Ten Ways to Live a Less Complacent Life

 

 

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Written by Tyler Cowen and published on LinkedIn

Americans often point with pride to our role as the world’s leading innovator. And yet despite this leadership and innovation, if you compare America today to forty years ago, the country seems to have lost its mojo.

The passion and perseverance that fueled progress in America has been falling since the 1960s, back when we dreamed of seeing flying cars and colonies on other planets by the turn of the century. Instead, recent innovation tends to be on the margin rather than fully transformational—like more ways to socialize online, play games, and get services without leaving the house. While seemingly small, Americans’ complacent, safe decisions end up meaning a great deal for the wider economy.

Today, only 7-8% of US companies are startups—down from 12-13% in the 1980s. More new businesses are failing while established giants consume the industry landscape. Job relocation rates have fallen more than a quarter since 1990. And year after year, we’re seeing sluggish productivity growth from the economy as a whole. I describe these trends in detail in The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I argue that Americans have become more fearful of risk and more comfortable with the status quo. And these qualities are passing on to our children, who are becoming more sheltered both literally and psychologically.

However, complacency cannot last forever. The dissent and unrest leading to the election of President Trump and the subsequent fallout signal that we may be approaching a great reset. From all perspectives, people are starting to feel empowered to act against ideas they disagree with. But will that be enough to move people to create change, take calculated risks, and break the mold?

Below are ten steps individuals can take to lead less complacent lives that will in time translate to broader social change. Before beginning, take the “How Complacent Are You?” quiz to see whether you can use a little less complacency in your own life.

1.    Get Out of Your Bubble

It’s easy to get cozy and watch Netflix on a weekend instead of going outside and exploring new things. With apps that deliver food, groceries, laundry, entertainment, and everything in between, why go through the trouble of leaving the house?

By doing so, we miss new experiences, opinions, and interactions that help shape our worldview. Many people attribute Trump’s surprise win to a lack of awareness of other opinions that can happen as people wall themselves off—in the real world and online—from the new and different.

Instead of doing the same old same old, take the opportunity to leave your neighborhood and explore the great unknown. Talk to someone you don’t normally interact with in your social circles. Go to a specialty grocery store and pick up new ingredients you haven’t tried before to cook a new dish. Learn more about getting involved in your community. If you have the resources, book a ticket somewhere new rather than your summer condo in Florida.

2.    Don’t Use Convenience Technology for Everything

It’s easier than ever to get exactly what you want through the use of “sorting” technology. This applies to everything from small, everyday decisions like where to eat (Yelp), what music to listen to (Spotify), and what books to read (Amazon), to lifelong decisions like who to marry (Match.com). While these tools are helpful in cutting through the noise, they also weed out options that we may enjoy but will not appear because they don’t meet our “matching” standards. If you met your spouse in real life 20 years ago, but he or she didn’t fit every standard you set for a mate on paper, would they even show up online as an option for you today?

Instead of depending on this technology, use it as a starting point and don’t disregard the thrill of natural discovery. Next time you are in a new city, go outside and explore to find dinner rather than going to the highest rated place on TripAdvisor. Meet new people in the real world and open yourself to the possibility of dating someone who doesn’t come from the same background as you. Go to a bookstore or record store to browse. While this may seem old-fashioned, you never know what hidden treasures you may find.

3.    Keep Learning

Just because you finished school doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Even in the working world, you need to keep learning to be effective at your job and improve your value as a worker. Even better, your new talents could lead to greater compensation in the future or the creation of something new. You also shouldn’t feel wedded to the career you started out with for the rest of your life, but rather you should constantly evaluate whether it’s the right career for you.

With the Internet, there are more opportunities than time allows to learn new skills. Everything from building a website and remodeling your home to learning statistics and mastering a foreign language is readily accessible at your fingertips, often for free. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available and put it to use.

4.    Ask for What You Want

As the cliché goes, you miss 100% of the opportunities you never take. All too often people don’t ask for what they want out of fear of rejection or because they undervalue their own worth: Maybe I don’t deserve what I want?

Knowing what you want is the first step in changing outcomes—whether it’s getting out of a dead-end job, pursuing a relationship, or making a major change in your life by moving or chasing a new passion. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to improve your life and add greater value to the world. Often, the worst that can happen is a “no” which is better than regret of the unknown.

5.    Have Difficult Conversations

As social media becomes the dominant form of communication, more of us find ourselves building communities of people who reinforce our positions or only engage with us in a positive way. By self-segregating online, we only reinforce segregation in the real world, as seen by the growing segregation of America by socioeconomic status and in some ways by politics (the liberal coasts versus conservative flyovers). We are also seeing this aversion to opposing viewpoints at universities as riots increase over controversial speakers and issues of free speech. The popularity of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” teaches the next generation that it is okay to silence people who don’t share your views of the world rather than trying to understand them—or better yet, challenge them constructively.

Instead of shielding yourself from ideas you oppose, take the time to engage them and who knows, you may change some minds along the way.

6.    Take Risks

Risk-taking is a key American trait. Our ambition has led to great achievements over the last century, and we need that drive again to conquer today’s greatest challenges.

Every new venture requires a little risk. While you shouldn’t be foolish with the risks you take, allow for some calculated risk and be prepared for failure. Most great inventors have several failures before they land their golden ticket.

In your everyday life, this could mean applying for that job you’ve always wanted but didn’t think you stood a chance at getting. It could mean pursuing a relationship with someone who you thought was out of your league. It could mean going back to school to finish that degree you’ve always regretted not finishing. It could mean breaking out and starting your own side gig. It could also mean losing something, but learning along the way to inform a future success.

7.    Move Around

Americans traditionally have thought of themselves as great movers, and indeed that was true through most of the twentieth century. But since the 1980s, Americans have become much less restless and less likely to move across the country. Here is this change in a single number: The interstate migration rate has fallen 51% below its 1948–1971 average, and that number has been falling steadily since the mid-1980s.

The decision to move reflects something very fundamental about one’s life. People move for better jobs, for marriages, for a different climate, for new and different social networks, or sometimes just to shake things up. But now, people are not moving because they stay at the same job longer, geographic differences are fewer than they used to be, or they are not willing to uproot their lives to change their circumstances—whether it’s poverty or unemployment.

If you are able to do so, move at least once in your life. Experience what it is like starting over in a new place where you need to establish your professional career and social circle virtually from scratch. Choose a place that is unfamiliar but of interest, where you can discover new things, talk to new people, and learn something about yourself.

8.    Plan for the Future, and Make It Happen

It might make sense to sit on the couch and keep doing what you are doing today. But what does that mean for tomorrow?

It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of day-to-day life and suddenly, the years have gone by and too many opportunities have passed. Why did I never spend that year traveling the world? Why have I never read the most influential books of all time? Why did I not pursue my passion project? Why did I not keep more relationships?

Instead, make a plan today to achieve what you want in the future and create specific steps to make it happen. Work hard, save money, and build toward the future you want. Life will get in the way, as it always does, but setting your intention can go a long way in achieving your goals.

9.    If You Don’t Like What You See, Do Something

Some people would argue that there are institutional barriers that make it difficult for people today to make radical change. Things like business regulations, an aggressive litigation environment, and social conventions can all create hurdles to innovation. However, more often than not, you don’t see people taking to the streets to remove those barriers. You also don’t see people taking to voting booths—the United States still has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any developed country. They may complain on social media, but to actually take steps to solve the problem requires another level of effort.

To get out of complacency, you have to be motivated into action. I’m not suggesting anything as radical as the riots we saw in the 60s and 70s, but a more deliberate response to injustice in the world: Responses like voting, getting involved on the local level, reaching out to politicians or private-sector influencers, the media, or starting a movement on your own. Already, we are seeing this brew through current political protests.

10. Don’t Give Up

More important than intelligence and status, people need grit—passion and perseverance toward long-term goals—to overcome obstacles to achieving their greatest potential. If everyone had more grit and fewer excuses, we could see greater levels of job growth, new discoveries, and improvements in our culture. Psychologist Angela Duckworth said in a Freakonomics interview that a person’s level of “stick-to-itiveness” is directly related to their level of success. For a long time, Americans have held this value, but in some cases, they have been using it to dig their heels in and stay where they are. Instead, we should be channeling our grit toward improving our lives and the lives of others.

Homeless Man at a Piano Reminds us not to Judge Others

Really good reminder not to judge others especially based on their appearance…

“It is very easy for all of us to quickly judge someone by their appearance, but we need to keep reminding ourselves that the most unlikely people may possess the most amazing minds and talents no matter how unfortunate their circumstances.

And the video you are about to watch proves just that. This homeless man sat at a piano with the intention of making a few bucks but it has now reached the hearts of millions around the world. Have a listen let it make you stop and think about many brilliant and talented souls you may be passing on the street everyday.

The man in the video is Donald Gould a 51 year old who turned to substance abuse when his wife passed away which led to him to end up homeless living on the streets. Since the video has gone viral Gould is said to have been offered employment opportunities and may even star as a street performer.”

Originally found on Spirit Science.net and written by Kasim Khan

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF YOUR LIFE

 

Originally written by Mark Manson

Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.

Everyone would like that — it’s easy to like that.

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.

Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship — but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for?

Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.

At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.

People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.

People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.

What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.

There’s a lot of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”

Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something enough. They just aren’t aware of what it is they want, or rather, what they want “enough.”

Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.

If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.

Sometimes I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?

That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.

For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. The fantasizing continued up through college, even after I dropped out of music school and stopped playing seriously. But even then it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into getting out there and making it work. First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find time. Then… and then nothing.

Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.

I was in love with the result — the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I’m playing — but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.

The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit. The broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the top.

Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser. Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough. The entrepreneurial/start up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning. I’d be told to do affirmations or join a mastermind group or manifest or something.

But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.

I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.

Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”

This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.

 

Taking Up These 10 Hobbies Will Make You Smarter

Written by  and originally published on LifeHack

There is a general perception that we can’t do much to enhance our intelligence. It’s almost always believed that whether you’re smart or not is determined right at birth and you can’t do anything about it.

However, these are all misconceptions. While some people have conditions that prevent them from being able to increase their intelligence level, for most people, there are plenty of things that can be done to make them smarter.

Hobbies are integral parts of our lives, and once developed, we find ourselves immersed in them on a regular basis. Hobbies are fun and invigorating- and they can also have a great influence on our intelligence.

Below are 10 hobbies that will help to make you smarter- all backed up by scientific studies and experiments:

1. Play a musical instrument.

Confucius said a long time ago, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without”. Music stimulates your brain, and this has been proven by research as well.

Music has the power to invoke complex emotions and psychological states. Various researchers have shown that both listening to music and playing a musical instrument increases memory capacity.

Playing a musical instrument also teaches you patience and perseverance for it takes time and effort to learn to play a musical instrument. It also sharpens your concentration.

2. Read voraciously.

Reading goes a long way towards increasing your intelligence level- this is further the case if you read voraciously across many different topics, from fiction and biographies, to anthologies.

Reading reduces stress, helps you to experience multiple emotions, and teaches you a lot about many subjects. All these factors help you to feel better about yourself; being at peace with yourself is one of the most important foundations for positive wellbeing.

Reading is very important for enhancing your knowledge on a subject, preparing for all sorts of situations and being more productive in how you go about achieving your goals.

3. Meditate regularly.

The foremost benefit of meditation is to help you focus on yourself and to get you to know your true self. Being engrossed in meditation helps individuals transcend to a higher state of being.

Meditation helps to reduce stress levels and gets rid of all sorts of worries. With a calm and composed state of mind obtained through meditation, you can learn, think and plan things in a much more effective way.

Regular meditation helps you to have full control over yourself. Being aware of distractions and effective methods of self-control are of the utmost significance when working to improve your intelligence.

4. Work out your brain.

Just as you need to work out regularly to keep your body fit, you also need to work out your brain to keep it in good shape. Regularly challenging the brain to do new things enhances its abilities and helps to keep you sharp.

You can work out your brain in plenty of ways such as through: sudoku, puzzles, board games, and riddles. All these activities help the brain to continue forming new connections. Through such activities you also learn to respond to situations in creative ways, develop the ability to see things from a lot of different perspectives and become significantly more productive.

5. Exercise often.

A healthy body helps to ensure that you have a healthy brain. After all, your brain is like another muscle in your body. Exercising regularly keeps your brain and body functioning as they are supposed to. It reduces tension and helps you to sleep better.

Doctors agree that better blood circulation to the brain means increased brain function. Various studies on mice and humans have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells, and thus improve overall brain performance.

6. Learn a new language.

Learning a new language may not always be an easy task but it definitely has numerous advantages-making you smarter, being one of them.

The process of learning a new language involves tasks such as analyzing grammatical structures and learning new words, which enhances your intelligence and brain health.

It has also been proven through various experiments that people with high levels of verbal-linguistic intelligence are great at planning, decision-making and problem-solving.

7. Write your feelings down.

There are tons of benefits that you can receive from writing, including increasing your overall level of intelligence.

Writing improves your linguistic abilities, of course. But it also helps you to develop such skills as focus, creativity, imagination, and comprehension.

Writers are often considered as having very high levels of intelligence. You can write in different ways. You can write things with your hand or you can create your own blog. Whatever you do, you are giving words to the images in your mind; learning to express yourself clearly is a great way to boost your intelligence.

8. Travel to new places.

Travelling is not just a way to kill your boredom- there’s lot more to it than that. Travelling can really boost your intelligence.

The physical and mental workouts involved with travelling, rid your mind of stress. As you become stress-free, you are more able to focus on tasks, observations, and deepening your understanding of subjects.

Every new place you travel to offers new things to learn. You encounter diverse people, food, culture, lifestyle and society while travelling, which puts you in touch with ideas you might never have thought of previously.

9. Cook different kinds of meals.

Many of us feel that cooking is a mere waste of time and it’s something we very much want to avoid.

But instead of whining, you should feel happy when you have the opportunity to cook. Regular cooks, particularly the ones who try out a variety of meals, have high levels of creativity. They are committed to quality, aren’t afraid to try things out and they pay great attention to details.

Whenever you cook something, you are learning to multitask, measure with precision and make quick decisions. With all of these skills you’re acquiring, you’re becoming smarter too.

10. Participate in sports actively.

Participating regularly in sports activities doesn’t only exercise the muscles but also does the same for the brain. Playing sports regularly makes the brain more flexible and improves overall brain health.

Sports have added benefits too. Watching sports has been linked with increased brain function, and through exercising you work out your muscles. Involvement in sport also enhances responsiveness, coordination, capabilities, and confidence.

Top athletes are known for their special form of intelligence. It doesn’t matter whether you play football, basketball or cricket. Consider being regularly involved in some form of sport to boost your brain’s performance.

The Emotions That Make Us More Creative

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Originally posted on Harvard Business Review by Scott Barry Kaufmann

Artists and scientists throughout history have remarked on the bliss that accompanies a sudden creative insight. Einstein described his realization of the general theory of relativity as the happiest moment of his life. More poetically, Virginia Woolf once observed, “Odd how the creative power brings the whole universe at once to order.”

But what about before such moments of creative insight? What emotions actually fuel creativity?

The long-standing view in psychology is that positive emotions are conducive to creativity because they broaden the mind, whereas negative emotions are detrimental to creativity because they narrow one’s focus. But this view is too simplistic for a number of reasons.

It’s true that attentional focus does have important effects on creative thinking: a broad scope of attention is associated with the free-floating colliding of ideas, and a narrow scope of attention is more conducive to linear, step-by-step goal attainment. However, emerging research suggests that the positive vs. negative emotions distinction may not be the most important contrast for understanding attentional focus. Over the past seven years, research conducted by psychologist Eddie Harmon-Jones and his colleagues suggests that the critical variable influencing one’s scope of attention is not emotional valence (positive vs. negative emotions) but motivational intensity, or how strongly you feel compelled to either approach or avoid something. For example, pleasant is a positive emotion, but it has low motivational intensity. In contrast, desire is a positive emotion with high motivational intensity.

The researchers showed participants funny video clips of cats (triggering emotions of low motivational intensity) and clips of delicious-looking desserts (bringing out high motivational intensity). Even though both evoked positive emotions, the cat videos, which were simply amusing, broadened the mind (measured by subjects making more holistic matches to a target stimulus), whereas the dessert clips that carried higher motivational intensity narrowed subjects’ scope of attention (subjects made more detail-oriented matches to a target stimulus). And it was similar when looking at video clips that tapped into negative emotions: sadness (a state of low motivational intensity) broadened attentional focus, whereas disgust (a state of high motivational intensity for avoidance) narrowed focus.

Motivational intensity, they concluded, was a more important variable affecting scope of attention than the mere experience of positive or negative emotions. Presumably, this is because low motivational states facilitate the search for new goals to pursue, whereas high motivational states focus us on completing a specific goal. So next time you want to keep an open mind and see the big picture, it’s probably best if you’re just in a pleasant (or even sad) mood. If you are too passionate about the activity, you may miss the forest for the trees. If, however, you really need to buckle down and focus on making a new idea practical, high motivational intensity can be just the ticket.

At the end of the day, the ability to broaden attention and the ability to narrow attention are both key contributors to creativity. A recent neuroscience study led byRoger Beaty (and which I was a collaborator on) suggests that creative people have greater connections between two areas of the brain that are typically at odds: the brain network of regions associated with focus and attentional control, and the brain network of regions associated with imagination and spontaneity. Indeed, the entire creative process—not just the moments of deep insight— involves states of euphoria and inspiration as well as states of calm, rational focus. Creative people aren’t characterized by any one of these states alone; they are characterized by their adaptability and their ability to mix seemingly incompatible states of being depending on the task, whether it’s open attention with a focused drive, mindfulness with daydreaming, intuition with rationality, intense rebelliousness with respect for tradition, etc. In other words, creative people have messy minds.

Other research has also found that people who reported experiencing extreme or intense emotions on a regular basis scored higher on measures of creative capacity than those who simply reported feeling positive or negative emotions. There’s something about living life with passion and intensity, including the full depth of human experience, that is conducive to creativity. In my own research, I found that “affective engagement”— the extent to which people are open to the full breadth and depth of their emotions— was a better predictor of artistic creativity than IQ or intellectual engagement.

We are also rarely purely happy or purely sad— we tend to experience mixed emotions. Research scientist Christina Fong at Carnegie Mellon University has investigated the effects of “emotional ambivalence”— the simultaneous experience of positive and negative emotions— on creativity. Fong’s research suggests that simultaneously experiencing multiple emotions that are not typically experienced together (e.g., excitement and frustration) signals “that one is in an unusual environment where other unusual relationships might also exist.” This increased sensitivity to unusual associations is another important contributor to creativity.

Prior research hints at some situations that tend to increase emotional ambivalence: Women who are in higher-status positions report greater emotional ambivalence than women in lower-status positions, and when people are engaged in organizational recruitment and socialization, they report higher levels of emotional ambivalence. Fong suggests that perhaps managers “would benefit from scheduling creative thinking tasks for these time periods or could assign creativity tasks to new organizational members (who are likely undergoing socialization processes).” In other words, it may be during these moments of high emotional ambivalence when the emotions of employees are ripe for creativity.

Fong’s research also suggests that emotional ambivalence and the unusualness of one’s environment may go hand in hand—and that employees who believe they are in an unusual environment can show increased creative thinking. Highly innovative companies such as Disney and IDEO are well aware of this, as their employees benefit from such unusual working environments. IDEO’s workplace in Palo Alto, California has airplanes and bicycles suspended from the ceiling, plastic beaded curtains used as doors, and Christmas tree lights on display all year round. Everywhere you go are toys, gadgets, and prototypes from past projects. Indeed, multiple psychological studiessuggest that a crucial trigger of creativity is the experience of unusual and unexpected events. Unexpected events can certainly mix emotions, and mixed emotions, as Fong as shown, can increase sensitivity to unusual associations and ideas.

Taken together, the latest research on the role of emotions in creativity suggests that instead of focusing exclusively on bringing out positive emotions among employees — or attempting to dispel negative emotions — managers may want to consider additional factors, such as whether the environment brings out emotional ambivalence (Is the environment unusual? Will it tap into a wide range of seemingly contradictory emotions?) and motivational intensity (Will it broaden or narrow someone’s focus?) when trying to stimulate creativity. It’s time to move beyond such simplistic black-and-white notions of the role of emotions in innovation, and instead embrace the inherent messiness of the creative process.

Author’s note: Thanks to Adam Grant for bringing many of these studies to my attention

7 Things Really Persuasive People Do

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Originally written by Kevin Daum via Inc.com

Sometimes you absolutely have to make your point. Here are 7 tips on how to do it effectively with style and grace.

While many people don’t like to sell, most find themselves having to persuade someone at some point. Persuasion is not just for salespeople and their prospects. You may try to persuade an employee to perform better, or perhaps you want to persuade your boss to take on your brilliant idea. Often the most effective persuaders are your kids. Somehow they come by it naturally while you, the adult, has to work hard to find the persuasive path to success.

Whatever your persuasive need, here are 7 things that the most persuasive people consistently do:

1. They Are Purposeful

Truly persuasive people understand their power and use it sparingly and knowingly.  They understand that most conversations do not require trying to get someone to do or accept something. Aggressive pushers are a turn-off and will put most people on the defensive. It’s the person who rarely asks or argues that ultimately gets consideration when they strongly advocate an idea, especially when they do it with power and persistence.  Simply put, they pick their battles. Want to persuade more? Argue and advocate less often.

2. They Listen … and Listen … Then Listen Some More

People who know how to persuade also know that just pushing your own argument will get you nowhere. They certainly are able to articulate their position in a convincing way, but that is only half the equation. They are actively listening when in persuasion mode. First, they are listening to assess how receptive you are to their point of view. Second, they are listening for your specific objections, which they know they’ll have to resolve. Last, they are listening for moments of agreement so they can capitalize on consensus. Amazingly persuasive people are constantly listening to you and not themselves.  They already know what they are saying. You can’t persuade effectively if you don’t know the other side of the argument.

3. They Create a Connection

It’s easy to dismiss people who are trying to persuade you if you have no emotional stake in them or their argument. Really persuasive people know this, so they will belikeable and look for common ground to help establish emotional bonds and shared objectives. They show empathy for your position and make it known that they are on your side. They manage their impatience and wait for you to give them permission to advocate their approach. You’ll persuade people much more easily if they are open and aligned with your desires.

4. They Acknowledge Credibility

Really persuasive people understand that there is no sense wasting time arguing facts. Most of the world does not function in black and white. They value strong opinions and will make sure that you are entitled to yours. In fact, they will make sure they give you full credit for every argument of yours that has some validity. This makes it harder for you to fully dismiss their point of view. When you are persuading people, reinforce their credibility on facts and opinions rather than dismissing them outright. Then they’ll be more likely to pay you equal respect in the exchange and be more open to the merits of your opposing view.

5. They Offer Satisfaction

Smart persuaders know that they don’t have to win every little battle to win the war. They are more than willing to sacrifice when it helps the overall cause. They are ready to find the easiest path to yes. Often that is simply to give you what you want whenever possible. In my old lending days, we would often deal with busy underwriters who asked for items we knew they already had. Instead of arguing the point, we would just resend the documents and save our energy for issues that were not so easily resolved. Give ground where you can and hold your ground only where it matters. Choose being successful over being right.

6. They Know When to Shut Up

Successful persuaders get that you don’t win the battle by constantly berating people with an unending verbal barrage. Wearing people down is not an effective strategy. They carefully support their arguments and check in with questions that will help to close the conversation. Then they step back. The great sales trainer Tom Hopkins still today teaches these decades-old techniques of his mentor J. Douglas Edwards. His most important lesson is “Whenever you ask a closing question, shut up. The first person who speaks, loses.”

7. They Know When to Back Away

Urgency and immediacy are often the enemies of real persuasion. It’s possible to close a less significant sale through urgency, but deep ideas require time and thought to take root. Great persuaders bring you along in your own time. And they give you the space and time to carefully consider their position. They know that nothing is more powerful than your persuading yourself on their behalf. That almost never occurs in the presence of the persuader. The next time you want to persuade someone of something truly important, follow the tips above, make your case, and walk away. If they don’t come around, you were probably wasting your effort in the first place.

The Importance of Kindness by George Saunders

Full Transcript below:

Commencement Speech 2013 Syracuse University College undergraduate convocation ceremony Saturday, May 11, 2013, in the Carrier Dome.

Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tradition.

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time ―dances,‖ so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: ―Looking back, what do you regret?‖ And they’ll tell you. Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked. Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret? Being poor from time to time? Not really. Working terrible jobs, like ―knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?‖ (And don’t even ASK what that entails.) No. I don’t regret that. Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked? And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months? Not so much. Do I regret the occasional humiliation? Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl? No. I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret: In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be ―ELLEN.‖ ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it. So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (―Your hair taste good?‖ — that sort of thing).

I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After a while she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: ―How was your day, sweetie?‖ and she’d say, ―Oh, fine.‖ And her mother would say, ―Making any friends?‖ and she’d go, ―Sure, lots.‖

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it. And then — they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing. One day she was there, next day she wasn’t. End of story. Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her. But still. It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet. It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder? Here’s what I think: Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and lowhanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc? Well, yes, good question. Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left. So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition — recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us. Because kindness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, everything.

One thing in our favor: some of this ―becoming kinder happens naturally, with age. It might be a simple matter of attrition: as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish — how illogical, really. We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality. We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be. We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now).

Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving. I think this is true. The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was ―mostly Love, now.

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever. Congratulations, by the way.

When young, we’re anxious — understandably — to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed? Can we build a viable life for ourselves? But you — in particular you, of this generation — may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. You do well in highschool, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can . . . And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously — as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable. ―Succeeding, whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that ―succeeding‖ will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life. Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.

Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly. And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013. I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer

Having Both Extroverted And Introverted Traits Makes You More Successful

Paramount PIctures

Originally written by John Haltiwanger via Just The Way You Are

I saw a friend on the subway this morning, but intentionally avoided him so he wouldn’t see me (sorry, dude).

I’m not an antisocial person, but while I’m on my way to work, I don’t want to speak to anyone. I just want to put my headphones on, open a book and zone out.

If I’d made eye contact with said friend, I would’ve felt obligated to talk to him. This wouldn’t have ruined my commute, as I generally love being in the company of friends, pals, companions, compadres, comrades, amigos, what have you… but sometimes I need time to unwind and live in the moment on my own terms, perhaps more than I often realize.

Solitude is vital to our mental health and general well-being. Even if we can’t achieve it in a purely physical sense, it’s nice to seek it out cognitively.

But many people who know me might find this strange. After all, at the end of high school my yearbook superlative was “Most Likely To Say Hi.”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been characterized as a chatterbox. And, to be honest, it’s a pretty fair description.

I love to talk, and I’ve always found conversation intoxicating. I’ve been perpetually drawn to other people because, quite frankly, they’re fascinating.

Ostensibly, I’m your stereotypical extrovert.

At the same time, I possess a number of introverted traits. I don’t always need or crave the presence of others, and I find great fulfillment in solitude.

Sometimes I spend entire weekends by myself in perfect contentment. I’ve traveled to other countries alone on several occasions, gone on numerous solo hikes and sometimes head to the movies without any companions.

But I’ve never felt depressed or self-conscious about any of it because I genuinely enjoy the time I spend in my own company.

Indeed, I possess both extroverted and introverted attributes.

In other words, I’m likely an ambivert — a hybrid personality that combines elements of introversion and extroversion — but perhaps not as much as others.

Ambiversion, first designated by social scientists in the 1920s, is a frequently overlooked personality type a lot of people would likely identify with.

If you happen to fall into this category, chances are you’re a strong communicator, extremely adaptable and comfortable in a wide variety of social contexts.

For all of these reasons and more, you have a high probability of achieving success in a number of arenas.

People are too dynamic to be placed in boxes.

Human beings love to separate things into distinct categories. We take people and, in spite of all their idiosyncrasies, stamp broad labels on them.

But none of us are that simple. Not all extroverts and introverts are respectively identical in personality and behavior.

The world would be a decidedly boring place if humans were accurately defined in such absolute terms.

With that said, some of us are clearly more extroverted than introverted and vice versa.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it:

The personality traits of extroversion and introversion fall on a spectrum.

Ambiverts have introverted and extroverted traits, but neither trait is dominant. As a result, they have more balanced, or nuanced, personalities.

Introverts are typically very introspective individuals who need a great deal of alone time to recharge.

They’re not necessarily misanthropic, they simply thrive in solitude. They listen more than they speak and are usually less impulsive.

Extroverts are extremely outgoing people with an insatiable appetite for the company of others. They revel in being the center of attention and are seemingly indefatigable.

Ambiverts get the best of both worlds: They’re excellent at reading situations and adjusting their behavior accordingly.

As Daniel Pink, author of “To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others,” told the Wall Street Journal:

It is like they’re bilingual.

They have a wider range of skills and can connect with a wider range of people in the same way someone who speaks English and Spanish can.

Ambiverts possess perhaps the most vital characteristic in life: fluidity. They’re flexible people who are comfortable in essentially any context.

Success is largely a matter of knowing how to go with the flow, which is why ambiverts are often very accomplished individuals.


Success in life is about finding balance.

Many people might assume extroverts have an inborn advantage in the world, particularly in business and sales, because of their convivial disposition.

But, as the Washington Post highlights:

Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little. They can overwhelm others with the force of their personalities.

Sometimes they care too deeply about being liked and not enough about getting tough things done.

Evidence from social science studies appears to confirm this.

Dr. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, has done extensive research on this subject.

His findings suggest over half of the population, or around two-thirds of all people, are ambiverts. The rest fall more distinctly into the categories of introversion and extroversion.

His research also showed ambiverts are natural salespeople. In a June 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science, Grant observed 340 outbound call-center representatives.

To begin, he employed a frequently-utilized personality assessment to determine whether these individuals were extroverts, introverts or ambiverts.

Subsequently, he monitored their work performance over the next several months.

Ultimately, he found the ambiverts were decidedly more effective at sales.

They generated an average of $208 per hour in revenue. Comparatively, the average for the entire study was $138.

The study states:

Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.

In other words, their balanced personalities made them far better-suited for interacting and conversing with others.

Grant’s study reveals a fundamental truth about life: Success is achieved by maintaining a healthy equilibrium in everything we do.

The most accomplished individuals and the greatest leaders all understand this.

They’re deliberate and decisive when necessary, but also adept at recognizing when to tone it down and take a step back.

Most of all, they’re great communicators, in the sense they know how to talk and listen.

Conversation is a dance, you don’t want to step on other people’s toes; it has to be give and take in order to flow smoothly.

The loudest one in the room is not always the most powerful, but the quietest one isn’t always the most intelligent.

There are shades of grey in everything, and ambiverts are a manifestation of that undeniable fact.

When it comes down to it, we all have the capacity to be ambiverts (most of us already are). It’s simply a matter of learning how to recognize and respond to context.

To borrow from Bruce Lee:

Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless — like water.

You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash.

Be water, my friend.

The key to survival is adaptation. Be flexible. Bend but don’t break. As Bruce Lee aptly put it, be like water.

Life is far easier when we can find the middle ground between two extremes.

NO, IT’S NOT YOUR OPINION. YOU’RE JUST WRONG

No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong

Originally published by Houston Press and written by Jef Rouner

I have had so many conversations or email exchanges with students in the last few years wherein I anger them by indicating that simply saying, “This is my opinion” does not preclude a connected statement from being dead wrong. It still baffles me that some feel those four words somehow give them carte blanche to spout batshit oratory or prose. And it really scares me that some of those students think education that challenges their ideas is equivalent to an attack on their beliefs.-Mick Cullen

I spend far more time arguing on the Internet than can possibly be healthy, and the word I’ve come to loath more than any other is “opinion”. Opinion, or worse “belief”, has become the shield of every poorly-conceived notion that worms its way onto social media.

There’s a common conception that an opinion cannot be wrong. My dad said it. Hell, everyone’s dad probably said it and in the strictest terms it is true. However, before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions.

1. Is this actually an opinion?

2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?

I’ll help you with the first part. An opinion is a preference for or judgment of something. My favorite color is black. I think mint tastes awful. Doctor Who is the best television show. These are all opinions. They may be unique to me alone or massively shared across the general population but they all have one thing in common; they cannot be verified outside the fact that I believe them.

There’s nothing wrong with an opinion on those things. The problem comes from people whose opinions are actually misconceptions. If you think vaccines cause autism you are expressing something factually wrong, not an opinion. The fact that you may still believe that vaccines cause autism does not move your misconception into the realm of valid opinion. Nor does the fact that many other share this opinion give it any more validity.

To quote John Oliver, who referenced a Gallup poll showing one in four Americans believe climate change isn’t real on his show, Last Week Tonight

Who gives a shit? You don’t need people’s opinion on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking: “Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?” or “Do owls exist?” or “Are there hats?”

You saw this same thing recently when questions about the Confederate flag started making the rounds. It may be your opinion that slavery was not the driving cause of the Civil War, but the Texas Articles of Secession mention slavery 21 times (rights are mentioned only six, and only once in a sentence that doesn’t mention either slavery or how way more flippin’ awesome white people are than black people). Do I even need to point out that some people are also of the opinion the Holocaust was fake, and that their opinion means absolutely nothing to the reality?

Pictured: A bunch of people who were murdered regardless of someone's opinion on the subject

And yes, sometimes scientific or historical data is wrong or unclear or in need of further examination. Everyone knows water expands when it freezes. Do you know why it does that when literally nothing else in the world does? Nope, and neither does science. Or hey, here’s a question; what was the racial heritage of the Ancient Egyptians because historians can’t come to a consensus and their art is too stylized to accurately judge.

Subjects like that are the sort of things that are ripe for an opinion. Water expands when it freezes because of the shape of the molecule. The Egyptians were a displaced black African race that settled the Nile. Here, opinion can be a placeholder for a greater understanding assuming there ever is a greater understanding. There is no verification; it can only be guessed at. Hopefully in an educated manner.

That’s where the second question comes in; is your opinion informed and why do you believe it? Though technically these opinions cannot be wrong they can be lacking in worth simply because they are lacking in structure.

Here’s an example. Let’s say I meet a fellow Doctor Who fan, and this fan’s favorite Doctor is David Tennant. Nothing wrong so far. However, upon further discussing the subject this fan tells me that he or she has never seen any of the pre-2005 episodes or heard any of the radio plays. Now, it’s possible that even if he or she had David Tennant would still be his or her favorite Doctor, but it’s also possible that it would be Tom Baker or Paul McGann or someone else.

In a perfect world someone confronted with this would simply say, “Well, David Tennant is my favorite that I’ve seen.” There’s plenty of reasons to not have seen any olderDoctor Who. It’s not all on Netflix, there’s a lot of it, radio plays can get rather expensive, etc. Having a narrow opinion from a narrow set of information is only natural.

What mucks it all up when a narrow set of information is assumed to be wider than it is. There is a difference between a belief and things you just didn’t know. It’s easy to believe, for instance, that whites face as much discrimination as people of color, but only if you are completely ignorant of the unemployment rates of blacks versus whites, the fact that of the Fortune 500 CEOs only five are black, or the fact that of the 43 men who have been president 42.5 of them have been white.

In other words, you can form an opinion in a bubble, and for the first couple of decades of our lives we all do. However, eventually you are going to venture out into the world and find that what you thought was an informed opinion was actually just a tiny thought based on little data and your feelings. Many, many, many of your opinions will turn out to be uninformed or just flat out wrong. No, the fact that you believed it doesn’t make it any more valid or worthwhile, and nobody owes your viewpoint any respect simply because it is yours.

You can be wrong or ignorant. It will happen. Reality does not care about your feelings. Education does not exist to persecute you. The misinformed are not an ethnic minority being oppressed. What’s that? Planned Parenthood is chopping up dead babies and selling them for phat cash? No, that’s not what actually happened. No, it’s not your opinion. You’re just wrong.