Friday, April 28, 2017

happiness isn't easy

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt


Dear LoMA Family,

            Have you ever noticed how good things just seem to happen more often to people who have a sunny disposition while other people seem constantly live under a cloud of despair? In a New York Times article called “Turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Ones,” Jane Brody explains that part of this may be due to the power of positive thinking. Her focus is on the power of “micro-moments of positivity.” She writes, “More than a sudden bonanza of good fortune, repeated brief moments of positive feelings can provide a buffer against stress and depression and foster both physical and mental health.” These micro-moments of positivity could be as small as giving up your seat for an elderly person, helping someone with homework or making a special breakfast for little brother.
Of course, we all have good reasons to feel down at times. Negative feelings activate the amygdala which triggers feelings of anxiety and fear. This can help prepare oneself to deal with conflict, but when it happens too often it can make it very difficult to succeed in school, plan for the future and sustain positive relationships. Healthier and happier people have resilient amygdales that can snap back from troubles so people don’t overreact. Brody writes that there are ways that you can actually train your amygdala in order to become healthier, more social and happier. The most important thing seems to be to surround yourself with positive people as joy is contagious and unhappy people can be toxic. Actually working, creating and playing with friends and family have been repeatedly shown to increase happiness and improve health as they build self-worth. This is another reason we encourage extracurricular activities at LoMA.  Here are some of her other suggestions:
·       Do good things for other people. In addition to making others happier, it will make you feel better about yourself, always the best source of the most genuine happiness.
·       Appreciate the world around you. I’ve been working at Seward for almost twenty years and I still appreciate the architectural details of our building and am fascinated to see all of the construction work going on around us. More significant are the brilliant sunsets, funny people and good meals we all should take time to appreciate.
·       Establish goals that can be accomplished. Set realistic but challenging goals and work towards meeting them. These can be grades, artistic projects, athletic events or learning something new. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, success will make you feel successful.
·       Learn something new. It can be a sport, a language, an instrument or a game that instills a sense of achievement, self-confidence and resilience. When was the last time you learned something new? How did it make you feel?

One of the ironies of happiness is that it requires effort and work. Sitting around watching television, surfing the Internet or hanging out may feel good for a bit, but they will never bring a sense of accomplishment and real joy. The good life requires that we commit to something and work with others for success.

Work hard…and you’ll be happier,

John Wenk

May 3              4:00-7:00        LoMA Day at the Whitney
May 4              5:45-8:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
May 16            12:00               Sophomore trip to NYTW
May 17            10:30               Freshmen trip to St. Luke’s Orchestra
May 19 and 20                        Grease is the Word



Friday, April 21, 2017

10,000 hours

“There is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory.”
-anonymous


Dear LoMA Family,

Some people believe that success grows effortlessly and automatically out of talent: smart students do well in school, athletic boys succeed on the court and great actors are born, not made. But as David Brooks and Malcolm Gladwell have pointed out in recent books, success comes from effort not talent. In fact, they have found that IQ and natural ability are generally very poor predictors of greatness. Instead, new research says that greatness only comes through guided, rigorous practice – a lot of it. Something that all geniuses like Mozart, Einstein, and Michael Jordan have in common is that they only became great after 10,000 hours of practice. This rings true for me as I remember that none of my students practiced their craft more than Alicia Keys. For hours every afternoon she would do vocal and piano exercises with her teacher who was very strict with her. Even with all of this practice, she still found time to graduate number one in her class.

However, simply practicing for hours and hours is not enough, as the practice must be focused and coached. When someone is really focused on their craft, they become so attentive to every detail that they shut the rest of the world out. You can see this with the Williams sisters playing tennis and Michael Jackson’s dancing. Their focus becomes so strong that they enter into something called a flow. They lose track of time and become incredibly productive as everything else disappears. While I’m no genius, I have felt the flow when writing newsletters or doing carpentry. I have also seen my students in the flow when they are working on essays or completing labs. They shut out all of the distractions around them and lose track of time.

Practice must also be very conscious and deliberate in order to be effective. Many artists and athletes practice incrementally by breaking skills down into tiny parts and repeating them, often with a coach or director guiding them. This is why successful actors rehearse scenes with a director and basketball players run fundamentals drills under the watchful, critical eyes of a coach. In the same way, students need to put the focused effort into studying for tests by breaking information and skills down and practicing them over and over under the guidance of a teacher. The more our students can keep their focus during class, tutoring and homework, the stronger their skills will become. There is no shortcut for rigorous, repeated, guided practice. The more you put into developing a skill, the more you will get out of it.

Work hard,

John Wenk

April 28                                  End of fifth marking period
May 3              4:00-7:00        LoMA Day at the Whitney
May 4              5:45-8:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
May 16            12:00               Sophomore trip to NYTW
May 17            10:30               Freshmen trip to St. Luke’s Orchestra
May 19 and 20                        Grease is the Word
John Wenk





Dear LoMA Family,
               This week’s Shaka entry is a compilation of thoughts about practicing from four different students, all of whom play or have played varsity sports.  The first part is from a baseball player, the second part is several softball players’ thoughts that have been combined. Enjoy.

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Practice is the most important thing you do to get better at something. The truth is practice sucks, but when you practice you feel yourself slowly getting better. When I think about how much practice it takes to get better, I feel like giving up. It takes hard work to get up, get out there and prove to yourself that you can be the best by improving yourself every day. It pays off in the long run because I know when I practice, baseball just gets easier. It narrows down from game, to innings, to a pitch count, and to just one pitch. Practice helps you even have a better understanding of what it is you need help on and what you are trying to accomplish. Even after all the hard work I put into baseball, I know there are people my age training ten times harder than I am, which means they are only getting better in every aspect of the game. Practice ignites that fire that keeps you going because you know how good you can be, and no one is going to stop you if practice.

*                                           *                                           *

I hate practice.  I really do.  I hate the drills, I hate the repetitiveness, and I hate doing things that I feel like I mastered already.  I hate doing laps when I can already run fast.  I hate fielding ground balls when I already know how to field.  I hate throwing drills when I can already throw from the fence to the cutoff.  I hate hitting off of a tee when I can already hit better than most people.

I’m better than most people on every team I’ve been on.  I’m not trying to brag, but that’s true.  Every team that I have been on, I’ve been one of the two or three best players.  That led to me not practicing as hard.  I jogged through running drills, half-assed it in fielding drills, and mostly just didn’t work very hard.  Now, you’re thinking this will be some story about how I suddenly got benched, or everyone else was suddenly as good as me, or something, but it’s not.  I was still one of the best players on the team, but I found it harder to get focused, to get my mind right on game days.  It’s not a matter of getting worse at the game, but I realized that practice is only useful if you practice in your mind while you’re practicing on the field.

I said at the beginning that I hate practice.  I still do.  On rainy, cold days, I hate dragging myself onto that cold field to do boring practice.  On hot, beautiful days, I would rather do anything else besides have to go out and practice.  But I really hate being embarrassed when I miss an easy grounder because I’m not focused.  I really hate missing a fat pitch because I didn’t work hard in contact drills.  I really hate being a part of a double play because I didn’t run as fast as I could have.

So practice sucks, but being embarrassed because you didn’t practice right sucks much more.

Get your mind right and practice your craft,


Shaka