Whoa, a few days late on this on, where does the time go.
What have I been up to recently? I'm reading (listening to) 'Solve for Happy', a book that is touted as taking a mathematical or engineering approach to solving for happy as if it was an equation, and coming up with novel ideas not seen in the other books out there. Hmmm ... I'm not quite seeing it that way, maybe I misread the reviews. It is interesting but I'm over 80% done and I'm not seeing these equations I was hoping for. It's an interesting listen, and if you have 11 hours on your hands, maybe while commuting, check it out. For my unified theory of 'why we do what we do' on this website I'll add that the default mood of the auto pilot part of our brain is grumpy. I already mention that it's against you no matter what because your desires are usually long term and it's are short term, so it will tell you to give up when things get tough, and it will tell you to take a break when you're making progress. What he points out in this book is that the auto pilot is always on the look out for something that might be bad, something that might hurt us. It's always assuming the worst in an effort to keep us alive. Being more cautious than less cautious will keep you alive, but it's also kind of always grumpy if you let it be your default state.
Aside from that book, but on the topic of being on the lookout for things that might harm you I like to point out things you should be worried about, and which things you shouldn't be as worried about. Some people worry about getting on airplanes, or driving, or they get excited for giant lottery draws they might win, but don't tend to be as worried as they should be about things like mental illness or cancer. As a general rule I think if you hear about something that has a 1 in 10 chance of happening or 1 in something less than 10, like 1 in 5, or 1 in 3 or, even 1 in 2 chance of happening to you, like they are saying about getting cancer, or experiencing mental illness or suffering loneliness, you should pay some, I mean, a lot of attention and do at least some simple things to try to make it less likely to happen to you.
The disturbing statistic I heard recently is, girls have a 1 in 3 chance, and boys have a 1 in 6 chance of being sexually abused by the time they are 18! Do you know 6 kids? Well this says 1 maybe 2 of them is likely to be a victim of sexual abuse! Can you believe it? Well believe it or not this is one of those situations where you should do something to try to prevent this.
The good news is the steps this article suggests are really simple things you can do to reduce the likelihood it will happen to a child you know, and simple things to share with other parents to help their children. It's basically a matter of talking about our bodies with our kids, giving them an idea of what's right and wrong, and what to do if they are in a situation that seems wrong. And, making it known to those around these kids to know they know what is right and wrong and what to do if they see something that seems wrong.
So, most people may be getting uncomfortable around now, wondering how to do this, how to have these conversations and when to have them, but the great thing is, there are amazing kids books out there designed just for this. Just get one or two, read through them yourself and then read through them with your kids. They won't know to be uncomfortable about it, so try not to be uncomfortable either.
Here's the article I was forwarded
It's a very worthwhile read, and it has links to the kids books in it. Next time you're thinking of buying a lottery ticket, and dreaming of all the great things you can do for your family with the winnings, realize you could use that money to buy a book that could do more than those lottery winnings could ever do to prevent distraught for your family, and the chances of losing by not playing (by not buying the book and reading it to your kids) are 1 in 6.
Last month I said I was going to write up some tips for people that want to help and support their friends/family that are depressed because in the past I had found it hard to find good resources.
Then a couple days later this TED talk was posted “How to Connect With Depressed Friends”, how great is that!
The main thing I took away from the video was to not make a big deal of it, not to try to fix it, and not to make the person bad for having it. He says don’t feel like you have to be Dr. Phil, … think of trying to be more like Ellen.
Watch the video for more tips.
This advice isn’t just applicable to hanging out with depressed people, in all of the books I’ve read they always echo similar strategies, such as repeating what’s been said, to show you're hearing the other person more than trying to offer solutions. So you can try these out all the time with anyone you're interacting with.
Aside from that talk, in the past I ran across another TED talk where Dr. Ilardi outlines 6 steps to recovery, aimed at the patient, but I took them as a way to choose what to do when we did get together. 1) Omega-3, 2) Anti-Ruminate 3) Exercise 4) Light Exposure 5) Social Support and 6) Sleep Hygiene (link).
Based on this knowledge I would always try meet up for a walk in the park. Doing this wouldn’t fully satisfy the list, but it would help towards four of them in one go.
For those of you who feel you want to try to do more, and you want to be like Ellen as suggested above, but running a game on her show rather than just chatting on the couch, check out this TED Talk.
This is a new approach and if you think you're friend is up for it check it out a bit more then send them some links to see what they think. (link to more info)
Aside from that, despite what I remembered in terms of not too many brochures for the people around those with depression, when you search they do come up now
Here's one that was near the top of the list
Here's one with suggested things to say
So to wrap it up, I'd say make sure to let the person know you're there for them. Watch/read things to try to get a sense of what they're going through. If you're unsure of something, ask them questions. In general though try not to get into a fixing mode or make them feel bad for being depressed. And you may feel hesitant to call 911 since you don't call it too often, but if you suspect your friend may hurt themselves or others just call 911 as mentioned in the guides above.
This month is more TED Talks than typing, it starts with a recent one on Grandmothers treating depression, and ties back to the the Jan and Feb posts on what everyone wants, and more fulfilling endeavours.
Depression and mental health are in the news a lot, for good reason, suicide is the leading cause of death for people 15-29 world wide. The percentage of people that will suffer from mental health issues is like 1 in 2 or 1 in 3, it's huge. And from what I've tried to find online I haven't been able to find a lot of advice on what friends can do to help. The tips are usually directed at the person suffering, things like, exercise, eat well, push yourself to get out and be active. So from a friends point of view you can try to help encourage those activities. As it's been in the news more I keep listening to see if depression is tied to a lack of meaning or sense of purpose. I feel like I've heard that and I think it would make sense but it doesn't seem to be in the news. So over the next bit I'll try to find that reference and I'll try to pull together what friends can do to help if they have a friend that is depressed. The idea came to me when listening to an inspiring TED talk about a doctor who taught grandmothers to treat depression. He did it out of desperation, in a country with a truly unbelievably low doctor to patient ratio, 12 psychiatrists in a country of 14 million people, but I think it's a great model to spread to the world. Even where there are many more psychiatrists a grandmother would be more accessible and could be more effective as he mentions in his talk.
This isn't the first I've heard of the power of grandmothers. They are an underutilized resource. There is a TED Talk in which they are touted as the secret ingredient or catalyst to educating the world's children. And in another talk they are recruited to take an active role in all sorts of technical endeavours. Their ability to connect seems unmatched by those we'd typically look to to solve the problems, and this ability to connect seems more important than previous abilities which they can learn as they go.
Tying it back to February's post, there I talked about everyone wanting similar things but not realizing it. I think this is another case of it. People with depression want safe social connection, and those around them want to help. It's a matter of the two sides understanding how to help. As his TED.com bio says Dixion Chibanda "is passionate about connecting with ordinary people in ways that improve their lives using simple but effective programs that can be carried out by non-specialists or professionals". To me this sounds like exactly what would help people living more fulfilling lives as discussed in the January post!
There's no shortage of people out there, and loneliness is the leading cause of death for the elderly. Tapping into the resource of the elderly seems like a win-win-win. Win for those in need, win for the overburdened professionals, and a win for the elderly. I've seen some examples college students living in retirement homes. I hope that takes off!
And speaking of 'what everyone wants', I'll put a bonus video at the bottom which comes at it from an unlikely angle :)
Here's the talk on Grandmothers treating depression.
Here is a video to help understand how a person with depression is feeling.
Here is the global vision to have Grandmothers help kids teach themselves everything!!
Here are Grandmothers doing everything from building solar cookers to taking care of 7000 children's teeth. My favourite part about this talk is how it demonstrates that you people raise to the challenge you present them. At 09:29 he starts talking about schools, and the role the kids play in the running of the schools, and if you listen for a minute about their trip to Sweden you'll see what I mean when you hear about how the 12 year old student prime minister reacts to questions from the Queen of Sweden.
Here is the Bonus Video, where a woman searching for god stumbled on some universal desires. Enjoy!
A couple weeks ago I had a great idea for a blog post, it was going to take three things I'd come across recently that summed up all my ideas in a nice "A + B + C = The Future" ... at least I think it was. I didn't write down any notes because I thought it was so obvious, but I lost it. Not sure what I was thinking.
I know it all hinged on this talk though. I feel like everyone needs to see this talk.
The speaker, Dan Ariely, seems to be most interested in showing us that we are biased in our decisions and our world views, and to demonstrate this he uses survey results showing how we think wealth is distributed, how it actually is distributed, and how different groups of people think wealth should be distributed. The HUGE takeaway here from my point of view is that everyone agrees on how wealth should be distributed. It's not equally but it is also nowhere near the way it is being distributed. I'm not advocating for forced wealth redistribution, but I think everyone should see this and think about ways this could be achieved. If you're up for this you should also take a few minutes to watch the talk on 'How to Buy Happiness' because it's not what you'd think.
On a side note, if you've read through the 'KNOW' section of the website you may be interested in this recent talk that seems to reinforce the ideas presented there. In my "First Thing" you should know, I outline that we are all constantly making predictions based of the future based on our past experiences, that's essentially how we decide what to do moment to moment. And in the "Fifth Thing" you should know I outline that our emotions are like non-verbal cues from our autopilot helping us navigate these decisions, again based on past experiences.
The talk is a nice summary and gives some practical applications. Check it out :)
If you make resolutions or not January 1 is a time of reflection for most people. We look back, wonder where the time has gone, look ahead and think of what's in store for the new year. Some of us will do this in great detail, some of us will be content just shrugging our shoulders.
In general I don't think people usually do everything they hoped to do.
If thinking "what to do with my year", maybe think waaaaay forward, and look back. This may seem morbid but think of yourself on your deathbed and think of what you'd have wanted to do more of and less of.
Do you think you'll wish you watched more Netflix, or will you be kicking yourself for not flossing, or not connecting more with friends and family?
Thinking about your final days may seem morbid, but try to think of it as empowering. It can clarify your life, that clarity can take out a lot of stress from your life. When you have clarity deciding what to do and not do can become less stressful. I'll come back to this at the end but having an aversion to thinking about death is a big problem. People can have lots of regrets, families can be put under a lot of stress making decisions on your behalf. One advocate for planning suggest we think of our lives as a book, and says we should not fear the end just like we don't fear the final pages of a book. He suggests instead that we focus on writing a good story.
Looking to the internet you can find many articles on deathbed regrets to learn from others. You can probably guess what they are. Things such as; live your life not the life others wanted for you, don't work so hard, courage to express my feelings, a wish to have been closer with friends and family, and to have let themselves be happier. A paramedic says, the dying need to know their life had meaning.
With so much potential these days we are often stressed out that we aren't enough. This is illogical, we can't all be Mark Zuckerberg. Try hard, enjoy the process but don't feel like a failure if you're not a billionaire. The biggest factor in a start-up's success is timing. Something largely out of their control.
So if you're really thinking long term, like how to live today for your future self, should you eat healthy or work out. There is a lot of research showing that your sense of purpose and your relationships are more important to living longer. Eighty year olds with a spouse they feel they can count are less affected by their ailments than those that don't feel they have anyone their to help them. In terms of eating/living healthy many of these people have cues to stop yourself from eating when you're 80% full, schedule time to downshift from hectic life.
So if you're in the self reflecting mood...
Think of your purpose, over the month of Jan try to nail one down you like. Feel free to modify it as you go.
Over the year, make a resolution to schedule 1) time to unwind and 2) spend time with friends/family.
These should be easier than the typical resolution, but like anything, to be successful sticking to it long term you need to have a compelling reason. In this case the studies show if you do these things consistently over your life you are more likely to have a longer healthier life!
The amazing thing about these things that can extend happy healthy years to your life can also be good for the environment. A doctoral candidate at Berkeley suggests that if you invite friends over more and if you find time to unwind/sleep more, these activities have a low impact on the environment compared to other leisure activities and can help the environment.
5 Common Deathbed regrets
Live Happier (and More Energy Efficiently) by Sleeping More and Inviting Your Friends Over
Blue Zones Study TED Talk
For those of you interested enough to have kept scrolling....
Above I said I'd back to the topic of thinking about our final days and how it can not only be empowering but it can also make that time significantly less stressful. Below are all the references that helped me write this, the section below titled thinking about death in an empowering way is where you'll find the relevant reference.
What changes today will be most beneficial to my future self
- celebrate old people not young people
- they stop eating at 80% full
- they get put into groups of 6 friends for life
- they have a word for the reason for getting up in the morning, they have a reason for living
- move a lot but don't bother with the gym
- take time to downshift
- faith based community adds 14 years to your life
- density, social cohesion (kitchen party), isolation is big risk
- social cohesion lends to wariness of strangers
- chatting with strangers is the biggest factor
- loneliness kills
- marriage without affection is very bad for your health, worse than divorce
- old people in pain weren't as bothered by it if they had a partner they knew they could count on
- On Monday's and Thursday's he does what he would do if he got news that he had a terminal illness
Living for my Resume or Eulogy
- Our life goals often don't align with our daily activities, and this helps reflect on why
- Tips on if you want a good obituary
Not being too hard on yourself
- too much potential stresses us out
- Don't take your place in life too personally, try hard but understand we can't all be Bill Gates
- biggest factor is timing
Thinking about death in an empowering way
- Thinking about death is one of the most empowering things you can do
- No one is planning for death, but we should. Dying in ICU is not a good option
- Helping people have the end of life they want
- We need to change from seeing dying as failure, or we'll all be failures. We need a heroic narrative for death
- Think of life as a book, and don't fear the covers, don't fear the final page. The only thing that matters is that you make it a good story.
An "Auto-Obituary" full of advice
- The dying need to know their life had meaning
- You don't have to wait until you are dying to clean up your relationship
- Deathbed regrets summarized. The links below are other variations on this theme.
There have been a lot of very interesting TED talks lately but I just picked one to add to the Trending on TED section of the Secret page. And so far instead of adding what you can do about each of the many problems I listed down the side of that page I linked to one page talking about the common thread behind our problems.
As we head into the holiday and gift giving season a below is a trailer for a documentary on Netflix you might want to check to help you re-focus on what's important, or at least counterbalance all of the advertising you're being bombarded with.
Tip: Remember that advertisements are selling you the 'promise of reward', they are making you think your life will be better with that product. Take a second to assess the claim, think back to a similar purchase and try to remember if it lived up to the ad.
Last month I managed to clean up the 'Know' page so now on to the 'Do' page.
Looking at the Do page I realized it's nothing like I envisioned when I started this site as a proof of concept. I think this happened because I felt limited by the Weebly templates and tools.
So click here to go to a shell of a whole new 'Secret' Do Page
You can't click on much other than the 'Trending on ...' link, but let me know what you think.
I spent a few nights and finished the refresh of the 'Know' page.
Here's a link to the new one
Here's a link to the old one
Looking back I can't tell which is better. The old one isn't quite the true old one, I updated the bullet points to be descriptive instead of click bait and now I think it might be the better option.
Let me know what you think. I'll move on to the Do section for a bit now, enough with the Know.
Two new things a friend suggested and I tried out today that I'll be adding to the 'Know' page are
- 'Signal' for texting rather than what you're using now. It seems like the only one that is serious about helping you keep your texts private.
- 'Brave' web browser. Again on the theme of trying to keep what you're doing private.
You may not be that interested in taking back your privacy, it may seem daunting, it may seem like you have to give up a lot of conveniences. I'm interested in it not because I have certain secrets to keep, but to try to stop marketers from knowing me better than I know myself, once they know that they'll be able to sell me on just about anything or any idea or policy. Here is the article that helped me see this, it explains the future of marketing is easily tailored to each person these days, not only for products but for politicians too. And I was talking to a friend who is a VP of marketing and he said this is the future, no more generic ad campaigns.
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 ?