Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Not Happy? Relaaaxxx. Or Don't...It Hardly Matters

In an ongoing dialogue with my laptop, the General Social Survey and RStudio, I have uncovered another simple measurement: hours spent relaxing on a typical work day and reported levels of happiness.

If you look at the first column in the table below, you will find the number of reported hours spent relaxing per typical work day for a survey respondent. Then, the following three columns are the respondent's reported levels of happiness, with "1" corresponding to "Very Happy", "2" corresponding to "Pretty Happy," and "3" corresponding to "Not Too Happy."

The people who are relaxing 0 hours a day, myself included, are by and large reporting themselves as being "Pretty Happy."

The happiest people? Around 40% of the "Very" happiest people report having three to four hours of relaxation per typical work day. But then again, look at the "Very Unhappy" people in column 4: they majority of them relax two to five hours a day, too!!

So happy people and unhappy people alike seem to relax. It doesn't have much of a relationship to happiness, whatever the yoga studios are telling us.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

The More Asian Friends You Have, the Less TV You Watch (And Other Statistical Curiosities)

I have a small addiction to Korean soap operas. They are so good. My favorites are "My Love From Another Star," and "When a Man Loves."



And, independently, I have a lot of Asian American friends, whom I adore.

Recently, two things have come to my attention. The first: since I've graduated from college, the number of friends of mine who are Asian or Asian-American has gone way up. The second: I watch no TV at all. Except for my bonanza runs of Korean dramas every so often, I have no time for it.

According to statistics, I do actually fall outside American TV watching tendencies. In fact, I just analyzed the relationship, using  the the General Social Survey,  I looked at two variables: number of TV hours watched per week, on average, and the number of Asian acquaintances.

What I found was that the less hours that a respondent said they watched per week, the more Asian acquaintances they also happened to have, on average.

For example, among those who listed "0 hours" of TV watched usually per week, the average number of Asian acquaintances respondents had was 2.95. Look at the table below for yourself, and you'll see that as the number of TV hours watched per week increases, the number of Asian friends a person has decreases. And vice versa.



If that seems like an inconclusive relationship, okay. Since we're having fun here, how about we look at the number of years of education respondents had on average, analyzed according to the number of Asian acquaintances they said they had...


If you look at the number of Asian "pals" a person said they had in the middle column, you will see that the more Asian friends a person has, the higher their education level, on average. So an education of "12" means that they have finished the senior year in high school. An education level of "14" means that they have finished another two years of community college or vocational training. And an education level of "16" would indicate that the respondent has finished four years of college after high school. 

Last week, I did some studies on women and harassment in the workplace, which I may post if I have time later.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Why Having More Information Isn't Making Your Decision Easier

"At the end of the day, the goal is NOT to analyze everything. It is to analyze as LITTLE as is necessary to solve the primary issue."

Victor Cheng, Case Breaking Guru

I like this way of thinking. It's becoming more obvious to me as I go along. A corollary is likely that knowledge takes you from blindness to sight, but perhaps an insensible sight. Wisdom transforms what you are seeing into meaningful relationships and patterns.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Levers to Adjust Risk and Reward - And The Truth Behind Our Biggest Moments

Falling into the best things in life, and falling off into the worst, are both unforeseeable.

The majority of risks we take when we wake up are because of conscious decisions we make to satisfy some desire or need. For example, although driving a car or riding public transportation is risky, we did it because of something else we needed to do or wanted to do. Unless you are homeless, in which case you ride public transportation just to ride it. No, even then, you ride it to get out of the weather.

You can decrease risks like that by simply not driving or riding public transport.

Then you increase the risk of homelessness, however, as you might find it hard to keep a job without going into the office ever.

You can decrease the risk of homelessness by showing up to work every day and doing whatever your boss asks you, even if he asks you to stay late.

But then you increase the risk of poor health and decreased life expectancy (and perhaps, divorce).
You can decrease your health risks by sleeping more and not staying at work past dinner time, but then you increase the risk of being passed over during promotion time.

So, there are all sorts of risks. You have levers for every one of the adjustable risks.

But you have to optimize how much risk you are willing to bear in each category: the risk of being passed over, the risk of poor health, the risk of homelessness, the risk of a failed marriage, the risk of a broken family, the risk of piling debt, the risk of decreased creativity.

How do you optimize?
Easy, silly. Excel Solver.

Once you've done your analytics, of course, you have to act like a manager over your life and implement the decisions. This much sleep, and no less. This much broccoli, and no less. This much bourbon, but no more. This much MTA transit at rush hour, but no more. This much phone calls to mom, and no less.

And then, even then, yes--you will realize that really crappy things happen to your health, and you will be shocked to find that sleeping a lot didn't reduce your cancer risk enough, and that loving your family didn't prevent an untimely death, and that being great at what you do didn't prevent the 2008 economic crisis or your subsequent job loss.

And then, even then, yes--you will discover that wonderful things that you could never have imagined will happen to your friends, family, and even you. People you originally weren't drawn to will draw you into their circles and bless your evenings with knowing looks and warm hugs. Bosses who give no favors will toss you opportunities that all the rules say you shouldn't get, and you will take them and transform into a leader. Even when you budget and refuse to ride taxis, you'll find yourself sharing a taxi with someone that could have been you ten years ago, and find yourself telling her to have the courage you never had, to see the way through, to push open the doors and make a place for herself at the table.

Those are risks and rewards that you have no levers to control. Isn't that what all of these books are written about anyway? Preparing yourself, clearing your slate, living expectantly---so that when moments like those come along, you are ready. For calamity and death, for exaltation and birth. As if it is possible to be prepared for things you think are impossible.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Bill Clinton Article

My friend posted this Atlantic article on Bill Clinton that I found interesting.


This quote stood out as a problem that many millenials have in pursuit of their own careers/aspirations:

“I’ve got all these ideas,” he said. “What I’m really interested in is what my kind of public service is going to be, here in America and around the world … I’ve got to think that through.”

At the time—indeed, for the next couple of years—even people close to Bill Clinton wondered whether he would ever bring that period of cogitation to a definitive conclusion. They wondered whether he could discipline his curiosity and impulses sufficiently to focus on just a handful of causes, as Jimmy Carter had so effectively done, or whether, as The Atlantic put it in 2003, his post-presidency would turn out to be “limbo in overdrive.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tip of the Day: 4 Easy Steps to Doing Anything Better


Today, my tip is about improving your work life (and eventually, your personal life, too). It's 4 easy steps involving planning, communicating, doing the plan and reviewing the plan for improvement. It could also be build, reveal, share and improve.

4 Easy (EASY!) Steps:
  1. Plan
  2. Communicate
  3. Do
  4. Refine
Each of the four stages has its own components.

For Planning, you need to make sure that:

  • The plan fits your overall goals for the project / organization
  • The plan fits within your values (i.e. timeliness, excellence, providing more than was asked for)
  • The plan has clearly defined what will be done, who will do each part, when each part will be done, and what resources/information is necessary to start / finish the project
For Communicate, you have to make sure that you communicate your plan to

  • The people above you,
  • The people affected by your decisions or waiting on your project,
  • The people working with you who need to do some part of the plan, and
  • The people outside of the organization that might need to know.

Figuring out who will be affected by your plan, and who is waiting on it is a good process.

For Doing the Plan, you have to have a good to do list that is clear and in logical order. Nobody can do everything at once. Do you shampoo your hair, dry your hair and then put conditioner in it? No! There is a sequence that makes everything more efficient!
  1. First, do this.
  2. At the same time, start this.
  3. Then, once #1 has been completed, do this.

Some things can be done simultaneously (at the same time), but other things happen sequentially (one followed by another). You should draw "Flow Charts" to figure out where the bottle necks will be in your plan, and make sure that you address potential obstacles early on.

For Refining the Plan, you want to think about the process you used, the people and situations you took into account as you communicated and performed each task.

Ask:

  • Where did you lose time?
  • Who did you have to wait for before getting started?
  • What made the plan hardest to accomplish?
  • What do you know now that can help you next time you do something?

The planing process can help you in personal and professional matters. From the way you make your breakfast (do you start the stove fire first or get your ingredients out of the refrigerator first), to the way you schedule your free time (do you set personal goals for the 1-year, 5-year, 10-year?), to the way you respond to emails from colleagues and employers.

The more often you take your "PROCESS" outside of your head and put it on paper to analyze, the more improvement you will see over time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Sinking Ships, by Kathy Phillips

I work in a center at a business school, which allows me behind the curtain of a truly great enterprise. This morning, we had a meeting for all the centers and institutes, at which our vice dean spoke about the transitions we are going to make as a group.

I liked this one thing that she said very much:

"I can't swim. So I cannot be on the boat that is going down."

That was funny.

Good motivation, too.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Despising Humanity

A good man is pleased, rather than amused, to find patterns in human behavior.

Instead of, "oh God, how sad we are," he says, "wow, we do that, it's true!"

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hot Potato Visionary Types

Sometimes, working with visionaries can be a real endurance race.

Visionaries seem to stand in place and receive a steady stream of hot potatoes from heaven that they pass off to whoever is standing nearby. And you're thinking to yourself:

I am not responsible for executing all of this, right?

Carrying Mattresses and Improving Processes

The people who ought to know the most about process baffle me with their disinterest in having one.

Process be not intuition. Or the other way around. Or both.

Intuition is unsafe, imho. Like institutional memory, it's hard to improve intuition. It's a gut feeling that comes from the same place that brings you bias, prejudice and a yearning for Snuggies.

Processes can be refined.
Intuition fails, and does so with an unshakable sense of righteousness.

I'm all for good, improvable processes. I work in the right place for it, too. At a center for quality, efficiency and competitiveness.

Meanwhile, in the second week back on campus at Columbia, we had a protest outside Low Library today. People carrying mattresses to support the student who was raped, and who has decided to make visible what would have otherwise been an invisible burden.

She is making it artistic. Making something felt into something seen. Would that we all had the craft for that. Or the will. Or both.

I talked with my favorite coworker, who used to be in publishing, about why I love NYC. I said, and I quote myself here, "I want to live and to be and explore. To feel what there is to feel in life. Just like every other twelve year old girl."

No, but really. I've found myself here, even if I wasn't lost before I got here. My colors have become deeper, my feelings stronger (or at least more obvious and interesting to me).

No, it's more than even that. I'm taking sides here. For some things and against others. I'm choosing things and rejecting things (people, too). I'm more well-defined than I've ever been and I fell less changeable.

Those may be the words that I look back on in twenty years with grief and self-pity. But somehow, I doubt it. I doubt that I'll look back on this time with anything but admiration and gratitude.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

"Leisure alone, as great as it is, will not restore your soul."

-Rev David Bisgrove

It's Labor Day today.
I've eaten Mexican food and gelato, read up on representative democracy and texted friends. I have a date in a few hours, with an Italian man. It's all very leisurely.

But I feel anxious today. This feeling surprised me because I haven't felt this way all summer. I think it's not about the actual work I'll do this semester. It's about all the missed opportunities and mistakes I made in undergrad. This feeling is about all the happily married finance workers that mill about the city on Saturdays. Really--it has very little to do with me. But I feel it, nevertheless.

Instead of thinking too much on it, I'm choosing to focus on the day ahead and all the possibilities it holds. Museums, if I'm interested. The parks. Friends. Laughter. Exaggerated sentimentality.

And rest.