Learning requires engagement.  Think.  Use your head.  Ask yourself what the point of each paragraph was about.  What was the topic and what was the author trying to convey about that topic in that paragraph?  How did that paragraph relate to the preceding paragraph?  How did that paragraph relate to the author’s thesis statement or overall argument?

Use the Cornell method to take notes.  It will help guide you.  I promise that if you keep working to improve a little bit everyday, you’ll look back one day and be amazed at how far you had progressed.

Be better today than you were yesterday with respect to that one thing you’re trying to change.  What do you have to lose?  It’s only 30 seconds or 5 minutes.  But, if you follow through, the results will be amazing!

All my love, always,

Dad