Hey, hey, hey, what about the AFTER-life? No, not the afterlife and reincarnation. But the AFTER-life…. the little self-talk you have and I have, saying things like,

  • “Well, if I have a great house, I’ll be happy.”
  • “Once I lose 12 or 20 or 50 pounds, I’ll be happy.”
  • “After I finish my dissertation, I’ll be happy.”

The “after-this” and “after-that” life.

There are CERTAINLY times in your life when it’s effective to focus on your goal, and to say, “I am not going to dilly-dally on this yellow brick road. I am full-steam focused ahead, and I’ll be pushing on this project until I complete it.” Yes, yes, and yes! I am all for focus and self-regulation.

At the same time, what are you doing in the now-life to make yourself happy?

You will always have goals, you will always have deadlines, and you will always have emergencies. What are you doing to enjoy life in the midst of all this? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said on a panel at the Gallup positive psychology conference in Fall, 2005 that if he could ask every person on the earth one question, the question that he would ask is, “To what extent are you fully alive?”

What am I talking about? No, not pretty words and affirmations. I am talking about enjoying the now, noticing the now. More than anything, I am talking about you getting your personal enjoyment from the now!

  • EXAMPLE: How exciting is brushing your teeth? However, Dr. Kathleen Hall of the Stress Institute says that you can make it alive and exciting by thinking about your great smile and how much good chewing your mouth has done for you all your life. This particular detail may not work for you, but what ideas like this do work for you to make a tedious, regular task feel good, feel healthy, or feel alive in some way?
  • COUNTER-EXAMPLE: Like Seth Godin writes here, many of us would have walked by a world-class violinist if we heard him on our daily morning commute. And that’s what may make us sad about the Washington Post article, he writes: that we would probably not have noticed him either.

The main thing that I can tell you about enjoying the “now” (even in the midst of deadlines towards the “after”) is that Barbara Fredrickson’s research all points to the fact that when you are in an emotionally open state, you are both more creative and productive (broaden) and you have more reserves to deal with anything that the world throws upon you (build).

Welcome to Friday questions. Today’s question is:
What are you doing in the NOW-life to make yourself happy?

Your Material, Emotional Brain

In an article on Brand-bonding driving desire, author Jean Brandolini Lamb writes (bold added):

Recently I heard Don Diforio, senior vice president of research for the Advertising Research Foundation, speak at Columbia University about the new neuropsychology theories that are replacing the old consumer behavior beliefs. No longer is it believed that consumers think, feel, do, or follow AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) buying patterns. Rather, according to those who look inside the brain to study the connection between physiology and psychological responses, we are all driven first by emotion. This emotional connection leads to brand desire, which ultimately leads to demand. Granted, convenience factors and rational concerns play a part in the decision-making process, but it is a feeling that acts as the initial spark of interest. Given the masses of information that we keep in our brains, we all still act based on primitive, emotional instincts. It seems we’re just cavemen with cars after all.

This is what I believe about Intuition too: there is some emotional trigger that drives the moment of “aha.”

Happiness is Hard Work

In The Science of Lasting Happiness, author Marina Krakovsky describes mainly Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research on happiness to conclude that happiness takes some significant work! This is a worthwhile article, and I highly recommend you see it. It also describes the research of Lyubomirksy, Sheldon, and Schkade on where happiness comes from. Their results: 50% is genetically determined, 10% is caused by the environment, and 40% is about how happy you make your mind up to be, i.e. the specific techniques you use to conjure your happiness.

Especially interesting in this article, and non-expected, is a technique that Lyubomirsky studied: writing down your blessings. It turned out that every night is not the optimal timing for happiness – weekly is the optimal timing. And it turned out that variety in using your techniques is highly important!

Here’s a post by Angela Booth on FAST WRITING (via Anne). Angela recommends creating a checklist for yourself, a process. She suggests a process in which she brainstorms, writes an outline, gets data, writes more of a draft. A key component of her list that I want to point out is “leave it for a day or longer.” Then she returns and completes other editing. Using her system, you would probably re-read the intro paragraph, say oh, five-twenty times. That would mean that you’d have five-twenty opportunities to rewrite something! Maybe writing faster is not about speed, but about easy editing. Like putting on layers of clothing before going outside in the winter, maybe writing faster is about putting on layers of betterment to your writing. And the more layers, the more opportunity to improve.

Here’s a post by Idea Matt on FAST READING (these specific ideas are from Jason Womack). Jason says “he reads a book four times:

  1. Table of contents, glossary, index.
  2. Anything in bold, titles, and subtitles.
  3. First line of every paragraph.
  4. Entire book

Here’s the twist: Steps 1-3 should only take about 10 minutes.”

Ok, see the similarity to the faster writing? You may be starting to suspect that the above two tips are not only about faster writing and reading, but also about more thorough writing and reading. Why are the above two methods more thorough? Because you review the material again, and again, and again. In the outline, in the TOC, in re-reading the same sections when you edit.

So…. there’s a fun little conclusion we can make from the above two faster tips.

You know more when you review material fairly frequently. Here’s an example: I put together a workshop on “Why Optimism Is Good for your Health” last week. I put the workshop together in a week and presented it. Then I think back to it today to review it in my head in preparation for giving the workshop again to a new audience, and – guess what?! – it’s a little hazy. Not a lot hazy. I could probably recreate the slides without looking at them again, but a bit hazy – it would take me time. Why is this? Because I did my presentation writing and rewriting and creating all in one fell swoop. I didn’t really break it up into segments or smaller chunks. I didn’t do the “let it sit for a day or two.”

Here’s a question for you:

If you have a choice of repeating something MORE OFTEN or FOR A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME, which do you think will help you know the information better?

Bing bing bing! You got it. MORE OFTEN. You can see what I wrote here about the immense, powerful benefits of daily action. Remember, musicians often recommend that you practice in two sessions of 15 minutes rather than in one of 30 minutes.

Do whatever is important to you – do that repeatedly, regularly – do it so it’s second nature. :) ENJOY!

Hi, welcome to Question Friday. I get this question sometimes so I thought I would put it to you. Whether in working with a person who doesn’t “get” what value you’ve added, or whether passing off something you own to another person to hold on to, or whether you share an idea that you believe is just about sacred and you get it stamped out… What do you do when something you are very much attached to is treated without respect? Please add your suggestions in the comments.

Q: What do you do when someone doesn’t respect what’s yours?

More detail: What do you do when you think something has a lot of value, a lot of potential, but then someone else doesn’t treat it that way? What do you do when you pass a project on, and it is not treated well by the new owner? And what do you do if it makes you sad to have been part of the project before? What do you do when you’ve worked really hard on something, and your effort is absolutely unrewarded?

I was in NY today and went to a Google speaker series talk by Luiz Barroso, Google Distinguished Engineer. The talk was “Watts, Faults, and Other Fascinating Dirty Words Computer Architects Can No Longer Afford to Ignore”.

The best part of the talk was that Luiz did what the Heath brothers so recommend in Made-to-Stick: he told a story. He told a story about the little guy overcoming the big guy. He told us at the beginning that this would be just like David and Goliath, like Seabiscuit. :) So who are these little guys who came over and said,

“Hey! Hey! Look at us! We’re important. Not only for computer design, but because we hear that these days you’re concerned about cost and reliability!!!! Look! Look! Look at us!!”

Two Little Guys The two little guys are the two newer research areas in computer design, and the two that are leaving the picture are two that were popular in the 90’s. In short, out with the MHz race (the race for more transistors) and out with the DSM race (the race for improved shared-memory machines). In with Mr. WATTS and Mr. FAULTS.

Meet Watts and Faults

Luiz gave us the big picture first, and showed how computers are becoming significantly energy-inefficient. Specifically, he said, suppose that you’re getting a server and the cost to power the computer over its life are much higher than the cost of the server hardware itself. Isn’t that a little strange? Shouldn’t you be a little worried? (Luiz mentioned that in an unlibertarian move the U.S. government is starting to be worried for you! On Dec 20, 2006, there was an act – in Congress or the House? who knows? – to research energy inefficiency in servers!!! Hallo! Since when is that the government’s business?)

Watts In any case, suppose actually YOU are worried instead of big brother being worried for you. If you’re worried about energy inefficiency, you should know a couple of things that may make you even more worried! A computer not processing any information uses HALF the power that it uses at full capacity. Luiz Barroso suggested that a good problem to resolve may be how to get a server to use less energy when it’s idling. This is the WATTS problem. A computer goes from 80W to 160W when going from idling to full capacity. On the other hand, a person goes from about 60W of energy at regular idling not doing anything and to about 1200W if that person is a serious athlete. Luiz says, “We are the energy equivalent of a three-year-old-PC… or of a light bulb.” There’s a lot more variability in energy burned. Can we get computers to do the same? Can we get computers to use 1/10 of the energy at idling compared to that at full jolt?

Disk Drives And then come in FAULTS. Luiz described the big, big problems if hard drives just fail out on you. So Google has a lot of monitoring now of the System Health infrastructure. But even though “system health” for, say, all the hard drives and all the servers is being measured, is it possible to predict which disk drive may fail? Luiz and two colleagues researched this and presented the results as two papers in 2007.

Their conclusion? Faults are not individually predictable – not predictable well for individual disk drives. But faults are somewhat predictable for a population of disk drives because as the number of machines increases, it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll all fail at the same time. And – interestingly – temperature doesn’t much have to do with failure of the drives… the assumption had always been that the cooler the temperature, the better – well, that’s not necessarily so important find Luiz and his colleagues.

So, in summary, WATTS are useful to think about because you can significantly decrease the costs of your company if you can decrease how much energy you use, and FAULTS are important to think about because even though you can’t predict them right now, maybe there will be new methods in the future to predict disk drive faults.

“I keep remembering one of my Guru’s teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment. It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.”

~ Liz Gilbert, on “Diligent Joy,” p. 260 of Eat, Pray, Love

Ctrl-Z The Ctrl-Z Button changed the face of humanity.
It created a trial-and-error mentality.
It encourages try-and-see.

“I’ll format this text like so in my business cards… Oh no! Too far to the left!!!
Ctrl-Z!!!!!!!!! :) Yay!”

These all work similarly: the Ctrl-Z button, having many lives for your character in a video game, going back to a prior saved Word document. Trial and error, multiple-trial and success.

Can there be any harm in the Ctrl-Z button? Research shows that there’s not much, if any, harm. There’s some evidence that teenagers are taking more risks these days (e.g., this pdf), which some attribute to the second-chance mentality, “Sure, I might get in trouble, but I’ll get a do-over.” Restart the game. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t get a second chance. But so far, there’s no direct evidence that a trial-and-error mentality is connected to crime or harm. In fact, sociologists recently reported that video games do not cause more aggression in teens.

On the other hand, there are a ton of great things about restarting. See what Dave Seah highlights about rebooting your day. Restarting is freshness. It’s counteracting what the Made-to-Stick Heath brothers call “The Curse of Knowledge,” knowing so much about your subject that you can’t step away and be objective. If you can trigger yourself to restart your day, then maybe you can cultivate that “beginner’s mind” that Jordan Silberman writes about here and Miriam Ufberg writes about here.

I love Ctrl-Z. I love trying, going back, retrying.
The most memorable way to learn is by making mistakes. :)