The sign of an adult is not owning a car

The sign of an adult is knowing what you should do given the evidence, and then doing it.

The evidence suggests that CO2 levels in the atmosphere are currently at 415 parts per million, up from 350 thirty years ago. The evidence suggests that we are on the verge of a sixth mass extinction, the first caused directly by humans. The evidence suggests that this is a result of our reliance on fossil fuels.

The evidence suggests that humans won’t exist in the future if we continue down this path.

Fredonia’s choice

Become world-class at very few things, or become mediocre at almost everything. Both options are sustainable, but only one is wise.

We used to have it down pat; we trained teachers, specializing in music. We were world-class. Then, we became “comprehensive.”

Now that’s no longer sustainable, and we must choose: world-class or mediocre?

Distinguishing between hating your coach and hating tension

Tension is the impetus for change.

We all want to change: we want to improve, build confidence, etcetera.

A coach helps you change by poking you right where it hurts. She gets under your skin.

In short, she creates tension. Tension can last for a long time.

We intuitively hate tension. And yet, we all want to change.

But remember: no tension, no change.

We can change our relationship with tension: “Oh, there’s tension again. Let me see what tension wants from me now.”

Or, we can hate the messenger and stay the same.

Watch Whiplash:

Trees don’t anthropomorphize

A student was telling me a funny story about trees the other day. I’m inserting my own elements for clarity:

There’s an old, large tree in the woods. Next to it there’s a newly-born sapling. The two are conversing, as the sapling learns the ways of being a tree.

“What are those drops falling from the sky?” the sapling asks the tree.

“That’s rain,” responds the tree. “We use that water to nourish our leaves.” A squirrel runs by as the tree finishes his sentence.

“What’s that?” asks the sapling.

“That’s an animal. Eventually it will die and decompose, and we will use its nutrients to make our roots big and strong.”

Then, an adult man walks up to the tree and starts chopping it down. The sapling is horrified. The man has his son with him.

“What’s that for?” the son asks, pointing to the tree.

“This is wood,” responds the father. “We will use it to heat our home and keep warm.”

The point of the story is that the meaning of life changes depending on which perspective you take. I think this is a mature posture towards the world, to understand that humans aren’t at the center of the universe, and to be able to cope with the uncertainty this revelation unveils.

But I think the next layer of maturity is to notice that trees don’t anthropomorphize; only humans anthropomorphize, and only humans wonder about the meaning of life.

And there’s a lot there to explore.

The thing about finals week

This morning I was writing an e-mail. I knew what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it. And yet, the pull of the internet was too strong. Mid-sentence I decided it was really important that I check the front page of the New York Times.

Here’s the thing: what you have to do goes a lot smoother if you just do it. Thanks, Nike.

Come back again to the task at hand. It’s a practice.

Hiring a new coach

Sometimes Fredonia has to hire new coaches.

One thing I’ve noticed is that student-athletes who have strong preferences about who their coach will be–to the point that they get upset if their preferred candidate isn’t chosen–are often the same student-athletes who aren’t very coachable in the first place.

Left to their own devices these student-athletes will become non-coachable employees. It’s not that they won’t be able to get a job; it’s that they won’t be happy in whatever job they get.

Humility would appear to be the solution: “I understand I’m not always right.”

And as cliche as it is, “Team before self.”

Your coach’s salary

It’s not hard to figure out how much money your coach makes each year–it takes me three mouse clicks and a handful of keystrokes. That said, to ask how much money someone makes is to seek incomplete information, or even the wrong information.

The right question is, “How much wealth does this person have?” It seems like the same question, that one should lead to the other, but the question of salary and the question of wealth can lead to completely different answers.

For instance, I have much more wealth than I do money. Most of my wealth comes from stock investments, and I only keep as much money on hand as I need. The investments become more valuable over time; the money becomes less valuable due to inflation.

A couple resources below if this stuck a cord in you. First, a philosophical overview from Naval Ravikant:

Second, my favorite resource for understanding the stock market:

And, the author of the personal finance book that changed my life is releasing a second edition next week:

Mr. DiFronzo’s problem

Mr. DiFronzo was my elementary school music teacher, charged with teaching eight-year-old me how to play the saxophone.

Mr. DiFronzo was mean. If I made a mistake he yelled. If I misbehaved he yelled. If I forgot to wear a tie to the band’s performance he made me wear a pink polka dot tie made out of construction paper (!). Once, when a clarinet player made a mistake too many times in a row, Mr. DiFronzo made the poor boy stand up in front of everyone to be shamed. We were all made to jokingly applaud his mistakes.

Mr. DiFronzo terrified me.

For some reason, I took private lessons with Mr. DiFronzo at his house over summers. To my amazement Mr. DiFronzo was completely different one-on-one: he was patient, caring, and soft-spoken. If I hadn’t practiced that week–which happened with some frequency–Mr. DiFronzo didn’t seem to mind. He taught me all the same.

For three months out of the year Mr. DiFronzo was mild-mannered. For nine months out of the year he was hot-tempered. I still wonder which was the real Mr. DiFronzo.

One day when I was in fifth grade our principal came in to tell us that Mr. DiFronzo had had a heart attack; he was out walking with his wife the previous evening when be became short of breath and had to be taken to the hospital. I saw Mr. DiFronzo many years later volunteering at a Shea’s musical. I’m sure he was retired by then, and he looked just like the Mr. DiFronzo I knew over summers; he smiled and waved to me.

I like to think that Mr. DiFronzo really wanted to teach music to young people, but what he found was that most young people didn’t want to learn music, so he had to force them into compliance, and that was stressful for him. He didn’t need to do that over the summer, when students chose to come to him instead. It was hard for Mr. DiFronzo to find students in a traditional classroom enrolled in the journey of learning music.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but it’s worth being really clear that there is a problem.

Making new friends

A student reminded me last week how easy it is to make new friends:

First, you find someone who is struggling. These people are not hard to find; they are in plain sight every day. Second, you offer to be this person’s friend. Perhaps you don’t use those words, but you invite this person into your circle of care.

Friend made.

Being a student-athlete is a privilege in the sense that you come to college embedded in a friend group. It’s practically your responsibility to pass it on.

In fact, I think the success of our entire university depends on these small acts of courage.

Not-Fred Fest

The other day a high-level administrator told me that she spends all day on Fred Fest at the village courthouse waiting for students to be brought in. Instead of letting them get a permanent record she drives them back to campus to go through our student conduct office instead.

I understand that will irk some village residents, but at the same time, if that’s not student support I don’t know what is.