Mike Kueber's Blog

December 2, 2016

The three-legged stool

Filed under: Business,Education,Parenting,Self-improvement — Mike Kueber @ 2:17 pm

When I started work 35 years ago, there was a retirement concept called the three-legged stool. Essentially, it meant that a person could achieve retirement security by combining Social Security, a pension, and a 401k. That concept still applies today, except that most companies don’t provide a pension.

Employers back then similarly applied the concept of the three-legged stool to achieve company success. According to this thinking, a company would succeed if it took care of its customers, its employees, and its owners. That concept still applies today, except the components are called stakeholders.

Recently, I was thinking about giving some words of wisdom to my fourth son, who will graduate from college this spring and enter the work force. As I reflected on what to tell him about achieving career success, I realized that the concept of the three-legged stool was again appropriate.

Career success, in my opinion, depends on personal skills, hard work, and smarts. Depending on your job, any one of these three qualities might carry you, but success is much more likely if a person develop at least two and maybe even all three of the qualities.

So, even though kids often have successful pre-work lives based mostly on personal skills, having a successful career will probably require an adult to start focusing more on hard work and being smart – i.e., critical-thinking.

That’s what I’m going to tell Jimmy.

August 25, 2015

Sunday Book Review #164 – The Me, Me, Me Epidemic

Filed under: Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 7:38 pm
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I’m no longer in the business of raising kids – capable, grateful, or otherwise – but I decided to take a look at The Me, Me, Me Epidemic by Amy McCready because its subtitle described a problem and proposed a solution to an issue that concerns me – “A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World.”

I remember being exposed to the concept of “entitled” decades ago in the context of upper-class people living their lives with an expectation of better-than-deserved treatment.  At that time, my criticism was that this feeling of entitlement was self-fulfilling – i.e., entitled people received better than deserved treatment.  In the social world, people often defer to the snobby elite, and in the work world, management favors those narcissists who think highly of themselves.  McCready’s book, however, examines this feeling of entitlement, not as something that benefits a person, but rather as something that is corrosive to the soul of a person, something that should be avoided at all cost.

McCready begins the book by describing various symptoms of entitlement in kids, and I was struck by the number of them that applied to my kids.  Just reading the Chapter titles alone had me saying yes, yes, and yes:

  • Kids Rule but should they?
  • The Great Give in;
  • They’re Not Helpless;
  • Over-control;
  • Creating a Consequential Environment;
  • Reasonable Expectations;
  • The Praise Problem;
  • Money and Sense;
  • Keeping up with the Kardashians, Joneses, and Facebook;
  • Un-centering their Universe; and
  • It’s OK Not to be Special.

Ultimately, there is no magic bullet for this problem.  The solutions are obvious to anyone with common sense.  The problem is that parents may know the right thing to do, but they don’t have the energy to stay with the program.  As Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of all of us.”

Maybe things would be better if there was a stay-at-home parent.

July 18, 2015

The laissez-faire style of parenting

Filed under: Facebook,Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 7:14 pm
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Laissez faire is generally thought of as an economic system in which private parties are able to act without government interference, but the term is also more broadly defined as “a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering.”

I grew up in a community of laissez-faire parenting.  Kids were taught that they could be anything they wanted to be, but the community neither excessively admired the overachievers nor meanly scorned the underachievers.

This week a Facebook friend showed a different style of parenting.  Jeff Webster, a former city councilman and current business executive, posted the following:

  • JW – I have been told you can hire someone to help with college applications and essays for HS Seniors. Anybody have any suggestions?

Several of Jeff’s friends provided some useful, encouraging information, but Frank Montemayor took a different tack:

  • FM – Just my opinion, but if my kid can’t do that solo, maybe college isn’t for them…. Good luck.
  • JW – There is art to applications these days. Some tips and best practices. Just like professionals getting advice. Not like when I went off to college.
  • FM – I have been told by my kids that I am a bit gruff, but I put it in their court. :); so far it’s worked….
  • JW – Using that analogy. ..I guess we should not hire tutors for school or trainers for basketball. LoL.

Several people congratulated Jeff, but no one seconded Frank’s viewpoint, so I did:

  • MK – I’m with you, Frank, but I’m a bit gruff, too. I have a son who to this day believes that he didn’t get a football scholarship because I refused to produce a highlights tape to send to college coaches, while his friend’s dad did this (as well as camps/trainers) and got a D-1 scholarship. There’s an arms race going on!

Frank and Jeff civilly exchanged a few more thoughts:

  • FM – Not the same thing in my book… An application and a couple of paragraphs…by high school, should be able to do that….again, just my opinion.  It’s not like I didn’t care…I proofread it for grammar and told her if it made sense…
  • JW – Frank…we normally agree on most things. However, there is an art to the process now…not just fill in the blanks a couple of paragraphs. To each his own. My job is to get my son in a good university. ..not worry about how others get in.

Jeff’s strategy is not really a new one.  Decades ago, I remember my ex-wife wanting to get our pre-teenager sons involved in certain activities because “it will look good on their resumes.”  I didn’t like the strategy then, and I don’t like it now.  But I don’t doubt that the Websters of the world will win some battles because of this characteristic.

Incidentally, when one of my sons was applying for a medical residency, he asked me to help him with his personal statement and I eventually did some significant editing.  Later, when he interviewed with the Mayo Clinic, they told him that they were especially impressed with his personal statement and they ultimately selected him for their Emergency Medicine residency.  And he lived happily ever after.

So I understand the Webster philosophy.  Maybe he has more energy than I did.

May 23, 2015

Josh Duggar

Filed under: Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 8:41 pm
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Until this weekend, I’d never heard of Josh Duggar or his TV show, “19 Kids and Counting.”  Josh, 27 years old, is apparently the oldest of the 19 kids in this TV reality show on the TLC network (The Learning Channel).  He is in the news this weekend because of news reports that a dozen years ago he had a brush with the law because he molested (fondled) several young girls of undisclosed ages.  This conduct would be scandalous for any TV star, but it is especially embarrassing for the Duggars because they apparently wear their Christianity on their sleeves.

My liberal Facebook friends are outraged that prominent conservatives, like presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee, have been quick to forgive Josh, and they cynically wonder if the conservatives would have been so forgiving if the offender were Kim Kardashian.  Some point out that one’s views on child molesters should not depend on whether they are conservative or liberal.

I disagree that Huckabee’s response represents a conservative position.  Rather, I think he represents the Christian position, and Christians like Huckabee will always err on the side of forgiving a like believer.

Another criticism of the Duggars on Facebook has been that they are damaging their kids by raising them to be “pure” for marriage.  My liberal friends are aghast that the parents are setting up their kids for potential self-loathing when they likely fail to achieve this lofty goal.  (Abstinence only rarely succeeds, they report.)

I disagree with the liberal suggestion that this is a Christian problem, akin to the Muslim terrorist problem.  Rather, I think it reflects obsessive parenting, which can be found across the spectrum, from religious to secular. Indeed, I see a similarity between the Christian Duggars and the secular progressives who start working on their children’s Ivy League application before their kids are out of grammar school.  Or the sports parents who start sending their kids to gymnastic or tennis training about the same time they matriculate into elementary school.  All kinds of domineering parents, not satisfied with living their lives, attempt to live their kids’ lives, too.

So, yes, politics seems to color many issues today.  And that’s not a good thing.

p.s., when I first wrote this blogpost, I couldn’t find the article that prompted my comment about Christians obsessed with being pure for marriage.  Since then, I stumbled across the article in the Washington Post.

November 20, 2014

How you present yourself

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 1:46 am
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Anyone who spends any time on Facebook will often encounter a poster lamenting that (a) most people don’t read the poster’s posters and (b) you can prove that you actually do read the poster’s posters by responding. Pretty lame, huh?

Well, I admit to often skipping over posts that aren’t accompanied by photos or graphics or links, and I did so this morning until it occurred to me in a delayed reaction that one my friends had used the word “pissed” in her lead sentence. So I backed up and read the following:

  • “It shocks me and pisses me off too, that teachers can talk to their students. And tell them, she can guess what their house looks like just by the way kids dress. So my kids prefer going to school in sweatpants and a t-shirt. My guess is her theory is false and she should watch how she talks to her class. But I guess it’s ok for some to judge……”

Not surprisingly, the post was followed by numerous sympathetic comments, to which my friend responded:

  • “Thanks everyone! I’m just sadden by the way people look down on others and judge them by their name or how they dress. We are all human and deserve to be treated equal.”

Even more outraged comments elicited the following admission:

  • “This teacher’s comment wasn’t addressed directly at my kids. It was directed at all students all the way down the kindergarten class. My point is my kids go to school clean and comfy. They are not dressed in all name brand clothes. But does that say our house looks dirty and messy. Just because that’s what she sees when she looks at kids who are not dressed to the hilt.”

Because the comments were exclusively from women (Venus), I decided to throw caution to the wind and provide the perspective of this man (Mars):

  • “Although we may not agree with it, authority figures judge people based on how they dress. They consider extremely casual dress (sweats and t-shirts, even pj and slippers) to be disrespectful. As Steven A. Smith says, It is all about how you present yourself to authority figures. Many people have suggested that Trayvon Martin and the kid from Ferguson, MO would not have been shot if they hadn’t been dressed like they were (e.g., the famous hoodie). But connecting a kid’s clothing with the parent’s house is clearly misguided. Kids typically dress themselves; parents keep the house clean and tidy. I have, however, teased co-workers that I can imagine what their house looks like after riding in their car or seeing their cluttered desk.”

Shortly after filing my perspective, I thought about providing a real-life example of the importance of how you present yourself:

  • A couple of years ago, my ex-girlfriend was complaining that she couldn’t find another good man. Then, one morning I offered to give her a ride to the airport, and she met me in sweatpants for comfort. I strongly suggested that she change into something more attractive, and she did. A couple of hours later, she called me to advise that some guy approached her while waiting in line at the airport and after a nice conversation she gave him her number. A few months ago, she took the guy’s last name.

Moral of the story – kids might dress like slobs when they are in college, but parents who let their kids dress like slobs at school before then are not doing them any favor.