Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Save your chips

Last week of the school year! Nico told his brothers today that it was very important for him that they attended his lower school graduation tomorrow. They both said they would go if the could. This reminded me of a request a relative once made from me to attend an event that was important for him. I personally didn't see why he felt the event was important, it wasn't important for me, and it required significant effort for me to attend, but I obliged. Yet right after the event the same relative asked me to attend another "important" event. This time I said no. To put it bluntly, I felt he had "used his chip".

It is OK to ask for multiple things from someone, particularly from friends and family, but be sensitive to the burden you might be placing on others. You might want to say something like: "I would love for you to do A, B and C for me. If you are too busy to do all three, no worries, hopefully you can at least do A". This approach has at least two positive aspects: 1) You let people know what your priorities are, in case they can't do everything, and 2) You acknowledge that you are asking for multiple things and that you are sensitive to their own situation. That second point, in my experience, increases the likelihood that the person will do all three things for you. People react better when they see you are sensitive and care about them...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Walking Before Running

Ale thought the grading criteria that his history teacher uses is interesting:

5 if you show you know "most" of the information, but not all.
6 if you show you know all the information.
7 if you show you know all the information and present it with style and wit.

What Ale found interesting was that the quality of the presentation didn't come into play until you showed you mastered the subject matter. In other words, showing with style and wit that you knew most, but not all, the information wouldn't move your grade from a 5 to a 6.

Several interesting take aways: Most obviously, you must walk before you can run. Master the basics before you take things to the next level. Don't try to get "fancy" until you are ready. But there is another interesting point: some skills help you in many aspects of your life. In this particular case, being a good writer can help you with your history, not just your English. The same applies to math, which helps you in physics, chemistry, economics, and many other subjects. It is important to be conscious of these key skills and devote to them the effort necessary to get really good at them. It will pay back with dividends!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Paco spoke about the importance of not memorizing blinding but always trying to understand things. I agreed, but said sometime we simply had to memorize facts. For example, when in school they have to memorize countries and capitals. Ale said that was an example where one could do more, such as learn a bit about each country, its location, some facts, etc.

Nico mentioned that in theater it is important to understand the context of each scene and character, not just to memorize one lines. He said he sometimes he memorizes other characters' lines, in addition to his own, in case the other actors need help.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Calculated Risks

Nico told Cindy something about a book that he is reading - but she hasn't. Paco told Nico to be careful about not ruining the book for her. Nico thought the details were minor so Cindy wouldn't mind. This made me think of mistakes that can be fixed vs. those that can't. If you tell someone too much about a book or movie, you might ruin it for them and there is nothing you can do about it. You can't take back what you said. Another, more serious, example would be if you physically harm someone in a car accident. The damage is done and there is no turning back (at least not until someone invents a time machine!). Contrast that with a mistake that can be fixed: you purchase shoes that are the wrong size? Exchange them. You break someone's else's toy? Buy him a new one. It might still be a hassle or a significant expense to fix these mistakes, but at least you can.

So what? If you are not sure something you are about to do is right, think about the consequences of being wrong. Be more careful in situations for which there will be no fix if you make a mistake. Another way of thinking about this is the concept of "calculated risks": I am in a hurry and can't find parking. If I am comfortable with the risk of getting a parking ticket I might just park illegally. But if I am not comfortable with the risk of hurting someone in a car accident I shouldn't speed or go through Red lights.

An example from sailing: If you are over the line early at the start of a race you can correct your mistake by going back and restarting. A costly mistake but not necessarily a "lethal" one. But if you have a collision with another sailboat, no matter how small, you will be disqualified from the race entirely if you could have avoided it.