Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Take Five

Take Five is a concept, an idea.
It was born during my early college days and was partly inspired by a great jazz song of the same name. (Although, the version I listened to was original to a group of university students that went by the name, In One Ear.) Below is the hand written notes that I saved from that day.

I feel stressed a lot of the time to accomplish many things and feel bad that I do not complete those things of which I feel are also important to me. Some of those things include the following:
Piano, Trombone - Personal Talents
Scripture study, Institute classes - Spiritual
Roommates, Work, Friends, Dating - Social
Exercise - Physical

Now that I write them down, I see they incorporate all aspects of a well rounded life - and yet I find myself running first to accomplish first my homework. And it never ends, and I hardly have time for it - so how can adding more help? But will i have really reached my goal and feel satisfied if in the end my goals were left alone by the wayside?

I do not believe so.
So, if I can just "take five" maybe I can achieve my goals with faith and hope and trust in help from God. I believe if I "take five" and then work diligently I can produce results and pray that my intellect can be enlightened to work quicker, more efficiently.

Work. Be obedient. Be more like a missionary. Plan and then work towards that goal by properly scheduling your time and developing Christlike attributes.

I came back to this concept and revisited it again a few years later.

Today is Saturday and tomorrow is Sunday. I was just thinking how good it would be to wake up and study the scriptures and kind of fill this personal spiritual low when it occurred to me. I thought of how improbable it would be since I am home, family is home, I have commitments, etc. If only I had a few days without the world... but that is what made me realize that the one important principle is not to just strike it rich, get it all at once, but rather stay the course, little step after little step, mundane, boring, but always steady. What am I saying? If it be our level of spirituality, time spent with a certain activity - studying reading to kids, etc, or money and debt - these all need one principle to achieve success - A little everyday - constantly.
Winning the jackpot or sweepstakes  or receiving an inheritance or having that one day may seem nice but you cannot grow spiritually all in one day, you cannot read all the children's stories to your child on one day, you cannot practice for one day and become great, you cannot pay off your debt in one day - and believe to be happy.
It is that little five minutes so mundane and almost seemingly worthless that is applied each day after day after monotonous day that we stick with it and though it all that journals are written, debts are paid, time is cherished, and we grow. God sent us to live a life here on Earth - not just experience an instant.
I share this in the hopes that you, too, can find five minutes in your life and apply it to that goal that is almost forgotten, to striking out into a new area and trying something new, to sharpening the saw, to read to your kids, to do whatever it is you wished you could do more.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Zig Zag Book Review

From the introduction:
Creativity doesn’t always come naturally to us. By definition, creativity is something new and different; and although novelty is exciting, it can also be a little scary. We’re taught to choose what’s familiar, to do what’s been done a thousand times before. Soon we’re so used to staying in that well-worn rut that venturing into new terrain seems an enormous and risky departure.

I mentioned this before, we’re afraid of change. It frightens us. However, embarking into new territory need not be feared, but rather practiced. Keith Sawyer, the author of Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity declares that practice is all that is needed to become a more creative person. From his own creative works, “Creativity did no descend like a bolt of lightning that lit up the world in a single, brilliant flash. It came in tiny steps, bits of insight, and incremental changes.” All his experience has been distilled into eight steps. In fact, after reading through this book once, I feel like it is meant more as a go to resource, like a home remedy book for writer’s block, or perhaps it could be the Schaum’s Outline for your Creative Genius class next semester.

The eight steps that you can practice daily to encourage more creativity in your life are these:

1. Ask

2. Learn

3. Look

4. Play

5. Think

6. Fuse

7. Choose

8. Make

The reason why I liked this book, is because it motivates you to stretch yourself. Don’t be content to travel the same rut. Experiment. Find out what life is like outside the rut. What does it look like? How does it alter your concentration? The book is filled with examples of successful creativity based on the application of the methods and practices that are detailed with each step.

This book is a wonderful resource. Don't bang your head against the wall anymore. Learn how to be more creative today and how to practice until the ideas just flow to you. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wait: The Art and Science of Delay Book Review

Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, by author Frank Partnoy, is probably the perfect book to read as a follow up to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, my review here.

Wait is another book about decision making. Whether you are a CEO of a billion dollar company, or just going out with friends, we all could benefit from a better understanding of what impacts our abilities to make decisions.

Partnoy, acknowledges, Gladwell's recent book, but criticizes his emphasis on thin-slicing being only two seconds long.

"Stop for a moment now and think about the idea of thin slicing. When we thin slice we detect patterns in an event even if we see only a narrow portion of that event. The key to the concept is that we reach a conclusion even though we don’t have the full picture. Thin slicing is driven by the unconscious system because it takes the lead over the conscious system in decisionmaking during such a short period.

But thin slicing is almost never about just two seconds. In fact, not even the titles of the leading articles on thin slicing are about two seconds. The revolutionary paper by Ambady and Rosenthal is entitled “Half a Minute.” John Gottman’s coauthored study of video tapes of couples is called “Predicting Divorce Among Newlyweds from the First Three Minutes of a Marital Conflict Discussion.” Minutes, not seconds."

Despite the criticism, the concept is sound. More recently, Ambady and other coauthors defined a thin slice as “any excerpt of dynamic information less than five minutes long.”

Lest I lead you to believe this book is just written in retaliation to Gladwell, let me address some of the other points that I found relevant and interesting.

To which I must say that any author that quotes Douglas Adams gets a gold star in my book.
"One of the main reasons why “Don’t panic” is such valuable guidance is that the sudden onslaught of fear we label panic can seriously interfere with our ability to decide on the best course of action. Panic makes it difficult for us to use logic or reason. Panic shuts down our conscious system 2 and leads us to rely on our primal automatic system 1. Relying on system 1 is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if we are experts."

Partnoy also graciously assuages my guilt of procrastination. "active procrastination is smart: it simply means managing delay, putting off projects that don’t need to be done right away. In contrast, passive procrastination is dumb, equivalent to laziness."

Some final notes related to our working lives.
"A second approach is “event time,” where we continue doing something until we finish or some event occurs. For example, you might start work, not at 9 a.m. (clock time), but after you finish breakfast (event time)."

"Efficiency means going fast; effectiveness means being complete, even if it takes longer."

"If we are motivated to accomplish something important in our work, we will be willing to wait decades and understand that jobs we start might not be finished until after we are gone. Hourly pay eats away at this philosophy and ultimately makes work less fulfilling."

This last quote is especially interesting if you consider grandiose achievements of our world. When you read that, what came to mind? I thought about the architectural wonders that took years or decades to create, Notre Dame, Statue of Liberty, or even the iconic LDS temple in SLC. Each was a massive undertaking, but well worth the wait.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Blink Book Review

You are definitely missing out if you have not yet read a book by Malcolm Gladwell. His writing style is easy to follow along and he takes you on a journey that masterfully explains his thesis. Have you ever wondered about your unconscious ability to make 'snap' judgments? Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, is a book that explores the concept of 'thin-slicing' and understanding how much information affects our ability to make good decisions.

Malcolm Gladwell has also written The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and Outliers: The Story of Success. I read Outliers first, but apparently didn't post my review of it yet. Both Blink and Outliers are investigative stories. Gladwell presents his thesis through the exploration of several different examples.

For example, in Blink, you will read about how months of careful research was worth less than a first impression when trying to validate the authenticity of an ancient Greek sculpture. The psychology behind 'thin-slicing' is that often times, when faced with a decision and available information to aid us make that decision, less is more. Less information may be better. In today's digital age, "we have come to confuse information with understanding". Heaping on the information is not always the best course of action. We need to understand our unconscious mind and what parameters are needed to make it work efficiently.

Blink uncovers how Dr. Gottman can reliably predict marital success based on only 10 minutes or less of conversation, why speed dating works, how a severely hindered Paul Van Riper could defeat an otherwise impressive and omnipotent US military during war games, how doctors can avoid malpractice suits and predict and care for heart attack patients better. For example, there are plenty of factors at play in our lives that might be related to our risk of heart disease.
"All those extra factors certainly matter in the long term...What Goldman's algorithm indicates, though, is that the role of those other factors is so small in determining what is happening to the man right now that an accurate diagnosis can be made without them. In fact - and this is a key point in explaining the breakdown of Blue Team that day in the Gulf - that extra information is more than useless. It's harmful. It confuses the issues. What screws up doctors when they are trying to predict heart attacks is that they take too much information into account."

Blink also explains how tragedies related to police work occur, and more importantly how they can be remedied. Interestingly, as a method to explore the tragic shooting of an innocent person in a rough neighborhood, Gladwell first takes his readers on a field trip to educate them about autism. Autistic people, apparently, miss the emotional cues, and focus on objects. In high stress situations, we need to be able to slow down so that we can still unconsciously thin-slice the faces of people to understand their intentions.

The best example for correcting our snap judgments was revealed when discussing musical auditions. By removing information from the audition, in this case, placing a visual barrier or screen between the judges and performer, better judgements of ability could be made. This simple act alone is credited with the rapid rise of women performers in large symphonies around the world.

If I decide to keep on book on my bookshelf, it tends to be the hardcover version. However, the paperback that I checked out from my local library has a very nice bonus in the form of a very nice afterword by the author. In his afterword, Gladwell explores the book's theme and answer's your questions.
"And what Blink is - what all the storeis and studies and arguments add up to  - is an attempt to understand this magical and mysterisous thing called judgement."
"From experience, we gain powerful gift, the ability to act instinctively, in the moment. But - and this is one of the lessons I tried very hard to impart in Blink - it is easy to disrupt this gift."

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap. "When should we trust our instincts, and when should we consciously think things through?"  Read the book. I think it is good enough to go on my wall right next to my copy of Outliers. However, I will specifically be requesting the paperback version from www.paperbackswap.com.


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