Are you Tall? Are you Happy?

Earlier this week I saw a puff piece on about a study that finds that taller people experience more positive emotions than short people, on average. At first I brushed this story aside as meaningless.But then I saw it a few other places, which made me think about it more. I found the study on the National Bureau of Economic Research(the same people who declare recessions), but you have to pay for it and I declined to do so. I guess my opinions on this will have to do.

Here is what the study abstract says though:

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index daily poll of the US population, taller people live better lives, at least on average.They evaluate their lives more favorably, and they are more likely to report a range of positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness.They are also less likely to report a range of negative experiences, like sadness, and physical pain, though they are more likely to experience stress and anger, and if they are women, to worry. These findings cannot be attributed to different demographic or ethnic characteristics of taller people, but are almost entirely explained by the positive association between height and both income and education, both of which are positively linked to better lives.

I remember when I was younger 5 foot, 8 inches was average height for a man, just recently I saw that number move up to 5’9″, and now I see its 5’10”. I once was average, but now I’m two inches below it. But height is something I think about, especially if I’m with someone who is 6’2″ or above. I’m not exactly sure why, but it might have to do with looking dramatically up at someone to speak to them. But this doesn’t make me unhappy and I doubt it makes taller people more satisfied. The study must be finding a correlation and not a causation.

Personal appearance and the person’s feelings about it are shaped by their own self confidence and the culture of the society. Height is desirable just like being a blond is. However, most people would trade very little of value for either of them. What I’d like to see in a study is the comparative happiness of tall people and rich people. Or a study showing how much happier rich tall people are on the average through out time

Working Thoughts 07/31/08
Six Numbers

Donating IP to a Charity or Nonprofit

I really enjoy reading the Harvard Business Review Blogs. They have such a repertoire. Dan Pallotta writes one called Free the Nonprofits and as you can probably guess, the topic is charities and nonprofits. His latest entry is titled Why Charities Should Ask for Intellect, Not Just Funds and that led me to consider assets that are intellectual property based, such as a patent.

Well, the point of the article is about compensation levels for those that lead the charities. I’ll address my thoughts on this first. Just about everyone applies a certain level of altruism to those that work for a nonprofit or a charity. Perhaps the assumption is wrong, but the thought is that these people just want to better the world some how some way, so they’ll take less than market value to do it. The article talks about proportions and how the size of a budget can potentially warrant certain size pay packages. But that is failed logic too. To me,if someone builds the coffers up from say $50,000 to $5,000,000 then they should get a large pay package. If someone takes a charity from$5,000,000 to $10,000,000 then that is outstanding, but not quite worth the same compensation as the first person. Once a charity reaches a certain threshold it builds on itself. The rules start to not apply as they do in the for-profit space. For instance, getting access to corporate executives is much easier to do if you are a charity than if you are a for profit. And this type of influence is a currency. And these relationships have their own value, that goes beyond a pay package.

But I thought this blog entry was about how people can turn over their intellectual property to a charity. Perhaps this exists already, but suppose there was e a United Way that didn’t collect funding, it took in donated copyrights,  trademarks, and patents. And then it was up to the charity to monetize them or to collect the predetermined licensing fees. I suppose it would work like the Salvation Army or Good Will where most of the stuff turns up little profit, but occasionally something results in a boon.This type of clearing house charity group could extend great power with these assets can could get much needed resources because of them.

Working Thoughts 07/29/08
Fail SpectacularlyRandy Pausch

The Job Coach for Young Professionals – A Review

I’m at a point in my life where I’m no longer a young professional, but I’m not quite a weathered veteran either. I like to think I still accurately remember what it was like to be just out of school and figuring the real world out. For instance, a friend of mine has a soon to be senior in high school. He is taking the SATs and thinking about colleges, which means there are many questions. I’m trying to be as helpful as possible by recalling my own experience and discussing the pros and cons with them.

Which led me to think about what resources are available to someone who is trying to find their first career oriented job. One I ran across is called The Job Coach for Young Professionals: The Workbook for Landing the Right Job. It’s a workbook style book by Susan Kennedy and Karen Baker. Created in part by Career Treking and Intern Bridge. Its about 118 pages of directed material and another 25 or so of templates and forms.

I have two overall views of this book:

The more positive is that it has great nuggets of information and advice through out. There are templates and forms that will help organize the activities that are needed to land the most appropriate job for a young professional. The negative view is that I can’t bring myself to buy into the idea that a 21, 22, 23 year old is going to sit down with this book and go through it. Perhaps my skepticism is bordering on cynicism, but it feels like this book was made for a forty year old to give to a twenty-one year old as a graduation present or something. It would take a very mature and motivated recent graduate to have the proper perspective for this book to be used as intended.

Specific call outs:

–Early on I felt like this book is targeted mainly at recent grads that want to work in corporate America. It just feels that way. But what surveys and observation is telling us is that Gen Y isn’t as interested in corporate America. So in reading this book I felt like there is somewhat of a personality that this is perfectly suited for and other types that it isn’t.
— There is a good form for doing a skills inventory. The only change I would make though is to include personal characteristics as well. Skills are pretty raw at this point.
— I like the values inventory too.
–There is a section called All About Me and it encapsulates my negative opinion of this book. For many 22 year olds, they have no idea what”me” is. Creating an identity is something that comes with experience and since a recent grad has no real corporate identity then its hard to do. Its a transition period in the person’s life, being definitive is difficult.
— Because the book does a terrific job organizing the type of things a person should do, it can become too formal. For example, it outlines how a conversation should go with a contact. I know it is simply supportive and a guideline, but it comes off as cold. Establishing a rapport is probably more important than quizzing them on the likes and dislikes of their job and industry.
— Even though the contact part is cold, it does frame the questions very well. Here are a few that I like: what are your daily tasks? What are normal gaps between the knowledge base and skill set that is required for this job? What is the hiring outlook for the industry? What type of talent is need in this industry? and How does that translate to schooling?
–I never considered it, but doing a mind map for a resume is an outstanding idea. Often times people get wrapped up in resume format and the message gets lost in the process. But doing a mind map provides the opportunity to flush out unique skills and determine how you can separate yourself.
— I laughed, but also appreciated the list of “Action Verbs” on page 51. It is quite a list and one I can leverage.
–Its one thing to write out the process for how this should work, but this book illustrates it and across the board the visuals are on point. Each time they reinforce the subject.
— The interview chapter is marvelous. Here are some details:
— A preparation activity where you need to think about how you communicate, your technical job skills, and how you work with a manager/management.
— Having a story is vital. For the points of emphasis, a narrative describing why your are different and better is a must.
— I like the idea of having at the ready a story about how you dealt with a difficult situation and resolved it. That question is practically guaranteed. A few more of those are:

  • Describe a situation where you failed and what you did about it?
  • When you’re working on a team, what role do you typically play?
  • Why did you leave your last job?

— There will be several different interviews and one will probably be with a recruiter. Here is where you want to differentiate yourself as not only qualified, but the best fit for the job.
— Page 79 has good advice about how to position your resume depending on the medium. For instance with newspaper responses, its good to highlight your key words with a yellow highlighter.
— The attention this book gives to cover letters is above average. Cover letters are under served when you think about their value. This book does a good job of outlining how it should flow.
— Another area that made me cringe is the advice about how to follow up with someone even when you don’t get the job. Because the book is cold with contacts I felt that it didn’t do a good job with saying a certain amount of grace is need to do this well. Otherwise,its awkward.
— The book finishes with probably the best part – Its Keys to Success on page 112 and 113. For instance, it pulls out advice like Your colleagues know you are smart. Now show them you can learn. Most first jobs are not as glamorous or as challenging as we dream them to be.Quietly get the job done to the best of your ability. Learn to work in teams. Find out how people communicate; is it by email, IM, phone, or what?
And there is a tidbit I love. Its “Treat secretaries and other assistants with respect! They can make or break you.” That is absolutely true.

So to summarize. I got a lot out of the book (its filled with great advice, nuggets, and templates), but I doubt someone in their early 20s is going to have the perspective to get the most out of this resource.

Projected Compensation Stats, Large Companies are Employing a higher percentage, and What’s Next

Some stats I’ve encountered recently:

Via Yahoo and Watson Wyatt:

  • Anyone that got a 2% should actually see an improvement in buying power because of deflation. So a 2% raise is relative to a 3.5-4% raise. Not earth shattering, but not terrible
  • Companies are planning median merit increases of 3% for 2010
    • below the 3.5% raise workers received in both 2008 and 2007
  • A separate Watson Wyatt survey showed that only 10% of 900 companies polled are planning no pay raises for workers in 2010, compared with 25% this year
  • The survey showed that 2009 annual incentive awards are expected to be funded at 75%. That’s down from 82% in 2008 and 99% in 2007

Via NY Times and Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration:

  • From 1988 to 2006, the percentage of the private sector labor force working in large businesses (500 or more employees) increased to 49.8 percent from 45.5 percent

Via HBR and Melissa Raffoni:
Several CEOs told Raffoni these are their upcoming priorities (notice nothing about costs cutting):

  • Strategy to invest in web 2.0/social marketing to capture consumer market share
  • Sales channel strategy to ramp sales of new products while driving down long-term costs
  • New service positioning pitch to capture an emerging market in the telecom space
  • Opportunity analysis–which projects to accelerate, which to cut?
  • New “Software as a Service” product roadmap
  • Investments in Marketing–where to experiment, how to allocate funds?
  • Taking advantage of a “fire sale” acquisition and plan to leverage it
  • Financing strategy–which term sheet, if any, to take?

Math Education: Calculus or Statistics

For those that follow my education themed posts you’ll know that I’m a strong proponent of limiting the emphasis on tests as the deciding factor for a student. I believe tests are valuable, but they can’t be over weighted. Tests are great for showing comprehension of theory and book learning. Seldom does it align with applied learning. And that is what I think we should have more of, kids applying the material in the real world. It takes more time, but the effects are lasting.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Arthur Benjamin is a math teacher who in February of this year (2009) spoke briefly at TED. His speech is pasted below. He suggests a change in approach in math curriculum. Right now everything is additive to calculus. But what Mr. Benjamin suggests is that everything should be additive to Statistics. The reason is that statistics are entirely more useful in the average person’s day. He mentions risk and reward, trade offs, likelihoods, and several other times it would be useful.

Different States of Happiness

Over the last few days I’ve read a couple of different NY Times writings about the subject of Happiness. I’m not a philosopher or a behaviorist, but I like the topic. Those that seek happiness, regardless of the form, are highly motivated.

There are three different influences for this post. The first two, as I mentioned already, are writings I ran across in the NY Times and the third is a short film, audio visual graphic art type of thing.  Each one makes me look at happiness from a different angle.

The first one I read is an Op-Ed by Roger Cohen called The Meaning of Life. Its mainly about a picture of two monkeys. These  rhesus monkeys are part of an experiment to see what affect caloric intake has on life expectancy. The results suggest that on average restricting caloric intake does extend life. However, Cohen question is what is the point of living longer if you don’t enjoy that existence? And that is true. He goes on to intimate that a balance between discipline and reward is needed. And a trade off for it might be a few less years of life. Does one monkey look more satisfied in life than the other? You decide.

The second writing I liked this past week is by Daniel Goleman and its called Sitting Quietly, Doing Something. The topic of the writing is Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the Happiest Man in the World. He’s a Tibetan Lama who recently wrote a book about how to increase your happiness. Although he has specific ways to improve your happiness level, perhaps the most important is what the piece ends with – humility. If you can’t laugh at yourself, well…
Anyway, he teaches a meditation style which quiets parts of the brain and amplies the parts that are more associated with happiness. Here’s an excerpt:

Richard Davidson, who heads the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, has found one distinct brain profile for happiness. As Davidson’s laboratory has reported, when we are in distress, the brain shows high activation levels in the right prefrontal area and the amygdala. But when we are in an upbeat mood, the right side quiets and the left prefrontal area stirs. When showing this brain pattern, people report feeling, as Davidson put it to me, “positively engaged, goal-directed, enthusiastic, and energetic.”

And this last part is what got me thinking about some statements I’ve said in the past. I think one of the greatest feelings someone has is that “Ah Ha!” moment of when a breakthrough happens. Its like a race in your head where all these thoughts are rushing around with quick trial and error, and logic, and self doubt is creeping in, but persistence is still dominating, and then it happens – a quiet singular focus. And the answer reveals itself to you. And the part that is most exceptional is that you know you did it, but at the same time you observed yourself figuring it out. Its as if the self aware part watched the parallel processing computer part go through its cryptic problem solving steps.

Entrepreneurs constantly have that “Ah Ha” moment since they are problem solving at such a high rate. And to me, that form of happiness is tremendous. So quiet the right side of your brain and don’t always restrict your reward.

The video below is less than a minute long, but to me it symbolizes the “Ah Ha!” moment very well.

Short Film / Onedreamrush / 42 Below Vodka / China from Universal Everything on Vimeo.

Forest Fire Analogy

Adam Werbach over at Harvard Business Review wrote up a blog entry titled Surviving a Recession – And a Wildfire. It is along the same lines as an entry of mine from April called Recessions Can Clear the Dubris. Opportunities are There.

Both hit on how even though the method is devasting in its process, its great for those that can survive the ordeal.

Here are a few excerpts from his piece that I agree with:

A recession is like a forest fire — a rush of destruction that affects everything in its path. Andfor about the last hundred years, nations and companies have sought toprotect themselves from these catastrophic meltdowns through fiscal andmonetary policy at the national level, with similar effort at thecorporate level. The results have been unimpressive at best, andcatastrophic at worst. The U.S. and the world today face the worstrecession since the Great Depression, the equivalent of a super-firethat threatens the entire forest and the people in and around it. Atthe corporate level, the U.S. is experiencing an alarming three hundred and fifty commercial bankruptcies a day, including familiar names like GM and Crabtree & Evelyn.

1. Let fires burn regularly.

The U.S. economy never felt the full effects of the bursting of thedotcom boom because we were soon swept up in the housing boom, whichwas similarly propped up by the easy credit boom. Central banks need tobecome more practiced at letting economies take small dips regularlyrather than allowing a confluence of conditions that can create a deeprecession.

2. Be prepared to survive a fire.

Trees that are prepared to survive fires have some commoncharacteristics. They’re self-pruning; that is, their lower branchesfall off regularly. They also grow thick bark and deep roots. Companiescan hone these skills as well. The first rule is to be self-pruning, toconstantly readjust your staffing to ensure that you have the rightlevels of capacity and that you’re letting go of the dead weight. Manybusiness leaders find that the first round of cuts in a downturn areones that they should have made in happy times.

3. Require change — rather than resisting it.

Through the years, the most effective change guarantor is providingvalue-pricing. McDonald’s has thrived during this recession by usingefficiencies in their operations and supply chain to lower prices whenconsumers need it most. They have also used the opportunity toaccelerate their local sourcing of foods in preparation for emergingconsumer preferences. Another emerging model follows the thirdprinciple of natural capitalism,moving to a service-and-flow business model. In this model companiessell computing power rather than servers, light rather than lightbulbs, and, in the case of Shai Agassi’s “Better Place” and car-sharingcompanies like ZipCar, miles driven rather than cars. The ongoingrelationship with the consumer prepares these new service companies tochange rapidly as consumers change. When the traditional auto-industrystumbles, they stand ready to accelerate.