Personality

During a psych class in college I remember learning that many people have a subconscious tendency to shift their style of speech in order to match the people around them. My friend confirmed this at the time, saying it’s very common for him (as a non-native English speaker) to have his accent resurface whenever he speaks English with his family or any acquaintances who have an accent themselves. I immediately became very self-aware of my own changes in dialect that depended on who I was around. I spoke one way to my parents, another way to my girlfriend, and three more ways to three different groups of my friends. And that’s not even touching on how many different people I was capable of becoming when I type online. I started picking up accents from the places I traveled and then losing them when I left. The more often I realized I was doing this, the more confused I became about personality. The way I understood it, the idea is supposed to be that I’m adapting to my surroundings – so whenever I am introduced to a certain environment I alter some details about my true self to become more relatable to those around me. I couldn’t help but start to wonder; which one of these versions of me is the starting point? At what point in time am I actually being me?

In the past couple weeks I’ve spent a few hours thinking over this topic while running in the evenings. The weather has been cool at dusk and it’s quiet on the path near my apartment. The area is well lit but there aren’t many other people who go out to run after sunset. I prefer not to bring music with me lately, it’s nice to get away from constant stimuli occasionally and just let my mind wander. I’m confident that this is a reflection of my true personality. Undergoing an activity alone with no external pressure to be acting a certain way, this is me being myself. If I was out running with a close friend, I might feel pressured to match their pace and chat with them, even if I’d rather not. If they brought headphones, I’d probably listen to music as well. And that’s not to say I’d prefer they weren’t there running with me, but it does seem like my true self appreciates this time alone.

I’m starting to realize, however, that our conversational selves are an entirely different animal. The way we converse is largely subconscious – we don’t have the time to carefully choose each word of each thought at a normal speaking pace. Much like the subconscious actions you carry out while riding a bicycle, our brains are acting on a collection of memories before you have the ability to realize it. This means that our method of speaking is a result of training, whether intentional or unintentional, over the course of our lives. We can teach ourselves to be more confident when speaking and learn how to use positive body language in order to succeed in situations like job interviews. If you’re like me and you’ve never done that before, your conversation might reflect something different about you. You’ll pick up commonly used words and phrases from your family and closest friends. You might watch a lot of television and movies and find yourself mimicking the speaking style of your favorite characters or even quoting scenes without realizing it. So far as I can tell, your true conversational self is nothing more than a mash up of every word you’ve ever read or heard come out of someone else’s mouth.

And now I’m stuck thinking about how many other parts of my personality are affected in this way. Surely depending on who I’m living around I start to act differently, assimilating to create common traits among everyone I see most often.  On many occasions I’ve been embarrassed to find myself doing something I find annoying coming from anyone else. I suppose that, in itself, is a personality trait that is true to me. Other people are less willing to adapt and will maintain their personality until those around them start to mimic their actions (or until they have no friends). As for me, my personality seems to be a collection of many people and many experiences from my recent past. I’m not so sure there’s a distinct way of ‘being myself’ if I was going to try and do so, and perhaps it’s not as important of an idea as I first thought. Depending on who you ask I might act like a number of different people, and I’m starting to think that’s okay.


Tough Decisions

Tomorrow, I’m going to make tens of thousands of decisions. Probably many multitudes more than that, actually, if you’re counting the subconscious stuff. As of now I don’t expect any one of those decisions to have a huge impact on my future. I’ll be debating which coffee blend to make in the morning, or what time I feel like going for a jog. I’ll make a whole bunch of poker decisions that will each win or lose me some money. I certainly won’t be finalizing the acquisition of a major tech company, or submitting my vote from the jury on whether or not to send a man to jail for the rest of his life. Let’s say I was though. Should it really be all that different?

Every decision could be treated with the same respect that we naturally give to the most important ones we have to make. I’d argue that doing so for every small daily choice will have a substantially larger impact on our lives than the sum of all the uncommon but major decisions. The tiny stuff that comes up multiple times a day – healthy eating choices, killing time browsing, good record keeping – can have a massive effect on our quality of life. But such decisions often get ignored during our day to day autopilot, towered over by the “real” decisions like which university to go attend or whether or not it’s the right time to ask out our crush. The truth is that the type of decisions that keep you up at night, the ones you could debate back and forth for ages because both options have so many damn pros and cons are, often times, trivial.

Let’s say your life is a sitcom and when you were a kid you dreamed of nothing more than performing on Broadway. You studied music throughout high school and performed in small budget plays in college but when push came to shove you really needed a steady income. Fast forward five years and you’re engaged to be married to the love of your life. You’ve been together for years and you can’t imagine life without your partner and Broadway seems like a distant memory but now I’m getting sick of this plot line and now you have to choose between Broadway and your wife.

By definition this decision is a life changing one. Each choice leads you on a completely different path for the foreseeable future. But what else is there to do but analyze the possible outcomes, make up your mind on which choice will likely yield the best result and choose it? Despite what our intuition might say, it really is that simple. Don’t let the magnitude of tough choices scare you into thinking you aren’t capable of making the right one. Focusing solely on the importance of the results of our decision can easily distract us from the primary importance of the decision making process itself.


Momentum

Momentum

Good brief discussion on the fallacy of momentum in sports. I’m somewhat surprised that his research (granted it wasn’t very comprehensive) found no evidence of momentum in a free flowing sport like hockey…what does that mean about using time outs in basketball when your opponent is on a hot streak? Or taking out your pitcher in baseball only after he’s given up a couple consecutive hits? I can understand why a stop and go sport like football wouldn’t have momentum but now I’m curious if it might be fictional all the way across the board.


The broken business of education

This past year I took two undergraduate classes in Toronto in statistics. There were a few topics I was interested in that I never got a chance to study in Chicago and thought this would be a good opportunity to focus only on what I wanted to learn at a university. I paid my own tuition and intended to go to every lecture, since that is essentially the product I was buying. It was because of this that I noticed some things about the university that I never would have cared about when I was going for my degree. When the professor was late for a lecture I felt cheated, since (s)he was employed by business that I’m funding. If we finished early, did review material, learned how to use software or did any number of other time wasting activities, I felt I was getting ripped off.

I realize I’m the minority here, because almost anyone in undergrad has either taken out student loans or gotten financial aid with the goal of a degree and not necessarily the best education. The problem there is that the professors have no incentive to put in their best effort if the students don’t genuinely appreciate the difference. Good course evaluations will be based primarily on the professor’s personality, leniency in grading and ability to make lectures fun among other things. The disconnect here was really damaging to my (second) college experience.

http://doanie.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/mean-professor-tells-student/

Above is an article a friend of mine shared the other day about an NYU Stern professor refusing to let a student walk into his class an hour late. I don’t have experience with business school but because of the strict selection process and the high price tag I can’t imagine it being worlds different from the University of Chicago. Professor Galloway wrote a snarky email to the student with about five paragraphs of condescending jokes and one paragraph of pseudo-quality advice. As much as professors seem to love giving advice on every topic in life, the students are only paying them to teach one thing – the topic of the class they attend.

It’s fantastic that Professor Galloway thinks he is an expert in good manners and demonstrating humility (although I certainly wouldn’t agree based on his choice to forward this email to the entire class). That said, his attendance policy does nothing to promote these qualities that he thinks are so important to master in the business world. Does he also insist that nobody leaves the class to take an emergency phone call or a bathroom break? In a class full of motivated students there will be a high frequency of late entrances and early exits with legitimately good reasons. Why does the professor think it’s helpful to interrupt his own class by addressing every student who walks in more than fifteen minutes late and insist that he exit the premises? If attendance is part of the grade he can simply inform late students after lecture has ended that they were given an absence for today. If your policy is on the syllabus there will be no confusion and students can make their own choice if they want to arrive late or simply skip class for that day when they aren’t able to make the first fifteen minutes of lecture.

Professor Galloway’s attitude seems to me like an unfortunate result of inconsistent incentives. The students are the customers here and if they don’t feel satisfied with the product they should be able to take their money elsewhere. The email response even jokes at how little he cares about this, when Mr. Galloway says he “hope[s] the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.” He has no reason to take his customers seriously because there isn’t any serious risk of losing his job to the competition. The students don’t feel like they have any control and the professor feels like he can do whatever he likes because he’s in control of the final grade. So why exactly are they paying him top dollar for this kind of service?


Most Unlikely Event

http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1b0zh8/what_is_the_most_statistically_improbable_thing/

Above is a thread asking for the most unlikely thing to happen to you in your life. I was expecting the top post to be “I was born into a middle class white american family during the age of technology” but apparently I’m not quite so in tune with reddit as I like to think (after writing this I realized this is very similar to one of the top posts, oops). That probably would’ve been the most statistically accurate answer in the thread, anyway. Essentially what this discussion turns into is recalling an instance where as many somewhat likely things you can think of happened to fall side by side into a humorous order. Of course the sum of the parts ends up being very unlikely, because we’re using very specific language (meeting the person who stole your car 4 years prior while traveling overseas is far more unlikely than meeting someone you interacted with at home in some way while not at home any amount of years prior).

I think a more interesting question is to think of the most improbable single phenomenon you’ve experienced. This way we avoid ‘cheating’ by stringing together a ton of fairly uninteresting events (after all, you could always say all of your experiences throughout life in their exact order is the most unlikely thing that has happened to you). That’s why my favorite one was this one:

“Was working a wine banquet back in college on a nice sunny afternoon in a wide open field with no trees. Pretty much everyone was gone and we were wrapping up after a long day. I yawned and the only bird for miles shit right in my mouth as he flew by, the fucker.

That and the brain aneurysm that I had about a 1/25000 chance of surviving, but I’m still here, looking for that goddamned bird. I’ve been saving a bottle of Exlax just for him. Caw caw motherfucker.”

Hilarious and legitimately very improbable. If I can think of my most unlikely event I’ll be sure to post it in the comments but nothing really stands out off the top of my head. If you’ve got something good I’d love to hear it.


Focus

My mind seems to have been elsewhere the past few months so I’ll go off topic a bit. Let’s say you’re listening to a song for the first time. Where is your focus usually drawn? Are you closely following the lyrics and does it bother you if you can’t understand them easily? Do you have a favorite instrument that you pay closer attention to throughout? Or are you someone who tries to let go of your focus and experience the song as a whole?

I tend to do each of those things occasionally depending on my familiarity with the song, but searching for an engaging drum beat is where I start on the first listen. This is why I think I’ve disliked a lot of club music in the style of Flo Rida, Pitbull or recent Chris Brown, there isn’t any depth or suspense to the beat like you’ll find in most hip hop or electronic music. The excellent use of drums is a big reason why I like Ryan Tedder’s music (writer for and lead singer of OneRepublic) even though most people call it cheap pop music. I also can’t stand most of the use of the keyboard in popular music because of my background in classical piano. I end up being hyper attentive of the piano melody and it tends to be overly simple or just poorly done. Maybe that’s how trained guitarists feel after hearing Nickelback on the radio for years.


Aussie Millions

Aussie Millions

I apologize for the spam but I’ve gotta plug my tournament action some more and this seemed like a fine place. I’ll be in Melbourne for a few weeks and I’m playing the Main Event as well as some other tournaments down there so get in touch with me if you want to buy some action. Details/prices are in the link, make sure you see the updated prices in case the mods haven’t put it at the top of the thread yet. Thanks!


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