Let the gods decide

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash, modified by author

In a lecture course there’s no need to choose among the students: all students simply take notes, though from time to time one may ask a question for clarification. Some courses, however, require students to actively participate in class. Such classes use some form of the Socratic method, in which students do the talking or presentation, with the teacher acting as a coach or guide, asking occasional questions and keeping the discussion productive.

In discussions classes students talk more than the teacher. The teacher often calls upon students — to go to the board to demonstrate a theorem in geometry…


Withered good intentions can bloom again if you learn how to recover from failure

Image for post
Image for post
These crooked branches grow into an orderly top; a crooked path can still reach your goal. (photo by author)

Given that immediate and sustained success is extremely rare, we all experience multiple instances and kinds of failure. It follows that knowing how to handle failure—and, ideally, how to recover from it and set things aright — is an important skill to learn.

Some failures are easy to spot and have simple solutions — for example, a basketball player who can’t make a free throw can see the failure and remedy it through practice. Other failures are more invidious, developing gradually over time with the signs of developing failure obscured by the signal noise of daily life.

For example, anyone…


Patience is not a gift but a skill; skills require practice.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Little John on Unsplash

Patience is important, but like any skill it must be learned, so impatience is common (and can have serious consequences).

Impatience differs from impulsiveness. In impulsive behavior, the issue of patience does not arise: a person who habitually acts on impulse does so not because they are impatient but because they have poor impulse control. Controlling impulses is important, and developing that skill may require patience, but the two things — impulsiveness and impatience — are different. Impatience is a feeling (a kind of frustration), and impulsiveness is a habit of action (one worth breaking).

You can be impatient with…


The unfamiliar makes us uneasy, so some pretend it’s like previous experience.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

I think we all like — or are at least comfortably reassured by — the familiar. In Patrick O’Brian’s (excellent) series of British naval novels in the Napoleonic era, Stephen Maturin quotes a Catalan benediction on parting: “May no new thing arise.”

New things make us uneasy because they are unfamiliar, so we don’t know what to expect nor how best to respond. I just moved into a new apartment, and I like it better as it becomes more familiar. …


Some say a disaster is looming, others believe it’s overblown — what’s your take?

FutureMe.org allows you to write an email that it will send to you at a date you specify. The World Health Organization has officially stated that we are now experiencing a pandemic of coronavirus.

Test your prognostic talent. Go to FutureMe and write yourself an email to be delivered to you on (say) 1 July 2020, setting out your expectations and predictions. For example, you may believe that it’s no big deal, just like the flu but with a lower mortality rate. …


But I finally figured out why I was repeatedly short of money

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels

Years ago I was mystified at how consistently I ran short of money each month. I understood why someone supporting a family on a low-paying job (or two) would face financial straits. But I was earning a decent salary and living on my own — and still I came up short. That made no sense.

Then I discovered what I call “implicit spending.” Some possessions must eventually be replaced. I finally realized that, as I use one of those, I am implicitly spending money. For example, take a computer I bought for $2000. Now that I own it, I thought…


A simple meal schema based on the Daily Dozen

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Part 2 of Dr. Michael Greger’s book How Not to Die (a fascinating read on how diet affects chronic illnesses, for good or bad) consists of his guidelines for a whole-food plant-based diet. Those guidelines were a lifesaver for me when I switched overnight from the low-carb high-fat diet that I had followed in the mistaken belief that it would help my type 2 diabetes.

It was not helping — exactly the opposite. It’s true that on the LCHF diet, my blood glucose was low, but that was because I was eating virtually no carbs (including dietary fiber, a carb…


Your theories of action: Theory in Use vs. Espoused Theory

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash, modified by author

Your “hidden personality” is hidden only from you — others get a clear understanding of it from your actions and words because behavior conveys personality. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that some people view themselves very differently from how others see them.

For example, assholes don’t view themselves as such, though from time to time, one will, with a shock of recognition, see that they have acted exactly as an asshole would. Sometimes that results in a positive change — they are, as it were, scared straight and take a more thoughtful and careful in future interactions.

Our theory of action consists…


If you wait for someone to empower you, that’s not being empowered.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

IBM once did a study in which employees and their managers were asked separately via a questionnaire whether the employee had the authority to make various decisions or take various actions without first getting authorization from the manager. The idea was to see whether employees could accurately judge the extent of their power and authority.

In many instances, employees and managers disagreed. Employees responded that they had to get clearance from their managers, but managers generally said that their employees were empowered to take action on their own.

Empowered employees are more productive and happier in their jobs, but if…


Building a conversation

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash, modified by author

Questioning is not the mode of conversation among gentlemen. It is assuming a superiority, and it is particularly wrong to question a man concerning himself. There may be parts of his former life which he may not wish to be made known to other persons, or even brought to his own recollection.
— Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell

Once at a party long ago, I asked someone I had just met, “What do you do for a living?” and got an embarrassed and somewhat angry response, “I’m currently unemployed.” …

Michael Ham

Wrote “Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way.” Blogs at leisureguy.wordpress.com. Enjoys cooking, reading, movies, and listening to jazz.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store