Be present in the moment. Practice acceptance, gratefulness and kindness.There you have it – the skin-and-bones formula for happiness – according to the philosophical deep thinkers and psychological experts who study such matters. Sounds so simple, yet is so elusive.
Happiness is so important to human beings that in 2011, the prime minister of Bhutan, a tiny kingdom in the Himalayas, proposed a global day of happiness to the United Nations. Since 2012, March 20 has been designated as World Happiness Day. According to the World Happiness Report for 2017, Norway is the world’s happiest country, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland. The United States ranked 14th with the UK 19th. Read the rest of this entry »
Think 24 hours isn’t enough time in your busy day? Try being a world leader. Yet even the most powerful people in the world sometimes need to relax and temporarily get away from it all. Reading is a source of pleasure for many of us – world leaders included – whether it be educational, inspirational or merely a fictional escape.
A week before he left office, Barack Obama explained to The New York Times the pivotal role that books played during his presidency and how they enabled him to “maintain my balance during the course of eight years,” “slow down and get perspective” and “get in somebody else’s shoes.”
Whether you’ve just graduated from school or you’ve had it up to here in your current position, looking for a job can test the limits of your patience. It can actually be downright discouraging. Your well-written, error-free cover letters rarely solicit a response. On those rare occasions when you’re granted an interview, you show up on time wearing nice, conservative clothing and generally make a strong impression. The interview goes well and you’re certain you’ll hear from the company.
Days go by … and nothing. Self-doubt starts to creep in. Maybe you’re not as qualified as you think.
In fact, you may very well be an ideal candidate, but computer programs designed to evaluate information gleaned from job applications, personality tests and social media unceremoniously reject you. A growing number of organizations are depending on algorithms to help shape their hiring practices, yet some observers believe it’s a mistake to rely so heavily on technology.
Who doesn’t identify with the following scenario? A restaurant hostess escorts several young adults to a table. Literally seconds after being seated, they whip out their smartphones like Ninja warriors with throwing stars. Uh-oh, must be urgent. My goodness, someone else wants to be your Facebook friend! Wow, Beyonce’s new hairdo is blowing up Twitter! Holy cow, the Yahoo account you just checked three minutes ago has two more emails!
Those of you fretting over the future consequences of artificial intelligence may want to note the unsettling robotic behavior of present day flesh-and-blood human beings. If you’re not scared, you ought to be.
Prof. Sherry Turkle, director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is clearly alarmed by technology’s effect on people. Her video talk, Humans First – Technology Second, offers a pessimistic assessment of the current state of interpersonal relationships.
“Technology makes us forget what we know about life,” says Turkle, whose research revealed that the majority of people prefer texting to talking – even though they acknowledge that it damages the interaction.
When he was charting his career course, it’s unlikely that Mike Rowe thought about collecting owl vomit, making charcoal or turning the bones of dead cattle into useful products.
Rowe probably didn’t envision himself developing a passion for the Dirty Jobs TV show that enjoyed a seven-year run on the Discovery Channel. Life can be funny that way. Doors open unexpectedly and you walk on through. Or maybe you’re among the fortunate ones in a profession you’ve dreamed of since childhood.
In his 2016 video talk, Don’t Follow Your Passion, Rowe warns against the dangers of pursuing unrealistic goals and ignoring the practical demands of life. Wishes and desires, he explains, often are not aligned with talents and capabilities.
“Just because you’re passionate at something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it,” Rowe says.
He’s an economics instructor at the renowned Cambridge University. He’s served as a consultant to the World Bank and other prestigious financial institutions. He’s a fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington and the author of several popular books.
If Ha-Joon Chang came across as a snooty intellectual you probably wouldn’t be shocked, though that would go against everything he believes. The South Korean argues that economics is not just for those with lofty IQ’s and fancy degrees; it’s accessible to everyone – which may explain why Chang’s 2016 video presentation, Economics is for Everyone, is one of the most popular video talks in getAbstract’s library.
Economics has always been an intimidating subject, Chang says, mainly because we defer to “experts” who complicate matters with thorny mathematical formulas and esoteric jargon and principles. Marxist, Keynesian, GDP, regressive tax, supply side, variable cost, etc., etc. Yuck. No wonder we can’t be bothered.
“Economics has been uniquely successful in making the general public reluctant to engage with its territory,” Chang wrote in his well-received 2014 book, Economics: The User’s Guide.
Chang’s point is that average people know plenty about economics. They’re in the trenches every day, working hard to support a family and hopefully move up the ladder. You’re entitled – strongly encouraged, even – to have an opinion about economics. You don’t need a master’s in political science to express your views on Obamacare or be a psychologist to weigh in on gay marriage, right?
Unlike physics or chemistry, with their immutable laws and theories, economics is a fluid, inexact science subject to society’s evolution and peoples’ behaviors. Neoclassical economics, for instance, the most popular of the nine major schools of economics, posits that people tolerate work to afford pleasure. But as we’ve seen in the age of high-octane consumption, making more money does not ensure happiness. Often it’s quite the opposite.
“Any subject studying human beings, including economics, has to be humble about its predictive power,” says Chang.
Economic insight, Chang explains, requires being receptive to contrary viewpoints instead of stubbornly clinging to a single philosophy. Every school of thought has its valid points and flaws. If you are just able to grasp the basics – don’t worry about the fancy terms – then economics will not seem so daunting.
Take it from an expert.
Before he became one of America’s most powerful and wealthiest businessmen and before he launched his presidential campaign in 1994, Ross Perot was arguably the greatest salesman in IBM’s history. He was so good, in fact, that one year he achieved his annual sales goals in January!
It’s reasonable to assume that Perot, even in his worst year, never experienced the anxiety of many B2B salespeople leading up to the holiday season. Q4, the fourth quarter, represents the home stretch for those striving to meet their yearly quotas. It’s a challenging time because buyers are often distracted, begin to take time off and may have exhausted their budgets.
Some salespeople offer large and intricate solutions that require months for a customer to finalize an agreement. In those cases, it’s best to focus on next year; you simply don’t have enough time to close. But it’s possible to reel in less complicated deals if your strategy is sound and you’re determined not to let the fish wriggle off the hook.
Time management is arguably the only topic on which you can get a consensus. Whether you’re a CEO, nurse, architect or studio musician, everyone agrees that it’s critical to use your time wisely. “I really enjoy racing to appointments, blowing deadlines, working overtime and missing meals and sleep,” is not something you hear in the break room.
Considering that 24 hours is our maximum daily allotment, time is a precious commodity. Once gone, it can never be recaptured. Some people seem to have the gift of organization while others are tossed about in a perpetual vortex of disorder. How compelling is our pursuit of effective time management? Well, getAbstract’s most downloaded book summary is Kevin Kruse’s 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. The author interviewed billionaires, Olympians, scholastic achievers and entrepreneurs in an effort to identify common traits that enable them to be high fliers.
Regardless of how frightening or exhilarating the prospect, there’s no avoiding artificial intelligence. As we indicated in our last blog, AI marches inexorably forward, transforming our reality and challenging our imagination. Pandora’s technological box has been flung wide open and the possibilities appear mind-boggling.
AI developments often come in surprise packages. For instance, you might think Facebook is just an innocuous way of disseminating information and socializing with family and friends. In reality, Facebook is a technological juggernaut with vast financial resources that’s on a mission to overtake Google, Apple and Microsoft and emerge as the force in artificial intelligence. Though Facebook is a relative newcomer to the AI field compared with the Big Three, the company has identified its objectives and how to achieve them.
Some 40 years ago, a long-running series of iconic TV commercials featured the E.F. Hutton investment firm. Typically in a crowded setting like a party or on an airplane, someone would mention that his broker was E.F. Hutton. Suddenly there was dead silence; no one moved a muscle. “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” the announcer intoned.
When it comes to computer science, we tend to pay particularly close attention to those we regard as experts and visionaries in the field. So it’s significant that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates would endorse a couple of books that address the most fascinating and controversial topic of our time – artificial intelligence.
We’ve all had conversations with individuals who weren’t really “there.” You know the type; they appear to be paying attention but their eyes are darting all over the place. Or how about the people who in mid-conversation feel their cellphones vibrating and whip them out of their holsters – sorry, pockets — like gunslingers at high noon? Heaven forbid they should miss a Facebook notification.
Hundreds of computer apps. Countless TV channels. Twenty-four-hour programming. Twitter. Blogs. YouTube. Instagram. No wonder many of us have the attention span of a flea. OK, we’re exaggerating. Would you believe a goldfish? According to author Phil Simon in Message Not Received, a goldfish’s average attention span was nine seconds in 2013; the average American’s was eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000!
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by technology. Innovation occurs so rapidly that you sometimes wonder whether machines – not people – are best suited to adapt. But there’s hope for us humans if we play to our strengths – intellect, empathy, enthusiasm, intuition, tolerance, and on.
That’s one of the unifying themes among the five English finalists for the 16th getAbstract International Book Award. Two nominated titles from the English and German language categories will receive the award in an official ceremony on October 19 at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
When the getAbstract International Book Award launched in 2001, it was the first international prize of its kind to honor outstanding works in the field of business literature. This year, getAbstract assessed more than 10,000 English and German business books in the fields of leadership and management, strategy, sales and marketing, human resources, economics and politics, finance, and career development.
The five English nominees:
Humans Are Underrated, Geoff Colvin, Portfolio, PRH/Nicholas Brealey Publishing
Yes, computers already have taken over many job duties. And it’s impossible to halt the evolution of technology. Yet our ability to interact and relate is what separates us from machines. Colvin believes that human beings will never become obsolete as long as we practice empathy and mutual understanding.
Invisible Influence, Jonah Berger, Simon & Schuster
Though the American culture, in particular, values uniqueness, we are still products of social conditioning. It’s unavoidable – other people influence our choices, behaviors, likes and dislikes. Berger suggests that while we strive for individuality, we also unconsciously seek acceptance.
Simple Sabotage, Robert M. Galford, Bob Frisch, Cary Greene, HarperOne/HarperCollins Publishers
Even employees with noble intentions can create chaos in the workplace. In referencing a 1944 U.S. intelligence service field manual, the authors demonstrate how to disrupt an organization from within. Simple things like excessive e-mailing and long presentations can create confusion and hinder productivity.
Splinternet, Scott Malcomson, OR Books
Many people believe the atomic bomb was the seminal innovation of World War II. In fact, it was the computer. Malcomson explains how the U.S. military industrial complex actually spawned the Internet and also how the roots of venture capitalism can be traced to WWII.
Vaporized, Robert Tercek, Life Tree Media
Amazon has no stores and Uber has no cars, but they dominate their markets. Any company has the potential to go digital in the age of “vaporization.” Tercek believes that understanding this technological phenomenon can help businesspeople make the transition and remain relevant.
You can’t tuck them into your wallet or pocketbook. You can’t use them in a parking meter or to pay your bar tab. Casinos won’t exchange them for chips. You can’t even hold them in your hand, yet people invest in them and their value is increasing.
Welcome to the fascinating and often shadowy world of bitcoin – a completely electronic currency that isn’t backed by anything physical, like gold. Though you may have heard of bitcoin, the concept is tricky to grasp, especially for those of us who find it challenging to replace the AA batteries in our TV remotes. Even technologically savvy individuals could find terminology such as “public and private key cryptography, blockchains and mining pools” a tad unsettling.
It’s always fascinating to see what summaries getAbstract subscribers find most interesting. In examining the list of the top 10 downloads for the first half of 2016, it’s clear that our readers are focused on self-improvement and increasing workplace efficiency, both individually and collectively.
Considering that a large part of the week is spent in the office, it’s not surprising that we want that experience to be enjoyable, fulfilling and promising. You’re sure to find inspiration in these fine reads.
Let’s be frank – we go on the Internet at work for a thousand different reasons: checking e-mail, watching YouTube videos, shopping on-line, following your favorite team, the list goes on and on. Companies understand that it’s nearly impossible to enforce policies that prohibit personal computer use during business hours. It’s just a fact of life.
Mobile devices merely compound the electronic chatter …Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. The lure is so compelling that otherwise intelligent individuals actually take their eyes off the road to text – even while traveling at high speeds. Hey, smartphones can’t cure stupidity.
Apparently, we have now crossed over into a relatively new dimension — “augmented reality” – thanks to the Pokémon Go phenomenon. In less than a month, Niantic’s Pokémon Go has eclipsed Candy Crush Saga as the most popular mobile game in US history with roughly 21 million daily users. Don’t be shocked if someone zig-zags past your cubicle in hot pursuit of Dratini or Snorlax. At this rate, Pokémon Go may soon join tobacco on your company’s short list of banned indoor activities.