Practice Regime: Faint Signals of Praise

We know by now that humans are inherently limited in how much data we can take in at any given time. Indeed, we only see one thing at a time, and rely upon our subconscious to lead us to the next sight.

For this reason, many signals from the outside — signals that are potentially meaningful — never reach us. We are too busy paying attention elsewhere. We cannot change this about ourselves. But we can practice refining what types of signals to attempt to catch.

I have one particular thing in mind. How often do people say something positive about you? Do you keep track of these things? and when this does happen, how do you respond?  I am incorporating this in my daily tracking tool and think you should too. This HBR post takes note that this is a commercial as well as personal issue.

Global Trends

McKensey has an interesting post about the 4 global trends that are shaping our future. This quote gets your attention

We need to realize that much of what we think we know about how the world works is wrong;

And this one

Compared with the Industrial Revolution, we estimate that (21st century) change is happening ten times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact. Although we all know that these disruptions are happening, most of us fail to comprehend their full magnitude and the second- and third-order effects that will result. Much as waves can amplify one another, these trends are gaining strength, magnitude, and influence as they interact with, coincide with, and feed upon one another. Together, these four fundamental disruptive trends are producing monumental change.

Berger: Social Proof

this is the 5th post in a series about Jonah Berger’s book “Contagious”. In the series, we are discussing the key ideas from Jonah’s book about how to make our messages go viral. We have discussed, social currency, triggers and emotions. We are now ready to talk about sharing things that are already public.

We are talking about observability. People talk about things that they perceive are designed to be in the public domain. Like the Apple logo on the laptop cover.  You might think it would face the user so he or she could see the logo of the product. I n fact, it is upside down. Why? So that when the laptop is opened in a public place, everyone else can see it right side up. It is meant to be public.

The underlying phenomenon is quite simple. People tend to imitate those who are around them.  So if you want to stop smoking, get your friends to stop. There is a reason for this. If you are not sure of the right answer to a question, it is easier to follow the lead of others. Psychologists call this “social proof”.  We might think of it as the herd mentality.

There is a wrinkle to this. People can only imitate what they see. And people cannot see what others think. They only see what others do.  So when they cannot see what others  do, they will be less likely to imitate them. So a new type of shirt might become viral — people can see it being worn. But socks? Less likely. Cars? Yes. Toothpaste? Less likely. Unless of course, messages about those products “make the private public”. by talking about private choices, one can stimulate social proof”.

And f course, one can design a product to make it public. Like the armband that symbolizes a commitment to a cause.  We can see this from the advertising campaign against drug use from the 1980’s. The ads showed a person repeatedly refusing offers to do drugs. The intention was to advertise the refusal. The effect? To make offers of doing drugs public. Drug use actually went up due to social proof.


Beyond Career: Disengage to Re-engage

I am developing a one-day programme on living in a “post career” setting. The main target group consists of business executives who are starting to think about what they will do after their career. And my main argument is that one should start preparing for this earlier rather than later.

Why? Because it is very hard to switch gears, especially when you have been using one gear for a long, long time. The first step is to start learning how to disengage and open the mind to new possibilities. Perhaps with a vacation?

Practice Regime: Working on Neural Pathways

This quote caught my eye today:

More than a century since (William) James’s influential text, we know that, unfortunately, our brains start to solidify by the age of 25, but that, fortunately, change is still possible after. The key is continuously creating new pathways and connections to break apart stuck neural patterns in the brain.

We know why this happens.

… as human beings, (we) develop neural pathways, and the more we use those neural pathways over years and years and years, they become very stuck and deeply embedded, moving into deeper portions of the brain. By the time we get to the age of 25, we just have so many existing pathways that our brain relies on, it’s hard to break free of them.

We can break free, but it requires (1) intensive use of areas of the brain that have been less used before (2) repeated use over months to strengthen the neural paths, and (3) an environment where we are free to dedicate new energy to building these paths (where we get beyond survival mode).

This is the best justification I have heard for developing and building on a practice regime.

Personal Finance: The Great Mortgage Payoff Debate

There are nice aspects to having a mortgage. I am thinking primarily of the ability to buy something when you don’t have the cash as well as the tax deduction for the interest payments. And there is something nice about owning a place as opposed to throwing money away on rent.

But as the years go by, you may find yourself in a position where you might be able to pay off the mortgage early. Should you go to the effort? Some have argued that you would be better off using the cash to invest. Here is the counter argument.

I do agree with one part of this argument. It is great to have financial goals. They transform your thinking from “can I?” to “How can i?” And it would be nice to live with a reduced monthly cost basis.  You would be less tied to higher paying jobs that you may not like.

Will I pay off my mortgage early? I could. But so far, I have not done so. I am more interested in investing. But that might change.

Berger: Arousing Emotions

This is the 4th post on Jonah Berger’s book “Contagious”. It is a book that helps us learn how to make our messages travel by word of mouth. And learning this helps us structure messages to gain influence. So far we have seen how social currency works (people talk about us if it makes THEM look good). We have also seen how triggering works (people link ideas to stuff they do regularly).

What about emotion? We know that stimulating emotion works. And this is no surprise as humans are driven by emotions. But which emotions should we stimulate? The answer is: awe — a sense of wonder and excitement. Awe inspiring articles get shared more than 30% more than any other type. Like when Susan Boyle sang on the British TV show “I’ve Got Talent”. Check it out

So what is it about awe that works? It is not just the positivity. Messages that make people angry work as well). It is the arousal of emotion that seems to trigger the extra sharing. Stuff that “lights the fire”. So what about messages conveying contentment or sadness? These may be sincere, but they will trigger less sharing.

When working on the emotional content in messaging, you want to excite, inspire or make people angry. People share what arouses them. So how good are you at getting people excited? Errr … something to work on?

Next up – making things public!

Personal Finance: A Crisis Over Women Saving?

From BI, on the average: (1) Women ear less than men.  but (2) Women live longer than men. See the problem? One solution is to close the pay gap.  But

… even without women’s lower retirement savings there would still be a large gap between what people need to retire on and what they’ve saved/what is funded by entitlement programs

Thus, everyone needs to save more and/or develop multiple income streams that last longer into retirement.

Commenting on “micro-learning”

One thing is clear. It is very difficult to use large amounts of information to upgrade skills. So, I might be able to deliver to you a 2 day lecture series on negotiation skills, but that may not help you negotiate better. It may help in other ways, but the quantity of content that hits at the same time makes it difficult to use that content later.

Instead, when we seek to upgrade our skills, we need to focus on pieces of the larger puzzle and use smaller, more modular advice on how to practice in that area. Small and modular may be translated into “microlearning”.

A basic point — one cannot do this without a larger agenda. In other words, the modular bits that one takes in over time have to connect in a meaningful way. We work on bits, but with a holistic agenda.

Do you do this?