Thursday, November 27, 2014

What Sarah Hale Did for You

In 1621, famous pilgrim William Bradford proclaimed a day of feasting to commemorate the first harvest after a long year of suffering. That became America's first Thanksgiving Day. But as the colonies grew prosperous, the people forgot all about Thanksgiving and the meaning it held for their ancestors. The holiday was revived for a time under George Washington, but general interested in it dropped steadily. Finally, it was observed in only a few communities and that was sporadic because there was no set date.

Then, a determined woman named Sara Hale appeared on the scene. She was a young widow from New Hampshire. In 1822, she found herself with five children to support. She turned to literature and became the editor of a woman's magazine. Like most editors, Sarah was a crusader. It was her belief that the government should make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She pounded away at her idea for years. Three presidents turned her down. But the fourth finally agreed with her. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of every November as our national day of Thanksgiving.

Now, you probably never knew that Sarah Hale did that for you. Her fame rests more on the ditty she wrote in 1830. We’ll never forget her for that simple poem that begins, “Mary had a little lamb…”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

a Man of Value

Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. - Albert Einstein

Love as a God

Love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god; which of course can be re-stated in the form ‘begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.’ This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it, the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.

Every human love, at its height, has a tendency to claim for itself a divine authority. Its voice tends to sound as if it were the will of God himself. It tells us not to count the cost, it demands of us a total commitment, it attempts to over-ride all other claims and insinuates that any action which is sincerely done “for love’s sake” is thereby lawful and even meritorious.

CS Lewis
The Four Loves

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Finding Great Value

When God wants to give you something of great value, how does he go about it? Does he wrap it up in a glamorous and sophisticated package and hand it to you on a silver platter? No, more than likely he buries it at the heart of a great big tough problem and watches with anticipation to see whether you have what it takes to break the problem apart and find at its center what might be called the pearl of great price.

Stephen Goforth

Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Finist Moments

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

M. Scott Peck

Motivated by Screaming

I had the most satisfying Eureka experience of my career while attempting to teach flight instructors that praise is more effective than punishment for promoting skill-learning. I was telling them about an important principle of skill training: rewards for improved performance work better than punishment of mistakes. This proposition is supported by much evidence from research on pigeons, rats, humans and other animals.

When I had finished my enthusiastic speech, one of the most seasoned instructors in the audience raised his hand and made a short speech of his own. He began by conceding that positive reinforcement might be good for the birds, but he denied that it was optimal for flight cadets. This is what he said,

“On many occasions I have praised flight cadets for clean execution of some aerobatic maneuver. The next time they try the same maneuver they usually do worse. On the other hand, I have often screamed into a cadet’s earphone for bad execution, and in general he does better one his next try. So please don’t tell us that reward works and punishment does not, because the opposite is the case.”

This was a joyous moment of insight, in which I saw in a new light a principle of statistics that I had been teaching for years. The instructor was right – but he was also completely wrong! His observation was astute and correct: occasions on which he praised a performance were likely to be followed by a disappointing performance, and punishments were typically followed by an improvement. But the inference he had drawn about the efficacy of reward and punishment was completely off the mark.

What he had observed is known as regression to the mean, which in that case was due to random fluctuations in the quality of the performance. Naturally, he praised only a cadet whose performance was far better than average. But the cadet was probably just lucky on that particular attempt and therefore likely to deteriorate regardless of whether or not he was praise. Similarly, the instructor would shout in to a cadet earphones only when the cadet’s performance was usually bad and therefore likely to improve regardless of what the instructor did. The instructor had attached a causal interpretation to the inevitable fluctuations of a random process.

Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow

Friday, November 21, 2014

Here's the Truth

The truth is that life is delicious, horrible, charming sweet, bitter…and that is everything. - Anatole France

Good intentions are not enough

Movement is not necessarily progress. More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly. Nobody -- remember this -- neither Hitler, nor Lenin, nor any despot you could name, ever came forward with a proposal that read, "Now, let's create a really oppressive and evil society." Hitler said, let's take the means necessary to restore our national pride and civic order. And Lenin said, "Let's take the means necessary to assure a fair distribution of the goods of the world."

In short, it is your responsibility... not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. Not merely in their ends, but in their means. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person, then when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Commencement Address at Langley High School
June 17, 2010

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Truth and Love

Truth and love are two of the most powerful things in the world; and when they both go together they cannot be easily withstood. - Ralph Cudworth

Are you in the mix?

You don't have to be "deep" or constantly talking about profound issues. You just need to be "in the mix" so that you venture outside of your box. People who don’t peek out and over the lids of their cardboard hovel live in very small worlds. They may follow others into change, but they do not own it.

One way to clarify who is in the mix and who is not, is to ask, "Would I go to this person for advice when some significant life issue confronted me?" Not just for encouragement or some sage piece of advice--but because this person is a fellow struggler.

These types of friends and acquaintances are "in the fight" to move beyond white picket fences and 9-to-5 jobs. They whet your appetite for substantive relationships and make you want to become more than what you are. These are friends who are open to paradigm shifts in their own lives. They are not just focused on “straightening you out” so that you will become more like them. They want to grow like you do.

Stephen Goforth

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Self-Made Man

Occasionally, I’ve seen a man stand up and say, “I’m a self-made man.” So far I’ve never seen the guy or gal who DIDN'T make it, stand up and say, “I’m a self-made failure.” You know what they do? They point the index finger and say, “I’m not successful or happy because of my parents.” Some say, “My wife or husband doesn’t understand me.” Some blame the teacher, the preacher or the boss. Some blame everything from skin color and religious beliefs to lack of education and physical deficiencies. Some say they’re too old or too young, too fat or too slim, too tall or too short, or that they live in the wrong place.

Zig Ziglar
See You at the Top

Monday, November 17, 2014

A man's true measure

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. - Samuel Johnson

Becoming Real

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

“Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "Your become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Margery Williams
The Velveteen Rabbit

Friday, November 14, 2014

A True Friend

A true friend stabs you in the front. -Oscar Wilde

Dependency in Marriage

Dependency may appear to be love because it is a force that causes people to fiercely attach themselves to one another. But in actuality it is not love; it is a form of antilove. It has its genesis in a parental failure to love and it perpetuates the failure. It seeks to receive rather than to give. It nourished infantilism rather than growth. It works to trap and constrict rather than to liberate. For passive dependent people the loss of the other is such a frightening prospect that they cannot face preparing for it or tolerating a process that would diminish the dependency or increase the freedom of the other. Consequently it is one of the behavioral hallmarks of passive dependent people in marriage that their role differentiations is rigid, and they seek to increase rather than diminish mutual dependency so as to make marriage more rather than less of a trap. By so doing, in the name of what they call love but what is really dependency, they diminish their own and each other’s freedom and stature.

M Scott Peck
The Road Less Traveled