Exploring New Personal Characters

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College isn’t so much about learning as it is about discovering. Sure, we explore a particular field of study because we find it intellectually stimulating. The true exploration, however, is the journey we embark upon within our very souls. The newfound freedom that comes with the college experience and the attendant releasing of inhibitions allows us to realize – and, if we are fortunate enough, become – the character we’ve always wanted to become. And if it turns out we don’t like that character (or simply grow out of it), we can shed it immediately upon graduation. (Of course, we always retain the option to dust it off and put that cloak back on come reunion time.)

For a variety of good and not-so-good reasons, high school presents itself more as a Continue Reading “Exploring New Personal Characters”

What is the “Content Economy” and Why are We Headed There?

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A classmate of mine recently posted the following on Facebook along with a picture of one of those new order kiosks popping up across the county: “Greeting the future of fast food at McDonald’s on River Road in Bethesda. Sure hope the whole ‘coal’ thing works out for everyone, since there won’t be any jobs here before too long.”

Now, before you get started, yes, this is a liberal friend (I proudly remain friends with those of all political persuasions). But let’s ignore the “coal” comment and focus on the “future of fast food” statement. The evolution to the fast food kiosk was predicted when states started raising the minimum wage. It would have happened sooner or later (just like the auto-attendant has replaced the receptionist). The higher minimum wage just hastened the inevitable. It starts with the front of the counter with order takers. For fast food places, expect to see automation in the kitchen, too. This is Continue Reading “What is the “Content Economy” and Why are We Headed There?”

Playing Through the Pain

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Warning: Parents, doctors, and youth sports administrators may find the following quite disturbing.

It’s a classic “guy” thing. Playing through the pain. It’s also a throwback thing. It harkens to an era when (especially football) coaches would admonish you for dogging it on account of a presumed injury. These coaches themselves reflect an even earlier epoch, one where boot camp drill sergeants berated new recruits, pushing them up to and then beyond their physical limits.

We can’t do that anymore. We now live in a sissified society, constrained by both the very real fear of catastrophic liability claims and an unnatural craze that decries all things alpha male. There was once a time – from our Founding Fathers through the Greatest Generation – when our country exemplified a rugged resilience best defined by the phrase “playing through the pain.”

Those old enough to have had the honor of experiencing the joys of playing through the pain best remember it in terms of sports, most notably that of the gridiron variety. These boys earned their leadership ranks by setting aside their personal hurt for the sake of the team. They carried the ball that extra yard. They leapt into the air to make that last gasp catch knowing they left themselves defenseless. In short, they dutifully threw their beleaguered bodies into a mass of humanity, in hopes their individual effort might mean the difference in the game, the winning touchdown, the final stop.

For many, the spirit of the game made them numb to the pain. The experienced players knew the next morning would come with poignant aches and bruises, but they would wear them proudly as a personal badge of courage only they could see (and feel).

We have a word that describes those who exhibit the raw discipline to play through the pain: “hero.” We saw them in real life from Bunker Hill to the sands of Iwo Jima to the Mercury Seven. It was not unusual for young boys to imagine themselves giving the ultimate sacrifice for their friends, their unit, their country. And that, my dear reader, is why “playing through the pain” is too important a philosophy to throw away because “we don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”

In the real world, people get hurt. There are no parents, no teachers, no other adult authority to step in like some omnipresent Holden Caufield to catch you before you tumble down the unseen ridge. Life is full of ridges – both seen and unseen. You will tumble down them. You will get hurt. You will learn.

Vince Lombardi famously said, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”

Think about every action adventure movie you’ve ever seen. It’s a common trope. The hero, left for dead, rises one final time to do one more thing – always one more thing – that forever changes the lives of those around him for the better. Sometimes the hero survives (thus insuring a sequel), sometimes not. What matters is he chose to rise up again that one last time. To show the others how important life is, how one man can make a difference, how they, too, can be the hero when one day their name is drawn.

To accomplish this, though, they must play through the pain. There’s no “concussion protocol” in real-life. There are only actions. Your actions. Your decisions. No one else’s. Yours alone. Not what some parent, coach, or administrator tells you to do. What you decide to do.

Heroes make their own decisions. Heroes play through the pain. Heroes become heroes because their will, their persistence, and their sheer determination represent the ideal we all strive for.

Be a hero. Play through the pain. Show the world how it’s done.

 

 

You Can’t Have Rainbows without a Little Rain

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photo by Marvin Palmore ’82

It’s raining, so it must be New Haven.

I approached the Elm City from the east along the shore hugging I-95. I had just spent a rare evening in Providence following a lengthy interview with a primary source. This was a much less travelled route for me as I usually visited my Alma Mater via New York City or Hartford. In a sense, then, the intensifying rain was reassuring.

It doesn’t always rain in New Haven, but girl you know it oughta. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it rained. Think all that rain might have put a damper on things? It rained so hard on Thursday my pants didn’t dry until Sunday. Fortunately, years of Boy Scout leader training did not go to waste. I had packed a spare pair.

I hadn’t planned on going to my 35th reunion by way of Rhode Island, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity when it presented itself. The additional one hour and forty four minutes of travel time seemed like a small cost. Because it came up at the last minute, however, I failed to account for other costs. For example, whenever I visit New Haven I try to Continue Reading “You Can’t Have Rainbows without a Little Rain”

TWTWTWID* (RAW & UNCUT!)

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* These Were The Weeks That Were In Davenport (RAW & UNCUT!)

Seth insisted no one want to read TWID. He said this 35 years ago and he said this again 35 year later. That’s why he only copied half the original pages (“the ones involving the class of ’82,” he insisted). Well, it turned out he was wrong… on both counts.

First, as soon as the abridged version was published (you can read it here if you don’t believe me), word spread. Staying up well past their bed-time, normally non-nocturnal D’Port 82ers found themselves captivated with the rare literature. (It is believed, but uncomfirmed, the same holds true for the abnormally non-nocturnal D’Port 82ers, too. For the nocturnal crowd – both the normal and the abnormal – well, let’s just say the party never stopped with the arbitrary event of graduation.)

Second, the masses yearned for a copy of the complete, unabridged edition of the “granddaddy of all college newsletters” (Yale Daily News, April 13, 2001). Not satisfied with merely contacting the lowly compiler, they went straight to the source. When Seth began seeing and hearing a level of interest he’d never before seen in TWID… he still wasn’t convinced the unabridged decision made sense. So, he asked me to name “one thing” the abridged edition omitted. I one-upped him. Actually, I eleven-upped him. The RAW & UNCUT! edition of the TWID compilation contains at least these eleven fun memories not found in the Abridged edition:

  1. The start of the mural competition (I want to write about this but I need to see who has the picture of the finished product. I do somewhere… somewhere…).
  2. Seth’s take on the 1982 Superbowl (if only for the later career irony).
  3. Mike Morris Valentine’s Day reference.
  4. Ed’s Vacation.
  5. Computer terminals installed in the Cottage Basement (a.k.a. “Seminar Room” a.k.a. “1321 Davenport”).
  6. Yet another shameless plug for “The Don” and WYBC.
  7. Info on the D-port Intramural Hockey team – now I’ve got to update The Rink of Dreams!
  8. The Breakfast Club Lecture Series! (Featuring 3 out of the 5 CTO members as lecturers.) (This is just too funny to leave on the cutting room floor!)
  9. An error on the dates (this was a deductive failure on my part – I failed to consider you did an April Fools edition of TWID).
  10. The (original) Mural tea bag announcement.
  11. Throughout it all, Seth’s witty humor and Ed’s witty illustrations.

In addition, we’ve added a new “Aftoreword” from Seth, a new “Ultimate Useless Drivel from the Compiler,” and we even found a way to sneak in a cameo appearance from a fellow D’Porter from the class of 1983 we all have fond memories of.

Without further adieu, then, kick off your shoes, pour yourself a glass of your favorite adult beverage, and prepare to go back to an age when girls were girls, men were men, and – mister – we could use a guy like Herbert Hoover  again! No. Wait. That’s too far back. Rewind the rewind to just after we did the Time Warp… and… your there!

Click here (not there) to enter a place when today was the future you could only dream of.

It’s Time to Outlaw Student Loans

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Now hold on. Before you think I’ve totally lost my mind, hear me out on this one.

More than two decades ago, when Hillary Clinton was busy working on her plan to nationalize our nation’s health care system (yes, that would be when she was First Lady), the idea of how to stop spiraling health care costs suddenly hit me: Outlaw health insurance.

The reasoning was basic economics: Sellers charge what the market will bear. Because consumers didn’t pay their health care costs out-of-pocket (that’s what health insurance is for), they had no incentive to “shop” for the best price. As a result, the market (i.e., those health care consumers) could bear almost any price. Given that, it was only natural prices skyrocketed. (Well, that and an unconstrained tort system that made medical malpractice one of the fastest growing industries in America.)

Now consider college costs. They’ve skyrocketed, too. Why? Because the financial “aid” Continue Reading “It’s Time to Outlaw Student Loans”

How to Protect Yourself From Being Hypnotized Without Knowing It

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Have you ever been mesmerized? It happens all the time. To everyone. It’s like when you look at one of those pictures with all these tantalizing shapes. They dazzle your eyes, preventing you from seeing the real picture hidden within. That’s what being mesmerized is like. And you don’t even know it’s happening.

Several years ago I found myself in San Antonio to make a presentation about how research in behavioral finance identifies useful techniques to help people save for their retirement. A fellow came up to me. He had read my book 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions and told me he felt every professional should read it. Then he asked the question no author ever wants to answer: “So, how is your book selling?”

I didn’t know the best way to respond, so all I said was the coy, “I’d like sales to be better.”

Then he told me something fascinating, something I had never heard before. He revealed Continue Reading “How to Protect Yourself From Being Hypnotized Without Knowing It”

A Career vs. A Calling

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Every college graduate faces this same unknown upon graduating: How can I begin my career?

The last few weeks of college produce a rush of events. With long-term deadlines expiring in rat-a-tat-tat fashion, students push themselves at the end of their final term as if on autopilot. Their Spartan goal is to just survive from one deadline to another. Decision making becomes autonomous. They focus on “the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B” (with “Point B” almost always being walking across the stage to receive the coveted diploma).

In all this confusion, there comes a moment when the student thinks “did I fire six shots or only five?” In other words, and in a translation those not acquainted with the Eastwood canon might recognize: “Did I forget to unplug the iron?” With everything complete, there’s a few days respite before graduation when the student has a chance to breathe. That’s when there’s finally time for the student to assess things. That’s when the gnawing feeling that they forget something important takes hold.

Immediately after the celebration of graduation ends, there’s a temptation to view the Continue Reading “A Career vs. A Calling”

Old Granite Face Proves the Futility of Man Against Nature

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No one really knows for sure when it happened. The best guess says the event occurred sometime between the dark night of Friday and the lonely early morning hours of Saturday. A moist fog had covered the Cannon Mountains since Thursday. The rain only intensified on Friday, with nearly an inch pouring down into the deep crevices of the wrinkles in the weary face of the Old Man.

But it was the fatal freeze that finally did him in. As the evening turned into night, the temperatures plunged twenty degrees to within two degrees of the all-time low of 22⁰ set in 1966. The wind and rain, the freezing and thawing, the brittle sun-borne baking had taken their toll. All the King’s horses and all the King’s Men couldn’t keep Humpty Dumpty from falling again.

And fall he did. His chin gave way first. That was the keystone. For more than twelve thousand years, the weight of the four granite slabs above it rested on this protruding piece. Perhaps giving new meaning to “sticking your chin out,” nearly 80% of this bottom piece projected into thin air with no visible means of support. The remainder of the chunk of rock – a mere two feet in total – rested on the mountain’s ledge. This is where the Continue Reading “Old Granite Face Proves the Futility of Man Against Nature”

A New Beginning

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There’s nothing like strolling out to the pitcher’s mound for the first game of the season. A new season ushers in a new beginning, and with a new beginning comes new hope. For someone like me, the games may be of the past, but the smells aren’t: the sweet fragrance of the freshly mowed outfield; the gritty dryness of the dusty infield; the melts-in-your-mouth aroma of broken-in leather. With these smells, of course, bubble up the feelings of old: the promise of a clean slate; the dreams of achievements yet to be; the comradery of brothers only shared experience can forge.

Admit it. If you’ve ever played Little League Baseball, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever coached, then no doubt you’re amazed how a new generation of kids Continue Reading “A New Beginning”