Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nuggets of wisdom

Here are a few of my favorite little nuggets of wisdom I've gathered so far in my life:
  • Good decision, bad outcome -- 2 hours before your flight you leave for the airport, but on the way someone runs a red light and the crash leaves you paralyzed. "Oh, if I'd only left a few minutes later I wouldn't be left this way!", you begin to think. But we can make the right decision and still have a bad outcome because there is an inherent risk in everything. You still made the right decision. (source: Dr. Jeff Goldberg, UofA college economics professor)
  • Cause and effect -- You have a headache and someone gives you only one pill of a new medicine you've never tried before. Later you realize that it didn't work, so you ask yourself, "Did I not take enough, or does this stuff just not work?" I posed this to a great friend John Holman, who without thinking fired back: "Yeah, it can be hard figuring out cause and effect." I don't think anyone's ever broken such a big mental log-jam for me with so little effort. Just because two things seem to go together doesn't mean one caused the other. Look at the economy for some good examples. David Flynn put it another way (if I remember right): "Correlation doesn't imply causality."
  • EQ is supposedly a measure of one's ability to understand and control the emotions of themselves and others. The neatest people I know seem to understand how others feel, and they care. This is not like IQ, which a person supposedly can't change -- people can improve their EQ by working on it. (source: Jared Thompson, co-worker)
  • Intentions -- "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." - Hanlon's razor. You tell someone about a mistake you made, and they respond, "Oh, that sounds like you." Instantly you take offense at the verbal jab: "What?! I can't believe you just said that!". But instead, take a step back and study the person's body language and see if there's really any malice there -- often they're just focused on something else and didn't think long enough before speaking. Just let it go.
  • Win the hearts of your children -- Mormons believe that the family unit can continue on beyond the grave into the eternities. The key here is "can". If you have kids, read this article, Love of Father and Mother, by Joseph F. Smith (nephew of the original prophet Joseph Smith), reprinted in the August 2004 Ensign. A beautiful explanation of how our relationship with our kids can and should develop.
  • Wise as serpents, harmless as doves -- This one's straight out of the Bible:
    "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Matt. 10:16.
    I love this approach to the "world".
  • You need only believe the truth -- Some think Mormons believe unusual things because they have to. But we don't have to believe anything, see Articles of Faith 11. "There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel," Brigham Young said. "'Mormonism' includes all truth." Henry Eyring, Sr., said it this way:
    All day long, on a fiercely hot Friday in September 1919, I hauled hay in Pima, Arizona. On Monday I was going to start classes at the University of Arizona, where I was to study mining engineering. In the evening my father, as fathers often do, felt that he'd like to have a last talk with his son. He wanted to be sure I'd stay on the straight and narrow. He said, "Henry, won't you come and sit down. I want to talk to you."

    Well, I'd rather do that than pitch hay any time. So, I went over and sat down with him.

    "We're pretty good friends, aren't we?"

    "Yes," I said, "I think we are."

    "Henry, we've ridden together on the range, and we've farmed together. I think we understand each other. Well, I want to say this to you: I'm convinced that the Lord used the Prophet Joseph Smith to restore His Church. For me, that is a reality. I haven't any doubt about it. Now, there are a lot of other matters that are much less clear to me. But in this Church you don't have to believe anything that isn't true. You go over to the University of Arizona and learn everything you can, and whatever is true is a part of the gospel. The Lord is actually running this universe. And I want to tell you something else: if you go to the University and are not profane, if you'll live in such a way that you'll feel comfortable in the company of good people, and if you go to church and do the other things that we've always done, I won't worry about your getting away from the Lord."

    That's about the best advice I ever got. It has simplified my life. All I have to do is live in a wholesome way, which is best for me anyway, and be busy about finding truth wherever I can. I suspect that you would enjoy that formula too.

    The significant thing about a scientist is this: he simply expects the truth to prevail because it is the truth. He doesn't work very much on the reactions of the heart. In science, the thing is, and its being so is something one cannot resent. If a thing is wrong, nothing can save it, and if it is right, it cannot help succeeding.

    - Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist

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