Archive for March, 2011

Oobleck

March 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What?  What’s Oobleck?

Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid.

What?  What’s a new non-tonian thingy?

Oobleck is a mixture of cornflour and water, a mixture that is both a liquid and a solid at the same time.  While other materials are either one or the other, depending on temperature and pressure, oobleck can be both at the same time, depending on force.  This video probably explains it better:

Many things can appear to be fixed and unchanging, including the limits we place on ourselves or, for that matter, the limits that are imposed on us by others.  And these limits are reinforced through framing, feedback or (initial) failure.  Whatever ‘it’ is, you may soon decide that ‘it’ is not meant to be, that you are unable to do ‘it’ or that ‘it’ is only for those who are smarter, quicker or better than you.

When things are fixed, we say that they are written in stone.  But, in experiential learning and behavioural change, it might be more appropriate to think that everything is written in oobleck.  To change oobleck from the liquid it appears to be takes one thing and one thing alone – effort.  Stop and you sink; try and you can change things.  Success, however defined, depends on you moving forward rather than standing still.

There is evidence that demonstrates the positive effects that flow from believing that limits are variable rather than fixed.  You will never move forward if you think that you have gone as far as you are able.  Self-fulfilling prophesies stem from a belief that subjective limits are objective realities.

There are limits but they are always beyond the limits you might accept.  Put your learning on a firmer footing – change your own ooblecks through your own efforts.

Doubtless Doubt Some

March 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Double Doubt’ , ‘tis nobler wrote:

Wherever there’s a way to learn, there’s a will to doubt.  Be in no doubt that doubt has a large opportunity cost, particularly from the things that doubt prevents you from doing.  It’s not possible to simply dismiss your doubts; however, doubling up on your doubts could be a solution.  If you have doubts about your learning and/or abilities, then why not doubt your doubts?

Research has suggested that it’s better to question your doubts – be doubtful about them – and, through this internal interrogation, turn the certainty that you cannot into a possibility that you can.  Think of this as untying the ‘not’ and discarding it.

Doubtless, doubting less by doubting your doubts is important.  It remains a question of balance – being doubt-full may be just as worrisome as being doubt-free, for doubt can also have a positive effect on performance.  But, as with all aspects of the learning and change landscape, it’s not a straightforward and simple relationship.  Beyond any shadow of a doubt, you’ll have to find your own way.

Introducing doubts can benefit performance on simple tasks or more complex tasks that have become automated through substantial practice.  There is no clear explanation for this, although motivation plays a central role.  The arrival of doubt could prevent complacency, increase task focus or reduce the likelihood of distractions.  If tasks are not simple or automated, doubt could increase conscious/intentional effort and this type of manual control is resource-intensive; performance is not enhanced as all effort is directed at just maintaining performance.

If doubt strangles your effort or enjoyment, it can be the bane of your life.  However, some doubt, doubts that you can either doubt or manage, might be a blessing.  And, when faced with bane or blessing, you should follow Tanya Davis’s  advice – ‘Please Bless’:

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Doubt less in order to do, then doubt some in order to do well.  Doubt your doubts but never doubt your capacity to use your remaining doubts to do better.  Are you in any doubt?

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

March 27th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative.  Enjoy!

Is there a fourth biological domain? 

Bringing self-adjusting glasses to the world. 

Our very own galactic ‘downtown’. 

What is the relationship between free will and determinism

Here’s how to write a manifesto

Civilisations come, civilisations go, but these 10 simply disappeared.

Murmurs of Middle Earth, an awesome LOTR remix.

While Or Instead?

March 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Happy’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Can you be effective when affective?  Obviously, it is a matter of degree (in a similar way to arousal) – too much or too little and performance suffers.  But being happy could be viewed as a desirable precondition for learning.  Experiential learning can have a social dimension – learning with others – and research has shown that learners who are happy extract more value from their situation than those who are annoyed or frustrated.  Interestingly, being on the ‘same affective page’ – either all happy or all annoyed – can enhance the learning experience (defined as information transfer).  Still, as a general rule, it is better to be content than congruent!

So, as a general rule, whistle while you work:

But be careful that you don’t whistle instead of work.  It is important to view happiness as an end – after all, everyone aspires and deserves to be happy – but it must also, and simultaneously, be viewed as a means.  In a large study investigating the relationship between positive affect and college success, the inferred difference between while and instead appears stark:

Instead is positively associated with self-reported measures of success – feeling good just by itself creates higher self-assessments of success, but:

Instead is negatively associated with objective measures of success – feeling good just by itself produces lower levels of performance.

You will feel better if you whistle instead of work, and you’ll believe that you are doing better as well.  The first may be usually true but the second rarely is.  The challenge is to multi-task by replacing instead with while.  Whistling and working is more effective than whistling rather than working!

Whistle while you work.  If you feel you can do both, It may be the best way to both feel and do better.

Strings Attached

March 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Pretending is not neutral for it is explicitly designed to achieve something that is unwarranted.  The previous post was about one negative aspect of pretending – trying to gain ‘eligibility’ without making the effort.  This is the first, the most obvious, side of pretending.

But there is a second side, one that you may not realise.  Think of pretending as a balloon.  As much as it is possible to inflate your own balloon, it is equally possible to deflate the balloons of others.  And research has shown that these two processes seem to work in parallel.

If I am ‘inflating’ myself by pretending that I am something I’m not, am able to do something that I can’t or know something that I have not yet learnt then, at the same time, I will ‘deflate’ you.  You will be less appealing, less able or less knowing.  As I pump myself up, I’ll be dragging you down.  And it appears this ‘deflating’ process is triggered by our own ‘inflating’ process.  Inflation produces deflation.  Can you imagine the consequences and biases this introduces into experiential learning and behavioural change?

In just a few minutes, this powerful video covers pretending, impressions, inflation, deflation, interpersonal relations and consequences, and it features an apparently sentient yellow balloon!

Gone Goodbye – A short film from Session 7 Media on Vimeo.

Inflating yourself while deflating others – there are always strings attached.  In this particular case, the string ties your own pretending to your concurrent downgrading of those you’re seeking to impress.

As the voiceover said, “..no string attached, but there are always strings attached.”  What are the strings in your learning and change?  Are they connecting you to things of value or tethering you to the ground and preventing you from making progress?

Perhaps the worst thing is to pretend there are no strings.

Joining

March 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The theme today is joining.  The contention today is that the only real way to join in is to join the pieces together.  The reality today, and every day, is that the only way to join the pieces together is by making the sustained effort to complete the learning or change jigsaw yourself.

Of course, you might pretend that all the pieces have fallen into place; what you see as a completed picture will be viewed by others, especially by those you are trying to join, as a pile of pieces with many gaps and few connections.  What does it mean if ‘tis nobler suggests that eligibility requires effort?

In his autobiography, Groucho Marx recounts the story of sending this telegram:

“PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER”.

And yet many people try to do the opposite – become members of clubs for which they are ineligible.  Still, you might dismiss this sentiment as just another humorous aside; after all, Groucho Marx was a very funny man:

But there is a real issue of eligibility, pretence and passwords here for experiential learning and behavioural change.  While learning and change may be accompanied by the trappings required or desired for effort – the equipment, the gear, the resources, the kit -, such trappings are not capable of replacing effort.  You can’t pretend and you can’t pretend to practise.  Pretending or the use of passwords don’t qualify as effort for they are attempts to take shortcuts in preparation; it is simply not possible to hide the shortcomings in your inexperienced performance.  A preference for shortcuts will always see you coming up short!

In a recent study that examined one form of pretending, that of older people trying to look younger, results indicated the negative assessments of younger people – those in the ‘club’ they were trying to join – towards this type of behaviour.  Do you think similar findings would apply if the issue was experience rather than age?

There are many forms of pretending in learning and change and yet there is probably only one person being fooled by these masquerades.  ‘tis nobler does not need to tell you who that is.  Find your own way to being yourself, for this is the surest way to be better.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

March 20th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative.  Enjoy!

A map and listing of all natural disasters happening right now. 

The natural majesty of ‘Growing is forever’

Rock-Paper-Scissors – it’s the game of life

Mr Karim was just 24 when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at table during Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1887 – four years after Mr Brown’s death. He was given to her as a “gift from India”.  

Dubai on empty

Why Preschool shouldn’t be like school (waiting for the follow-up article – why school shouldn’t be like school!)

Ben Saunders is obsessive about losing weight, but not in the way you might think (and, weather permitting, he started a few days ago).

The Changing Of The Reasons

March 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Why did you close the stable door after the horse had bolted?  You give a reason; for, after all, you have a reason for everything you do (even when these reasons look suspiciously like excuses).  Time passes, and then the same question about the same event is asked.

Why did you close the stable door after the horse had bolted?  And you give a different reason.  Hindsight can help you explain why you closed the stable door after the horse had bolted.  Even though it was a stable door, perhaps you now realise that the door wasn’t stable.  But what about hindsight itself?  Is hindsight stable or can you go back through different ‘doors’ at different times to explain the same event in different ways?

There is some preliminary evidence that suggests that the stability of reasons is unstable.  Why you say you did something at one point can be very different to the reason you give for the same event at another time.  Of course, one reason for these varying reasons is that you become aware of new information or you understand more about the ‘thing’ through more experience and consequent learning.  But what about when unstable reasons are generated in stable situations?  Doesn’t this call into question the validity and/or strength of your so-called reasons?

One ongoing challenge in experiential learning and behavioural change is to understand the differences between reasons and excuses.  Another challenge is to try to operate on the basis of reasons rather than excuses.

Yet another challenge is to strengthen and streamline the link between your behaviour and your reasons for that behaviour.  And this is easier to achieve when the connection between your actions and the circumstances within which you are acting is itself strengthened.  A reason to connect is to produce clarity of reasons.

Tracey Thorn asks this question in ‘Why does the wind?’

Why does the wind blow through my heart each time I look into your eyes?

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Both the wind and your reasons can change with changes in conditions.  But, in the same conditions, the wind, unlike your reasons, stays the same.  If, at different times, you explain your behaviour in differing ways, what does this say about you, your behaviour and your reasons?

Rites And Responsibilities

March 16th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

This post is motivated by a particular event yesterday that demonstrates that learning ‘rites’ collapse when reasonable responsibilities expected to be met by others are absent.  Rites, rituals, ceremonies, procedures, training and education have a number of things in common.  They are often (closed) sets of behaviours.  These sets are established, systematised, prescribed and repeated.  They benefit greatly from practice.  They are consistent, predictable and appreciated, if not always entirely understood.

Can you see the links with experiential learning?  It might be easier if you replace these various acts with the concept of routines.  Simple sets of behaviours become more complex yet more efficient routines, when bits become bytes and bytes become kilobytes.  Such routines are derived from experience, which allows you to understand and then anticipate the world around your task.  Gaps in this world and/or gaps in your collective routines are offset by expectancies for you have learned through experience that some things are more likely than others.

And this is where the external responsibilities come in, for they support your routines in standardised, predictable ways and set the probability of some features of some gaps at close to 1.  They are consistent, predictable and appreciated, if not always entirely understood.  And here’s the story – if anybody from Microsoft is reading this, please meet this reasonable usability responsibility.  ‘tis nobler will be brief:

To encrypt, ‘tis nobler entered and confirmed 19 character password for a PowerPoint file, then saved and closed it.  To check, ’tis nobler entered the 19 character password to open ppt file – success!  ’tis nobler entered and confirmed the same 19 character password for a Word file, then saved and closed the file.  ’tis nobler entered the 19 character password to open doc file – error!  What is going on?

Now here are the clues – ‘tis nobler watches the keyboard while setting up passwords to avoid errors and the PC speakers were turned off.  Hhmmm, if ‘tis nobler couldn’t hack the process, the document would be lost forever.  ’tis nobler wondered about the ‘save’ process for .doc(x) files after encrypting – wasn’t it odd that the ‘Save’ dialog box appeared for an already saved file.  ‘tis nobler decided to try the same process on another .doc file in case the ‘problem’ was revealed.  The only difference was that speakers were turned on and after ’tis nobler had entered 16 characters, the PC goes ding, ding, ding.

That’s right, you can enter more than 16 characters for a password  in PPT but no more than 16 in Word.  All this time, ’tis nobler was wondering why the password wasn’t working ….. when it was three characters too long.  No error messages – Word can only accept passwords of 16 characters or less – so, unless you watch and count the circles and/or have speakers turned on for the auditory warning, you’re left in the dark.  Stupid, stupid Microsoft!!!

My rites will only work if you meet your reasonable responsibilities.  Don’t forego responsibilities and leave me wondering  – “I made you suffer, I caused you pain, I played a secret game ….”

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A Patient Heart

March 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The very first line in the song ‘Patient Heart’  by Sean Flinn and the Royal We is:

The long road makes for a patient heart.

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And the implications of that line are the subject of this post.  What do you think it means?  These few simple words allow you to burrow down in several directions.

Regardless of other issues, the experiential learning or behavioural change road will always be long.  However, it may often be the case that the traveller on this road does not have a patient heart.  ’tis nobler suggests there are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, the road is not seen as long and therefore the traveller presumes that the journey will soon be over.  Why should you be patient until you arrive when you will arrive before you need to be patient?

Secondly, patience is seen as simply not required for it is presumed to be more important to travel with passion than it is to travel with patience.  But it is incorrect to assume that passion and patience are mutually exclusive; one must not preclude the other.

A recent study made the useful distinction between harmonious and obsessive passion.  The former led to a stronger focus on mastery goals, goals that are associated with deeper engagement and perseverance, and a greater commitment to deliberate practice.  When passion became obsessive, passion rather than practice became the end; avoiding failure overrode striving for mastery.  As a consequence, task performance suffered.

Excellence is never achieved through exhortation.

You may have noticed another line in ‘Patient Heart’:

You get far enough away, you’ll be back to the start.

This echoes the T S Eliot quote presented in the ‘About’ section.  Harmonious passion and patience are both required to ‘know something for the first time’.  Be passionate in the right way and be patient in many ways.  Be passionate about having a patient heart.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

March 13th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative.  Enjoy!

Journey to the centre of the Earth, by staying on the surface – welcome to Nyiragongo Crater

Magnificent photographs of the Antarctic. 

Continuing the photography theme this week, stunning photos of glacial caves

It’s a promotional video, but it is inspiring

Beyond the telephone – Alexander Graham Bell’s sketchbooks

Defending the scientific method

A beautiful new song from The Audreys – Sometimes The Stars.

Day Tripper

March 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In their song ‘Day Tripper’, The Beatles sang – ‘Got a good reason, for taking the easy way out’:

You can be a day tripper in your learning and behavioural change.  You can have many good reasons, good in your eyes at least, for being a day tripper.  For many, finding the easy way out is the main purpose for looking in the first place.  If you can’t find an easy way out, what’s the point of looking?  It’s time to move on to another type of day trip, which is, in itself, the ultimate act of a day tripper.

If you can’t find an easy way out of one day trip, move on to another type of day trip that will, hopefully, have an easier way out.  After all, if you have to make an effort to find an easy way out, then it’s no longer easy.  Perhaps it’s better to withhold the effort and change the excursion.

But it’s never better and never will be.  It’s always worse.  There’s a lot of evidence that ‘day tripping’ is ineffective.  Not surprising, really, for it’s the difference between skating over the surface and diving down to explore what’s underneath.  There was a fascinating study on figure skaters several years ago.  With equivalent amounts of experience, the better skaters in the group spent almost 50% more time practising more difficult manoeuvres rather than just do the simpler things over and over again.  It all looked like practice, the quantity of experience was similar but there were significant differences in the quality of that experience.

If you are striving to succeed in anything, you must succeed in continuing to strive.

Being a day tripper may appear to have the hallmarks of a learning journey, and therein can be found the essential problem.  From the outside, others will see similarities between day trippers and explorers; others may fail to distinguish between day trippers and explorers for this distinction is not amenable to snap judgements.

It is possible to accumulate much experience (measured by time) while remaining inexperienced (measured by progress), something that ‘tis nobler will henceforth refer to as the ‘skating’ effect.

If you don’t push yourself forward, you’ll be pulled back by the comfortable inertia of your ‘yesterday’.  The contrasts are stark – shallow or deep, day tripper or explorer.  Find your own way.

Fingers Crossed

March 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Do you know what a furcula is?  It’s two specific things joined together that can be pulled apart, with the bigger piece believed to bestow good luck on the holder.  Furculas are better known as wishbones; who hasn’t set aside the wishbone from a roast chicken, let it dry out and then, with someone else, pulled it apart?  Obviously, you can only cross the fingers of the other hand in order to give an added advantage.  It would be overly theatrical to suggest that removing a drumstick is equivalent to ‘breaking a leg’ – a phrase that replaces ‘good luck’, the utterance of which is, perversely, unlucky – but you should always look for ways to pile good fortune upon luck on top of positive superstitions.  Or should you?

Even if the answer to this question is ‘Yes’, still remember that you must never, ever mention the Scottish Play

Does wearing the same underpants every time you play sport, always putting on your left shoe first, associating with chimney sweeps in England and Germany or simply wishing yourself ‘good luck’ conjure up the requested luck?  The answer is ‘No’.  Luck, or what appears to be luck, is defined as being beyond your control.

Does doing these very same things produce better performance?  The answer seems to be ‘Yes’, although perhaps the answer should be ‘Perhaps’.  Because there remains the chance that things happen through happenstance.  Still, if there is a benefit, fingers crossed that it’s real, where does it come from?

In a series of recent studies, the evidence indicated that performance benefits can be derived from ‘wishing yourself good luck’ and that these benefits are produced by enhanced perceptions of self-efficacy.  A final study demonstrated that this change in perceived efficacy is manifested in greater task persistence – you stick at it longer because you believe yourself capable of succeeding.  In a direct sense, luck has nothing to do with it.

As a result, there may be a role for superstitions in experiential learning but ONLY if you don’t subordinate your learning to luck and you don’t replace your effort with superstitions.  Superstitions can be a (modest) means to desired ends but they must never become ends in their own right:

Of course, superstitions are neither necessary nor sufficient for valid learning and better performance; there are more direct and powerful ways to enhance self-efficacy.

At least, I hope superstitions aren’t necessary.  Fingers crossed they’re not!

Milestones May Be Millstones

March 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Cotton Jones  sing these words:

C’mon baby let the river roll on.

And the title of the song is also particularly apt – ‘Somehow to keep it going’.

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In ‘Do Or Blue’, ‘tis nobler explored the evidence supporting the value of resisting idleness.

How do these statements tie together?  A common underlying theme is the value of continuing – rolling on, keeping it going, doing rather than idling.  Being engaged is better than being in neutral.

So what happens when you achieve a milestone in your learning journey?  It can and should be a time for reflection on the effort to this point and an acknowledgement of positive change, for you will have changed from something to something ‘better’.  But ‘better’ is always a relative term, so you had better continue rather than cease.

There is evidence that indicates that milestones can be millstones.  Celebrating a partial success may supplant continued learning, with the milestone becoming the end of the journey rather than just another indication of the ‘distance’ you have travelled.  A detail replaces the many details and the journey is derailed by being content to only look back.

Milestones are like doors.  You have to move in order to reach them but the purpose is never to reach them and then relax.  ‘tis nobler is sure you are aware of the real purpose of reaching the next door.

It’s to go through it, and then continue on.  If you stop at any door along the way, you’ll never know what’s on the other side.  You must always find a way to somehow keep it going!

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

March 6th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative.  Enjoy!

If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can’t be done (Peter Ustinov): It’ll Never Work!

Read this article and then commit it to memory! 

Einstein’s Twins Paradox explained. 

Humans, Version 3.0.

Is it irrational to wish pi a happy birthday

From a week in March 1946 to now – the study of their lifetimes.

How to conduct yourself in public – The Maestro!

Compared To What?

March 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

A glorious future awaits – a future where we are happier, more fulfilled, better paid, healthier and more successful.  We just have to work out how to get there.  Once we arrive, it’s going to be great.  Tomorrow never comes fast enough, in part because the tomorrow we really want constantly recedes.  Unless we act.

If you are trying to realise a goal – trying to make it real – what should you do?  Dee Dee Bridgewater drops a hint in this song:

The hint is the use of comparisons.  But, as you may have come to expect as you explore the various elements of experiential learning and behavioural change, the comparisons are not necessarily simple and neither are they ever simple comparisons, for there is a difference.

If you just focus on the goal-achieved future, you may never get there.  Then again, if you just focus on your current situation, you may never leave.  There is evidence that a key to commitment and achievement of goals is in the active contrast of today and tomorrow – where you are and where you want to be.  If you’re trying to make it real, this answers the ‘Compared to what’ question.  Compare and contrast the now with the soon to be, the present with the future.

But wait, there’s more, otherwise this could just be another exercise in despair as the contrast is too stark, the gap too wide.  The contrast process is a two-way street controlled by the ‘success expectations’ police who direct traffic one way or the other.

They’ll direct it towards the goal if, and only if, the contrast process is fuelled by reasonable expectations of success.  In these circumstances, the contrast strengthens commitment and initiates the effort.  You can see where you are, you know where you want to be and you believe you can get there.  And so off you go.

They’ll direct it away from the goal if expectations of success are low or lacking.  This contrast procedure need not be negative for it can direct you towards other goals rather than just leave you in a vacuum.  And so off you go, heading to elsewhere.

Both directions have a desirable destination that is defined by you.  All that the contrast process does is assist you in determining your direction of travel.  Without contrast, you may never arrive or you may never leave.

For Eric

March 2nd, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

You will often hear people say that there’s more to it than meets the eye, where ‘it’ can be anything.  And, in saying this, they are both right and wrong.  While ‘it’ can indeed be anything, ‘it’ is, in fact, everything.

There’s more to everything than meets the eye.  Effort and courage are required to meet the challenges of this realisation.  Effort is a given in experiential learning, although many give learning away rather than give learning a chance by giving effort.  But not many people would associate courage with all forms of experiential learning.  Where does courage come in?  Think through the implications of the following sentence:

To strive to understand, you must be prepared to be misunderstood.

It’s easy and safe to stay on the well-worn path, following where others have gone before you, seeing the things they saw and just doing the things they did.  It’s comfortable, conservative and unchallenging.  Going through the motions need not involve any movement and certainly not any progress at all.  And yet, as part of a large, unquestioning group of fellow commuters, it is possible to pretend that everything is OK and that it doesn’t get any better than this.

But it does, if you make the effort and have the courage.  For if you strike out in a new direction, you will be misunderstood by others who are unwilling to see the new things you see, who are unwilling to do the new things you do, who are unwilling to take risks in case they fail.  And so they fail safely.

It’s not the first time ‘tis nobler has used the Emerson quote:

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Only the brave leave a trail.  Eric is leaving a trail:

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You must not be afraid to go where there is no path, and this is where Eric is going for he’s not afraid to take a stand:

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Be brave.  Eric is, and this is why we admire and love him.