In Touch With My Feelings-Response-Delay

One thing I admire about Americans is how in touch they seem to be with their feelings. It seems that you can go up to a random stranger in the street, ask them about how they feel about something, and they take less than a second to respond with an articulate summary of their considered feelings on the matter.

Me, I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. It usually takes me a few days to work out how I ‘feel about something’.

Typical example, in a business related meeting a month or so ago, I could tell that the person I was meeting with was lying to me. I was kinda quiet the rest of the day, and it wasn’t until the following week that I finally realised how I felt about it (in that case: anger, and then disappointment, and then disrespected, and finally a realisation that I was now much more accurately aware of where the relationship stood).

It’s happened enough now that when asked how I feel about something, I usually reply with a ‘I’ll let you know in a few days’.

This can make things difficult – because even though your conscious brain may not know how it feels about something, the sub-conscious usually does, and if you don’t keep it in check you may act out strangely. It’s why, for example, I can find myself disagreeing with a colleague but only later realise it’s due to something they said last week. Or perhaps it wasn’t even them, perhaps it’s because I’m tired. Or burnt out. Or fearful.

Which means my only guidance is a few signs that I try to notice and act on. Here’s the main two:

1. Long showers

This usually means I’m fearful of making a change in my business, or challenged about moving out of my comfort zone in some business matter.

Whenever this happens I now take time out to think through what the particular challenge is – it’s usually hiding there somewhere in my to-do list, most likely having been there a while, carefully avoided.

2. Mental arguments with clients

This one troubled me for a while. Why would I mentally fantasise about having arguments with clients?

I’ve realised now it usually means I’m burnt out and need a break. So I down tools immediately, and therefore avoid any confrontations with clients (that would have perhaps resulted in me having less work on my plate after the confrontation…).

If you ever receive an unexpected Out of Office email reply from me – chances are I’ve just managed to catch myself before the burn out hit.

How scientists use Slack

Not using Slack yet?

If not, why not.

Here’s how a science lab uses Slack to replace email and increase collaboration.

When geneticist Daniel MacArthur checks into his lab, the first thing he does is fire up Slack, a workplace messaging app. In the system, he zips through the hundreds of messages and files left in different channels by the lab’s 23 scientists — some reporting on their projects, others requesting help. The lab’s members have posted more than 400,000 messages on Slack since April 2014 — a rate of nearly 500 per day. For MacArthur, who works at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the tool has rendered irrelevant many of the ways that his lab previously used to communicate about papers and projects — especially e-mail.

Worth a read for all the different processes they’ve now replaced with Slack.

(via Nature.com)

Willpower revisited

Fascinating article from Nir Eyal on new findings related to willpower.

Over the past decades the theory of ego-depletion had gained traction:

Psychological researchers have a name for this phenomenon: it’s called “ego depletion.” The theory is that willpower is connected to a limited reserve of mental energy, and once you run out of that energy, you’re more likely to lose self-control.

If you’ve ever been told to have a sip of lemonade when you were getting mentally fatigued, you’ve been on the receiving end of this theory.

However, new research is finding this isn’t the case at all.

Previously we’d thought that the brain was a muscle, and got fatigued after being used. However, new findings indicate:

The brain is an organ, not a muscle, and thus does not consume extra energy the way a muscle would. Your brain uses the same number of calories per waking minute whether you’re working on calculus equations or watching cat videos.

And now:

New research proposes another explanation for why we run out of steam. In a study conducted by the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dweck concluded that signs of ego depletion were observed only in test subjects who believed willpower was a limited resource. Those participants who did not see willpower as finite did not show signs of ego depletion.

Further:

It appears ego depletion may be just another example of the way belief drives behavior. Thinking we’re spent makes us feel worse, while rewarding ourselves with an indulgence makes us feel better. It’s not the sugar in the lemonade that produces the sustained mental stamina, but rather the placebo effect at work.

Instead, here’s a new way to think about willpower:

Michael Inzlicht, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the principal investigator at the Toronto Laboratory for Social Neuroscience, believes willpower is not a finite resource but instead acts like an emotion. Just as we don’t “run out” of joy or anger, willpower ebbs and flows based on what’s happening to us and how we feel.

Some practicalities:

Most studies to date have looked at willpower as a force that helps people do things they don’t want to do, or that helps them resist temptations they’d rather give in to. But if we adjust the perspective and treat willpower as an emotion, it could instead be seen as providing insights about what we should and shouldn’t be spending our time on.

and finally:

Fundamentally, we give up on tasks that don’t engage us. Doing unsolvable puzzles per the order of a social scientist in a lab coat isn’t fun, nor is it purposeful. Same goes for the mindless tasks too many people suffer through each day at work. We can power through unenjoyable tasks for a while, but we’ll never be our best if we ignore what our feelings are telling us. By listening to our lack of willpower as we would an emotion — as a helpful decision-making assistant working in concert with our logical capabilities — we can find new paths that may not require us to do things we fundamentally don’t want to do.

I love it when our understanding of the world changes. Read the full article here.

Facebook ad reporting is likely bogus, but does that mean we shouldn’t use them?

In a word: no.

It’s hard to dispute the findings that Facebook’s measurement and reporting of ad stats (especially video impressions) is anything other than inflated. But that just means you need to focus more closely on ‘real’ goals.

The days of reporting just on impressions are hopefully rare for you these days. Instead aim to think in conversions and (ideally) revenue.

Conversions can easily be compared with other tools eg your Google Analytics reporting, total lead numbers, sales and revenue.

Whenever you see an article highlighting the problems with a platform, make sure you view it as an opportunity. It’s likely that while others focus on the problem, you can take advantage of the reduced focus on what is actually working.

Brian Halligan on Marketing in 2017

A good read from Brian as he looks towards the opportunities in 2017 and marks it as the second act of inbound marketing. Worth reading in full, but summarised as:

1. Invest in video. Diversify your content playbook to include social + video in addition to text + search.
2. Live in social. We’re not B2B or B2C marketers — we’re business to human marketers. Humans live in Snapchat, Instagram, Messenger, and a host of other social apps. Find them there.
3. Accelerate your content. Combine content marketing and paid marketing. Repurpose your most successful content for multiple channels and boost it with budget.
4. Automate your buying process. Buyers expect to be able to buy on their timeline with either minimal or no human contact.

No magic here, just good advice. Ignore at your peril (and I’m mostly talking to myself at this point).

Troy Hunt on looking after conference speakers

A thoughtful post from Troy on ways that some conferences mistreat speakers.

Reading through the post and the comments was an eye opener to me – for all his items (except perhaps 3 and 7, see below) – I was surprised that things like this still happen at commercial conferences. Admittedly my experience of conferences lately has been Inbound – which is at the premium end – the way they treat speakers is excellent.

However, a few thoughts related to:
3. Sharing slides
One thing that can provide tons of value for attendees is slide decks. Perhaps it’s different for largely demo driven talks (which Troy’s would mostly be), but in many cases making slide decks available afterwards is a quick and easy way to save attendees frantically scribbling notes during your session, allowing them instead to stay focussed on your speaking. There’s a relief when a speaker say ‘don’t worry about taking notes of the resources, they’ll all be available in the deck afterwards…’

If the sessions is recorded and made available afterwards, that’s even better, but is often not an option at smaller conferences. Also, there’s usually a delay of at least a week or two after a talk while they are produced – something else making the slides immediately available overcomes.

7. Covering Travel and Expenses
This is an interesting one. For drawcard speakers (and Troy is certainly one) this is of course to be expected. And in many cases the headline speakers are paid appearance fees on top. That’s all totally fine.

However, there is an interesting discussion to be had at the lower end of the speaker ladder. For an unknown speaker, getting in front of an audience, and paying for the privilege of doing so may well be a good investment.

Also, compare it to exhibiting at a conference or tradeshow.

As conference sponsorship prices increase, it may actually be a lot cheaper to pay all your own expenses in exchange for getting a conference ticket and the chance to speak to a room full of interested attendees…

Bullshit detectors engaged

Found these via John Gruber (here and here), discussing the growing problem of not being able to detect bullshit.

For example, the following is complete bullshit:

We live in the age of information, which means that we also live in the age of misinformation. Indeed, you have likely come across more bullshit so far this week than a normal person living 1,000 years ago would in their entire lifetime. If we were to add up every word in every scholarly piece of work published prior to the Enlightenment, this number would still pale in comparison with the number of words used to promulgate bullshit on the internet in the 21st century alone.

The article starts with the above and then proceeds to dissect why it’s bullshit and how we can better equip ourselves to fight the urge to believe things that have no basis. It’s more likely than not they appeal to existing beliefs we hold, or have a sense of profundity to them.

Summary:

The first and most important step is to recognise the limits of our own cognition. We must be humble about our ability to justify our own beliefs. These are the keys to adopting a critical mindset – which is our only hope in a world so full of bullshit.

I’ve ordered Harry Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit (get it here from Book Depository) – looking forward to better preventing my naive and gullible side from growing.

By the way, whenever you stumble across bullshit that a friend of yours believes, here’s a few tips from Scientific American on how you can convince them otherwise:

  • 1. keep emotions out of the exchange
  • 2. discuss, don’t attack (no ad hominem and no ad Hitlerum)
  • 3. listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately
  • 4. show respect
  • 5. acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion, and
  • 6. try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews.

Blocking the blockers

Always interesting to see what the ad and tracker blocking technology sites themselves use to track you – here’s Ghostery as at the end of 2016:
Ghostery

I’m actually fine with this – they, just like any other technology company, want to increase their usage. So it makes sense that they track me so that they can retarget to me on Facebook to promote their tools for blocking people from tracking you.