Competence: A Crucial Quality of a Young Adult

 

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People get stressed when they are faced with a problem that is quite beyond their competency to solve, but which they are expected to solve. They know that they have to solve it, but they are unsure on how to go about it. As unsolved problems mount, the greater is the stress and unhappiness of the person.

Stress levels rise proportionately to the magnitude of the gap between expected competence and actual competence. A graduate of a good university is expected to perform well in a job that they applied for, while an employee who did not even finish college will not be expected to meet such standards. Farmers can live a happy life even if they did not go to school. No one expects them to know more than farming. But if even in farming, they don’t seem to do the job well, then they will feel the pressure of their wives and the criticism of their neighbors. Stress and distress begin.

There are two kinds of competency: technical competency and personal competency. It is the second one that is more important.

Technical competency means that an electrical engineer knows the job of an electrical engineer and possesses the requisite knowledge of the profession. An accountant knows how to complete financial statements and do all the ledgers, accrual basis, bank reconciliation and other things an accountant should know. When one is an accountant and has inadequate knowledge and skills about accounting, the person will feel stressed because he or she knows that the expectation is valid, but he or she is unable to deliver that which he implicitly promised to deliver.

Young people therefore must realize at a young age what it means to be professionally competent and to have the initiative to attain this regardless of the educational standard of the school they find themselves in. With Youtube, Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and a host of free resources in the internet, anyone can learn practically anything on a sufficiently high level.

But it is the second competency that is truly important — personal competency. This covers a host of qualities that are truly valuable in a person: self-confidence, self-esteem, initiative, curiosity, willingness to learn, stick-to-it-iveness, resourcefulness, perseverance, result-orientedness, emotional intelligence, leadership, unselfishness, trustworthiness, volunteerism and similar qualities. If it is overlaid with cheerfulness, optimism, and compassion, then you have someone who is destined for success in any field that they get into. A person who has these qualities can learn almost any skill or technical competency.

Personal competency is a quality that is nurtured from early childhood. When children are not put down (“idiot,” “dumb,” “useless”), frequently criticized or humiliated, then they do not develop low self-esteem, a factor that drags personal competency down to a very low level even if they are actually intelligent. On the other hand, when they feel accepted as they are, receive sincere praises when deserving, and feel that they are loved, then they are developing a personality foundation that will be solid and stable, and which can sustain them even during times of trial, adversity and setback. They will grow up not fearing failure or making mistakes. They are willing to take measured risks. They are ready to apologize when it is due. The world to them will not be a hellish or oppressive place, and life will be a positive adventure and a happy experience.

It is unfortunate that many schools do not teach this second kind of competency as systematically as they teach mathematics and grammar. Unfortunate too is the fact that many parents are the primary demolisher of such personal competency.

These then are what parents and schools should look at: the development of technical competency and personal competency, and to remember that the second one is more important than the first.

Never Lie to Children

Children, starting from the moment that they begin to understand words, have no concept about lying or untruthfulness. Whatever is told to them is taken as fact. The parents or elders are the absolute authorities about understanding the world. When this authoritativeness is not destroyed by lying, then parents will have no problem about making their children follow what they are told. But the moment the children discover that their parents lie to them, then this image of credibility is shattered. The parents’ authority is eroded. Every time that the parents say anything to the children, the kids will wonder whether it is true or not. In effect, respect for one’s parents is lost, and the consequences can be tragic, both to the family and to the child. During times that the parents truthfully and wisely tell their child not to do something, the child may no longer believe them and thus may fall into disastrous circumstances.

Some parents think that it is not possible to be always truthful to their children. So in seminars that I conduct, I ask people to give me examples where they find it difficult to be truthful to their children.

For example, when six or seven-year-old kids ask where they came from or how they were born, many parents would give them fantastic but untruthful explanations. One mother told her child, “Anak, hulog ka ng langit” (You fell from heaven or the sky.) How would a child take this? That he or she actually fell from the sky and caught by the mother? Why can’t parents say the simple biological facts about reproduction even if the child does not understand half of it? They find it difficult to explain truthfully because many parents think that it is taboo to talk about these things. But children will not be scandalized by any such truth. They would not think that there is anything wrong with facts. It’s the adults’ minds that have this problem.

How about stories about Santa Claus?

My strong suggestion is that parents should not lie to children about Santa Claus. One teacher told me about her experience. When she was a child, her father told her that if she wrote a letter to Santa Claus before Christmas, Santa would bring what she asked for on Christmas Eve. She believed this unquestioningly. Then one Christmas Eve, she wanted to see Santa Claus so she hid herself in the living room and waited for Santa to bring the gift. Indeed, the gifts arrived, but who brought them? It was her father.

The next day, she deliberately told a big lie to her father expecting that it would be discovered. When the father found about the lie, he scolded her and asked her why she lied to him. Then she looked at his father and said angrily, “Why did you lie to me about Santa Claus?” The reason why she was so angry was because, a few days before, she was told by her classmate that Santa Claus did not exist and that it was her parents who brought the gifts. But since her father told her that Santa Claus really brought the gifts, she quarreled with her classmate and defended her father. It was a costly lie by the father, and the daughter never forgot about it.

How about children who were adopted? Should parents tell them about it?

It is very difficult to hide from a child the fact that he or she was adopted. Many people usually know about it — uncles, aunties, neighbors and family friends — and they cannot be prevented from talking about it. So my view is that the parents should tell the child at some point, but on one condition: that the child should feel that he or she is loved by their adoptive parents before saying it. If the child feels loved, then the child would not mind very much if he or she adopted. If such children don’t feel loved, then telling them will be like a double rejection: that the reason why they are not loved is because they are adopted, and that they were also rejected by their biological parents. In addition, they would feel that they were deceived by their adoptive parents.

Parents usually find it difficult to tell the truth because they did not learn how to make truthful but assertive communication. Suppose a child is asking money from the mother to buy something unimportant, and the mother does not think that they should buy it. Some parents will just say, “I don’t have money” hoping that it will quickly end the discussion. But when the child discovers that the mother actually has money, then the child will feel deceived. Instead of lying, let the mother discuss about priorities in expenses and why it is not advisable to spend money on things unimportant. When the child has a high level of trust towards the parent, the child will accept it. The child may feel disappointed, but will not be resentful. It is alright for children to be disappointed, but it is dangerous when they begin to resent the parents.

When someone calls by phone looking for a parent, and the parent does not want to talk with that person, the parent may whisper: “Tell her that I am not around.” When children witness this, then they may think that deception is acceptable, and later will do such lying towards their parents and other people. In such cases, trust at home will gradually disintegrate. Instead of lying, tell the child, “I will just call later”; or answer the phone and assertively turn down what is being requested; or if there had been hurt feelings on a previous day, the parent may tell the child, “Please tell her that, sorry, I am not yet ready to talk; perhaps later.”

Never lie to children, under any circumstance. The consequences are not worth the convenience gained from lying. On the other hand, there is so much advantage when children retain high trust on the parents.

One World Government

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After the end of World War II, Albert Einstein said: “In my opinion the only salvation for civilization and the human race lies in the creation of a world government, with security of nations founded upon law. As long as sovereign states continue to have separate armaments and armament secrets, new world wars will be inevitable.”

This idea of one world government is not a new one. It has been espoused by many thinkers such as Immanuel Kant, Victor Hugo, Ulysses Grant, H. G. Wells, etc. It is the solution to wars. The world will be governed by basic international laws, but nations do not give up their autonomy. The basic idea is that there will only be one global police force or army under the world government. There will perhaps be a global currency. Nations can continue to function as autonomous states; they can impose their own taxes, set their own internal laws such as on divorce, immigration laws, education, etc., so long as these do not contravene international laws. It is similar to the government of the United States, where the states are free to exercise their own legislative and executive powers as well as have their own judiciary system, but at the same time there are federal legislative bodies, executive officers and the Supreme Court that deal with federal matters.

The United Nations is an early experiment towards a global rule of law. It has its inevitable imperfections because the powers who formed the backbone of the UN were not willing to make the UN a democratic institution. They retained their veto power in the Security Council. It will take generations, or perhaps centuries, before the next step towards a world government will be taken. It took a world war before the UN became a reality. We hope that it will not require another global war before a world government is formed.

US President Harry Truman said: “We must make the United Nations continue to work, and to be a going concern, to see that difficulties between nations may be settled just as we settle difficulties between States here in the United States. When Kansas and Colorado fall out over the waters in the Arkansas River, they don’t go to war over it; they go to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the matter is settled in a just and honorable way. There is not a difficulty in the whole world that cannot be settled in exactly the same way in a world court.”

Some people may think that the idea of a world government is too idealistic but not very practical. But it looks too idealistic for those who desire military control over their subjects, or are insecure with their neighbors. The truth is that this idealistic view is actually the most practical measure to ensure world peace in the long run. There will be no more wars because no nation is allowed to maintain armed forces except for the police. Poverty and hunger can be wiped out by rechanneling the funds formerly used to sustain millions of soldiers doing almost nothing or spent in the development and maintenance of huge stockpile of weaponry from guns to warships to nuclear bombs.

Education must bring about the acceleration of the popularization of this idea of a world brotherhood and sisterhood, one world government, and the widespread recognition of a single human family. When this idea has taken in the psyche of young future leaders, then perhaps we don’t have to wait for a thousand years to achieve lasting peace.

The Art of Effective Parenting

The citizens of the next generations will be molded by three factors: parenting, education and media. When these three fail to develop the values and character of children and youth, then we cannot expect our world to improve in terms of peace and harmony.

Parenting potentially is the most powerful influence in the life of an individual. When it fails, however, then the other two will become the dominant influences in their growing up process, whether for good or for ill.

How can parents be effective in molding children to become well-adjusted, responsible, ethical and happy?

1. Express your love to your children. This is the most powerful factor in influencing our children. Please note that it is not just to love your children but to let the children feel your love. Learn about the five languages of love: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, touching, and gift-giving. Among these, quality time is the most important. Spend time together where you both enjoy, whether it is a chat, doing homework, shopping, or other activities. Love needs to be expressed otherwise it cannot be felt by the other person. Whenever you encounter your children, try to be positive most of the time. Do not criticize, scold or reprimand more than five percent of the time. If you are positive and criticize rarely, then your reprimand will be more effective.

2. Be firm and consistent in your house rules. Love should be accompanied by firmness. If there is no firmness, a loving parent will spoil the child. Be prepared to say “no” when a request or a behavior is unwholesome. They will not be resentful if they feel your love. But if they don’t feel your love, they will resent your “no” and begin to be rebellious.

3. Do not do what you do not like to see in your children. Children and youth copy the elders. When parents shout, curse, smoke, drink or are violent, they tend to do the same things, unless they receive contrary examples from other elders. When parents are fearful, insecure or vindictive, the children tend to adopt these same qualities.

4. Never lie to your children. Whenever children discover that their parents lie to them, the parent’s credibility goes down. Then their authority diminishes. This is true even of “white lies.” This is the reason why I do not encourage parents to tell children about Santa Claus as if they are real, with reindeers and gifts. Children will eventually discover the truth about this and the disappointment and doubt may sink deep into their subconscious. Children tend to obey parents whom they trust.

5. Be your child’s first teacher. The future intelligence and competency of your children depend upon their growth process before they go to school. Even while the mother is pregnant, it is very helpful that the parents talk to the baby in the womb and read to him or her. Children who were given such stimuli have been known to be precocious. After they are born, talk to them often. It does not matter if they do not understand yet what you say. What is happening is that you are stimulating the brain of the child and the neural network of the brain becomes more and more complex. This is the basis of intelligence. Answer their questions by being knowledgeable yourself.

6. Do not be too busy that you don’t have time for your children. This is a tragedy of modern life. Money will bring security but not love and happiness. And it is love and happiness that is more important in our lives. Be willing to give up financial advantages or higher pay if it will mean that you will have a happier family.

A happy and loving family is one of the greatest sources of happiness. It can be cultivated through understanding the art and science of marriage and parenting, and taking the effort to prepare oneself to become a worthy and happy father or mother.

The Five Languages of Love

Henry works very hard for his family because he loves them. He works up to late at night in the office and does overtime during Sundays and holidays. When someone tells his son how much Henry loves the family, the son says that “My father loves his office more than us. He is always there and he has no time for us.” When Henry hears this comment, he feels very hurt because he has been doing all this hard work because he cares for the family. But the son did not feel the love.

What went wrong? Why did his son misunderstand him?

Henry did not realize that his way of expressing his love for the family is something that may not be understood by his son because they speak different languages of love.

An American psychologist, Dr. Gary Chapman, in his more than 20 years of counseling families, found that people express and understand love in five different ways. He calls these the “five languages of love.” If a father shows his love by working hard, his children may not feel that love because they speak a different language of love. Many of us have read of cases when teenagers tell their parents: “I don’t need your money! I need your presence!”

Here, according to Dr. Chapman, are the five languages of love:

1. Words of affirmation – these are words that affirm the worth and importance of another person. It may be “I love you,” “Thank you,” “I am so glad that you are here,” “You are so skillful, how did you do that?” “I like your t-shirt,” etc.

2. Quality time – this is one on one conversation or interaction with the person in a way that is meaningful or enjoyable for them. It is to give someone your undivided caring attention.

3. Touching – If you tell babies that you love them, it does not mean anything to them. But if you cuddle and hug them, they will feel it. Many adults feel the same way. When they are hugged, or you hold their hands or put your arms on their shoulders, then they feel that you care for them.

4. Acts of Service – this is to do something for them, such as helping them in finish something. To them, “action speaks louder than words.”

5. Gift-giving – Some people appreciate receiving gifts from others as a sign of caring. Some children may come home from school with a small gift to a mother. It can even be a flower. Their love language may be gift-giving and receiving. It is not they are greedy or selfish. It is just that this is how they understand how people care.

In the example given at the beginning of this article, Henry’s language of love was acts of service, while his son’s love language was quality time. Thus Henry’s way of expressing love is not appreciated by the son.

Dr. Chapman says that some people may express love in two languages but may not appreciate the other languages. Some people will go out of their way to look for a nice gift to a special person, but that person may just put it aside and not feel the love that is expressed in that gift. It is thus helpful for a person to understand the languages of love of other members of his family, so that he can better express love in their languages. Dr. Chapman designed a survey with 50 questions which can reveal which are the primary love languages of an individual. This questionnaire can be downloaded from the internet.

It is best that parents should be able to express their love to the members of the family in more languages than what they are used to. Then their relationships will become deeper and happier.

The Gateway to an Awesome Universe

Physicists speculate about a possible parallel universe beyond what we can see with our senses. But there is no need to break the barrier of time and space to look for such a universe. It is already accessible to anyone right here and now — provided one knows how to read books. Inside the pages of books lie universes that can be so awesome and fantastic. The possibilities of existence are limited only by the human imagination.

The scientist and author Carl Sagan wrote:

“Books . . . permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate — with the best teachers — the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses.” (The Demon-Haunted World, pp. 335-6)

One of the greatest gifts my mother gave to me was the love of reading. I can’t imagine what I would be now if I didn’t appreciate reading books. Biographies, histories, sciences, the mysteries of the mind, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, spirituality, God or gods, Big Bang, black holes — all those things that are beyond the scope of what we can personally experience or what other people can personally tell us about. All those would have been unknown to me if I did not learn how to read. How rich and wonderful life has become just because of books!

In our school, I encourage all teachers and students to read. It is the doorway not just to an interesting and abundant life, but it is also a very important key to success in life. I have interviewed countless applicants in our companies, and I invariably find that the people who have the most potential are those who love reading, particularly when they apply as teachers. They can rise up to higher responsibilities because they understand things more deeply and have wider comprehension of things. They can learn by themselves without depending on another person. They absorb the lessons of life of other people. They have insights about society, politics, history, science, or philosophy and apply in them in their life, work and mission.

Bill Gates, for a long time the richest man in the world, reads one book a week. Warren Buffett, the second or third richest man, spends 80% of his time reading.

Carl Sagan cites a survey of the US Department of Education on the difference between readers and non-readers:

“Only four per cent of those at the highest reading level are in poverty, but 43 per cent of those at the lowest reading level are. . . . In general the better you read, the more you make — an average of about $12,000 a year at the lowest of these reading levels, and about $34,000 a year at the highest.” (Ibid., p. 336)

Parents should introduce to their toddlers the wonderful world of books by telling them stories and showing them pictures in books. Bring children to bookstores and allow them to choose what they like to read.

When my children were still young, we would go out every week and our favorite place to go was National Bookstore. They were free to buy what they wanted within the limits of a certain budget. But if they bought books, then there was no limit to their budget. This nurtured in them an interest in reading.

Some may say that smart and talented people may succeed without reading books. Yes, that’s possible, but quite improbable in the modern world where technology, knowledge and information have burgeoned astronomically. It has been estimated that knowledge in the world doubles every 13 months, whereas it was every 100 years in 1900. Without reading, it is impossible to catch up with essential knowledge.

IQ or intelligence quotient rises up with reading. This is not just because of additional knowledge but also because of the increase in one’s vocabulary. Every time that we learn a new concept found in a word, the brain creates new neural connections that will adapt to the new idea. An example is the term singularity when we speak about black holes. Something in the brain must adjust in order to appreciate this new concept. Another is the word “paradigm.”When we try to understand these words, we understand additional dimensions of existence, not simply things like tables and chairs. I recently finished the new novel of Dan Brown entitled Origin. It is an awesome blend of science and fiction and it widened my intellectual horizons in a direction I hardly considered before.

Read at least 30 minutes to one hour everyday, no matter how busy you are. Always bring a book or ebook with you, read it or them while you are traveling by bus or train, when you are waiting for something, or before you go to sleep. Look up every new word that you encounter. Share with other people new ideas that you have read. Let your reading help you build a productive and meaningful life.

A Major Danger to the Brain

A good functioning brain is perhaps the most valuable thing that we can have in our life. Our intelligence, awareness, understanding and general effectiveness in life all depend upon the proper functioning of the brain.

What many people do not realize is that there is a common substance that can affect the brain in a major way — alcohol. I used to think that alcohol just causes liver diseases, such as cirrhosis or cancer. But later, I learned that one of the major consequences of heavy drinking is the gradual damage to the brain.

Brain Shrinkage. Studies have shown that the brains of alcoholics diminish in size. Even those who drink moderately also suffer from such shrinkage, according to the British Medical Journal based on research done by Oxford University and University College London on 550 people for 30 years. MRI images of brains of drinkers and non-drinkers show large empty gaps in brains of alcoholics. Alcohol kills the white cells of the brain.

Damage on Memory. Alcohol consumption, even in moderate amounts, affects the hippocampus, that part of the brain connected with memory. A very serious damage is the Wernicke-Korsakoff Sydrome which results in amnesia, damage to vision and poor muscle coordination. Alcohol affects the neurotransmitters of the nervous system, thus slowing down the communication system through the neurons.

Effect on baby’s brain. Pregnant women who drink alcohol results in what is called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome where the brain of the baby is smaller than normal. According to Mayo Clinic, the physical defects may include small eyes, upturned nose, deformities of limbs and fingers, slow physical growth, vision and hearing problems, small head, heart defects, kidney problems, poor memory, intellectual disability, difficulty with reading and problem-solving.

Blackout. A study of American college students showed the 51% of those surveyed suffered blackouts after drinking alcohol, where they do not remember events or important details of events.

Greater effect on women. Researches have also found that women are more seriously affected by alcohol than men, such as incidences of cirrhosis of the liver, damage on heart, damage on nerves.

People do not realize how harmful alcohol can be, even for those who engage in light social drinking.

There are several reasons why people drink, according to the Health Science Center of West Virginia University. The first is the desire to handle their stress. The problem is that alcohol does not remove the cause of the stress, and thus it becomes a recurrent matter. There are many wholesome ways of stress reduction, such as deep breathing or meditation, so that one does not have to resort to smoking or alcohol. A second reason that it that drinking is taken as a social norm where people are able to communicate better with each other once they drink a glass or two. They reduce their inhibition. If they refuse to drink they are pressured to do so. The need to conform constrains them to drink. There are ways of effective communication without having to resort to alcohol, such as assertiveness training. Another reason for drinking is isolation and loneliness, particularly among the more elderly.

It is important for parents to let their children know the medical facts about drinking alcohol and set the example about not drinking. Young people should also be taught how to say “no” effectively without offending other people.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/addiction-science/200810/what-does-alcohol-do-your-brain