Sunny day will come

I chanced upon this brilliant letter penned by Stephen Fry to a fan named Crystal who wrote to him for help in a bout of depression and with no one else to turn to. It was kind of Stephen to have thought through it and replied, kindly and lovingly.

You might enjoy the letter as well as Stephen’s public reading of it in audio form nicely captured in this website stewarding all sorts of letters.

Making excuses for yourself

Barely 10 hours before we were slated to meet for a trek, they messaged, “Had a late night today and just got home so we’ll sleep in and skip the trek tomorrow”. We learnt from young to steer our lives using excuses in order to align it with our periodic whims and fancies, but also to ensure we stay on course in our long-term goals when we find ourselves inconsistent. So they are a double-edged sword depending on how you wield it.

Using excuses that comes out of trying to steer towards long-term goals such as having a policy of sleeping 7.5 hours each night, not signing petitions, eating low-carb, etc can be great. And at times, you might just need to give yourself some wriggle room from low-stake commitments.

But the kind of excuses you need to catch yourself on, is when you’re bailing yourself out of the future you were committing to create for yourself or others. Especially so out of whims and fancies. When you make excuses not to do the work, or to deplete the trust people have in you, or to belittle the cultivation of small positive habits.

Stressed? Just Smile!

What Stress?
What Stress?

I just finished The Economic Naturalist by Robert H Frank a couple of days back and one of the questions was why managers who believed in achieving improvements in performance of subordinates through threats and reprimand rather than praise and reward were more likely to be able to prove that they are right.

Professor Frank suggests that it was because the performance of people usually varies with time but stays the same on average without special effort to improve or skive. That means that when a person perform badly it could just be his particularly down period and after getting scolded from the manager his performance tend to return towards the mean and result in the improved performance the manager was hoping for. On the contrary, a person may perform exceptionally on an especially good day and get praised for his work only to have his performance return to its mean, which means poorer than before the manager’s rewards/praise. A manager who believes praise and reward yields better returns would thus have little means of proving he is right and so is unfairly proven wrong.

The truth seems more complex than just that. As this article from Harvard Business Review suggests, sensitivity to the anger or happiness of the manager or boss depends partly to the stress levels experienced. So from the perspective of the employer or manager, it is wise to inject more praise and rewards during high stress periods. Never mind the low stress periods when employers are slacking around.

Human behaviours and the motivations behind them are great subjects to study. This gives me the chance to introduce the publication, Psychology Today, which recently featured something really useful for people working in the business world (and perhaps even in academia). Confidence in yourself and your ideas really counts when it comes to presentations. So you will really have to work on yourself to get your ideas accepted. Check out the publication site for more of such tips to help discipline, aid and make sense of your mind.

New Mail

More Boxes!
More Boxes!

This week’s package of video, audio and reads is a little more on the lighter side, starting with a short 3-minute talk by Dr Laura Trice about asking for praise. After that you might like to listen to Dan Ariely‘s talk on our buggy moral code, a topic I’ve always been interested in.

In news, you might be encouraged to understand that Genius and talent is overrated and social forces can manipulate the motivations to create genius sheerly through encouragement as argued by Steven Levitt in SuperFreakonomics.

I’ll like to take the chance to introduce Knowledge@Wharton, which offers high quality content as well as podcast on economics and business issues of the day. You might like to listen about questions posed on Net Neutrality.

Once again, enjoy your weekends!