English Challenge 16

I.  Article

A. You Don’t Control the Outcomes of Your Life.  Principles Do.
Link / Excerpt and Questions /

B. Excerpt to Read and Record

  1. You don’t control the outcomes of your life. You don’t control how other people will respond to you.  You don’t control your health.  You don’t control how much money you make.  Principles control these things.  Said Dr. Stephen R. Covey, “We control our actions, but the consequences that flow from those actions are controlled by principles.”  If you consistently put unhealthy foods in your body, your body will become unhealthy.  Your body is a natural system governed by principles.  If you don’t pay the price to develop your mind with consistent learning, your mind will become dull and unclear. Your mind is a natural system governed by principles. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey defines a principle as “a natural law like gravity.  It’s different than a value.  Values are subjective; principles are objective.  Gravity — if you drop something, gravity controls.”
  2. Most people cram for tests while in college. But can you cram if you’re a farmer?  Can you forget to plant in the spring, slack off all summer, and then work hard during the fall?  Of course not.  A farm is a natural system governed by principles.  So are you.  The law of the harvest is always in effect.  What you plant, you must harvest.  Furthermore, what you plant consistently over time eventually yields a compounded or exponential harvest.
  3. You often don’t experience the consequences of your actions immediately, which can be deceiving. If you smoked one cigarette, you probably wouldn’t get cancer.  If you spent $10 on coffee just one day, it probably wouldn’t affect your financial life.  However, over time, these habits have drastic outcomes.  It turns out, $10 daily over 50 years at 5% compounding interest becomes $816,000.  Your coffee habit may really be costing you.
  4. Given the choice, which would you rather have: $1,000,000 in your pocket right now or a penny that doubles in value for 31 days? Most people would choose the million.  However, the doubling penny actually ends up being $10.7 million dollars.  (See the math below.)  Yet, the majority of the growth happens at the very end, and most people aren’t patient enough for the big return.  The live-for-the-moment culture of today stops people from investing.
  5. Here is where the notion of “over-night” success comes from. Anything on an exponential curve looks small at the beginning.  When you first start a habit, the effects are minor.  However, over time, they become major.  Thus, out of nowhere, someone emerges onto the scene.  What you didn’t see were the years of consistent preparation that got them there.  Principles govern.  The same holds true of the reverse.  Obesity, debt, identity confusion, broken marriages.  These things are governed by principles, the compounded effect of daily decisions and misguided premises.  Small things become big things, always.

Your Entire Life Is Preparation

  1. It is for this reason that everything you do matters. Principles, like gravity, are in control.  You can’t escape them.  The people you spend your time with.  The way you save, or spend, your money.  The things you put in your body.  The information you put in your head.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Quality in, quality out.  You control your behavior, principles control the outcomes.  Although this may be terrifying to some, I find this reality to be completely liberating.  The challenge: learn and apply correct principles.
  2. Although you don’t control the outcomes, you can become adept at predicting the outcomes of your behavior. In this way, you are the designer of your destiny.  You choose the effect governing principles will have on you.  Do what is right, let the consequence follow.
  3. If you cultivate amazing daily habits, you can be assured of a fruitful harvest. If you read good books every day, over time you will experience exponential changes in the way you think.  If you go to bed and rise early every day, over time you will experience exponential changes in your energy levels.  If you eat healthy and exercise every day, over time you will experience exponential changes in your body.  If you plant big dreams and do the work toward them daily, over time you will experience exponential progress toward your dreams.  If you’re thoughtful and kind in your relationships daily, over time you’ll have incredible relationships.
  4. Consistency is the key. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a natural tendency of any isolated system is to degenerate into a more disordered state. Thus, if you don’t maintain and continue to improve, you will naturally be in a state of decline.  An unattended garden will always grow weeds.  Likewise, your natural tendency is to atrophy and die — physically, spiritually, financially, and in every other way.  Who you are at this present moment is the product of principles in action.

Are You Getting Better?

  1. Are you in a state of decay or are you paying the price to improve? Did you work harder today than you did yesterday?  Did you focus better, or worse?  Did you eat healthier?  Were you more kind and considerate?  Is the fire burning within you — your why — brighter and bigger, or dimmer and smaller?  Without being conscious and purposeful about these things, you will naturally decline.  Every day is practice.  Everything you do is training.  Every area of your life affects every other area of your life.  When you begin making improvements in one area, all other areas will be affected.  Today is practice.  Right now, you’re training.  Everything is training.

C. Comprehension Questions

  1. What is the gist of this article?
  2. What is the main difference between a value and a principle, according to the author?
  3. What is the reason people don’t invest well today, according to the author?
  4. If we can’t control the outcomes of our lives, why does the author say that everything we do matters?
  5. According to the author, what is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and what does it mean to us as individuals?

D. Grammar Questions

  1. In Paragraph 1, Covey is not a medical doctor, so why is he called “Dr. Covey?”
  2. In Paragraph 5, what does “out of nowhere” mean?
  3. Computer experts often use an acronym, GIGO. Having read this article, tell me what this acronym stands for and what it means.
  4. The author uses the phrase “over time” numerous times. What does this phrase mean?
  5. What does “exponential change” mean within the context of this article?

II.  Song

A. Title – Song / Lyrics and Questions /

B. Story

Americans have a saying:  A fool and his money are soon parted.  This means that a naïve or gullible person with limited experience in life will sooner or later encounter a confidence man, aka “con man” or scammer, who will deceive him and cheat him out of his money (i.e., part or separate the fool from his money).  Sadly, this story plays out across the world many times a day.  This song tells a tale about this sad story.  Its setting is in the cowboy days when cowboys wore spurs on their boots for function (to nudge his horse with his spurs) and fashion (expensive vs. cheap).  A dime is an American coin worth 10 cents, or 1/10th of a dollar.  A long time ago, a dime could buy a lot of things, but today it won’t buy anything.  Let’s get to the story.

A cowboy comes to town to spend his money on drinking and dancing.  It seems he doesn’t wear his fancy silver spurs very often (Lines 4 and 5).  When he enters a saloon (the equivalent of a modern-day bar) to drink some whiskey, a beautiful young woman hanging around the saloon looking for a “mark,” an unsuspecting target to cheat, sees him wander in.  She notices that this young cowboy has spurs made of pure silver and quickly sets her sights on him.  She accosts him and asks him to drink with her up in her room.  Perhaps she tells him she is lonely and needs some company.  She further intrigues him by telling him that she makes a magical “summer wine” that will ensnare his senses and make him feel as if he were on top of the world (euphoric or ecstatic).  He eagerly agrees and follows her to her room.  At some point she surreptitiously drugs his drink.  He suddenly gets drowsy and can’t speak clearly or stand up.  He starts to become suspicious, but she allays his suspicions with some made-up story about that being the euphoric feeling caused by her special summer wine.  He falls for (is deceived by) her false assurance and soon passes out (falls unconscious).  While he is sleeping, she steals all of his money – a dollar and a dime – and his silver spurs and leaves town.

When he wakes up, he has a hangover (an alcohol-induced headache).  He notices that his money and spurs are gone and realizes that the beautiful woman was just a clever seductress who got him drunk and robbed him.  But, boy, he has a powerful craving for more of that summer wine of hers.

C. Lyrics

  1. Strawberries, cherries, and an angel’s kiss in spring —
  2. My summer wine is really made from all these things.
  3. I walked in town on silver spurs that jingled to
  4. A song that I had only sang to just a few.
  5. She saw my silver spurs and said let’s pass some time,
  6. And I will give to you summer wine —
  7. Ohh-oh-oh summer wine.
  8. Strawberries, cherries, and an angel’s kiss in spring —
  9. My summer wine is really made from all these things.
  10. Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time,
  11. And I will give to you summer wine —
  12. Ohhh-oh summer wine.
  13. My eyes grew heavy, and my lips they could not speak.
  14. I tried to get up but I couldn’t find my feet.
  15. She reassured me with an unfamiliar line,
  16. And then she gave to me more summer wine —
  17. Ohh-oh-oh summer wine.
  18. Strawberries, cherries, and an angel’s kiss in spring —
  19. My summer wine is really made from all these things.
  20. Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time,
  21. And I will give to you summer wine —
  22. Mmm-mm summer wine.
  23. When I woke up, the sun was shining in my eyes.
  24. My silver spurs were gone; my head felt twice its size.
  25. She took my silver spurs, a dollar and a dime,
  26. And left me cravin’ for more summer wine —
  27. Ohh-oh-oh summer wine.
  28. Strawberries, cherries, and an angel’s kiss in spring —
  29. My summer wine is really made from all these things.
  30. Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time,
  31. And I will give to you summer wine —
  32. Mmm-mm summer wine.

D. Comprehension Questions

  1. Why does she describe her wine in such flowery, poetic terms?
  2. When he started feeling weird, how did she reassure him?
  3. He said his “head felt twice its size”. What does this mean?
  4. After being robbed, he still craved her summer wine.  What does this say to you about this man?


A. Why You Think You’re Right Even When You’re Wrong Link / Excerpt & Questions /

B. Read and Record – Excerpt

  1. So I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you’re a soldier in the heat of battle. Maybe you’re a Roman foot soldier or a medieval archer or maybe you’re a Zulu warrior.  Regardless of your time and place, there are some things that are constant.  Your adrenaline is elevated, and your actions are stemming from these deeply ingrained reflexes, reflexes rooted in a need to protect yourself and your side and to defeat the enemy.
  2. So now, I’d like you to imagine playing a very different role, that of the scout. The scout’s job is not to attack or defend.  The scout’s job is to understand.  The scout is the one going out, mapping the terrain, identifying potential obstacles.  And the scout may hope to learn that, say, there’s a bridge in a convenient location across a river.  But above all, the scout wants to know what’s really there, as accurately as possible.  And in a real, actual army, both the soldier and the scout are essential.  But you can also think of each of these roles as a mindset — a metaphor for how all of us process information and ideas in our daily lives.  What I’m going to argue today is that having good judgment, making accurate predictions, making good decisions, is mostly about which mindset you’re in.
  3. To illustrate these mindsets in action, I’m going to take you back to 19th-century France, where this innocuous-looking piece of paper launched one of the biggest political scandals in history. It was discovered in 1894 by officers in the French general staff.  It was torn up in a wastepaper basket, but when they pieced it back together, they discovered that someone in their ranks had been selling military secrets to Germany.
  4. So they launched a big investigation, and their suspicions quickly converged on this man, Alfred Dreyfus. He had a sterling record, no past history of wrongdoing, no motive as far as they could tell.  But Dreyfus was the only Jewish officer at that rank in the army, and unfortunately at this time, the French Army was highly anti-Semitic.  They compared Dreyfus’s handwriting to that on the memo and concluded that it was a match, even though outside professional handwriting experts were much less confident in the similarity, but never mind that.  They went and searched Dreyfus’s apartment, looking for any signs of espionage.  They went through his files, and they didn’t find anything.  This just convinced them more that Dreyfus was not only guilty, but sneaky as well, because clearly he had hidden all of the evidence before they had managed to get to it.
  5. Next, they went and looked through his personal history for any incriminating details.  They talked to his teachers.  They found that he had studied foreign languages in school, which clearly showed a desire to conspire with foreign governments later in life.  His teachers also said that Dreyfus was known for having a good memory, which was highly suspicious, right?  You know, because a spy has to remember a lot of things.
  6. So the case went to trial, and Dreyfus was found guilty. Afterwards, they took him out into this public square and ritualistically tore his insignia from his uniform and broke his sword in two.  This was called the Degradation of Dreyfus.  And they sentenced him to life imprisonment on the aptly named Devil’s Island, which is this barren rock off the coast of South America.  So there he went, and there he spent his days alone, writing letters and letters to the French government begging them to reopen his case so they could discover his innocence.  But for the most part, France considered the matter closed.
  7. One thing that’s really interesting to me about the Dreyfus Affair is this question of why the officers were so convinced that Dreyfus was guilty. I mean, you might even assume that they were setting him up, that they were intentionally framing him. But historians don’t think that’s what happened.  As far as we can tell, the officers genuinely believed that the case against Dreyfus was strong.  Which makes you wonder:  What does it say about the human mind that we can find such paltry evidence to be compelling enough to convict a man?
  8. Well, this is a case of what scientists call “motivated reasoning.” It’s this phenomenon in which our unconscious motivations, our desires and fears, shape the way we interpret information.  Some information, some ideas, feel like our allies.  We want them to win.  We want to defend them.  And other information or ideas are the enemy, and we want to shoot them down.  So this is why I call motivated reasoning the “soldier mindset.”

C. Comprehension Questions

  1. In Paragraphs 1 and 2, the speaker compares two mindsets – that of a soldier and that of a scout. Describe the basic characteristics of these two mindsets.
  2. In Paragraph 3, what was the significance of the pieces of paper in the trash can?
  3. In Paragraphs 4 and 5, was the evidence against Dreyfus strong or weak?
  4. What factors contributed to Dreyfus’s fate, as described in Paragraph 6?
  5. Try to explain the “Degradation of Dreyfus” in one paragraph in your own words.
  6. Do you think you have a soldier’s mindset or a scout’s mindset?

D. Grammar Analysis

  1. In Paragraph 2, give three examples where an infinitive is used as a noun in sentences.
  2. In Paragraph 3, explain the meaning of the phrases “torn up” and “pieced back together”.
  3. In Paragraph 4, based on this sentence: “He had a sterling record, no past history of wrongdoing, no motive as far as they could tell.

What would you guess “sterling” means from the context of this sentence alone?

  1. In Paragraph 6, what does “to break in two” mean, based on the context?
  2. In Paragraph 7, looking at this sentence: “I mean, you might even assume that they were setting him up, that they were intentionally framing him.”English often states a fact or condition redundantly (in two different ways but with the same meaning) – essentially saying the same thing twice.  Assuming this sentence does this, use words from this sentence only to complete this sentence:  To set someone up means to _____ him.




Leave a Reply