Optimism is realism: Where’s your focus?

Estimated reading time 11 mins.

Part of the satisfaction I get from my work as the teacher of a Korean university English conversation class is sharing and discussing ideas I care about with young people. For some material, I often take an article, talk, or podcast I like and present it to students in the clearest way they can consume it, given their English proficiency levels and other factors. We might simply read the article or, more often, I might create a Prezi presentation and give a mini-lecture summarizing the material in understandable terms at an appropriate pace before we discuss the ideas.

Preparing one such lesson, I recently re-listened to a Human Flourishing Podcast episode titled, “Cultivating Appreciation.” In it, host Alex Epstein recounts his experiences with a trolley and Uber driver, respectively, and was struck at how both expressed through action and in words great joy and appreciation for their work and the environments in which they get to perform it. Alex goes on to say that he was struck by this mental approach, highlighting how what they chose to focus on shaped their experience of it. There are further valuable points made in the episode, but for this article, I only intend to piggyback on it up to here.

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Health care can look like this: a brief personal tale from South Korea

Estimated reading time 8 mins.

The medical profession doesn’t just sell relief from pain, but peace of mind. And we should certainly be willing to pay a price for that which, in some cases, only it can offer us. But how much? Around this time last year, I heard a story on Facebook of a friend in the US who mistakenly took the inhale plus exhale of his infant child’s breaths as two instead of one breath and, alarmed at the accelerated rate, took her to emergency only to be made aware of his mistake. Here is a case of this hospital delivering peace of mind to a relieved father, and grateful for that he ought to be.

But the story turns less cute and benevolent when it concludes in him being charged over $700, and I can’t quite wrap my head around it. I live in Korea, and stories like that often end in inverse fashion, the punchline being how little I pay for the relief, comfort, or peace of mind I receive from my health care providers. The following is a brief account of one such episode. Continue reading