Friday, January 23, 2009

Play the Odds

A bit of talk about gambling today... We've been telling A to talk with one of his teachers about an issue he is having. He won't talk to his teacher. I think he doesn't think it will help - plus, he is probably embarassed to do so.

So we discussed the possible outcomes of having such a conversation:

- Possibility 1: he gets no benefit.
- Possibility 2: he gets a small benefit, e.g., a good suggestion from his teacher.
- Possibility 3: he gets a large benefit, e.g., his teacher gives him better grades.

I emphasized that none of the possible outcomes had a negative value. Thus, even though he might think that the most likely outcome is zero, the fact that the possibility of positive outcomes exists makes this a worthwhile thing to do. Its value is the probababilty of each outcome mutiplied by each outcome's value.

I compared this with the value of a bet: heads you get $1. Tails you get nothing. A immediately knew the value of such a bet was 50 cents. And he understood it was worth betting up to 49 cents in such a bet. We spoke about other types of bets, e.g., the lottery, and about how ussually their cost is higher than their value.

Of course, one thing is understanding this "stuff", and a very different one is talking with your teacher... Oh, well.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


So after a few days of fairly "light" conversations - with the one exeption of a brief discussion about watching out for confabulations - I decided to have a serious conversation this morning. We spoke about FLOW. How one must try to find it in the things one does. What is flow? When you are so focused on what you are doing that your mind has no room for anything else. This requires several things:

- A challenge that keeps us from getting bored.
- The skills to raise to the challenge - or we get frustrated and anxious.
- Focusing on the task at hand, not its consequences or benefits

While certain activities are particularly condusive to flow, for example, in my case, skiing deep powder or kiteboarding in great conditions, one can get some amount of flow from almost any activity. Even washing the dishes (according to P & N there is a character in Lilo & Stich that loves cleaning). Just focus on what you are doing and do the best you can.

N said he is often in flow at school when doing math. And everytime he skis. The kids understood the point of all this: to feel better about ourselves and live our lives to their fullest potential. They also guessed the one activity that most people in the US devote a huge amount of time which is least condusive to flow: watching TV.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

watch what you say (and write)

We spoke today about how the Internet has made so much information publicly available. And not always for the best... I once I had a somewhat tense email exchange with a competitor. Fortunately, I didn't say anythin inapropriate because he published those emails online and they show up is you search for my name on Google.

So, whenever you write an email imagine that it might become public... We spoke about technologies for "recalling" and "expiring" emails. Someday, I imagine these will work. Today they don't.

What got this topic started? I was telling the kids that I was tempted to send a nasty reply to a rude email from a customer, but then I thought better of it. Who knows who might have a popular blog where my reply might be posted out of context?

As I told them this N immediately said: just like you told us about being nice to all drivers - since you don't know who is behind the wheel. Wow! They are listening!!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009 Goals

We are back from a terrific vacation! P wasn't feeling well today, and we suggested he stay home, but he didn't want to miss the first day of school of 2009. We spoke about goals for the new year. P wants to finish the series of books he is reading (I believe he has 7 more to go). N wants to travel a lot, particularly to the Cook Islands ;-). I said I want to learn how to medidate and how to do a back loop (kiteboarding). I asked the boys if they knew what meditation was and N went "ommmmmm".