Sunday, July 26, 2009

Adjusting to Brilliance

Child rearing advice [cross posted from]

For the most part, in the competing memes of talent and practice, I side with the [Talent is Overrated] camp. [1] However, real talent does exist [2]. If you or a child you care for is brilliant, this essay is about how to cope with it. I'm using links to sub essays to keep the bullet points direct and succinct.

*Make sure you are as bright as you think you are. [3]

* Look for places where you are compensating. My brother Daniel is brilliant. He has severe dyslexia that was undiagnosed until he was a senior in college because he was compensating (well, he was first in his department). Had he been properly taught and helped in grade school, his life would have been much better. I have mild number dyslexia. I learned about it, and to compensate for it in 2009. Economics would have been easier if I had taken care of it thirty years earlier.

* Believe in yourself. I'll note that Daniel has brilliant ideas, still. Sometimes he shares them with me. I'm always impressed that the only weakness in his ideas is that he does not believe in how brilliant they are.

* Expect and excuse mistreatment. If you want to succeed in life you need to realize that in some contexts you will create and prompt people to be unjust and unfair and that the only successful response is to forgive them and move on. [4]

* Practice. In a study of outliers in math ability, it was discovered that by engaging in practice, the brilliant learned better than the traditional belief that the brilliant could learn best by skipping the practice. They can, but that is compensating, and they learn better with practice.

* Don't rush yourself. I started college at 17. I resisted things that would have pushed me into college at 15 or 16 or younger. My life was better for the delay.

* Learn social skills. The pretty, the social, the pleasant get better treatment in life. Kind of like learning to dress for success or how to bath regularly, you should learn how to have a social demeanor. [5]


Friday, July 17, 2009

Rachel's surgery went well, she is doing better and better.

Had a jury trial (we won), Rachel had surgery (got up at 5:00 a.m., they were supposed to report at 7:30 so I could leave by 7:45, I got out for a deposition at 8:45 instead, but the other side got delayed at the airport).

All is well.

All is well, except this morning Rachel got up and decided to jump rope, seeing as her doctor had told her she should refrain from running for a few days but did not mention jumping rope ....

She is safely asleep now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Until I get that book review up this week end, here is a post to tide you over

The Media's Role in a Loyal Society
By Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy,
Authors of Why Loyalty Matters: The Groundbreaking Approach to Rediscovering Happiness, Meaning and Lasting Fulfillment in Your Life and Work

In the late twentieth century, the traditional social networks of Western society visibly weakened. In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam chronicles the deterioration of American social connections -- to family, neighbors, communities, and country -- in the second half of the twentieth century. Our lives are becoming less socially interactive. The book's title exemplified this observation: "More Americans are bowling than ever before, but league bowling has plummeted."

Putnam lays much of the fraying of our social fabric on the "individualizing" nature of our electronic media. He laments, "Electronic technology allows us to consume this hand-tailored entertainment in private, even utterly alone. As late as the middle of the twentieth century, low-cost entertainment was available primarily in public settings, like the baseball park, the dance hall, the movie theater, and the amusement park . . . As the poet T.S. Eliot observed early in the television age, 'It is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.'"

There is no question that we now have tremendous opportunities to be both connected to others via electronic media, yet remain completely anonymous and unaccompanied. We can even build synthetic identities, complete with virtual wives, jobs, and mortgages. As the real living, breathing wife of a cyberholic laments, "This other life is so wonderful; it's better than real life. Nobody gets fat, nobody gets gray. The person that's left can't compete with that." If only it were real!

Fortunately, most of us know the boundary between the virtual world and reality. But our ability to satisfy our own distinct appetites has led to increasing fragmentation of our personal lives. A study by Deloitte reports, "In recent years, the number of media formats and channels has exploded -- changing the way people consume content and splintering the mass market into smaller pieces . . . that translates into a fragmented world of increasingly scattered audiences."

Furthermore, this fragmentation abets asocial ideas. The ability of the media to provide subject matter on virtually any idea means there is ready access to content for the lunatic fringe of society. A study conducted by the New York City Police Department states, "The Internet is a driver and enabler for the process of radicalization . . . It also serves as an anonymous virtual meeting place -- a place where virtual groups of like-minded and conflicted individuals can meet, form virtual relationships and discuss and share the . . . message they have encountered."

Whether or not the decline in social networks is primarily attributable to the individualizing aspects of modern electronic media is clearly debatable. But let's assume for the moment that it is. Should we give up our iPod, our satellite TV and radio, our Internet access to live in a more cohesive society, where loyalty to other citizens is as obvious as it is fulfilling? For many (if not most) of us, the idea of moving backward to a technologically simpler era sounds too severe an action to bear.

But we should realize that if we don't moderate the effects of our electronic entanglements, we put at risk our most basic and common humanity. There is a definite connection between our level of personal interaction and our social selves as citizens. Alexis de Tocqueville's observations more than 150 years ago still ring true:
When men are no longer united in any firm or lasting way, it is impossible to persuade any great number of them to act in cooperation unless you convince each of those whose help is vital that his private interests are served by voluntarily joining his efforts to those of all the others. This cannot be achieved usually or conveniently except with the help of a newspaper, which is the only way of being able to place the same thought at the same moment into a thousand minds.
De Tocqueville reminds us that civic loyalty was once tied to the news we received from our media. Unfortunately, modern news is often driven by the ratings it will generate, filtered by political ideology, and narrowly broadcast to like-minded constituents. So instead of producing the "same thought at the same moment into a thousand minds," we now transmit different thoughts at the same moment targeted to those who already believe. We no longer interact with the community at large but only with those portions of the community with which we agree.

The Founding Fathers of the United States believed strongly that free societies required a free press. Thomas Jefferson famously said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." But Jefferson also added, "But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them."

The First Amendment grants freedom of the press in the United States. And while all countries do not provide constitutional protection to the press, Western countries provide news organizations with great latitude so that reporters are able to uncover and report the truth. But with every right comes a responsibility. The free press is supposed to remain loyal to the people. This requires offering the public a forum for open, honest political discourse.

Hence, it is ironic that parody news programs -- namely The Daily Show and The Colbert Report -- are viewed by many Americans (specifically Americans under the age of forty-five) as truly honoring the media's duty. A key responsibility of the press is to challenge truthiness with the truth. (Truthiness is a term that Stephen Colbert, faux-conservative anchor of The Colbert Report, popularized, defined as "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.") In an out-of-persona interview, Colbert laments:
Truthiness is tearing apart our country . . . it doesn't seem to matter what facts are. It used to be [that] everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty . . . What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?
So what part of the equation has changed? Why do we find that people are willing to accept gut instinct over verifiable truth? Well, this type of skewed media has always been available. But nowadays, intellectually honest debate is sorely lacking. Debates in the news are choreographed and the true essence of debate is spoiled. Often, conservative and liberal representatives merely repeat the party line so that they simply talk past one another without listening to or addressing the legitimate concerns of citizens. So, perhaps it is the fleeting concept of open and public discourse that allows the proliferation of "truthiness" to go unchecked.

To quote Jefferson again,
No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press.
In other words, Jefferson believed that the press is the primary means of ensuring our liberty. And, as de Tocqueville observed, it is also the primary means of ensuring our loyalty to our communities while maintaining our individual rights.

Therefore, the press must exercise its great power to bring honest discourse to the people, recognizing its vital role in maintaining liberty, and fostering civic loyalty. And it should do so with vigor.

The above is an excerpt from the book Why Loyalty Matters: The Groundbreaking Approach to Rediscovering Happiness, Meaning and Lasting Fulfillment in Your Life and Work by Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy, authors of Why Loyalty Matters: The Groundbreaking Approach to Rediscovering Happiness, Meaning and Lasting Fulfillment in Your Life and Work

Author Bios
Timothy Keiningham is a world-renowned authority in the field of loyalty measurement and management, and Global Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President for Ipsos Loyalty, one of the worldÂ’s largest business research organizations. Lerzan Aksoy is an acclaimed expert in the science of loyal management, and Associate Professor of Marketing at Fordham University. They are coauthors of a new book, with Luke Williams, entitled Why Loyalty Matters (BenBella Books, 2009, ), and creators LoyaltyAdvisor (, a web-based tool that analyzes your loyalty across multiple dimensions proven to link to your success. LoyaltyAdvisor is the product of a global effort, the most comprehensive study of loyalty ever conducted.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Being Yourself

I was recently reading about someone who had lost themselves in trying to be what someone else wanted. Obscuring their self, they failed in the relationship and failed in loving who they really were. I don't think in that specific case that if they had not hidden who they really were it would have changed the outcome, but it made me think, because it happens so often.

Being yourself does not mean being a collection of your flaws. That sort of definition would define a floor by the dirt on it. But being yourself does mean expressing what you really are and not something else. The the extent that you work on yourself, it means improving rather than changing yourself.

A long time ago, being yourself was considered a core part of having integrity. It was a significant part of the trope "to thine own self be true" and it meant avoiding pride and pretensions.

Now, being yourself seems to be used either as an excuse for annoying problems (e.g. "I'm a motor mouth and I don't show courtesy or respect to anyone else, but that is just the way I am") or a call to "free yourself" from trying to be someone you are not.

The later sense, that of freedom to be (rather than freedom to annoy) is important. We have gone from people who are being pretentious from an excess of pride to people who are submerging themselves because they do not love themselves the way that God does. I find myself wanting to tell people "You should allow yourself to be the person that God loves, not someone else." Nurture the person God loves.

Be that self. Then what love you give and receive will be true. But be there for God to love as he loves you and not something else. That is what being is all about.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Thomas Jefferson this 4th of July

A quote or two, starting with this:

In the Spring of 1781, Jefferson was finishing up his second term as Governor of Virginia, the office to which he had been appointed following his service with the Continental Congress and his justly-celebrated work drafting the Declaration of Independence. It was a very difficult and unhappy time in his life. His infant daughter Lucy Elizabeth died in April; his wife Martha, who had never quite recovered from the pregnancy (her fifth in seven years), was also, slowly, dying Martha Jefferson died the following year (September, 1782).

Which led to this when he was informed of the death of Abigail Adams, Jefferson sent his condolences to her husband — with whom he had just a few years before resumed correspondence after nearly fifteen years (fifteen years that had been filled with rancor and bile on both sides):

The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of Oct. 20 had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself, in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that, for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicines. I will not therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more, where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both that the term is not very distant at which we are to deposit, in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.


Third of July I took Rachel to Six Flags. With a few exceptions, no lines reached five minutes in length. A long day, from 8:00 a.m. when we left to 12:00 midnight when we arrived home.

We are well, just haven't felt like typing up the thoughts I've written down.