Category Archives: Personal Development

No Excuse

I get Jared’s wire. Some who might read this will know the punch-line. I agree 100% with Jared on this one. mrossol

10/14/2020. Jared Dillian, in The Daily Dirtnap [TDD]

Just a quick story from the old Academy days.  As a fourth class cadet (freshman), you only had three possible responses to a question.

1. “Yes, sir”

2. “No, sir”

3. “No excuse, sir”

That was it. You really weren’t allowed to say anything else.

So if an upperclass cadet asked you why you were late to formation, the answer was “no excuse, sir.”

It didn’t matter if you actually had an excuse. It didn’t matter if your grandmother hijacked a school bus full of penguins. You still had to be at formation on time.

This introduced a sense of accountability into 18-year-olds that can be found nowhere else in society.

I only got chewed out one time the whole time I was at Lehman Brothers. It was the time that I got picked off on RTH and Sears Holdings. It’s a fascinating story, which I think I’ve told in the past, but may tell again. Anyway, my boss sat me down, clearly annoyed (after losing $1mm) and said that we wanted to be on the right side of those trades, not the wrong side. Now, the trade was incredibly complex, and me with my 31- year-old level of sophistication was not going to be able to figure that out. But I simply said, “no excuse,” and resolved not to get picked off again. And I didn’t.

Maybe it’s just my conservative Generation X makeup, but I really would like to live in a world where “no excuse, sir” is the only acceptable response. I was an adjunct professor for five years–I made it clear in the first class of the semester that excuses were not going to be tolerated.

I had a policy that papers had to be handed in on the front table at 6pm, as class started. There was a student who forgot his paper at home. Before the class, I said, can you go print it out? It was on his home computer. He was totally stuck. He had that look. I said, I know how you’re feeling right now, and I know you did the paper, but I can’t make an exception in your particular case. The kid had an A in the class, and ended up with a B.

Won’t make that mistake again. Not in school, and not in life, either. Probably the most valuable thing he learned in class.

My wife constantly complains about students and their excuses. There are legitimate excuses–death in the family, illness, for which you have to provide documentation. If you lead people to believe that there is some wiggle room, they will exploit the wiggle room.

I learned a few things from being in the Coast Guard. That was one of them. The other one is time management. There was one point at the Academy where I was taking 22 credits, on top of athletics and all the military stuff. You get very adept at fitting a lot into a 24 hour day. And if I ever fail to send out an issue of TDD [this is Jarad’s daily market wire], you know what the next issue is going to say: no excuse.


don't start with "at least…"

WSJ 4/10/2020By Jessie Stuart

A friend posted on Facebook that her son’s college had closed for the rest of the year: “He and his friends are devastated.” I scrolled down to the comments. “At least he’s not a senior!” someone offered. “My daughter will never get to go back to campus.”

Later I read a tweet from a stranger about how he still had to go to work as a garbageman and was scared he’d get sick on the job. Someone replied: “At least you still have a job, man.”

With the coronavirus shaking the world and forcing us into isolation, I’ve found myself reflecting on how the things we say can bring us closer together or drive us further apart. As a physician, I’ve received training in the art of empathic communication. The job is defined by people coming to us with “complaints,” which we navigate and support them through. I’m still in training and have a lot to learn, but one lesson that’s stuck with me is that it is never helpful to start a sentence with “At least . . .”

We’ve all said it. The intention is almost always good. I can imagine someone reading the garbageman’s tweet thinking it could be helpful— comforting, even—to remind him how lucky he is. It doesn’t work that way.

One of my favorite speakers on this subject is Brené Brown, a professor of social work who has spent the past two decades studying empathy. In her talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” she says: “Rarely, if ever, does an empathic statement start with ‘At least.’ . . . Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”

Ms. Brown’s words came to mind recently as I was staffing the oncology service at the hospital where I work as a resident. A patient, recently diagnosed with leukemia, was there for chemotherapy, which, as it killed her cancer, was also destroying her immune system. The patient lay in bed watching CNN report new coronavirus statistics.

“How could this be happening now?” she said. “I have no immune system. I’ll be the first to go.” She turned to us, her breathing heavy. “I’m just—I’m paralyzed with fear.” No answer could allay her concerns.

A colleague was the first to speak: “I can only imagine how scared you’re feeling right now. It’s unfair that you’re dealing with leukemia and now this. I don’t know what the future holds, but we’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Her response wasn’t perfect, but that’s the point. It’s impossible to relate to the precise circumstances that is causing someone distress. Yet we’ve all felt despair. It’s OK— and even helpful—to admit that you can’t imagine what someone is going through. But you can tell her you care and you’ll be with her through it all.

It can be hard as a doctor to keep my “empathy tank” full. I’ve had bad days when I diagnose a 25year-old with a terminal illness, and later find I have trouble caring when a friend calls to complain about a snack-stealing roommate. I worry that the coronavirus era will strain our collective ability for empathy, but I also have hope that we will rise to the challenge.

On tough days, I find it helpful to pause, take a deep breath, and let myself be present for the person in distress. Sometimes we have to silence the small voice in our head that says, “At least you weren’t diagnosed with a horrible disease today”—or “At least you still have a job.” Whether suffering is big or small, it’s all-consuming and it isn’t relative.

Dr. Stuart is a resident in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston


Billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s best advice

This one is for my children. This is good, good advice.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO and self-made billionaire Warren Buffett turned 89 on Friday, August 30. He’s also celebrating his 13th wedding anniversary with his wife, Astrid.

In honor of the Oracle of Omaha’s big day, CNBC Make It rounded up seven of his best pieces of life advice.

Marry the right person

1 Buffett made his fortune through smart investing, but if you ask him about the most important decision he ever made, it would have nothing to do with money. The biggest decision of your life, Buffett says, is who you choose to marry.

“You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be. You’ll move in that direction,” he said during a 2017 conversation with Bill Gates. “And the most important person by far in that respect is your spouse. I can’t overemphasize how important that is.”

It’s advice he’s been giving for years. As he said at the 2009 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting: “Marry the right person. I’m serious about that. It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspirations, all kinds of things.”

Premium: Warren Buffett Astrid Menks 20120312

Warren Buffett and his wife Astrid Buffett arrive to a state dinner hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obam at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.Andrew Harrer | Getty Images

Invest in yourself

“By far the best investment you can make is in yourself,” Buffett told Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer earlier this year.

First, “learn to communicate better both in writing and in person. ” Honing that skill can increase your value by at least 50%, he said in a Facebook video posted in 2018.

Next, take care of your body and mind — especially when you’re young. “If I gave you a car, and it’d be the only car you get the rest of your life, you would take care of it like you can’t believe. Any scratch, you’d fix that moment, you’d read the owner’s manual, you’d keep a garage and do all these things,” he said. “You get exactly one mind and one body in this world, and you can’t start taking care of it when you’re 50. By that time, you’ll rust it out if you haven’t done anything.”By far the best investment you can make is in yourself.Warren BuffettBerkshire Hathaway CEO

Associate yourself with ‘high-grade people’

Who you associate with matters, Buffett told author Gillian Zoe Segal in an interview for her 2015 book, “Getting There: A Book of Mentors.”  “One of the best things you can do in life is to surround yourself with people who are better than you are,” he said.

If you’re around what he calls “high-grade people,” you’ll start acting more like them. Conversely, “If you hang around with people who behave worse than you, pretty soon you’ll start being pulled in that direction. That’s just the way it seems to work.”

Work for people you respect

“Try to work for whomever you admire most,” Buffett told Segal. “It won’t necessarily be the job that you’ll have 10 years later, but you’ll have the opportunity to pick up so much as you go along.”

While salary is an important factor when thinking about your career, “You don’t want to take a job just for the money,” said Buffett.

He once accepted a job with his mentor and hero, Benjamin Graham, without even asking about the salary. “I found that out at the end of the month when I got my paycheck,” he said.

Premium: Benjamin Graham investment advisor 550311

Benjamin Graham in 1955Bettmann | Getty Images

Ignore the noise

Investing can get emotional, and it doesn’t help that you can see how you’re doing throughout the day by checking a stock ticker or turning on the news.

But no one can be certain which way the financial markets are going to move. The best strategy, even when the market seems to be tanking, is to keep a level head and stay the course, Buffett says.

“I don’t pay any attention to what economists say, frankly,” he said in 2016. “If you look at the whole history of [economists], they don’t make a lot of money buying and selling stocks, but people who buy and sell stocks listen to them. I have a little trouble with that.”

Success isn’t measured by money

Buffett is consistently one of the richest people in the world, but he doesn’t use wealth as a measure of success. For him, it all boils down to if the people you’re closest to love you.

“Being given unconditional love is the greatest benefit you can ever get,” Buffett told MBA students in a 2008 talk.

“The incredible thing about love is that you can’t get rid of it. If you try to give it away, you end up with twice as much, but if you try to hold onto it, it disappears. It is an extraordinary situation, where the people who just absolutely push it out, get it back tenfold.”

Don’t miss: 11 of Warren Buffett’s funniest and most frugal quirks

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A Sumptuous Painting Surrounded by Stories – WSJ

Sounds like what my “Art Salon” is all about!


There is plenty of speculation about the unknown sitter’s identity in Titian’s glittering ‘Portrait of a Lady in White,’ a work that flaunts the artist’s technical skills.

Sometimes the stories and speculations that surround works of art can deflect from our interest in the work itself. That’s certainly true of Titian’s glittering “Portrait of a Lady in White” (c. 1561), currently in Southern California on loan to Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum from the Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery) of Germany’s Dresden State Art Collections—home to some of the world’s best-known old master paintings. The lady’s enigmatic glance and lavish, yet monochrome, attire provide ample excuse for conjecture as to both her identity and the assertively rhyming nature of her costume. It’s unusual to have a catalog for a single-painting exhibition, but this one is exceptionally rich in resources for information about the canvas’s history, travels and recent conservation, as well as details about the sitter’s costume, jewelry and possible identity.

‘Portrait of a Lady in White’ (c. 1561), by Titian
‘Portrait of a Lady in White’ (c. 1561), by Titian Photo: Elke Estel/ Hans-Peter Klut

Born around 1488/90, Tiziano Vecellio, known to us as Titian, was apprenticed as a youth to Venice’s most eminent painters, the brothers Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, and by the time of his death during the 1576 plague epidemic he had spent years as the most internationally acclaimed of many great Venetian Renaissance artists. This portrait is among Titian’s late works, and there is documentary evidence suggesting that this is the same painting the artist sent to Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, in 1561. When August III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, purchased a hundred works from the Este Collection in 1746, the “Lady in White” was included, and it is already listed in the elector’s paintings catalog of 1765. The work remained in Dresden until 1945, when it was among the art taken to Moscow by the Soviets, who returned it to Dresden, then part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), in 1955.

The depiction of such an elegant lady inevitably leads to speculation as to her identity, and there have been suggestions that she was a model, a courtesan, or one of the artist’s daughters. Moreover, there had been two versions of the work—the presumably slightly earlier one, sent to Philip II of Spain in 1559, is long lost and now known only via a 1628/29 copy by Rubens (now in Vienna). As the Gemäldegalerie’s curator of Italian painting, Andreas Henning, writes in the catalog, the fact that Titian not only painted the same subject twice, but “took up the same model…in various other paintings, clearly shows that the woman portrayed is not seen as much as a real person as an ideal.”

That appears evident to this viewer, based on the various lyrical effects that coalesce to give this painting its impact. Despite eyes that peer forcefully to the viewer’s right, the lady’s beauty doesn’t suggest anything much about her personality. The red lips, rosy cheeks and finely plucked eyebrows could serve as an ad for a cosmetics company. Even the gossamer covering of the lady’s shoulders and décolletage seems primarily about Titian’s painting virtuosity; the lack of tension on the decorative lacing across the front of her corset tells us that the artist has only the faintest interest in visually defining her bust. Rubens’s copy of the lost, slightly earlier, version shows no such restraint, as he manages to slightly emphasize the contours of her bosom and dangles a gemstone pendant between her breasts. Was this a characteristic “Rubenesque” interpretation or was Titian’s earlier now-lost version also a tad racier?

Discussions as to whether the lavish white dress might be wedding attire seem beside the point. This is a visual feast replete with generous servings of old-fashioned visual rhymes. The pearl hairband, earrings and necklace rhyme with the fabric puffs at the top of her left sleeve and continue on the ruching of the bodice. The gold bracelets rhyme with the bits of gold thread and the lady’s golden hair, and even the clearly delineated gold that holds the left earring’s pearl, and the gold ring on her left hand. The deep red stone in that ring, in turn, rhymes with the lady’s red lips and paler red cheeks, fading into the barely palpable rose tone of her face and bodice. The flag/fan she holds appears in other paintings of the time, but it’s also suggestive of the lily held by the archangel Gabriel in Annunciation paintings; in those works, Gabriel generally displays minimal affect, in contrast with the Virgin, and that’s how this lady appears as well.

This may not be the earliest painting that suggests an intoxication with the challenge of painting gorgeous satin. But surely Titian was flinging down a gauntlet that was picked up with great panache in the 17th century by a range of artists such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Ter Borch and others, vying for the most dazzling displays of that fabric. These effects remained a staple of show-off portraiture through the 18th and 19th centuries. Both Whistler and Sargent, for example, were challenged in wholly different ways by painting ladies in white dresses. An art wag’s hybrid of Sigmund Freud and Frank Stella might pronounce that “sometimes a painting is just a painting.” In the case of Titian’s “Portrait of a Lady in White,” we can only respond, “But oh, what a painting!”