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David Brooks: What Life Asks of us

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David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 08:49
This is purpose of an education redux. Saw this article in NYT and thought some of you might like reading it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/opini ... ks.html?em

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In 2005, Ryne Sandberg was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. Heclo cites his speech as an example of how people talk when they are defined by their devotion to an institution:

“I was in awe every time I walked onto the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponents or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. You make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases."

“Respect. A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn’t work hard for validation. I didn’t play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that’s what you’re supposed to do, play it right and with respect ... . If this validates anything, it’s that guys who taught me the game ... did what they were supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do.”


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I thought it worth devoting a column to institutional thinking because I try to keep a list of the people in public life I admire most. Invariably, the people who make that list have subjugated themselves to their profession, social function or institution.


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Institutions do all the things that are supposed to be bad. They impede personal exploration. They enforce conformity.
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Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 09:43
Very thought-provoking. Even though I'm a cynical individualist, this guy has a point. And he offers a good though experiment - the list of people he admires. Come to think of it, I am not entirely sure who should I pick in my version of that list.
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Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 11:18
Agreed, interesting article.

Not to make this into a baseball discussion, but the cynic in me says that Ryne Sandberg also wasn't very successful in his career from a wins/losses standpoint (only made the playoffs once in 17 years and never won a championship).

Compare that to some other teams of recent, the Oakland A's and Anaheim Angels. Both have been very, very successful this decade, despite employing philosophies that completely challenge the conventional way of playing baseball (Oakland with its moneyball approach, the Angels through their hyper-aggressive baserunning). Much, much more success than Sandberg.

Do I feel its possible to be successful while employing the 'institutional' methods that one is taught? Yes. But this article did nothing to convince me that conformity is something that should always be challenged. Though there are pitfalls to this (as Brooks accurately points out within recent banking scandals), I feel they are far less than what would be missed out on if everyone pursued 'institutional' approaches.

*Disclaimer: This is from someone who is not a fan/hater of any of the aforementioned teams.
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Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 11:51
I would point out in contrast to this authors opinion that in the banking scandal and sub-prime mortgage mess that it was the 'institutional' or 'herd' mentality that was partly to blame. I'm sure there were plenty of sub-prime lenders that said in about 2004 - "Well we shouldn't be doing these NINJA loans, but since everyone else is doing them, we will lose business if we don't follow."

Of course, if someone in a leadership role or any number of the thousands of people making these loans had stood up and challenged the status quo - saying these loans are ridiculous and we shouldn't be doing them, much like a Wells Fargo, then they might not have made as much money, but at the same time they might still be in business today.
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Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 12:13
Similar to the thread yesterday about the lady from Laguna Beach - isn't this way off topic?
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Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 12:26
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agold wrote:
Similar to the thread yesterday about the lady from Laguna Beach - isn't this way off topic?


that thread was fine. it was the discussion on mortgages that was off topic.
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Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 12:52
agold wrote:
Similar to the thread yesterday about the lady from Laguna Beach - isn't this way off topic?


Just so everyone knows - I was banned for this post. Long live the wrath of the almighty Praetorian.
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Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 23:18
I think the author meant to say that often, great accomplishments are achieved by people who built their success using the years of hard work done by their predecessors. There was an expression - "standing on the shoulders of giants". Can't remember who said that but anyway, you get the idea. A great baseball player owes much of his greatness to the great baseball players of the past, to his team, his coach etc. even if he plays in his own unique style. That new president of yours stands for change, but at the same time he builds on the traditions established by JFK, Luther King, probably many others.

Having said all that, I still think conformity sucks 8-)
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Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us [#permalink] New post 28 Jan 2009, 08:46
Nerdboy wrote:
I think the author meant to say that often, great accomplishments are achieved by people who built their success using the years of hard work done by their predecessors. There was an expression - "standing on the shoulders of giants". Can't remember who said that but anyway, you get the idea. A great baseball player owes much of his greatness to the great baseball players of the past, to his team, his coach etc. even if he plays in his own unique style. That new president of yours stands for change, but at the same time he builds on the traditions established by JFK, Luther King, probably many others.

Having said all that, I still think conformity sucks 8-)


I hear you, a good modern example would be say Linus Torvalds (founder of the Linux operating system) or Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia). Even though their ideas on how to improve their respective areas of expertise were COMPLETELY different than the approaches and models that came beforehand, neither would have a product worth anything if the Personal Computer / Encyclopedia hadn't been built up by their predecessors as valued commodities that millions and millions of people were already using all the time.
Re: David Brooks: What Life Asks of us   [#permalink] 28 Jan 2009, 08:46
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David Brooks: What Life Asks of us

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