FORUM: Recognizing Gifts

Two dear friends listened to me read aloud my post, “Step-by-Step” (https://odajournal.com/2021/01/02/forum-step-by-step/).

They asked me if I recalled when others first began to recognize “gifts” which I was given. I had never considered this question, but I was pleasantly surprised to immediately recall two such incidences. As I began to write this story, I recalled several more.

As a general response to the question asked of me, when I was young I devoured life, eagerly chasing seemingly wholesome and interesting opportunities which came into my sights. That is, I didn’t think about “me,” I thought about “it”—in the sense of seeking to achieve mastery.

FIRST TIME

The first event occurred when I was six years old. I believe this to be my second-earliest memory (https://odajournal.com/2020/12/30/forum-big-fish/).

We lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona. It was Sunday morning. Having finished dressing myself for church, I walked from my bedroom toward the living room. Mom and Mrs. C (last names withheld for privacy) were seated on the couch, and Dad and Mr. C were seated in armchairs: they worked together developing missile guidance systems. Dad and the ladies were engaged in conversation, and Mr. C was reading the Sunday newspaper comics.

I said good morning to the ladies and Dad. Then I said: “Good morning, Mr. C! I didn’t realize that adults still read comics.”

I walked into the kitchen to fix myself some breakfast—something men didn’t often do for themselves, in those days.

Decades later Mom told me Mrs. C told her then: “that boy is going to grow into something.”

SECOND TIME

The second event occurred two years later, in Mrs. D’s 3rd-grade class. She had just explained an extremely simple, straightforward, interesting little assignment, which the class was to begin after she answered any questions concerning the task.

A student raised a hand, and when called upon asked Mrs. D about something which, given the context of the task, seemed perfectly obvious in my mind. Mrs. D thoroughly answered the question—I admired her patience.

No sooner did she finish answering the question then another student raised a hand, was called upon, and asked an essentially parallel question. Mrs. D was kind, gave a brief response, and asked if anyone had a different question.

A third student raised a hand, was called, and asked a nauseatingly oblique question which varied only by degree—not by direction. Unconsciously I dropped my forehead onto the top of my desk, unintentionally creating a loud “BANG” noise—it was simply a frustration reflex.

Mrs. D asked me if something was wrong. I sat up in my chair and responded: “Talk, talk, talk—when do we get to work?”

A few days later, Mom told me that, in the grocery market, Mrs. D told her that I was an unusual kid. I don’t know what “unusual” entails, but nevertheless—I was noticed.

THIRD TIME

Early in my junior year I was among the top echelon of players in Orange County (CA) competitive High School chess, first board at my school. This was the era when Bobby Fisher made chess the focus of the world.

My school’s team attended the first Orange County chess tournament of the school year. In the first round I played the black pieces against first board of another high school.

Feeling audacious, I opened with a completely unorthodox impromptu defense which I designed to provide a mesmerizing display of the power of connected knights. By this I mean just the two knights prancing around the board—without moving a single pawn. I’d never seen, considered, nor tried this defense, before or after this one game—until now.

As is said in rock-and-roll, my unimaginable tactic induced my opponent to “get all shook up.” He panicked and I won a pawn and his king-side rook in exchange for one knight.

Afterwards, standing behind the leader board, waiting for the second round board assignments, I overheard some first boards speaking about their games. One was the boy whom I’d confounded with my knights. He emphatically told his friends: “Watch out for his knights!” Made my day then, and again just now…

FOURTH TIME

I was a young Associate Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Medical School, and simultaneously an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. For years I published many articles in prestigious medicine, psychology, and statistics journals. I was well-known for my research investigating various aspects of “Type-A Behavior.”

(Thinking about this now in the context of this post, academic appointments, publications, and research funding were awarded to me by others—implying that I met their criteria for at least minimally-sufficient skills and experience.)

I was attending a regional psychology convention sponsored by the Midwestern Psychological Association. I preferred poster sessions over oral presentations—poster sessions have lots of articles to examine, and provide an opportunity to speak with the authors.

I saw an interesting poster on Type A Behavior, and I wanted to ask a few questions of the authors—both of whom were there speaking with another person, with a few others waiting their turns. I waited as long as I was able (I had an appointment), so I wrote my name and address on their “mail me a copy” list.

On the way out of the poster session I went for a quick look at posters in the final row of presentations. I stopped at one, which was behind the poster where I wrote my name. The authors behind the poster at which I’d waited were alone, so one of them looked at the names written on the “mail me a copy” list and exclaimed: “Wow, Paul Yarnold was here—did you see him?” I had to leave for my appointment—but I was noticed, even though I was invisible!

A RELATED QUESTION

The question I was asked induced me to reflect upon when I realized that I’d been blessed.

I had a feeling that I was blessed when Rob and I first discovered the exact statistical distribution underlying exploratory optimal discriminant functions—a mathematical method of using information to make the most accurate decision between two or more options.

  • Yarnold PR, Soltysik RC (1991). Theoretical distributions of optima for univariate discrimination of random data. Decision Sciences, 22, 739-752.

I am certain that I was blessed—by being granted sufficient interest, cognition, time, strength, family, teachers, colleagues, and infrastructure—to discover novometric theory.

Conceptually, novometrics parallels quantum mechanics, but is used in applications involving data assessed using imperfect, imprecise, unreliable measures.

Novometric analysis has been demonstrated to obtain the most accurate solutions in an astonishing variety of such “non-Hilbert” applications.

Few people in history are blessed to discover a new statistical paradigm.

Making this discovery took a long, impatient, frenetic life—and a chain of true miracles, in order to transpire. I am still working on this endeavor and ever more scientists—in 190 countries as of this writing—are discovering its significance.

Nevertheless, I feel that it crucial to say, given my perspective borne over longer than six decades, the greatest blessings in my life have been my family, friends and faith.

Thank you, Lord

Recognizing Gifts

Paul R. Yarnold, Ph.D.

January 13, 2021

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