Friday, August 15, 2014

Je Responderay: Ways of Doing

Highlights of what I've been reading, with a focus on articles that advocate some form of change in process.

Why You Hate Work:
In sum:
"Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work."
In more detail:
"Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.
Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.
Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.
Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work."

Notes to leader: invest in your employees.

How we end up marrying the wrong people: this is useful for other relationships also. To avoid this kind of mistake: be aware of your own and others' idiosyncrasies, go for happiness and not just contentment or to settle, temper your emotions with reason and information, plan long-term and in changing circumstances, accept transience of joy

Build Small Skills in the Right Order: cause success spirals in which you get the benefits of instant gratification but also know that your efforts are building toward something larger; start small and move incrementally

How to Learn About Everything: learn immersively and don't panic if you don't understand what's going on
"Studying to learn about everything
To intellectually ambitious students I recommend investing a lot of time in a mode of study that may feel wrong. An implicit lesson of classroom education is that successful study leads to good test scores, but this pattern of study is radically different. It cultivates understanding of a kind that won’t help pass tests — the classroom kind, that is.
  • Read and skim journals and textbooks that (at the moment) you only half understand. Include Science and Nature.
  • Don’t halt, dig a hole, and study a particular subject as if you had to pass a test on it.
  • Don’t avoid a subject because it seems beyond you — instead, read other half-understandable journals and textbooks to absorb more vocabulary, perspective, and context, then circle back.
  • Notice that concepts make more sense when you revisit a topic.
  • Notice which topics link in all directions, and provide keys to many others. Consider taking a class.
  • Continue until almost everything you encounter in Science and Nature makes sense as a contribution to a field you know something about."

Your high IQ will kill your startup: if you're smart then you can coast through the first part of life, but this will hurt you later if you don't develop other important skills such as hard work, resilience, persistence.

"Being intelligent is like having a knife. If you train every day in using the knife, you will be invincible. If you think that just having a knife will make you win any battle you fight, then you will fail. This believe in your own inherent ability is what will kill your startup. Success comes from the work and ability you put in becoming better than the others, and not from some brilliance you feel you may have within you.
So don’t believe that the brilliance of your idea is what will make you successful. What will make you successful is when you are out there every day, doing something new, challenging yourself, trying new methods, studying new ways, having a lot of small failures, then getting better every day."

I think that this phenomenon might be behind the cult of failure that seems to permeate startup circles (at least from what I've seen from the outside). For people who have always had it easy, failure is a net good, because it teaches you your weak spots. Failure is not intrinsically desirable, but its effects of forcing you to do better and think different are important enough that they make the whole ordeal of failure desirable.

This is why I believe I am 100% justified in telling myself that I need to be prepared to be below average for the next four years. I graduated high school successfully--valedictorian, National Merit finalist, etc. But my challenges thus far have not been that hard, and I'm going to school next year with people who make me look stupid. But that's okay because I can prepare myself for the psychological shock (thus taking away some of the cognitive dissonance) and I can work hard.

When you're maximized in one area you tend not to optimize. Be aware of your weaknesses, but also beware your strengths.

The Power of Lonely: choosing to spend time alone is beneficial because when you're alone, you think more independently and creatively. Alone is freeing. As one of my favorite songs says, alone != lonely. Other people can be distractions, taking up valuable mental space, even imposing their own viewpoints on your mind. Resist. Be alone.

Shift...Click…: a simple mental mechanism:
"I don't know if this would work if you have must-do's that aren't done. Maybe not. But if you got the core baseline performance you need, and you're just in silly-maximizer mode and making yourself miserable while getting nothing done, give it a whirl:
'I'm kind of grinding along. I'm not going to run down any production for the rest of the day. I'm going to enjoy myself, pressure off, kill it tomorrow.'"

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