Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Enlightenment, Hump Day Hmm

This week's Hump Day Hmm asks "What stunning realization has enlightened you recently or at some point in your life and caused you to take a turn, either in your life path or in your thinking? And...what happened next?"

Well, from my recent post about how I see my life as a vision quest, and another I wrote about Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, my life feels like a series of awakenings lately. My post about rediscovering my introverted nature goes right along with those. So am I a brand new man? Not really. I have always been fairly self-aware. I've even been extremely confident in my abilities most of my life. Yet somehow I had let myself fall into a trap of not trusting myself, and not trusting that what I want was a good thing to strive for. Now I am just getting back to my more natural state of believing in myself and in my ability to learn and grow. When I want something, I am quite good at getting it. When it matters to me, I learn new skills necessary to achieve a goal or reach a new height. I just needed to remember those things.

So my recent turn has come from a lot of inspirations - my best friend, my wife, a former classmate, my own desires, and even some promptings I know come from a greater place. I have simply remembered that I can and should continue to grow as a person. I am my best self when I am learning new things and feeding off the energy of my excited brain. That is the person my wife fell in love with, the person that impressed numerous admissions counselors, and the person that will one day stand in front of a classroom full of expectant undergraduates, waiting to hear what the big bald dude at the front has to say. For me to pretend I belong elsewhere any longer would simply be a travesty, a failing on my part, and completely unacceptable. I must continue to push myself, to learn and grow, and to become more. That may not seem like enlightenment, but it qualifies as epiphany for me.

-- Robert

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fingers Crossed

We may get an offer on the house tonight, after less than a month on the market. One couple has toured it twice and apparently will make an offer. We know they spent a while touring the house because various people who passed the house on the way to where we're staying let us know how long they were there (no, we did not drive by the house ourselves repeatedly). Here's hoping (and praying) it happens!

-- Robert

Monday, July 28, 2008

Journal Writing

Yesterday I heard a talk that reminded me of the importance of journal writing. The speaker told us that we could easily learn how a decision turned out for someone in the scriptures by reading ahead and seeing what happened. In our own lives, we have to have faith and just do what we feel we are supposed to do. He reminded me of why we are encouraged in our church to keep a journal. By keeping a journal, we can look back at our own decisions later and see how things turned out - somewhat like our own set of scriptures for our lives. It also gives our children the chance to learn from those trials we've been through, as we can share our journals with them if they are interested. One of the greatest parts about keeping a journal is that it gives future generations a chance to know about what went before - what did we think about during a certain period of history as it was happening, what gave us joy or sorrow, or simply what mattered enough to be written down. In writing a journal, I can appreciate why so little detail is given to explain particular individuals or places in the scripture stories - after all, who thinks to explain their own circumstances in such detail? It helps me also understand that the main lessons of value in life have nothing to do with what clothes were worn, what cars were driven, or what new fad diet was all the rage. What matters in life are the joys and sorrows, the experience gained from how those are handled, and how we use the wisdom gained from that experience.

And as for anyone who thinks "When can I find the time to write a journal?" I recall the words of Randy Pausch on the subject. Saving important emails, calendars, and other such devices (writings on a blog, anyone?) can serve just as well as writing in a personal journal. What email you save shows a lot about what matters, and having it later can be just as helpful in recalling matters of importance. After all, quite a few books of the New Testament were letters written on matters of importance to a person or a group. So, if I sometimes write things that seem awfully personal on my blog, it is because this blog is as much a journal of what matters to me as anything else. It is not carved onto metal plates or into stone tablets, there is no parchment carefully crafted from animal skin, but all the same, it is my statement to the world of who I am and what matters to me.

-- Robert

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why Don't We Talk About Rainbows?

Friday was my fifth anniversary. I had planned to write a post about my five wonderful years with my wife. I didn't get to it early, though, and I wasn't feeling the inspiration I wanted to write. Then Randy Pausch died, and I wrote that post instead. Then Saturday I found the inspiration I needed. During an afternoon spent walking around outdoors, thinking the whole time it might be ended by a sudden downpour, the group I was with noticed a rainbow, then two rainbows. It felt like a sweet promise that we would get to finish our planned event before the rain came, which was just how it came to be. As we continued to observe the rainbows, people commented on the most beautiful ones they'd ever seen, and I remembered mine.

Just after Ellie and I started dating, she picked me up at the airport in Salt Lake to take me to Idaho so I could see her play in a concert, and on the way there we drove underneath a magnificent rainbow. It was amazing because it just got bigger and bigger as we approached, and it didn't disappear when we got beneath it. I mentioned that rainbow to one of the women Saturday and she said "Was there a pot of gold?" I said just what I remembered thinking at the time - I had my treasure right here.

Cheesy? Certainly. But it was and is how I felt. So, as I look back on five years of marriage, I definitely see a lot of memories to treasure with a wonderful wife and mother of my two beautiful children. She is my best friend, the person I love most to make laugh, and my favorite person to spend time traveling with. Life can become mundane and we can overlook the small blessings when we're together all the time, but it helps me to sometimes recall how we began, looking at rainbows in wonder and awe. Once upon a time, we were not able to be together all the time, and we couldn't wait for that to change. Now we're together all the time, and I am so grateful we got that wish. So, to my wife, thank you for loving me and marrying me. Thanks for being in the pot at the end of the rainbow.

-- Robert

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Ellie has this on her blog, and I thought it looked fun, so I'm playing along.

So here's how it works...

1. As a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you know me a little or a lot, anything you remember!

2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. If you leave a memory about me, I'll assume you're playing the game and I'll come to your blog and leave one about you. If you don't want to play on your blog, or if you don't have a blog, I'll leave my memory of you in my comments.

So there you have it! Post away! Oh,and if you don't "know" me well enough to have a memory, feel free to use anything you've read here. A favorite post you've read, etc. that way everyone can play!

-- Robert

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Tribute to Dr. Randy Pausch

Oh how little did we know
how much we'd come to care
about a man who dreamed big dreams
and had so much to share.
If we each could lead a life like his,
so full and so fresh,
the world would be a better place
'cause we'd all know we're blessed.
He might have lived a day longer,
or avoided his painful death,
but many of us would have missed out,
and never known how his life was spent.
For he was a man who gave all he had
to what and who he loved,
and for his sacrifice we must give thanks,
and wish him well above.

Dr. Randy Pausch died today, having spent many of his last days fighting for a cause he knew would be left for others to take up. He showed the world in that time the importance of living a full life and pursuing dreams - truly he was an imagineer at heart. He will be missed, but hopefully not forgotten. I only just learned about him a few months ago, and yet he inspired me as much as many people I have known my whole life. I am grateful he lived and that I did hear of him, and my prayers are with his wife and young children. The world is just a little dimmer today, as one of its sons goes out of it.

-- Robert

Thursday, July 24, 2008

For Those Who've Been Wondering...

I know some people first read this blog looking for political commentary. Two things: first, we started this blog to write about positive things in life - self improvement, money management, life experiences - and second, I really have nothing positive to say about this campaign season. I'm not particularly excited about either candidate for president, though I'll hold my nose and vote for McCain over Obama based off the insanity I hear from Obama. I just can't bring myself to write a lot about this year anymore because there is too much out there as it is, and I can't add anything meaningful to the mix. So, rather than stump for someone I don't have a lot of passion for, or share my views on someone I think will be at best incompetent and at worst a terrifying person to have as president, I would prefer to focus on good things in my own life and the life of my children. I do apologize, sincerely and with no ill will, if my recent posts have grown boring as a result. I write my posts as much for myself as for anyone else. Feel free to keep reading, though. I appreciate any comments I get.

-- Robert

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good News

Okay, so it may not be "news" and it may or may not be good. But it felt good.

After getting an email about one school from a professor who used to teach at my old school, I checked into that school. I talked to the former Ph.D. coordinator and he had me email him so the new one could call me back. Well, after he got back from vacation, he called me yesterday, and he verified that they only accept students in even years.

I had assumed just from the emails that it wouldn't go anywhere.

But he asked me if I'd taken the GMAT. I told him I had twice, and I gave my score, same one both times. He asked "Were you not satisfied the first time?" somewhat incredulously. I explained the timing between them and that made sense to him. Then he explained, "Well, let me talk to the Dean and the Admissions Council, discuss whether or not you could take the second year first and the first year second, do them in reverse. I'm not sure we'd able to do it, we've never done it before, but we might be able to make an exception to get you in."

Something in that statement sent a thrill up my spine. He wanted to see my resume, and he wouldn't be able to let me know anything for several months, but it was still nice to feel that wanted. He wondered why I wouldn't apply to the top schools - Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton - and I gave him reasons why I might not. He must have been satisfied he had a chance to get me, because he made it clear I should expect to hear back in the fall.

So I guess I might just have an ace in the hole.

-- Robert

Friday, July 18, 2008

Come On In, the Water's Fine

Maybe I am a little naive. Perhaps I have just been really fortunate in my experience. Somehow, though, I have a strong sense that the academic community is much more welcoming than the corporate world. Most of the people I have talked to are at least helpful, and very often quite warm, open, and informative. If they have been brief, it has usually been because I caught them as they were headed somewhere. Still, what a great feeling, to get the sense that research professors will welcome new people into their community so freely.

As I said, perhaps I am being naive. I know politics plays a role in any interaction - after all, these people might actually have to work with me somewhere along the line and would hate to be rude - but I do not get the feeling that the people I've talked to are maneuvering. Instead they seem more like someone who just got asked about his personal collection. By showing interest in a subject they care about, I have opened the door for them to share their experience and knowledge - something they clearly love to do. After all, these individuals each got into research because of their own innate curiosity and passion for learning. Of course they look forward for the chance to share with someone else who shares their passion.

At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

-- Robert

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fear of Success

Recently I was talking with a long time associate whose name and relationship I will withhold from this post. He has spent many years pursuing different ideas and most recently is close to completing a degree, though he still has certain elements he must finish that he has not made much progress on in a while. Whenever we discuss where he will go after he graduates, he has ambiguous answers that sound too much like a high school senior to logically be coming from someone completing graduate work. He has, like so many others, an apparent fear of success. I have certainly felt guilty of this phenomenon at times, so I'm not trying to point fingers, it just hit me as we were talking.

What is fear of success? Being afraid to get what one wants. Being scared to move from the "small pond" of academics to the "big sea" of the real world. Being handed the ball at crunch time in a big game after begging for it for a long time and realizing it's time to shoot. Fear of success can be much worse than fear of failure. It compels people to choose failure to avoid the risk of increased expectations. I had many bright friends in high school who made terrible grades because they hated the pressure success brought along with it. It was just easier to fail and then say later "Oh, what might've been."

The fact is, no one aspires to lose the Super Bowl. No one wants to be the last out that lets the other team win a World Series. No one hopes to be the answer to the trivia question "Who did president X defeat in the year XXXX to become president?" So, rather than risk rising up, only to still lose, it is easier to stay down.

I think, in a way, I see some of myself in my comments. As I said, I've seen fear of success in myself at times. In a way, that may have been what held me back from starting my academic career earlier. I can just imagine myself standing in front of a room of fifty, a hundred, or two hundred students with their faces ranging from hopeful fascination to boredom to outright disregard. In that moment, will I crumble? Will I stand with my knees knocking together behind a podium and my mouth drying out? Will I be the one they all tell stories about that involve "Make sure you avoid this class because" or even "If you want to get an easy A, take this guy because he's an idiot."? Or will I be the professor they come to love? I will only know once I get there, if I ever truly know. But if I let my fear defeat me before I start, I will be left to forever wonder, "Oh, what might've been." I don't want to be a "might have been" or a "never was." Being a "has been" sounds so much better in light of those cruel phrases. At least that means I was once. So I'm left to seek out my true potential, to test myself again the best in the field and find my own way. Will I be the best? Probably not. I just want to be in the running, which means I have to actually try. Hands folded, head down, here I go.

-- Robert

Friday, July 11, 2008

When Opportunity Knocks...

As I have written here, I have been researching business schools. I have talked to professors at six universities or more, and I have picked their brains whenever possible. Yesterday, I got some excellent advice from one of my former teachers - she suggested I attend an annual conference put on by the Academy of Management. It is in four weeks in Anaheim, California. Before the end of the day, I had a membership in that esteemed body, a flight, a hotel, and a registration receipt for the conference.

Those who know me well, know that I rarely do things impetuously. I like to plan ahead somewhat, and I definitely like to know what I am getting myself into. So clearly, to take that advice and act so quickly might not seem to be in character, but I am a man of action when waiting will cost me an opportunity that might make the difference in accomplishing my goals. By attending this conference, I will have the chance to immerse myself in the world of academic research, to meet professors and doctoral students from many different programs, and to see the topics being developed right now. What better way to get myself ready to join their world?

I know the advice my professor has given me could be the difference I need to get accepted by a top school. At the very least, I will get a glimpse of my future, and who wouldn't want to see that? So, to my professor, thank you, I hope to make you proud.

-- Robert

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Monopoly - A Game That Can Be Made Fun (and Made a Lesson in Real Life)

Melissa's post today is about Monopoly, a game Ellie and I love to play. We've actually played three games in a row before. So, given Melissa's problems with the game,s I decided to share some advice on how Ellie and I came to enjoy the game more.
  • If you play with $500 in free parking, quit. We did because I almost always got it, and it drove Ellie nuts. We only put fines there now, so it's not nearly such a windfall.
  • Don't make deals to keep people in the game. Yes, it sounds harsh, but it is actually a little bit of a lesson in real life, because most people in the real world aren't going to be easy on a person who owes three times his net worth. We've also learned that it unecessarily prolongs the game since it often would require a run of huge luck for the person who gets "kept in" to actually win.

Now, another thing I would suggest is playing the "fast game." Recently, we played with friends in a way that sped up those "early stages" and actually speeds up everything. Int's not necessary to go out and buy the game, but there is a third die in new games that has a 1, 2, and 3 on half, then the other half is two buses and a little man. We made the buses 4 and 6 and the little man five on a different colored die to accomplish this without spending more money to have a game we already own. Anyway, a person gets to start rolling the third die after he's made one trip around the board (getting sent to go counts as having gone around). Everyone also starts with an extra $1,000 at the beginning. The third die has two functions: it speeds progress around the board, and it speeds purchase of properties. The bus makes it so a person can choose between the other two dice and move just the number on one or the other (or choose both). The little man sends the person to the next unowned property until all the property is acquired (so it cuts down on one person getting way ahead while others are just chasing behind and paying rent). Once all the property is acquired, the little man sends the person to the next property he DOES NOT own (so it speeds up his demise). If a 1,2, or 3 is rolled, then it is simply tacked on to the first two dice to make a bigger roll. What happens is a much faster game where all the properties quickly get distributed, and once that happens, people tend to win or lose more quickly.

Oh, and one last bit of advice - call for a moratorium on gloating and pouting. Imagine if a hotel clerk gloated in a person's face every time he checked someone in - that hotel would lose business. Gloating does make the game miserable, and pouting does, too (who wants to travel with someone who always whines when he has to pay?). Having to put up with gloating or whining makes any game intolerable (does anyone want to invite back the guy who whines about losing at poker - unless he willingly loses a pile of cash in the process every time?).

Winning and losing are a part of life, and both are good lessons to learn. My brother used to pound me into oblivion every time we played. He would take all my ridiculous deals (I had a bad problem with NEEDING Boardwalk and Park Place, and like any addict I would pay a premium to get it every game). What I learned from him not taking it easy on me was that I was playing the game poorly. I learned to quit selling my soul to get particular things and instead just went with it. I'm not sure I ever beat my brother - I was just nine when he died, so it's likely I didn't - but I am thankful for the lesson he taught me. Children need to learn how to play games well without being given a free pass on the hard knocks of the game. My family never let me win at cards when I was little, either, and now I am good at any card game I've ever bothered to learn. Too many people in today's society think we should avoid letting children "suffer" by getting bad grades, lose at sports, or in any way feel like they aren't the best. The problem is, we're setting children up to fail in the real world that way. Someone wins, someone loses, more often than not. Win-win is a cute buzzword, mostly. Occasionally two people both get what they want, and that's great, but it's foolhardy to prepare children to think that a boss, a coworker, a spouse, or anyone is going to "let them win" at life. So the next time a child asks to play Monopoly, try my rules, and teach him to enjoy a game I love.

-- Robert

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Beauty of Difference

I have known a lot of different people in my life. Many of them are extremely intelligent, and even more are very talented. What I have learned in getting to know such a wide variety of people is that normal is a myth, or as one young man said to me in high school, "Normal is a setting on a washing machine." I find it ironic that the same young man who said that now, as a father, seems to be working hard to help his autistic son be "normal". Unless I misunderstood his intentions, he believes that by removing the excess heavy metals from his son's blood stream, his son will become a "normal" kid. I find myself remembering the short story about the man with a beautiful, loving wife, who desperately wanted to remove her peculiar birthmark so she would be "even better," only to find when he finally did that she died. Being different is not wrong. In fact, most of my friends in school have been the people who were very different from the rest of society.

This week, The Hump Day Hmm asks us to consider the drive to fix or make normal, especially when it comes to children. As a parent, I find myself wanting to nurture the special qualities of my children, knowing all too well that some of those attributes will be attacked by society (and the educational system) simply because they are "different." As I have studied the different schools I am considering applying to, I have come across the discipline of Positive Organizational Studies, which has roots in the growing field of positive psychology. What I love about the discipline of POS is the focus on the positive. Researchers look for the good in an industry, a company, a department, or simply a small group within the greater whole. My mother taught me, sometimes to my annoyance, to look for the good in other people. To bring this aside back to my point, I try to look for the good in my children, and I try to help them look for the good in other people. My wife and I both have a lot of friends who come from far outside the "norm" and we appreciate the beauty of difference. If everyone was the same, after all, the world would be a very boring place.

So, would I do something to help a disabled child of mine be "normal"? I can't say I wouldn't work to help my child adapt their special qualities to be able to deal with society, but I would not automatically assume they needed to be "fixed." One of the greatest men I have known had cerebral palsy from birth. Despite his "disability," he completed a doctorate at Yale. What might he have become if he were normal? Who knows. It's just as likely that he would have been a wonderful, capable person, but he might not have worked so hard to achieve what he did.

I am thankful for diversity, and I appreciate that some of the greatest people I will ever meet might be considered "handicapped" by someone else. Blind, deaf, and dumb men and women have contributed greatly to art, science, and education. Some of the hardest workers I have ever observed are labelled "retarded" by medical science, though supposedly "normal" employees at many a retailer (to use a Southernism) "ain't worth killin'." More often than not someone who is different, who doesn't learn like the rest of society, or that the world labels harshly for some supposed deficiency, has more to teach us than a dozen college professors.

-- Robert

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cult of Personality

So I saw that Melissa had taken a personality test she saw on Angela's site, which was done by the BBC. I have always been fascinated by personality tests, and given some of my recent posts about my personality, I had actually been looking to take one again. My result, just like Melissa's, was that I am a Mastermind. The comments on that type (in case someone doesn't feel like clicking the link) suggest that Masterminds are:

  • Visionaries who put energy into achieving their goals
  • Prefer to work independently and dislike inefficiency
  • Think of themselves as logical, thorough, and bright
  • Values practicality and common sense above ideas and theories
All of those fit me pretty well, and then there was the continuing commentary:

"In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Masterminds may cut themselves off from a group and criticize people who don't understand their plans. Under extreme stress, Masterminds may overindulge in sensory experiences like eating, shopping or watching television."


"Masterminds are drawn to jobs requiring logical analysis or abstract thinking common in science or technical fields."

Hmm, that last bit sounds a bit like a "professor" to me, since professors research and develop qualitative and quantitative analyses to describe some interesting (at least to them) aspect of life. So, in short, I would say the test was mostly accurate. I do quite well with group work, though, so I would not completely agree with some of the ways it described how I might work with others, but I definitely have a habit of eating (shocking, I know), shopping (though generally only for technology items), or watching TV (which I do my best to avoid by not having one near me). From Melissa's site, I take it that makes me an INTJ, according to the acronym used by Meyers-Briggs. I don't see that result anywhere on the actual BBC site, but I know those names provided by the site correspond to terms given to label each personality type, which can almost certainly be Googled, so I trust Melissa there. I remember being labelled an Idealist in graduate school and thinking two things: one, I wasn't not sure it completely fit (though I have always loved helping others reach their potential), and two, I didn't appreciate the professor pointing out that "no major business leader has that personality." So I went home and checked and found out that Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's, was considered an Idealist by type. So I was vindicated, but I may have also demonstrated just how much I am a Mastermind, as I love to research just to prove a point.

-- Robert

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Vision Quest

I remember reading about Native American tribesmen who were sent on a journey at a certain age so they could have a vision for what their life was to be. As I write this on my daughter's fourth birthday, I find myself looking back at my life as a long pathway to a vision I probably first imagined in high school. In every dream I concocted on my own, my future involved the ending of "and retiring to teach what I've learned" because I knew I wanted to teach, but I had been duped into believing that one cannot teach and provide well for one's family. I had also been taught regularly the worldly mantra's of "those who can't do, teach" and "business professors are where they are because they couldn't make it in the real world." I have come to see the fallacy in those thoughts. After all, if teachers were really so awful, why should we entrust our own education to them (let alone our children's, but that's a completely separate story). Honestly, if the men and women who taught me were so terrible, then how come I still look back at what I learned from them with so much admiration? Now I see the great teachers in my life and they mark so many of the milestones I have passed. Yet, that is not what struck me today as I talked to my wife on our drive home. I see now that my life has come to this point because now is when I am ready to pursue that dream I was too afraid to believe I could before. I have tried and failed to live the dream of my brother - though I think the writing skills I developed will help my dream. I have tried and succeeded in some ways to pursue a dream my father gave me with my business - and I have definitely learned from the failures and successes that came with that job. Now I can use those skills learned from the borrowed dreams and accomplish my own dream: I will teach. I will be good at it. I will research, and come to enjoy that as much if not more than teaching. I will become what I was always meant to be. I can return to the tribe, having seen my vision on my long journey, and take my name: professor.

-- Robert

Thursday, July 3, 2008

President Washington

Today on the radio I heard a reading of a speech made by a Native American chieftan about General Washington, before he became our first president. I would definitely love to find it to read it directly. It spoke highly of his wisdom, bravery, and leadership. The chief said it was impossible for him to be killed in battle because "The Great Spirit watches over him". Truly, even then, he was recognized as a great man. As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, I think it's important to remember men like Washington who risked so much to give us this great nation, as well as the men and women who have fought to preserve our freedom and give us the chance to ooh and ah at fancy fireworks displays and to eat elaborately unhealthy meals with friends and family. I know we can never repay the debt owed to those men and women, but we can at least honor them by remembering them during our celebrations.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Reload and Recharge

This week's Hump Day Hmm asks "what do you do to feed your soul? What renews you?"

I enjoy a lot of things, but learning something probably feeds me the most. I like to learn new stories about people, I enjoy learning a new element of history, and I enjoy learning a skill. I enjoy time with friends, but the most memorable times have always been those conversations that go on for hours about deep and meaningful elements of life - either the deepest desires of the person I'm talking with or one of those times when we both conclude something together that resonates. Those are the type of conversations I find myself standing up from and wanting to run, to go, to do. I want to use the new knowledge, to implement the new strategy, or do whatever it is that has come to me (and my friend) in a eureka moment.

The most recent such conversation that stands out is one with my good friend and co-blogger Todd. We were discussing the future, and he said simply "Both of these possibilities look great, and you'll do well with either one, but it's not like they are your only choices. You can do anything you want to. What is it that you most want to do in life?"

I knew the answer, and I have written about it a great deal in the weeks since, but that simple observation had a profound impact on me. I continue to be energized by the feelings I had in that conversation. It certainly didn't hurt that I was already considering other things, and that I had just read The Last Lecture, but I credit Todd with helping me finally open my eyes. I won't blame him if things get hard, though, because I know I am making my own choices about where I go from here. I just appreciate having a friend that cares enough not to simply enable me in whatever plan I'm trying to justify.

Good friends, learning, great life experiences. I could go days without eating if I could just enjoy those things.

-- Robert