Thursday, August 30, 2012

Here are the things that are proven to make you happier: - Barking up the wrong tree

Here are the things that are proven to make you happier:


Time to round up the research on happiness and see what works and what you can use.

First, yeah, a good chunk of happiness is controlled by your genes but there's a lot you can do to make yourself happier. Many of these techniques have been repeatedly tested and even worked with the clinically depressed.


Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude

I can't emphasize this one enough. Showing gratitude for the good things you have is the most powerful happiness boosting activity there is.

It will make you happier.

It will improve your relationships.

It can make you a better person.

It can make life better for everyone around you.

Believe me now?

Bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists. Why? They feel grateful to get a medal at all.

Every night before you go to bed write down three things good that happened to you that day. That's pretty much all it takes to get a happiness boost over time.

There's a second lesson here: the reverse is also true. Keeping track of the bad things will make you miserable. A convenient memory is a powerful thing. Do not train your brain to see the negative, teach it to see the positive.

Wanna make yourself and someone else extremely happy? Try a gratitude visit. Write someone a letter thanking them and telling them how much what they have done for you means. Visit them and read it in person. It's a proven happiness WMD. More info here.


Do what you are good at as often as you can

"Signature strengths" are the things you are uniquely good at and using them brings us joy. Exercising signature strengths is why starving artists are happier with their jobs.

Think about the best possible version of yourself and move toward that. Signature strengths are the secret to experiencing more "flow" at work and in life. Learn to be an expert here.


Spend as much time as possible with people you like

Spend as much time as possible with people you like. The happiest people are social with strong relationships. Not spending more time with people we love is something we regret the most.

Being able to spend more time with friends provides an increase in happiness worth up to an additional $133,000 a year. (Values for your other relationships are here.)

Being compassionate makes us happier (causal, not correlative.) Share the best events of your day with loved ones and ask them to do the same. It works. And compliment them -- we love compliments more than money or sex.

But I'm an introvert, you say? A little bit of extraversion here would do you good. Happiness is more contagious than unhappiness so with amount of exposure to others well-being scales.


Money is good. Many other things are better.

After about 75K a year, money has minimal effects on happiness. Read that again. Not that money won't increase happiness but if you want to be happier your time and energy are better spent elsewhere. It will not increase your moment to moment mood.

The Amish are as satisfied as billionaires and slumdwellers can be surprisingly happy. The happiest of all income groups is people making 50-75k a year. Money is good but wanting money can be bad. Loving money can make it harder to be happy. There are ways money can bring happiness but they are not what you expect.



Giving makes us happier than receiving. In fact, it can create a feedback loop of happiness in your life. Volunteering makes us happier and can therefore be the most selfless way to be selfish.

Helping others reach their goals brings joy. Doing nice things for others today can literally make you happier for the rest of the week.



Take time to really enjoy the good things. What are the best ways to savor?

  • Positive mental time travel: Happy memories or looking forward to something
  • Being present: Not letting your mind wander and being absorbed in the moment.

Savoring is one of the secrets of the happiest people. Focusing on the limited time you have in this life is a good way to remind you to savor what is important.



You don't usually do what brings you joy, you do what is easy. Set ambitious goals and strive. Thinking about what happens to you in terms of your self-esteem will crush you -- look at life as growing and learning.

Sitting on the couch watching TV does not make you happy. You are happier when you are busy and are probably have more fun at work than at home. Thinking and working can beat sad feelings. A wandering mind is not a happy mind. Mastering skills is stressful in the short term and happiness-boosting in the long term.


Be optimistic, even to the border of delusion

Optimism is key. Yes, pessimism softens the blow of bad news but it isn't worth it. Optimism increases resilience.

Does this make you out of touch with reality? Maybe but being a little deluded is good:

Love means being slightly deluded. Being somewhat delusional improves marriages. Happy people believe their partner is a little more awesome than they really are. Someone you think is great who also thinks you're great -- it's one of the primary things you should look for in a marriage partner.

Thinking happy thoughts, giving hugs and smiling sound like unscientific hippie silliness but they all work.


Fundamentals are fundamental

Cranky? Before you blame the world, eat something. Take a nap -- it can purge negative emotions. Sleep is vital because your mood in the morning affects your mood all day.

Get your sleep. You cannot get away with cheating yourself on sleep and being tired makes it harder to be happy.


Frequency beats intensity

Lots of little good things is the path to happiness. You want frequent boosts not rare big stuff. (And this explains the best method of how to split a dinner bill with friends.) For the most part, don't bother to try and reduce the bad so much as you increase the good.

Stop thinking about big events that might make you thrilled -- it's the little things of everyday life that make lasting improvements to our happiness. You're not going to win the lottery and it wouldn't have the impact you think it would.


Avoid life's most common regrets

We know what people most often regret before they die:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

So what can you do to live a life without regret?

There are things you can do every day to improve your life.

If you enjoyed this post, share it with friends. We all deserve to be happy. :)


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6 Ways to Change Your Attitude Right Now

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6 Ways to Change Your Attitude Right Now

Want to change your attitude quickly? Try one of these six tricks to change your mood right now.

1. Use Your Scents

Aromatherapy is a great mood changer. A scent will often evoke a memory and activate the brain. Choose a pleasant essential oil scent like lavendar, vanilla, lemon or even your favorite perfume or cologne.  Use the scent effortlessly by diffusing it in the air, dab some on your wrists or even wear the scent on you in a necklace.  Adding a scent to a bath is a great way to relax and change your mood as well.

Don't forget that the scent of baked goods or another of your favorite foods might make the shift for you as well. As if you needed a reason to bake some cookies.

2. Relive a Memory

Memories are very powerful and can help you change your attitude quickly. Simply recall your happiest or funniest memory. Run the memory through your mind in slow motion, reliving every moment.

At a loss for which memories to try? Consider the birth of your child(ren), wedding, graduation, or a favorite birthday celebration.

3. Change Your Attitude With Music

Music can compliment our current attitude, amplifying it or change it entirely. Next time you are down don't listen to your sad songs, instead put on a dance track or maybe some reggae (Don't Worry, Be Happy anyone?). The music will move your focus away from your bad attitude and usher in a new fram e of mind. Bonus points for using a song that evokes a happy memory.

4. Laughter is the Best Medicine

Laugh your way to a new attitude. I know, it's hard to even conceive of laughing when you are really upset, angry, frustrated or in the middle of many other negative emotions. ...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

12 Depression Busters for Seniors | World of Psychology

12 Depression Busters for Seniors

12 Depression Busters for SeniorsRoughly a quarter of people age 65 or older suffer from depression. More than half of doctor's visits by the elderly involve complaints of emotional distress. Twenty percent of suicides in this country are committed by seniors, with the highest success rate belonging to older, white men.

According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, depression is one of the major causes of decline in the health-related quality of life for senior citizens.

Why all the depression?

Rafi Kevorkian, M.D. calls them the five D's: disability, decline, diminished quality of life, demand on caregivers, and dementia. To combat senior depression, then, requires coming up with creative methods to counter the five D's.

Here are 12 strategies to do just that: help people break free from the prison of depression and anxiety in their senior years.

1. Separate the illness from depression.

Depression in seniors is more complicated to identify and treat than that of younger folks because of all the other illnesses involved. For example, Parkinson's disease directly effect brain chemistry and can exacerbate depressive symptoms. Estimates show that 25 percent of cancer patients are depressed and as many as 50 percent of stroke patients suffer from depression.

Karen Swartz, M.D., Director of Clinical Programs at Johns Hopkins, maintains that patients with co-existing depression and chronic illnesses tend to focus more on the physical ailment, and therefore delay or impede full recovery from a mood disorder. Her advise? "Treat both the depression and the chronic illness simultaneously, setting aggressive treatment goals for both…. Do not settle for substandard treatment results — if one or both conditions is/are not responding to treatment, intensify or switch approaches." Also be sure there is cooperation and clear communication between your doctor and your mental health provider.

2. Watch the drinks.

Did you think teenagers were most at risk for substance abuse? Actually, alcohol and drug abuse are very prevalent among people over age 60, affecting 17 percent of older adults. It's not uncommon for seniors to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs as a way of coping with their loneliness or dealing with chronic pain. Hell, I can't say I blame them.

But it's bad, bad news. For one, alcohol is a depressive and is going to depress you even more (once you come down from the buzz of course). Popping sedatives can be lethal, especially when taken in combination with alcohol. Alcohol and drugs can also interfere with the effects of medications taken for diabetes, heart disease, and other common conditions among seniors. And finally, substance abuse increases the risk of suicide, especially in older men.

In other words, pour with caution.

3. Try Tai Chi.

Because disability and diminished quality of life are two of the D's of senior depression, older people would be smart to invest in some fall insurance–to do whatever they can to prevent falls. The fear of falling is legitimate among the elderly because approximately 33 percent of Americans ages 65 or older fall at least once a year. And when you consider the rates of osteoporosis, arthritis, and weak cardiopulmonary systems among elderly, healing from a fracture isn't so easy.

Therefore, take up an exercise program like Tai Chi, a martial art that teaches agility, slow movement, and coordination between body and mind. Tai Chi has been proven to prevent falls among seniors because it builds balance, core strength, and confidence. Strength training with either free weights or resistance rubber bands is also beneficial. And yoga, too.

4. Treat any insomnia.

Here's an interesting trivia fact from David N. Neubauer, M.D., author of "Understanding Sleeplessness: Perspectives on Insomnia": "As we age, we typically spend less time in the deepest levels of non-REM sleep (Stage 3 and Stage 4) and more time in the lighter levels. Consequently, older people often suffer from fragmented sleep, waking up more often during the night and early in the morning. In response to these changing sleep patterns, many [older] people develop poor sleep habits that compound the problem."

Dr. Neubauer reports that 80 percent of people who are depressed experience sleeplessness, and that the more depressed someone is, the more likely it is that he or she will have sleep problems. And vice versa! So absolutely essential to a senior's depression treatment is addressing any sleep problems and to practice good sleep hygiene: like going to bed at the same time every night, waking at the same time in the morning, and cutting down on or eliminating caffeine.

5. Distinguish grief from depression.

By the age of 65, half of American women will be widows. And in 10 to 15 percent of spouses, the loss of their loved one leads to chronic depression. The questions is: what's normal grief and what's depression? Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, distinguishes the two in this way: "The sadness of grief usually comes in waves, with varying degrees of intensity and bouts of crying, and feelings of intense sadness, guilt, anger, irritability, or loneliness. A person experiencing grief, however, can enjoy some of life's activities. Grief is generally time limited and resolves on its own. Depression is a more persistent and unremitting sadness."

In other words, a depressed person is unable to enjoy life activities, merely slogging through life. She may also start to abuse alcohol or other drugs, experience difficulty eating (or overeating), and suffer from sleep disturbances.

6. Carry some photos.

Here's a simple way you can buffer yourself from the beast of depression: carry photos of your loved ones and friends in your wallet. Yep! A new study by UCLA psychologists found that by simply looking at a photograph of their significant others, a group of women reported less pain to the heat stimuli to their forearms than when they looked at pictures of an object or a stranger. Says study co-author Naomi Eisenberger: "The mere reminder of one's partner through a simple photograph was capable of reducing pain. The study fits with other work emphasizing the importance of social support for physical and mental health."

7. Make new friends.

Even better than photos are actual people! Countless studies have demonstrated that people with strong social networks are more resilient to depression and anxiety, especially in their senior years. And since losing friends and family is part of growing older, it is especially important for seniors to make an effort to meet new people. In my piece "13 Ways to Make Friends," I offer a few suggestions: trying out a book club, volunteering, taking a night class, and connecting with your alumni association. Psych Central's Dr. John Grohol proposes 10 more in his "10 More Ways to Make Friends," such as joining a bowling league, getting involved in your church, or making a local restaurant or coffee shop your place to hang out.

8. Get online.

According to a new report issued by the Phoenix Report, spending time online reduced depression by 20 percent in senior citizens. The study's co-author, Sherry G. Ford, makes an excellent point: "Maintaining relationships with friends and family at a time in life when mobility becomes increasingly limited is challenging for the elderly. Increased Internet access and use by senior citizens enables them to connect with sources of social support when face-to-face interaction becomes more difficult."

9. Exercise.

Let's say you're 84 years old and have never worn a pair of tennis shoes. You don't like to move fast. Let's say you eat steak and fries every night, the fries being the only vegetable to go near your mouth. Are you really going to benefit from exercise at this point in your life? Had I not read the September 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, I would have said, "hell no." Alas, I stand corrected. Senior citizens who exercise — even if they take it up at age 85 — live longer, healthier, and happier lives. The seniors who exercised regularly experienced fewer declines in their quality of life, were less lonely, and were more likely to stay independent.

10. Review your options.

I can imagine how I'd feel if a well-intentioned family member stole my car keys, said the stove was off limits anymore, and dropped off a friendly "guest" (or spy) who would be staying with me for the rest of my life. NOT happy.

It's no wonder why those seniors who lose their independence and mobility end up depressed. In fact, the Journal of Leisure Research recently published a study by four researchers that confirmed a very basic theory: humans thrive when they have choices and feel in control. When they don't? They become helpless and lose the will to live.

So a good exercise is to take inventory of our options: the brand of toothpaste we brush our teeth (or dentures) with, the websites we visit, the novels we read, the cereals we eat, the tv shows we watch, the people we talk to, the coffee we drink, the activities we pursue, the crossword puzzles we attempt. Okay, you get the point. Even in the midst of limited options, we always have some control, a plethora of possibilities. Simply take note of them.

11. Get a purpose.

According to author and life coach Richard Leider, "Purpose is the glue that holds the good life together." Met Life, the insurance company, wanted to find out if that was really true, so they asked 1000 people between the ages 45 and 74 the big question: "Hey guys, why do you get up in the morning? What really matters in the end?" Contrary to the message we get blasted everyday in the media, folks reported that a sense of purpose was what was truly important. Even more so than money or health. And as people age, a sense of purpose becomes even more important.

So get a purpose, no matter how big or small: recycling the plastic bags of everyone in your apartment complex, providing free babysitting for your daughter so she can have a date night with her husband, spoiling your grandchildren with ice-cream, or visiting a lonely neighbor once a week. It doesn't have to require lots of time, energy, money, or brain power. All you need is a little motivation and a touch of kindness.

12. Go with the pain.

Look. There is no escaping all the pain of growing older. When you consider all the physical ailments and chronic conditions experienced by seniors, it is understandable that so many are depressed and anxious. Not to mention the agonizing process of losing loved ones to death. When experiencing acute loneliness, I like to remember these words by spiritual author Henri Nouwen: "It is the absence itself, the emptiness within you, that you have to be willing to experience, not the one who could temporarily take it away. You have to own your loneliness and trust that it will not always be there. The pain you suffer now is meant to put you in touch with the place where you most need healing, your heart." In other words, sometimes the best the thing to do with our pain is simply to surrender to it, and go with it.

Therese J. Borchard is the author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes and The Pocket Therapist: An Emotional Survival Kit. Write to her at or follow her on Twitter @thereseborchard.

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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Aug 2012
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APA Reference
Borchard, T. (2012). 12 Depression Busters for Seniors. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 29, 2012, from


Monday, August 27, 2012

In Defense of City Managers |

In Defense of City Managers |


In Defense of City Managers

by Bob O'Neill
In an August 2, 2012, opinion piece in the Washington Examiner,“Manhattan Moment: Only politicians can save us now,” Stephen Eide, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for State and Local Leadership and a regular contributor on claimed that “cities should resist calls to ‘trust the experts….’ and that “only politicians could save [America’s cities].” Below is the text of ICMA Executive Director Bob O’Neill’s response to that column, which appeared in the August 11 online edition of the Examiner.
Many of today's U.S. cities face tremendous fiscal challenges, as Stephen Eide discussed in a recent column ("Only politicians can save us now," Aug. 2.) But to suggest a solution that pits strong political leadership against professional local government management, however, is misguided.
For our cities to be successful, they require the combination of strong political leadership, strong policy development, a relentless focus on execution and results, a commitment to transparent and ethical government, and a strategy for representing and engaging every segment of the community. This, and not exclusive reliance upon the power of our politicians, is the bold reform that is needed now.
Eide cited a number of California cities as examples in which council-manager communities (as opposed to cities in which the elected mayor oversees the managerial function) have suffered financial and managerial difficulties during the past few years. But more than 400 council-manager cities throughout the state continue to operate successfully. Although most council-manager jurisdictions in California face incredible financial strain, the majority are managing these challenges commendably.
The council-manager model of government does not guarantee efficiency or competence. It does, however, substantially increase the odds. IBM's David Edwards, for example, benchmarked the 100 largest cities in the U.S. to assess and compare their relative efficiency. In "Smarter, Faster, Cheaper," Edwards reported that what determines how efficiently a city deploys resources is management, and that communities with the council-manager form of government are nearly 10 percent more efficient than those with strong mayoral forms of government. "[M]anagers are important," Edwards wrote. "They influence outcomes."
Other rankings also bear out Edwards' findings. Nearly two-thirds of Moody's triple-A bond-rated cities are run by a professional local government manager, and 60 percent of the 100 "Best Places to Live" identified by CNNMoney in 2011 operate with a professional manager.
The stringently enforced Code of Ethics adopted by ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, requires professional local government managers to be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships; refrain from all political activities that undermine public confidence in professional administrators; and, refrain from seeking personal aggrandizement or profit secured by confidential information or misuse of public time. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of city managers do not perform up to these standards. But this is not unique to the city management profession. Moreover, the vast majority of city managers work relentlessly to provide efficient, effective services while meeting the highest standards of ethics and integrity.
The contribution of professional management to our communities is evident even in cities such as Bell, Calif. Last fall -- following a period of intense public scrutiny precipitated by the conduct of several former appointed and elected officials, including the city manager -- the members of ICMA received accolades from the city's leaders for the assistance our members provided to that community during some of its most difficult months. Bell now has a permanent, professionally trained city manager and its financial affairs are stabile and transparent.
This is just one example of why now, more than ever, the combination of the strong political leadership from a community's elected representatives and strong administrative leadership in the form of a highly trained and ethical professional local government manager is critical to the success of our communities. Under any form, the citizenry must be involved in their local governments and select the best possible local elected officials possible. These strong politicians need strong professional managers to implement their vision. Together these individuals can help communities deal with the very significant challenges our cities face and achieve the results that will ensure their future viability and a high quality of life for all citizens.
Click here to read Bob's column as it appeared in the Examiner.

Can You Judge a Lion By His Roar? Sadly, No.

Can You Judge a Lion By His Roar? Sadly, No.:
A lion's roar doesn't tell you much about whether an animal is a king of the jungle, or a joker.
These lions just mated (Reuters).
A lifetime of Disney movies has trained me to have certain expectations about animal sounds, most especially with regard to the King of the Jungle, the lion. The best lion has the best roar. Them's just the rules.
But now, courtesy of Ed Yong's eagle eye, we have scientific evidence that a lion's roar says very little about an animal's role in the jungle's hierarchy. A team analyzed the roars of 24 lions collected over decades in an effort to discern whether there were meaningful correlations between the features of the roar and the animal's sexual fitness.
"No evidence that acoustic variables were related to male condition was found, indicating that sexual selection might only be a weak force modulating the lion's roar," the researchers concluded in a 2007 paper.
The vocalizations of the male lions were not highly correlated with other characteristics either, not even how nice and shiny (and dreamy!) his mane is.
"The acoustic features of male roars neither varied with mane color nor with mane length," they wrote. "Both mane color and mane length are signals of male status and have been characterized as costly signals, because larger manes and darker hair increase the surface temperature and decrease the rates of heat transfer, which can harm sperm production."
About the only thing the researchers could tell from was whether the lion was a male or a female. The smaller females roared with a slightly higher fundamental frequency (195 Hz versus 207 Hz). 
The researchers do have another theory about what a lion's call signals: "Lion roars may have mainly been selected to effectively advertise territorial boundaries," the paper speculated. Not come hither, but step off.

The Most Inspiring Videos of All Time | IQ Matrix Members

The Most Inspiring Videos of All Time | IQ Matrix Members

Friday, August 24, 2012

5 Things Every Presenter Should Know About People, Animated | Brain Pickings

5 Things Every Presenter Should Know About People, Animated

20 JUNE, 2012 by

On the art of moving words that move people.

"The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public," George Jessel famously quipped. In 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (public library), Dr. Susan Weinschenk unpacks the secrets of eliciting response from people — the core purpose of design, it's been argued — through a combination of behavioral science, psychology, and practical examples to alleviate the misery and mystery of public speaking.

This great short animated teaser offers five of the most essential secrets to a great presentation, whatever your discipline or topic. (Not so great? The dishearteningly blatant RSA-style animation rip-off.)

  1. People learn best in 20-minute chunks. There must be a reason for the successful TED-sized talk format.
  2. Multiple sensory channels compete. During a talk, you engage both the auditory and visual channels — because we're visual creatures and the visual channel trumps the auditory, make sure your slides don't require people to read much or otherwise distract from the talk.
  3. What you say is only one part of your presentation. Paralinguistics explores how information is communicated beyond words — be aware the audience is responding to your body language and tone. Record yourself presenting to get a feel for those and adjust accordingly.
  4. If you want people to act, you have to call them to action. At the end of your presentation, be very specific about exactly what you would like your audience to do.
  5. People imitate your emotions and feel your feelings. If you're passionate about your topic, this excitement will be contagious for the audience. Don't hold back.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

How's That Shareholdery-Valuey Stuff Working Out for Ya? - Justin Fox - Harvard Business Review

How's That Shareholdery-Valuey Stuff Working Out for Ya?

The purpose of a corporation is to maximize shareholder wealth. And a corporation's board of directors' chief fiduciary responsibility is to shareholders.

These are plain and simple facts — and have been so forever. Right?

No, and no, actually. The idea that shareholder value should be the organizing principle of the corporation is of relatively recent vintage — it was only in the 1990s that it really became widely accepted — and as legal scholar Lynn Stout keeps explaining, corporate law has far from fully embraced it. Which makes the statements in the first sentence just arguments, not facts.

Now, as Joe Nocera wrote last week in The New York Times, there's a "movement" gaining strength to replace shareholder value with a broader definition of corporate purpose that includes satisfying customers, providing good jobs, even paying taxes. I am now a card-carrying member of this movement, thanks to my article with Jay Lorsch in the July/August HBR, "What Good Are Shareholders?"

There is, however, a big barrier standing in the way of the movement's triumph, Nocera writes:

Measuring chief executives on the basis of their companies' stock prices is easy to understand — that was always part of its appeal. Those who want to change that, including Lorsch and Fox, have struggled to come up with breakthrough ideas that would be similarly appealing.

He's right about that, of course. Shareholder value is pithy, and makes some intuitive sense. It's also not completely wrong. There are moments in a corporation's trajectory when it's an appropriate guiding principle. The idea began its rise to dominance, after all, in the 1970s — a time when many big U.S. corporations had become bloated and uncompetitive. The looking-out-for-multiple-stakeholders philosophy that many executives espoused in those days masked a dangerous complacency. Emphasizing shareholders' interests seemed to encourage more flexibility, risk-taking, and bottom-line discipline.

But as we've learned since, focusing on shareholder value can be an excuse for lots of short-sighted, destructive behavior. People who study successful corporations — I'm thinking of Jim Collins, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Michael Beer, and many others — keep reporting that one important trait that most of them share is that they don't emphasize the maximization of shareholder value.

Somewhat ironically, most of these scholars still use long-term return to shareholders as their main measure of corporate success. That's because shareholder returns over the course of a couple of decades can be a passable proxy for the economic and social value that a company creates — and they're certainly easy to measure. Over shorter periods, though, stock price movements usually convey more noise than signal. And in either case, it's key to remember that equity returns are a proxy for something else. They're a metric, not a goal.

That's because there's little legal or historical justification for making shareholder wealth maximization the goal of the corporation (Stout's 2002 Southern California Law Review article, "Bad and Not-So-Bad Arguments for Shareholder Primacy," is the best summary of the evidence on this). There's just the economic argument that trying to maximize one thing (shareholder value or, better, enterprise value) is logically possible while trying to maximize lots of things (returns to various stakeholders) is not. But since managers of corporations can't get reliable short- or even medium-term feedback from markets on whether they really are maximizing shareholder wealth over time, this is a pretty meaningless distinction.

All of which means that I don't think the anti-shareholder-value movement really needs to offer up something as catchy as shareholder value to succeed. It just needs to make clear that shareholder value is an argument, a tool, a means to an end. It should be judged by how well it works. Or, as Sarah Palin might say, how's that shareholdery-valuey stuff working out for ya? Lately, not so well.

Goethe on the Psychology of Color and Emotion | Brain Pickings

Goethe on the Psychology of Color and Emotion

17 AUGUST, 2012 by

"Colour itself is a degree of darkness."

Color is an essential part of how we experience the world, both biologically and culturally. One of the earliest formal explorations of color theory came from an unlikely source — the German poet, artist, and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who in 1810 published Theory of Colours (public library; public domain), his treatise on the nature, function, and psychology of colors. Though the work was dismissed by a large portion of the scientific community, it remained of intense interest to a cohort of prominent philosophers and physicists, including Arthur Schopenhauer, Kurt Gödel, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

One of Goethe's most radical points was a refutation of Newton's ideas about the color spectrum, suggesting instead that darkness is an active ingredient rather than the mere passive absence of light.

…light and darkness, brightness and obscurity, or if a more general expression is preferred, light and its absence, are necessary to the production of colour…. Colour itself is a degree of darkness.

But perhaps his most fascinating theories explore the psychological impact of different colors on mood and emotion — ideas derived by the poet's intuition, which are part entertaining accounts bordering on superstition, part prescient insights corroborated by hard science some two centuries later, and part purely delightful manifestations of the beauty of language.

Color wheel designed by Goethe in 1809


This is the colour nearest the light. It appears on the slightest mitigation of light, whether by semi-transparent mediums or faint reflection from white surfaces. In prismatic experiments it extends itself alone and widely in the light space, and while the two poles remain separated from each other, before it mixes with blue to produce green it is to be seen in its utmost purity and beauty. How the chemical yellow develops itself in and upon the white, has been circumstantially described in its proper place.

In its highest purity it always carries with it the nature of brightness, and has a serene, gay, softly exciting character.

State is agreeable and gladdening, and in its utmost power is serene and noble, it is, on the other hand, extremely liable to contamination, and produces a very disagreeable effect if it is sullied, or in some degree tends to the minus side. Thus, the colour of sulphur, which inclines to green, has a something unpleasant in it.

When a yellow colour is communicated to dull and coarse surfaces, such as common cloth, felt, or the like, on which it does not appear with full energy, the disagreeable effect alluded to is apparent. By a slight and scarcely perceptible change, the beautiful impression of fire and gold is transformed into one not undeserving the epithet foul; and the colour of honour and joy reversed to that of ignominy and aversion. To this impression the yellow hats of bankrupts and the yellow circles on the mantles of Jews, may have owed their origin.


As no colour can be considered as stationary, so we can very easily augment yellow into reddish by condensing or darkening it. The colour increases in energy, and appears in red-yellow more powerful and splendid.

All that we have said of yellow is applicable here, in a higher degree. The red-yellow gives an impression of warmth and gladness, since it represents the hue of the intenser glow of fire.


As pure yellow passes very easily to red-yellow, so the deepening of this last to yellow-red is not to be arrested. The agreeable, cheerful sensation which red-yellow excites increases to an intolerably powerful impression in bright yellow-red.

The active side is here in its highest energy, and it is not to be wondered at that impetuous, robust, uneducated men, should be especially pleased with this colour. Among savage nations the inclination for it has been universally remarkedy and when children, left to themselves, begin to use tints, they never spare vermilion and minium.

In looking steadfastly at a perfectly yellow-red surface, the colour seems actually to penetrate the organ. It produces an extreme excitement, and still acts thus when somewhat darkened. A yellow-red cloth disturbs and enrages animals. I have known men of education to whom its effect was intolerable if they chanced to see a person dressed in a scarlet cloak on a grey, cloudy day.

The colours on the minus side are blue, red-blue, and blue-red. They produce a restless, susceptible, anxious impression.


As yellow is always accompanied with light, so it may be said that blue still brings a principle of darkness with it.

This colour has a peculiar and almost indescribable effect on the eye. As a hue it is powerful — but it is on the negative side, and in its highest purity is, as it were, a stimulating negation. Its appearance, then, is a kind of contradiction between excitement and repose.

As the upper sky and distant mountains appear blue, so a blue surface seems to retire from us.

But as we readily follow an agreeable object that flies from us, so we love to contemplate blue — not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it.

Blue gives us an impression of cold, and thus, again, reminds us of shade. We have before spoken of its affinity with black.

Rooms which are hung with pure blue, appear in some degree larger, but at the same time empty and cold.

The appearance of objects seen through a blue glass is gloomy and melancholy.

When blue partakes in some degree of the pltis side, the effect is not disagreeable. Sea-green is rather a pleasing colour.


We found yellow very soon tending to the intense state, and we observe the same progression in blue.

Blue deepens very mildly into red, and thus acquires a somewhat active character, although it is on the passive side. Its exciting power is, however, of a different kind from that of the red-yellow. It may be said to disturb, rather than enliven.

As augmentation itself is not to be arrested, so we feel an inclination to follow the progress of the colour, not, however, as in the case of the red-yellow, to see it still increase in the active sense, but to find a point to rest in.

In a very attenuated state, this colour is known to us under the name of lilac; but even in this degree it has a something lively without gladness.


This unquiet feeling increases as the hue progresses, and it may be safely assumed, that a carpet of a perfectly pure deep blue-red would be intolerable. On this account, when it is used for dress, ribbons, or other ornaments, it is employed in a very attenuated and light state, and thus displays its character as above defined, in a peculiarly attractive manner.

As the higher dignitaries of the church have appropriated this unquiet colour to themselves, we may venture to say that it unceasingly aspires to the cardinal's red through the restless degrees of a still impatient progression.


Whoever is acquainted with the prismatic origin of red will not think it paradoxical if we assert that this colour partly actu, partly potentia, includes all the other colours.

We have remarked a constant progress or augmentation in yellow and blue, and seen what impressions were produced by the various states; hence it may naturally be inferred that now, in the junction of the deepened extremes a feeling of satisfaction must succeed ; and thus, in physical phenomena, this highest of all appearances of colour arises from the junction of two contrasted extremes which have gradually prepared themselves for a union.

As a pigment, on the other hand, it presents itself to us already formed, and is most perfect as a hue in cochineal ; a substance which, however, by chemical action may be made to tend to the plus or the minus side, and may be considered to have attained the central point in the best carmine.

The effect of this colour is as peculiar as its nature. It conveys an impression of gravity and dignity, and at the same time of grace and attractiveness. The first in its dark deep state, the latter in its light attenuated tint; and thus the dignity of age and the amiableness of youth may adorn itself with degrees of the same hue.

History relates many instances of the jealousy of sovereigns with regard to the quality of red. Surrounding accompaniments of this colour have always a grave and magnificent effect. The red glass exhibits a bright landscape in so dreadful a hue as to inspire sentiments of awe.


If yellow and blue, which we consider as the most fundamental and simple colours, are united as they first appear, in the first state of their action, the colour which we call green is the result.

The eye experiences a distinctly grateful impression from this colour. If the two elementary colours are mixed in perfect equality so that neither predominates, the eye and the mind repose on the result of this junction as upon a simple colour. The beholder has neither the wish nor the power to imagine a state beyond it. Hence for rooms to live in constantly, the green colour is most generally selected.

Though hardly a work of science, Theory of Colours stands as an absorbing account of the philosophy and artistic experience of color, bridging the intuitive and the visceral in a way that, more than two hundred years later, continues to intrigue.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Modern medicine: Microbes maketh man | The Economist

Microbes maketh man

POLITICAL revolutionaries turn the world upside down. Scientific ones more often turn it inside out. And that, almost literally, is happening to the idea of what, biologically speaking, a human being is.

The traditional view is that a human body is a collection of 10 trillion cells which are themselves the products of 23,000 genes. If the revolutionaries are correct, these numbers radically underestimate the truth. For in the nooks and crannies of every human being, and especially in his or her guts, dwells the microbiome: 100 trillion bacteria of several hundred species bearing 3m non-human genes. The biological Robespierres believe these should count, too; that humans are not single organisms, but superorganisms made up of lots of smaller organisms working together.

It might sound perverse to claim bacterial cells and genes as part of the body, but the revolutionary case is a good one. For the bugs are neither parasites nor passengers. They are, rather, fully paid-up members of a community of which the human "host" is but a single (if dominating) member. This view is increasingly popular: the world's leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, have both reviewed it extensively in recent months. It is also important: it will help the science and practice of medicine (see article).

All in this together

The microbiome does many jobs in exchange for the raw materials and shelter its host provides. One is to feed people more than 10% of their daily calories. These are derived from plant carbohydrates that human enzymes are unable to break down. And not just plant carbohydrates. Mother's milk contains carbohydrates called glycans which human enzymes cannot digest, but bacterial ones can.

This alone shows how closely host and microbiome have co-evolved over the years. But digestion is not the only nutritional service provided. The microbiome also makes vitamins, notably B2, B12 and folic acid. It is, moreover, capable of adjusting its output to its host's needs and diet. The microbiomes of babies make more folic acid than do those of adults. And microbiomes in vitamin-hungry places like Malawi and rural Venezuela turn out more of these chemicals than do those in the guts of North Americans.

The microbiome also maintains the host's health by keeping hostile interlopers at bay. An alien bug that causes diarrhoea, for instance, is as much an enemy of the microbiome as of the host. Both have an interest in zapping it. And both contribute to the task. Host and microbiome, then, are allies. But there is more to it than that. For the latest research shows their physiologies are linked in ways which make the idea of a human superorganism more than just a rhetorical flourish.

These links are most visible when they go wrong. A disrupted microbiome has been associated with a lengthening list of problems: obesity and its opposite, malnutrition; diabetes (both type-1 and type-2); atherosclerosis and heart disease; multiple sclerosis; asthma and eczema; liver disease; numerous diseases of the intestines, including bowel cancer; and autism. The details are often obscure, but in some cases it looks as if bugs are making molecules that help regulate the activities of human cells. If these signals go wrong, disease is the consequence. This matters because it suggests doctors have been looking in the wrong place for explanations of these diseases. It also suggests a whole new avenue for treatment. If an upset microbiome causes illness, settling it down might effect a cure.

Yogurt companies and health-food fanatics have been banging this drum for years. And in the case of at least one malady, irritable-bowel syndrome, they are right. So-called probiotics, a mixture of about half a dozen bacterial species found in yogurt, do act to calm this condition. But there is little evidence that consuming probiotics has the tonic effect on healthy people that certain adverts suggest.

A handful of doctors are taking a more fundamental approach to another microbiome-related disease, infection with Clostridium difficile. This bacterium, which causes life-threatening distension of the gut in some people who have been treated with antibiotics and thus had their microbiomes disrupted, is a bane of hospitals. It kills 14,000 people a year in America alone. But recent experiments have shown it can be eliminated by introducing, as an enema, the faeces of a healthy individual. "Stool transplants" are a pretty crude approach, to be sure, but the crucial point is that microbes are much easier to manipulate than human cells. For all the talk of superorganisms (and despite the yuck factor of what is being moved from one body to another), transplanting a microbiome is far easier than transplanting a heart or a kidney.

Disgusting but useful

Two other areas look promising. One is more sophisticated deployment of the humble antibiotic, arguably the pharma industry's most effective invention. At the moment antibiotics are used mainly to kill infections. In the future they might have a more subtle use—to manipulate the mix of bugs within a human, so that good bugs spread at the expense of bad ones.

The other field that may be changed is genetics. Many of the diseases in which the microbiome is implicated seem to run in families. In some, such as heart disease, that is partly explained by known human genes. In a lot, though, most notably autism, the genetic link is obscure. This may be because geneticists have been looking at the wrong set of genes—the 23,000 rather than the 3m. For those 3m are still inherited. They are largely picked up from your mother during the messy process of birth. Though no clear example is yet known, it is possible that particular disease-inducing strains are being passed down the generations in this way.

As with all such upheavals, it is unclear where the microbiome revolution will end up. Doctors and biologists may truly come to think of people as superorganisms. Then again, they may not. What is clear, though, is that turning thinking inside out in this way is yielding new insights into seemingly intractable medical problems, and there is a good chance cures will follow. Vive la révolution!

Why Gadgets Are Great for Introverts | TIME Ideas |

Why Gadgets Are Great for Introverts

Getty Images

Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, was published in January 2012.

A husband and wife sit companionably over bowls of cereal, heads bent not toward each other but to their smartphone screens. Three teenaged girls in sundresses gather in a friend's living room, silently typing missives into their respective gadgets. A businessman attends a meeting but fiddles with his smartphone under the boardroom table.

These are the images of disconnection presented by Sherry Turkle, the MIT professor and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, in her widely viewed TED talk. Turkle argues, as many now do, that wireless communication is a poor substitute for social interaction and human connection. She's right, of course; we've all felt the power of a pinging smartphone to pull us away from conversations with a supermarket cashier, a colleague, our spouses and children.

(MORE: Read about the TIME Mobility Poll)

But our online gadgets have arguably enhanced the social lives of one large swath of the population: the introvert.

Introverts are often brimming with thoughts and care deeply for their friends, family and colleagues. But even the most socially skilled introverts (of whom there are many) sometimes long for a free pass from socializing en masse or talking on the phone. This is what the Internet offers: the chance to connect — but in measured doses and from behind a screen.

When I was researching my book, QUIET, I noticed that many of the introverted academics I corresponded with were much warmer via e-mail than when we finally met in real life. The keyboard and screen allowed them to express their caring and friendly natures.

(MOREDon't Call Introverted Children "Shy")

Similarly, when you're blogging or tweeting, you don't have to wade through small talk before you get to main point. You have time to think before you speak. You can connect, one mind with another, freed from the distractions of social cues and pleasantries — just the way readers and writers have done for centuries.

And you can do all this from the quiet of your own home. "Sitting at home in the dark, on Google+, with my 1.6 million followers … is perfect for me," Guy Kawasaki, the seemingly sociable entrepreneur, founder of, and self-described introvert, told the crowd at a tech conference earlier this year. "Social media allows me to pick my times for social interaction." (As of this writing, Kawasaki has over 2.6 million Google+ followers.)

(MORETouré: Why I Won't Turn Off My Gadgets on Planes)

Of course, not all introverts see the Internet as a godsend, and not all forms of social media are alike. Some introverts have told me they prefer Twitter to Facebook, for example, because it emphasizes the exchange of information over chatter and photo-sharing; a 2010 study published in Computers and Human Behavior suggests that users of some social media sites have become increasingly extroverted as online anonymity decreases.

Still, a distinct breed has emerged: call it the "offline introvert/online extrovert." That's how Mack Collier, a social media strategist, describes himself on his Facebook page, and there are many others just like him. Chris Guillebeau, the author of the popular blog The Art of Non-Conformity, calls himself an introvert, and so does Lisa Petrilli, a leadership strategist who co-hosted a "Leadership Chat" with fellow introvert Steven Woodruff on Twitter every Tuesday evening for almost two years. One of their topics? The power of the introvert in cyberspace.

(MORE: Why Cell Phones Are Bad for Parenting)

A wired world can be alienating, but its great virtue has always been democratization. When we bathe in the blue light of our gadgets, we're doing many things: surfing, working, gaming and, yes, tuning out the world. But we're also hearing ideas from people whose voices might not have carried in the pre-wired era, who might not have broken through the chatter. One of the most unremarked advances of the online revolution is that we now hear loudly from the quieter half of the population.

MORERead TIME's special report on how your phone is changing the world (and your life)


Susan Cain, a former corporate lawyer and negotiations consultant, is the author of Quiet. The views expressed are solely her own.

What 7 activities does Harvard happiness expert Shawn Achor recommend? - Barking up the wrong tree

What 7 activities does Harvard happiness expert Shawn Achor recommend? - Barking up the wrong tree

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Highlights from Shawn Achor's The Happiness Advantage:
"Each activity listed below not only gives us a quick boost of positive emotions, improving our performance and focus in the moment; but if performed habitually over time, each has been shown to help permanently raise our happiness baseline..."
"Take just five minutes each day to watch your breath go in and out. While you do so, try to remain patient. If you find your mind drifting, just slowly bring it back to focus. Meditation takes practice, but it’s one of the most powerful happiness interventions. Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function."
Find Something to Look Forward To.
"One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it."
Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness.
"A long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism—giving to friends and strangers alike—decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health."
Infuse Positivity Into Your Surroundings.
"Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory... studies have shown that the less negative TV we watch, specifically violent media, the happier we are."
"After four months, all three groups experienced similar improvements in happiness. The very fact that exercise proved just as helpful as anti-depressants is remarkable, but the story doesn’t end here. The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!"
Spend Money (but Not on Stuff).
"...when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.
Exercise a Signature Strength.
"When 577 volunteers were encouraged to pick one of their signature strengths and use it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed than control groups. And these benefits lasted: Even after the experiment was over, their levels of happiness remained heightened a full six months later. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become."