Author: ben (Page 1 of 7)

Change Management

People resist change. That’s the common wisdom among management types. I wonder if the guy who just won $451 million dollars is resisting that change?

Maybe people don’t resist change.

Maybe they resist stuff that won’t benefit them or that they don’t understand.

Have Gun, Will Travel: Gifs



What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

Source: Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania

This particular area of psychology focuses on how to help human beings prosper and lead healthy, happy lives. While many other branches of psychology tend to focus on dysfunction and abnormal behavior, positive psychology is centered on helping people become happier.


Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It is a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology.

Source: Christopher Peterson at Psychology Today

Positive psychology is a science of positive aspects of human life, such as happiness, well-being and flourishing.

Source: Positive Psychology UK

Positive psychology is the study of topics as diverse as happiness, optimism, subjective wellbeing, and personal growth.

Source: Introduction to Positive Psychology

The term “positive psychology” is a broad one, encompassing a variety of techniques that encourage people to identify and further develop their own positive emotions, experiences, and character traits.

Source: Harvard Health Publications


Beautiful Loser

When I was a kid, my mom took my brother Matt and I to see the Harlem Globetrotters at the Civic Arena. It was a hell of a show, even for a kid like me who wasn’t much into sports. I never gave much thought to the Washington Generals, the team that the Globetrotters always demolish, but here are a few assumptions I made.

Globetrotters games are like professional wrestling. The whole game is a “work” (a fake) and the Globetrotters and the Generals work for the same company, travel together in the same busses, and eat together in the same restaurants. The Generals are probably second string Globetrotters themselves and maybe you need to pay your dues as a General for a few years before you become a Globetrotter.

Wrong on all counts.

Red Klotz, the best loser in the history of sport, recently passed away. Red was the owner, coach, and point guard for the Washington Generals.

Here is the story of Red Klotz’s extraordinary life, his one glorious night of victory, and his 14,000 glorious nights of defeat.

True Detective & True Crime

In the first episode of True Detective, Detective Marty Hart (played by Woody Harrelson) is impressed by his new partner Rust Cohle’s (Matthew McConaughey) ability to interpret the occult symbols found at a crime scene. Hart is less impressed with Cohle’s ability to suppress his confirmation bias, however.

You got a chapter in one of those books on jumping to conclusions? You attach an assumption to a piece of evidence, you start to bend the narrative to support it. Prejudice yourself.


Confirmation bias is the tendency to view the world through the filter of the conclusions you’ve already drawn. We look for information that confirms what we already believe and we ignore or minimize information that doesn’t support our conclusions. Over time, our beliefs become even more firmly entrenched. The confirmation bias reinforces the belief, and the belief reinforces the confirmation bias, and that filter gets stronger and stronger, and ever more narrow. It’s something that we do to ourselves, although we may not realize we’re doing it. We prejudice ourselves, as Marty puts its.

Confirmation bias is like bad breath: it’s easy to pick up on everyone else’s but you’re the last to know about your own. If you’re on Facebook, you probably see other people’s confirmation bias all the time, right? Think about your friends who disagree with you on, say, global warming or gun control, for example. When they post those articles with really obvious flaws in them you think, “They’re so smart about most things. How can they be so dumb about this?”

The real question, though, the hard question, is this: what am I being dumb about?

True Detective is a work of fiction, but the podcast Serial is about a real crime. It’s an enthralling and well-produced piece of longform journalism about a man named Adnan Syed who was convicted of killing his girlfriend Hae Min Lee when they were both high schoolers back in the late 90s. It’s also an extended exploration of confirmation bias. It’s clear that the show’s producer/narrator believes that the police had their confirmation bias fully engaged when they investigated Syed, but she’s also open about her own struggle with confirmation bias. She likesAdnan and believes he’s a good guy. The idea that he’s a killer doesn’t fit through her filter.

We, the audience, get to see Adnan through the producer’s filter, of course, but she has enough integrity to let the bad stuff through, too. She’s done a good job of opening that filter wide enough to let in all the evidence she can gather while at the same time not pretending to a phony level of journalistic objectivity that doesn’t exist in reality.

By telling a long story, Serial shows us something that shorter forms cannot. It shows us that confirmation bias extended over a long period of time creates a narrative. A story. And this story is important to us. Protecting that story can be a rational act of self-preservation. Consider someone who has a longstanding and heartfelt religious or political belief. They have probably built relationships with people who share their values–family, friends, a whole life built around this story. Confirmation bias isn’t just about telling yourself that you’re right, it’s about preserving your story, your entire way of life.

Letting in evidence that challenges your story is a dangerous thing. Very dangerous. Have you ever been driving and, for just a moment wondered, “What would it be like if I just jerked the wheel right now?” That’s what challenging a sincerely-held belief is like. It’s a huge risk. If you change your mind about your story, you will not only throw yourself into a state of confusion, but you will hurt your loved ones. They’ve built their lives around your story, too, and pulling the rug out from under them will not be welcome. (Can you blame them? If you’re tempted, remember that you’ve built your life around their stories, too.)

But, if you’re up for it, here are two sledghammers:

  • Ask yourself, “What evidence would convince me that this belief is not true?”
  • Take on the role of someone who disagrees with you and put together the very best argument possible against your own point of view.

And the usefulness of these techniques depends entirely on how honest you can be with yourself.

Hell is Empty & All the Devils Are Here


Doubt the Stars are Fire


Musonius Rufus‎, Confucius, & Leadership by Example

Confucius argued that ren–translated variously as “perfect virtue,” “goodness,” or “humanity”–is the primary qualification for leadership (Luo, 2012). Indeed, the Analects is full of sayings that support the idea of a leadership by example.  When the Chief Minister of the State of Lu asked him for advice on governing, and dealing with crime, Confucius seems to imbue the concept with almost supernatural powers:

To govern means to be correct. If you set an example by being correct yourself, who will dare to be incorrect? If you could just get rid of your own excessive desires, the people would not steal even if you rewarded them for it. In your governing, what need is there for executions? If you desire goodness, then the common people will be good. The virtue of the superior man is like the wind, and the virtue of a small person is like the grass–when the wind moves over the grass, the grass is sure to bend. Confucius, The Analects, 12:17-19

HgZuGu3gSD6db21T3lxm_San Zenone

The Roman Stoic teacher Musonius Rufus echos these sentiments:

Do not expect to enjoin right-doing upon men who are conscious of your own wrong-doing. Toward subjects one should strive to be regarded with awe rather than with fear. Reverence attends the one, bitterness the other.Musonius Rufus, Fragments 32 & 33

The research on the power of leadership by example is generally positive. Yaffe and Kark (2011) found evidence to suggest that leaders’ attempts to behave as “good citizens” of their companies may directly and indirectly influence their subordinates’ attempts to do the same. Jahnke, Haddock, and Poston (2014) found that firefighters were more likely to comply with safety and health practices when fire chiefs and company officers modeled the desired behavior. In an ingeniously-designed experiment, Potters, Sefton, and Vesterlund (2007) found that followers contributed  more in a game when the identified leader did so. Interestingly, in all three cases, the effectiveness of leadership-by-example relied on the leader signaling: that is, not only did the leader have to provide a good example, but he or she had to signal followers in some way that such behavior was important to him or her.


Jahnke, S. A., Haddock, C. K., & Poston, W. C. (2014). Leading by example: The role of leadership in firefighter health. International Fire Service Journal Of Leadership & Management, 843.

Luo, S. (2012). Confucius’s virtue politics: Ren as leadership virtue. Asian Philosophy, 22(1), 15.

Lutz, C. E. (1947). Musonius Rufus: The Roman Socrates. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Potters, J., Sefton, M., & Vesterlund, L. (2007). Leading-by-example and signaling in voluntary contribution games: an experimental study. Economic Theory, 33(1), 169-182. doi:10.1007/s00199-006-0186-3

Yaffe, T., & Kark, R. (2011). Leading by example: The case of leader OCB. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 96(4), 806-826.



Page 1 of 7

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén