Thursday 2nd July 2020
  • How to Achieve Your Goals By Creating an Enemy

    DJ Khaled, the one-man internet meme, is known for warning his tens of millions of social media followers about a group of villains he calls "they."

    "They don't want you motivated. They don't want you inspired," he blares on camera. "They don't want you to win," he warns. On Ellen DeGeneres's talk show, Khaled urged the host, "Please, Ellen, stay away from them!"

    The "they" Khaled invokes are clearly a sinister force. But who are they? Khaled offered clues when he told DeGeneres, "They are the people who don't believe in you... They is the person that told you you would never have an Ellen show."

    Although Khaled's claims may seem outlandish, he is in fact leveraging a powerful psychological hack: scapegoating.

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  • There's a dark side to meditation that no one talks about

    We've all heard about the benefits of meditation ad nauseam. Those disciplined enough to practice regularly are rewarded with increased control over the brainwaves known as alpha rhythms, which leads to better focus and may help ease pain. In addition to calming the mind and body, meditation can also reduce the markers of stress in people with anxiety disorders. Rigorous studies have backed health claims such as these to convince therapists, physicians, and corporate gurus to embrace meditation's potential.

    What contemporary and ancient meditators have always known, however, is that while the hype may be warranted, the practice is not all peace, love, and blissful glimpses of unreality. Sitting zazen, gazing at their third eye, a person can encounter extremely unpleasant emotions and physical or mental disturbances.

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  • The 'masculine mystique'- why men can't ditch the baggage of being a bloke

    Far from embracing the school run, most men are still trapped by rigid cultural notions of being strong, dominant and successful. Is it leading to an epidemic of unhappiness similar to the one felt by Betty Friedan's 50s housewives?

    Back in the 90s, it was all going to be so different. Not for our generation the lopsided approach of our parents, with their quaint postwar notions of father-breadwinners and mother-homemakers. We would be equal; interchangeable. Our young women would run companies, embassies, hospitals and schools, while our young men, no slouches themselves, would punctuate their careers with long, halcyon spells dandling babies and teaching toddlers how to make tiny volcanoes out of vinegar and baking soda.

    That equality would have formidable knock-on effects. The gender pay gap would narrow. Sexual harassment wouldn't disappear, but decoupling professional power from gender would do a lot to erase it from the workplace.

    A generation or so later, it is clear: this is the revolution that never happened.

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  • Motivating Employees Is Not About Carrots or Sticks

    Motivating employees seems like it should be easy. And it is - in theory. But while the concept of motivation may be straightforward, motivating employees in real-life situations is far more challenging. As leaders, we're asked to understand what motivates each individual on our team and manage them accordingly. What a challenging ask of leaders, particularly those with large or dispersed teams and those who are already overwhelmed by their own workloads.

    Leaders are also encouraged to rely on the carrot versus stick approach for motivation, where the carrot is a reward for compliance and the stick is a consequence for noncompliance. But when our sole task as leaders becomes compliance, trying to compel others to do something, chances are we're the only ones who will be motivated.

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  • Do not assume US still aspires to be a world leader, Merkel warns

    The rest of the world can no longer take it for granted that the US still aspires to be a global leader and needs to readjust its priorities accordingly, Angela Merkel has warned.

    "We grew up in the certain knowledge that the United States wanted to be a world power," the German chancellor said in an interview with a group of six European newspapers.

    "Should the US now wish to withdraw from that role of its own free will, we would have to reflect on that very deeply."

    Merkel, the first German leader to have grown up on the eastern side of the iron curtain, has in the past frequently spoken of her admiration for the US's global influence. When she spoke in front of Congress in 2009, Merkel rhapsodised about the "incredible gift of freedom" bestowed on eastern Germans with the US-supported toppling of the Berlin Wall.

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  • To Solve Big Problems, Look for Small Wins

    It is tempting, during a crisis as severe as the Covid-19 pandemic, for leaders to respond to big problems with bold moves - a radical strategy to reinvent a struggling business, a long-term shift to virtual teams and long-distance collaboration. Indeed, so much of the expert commentary on Covid-19 argues, as did a recent white paper from McKinsey & Company, that we are on the brink of a "next normal" that will "witness a dramatic restructuring of the economic and social order in which business and society have traditionally operated."

    I'd argue that even if we do face a "next normal," the best way for leaders to move forward isn't by making sweeping changes but rather by embracing a gradual, improvisational, quietly persistent approach to change that Karl E. Weick, the organizational theorist and distinguished professor at the University of Michigan, famously called "small wins." Weick is an intellectual giant; over the past 50 years, his concepts such as loose coupling, mindfulness, and sensemaking have shaped our understanding of organizational life. But perhaps his most powerful insight into to how we can navigate treacherous times is to remind us that when it comes to leading change, less is usually more.

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  • The commas that cost companies millions

    For most people, a stray comma isn’t the end of the world. But in some cases, the exact placement of a punctuation mark can cost huge sums of money.

    How much can a misplaced comma cost you?

    If you're texting a loved one or dashing off an email to a colleague, the cost of misplacing a piece of punctuation will be – at worst – a red face and a minor mix-up.

    But for some, contentious commas can be a path to the poor house.

    A dairy company in the US city of Portland, Maine settled a court case for $5m earlier this year because of a missing comma.

    Three lorry drivers for Oakhurst Dairy claimed that they were owed years of unpaid overtime wages, all because of the way commas were used in legislation governing overtime payments.

    The state's laws declared that overtime wasn't due for workers involved in "the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: 1) agricultural produce; 2) meat and fish products; and 3) perishable foods".

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  • The Mystery of Human Uniqueness

    What, exactly, makes our biology special?

    If you dropped a dozen human toddlers on a beautiful Polynesian island with shelter and enough to eat, but no computers, no cell phones, and no metal tools, would they grow up to be like humans we recognize or like other primates? Would they invent language? Without the magic sauce of culture and technology, would humans be that different from chimpanzees?

    Nobody knows. (Ethics bars the toddler test.) Since the early 1970s, scientists across the biological sciences keep stumbling on the same hint over and over again: we're different but not nearly as different as we thought. Neuroscientists, geneticists, and anthropologists have all given the question of human uniqueness a go, seeking special brain regions, unique genes, and human-specific behaviors, and, instead, finding more evidence for common threads across species.

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  • Elizabeth Holmes and other famous grifters expose the myth of quick and easy success

    The motto "fake it till you make it" is taking a serious blow of late. As tales of con artists proliferate, the advice to feign greatness just doesn't seem sustainable. Grifters in business, the arts, literature, real estate, and wellness are being exposed at alarming rates; they're paying fines and facing prison time or already in custody, which really takes the shine off imitation awesome.

    The New Yorker in June declared this the grifter season. "The wind changed, the pressure dropped, and the scent of scamming was suddenly everywhere in the air," writes Jia Tolentino. And it wasn't a pleasant smell - not sweet like the smell of rain, but sour, like turned milk.

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  • Why the Arctic Is Warming So Fast, and Why That's So Alarming

    On Saturday, the residents of Verkhoyansk, Russia, marked the first day of summer with 100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Not that they could enjoy it, really, as Verkhoyansk is in Siberia, hundreds of miles from the nearest beach. That's much, much hotter than towns inside the Arctic Circle usually get. That 100 degrees appears to be a record, well above the average June high temperature of 68 degrees. Yet it's likely the people of Verkhoyansk will see that record broken again in their lifetimes: The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet - if not faster - creating ecological chaos for the plants and animals that populate the north.

    "The events over the weekend - in the last few weeks, really - with the heatwave in Siberia, all are unprecedented in terms of the magnitude of the extremes in temperature," says Sophie Wilkinson, a wildfire scientist at McMaster University who studies northern peat fires, which themselves have grown unusually frequent in recent years as temperatures climb.

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