6 years, 2 months, and 7 days. Happy belated Birthday Jaialai! Be who you are and be the best possible you.

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‘The Eagle Who Thought He Was a Chicken’

You never know when one kind act or word of encouragement can change a life forever.” -Zig Ziglar

Are you an Eagle or a Chicken?

We can all use a little encouragement from time to time. Especially when we begin to have feelings of self-doubt and/or frustration. If left unchecked, these feelings can get in the way of us achieving our goals and dreams. That encouragement can be as simple as someone saying, “Keep at it,” “You can do it!” Or it can come in the form of a loved one, teacher, or supervisor who gives us room to grow and fly. There have been times in my life when just a word of encouragement, or someone believing in me, thinking “I could do it” made all the difference in the world. That’s partly how I got so many career opportunities. Think about yourself when you watch the video below and read the two fables: “The Eagle Who Thought He Was a Chicken,” and “Fable of the Eagle and the Chicken.” Consider this your “push” from me to you.

1 -The Eagle Who Thought He Was a Chicken:

A baby eagle became orphaned when something happened to his parents. He glided down to the ground from his nest but was not yet able to fly. A man picked him up. The man took him to a farmer and said, “This is a special kind of barnyard chicken that will grow up big.” The farmer said, “Don’t look like no barnyard chicken to me.” “Oh yes, it is. You will be glad to own it.” The farmer took the baby eagle and placed it with his chickens.

The baby eagle learned to imitate the chickens. He could scratch the ground for grubs and worms too. He grew up thinking he was a chicken.

Then one day an eagle flew over the barnyard. The eagle looked up and wondered, “What kind of animal is that? How graceful, powerful, and free it is.” Then he asked another chicken, “What is that?” The chicken replied, “Oh, that is an eagle. But don’t worry yourself about that. You will never be able to fly like that.”

And the eagle went back to scratching the ground. He continued to behave like the chicken he thought he was. Finally he died, never knowing the grand life that could have been his.

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2 – Fable of the Eagle and the Chicken:

A fable is told about an eagle who thought he was a chicken. When the eagle was very small, he fell from the safety of his nest. A chicken farmer found the eagle, brought him to the farm, and raised him in a chicken coop among his many chickens. The eagle grew up doing what chickens do, living like a chicken, and believing he was a chicken.

A naturalist came to the chicken farm to see if what he had heard about an eagle acting like a chicken was really true. He knew that an eagle is king of the sky. He was surprised to see the eagle strutting around the chicken coop, pecking at the ground, and acting very much like a chicken. The farmer explained to the naturalist that this bird was no longer an eagle. He was now a chicken because he had been trained to be a chicken and he believed that he was a chicken.

The naturalist knew there was more to this great bird than his actions showed as he “pretended” to be a chicken. He was born an eagle and had the heart of an eagle, and nothing could change that. The man lifted the eagle onto the fence surrounding the chicken coop and said, “Eagle, thou art an eagle. Stretch forth thy wings and fly.” The eagle moved slightly, only to look at the man; then he glanced down at his home among the chickens in the chicken coop where he was comfortable. He jumped off the fence and continued doing what chickens do. The farmer was satisfied. “I told you it was a chicken,” he said.

The naturalist returned the next day and tried again to convince the farmer and the eagle that the eagle was born for something greater. He took the eagle to the top of the farmhouse and spoke to him: “Eagle, thou art an eagle. Thou dost belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth thy wings and fly.” The large bird looked at the man, then again down into the chicken coop. He jumped from the man’s arm onto the roof of the farmhouse.

Knowing what eagles are really about, the naturalist asked the farmer to let him try one more time. He would return the next day and prove that this bird was an eagle. The farmer, convinced otherwise, said, “It is a chicken.”

The naturalist returned the next morning to the chicken farm and took the eagle and the farmer some distance away to the foot of a high mountain. They could not see the farm nor the chicken coop from this new setting. The man held the eagle on his arm and pointed high into the sky where the bright sun was beckoning above. He spoke: “Eagle, thou art an eagle! Thou dost belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth thy wings and fly.” This time the eagle stared skyward into the bright sun, straightened his large body, and stretched his massive wings. His wings moved, slowly at first, then surely and powerfully. With the mighty screech of an eagle, he flew.
–(In Walk Tall, You’re A Daughter Of God, by Jamie Glenn)

Are there any ways that you see yourself as a barnyard chicken and are not aware of your potential grandeur? You could soar like an eagle. What would that look like for you?

It’s time for you to take that next step and fly!

https://lifelessons4u.wordpress.com/tag/the-eagle-who-thought-he-was-a-chicken/

 

My dearest Jaialai:

Happy belated Birthday, Jaialai!  I hope you had a good birthday.

I’m sorry I’m late with this birthday wish.  I — we — didn’t forget.  It’s been rough with your birthday and Little V’s birthday coming back to back.  We simply couldn’t bring ourselves to talking or thinking about it.  I’m sorry.  I can only imagine it is as difficult for you guys as it is for us.

What is my wish for you this birthday, my one wish?  My wish is for you to be comfortable in your own skin, to be you, to embrace all that is you and to aspire to be the best version of you possible.

These are dark days, Jaialai: 50 people died in a mass shooting by a white supremacist in New Zealand; 80 percent of Queensland, Australia, is hit by record drought while more than ten millions of Americans in the Midwest are under flood watch; 50 people are indicted for bribing  officials at elite colleges to unfairly gain admission for their subpar kids at the expense of truly qualified and deserving kids; 157 people were killed when a Boeing 737 Max 8 recently crashed, the second such crash in months; hundreds of people continue to be killed daily by war and strife in Afghanistan and the Middle East; a record 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide — 25.4 million are refugees and 3.1 million are asylum seekers, https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html.

These are dark times, indeed, but there is only so much you can do to help.  Focus on what you can do: reduce your carbon footprint, help friends and neighbors worse off than yourself — even if it is only with kind words or help picking up the trash, make the best use of the gifts God gave you — be it the environment, your intellect, etc.

My birthday wish for you focuses on this last point.  You are a candle to the world.  Don’t hide your light under a basket.  Use your gifts to bring light to the world.

Right now, your job is to be a student, a brother, a son, and a friend to others.  Do your best.  Study hard.  Be curious.  Open to your mind to the world of ideas — remember, you are not a sponge that soaks up all the crap out there, but a sieve that sorts out valuable information from nonsense spouted by uninformed (willfully or not ) people with false agenda.  Stay true to you.

My Jaialai is the kid who refused to budge when his classmates told him “My Little Pony” is a show for girls, arguing that there are some really cool characters in the show including a dragon and fighting ponies.  Soon, most of the boys in your class watching “My Little Ponies” as well.  My Jaialai is the toddler who said, “Dad, let’s go somewhere we’ve never been to before!”  My Jaialai is the boy who invented all sorts of games, songs, and dances that entertained grandma and everyone else in the family.  My Jaialai is the little boy who, when I was fighting the multi-billion dollar Enron of Healthcare, said, “Dad, are you sad?  Let me dance and make you happy!”

Jaialai, I wish I could see the young man you are growing to be.  But, wherever you are today, don’t forget those endearing traits that have always been a part of you even as a baby.  Regardless of whether I am there to help you cultivate those traits, keep working to strengthen them.  You are intellectually curious.  You are pioneering.  You community focused.  You are ethical.  You are committed to the ones you love.

Commit to being the best you, today and always.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

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6 years, and 4 days. Blood may be thicker than water, but family wounds often cut deepest. Know when to cut your losses and nurse yourself back to health.

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Three months had passed since Grace Gosar and five of her siblings decided they had to do something to stop their brother, a hard-line conservative and staunch defender of President Trump, from winning reelection to Congress.

Their solution back then had been startling: Film a campaign ad for their brother’s opponent.

Grace, a 54-year-old mother of three, was battling ovarian cancer. The disease had taken a steady toll on her body, so much so that when she faced the camera that day and endorsed her brother’s opponent, she worried that the remainder of her life would be measured in months rather than years.

“I couldn’t be quiet any longer, nor should any of us be,” she said in the ad, which cut to another one of her siblings and then another and another and another and another, all imploring voters to cast aside their brother.

The Gosar sibling spots were played and replayed millions of times online this past fall, a symbol to many Americans of the turmoil in their own families and the myriad ways in which their country had never seemed more divided, angry and irreconcilable.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-congressman-rails-against-undocumented-immigrants-as-his-estranged-siblings-care-for-them-and-other-patients-in-need/2019/01/12/f486ac0a-1208-11e9-90a8-136fa44b80ba_story.html

 

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

The fall-outs from Suicide Christmas continue to reverberate in our lives.  We try not to let the callous and thoughtless actions of others affect us, but sometimes that is easier said than done.  This is especially true in the case of family.

The most unkind cuts are often inflicted by loved one.  They know us best; thus, their cuts are often calculated to maximize damage.  Unfortunately, too often, their aims are true.

Family often brings out the best in us and the worst in us.  Intra-family battles can be epic, and family dynamics have been the cause of countless therapy hours.  But, familial bonds can also be legendary.

Love them or hate them, they’ll always be family.  So, the best option is to manage family relationships.  No one said you have to constantly subject yourself to tempestuous relationships.

Know your tolerance and separate yourself as necessary to maintain your sanity.  Even before I became a refugee the second time, I lived far from family members and took them in limited doses.  Absence did make heart grow fonder in these circumstances, and the distance enabled me to savor those moments when I did have limited interactions with them.

My point here is to not be a victim.  Yes, family can suck, but no one said you must be with them all the time.  When you reach the age of majority, you are free to move away for college and build a life far from (or close to) them as you see fit.

But, what of the pain family wounds?  Here, too, don’t be a victim.  You are not necessarily defined by your childhood traumas or family scars.  You can choose to move beyond them and define your life for yourself.

Think you’re a prisoner of a troubled childhood? Think again. You need not go through the rest of your life as an emotional cripple. It is possible to bounce back from adversity and go on to live a healthy, fulfilling life. In fact, more people do it than you may think.

Resilience may be an art, the ultimate art of living, but is has recently been subjected to the scrutiny of science. This much is known so far. At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself—yet also a belief in something larger than oneself.

Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves, transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs.

Experts argue among themselves about how much of resilience is genetic. People do seem to differ in their inborn ability to handle life’s stresses. But resilience can also be cultivated. It’s possible to strengthen your inner self and your belief in yourself, to define yourself as capable and competent. It’s possible to fortify your psyche. It’s possible to develop a sense of mastery.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200305/the-art-resilience?collection=63930

Choose to be resilient.  Focus on self-care if and when necessary, disconnect from the source of your troubles, collect yourself, nurse yourself back to good mental health, then fight on.  Be resilient.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200305/the-art-resilience?collection=63930

All my love, always,

Dad

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.

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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.

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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 28 days. Don’t embrace the suck. Fear not failure.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

There are more than 7.7 billion people on Earth today.  Yet, many live wasted lives.  They spend their days complaining about this and that, playing armchair quarterback, and filling up the peanut galleries.  They boast of their abilities to do better, achieve greater results, etc., but they nary lift a finger to actually do anything.  Sometimes they actually do have the necessary talents to achieve what they spoke of, but more often than not, they live tepid lives and pass into obscurity.

Why would they waste their talents, and their lives, like that?  Often, they won’t act because they fear failure.  For example, many speak of their desires to write better books or make better music than those out today, but their thoughts and songs and the pages on which those thoughts and songs should be captured are doomed to exist only in their minds.  Others complain about the state of affairs of their lives and their communities, but their complaints remain on their lips and are never to be translated into actions that would actually benefit themselves and their neighbors.

Most people embrace the suck.  Why?  They do so for the simple reason that embracing the suck is less demanding of them than actually doing something and less scary than failing in their endeavors.  Don’t be like them.

Fear not failure.  Embrace it, and learn from it.  Failure is a loss only if you learn nothing from it.  Failure lines the path to success.  If you don’t test to find out what won’t work, how will you ever discover what will?

https://www.brainyquote.com/photos_tr/en/a/alberteinstein/109012/alberteinstein1-2x.jpg

Be bold, my sons.  Be men of thoughts and men of actions.  As President Teddy Roosevelt once said, be the man in the arena to whom credit belongs.

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All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

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.

https://i1.wp.com/img.picturequotes.com/2/365/364414/i-have-to-study-politics-and-war-so-that-my-sons-can-study-mathematics-commerce-and-agriculture-so-quote-1.jpg

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.

https://www.languageties.com/sites/default/files/images/lexical/007-Birds-of-a-feather-flock-together.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/img.picturequotes.com/2/396/395190/we-think-too-small-like-the-frog-at-the-bottom-of-the-well-he-thinks-the-sky-is-only-as-big-as-the-quote-1.jpg

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

[Disadvantages faced by poor children hold them back]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my love, always,

Dad