The Power of Repetitious Teaching

Note: A portion of a talk I gave at the Shadow Mountain Stake Conference held May 2019 in Las Vegas, NV.

I recently conducted a social experiment on my children. Wait, let me phrase that another way.

I recently taught my children something new.

About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to see how long it would take for my kids to pick up on a phrase and put it into their vocabulary. I had to find a phrase that they would have never heard anywhere so I could know it was the first time they were being introduced to it.

I decided on a phrase that was used in a marketing campaign from the forties by some appliance stores. More recently, I’ve heard it a number of times from a sports radio host from New York City. It was the perfect phrase.

For months I would work it into our regular conversations. I’d say it during dinner. I’d say it while playing sports outside with the kids. I’d say the phrase during Family Home Evening. I’d say it in conversation and in text messages.

I was careful never to bring special attention to the phrase. I wouldn’t say it louder or anything. I’d just use it as part of our conversations. I wanted it to be a natural pickup in their vocabulary.

(Why do I feel like I’m being judged right now?)

Anyway, after seven months of speaking my phrase, it finally happened.

Candace and I were going through a car wash one evening and our two little girls (Samm, who was 6, and Jane, who was 4) were in the back seat teasing each other and giggling.

We were chatting about normal parent things and the girls were going back and forth in their own conversation. It was a deep conversation.

To the best of my recollection the playful insult Samm said was, “Jane, You have a pet pizza named spot.”

Then they would laugh.

Jane countered that sharp blow with, “Oh yeah, your bed is made out of french fries.”

More laughing.

Samm then returned, “Well your hair is spaghetti.”

And then Jane, in one of my most proud parenting moments, responded “ Oh Samm, NOW YOU’RE COOKING WITH SOME GAS!”

There was the phrase. It was beautifully used with a new york accent and all. It took seven months and now it’s in there. Maybe I could have used a more meaningful phrase, but little Jane Taylor did sound so cute with a New York accent.

I’ve thought about this little experiment. It’s a reminder that our minds can learn and absorb things with nothing more than repetition.

If you hear a phrase often enough, it will become engrained in your mind and part of your vocabulary. We think we are impervious to advertising but we can all finish the product phrases that are said on television.

We shouldn’t justify watching a movie with bad language just because we hear the same language at work or school all day long. Instead, we should give our mind a rest from the onslaught of filth. We should be “willing to politely walk away or change the subject when those around you use inappropriate language.”

The good news is that repetition can certainly be used for good reasons too. There is a “spiritual value and importance of repetitious learning and teaching.”

Repetitious learning and teaching as a line upon line and precept upon precept pattern of revelation can invite the Holy Ghost to renew, enrich, and enlarge the knowledge we already have obtained; it also can bring new knowledge and understanding into our minds and hearts.

David A Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

You’ll know you’re being consistent in reading the scriptures when the words on the page are the least interesting part of your morning study. 

Studying Come follow Me in our home has been wonderful in repetitious learning. “The kind of gospel learning that strengthens our faith and leads to the miraculous change of conversion doesn’t happen all at once…It requires consistent, daily efforts to understand and live the gospel. True conversion requires the influence of the Holy Ghost.” 

I’m convinced that among the most important reasons for Come Follow Me is so that children and spouses can hear each other say over and over, “I know Jesus Christ is my Savior.”

Dads: Testifying in this way shows humility, and a humble father is one of the most powerful forces on earth and in heaven. 

Are you studying Come Follow Me at least weekly in your homes? We are five months into the study guide. If my family science experiment is accurate then just a couple more months and your testimony will have become part of your children’s vocabulary. I think that’s great. Now that is parenting with some gas. 

Moving from Gmail to Fastmail…kind of

I wrote that tweet nearly a year ago, but the desire to make a move from gmail had been around for a long time before this request. I created a gmail account in 2004 as it was fast, free and offered plenty of space. It has always worked mostly well but I was looking for other options.

The problem is that moving an email address is not simple. Updating all your family, friends and acquaintances is not fun for me and also kind of annoying for them. Maybe a little presumptuous even? (Just in case I’m in your address book…)

I finally made a move a few months ago to Fastmail, kind of.

The move has worked out really well. I want to share the changes because I think a lot of others may be in a similar position. However, I’ve been putting off this post because every time I thought to write it, the length grew in my head to be too much to write. To avoid this becoming accurate, I’ll tell you up front:

This isn’t a technical tutorial for making the switch. Fastmail has really nice documentation on how to switch your DNS and setting up your clients.

This also won’t be an in-depth opinion on privacy, big data and control of our information. People who have strong feelings, already have opinions. And those who don’t know, usually don’t care.

With that laid out, let’s move on.

Continue reading

A look at the 1984 General Conference

A few years ago, I wrote about the conference session during which Thomas S Monson was sustained as an Apostle. It was in 1963.

Recently, I viewed the April 1984 conference session to refresh my memory on the day that President Russell M Nelson was sustained as an Apostle. I love to observe the process and see the video from the Tabernacle.

As I watched the video, I had a few other things jump out at me. I thought I’d share them as we prepare for the April 2019 conference coming up this weekend. This will be the 35th year for President Nelson as an Apostle.

A temple for Las Vegas

We’ve become accustomed to new temples being announced regularly in conference but that hasn’t always been the case. In the early 1980s, new temples were often announced the Wednesday prior to conference.

In the 1984 session, President Hinckley (who was the only attending member of the First Presidency) announced “the construction of five new temples, to be built in Bogotá, Colombia; San Diego, California; Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.”

The Las Vegas Temple has been a special place of worship and peace for me for thirty years.

A new Young Women President sans counselors

During this same session of conference, Sister Ardeth Greene Kapp was called as the new President of The Young Women organization. The video shows as she is sustained and later makes her way up to the stand. It must have been an incredible day for her. President Hinckley mentions that “these calls have come just very recently—a matter of hours—to these women, and they will have more time to select their counselors and member of their boards.” That’s a lonely walk up by yourself.

Sister Kapp has had a lasting influence on the young women of the church and we have all benefited from her leadership. She is the President that developed and presented the powerful Young Women’s theme and values program. She also published the first Personal Progress book.

The year 1984 was a time when issues relating to women worldwide were of major concern. The voices of the world were asking, “What is a woman’s role? What is her identity?”

After prayerful study, faith and reflection, the Young Women’s theme and values program was presented to the Priesthood Executive Council. I shall never forget Elder Nelson’s response to the presentation: “We have had the diagnosis, but now we have the prescription.”


Sister Ardeth Greene Kapp (source)

I believe her inspired leadership and program played a large role in the many thousands of powerful sister missionaries we currently enjoy in the world.

Dallin H Oaks is called as an Apostle but is not there

Along with Russell M Nelson, Dallin H Oaks is sustained as an Apostle. However, Elder Oaks was not in attendance. He was in traveling and performing his duties as an Utah Supreme Court Justice. Elder Oaks tells the story of his call which happened just the night before:

On April 6, 1984, Utah Supreme Court Justice Dallin H. Oaks was preparing for a confidential meeting with the Public Broadcasting Service board of directors. It was 9:30 p.m., and he was eating dinner in a restaurant in Arizona when he received a phone call from President Gordon B. Hinckley, then of the First Presidency.
“He told me to call him back when I got to my hotel room,” President Oaks recalled. “I assumed he wanted to know about something that happened while I was at BYU or someone I knew there” (Church News, Apr. 1984).
Upon returning President Hinckley’s call, he heard the Church leader’s words—that the Lord had called him, Dallin Oaks, to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“I was stunned,” President Oaks has said of the experience. After “13 sleepless hours,” it was announced to the Church—while he was on an airplane traveling to his meeting in Chicago, Illinois—that he would be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Church members sustained President Russell M. Nelson to the Quorum on the same day.
“When I got off the plane, I called home to see if it had really happened,” he recalled.


Elder Dallin H Oaks

What will this conference bring?

It is an exciting time to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. President Nelson says that “Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace. … The Church is going to have an unprecedented future, unparalleled. We’re just building up to what’s ahead now.”

I believe him.

Use location-based reminders to remember gate codes

In Las Vegas, gated communities are common and increasing in popularity. Supposedly it’s a way to keep crime and loitering down. That’s the positive side of it. 

The negative aspects include constant repairs paid for by HOA fees. Also, it’s a pain to constantly ring friends/family/deliveries/etc through the gate when they arrive. And it’s not fun for your guests either as most people have to call the home or look up the gate codes. Until now, I’ve just kept the gate codes in the notes section of the contact card of the person that lives there.

In Las Vegas, it’s also common to find the gate code written with marker on top of the gate code box. 

For a long time, I’ve wanted a notes app that would be location aware. With this feature, I’d be able to pull up to the gate and the note with the gate code would automatically show up on the home screen of my iPhone. 

When I asked for this app on twitter, it was recommend to use the location aware Reminders app. I’ve done that now, and it works wonderfully. I thought I’d share the setup and steps:

  1. Setup a new list called “Gate Codes” so that all of the items will be easy to find.
  2. I found it easiest to list the location (ie, TPC Summerlin) and then the gate code. With this setup there isn’t any other information getting in the way. Find a naming scheme that works and stick with it. 
  3. In each reminder, use the extra option to “Remind me at a location.” In that search field you can put an address, search your contacts, input an intersection, or even the name of a business. For instance, if you need the gate code for work, try searching for the name of your company. Each location could be setup just a little different depending on how it’s most useful.
  4. Once you find the location, be sure that “When I Arrive” is selected. Also, the blue circle can be enlarged or made smaller. I like to include just a little of the street so it will show up just before I arrive.

That’s it. Now, every time you drive up to that location, the reminder will show up on your screen as a notification. 

A couple other tips that might be helpful:

  • When the notification arrives, don’t mark the item as complete. Instead, you can swipe the notification and clear it. That way it will still be there in when you arrive at that location in future visits.
  • In your iPhone notification settings, you might set the notifications to show on the lock screen, but not stick around in the Notification Center. The info is really only useful right when you need and doesn’t need to be around later.
  • If you have a list dedicated to just these codes, you can easily share this list with others. For instance, if I make this a shared list with my wife than she won’t need to do all the input work on her own.
  • I use this for gate codes but it can be setup for a number of other things. One person has a list just for airport food that he likes. That way, when he has a layover it’ll pop up that he liked a certain plate from his last visit.
  • This takes a little setup, but luckily you can setup the location for the reminders from anywhere. So, next time you have an hour to kill on a plane or in a doctor’s office, you can do them all from there.


Millions shall know…

This week I turned 14,066 days old; the exact same age as Joseph Smith when he was martyred for his faith in 1844. It’s amazing to think of all he did in such a short time. He was a prophet and so much more. He built cities and temples as he built women and men. Most special to me is the knowledge that communication with heaven remains open on both a general and a personal level.

The inspiring true story of the Restoration

There is a popular phrase that warns not to “miss the forest for the trees.” It implies that someone might be missing the bigger, more grand picture because they are obsessed too much on a minor detail.

For instance, I recently took this picture while visiting Cuba. All I see in this picture is the hose despite the background looking like a place you could extract dinosaur DNA for a theme park.

This sort of strain happens often in life when it comes to business, family, church and politics. I think it comes with a world that is more contentious and a population that is more easily distracted. It takes effort from all of us to keep focused on the big picture.

In a couple weeks, a new book called “Saints” is being released. It is “the story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” It is the first book in a four part series. It’s written in a very simple story that’s easy to read. It follows well the advice of Brigham Young:

“Write in a narrative style,” he advised, and “write only about one tenth part as much.”

Brigham Young

While we wait for the full book, the Church has published the first seven chapters online and in the Gospel Library app. I studied them right away and I’m now reading them to my kids before bed.

As I read these first chapters, I realize that I’ve heard most of the details before. However, I also realize that it’s been too long since I really appreciated and pondered on all it took to restore the church. The simple majesty of the restoration, the polishing of a very rough stone of people, and the absolute care and planning of the Lord in his patience. 

I know there are some things that people worry about in Church history. The church has written about many of them but there are still many people yearning for answers. Like you, I study to understand.

However, this book has been refreshing in that it carries me out of the trees and reminds me of the beauty of the forest. I especially love the examples of  good men and women who asked for and received the truth, then gave all they had to help and establish the forest.

And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.

2 Nephi 25:17
A photo from my trip to Kirtland, 2009

Update: The book has now been released. I finished it in just a few days and really loved all that it taught me. Learning more about the time and the people was enlightening. For example, this part below occurred in the Kirtland Temple and reads like a Hollywood movie, but these are real people with real passion:

A snippet from the Saints book

The official site has all the places that you can purchase or download the full book. I hope you’ll find a way to read it. 

Take the time to understand and organize your tech

I attended the Apple Developer conference in June where they introduced a new feature called Screen Time. Primarily, this is a way for iPhone users to understand how much and how often they use their phones. It’s a much needed update that will be released this Fall.

There have been a number of other apps and services that have done this sort of monitoring, but this one is the most ideal:

  1. It’s free on every new iPhone and on all iPhones from the last handful of years.
  2. It’s built into the operating system, which means it has more access and automation to all of the phone software, including apps that are installed and technology like WiFi and cellular.
  3. The service will run on your own phone, as well as anyone in your family.

It’s that last point that I’d like to cover a little bit here.

If your family has had iPhones for more than a few years, there’s a good chance that you have been using a shared Apple ID. This was the ideal way to buy apps, music and video so everyone in the family could access it.

A few years ago, Apple introduced family sharing. It takes a little time and effort to setup, but it’s worth it. Family Sharing will allow you to share calendars, purchases, your location, and also storage. This means that you can pay for just one iCloud storage account and everyone can back up their phones to it. Each family member would have their own password, address book, etc but will be recognized as a group.

In addition to all these other features, Screen Time will also be available to those registered as Parents on the family account. This means that you can work with your children to set some guidelines and use technology with intent in their life.

Once released, you’ll be able to set app limits, determine times when the phone will not work other than essential apps like making calls and sending messages. You will also have a daily and weekly report on how often phones are picked up and for how many hours they are used.

I highly recommend taking the time to understand technology and it’s use in your family. I’m not a fan of slyly monitoring activities of children. Talking with your kids can help them use this powerful tool in just the right way. It will help them understand balance in their life, mange better sleep schedules, and enjoy all that the real world has to offer.

I’ve been using the beta of Screen Time in our family. We use it to make the iPods in our home productive tools to include messaging with family, writing in a daily journal, and sharing fun family photos. Games and social media apps are disabled and only available for travel during vacations.

As the release of Screen Time nears, I’m considering presenting some free public workshops on how to use this free service in your family. Let me know if you’d be interested.

In the mean time, take the opportunity to line up your Apple ID situation in your family. To move from an individual iCloud account to Family Sharing is not difficult, but it takes a little organization.

Even in difficult times we can become better people

If you prefer pessimism, it’s easier than ever to find reasons for it. If you go seeking (or if an algorithm decides to bring it to you), you can find sadness and plenty of divisive issues. As if that’s not enough, it compounds when you find a difficult issue and also learn that some friends and family fall on the other side of it from you. So now along with agony you have a side of anger.

The more iniquity, the more despair. It’s easy to see what Joel meant when he warned of “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains.”

Like many of you I prefer to find the good as much as I can. I like to hear of and participate in kindness and improvement. I believe that the capacity for kindness in each of us can not be overstated. We can all do so much for each other and for ourselves.

I like to understand new research that will motivate me to be better. Perhaps some of you do as well?

To combat all the negative that is available, I’d like to list a few things I’ve recently read. I hope that it will help some of you like it did me.

Despite what you see on TV, many dads are parenting better than ever

After a national study of 2,194 fathers of children ages 2 through 18, the results show that a majority of fathers today are relatively involved in their children’s lives. This is great news. When dad joins mom in emotional support and spending time with children, that’s a recipe for happiness.

The study also shares how we can be better fathers with tips on balancing “masculinity” and tenderness. These scientific tips include:

  • It’s OK to show and feel your feelings. Doing so will help you be a better, more involved and engaged father.
  • Be an example. Children learn by example and demonstrating beliefs and attitudes that are supportive not only benefit the father-child relationship, but they also teach children positive behaviors.
  • There are many ways to be a man — being a “tough guy” is associated with poor parenting, which can negatively affect children.
  • Fathers should not be afraid of being nurturing, caring and hands-on. Children and families all benefit when they do.

I couldn’t agree with all of these suggestions more. Being a good father (and partner to my wife) is, by far, my greatest joy. If I’m not careful, I’ll let the stresses of the day undeservedly distract me from my highest priorities.

Social media allows for negative feedback, learn from it

Those who ask for feedback are much more likely to succeed. However, when you ask, you should be prepared for the negative feedback. A recent article I read suggest the following:

  • Don’t rush to react on the feedback but give it time to settle in a bit
  • Get more data from other trusted sources to tell you if it’s accurate
  • Find a way that will broadcast real change and desire to help
  • Share what you are learning with others so you don’t struggle alone

I’ve learned that holding a grudge can be among life’s heaviest burdens. Understand what you can learn from the situation and move on.

There are so many ways to improve

The Scientific American put together a strong list of things we don’t know about ourselves. Much of this resonates with me (though some of it does not…and that’s ok too.) Some highlights and short comments:

“We are frequently blind to the effect we have on others because we simply do not see our own facial expressions, gestures and body language.”

This is true and very interesting to me. I sit in front of large groups often and I have no idea how I come across at those times. It’s difficult to read your own body language but so easy to see it in others.

We too often think we are better at something than we are.

It’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Speaking of children, they are a great antidote for this poisonous pride.

People who tear themselves down experience setbacks more frequently.

In our effort to show kindness, building people up is among the best work that we can do.

Conclusion

Life can be difficult. If we’re not careful, we can make it even harder (and a whole lot less fun) if we dwell on the negative. I know I have much more I can do in showing kindness and becoming a better person.  I do believe that difficult times like these can speed up that process. As James Allen wrote:

“Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him unto himself.”

 

Investing without great intelligence

Each year, Warren Buffett (the third richest man in the world) writes a letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. Usually, it is a recap of the preceding year for the company, an invitation to the yearly stockholder meeting, and some insight into the mind of the world’s greatest investor. I always look forward to reading his advice.

The letter (PDF), which is always released late Friday evening or Saturday morning so as to not influence irrational trading on the market, was released today. The whole thing is worth reading if you’re interested in long-term investing. (That’s the investing I prefer as well.) Below are some of my favorite parts of the 2017 letter:

Each year, Mr. Buffett gives the numbers up front, plain and clear but this year is a little different:

The format of that opening paragraph has been standard for 30 years. But 2017 was far from standard: A large portion of our gain did not come from anything we accomplished at Berkshire.

The $65 billion gain is nonetheless real – rest assured of that. But only $36 billion came from Berkshire’s operations. The remaining $29 billion was delivered to us in December when Congress rewrote the U.S. Tax Code.

He also talks about a new accounting rule that will affect how reports are done in the future. One of the best tips I can give parents, church leaders, bosses or coaches is to give experienced foresight to those who learn from you. It not only allows the learners to prepare but also increases their trust in you:

I must first tell you about a new accounting rule – a generally accepted accounting principle (GAAP) – that in future quarterly and annual reports will severely distort Berkshire’s net income figures and very often mislead commentators and investors.

It reminds me of a talk I recently heard of a father who would talk to his son each year and tell him things that he might expect in his life for that year. After a warning, he’d encourage that “when these things happen—or anything else that troubles you—I want you to come and talk to me, and I’ll help you get through them. And then I’ll tell you what comes next.”

Before reporting on the acquisitions from last year, Warren explained the simple approach to adding value to the company:

There are four building blocks that add value to Berkshire: (1) sizable stand-alone acquisitions; (2) bolt-on acquisitions that fit with businesses we already own; (3) internal sales growth and margin improvement at our many and varied businesses; and (4) investment earnings from our huge portfolio of stocks and bonds.

And in 2017, there were not many acquisitions made by Berkshire. He explained what they look for in purchasing a company:

In our search for new stand-alone businesses, the key qualities we seek are durable competitive strengths; able and high-grade management; good returns on the net tangible assets required to operate the business; opportunities for internal growth at attractive returns; and, finally, a sensible purchase price.

I love that when the rest of the world is buying, he’s staying true to the founding rules:

That last requirement proved a barrier to virtually all deals we reviewed in 2017, as prices for decent, but far from spectacular, businesses hit an all-time high. Indeed, price seemed almost irrelevant to an army of optimistic purchasers.

Why are the prices so high? Money is cheap and this:

Once a CEO hungers for a deal, he or she will never lack for forecasts that justify the purchase.

Even though Berkshire stayed mostly on the sidelines, the multi-billion dollar train moves on just fine:

Our aversion to leverage has dampened our returns over the years. But Charlie and I sleep well. Both of us believe it is insane to risk what you have and need in order to obtain what you don’t need.

And:

The less the prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we must conduct our own.

That doesn’t mean they won’t buy when the time is right:

…we will need to make one or more huge acquisitions. We certainly have the resources to do so. At yearend Berkshire held $116.0 billion in cash and U.S. Treasury Bills (whose average maturity was 88 days), up from $86.4 billion at yearend 2016. This extraordinary liquidity earns only a pittance and is far beyond the level Charlie and I wish Berkshire to have. Our smiles will broaden when we have redeployed Berkshire’s excess funds into more productive assets.

He also gives another overview of his victorious ten-year bet on index funds. And assures the rest of us that it’s still the right approach, especially to avoid fees:

Performance comes, performance goes. Fees never falter.

And when others hesitate, you move:

Though markets are generally rational, they occasionally do crazy things. Seizing the opportunities then offered does not require great intelligence, a degree in economics or a familiarity with Wall Street jargon such as alpha and beta.

and

And – as has been the case since 1776 – whatever its problems of the minute, the American economy was going to move forward.

I highly recommend the whole letter as it’s full of financial and other advice.

Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice

 

President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, came to Las Vegas and spoke to members of the church. The majority of these members are single adults, age 18-30, and are still setting so many patterns and making decisions in their lives. This is an ideal time to hear from a Prophet of God. President and Sister Nelson gave great advice.

I was invited to come and sit on the stand for the devotional.

When the prophet arrives, it’s customary to stand out of respect as he finds his seat on the stand. It was great to watch the room full of hundreds as they stood in silence. He came in and greeted everyone with a smile. He arrived ten minutes early to assure sufficient time to prepare hearts and minds for the meeting. As he sat, he turned around to us on the stand (31 Stake Presidents and 8 YSA Bishops) and mouthed “Thank you.”

After the devotional, he needed to leave the building before the rest of us were dismissed. He again faced us and with his hands outreached he said with a smile, “Virtual handshakes, virtual handshakes.”

President and Sister Nelson spoke with such humor and power and kindness. You can see the recap on the Church Newsroom (there is also video highlights) , but my favorite quotes from the night:

“One attribute that all prophets have in common is they understand the importance of divine law….Divine law cannot be denied or disputed.”

“Serve others with love. Doing so will open your mind to personal revelation and inner peace.”

There was so much more to the evening. Yesterday was a solid journal entry day.