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Two recent bestseller books are perfect bookends for an idea for advancing human maturity to a new level. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance, and Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman are both about men coming out of their communities and entering into very successful lives. They both came from Old-World cultures that are renowned for personal frugality and industry. Vance from a Scots-Irish culture that produced over one-third of U.S. presidents and Friedman, whose Jewish culture produced many scientists and intellectuals. Both cultures have deep historical roots and fabulous intellectual achievements, but Vance’s fragment of his subculture hit a very bad spot this last hundred years as their American homeland of Appalachia’s coal-mining culture fell apart and many moved to  Middletown, Ohio, and withered. Friedman’s subculture got displaced also and moved to St. Louis Park, near Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it thrived.

Neither author mentions the other and they may never have crossed paths but because they are both now in that rarefied circle of successful nonfiction authors, they will soon meet. What made Vance’s life journey to success so unusual is that he grew up with a background of high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE test). His culture was one of gross alcoholism, interpersonal violence, childhood abuse and personal defeatism. Although Vance’s mother was abusive, and her father was an abusive alcoholic, that very man rejected drink and became a model grandfather for Vance. Vance was naturally brilliant intellectually and a super hard worker and against all odds made it to Yale Law school and onto the NY Times best-seller list.

Friedman grew up in a culture of emotional, social, and financial support with excellent schools and teachers, and many of his schoolmates became famous. His community was later involved in a study named 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, which sounded like an exact reverse of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. From his writing, it appeared that Friedman was a normally bright kid who was given lots of opportunities and support by his culture and just grew naturally into a successful adult. His coming to the Times bestseller list was almost a given outcome for his journey through life.

I was unaware of the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents when I created the Positive Childhood Experiences test (PCE test) which is a simple flip of the ACE test. PCE gives a starting point to show the way, but The 40 Assets not only has a more complete list but it gives a whole strategy for implementing the suggestions.

Read these two books together and understand more deeply what creates a wonderful human being out of a normal child.

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