Weekly Update – #1 – January 6th, 2019

Happy New Year! This is the first week of 2019.

Travel

This week we visited Palm Springs Aerial tramway. It was snowing! And it was very crowded. The twins didn’t mind the cold, had fun with snow.

Rotating tram car descends from Mt. San Jacinto station.

Writing

On Wednesday I finally published Torrey’s Annual Report (2018).

Running

On Friday I ran my 11ish miles commute to work. It went exactly as planned, I arrived 2.5 hours after setting foot on the road. I’m feeling confident, prepared for the upcoming Pasadena half marathon on 1/20.

Strava stats for commute run.

Reading while Running

During these long runs I listen to audiobooks. Right now I’m enjoying James A. Corey’s Caliban’s War. Its the second book in the series which was turned into Sci-fi TV Show The Expanse.

One part of the book that struck me was a description of future society on Earth. After most jobs disappeared, government offered basic support for citizens. The population divided itself into two large groups: the engaged and the apathetic. The engaged choose to work even they don’t have to. The apathetic don’t care and live out their lives on basic support.

It struck me because this divide is already happening. For example, there is an epidemic of unemployment in millennial men (the apathetic). What do the engaged people do? I think they vote, give blood, and go to work.

New Reading Habit

After reading James Clear’s article “How to read more”, I’ve been enjoying a new habit. My watch alarm goes off at 6am and I read 20 pages from a book. Reading beyond 20 pages is bonus points. Thanks to this habit, I read two books this week.

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard shares the amazing origin and growth story of outdoor equipment company Patagonia, Inc. Patagonia offers an unconventional model for sustainable, eco-friendly, and responsible business. Chouinard shows how the human race is not doing nearly enough to prevent and reverse ecological harm.

Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi delves into a wide variety of topics: the psychology of daydreaming, introversion, technology and social media addiction, creative work, mindfulness and meditation. It offers practical steps for becoming more aware of distractions and habits, and taking back (some) control. The most powerful nugget I found in the book is “Tan’s Ten-Second Meditation Practice” from Chade-Meng Tan.

1. Bring a person into your mind, preferably someone you care about.
2. Think I wish for this person to be happy.
3. Maintain the thought for three breaths, in and out.
4. Do this every day to turn your wish for other people’s happiness into a habit … that will bring you happiness, too.

After the morning reading habit sinks in, I’m looking to stack a writing habit on top.

Reviewing daily and weekly routines is a useful productivity tool. If you’re not making enough progress in a specific area, think about related routines. If there are no routines there, create one, and set reminders. Over time routines become habit, automatic, and reminders become unnecessary.


The idea of publishing weekly updates is inspired by Troy Hunt.

What I learned about Behavior from Sway

I’ve just finished a fun, short book called Sway: The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman.

An amazing story in the book explains how an airline’s safety champion became victim to loss aversion and commitment. The captain ignored take-off protocols and ultimately killed everyone on his plane. These subtle psychological forces cause risky, irrational behavior.

A NASA research project attempted to solve this problem as to prevent future disasters. NASA arrived at a solution of training pilots and co-pilots. The co-pilots must speak up and voice dissent, while captains must be receptive to dissent.

Dissent is really hard. Psychologists have found consensus is part of human nature. If no one else opposes the group, it’s hard to raise your own conflicting points. A sort of script is defined to help co-pilots initiate the discussion:

First, state the facts. “Captain, we are currently at 10,000 ft elevation and 30% fuel”

Second, state the captain’s first name. “John”

Third, ask a question: “have you thought about declining fuel levels?”

This dialog is designed to snap the captain out of tunnel vision and save lives.

While it is difficult to go against group think and dissent, it is beneficial to do so. Some teams will even designate a devil’s advocate to intentionally challenge an idea or decision. Even if the group is not swayed, this activity helps find weak points. Then, the final result is better because the weak points can be mitigated, rather than glossed over.

How to Apply It

How many times, daily, do you say a phrase like “I disagree”? If it’s ZERO, maybe dig in and question yourself.

When making a big decision in a group setting, designate a devil’s advocate to debate against the popular opinion.

How important is taking deep breaks and spending time with family? How do I unplug physically and mentally? I struggle with this from time to time

A reader of this blog recently wrote in: “How important is taking deep breaks and spending time with family? How do I unplug physically and mentally? I struggle with this from time to time.”

It’s extremely important to take time to unplug. We know that creativity is diminished by stress, and deep-seated stress accumulates over time if not addressed. In addition “Emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.”[1] Taking time to unplug physically and mentally is critical for overall health and optimal creativity. Creative thinking (or lack of it) affects every aspect of life including relationships, fulfillment and happiness.

A study of road rage explains that a contributing psychological factor of road rage is a perceived invasion of personal space.[2] The human mind is capable of expanding it’s perceived physical boundaries beyond skin to physical objects like cars and smart phones. Smart phones and computers can become like virtual appendages. When this link is severed, or the space invaded, it can feel extremely unsettling.

Tips for unplugging physically and mentally:

  • Forget meditating, go for a swim
    • Ryan Holiday: “My writing wasn’t just enabled and encouraged by the clarity I had after my swims, but in fact, the process of swimming itself was a writing tool.”[3]
    • You probably don’t have a waterproof smartphone, so the activity of swimming forces a short period of unplugging. It’s just you, the water and your thoughts.
  • If you are spending time with someone else, leave one phone at home.
    • You only need one device to take pictures, hail ride shares, and look up information.
  • Throw your phone in a backpack
    • Adding to the opportunity cost of pulling out your phone will break the normal social media feed checking routines
  • Set regular black out periods, and turn on airplane mode.
    • Be more present during the black out period, disconnect for this short time.
    • For example, spend 1 hour with your kids every night after work. Turn off connections during this time to avoid distractions. No work email!
  • Leave your phone/tablet/laptop in another room
    • Leave it in your car if it’s a safe place.
    • Putting doors between you and devices also adds to the opportunity cost of grabbing it.
  • Use a $10 electric outlet timer to shut off WiFi at night
    • Do you really need WiFi from 12am to 6am?
    • If your streaming movie gets cut off at midnight, it’s time to go to sleep.
    • The science isn’t clear, but EMF/radiation from WiFi signals may affect sleep quality.[4]

Thank you for reading, and thank you for submitting this great question.

Torrey’s Blog (torrey.blog) is an affiliate of Amazon.com

Do smart phones make stupid humans?

I like to observe how people act and think about why. Smart phones have become pervasive enough to change human behavior. What are the consequences?


Do smart phones make stupid humans?

Have you ever wondered if smart phones make us stupid? Now we have an answer and we know how stupid they make us. “Even if you’re not using it, just having your smartphone on your desk reduces your working memory capacity by 10% and fluid intelligence by 5%.” Adam Grant shared this study via this LinkedIn post.

The solution is simple: keep it in your pants, out of sight. Leave your phone in another room.


If a smart phone sabotages it’ owner, what do they do to everyone else in the room?

Simon Sinek has something interested to say about this topic. Placing your smartphone on the table at a meeting sends a signal to everyone in the room “you’re just not that important to me.” When the phone is face up, every notification lights up the screen and draws attention. When it’s face down, notification vibrations trigger nearby attendees to check their devices.


Does social media get in the way of social bonding?

You might feel sad when you see a family at dinner staring at jeejahs and not engaged in conversation. Consider an alternate point of view from Gary Vaynerchuck: smartphones didn’t create this problem. The old way to endure failure-to-connect meant drowning in awkward silence. The option to stick the nose in social media means those silences suck a little less.


How can attention spans be lengthened?

There was a time when the hat rack was a symbol of transition from public to private space. When entering the private space, one was expected to hang up their hat. Now, imagine docking smartphones in the charging rack upon entering a pricate space.  This is a great way to remove a huge source of distraction from the meeting and keep everyone engaged.


I think we are all still learning ‘proper’ smartphone etiquette, as we must do for inventions that change the way we live and work. Slowly people settle on unspoken rules of when and where putting it on the table is appropriate or inappropriate.


Thank you for reading!

Together we build a world free of fear.  What would you do if you were not afraid?