Left Turns

"We usually expand our capacities without changing our lives. People go off to meditation retreats and come back to their Manhattan existence; on the whole, they are not more serene, but they are much more knowing about where serenity might yet be found. People go to cooking school and don’t cook more; but they know how to cook. Dr. Johnson was once asked why he always rushed to look at the spines of books in the library when he arrived at a new house. 'Sir, the reason is very plain,' he said. 'Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.' Almost all of our useful knowledge is potential knowledge."

~ Adam Gopnick in The New Yorker

Shelter From the Storm

"When you think of Harvard and Yale and all those great universities, they need to have the person already made to go there." Ms. Reifler

I have a complicated relationship with school. It was the only constant in my life growing up in east Los Angeles, but it wasn't always a safe haven. It definitely shaped the beliefs I had about myself and not necessarily in a good way. When I started Stanford I was not prepared - emotionally. In short, I wasn't capable of taking full advantage of a fine institution.

Interestingly, I've come to learn that I was not alone. Many college students lack important soft skills, but no one seems to want to teach these to adults. We're expected to figure it out on our own - often the hard way.

It's something that saddens me to this day. Because it's only now, after years of working on myself, that I finally feel capable of learning.



What makes up character? A great NYTimes article follows two school directors - one from KIPP academy and the other from a private school - trying to define and teach it. They begin, with the help of Seligman, the father of the positive psychology movement, by defining it.

Initially they define character as being made up of 24 traits, including: bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom, integrity, love, humor, zest, appreciation of beauty; social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations), kindness, self-regulation, and gratitude.

They found the list too unwieldy and pared it down to: zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. They also discovered that students that possessed these traits did well in life - as opposed to just well on tests.

Interestingly, the article hints at how to build character - teaching cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) concepts. Finally! It would be great if more people were exposed to CBT.