Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman On Truly Knowing a Thing

14 12 2015


“See, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something and therefore, I see how they get their information and I can’t believe that they know it.” (Richard Feynman on pseudo-sciences, 1981)

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (Richard P. Feynman)

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“Don’t Be Seduced By Low-Hanging Fruit”

10 12 2015

Avoid Low Hanging Fruit

Recently, I was reviewing some future vocational pursuits, and courses of study to prepare for them, with a mentor of mine.   He admonished me twice, “You must not be seduced by low-hanging fruit.”  He went on to encourage me to set vocational and educational goals that were neither too easy nor out-of-this-world in difficulty, but instead targets in which “you have to stand on your tiptoes to reach.”

That was a new twist.

My own human nature and the bent of our times drifts toward, even craves, things that require little or no effort.  Low-maintenance relationships.  Things you can “wing.”  Problem-solving that demands no more than easy, black/white, either/or solutions that don’t have to grapple with the complexities of our times and its issues, which are impatient of petty annoyances like nuance and clarification.  Or, better yet, long-term thinking.  (Current immigration debate and Donald Trump come to mind.)

The challenge for growth is something that requires stretching.  We all know this when we get to the gym.  But we tend to forget this once we’ve showered and leave the environment where sweat is accepted as part of obtaining the prizes.

What goals are you setting for yourself?  Do they cause you discomfort or are they well within your current competencies and are guaranteed to cause you little frustration?  Little effort can only yield small rewards.

These are necessary questions, because low-hanging fruit is cheap and easy.  But, you have to climb to get the good stuff.

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Life, Filtered…Through You

24 08 2015

Life Filtered Through YouWe’ve all heard, at one time or another, that there are no two snowflakes alike.  Science has confirmed this.  It is estimated that there are something like ten quadrillion (that’s 10,000,000,000,000,000) water molecules that make up a snowflake.  Thus, while many snowflakes at the microscopic level appear to be similar, at the molecular level they are all different.

Which brings us to you.

You are unique, to say the least.  And so am I.  At the molecular level, to be sure, but in a number of other areas of involvement, measurement, comparison, etc.

What this means is that each one of us see the world in slightly different ways.  You and I have differing perspectives on everything from this morning’s global sell-off on the world financial markets to the fallout of the Ashley Madison web hack debacle.

We all see things differently.  It’s meant to be that way.

Put another way, we all are positioned in a unique way to see and filter everything locally, nationally and internationally, even cosmically, is different colors, shades, shapes, nuances.

One angle is your time in human history.  Another is your geographic placement (are you Oriental or Occidental?).  How about your embedding in the economic strata?  Your level of education provides you with special tools for this task as well.

The biggest variable is the questions you ask of people and of life.  The late Rabbi Dr. Edwin Friedman shared this anonymous quote before he died: “If you do not have answers, do not feel too badly.  But if you do not have questions, you had better feel your pulse.”  A mentor of mine once told me that he asks questions to get…answers? Wrong.  “To get to better questions.”  The Socratic Method is not going away anytime soon.

You have a place in this world for a reason.  You’re not an accident (I’m a theist.)  When you ask questions, when you speak up and out, you bring–unless you’re a parrot–something unique to the discussion, new light, slightly different perspectives and colors.  And when you do, people gain greater insight.  (Do you really want to leave this to the pundits, the intelligentsia, and mainstream news media on both sides?  I didn’t think so.)

So take life in.  Ask lots of pain in the backside questions of it.  And speak up!

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Your Environment and Success

7 07 2014

Your Environment and SuccessWise mentors tell us that to be successful in life and meet our goals, it is supremely important that we prepare our environment in a way that maximizes our potential to succeed. Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The Bible tells us, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20).   Pretty important, therefore, to choose carefully those who inhabit your orbit.

Both positive and negative mindsets tend to be contagious. I’ve observed that the tendency toward being negative, defeatist and pessimistic is a little more “natural” than the opposite tendency—that is, towards finding the good in life. This is a by-product of living in a fallen world. But it does not have to be that way. It just takes effort. And it is worth it.

Choose wisely what and with whom you associate. “Like attracts like.” This I’ve found to be true. If I’m angry, sullen, mad at the world and depressed, I tend to attract people just like me—without even trying! My anger somehow validates them. And of course such anger is usually cloaked in righteous sounding garb. But it is a downward spiral and simply has never worked.

I’ve discovered that as my thinking is positive, loving, cheerful and optimistic, I attract people with similar thinking and outlook. And I’ve noticed that what appeals to the optimistic and cheerful tends to repel the pessimistic and angry. Want to find out something really interesting? Look at those who were drawn to Jesus and those who were repelled by him. Invariably, those who were repelled by Jesus were angry, punctilious, religious people whose view of God was ultimately evil. If you are ultimately more focused on evil than on good, you are demonstrating what one author calls “practical atheism”—that is, you have more faith in the supremacy of the power of evil than the power of good. Hmm….

Some suggestions:

  • Read and listen well. There are all sorts of helpful resources in the digital universe, as well as library and bookstore shelves, that can help you on your way.  Avail yourself.  I’ve been particularly helped by books, video and audio by people like Brian Tracy, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jack Canfield.
  • Choose friends carefully. You must approach friendships aware that those whom you surround yourself with will affect you for good or ill. Both optimism and pessimism are contagious. Some friends will feel threatened when you become healthy.       Become healthy anyway. Love them but understand you may have to, for both your sakes, limit your involvements.
  • Look for good in every situation. You generally find what you’re looking for.

Now go succeed!

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Letting Others Think For You? Think Again

24 02 2014


One of the most challenging tasks one can engage in is focused and thorough thinking.  Our very human tendency is to take the easy way out of things.  In the realm of thinking, the easy way out is often found in 1) trying to find cut-and-dry, black-and-white solutions to every problem or 2) denying the complexities of modern life offering superficial and simplistic solutions to sizeable challenges.

M. Scott Peck once discussed the problem of simplism in his book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, which tends to reduce the complex challenges of modern life into neat and tidy solutions.  Too often, we gravitate towards simplistic solutions to these difficulties and mysteries.  Why?

For one, it’s easier.  Thinking–serious thinking involving focus, research and reflection–is hard work.  Again, we have a bent towards laziness…following the path of least resistance and exerting minimal effort.

The problem with simplistic thinking is that easy answers in neat, tidy packaging eventually get found out for what they are.  The result?  Cynicism.  Disillusionment.  Loss of values.  Even loss of faith.  Having come from a background that has included not a few years as a minister, simplistic solutions to serious problems ultimately destroy in the end.  Fundamentalists, note this please.

The solution?  Do your homework.  Whatever your challenge, put your time and paces in to get to the bottom of a matter.  The greater the stakes, the more effort you must exert.  At times, life is simple, even black and white.  Most of the time it is not.  If you know this going in, you’ll fare well and your ship will probably moor safely.

Do your homework.  And don’t leave it to anybody else, even the experts.  There’s far too much at stake.

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Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires

26 11 2013

Brian TracyI listened today to one of my favorite speakers on self-development, Brian Tracy.  He turned my thinking upside-down, as he often does.

Speaking on the topic “Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires,” Brian hit on the question of motivation.  Paraphrased, he pointed out that, more importantly than increasing one’s income to seven figures, what one must become in order to earn a million dollars is of paramount importance.

I’d heard this before, many times.  But today, it hit me in a fresh and invigorating way.  I’m not really the kind of person that would find happiness in more and better “stuff.”  Vacations in exotic and storied locations?  Sure, I’d enjoy them.  But I’ve a happy marriage and would gladly count an evening talking to my wife of twenty-five years a night well-spent.

In terms of self-development, however, he had me.  As I learned many years ago, many–perhaps most–of those with annual incomes in excess of a million dollars are “past the utility curve” with respect to money (to quote Chuck Missler).  Money becomes a way of keeping score.  “Am I contributing something of such value that people will give up their hard-earned cash to acquire what I offer?”  It’s a worthy question–one that will rattle you if you let it.

And it should.  Time, after all, is money.

To increase one’s income substantially requires tenacity, discipline, clearly-defined goals, continuous learning, and constant self-evaluation.

Okay, how about you?  More cars, vacations, and devices will probably not make you happier in the long haul.  But becoming the kind of person who can use his or her skills, carefully cultivated habits of work, and creative thinking to acquire a sizable income will.  Why?  Because, as Brian says, to do this, you’ve got to transform who’ve you’ve been into someone better.  Sharper.  Above the mediocre herd.

In a word: Excellent.

Are you up for this?

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Preparation: Key to Overcoming Fear

25 11 2013

Winston-Churchill-Flashing-Victory-SignAbout twenty years ago, I read a fascinating book–The Sir Winston Method–by James Humes.  At the time, I was doing a fair amount of public speaking.  The book, an exploration of Winston Churchill’s speaking techniques, was apropos.

One practical bit of information I gleaned from this book was this: The way to overcome the fear of public speaking is to know more about your subject than anyone else in the audience.


It is fairly well-known that there are a lot of people in our world who fear getting up in front of people and speaking more than death itself.  Fear of humiliation.  Fear of unpreparedness.  It is quite potent.

I’ve learned that when I do my homework, when I have put myself through the paces, when I own my subject–I am far more unafraid.

Here’s the challenge:  Prepare.  Put in the time and effort to know your topic.  I mean really know it.  Anticipate the arguments and objections.  Indeed, shoot holes through your subject before anyone else can.  Know the weaknesses, the tenuous spots, and strengthen them.

Watch fear dissipate!

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