Three offers you can refuse…

Every holiday season, AMC puts the Godfather trilogy in heavy rotation. The timing is ironic on many levels.  Including that one of its most iconic lines, “I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse” is antithetical to the very idea of giving. 

As a verb, an offer is “to present something for someone to accept or reject as so desired.”  As a noun, it is “an expression of readiness to do or give something, if desired.”…


What is Your American Dream?

In his book, The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams became the first to coin the term “American Dream” and define it.

“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”


Who Would You Thank In Your Oscar Speech?

Imagine you are giving an acceptance speech for a major award, like the Oscars. Who would you thank? God? Your Mom? Your agent? Would the press write articles about how your hard work allowed you to overcome some struggle in your life to reach this pinnacle?

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. It is a familiar script on how we tell our stories about becoming successful (hard work) and who, if anyone, we have to thank for it (the usual suspects).…


Are You a Bear or a Salmon?

In Alaska, salmon swim up to 31 miles upstream to spawn, while bears fresh from hibernation will take their young cubs on an equally incredible journey. The bears begin by walking two weeks without eating while avoiding predators and battling the elements until they get to the same final destination as the salmon.

The reward for the bear’s hard work: feasting on salmon. The reward for the salmon’s 31-mile swim: the chance to avoid being eaten by very hungry bears.…


Which of These Children Will Make It?

Picture two 15-year-old children. One has a strong family, but lacks ambition. The other has a strong work ethic, but an abusive family. Which of these two do you think would be more likely to achieve the American Dream?

We asked this question as part of our research project looking at the American Dream. Almost 70% of respondents believed that the child in the abusive family is more likely to achieve the American Dream.…


Three Simple Questions

Where were you born? What is your birthday? How much did you weigh?

Answers to these three questions might be more important than you think.

  • Where were you born? Take a moment to look at this map to see how the county in which you were born affects income mobility, based on Harvard economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren.
  • What is your birthday? In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he describes a successful Canadian Junior hockey team.

I Hope You Don’t Ace This Test

Clinicians use a common tool to assess the extent of toxic stress a child experiences during his or her childhood. It’s called the Adverse Childhood Experience test, or ACE for short. It’s a simple tool made up of just 10 yes/no questions.

Please take two minutes and take the test.

In his New York Times column, David Brooks succinctly summarized the adult outcomes associated with higher ACE scores.…


Which Hurts More? A Clean Punch Or One That Is Blocked?

Why do some kids overcome toxic situations while others don’t?

Research has shown that one answer is “a single protective adult.” A child with a buffer is far more likely to succeed than one who is left to navigate these difficulties alone — no matter how hard that child may work at it.

Having a buffer does not save or spare us from all of the indignities and pain of growing up poor, or facing extreme or toxic stress, but it can lessen their impact, sometimes considerably.…


Marshmallows & Bastards

When we look at successful adults, we often see a consistent set of character traits that were ingrained when they were children. For example:

  • Seminal moments, called flashbulb memories, established important lessons early in life.
  • Willpower developed when instant gratification was delayed for a long-term goal.
  • Resilience taught by how to get back up after failure.
  • Success momentum created by success breeding confidence and more success.

Who Taught You That?

What is the first thing you remember learning? It’s hard to say, right?

That’s because from the moment we’re born, our education begins. It’s hard to pinpoint what and when we learn because in our early years it is non-stop.

Children arrive on their first day of school with varying degrees of readiness. Thirty million degrees of variation to be exact. By some studies, children born into low-income families have heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers when they enter school.…