Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the beginning

As perhaps inferred from the title, this space will occasionally be used for talk about personal finance, yes, but also about the many other topics worthy of more than superficial thinking (particularly books, travel, public policy, science, music, economics). Above all, we* hope to make it a space for confronting what Emerson called the "smooth contentment and squalid mediocrity of the times."

The title (and content I suppose) is loosely based on the marshmallow study conducted in the 1960s by Stanford researcher Michael Mischel. It was a longitudinal study which he started by offering a group of 4-year-olds one marshmallow, but told them that they could have two marshmallows if they waited for him to return after a 15 minute errand. It was a straight-up test on which children could best defer consumption. Turns out that 14 years later the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow turned out to be more positive, self-motivating, persistent in the face of difficulties, and able to delay gratification. The children not able to wait for second mallow turned out to be more troubled, indecisive, stubborn, and less confident.

I've often thought about the importance of the ability to work persistently at a certain task without being distracted. I think that it may end up affecting more than we would think. But really. How long can you sit and study a language, practice an instrument, read a book, or work on a paper without being distracted? Perhaps not as long as we would like.

* Ben Bagley (aka Benji, aka Ben G) will be co-writing the blog, talking in particular about insurance.