Good Links

Here’s a good set of links from Mark Perry at Carpe Diem.

I like this quote from Jonah Goldberg:

We teach children that the moral of the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg is the danger of greed. But the real moral of the story is ingratitude. A farmer finds an animal, which promises to make him richer than he ever imagined. But rather than nurture and protect this miracle, he resents it for not doing more. In one version, the farmer demands two golden eggs per day. When the goose politely demurs, he kills it out of a sense of entitlement — the opposite of gratitude.

The Miracle is our goose. And rather than be grateful for it, our schools, our culture, and many of our politicians say we should resent it for not doing more. Conservatism is a form of gratitude, because we conserve only what we are grateful for. Our society is talking itself out of gratitude for the Miracle and teaching our children resentment. Our culture affirms our feelings as the most authentic sources of truth when they are merely the expressions of instincts, and considers the Miracle a code word for white privilege, greed, and oppression.

This is corruption. And it is a choice. Collectively, we are embracing entitlement over gratitude. That is suicidal.

And, when did the NFL Draft become such a big deal?

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Athleticism vs Skill in soccer

I’ve seen this, too.

There are no solutions, only trade-offs, even with being the best in soccer

I found this recent FB comment to Renegade soccer family from a father, Chad, seeking advice on how to motivate his talented son to practice more on his own:

I have an 11 yr old son who LOVES to play and was blessed with size and speed and fairly decent foot skills (not fantastic though)…

…long story short, Chad’s son says he wants to be the best. Chad tried to help him with private lessons, but his son lost motivation and doesn’t take the initiative to practice on his own, so Chad is considering other ways to motivate his son to practice, like paying him.

Most responses encouraged it, or other forms of external rewards like earning video games, video game time, tv time, etc.

I think it is a good example of a struggle many parents go through, including me.

My favorite response to Chad was from Cristi:

I have a different take on this. My son (U13) goes through phases when he is less motivated than others. I let him take a break. He needs to want it more than I want it for him. I will occasionally ask him if his goals have changed and what he has done today to reach them. If he performs poorly in a game, throw a little, “I am shocked you got beat on that play, isn’t the training working? Maybe you need to switch it up.” Works EVERY time. I do not reward him for practice. Hard work and the results of that work should be its own reward. I know it’s hard to see talented kids park themselves on the couch when we think they should be practicing. Trust, I am a control freak, it drives me NUTS!

We can all learn something from Cristi.

As a coach, I have news for Chad: the vast majority of kids well under perform their potential because they lack self-motivation, whether they are gifted athletes or not.

Chad, and most of the responders, falls into a trap that I have fallen into as well. I thought motivating players with external rewards would kick start them into practicing more. I challenged them with rewards like, ‘win a soccer ball if you get to 20 juggles.”

I figured if I got them over the initial hump and demonstrated what some self-practice can do, they’d get hooked.

It didn’t work out like I hoped. External rewards didn’t teach the kids to be self-motivated, it just taught them to seek the treats, like dogs doing tricks.

Cristi’s response has good wisdom.

“He needs to want it more than I want it for him.”

Parents and coaches often want success for their kids and players more than the kids want it.

“I do not reward him for practice. Hard work and the results of that work should be its own reward. I know it’s hard to see talented kids park themselves on the couch when we think they should be practicing.”

As adults, we hear kids say they want things and assume they know the trade-offs they need to make to get those things.

They don’t.

Chad’s son said he wants to be the best. Who doesn’t? Being the best is fun.

Chad thinks his son is saying he’s wants to put in the effort to make it happen. He’s not. He’s just saying being the best is fun.

I want a private jet. It’d be fun to to go anywhere on a moment’s notice. But, I don’t want to pay for it.

Cristi reminds us that it’s Chad’s job as a parent to help his son make the connection between what his son says he wants and the trade-offs to achieve it.

“You want to be the best? What improvement goals have you set this week, this month? What have you done today to work toward those goals?”

Chad might be disappointed when his son says,”Nah, maybe I don’t want it that bad.” But, at least he got the truth (his son really doesn’t want to be the best once he understands the trade-offs) and his son learned a lesson (there are trade-offs, and being the best means putting in effort to get there, not just wanting it).

Then Chad can lower his expectations and just enjoy watching his son play, learn and grow, rather than having his son practice at 6:30 in the morning with a personal trainer (yes, his post admitted to that).

Good advice for coaches and parents of soccer players from 3Four3 podcast

In this 3Four3.com podcast, John Pranjic describes the importance of setting a culture for your team.

He describes an important first moment with the team (bold mine):

It’s the moment when you meet with your team for the first time. It’s your first opportunity to establish a proper team culture. It’s when you set the tone for the work that you will do together. And it’s a moment that becomes a reference point for you to come back to whenever necessary.

Having that reference point is great advice. But, what should you reference?

Quoting Brian Kleiban, a successful 3Four3 youth coach:

Brian introduced the players part of the deal. The two things that he says are non-negotiable. Two things that only they can control.

Players don’t control the quality of the field. They can’t control the actions of their teammates. They can’t control their opponents.

The only thing players have total control over are themselves. More specifically, players control their own level of focus and work ethic.

Just like the players cannot control the quality of the field – the coach cannot control the amount of effort a player puts into training. Only the player can.

This is an important reference point to set with parents, too.

Some parents work hard to find ‘great’ and motivating coaches, but fail to encourage their kids to put in the effort.

They think the coach will mold their child into a star, not realizing that how much effort the kid puts in is the biggest factor in that.

Coaches, like schoolteachers, can only do so much. The best teachers have had their share of C and D students. The best coaches have also had their share of flame-outs.

I also recommend setting the following reference points with parents:

  1. Questions about your child’s position and play time should sound like, “What does my child need to do to earn more play time/the chance to play a different position?”
  2. If you’d like to discuss subjects not related to your child — e.g. other players, what we work on at practice, team strategy — let’s first discuss how much effort your child puts in on and off the field.

For every conversation about a child’s effort, I’ve had 20 on other topics where more could have been accomplished discussing their child’s effort.

These reference points will help keep players, parents and coaches focused on the number one factor that will help the players — their own effort and work ethic.

Top-down v bottom-up: Part IV

Going back through my old posts, I realized I didn’t write the fourth installment to this set up of posts on top-down vs bottom-up.

Now I don’t have to. Nassim Taleb has written about it in his latest book, Skin in the Game.

In short, bottom-up systems work better over the long-haul because decision-makers have more skin-in-the-game for their decisions, which helps the system self-correct.

They pay the consequences for making poor choices and enjoy the benefits for making good choices.

That doesn’t prevent disasters. It’s not perfect. But, it’s better than a system that doesn’t self-correct.

It’s as simple as buying a cup of coffee. If you don’t think it was worth it, you try something else. You self-correct.

Top-down systems separates decision-makers from the direct benefits and costs of their decisions and often provides unrelated benefits for those decisions.

These systems don’t self correct as well as bottom-up systems.

Public schools are a good example.

Parents pay the price when schools are run poorly. The local politician who promises to ‘fix the schools’ by ‘giving them more money’ may enjoy the benefit of winning the election, which is unrelated to the benefit or cost of giving the schools more money.

The real cost of giving more money to a group of people responsible for a failing school is borne by the parents of the children at the school and the children themselves.

Giving more money to the people responsible for a failing school is like continuing to buy the cup of coffee that you don’t like. It’s not likely to self-correct.

The problem is, many parents may have voted for the politician promising more money for the schools because that sounds good. But, if they directly paid for schools, like they do for a cup of coffee, rather than give them more money, they would have opted to find a better school.

The money question: How much would you pay for a private Facebook?

If you thought your information was private, I have a bridge to sell you.

In yesterday’s Today Show interview with Savannah Guthrie, Savannah asked FB #2 Sheryl Sandberg what it would take to give folks the option of a fully private Facebook.

Sheryl said, “Well, that would be a fee-based option.”

Bingo.

So, how much would you pay for that? That’s the money question.

If your answer is ‘very little’, that demonstrates how little you value your privacy and you don’t have much room to complain about Facebook using your data, as every other ad-based company does, to target messages to you.

BTW, I thought it would have been funny if Sandberg had pointed out Guthrie’s hypocrisy, as The Today Show is also for-profit program that makes its money selling ads and uses as good of data as it can get its hands to attract advertisers and target their messages to its audience — exactly what Facebook does.

I wouldn’t be surprised if The Today Show or NBC also spends a fair amount on Facebook ads that use your information to better target its ad messages.

Seth Godin discovers the powers of exit and voice, but gets something gravely wrong

In this blog post, Seth Godin discovers the powers of exit and voice.

Coming to understand those powers is one of the inspirations of this blog, as you can read in the About section, where I explored why my parents chose to move to a different school district (exit), rather than try to change the one we were in (voice).

But, Seth goes off the rails here:

Capitalism ceases to be an efficient choice when those served have no ability to exit. For-profit prisons, for example, or cable monopolies. If you can’t exit, you’re not really the customer, and you are deprived, as a result, of voice.

Cable monopolies is not capitalism. They became monopolies through government regulation, which is not capitalism.

There may have been good reasons for that regulation (to keep right-of-ways from being clogged with cables) or not (that may have just been a convenient excuse cable companies used to limit competition).

Or both. See the Bootleggers and Baptists.

Whatever the case, we know the result. We were not happy with having just one cable provider, because that cable provider has little incentive to make us happy and frankly, can’t make us all happy, no matter how hard it tries.

Even with the most well-meaning folks running the company, it’s just tough to make everyone happy.

Enter the reason for competition. Competition gives us choices to make us all happier.

Folks seem to understand this when it comes to cable providers, but do not translate the lesson to things like schools, which have problems for the same reasons.

They often believe sending more money to schools will help solve those problems, but would bristle at the thought of sending more money to the cable monopolies to solve its problems.

In turns out, their bristling is the correct reflexive reaction in both cases. The answer isn’t more money. The answer is more power of exit, or competition.

Thankfully, through capitalism, technology is finding answers to provide more power of exit from cable monopolies, which are quickly starting to look like the Blockbuster Video of the twenty teens.

It’s also helping some with the school problems, but more can be done to lessen the school monopoly’s grip on their markets.

Folks don’t understand that the cable company problem and school problem are the same problem

I don’t understand Seth’s comment about for-profit prisons. Who does he think the customer is in that case? The prisoners?

The customers are the the government-entities that contract with them, just like when they contract with for-profit construction companies to build roads, sidewalks and buildings. The representatives of those entities have a right to exit if their needs are not being served.

Frankly, I think we need to look past the strict definitions of capitalism and government and think more in terms of top-down and bottom-up, as I wrote about here.