Friday, April 24, 2015

Your talent

Your unused talents give you no advantage over one who has no talents at all.

Living in Forgiveness

The penance of perpetual regret can be a cruel stumbling block. Despite acknowledging God’s forgiveness, you can’t forgive yourself. You must let go of attempts to “make up” for your failures and instead rest in complete forgiveness.  “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  Let that renewal flow through you to others so that you become a channel of forgiveness, freeing others from the bonds you suffered from yourself.
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away. One at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" ‘No one, sir,’ she said. Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin.’ (John 8:3-11)
There was one man who had a right to throw a stone at her that day. Instead, he forgave and told the women to live in the knowledge of that forgiveness. Likewise, he forgives us and tells us to live in that forgiveness and not in condemnation.

The prison door is open. Will you walk out?

Stephen Goforth

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Walking a Tightrope

“We like to think that maturation is based a lot on experience, but even in adolescence we also have to recognize that learning may not count as much so much until the underlying brain structures are in place,” Peter Jensen, a former head of child and adolescent research at the National Institutes of Mental Health says.

While waiting for those structures to develop- and perhaps helping them get set up right in the first place- Jensen says parents of teenagers often have to “walk a tightrope.” On the one hand, they have to respect and encourage their teenagers’ need for autonomy because, in adolescence, “that’s where the action is.” But sometimes they also need to step in, offer a road map, and help those teenagers point their size ten feet down the right path.

To do that effectively, he says, parents might take tips from some of the ways psychiatrists, through the years, have found to deal with teenagers. Parents, says Jensen, might try acting a bit like the psychiatrist played by Judd Hirsch in the movie Ordinary People, talking through possibilities and options. They have to function like a surrogate set of frontal lobes, as “auxiliary problem solver.”

“With little kids you can tell them what the best thing to do is and then offer them a reward.. But with tennagers that’s not often a productive approach. If you just flat out tell a teenager what to do, you can lose that kid. You have to cut them some slack, but you can’t just leave them there, you also have to to help them figure out things themselves. You can say, ‘What do you think the consequences will be if you act a certain way?’ for instance, or ‘What will happen if you are rejected by your peers if you reject drugs?”

Barbara Strauch
The Primal Teen

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Travelling within

Your circumstances.. shall not long remain if you but perceive an ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without. - James Lane Allen

The secret power of deliberate practice

You may think that your rehearsal of a job interview was flawless, but your opinion isn't what counts. Or you may believe you played that bar of the Brahms violin concerto perfectly, but can you really trust your own judgment? In many important situations, a teacher, coach, or mentor is vital for providing crucial feedback.

Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it "deliberate," as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in. Continually seeking exactly those elements of performance that are unsatisfactory and then trying one's hardest to make them better places enormous strains on anyone's mental abilities.

The work is so great that it seems no one can sustain it for very long.

Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that's exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands. Instead of doing what we're good at, we insistently seek out what we're not good at.

Then we identify the painful, difficult activities that will make us better and do those things over and over. After each repetition, we force ourselves to see - or get others to tell us - exactly what still isn't right so we can repeat the most painful and difficult parts of what we've just done. We continue that process until we're mentally exhausted.

If it seems a bit depressing that the most important thing you can do to improve performance is no fun, take consolation in this fact: It must be so. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and no one could distinguish the best from the rest.

The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won't do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.

Geoff Colvin
Why Talent is Overrated

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A world without meaning

We labor for our children and our children's children, but someday, in the remote future or, even sooner, as a result of man's fearful capacity to destroy himself, there will be no more children. That our earth will one day be wholly unfit for the continuation of our enterprise is as certain as any of our predictions can be.

Some day, if our present judgments are at all correct, the works of man will be as though they had never been. An earth as cold and lifeless as the moon will revolve around a dying sun.

What difference will it then make whether the Hungarians were courageous in the face of cruel invasion and whether hungry men, in concentration camps, shared their poor food with still hungrier and sicker prisoners?

What difference will it then make whether we now try to be intellectually honest, to face the negative evidence along with the positive, and whether we strive to make our world a scene of just peace?

Duty and love will be meaningless when there is no one to love and none to remember.

Elton Trueblood
Philosophy of Religion

Monday, April 20, 2015

Your anger

You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.
-Buddha

Tell me a story

We naturally avoid ambiguity. We want black and white, right or left, up or down. The greys of life are so distasteful that when a cause is attached to any set of facts, we assume the "facts" are more likely to have really happened.

Nassim Taleb in his book The Black Swain points out that if you ask someone, "How many people are likely to have lung cancer in the U.S.?" you might get a response like "half a million." But if you make one change to the question and ask, "How many people are likely to have lung cancer in the U.S. because of smoking cigarettes" you would get a much higher number. Why is that? Taleb suggests we tend to believe an idea is more likely to be true when a cause is attached to it.

Joey seemed happily married but killed his wife.
Joey seemed happily married but killed his wife to get her inheritance.

The first is broader and accommodate more possibilities. The second statement is more specific and less likely to be true.  But if you ask people which is more likely, more people would say the second statement. Why?  The second statement tells us a story.

The narrative misguides us. We want an explanation, a back story. That's why it’s hard for us to look at a series of facts without weaving an explanation into them and tying the facts to the because. We like a good story--even when it misleads us about what’s true. That's why you should be careful whenever you come across a because. Connecting causes to particular events must be handled with care.

Stephen Goforth

Friday, April 17, 2015

Murder your future

You must choose a future—and then, one by one, murder all the futures you passed over. – Andrew Boyd

Enthusiam Makes the Difference

As part of an experiment, midcareer executives competed against one another by pitching business plans to other execs at the same level. After the presentations, the executives rated all the plans. MIT researchers discovered they could predict which plans would be well received, just by observing the presenter’s tone of voice. The greater the presenter’s excitement and confidence, the more likely the plan would be met with approval. Think about that: The enthusiasm and charisma of the presenter was as critical to the plan’s success as the facts he or she was presenting.

The MIT researchers also found these elements played a critical role in a fruitful outcome:

* a consistent tone and motion

* confidence and practice

* mirroring the interviewer's gestures

* acting active and helpful

Stephen Goforth

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"I don't feel like it"

You can’t get too much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good. -Jerry West

Is Talent Overrated?

It is mid-1978, and we are inside the giant Procter & Gamble headquarters in Cincinnati, looking into a cubicle shared by a pair of 22-year-old men, fresh out of college. Their assignment is to sell Duncan Hines brownie mix, but they spend a lot of their time just rewriting memos. Neither has any kind of career plan. Every afternoon they play waste-bin basketball with wadded-up memos. One of them later recalls, "We were voted the two guys probably least likely to succeed." These two young men are of interest to us now for only one reason: They are Jeffrey Immelt and Steven Ballmer, who before age 50 would become CEOs of two of the world's most valuable corporations, General Electric and Microsoft. Contrary to what any reasonable person would have expected when they were new recruits, they reached the apex of corporate achievement. The obvious question is how. Was it talent? If so, it was a strange kind of talent that hadn't revealed itself in the first 22 years of their lives. Brains? The two were sharp but had shown no evidence of being sharper than thousands of classmates or colleagues. Was it mountains of hard work? Certainly not up to that point. And yet something carried them to the heights of the business world. Which leads to perhaps the most puzzling question, one that applies not just to Immelt and Ballmer but also to everyone: If that certain special something turns out not to be any of the things we usually think of, then what is it? If we believe that people without a particular natural talent for some activity will never be competitive with those who possess that talent - meaning an inborn ability to do that specific thing easily and well - then we'll direct them away from that activity. We'll steer our kids away from art, tennis, economics, or Chinese because we think we've seen that they have no talent in those realms. In our own lives we'll try something new and, finding that it doesn't come naturally to us, conclude that we have no talent for it, and so we never pursue it. A number of researchers now argue that talent means nothing like what we think it means, if indeed it means anything at all. A few contend that the very existence of talent is not, as they carefully put it, supported by evidence. In studies of accomplished individuals, researchers have found few signs of precocious achievement before the individuals started intensive training. Similar findings have turned up in studies of musicians, tennis players, artists, swimmers, mathematicians, and others. Such findings do not prove that talent doesn't exist. But they do suggest an intriguing possibility: that if it does, it may be irrelevant. Geoff Colvin Why Talent is Overrated

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

There's a knock at the door

You probably won’t hear opportunity knock if you the television set is always on.

The Paradox of Emotions

“A desire (or emotion) is turned not to itself but to its object. Not only that, but it owes all its character to its object.. It is the object which makes the desire harsh or sweet, coarse or choice, ‘high’ or ‘low.’ It is the object that makes the desire itself desirable or hateful.” 

Those words were penned by CS Lewis.

In other words, if you want to love your wife then concentrate--not on love--but on her.

If you wish more faith in God, do not concentrate on faith. Focus on God.

Stephen Goforth

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Social Media’s Outrage Mob

So what is it about social media that transforms ordinary internet users into pitchfork-wielding villagers? Futurologist David Brin notes that feelings of righteous indignation can give people a drug-like high. “You go into the bathroom during one of these [indignant] snits,” he says, “and you look in the mirror and you have to admit, this feels great! ‘I am so much smarter and better than my enemies!’” Everyone can now get an instant, ego-boosting high by opening their computer or smartphone and joining in the online shaming of a perceived offender. But they haven’t made the world any better. All they’ve done is made a stranger’s life a little worse.

Theunis Bates writing in The Week Magazine