In his weekly column in the New York Times Review section, Nicolas Kristof discusses the fundamental need for America to address poverty and crime by investing in preschool education and other early childhood education programs. I worked as a mental health consultant for three years at a Head Start Program in South Norwalk, Connecticut. I saw firsthand the value of early childhood education and the need for it. These poor, mostly African American and Hispanic kids, even with assistance, had little chance at the kind of success and opportunity that wealthier children have and continue to have in America. By age 5, the achievement gap can be as much as two years. In affluent towns, the school systems and teachers are far more skilled at delivering high quality education and support. Impoverished inner city environments put a tremendous burden on the young. Many children are raised by young mothers who lack the skills and resources to parent well. Without additional early assistance, as Kristof writes, we will be increasingly jailing troubled adolescents and young adults who could have been saved.
Val DiFebo, the CEO of Deutsch NY, the advertising agency, has plenty to say about leadership and business but what stands out to me is her comments in the Corner Office (New York Times Sunday Business section) about the power of presence. “There’s a real skill and an art to reading the room, and it drives me crazy when people are not present. You have to be present.” I couldn’t agree more! Whether working with executives, entrepreneurs, or athletes, I almost always start with presence. Many people, even so-called successful people, are rarely present. Instead, they are constantly plotting, planning, or rehashing. This is limited behavior eventually leading to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Being in the here and now as much as possible is powerful for a variety of reasons – nowness unleashes creativity, spontaneity, and joy to name a few!
According to Dr. Kosslyn and Wayne Miller, authors of a new book called “Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights Into How You Think,” the right brain, left brain theory of different skill sets like intuition and logic is not true and based on a myth created from experiments on the corpus callosum decades ago. Instead, they propose an understanding of thinking styles based on top or bottom preferences: Mover, Perceiver, Stimulator and Adaptor! Their article in the Weekend Wall Street Journal Review section is worth reading. Instead of thinking of people as basically left or right brained such as engineers or artists , this new research encourages us to understand that there are really four main styles not two!
I haven’t seen the movie yet but Robert Redford at 77 has a lot to share about aging, acting, and life. For instance, he is completely comfortable looking like himself – no plastic surgery or Botox. He is clearly an adventurous soul, cares about the environment, budding film makers and challenging himself even in his late seventies – pretty cool!
I have spent quite a lot of time with both the rich and the poor in my life. As a psychologist, especially in training, I worked in residential treatment centers and hospital settings with the homeless mentally ill and others of few means. I also worked with poor children at a Head Start program and taught in an inner city college environment. Being an identical twin to a Wall Street guy and having lived and worked in an affluent community for the past 17 years, I have a fair amount of exposure to the wealthy including many affluent friends and clients. In general, I agree with Mr. Goleman’s perspective that the wealthy and more powerful tend to “pay less attention to us than we do to them,” a prerequisite for empathy! Less empathy means less caring. I just read another article in the New York Times business section about the CEO of Bloomingdales who values empathy, caring, and listening a great deal. I loved reading about Mr. Gould and hope others in positions of power and authority will emulate him!
I love reading about and watching athletes and entrepreneurs who go about their tasks or jobs in ways that “feel” right for them but don’t necessarily abide by conventional standards! Cabrera is one of those guys who hit by “feel” and don’t do things that are technically correct or sound. I play golf well largely through “feel.” It’s great to have solid technicals but many times good fundamentals are not enough. Allowing yourself to “feel” your way through a skill is invaluable. This too takes practice and confidence but can add a dimension to your life and business that no technical skill can!