Monday, May 19, 2008

*** 4 hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is quite a character. Having become rich at an early age has allowed him to examine life from an interesting perspective, and his viewpoint can be enlightening and liberating. One of the key learnings is the surprising fact that you don't actually have to be rich to enjoy the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences that you desire in life. Many can be had for reasonable sum - if you have the courage and the time to live them. That is the true wisdom here. How you manage your time and how you overcome your fears is the predictor of success. Because those are the things that ultimately hold you back, not the lack of money. Read the notes and ponder what is important to you, and see if this new information helps you realize a few of your dreams.

He who has the most toys loses to he who has the most experiences
Most people desire to buy all things they want to have. You should rather want to do all the things you desire you to do, and be all the things you want to be. If this includes some tools and gadgets, so be it, but they are either means to an end or bonuses, not the focus. P23

Why successful sales people are on the golf course in the middle of the day
When I was in sales, I realized that most cold calls didn’t get to the intended person for one reason: gatekeepers. If I simply made all my calls from 8 to 8:30am and 6 to 6:30pm, for a total of 1 hour, I was able avoid secretaries and book more than twice as many meetings as the other sales reps who called between 9 to 5. In other words, I got twice the results for 1/8 the time. P31

Ask for forgiveness, not permission
If the potential damage of your actions is moderate or in any way reversible don’t give people the chance to say no. Most people are fast to stop you before you get started but hesitant to get in the way if you’re moving. Get good at being a troublemaker and saying sorry when you really screw up. P34

Most people are good at a handful of things, and utterly miserable at most… It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix your weaknesses. The choice is between multiplication of results using your strengths or incremental improvement fixing weaknesses that will at best become mediocre. Focus on better use of your best weapons instead of constant repair of your weakest ones. P34

The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. The opposite of happiness is not sadness, but boredom. Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all. P51

Create 2 timelines – 6 months and 12 months – and list up to 5 things you dream of having (material things), being (new skills/learnings), doing (places to see/experiences to do) in that order… All people have their vices and insecurities. If something will improve your self worth, put it down… Drawing a blank? Consider these questions:

  • What would you do – day to day – if you had $100M in the bank?
  • What would make you most excited to wake up in the morning?
  • What/Where is the 1 thing to visit, to do before you die, to do daily, to do weekly?
  • What have you always wanted to learn?

For every item where you answered “I want to be XYZ.”, make it actionable. So if XYZ is Chef, then make the action I will cook Thanksgiving dinner for the entire family this year. Of if it is being fluent in Chinese, make the action that I will have a 15 minute conversation with a Chinese native.

Now choose the 4 of the most compelling dreams you wrote down (out of 15). Determine the cost per month for each dream. Spread the dreams and their costs out over the year. Now determine your target monthly income to realize these 4 dreams over the year.

Finally, come up with 3 action steps for each of the 4 dreams and take the first step in each NOW! Don’t wait. This is your dream after all, right?! P59-60

Comfort Challenge
Gaze into the eyes of others for the next 2 days whether you pass people on the street or conversational partners – until they break contact. Focus on one eye and be sure to blink so you don’t look like a psychopath or get your ass kicked. Make sure to maintain eye contact when you’re speaking. It’s easy to do while listening. Practice with people bigger or more confident that yourself. If someone asks you what the hell you’re staring at just smile and respond “Sorry, I thought you were an old friend of mine.” P61

Time Management Tricks

There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity:

  1. Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20 rule)
  2. Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law that the work expands to the allotted time).

The best solution is to use both together: identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them very short and clear deadlines. P75

3 times per day at scheduled times, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I being productive or just active?
  2. Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?
  3. Dedication is often just meaningless work in disguise.
Be ruthless and cut the fat. P77

Having trouble deciding what is truly critical? Here are some questions to guide to your answer:
  1. If you had a heart attack and had to work 2 hours/day – what would you do?
  2. If you had a 2nd heart attack and had to work 2 hours/week – what would you do?
  3. If you had a gun to your head and had to remove 80% of different time consuming activities, what would you remove?
  4. What are the top 3 activities you use to fill time to feel as though you’ve been productive?
  5. If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied?

If you haven’t already accomplished at least one important task in the day, don’t spend the last business hour returning a DVD to avoid a $5 fine. Get the important task done and pay the fine.

Don’t multitask. Divided attention will result in more frequent interruptions, lapses in concentration, poorer net results, and less gratification. P79-80

Comfort Challenge
Learn to propose and stop asking for opinions if someone asks you something. Offer a solution and stop the back and forth by making a decision. Here are some lines as openers:

  • Can I make a suggestion…
  • I’d like to propose…
  • I suggest that… What do you think? (weak)
  • Let’s try… and then try something else if that doesn’t work.

When people expect that you won’t respond to emergencies, the emergencies somehow stop existing or don’t come to you any longer. Problems solve themselves or disappear if you remove yourself as an information bottleneck and empower others. P83

How to read faster in 10 minutes

  1. Use a pen or finger to trace under each line. Reading is series of jumping snapshots (saccades) and using a visual guide prevents regression
  2. Begin each line by focusing on the 3rd word in from the line start, and the 3rd word from the line end (see bolding). This makes use of peripheral vision that is otherwise wasted, and the entire sentence is read with less eye movement.
  3. Once good at the above try to take only 2 snapshots per line
  4. Practice reading too fast for comprehension with the above techniques for 5 pages. Then switch to a pace where you can comfortably comprehend what you’re reading. This will heighten perception and reset your speed limit muck like driving 70mph for a short distance makes going 50mph seem slow. P86

Practice the art of nonfinishing.
If you’re reading an article or book that sucks, put it down. If you go to a movie that is bad, get the hell out of there before more neurons die. If you’re full after a half a plate of ribs, put the damn fork down and don’t order dessert. More is not better, and stopping is often 10 times better than finishing it. P88

Information Diet
Ask yourself ‘Will I definitely use this information for something immediate and important?’ If no on either count, don’t consume this information. Information is useless if it is not applied to something important or if you forget to apply it before you have a chance to apply it. P88

Comfort Challenge
Ask for phone numbers of at least 2 (the more the better) attractive members of the opposite sex for 2 days in a row. Make sure that you maintain eye contact! Aim to ask people in rapid fire like 2 to 3 people in a row within 5 minutes. Here are some lines you can use:
Excuse me. I know this is going to sound strange, but if I don’t ask you now, I’ll be kicking myself for the rest of the day. I’m running to meet a friend (ie. I have friends and am not a stalker), but I think you’re really [cute, hot, gorgeous]. Could I please have your phone number? I’m not a psycho – I promise. You can give me a fake one if you’re not interested.

How to get straight A's at Princeton
If I received anything less than an A on the first paper or non-multiple choice test in a class. I would bring 2-3 hours of questions to the grader’s office hours and not leave until the other had answered them all or stopped out of exhaustion. This served 2 important purposes: first, I learned exactly how the grader evaluated work, including prejudices and peeves; second, that grader would think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A. There’d have to exceptional reasons for doing so, because they knew I’d be coming back for another 3 hour visit. P91

Email Tricks
Check email twice per day (at noon and 4pm). Never check email first thing in the morning. Instead complete your most important task before 11am to avoid using lunch or reading your email as a postponement. Before implementing this twice daily rule, you must create an autoresponse that will train others. I would recommend that you don’t ask to implement this. Beg for forgiveness; don’t ask for permission. Here’s a sample autoresponse email:

Greetings Friends [or Esteemed Colleaguges],

Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to email twice daily at 12pm and 4pm PT. If you require urgent assistance (please ensure that is urgent) that can’t wait until either 12 or 4pm, please contact me via phone at XXX-YYYY.

Thank you for your understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.

Sincerely, Your Name Here p93

Phone Tricks

The office phone should be put on silent mode and roll over to voicemail at all times. The voicemail recording should sound familiar.

You’ve reached the desk of [your name here].

I’m currently checking voicemail at noon and 4pm PT. If you require assistance with a truly urgent matter that can’t wait until either noon or 4pm, please contact me on my cell at XXX-YYYY. Otherwise please leave a message, and I will return it at the next of those 2 times. Be sure to leave your email address, as I’m often able to respond faster that way. Thank you for your understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better. Have a wonderful day. P95

If someone does call your cell, it is presumably urgent and should be treated as such. Your greeting is critical. After saying ‘Hi this is Tim who’s calling?’, follow up immediately with ‘Hi So and So, I’m right in the middle of something, how can I help you?’ They might say ‘Oh, I can call back’, but you counter with ‘No, I have a minute. What can I do for you?’ Don’t encourage chit chat. If they meander, reel them in get them to come to the point. Cut in with ‘So and So, Sorry to interrupt, but I have a call in 5 minutes. What specifically can I do help out?’ p96

Meeting Tricks

If someone proposes that you meet with them or set a time to talk on the phone, ask that person to send you an email with an agenda to define the purpose. You can reply to their request like this:

That sounds doable. So I can best prepare, can you please send me an email reply with an agenda? That is, the topics and questions we’ll need to address? That would be great. Thanks in advance.

The email forces the other party to define the desired outcome. 90% of the time, a meeting is unnecessary and you can answer the questions, once defined, via email. Impose this habit on others. P98

If you can’t stop the meeting or call from happening, define the end time. Cite other commitments at odd times to make them believable (3:20 vs 3:30) and force people to focus instead of socialize or commiserate. P99

There is an inescapable setup time for all tasks. It is often the same for one as it is for hundred of the same task. There is a psychological switching of the gears that can require 45min to resume a major task that has been interrupted. More than a quarter of each 9 to 5 period – 28% - is consumed by such interruptions. P102

Comfort Challenge
Say ‘No’ to all requests for 2 days. Don’t be selective. Refuse to do all things that won’t get you immediately fired. Be selfish. When you can’t just say “No.”, use a simple non-offensive answer like ‘I really can’t – sorry. I’ve got too much on my plate right now.’

Finding $ for your dreams

Be a member of your target market and don’t speculate what others need or will be willing to buy. P147

To find a profitable niche ask these questions of yourself

  1. What social, industry, and professional groups do I belong to? Look at your resume, habits, work experience and people that you associate with, and ask what groups of people purchase the same?
  2. Which groups that you identified have their own magazine? Visit large bookstores and view the magazines to see the niches in action.

Pick 2 markets that you are the most familiar with that have magazines with full page advertising costs of less than $5000 and readership greater than 15,000. p149

Aim for a product markup of 8 to 10x and for a product that takes 3 to 4 weeks to manufacture so you can avoid inventory and stockpiling… If the price point is above a certain point (>$200), prospects need to speak to someone before they are comfortable making the purchase. Price your product between $50-$200. Price as high as you can and justify. P151

Become an expert in something… Create content yourself to be seen as an expert, often via paraphrasing and combining points from several books on a topic… License content to help create content for your site… Repurpose content from the public domain such as gov’t documents. Join 2 or 3 trade organizations. Read 3 top selling books on your new area of expertise and summarize each on 1 page. Give a 1 to 3 hour free presentation at the closest well know university. Then do the same at 2 well known companies. Tell the company that you have given seminars at University X and are a member of those 2 to 3 groups, and that you’re offering this free to get experience outside of academia and will not be selling products or services. Record the seminars from 2 angles for later potential as DVDs/CDs. Write 1 or 2 articles for trade magazines. Join ProfNet ( mention Tim Ferriss) and (use Tim Ferriss $100 for discount) so journalists can find you as an expert. P 160

Comfort Challenge
Call one superstar mentor per day – for 3 days. Email only after attempting a phone call and call before 8:30am or after 6pm. Have a single question in mind, one that you have researched but have been unable to answer. Use if need be… Ask for the target mentor by first name & last name, not Mr. John Grisham, but John Grisham. Here’s an example:

Hi, this is YOUR NAME calling for John Grisham, please.

Them: What is this regarding?

You: Sure. I know this might sound odd, but I’m a first time author/entrepreneur/artist/whatever and just read his interview/book. I’m a longtime fan and have finally built up the courage to call him for ONE specific piece of advice. It wouldn’t take more than TWO minutes of his time. Is there any way you can help me get through to him? I really, really appreciate whatever you can do.

IF you’re lucky enough to get through, repeat the above to the mentor and end with…

You: Thank you so much for being so generous with your time. If I have the occasional tough question – very occasional – is there any chance I could keep in touch via email?

Public Domain Content

If you modify a public domain work through abridging or footnoting by 20%, the new complete work may be copyrighted. Here are some public domain sites:

Hotrecorder records any phone call starting or received by a PC and can be used with Skype.

To get an accurate indicator of commercial viability don’t ask if they would buy – ask them to buy. The response to the second is the only one that matters. P167

How to reduce service overhead

  1. Offer only 1 or 2 purchase options (basic and premium)
  2. Don’t offer multiple shipping options. Offer 1 fast method method and charge a premium
  3. Don’t offer overnight or expedited shipping as this will produce 100s of anxious phone calls
  4. Eliminate phone orders
  5. Don’t offer int’l shipments
  6. Don’t accept checks, money orders or WesternUnion
  7. Raise wholesale mins to 12-100 units and demand a Fed Tax ID
  8. Refer all resellers to an online order form that must be filled out and faxed in
  9. Offer low priced items instead of free to capture contact info. Offering something free is the best way to attract time eaters and spend money on those unwilling to return the favor
  10. Offer a lose/win guarantee like 110% money back, or if you don’t like it we’ll buy the competitor’s solution for you.

How to look bigger than you really are

  1. Don’t be CEO or Founder. Be a director
  2. Put multiple email contacts for depts on your contact page
  3. Setup an interactive voice response system.
  4. Don’t provide a home address or people will come visit you there. Don’t put in PO box, say suite.

Comfort Challenge
Relax in public. Once per day for 2 days simply lie down in a well trafficked public place at some point for at least 10 seconds. Don’t explain it all. If someone asks, just say “I felt like lying down for a second.”

Traveling with Children tip
Give each child some virtual cash $.25-.50 for each hour of good behavior. The same amount is subtracted from their accounts for breaking the rules. All purchases for fun come out their own individual accounts. No balance, no goodies. P241

Retirees often get depressed because of social isolation. Offices are good for some things; free bad coffee and complaining thereof, gossip, and commiserating, stupid video clips, meetings that accomplish nothing, etc. The job itself might be a dead end, but it’s the web of human interactions that keeps many of us there. Once retired this automatic tribal unit disappears. P266

How to answer life's biggest questions
Before spending time a stress inducing big question eg. What is the meaning of life? Ensure that the answer is ‘yes’ to the following 2 questions:

  1. Have I decided on a single meaning for each term in this question?
  2. Can an answer to this question be acted upon to improve things?

What is the meaning of life fails the first and thus the second… If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it. If you take just this point from the book, it will put you into the top 1% of performers of the world and keep most philosophical distress out of your life. P269

How to be nicer to yourself
Note self criticisms and negative self talk in a journal. Whenever upset or anxious ask ‘why’ at least 3 times and put the answers on paper. Describing these doubts in writing reduces their impact twofold. First, it’s often the ambiguous nature of self doubt that hurts the most. Defining and exploring it in writing forces clarity of thought, after which most concerns are found to be baseless. Second, recording these somehow seems to remove them from your head. P276

Want to be a philanthropist?
Answer these questions to guide your efforts:

  1. What makes your most angry about the state of the world
  2. What are you most afraid of for the next generation
  3. What makes you happiest, and how can you help others have the same

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror and asked myself ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something… almost everything – all expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving you what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. Steve Jobs at Stanford 2005 commencement.

Good Books:

Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

How to Make Millions with your Ideas by Dan Kennedy

Emyth Revisited: Why most small business don’t work by Michael Gerber

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

Less is More: Voluntary Poverty by Goldian Vandenbroeck

Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

This business has legs by Peter Bieler

Secrets of Power Negotiating by Roger Dawson

Small Giants by Bo Burlingham

Six months off by Hope Dlugozima

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

**** Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar

This book is based upon the most popular course at Harvard, and is designed to actually make you happier. Who could possibly be against that? Happiness is not free and comes at a cost though. You must do the exercises to really benefit from this course. I've added the exercises at the very end of the notes on the book - on purpose. Read the notes to get the background, and then spend the time working on the exercises. You'll be happy that you did :)

In the US, rates of depression are 10 times higher today than in the 1960s, and the avg age for the onset is now 14.5 compared to 29.5 in 1960. A study in American colleges tells us that nearly 45% of students were so depressed that they had difficulty functioning… In 1957, 52% of Britons said that they were very happy, compared to 36% in 2005 – despite the fact the British have tripled their wealth over that time. With the rapid growth in the Chinese economy comes rapid growth in the number of adults and children who experience anxiety and depression. pIX

The source for the word happiness is the Icelandic word happ, which means ‘luck’ or ‘chance’, the same source for haphazard and happenstance. P6

The Archetypes:

Hedonism: Present benefit that causes future detriment

Hedonists live by the maxim “seek pleasure and avoid pain”; they focus on enjoying the present while ignoring the potential negative consequences of their actions.

Rat Racer: Present sacrifice for future benefit

Rat racers subordinate the present to the future, and suffer now for the purpose of some anticipated gain.

Nihilist: Present sacrifice that causes future detriment

Nihilists have lost the lust for life; someone who neither enjoys the moment nor has a sense of future purpose.

Happiness: Present benefit that causes future benefit

Happy people are secure in the knowledge that the activities that bring them enjoyment in the present will also lead to a fulfilling future.

We are not rewarded by society for enjoying the journey, but for your successful completion. Society rewards results, not processes; arrivals not journeys. P19 Ours is a rat race culture.

Once we attain our goal, we mistake relief for happiness… When we do this often, we reinforce the illusion that reaching goals will make us happy… Relief is negative happiness as it stems from the negation of stress and anxiety. By its very nature, relief presupposes an unpleasant experience and can’t therefore yield lasting happiness… The experience of relief is also temporary… We derive a certain pleasure from the absence of pain, but then very quickly adapt and take its absence for granted. The rat racer confuses relief for happiness, and continues to chase goals. P20

Psychologists paid college students to do nothing: while their physical needs were met, they were forbidden to work. Within 4 to 8 hours students became unhappy, even though earned significantly more than they could have in other jobs. They needed stimulation and challenge, and chose to leave their cushy jobs for work that was more demanding and less lucrative. P22

The best moments usually occur when a person’s body and mind are stretched to its limits in voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. A struggle free hedonistic existence is not a prescription for happiness. P22

Learned Helplessness

3 groups of dogs were given electric shocks. The first group of dogs could turn off the shocks by pressing a panel. In the 2nd group could not stop the shocks regardless of their actions. A 3rd group, the control, received no shocks. All dogs from all groups were later put into boxes where they were given shocks but from which they could easily escape by jumping a over a low barrier. The dogs in the 1st and 3rd groups all quickly jumped over the barrier. The dogs in the 2nd group made no effort to escape. They simply laid down and whimpered. They had learned to become helpless. P24

All else being equal, happy people have better relationships, are more likely to thrive at work, and also live better and longer. Happiness is a worthwhile pursuit, whether as an end to itself or as a means toward other ends. P33

Emotions cause motion; they provide motive that drives our action… Emotions move us away from a desireless state, providing us motivation to act. P35

A patient with a brain tumor had part of his frontal lobe removed along with the tumor. Post surgery, he had all the physical and cognitive characteristics of a normal person, but the system involved with feeling and emotion was damaged… His life changed dramatically… His wife left him, he lost his attorney job, and he was unable to hold down a job. The most striking thing about his predicament was apathetic reaction; he no longer cared. P35

Is living an emotionally gratifying life really enough? Is experiencing positive emotions a sufficient condition for happiness? What about a psychotic who experiences euphoric delusions? What about those who consume ecstasy inducing drugs, or spend days sprawled on the beach? Are these people truly happy? No. Experiencing positive emotions is necessary, but not sufficient for happiness. P37

Imagine a machine that could provide us with brain experience of anything we desire. Our brain wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between actually being in love and the machine induced emotion… If given the opportunity, would you choose to plug into the machine? If so, why not plug in for the rest of your life?... The answer for most of us would clearly be “NO!”… There’s clearly more to happiness then just positive emotions, and circumventing this process with a machine or drugs, would be tantamount to living a lie. Our life would have no meaning nor purpose… Having goals doesn’t guarantee that we are leading a purposeful existence. To experience a sense of purpose, the goals we set for ourselves need to be intrinsically meaningful. P38

We should remember that going through difficult times augments our capacity for pleasure: it keeps us from taking pleasure for granted… Being grateful in this way can itself be a source of real meaning and pleasure. P44

Identifying the right activity, and then the right quantity for each activity, leads to the highest quality of life. The best method for maximizing our levels of happiness is trial and error, paying attention to the quality of our inner experiences. Yet most of us don’t take the time to ask ourselves the question of questions – because we’re too busy. P45

Are the things that I’m doing meaningful to me? Are they pleasurable? Is my mind telling me that I should be doing different things with my time? Is my heart telling me that I must change my life? We have to listen to our hearts and minds – our emotions and our reason. P46

The rat racer is sustained by the hope that his actions will yield some future benefit, which makes negative emotions more bearable. However, once he reaches his destination and realizes that material prosperity doesn’t make him happy, there’s nothing to sustain him. He’s filled with a sense of despair, because there’s nothing to look forward to, nothing that will allow him to envision a future in which he would be happy… Realizing that all his efforts and sacrifices have not earned him happiness, they sink into learned helplessness. They experience nihilism and resign themselves to the fact that nothing could possibly make them happy, often turning to alternative means that are destructive in an attempt to escape their unhappy state. P57

Why the obsession with wealth and material possessions? Taking an evolutionary approach, it could be that our distant past determines our current behavior. When we were still hunter gatherers, the accumulation of wealth – of food primarily – would often determine whether we would survive the next drought or the next cold winter. Hoarding became part of our constitution. Today we have the tendency to hoard far beyond our needs… We no longer accumulate to live; we live to accumulate. P58

In 1968, college freshman were asked what their personal goals were: 41% wanted to make a lot of money, and 83% wanted to develop a meaningful philosophy of life. In 1997, 75% opted for money, and only 41% wanted meaning. P60

Having goals is necessary for sustained happiness, but they are not sufficient. The goals need to be meaningful and the journey they us on needs to be pleasurable for them to bring about a significant increase in our happiness. P71

People seeking greater well being would be well advised to focus on the pursuit of goals involving growth, connection, and contribution rather than goals involving money, beauty and prestige, and these goals should be interesting and personally important to them rather that goals that feel forced upon them. P71

Those for whom making money is the primary objective are less likely to actualize themselves and reach their full potential. They generally experience more distress and are more likely to be depressed and anxious. Moreover, given the mind/body connection, they are less healthy, less vital. P73

Having sufficient money to provide for food, shelter, education, and other basic needs is essential to our well being. However, providing beyond these needs, money or prestige need not and should not be our central pursuits. P73

Money can free up our time to do things that are personally significant to us, or it can enable us to support a cause we believe in. p73

Emotions are necessary not only for the pursuit of happiness but for the attainment of material success well. Psychologist agree that IQ contributes only 20% of the factors that determine success. A full 80% comes from other factors, including emotional intelligence. P85

No pain, no gain. No Thank You.

Research on ‘flow’ shows that pain is not the optimal condition for peak performance. Rather there is a zone between overexertion and underexertion, where we not only perform at our best but also enjoy what we are doing. We reach this zone when our activities provide the appropriate level of challenge, when the task at hand is neither too difficult nor too easy. P87

There 2 distinct ways of hurting students’ prospects of experiencing flow. First by creating a stressful environment, leading to anxiety, second, by creating an environment that is devoid of stuggle and challenge, leading to boredom… Teachers should, whenver possible, structure lessons and activities to meet the skill level of each student. P88

Schools generally fail to teach how exciting, how mesmerizingly beautiful science or mathematics can be; they teach the routine of literature or history rather than the adventure. P94

Without having an emotional investment in our work, we ultimately lose interest. Emotions lead to motion – they are our fuel. P101

People experience their work in 1 of 3 ways: as a job, as a career, or as a calling. A job is perceived as a chore with the focus on financial rewards rather than fulfillment. A career is motivated by extrinsic factors such as power and prestige. A calling is something that you do because you want to, regardless of the pay or advancement. It is a privilege not a chore. P102

We are taught that falling in love with someone is about following our heart, not our mind. However, if it is really is love that we feel, we do feel it for a reason. These reasons might not be conscious and accessible, but they nevertheless exist. If then, there are actual reasons for loving someone, if there are certain conditions under which we fall in love, can there be such a thing as unconditional love? Or is the idea of unconditional love fundamentally unreasonable? It depends on whether we or not we love someone for their core self or not… To be loved for our wealth, power, beauty, fame is to be loved conditionally since these are not part of our core self. To be loved for our steadfastness, intensity, warmth is to be loved unconditionally. P113

Children are highly creative as long as they are within a certain radius of their mothers, inside a circle of creativity of sorts. It is a space in which they can take risks, try things out, and fail because they feel secure and safe in the presence of a person who loves them unconditionally. Because adults are capable of higher levels of abstraction that children, we don’t always need to be physically near our loved ones to be within their circle of creativity. The knowledge that we are loved unconditionally creates a psychological space of safety and security… Unconditional love of each other’s core selves is the foundation of a happy relationship. P115

If someone truly loves me more than anything else, he/she would want me to express my core self and would draw out those qualities that make me who I really am [because those are the qualities that they love in me]. P115

Studies show that people don’t like to be overpaid or underpaid in a relationship. People feel more content and relationships prosper when both partners see the relationship as equitable. This doesn’t mean that both must earn the same salary; the relationship equity is measured in terms of happiness. While compromise is a natural and healthy part of any relationship, each partner at different times will forgo some meaning and pleasure for the sake of the other, the overall relationship must profit both partners – both must be happier together. P118

To cultivate intimacy the focus must shift from the desire to be validated – seeking approval and praise – to the desire to be known… This means gradually disclosing our innermost selves – our desires, fears, fantasies, dreams – even those that don’t show us in the most favorable light… The process of knowing and being known is never ending as there is always more that can be revealed. The relationship is far more likely to remain interesting, exciting, and stimulating. Being together – whether talking over coffee, caring for children, or making love – becomes so much more meaningful and pleasurable when our focus shifts from validation to knowing. P120

When making choices, we first need to ask ourselves what would make us happy independent of how much it might contribute to the happiness of others. We must then ask whether what we want to do might deprive others of their ability to pursue their own happiness – because if it would, we would be undermining our happiness. P127

We have an internal thermostat mechanism that controls and checks our happiness level. For most people the level doesn’t change throughout our life – deviations, highs and lows, are quickly corrected and we return to our base level of happiness… Some psychologist argue that it may be as futile trying to be happier as trying to be taller, and is therefore counterproductive. Such claims , which suggest that our portion of happiness is predetermined, are misleading. The ignore much evidence that supports that a person’s base level can change… While some people may be born with a happier disposition than others…we can all become significantly happier, and most of us fall far short of our happiness potential. P136

A person who fears loss may protect himself by ensuring that he has nothing to lose. When we’re happy, we have a lot to lose. To avoid the devastation of a loss, we exclude the possibility of any gain. We fear the worst and thus from the outset deprive ourselves of the best. Even if we do find happiness we might feel guilty because there are others less fortunate. P143

Women were asked to list and describe the activities in which they engaged the previous day and then report on how they felt during each activity… The most unexpected finding was that, on aggregate, mothers didn’t particularly enjoy the time they spent taking care of their children… People don’t take into account the times that they are trying to do something else and find the kids distracting. There’s little doubt that most parents find child rearing meaningful – perhaps most the meaningful experience in their lives – and yet as a result of having too much to do, the pleasure component of happiness is significantly reduced… When there are too many competing demands on our time and attention, our ability to be present is diminished – and with it, our ability to appreciate and enjoy the experience. P152

Research has shown that time affluence is a consistent predictor of well being, where as material affluence is not. Time affluence is the feeling that one has sufficient time to pursue activities that are potentially meaningful, to reflect, to engage in leisure. Time poverty is the feeling that one is constantly stressed, rushed, overworked, behind… If we can help people simplify their lives, thus reducing their stress levels, it is very likely that people’s relationships (including love and sex) would be enriched greatly. P154

Although time pressure may drive people to work more and get more done, and may even make them FEEL more creative, it actually causes them to think less creatively… Time pressure leads to frustration and other negative emotions, our thinking becomes more constricted, narrower, and less broad and creative. People are unaware of this phenomenon and live under the illusion that when they are experiencing time pressure that they are also more creative. This explains why it is so difficult to get out of the pressure cooker, the rat race: the perception of creativity leads to the perpetuation of the stress. P155

There is one exception to this: When a person works on a single project, felt a sense of urgency and a sense of mission, and was able to devote undivided attention to that project. This explains the success of things like Apollo 13 (lunar landing). Unfortunately today’s workplace and lifestyle go hand in hand with time pressure and the feeling that we have too much on our plate. This lack of focus leads to poor performance. P175

To realize life’s potential for happiness, we must first accept that ‘this is it’ – that all there is to life is the day to day, the ordinary. We are living a happy life when we derive our pleasure and meaning while spending time with our loved ones, or learning something new, or engaging in an activity that is challenging. The more our days are filled with these experiences, the happier we become. This is all there is to it. P168


It takes 21 days to form a new habit. Most activities become a habit in less than a month. P170

We are generally good at identifying discrepancies between what others say is important to them and what they actually do, but not so effective identifying similar discrepancies in our lives. Therefore to learn about yourself you should ask someone who knows you well and cares about you enough to be willing to help you evaluate your life. P171

Research shows that workers distracted by emails, phone calls, and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ (10 pts) than a person smoking marijuana (4pts) or a person who missed a night’s sleep. P171

When we endorse a certain position, our commitment to the position is strengthened. So if we tell others how important happiness is and remind them to pursue meaningful and pleasurable activities, we are making it more likely that we ourselves will do that. P172

Questions and Exercises from Happier

Chapter 1: Question of Happiness

TimeIn1: How would you define happiness? What does happiness mean to you?

Exercise1: Creating Rituals

What rituals would make you happy? What would you like to introduce to your life? It could be working out 3 times/week, meditating 15min/day, watching 2 movies/month… Instead of focusing on self-discipline as a means toward change, we need to introduce rituals. Building rituals requires defining very precise behaviors and performing them at very specific times – motivated by deeply held values… Introduce no more than 1 to 2 rituals at a time before you introduce new ones…Within as little as 30 days, performing these rituals will become as natural as brushing your teeth. They become good habits… People are sometimes resistant to rituals because they believe when it comes to interpersonal rituals such as a regular date, that it will detract from spontaneity and creativity. However, if we don’t ritualize, we often do get to them, and rather than being spontaneous, we become reactive. In an overall structured, ritualized life, we can leave time to integrate spontaneity, such as, deciding spontaneously where to go and what to do on the ritualized date.

Exercise2: Expressing Gratitude

Research has shown that writing down 5 things daily for which you’re grateful, raises your emotional and physical well being. Each night, do that before going to bed. These can be little or big. If you do this daily, you’ll repeat yourself, which is fine. The key is to keep the emotions fresh even if repeating. You can do this with a loved one as well.

Chapter2: Reconciling Present and Future

TimeIn1: Which quadrant (RatRacer, Hedonist, Nihist, Happiness) do you spend most of your time in?

TimeIn2: Do you feel part of the rat race? Looking at your life from the outside, what advice would you give yourself?

TimeIn3: Think of a time or experience where you lived as a hedonist. What were the costs and benefits of living this way?

TimeIn4: Think back to a time when you felt nihilistic, unable to see beyond your current unhappiness. Had you been looking at the situation from the outside, what advice would you give yourself?

TimeIn5: Think back to a period when you enjoyed both present and future benefit.

Exercise1: 4 Quadrants

On 4 consecutive days, spend 15min writing about your experiences of the 4 quadrants. Do the happiness quadrant last… It is important that you describe the emotions you experienced or experience now, the behaviors you engaged in, and the thoughts you had then or are having as you write… Repeat the exercise two more times for the nihilist and happiness quadrants (you can write about the same experiences if need be). Revisit the entire exercise periodically (3 months, 1 year, 2 years).

Chapter 3: Happiness Explained

TimeIn1: Ask yourself ‘why’ over and over again for a couple things you want. Notice how many ‘whys’ it takes you to reach happiness as the root reason for the want.

TimeIn2: Make a list of things – from little to big – that provide you with pleasure.

TimeIn3: What can or already does provide you with a sense of meaning? What daily or weekly activities provide meaning?

TimeIn4: What pursuits would challenge you and fulfill your potential?

TimeIn5: Think back to a difficult or painful experience. What did you learn from it, and in what ways did you grow?

Exercise 1: Mapping your Life

Devote a few minutes at the end of each day to write down and reflect how you spent your time… At the end of the week, create a table listing each of your activities. For each activity, have two columns, for meaning and pleasure, ranking each on a 1 to 5 scale (1 no meaning, 5 most meaningful – same for pleasure). Next to the amount of time indicate a + or – if you wish spend more or less time with this activity. Here’s an example:
Activity Meaning Pleasure Time

Watching TV 2 3 10hrs –

Ben’s extension: For work, break down the tasks that you perform, because you might discover that enjoy certain aspects of your work, while not enjoying others. You can do this for any activity. Perhaps you really enjoy nature shows on TV, and want to track that separately. Get the idea?

Exercise 2: Integrity Mirror

Make a list of the things that are the most meaningful and pleasurable to you. For each item write down how much time per week you devote to it…Repeat this regularly.

Chapter 4: The Ultimate Currency

TimeIn1: What for you is worth all of the gold in Ft Knox?

TimeIn2: Does concern over wealth and prestige detract from your overall experience of happiness? In what ways?

Exercise 1: Sentence Completion (from Nathaniel Branden)

If I bring 5% more awareness to my life…

The things that make me happy are…

To bring 5% more happiness to my life…

If it take more responsibility for fulfilling my wants…

If I bring 5% more integrity to my life…

If I were willing to say yes or no when I really want to…

I am becoming aware…

Chapter 5: Setting Goals

TimeIn1: Think of an experience where you committed to something. What were the consequences of your commitment? What are you committed to now?

TimeIn2: What goals have provided you with the most happiness in the past? What goals do you believe will do the same in the future?

TimeIn3: What are some of your self concordant goals? Are there internal or external barriers that prevent you from pursuing them?

TimeIn4: Do you have more have-tos than want-tos? Do you look forward to the start of the day or week? What are the things you really, really want to do?

Exercise 1: Setting Self Concordant Goals

Set long term goals that stretch you and help you enjoy the journey.

Set short term goals that help you achieve your long term goal by focusing on what you need to do this week, month or year.

Action plan it. Put down on your calendar that actual activities that you must carry out for these goals.

Exercise 2: Happiness Board

Create a board from a group of people who care about your well being. Ask board members to keep track of your commitments and ensure that you follow through on them. Meet regularly to discuss your progress… Become a member of other people’s boards as well.

Chapter 5: Happiness In Education

TimeIn1: Think back to the best teacher you had in school. What did he/she do to draw the love of learning out of you?

TimeIn2: When do you experience flow?

TimeIn3: Do you accept negative emotions as natural or do you reject them? Do you give yourself permission to be human?

TimeIn4: Can you learn to see your education or work as a privilege? What can you enjoy in this experience?

Exercise 1: LifeLong Learning

Create a lifelong learning program with 2 categories: personal and professional. Under each category commit to learning material that will yield present as well as future benefit. Ritualize your program by putting aside regular times each week for your education.

Exercise 2:Privilege of Hardship

Write about a difficult experience that you went through. After describing it in as much detail as possible, write down some of the lessons and benefits that came about as a result of the experience. Did it make your more resilient? Are you more appreciative of certain things now? Never let a good crisis go to waste.

Chapter 6: Happiness in the Workplace

TimeIn1: Think back to some of your favorite work experiences. What was it about the specific projects or the work place that made it a positive one?

TimeIn2: Do you see your work as a job, career, or calling?

TimeIn3: How can you craft your work to have more meaning? What changes can you introduce?

Exercise 1: 3 Question Process

Question 1: What gives you meaning and a sense of purpose?

Question 2: What gives you pleasure and that you enjoy doing?

Question 3: What your strengths, or what are you good at?
See if there are any items in common amongst the answers for each area.

Exercise 2: Crafting your work

Based upon your answers to the previous exercise, rewrite your job description into a calling description. Write a description that would entice others, but not by misrepresenting it, but by highlighting the potential pleasure and meaning that can be derived from it. How we perceive work, how we describe it to ourselves and to others, can make a significant difference in terms of how we experience it.

Chapter 7: Happiness in Relationships

TimeIn1: Are you spending as much time as you would like with the people who are closet to you? If not, can you do something about it?

TimeIn2: What characteristics make your core self?

TimeIn3: What quadrant did your past relationships fall under? Did the nature of these change over time?

TimeIn4: What are some ways in which you and your partner help one another become happier? What other things can the 2 of you do to help the relationship become richer in happiness?

TimeIn5: Think of ways in which you can help your partner get to know you better. Think of ways in which you can get to know your partner better.

Exercise 1: Letter of Gratitude

Make it a ritual to write at least 1 or 2 gratitude letters a month to people you care about. A gratitude letter highlights the positive elements of the relationship – past, present, future – and thereby accentuates them.

Exercise 2: Sentence Completion

Being in love means…

To be a better friend…

To be a better lover…

To bring 5% more happiness to my relationships…

To bring love to my life…

If I let go and allow myself to experience what love feels like…

Chapter 9: Self Interest and Benevolence

TimeIn: Try to experience the emotions you felt when you recently helped someone.

Chapter 10: Happiness Boosters

TimeIn1: What brief activities can rejuvenate you by providing you with both meaning and pleasure?

Exercise 1: Boosting Happiness

Generate a list of known boosters (see above time in), and a list of exploratory boosters to help you find out whether they can bring significant happiness to your life. Enter these boosters into your daily plan and if possible create rituals around them.

Chapter 11: Beyond the Temporary High

TimeIn1: What experiences or people in your life have contributed to your happiness?

Exercise 1: Take turns telling each other what has made you happier in the past – 10 years ago, last month, or earlier today. It could be a meal, and evening with family, a project at work. What was it specifically that made you happy? Was it a sense of awe, or a challenge or the people? Ask yourself how you can take what you have learned from your best past and apply it to creating a better future.

Chapter 12: Letting our light Shine

TimeIn1: What internal and external factors are stopping you from becoming happier?

Exercise: Sentence Completion

The things that stand in the way of my happiness…

If I refuse to live by other people’s values…

If I succeed…

When I appreciate myself…

Chapter 13: Imagine

TimeIn: Have you had experiences that made you reevaluate your priorities? Did you follow up on your new insights?

Exercise: Image you’re 100 years old and are able to talk to your present self for 15min. What advice would you pass on?

Chapter 14: Take your Time

TimeIn: In what areas do you feel that you are compromising on your happiness because of time pressure?

Exercise: Simplify!

Review the Mapping your Life exercise, ask yourself what you can give up or reduce significantly? Commit to reducing the busyness in your life, and ritualize times when you can dedicate yourself fully with undivided attention to the things you find both meaningful and pleasurable.

Chapter 15: Happiness Revolution
Exercise: Conflict Resolution

Experiencing negative emotions towards others may be justified and having them is often natural, even healthy. A state of conflict is at times unavoidable, and trying to wage peace at all costs could lead to more unhappiness in the long run. Nevertheless, many people hold on to anger or resentment towards family members, former friends, or entire groups – when instead they could forgive, let go, and move on. Whether we decide to forgive and reconcile or to condemn and disengage, the key is to use happiness as the standard for evaluation. To do so we need to ask which path will lead to the highest profits in happiness? With this in mind, think of a conflict, major or minor, and elaborate on the price you and other party are paying in happiness. Is the price worth it? If not, elaborate on possible solutions that could maximize happiness for you as well as the other party.

More on sentence completion:

Some good follow on books:

Matthieu Ricard’s Happiness: A guide to developing life’s most important skill 2006

M Cszikszentmihalyi Finding Flow 1998

Thursday, May 08, 2008

*** Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Behavioral economics is the science of truly analyzing how humans react to economics. Most economists assume that we are 100% rational, yet none of us are. Perhaps that is why economics is derided as the dismal science? Ariely reveals many humbling truths about our decision making. Bear in mind that the circa 50,000BC hardware and software that we run was built for a different environment than modern society, and our brains are still stuck in that mode.

We are not only irrational, but predictably irrational – that our irrationality happens the same way, again and again… In conventional economics, the assumption that we are all rational implies that we compute the value of all options that we face and then follow the best path. If we make a mistake and do something irrational, traditional economics states that market forces will sweep down on us and swiftly set us back on the path of righteousness… We are really far less rational that std economics theory assumes, and more over these irrational behaviors are neither random nor senseless. pXX

Decoy marketing

To explain the decoy effect, let me give you the $275 Break Maker example from Williams&Sonoma…Flustered by poor sales, the manufacturer brought in a marketing research firm, which suggested a fix: introduce a larger and even more expensive bread maker (by at least 50% higher). Now sales began to rise for the original bread maker, while the new one (decoy) languished. Why? Simply because consumers now had 2 models to choose from. Since one was clearly larger and much more expensive… people would say “I’d rather have the smaller one for less money”. P14

Decoy dating

What if you’re single? My advice would be to bring a friend who has your basic physical characteristics (similar coloring, body type, facial features), but is slightly less attractive than you. Why? Because the folks you want to attract will have a hard time evaluating you with no comparables around. However, if you are compared to your decoy friend, you will appear much better, not just to the decoy, but in general… Of course don’t just stop at looks, be sure to pick a friend who can’t match your wit and smooth conversation. By comparison you’ll sound great. Now that you know this secret be careful: when a similar but better looking friend asks you to accompany him/her for a night out. P15

Always do better than your brother in law

HL Mencken said a Man’s satisfaction with his salary depends on “Whether he makes more than his wife’s sister’s husband.” Why? This is a comparison that is salient and readily available. Now that you know this fact, and assuming that you’re not married, take this into account when you search for a soul mate. Look for someone who’s sibling is married to a productivity challenged individual. P18

Want to feel rich? Move to Mississippi

People who move to a new city generally remain anchored to the price they paid for housing in their former city. People who move from inexpensive markets to moderately priced markets don’t increase their spending to fit the new market. Rather, they spend an amount similar to what they were used to in the previous market, even if that means having to squeeze into smaller or less comfortable homes… People who move from LA or NY, don’t generally downsize their spending much once they a lower market: they spend an amount similar to what they were used to… The only way out of this box is to rent a home in the new location for 1 year. P31

First impressions are important, whether they involve remembering that our first DVD player cost much more than such players today or remembering when gas cost $1.00, which makes every trip to the gas station a painful experience. In all of these cases, anchors that we encountered and were swayed by, remain with us long after the initial decision itself. P36

Are you Starbucked?

Have you fallen for Starbucks and bumped yourself up to a new level of consumption? Once you’ve left your old café with its bottomless cup of house brew for the $3.50 variety at Starbucks, it’s hard to go back. Worse, it is easy to move from $3.50 to a Venti or to lateral moves like a Caffe Americano, Macchiato, Frappuchino, etc. If you stopped to think about it, it would not be clear whether you should be spending all of this money on coffee at Starbucks instead of getting a cheaper coffee elsewhere (like free at most offices). But you don’t even think about these tradeoffs anymore. You’ve already made this decision many times in the past, so you now assume that this is way you want to spend your money. [And you couldn’t been wrong all those other times.] So you’ve herded yourself – lining up behind your initial experience. P38

So why do you like Starbucks so much? It’s not the coffee actually. The shops are fragrant with the smell of roasted beans. They showcase alluring snacks. The ambience is that of an upscale European café. The language is also continental with Grande, Venti, Caffe Mistro, etc. Starbucks does everything in its power to make the experience feel different than the coffee houses that preceded it. You’re not buying the coffee, you’re buying the experience. P39

Ben’s suggestion: buy a cheap cup of coffee somewhere else, and enjoy drinking it inside a Starbucks. You can even kick it up a notch by sprinkling some of the complementary flavors, additions that Starbucks provides.

Breaking the habit

Ask yourself what amount of pleasure you will be getting out of this purchase. Is this pleasure as much as you thought you would get? Could you cut back a little and better spend the remaining money on something else? With everything you do, in fact, you should train yourself to question your repeated behaviors… And as for coffee – rather than asking which blend you will have today, ask yourself whether you should even be having that habitual cup of expensive coffee at all. P44

What is it about ‘free’ that’s so enticing? Most transactions have an upside and downside, but when something is free we forget the downside. Free gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is. Why? Because humans are so intrinsically afraid of loss. The real value of free is tied to this fear. P54

Ever seen those buy 1 get 1 for $1.00 or even 1 penny deals? Bad idea. Stick with free. Amazon had a shipping campaign that charged just 1 franc for shipping ($.20). Sales didn’t increase. But by making it free, France saw a dramatic sales increase. P59

Oil and water: social and market norms

We live simultaneously in two worlds – one where social norms prevail, and the other where market norms rule… When we keep social and market norms on their separate paths, life hums along pretty well… When social and market norms collide, trouble sets in. A guy takes a girl out for dinner and a movie. They go out again and again, and he keeps paying the bill. At this point, he’s hoping for at least a passionate kiss. His wallet is getting perilously thin, but worse is what’s going on in his head: he’s having trouble reconciling the social norm (courtship) with the market norm (prostitution). On the 4th date, he casually mentions how much this romance is costing him. Now he’s crossed the line. She calls him a beast and storms off. You can’t mix social and market norms – without in this case implying that the lady is a tramp. As Woody Allen said, the most expensive sex is free sex. P69

Ask for volunteers...

There are many examples to show that people will work more for a cause than for cash. The AARP asked lawyers if they would offer less expensive services at $30/hour to needy retirees. The lawyers said no. Then the program manager had a brilliant idea: he asked the lawyers if they would offer services for free. Overwhelmingly the lawyers said yes. What is going on here? When money was mentioned, the lawyers used their market norms and found the $30/hour offer lacking. When no money was mentioned they used social norms and were willing to volunteer. P71

But give them small gifts of appreciation

Experiments prove that no one is offended by small gifts, because even small gifts keep us in the social exchange world and away from the market norms. P73

Don't cross the line, and if you do, there's no going back

When a social norm collides with a market norm, the social norm goes away for a long time, and it is not easy to re-establish. An experiment where a child care center started to impose a fine for late pickups, quickly discovered that this encouraged parents to pick up children late, since they could easily justify the additional cost versus the added convenience. Prior to the fine, the parents felt guilty by inconveniencing the workers. After the child care center went back to the honor system, the tardiness continued unabated. P77

For companies that strive for social relationship with their customers, a hefty late fee – rather than a friendly call from the manager – is not only relationship killer; it’s a stab in the back. Consumers will leave angry and spend hours complaining. No matter how many cookies, slogans, and tokens of friendship, one violation of the social exchange means that the consumer is back to the market exchange. P79

If companies want to benefit from the advantages of social norms, they need to do a better job of cultivating those norms. Medical benefits are among the best ways a company can express its side. But what are most companies doing today? Demanding high deductibles and reducing benefits. P82

Should give someone cash or a gift worth the same amount? Think of it this way; who do you suppose is likely to work harder – someone who is getting $1000 in cash or someone who is getting a personal gift worth that amount? P83

We should rethink school curricula, and link them in more obvious ways to social goals, technological goals, and medical goals that we care about in society. This way students, teachers, and parents might see the larger point in education and become more enthusiastic and motivated about it… We should stop confusing the number of hours students spend in school with the quality of the education they get. P86

Mr. Hyde lurks inside us all

An experiment of sexually aroused men revealed that under arousal that their behavior and choices were vastly different than from those in an unaroused state. When unaroused, they respected women; they were not particularly attracted to odd sexual activities; and they expected that they always would use a condom… No matter how we looked at the numbers, it was clear that the magnitude of underprediction by the participants was substantial. They revealed in their unaroused state that they themselves didn’t know what they were like once aroused. Prevention, protection, conservatism, and morality disappeared completely. They were simply unable to predict the degree to which passion would change them. How much of difference for a group of undergraduate men:

100% more likely to being attracted to a 12 year old girl

229% more likely to being attracted to a 60 year old woman

167% more likely to engage in beastiality

125% more likely to not stop having sex after your date says no

420% more likely to slip a drug to increase the chance a woman would have sex

See Appendix to Chapter 5 for the complete results. P97

And you thought DUI was dangerous, try DU20: Driving while being under the age of 20

Imagine you’re a teenager driving a car full of laughing friends, with the CD player blaring, and the driver’s right hand is searching for the French fries or his girlfriend’s knee. Who’s thinking about risk in that situation? A recent study found that a teenager driving alone was 40% more likely to get into an accident than an adult. With one other teenager in the car the percentage is twice that – 80%, with a third teenage passenger it is doubled again to 160%. P102

We just can't help being late

Students who were offered to choose their own deadlines for papers did better than those who were offered no deadlines and thus could turn in their projects on the last day of class. However, students who were compelled by the teacher to deliver their papers at specific times, did best of all. What do these results suggest? First, that students procrastinate; second tightly restricting their freedom is the best cure for procrastination. P115

Ice Glass Savings Method

Put your credit card into a glass of water, and then put that glass into the freezer. When you impulsively decide to make a purchase, you must first wait for the ice to thaw before extracting your card. Often your compulsion had subsided. Warning! Don’t think about putting your card in the microwave or you’ll destroy the magnetic strip. P122

When students had camped out for a right to purchase final four tickets had a chance to either buy or sell those tickets, the students who didn’t own a ticket were willing to pay $170/ticket… Those who owned a ticket demanded about $2400/ticket. Not a single person was willing sell a ticket at a price that a person who was willing to buy. Remember these students moments earlier, also didn’t have a ticket. In an instant after winning the drawing for a right to purchase the ticket, an emotional chasm formed between those who imagined the glory of the game and those who imagined what else they could buy with the price of the ticket. P132 This is called the Endowment Effect.

Nature has given us an ability to become instantly attached to what we have…We focus on what we may lose, rather than what we may gain… We also assume other people will see the transaction from the same perspective as we do… Our aversion to loss causes to make bad decisions. P134

Branding the Brain

Taking the Coke and Pepsi challenge while in an MRI demonstrated that when told that you’re drinking a coke or a pepsi, the emotional center lights up. However, only coke also lights up your prefrontal cortex, the area involved in higher brain functions… The advantage of Coke over Pepsi was due to Coke’s brand, which activated the higher-order brain mechanisms. P167

A better way to settle arguments

The perspective of each side is presented without the affiliation – the facts are revealed, but not which party took which actions. This type of blind condition might help us better recognize the truth. P172

When Lincoln lay dying, it is said his physician applied mummy paint to the wounds. This was made from ground up Egyptian mummies and was believed to remedy epilepsy, fractures, paralysis, and many other things. As late as 1908 it could be ordered from Merck pharmaceuticals. P177

Try the generic Veladone

In an experiment to demonstrate the power of placebo effect in conjunction with the price of the drug, experimenters presented drug – Veladone – as an analgesic (painkiller) to subjects who would undergo a series of mild painful shocks before and after taking the drug. Almost all participants reported less pain… This was very interesting since Veladone was just a capsule of Vitamin C… Suppose we discounted the price of Veladone from $2.50 per dosage to only $.10, would our participants react differently?... Only ½ of them experienced the pain reduction now… The price relationship was strongest with subjects who had most recently suffered from pain and taken pain medications. We believe that you get what you pay for. P184

Consumers who stop to reflect about the relationship between price and quality are far less likely to assume that a discounted product is less effective… These results suggest a way to overcome the relationship between price and the placebo effect but also suggest that the effect of discounts is largely an unconscious one to lower prices. P187

Quackery or surgery, is there difference in this country?

In the US, very few surgical procedures are tested scientifically. For that reason, we don’t really know whether many operations really offer a cure or whether they are effective merely because of their placebo effect. P191

There should be a cop inside every company

In 2004, the total cost robbery, larceny, burglary, and auto theft as $16B. But consider this: every year employee theft and fraud is estimated at about $600B… Each year insurance fraud alone exceeds $24B. The IRS estimates about $350B in losses for tax fraud. The retail industry loses about $16B just to customers who buy clothes and return them after wearing them “wardrobing”. P196

From our experiments, it is clear that oaths and rules must be recalled at, or just before, the moment of temptation… Also, once professional ethics have declined, getting them back won’t be easy. P214

In this electronic and credit/debit card age, the days of cash are coming to an end… The question is how can we control our tendency to cheat for money when we are brought to our senses only by the sight of cash – and what can we do now that cash is going away? P230

Your tastebuds will suffer if you want to be unique

If people choose menu items that nobody has chosen just to convey uniqueness, they will probably end up with an item that they don’t really want or like. And indeed our experiments proved this. Those who made menu choices aloud were not as happy as those who made their selections privately without taking other’s opinions into consideration. The exception to this rule was the first person to order obviously. They did fine in either scenario. P236

We found a correlation between the tendency to order different items from what others ordered and a personality trait called ‘need for uniqueness’. In essence, individuals more concerned with their own uniqueness were more likely to select an item not yet ordered in an effort to demonstrate that they were one of a kind. What these results show is that people are sometimes willing to sacrifice the pleasure they get from a particular consumption in order to project a certain image… In essence, people with a high need for uniqueness may sacrifice personal utility to gain reputational utility. P237

Monday, May 05, 2008

* Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Turns out you really are just a big fish out of water after all. Most of the things that make you who you are, turn out to be things that your fishy ancestors had nearly 400 million years ago (MYA). Using this scaly past, it can help us understand why we have certain quirks in our body plans, senses, and behaviors. Here are a few memorable highlights that stood out.

Keep moving or else

Our circulatory system works superbly in an active animal, which uses its legs to walk, run, and jump… If the legs are not used much, the muscles will not pump the blood up the veins. Problems will develop if blood pools in the veins, because that pooling can cause the [one way] valves [in the veins] to fail. This is exactly what happens with varicose veins... This arrangement of veins can also be a real pain in the behind… During long hours of sitting, blood pools in the veins and spaces around the rectum. As the blood pools, hemorrhoids form – an unpleasant reminder that we were not built to sit for too long, particularly on soft surfaces. P188

Silence is not always golden

Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous trade off for the ability to talk… The flexibility of our throat, so useful in our ability to talk, makes us susceptible to a form of sleep apnea that results from obstruction of the airway… During sleep, the muscles of the throat relax. In most people this doesn’t present a problem, but in some the passage can collapse, blocking breathing. P189

Your inner tadpole and hiccups

It turns out that the [brain stem] pattern generator responsible for hiccups is virtually identical to the one in amphibians. And not just in any amphibians – in tadpoles, which use both lungs and gills. When gill breathing, tadpoles want to pump water into their mouth and across their gills, but they don’t want water to enter the lungs. To prevent drowning, they close their glottis, the flap that covers the breathing tube. The brain stem pattern generator signals that an inspiration is followed immediately by a closing glottis (a hiccup in us)… The parallels between our hiccups and gill breathing are so extensive that many have proposed that the 2 are 1 in the same. Gill breathing in tadpoles can be blocked by carbon dioxide or by stretching the wall of the chest, just like our hiccups [think breathing into a paper bag and holding our breath to keep our chest expanded]… The longest uninterrupted hiccups in a person lasted from 1922 to 1990 (68 years!) P192

Why a man’s testes are to blame for his hernia

Our gonads begin their development in much the same place as a shark’s – near the heart and liver. While in utero as a fetus, our gonads grow and descend. In females the ovaries descend to lie near the uterus. In males, the testes must descend all the way outside the body cavity to the scrotum sac. This descent creates a weak spot in the body wall… When males contract their abdominal muscles, our guts push against the body wall. A weakness in the body wall means that guts can escape, creating a hernia… Men’s tendency to develop is a trade off between our fish ancestry and our mammal present. P196