An entrepreneurial teacher, advice from a hedge fund manager, and how kids don’t make people happy

December 4, 2008 at 7:38 am Leave a comment

With the news that Harvard University’s endowment has lost over $8 billion (!) dollars in value over the first four months of its fiscal year, perhaps the entrepreneurship of this teacher should be applauded. (Hat tip to MH.) From Slashdot:

Tom Farber, a calculus teacher at Rancho Bernardo high school in San Diego, has come up with a unique way of covering district cuts to his supplies budget. He sells ads on his tests. “Tough times call for tough actions,” Tom says. The price of an ad on a Mr. Farber Calc test is as follows: $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, and $30 for a semester final. Most of the ads are messages from parents but about a third of them come from local businesses. Principal Paul Robinson says reaction has been “mixed,” but adds, “It’s not like, ‘This test is brought to you by McDonald’s or Nike.'” I see his point. Being a local business whore is much better than being a multinational conglomerate whore.

Other news: Genetic tests can tell parents if their kids were born to run:

Atlas Sports Genetics is playing into the obsessions of parents by offering a $149 test that aims to predict a child’s natural athletic strengths. The process is simple. Swab inside the child’s cheek and along the gums to collect DNA and return it to a lab for analysis of ACTN3, one gene among more than 20,000 in the human genome.

The test’s goal is to determine whether a person would be best at speed and power sports like sprinting or football, or endurance sports like distance running, or a combination of the two. A 2003 study discovered the link between ACTN3 and those athletic abilities.

Speaking of Harvard and kids — and of “What Happy People Don’t Do” — reminds me of an article I read earlier this year about the relationship between parenting and happiness. In Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel GIlbert, Harvard professor of psychology, makes accessible research that debunks the universal assumption that having and raising kids is a joy-filled experience for parents.

Finally, in this uncertain economic climate, I share the simple and sage advice that my best friend received from his former boss, who is the founder of a hedge fund that invests in emerging markets:

The world is at a real inflection at the moment. I have never felt before the level of uncertainty in making any forecasts that we are dealing with now. Economics, politics, geopolitics, the future of our planet — all of these issues are surrounded by great unknowns and that has clearly caused anxiety levels and risk premia to soar.

If I have any useful advice for you, it would be to approach the coming period with boldness and a sense that you have nothing to lose. That might be an overstatement, but relatively speaking, it is not too far off. You have plenty of time in life to make a few more sharp mid-course corrections if it comes to that.

One of my favorite poems is “If”, by Rudyard Kipling. It is worth re-reading at a time like this.

Indeed. Be bold. If…


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

Play, think…
J.R. Atwood 


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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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