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Monthly Archives: November 2013

How to Protect Yourself from Failure, by Deepak Chopra MD

[This blog post is from LinkedIn.]

Setbacks in any career are inevitable, and yet some people manage to succeed despite the worst of setbacks. Their secret is that they know the difference between a setback and failure. The two aren’t the same. A setback has to leave scars before it starts to become a failure. There are ways to protect yourself from being scarred. Some of these can be applied in advance, the way you’d apply prevention before you get sick. Others can be applied after a setback has occurred. But in both cases, anyone can learn the skills that are needed.

In advance:

  • View yourself as a success, no matter what is happening.
  • Know your personal weaknesses and deal with them.
  • Address the influence of fear and anxiety.
  • Stay immersed in the details of your work.
  • Have a supportive family.
  • Participate in a supportive team atmosphere.
  • Identify with interests outside your work.
  • Develop core values.
  • Learn how to be centered. (more…)

Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid, by Cheryl Conner on Forbes

FORBES reports that mental strength is as important or more so than physical strength and health, especially for entrepreneurs.

Read the 13 things to avoid for mental strength.

On Confirmation Bias, or The Tyranny of Homophily

Cross-posted with permission from Clips and Phrases

My great uncle is a brilliant and kind man who reads anything and everything he can get his hands on, then recaps it with such articulate precision and grace you’d think he’d done his doctorate on that book. And he seeks out information on subjects with which he has zero familiarity in order to be able to make connections across disciplines, and play with those connections the way most of us twiddle with our phones until something cool happens.

“I like to read people I disagree with,” he once told me. I asked him what he was currently reading. It was Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith.” My uncle is one of the most devout atheists I know, so I asked him, “Then why are you reading Harris?”

He paused.

“I want to see if his arguments are the same as mine,” he replied.

I don’t think I will ever see my uncle pick up a copy of something by Heschel or Augustine or any theological thinker talking about faith. Even this wildly knowledgeable seeker, at heart – just like me, just like any of us – craves validation. It sounds like something Stephen Colbert would say, but we want to hear other people say what we think.

At yesterday’s Jewish Futures Conference, I was re-introduced to the term “confirmation bias,” or people’s tendency to seek out information or hypotheses that confirm what we already believe to be true about the world. I heard this term and was struck to the bones. Because I am guilty, guilty, guilty.

To be fair, confirmation bias is not always a bad thing. There’s often good reason to surround yourself with supportive voices. That’s part of what builds community. That’s what gets people through hard times. That’s what makes us feel safe. All good things.

But there’s real danger in confirmation bias: one can fall subject to the tyranny of homophily.

Homophily is a term that comes out of network theory which essentially means “birds of a feather flock together.” Like (-minded) people tend to group together. And then you end up with situations like this.

Image

 

This is a network map of the political blogosphere from several years ago, indicating which blogs representing which parties linked (literally and metaphorically) to one another.

See the problem? These blogs, theoretically representative of the political conversation in the country writ large, aren’t breaking out of their echo chambers. They suffer from a bad case of homophily, and therefore confirmation bias, and the conversation becomes increasingly polarized.

The danger of confirmation bias is not just in governing a ridiculously diverse country that needs every voice to engage with one another, but in spurring innovation. As I see it, there are three basic definitions of innovation: 1) something entirely new that’s never existed before (“good luck with that,” says Kohelet); 2) something that already exists put into a new context (for instance, the movie Aliens was pitched as “Jaws in space”), and 3) two old ideas put together to make something new (“drive-through” + “bank” = drive through banking).

So, what happens when those two old ideas never get a chance to meet? Or we don’t learn about other contexts, and can’t drag those ideas into our own, or share ours with others?

Nothing. The stifling tyranny of homophily. We curl in on ourselves and begin to wither.

Breaking out of confirmation bias is hard, and scary. It leaves us raw and vulnerable. But, I’m learning, that’s what makes humans who we are.

My baby is about four months old right now, and trying and failing and learning all kinds of things. It’s thrilling, but it can also be dangerous for him. He’s really, really vulnerable and needs lots of love and attention to help him navigate this big crazy world my husband and I brought him into. But if he had been born and, like many other animals, could already walk and feed himself and do everything he needed to do to survive, he would never learn how to learn. And that’s what makes us different. That’s what makes us human.

Breaking out of confirmation bias and resisting homophily means we have to make ourselves more like my son. Learning to learn, learning to unlearn. Being more curious, and more foolish, perhaps. Being unabashedly braver through embracing our own vulnerability.

I’m not sure it’s something I’m ready to do – it’s much more comfortable to stick with what I know and hear from people who make me feel good about that – but I know it’s something I need to do, because that’s how things change and get better. The question now is how.

What Happy People Do Differently, By Robert Biswas-Diener, Todd B. Kashdan, published by Psychology Today on July 02, 2013 – last reviewed on July 08, 2013

 Image: Man eating entrails and wife frowning at them over a burger

The Real Rewards Of Risk

When anxiety is an optimal state

It’s a Friday night and you’re planning on meeting friends for dinner. If you want to ensure that you’ll go home full, you grab pizza or burgers. If you instead pick a cuisine you’ve never tried before (Ethiopian—sure, why not?) you run the risk that you won’t like your injera and wat that much—but you might also uncover a surprising delight.

Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people, are, simply put, curious. In a 2007 study, Todd Kashdan and Colorado State psychologist Michael Steger found that when participants monitored their own daily activities, as well as how they felt, over the course of 21 days, those who frequently felt curious on a given day also experienced the most satisfaction with their life—and engaged in the highest number of happiness-inducing activities, such as expressing gratitude to a colleague or volunteering to help others.

Yet curiosity—that pulsing, eager state of not knowing—is fundamentally an anxious state. When, for instance, psychologist Paul Silvia showed research participants a variety of paintings, calming images by Claude Monet and Claude Lorrain evoked happy feelings, whereas the mysterious, unsettling works by Egon Schiele and Francisco Goya evoked curiosity.

Curiosity, it seems, is largely about exploration—often at the price of momentary happiness. Curious people generally accept the notion that while being uncomfortable and vulnerable is not an easy path, it is the most direct route to becoming stronger and wiser. In fact, a closer look at the study by Kashdan and Steger suggests that curious people invest in activities that cause them discomfort as a springboard to higher psychological peaks.

Of course, there are plenty of instances in life where the best way to increase your satisfaction is to simply do what you know feels good, whether it’s putting your favorite song on the jukebox or making plans to see your best friend. But from time to time, it’s worth seeking out an experience that is novel, complicated, uncertain, or even upsetting—whether that means finally taking the leap and doing karaoke for the first time or hosting a screening of your college friend’s art-house film. The happiest people opt for both so that they can benefit, at various times, from each.

For the full article: Psychology Today