Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

October 15, 2019

Tiger Woods was trained almost from the cradle for one thing–to be the greatest golfer.

Roger Federer tried many sports. He loved soccer. Even though his mother was a tennis teacher, he didn’t pick up tennis until his early teens. Other kids had been playing for years by then. He soon passed them by and into his thirties is a dominant tennis star.

You need to be good at something, but it is good to be interested and experienced in many things.

I have a book to recommend. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein. It is not a spiritual book. It is a book that will help you learn to live a fuller life–and help you bring up your kids and encourage your grandkids.

Life in the Industrial Age, as well as in some previous eras, was composed of patterns. You could be trained to recognize patterns and adapt and become skilled at them. These are called “kind” learning environments. Kids excel who see and repeat the patterns.

Life today is what a psychologist call a “wicked” learning environment. Here, the rules of the game are often unclear or incomplete, there may or may not be repetitive patterns, and they may not be obvious, and feedback is often delayed, inaccurate or both. In most devilishly wicked learning environments, experience will reinforce the exact wrong lessons.

How does one adapt? By reading widely. Pursue several interests. That will be the human triumph in an age of robots.

I respect those who study the Bible. I have studied it for years. However, there is much more to spiritual growth. There exist many deeply spiritual guides who have left books and stories behind for us. Start drawing or painting. Pick up music. Study nature–don’t just take pictures of sunsets, observe nature deeply and often.

I often ponder the relationship of God, creation, Quantum physics, relativity theory, and TS Eliot’s poetry. There will not be a stunning book coming from that, but it broadens my mind to receive new insights.

The Pursuit of Happiness

October 14, 2019

“They should be happy, happy,” he said.

I’ll never forget the passion of a local man when I was involved with school board politics a long time ago. The kids should be happy. We all should be happy.

It turned out that he was a very unhappy man. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” wrote Shakespeare. Sometimes we reveal much about ourselves in the negative of our passions.

The US Declaration of Independence includes the phrase “the pursuit of happiness.” Perhaps a bit of hyperbole.

Strange thing that is–happiness. As Thoreau said, “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things around you, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.”

Get out into nature daily. Help someone every day. Be generous to someone or something every day. Stop the pursuit and just live. And happiness will settle into your soul.

Planning, Perseverance, Achievement

October 11, 2019

I am at the Las Vegas airport United Club on my way home after an IT (information technology) conference.

But I’m not here to talk about technology.

Perseverance keeps you working toward your goal; Planning leads to confidence; Achievement follows.

The final keynote speaker at the conference was Alex Honnold. You may think you don’t know him, but he was the rock climber featured in the documentary “Free Solo” about his climb up the face of El Capitan. Alone. No ropes. No safety.

I can’t look down 10 feet without feeling a little queasy. He went up 3,000 feet.

His story was about quest.

More than that, it was the painstaking planning and practice. He didn’t just decide to climb and then go up the cliff. He spent months exploring the face of the cliff on ropes. He needed to know the right path up. He needed to know every hold, every potential rock slide, every bush.

Then he mentally rehearsed every step of the way. He knew exactly what needed to be done at each transition point. He had rehearsed it in his mind a thousand times.

He made it.

We, also, can learn from that. What do we want to achieve? What will it take to make it? Plan every step of the way. Rehearse it in your mind. Make sure you are physically/mentally/intellectually prepared. Go for it!

Faith Requires Doubt

October 10, 2019

“I believe; help me in my unbelief,” the father cried out to Jesus.

It’s a paradox. Faith requires doubt. Certainty kills spirituality.

When you know everything, there is no room for God.

An ancient wisdom holds that a jar is useless for you until it is empty. There must be room before you can use it.

We must empty ourselves in order for God to fill us.

Faith means that, in the face of doubt, we hold fast that there is a God who surrounds us with his spirit of love.

Peace

October 9, 2019

Sometimes God chooses unique ways to tell us something. I don’t spend very much time on political news. But in reality, it’s not something easily avoided. And sometimes the drama is enough to upset my equilibrium.

And sometimes God speaks.

Here, through Jon Swanson who is a great writer, even though he has a Ph.D., yesterday:

The better way? The better way is from ancient and true poetry:

I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, 

I have abandoned the frantic for the contented, the argument for the action. Or better, I am choosing and learning to live in the choice of keeping my eyes and heart committed and content with caring for the people and needs in front of me. Loving the one who God loves in the way God loves, welcoming then into the contentment of the presence of God. I’m following the nudges God lays in my heart, not the loud voices screaming on my screens.

From my daily Plough email yesterday:

St. Francis de Sales 

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering, or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart has trusted in him and I am helped. He is not only with me, but in me, and I in him.”

OK, I get the message.

Good News?

October 8, 2019

If the Greek root word for evangelism is “good news”, why does the world at large not see evangelism or evangelicals as bearers of good news?

Many people, according to one survey 1 in 2 millennials, see the word as a negative. It stands for people who are bitter, negative, divisive, and who take delight in telling other people they are going to roast in hell.

Why?

If you are evangelical or practice evangelism, would you agree?

If not, what would you do to correct the perception?

Or, should I separate the words evangelism from evangelical? One is an action verb, the other describes people with a certain set of beliefs. Would that matter?

Just curious. I ponder such questions.

You Can’t Just Read It Once

October 7, 2019

Ryan Holliday is a modern Stoic. The American Founding Fathers were well versed in Stoic philosophy, for example, so an American Stoic isn’t that far afield.

I recently heard an interview where he was promoting his new book, Stillness. That’s on my “to-read” list. He’s a good writer and the topic fits my direction, but I can’t recommend the book, yet.

If you are not familiar with the Stoics (and it is worth picking up Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations or something by Lucretius), they pondered a philosophy. Not a religion. As always, some people tried to make it into a religion of sorts, but that would not be in the spirit of the philosophy. They tried to figure out the best way of living.

Back to the interview, Holliday made an interesting statement worth thinking about in your quiet time. “Philosophy is something you do. It’s a practice. You need to read the same thing many times to bring it into your daily practice.”

Immediately, I thought about reading something like Paul’s Letter to the Romans. You could read it once. Check it off the list. Pick up a couple of sentences that reinforce your beliefs. And go on.

But really, Paul laid out a justification for his philosophy and then he left us with a practical guide to living the good life with-God.

I look at it like there are two parts to Jesus. And many, if not most, people pick one side or the other. There is the resurrection side–the belief side. And many people stop there.

On the other hand, there is the teaching side where Jesus taught how to live the good life walking with-God. There are actually many people who stop there, forgetting about that resurrection thing.

My recommendation–pick something, maybe Matthew 5-7 or the last few chapters of Romans. Read it. Then read it again. Read it until your life resembles the teaching.

There is faith AND there is practice. Let balance be your guide.

Be Kind

October 4, 2019

Be kind.

How hard can that be?

I saw a conversation thread on Twitter last night. The camera was pointed straight down at the legs of two people in an airplane. There were the woman’s legs squeezed against the outside arm of the seat. There was a blue-jeaned clad leg pushing against her leg.

Seems the guy sat in the middle seat, immediately slouched, his knees seeking space spread out into the seat space of his neighbors. The woman was, quite appropriately grossed out.

She asked, “Could you please move your legs back into your space?”

He replied, “What, you have a problem?”

Suggestions on the thread ran from calling the flight attendant to accidentally spilling a hot coffee to kicking him. Flights today are often filled, so moving is seldom an option.

Who raised that guy?

Be kind and considerate of others.

How hard can that be?

What Do You Feed Your Mind

October 3, 2019

I admit it. Proudly. I’m Gary and I’m a supplement taker.

I acquired a daily packet of supplements from a company that I trusted for years. Vitamins, minerals, herbs–stuff to make up for deficiencies in the food I eat. Then the company sold its supplement business. I just switched to Athletic Greens. This is not an endorsement, more like a testimonial. I’m happy with the results of what I’m feeding my body.

I try to avoid sugary (autospell just changed that to surgery, well I try to avoid that, too) foods. Sometimes at the coffee house I am tempted by a donut, sometimes I succumb. It is never as good as my imagination.

I opened my phone this morning. The only time it’s first thing is during soccer season when I want to catch up on which referee is requesting a game or who is turning back a game. However, I found out that today is National Techie Day, and my friends at Hewlett Packard Enterprise wondered what I thought was an appropriate way to celebrate.

Worse, I check out Jon Swanson’s post. I discover that I missed National Son/Daughter Day. Now my son/daughter will think I don’t love them because I didn’t post on Facebook. Curses, Facebook.

This leads to thoughts of what I feed my mind. I try to feed my mind nutritious thoughts and ideas. With occasional treats of murder mysteries or other fiction. Not much TV.

I use Twitter and LinkedIn for business communication. I use them; I try not to let them use me. It’s easy to get caught up into endless scrolling. I’m trying to cut Facebook out of my life. It’s like the sugary treat–it plays with your emotions so that you’ll want more.

What do you feed your body? What do you feed your mind? Both require solid nutrition or they will grow flabby.

Now, on to the important problem–how do I celebrate National Techie Day today?

Predicting The Future

October 2, 2019

Here in west Ohio this Spring was very wet. Standing water everywhere. Everyone predicted an infestation of mosquitoes this summer.

I work outside on the patio (thank you inventors of WiFi) all summer. Saw maybe one mosquito.

It doesn’t even work always for the same or next day. “Red sun in morning, sailors take warning; red sun at night, sailors delight.”

The ancient Hebrews studied their writings searching for predictions. But, they missed all the contemporary ones–such as Jeremiah and others going around saying, “If you continue doing this, then that will happen.” They did; it did.

The first Christians were the same. Searching for signs of the second coming and the end of the world. It got so bad that even the apostle Paul had to tell them to go back to work. They would need to eat until the Day of the Lord came.

Now, people over here in west Ohio are predicting that after a very wet Spring and a very hot and dry summer (which, by the way is still with us into what should be Autumn), we will have a cold and stormy winter.

I don’t know. I prefer to just take one day at a time. If the rapture comes, it comes. If it snows, I go out and hike in the beauty of the quiet whiteness of nature.

There is discipline in not worrying about tomorrow. Just live in the moment doing what walking with God requires of me.