Barack Obama on The Women Who Made Him

Barack(bəräk) Obama(ōˈbäːmə) on The Women Who Made Him

InStyle: What’s the most badass(ˈbadˌas) thing about Michelle, Malia(ə), and Sasha?

Barack Obama: They all have multiple badass qualities. I think people know Michelle well enough to know how amazing she can be as a public speaker. They probably are less aware of what it’s like to work out with Michelle when she’s really in her groove. And sometimes that includes her boxing. You don’t want to get in the way when she’s working on a bag — including some kicks. There’s force there.

Sasha is, as Malia describes it, completely confident about her own take on the world and is not cowed(kou) or intimidated(inˈtiməˌdāt) — and never has been — by anybody’s titles, anybody’s credentials(krəˈden(t)SHəl). If she thinks something’s wrong or right, she will say so. When she was 4, 5, 6 years old, once she made a decision, she would dig in and couldn’t be steered off it. I write in the book about how we were trying to get her to taste(tāst) caviar(ˈkavēˌär) when we were visiting Russia. She was like, “Mnn-nnh. No. Sorry. That looks slimy(ˈslīmē). It’s nasty(ˈnastē). I’m not going to do it, even if I’ve got to give up dessert(dəˈzərt).” And that part of her character has always been there.

And Malia, she is just buoyant(ˈboiənt). She’s somebody who enjoys people, enjoys life, and enjoys conversation. She’s never bored(bôrd), which is a badass quality that can take you places.

How to design language tests for citizenship

How to design language tests for citizenship(ˈsidizənˌSHip)

And how not to

“Perfect swedish(ˈswēdiSH) is overrated(ōvərˈrādəd). But comprehensible(ˌkämprəˈhensəb(ə)l) Swedish is deeply underrated(ˌəndəˈrādəd),” says Ulf Kristersson, the leader of Sweden’s centre-right Moderate(ˈmäd(ə)rət) party, which supports a language requirement to become a Swedish citizen(ˈsidizən). The left has come round, too: the Social Democrat(ˈdeməˌkrat)-led government plans to introduce a language test. Sweden(ˈswēdn) would thereby leave the small club of European(ˌyo͝orəˈpēən) countries that do not make passing such a test a condition of naturalisation(ˌnaCH(ə)rələˈzāSHən).

To learn the language of the country you live in is the key to a full life there. But many experts in language policy oppose(əˈpōz) testing for citizenship—because they suspect a less compassionate(kəmˈpaSHənət) motive(ˈmōdiv) in some who propose(prəˈpōz) them. “Becoming a Danish(ˈdāniSH) citizen is something one has to become worthy of,” said Inger Stojberg in 2015, when she was the immigration(ˌiməˈɡrāSH(ə)n) and integration(ˌin(t)əˈɡrāSH(ə)n) minister(ˈminəstər) in Denmark’s(ˈdenmärk) centre-right government—implying that the unworthy(ˌənˈwərT͟Hē) had been slipping(ˈslipiNG) through. Her thinly(ˈTHinlē) camouflaged(ˈkaməˌflä(d)ZH) goal was not to improve immigrants’ Danish, but to naturalise fewer of them.

Learning the lesson, not the example.

Learning the lesson, not the example.

By Derek Sivers

Learning how to read metaphorically(ˈˌmedəˈfôrək(ə)lē) was a major(ˈmājər) turning point in my life.

When I was nineteen, attending Berklee College of Music, I had no interest in anything but music. Then a teacher made us read the book Positioning, which is a straight-up(strāt) business book. I thought, “Business? Yuck! I’m at music school, not business school! I just want to be a musician, not some corporate(ˈkôrp(ə)rət) suit!”

Then he showed us how we could apply that book’s business lessons to our music. Even though the book makes no mention of music, he told us to translate the examples to whatever we’re doing.

In other words: Don’t focus on the example itself. Use it as a metaphor(ˈmedəˌfôr), and apply the lesson to my situation. It sounds obvious now, but I’d never looked at it that way before.

I realized I could advance my music career by reading books that make no mention of music. In fact, I’d have a competitive(kəmˈpedədiv) advantage by doing so, since most musicians won’t!

Now here I am, twenty years later. I write little articles to share the lessons I’ve learned. But in the comments(ˈkäment), I notice that people sometimes focus on my random example, instead of on the greater lesson.

Nobody else knows your exact situation. So learn to see past the example, focus on the lesson, and apply it to your own life. Think in metaphors.

I got the COVID-19 vaccine. And I feel guilty

I got the COVID-19 vaccine(vakˈsēn). And I feel guilty(ˈɡiltē)

By Arjun Sharma

A pinch(pin(t)SH), a jab(jab) and a push. Just like that, it was over.

When I received my first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, there were no cameras or reporters. It came without any bit of the pomp(pämp) and ceremony(ˈserəˌmōnē) that accompanied the early shots of politicians(ˌpäləˈtiSHən) I saw on television or read about in the news.

After signing a stack of papers and flashing my hospital ID, I was led into an antechamber(ˈan(t)ēˌCHāmbər) where a security guard peered at me through a small circular(ˈsərkyələr) window. From there, he got an okay, and I was shepherded(ˈSHepərd) to a slightly larger room with a single clerk(klərk) who sat behind a desk. She asked for those papers, my health card and for me to lower my mask to confirm my identity. I was momentarily(ˌmōmənˈterəlē) stunned(stənd). I hadn’t willfully shown my face to a stranger since I was in New York city last March. I had this weird feeling of being naked(ˈnākid). She was unfazed(ˌənˈfāzd).

At a small cubicle(ˈkyo͞obək(ə)l), I watched the nurse’s hands move with deft(deft) skill. The ball of cotton(ˈkätn) and the bandage(ˈbandij) were laid(ā) out. A swab(swäb) was soaked(sōkt) with alcohol(ˈalkəˌhôl) and applied(əˈplīd) to my shoulder, the wetness(ˈwetnəs) quickly disappearing into a cool vapour(ˈvāpər). Lastly, into a needle(ˈnēdl), he drew up a fraction of a millilitre(ˈmiləˌlēdər) of clear, iridescent(ˌirəˈdes(ə)nt) liquid(ˈlikwid), flicking(flik) the bubble(ˈbəb(ə)l) of air from its point.

‘Loneliness Kills’: A Middle-Aged Dad Seeks Friendship

‘Loneliness(ˈlōnlēnəs) Kills’: A Middle-Aged Dad Seeks Friendship

By A.J. Jacobs

In one sense, the journalist Billy(ˈbilē) Baker(ˈbākər) has undertaken a self-defeating task: to cure his loneliness by writing a book. He could’ve made a documentary(ˌdäkyəˈment(ə)rē) — seems more social — but instead he’s chosen one of the loneliest(ˈlōnlē) professions, involving endless days of solitary(ˈsäləˌterē) confinement(kənˈfīnmənt) in a room with your keyboard and self-doubt, to try to reconnect with friends.

Still, Baker manages to pull it off, mostly. When not typing at his desk alone, he speaks to psychologists, goes on male-bonding trips and tries to embrace(əmˈbrās) his vulnerable(ˈvəln(ə)rəb(ə)l) side. The result is “We Need to Hang Out,” an entertaining mix of social science, memoir(ˈmemˌwär) and humor(ˈ(h)yo͞omər), as if a Daniel(ˈdanyəl) Goleman book were filtered through the lens of Will Ferrell.

Baker, a middle-aged dad and Boston Globe writer, starts with the thesis(ˈTHēsis) that we’ve been in the midst of a loneliness crisis(ˈkrīsis) — even before Covid. “In the 21st century,” he writes, “loneliness has become an epidemic(ˌepəˈdemik).” He cites(sīt) a 2019 survey(sərˈvā) that found 61 percent of Americans are officially lonely, according to the “gold standard” U.C.L.A. Loneliness Scale(skāl).

As the political(pəˈlidək(ə)l) scientist and sociologist(ˌsōsēˈäləjəst) Robert Putnam put it 20 years ago, we are increasingly “bowling(ˈbōliNG) alone.” This is not a trivial problem. “Loneliness kills,” Baker writes. It’s a public health threat(THret) linked to shorter life spans, heart disease, obesity(ōˈbēsədē) and Alzheimer’s.

Relaxing with Chaos

Relaxing(rəˈlaks) with Chaos

By Leo Babauta

There’s a big part of us that doesn’t like chaos: we want order and simplicity(simˈplisədē) and feeling like we’re on top of things and doing things the “right” way.

And so when things feel chaotic(kāˈädik), we scramble(ˈskrambəl) for some kind of stability:

When someone is upset with us, we might not like the feeling of being judged and the uncertainty about how people see us, and so we might lash(laSH) out at them or spin(spin) around a story for days about how terrible that person is.
When plans don’t go how we hoped they would, we feel like we’re on unsteady(ˌənˈstedē) ground, and we start criticizing(ˈkridəˌsīz) ourselves or feeling like we’re doing things wrong and things are out of control, and it might bring a lot of stress in our lives.

Do you relate(rəˈlāt) to any of these examples? In fact, the uncertainty of our chaotic lives is perhaps the main cause of our anxiety, stress, frustration, self-doubt, fears, procrastination, distraction and more.

We know when we’re feeling this chaos when we’re reaching for a new tool, system, method, tactic(ˈtaktik), plan, expert, book on a topic … or our phones.

There is nothing wrong with any of these things. It’s just how we normally respond to chaos.

But if we could relax in the middle of that chaos, it could do so much for us:

We would be OK with the feeling of overwhelm, and not need to panic or feel bad.
We would simply take the next step.
We could focus on one thing at a time.JKH

And much, much more.

The training is to learn to relax with chaos. And from that place, decide on the next simple step.

Why self-compassion – not self-esteem – leads to success

Why self-compassion(kəmˈpaSHən) – not self-esteem(əˈstēm) – leads to success

Talking about being kind to yourself may sound like something from a nursery(ˈnərs(ə)rē) classroom. But even cynics(ˈsinik) should care about self-compassion – especially if they want to be resilient(rəˈzilyənt).

By David Robson

Think back to the last time you failed or made an important mistake. Do you still blush(bləSH) with shame, and scold(skōld) yourself for having been so stupid or selfish(ˈselfiSH)? Do you tend to feel alone in that failure, as if you were the only person to have erred(er)? Or do you accept that error is a part of being human, and try to talk to yourself with care and tenderness(ˈtendərnəs)?

For many people, the most harshly(ˈhärSHlē) judgemental responses are the most natural. Indeed, we may even take pride(prīd) in being hard on ourselves as a sign of our ambition and resolution(ˌrezəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n) to be our best possible self. But a wealth of research shows that self-criticism(ˈkridəˌsizəm) often backfires – badly. Besides increasing our unhappiness and stress levels, it can increase procrastination, and makes us even less able to achieve our goals in the future.

Instead of chastising(ˈCHasˌtīz) ourselves, we should practice self-compassion: greater forgiveness of our mistakes, and a deliberate(dəˈlib(ə)rət ) effort to take care of ourselves throughout times of disappointment or embarrassment(əmˈberəsmənt). “Most of us have a good friend in our lives, who is kind of unconditionally supportive(səˈpôrdiv),” says Kristin Neff(e), an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, who has pioneered(ˌpīəˈnir) this research. “Self-compassion is learning to be that same warm, supportive friend to yourself.”

Driven by Curiosity

Driven by Curiosity(ˌkyo͝orēˈäsədē)

By Steve Pavlina

People often ask me what drives me. While there can be many motivations for taking action, I’d say that one of my biggest drivers is curiosity. I love to learn, and I find it most valuable to learn through hands-on direct experience.

In my early years of exploring personal development, I did a combination of reading books and doing experiments on my own. I almost always found direct experimentation(ikˌsperəmənˈtāSH(ə)n) to be a better investment. Books were mostly good for stimulating further experimentation. It was rare that I found good ideas from books that I could apply as-is. Most ideas I picked up from books were misaligned(ˌmisəˈlīnd), and they often led me astray(əˈstrā) for a while. I made the mistake of trusting other authors too much and giving them too much credibility(ˌkredəˈbilədē). I mistook their confidence as a reason to presume(prəˈz(y)o͞om) that their ideas were flawless(ˈflôləs).

Many of my best advancements and cherished(ˈCHeriSH) experiences started with a spark of curiosity. Then I added fuel(ˈfyo͞o(ə)l) to that spark by investing in exploration.

I went vegan(ˈvēɡən) 24 years ago because of curiosity. I’m eating raw this year because of curiosity. I became an entrepreneur after college(ˈkälij) because I was curious(ˈkyo͝orēəs) about it. I moved to Las(ä) Vegas(ˈvāɡəs) because of curiosity.

Review of “Rear Window”

Review of “Rear(rir) Window”

By Roger Ebert

The hero of Alfred(ˈalfrəd) Hitchcock’s(ˈhiCHˌkäk) “Rear Window” is trapped in a wheelchair(ˈ(h)wēlˌCHer), and we’re trapped, too–trapped inside his point of view, inside his lack of freedom and his limited options. When he passes his long days and nights by shamelessly maintaining a secret watch on his neighbors, we share his obsession(əbˈseSHən). It’s wrong, we know, to spy on others, but after all, aren’t we always voyeurs(voiˈyər, vwäˈyər) when we go to the movies? Here’s a film about a man who does on the screen what we do in the audience–look through a lens at the private lives of strangers.

The man is a famous photographer named L.B. Jeffries–”Jeff” to his fiancée(ˌfēˌänˈsā). He’s played by James Stewart(ˈst(y)o͞oərt, ˈsto͞oːərt) as a man of action who has been laid up with a broken leg and a heavy(ˈhevē) cast that runs all the way up to his hip. He never leaves his apartment and has only two regular visitors. One is his visiting nurse Stella(ˈstelə) (Thelma Ritter(ˈritər)), who predicts trouble (“the New York State sentence for a Peeping Tom is six months in the workhouse”). The other is his fiancée, Lisa Fremont(ˈfrēmänt) (Grace Kelly), an elegant model and dress designer, who despairs of ever getting him to commit himself. He would rather look at the lives of others than live inside his own skin, and Stella lectures(ˈlek(t)SHər) him, “What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.”

The Therapeutic Value of Reading

The Therapeutic(ˌTHerəˈpyo͞odik) Value of Reading

Books can help calm and transport you from pandemic stress. But many of us are finding it harder to read now. Here’s how—and why—to get back to it.

By Elizabeth Bernstein

This past year, I’ve found myself returning again and again to a line of poetry by Emily Dickinson(ˈdikənsən): “There is no frigate(ˈfriɡit) like a book.”

Like many people, I’ve needed the therapeutic effects of reading more than ever this year. As neuroscientists(ˈn(y)o͝orōˌsīəntəst) and psychologists (and your high school English teacher) will tell you: Books are good for the brain. And their benefits are particularly vital(ˈvīdl) now. Books expand our world, providing(prəˈvīdiNG) an escape and offering novelty(ˈnävəltē), surprise and excitement, which boost dopamine(ˈdōpəˌmēn). They broaden(ˈbrôdn) our perspective and help us empathize(ˈempəˌTHīz) with others. And they can improve our social life, giving us something to connect over.

Books can also distract us and help reduce our mental chatter(ˈCHadər). When we hit that glorious(ˈɡlôrēəs) “flow state” of reading where we’re fully immersed in a book, our brain’s default mode network likely calms down, says Jud Brewer(ˈbro͞oər), a psychiatrist(sīˈkīətrəst) who directs research at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center. That’s a network of brain regions that is active when we are not doing anything else and that can get absorbed(əbˈzôrbd) in worrying and rumination(ˌro͞oməˈnāSH(ə)n).