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Personality Development

How, given one’s genetic heritage, personality traits, and childhood environment, do lives unfold as adults? Dan McAdams, Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, and his colleagues have collected and analyzed the life stories of thousands of people from all walks of life. Dan’s book, Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self, is an introduction to the field.


The Fairborn Institute’s current project in this area is researching and writing a detailed, psychologically-based, book-length life story, in this case, that of the researcher, Russ Genet (researcher as scientific guinea pig). The book is in its third draft and will be sent out shortly for final editing prior to publication. The chapter outline is given below.


Making Childhood Dreams Come True

Author: Russell M. Genet, Research Scholar at California Polytechnic State Institute. Author or editor of two dozen books and over 200 scientific papers. BS electrical engineering, MS logistics management, PhD astronomy.

Genre: Memoir written as a series of adventure stories set within the larger context of a lifelong lost and found love romance.

Status: Third draft, 110,000-word text (440 pages) plus center photo section with captions.

Preface: Life Stories 
     Some people tell jokes, well-practiced jokes for every occasion. I tell short personal stories drawn from a long and varied life. Some of my stories are for polite company, others for the bar after a third drink. Over the years they have been fine-tuned based on audience reactions. Only the best ones have survived.
     Born dyslexic, and raised in a dysfunctional family, I became the outsider who delighted in taking on projects that conservatives generally considered beyond the pale of reasonableness. Drawing on my dyslexic out-of-the-box thinking, I constructed grandiose visions of how the impossible could be conquered, visions that, Tom Sawyer like, I used to convince others to join the cause.  More often than not, vision met reality and my latest project quickly succumbed to ignoble defeat, soon to be forgotten. Occasionally, however, a project worked and the improbable became reality. Challenge overcome, boredom soon set in, leading to yet another beat-the-system adventure in some new field, resulting in a (legal) “Catch Me if You Can” life.  These occasional successes became my polished adventure stories.
     On long plane flights, if someone kept buying me drinks, I entertained them with my life stories in chronological order. The glue that bound my adventure stories together was my classic lost and found first love story, but with a twist.  My first love was, of necessity, a secret one-way love; Cheryl was only twelve years old when, at seventeen, I joined the Air Force. Would I come back and marry her as her mother commanded? First love lost but, over three decades later, found again. Rediscovery led to tragedy but, eventually, triumph. The uniform reaction by the end of the flight: you should write your memoir. As an octogenarian, I finally took their advice to heart.

     I began by researching the science behind life stories. You name it, there is some scientist studying every topic, no matter how esoteric. Dan McAdams, Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, is Dr. Life Stories. He and his academic offspring have collected and analyzed the life stories of thousands of people from all walks of life. How, given their genetic heritage, personality traits, and childhood environment, did their lives unfold as adults? Dan’s book, Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self, is a classic and has been my guide.
     Nancy Kalish, Professor of Psychology at California State University, Sacramento is the scientific expert on lost and found love. She found that first loves, even if secret and one-sided like mine, often last a lifetime and that reunion, after decades apart, often brought great joy, disaster, or both. Nancy summarized her decades of research in Lost and Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances.

     Born dyslexic and raised in an impoverished, dysfunctional family, Russ found refuge with his grandmother and his best friend Richard’s family. He read about, and admired, famous scientists, inventive engineers, and aviators. A number of increasingly sophisticated telescopes, radios, and rockets emerged from his growing basement lab. He decided, in his early teens, that what he wanted in life was to become an astronomer and marry his best friend’s little sister, Cheryl. But Cheryl was too young, and dyslexia drove him out of high school.

     Russ started a new life in the Air Force when he turned seventeen. After going over to the wild side while stationed in Morocco, he got back on track, started college part time, and met Pat. He didn’t marry her as he still wanted to go back home and marry Cheryl. Instead, he fell madly in love and married the beautiful, Irish-tempered Ann.

     Despite his dyslexia, Russ obtained a degree in electrical engineering. He then played to his dyslexic out-of-the-box thinking and grandiose visions to enlist others, Tom-Sawyer like, to circumvent conventional wisdom and make his out-of-the-box projects become reality. He began as a rocket scientist, becoming the inventive engineer he so admired when he was young. But once the improbable was established as eminently doable, he lost interest (letting the refiners of the possible carry on), and was off on a new pioneering adventures as an aerospace logistics engineer, an instrument-rated flight instructor, a robotic telescope pioneer, a virtual fighter pilot, and a cosmic evolution synthesizer.  Like Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can, Russ mastered many different fields (albeit legally).

     Ann and Russ’s marriage eventually unraveled, and he married easygoing Joyce. But after Joyce had a stroke and lost her personality and memory, lonesome Russ tracked down and started seeing Cheryl. They enjoyed a wild courtship which, sadly, ended in disaster due to Russ’ inability to effectively communicate with Cheryl—a self-assured free spirit. Russ eventually overcame his emotional fears and finally married his secret childhood love. Russ and Cheryl eventually learned how to turn their failed romance into a deep and fulfilling late-life love and marriage. Russ obtained his Ph.D. in astronomy alongside Cheryl as she obtained her PhD in philosophy. They shared two decades of life and many creative joint adventures before Russ finally wrote his memoir.

Table of Contents:

Making Childhood Dreams Come True

Preface: Life Stories

Making Childhood Dreams Come True

I. Childhood Dreams                                  

    1. Rating the Rainbow Ranch               
    2. Life on the Goat Ranch with Pal           
    3. Mountain Camping with Mom           
    4. City Proper with Grandma               
    5. God Help Russell’s Lazy Mind               
    6. Golden Years at Junior High               
    7. Dyslexic High School Dropout           

II. Making Dreams Come True     

     8. Plan B                                   
    9. Wild in Exotic Morocco                   
    10. Dyslexic College Graduate                
    11. Rocket Scientist                           
    12. Aerospace Engineer                        
    13. Instrument-Rated Flight Instructor       
    14. Robotic Astronomer                     
    15. Virtual Fighter Pilot                       
    16. Cosmic Evolution Synthesizer           

III. The Final Challenge                           

    17. Found and Lost Secret Love               

    18. Lost Love Regained                       

IV. Living the Dream                     

    19. Rainbow’s End                            

Center Photo Section  


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