the pursuit of happiness

I decided that non-fiction would scratch my itch for literature more than the nightmare inducing young adult books that I just powered through, so I picked up a copy of Outliers by Malcom Gladwell at the library today on my way home from answering phones for the final day of KVNF’s pledge drive. I like his other books – Blink and The Tipping Point and have been drawn in similarly to Outliers.

I’m only halfway through, but so far I would summarize his premise as this – successful people are not successful alone, there are collaborative circumstances that help success. In the field of hockey in Canada it happens to be your birthdate. For mastery of anything, it is the number of hours you are willing to put into it (10,000 hours being the magic number). And much of success lies in how your parents teach you to deal with authority and following your interests.

One former employer said to me in a moment of frustration, “you are so entitled.” Which is to mean that, overall, I expect things to go well for me. I expect to find work that I find satisfying and live a life that I find valuable. And I would say that my life backs this up. Not to say that things are always easy or that I am rich or what-have-you. But right now the apricot blossoms are blowing off the trees and spiraling towards the ground and it is gorgeous, and I have the time to sit and notice this on a Saturday afternoon and I am thankful to my parents for teaching me that my values and interests are important. I get to choose the kind of life that I have, and I have chosen this life, which means if I don’t like it, then I need to choose again.

So – I’m quickly trying to wrack my brain – how do I fit more “practical intelligence” skills into my teaching. Robert Steinberg defines it as “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.” Knowing how to ask for what you want and knowing how to help people help you to get what you want.

I’ll let you know, because I’m afraid that even more than when I was in high school, when young people look at the world they are inheriting, it is hard to feel entitled to lead a good life. But hopefully I’m just underestimating humanity’s intelligence and of course we’ll figure all this out. In fact, we already have and we just need to put the new systems in place for mass consumption.


Declaration of Independence -“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”


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