Saturday, February 15, 2014

Two Tiger Parents Bring The Triple Package To San Francisco

Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of hearing Yale law professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld discuss their new book Triple Package at the Commonwealth Club.  I'll have to get Triple Package at my local library because I'm cheap.  Reading the knee-jerk criticisms of this work online are not sufficient to get the whole story.  This sort-of sequel to Ms. Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother traces valuable connections between culture and the forces that build personal character.

These two geniuses tell it like it is about the profound effect of cultural traits on economic behavior.  They mentioned in passing that children immersed in non-judgmental environments often feel profound unhappiness in their later years.  The pride from earning a sense of self-worth is a stinging rebuke to the nonsensical childrearing garbage that erupted from "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" for decades.  I can see why critics unfairly paint Triple Package as racist, because it's a stinging rebuke to feel-good nonsense and lame excuses.  It's also a very useful counterpart to The Bell Curve, another misunderstood landmark work about precursors for success.  Triple Package finds that IQ isn't enough for success, and that success transcends race.

Jed Rubenfeld mentioned the classic sociological experiment of the Stanford marshmallow experiment to illustrate how self-control correlated very strongly with life success.  He also mentioned a follow-up experiment where the controllers broke their promises and every kid responded by immediately grabbing their marshmallow.  The point is that a broken social contract induces even a strong character to abandon impulse control.  Mr. Rubenfeld hinted at how broken expectations induce dysfunctional behavior in society at large when we witness huge transgressions go unpunished.  I've blogged before about the financial sector's egregious transgressions in the 2008 financial crisis and how few top executives have gone to jail.  I'm still waiting for Jon Corzine's indictment for destroying MF Global.  Critics who cry racism should know that the Triple Package authors offer another warning on how the rule of law is weakening in America.  We have common cause here, people.

I'm all about the authors' three main success factors of superiority, insecurity, and impulse control.  I've felt pretty darn superior to the neo-Neanderthals who've surrounded me my whole life.  I can be insecure about whether some jerk wants to steal from me or some lazy trust fund baby gets handed an advantage denied to me.  I'm also pretty good at controlling my impulses; I purchased my first car with cash after saving for years, and I did the same with my second car.  Folks, Anthony J. Alfidi is indeed the ultimate triple package.  They often substituted "exceptionality" for superiority during their talk but the effect is the same.

They admit that their most important conclusion is how later generations reinterpret the three success factors after experiencing mainstream American culture.  Redefining success recognizes other intangibles.  I was pleased to hear them value a mature understanding of success that balances money and status with honesty and fidelity.  I'm pretty sure that classically educated people like these authors would recognize the wisdom of living a good life that originated with classical philosophers.  The ancient words of Marcus Aurelius, Lao-Tsu, and Omar Khayyam showed us the way.  The modern words of Khalil Gibran, Lewis H. Lapham, and Leo Buscaglia close the circle.

My readers may wonder why I diverge from business topics to discuss culture, education, and politics.  Folks, I'm a financial analyst despite the Web 2.0 mechanics and media reach of the Alfidi Capital brand.  Many factors affect the competitiveness of the American economy.  Education and parenting shape the personal character of America's future professional classes.  More of America's first-generation strivers should thank Ms. Chua and Mr. Rubenfeld for becoming their substitute parents.  I first wrote about Ms. Chua's philosophy in 2011 when I was more bullish on China.  I changed my mind on China but I haven't changed my mind on the importance of discipline.  The new line of thinking on business success should make room for culture.