HAPPY PROFESSIONS

September 16th, 2014

Money magazine did a reader survey exploring the question what are the happiest professions?  Here are the top three professions most likely to be comprised of happy workers (“Are You Happy at Work?” September 2014, p. 21):

1—Software Publishing.  Most people involved in software work are analytically minded and deeply aware of how software operates.  It seems to me that anyone who is able to appreciate those technical details will tend to find much happiness in being involved in software projects that work well.  Is software publishing a happy profession because of that or do happy people gravitate to that industry?  That is a good question and I do not have the answer.  It might be a little bit of both.

2—Radio And TV Broadcasting.  Much of the traditional broadcasting industry involves creativity and entertainment.  Most people involved in creativity and entertainment have a personality that feeds on being in the limelight.  It brings them much pleasure.  It makes sense therefore that this industry would earn second place for a happy profession.

3—Educational Services.  Educational services is a very broad category.  Nevertheless, at its core is the idea of actively helping other people to learn and grow.  Generally, I have never seen any industry that involves helping others to learn and grow in which its workers are not happy people.

Quite likely, many additional reasons exist for the happiness connection to the above three professions.  What I have identified are the correlations that make the most sense to me.





MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY DAY

September 15th, 2014

Kathy Giusti is a former pharmaceutical executive who now heads up the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (which she founded).  She had a rather personal impetus to make that change.  In 1996, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  In remission since 2006, Giusti offers a reflection on how cancer has changed her perspective on life (Geoff Colvin “Kathy Giusti: Cancer Warrior” Fortune 9/1/14, p. 20):

If I’ve learned anything, it’s to live in the moment, and the gift that cancer gives you is, you just assume I’m only here today, and I am going to seize that moment and cherish it.

Giusti brings us wisdom.  I hope you did not have to endure anything like what she did to learn that lesson.  Nevertheless, the lesson is one well worth embracing.

Let us make the most of today and every day.  Not only will that enrich our own lives, but also it will enrich the lives of everyone around us.





MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD

September 12th, 2014

Money magazine did a reader survey asking the question, does your job better the world?  Here are the top five occupations most likely to make that claim (“Are You Happy at Work?” September 2014, p. 21):

1—Clergy.  As a clergy member myself, I totally understand how and why we believe our role betters the world.  I have been privileged to work with people from all walks of life under the most diverse circumstances anyone can imagine.  In every case I have witnessed people making decisions, changing direction, and embracing new opportunities in ways that radically altered the course of their lives as well as the lives of untold numbers of people around them.

2—Managers Of Religious Programs.  Very similar to the clergy, the fact that managers of religious programs comes in at second place is no surprise.

3—Surgeons.  Surgeons are charged with the grave responsibility of taking scalpel and suture to any area of a person’s body.  Obviously, this is a very personal type of work with varying levels of risk.  Nevertheless, we all know people for whom a surgical procedure resulted in radical positive change.

4—School Administrators.  School administrators have the privilege of providing leadership to a team of frontline teachers who are working with students at the most intellectually and personally formative times of their lives.  The mentoring opportunities of that team are enormous.  Knowing that you are giving direction to those kinds of efforts is extremely fulfilling.

5—Chiropractors.  Finally, I am not surprised that Chiropractors are on this list.  They make a lot of sense to me.  For example, how sensible is it to expect a car or a computer to operate at peak efficiency if half of its electrical connections and mechanical linkages were impaired?  You could try to treat the “symptoms” of all that damage, but without repairing all the electrical and mechanical connections, your efforts would be in vain.  In an analogous fashion, the chiropractor rejuvenates your body’s electrical and mechanical connections.  These treatments thereby allow your body to function at peak efficiency.  That peak efficiency condition then predisposes your body to avoid or eliminate more intense, long-term damage that ultimately results in chronic disease, surgeries, and overall more expensive healthcare costs.  Especially in this new age of preventive care and wellness, chiropractors are well positioned to meet the needs of anyone concerned with achieving prime health.  Chiropractors and their
patients see the tremendous results.

Whether you are a member of one of the above professions or not, never forget that you too can improve the world just in how you approach your role.  Bring your best self every day to what you do, and you will better our world.





TIME FOR A CHANGE

September 11th, 2014

Money magazine did a reader survey, asking the question, how do you feel about your job?  The results fell into four categories (“Are You Happy at Work?” September 2014, p. 21):

42%—My job is okay.

22%—Retired or unemployed.

20%—I can’t stand it.

16%—It’s my dream gig.

Here are my reflections:

The Most Painful Point.  One fifth of the responders absolutely cannot stand their jobs.  Ouch!  My hope is that those persons are actively seeking and working toward a career change that takes them to a better place.  You spend about a third of your life on the job.  Let’s make it something that is reasonably pleasant.

The Most Positive Point.  I am heartened to see that 16% of the responders are in their dream job.  When your talent, passion, and income converge so perfectly, it cannot get any better than that.  That kind of success often allows you to become a model and a mentor for others to move in a similar direction.

The Most Potential Point.  Almost half of the responders claim that their job is okay.  This speaks to me of high potential.  It means that with a little bit of job enrichment work or perhaps a career change, that 42% group could jump to the dream-job group.  You won’t know until you try.

I don’t know where you are at on this grid.  However, I encourage you to do some serious reflection so that you can take your job situation to a higher, better level.





TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

September 10th, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines.  Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

In a recent interview, Turkle explores many aspects of how technology and social media have affected our relationships, our businesses, and our families.  Near the end of the interview Turkle reflects on the opportunities that we have with key relationships in our lives, especially with our young children (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

When I go to the city park, I see kids go to the top of the jungle gym and call out, ‘Mommy, Mommy!’ and they’re being ignored.  They object to being ignored when they’re five, eight or nine.  But when I interview these kids when they’re 13, 14 or 15, they become reflective.  They say, ‘I’m not going to bring up my children the way I’m being brought up.’  They’re going to have rules, like no phones at dinner.” (p. 85)

Turkle’s poignant recounting presents a challenge.  How well or how poorly will we choose to manage and balance all this constantly evolving and invasive technology?  How will we allow it to affect our time, our families, our businesses, and our relationships?  No doubt, we have learned much, and yet we have much to learn.

In this convergence of technology, social media, and relationships, Turkle brings a glimmer of hope emanating from the generation that came of age with it all:

The most optimistic thing I see is the young people who’ve grown up with this technology but aren’t smitten by it.  . . . They see the ways in which it’s undermined life at school and life with their parents.

We must always teach our children well.  Perhaps our children will teach us well.





REFINING RELATIONSHIPS WHILE TAPPING TECHNOLOGY

September 9th, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines.  Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

In a recent interview, Turkle observes that our willingness to let robots replace people and our willingness to let robot relationships replace people relationships is not so much an affirmation of our whiz-bang technology as it is a revelation of our human-connection inadequacies (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

As for the robots, I’m hoping that people will realize that what we’re really disappointed in is ourselves.  . . . We’re basically saying that we’re not offering one another the conversation and the companionship.  That, really, is the justification for talking to a robot that you know doesn’t understand a word you’re saying.  We are letting each other down.  It’s not about the robots.  It’s about us.” (p. 85)

This is why Turkle so stresses the point that we need to maintain our human conversations.  The more that I get to know you and you get to know me, the more effectively and authentically we can work together.  When we work together effectively and authentically then we can tap all technology’s benefits while preserving and refining our human relationships.  As Turkle summarizes:

My message is not antitechnology.  It’s pro conversation and pro the human spirit.

Turkle’s stance resonates with my own.  Let’s do as much as we can with technology.  However, let’s preserve and refine our humanity as we do so.





PRESERVING YOUR SACRED SPACES

September 8th, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines.  Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.  Her work addresses the deeply significant challenges we face in managing our complex, always-on technology and social media.

In a recent interview, Turkle offered a very important suggestion to help us all maintain boundaries around our technology and our personal space.  It involves areas of our lives that we should consider sacred space (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

One argument I make is that there should be sacred spaces: the family dinner table, the car.  Make these the places for conversation because conversation is the antidote to a lot of the issues I’m describing.  If you’re talking to your kids, if you’re talking to a community, these negative effects don’t arise as much.” (p. 85)

Out of all the advice Turkle offers, I believe this is the most important.  Yes, technology and social media are tremendously powerful and marvelously helpful.  Nevertheless, by intentionally choosing to preserve your sacred spaces, you will mitigate the negative byproducts.

Preserving your sacred space is extremely important in all facets of your life.  This enhances your total experience as a person, it adds value to all your relationships, and it maintains an internal holistic equilibrium.  You are a human being, not a human doing.  Once you understand that, then your doing can flow out of your being.

Some have voiced fears and misgivings about technology and social media.  I used to share those fears and misgivings.  However, I have come to a place of realizing that as long as I can preserve my sacred spaces, then I will successfully handle technology and social media.

So, what are you going to do today to preserve your sacred spaces?





THE BALANCING ACT THAT NEVER ENDS

September 5th, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines.  Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.  In a recent interview, Turkle responded to a question about the ubiquity of our technology and how we balance it all (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

I cannot live my professional life or my personal life without my phone or my e-mail.  My students can’t even obtain their syllabus without it.  We don’t have an opt-out option from a world with this technology.  The question is, How are we going to live a more meaningful life with something that is always on and always on you?  And wait until it’s in your ear, in your jacket, in your glasses.” (p. 85)

Truly, our relationship to all our technology is a balancing act that never ends.  Each of us will have to make serious decisions about how we are going to manage all this.  What works for one person might not work for someone else.

We have to consider our professional roles, our personal relationships, and our personalities.  The balance I strike might be very different than the balance you strike.  However, the important thing is that we arrive at a place that works for us individually.

The land of technology ubiquity is here.  That land is enlarging itself daily.  Let’s be sure that we are continuously adjusting our balance because that is one thing we definitely do not want to lose.





WHEN REAL TIME IS TOO REAL

September 4th, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines.  Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

Much of Turkle’s material explores the fundamentals and the complexities of exactly how social media and technology affect relationships.  This touches on email, messaging, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the nature of our digital personas, all of which can affect our in-person real-time communication abilities.  Perhaps nowhere is this truer than for developing teenagers and young adults.  In a recent interview, Turkle shared a startling example (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

I asked an 18-year-old man, ‘What’s wrong with conversation?’  He said, ‘It takes place in real time.  You can’t control what you’re going to say.’  It was profound.  That’s also why a lot of people like to do their dealings on e-mail—it’s not just the time shifting; it’s that you basically can get it right.” (p. 85)

This event has a positive side and a negative side:

On The Positive Side—The man’s observation is correct.  Normal conversation occurs in real time.  You are speaking extemporaneously.  Once you say it, it’s there.  That is why we are all familiar with the adage of be sure the brain is engaged before the mouth speaks.  Virtual, online, and other electronic communications allow us to adjust the content thoughtfully and cautiously prior to transmitting it.  Therein lies one of the greatest advantages to nonconversational communications.  As Turkle summarized, you can get it right.

On The Negative Side—The man’s observation suggests an aversion to real-time conversation.  The danger here is that we adopt a position of insisting on the virtual or the digital at the expense of or in place of the real.  When this happens, we do our children and our young adults a disservice.  Learning to communicate in all arenas equally is extremely important.

As we continue to move forward with our social media and our technology, let’s ensure that we are striving to manifest excellence.  Excellence in the virtual world should not come at the expense of the real world.  Likewise, excellence in the real world should not come at the expense of the virtual world.  I believe that if we take a balanced approach, then we can achieve excellence in both worlds.





HUMAN OR ROBOT?

September 3rd, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines.  Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

Nothing drives me crazy faster than a robot that implies I should talk to it as if it were a human being.  I think many people feel the same way.  Tragically, I fear many people are willing to adjust to the robot idea even to the point of letting the robot replace a real person.

In a recent interview, Turkle responded to a question about how some folks are warming to the idea of interactions with robots that are just as real as human interactions.  It seems that technology has made those interactions so humanlike that some people are embracing them as adequate substitutes (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

When we started looking at this in the 1970s, people took the position that even if simulated thinking might be thinking, simulated feeling was not feeling.  Simulated love was never love.  But that’s gone away.  People tell me that if Siri [the iPhone voice] could fool them a little better, they’d be happy to talk to Siri.” (p. 84)

What does that say about the technology?  Perhaps the more important question is what does that say about the person?  My guess is that we will have many opportunities to face those questions in the future.

As in the movie, Her (in which a man falls in love with his operating system), Turkle sees evidence that increasing numbers of people are willing to embrace robots even when it means displacing humans:

I interviewed a woman who said to me that she’s okay with a robot boyfriend.  She wants one of these sophisticated Japanese robots.  I looked at her and said, ‘You know that it doesn’t understand you.’  She said, ‘Look, I just want civility in the house.  I just want something that will make me feel not alone.’

This says tremendous things about the technology, but it simultaneously says disturbing things about the person.

Some of our technology choices today make a lot of sense.  Paper or plastic?  Credit or debit?  Some of our choices should leave us unsettled.  Human or robot?