Saturday, March 16, 2013


Dan studies towards a double BA in Economics and Political Science. Pol sci is easy for him, he gets high grades, the profs like him. Economics are harder. He says I don't encourage him. He says he doesn't enjoy his economics studies.

I see an equation here: easy=instant gratification=like, hard=dislike. Difficulties should be overcome, not explained. I never believed those students who said, "I got 60, but if I had invested more time, I would have got 100". In my opinion, this is a poor excuse for not actually getting the high grade. Because if you invested all you got and still got 60, what does it say about you? That it's the grade you deserve. If you want me to believe you can do better, do it, don't explain.

For me (and many in my generation), enjoying studies is a completely new concept. Nobody told me I was supposed to enjoy studies. I did, sometimes, but studies were just a means to an end, something you go through, without philosophizing too much over them. Nowadays  people want to also enjoy the way, not just the destination. This attitude makes sense to me, but I wasn't raised that way. My parents always emphasized the importance of studies, preferably in a practical field, transferable across borders and languages. Studies were important because knowledge, unlike material goods, cannot be taken away from you. Learning or doing something for enjoyment was called a hobby. The notion of enjoyment was never mentioned to me, not in relation to studies, not in relation to work, not in relation to life. I was expected to do my duties, studies being one of them. The underlying message was that studies lead to better paid jobs, that lead in some mysterious and unexplained way to a happier life, whatever that meant.

My upbringing emphasized the importance of formal degrees for signaling to potential employers that I am capable of performing a job. It never occurred to me that I could start my own business, as in communism there was no such thing. "Entrepreneurship" was not in my vocabulary. Slowly but surely I realized that formal studies or a high IQ don't necessarily guarantee success in life. Though not formally taught, leadership, resourcefulness, networking, motivation, risk taking, communication skills and courage  (not to mention capital) are important contributing factors to one's success. Bill Gates and  new Finance Minister Yair Lapid demonstrate just that.

But even with this "newly" gained wisdom, I still  teach my sons to work hard for their degrees. Not only will this make them appreciate the achievement, but also give them the confidence they can overcome difficulties. This is my encouragement.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Music 1-2-3


Fourteen weeks ago I enrolled in a series of lectures about the history of Western classical music, the most delightful course I ever took. Even people who know and enjoy classical music can benefit from this great series, presented by Nir Lichtig. Nir presents eloquently and chooses great listening pieces. The venue was superb for the series, the Felicja Blumental Music Center and Library in Tel Aviv. At the course I met fellow music lovers, one of them, Moty Hermann, writes a music blog. Sadly, next Thursday is the last lecture of the series, as all good things must come to an end. Or not. I'll look for a set of DVDs (perhaps published by the BBC?) and try Nir's other series, focused one more specific subjects. I'm addicted. 


The illustration above belongs to artist Teodora Vlaicu (whom I know personally) and is taken from her page on ArtFlakes, a great site to explore and order prints. For US readers: use her page on FineArtAmerica.


My choir will sing at the Passover choral festival in Ein Hod. Come and listen, although our sound will be somewhat unbalanced as two baritone singers will not participate.