There are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots, and the other is wings.
Kaboom! It’s time for your weekly THIS MUCH I KNOW wrap up!
Trust me. You need this.
Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.
If you’ve never seen this, you must. If you have, it’s well worth watching again.
I’m both amazed and repulsed.
“Jackie O and the Power of the Personal Touch”
In her day Jackie O was known as a style icon and a person of exceptional elegance and grace. But did you know that she was also known for her skill at writing moving personal notes and correspondence? According to biographers, Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis deftly used her trademark light blue stationary and loopy script to pen notes that charmed heads of state like President Charles De Galle, consoled former Washington Post President Katherine Graham after her husband’s suicide, and helped her to curry favors and maneuver out of difficult spots with many, many others over the years. She wrote people’s names in large letters and always started a note by recalling something memorable from their last get together. In a nutshell, Jackie O understood the power and importance of the personal touch.
But I know what you’re probably thinking. So what, this is the 21st century, and handwritten notes are so old school.
Why is that? Are we so besieged by email, texts, social media, robo-callers, and other forms of messaging and media that the handwritten note has totally lost it’s effect?
Before you answer, consider this.
In 2005 a behavioral psychologist at Sam Houston University named Randy Garner conducted a study in which he randomly selected 150 members of the faculty to receive a request to complete a survey on campus climate. One third of the recipients received a handwritten post-it note stuck to the top of the cover letter along with the 5-page survey. Another one-third of recipients received a handwritten letter attached to the cover letter along with the survey. And the final one-third received only the cover letter and survey. Interestingly, 36% of recipients replied to the cover letter and survey. 48% of recipients replied after receiving the handwritten letter, accompanying cover letter and survey. And a whopping 76% of recipients of the post-it note replied to the survey.
According to Garner the results reflect the way we respond to social norms. In simple terms here’s what he means. When we receive an unsolicited survey it feels like work. When a handwritten letter accompanies that same survey it makes us feel a little better about the solicitation because we think, at least someone took the time to write. But, a handwritten note on a post-it is different. This Garner says, feels friendlier and invokes the same feelings of warmth and good will that we might get from a request from a family member or friend. This in turn nudges us to return the survey because; it feels like the right thing to do. Hence, the high response rate to the handwritten post-it note.
For me, the take away here is this. Even in the frenetic, 24/7, hyper-connected world in which we live, some things it seems never go out of style. - Like the power of the personal touch.
This much I know.
Holding On For Life
"To Be The Best Do We Need to Be in the Big Pond?"
How often have you heard someone say; when applying to college we should go to the most prestigious school we can. When interviewing for a job we should work for the biggest name company with the most influence, and when playing a sport we should aim to play for the top team in the best league. The thinking being that if we want to be the best then we need to surround ourselves with the best.
Seems logical doesn’t it? After all we know that being in an environment with a cluster of talent not only makes us more productive, it helps us raise our game. And of course, who wouldn’t agree that there’s a certain cache and credibility associated with competing in a big pond, whether it’s attending a prestigious university, playing a sport at an elite level or working at a large, highly regarded company.
So then one would naturally think that if we want to be the best we should seek out ever-larger ponds to swim in, even if that means being the small fish in that pond.
But, what if our theory is wrong? What if that’s not the way to be the best? What if there are costs associated with being a small fish in a big pond that are not readily apparent to us?
Well-known author Malcolm Gladwell challenges this very notion in his recent book, David and Goliath. In his book Gladwell cites the example of an exceptionally bright science student at an Ivy League college. This is a student who has always gotten A’s. Yet, now in the company of her uber smart college peers she finds she’s getting B’s and C’s for the first time in her life. Comparing her performance to these classmates leads her to believe that she’s not good at science and her lack of confidence in her performance ultimately causes her to drop out of the science program.
As Gladwell points out, because she only compared herself to her peers she became demoralized. If she had compared herself to science students the world over she would have seen that’s she’s still a very gifted student and, that she’s more talented than 99% of science students out there. As well, if perhaps she had gone to another very good though less prestigious college she would likely have been in the top half of her class, and she probably wouldn’t have dropped out of the program.
The point being that sometimes choosing the big pond can actually hurt us instead of help us because it makes us feel worse about our abilities. In this case going to the most prestigious school served to thwart this student’s ambition.
As Malcolm Gladwell’s example suggests, our confidence in our abilities relative to our peers plays a very important role in determining our potential for success. And he’s not alone. A number of studies have drawn much the same conclusion.
For instance, in a 2003 study, well-respected Oxford University educational psychologist Herbert Marsh studied the affects of academically select schools as a means of increasing academic “self-concept” or self-confidence. Marsh and his colleagues observed 4,000 15 year olds from each of 26 different countries and found that gifted students in gifted schools actually had lower academic self-confidence and felt worse about their academic abilities than students attending a non-selective school.
So, all this has me thinking that maybe being the best doesn’t mean we have to compete in the biggest pond, rather we just need to find the “right size” pond where we’ll be challenged, we’ll grow and, we’ll build confidence.
Now, finding that my friend is a blog post for another day.
This much I know.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead,” – Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
We’re going to see a lot of quotes on photos in the next few days reflecting on Mandela’s life. Instead of flying past them, reflect on them for a couple of minutes. Find room for his ideals in your heart.
I suppose this is some consolation after hearing that the US ranks a dismal #31 among developed countries on math scores.
Want to read books on a screen?
Up to now, two large companies would make that easy for you.
Option #1: Apple’s iBooks system. Chipper and colorful, iBooks is easy to use if you own an iPhone or iPad. In its zeal to convince you that, yes,you are reading a book!, though, it can cartoonishly oversell the reading experience. (Case in point: Apple has patented its page-turning animation.)
Option #2: Amazon’s Kindle devices. The retail giant has both its own line of gray, hardy e-readers and also makes reading software for other platforms, including Apple and Android phones/tablets. It has lots of books to read, but, once purchased, you can only read them on Kindles. Some of its software, too, suffers for its extensibility. At its worst, the Kindle system can feel like Windows 95: closed, hard to leave, and a bit stodgy.
As of this week, though, readers have a new option. Starting immediately, Penguin UK will sell its ebooks on the Readmill system. You can now read the works of best-selling authors—including George Orwell, John LeCarré, and Zadie Smith—on the lesser-known but elegant reading system, Readmill.
Read more. [Image: Garry Knight/Flickr]
Best play in basketball history
There’s a relatively long tradition, in the field of data visualization, of tracking the way we swear. This makes sense. Not only is it fun to track, but cursing is also conveniently specific as a data set; you’ve got your f-bombs and your double hockey sticks and your bodily functions, and, factoring in their permutations, you’re good to go. Plus, you don’t need much sophisticated sentiment analysis to ensure that your data are accurate: An f-bomb is pretty much an f-bomb, regardless of the contextual subtleties. As a result of all this, we, the public, get treated to sweary heat maps. And more sweary heat maps. And sweary interactive maps. There’s just something about big data and sailor-cursing that complement each other—like peanut butter and mothereffing jelly.
Traditionally, those maps are based on text—on swears that are typed into Facebook or, even more publicly, Twitter. Making a map of the sweariest states requires simply gathering geocoded posts, isolating the swears, and going from there.
Read more. [Image: Marchex]
And congrats to California, for being polite while swearing like sailors.