The convergence of the pandemic and “Phase II” of my retirement has provided an increased opportunity to do more reading than I had planned on. (The main objectives of “Phase II” were to allow me to do more reading and writing. I’ve done a much better job on the additional reading.) I want to share four brief passages and an abbreviated version of their applicability to today. Let’s explore.  

“The time has come to stop thinking of an education as something we receive in our youth, finishing by the time we are in our early to mid-twenties, and live off for the next fifty years. We need to regularly top off our intellectual tank as we drive down the proverbial highway of life.” Richard Haass from The World: A Brief History.

Haass is a conservative Republican and while I sometimes disagree with his conclusions, his examples are accurate and his analyses well argued. One of the shortcomings in the American education system is the lack of continuing education for many of us. People are very busy, especially in the phase of adulthood where they are raising children who do not yet drive while simultaneously working a demanding job. Few, if any have the opportunity to go back to school for refresher/enlightenment/updating classes. The ability to read is the most valuable skill you acquired in your youth. Utilize it and be your own best teacher.

“… success had been defined down to a point where it was starting to look a lot like failure.” Robert Kolker from Hidden Valley Road.

This reminds me of many of the “victories” the Trump administration claims. The idea of every kid getting a trophy simply for participation gnaws at me. I feel that if you want to get a trophy you have to win a championship first. There is much more to success than simply showing up! Little League trophies aren’t very important in the greater scheme of things but we are becoming a country of “Gentlemen’s Cs” and that is dangerous.

“… policy can be repealed; innovation cannot.” Solomon Goldstein-Rose from The 100% Solution.

Goldstein-Rose deals with the climate crisis in this book but the principle outlined above is applicable to any issue. It illustrates the importance of not only a chief executive, but the legislative branch. While we are correctly focused on the presidential election don’t ignore those down ballot races especially for your state legislature.

Policy, be it legislation, rules or executive orders can be repealed. Once a technology exists in an affordable form it is subject to market forces which are more static and logical.

“It’s what you fail to imagine that kills you.” Those chilling words are the closing sentence of The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis.

The major focus of Lewis’ book is the lack of concern the Trump transition paid to filling government jobs with qualified people and too often anyone at all. The greater lesson is a literal interpretation of that sentence.

When evaluating whether a last second offensive play in basketball was a good one coaches don’t ask whether it was successful (did the shot go in?) so much as did it maximize within the constraints and give them the optimal opportunity for success. (My scenario assumes that we are down one, two or three points and have possession.)   Did I get the ball into the hands of my most skilled player in that situation? Was the best player for that shot taking it? Did we get them open? Was the shot in their range? Were they square to the basket when they took the shot? If the answers are yes then regardless of the outcome it was a good play. If the answers are no then regardless of whether the shot was made or not it was a bad play. Long term you can’t run a team or a nation on luck alone.

I guess the greater lesson here is the need to read. For substantial stretches of adulthood finding the time is difficult. However, remember that today there are many methods of “reading”. I do most of my reading on my iPad via eBooks. Another non-traditional method is the audio book. You may be very busy but if you commute, jog or walk for exercise the audio book is an opportunity to multitask.

Allow me to appeal to your better angel for a paragraph. Please purchase your reading material, regardless of media, from your local independent bookseller! Visit them and they will be happy to help you set things up if you choose to utilize something other than the physical book. Most often they are value added retailers and the backbone of the community.

Continue your education at your own pace on your own terms. You owe it to yourself, your family, your community and your country!

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