Jaron Lanier's latest book, Who Owns the Future?, begins by noting an instructive coincidence: the bankruptcy of the photography giant Kodak occurred within months of Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition of the photo-sharing site Instagram. This would be just one example of the destructive dynamism of American capitalism, a process through which old companies are overtaken by new technology and new firms more in tune with the needs of customers -- and that perhaps benefits us all.
We often use money as a way to force ourselves to commit. This is evident in many areas: monthly gym membership fees vs. home exercise equipment or routines; free online college courses (The Truth About MOOCs: Only 10% Of Students Actually Finish Them) vs. paying for a college course; buying a book (we really want to read it) vs. checking it out from the library (maybe I’ll get around to reading it).
Is is that we are bored (The dirty little secret of online learning: Students are bored and dropping out) or is it that people have a hard time committing without putting their money where they want their time to go?
The basic concept behind these examples is loss aversion.People hate to lose what they have or lose money they’ve invested, whether in the stock market or in a gym membership.
Think about the sales of so many apps. What is the benefit to the user to pay for an app as opposed to using it for free? I think many times we buy an app only after we justify to ourselves that we will actually use it. The small amount of money involved-say $1 to $5-can also be enough to help us keep that commitment, at least initially. Once we feel like we “got our money’s worth”, the chances of dropping the commitment increase.
Think about many purchases you make and how they reflect your commitment.
You buy a new pair of running shoes because you want to strengthen your commitment to start or get back into your training routine
You buy a gardening book because you really want to start that backyard garden.
You purchase a magazine subscription because you really want to keep up on your topic of choice (ex. photography, economics).
You buy a set of 10 yoga lessons to make sure you show up every week.
For many of these ideas there are free or less costly options available. You may really need a good pair of running shoes to protect your feet, but why not check the gardening book out from the library? Or why not read all the articles on your topic of interest that are available for free on the internet? Why not buy that yoga DVD that costs a tenth of the cost of lessons?
I’m not saying one alternative is better than another. Spending money on the rights things is a great investment. It does help us commit and reach our goals. I’m saying that understanding why and how our purchases affect our commitment allows us to make better commitments and spend our money more wisely.
We may also benefit by recognizing that a monetary commitment can lull us into a sense of progression. We think we made progress on a goal because we put up money. But buying running shoes is different that actually running three times a week. Buying a set of yoga classes is different than showing up every week even when things get busy.
It is better to think through all of the things involved in keeping some commitment you want to make. Besides the money involved, do you really have the time? If you don’t have or won’t make the time, that monetary investment probably isn’t worth it. Money cannot substitute for time, although I think at times we would like it to. It is often easier to put up the money than to put up the time.
My suggestion: carve out and commit to the time investment. Then, evaluate and utilize the monetary investment to best reinforce your time commitment.
It can pay (pun intended) to figure out ways to best use our money as commitment strategy.
Tell us in the comments what ways you use money to make commitments stick.
Note: There are other clever examples of using this concept to make commitments stick.
You = the anti-exclusive plea. People are/will be sick of general appeals. They want to be part of an exclusive group. Think Apple, BMW, Whole Foods. Saying “you” doesn’t narrow your audience. Instead, you narrow your audience by specifying who should be interested. Imagine a wedding party where “You” was supposed to sit in every spot. No one would know where to sit.
Instead, tell your potential audience exactly what makes you different. If you’re brave, mention the things you think some people might not like but others will love.
Don’t ask your customers what they want. They won’t tell you truthfully anyway. Use big data, small data, or your eyes and ears instead. Use them morally and ethically.
Don’t say, “I want to provide you value.” Value should be given and those that want what you offer will thank you for it.
You is unfocused and the next cult will be one of Focus and Exclusivity.
Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive
Fascinating collection of studies on influence. The book gives very practical examples that challenge you to translate these methods into your daily interactions. There are quite a few reminders throughout the book letting the reader know that, of course, these tools should be used for good. I’ve already implemented a few of the ideas in my life. This is the kind of book I would like to read through again to remind myself of the nuggets of wisdom.
Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet
One of my least favorite books I’ve read in awhile. All of these money-saving books promise new ideas, but for the most part they each rehash what has already been said. This book does have a nice layout where it highlights the shift you can make.
Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma
Loved this book! I’ve analyzed people for a long time, but this book provides many insights I had not completely thought through. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to be more self-aware and more aware of what others may show through their body language.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
I read a few reviews on Amazon of people who hated this book. I can see their point. The authors suggest a path of libertarian paternalism and acknowledge that both of these words can have negative connotations, let alone what putting them together might suggest. At the same, they make a good point to acknowledge people will hold influence over others, whether we like it or not. Thaler and Sunstein use the phrase “choice architect” to describe how they view this responsibility. A choice architect can choose to ignore the influence he or she wields, or she or he can use that influence to make people’s lives better.
Throughout the book, the authors balance their suggestion of libertarian paternalism by trying to find the leverage point that has the least restriction on people’s freedom. I think they’ve worked out a good philosophical system in this book.
Organize your Mind Organize your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time
Very interesting set of methods to get a hold of your life. Some ideas are ones I’ve read in many other places, but they do present their system in a very practical way. One take away that I’ve used for many years is to have a “landing pad” for various items in your life. Put your keys/wallet/glasses in the same spot every time, and have a special holder/cup/drawer for those things, and you will be less likely to lose said items. Routines, rituals, hard reminders; these can all play a key role in organizing your life.
Similar to David Allen’s “mind like water”, by organizing the small things, you allow yourself room to focus on the bigger and more important areas of your life. Making time, space, and energy for these more important challenges may bring you more happiness and success.
How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
I’m currently reading this book. I found out just recently the book was pulled from shelves. He lifted quotes from others’ work, among other unethical practices. As far as I could tell, these shady techniques do not discredit the science or ideas in the book. I’m liking this so far. It is very similar to Nudge, and Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Francis for Men: “Otherwise, We Need Weapons” by Markus Hofer
This is the book I chose to read at night before bed. It is a mix of a simple biography of St. Francis, but mixed with a historical fiction counter-balance. Each chapter shares a portion of Francis’ life and follows with the author taking on the first-person voice of Francis as if he were speaking to us today.
As the title suggests, this book is written as a reflection guide for men. The first portion of the book dwells on the relationship Francis had with his father and how it broke down when he began to radically transform his life.
The rest of the book takes us through the struggles Francis repeatedly encountered in living out the calling he had heard directly from God. Hofer insists that Francis was a man who lead through passion, love, and a dwelling on beauty. He was not an administrator and struggled with that tension throughout his life.
The description of how Francis tried to codify his vision is fascinating. It suggests that you cannot really write passion and fervor into law, which is really the point Francis was trying to make in relying heavily on scripture and story as opposed to rule-making.
Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins
My initial impression was not that great. I had a hard time getting over the fact that the author labeled himself as a good writer but constantly used sentence fragments throughout the book. I guess that writing style is more acceptable now as way to try and be impactful. It just bothers me.
The premise is that there are points in our life where we are “wrecked”. I would describe it as an experience that forces us to recognize the injustice in the world. Goins works in the mission-trip world and so draws heavily from those types of experiences.
In the end, I was glad I made it to the end of the book. Goins make some great points about the importance of commitment on our path to maturity. He also makes interesting points about the benefit of listening to and working for an authority figure/boss.
I didn’t realize this going in, but the book is really for college students and recent college grads through late twenty-somethings. It heavily processes what it means to grow up, with a chapter even titled, “Get a Job”. But if you are in this position and have a passion for social justice, it is well worth the read.
It often brings us comfort. We think that knowing gives us power, control, even wisdom.
But knowing is a false state of mind because what we know pales in comparison to what we don’t know.
What we don’t know is what makes life interesting. What we don’t know, especially about others, is what necessitates empathy.
The opinions we form based on what we know should forever change based on what we find out we didn’t know.
This is why we often think of God as infinite wisdom, this ability to know everything.
And yet we act as God, thinking that our limited knowledge gives us space to create absolutes.
Instead, we should live open, open to the unknown, open to the expansion of our knowledge.
This openness gives rise to wisdom. Not a wisdom of knowing everything, but a wisdom found in being open to living.
Leadership is often made synonymous with vision creation. Strong leaders are assumed to have a strong vision. But I don’t think that is quite right. Leaders may have strong boundaries on their vision, but that doesn’t mean they hold every detail in focus. Instead, strong leaders know they must trust the people carrying out the vision. They must trust these people because only through them is every detail attended to.
Leaders should focus on making the best decisions on questions within the scope of the vision they have broadly defined. This is an essential task of leadership: to determine what questions are within the realm of the vision. This doesn’t mean that leaders will answer every question. No, instead, they will rely on others with more knowledge of the details to make decisions.
How Many Decisions Do We Make Each Day?
How many decisions does a person make in each day? We make at least 200 food decisions alone every day, on top of the thousands of other decisions. These daily decisions create the story of our life, whether we realize it or not.
So what about organizations? How many decisions does an organization make each day? If we assume 1,000 decisions per person per day and assume that maybe 1/3 of those decisions are work related (probably more), then we could take the number of employees times 333. For an organization of 100 people that would be over 33,000 decisions each day! No leader could handle making that many decisions. It is obviously not realistic, desired, nor would it be productive.
Employees make thousands of decisions each day without the oversight of a leader. So how does vision creation work in this context?
Vision Creation Theory Diagram
This simple illustration gives an idea of how visions are created through leadership and the decision making processes.
Though obviously more complex, decisions are broken into small and large decisions. Small decisions happen all the time and may or may not help better define the vision. Choosing which color pen to use will not affect the vision.
On the other hand, there are many other daily decisions that will affect the vision. Employees will handle many of these questions themselves. But there will be decisions that need more thought and this is where leaders often step in.
Six Key Roles of a Leader in the Vision Creation Process
Here are the roles of the leader in this model of vision creation. Leaders:
- Help create and refine the vision.
- Keep the scope of the vision in balance.
- Determine whether or not a decision is within the scope of the vision.
- Make decisions or give space to make decisions on important questions that the define the vision and scope of the vision.
- Listen - this topic is so important it warrants its own bullet points.
- Leaders listen to bring pieces of the vision into focus. Leaders also listen to help individuals place their contributions into the broader context of the vision.
- Leaders listen to better understand why the vision and pieces of the vision matter to people.
- Leaders listen to let other know that their participation and work within the vision matters.
- Delegate decisions to others so that the vision creation process is participatory and so that they can focus on only the most important decisions defining the vision.
None of this is to say that decisions that aren’t made by leaders are not important. Instead, I am suggesting that a leader’s most important work revolves around the constant vision creation process and the decision-making process used to get there.
What decisions have you made today? What visions are you creating?
Why do people fight over the truth of religious stories? Religious stories, by their very nature, are wisdom stories. They represent more than a mere representation of the facts. They try to teach us how to live. They are not designed to be a factual account of history.
Last night I saw the “Life of Pi”. I had not read the book (yet). The twist of stories so strongly made this point; that we “believe” certain stories when they fit our view of how we should live. We believe certain stories when they challenge us in just the right way.
If the story we hear is too far outside our current belief system, we may reject it. If the timing in our life is not quite right, we may reject the story. If the characters in the story don’t sit well with us, we may reject the story.
In fact, we may reject a story because the other people who “believe” the story are too different than us. This particular bias is especially scary to me. Our chances of being open to the wisdom in the story may be limited not by the story itself, but by our own fear of others.
The lesson for me is that I should reflect even more thoroughly on wisdom stories that seem too challenging. I suspect that the chance of a challenging story pointing me toward my own biases is even better. The chance seems even greater that a challenging wisdom story will help me lead a more open and good life.
Instead of shutting down and closing off when a story challenges me, I would do well to pay attention, reflect on my own reaction, and grow from the experience.
- Live in the now – be present.
- Be future oriented. Set goals. Set a clear vision for the future.
The reality is that we need to have both frames of mind at different points in our daily lives.
It is good to enjoy the moment. It is good to take a walk and breathe. It is good to exercise and enjoy physical pleasures. We need these things as much as we need to eat.
But we also need to step back and self-reflect. Self-reflection allows us to grow. Self-reflection allows us to consider how we acted in the moment and learn from it. It is in these moments of reflection that we gain insight into the future we want to create.
We should not pursue a steady state mind. It is an unrealistic goal. We will experience happiness and sadness both in the now and and when we reflect on the past and future. We should enjoy these cycles of experience and reflection.
The beauty of life is that living in the now and planning for the future compliment each other. It is often good planning and future-thinking that allow us to enjoy moments in the present. And it is often in the present moment that we experiences flashes of insight that will allow us to have a better future.
So, today, take time to be present to the moment at hand. And take time today to self-reflect and prepare for a better future.