How-to-Do-Life Tweets

30 ideas on work, procrastination, learning, and emotions.

Posted Oct 24, 2018

Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Since 2009, I’ve posted 5,116 tweets, which archive my best ideas. Here at Psychology Today, I periodically post the best and most relevant to this blog’s title, How to Do Life. Here’s the current crop:

Work

On the job

I gave the following advice to a tough-minded young man who just got a job: While generally following the Stoics, it's important to be kind. Not a doormat but err on the side of kindness, even if it isn't reciprocated.

On a meeting's important topic, be last to chime in. That makes attendees less eager for you to finish so they can add their two cents. And importantly, waiting allows you to incorporate the best of what’s been said and to avoid making an obvious mistake.

Today, with everyone so busy, it really helps your cause if you're low-maintenance.

Employers

Criticism isn’t a dirty word. Tactful criticism accompanied by a suggestion for improvement is part of a manager’s job. Strike a balance: Criticize too rarely and you’re not providing enough feedback. Criticize too often and you’ll likely demotivate.

Job interviews should use simulations. For example, if the person will run meetings, have him lead a brief mock meeting. Also, probe claimed accomplishments, for example, “Tell me the details about how you saved the company $200,000.”

Hiring respondents to a job ad is risky. Having coached countless job seekers, on average, weaker applicants do more to hide weaknesses, e.g., paper over job gaps and bad job performance. Recruit by getting referrals from trusted colleagues.

Prioritize brains over experience. For most positions, intelligence, drive, and being low-maintenance trump specific experience or skills.

Career and job seekers

Ask yourself: What will your next five years look like in your current career? What if you had to pick something new? What if you didn't care about money or image? Merge your answers to those three questions to develop a goal for yourself.

A key question to ask when choosing a career training program, especially in art, music, or journalism: What percent who start the program end up with a career in that field earning at least a modestly middle-class living?

Job seekers, compress your job search. Do as much as you can in a week or two. That both more quickly gets your job search done and boosts chances you’ll get more than one job offer at the same time, giving you negotiating power.

A way to identify a well-suited career niche is to combine a core skill with a core interest. For example, an accountant who's an artist at their core might specialize in doing accounting for artists.

I just spoke with a long-time Silicon Valley insider. He says the media's pushing people to get into computers, whether by computer science major or bootcamp, is "crazy." Employers are hiring coders at $5 an hour in Asia, and for high-level work, $25.

Informational interviews are overrated. As people are ever busier, they’re unlikely to grant you one. And even if you get one, their opinion is idiosyncratic. Better to use a Google-search on the name of your target career. Include videos.

The amount of salary you additionally negotiate is taxed at your top rate, and the employer gets nothing in return. So focus on non-cash items: e.g., better-suited job description, right to telecommute for part of the week, a training budget.

The bigger picture

Externalities need be considered when explaining differences in merit. But because those are easier to discern and they provide comfortable excuses for poor performance, in practice, externalities dominate merit in selection, which is decimating, yes decimating society.

Academics assert the Horatio Alger story, the self-made man, is a myth, but in the real world, while no one is purely self-made, millions are largely so, including immigrants: from potato-famine surviving Irish to Holocaust-surviving Jews to internment surviving Japanese.

Procrastination

When it's a choice, many people too often choose not to work. So if you foundationally accept you need to prioritize work, contribution, getting stuff done, get into the habit of not even thinking about whether to do your work. Make it not a choice.

Ritualize a disdained big task. For example, a job seeker might start each day with 10 minutes of procrastination, two solid hours of job-seeking, and the rest of the day not worrying about job search. Repeat.

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work." Chuck Close, eminent artist and photographer.

"People unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their talents." Andrew Carnegie

Learning

For four years now, respected colleagues and I meet monthly on FreeConferenceCall for an hour. The structure is simple: I ask, “Who’d like to take the floor?” Someone shares a problem, the group asks questions and offers suggestions until the person cedes the floor.

Any time you’re interviewing someone, end with a catch-all question: “Anything else you’d like to tell me or ask?” That can tease out something useful you wouldn’t have thought to ask.

Working with a tutor is an underutilized, time-effective learning method. Do a bit of self-study, keep a list of questions, which you use as the basis of the next tutoring session.

How remarkable that Kindle enables you to obtain millions of books instantly, 24/7/365. The ultimate library. Yes, each book costs but that's one purchase I'm grateful to make.

Reading literature adds to the life well-led but most professional authors opted out of the real world and so have a jaundiced view of that real world.

Many people think education's value is priceless and worth the years. No more, as colleges now admit so many weak students, which dumbs down classes. So grade-inflated degrees are ubiquitous, signifying little. No wonder that Google, Apple, etc no longer require a degree.

Colleges certify competence with a diploma yet many grads write and think so poorly. It’s amazing that more students and employers don't sue.

Our increasingly censorious environment is reminiscent of early Nazi Germany when questioning the impassioned Orthodoxy didn't yet cause imprisonment but did result in shunning, even loss of job. That forced all but the bravest or most self-destructive people to stay silent. Does that sound familiar?

Emotions

Anger prone? Once incensed, It's hard to control anger. So try to put yourself in situations unlikely to trigger anger: a job with few negative surprises and with co-workers you respect, and a personal life with people unlikely to trigger you.

I predict that mental health apps will revolutionize treatment of garden-variety anxiety, depression, and ADHD. 24/7 availability, top-quality expertise undergirding it. And the cost is dramatically lower than talk therapy.

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