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Showing posts from May, 2014

E.L. Doctorow Tells A Story About Writing A Note To His Daughter's Teacher, And Everyone Breathes A Little Easier

E.L. Doctorow is onstage at the 2014 World Science Festival, with a panel of other astonishing writers moderated by NPR's John Hockenberry, telling a story rooted in a quote he attributes to Thomas Mann: "A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." Doctorow's daughter has been home from school with a cold for a few days and needs a note from a parent to give to the teacher upon her return. Its a few minutes before the bus arrives, no worries, and he begins the note "Please excuse my daughter..." then stops. "I don't need to make an excuse for my daughter, she did nothing wrong," he tells himself and begins with a new piece of paper. "My daughter caught a virus" then stops. "Wait a minute, my daughter didn't 'catch' a virus, if anything a virus 'caught' my daughter." He begins again with a new paper. "My daughter has been out of school for the last few d…

MindSet: The Template For Successful Learning and Change

An article in the May 18 Sunday New York Times Magazine about research out of the University of Texas discusses some truly exciting and important work linking students' mindset to their academic performance and long-term chances for success. Everyone should read "Who Gets To Graduate? because it investigates an important and pressing problem in our culture: promising, highly-motivated students who lose their way in college and leave without graduating, in debt and demoralized. And because the research has implications for understanding what works in the process of making change, which impacts all of us. 
Maybe this article connected so deeply with me because I dropped out of college twice before I was able to navigate the feelings described by participants in these studies: low-income and minority students who had earned the right to be in a good school but felt out of place nonetheless. For me, financial pressures were intertwined with a sense that I did not belong with peers…

What We Can Learn From Psychopaths

Charm. Coolness under pressure. Self-confidence. Courage. Resilience to stress. These are all traits that tend to be found in psychopaths, who also rate high on traits of ruthlessness, fearlessness, and absence of empathy. A "good" psychopath might employ these traits to make tough calls on the field of battle - whether that is saving a comrade-in-arms, a company on the brink or a manipulative, out-of-control addict - while a "dysfunctional" psychopath will definitely use them to manipulate others and make their lives a battlefield. Some very successful people - very successful, with positions of great authority like CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, politicians and priests, rate very high on the scale of psychopathy, according to new research discussed in a new book, The Good Psychopath's Guide To Success: How To Use Your Inner Psychopath To Get The Most Out Of Life.  And according to these researchers, some of those traits are worth cultivating and used for pos…