As we were touring way too many preschools, I got to take a peek into many of their teacher and parent libraries (or their directors' offices), and one book I kept seeing was Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky. I got a chance to read it recently, and I found it has a good concise summary of much of the research on childhood learning to date and many of the lessons I had read in other books. I personally learned more from Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek (whom Ellen cites many times in her book), but Ellen's book was still informative and interesting.
The parts that I found most useful were the concrete examples of games and activities that can help develop some of the "essential life skills" she mentions. It's always a balancing act between letting kids just follow their own self-directed learning adventures and coming up with suggestions of activities or games as the parent. This book provides lots of ideas to consider when needing to be more of a guide or when helping to foster a child's personal interest, which Galinsky calls the child's personal "lemonade stand."
My full notes on the book are below.
It's never too early to learn about yak shaving: What Russian folk tales can teach about life and technology
Toddlers love to read the same book over and over again: it helps them learn language and gives them a small sense of security, comfort, predictability, and mastery over even a small part of the confusing world around them. While helpful for them, it can drive parents crazy (or lead them to come up with ridiculous premises for blog posts).
Yesterday my toddler insisted on my reading for the fifth time (that day) the Russian folk tale "Петушок и бобовое зёрнышко," or "The Rooster and the Bean." (Click those links to read the tale in the respective language.)
The gist of the story is that this poor rooster who is always rushing chokes on a bean, and in order to save his life, a chicken needs to solve one problem after another in an endless cascade of sub-tasks which finally allow her to save the rooster's life in the end.
The story teaches (at least) three obvious lessons. First, don't rush while eating (or in general). Second, accomplishing things in life (or getting anything non-trivial like a "project" done for that matter) is going to be much more complicated and involve a lot more dependent steps completed first. And third, often many other people will be involved whose help you will need in order to get what you want done.
But for me personally, I secretly got a kick out of reading the story because it also teaches a valuable lesson about technology development. When I was at Google, there were many times I tried to do something seemingly quite simple ("just change the color over here" or "just move this piece of code from here to here"), and it required 5+ steps of dependent work (refactoring, renaming, moving, etc.) to be completed in series before the final trivial change/fix could be made. I learned from a teammate that this is generally called "yak shaving," which refers to the seemingly endless series of useless activities which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allow you to solve a larger problem [Sources: 1, 2, 3].
And I've experienced the same thing in life and house projects as well: "I just want to install a camera here" devolves into "I need to run power here" which devolves into "I need to rewire, order, and set up a thousand other things first."
I guess it's never too early to learn the lesson that projects are complicated, and getting a big thing done requires patience with lots of steps, which is why this Russian folk tale about the rooster seem to teach this lesson so early on.
If you want to waste any more of your precious life, you can watch the pointless video below of the Ren & Stimpy Show episode about the (pointless) "Yak Shaving Day" that apparently inspired the term "yak shaving."
I’m really excited to have been able to invest in Contraline. Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Contraline is a medical device company developing the first long-lasting, non-hormonal, and reversible male contraceptive.
The company was started by a founder (fellow immigrant!) who is passionate about giving men more options and responsibility in contraception. He wrote essays to get into college about the lack of a male birth control pill and has been working tirelessly to recruit a strong team of scientists with an actual lab and tangible progress towards clinical trials. If successful, the product would be game-changing, and I acknowledge the risks are very large and probability of success low. I like that the founder is so committed to seeing his vision turn into reality. I’m proud to have invested alongside Jason Calacanis, Mike Savino, LAUNCH, Founders Fund, FundRx, and Abstract Ventures.
I’m personally excited about the company because the options for men are indeed very limited (either not very effective or permanent and painful). 73% of couples in the world rely on female partners for contraception. I believe the societal and social impact from giving men more options and responsibility would greatly benefit gender relations and couple dynamics overall. And I like that there are defensible scientific advances at the core of this technology that have the chance to be executed upon by a good team.
Couples and physicians can register their interest in Contraline here:
Here is recent press coverage on the company:
What I love: