Being married to the world’s richest athlete apparently has done little to change Elin’s public persona. We don’t see her doing reality shows, we don’t see her on the covers of magazines every month, and aside from releasing some photos, she doesn’t parade around her children – two-year-old Sam and nine-month-old Charlie – seeking publicity. It’s refreshing, really, to see someone in the limelight who’s so apparently unconcerned with the fame-hungry world of modern celebrity.

And this brings up the question of obligation. Is Elin Woods obligated to share anything about herself with the world just because of the man she married? Of course not.  Their private life is just that: private. Anything that goes on behind closed doors is their business, and theirs alone … as long as no crimes have been committed. Without speculating on the Woods case, any time there is a reasonable suspicion of domestic violence, it does indeed become a public matter.


Ben Bernanke is a criminal?

November 25, 2009

Interfaith dialogue

November 25, 2009

One of the problems in the past with interfaith dialogue is we’ve been too unwilling to upset each other.

– Rabbi Ted Falcon, who with Rev. Don Mackenzie and Sheik Jamal Rahman are known as the “interfaith amigos” as they speak around the country on what they call “the spirituality of interfaith relations.” (Source: The New York Times)
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In case you missed it…

The Coming Deficit Disaster

November 21, 2009


President Barack Obama took office promising to lead from the center and solve big problems. He has exerted enormous political energy attempting to reform the nation’s health-care system. But the biggest economic problem facing the nation is not health care. It’s the deficit. Recently, the White House signaled that it will get serious about reducing the deficit next year—after it locks into place massive new health-care entitlements. This is a recipe for disaster, as it will create a new appetite for increased spending and yet another powerful interest group to oppose deficit-reduction measures.

Our fiscal situation has deteriorated rapidly in just the past few years. The federal government ran a 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion—the highest since World War II—as spending reached nearly 25% of GDP and total revenues fell below 15% of GDP. Shortfalls like these have not been seen in more than 50 years.

Going forward, there is no relief in sight, as spending far outpaces revenues and the federal budget is projected to be in enormous deficit every year. Our national debt is projected to stand at $17.1 trillion 10 years from now, or over $50,000 per American. By 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis of the president’s budget, the budget deficit will still be roughly $1 trillion, even though the economic situation will have improved and revenues will be above historical norms.

The planned deficits will have destructive consequences for both fairness and economic growth. They will force upon our children and grandchildren the bill for our overconsumption. Federal deficits will crowd out domestic investment in physical capital, human capital, and technologies that increase potential GDP and the standard of living. Financing deficits could crowd out exports and harm our international competitiveness, as we can already see happening with the large borrowing we are doing from competitors like China.

At what point, some financial analysts ask, do rating agencies downgrade the United States? When do lenders price additional risk to federal borrowing, leading to a damaging spike in interest rates? How quickly will international investors flee the dollar for a new reserve currency? And how will the resulting higher interest rates, diminished dollar, higher inflation, and economic distress manifest itself? Given the president’s recent reception in China—friendly but fruitless—these answers may come sooner than any of us would like.

Mr. Obama and his advisers say they understand these concerns, but the administration’s policy choices are the equivalent of steering the economy toward an iceberg. Perhaps the most vivid example of sending the wrong message to international capital markets are the health-care reform bills—one that passed the House earlier this month and another under consideration in the Senate. Whatever their good intentions, they have too many flaws to be defensible.

First and foremost, neither bends the health-cost curve downward. The CBO found that the House bill fails to reduce the pace of health-care spending growth. An audit of the bill by Richard Foster, chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, found that the pace of national health-care spending will increase by 2.1% over 10 years, or by about $750 billion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bill grows just as fast as the House version. In this way, the bills betray the basic promise of health-care reform: providing quality care at lower cost.

Second, each bill sets up a new entitlement program that grows at 8% annually as far as the eye can see—faster than the economy will grow, faster than tax revenues will grow, and just as fast as the already-broken Medicare and Medicaid programs. They also create a second new entitlement program, a federally run, long-term-care insurance plan.

Finally, the bills are fiscally dishonest, using every budget gimmick and trick in the book: Leave out inconvenient spending, back-load spending to disguise the true scale, front-load tax revenues, let inflation push up tax revenues, promise spending cuts to doctors and hospitals that have no record of materializing, and so on.

If there really are savings to be found in Medicare, those savings should be directed toward deficit reduction and preserving Medicare, not to financing huge new entitlement programs. Getting long-term budgets under control is hard enough today. The job will be nearly impossible with a slew of new entitlements in place.

In short, any combination of what is moving through Congress is economically dangerous and invites the rapid acceleration of a debt crisis. It is a dramatic statement to financial markets that the federal government does not understand that it must get its fiscal house in order.

What to do? The best option would be for the president to halt Congress’s rush to fiscal suicide, and refocus on slowing the dangerous growth in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He should call on Congress to pass a comprehensive reform of our income and payroll tax systems that would generate revenue sufficient to fund its spending desires in a pro-growth and fair fashion.

Reducing entitlement spending and closing tax loopholes to create a fairer tax system with more balanced revenues is politically difficult and requires sacrifice. But we will avert a potentially devastating credit crisis, increase national savings, drive productivity and wage growth, and enhance our international competitiveness.

The time to worry about the deficit is not next year, but now. There is no time to waste.

Mr. Holtz-Eakin is former director of the Congressional Budget Office and a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. This is adapted from testimony he gave before the Senate Committee on the Budget on Nov. 10.

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Ed. note: It seems like a rite of passage to post about habit forming on a personal growth blog.  But the primary reason I’m posting this is because I feel I have something to add to the conversation, not just because I have Leo envy!  Hopefully you pickup a trick or two from this post.

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Forming new habits is hard.  But it’s absolutely possible for everyone due to the plasticity of the brain and the core of human nature.  If we are what we repeatedly do, then it serves to reason that our habits are somehow a part of us.  What we focus on from minute to minute and day to day has a large part to do with who we are – and more importantly who we want to be

It’s not uncommon to see people with ambitious goals and aspirations who haven’t formed any of the required habits to achieve them.  For 23 hours and 59 minutes each day they’re mired in bad habits, struggling to understand why it is they just can’t get motivated or can’t make progress.  The 1 minute each day they spend thinking about and focusing on their goals can’t help overcome the inertia of their habits.

Habits are the single most important ingredient to achieving real focus and real growth.

Social psychologists have been studying the process of habit forming for quite some time.  In the late 1970s, researchers James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente came up with a model to help frame the various “Stages of Change”.  While this model was formed out of a desire to cure smoker’s addiction, it’s useful to help identify which stage someone is in with respect to one or more of their habits, good or bad.  People are often unwilling or resistant to change during early stages, but eventually become more proactive and committed to forming or replacing habits. 

Here are the 5 stages:

  1. Precontemplation.  In this stage, “ignorance is bliss”.  There’s no motivation to change and in many cases, there may not even be an awareness of a problem or opportunity.  At this point, it’s important to put off taking any major action until you understand the benefits (or the risks) and are able to successfully evaluate your own behavior.
  2. Contemplation.  “Sitting on the fence” without motivation to consider change for the next month.  It’s likely a “someday task”; no commitment has been made.  If you’re in this stage, you recognize the need to change but may not understand all the pros/cons of it.
  3. Preparation.  “Testing the waters” and are ready to take action within the next month or so.  Ready to take small initial steps towards change.
  4. Action.  Practicing the new habit or behavior for 3-6 months.  To get to this point, real time and energy has been given to the process and you’re “in the thick of it”, although there’s still the possibility of “relapse” if you stop paying attention.
  5. Maintenance.  Habits are ingrained.  Usually takes a full 6 months to really sink in.

Wait a minute… does it really take 6 months to get to the final maintenance phase?  Yes and no… or maybe.  It really depends on you and how quickly you’re able to internalize change.  Everyone’s different.  And every habit is different.  It’s far easier to add a simple habit like flossing before bed to your nightly routine than it is to kick a 30 year smoking addiction (although this is totally conjecture – I floss but have never smoked!)  The key with this is to make sure you don’t have self-limiting beliefs with respect to what it will take, but that you’re realistic with yourself at the same time.  Focus on your habits day to day and don’t worry about how long it will take (what’s the point?)

Now the “Stages of Change” model can be a great way to frame habit forming and give you a mini-barometer to help indicate which stage you’re currently in, but it doesn’t really help you determine a next action.  Once you’re placed yourself into a stage and are ready to take action, it’s time to get to business.

Here are the 15 tips in no specific order:

  1. Don’t start today, give yourself time to plan first.  The absolute worst day to start is today because you haven’t prepared yourself mentally, physically, or emotionally yet.  The second worst day to start is tomorrow.  Give yourself enough upfront time to plan out your approach in detail before jumping in headfirst.  You’ve waited this long, another few days won’t hurt!
  2. Give yourself a positive goal.  Always frame your goal in a way that inspires you and motivates you to greater heights.  If your goal is to exercise everyday first thing in the morning, you could write “Wake up energized and ready to exercise for at least 30 minutes” instead of “Force myself out of bed to get to the gym”.
  3. Start small, focus on one at a time, and build on successes.  Take on one habit at a time and always start off small.  If your goal is to lose 80 pounds, start by focusing on your first 5 pounds – and don’t worry about the 7 other habits you’re ready to change or adopt.  What’s important is that you get this one right first before moving on.  Spend the time to get it right.
  4. Dream big but look to kaizen.  Never limit the dream your habit change can bring – dream as big as you can, write it down, and go for it.  But you should utilize the kaizen principle of incremental progress.  This is when you challenge yourself more each day to strive for “continuous improvement” using smaller than normal increments.
  5. Be OK with the awkward phase.  Many new habits have some level of awkwardness involved.  You don’t know what to do or how to do it.  Everyone goes through it, you’re not special!  Just move through the awkwardness knowing you’ll come out OK on the other side.
  6. Create systems to make yourself more efficientThis is critical.  If you’re fighting yourself every step of the way, forming a habit is going to be hard.  You need to “grease the skids” by creating systems to help you out.  Example from a previous post: get in the small habit of packing your gym bag the night before to keep you from having an excuse for the big habit (exercise). 
  7. Reframe your negative self-talk.  Don’t identify with negativity!  Whenever you have a moment of weakness, think, “Those thoughts aren’t me, they’re just passing through.  I don’t actually believe that.”  There’s more detail about this in my series on Flow.
  8. Allow for imperfection; realize that not everything will be perfect.  “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” (Harriet Braiker).  There’s never going to be a perfect time to start, and there’s never going to be a perfect implementation.  You need to take what you can get, and most of the time that’s not perfection.
  9. Compliment your lifestyle.  Do you like to stay up late or wake up early?  Chances are it isn’t both ;)   You need to understand if you’re a morning lark or a night owl, and schedule your habit at the appropriate time for you.  This isn’t pseudo-science – it’s been shown that people can have strong tendencies, even though many people don’t.  If you do, leverage it.
  10. Be in it for the long-haul.  Never start something with the expectation that it will be short-lived.  There’s no way you can possibly motivate yourself knowing that something is so short-term as to not be a real life change.  Do it for you, and do it for life, even if it involves some subtle changes to your approach.
  11. Create contingency plans.  Adversity will hit, it always does.  If you’ve prepared for it ahead of time, you can be in a better position to continue making progress over the long haul.  At Harvard Business School they teach a thing called scenario planning – this is a micro version of that for risk management.  Always know where your slip-ups may come from and you can have a plan to get through it.
  12. Schedule priorities rather than prioritize schedules.  In other words, make time for it!  If it’s important to you, don’t let your schedule get in the way.  That’s just starting off on the wrong foot.
  13. Tell other people and hold yourself accountable.  It’s always a smart thing to tell people what you’re doing (other than your own ego) .  Ask them to ask you how you’re doing with it from time to time knowing that you won’t always be as motivated to change as you are at that moment.  People who have a support system almost always find it easier to make things happen.
  14. Start off doing it every day for 21 days.  Studies have shown that lasting habit change can occur in as little as 21 days (and in some cases fewer).  In order to get the most of it, even if your habit isn’t something you ultimately will do daily, start off doing it every single day for 21 days.  It should be much easier afterwards.
  15. Write it down and track it.  This accountability trick works wonders to keep people on track.  When you know you’re being watched, even if only by a piece of paper or an Excel spreadsheet, you may have a stronger sense of commitment.  Speaking personally, if I can’t track and measure it, it usually doesn’t happen for me.  This is a real motivator.

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These 15 tips will get you 95% of the way there, but there’s still the possibility of your mind sabotaging your progress in various ways.  Here are a few things you need to look out for throughout the process of forming a new habit and some ways you can mitigate their power.  You can’t let these things affect you!

Attributing Superpowers

When you attribute superpowers to someone else, you’re taking power out of your own hands and jumping to an unproven conclusion.  This is common when it comes to forming habits.  “Of course Sally is able to do it, she’s always been the smartest person around – I could never be like her, she’s different”.


When you generalize, you’re taking a single situation and applying it to all situations.  “I wasn’t able to do this yesterday, I guess I wasn’t meant to do this after all”.

Black or White Thinking

This is thinking that there’s no middle ground.  You either succeed or fail, there’s nothing in the middle.  “There are only winners and losers – there’s no way to win if you don’t do it all right, all the time”.

Excluding and Filtering

When you’re excluding, your invalidating or disqualifying your progress.  This is often “putting yourself down” or not giving yourself the credit you’re due.  “I may have gotten this far, but 6 weeks is nothing – it won’t matter until I hit 6 months consistently!”  Filtering is when you only see negatives in a situation and no positives: “I didn’t make it to the gym 6 times last month!  Sure I went 24 times, but so what?”

Overreacting and Dwelling

You’re overreacting when something small becomes something major.  “I can’t make time to write today because I have a board meeting.  This is the worst possible thing that could happen to me right now!  It’s horrible!”  You’re dwelling when you do this for an unhealthy period of time.

Hope this helps!  Remember the ice cube tray analogy; if you already have something that works, that’s great!  If you use some of this information to fill in some gaps, that’s great too – and if you’re new to habit forming and want to get started, hopefully this information is enough to get you going.

Related posts:

  1. Your Master Habit: Get One Thing Clicking, Watch Others Follow
  2. Form Positive New Habits Through Active Association
  3. 9 Ways To Stop Overthinking Everything
  4. 12 Ways to Make Your Goals Smarter
  5. 7 Tips to Make Exercise a Habit (and Keep It That Way)

Through the grants, which amount to one of the largest privately sponsored school improvement initiatives in recent years, the foundation aims to reshape how policymakers approach teaching. Its goal is to focus on performance and results rather than qualifications and seniority.

The winners, from a field of about 10 applicants, are: Hillsborough County (Fla.) schools, in the Tampa area, to receive $100 million; Memphis schools, $90 million; Pittsburgh schools, $40 million; and five charter networks in Los Angeles (Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Green Dot Public Schools, Inner City Education Foundation and Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools), $60 million.

For the school systems and networks, the grants represent huge sums. The total expenditure puts the initiative in the same league as major reform efforts underway in the Obama administration.

"We are convinced that in order to dramatically improve education in America, we must first ensure that every student has an effective teacher in every subject, every school year," Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said in a statement.

"These communities have shown extraordinary commitment to tackling one of the most important educational issues of our time," she said. "We must do everything we can to understand what makes teachers effective and cultivate those qualities across the profession, in every school and classroom, so that all students can benefit." (Gates serves on the board of the Washington Post Co.)

Prince George’s County schools competed for the grants but were not chosen, even though former Prince George’s superintendent John E. Deasy works for the foundation and is a key player in the initiative.

National teachers’ unions applauded the initiative. Federal officials are pushing in much the same direction with a $4.35 billion school-reform grant competition called Race to the Top that stresses teacher effectiveness, tied to student achievement data. The foundation also is helping states prepare applications for that contest.

For Thursday’s winners, the Gates grants constitute a reform jackpot. Public school budgets have been stretched thin in the economic downturn. Teacher salaries and core operations soak up most funding, leaving school administrators little discretionary money for innovation.

MaryEllen Elia, superintendent of the 191,000-student Hillsborough County system, said she was "euphoric, and also very serious."

Elia said the $100 million will help the school system redesign evaluation so that student performance accounts for 40 percent of a teacher’s annual job review, up from 7 percent.

"It isn’t just single tests," she said, "but multiple ways to look at the performance of students, and also multiple ways to look at performance of teachers." Teaching peers will share evaluation duties and influence with principals, she said.

The county also plans to refine its performance-pay program and create a performance-based career ladder that will raise the bar for tenure.

Kriner Cash, superintendent of the 108,000-student Memphis system, called the $90 million project in his city a "deep dive" into teacher performance. His goal is to promote those who are effective, help those who struggle and weed out those who can’t improve. "Urban, rural, public, private — all schools can benefit from what we’re going to be learning," Cash said.

Educators have long been stumped when asked to define effective teaching. The Gates initiative will spend $45 million to find answers, seeking to pinpoint metrics that unions, administrators and policymakers will agree are reliable indicators of how teachers affect student achievement. The project will track 3,700 teachers from Memphis, New York, Pittsburgh, Denver, Hillsborough County, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in North Carolina and elsewhere.

For the foundation, which is emerging as a central player in national school reform efforts, the initiative reflects an evolution in strategy. Several years ago, it concentrated on breaking large high schools into smaller, more personal academic communities. That effort, like a $500 million school reform drive the Annenberg Foundation launched in 1993, had mixed results. Many of the small, Gates-backed schools had below- average test scores in reading and math.

"It’s clear that you can’t dramatically increase college readiness by changing only the size and structure of the school," Microsoft founder Bill Gates said in November 2008.

In a conference call Thursday, Melinda Gates said the couple had discovered that innovation takes long-term commitment because school systems are often "entrenched" in their ways and teachers "siloed in their classrooms."

"We have been in this work for almost a decade" she said. "We’ve learned a lot about what works. . . . Let’s focus on the thing that actually matters the most, which is the teacher."

Fw: darth breather

November 18, 2009

——Original Message——
From: David Locker
To: David Locker
ReplyTo: David Locker
Subject: darth breather
Sent: Nov 18, 2009 6:14 PM

Adj. a person who breathes so loud, and sounds like Darth Vader while breathing, especially in quiet places. Michael: Man! I couldn’t complete my exam yesterday. Jeffrey: Why? Was it that hard? Michael: No, but there was a darth breather behind me.

Check out this website I found at

Killer feelings of triumph…and a great game to boot.