Category Archives: Uncategorized

What makes students from elite schools so special?

I think this answer is great because it points out not just the common conception that it opens up an elite social circle, but that it opens up a student's eyes and mind towards what is even possible and what resources are available.

Answer by Jessica Su:

Every accomplished person I know had a mentor.  Usually their parents, sometimes teachers or friends.  Kids don't just start thinking "I want to go to MIT in 4 years, so I'd better start doing math contests, and getting research internships, and self-studying AP classes so I can take tests my school doesn't offer."  Someone had to tell them those things existed, and that they could actually do them.

Similarly, most kids don't think "I want to go work at a trading firm" or "I'm going to intern at Google my freshman year" until they go to a top school and see what their classmates are doing, and realize they can do the same things.  This alone gives kids from top schools a huge advantage in the job market.

What makes students from elite schools so special?

Temporary State University

Kids cast long shadows as they grow up so quickly–especially when they start college at age 4.


His camera bag full of miniature superheroes securely stowed on his shoulder, my son marched up to me in the kitchen and proclaimed: “Daddy, I’m going to college now. Bye!”

“College, huh?” I replied. “Okay, Buddy. Have fun!”

He gave me a nod and strode into the other room, college bound.

I’m not sure where he got this from–perhaps his Nina (my sister-in-law) who just started her second semester as an undergrad. Whatever the source, it was both hilarious and adorable at first. But then a poignant new layer seeped in.

I was reminded that this stage doesn’t last forever–that someday he actually will be leaving for college. In fact, because our family embarks on all great milestones in twos, my wife and I have been quietly dreading the emotional double-whammy of his sister and him both graduating high school, moving out, and starting college at the same time.


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The righteous falls, and rises again

13 My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
15 Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous; do no violence to his home;
16 for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

–From Proverbs 24

Sometimes I wonder why I stumble so hard in times of calamity. Sometimes I wonder why I stumble in times of peace.

Sometimes, I wonder why I wonder.

Forgive me, Lord.

Blup blups

“Dada! Blup blups!”

When he has a blup in is hand, he wields it with deadly force.

When he has a blup in is hand, he wields it with deadly force.

This is perhaps my newest favorite of my son’s phraseology. It means golf clubs (or flip flops, or bathtub, depending on the context.)

For a long time now, I have been writing down all of his verbiage to develop a personal lexicon for those who wish to speak with him. It’s helpful for family and babysitters, but mostly, I just treasure it. I love adding everything I hear to it and it’s getting quite impressive. By my count my son regularly uses at least 175 words/phrases. I don’t know where that is on the bell-curve, but people are often impressed how well he uses language and expresses things. He conveys emotions and ideas well, even at two years of age and without the articulation.

In my experience, a lot of parents are hyper-concerned about the language and cognitive abilities of their toddlers. Especially with boys.

He’s struggling with language so we’re putting him in speech therapy.
Me: How old is he?
Sixteen months.
Me: [Pause] Give him time.

I tell all of them pretty much the same thing: don’t worry. I’ve worked with children with officially diagnosed delays, like autism; that’s a different situation, and there’s a lot of hope with those. But every child is different, and the most important thing is guarding their environment (which parents CAN do something about) and giving them a place to learn well, rather than directing their language (which parents really CAN’T do much about.)

For example, challenge them to speak so that they really get what they want. When my son just whines for something, I tell him clearly, “I don’t know what you want. Tell me. Try to use words.” He virtually always makes a go for it.

Maybe I’ll share more of his words as time goes along.

Why are some people more resilient than others?

Answer by Sandra Liu Huang:

Stanford Department of Psychology professor Carol Dweck has done extensive research on what she calls "mindsets" and there are two primary types:

  1. Fixed mindset: people who believe abilities are innate. You are just talented in an area or you're not.
  2. Growth mindset: people who believe abilities are developed. You can learn and grow yourself.

People with a growth mindset are more resilient to challenges related to their abilities and performance than those with a fixed mindset.

As to what leads people to these different perspectives, a lot of media in recent years has cited Dweck's work on this with respect to parenting. In the American culture of positive reinforcement, praise is often the main socially acceptable way to encourage your kids. However, Dweck's studies have suggested that the type of praise you receive can strongly impact whether you end up with a fixed or growth mindset.

An excerpt where Dweck references one of her earlier papers on effects of praising innate qualities versus effort and process (…):

People can also learn these self-theories from the kind of praise they receive (Mueller & Dweck, 1998). Ironically, when students are praised for their intelligence, they move toward a fixed theory. Far from raising their self-esteem, this praise makes them challenge-avoidant and vulnerable, such that when they hit obstacles their confidence, enjoyment, and performance decline. When students are praised for their effort or strategies (their process), they instead take on a more malleable theory— they are eager to learn and highly resilient in the face of difficulty.

Thus self-theories play an important (and causal role) in challenge seeking, self-regulation, and resilience, and changing self-theories appears to result in important real-world changes in how people function.

People who were praised more for their innate skills can end up focused on maintaining this "self-image," afraid to fail. These aren't those who value and become resilient.

Another excerpt from an article Dweck writes about mindsets and coping with setbacks (

It will come as no surprise that the mindsets lead to different ways of coping with difficulty. Because in the fixed mindset, setbacks are seen as indicating a lack of ability, this mindset often leaves people few good ways of reacting to setbacks. In one study (Blackwell, et al, 2005), we found that those with a fixed mindset were more likely to say that if they did poorly on a test—even if it were in a new course and one they liked a lot—they would study less in the future and would seriously consider cheating. This is how people cope when they think setbacks mean they lack permanent ability. In contrast, those students with a growth mindset said they would study more or study differently. They planned to take charge of the situation and work to overcome the setback.

When the going gets rough, people in the growth framework not only take charge of improving their skills, they take charge of their motivation as well (cf. Grant, 2004). Despite setbacks—or even because of them—they find ways to keep themselves committed and interested. Instead, students with a fixed framework lose interest as they lose confidence. As the difficulty mounts, their commitment and enjoyment go down. Since all important endeavors involve setbacks sooner or later (more likely, sooner and later), it is a serious liability to lose interest and enjoyment just when you need greater effort.

Putting it all together, this means that a fixed mindset leads people to value looking good over learning, to disdain and to fear effort, and to abandon effective strategies just when they need them most. A growth mindset, on the other hand, leads people to seek challenges and learning, to value effort, and to persist effectively in the face of obstacles.

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Brave Hearts

What’s your favorite part of Braveheart?

(Yes, I am assuming you at least like the movie. It’s not too far-fetched.)

More specifically, what is the part that most makes you want to be a better person? That makes you respect Wallace (or whoever) the most?

I think mine is the part where Robert the Bruce confronts his dad. After the big betrayal, something is awakened deep in Robert—appearing like anger, but is so much more than that—and he becomes a different person. His father tells him all men lose heart. And he lashes back, “I DON’T WANT TO LOSE HEART!!!….I want to believe!”

That conversation between that father and son plays out over and over in my heart. I realize that I’m not unique in this. But I really need to scream back at the cynic within me a lot.

Has there ever been a turning point in your life which gave the power over to one of these men? Have you fallen to cynicism, or have you frustratingly and stubbornly shouted and risen against the gravity to take heart?