Business
Ultimate and Awesome: The Changing Landscape of Human Attention

Ultimate and Awesome: The Changing Landscape of Human Attention

An article was released last week in the New York Times about the “Age of Awesome” we currently live in. That’s no surprise if you live in the vicinity of a television: valuating expressions fill commercials these days with “extreme” and “epic” language. Even many of the most banal home activities–laundry, dinner, yard work–have been re-filtered as new opportunities to live that faraway, unlived life.

Experience commodities, rather than goods or services, are the new avenues for self-invention. The New York Times article pointed to Ultimate Experience vacationing (you know, jet-pack rides, Antarctica tours on huskies, commercial space excursions, even the…

Read More »

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Meaning To

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Meaning To

And here we have this morning’s second reflection on Malcolm Gladwell’s must-read “The Gift of Doubt”.

Malcolm Gladwell recently wrote a piece for The New Yorker on the quirky but charismatic economist Albert O. Hirschman and his unorthodox ideas about creativity and success.  Despite being a “planner” himself, Hirschman thought that creativity can only be improvised. It is only when the careful plans fall through, when we find ourselves at the 11th hour sitting in front of a blank Microsoft Word document and an empty bag of stress Oreos, that we’re forced to produce our most innovative work. Why, according…

Read More »

The Paralysis of Analysis vs. the Gift of Bad Planning

The Paralysis of Analysis vs. the Gift of Bad Planning

This serves as the first of two reflections on Malcolm Gladwell’s essay, “The Gift of Doubt“, that appeared in the New Yorker this past week (just too good to write about once!). It comes from Mockingbird friend Sam Bush, a personal and thoughtful perspective on the freedom present in not needing to “choose wisely”.

I cringe to think of how much time I’ve wasted making decisions. The hours I waste paralyzed in the cereal aisle easily match the time I spend eating cereal (and I always end up choosing Oatmeal Crisp anyways). Personally speaking, the ratio of time spent agonizing over a decision…

Read More »

Love Is on the Beach: A Review of HBO’s Preamar

Love Is on the Beach: A Review of HBO’s Preamar

Total depravity is hot right now – at least if we’re talking TV. Breaking Bad dramatically covers a guy who hits rock-bottom with a diagnosis and then, (un)surprisingly, continues bottoming out in a series of ever-increasing grabs for power, wealth, and influence, using his chemist skills to begin a long ascent through the world of crystal meth-dealing. Game of Thrones is fascinating in the same way as a train wreck, and HBO’s Newsroom is, right now, the only genuinely optimistic (while still critically-acclaimed) show on TV.

Enter Preamar, a Brazilian show that, like Breaking Bad, starts with a fall – João Ricardo Velasco, a wealthy banker a…

Read More »

Don’t Choke on Your Scarf!

Don’t Choke on Your Scarf!

It’s always amusing to see religious insights about human behavior expressed in management-speak, which is happened precisely in The NY Times this past Saturday, in their interview with David Rock, the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute. The acronym Mr. Rock uses to describe the in’s and out’s of motivation is SCARF, which stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. For those keeping score at home, SCARF is basically shorthand for we mean when we talk about Original Sin, i.e. you could almost substitute Self-Justification for Status, Bondage for Certainty, Control for Autonomy, Exclusivity/Scapegoating for Relatedness, and Judgment for Fairness…

Read More »

Lighting Sixteen Candles at Lehman Brothers: When the Worst Thing Is the Best Thing

Lighting Sixteen Candles at Lehman Brothers: When the Worst Thing Is the Best Thing

I’ve noticed a thread that runs through a few of my favorite (relatively) recent films. Win Win and City Island and Ruby Sparks and Secrets and Lies and even last year’s Flight–all highly recommended–tell stories where the thing that everyone is dreading, the outcome that the characters are working tirelessly to avoid, turns out to be the key to their personal happy ending. Films, in other words, where the worst thing that could happen turns out to be the best thing and vice versa. This is what John Z talks about so beautifully in the opening to Grace in…

Read More »

Another Week Ends: Randy Travis, Prayer Book Poetry, Sanford’s Tutorial, Ethical Blind Spots, Breaking Bad, Bernie, Glorious Ruin and Cville Conf Update

Another Week Ends: Randy Travis, Prayer Book Poetry, Sanford’s Tutorial, Ethical Blind Spots, Breaking Bad, Bernie, Glorious Ruin and Cville Conf Update

1. An amazing, amazing article about Randy Travis appeared on The Atlantic, trying to make sense of the country singer’s hellish year. You may know that in August he was booked for a DUI after being found naked on the side of the road (his truck in the middle of a nearby field), and then last week he was jailed following a fistfight outside a church. Writer Anthony Easton looks at Randy’s dramatic ups and downs via the two most tried and true narratives about alcoholism in country music: you’re either delivered by God or you die. Easton notes how…

Read More »

Knocked Unconscious, Part I

Knocked Unconscious, Part I

When things begin to get real, accurate diagnosis and a true acknowledgment of the situation are typically forthcoming… at least, earnestly desired. This is unswervingly true when one’s own self-interest is at stake.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “What’s in Your Blind Spot”, one’s own financial future and legacy are at stake with respect to “blind spots” and their potential impediment to advancement. The article encourages people with “great expectations” of leadership to utilize tools that enable greater self-knowledge… especially self-knowledge with respect to faults. Implied here is the idea that these business leaders possess unconscious faults that…

Read More »

Love Laughs Out Fear: The Quirky Grace of Southwest Airlines

Love Laughs Out Fear: The Quirky Grace of Southwest Airlines

I’m generally a nervous flyer. It’s gotten better in the last couple years, but I still get sweaty-palmed and tightfisted when the plane is ducking and bobbing through even the most minor bits of turbulence. When the pilot’s ding sounds, I always mute my music to listen in. I’m quick to buckle-up. I’m quick to assign my own seat if I can–I always pick a window. I don’t know why that matters, as if knowing exactly where I’m going to be sitting in a nosediving 757 is some hellbent way to have some control in certain death. I guess I’d…

Read More »

Why You Are Your Junk Mail: Reputation Silos and Madison Avenue’s Doctrine of Predestination

Why You Are Your Junk Mail: Reputation Silos and Madison Avenue’s Doctrine of Predestination

Besides this particular website, go to any of the others you frequent and, if you’ve done any online shopping ever you’ll find all these creepy, tailored advertisements along the sidebars of the news you are reading, or the new shoes you are checking out, or the movie you are reading up on. I recently bought a leather dopp kit for myself, and now if you are looking at anything–anything!– on my computer–sports, international news, search engines–you would think I have this obsession with leather goods and world travel. Now on my Gmail inbox–do you have this?–there are spookily, hair-raisingly accurate…

Read More »

The Crazy-Making IPO: Facebook Madness and the Compulsive iDisorder

The Crazy-Making IPO: Facebook Madness and the Compulsive iDisorder

Add one more to the tally, after Franzen, after Marche, after Turkle. The Wall Street Journal‘s “Smart Money” blog, Pay Dirt, which does a lot of interesting behavioral economics writing, performed a quick psychoanalytic survey of the madness of Facebook “liking,” in wake of the IPO attention the company is getting. Its findings were telling if not all that remarkably surprising: we compulsively compare, and the comparison to such inaccurate standards leads to compulsive modes of depression. When we see standards with whom we are well- (or at least perceivedly well-) acquainted, the Law of Liking meets us where we…

Read More »

When Enron Gamed the System

When Enron Gamed the System

This one comes to us from the illustrious Jim Zucker:

Living in Houston, even more than ten years after the collapse of Enron, references to Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, et al., still catch my attention. Recently, Fastow, the Enron CFO who became the Government’s “star witness” in its prosecution of Lay and Skilling and has served his own jail sentence, spoke to a Financial Statement Accounting class (riveting!) at Tufts. His observations (as conveyed by the professor) on the effect of the law and regulation are not surprising to regular Mockingbird readers:

“Regulation has not prevented fraud. In fact, it…

Read More »

The Law of the Shelf: What Lives Behind Your Amazon Order

The Law of the Shelf: What Lives Behind Your Amazon Order

Amazon is scary good, people. It’s always kind of an unsettling miracle when the order you’ve placed online finds its way to your front door, as though there’s some magical winged deliverer, some mythical albatross who, from the belly of the earth, has brought to your stoop longed-for treasures. It’s amazing. Granted, most of us naturally remember the one time this process did not work out so romantically, the time the wrong power converter/phone charger/ABBA record/hair treatment came, but how often has that happened, honestly? Amazon is really good at getting you what you demand. And you are one tough…

Read More »

Another Week Ends: DFW50, Simpsons 500, Ira Talks Radiolab, Rowling Talks New Novel, Helpless Women, Helpless Kids, Lenten Identity, Cormac McCarthy Pictionary

Another Week Ends: DFW50, Simpsons 500, Ira Talks Radiolab, Rowling Talks New Novel, Helpless Women, Helpless Kids, Lenten Identity, Cormac McCarthy Pictionary

All the best wishes for those mockingbirds at the Liberate Conference in Fort Lauderdale this weekend, including our very own David Zahl.

1. Along with the rest of the blogosphere this week, we wish David Foster Wallace a happy 50th birthday. There’s too many blessings to recount, but the web has exploded with numerous avenues for you to get your feet wet or soul soaked. Take a look at The Awl’s “46 Things to Read and See for David Foster Wallace’s 50th Birthday,” a piece of which includes an 86-minute interview with German TV ZDF, the first of which you’ll find…

Read More »

Targeted Shopping Habits and Preemptive Diaper Ads

Targeted Shopping Habits and Preemptive Diaper Ads

Yikes! The NY Times ran a lengthy piece by Charles Duhigg this past weekend about absurdly precise, borderline Big Brother market research techniques that companies like Target (pun sort of intended…sigh) are pioneering to capture our dollars. The article doubles as an overview of recent breakthroughs in the study of habit formation, and it’s disconcerting on a number of levels.

For our purposes, the main ‘takeaway’ isn’t exactly news: we are all creatures of enormous habit, much of which is unconscious, and  regardless of how autonomously we like to think of ourselves, it is our painful predictability that unites us –…

Read More »