Thursday, May 26, 2016

Your Comfort Zone

When I teach hypothesis testing in statistics, I often introduce it using a courtroom scenario. Ideally, the courtroom, jurors, lawyers, and judges would all work in such a way that the probability of convicting an innocent person (\alpha) and the probability of letting a guilty person go free (\beta) would both be equally small.
The important thing to understand is that they are indirectly related. You cannot make both of them be as small as you would like. If you decrease one, the other increases, and vice versa. So, you need to find a compromise, or a “comfort zone”.
I’m all about improving myself and following my own personal philosophy, whether that be fueling my passions, focusing on my health or personal growth, developing relationships, or contributing to society. What I have noticed, however, is that the more time you give to one, that can mean the less time for another. Where is that comfort zone?
Let’s use health as an example. To rank your happiness and/or comfort in each category, we’ll use a 0-1 scale. Suppose you set out to lose 20 pounds a while ago because that’s what you thought needed done. You were at a 0.5 on the happiness scale and knew that losing 20 pounds would put you at a 1.
In this setting, let’s make the \alpha level the compliment of your health happiness level. So, it is currently at 0.5 and you want to decrease that down to 0 by losing 20 pounds.
Suppose you have lost 10 pounds, are halfway there, but are at somewhat of a plateau. Even though you are only halfway to your goal, you notice your happiness scale has increased more than halfway to 0.90 (you’ve decreased your \alpha level down to 0.10). But you also notice something odd. Your relationships’ happiness/comfort scale has decreased. It used to be at 0.99 and has now come down to 0.90 (that is, your \beta has increased to 0.10 from 0.01).
Perhaps you used to socialize with certain people that went out for Mexican food every week. Because of this new health kick you’re on, you had to cut that back to once a month.
Balance. We forget about this sometimes, and find ourselves running back and forth on a five-way teeter-totter (if you can imagine such a thing). When we’re feeling great about one thing in our lives, and down about another. we run over to that side.
Maybe we should realize we shouldn’t try and get to 1, and that in order to achieve a nice balance in our lives, we should embrace the comfort of 0.9. In other words, we don’t need amps that go to 11.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to Raise a Nation's GDP

It was Sunday evening, May 15th, and I was finishing up my first weekend of being completely done with the Spring 2016 semester, and my first year at Washburn. Sitting there in my newly arranged living room (that can now seat four comfortably), I finished reading the last page of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

It was one of the most eye-opening, and important pieces of work that I have ever read.  I'm so far behind, too, as this book came out in 2009.  Why hasn't anyone recommended this to me before now?

Educate Women

That's the simple answer to the title of this post, but the next question is a lot more difficult to answer on a global level than you realize: How do we educate women?

The authors do a great job of telling amazing stories of individuals, sometimes absolutely heartbreaking. They realize the importance of story telling over giving you the statistics of how horrible conditions are for women worldwide. Whether you agree with our psychology or not, we react more to stories of the hardships of an individual person than we do about a statistic that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering.

You will get sick to your stomach. You will get angry. At times, you will cry for joy.

The book will throw you head first into the world of forced prostitution and sex trafficking, and how although more prominent elsewhere, it is happening in your own backyard.

You will learn about the importance of maternal health on a global scale, and how horrible the U.S. is in this category as a developed nation. We have no excuse.

You will learn how iodizing salt is one of the cheapest ways of educating kids, and keeping them in school. Seriously. I'm not going to tell you how iodizing salt can accomplish this here because you should read it. Seriously.

You will read about some truly remarkable people and organizations already doing things that can help.

How can you help? The first and maybe the last step for you is simply to educate yourself, and read the book. Watch the documentary. Whatever. If you are informed, you can talk about it, and by talking about it, someone else may move to a further step.

A Chinese proverb says that "Women hold up half the sky."  What is sad is that this has never actually been true, because men have never let them.  Men have kept them under foot and have "clipped their wings" at an early age so to speak, which reminds me, you should also read I am Malala, a book that I borrowed that phrase from. The world will be a better place if we take the necessary steps so this is true in every possible sense.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Great Person is a Sentence

"Those Who Lead, Read" is a program set up by David W. Carter, Washburn's Farley Visiting Professor of Ethics and Leadership. Each month in Topeka, a leader in the community gives a one-hour presentation centered around a book. 

David himself gave the first presentation, which centered around the book "I am Malala."  During that presentation he recommended "Half the Sky" to the audience which I just finished tonight.  I will blog about that soon as it was one of the most important and emotionally moving books I've ever read.  

The latest presentation was given by Topeka Public Schools Chief of Police, Ron Brown, which was centered around "Drive" by Daniel H. Pink.  His talk and the book explored what is behind human motivation.  As a society, we have been pushing past what they describe as Motivation 2.0, which is the idea that we should motivate people to do things through rewards and punishments.  This only works with the most menial of tasks.  

Motivation 3.0 provides people autonomy to get things done, and removes rewards. It is based on the idea that we are all intrinsically motivated to build, invent, and get things done.  By providing rewards, we remove this intrinsic motivation and replace it with something artificial, that we then begin to expect. When it is lacking, the motivation disappears.  

It is a great read, and if you want to know more, I definitely recommend it. 

Awakening Your Motivation 3.0
In part 3 of "Drive", Pink provides methods to awaken this type of motivation for individuals, organizations, and offers parents/teachers how to do it with their kids/students.  

Pink introduces us to Clare Luce, who in 1962 offered John F. Kennedy the words, "A great man is a sentence." Here are some examples offered by Pink: 
  • Abraham Lincoln preserved the union and freed the slaves. 
  • Franklin Roosevelt lifted us out of a Great Depression and helped us win a world war. 
Then he asks the big question, "What is your sentence?" This had me stumped for a while. I got to a point where I got a little peeved at the notion of asking me such a question.  I don't need a sentence, I thought, and then I thought that maybe my sentence could be "Jason Shaw didn't need a sentence."  

That begs for a lot of context, so I came up with one that I believe has stuck with me for quite a while now, and continues to be true.  "Jason Shaw liked to have fun, but more than that, he wanted all of us to have fun as well."  

You may be thinking where the motivation is in that sentence.  It is motivation enough for me.  

I'll revisit it again, and will change it if I feel like it needs changing, but it works for me right now.  To repeat Pink's question again, "What's your sentence?"