That was the title of this TED Talk below when it showed up in my iTunes. For some reason it was renamed on the TED site, maybe the tech companies complained :)
It's a great talk in the sense that it is something we should all know, and it should impact what we all do. Eventually I'll have some reference to this topic on my other pages.
If you want more on this topic there is a TED playlist to inspire you to unplug.
If you're more of a book person check out Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked, by Adam Alter.
But don't forget to put your phone down this weekend and enjoy the last long weekend of the summer :)
In an effort to really simplify things I've redone the home page and the main pages for Know and Do. I don't like other sites that have too many words so I thought I'd try to simplify things here a bit.
Let me know what you think of the new pages.
How to decide on what to worry about and do something about?
My advice is to be on the lookout for things that are likely to happen to you. In general if you watch the news what you’re seeing is not very likely, that’s why it’s news. But sometimes they are reporting warnings with some very daunting statistics, like 1 in 2 chance of getting dementia!
That is something to worry about and reminds me of one of my favourite TED Talks.
I love this talk by Alanna Shaikh because she recognizes that she might get Alzheimer’s and she’s taking an approach I’ve never seen or thought of before, she’s prepping for it.
She has spent the last 10 years taking care of her father and she’s come to understand their are things you can do to lower your chances of it but there are also things she could do now that would make living with it more enjoyable for her and the people around her.
I love this idea to be so proactive towards something you hope so badly won’t happen to you. In a follow up blog post she mentions many people are often put off by the idea of living today with your future self in mind, she says:
“people seem to have this idea that your life now would be inherently terrible if you thought about your future too much as you live your daily life. But it seems like the “you” in the future is really going to regret that choice. The future Alanna is going to come back and slap me upside the head if I pretend that she doesn’t exist right now. It seems to be a surprising idea that you can live a good life now that prepares you for a good future. People think of it as a trade-off.”
As she says, people think it has to be a trade off, either be happy now or in the future, but it can be both, that’s the challenge, find things you like doing now that are also good for your future self.
This article recaps the some tips from this talk
There’s a 5 talk playlist on TED.com on this topic where the speakers say give quite grim outlooks on this but give suggestions on things we can do.
In addition to those above:
I feel like these are fairly common tips to avoid many ailments so it’s an even better idea to try them out.
Most recently, and what brought this topic back to mind were more recent articles on the topic with more tips on what you can do to give yourself a 35% chance of not getting it.
Again, eat well, stay mentally stimulated. In addition to those try to prevent hearing loss and social isolation. Here is a link to an article on it and the study itself.
In addition to this dementia look out for other things with high likelihood of them happening to you, and do something about it
I’m not trying to depress you, I’m trying to point out things you can take some action now to help out your future self. These are huge life altering things that people who look into these things for a living are predicting will happen to nearly half of us. Even if they’ve overestimated by 100% that still leaves us with a 1 in 4 chance. I think we might want to take a night off Netflix to think about this and make sure we’re taking some preventative measures. It is in your own best interest after all, now and in the future.
While thinking of ways to use the info from this site I thought of a way to get a lot more out of your office lottery pool than you currently are. Not to cheat others out of the winnings or to guarantee a million dollar payout, but a way to get more out of the $5-$10 you put in each week.
The reason this came to me is because of an off the cuff comment my high school history teaching made a couple decades ago. He said lotteries should be called ‘The Stupid Tax’ because based on the odds you’re pretty stupid to think you'll win, and this idea of it being a ‘stupid tax’ has stuck with me ever since. I still play occasionally but I do feel kind of stupid each time I do.
My recommendation to get the most out of an office lotto pool is to convert it to a happy spouse/partner lotto pool.
Everyone pays in the same as before, but rather than spend all of the money on lotto tickets, raffle off a portion of the money to go to one participant for them to buy a treat for their spouse/partner.
This way you're actually likely to win, and spending money on your partner is one of the best ways to increase your level of happiness, short term and long term. WInning the real lottery is one of the best to alienate you from your friends and family and to break up marriages, so reducing the odds of winning that one might be a good idea too. You'll get to keep enjoying the dream of winning big without having it happen and ruin your life.
Two TED talks that helped inspire this idea
1) Mike Norton on How to Buy Happiness (highlighting how poor we are at predicting what purchases will bring us happiness and how to fix it)
2) Barry Schwartz on Practical Wisdom (keys to happiness are loving relationships and meaningful work, two things you may lose if you win the lottery)
By still putting a portion of the money to the big lotto you can have the best of both worlds. High likelihood of winning money for a nice date night, and the potential to win millions. You could set up the cash payout on a schedule or as a draw, or a draw where you can’t win again until everyone has won. You can do anything you want with it. To keep it familiar you could call it a 50/50 draw, 50% goes to one person to use as they wish (suggestion, treat their spouse) and 50% goes to buying lotto tickets for the group.
So what do you think, would you go for a 50/50 lotto pool instead of the typical one?
Let’s dissect what else is going on here.
1) Why do I remember this ‘stupid tax’ comment?
As we saw in the emotions section of things you should know, novelty and things that you have a strong emotional response to are bookmarked as important to remember. Growing up my dad loved playing the big lotteries, and I, like many people, dreamed of winning big. Those were very positive emotions, and I thought of myself as a smart guy, and really didn’t like the idea of looking stupid. Now my history teacher, whom I hold in high regard is basically telling me I’m stupid and my dad is stupid, and everyone dreaming big is stupid! I loved how simple he made it, how he cut through all the debating people could do back and forth, and I felt like he was right in the sense it should be called a ‘stupid tax’, I think it would reduce sales.
2) Would it reduce sales of the lottery if it was called the stupid tax?
I can’t say for sure but I’ve read in one of Dan Ariely’s books that we will go out of our way to not be like someone we don’t want to be associated with. His studies dealt with rival schools. In the lab they saw people doing the opposite of the people they thought were from the rival school but the same things as people from their own school. So if people don’t want to be associated with stupid people then I think it would really help
3) Why are people so into the lottery?
This is the perfect example of the ‘promise of reward’. This is what the rats burnt their feet over and sacrificed eating and drinking for this.
4) What’s the problem here?
The stats not only show you’re not likely to win, but if you do win the stats show you will probably be worse off. A windfall of cash like that given to someone that wasn’t too good with finances beforehand may not be too good with it.
Why do we ignore this? Because we desperately want this promise of bliss and we tend to think better of our future selves than we do of our present selves. We think they will make better decisions, but that doesn't usually happen.
This could also be a good example of the up and down wave (sine wave) as described in the book the Plateau Effect. We often think more is always better but in their book they argue that the amount of benefit goes up and down like a sine wave. More money is better than no money, but not forever, with more money you could have more problems, with a lot more money you could take care of them, with a lot lot more money you could have even more problems. The trick is trying to find the sweet spot, and the first step to that is trying to be happy without needing to win the lottery.
6) On the topic of the odds and what you should be excited or worried about is in this handy image below. Note this was created by a company promoting online blackJack, which has very good odds, and now I can see why there is so much commotion at those tables. Hopefully you don't get hooked on blackjack now. Please don't gamble with more than you can lose, maybe don't gamble at all.
I plan to have this as the centerpiece of an upcoming post on what you should really be worried about and what you should worry less about. In general if you hear a stat about something bad which you have a 1 in 10 or 1 in something less than 10 chance of getting, you should really look into how you can avoid that or prepare for dealing with that.
To be able to focus on bigger picture aspects of the site I'm going to reduce the frequency of these blog posts to once a month. To keep it simple to remember when they'll be I'll do it on the first of the month.
Back to comparing The Plateau Effect highlights and their recommended ‘cure’ to the framework we’re building.
In total they say there are 8 take aways, but number 4 has 4 parts, so it’s more like 11.
4 - Dysfunction (i.e. something’s not working).
a) Erosion - we deplete the resources that we need in order to be successful (run out of money, etc ...)
Cure - find a counterbalance, find something to replace what is getting depleted. If you can’t find one you’re probably not at a plateau but at a ‘terminal point’.
Where it fits - seems to obvious, you run out of something, get more or get a replacement. If you can’t then you’re really stuck.
b) Step function - sometimes you only want to go a little bit farther but the thing you need to add more of only comes in big increments. A jump in cost, benefit or effort.
Cure - try to smooth it out by trying to find something that has complementary peaks.
So they are basically saying if you can’t afford the next big jump (e.g. a new piece of expensive equipment that will double production), look for another way to crank up production or your revenue until it’s not such a big jump. Not really something I feel we need to cover in the framework.
c) Choke point - the part that breaks first.
Cure - Find them and work around them.
Seems too obvious - They’re just saying, try to identify bottlenecks which slow things down and look for critical things that the whole process/company relies on. Again, not something I think we need in the framework.
d) Mystery ingredient - they say sometimes not even the chef knows what it is. To me this sounds like, sometimes you’ll have no idea why something is working or not working.
Cure - They say it can be hard to find but obvious in retrospect, and ou don’t always need to know what it is but just that you have one.
Where it fits - I’m not sure this is a great take away either.
5) Distorted data - We often react based on distorted data, we put too much stock in some numbers or data that isn’t right or isn’t telling the whole story. Like taking a funhouse mirror seriously.
Cure - calibrate, scientific method, don’t trust your biased eyes, try to look for truth or eliminate chance for bias, like a baseball owner that doesn’t watch the game, hires and fires based on the data only.
Where this fits - I see this as knowing the limits of your autopilot part of your brain. It is constantly taking in more data then we realize and giving us ‘gut feelings’. These can be useful but we should know it is not perfect, and we should compliment it with data. When we see a consistent trend where data wins over gut feelings we should put systems in place to stop ourselves from going with our gut. I think we’ve already covered this so no need to add to the framework.
6) Distraction - multitasking
Cure - peak listening helps you focus on the person and get to solutions faster, think of the improv rule to replace “no” with “yes, and ...”, always trying to find the ways you and others agree rather than disagree. They call this radical listening. Oh, and they say don’t try to multitask, slow and steady one task at a time tends to win the race when studied.
Where it fits - this is the same as we talked about your mind being a stage and the need to control who gets on there with limited space, so if it gets crowded it is a mess.
7) failing slowly - incremental losses fall below the ‘just noticeable difference” and then you end up getting blindsided at how bad things are.
Cure - fail fast, by knowing this flaw, set clear objective markers to know when you’re failing, and try to fail as fast as possible to work out the kinks as fast as possible. Make a website in photoshop only first. Try it out in your mind before spending a ton to code it.
Where it fits - This is more of a productivity tip rather than an insight into how our minds work. I’m not sure where this fits, I guess it falls under things you can do.
8) Perfectionism - Perfect is the enemy of good. the desire for perfection kills beginnings. It’s never the right time to start, and even if you do it’s never complete because it’s held up to an impossible standard.
Cure - accept that perfection isn’t achievable. Personally I’m going to take it right out of my vocabulary, they said it originated from words meaning ‘as it should be’ so I’ll go with something like that for now). Focus on taking the first step and then the next step. Like taking ‘Baby steps’ from the movie “What About Bob?”. They also give suggestions on using things like structured procrastination or hard but liberating deadlines.
Where it fits - I think this falls under an autopilot tactic to get us to keep our eyes on short term goals, and in some people are more affected by it than others. I think that comes from previous experiences people have had and negative associations they have with not being perfect. I think it's already covered but I'll make a special note of it since it is common and can be quite detrimental, some people may not even see it in themselves because rather than having a track record of doing things perfectly they have a track record of not doing things out of fear they won't be perfect.
They say things will stop working, you’ll have to keep trying new things. Even if you use some of the ‘cures’ they outline you’ll need to keep an eye out in all these categories, and more
In the book they mentioned a Counter intuitive Cognitive Bias. I love knowing these because I see these as huge pitfalls that we unknowingly fall into. Traps so sneaky you don’t even know you’re in a trap. So identifying them can save you so much time and resources with almost no effort.
Here it is …
We have a tendency to think if something is hard that it must be important.
This is a huge potential pitfall. First off we aren’t doing something that is a benefit to us, and secondly it’s a huge drain on our resources (time and money) because it’s hard, and hard things take up a lot of time to deal with. There is also huge potential here, most people complain of not having enough time or money, you may be able to look at your life and find one of these things, and you can free up a bunch of time and money instantly by stopping that thing that’s not important.
So what are some examples of this?
The first one that comes to mind would be video games. They are hard and people seem compelled to complete them, but for what reason, for what benefit?
I was thinking about why this is, why ‘gamification’ is such a powerful tool for getting people to do things, and I think it does this by giving meaning to the meaningless. We are ‘meaning machines’ everything we do is for a meaning, and our autopilot is desperate to find meaning in the world, it will even make it up if need be. So if someone associates points or badges to us doing something we jump on it. So similar to it something is hard we associate it with important, watch out for, if something wins us points, or badges or “Likes” of any kind, watch out your brain might be getting hijacked into doing something meaningless, take a step back and assess why you’re doing it.
Dan Ariely likes to promote the idea of getting people to do the right thing for the wrong reasons because we’re so bad at doing the right things for the right reasons (e.g. eating healthy). So getting tricked by these things isn’t always bad, you can even use it to your advantage. The Canadian government just put millions into an app that does just this to get people to do things the government hasn’t had luck getting people to do in the past. Like eating healthy. The reward in the app are things like Air Miles if you can believe it. The app is called Carrot Rewards.
Rather than continue on The Plateau Effect I'm going to put that on hold to talk about something more timely with the beginning of summer, sunscreen
The idea came to me when I attended a safety meeting at work where the topic of sunscreen came up, and how important it is to use. And they shared with us some stories about their experiences with skin cancer and a short video promoting the use of sunscreen via statistics.
I was thinking, this isn’t going to be too effective and I thought with my knowledge of ‘why we do what we do’ I could come up with a much better solution and I thought I’d write it up as a case study here on how to use what I cover here on this site to find a better way to get people to use sunscreen. But it turns out it’s still pretty tricky, I'll give you some insights but I wasn't able to come up with as good of a solution as I'd like.
So what did they do right:
They appealed to our emotions, i.e. they tried to scare us. They told us of people they knew with skin cancer and that they had had skin cancer removed. Getting our emotions involved is key to getting people to act.
What they didn’t do so well:
They brought in doubt. They mentioned one instance of sunscreen causing harm to a baby. They didn’t give the numbers but one product recall that caused harm to a small number of babies might be good to know about but I think it could have had a bigger impact on us than it should’ve when you look at it from a big picture. Hundreds of millions of people use sunscreen and didn’t get the reaction those babies did. Yes, we can talk about checking the ingredients but they could've been clearer on the likelihood of those risks vs. not using sunscreen at all.
And going back to the emotions, I don't think they really got us emotional enough about the topic to really pursued us. This is tricky in a workplace, you don't generally want to get people to worked up and crying which could happen easily with a topic like this.
What I think they could’ve done better:
Beyond the session I went to what can marketers do better:
Dan Ariely likes the slogan “getting people to do the right thing for the wrong reason”. He studies human behaviour and says information alone has little effect on our actions, and sometimes has opposite effects. He gives the example of calories listed on menus. He said some people start looking for the best deal, the most calories per $ instead of an appropriate dish based on the other meals they ate that day.
Bring the future them into the picture
Appeal to wanting to fit in:
Many studies show we'll adjust our behaviour to fit in more readily than we will based on logical reasoning. We seem to see the immediate gain of fitting in as more important than the long terms gains. Someone could try ...
What can you do?
As you can see I didn't come up with the perfect solution but I hope you can see there is more to persuading someone that just giving them data.
Here is the video they showed. I liked it because data appeals to me and he does use some of the other techniques, but I'm also already on board with the sunscreen :)
After last weeks post I realized I was a victim of focusing on a specific goal too much. Where you get caught up doing something for the wrong reason,. These weekly posts were supposed to be updates on new info added to the mainframe work but they were becoming their own thing and a bit detached from the framework.
Personally I don’t like sites that have endless posts where you have to read each post to catch up. It’s like a treadmill you can’t get off, and it’s too hard to catch up. I want more of a wikipedia site, where you can just come and get the info you want, leave, and come back when you need more info.
So rather than do long entries I’m going to try to go back to updating what’s new to the site or I’ll go over how I’ve incorporated a new book or other resource into the framework.
For tonight’s example I’ll recap the main ideas mentioned in The Plateau Effect, pointing out which ones have already been covered in the ‘Know’ section and what new info we can add.
From their appendix here are the 8 things they’ve found to be the cause of plateaus
1 - Immunity - (I’d say adaptability, or familiarization (getting used to a smell)) it’s when you get used to something, when you stop noticing a persistent problem and you let it keep getting in your way.
Cure - diversity. That’s all they say. For smelling things or tasting things, you should switch things up frequently. In business it’s good to get an outsider's opinion, or rotate positions in a company.
Where it fits - this is similar Part 4, your emotions helping you remember things. We notice and remember unique things, things that stand out. Over time we can stop noticing things, this starts to fall under a cognitive bias, I think I’ll have to add it there. I’ll add the diversify under the things you can do to counter it.
2 - Greedy algorithm (picking short term goal over long term goal, thinking to locally physically and in terms of time, like only thinking of yourself now)
Cure - Extend your gratification horizon - think long term, think more globally than locally
Long term greed is good - confusing use of language I think.
Where this fits - This would fall under Part 2, you and the other you(s). The greedy algorithm is the auto pilot or the devil on your shoulder or the elephant you’re riding. Extending your gratification horizon is just thinking long term. That goes back to Part 1, our predictions of the future. Start using farther out predictions to choose your actions and you’ll have more success in the long run. I don’t think I’ll add this anywhere, I don’t really like the terms they used. What do you think?
3 - Timing, they say sometimes it’s good to wait. This is tricky, there is a whole chapter on this memory trick where you don’t have to try hard to remember something as long as you are reminded of it at very specific intervals. It seems impractical to use in too many applications but it has some potential, and has been used in successful commercial products.
Cure - Wait. That’s all they say, just wait. This is a big potential pitfall, this could be fuel for the ‘greedy algorithm’. It could be one more excuse for your short sighted auto pilot to convince you to take a break and cheat on your goal.
Where it fits - I think this is new, I guess I’ll need to put the spaced repetition technique under things you can do for memory, and the act of waiting as something counterintuitive you should know.
… The remainder next week.
What do you think of this format?
I was cleaning up the page of things you can do and noticed I don’t have anything in the counterintuitive area.
Two came to mind from the book I’ve got on the go The Plateau Effect
1 - Active listening with the intent to agree, rather than waiting for a chance to get your point across.
Most people want to pick apart other people’s arguments to discredit them, or maybe not even listen and just wait for their chance to speak.
Active listening with the intent to agree puts you in a much better position to come to a conclusion everyone agrees on. You can still pick apart their argument, but in this scenario you’re picking it apart to see what parts align with your thinking. You have to see where the common ground is. Then when you find something you don’t agree on you try to understand why the other person thinks that way. You could be right, they could be right, and sometimes you could both be right. It’s like the proverb about 3 blind people encountering an elephant for the first time and all describing it to each other while standing at different spots around it. They’re going to be describing wildly different things, but they are all correct.
From a persuasion point of view you are in a much better position to pursued when you start off on the same team as the other person, highlighting all of the things you agree on. Think about it, are you more likely to listen to the advice of something similar to you or to the advice of someone you associate with ‘the other team’.
2 - Don’t focus on specific goals, it can mess with your head.
In the Plateau Effect they gave examples of runners who were so focused on the goal of having a long streak of consecutive days running that they ran when injured, making their injuries worse, and ran at the sacrifice of maintaining relationships with friends and family. These people started out running to be healthy and then the goal of the streak took over and they did the opposite.
In the Willpower Instinct, she says having a goal gives your autopilot mind a specific target which it can use against your best interest. If you are doing well it can rationalize a break, and if you are doing poorly it can rationalize giving up. She suggest you’re better to monitor your level of commitment and hold it in higher regard than progress. If you feel the commitment wavering you can spend some time remembering why it’s important. If you realize it’s not important you can give up and pick a goal that is important, guilt free.
Many other people like Dilbert author Scott Adams advocates for systems rather than goals. The idea is you build your day around doing things that will get you closer to your goal. Such as write so many pages or save so many dollars. When you do this it’s not that big of a deal when you falter, your next day is already set up to get you back on track.
All of these are complementary, the first one says don’t focus on running everyday, but the last one suggests you should schedule running everyday if that is in line with your goal. The takeaway is that this is a balancing act, with meaning as the foundation.
Start by having a compelling reason to change something, then build systems into your life to set you up for success to set you on the path to your goal but keep it flexible. Monitor progress, change things as needed, try to avoid relying on things that feel like obligations, but more important than the numbers and data check in with yourself on how committed you are to this future state and why in order to make sure you haven’t let the goal take you off track.
As I've mentioned, this site is more of a beta than anything else, this week I decided to remove the drop down menus from the Know and Do sections. I did this because I don't want to tempt people into jumping ahead. If they don't read through the landing pages I don't think they'll get as much out of it.
When I was doing that I realized the Do section is quite a mess. It's very limited and the categories seem random. I'm thinking I will align them with the Know section. So I'll have you should Know this, and then a link to what you can Do about it.
I don't want the know section to get too big so at some point there will be more Do categories than Know categories, but for now I'll try to clean that up.
On the topic of more Know categories, I thought I was done for now but I've decided to do another series on big business. I touched on this a bit last week talking about the tech industry and its mission to get us all hooked on their products. In this next series of posts I'll elaborate on that by trying to explain why it's happening, show some examples, look at what it means to you, and of course what you can do about it.
To start you off here is a great documentary on the subject, The Corporation
This is a long movie and since the point of my site is to try to get you the info you need I'll tell you what I think the main take away here is.
Corporations are legally obligated to provide maximum benefit to their shareholders. To keep it simple benefit is equated to money. Because corporations can't go to jail their only form of penalty is financial fines. So laws no longer become ethical delemas they become cost benefit equations. If by breaking this law will the company save more or make more than the cost of the fine? If the answer is yes then they are legally obligated to break the law. If these laws are set up to protect the public or the environment then the public and the environment will suffer. An ethical CEO can be fired for not maximizing profits.
When you see news stories of companies moving money around the world to save taxes the news often makes it seem like they have a choice or that it is illegal. It's not a choice it's their 'fiduciary' duty to the shareholders, and it is most often done legally. When done illegally they probably did a cost benefit analysis to see if the fine would be more than the gains, and chances are it would be worth the risk.
Corporations are not evil, we've just set up the rules for them to be very destructive. There is a jewish folklore I read about that I often compare to this, it's the story of a 'golem'. This isn't the creature from Lord of The Rings, it's more like a frankenstein made of clay. Earth was said to be brought to life in the form of a man in order to serve a master. It was very strong but if the instructions weren't clear it could become very destructive. As I'm writing this I suppose it's similar to the Artificial Intelligence debates today, will the computers become too powerful and cause more harm than good?
I think we're already there with corporations, and Stephen Hawking has been quoted, warning us of this fact.
Currently I'm re-reading The Plateau Effect, and from what I've re-read so far I think it boils down to the age old wisdom of 'everything in moderation'. Much more scientific of course and with wider reaching implications, but essentially we need to realize that more is not always better, it is only better to a certain point, then it becomes worse, and eventually much worse. The authors compare just about everything to a 'sine curve', like this one below.
I think most people already know smartphones and mobile tech can be addictive and not think much of it because it’s not going to happen to them. A phone is a phone, (of course we’re talking smart phones here), and it’s very useful and it’s worth the risk.
This is what I thought, but I’m listening to this book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked and it’s making me think twice about it.
The part of the book that worried me was the use of cocaine in the past. Some doctor was looking for new drugs and he tried chewing on a coca leaf. He wasn’t the first to try this by far, but apparently his paper on it sparked the medical use of it. People were using it all over the place. Even Sigmund Freud who is usually remembered as this infallible individual fell in love with the drug. The book said he used it so much it was destroying his life and he could barely take his dose because his nostrils were ravaged by it causing him chronic pain, and he treated the pain by painting a water/cocaine solution onto his nostrils!
In today's world we know the dangers of drugs and in some countries it’s illegal in other countries it is not, but in no country do parents give it to their kids to make them happy.
Why do I mention kids? Because the addictive and destructive nature of cocaine is being seen in the variety of things we can do with our mobile devices and we give them to our kids as soon as they can hold them, maybe sooner!
Obviously there are differences between cocaine and mobile games, but the scary thing is the industry behind the mobile games. I think Cocaine is as addictive as it is going to get, I don’t really know how much more addictive people can make it, but with addictive technology there are millions of people spending every waking hour trying to make their app more addictive than the last. To have an app that goes viral is the dream of many. Who wasn't jealous of the creator of Flappy Bird who seemed to strike it rich overnight with a very basic low budget game.
And obviously there is more to addiction than the drug or the app. As you can see in countries like Portugal which has made all drugs legal to combat their war on drugs so they can open up new types of treatment centres. But I just want to leave you to think about this for a bit.
When we pick up our mobile device randomly through the day or when we give our children mobile devices to pass the time, are we on our way to becoming Sigmund Freud painting our nostrils with cocaine to sooth the pain caused by painting his nostrils with cocaine?
This comes back to our brains being wired for the promise of reward more so than the reward itself as I pointed out in ‘You’re not going to believe this about bliss’. But the example there was a study with rats frying their feet due to a probe in their brain. Now we’re talking about one of the smartest people to ever live, whose area of expertise was human behaviour being susceptible to this. What chance do we have of being able to live alongside this without some controls or some rules or at least a better understanding of what is happening.
So, think about it. I’ll write about it more in the coming weeks. In the meantime if you want to get a sense of how many minutes or hours a day you’re looking at your smartphone you can use an app called ‘Moment’ by Kevin Holesh, (NOT Moments by Facebook, don’t download that one).
In the past I highly recommended Arianna Huffington's sleep tip of counting backwards from 300 or some high number by 3. It worked for me pretty well, so well I almost didn't click on this article about a new trick.
The trick is to pick a random word and then come up with a word for each letter.
For example, pick ROCK, then think of a word that starts with R, then O, then C etc. Then pick a new word. I think they recommend words that don't have letters that repeat. I'm not sure why that is
Here's the link
Aside from that, tonight I just did some clean up. I took the drop down menus away from the header to make people go into those main pages. I was worried people might not even realize anything is there in the Know and Do link. And I did a few other tweaks.
On the topic of sleep here's a recent TED talk you might be interested in. It advocates for later school start times. I had no idea this was such a big issue!
I think the 'What you should know' section is done for now. I'll come back to it and expand on it with new content I find and from your comments, but for now I'll move on to another section of the site.
Click here to go to the wrap up
I was listening to 'The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters', and not surprisingly it puts a lot of stock in the reasons behind what we do, such as the reason we feel compelled to go to work. Is it to buy certain things, to achieve certain things, to provide for others, etc. People these days often say they want/need meaningful work or work they love to be happy, and some critics of that complain that this is something new and that people just used to work, work hard lousy jobs and they didn't have the problems with depression we have today.
This got me thinking about Universal Basic Income programs being talked about. I'm all for them, and I'll get to that in a bit, but this idea that a lot of meaning and self worth and satisfaction comes from our jobs, just giving money to people may cause them to struggle to find meaning in their lives. Rather than free money it may help everyone if there were some aspect of 'work' required to obtain it. I'm not talking 9-5 or at an office, but something you're accountable to do. Even if it is to call in to chat with others or to do test services and give feedback, just something that helps others could help the person themselves in ways money can't.
So why am I for Universal Basic Income? I can't remember if I already did a post on this but here we go again if I did. In general I think it is a good idea from a global security perspective, and I'm going to back up my argument with TED talks.
I recently saw an article about a Robot Tax, where robot owners could be taxed to provide money to the population that got displaced by the robot and I wrote the following comment.
People need to start thinking of UBI as a potential solution to a lot of global issues. The argument for global security easily outweighs the concern that there will be a bunch of freeloaders, especially now that robots are in the mix. What I mean can be summed up by looking at 3 recent TED Talks that have nothing to do with UBI.
1) Sarah Parcak - Help discover ancient ruins. She says world heritage sites are getting looted, the reason is people need money more than ever. Her solution, spend millions on a crowdsource project to look at sites via satellite.
2) Deeyah Khan - What We Don't Know About Europe's Muslim Kids. She interviewed convicted terrorists and didn't find 'monsters' she found broken people, torn between their culture and their country. Other talks have also highlighted that extremists draw on broken down people with few other options.
3) Caleb Barlow - Where is Cybercrime really coming from? He talks of a huge underground economy, a Deep Web full of people willing to do whatever terrible thing you want as long as you pay.
Do you think people would be looting the pyramids, joining extremists groups, or hacking for money if they had a UBI allowing them to follow their dreams?
Here's a bonus TED talk to think about, Paul Knoepfler - The ethical dilemma of designer babies, he talks about CRISPR and how much of a game changer it is, and the widespread impacts it can have.
Think of this like hacking the living world, UBI could help prevent "bio-hackers for hire" like we already have for computers. I feel the same way about healthcare, not having it is a huge risk. Everyone loves 'Breaking Bad' but no one seems to realize it wouldn't have happened if the character had healthcare.
Without these universal programs we are creating the problems we are willing to spend billions to try to fight. Look at cyber crime, can the governments ever hope to stay ahead of that? I don't think so. If you want to get really worried watch Sugata Mitra's TED talks showing kids teaching themselves to use computers, and think about where we send all of our e-waste. And not even e-waste, who do we have making all of our most advanced electronics. People we don't even pay a living wage. They have access to everything they could want. Take a look at these markets in China where a guy was able to buy the parts to build an iPhone, it seems like you could get anything you want there.
UBI is not about altruism it's about global security but only if we can apply it across the world. How to implement this will be the trick to figure out but the first step is to see the potential, and to agree we need it.
To bombard you some more with TED Talks, here is an extra long one where they get on to this topic, but they don't leave you feeling too optimistic. They say UBI will need to be global but that it hard to imagine the current global governments would be able to come up with and agree upon something.
I have some ideas, I'll get to those in a future post. Regardless of what I think about UBI, people really need to rethink what they consider 'good solutions'. As one TED speaker said, you have to look up stream to see where the problems are coming from. He said it's a common parable for people in public health to describe looking at problems as if they are babies floating in baskets down a stream towards a waterfall. You just want to jump in and start saving the babies. But he says someone has got to leave the group saving the babies and try to stop whatever or whoever is putting these babies in the stream to begin with. I think inequality is a big factor but I think the reason for that inequality is a lack of understanding of what makes us happy, a lack of understanding of why we do what we do.
I updated the credit card post (link) because the card I recommended as a good starter card (Tangerine Mastercard) reduced it's benefits. Now the benchmark for a good starter card is the MBNA Smart Cash Plus (after you get it and use up the welcome bonus months call to ask if you can upgrade to the 'World' version to eliminate the limits on the cash back). While I was doing that I noticed quite a number of typos, so I fixed those, makes me think I need to go through all my posts. I also added a warning stating you're more likely to spend more if you have a credit card than if you use cash. So if you feel you're may fall into this trap more than you want to it might be best to steer away from them despite the free cash back.
I updated the car recommendation blog post with some insights into the car broker, basically give them a call before you make contact with any dealers to make sure you don't make it harder for them to negotiate for you.
I updated the home page to make it a bit less wordy.
While looking for a TED talk I wasn't sure the title of I came across some good ones. One with a new insight into the metaphors we use around Love, another article for further reading on how our emotions impact our body (specifically stress).
And I came across some TED talks related to loss. One of a family that made an award winning video game that you can't win, as a way to introduce people to the feelings around loss (link) and another rather sad TED talk about a woman and her relationship with her sister that she also lost to cancer. The thing that stood out to me most in that talk was when she said her sister told her that the last year of her life was her best one yet.
"My sister said the year after transplant was the best year of her life, which was surprising. She suffered so much. But she said life never tasted as sweet, and that because of the soul-baring and the truth-telling we had done with each other, she became more unapologetically herself with everyone. She said things she'd always needed to say. She did things she always wanted to do. The same happened for me. I became braver about being authentic with the people in my life. I said my truths, but more important than that, I sought the truth of others."
This goal of this site is to create a new mental model for why we do what we do, and to help us better predict what will make us happy in the future so we can make better decisions. And I think this is something to take note of. A situation which we would think should be one of the worst times in ones life was this woman's best time. I think the lesson here is not that pain is good, but that opening up is good, having at least one person you can totally be yourself around is good, and taking risks to be more you rather than who you think others want you to be is worth the risk.
I'll add these to the emotions page, and I'll put the one video here for now.
The last post was high level saying the stronger the emotion the more likely you are to remember the event. Today I'm going over how each type of emotion is like a tool in your toolbox, and how to make the most of them.
Check it out here (link)
I've added a new post under the 'Know' section, Your Emotions.
Let me know what you think, ... helpful/too obvious/insightful ?
Buy a used Honda Fit (2009 or newer) for your daily driver.
That's it, I'm going to write a bunch to explain why but all you have to do is buy a used Honda Fit and not think too much about it and you'll probably save thousands of dollars a year. Mr. Money Moustache says the average american family spends $4500 per car per year (ref). This will be significantly less than that, could easily be more than $1000 less per year.
My goal is to find the lowest cost per km car and the Fit might not be the absolute lowest cost per km but from what I can tell it is the least effort safest bet in the pursuit of a all around car.
1) They still make them, so there will be supply for a while
2) They are very versatile, they can fit 5 adults, or they can fit a lot of cargo
3) They are consistently on the top of reliability lists
4) They are the cheapest Honda model, and they look pretty good
5) They are near the top of all fuel economy lists, they'll beat out some hybrids
6) The model range has all the features you could want
7) They are typically at the top of the lists for cars that retain their value
Tips to avoiding headaches:
1) Try to avoid those smaller private used car dealerships. They cost less but they generally deal in cars which have been in accidents. The prices are cheaper but you never know if all the accidents have been reported or not.
2) Use CarProof not CarFax in Canada. Some dealers in Canada provide a CarFax report outlining the accidents, but a more reliable source for Canadian information is CarProof. This happened to me, I was told a certain car had an accident and the driver side door was repaired. There was a CarFax to back this up. I got the CarProof and the car had been in multiple accidents, the second one was an insurance write off (total loss).
3) If you want help negotiating a good deal consider using a broker. Here is an example of one in Ontario http://automallnetwork.com/. Contrary to what their website says, they want you to contact them before you contact the dealer. You can do some searching but when I talked to them on the phone they were quite adamant that once you walk into the dealership you are the dealer's customer not the broker's. The broker wants to negotiate the price and then have you go test drive the car. They said if you do contact the dealer don't give them your full name or contact info. If you are contacting them by email don't use your normal email account. I don't know how this works if you end up not wanting the car. It seems like you just get their negotiating help with one car at one dealership for $195.
If you really want to dive into how to save money a bit more here is an article outlining how having a series of cheaper cars can save thousands of dollars vs. buying an expensive car and having it for 10+ years. The idea behind it is that it allows you to pay less interest on other loans, or investing the extra money. It might seem complicated, but it's just really just as simple as having less money tied up in your car so you can get the other money to work for you.
On the topic of auto loans here is a scary video about those small dealerships that give credit to anyone. Watch out for these traps
If you're all the way down here I'll let you know an even cheaper option.
If you read enough personal finance advice you'll hear someone say you can Drive For Free (DFF), or even make money by driving. This is not quite accurate, what they are generally saying is, you can become a (one car at a time) used car mechanic/salesman easier than you think. Many people sell cars undervalue because they don't want to put in the effort to tuning them before selling them, they just want to move on and spend more money. This is real, you can do this, you could even take it to the next level and have a hobby of fixing exotic cars and really make some big money while doing something you enjoy. If this sounds appealing look into it. If you just want to drive a car, buy a Honda Fit.
Here's an article on DFF
I'm reluctant to mention other options because as soon as you get too many options you can get overwhelmed easily. If you don't like the Fit consider a used Civic.
If you want more options ..., I'm warning you, this can take up a lot of time ...
I highly recommend Phil Edmonston's Lemon-Aid Car Buying Guides. Just buy it and read through it and try to stick to the low cost cars that he gives a 'Recommended' rating to. You can go to a library to read it or a book store to get some tips, but to really get all you want out of the book you'll need to spend a lot of time reading all of his general car buying advice, in addition to the specific advice for each car, so I'd lean towards buying it and considering it part of the price of the car you are buying.
Generally the lowest cost cars are more reliable, it's like they know those customers won't put up with unreliable cars, unlike people buying for looks or performance, they'll push the limits of reliability in order to have the latest and greatest.
Here is a list of 10 cars to consider, but cross reference these to the Lemon Aid book before considering them too seriously.
Save money, save gas, save your headaches with costly repairs, buy a nice looking economical car, with as many features as you need. I'm not recommending buying something you don't like, I'm saying take a look at the true cost a car you have or want. Add up the extra money on more gas (sometimes premium gas), larger wheels, insurance, repairs, depreciation. Start to realize the reason companies have to pay their employees so much per km when driving for work, it's because your car really is costing you close to that much per km, it's just hard to see it since the costs are so spread out. Then using that knowledge buy a car you like that is within a price per km you want to spend.
Wanting things can give us motivation to be more productive and to make more money, so wanting a nice car and working hard for it can work out for some people. I just don't want people being tricked into thinking they need to spend more than they need to by marketing and by having the costs spread out so much.
It seems like addictions are in the news these days a lot. The statistics around Opioids alone are startling. I don't think I know anyone addicted to them but it seems like statistically we all probably do. I know a few people that took OxyContin after surgery and luckily they didn't get addicted.
In terms of what you can you
1) If they are prescribed to you I'd ask if there is an alternative
2) Michael Botticelli former Director of the USA's National Drug Control Policy recommends talking about it more. If you need help, ask for it, if someone asks for help don't think less of them, provide them help like you would to someone with a broken leg, addiction is a disease.
3) Change the words you use:
Excerpt from Times Colonist article by Sarah Petrescu
Some of the suggestions are using terms such as “person with a cocaine-use disorder” instead of “cocaine user” or “addict.” Others include referring to a person having an “addictive disease” or “substance-use disorder” rather saying they are a drug “abuser” or “junkie.”
Counterintuitive things you should know:
1) Our whole mental model of what causes additions is not quite right, check out the first video below. I put it at the top because out of all of these because our mental model dictates so much of this problem, and most of us are walking around with on that's not backed up by science. By knowing this we can see there are more factors to addiction than just the drugs, and how big a factor the stigma around addiction can compound the problem. Link to the article where I found it.
2) Criminalizing drugs has not been as effective as decriminalizing them. Portugal is the first country I heard of that decriminalized all drugs put their resources into helping and they've seen an amazing turn around. Check out the clip from Michael Moore's documentary
Here is Michael's TED Talk - Addiction is a Disease
Here is John Oliver's take on Opioids
And here is a terrifying article outlining the plans to spread the epidemic beyond North America to the rest of the world. This reminds me of Stephen Hawking's quote that "we should be more afraid of capitalism than robots". I'm not against capitalism, just based on my cursory look into this it seems like a huge risk of human suffering is being taken for the sake of making money.
OxyContin Goes Global - We're Only Just Getting Started
I don't know what to do to stop this, any suggestions?
I love the parable of the blind men and the elephant. A number of them encounter an elephant they each reach out and touch one part of it and argue over what they think it looks like until they realize they are all right. I think this applies throughout our lives. We often disagree with others but we are often both right, or at least have good reasons for backing up our opinions. I also think it applies to advice, we all get a lot of advice and I think it is all valuable, but it is often only one part of the elephant, so I'd like to systematically review advice and add to my picture of the elephant that it is. Today I'll look at the advice from a TEDTalk on time management.
Laura Vanderkam - How to gain control of your free time
What she says:
- Many people try to shave off time here and there to fit in more things (i.e. fast forward commercials)
- She doesn't think striving to shave time is the right approach, she thinks we should choose what's important and having the time will take care of itself. She gives the example of someone with a busy lifestyle that has a flood at their house. Resolving it takes 7 hours out of the persons week. She many people don't think they could find 7 hours a week to exercise or meditate or whatever, but when you have to you just do.
- Her big take away is when we say "I don't have time" we are saying "It's not a priority"
- How do we realign our priorities?
- For work pretend it's the end of the year and write up your ideal performance review, listing all the things you accomplished.
- At home pretend it's the end of the year and write up your ideal Christmas letter, saying all the great things you did this year.
- From these future write ups get 6-10 goals for your year
- Break them down into manageable tasks
- Week by week take some time to plan out your goals for the next week. She recommends doing it on Friday afternoon when you're a bit drained from the week but willing to assign tasks to your future self for next week.
- She says we all get 168 hours a week, and she thinks if we look closely we'll see we've got probably 50-60 we could be using better, i.e. towards our priorities.
So, let's unpack this. She says
1) Things we already know - we make time for 'must do' activities, example, emergencies.
2) Gives us tips we won't do - write out our priorities and just do them.
This is like that email forward about the rocks and sand in a jar, do the important things first. The part about changing "I don't have time" to "It's not a priority", is I've suggested taking 'lazy' out of your vocabulary and replacing it with "It's not important enough for me to do right now"
I think Tony Robbins does a better job of this when he describes 'musts' and 'shoulds', and I think Kelly McGonigal does a great job outlining why we'd fail in The Willpower Instinct.
So overall it's nothing we haven't covered yet on the site (no new insights) but a nice reminder, it might spark your memory or finally push you to taking action. Personally, I like the specific examples of how to pull your priorities out of your brain with those year end reviews ahead of time, I might add those to the list of things you can do. I also like how she simplifies the categories down to three things Career, Relationships, Self. The goal setting program I did recently had a lot more categories and was a lot more complicated.
One great life hack I've come across to help you hold yourself to your priorities is to have a computer call you every night to ask you to rank yourself on those goals you pre-set for yourself. Below the TEDTalk is a video about it, and here is a link to a robot service that will do this for you, there's even a free two week trial. www.triggersdigital.com
I'm using it and I'm really finding it makes a difference for the little things you can overlook, those medium size rocks that can get neglected and left off your year end reviews. You know what, I'm going to put this video on top because I think you might be better off watching it that the TEDTalk, it's more focused but it's a technique that might help you with everything else.
My new plan is to do a post every Wednesday. I see & hear so many interesting things in TED talks, books, articles, facebook posts I could write a few posts every day, but my goal is not to just have an interesting list of articles, it's to build a framework that can be populated by others, populated in a way that is easy for anyone to navigate, to get high quality information to help them achieve a goal quickly and efficiently. Think of it like uber, the creators of uber are not trying to be everyone's taxi driver, but they want to connect people looking to be a taxi with someone that needs a taxi, as efficiently as possible. I want to try to do that with the information you need to live the life you want to live, and achieve your goals. So I'm going to resist too many posts to spend some time building the framework.
What you can do in term of finding interesting stories? I highly recommend using the TEDTalk Video podcast, as an audio podcast while you commute, or anytime you're looking for something to listen to. There is an audio only podcast but last I checked they didn't post as many talks as the video one, and it's the exact same as simply not looking at the video. So, put your phone down, do what you're doing and just listen to the video. The nice thing is if there is something you want to see you can just pick up your phone rather than go look up the video.
I recommend just listening to every single one as they come out. Don't look at the title and wondering if it's worth your time, you may not realize it is interesting until you listen. You may not think it was worth it until the end, or a little later. Some you may think weren't worth it, but that's a small price to pay in mind.
If you want to know some old ones you've missed, ask a friend, they might not have heard of the podcast or they might have a few they'd love to share.
Here is one that my friend loves and re-watches every so often.
I'm only going to give you the link so you can't watch it here, just go there, download it and try it as an audio podcast.
Part 1 was the basic idea that we are always predicting the future to decide what to do.
Part 2 was the competing parts of our brain, instant vs. delayed gratification
Part 3 is now looking at the idea of the reward (wanting) vs. the reward itself (happiness)
Check it out, let me know what you think.
This article in the Guardian says industrial farms are worse than we thought, their methods degrade the soil, which is not new news, but the extent to which they do is worse than they realized. Regenerative farming could be the carbon capture solution we've been looking for.
So, I'd say this is even more evidence that you can make a big impact with your consumer choices.
If you are into voting with your wallet and want to do more or if you're not into voting with your wallet and want to do more here is an article on Quartz with the headline "Conscious Consumerism is a Lie. Here's a Better Way to Save The World".
it says become an activist or use your money to support activists rather than producers. I agree activists that can change policies can make big changes, but we need both.
I've added a second installment in the Stuff You Should Know section of the site.
You and ... the Other You(s), looking at internal conflicts we all have, where they come from and what we commonly mistake them for.
Today I did 7 loans to bring me up to 80 loans in 80 days (not including weekends). Coincidentally I looked at my stats and I've now given exactly 100 loans. Out of those 100 loans over 8 years it looks like I've only lost $11 due to currency conversion, and I've never looked at the risk ratings for the loans. To put money into the website you do have to convert to US funds if you're not already in US funds so there will be some fluctuation there over time, but in general this seems very similar to just holding money in a US bank account with no interest. I highly recommend it, especially for people that want to help others but don't feel they can spare the money.
As the title says this will be my final update for the near future. My plan is to keep re-lending the money I have in there and eventually have enough to do a loan a day.