5 years, 2 months, and 4 days. Arrogance prohibits you from being the best you can be, so don’t be arrogant.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/47/69/4e/47694e4319ae46dbc7d552528137541f.jpgMy dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Because of the ubiquity of the problems of, relating to, and caused by arrogance, allow me to expand upon it a bit more before we move on.  Before we get into the nitty-gritty of that conversation, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite shows, “The Newsroom”.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1870479/.

In one episode, MacKenzie, who is the executive producer in that newsroom, said of Will, the star anchor of the newsroom:

You know what I like about Will? He’s not absolutely sure about anything. He struggles with things. He’s never certain he’s right and sometimes he’s not. But he tries hard to be. He struggles with things.

https://www.quotes.net/show-quote/60552 (emphasis added)

I love those lines because they put into practice another teaching to which I aspire to live by:


Stated differently,


Perfect knowledge rarely, if ever, exists.  Life and circumstances will always dictate how much time and resources you can devote to any given decision.  Thus, all you can do is make the best decision you could under the circumstances — given the time and resource constraints.

Absolute knowledge is an illusion most often grasped by self-delusional fools.  Thus, I love that Will struggles with decisions.  Getting it right is hard!  Making the right decision is a struggle if you really cared about the outcome of that decision.  It is a challenge to identify all the appropriate and relevant stakeholders, the appropriate and relevant data points on which your decision should rest, and the appropriate analytical strategies and processes that should be brought to bear in making your decision. Only fools claim otherwise or think otherwise.

As an aside, this reminds me of a great advice that originated from Dartmouth College on how to organize and structure your paper when writing: once you’ve finished brainstorming and data-gathering,

Keep working [your outline] until … [it] fits your idea like a glove.  When you think you have an outline that works, challenge it. I’ve found when I write that the first outline never holds up to a good interrogation. When you start asking questions of your outline, you will begin to see where the plan holds, and where it falls apart. Here are some questions that you might ask:

  • Does my thesis control the direction of my outline?
  • Are all of my main points relevant to my thesis?
  • Can any of these points be moved around without changing something important about my thesis?
  • Does the outline seem logical?
  • Does my argument progress, or does it stall?
  • If my argument seems to take a turn, mid-stream, does my thesis anticipate that turn?
  • Do I have sufficient support for each of my points?
  • Have I made room in my outline for other points of view about my topic?
  • Does this outline reflect a thorough, thoughtful argument? Have I covered the ground?
 https://rosenenglish.weebly.com/uploads/1/4/1/4/14147635/how_to_structure_and_organize_your_paper.pdf (emphasis in the original)

Planning your decision-making strategies is not that different from outlining your paper.  Both require you to ensure you have the most relevant and appropriate data points, that the process and logic of getting from where you start to where you hope to end are sound, and that your arguments are coherent and cohesive.  If you replaced the words “goal” for “thesis” and “decision-making process” for “outline”, then you may find useful the above-listed questions in your decision-making process.

With that background, we now turn to our original point: the arrogant thinks he know all, and this delusion inhibits his motivation to reexamine his data or analyses.  Thus, he fails.  Thus, he can never be the best he could be.  As my mother always said, “Even a dog can catch a fly every once in a while when he yawns.”  Luck may intervene and produce a good outcome from a bad decision-making process, but Lady Luck is fickle.  It is best to not leave in her hands the outcome you hope to achieve.

Think critically and plan your decision-making process carefully.  Don’t let pride, arrogance, etc., interfere with critical, clear, and appropriately expansive thinking.  If you do this, success will find you.

Critical thinking is necessary to problem solving, and the world always needs problem-solvers.  What does it take to solve problems?  You must

  1. identify with clarity and precision what is the problem you’re tying to solve — in graduate school at Duke University, we spent a significant amount of time on this step for each project;
  2. know intimately the stakeholders involved and what their objectives, interests, needs, and fears are — without the support of stakeholders, your strategy will likely fail (even if it were the best and most appropriate strategy) because the key players will not help you and may even work against you;
  3. find a pathway that achieves your goal and gets the relevant and critical stakeholders on board — you can’t please everyone, but you must gain the support of the most critical players;
  4. execute according to your plan — too many fail this step; and
  5. continue to revisit and update your data and strategies as necessary during the execution stage to ensure you remain on track to achieving your goal and are using the latest and most relevant information available — don’t forget: it’s a reiterative process.

(If you think about it, the above problem-solving/decision-making process is not unlike the writing process where you must identify the purpose of and audience for your writing, brainstorm for ideas, outline your arguments, write, and rewrite.  Thus, the above-reference to the Dartmouth method of outlining is not wholly inappropriate.)

Anyway, I digressed.  My sons, always think critically.  Don’t allow pride or arrogance to interfere with your critical thinking process.

Too often, people fail because they think they know it all (i.e., they are arrogant) and fail to understand their audience, markets, or stakeholders.  As a result, they fail to gather all the necessary and relevant data point in order to devise the best strategy for outcomes which would meet the needs of their audience, markets, or stakeholders.

Be not like them.

All my love, always,




5 years and 25 days. Keys to success: (3) work hard and persevere — believe in yourself and the value you bring to others: don’t give up!


My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Success is hard!  If it weren’t, everyone would have been successful.  No, success takes hard work and perseverance.  Most people fall short because they lack the self-discipline to push on when the road gets difficult.

Successful people push on when others give up.  The former creates winners; the latter creates losers.  Choose which type of people you want to be associated with, and stick to your goal.

#5 – J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

Photo Credit: Telegraph.co.uk

Rowling is one of the most inspirational success stories of our time. Many people simply know her as the woman who created Harry Potter. But, what most people don’t know is what she went through prior to reaching stardom. Rowling’s life was not peaches and cream. She struggled tremendously.

In 1990, Rowling first had the idea for Harry Potter. She stated that the idea came “fully formed” into her mind one day while she was on a train from Manchester to London. She began writing furiously. However, later that year, her mother died after 10 years of complications from Multiple Sclerosis.

In 1992 she moved to Portugal to teach English where she met a man, married, and had a daughter. In 1993, her marriage ended in divorce and she moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to be closer to her sister. At that time, she had three chapters of Harry Potter in her suitcase.

Rowling saw herself as a failure at this time. She was jobless, divorced, penniless, and with a dependent child. She suffered through bouts of depression, eventually signing up for government-assisted welfare. It was a difficult time in her life, but she pushed through the failures.

In 1995 all 12 major publishers rejected the Harry Potter script. But, it was a year later when a small publishing house, Bloomsbury, accepted it and extended a very small £1500 advance.  In 1997, the book was published with only 1000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries.

In 1997 and 1998, the book won awards from Nestle Smarties Book Prize and the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year. After that, it was one wild ride for Rowling. Today, Rowling has sold more than 400 million copies of her books, and is considered to be the most successful woman author in the United Kingdom.


#6 – Stephen King

Stephen King

Photo Credit: Bangor Daily News

Stephen King is famous for many critically-acclaimed novels, most of which have been made into movies. However, Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times before it was published.

Not only that, but King actually threw the manuscript into the garbage, only later to be retrieved by his wife who wildly believed in his dream of becoming a published author.

Yet, King’s earlier years were also nothing to rave about. As a child, his family barely made ends meet, and in his later years as an English teacher, he supplemented his income by selling short stories to magazines.

Today, King has over 50 novels and has sold over 350 million copies of his work. Can you imagine what King’s life would be like had he given up? It’s difficult to imagine that such a successful author was once rejected so many times.

In his earlier years, King talks about submitting short stories to magazines beginning at the age of 16, and hanging the rejection slips on a nail until the slips were so heavy he had to change the nail to a spike.


#7 – Bill Gates

Bill Gates

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Before Microsoft was born, Bill Gates suffered failure in business. Known today to be one of the wealthiest men in the world, Bill Gates’s upper middle-class family is a stark contrast from some of the other successful failures out there that didn’t have well-off parents.

However, Bill Gates didn’t rely on his family. His business acumen was second to none. But his first business was indeed a failure. Traf-O-Data was a partnership between Gates, Paul Gilbert, and Paul Allen. The goal of the business was to create reports for roadway engineers from raw traffic data.

The company did achieve a little bit of success by processing the raw traffic data to generate some income. But the machine that they had built to process the data flopped when they tried to present it to a Seattle County traffic employee. Yet, this business helped to set Gates and his partner Paul Allen up for major success with Microsoft.

Although Gates failed at his first business, it didn’t discourage him from trying again. He didn’t want to give up because the sheer notion of business intrigued him. He was cleverly able to put together a company that revolutionized the personal computing marketplace. And we all know just how successful that was for him.


So, the lesson is don’t give up.  If you’ve done the hard work of critically analyzing your goals, strategies, and tactics, and if you believe in your idea, then push on … even when it’s difficult and when you don’t feel like it.  Don’t give up!  Rethink your strategies and tactics.  Learn from your mistakes, and redouble your efforts.


If, however, you discover during your efforts that there is a fatal flaw in your analysis, then stop and critically reexamine your project.  Can the flaw be mitigated, or is it truly fatal?  If it’s the latter, let it go, and move on.  Don’t throw good money after bad.

The point is to know when to stop.  Persevere even against overwhelming odds if you have critically thought through your project and find it of great value, but drop it if you discovered fatal flaws that are unforeseeable or simply unforeseen, and unmitigatable.

So, to recap, to be successful in life, you must (1) be present and truly listen to others; (2) be of value, e.g., think critically to solve problems; and, (3) work hard and persevere despite set-backs and failures.  Be well, my sons.  Be successful.  Life is more rewarding and interesting when you are a success.

Success doesn’t necessarily promise you happiness, but happiness is more likely to visit when you are successful than when you are unsuccessful and filled with misery.

All my love, always,




5 years and 18 days. Be confident in who you are and the value you bring to the world, but don’t be arrogant.











My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Always be yourselves and always believe in the value you bring to the world, but never be arrogant about it.  Why?  As a social matter, it is unseemly; as a practical matter, there is always someone better or more gifted than you.

For example, hubris is what caused BUFU to claim that he is always the smartest guy in the room — until he moved to New York City and got his shorts eaten by the really smart guys.  BUFU didn’t last more than few months in NYC, and had to run back home to his small city with his tail tucked between his legs.  Don’t be like that.

Don’t rest on your laurels either.  You are only as good as your last project.

For example, my sister, who graduated from high school when she was 14 years old, has earned her doctorate but has not much to show for her intelligence.  Why?  She rests on her laurels.  Yes, you can tell people how smart you are, how young you were when you graduated from high school (many many years ago), how you have a doctorate, etc., but at the end of the day, people only care about what you can do NOW.  Can they partner with you to achieve greatness?  to make money?  to build something worthy?  to leave a legacy for future generations?

Don’t worry so much about what others think of you.  Focus on improving yourself daily, on gaining knowledge about the world around you, and on making the world a better place for yourself and others, and people will see value in your work.  Your value is intrinsic and not dependent on what people think of you.  You don’t gain a penny in your bank account, or an ounce of health, or an extra second of time just because someone thinks better of you.

Your reputation only helps pave the way for you to accomplish your goals, to find people to collaborate with, etc., but it does not define you.  You define you.  No one else does.  Never let others define you.

Be good, my sons.  Be the best you can be, but be yourselves.  You are good kids.  I know.  I’ve watched your intrinsic goodness reveal itself as you grew up.  Shosh, you used to cry when friends get hurt, and offer candies and nice things for them.  Jailai, you used to save all your treats from school each day to share with Shosh, Little V, etc., and you used to befriend kids who had no friends.  You brought them into your circle of popular kids.  Don’t change!

I love you so much and miss you much!

All my love, always,


5 years and 10 days. Life is sales. Be good at it by focusing on the needs of others, instead of on what you are selling — your talents, your candidacy, your idea, etc.









My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

It has been said that all of life is sales.  I cannot disagree.  Whether you realize it or not, you engage in sales tactics everyday.  You persuade a friend to go to see this movie instead of that, or do this activity instead of that.  That’s sales.  You try out for the school team or newspaper.  That’s sales.  You write an essay for college admission.  That’s sales.  You try to persuade a girl to go to the prom with you.   That’s sales.

In light of the above, in my opinion, the last image above is the most powerful.  People give up too easily.  They tried and failed, and they never try again.  That’s the Homer Simpson approach to life.


Don’t be like them.  Perseverance is critical to success.  Learn from your mistake and try again.  Success comes to those to forge on, not those who give up.

More importantly, often, people fail because they focus on themselves or their products, but not on the needs of their customers.  They forget — it’s not about them; it’s about the customer.

If you meet or exceed the expectations of the person you are pitching to, you will succeed.  Learn to focus on the needs of others and how you can help others, and you will be surprise at how people will be drawn to you.

This reminds me of additional quotes by Zig Ziglar.  Read on.

Zig Ziglar: 10 Quotes That Can Change Your Life

Zig Ziglar died today at age 86. A World War II veteran, Zig Ziglar became the top sales person in several organizations before striking out on his own as a motivational speaker and trainer. With a Southern charm and lessons grounded in Christianity, Ziglar wrote over two dozen books and amassed a following of millions who were encouraged by his lessons for success.

Below are 10 quotes from Zig Ziglar that have the power to completely change the direction of one’s life.

10) “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

9) “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

8 ) “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

 7) “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”

6) “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”

 5) “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”

4) “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

3) “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

2) “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

1) “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”


Have a good attitude, be a good friend, work hard, and enjoy a good life, my sons.

All my love, always,


P.S., please do not mistaken this post as an encouragement to become a salesman.  It is an honest profession and there is nothing wrong with it, but I would rather you pursue a career in which you can create something for the betterment of the world — be it an idea, an improved product, a new product, or simply something that brings light into someone’s life.  You are capable of so much more than selling the wares of others.  I, for example, sell ideas and solutions to people’s legal and healthcare problems.  That said, if sales is your vocation or avocation, then I fully support you.


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








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.)


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.


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.


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.


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,


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




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.


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.



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.




All my loves, always,


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








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.


All my love, always,