Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Invisible Putin

I received this cool book “The Invisible Gorilla” for Christmas. It is not a new book, but it was new to me.

Reading this book will make you less sure of yourself, and that's a good thing. In The Invisible Gorilla, they discuss a wide assortment of stories and counter-intuitive scientific findings to reveal an important truth: Our minds don't work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we're actually missing a whole lot.

The authors took the combined work of other researchers with their own findings on attention, perception, memory, and reasoning to reveal how faulty intuitions often get us into trouble. In the process, they attempt to explain:

  • Why a company would spend billions to launch a product that its own analysts know will fail
  • How a police officer could run right past a brutal assault without seeing it
  • Why award-winning movies are full of editing mistakes
  • What criminals have in common with chess masters
  • Why measles and other childhood diseases are making a comeback
  • Why money managers could learn a lot from weather forecasters

Again and again, we think we experience and understand the world as it is, but our thoughts are beset by everyday illusions. We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We're sure we know where we were on 9/11, falsely believing that vivid memories are seared into our mind with perfect fidelity. And as a society, we spend billions on devices to train our brains because we're continually tempted by the lure of quick fixes and effortless self-improvement.

The Invisible Gorilla reveals the numerous ways that our intuitions can deceive us, but it's more than a catalog of human failings. In the book they explain why people succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects. In short, the book attempts to give a sort of "x-ray vision" into our own minds, with the ultimate goal of helping us to notice the invisible gorillas in our own life.  You can see many video examples of the Invisible Gorilla here. If you watch these videos, you might begin to understand why we see (or don’t see) the obvious in the world around us.

Even when the obvious can kill us, even when the obvious is right in front of our own two eyes, we cannot see it. Wow, how did we ever make it this far as a species?

Alec Baldwin portrays Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live"

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Different is better

I don’t think there are better jobs. In fact, the word “better” is a wiggle word. When someone who works for me tells me “I’ll do my best” what exactly are they are trying to say to me? How in the world could anyone ever know if this was “their best” work? And why would anyone ever knowingly do LESS than their very best work?

Let’s look at the world of sports. Usain St Leo Bolt, OJ, CD (born 21 August 1986) is a Jamaican sprinter. Regarded as the fastest human ever timed, he is the first man to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records since fully automatic time became mandatory. He also holds the world record as a part of the 4 × 100 metres relay. He is the reigning World and Olympic champion in these three events. Due to his unprecedented dominance and achievements in the athletic field, he is widely considered the greatest sprinter of all time.  If it were you life’s mission to be BETTER than Usain Bolt, you have created a massive problem for yourself. Look at this picture - see the other men? These are some of the fastest men on the planet - do you know any of their names?

Name some of the top computer brands: Apple, Dell, HP, Asus, Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba, Samsung. There is a very good chance that you own a computer made by one of these brands. Is one company better than the other?

If you worked at Apple vs. HP vs. Lenovo vs. Acer (vs. any brand) does this mean that your life’s work will be judged by “the brand” that provides your paycheck? If it so hard to truly tell what brand of computer (or car, or smartphone, or anything) is “better” than the next brand, think of how difficult it would be to compare A JOB working at any one of these companies? Why would someone work for LESS money - but choose to work for Apple? It happens all the time. MONEY (compensation) is indeed a factor. But money is not the only factor.

Does anyone remember when Bo Jackson turned down $7M+ to play baseball for $1M? Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson is a former baseball and American football player. He is one of the few athletes to be named an All-Star in two major sports, and the only one to do so in both baseball and football. 

Name the “Top Ten” comedians of all time. Did your list include Jerry Seinfeld? George Carlin? Louis C.K.? Robin Williams? Chris Rock? Bill Cosby? Did your list include any women such as Ellen DeGeneres? Based on what criteria? Why would “your list” be so different than mine?

I’ll keep this blog short today, since it is New Year’s Day and all. But here is something that you should ponder if you are indeed thinking about getting “a better job” in 2017.

Better - how? More money for less hours? Safer working conditions? Better benefits? How are you going to measure this elusive thing called “better” in 2017 and beyond?

Remember a very fast man by the name of Carl Lewis? How about Michael Johnson? At one time, Johnson held two world records. How about Jesse Owens? Owens won the Berlin Games, the 100 in 10.3 and the 200 in 20.7. Not impressive times until you consider that they were ran in 1936 in dirt. You put Owens on a synthetic track, with blocks, weight training and lighter spikes, he would easily run much faster. Maybe he would still be “the fastest man on earth”.

So, even when you can MEASURE things, down to a fraction of a second, being “better” still becomes relative. Better is hard to measure. And the better you get, the harder it is to measure. Oh how it must sting to NOT be the fastest man on earth, because you were 1/100th of second slower - someone is BETTER than you!  

But different - being different is very easy to measure. If I ask who is the fastest man on earth, you look to a stopwatch for the answer (and track condition, and indoor vs. outdoor, etc.).  If I ask who is the funniest person on earth - now what do you do? How does one measure such a thing? Money? Andrew Dice Clay is an American comedian and actor. He came to prominence in the late 1980s with a brash, macho, and offensive persona of "The Diceman". In 1990 he became the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row. He was: different.

I say: it is better to be different than to be better.

And YOU can control being different. When something is DIFFERENT, you know it immediately. You can feel it Instantly. You don’t measure being different with a stopwatch or via a tax return.

Now, if you have a TERRIBLE job with a TERRIBLE boss, and have unsafe working conditions - you did not need to read this blog to tell you to get the hell out of there. But, here is how you can tell if you have found (or already have) “a better job” in the New Year:

At work: are you rewarded for being different, or for being better? In 2017 try to measure your job not by money, or benefits, or the classic career metrics. How does your job make you feel? And this works for Entrepreneurs as well - since you are the boss of you.

I can pick “different” out of a crowd in a second. Better? Not so much. But I can honestly say that this was MY BEST BLOG of 2017. And that is indisputable.