Archive for the psychology Category

How to achieve your goals in 2012 like a piece of Pi

Posted in optimal performance, psychology with tags on January 23, 2012 by gohelpyourself

Achieving goals can be a piece of Pi. (Photo courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski; photo taken from http://www.sxc.hu.)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Yes. It can be a piece of Pi. The Pi, of course, is that number introduced to us when we were in elementary or high school.

Pi doesn’t talk much, but it has a lot of digits in it. It is infinite, as far as existing supercomputers tell us.

So, you may ask, who am to give you advice on achieving your goals in 2012? Am I an expert? Am I a productivity guru? Well, no. But I’ve read David Allen and recently learned about the Pomodoro technique, among others. And I’m hoping that by the proven scientific principle of osmosis, I can give you some sensible advice.

But what has Pi anything to do with it? Well, in college, I had a math textbook containing the first 100 digits of Pi on the cover. I challenged myself to memorize it. Then in December last year, I rediscovered Pi while surfing the internet, and stumbled upon the Joy of Pi website.

Actually, I was looking for something to help me with my meditation. And since Pi is supposed to be a “transcendental number”, I thought it might help.

After setting a goal of memorizing 1,000 decimal places of Pi before the end of December, I realized that achieving this feat is a lot like setting and achieving goals in life.

So here are some tips:

1. Chunk it up.

Yes, I know you’ve heard it all before. But repetition can be a good thing. In any case, any big goal should be broken down into easy-to-achieve goals. It’s pretty obvious. If you masticate on a big chunk of steak, you are likely to choke, especially if someone decides to tickle you pink. So if you want to make the process more bearable and enjoyable, you cut it into smaller pieces.

It’s the same with memorizing random digits. What I did is to break down the 1,000 digits into 100-digit segments. Then I memorized those segments one at a time. Each segment is like a poem to me. “Come live with me and be my love…” Something like that, but less sexy.

2. Use what works for you.

I’m familiar with some mnemonic techniques that others use. Some have used transliteration of digits into letters, such as 0 for s or z, 1 for t or d, 2 for n, 3 for m, 4 for r, 5 for l, 6 for sh or ch, 7 for g or k, 8 for f or v, 9 for p or b.

So for the first 24 digits of Pi, for example, you can just memorize this sentence:

“My turtle Pancho will, my love, pick up my new mover Ginger.”

It’s cool isn’t it? But it doesn’t work for me. It makes me a lot slower when reciting the numbers because I still have to “translate” the letters into numbers. Neither do the other techniques work for me, such as the method of loci where you think of your favorite spots at home or some familiar place and make silly or outrageous images.

So I used my old technique which is a combination of visual and auditory stimuli generated by the numbers. I divided each 100-digit segment into five or six “sentences”. Within those “sentences”, there are two- to six-digit “words”.

There are some repetitions within the numbers. For example, 6535, 8979, etc. Somewhere between digits 701 to 800, there is also a string of six 9s. I don’t know how statistically improbable is that. I’m not a mathematician.

Anyway, I think there are few people who use the same technique.

3. Focus.

This is obvious. But certainly it’s very hard to do for most of us. I think it may help to make it mindless or automatic to a certain extent. Just like brushing your teeth or taking a bath, you should find the time to achieve one single task that would help you achieve your goals everyday.

I’ve come to love the blog of Leo Babauta. Though his articles have become a little repetitious, I’ve come to view them as useful reminders. Two posts that may be useful are those about how to set and achieve life goals and about how to establish new habits.

Establishing habits is important. I do recommend that instead of setting new year’s resolutions, we set habits instead.

You may want to try out the Pomodoro technique, too. It’s a simple productivity tool that you may like. I’ve been experimenting with it and, so far, I’m noticing some wonderful improvements in my productivity.

And as for memorizing the digits of Pi, I set aside 30 minutes each day. I have work and other responsibilities so this is the only amount of time I can set aside. And before December was up, I was able to memorize 1,000 decimal places of Pi.

Now I’m hoping that these tips I’ve learned from memorizing Pi will also extend to my ability to achieve other goals, and thereby make me more awesome, and less inclined to do seemingly useless things.

Here’s wishing you more awesomeness for the Chinese New Year.

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Kabbalah for the uninitiated

Posted in philosophy, psychology on December 22, 2011 by gohelpyourself

Kabbalah is supposed to help transmogrify people to become spiritual beings and reach the 99% reality of this world. I'd like that. But not soon, though.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

With a few lines and a few circles on the presentation easel, she was finished.

Ta-da! It was the “tree of life.”

I couldn’t believe it was that simple. It didn’t even look like a tree. I felt like genuflecting but my left leg was numb after 10 minutes with crossed legs.

I was at the Kabbalah lecture titled “Redefining Impossible” held recently at the Mandarin Oriental in Makati. Curious about many things, I decided to see what it was all about.

Kabbalah, according to the brochure given to us, is “an ancient wisdom that reveals how the universe and life work. On a literal level, the word Kabbalah means ‘receiving.’ It’s the study of how to receive fulfillment in our lives.”

It’s vague, I know. Perhaps I can direct you to www.kabbalah.com. In any case, it’s not a religion. You can still be a devout Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim, or even a Jedi Knight, which, incidentally, is based on the philosophy of Star Wars. Some fans of the movie series actually managed to influence some people to include this quasi-religion in surveys in the United Kingdom, Australia, and some other countries. Don’t ask.

Sarah Lopez, a Kabbalah teacher based in London where some Jedi Knights exist, showed us where most people are on the tree of life–right down there at the bottom circle of the tree of life.

They call it the 1% world, which is the physical world that we live in. The 99% world, represented by nine other circles above the lone circle at the bottom, is the realm of the spirit.

Sarah made references about the atom. Most of the atom, she said, is really energy. It’s not physical. She equates energy with spiritual energy. The universe, as we were taught, was created with a sudden burst of light that led to the “accident”, which means you and me, the awe-inspiring landscapes and animals in the zoo and, unfortunately, some irritating politicians we have.

The goal, Sarah said, is to “bring our consciousness out of the 1%.”

“The spiritual came first before the physical,” she said.

And spiritual is infinite, too, just as the universe is infinite and boundless.

She added that everything in this world is part of that primordial light that started everything. And since we all came from that light, we are all destined to get that light.

This leads to an interesting dichotomy between the spiritual and physical:

  • endless – limited
  • immortality – death
  • infinite – finite
  • cure – disease
  • courage – fear
  • certainty – doubt
  • love – hate
  • solution – problem
  • possibility – impossibility

The lecture was full of anecdotes and parables–the men in the mental hospital, the raven and the dove, the pessimistic kid and the optimistic kid, the Kabbalah teacher in a coma, the drowning man. And there was a lot of reference to the “Light”–seeking the “Light”, receiving the “Light”, sharing our light, the curtain covering the “Light.”

Now how the heck do they teach Kabbalah to the blind? Perhaps Kabbalah for the blind would be an interesting topic.

But perhaps Sarah and the other Kabbalah experts have the answer to this already. After all, they’re already in a higher plane of existence, while I’m here sitting on my chair massaging my numb leg.

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On Work-Life Balance

Posted in philosophy, psychology on October 6, 2011 by gohelpyourself

Work-life balance has become an illusion, much like my belief that I am a hunk. (Photo by Kriss Szkurlatowski, http://www.12frames.eu)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

This is a conundrum to me. I don’t know how many people still believe this.

Could there be such a thing as work-life balance?

Balance implies equilibrium. It implies equal proportions, stability through even distribution of something.

So does work-life balance mean 50 percent work and 50 percent life? That means I’d have to work 12 hours a day, and spend the rest on having a good time with my family, doing my hobbies, or sunbathing at the beach with a piña colada.

Oh no! How about sleep? That’s eight hours. Where do I classify that? Under work or under life? Or both?

Tada. I present to you the perfect executive. He’s got a four-digit IQ, dresses well, and has a beautiful and loving wife and super achiever kids. But he spends at least 90 hours a week at the office because he is the president and CEO of a big company.

Does he have work-life balance? How about P-Noy? He says he doesn’t have time for his love life.

Or how about the artist who spends his time almost exclusively at his studio and rarely spends time with friends and family. And yet, he produces some of the greatest works of art in the world, and is considered a genius.

Does he have that so-called work-life balance?

It sounds silly to me. Should it be work-life combination instead? Or work-life mix? It doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s more accurate to me.

I guess the important thing is that we spend time on the things we determine are important to us.

Are you doing what’s important to you right now?

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6 persuasion tips for breastfeeding moms and advocates

Posted in parenting, psychology on August 17, 2011 by gohelpyourself

They're made for babies, too. (Photo by Hector Landaeta, taken from http://www.sxc.hu)

“Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (August). For this month, we join the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action in it’s “Talk to Me!” theme where participants will share personal experiences, insights or recommendations in communicating breastfeeding intentions and goals to their support system. Please scroll down to the end of this post and check out the other carnival participants.”

By Anthony O. Alcantara

As long as God has not nullified his command to “Go forth and multiply,” there will always be babies.

And the job of breastfeeding advocates, especially with this wonderful onslaught of babies in our world, is to “go forth and demystify” the idea of breastfeeding.

But how do we persuade people that female breasts exist for babies? That breasts are not merely decorations to be used on special occasions? That babies need the life-giving milk from their mothers? That people who run companies making milk formula are actually aliens who want to experiment on humans?

We can turn to Robert Cialdini, a psychologist who specializes in influence, for answers. I’m pretty sure he’s not an alien.

I already wrote a piece on persuasion a long time ago. But now I take the liberty to apply Cialdini’s  framework for the use of breastfeeding moms and advocates.

Principle 1: Reciprocity

This means that we feel the need to return favors to other people.

Let’s say Pedro is trying to convince his skeptical wife Maria to breastfeed their soon-to-be-born daughter.

“Honey, do you remember the shopping money I gave you so you can buy all those clothes to make you look pretty despite that big belly? Can you please consider breastfeeding for at least a few months?”

Principle 2: Authority

If reciprocity doesn’t work, there are other tools Pedro can use. The principle of authority shows that people have the tendency to respect experts who know better. Research is important.

“Honey, did you know that breastfed babies rarely get sick? According to a reliable study about breastfeeding, these babies are also smarter then formula-fed babies.”

“If mom breastfed me, I should have been a super genius.”

“Me too. Now I’m left with only two working neurons.”

Principle 3: Commitment/Consistency

There’s another principle that Pedro can use. People have this need to be consistent to their beliefs and values.

“I know you love our baby so much, dear. Do you promise to give her everything to give her a great life?”

“Yes of course.”

“Maybe we should consider breastfeeding, don’t you think?”

Principle 4: Scarcity

People want what others can’t have. Most of us indeed want gadgets, cars or club memberships that others can only dream of. It’s a natural inclination.

“Maria, do you know that fewer and fewer moms breastfeed despite the obvious benefits? These rare moms who breastfeed are indeed doing something good for their babies.”

“Yes, I know my friends didn’t even consider breastfeeding.”

“They probably don’t know what their kids are missing.”

Principle 5: Liking

This principle shows that we say yes to people we like. Liking can take several forms. We tend to say yes to people who are similar to us physically, culturally or in terms of social status. We also tend to like people who praise us.

“There’s this La Leche League group with moms like you who have the same problems with breastfeeding. They’re your age. I think one of your friends way back in elementary school is a member. Maybe you can have friends there who can support you.”

“Yeah, at this stage I need all the support I can get.”

Principle 6: Social Proof

This principle only shows that people tend to follow what others do.

“What’s this in the newspaper? There is an increasing number of moms who wish to breastfeed. They’re just few, but it’s becoming a trend.”

“Oh that’s interesting.”

“And more and more hospitals are now supporting breastfeeding. Maybe there’s something to this breastfeeding thing after all.”

Now Pedro can use these principles in combination for maximum effect. Lots of promising one-two-three combinations that can be used over time.

Will they work? Despite my contrived examples above, I think they will, if used properly.

Now go forth and spread the good news. And don’t forget to thank Robert Cialdini.

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TouringKitty’s Communication Through Breastfeeding (Twitter: @Touringkitty) (This is my wife’s blog and twitter account. We’re reaching another milestone with our baby soon.)

DaintyMom’s Creating a Pro-Breastfeeding Culture in the Family (Facebook and Twitter: @Dainty_Mom)

Wifely Steps’ On Breastfeeding: Say It, Claim It, Get Support! (Facebook and Twitter: @macaronigirl)

Truly Rich Mom’s How To Get Others to Support You in Breastfeeding (Facebookand Twitter: @tinasrodriguez)

EthanMama’s My Best Breastfeeding Support System – My Husband (Twitter: @ethanmama)

Raising Baby Lia’s A Shoutout to my Breastfeeding Buddies

Jen CC Tan’s I’m Breastfeeding, and That’s That! (Facebook and Twitter: @next9baby)

Project Blog by Kate’s Talk and Make it Happen (Facebook and Twitter: @kate_demetrio)

My Mommy Kwentos’ How I Recruited my Top Breastfeeding Buddies (Facebook)

Apples  & Dumplings Communicating and First Time Breastfeeders (Twitter: @apple_dumplings)

I’m a Newbie Wife’s How I Taught My Family to Breastfeed

Mec as Mom’s Pre-Natal Pediatric Consultations Are Necessary

Escie’s World’s Ready, Get Set, Go! for Breastfeeding (Twitter: @Escielicious)

Nanaystrip’s BreasTALK : Text, Retweet, Share your Knowledge and Experiences (Twitter: @bunsonimaestro)

Legally Mom’s Breastfeeding Talk Between Me and My Formula Fed Daughter (Facebook and Twitter: @legallymomPH

Chronicles of a Nursing Mom’s Effective Communication Bucket List (Facebookand Twitter: @mamababylove)

 

Pennies Envy

Posted in psychology on May 26, 2011 by gohelpyourself

For some, money is a great motivator. (This picture, taken from http://www.sxc.hu, is not originally in my editorial.)

(This is my last “From the Editor” piece in PLDT ACC:ESS magazine. I think it’s a fitting farewell after my nine-year stint in PLDT. Instead of writing about my memorable experiences in PLDT and thereby put you to sleep, I decided to stick to our theme, which is motivation. So I hope you get motivated somehow. Anyway, to my three loyal readers, including my wife, don’t worry. I’ll still be writing here. Happy reading.)

Some people are envious of other people’s pennies, or money, that is. That’s what motivates them. While Sigmund Freud has a theory of envy involving a certain body part, the rest of us are envious of or motivated by many different things.

One of my favorite accounts of motivation is a scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Some of you may have forgotten about it, whereas some may not have had the chance to read the book.

Anyway, here is that particular scene.

Tom Sawyer’s aunt asked him to whitewash a fence. It was 30 yards of board fence nine feet high. The task seemed to be as interesting as brushing your teeth.

As Tom was working, a boy named Ben Rogers sauntered by, ready to ridicule.

Excerpt from the version from iBooks:

“Hello, old  chap, you got to work, hey?”

Tom wheeled suddenly and said: “Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”

“Say – I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther WORK – wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

“What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t THAT work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well,  maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know is it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now,  you don’t mean to let on that you LIKE it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling at his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back  and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticized the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let ME whitewash a little.”

Tom considered, was about to consent, but he altered his mind:

“No – no – I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence – right here on the street, you know – but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and SHE wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very cafeful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

Soon Ben gave his apple to Tom just so he can whitewash the fence. Other boys traded a kite, marbles, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin solider, and other gimcracks just to be given the chance to whitewash the fence.

Motivation can be strange indeed. We all have different triggers. And this “From the Editor” piece is my trigger for saying goodbye. I’m moving on to a PLDT affiliate company. I do have a lot of people to thank.

Mr. Manny Pangilinan, Mr. Butch Jimenez, Mr. Mon Isberto, and Mr. Horace Lavides have taught me valuable lessons in my nine-year stay in PLDT. Of course, I’m forever indebted to my colleagues in PLDT Media and other friends: Jun Sambalilo, Sennen Lacsamana, Annie Salazar, Olive Barrozo, Adrian Elumba, Raymond Co, Rochelle Hilario, Paeng Kalaw, Dan Mortalla, Jay Garcia, Jude Galford, Arnel Samson, Wang Salonga, Jenny Salonga, Maricar Cabador, Leng Casas, Ma’am Evelyn del Rosario, Alice Tuazon, Annie Ferrer. I’ve risked not mentioning other names but please know that I’m grateful.

And you, my readers, at least most of you, have been kind and supportive. Thanks a lot.

Let’s hope we find an eternal fount of motivation that will guide us each day, and prevent us from envying other people’s pennies.

(signature)

Anthony O. Alcantara

P.S. If you miss me, you can check my blog www.gohelpyourself.wordpress.com and say hi.

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An imaginary graduation speech

Posted in philosophy, psychology on May 5, 2011 by gohelpyourself
By Anthony O. Alcantara

Since it’s graduation season again and I suddenly imagined myself giving a graduation speech, I decided to have a writing exercise.
It’s just a draft so please be forgiving.
Good morning, my dear graduates.

I really don’t know what I’m going to tell you. It’s so damn hard to be original these days. Truly original ideas are rare. So I went out into the wilderness, meditated and soon a prophet with a white beard appeared to me and handed me this speech.

He said it’s a nice hodgepodge of ideas that may be useful. As you know, we all have defining moments in our lives. There are signals and triggers that inspire us to be great. Who would have thought that an encounter with a world-class pianist can inspire a young person to become a great musician? Who would have thought that a single word from an admired person can inspire another to become a billionaire businessman?

Signals and triggers can come from odd sources indeed. So I’m hoping this speech could trigger something great somehow.

Anyway, here’s my first piece of advice as handed down to me by the wise prophet:

Please do what you love.

Many others have said this. It’s nothing new. And yet a few weeks ago when I was watching news on TV, a reporter was interviewing new high school graduates about what they wish to take up in college. All of the young graduates said they wanted something that would guarantee them a job, something that would guarantee them income.

And you college graduates are about to embark on the world of work. Will you be saying the same thing?

I ask you to be different. We are at a time when there are really no guarantees. Jobs are being created and abolished at the same time. Unlike before, job security is not much in vogue. It’s much like politics too. If the people don’t like you anymore, they vote for somebody else.

So you must be prepared for change. The saddest thing that could happen is if you choose your careers because you want a secure job that will give you money. Just like Steve Jobs of Apple, you can choose a career that you love and be successful.

It’s the most sensible thing to do. Why? Because when you do the thing that you love, there is a great possibility that you will excel in it. And when you excel and become remarkable in what you do, people will look for you. And when that happens, you’ll have a job that is relatively stable. You’ll have a job that will bring you money for the long haul.

So there. Don’t listen to people who tell you otherwise. Find something you love and do it, excel in it.

But you may ask, “What if I’m not particularly good at this thing that I love? What if nothing I do will really make me excel in this job?”

My next advice is this:

Please find something that you can excel in.

The questions I  asked earlier are valid questions. The sensible thing to do is really to  find something that you love and something that you can excel in at the same time.

There must be an overlap. Sir Ken Robinshon said in his book The Element that one must find that sweet spot of what you love to do and what you’re good at. It may take time. It may take some reflection. It may take a little experimentation. But nobody is going to do all that for you.

So after this graduation ceremony and after your celebration, you can look for  that sweet spot if you haven’t found it yet.

The next piece of unsolicited advice is:

Please find a way to make good money out of the thing that you love to do.

As I said, when you find that sweet spot, the next thing to do is to figure out how you can make money.

That’s where your creativity comes in. If you love to bake cookies that your friends like, can you can make a living out of it? If you love to paint, can you can earn enough to support yourself?

There must be something you can do to make that possible. You can look around for people who have done it. You can interview them and ask how they did it. You can research. The internet is a rich resource. Then see what works and what doesn’t.

If you love playing with computers, you can ask yourself how you can make money out of it? Some have gone on to make their own games. Some have become elite players who win contests.

You can work on your passions one by one until you find something marvelous that will suit you.

My next piece of advice is:

Please find something that is meaningful to you.

A lot of books have been written on this topic. The Purpose Driven Life is a good one, and so is Rick Warren’s The Leap.

When you find meaning in what you do, you put your whole being into it. You give more of yourself. Everything makes sense. That’s when you begin to be excellent.

In a study by psychologist Adam M. Grant, it was found out that employees who know the “why” of what they are doing outperformed those who only have a vague idea. So it may be a good idea to regularly remind yourself why you are doing the things that you do. Only you can give meaning to your own life. If you think the meaning of your life lies in cheating people, then you get the fruits of your decision.

If you think the meaning of your life is to educate the youth better, then that’s the meaning you assign to your life.

So ask yourself why you are studying, why you are working, why you’re here. Bakit nga ba nandito kayo?

My next advice is this:

Please dedicate your life to something big and noble.

Dedicate your efforts to doing what you love and direct them toward something big and noble.

For example, if you love baking, you can perhaps form a group in your own circle of friends and dedicate yourselves to helping each other. Perhaps you can exchange tips or provide resources. Who knows what may come out of it? Then you can go further and have even bigger and nobler goals.

Let me clarify that “big and noble” are relative terms. You determine what is big and noble. But please be a little ambitious.

So after you leave this place, find something that you can dedicate your lives to. It’s going to be a long journey so please be patient and please be ever discerning and aware.

Perhaps you can even begin the process right now. Dedicate your graduation to somebody. Now everybody say this,  with conviction please: “I, (mention your name), dedicate my graduation / to ___./”

Now how do you feel? Is there somehow a sense of pride and a sense of pressure to do well.  Manny Pacquiao has dedicated each and every fight to some cause, particularly the Filipino people. Maybe that helped him win his fights somehow.

So please become a great dedicator. Dedicate  everything you do to something big and noble. It could be the cause against animal cruelty, health and wellness, or even the plight of the cute tarsiers.

Find something big and noble that means something to you. When you find it, dedicate yourself to it and do your best. Don’t support causes that other people think is right for you. It must emanate from  you. It is the only way to make a real difference in the lives of many.

The government is dedicated to something big and noble. I don’t see why you can’t be the same. Whatever your career, there must be something big and noble that you can dedicate yourselves to.

Here’s my last piece of advice:

Please be a failure. (Pause.)

I hope I got your attention. Let me explain what I mean. Be a failure. Be a failure and learn from it. Most of you are probably afraid to fail. I can’t blame you. But failure is a part of life. Collect your failures early and learn from them. Be smart and curious enough to find out what made you a failure.

That will pave your way to success. Thomas Edison had a lot of failures with the light bulb. But guess what? He learned from them. He continually improved himself so he can come up with his huge successes.

This is my message to you: don’t work for labels. Don’t work to be called smart or successful. These are all fleeting things. You will not always be smart. You will not always be successful. There is one sure thing though: you can always work to be smart. You can always work to be successful. You are a work in progress.

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, said the mindset of growth separates the achievers from the perpetual losers. If you can manage to live a life of growth, a life of continual improvement, then you will be more likely to achieve your full potential.

Be humble enough to acknowledge that you are not perfect and that you need to continually work on improving yourselves so that you grow as a person.

Please do what you love.

Please find something that you can excel in.

Please find a way to make good money out of the thing that you love to do.

Please find something that is meaningful to you.

Please dedicate your life to something big and noble.

Please be a failure.

Now don’t accept what I’m saying to you at face value. What I’m telling you are just some things for you to think about. Our country needs people who will make a difference. I know that right now, I’m looking at young people who have the potential to do so.

Have a good morning everyone.

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Follow the leader

Posted in learning, psychology on April 19, 2011 by gohelpyourself

"Follow me." (photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu)

By Anthony O. Alcantara
I’m not a leadership guru. And I have a hard time telling the difference between visions and hallucinations. I am therefore not the person to ask if you want to draft a sensible vision statement for your team, or write an inspiring piece on leading an ambitious campaign to wipe out the competition.

But, and that is a very emphatic “but,” my serendipitous research skills can compensate for my utter lack of credibility. Serendipitous because I came upon an interesting article on leadership as I was browsing the newspaper for the latest showbiz gossip while eating a donut, sipping hot chocolate and waiting for my wife to finish a meeting on how to “wear” your baby one Saturday morning. In mommyspeak, that means how to use a baby carrier.

The article is entitled “Top to Bottom, Making a Better Boss” by Adam Bryant of The New York Times. It’s about Google Inc.’s “Project Oxygen,” which sought to crack the leadership code based on some hard-core number crunching and unassailable data analysis.

The results were culled from 10,000 observations about managers and the analysis of more than 100 variables from performance reviews, feedback surveys, nominations for awards, accounts of complaints and other reports.

Indeed those nerds at Google really love data. Maybe they could help my wife and her friends analyze the precise level of happiness of mothers and babies when using baby carriers, and perhaps the precise number of donuts that husbands can eat while waiting for their wives to finish their deliberations.

Anyway, here are the eight directives that Google produced after the study:

1. Be a good coach.
2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage.
3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being.
4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.
5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.
6. Help your employees with career development.
7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team.

Now you can print this list and meditate on these directives everyday. Make a checklist if you want. This is perhaps the most compelling distillation of all the world’s wisdom on leadership.

But there’s more. The nerds of Google ranked those eight directives by importance, and they came up with some fascinating results.

Here’s what Bryant wrote:

“What employees valued most were even-tempered bosses who held one-on-one meetings, who helped people by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.”

So if you want to be a better leader quickly, concentrate on those traits. The study also showed that being equal to or better than subordinates in terms of technical expertise is the least important attribute of a leader.

Now please don’t let your boss see you nodding your head vigorously as you read this, okay?

The study also revealed that people cite three distinct reasons why they leave a company. They work in combination too:

1. “I don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company. I feel my work doesn’t matter.”
2. “I have no respect for and I don’t like my co-workers.”
3. “I have a terrible boss.”

The last one, the Google nerds say, is the biggest factor.

When Google applied the lessons they learned from the study, 75 percent of their worst managers showed “significant improvement.” I don’t know how it was done exactly. The author did not elaborate.

But still, Google’s study deserves a good look. Perhaps a similar study can be done here in the Philippines, just to be sure that culture is accounted for.

And if you want to start being a good leader now, go have a pleasant one-on-one chitchat with one of your subordinates. There’s no harm in trying.

(This is a reprint of my editorial in the March issue of PLDT’s ACC:ESS Magazine. The theme is leadership.)
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