Science class. Seventh grade. The teacher handed out a piece of paper and said it was a test. He told us to read through the instructions. It's a test that I still remember to this day. Why? Because I failed it. Recently, to my surprise, I stumbled upon a picture of that test on the Internet:
It was my science teacher's way of showing us how to follow directions and pay attention to detail. It worked. Failure is a great teacher.
Soft skills get no respect. Why? Because it's difficult to quantify. Soft skill research historically hasn't been as respected because much if it was based on qualitative research and qualitative research has a bad rap because we're so steeped in a "positivist paradigm" - we only value quantitative research.
The big shift didn't come until the Post Modern movement when physics discovered that light could be perceived as a particle or wave. For the first time then, something could be relative and beyond cause and effect, black and white. Researchers began to understand that the old theory that you could study something as a detached scientist is false. In fact, the scientist affects that which she studies and vice versa. So quantitative research can have all the same issues as qualitative research.
Which leads me to "work-force science" - the new trend to quantify human potential. It will have as many problems as qualitative research, I'm sure.
But in the end, there is this: soft skills matter.
Why don't we do this? I'm not talking personal data lockers but the ability for say your doctor to contribute your file to a larger research collective after your death. Currently, at least at UCSF, those files get stored for several years and then destroyed.
Boris Kachka's article in New York Magazine lacks a thesis except to say self-help has changed and it's now under different guises. It's changed: "The guru has given way to the data set" - meaning more science is involved.
It's everywhere: "books on 'willpower' and 'vulnerability'—self-help masquerading as ‘big-idea’ books.”
Is this a bad thing? He hints that it might be.
"Strains of self-help culture—entrepreneurship, pragmatism, fierce self-reliance, gauzy spirituality—have been embedded in the national DNA since Poor Richard’s Almanack. But in the past there was always a countervailing force, an American stew of shame and pride and citizenship that kept these impulses walled off, sublimating private anxiety to the demands of an optimistic meritocracy. That force has gradually been weakened by the erosion of all sorts of structures, from the corporate career track to the extended family and the social safety net."
What do you think?
There's an old entrepreneurial saw that says your business will take twice as much money and time as you planned to get off the ground. But did you know there is a scientific basis for this? It's called Hofstadter's law: it always takes longer than you expect, even when taking into account Hofstadter's law. So is there any way around it? Yes. Plan in less detail. Just do it and roll with the punches.
"One thing you who had secure or happy childhoods should understand about those of us who did not, we who control our feelings, who avoid conflicts at all costs or seem to seek them, who are hypersensitive, self-critical, compulsive, workaholic, and above all survivors, we're not that way from perversity. And we cannot just relax and let it go. We've learned to cope in ways you never had to." ~ Piers Anthony, Fractal Mode, author's notes
They seem to color perception, that's for sure. Research shows that clothes can even affect our self-perceptions. Also discovered: "women who dress in a masculine fashion during a job interview are more likely to be hired".
Most goal setting apps don't work, because most people don't know how to set a goal. They have a goal in mind - find love, get healthy, make money, but most are at a loss for how to break those larger ambitions into small discrete doable steps. The app that works will let people enter a larger goal and then give people the steps to achieving them while allowing for users to choose which seem doable to them and in what time frame.
Get trained by Paul Ekman. He's a leading scientist in the field of micro-expressions - those subtle face movements we all make that hint at the veracity of what we're saying. His F.A.C.E training website has a demo you can run that will test your current skills.
"The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated." This tidbit is from a NYTimes Article and such a good reminder that what we think about ourselves and others makes a huge difference in the reality we encounter every day. It's also validates positive visualization.
The article goes on to say that we can even strengthen our social skills by reading fiction: "individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective."
I have to admit, I love these types of articles. The article is basically about the role of parasites in our lives. It features the work of a scientist that has long gone unnoticed. The scientist, Jaroslav Flegr, has been tracking how an organism carried by cats may affect human brains and therefore, their personalities.
The author of the article wraps up by asking who is "running the show?" Meaning are humans really in charge of their own behavior? It's an interesting question, but I still think my mantra holds: it may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility. It being anything - your health, your finances, your behavior, etc.
What do you think? Is your cat making you crazy?