Archive | March, 2011

Links Links Links

25 Mar
  • Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is more than just a song: it symbolizes modern-day, internet-fueled fame, with it’s viral infatuation and anonymous hate.

To do anything in a public arena is to invite an insta-response that will echo just as loudly with harsh critics as with fans. It means having as many “dislikes” as “likes,” as many people making fun of you as embracing you and, when it comes to the Internet, as many scathing, borderline abusive comments as supportive ones (and often many more).

  • Email. What is good for? Absolutely nothing…if used incorrectly. But these tips will help you make the most out of a double-edged sword.
  • Who’s cool? People who work hard at it, but don’t ever sweat for it in public. Among them, these folks.
  • Older folk are staying in the workforce longer…some are even starting their 3rd or 4th business as retirees. Goes to show you that zest for life is a mental state unrelated to age.
  • A professional baseball seasons most definitely has two things: wealthy people and a lot of time to kill. A catcher has made a name for himself by eating anything (ANYTHING) for money. Begs the question: is he an entrepreneurial genius?

Motuzas declined to reveal his salary, but he said his various stunts have helped him pay down two mortgages and make healthy contributions to his two children’s college funds.



Regrets and the Power to Overcome

24 Mar

In a Well blog post on NYT, the issue of regret is brought up. A study asked people from various races, ages, and background what they regretted the most. Some findings were surprising (the no. 1 regret overall was a lost romantic opportunity), and some fit into traditional roles and expectations (the ratio for women regretting a lost love was greater than the ratio for men; men were more likely to have regrets revolving around careers and money than women).


What was most interesting to me, however, was how regret can be seen as a good emotion. Regretting something, researchers argue, helps you grow: you feel it, you drop it, you improve.


This reminded me of an article I read in The Atlantic last year, about a longitudinal study conducted by Harvard University. The study has chronicled the lives of many Harvard graduates since the 1940’s (one of them being President John F. Kennedy), and tried to find out what makes people happy. Every person in the study has been referred to by case number, to ensure anonymity, and has been checked up on a regular basis for decades. The study (and the article) is fascinating, so I recommend you make the time to read it.


One of the key takeways from the study is on how we cope, and what that means to our longterm well-being. Most of the people in this study are talented people (Harvard IS Harvard, after all), some of them could even be considered geniuses…but as the study shows, many of these fall short of exercising their full potential. The study also chronicles their lives during a time of duress. Affected by the setbacks, some become drunks, other drifters, and some even develop mental illnesses. Continue reading

To be kind and to be clever

23 Mar

One of my favorite graduation speeches was at Princeton’s ceremony last year, by Jeff Bezos, the man who gave us


He talked about how he was a curious and smart youth, one who made his cleverness be known quite often. But cleverness as a child, as cleverness as an adult, is never enough. The empathy and tact we use to coat our remarks are oftentimes more important than the actual message. The delivery oftentimes is more impactful than the content.


His commencement speech is here (video), and here (text). It’s a great speech on kindness, talent, and how we should make the two cooperate in our daily lives.


Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.This is a group with many gifts. I’m sure one of your gifts is the gift of a smart and capable brain. I’m confident that’s the case because admission is competitive and if there weren’t some signs that you’re clever, the dean of admission wouldn’t have let you in.


Your smarts will come in handy because you will travel in a land of marvels. We humans — plodding as we are — will astonish ourselves. We’ll invent ways to generate clean energy and a lot of it. Atom by atom, we’ll assemble tiny machines that will enter cell walls and make repairs. This month comes the extraordinary but also inevitable news that we’ve synthesized life. In the coming years, we’ll not only synthesize it, but we’ll engineer it to specifications. I believe you’ll even see us understand the human brain. Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Galileo, Newton — all the curious from the ages would have wanted to be alive most of all right now. As a civilization, we will have so many gifts, just as you as individuals have so many individual gifts as you sit before me.


How will you use these gifts? And will you take pride in your gifts or pride in your choices?



Teaching, Incentives, and Multiple Priorities

23 Mar

Education reform is very much a given by now, despite the union v. government standoffs and pushbacks. One of the most transformational elements of education reform is tying incentives and sanctions to a teacher’s performance, or merit pay. But how influential is pay and the heightened possibility of dismissal on a teacher’s work?


In this EdWeek blog post, Justin Baeder argues that despite the research, merit pay just wont work for the teaching profession. His reason is that teaching is too “complex.”


The problem, though, is that teaching is nothing like the task demanded of participants in Schmidt and DeShon’s study. Yes, educators have multiple competing priorities, but the key word is multiple—not just a few that can be easily juggled in order to ensure that all goals are met. Teaching is highly complex, far more so than the simple computerized scheduling task that was the basis for the study, and teachers are already motivated.


But is the discussion really about improving every professional aspect of a teacher by tying carrot/sticks to it, or about making teachers more accountable? As noted in the research, incentives and sanctions do help people try harder to achieve a goal or complete a task. This approach would be more focused on middle- and low-performing teachers, than already high-performing teachers who don’t need any sort of incentive.


Then there is the Dan Pink argument, that monetary incentives and sanctions only works for people in mechanical work. Any intellectual or creative work needs the big three: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.



Leadership and Architecture

23 Mar

A building like the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família influences the mood and character of the city it inhabits. Much like the Temple, a leader sets the mood and culture of an organization. The frenetic leaders breeds a darting team; the quiet and convincing leaders fosters a steady and confident group.


In a Harvard Business Review article, Luca Baiguini outlines some other leadership lessons to take away from architecture, namely the author of the Temple, Antoni Gaudi:


He focused on details and on the big picture. Gaudì dedicated himself, during the forty years he spent conceiving and constructing the Sagrada Família, both to crafting a larger vision (the atmosphere of the basilica, and the meaning to be conveyed by the elements in it) and, to an almost maniacal level, to its construction and the creation of iconographic details. We could say that he continuously switched his attention from the micro details to the macro vision.


Lessons from Japan

14 Mar

Every minute that passes by intensifies the dire circumstances engulfing Japan. The earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear reactors…it’s enough to make one wonder how much humanity can do to prevent havoc from erupting after a natural disaster.

This NYTimes article gives us some hope. It outlines the investments the Japanese government has made over the past decades to minimize the effect of an earthquake or tsunami.

The country that gave the world the word tsunami, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, built concrete seawalls in many communities, some as high as 40 feet, which amounted to its first line of defense against the water.

From enacting strict building codes, to building levees tall and strong enough to push back some (but unfortunately not all) of the Pacific tide, these measures will not get much coverage but deserve it. The government’s money was put to good use, and the insurance coverage it proffered its people is invaluable.

The next lesson that will come out of Japan is to assess how safe nuclear power truly is, and whether the American people are willing to eat the remote risk of eruption post-Sendai.

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