Marshmallows & Presidents

What seems like another lifetime ago, Joachim de Posada was on a plane traveling from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York City. He was reading Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It can Matter More Than IQ.
Buried in the pages of this powerful book was one page discussing the Stanford University marshmallow experiment led by psychologist Walter Mischel. This series of studies, conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was on the concept of delayed gratification.

In the study, small children were left in a room. Each child was presented with a marshmallow and given a choice of eating it immediately or waiting fifteen minutes without eating it. The children were told that if they if they waited the fifteen minutes they would be given a second marshmallow.

Two out of three children ate the first marshmallow right away, but one out of three waited the fifteen minutes. A decade later, researchers conducted follow-up studies and discovered that the children who waited for the second marshmallow were more successful as adults than the children who had gobbled the first marshmallow immediately.

Joachim was fascinated by this study and was convinced that the principle of delayed gratification was the most important factor for success. What he could not understand was how such an important concept was buried in one page of one book. This idea drove Joachim to spread the marshmallow study’s results to audiences all over the world. And because his audiences were so taken by the concept, Joachim published the book Don’t Eat The Marshmallow…Yet: The Secret To Sweet Success in Work and LIfe. 


The book was more successful in Asia (specifically Korea) than in the United States. As Joachim spoke to audiences all over the United States, he explained that the Koreans understood the concept of delayed gratification better than Americans. He suggested that the principle of delayed gratification was one that United States presidents should study and understand so that the country would stop consuming more marshmallows than it produced. Joachim wanted to take this principle of success to the government in hopes that we could save the country from economic ruin. Because of this, he implored Americans to grasp this concept and apply it to their economy.

Joachim died on June 11, 2015. He is no longer here to inspire, to educate, and to continue to spread his message.

Or is he? 

Joachim is my father. Since his death I have been slowly and steadily writing a book about the things my father did while I was growing up to foster a close relationship between us. You see, my parents were divorced and my dad’s career had him traveling 80% of the time. Yet, despite him not being physically present in my daily life, my dad seemed to always be there. Through post cards, daily phone calls, and traditions he created, my father mastered the art of being there when he wasn’t. And as I grew, so did our bond. My father was a permanent positive figure in my life, always available to listen, give advice, celebrate my triumphs, and hold me up when I failed. Because of his incalculable influence on my life, I thought that I could not live without him. But as my father often told me, humans are resilient beings able to tolerate almost anything.

Following my father’s death, I found myself hearing his voice in my mind offering advice, celebrating my triumphs, and holding me up. Not because I actually hear voices in my head… but because my brain remembers his words and his influence. What’s more, my heart remembers. Today I realize that although I cannot touch or see my father, I can feel him. My dad proved to me that he would always be there even when he wasn’t, and he proved it in the most literal sense imaginable.

What I find most gratifying is to see how my father’s presence manifests in others as well. Throughout the year and a half since his passing, I have learned how so many people carry Joachim de Posada in their hearts. I have also seen how his message continues to spread.

This week, during one of the most controversial elections this country has ever seen, The New Yorker Magazine posted this cartoon:


This post is not about whether you think Donald Trump is a marshmallow eater or resister. Regardless of whether you think this election is a result of delayed gratification or instant gratification, the point is this: The message of the marshmallow is spreading. Delayed gratification is a factor of success to which the United States and we Americans must pay attention.

40 years after Walter Mischel began this study…

12 years after Joachim de Posada published Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet…

One year and a half after Joachim’s death…

The concept of delayed gratification is still spreading. Your ideas can continue even when you’re not there to share them. That is the legacy my father left behind. The power to be there when you’re not.

Now with the Internet and social media we each have more access to spread ideas than ever before. And we all have opportunity to leave our legacy. I can only hope that we use these media for good. I hope that if you have an idea or a product of value, you share it with the world. I hope you can spread your message to inspire and educate others. My dad always said, “you can be just one applied idea away from success.”

What I have learned is to live fully and authentically during this life, nurturing my relationships with friends, family, and clients. I have learned that if we can stay connected with each other and serve as a force for good, for education, and for love – we will never die. Our essence will live on long after we’re gone.

How do I know for sure?

My dad taught me that.