My Own Worst Enemy

I realized today that I've had a helicopter parent and it's me. Well, a part of me. I've discovered that because a lot of things came easily to me as a child, I developed the idea that if something was difficult I shouldn't do it. As a result, my emotional strength in certain arenas was never really tested. Or certainly not like it's being tested now. Currently, I'm failing on lots of fronts and I'm starting to see how I've protected myself from failure in the past - either by using fear to keep me from even trying something or out right avoidance.

As I learn to walk through the valley of disappointments my anxiety is high, but my resolve is strong. I will get through this.

Besides, you can only build a muscle by tearing it a little, letting it repair and tearing it again.

Shelter From the Storm

"When you think of Harvard and Yale and all those great universities, they need to have the person already made to go there." Ms. Reifler

I have a complicated relationship with school. It was the only constant in my life growing up in east Los Angeles, but it wasn't always a safe haven. It definitely shaped the beliefs I had about myself and not necessarily in a good way. When I started Stanford I was not prepared - emotionally. In short, I wasn't capable of taking full advantage of a fine institution.

Interestingly, I've come to learn that I was not alone. Many college students lack important soft skills, but no one seems to want to teach these to adults. We're expected to figure it out on our own - often the hard way.

It's something that saddens me to this day. Because it's only now, after years of working on myself, that I finally feel capable of learning.



Have you taken this test? It will help you understand your conflict style. From the site:

"Behavior is a function of personality traits and situational forces. Although personality traits are rather enduring properties of people and thus can’t be changed in the short run (for example, your psychological type, as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), the TKI measures how you typically behave in conflict situations, not your enduring personality traits. Although your behavior may be habitual (automatically choosing to behave in a certain way, regardless of the situation), your behavior can also become very conscious and deliberate (carefully analyzing the situation beforehand, considering a range of behavioral options, and then matching your behavior to the situation)."

Tiny Habits

I've mentioned BJ Fogg before in this blog and I'm mentioning him again because I think his behavior change concepts are getting more specific and useful. He has been testing his Tiny Habits concept and the results are impressive. I joined an early group of testers and enjoyed the experience. The gist is focus on creating good habits rather than battling your bad habits, and then sequencing the good habit you want to create with something you automatically do like brushing your teeth in the morning.

I highly recommend giving it a whirl.

The Feedback Loop

In honor of Leap Year I thought I'd highlight feedback loops. Life is always giving us feedback. The difficult part is hearing it and understanding it. Because failing to acknowledge it keeps us in loops. "A feedback loop involves four distinct stages. First comes the data: A behavior must be measured, captured, and stored. This is the evidence stage. Second, the information must be relayed to the individual, not in the raw-data form in which it was captured but in a context that makes it emotionally resonant. This is the relevance stage. But even compelling information is useless if we don’t know what to make of it, so we need a third stage: consequence. The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead. And finally, the fourth stage: action. There must be a clear moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act. Then that action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once more, every action stimulating new behaviors that inch us closer to our goals."


Where will you be in four years? Here's to hoping we all take a leap!

What We Know

Cialdini, BJFogg, behavior change. Everyone's talking about behavior change around Silicon Valley lately. So how do you change behavior? Here's what we know works: Make a commitment Make it public One goal at a time Baby steps Track yourself Get outside support Financial incentives can kick-start you Don't say never just later (an experiment where participants had to resist a bowl of M&M’s demonstrated that those who told themselves they could have the candy later had a much easier time warding off temptation than the ones who swore off M&M’s permanently.) Reward yourself

Now you just have to figure out what works for you.

It's Racial

Homophily might seem benign, but what may start out as preference can easily become segregation. Famous economist, Thomas Schelling's work in "Models of Segregation" (1969) showed the impact of preference.

"In this paper he showed that a small preference for one's neighbors to be of the same color could lead to total segregation. He used coins on graph paper to demonstrate his theory by placing pennies and nickels in different patterns on the "board" and then moving them one by one if they were in an "unhappy" situation. The positive feedback cycle of segregation's causing increased prejudice, and prejudice's increasing preference for separated living, can be found in most human populations. Variations are found in what are regarded as meaningful differences – gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, sexual preference, religion, etc. Once a cycle of separation-prejudice-discrimination-separation has begun, it has a self-sustaining momentum.

He further postulates in his 1978 book Micromotives and Macrobehaviors that a preference for segregation of two groups and a preference to congregate with others of your demographic are indistinguishable as motives which could explain the phenomenon of voluntary separation of two distinct groups."

On the Go

Anmol Madan, cofounder of was able to predict with 90% accuracy when people were sick based on their cell phone use. The data he collected included texting and GPS data. Interestingly, when people are sick they don't talk on their phone as much or move around as much. Further, aggregated cell phone data can actually predict disease outbreaks.

Quantified Environment

The QS movement is shedding light on the age old debate of nature versus nurture. Just how much does our environment affect our health? While it's debated, there's no doubt it has an effect as recent studies demonstrate: "research suggests that five of the six problems that pediatricians spend most of their time on (childhood cancers, asthma, developmental delays, obesity, and diabetes) are significantly correlated to environmental factors." So it's only logical that QS tools focused on the environment should emerge. Like the collaboration between RISD and Public Laboratory that created a Roomba that can visualize the air quality of a room.

Or the water pressure sensors of Edison Thomaz. His sensors show how water is used in the home and provide inferred behavioral data of the inhabitants.

Definitely expect to see more QS products focused on our environments.

Home as the Hub

Where health begins. Meaning, it should be the healthiest place you have. Because there are just too many messages and bad behavior influences lurking outside our homes. We can make it easier for ourselves if we make sure our environment supports our choices and therefore protects us from our own worst instincts. My plan? I don't want to eat junk food therefore no junk food in the house. It's bad enough I live so close to a cupcake shop!

Changing Behavior

Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab put out the Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change. If you're looking to make a change this is the list for you.

1. Relying on willpower for long-term change.

2. Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps.

3. Ignoring how environment shapes behavior.

4. Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones.

5. Blaming failures on lack of motivation.

6. Underestimating the power of triggers.

7. Believing that information leads to action.

8. Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors.

9. Seeking to change a behavior forever, not for a short time.

10. Assuming that behavior change is difficult.