The declining kindness of our kids

Adam and Alison Grant say we need to stop trying to raise successful kids and start raising kind ones

Get ready to be surprised: our kids pay more attention to what we do than what we say. Who knew?

It turns out that while we say a lot to our kids about the importance of kindness, our actions betray a higher value on success and achievement. And our kids pick up on this.

Adam Grant and Alison Sweet Grant, writing in The Atlantic, have this to say:

Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits.

What’s the impact of this?

Well, it turns out that kindness is in decline.

Helping others is diminishing too.

And tough as this may be to hear, those of us who are parents carry some of the blame:

If society is fractured today, if we truly care less about one another, some of the blame lies with the values parents have elevated. In our own lives, we’ve observed many fellow parents becoming so focused on achievement that they fail to nurture kindness. They seem to regard their children’s accolades as a personal badge of honour—and their children’s failures as a negative reflection on their own parenting.

It’s not that success and achievement are bad. It’s perfectly normal to want these things for our children.

But we don’t need to do this at the expense of kindness and helping others:

Of course, we should encourage children to do their best and to take pride and joy in their accomplishments—but kindness doesn’t require sacrificing those things. The real test of parenting is not what your children achieve, but who they become and how they treat others. If you teach them to be kind, you’re not only setting your kids up for success. You’re setting up the kids around them, too.

The values we project to our kids will shape the people they become and therefore the world they will inhabit.

And I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to live in a world where people overflow with kindness and go out of their way to help each other.

We have to show our kids that that’s what we truly value though. And that it’s not a secondary value.

To the working teenager who saw
two friends crying on cctv and came to give them fine chocolate. You changed things for them. Thank you.
November 26, 2019


‘Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach’

Sacha Baron Cohen calls out Facebook's reprehensible stance on political advertising

Sacha Baron Cohen gave a speech to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) a few days ago and it is truly remarkable. He calls out social media companies – but particularly Facebook – on the role they are playing in spreading hate and lies.

The Guardian have put together some of the most poignant clips below:

Here’s a few other standout remarks from the transcript too:

Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts.  Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream.  It’s as if the Age of Reason—the era of evidential argument—is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed.  Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march.  Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities…

…Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people.  The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.  It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times.  It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.  And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous.  As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”…

…Take the issue of political ads.  Fortunately, Twitter finally banned them, and Google is making changes, too.  But if you pay them, Facebook will run any “political” ad you want, even if it’s a lie.  And they’ll even help you micro-target those lies to their users for maximum effect.  Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his “solution” to the “Jewish problem.”  So here’s a good standard and practice: Facebook, start fact-checking political ads before you run them, stop micro-targeted lies immediately, and when the ads are false, give back the money and don’t publish them.

You can watch the full speech below or read it here:

First thoughts on Apple TV+

It’s a promising start

Apple TV+, Apple’s new streaming TV platform, launched on November 1st. Having recently bought an iPad, I’m one of the lucky ones getting the first year for free (rather than having to pay £4.99 per month). And, regardless of the fact I’m not paying for it, I am impressed so far.

Apple’s unique selling point is that, unlike all other streaming services, Apple TV+ only has original programming. This might seem like a coverup for their lack of a backlog of content. But, having increasingly found myself getting lost in Netflix’s endless content, I have found Apple’s skinny TV service refreshing.

What about the actual shows themselves though. So far I’ve watched The Elephant Queen – an incredible and deeply moving documentary following a herd of elephants in Africa. I highly recommend this if you get a chance. And I mention it first is this isn’t getting nearly as much attention as the shows Apple are more heavily promoting.

The next Apple TV+ show I’ve watched is Dickinson. And I have to say, I loved this so much! It’s one of the most fresh, quirky, fun, engaging TV shows I’ve watched in a while. It’s a period drama and yet so very 21st century. The thoroughly modern soundtrack, set to a 19th century drama sounds like it could be terrible, but it is stunning. So cleverly done. The thirty minutes episodes make for a nice length too. Bring on season two already!

The other two shows I’ve been watching are The Morning Show and For All Mankind. Both are really good shows. I’m hooked on both, already a little frustrated at having to wait for each new episode to be released each Friday. Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon, the stars of The Morning Show are both brilliant, and the whole show is so well cast. It feels like the layers and the tension is growing with each episode.

I wasn’t sure if For All Mankind would be for me but this too grabbed me from the first episode. The premise of a world where Russia beats America to landing the first man on the moon, and the subsequent, still continuing, space race makes for compelling TV.

All told, this feels like a strong start from Apple. It still feels a little weird having a computer device making company creating TV shows, but that’s the world we live in now. And if the end result is a further expansion and extension of this golden age of television, it’s hard to complain.

Sex is doomed

Issue #70

Hello! A busy few weeks have meant this newsletter has been somewhat neglected. Things should be back to normal soon. In the meantime, while not a full newsletter, I do have my selection of interesting and insightful articles I’ve been reading recently. Enjoy 😊 –Sam

Insightful articles

1. Sex really is doomed if young people prefer streaming to getting steamy

‘When people bring the internet home with them (and in to bed with them), it becomes very hard to stop working, arranging, organising, buying and worrying.’

Zoe Strimpe, The Telegraph

2. 4 things trigger the ‘compulsive itch’ for your phone

‘New research identifies a series of triggers, common across age groups, that start and end compulsive smartphone use.’

Sarah McQuate-Washington, Futurity

3. Why pleasure always trumps possessions

‘Just because economists do not know how to price something as ineffable as an experience does not mean it is worth less than, say, equity in a house. A generation that is having a hard time acquiring assets might be rational — not just emotionally justified, but rational — to substitute pleasure for security.’

Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

4. How going hungry affects children for their whole lives

‘Scientists have shown that hunger isn’t just something transient. Hunger during childhood can have a ripple effect that we are only just beginning to understand. The long-term physical and psychological consequences of hunger are serious and have implications for the health of society itself. Food insecurity may be a ticking time-bomb for today’s hungry generations – just how dangerous is it?’

Chris Baraniuk, Mosaic Science

5. How to improve your memory (even if you can’t find your car keys)

‘Everybody has a great memory for something. Incredible memory capacities are latent inside of all of us — if we use the right techniques to awaken them.’

Adam Grant, The New York Times

The low bar of being a good husband

Issue #69

Hi Everyone. Today’s email includes a reflection on an overly positive response to my organising a surprise for my wife. I also share the most insightful articles I’ve read around the web this week. And I include some notes on Seth Godin’s book ‘This is Marketing’. Enjoy 😊 –Sam

First thoughts

It was my wife Rachel’s birthday last weekend. I decided to plan a surprise meal out for the two of us on the Friday night. I booked us a table at a nice restaurant. And I sorted out a babysitter for the evening. 

It turns out that this simple gesture earned a lot of good husband points. Not so much the planning a surprise. Nor the booking of a table at a restaurant. No, it was the sorting of the babysitter that earned the serious points.

I can see why. I typically leave the babysitting for Rachel to sort out. The mum networks tend to be better setup for that. But it’s one of those unspoken ‘rules’ that whether subconsciously or consciously can lead to resentment on my wife’s part. Why do I always have to sort the babysitter?

When Rachel told her friends about our surprise evening out, it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t just Rachel who did most of the sorting-a-babysitter duties. It was nearly always the woman in all the partnerships.

Various people said, ‘I wish my husband would sort the babysitter once in a while’. Several of Rachel’s friends expressed how impressed they were with what I’d done in sorting the surprise night out.

Instead of these compliments feeling like a good thing though, I found them rather alarming.

I mean, how low is the bar on being a great husband if sorting a babysitter occasionally is so big a deal?

Clearly the expectations of what is the man’s role and woman’s role in a relationship are in flux. What have been norms for millennia are being (rightly) cast aside. But this was a good reminder that things still have a long way to go. That I still have a long way to go.

Organising a meal out and a babysitter should not be met with surprise and congratulations. The bar should be higher!

Insightful articles

1. What it takes to put your phone away

New Yorker writer Jia Tolentina writes about her experience of embracing the digital minimalism I’ve written about, inspired by Cal Newport’s book. 

Jia Tolentino, New Yorker

2. Heaven and Hell

‘As we observe our politics, antagonism appears to be the primary style of communication today—how to fight and win, how to be suspicious, how to be hateful, how to tell lies. Who can we exclude now? Which race, religion, or group is unworthy? (All in the name of God, remember!) That’s simply hell right now. And an awful lot of people, even those who call themselves Christian, appear to be living in a hell of their own construction. That’s why Jesus can say, “I do not know you” even to those who “ate and drank in his company” (see Luke 13:25–27)!’

Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation

3. Snooze is a trap

‘The snooze button is a trap. It’s a trap because not only do you have to decide later, but you just expended time and energy to deciding to decide later. Do it once, move on. “Decide once” is a magical productivity commitment.’

Seth Godin, blog post

4. Tim Cook wants you to put down your iPhone

‘Tim Cook thinks people should get off their iPhones and decrease their engagement with apps. The Apple CEO, speaking at the TIME 100 Summit today, was discussing the addictive nature of our mobile devices and Apple’s role in the matter when he made these comments. He said the company hadn’t intended for people to be constantly using their iPhones, and noted he himself has silenced his push notifications in recent months.’

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

Book notes

This is Marketing

Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s latest book ‘This is Marketing’ has been the book I’ve been delving into this week. I’ve been reading Seth’s books and following his blog for close to fifteen years now. He’s a wise, seasoned leader who I have a lot of time for. 

And ‘This is Marketing’ is right up there as some of his best work. He makes two key points.

First, we are all marketers. 

Second, true marketing is about service.

It’s very easy to think of advertising and marketing as the same thing. But they’re not. According to Seth, ‘marketing is the act of making change happen’. And we do this not by pummelling people but with empathy and service.

Effective marketing is, in Seth’s words, about, ‘understanding our customers ‘ worldview and desires so we can connect with them. It’s focussed on being missed when you’re gone, on bringing more than people expect to those who trust us. It seeks volunteers, not victims.’

I don’t know about you, but marketing has always felt like somewhat of a dirty word to me. It makes me think of be pressured to buy something, getting spammed, or being tracked against your will around the internet. But Seth does a wonderful job of redeeming marketing. Of helping us see what marketing truly is and can be. And how that’s a good thing. That it can – and should – be about serving people, helping people, empowering people.

Reading this book is helping me see clearer. Too often marketing is all about us and rarely about them. But as the subtitle of Seth’s book makes clear, ‘you can’t be seen until you learn to see.’

Imagine a world where people and companies focussed on the needs of a specific group of people they want to serve. Not manipulate. Not trick into buying things they don’t really want or not. No. Serve

Oh to live in that world.

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