Limits to Science

Science is a wonderful thing. It saves us from communicable disease, puts a microwave oven in our kitchen and put a man on the moon. There is no doubt that science done well can produce wonderful results for us.

There are, more or less, two types of science that are commonly used: so called hard science and social science. (There are other more theoretical forms, such as theoretical physics, but I leave that for another time.) Hard science is based on concrete observation of the results of repeatable experiments. No matter how many times you do it, if you apply heat to pure water at sea level it will boil at 100 C. Chemistry, physics, basic biology and various combinations of them (e. g. bio-chemistry) are all examples of the hard sciences.  Soft sciences or social sciences are those that seek to measure human and animal behavior: psychology, sociology, economics, etc. I most often reference social science in my blog posts.

The problem with social science is first that it is often based on correlations of data that may or may not demonstrate an actual causal effect. Second, because culture and human dynamics change with time what social science declares as “fact” in one generation can change in later times. Human behavior can be very changeable.

Well Done vs Sloppy Science

There is a more important distinction in science: that which is done rigorously and carefully and that which is not. Seth Godin recently wrote about this difference between well done science and sloppy science. He cites as one example of sloppy science Eugenics, a science that was well accepted in scientific circles in the 19th century but has been found to be wrong. Sloppy science lacks rigor and lacks sufficient and reliable data to support is conclusions. Seth does a good job of illustrating the difference and providing some good examples.

Scientists are humans. As humans they make mistakes, they can be driven by human weaknesses such as greed, hubris, arrogance, and catering to special interests. When that happens the science that results can be sloppy or just plain wrong, like Eugenics.

Another aspect of good science is that it is subject to continual challenge and revision. Scientists consider this the great advantage of science – it constantly tests our assumptions and changes them as the data requires. Sometimes this is because the rigor is greater, sometimes it is because the technology behind the science is improved. The result is that there is rarely a final scientific fact or conclusion that cannot be challenged. Hard science more often achieves this immutable conclusion, like the boiling point of pure water at sea level. Softer science, or social science, is more subject to refinement and change over time.

For this reason, although we can learn a lot from well done science, including social science, it is almost always subject to change and for that reason we must be very careful about drawing ultimate conclusions based on the current state of science. It can always be refined and improved. We must remember that science has often been wrong. The promise of science is that it will in time correct itself. Science allowed us to fly in heavier than air machines when many scientists said that was impossible. Scientific research and experimentation proved those in science that thought that flying faster than the speed of sound was not possible for living human, as well as those who thought it impossible to enter earth orbit.

It is very dangerous for us to believe that what we currently think is the absolute truth. The hubris that convinces each generation that they have discovered the truth is later overturned by the next Einstein who is not fettered by this belief. Like all human endeavor science is imperfect. It has the capacity to be wrong, even very wrong. I suggest that for this reason we must constantly question what is currently accepted in science. I do not suggest we ignore all science because it could be wrong, but that we maintain a healthy skepticism and curiosity about what is today claimed to be the truth.

Skepticism vs Denial

I do not mean to say here that denial of science is justified. Having a healthy skepticism about what science currently teaches is not the same as denying what the overwhelming evidence demonstrates. To simply deny that the climate is changing or to deny that the theory of evolution has validity are examples of this. One can reserve judgment on every aspect of these scientific findings, but there is no value in denying a large body of good science.

I offer these thoughts with humility because I am often citing science in some of my posts here. While I do believe we can learn much from the science that I cite I also remain aware that there is nothing absolute about that science. It may be right, or partly right, or at times all wrong.

Let us take advantage of what science has to teach us. But let us never be arrogant about it. We can always be wrong.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

We Can Turn It Off

Seth Godin

Seth Godin recently wrote one of his typically pithy posts about the negative aspects of today’s television and social media. TV has always incited envy and discontent, but never close to what it does today. Social media does it far more.

Throughout most of human history we did not sit in front of screens and watch things designed to “entertain” us for hours. We conversed, we read, we thought. We corresponded.  Today social media and TV do less to innocently entertain us and more to incite us and depress us. News programming is often highly biased and unreliable.

Seth observes: “Today, though, marketers have turned television into an instrument of dissatisfaction. The shows alienate many, because they bring an idealized, expensive world into the homes of people who increasingly can’t afford it. And the ads remind just about everyone that their lives are incomplete and unhappy–unless they buy what’s on offer. Worse, cable news is optimized to shock, frighten and divide the people who watch it.” He is correct.

His recommendation is also spot on. We can and should turn it off. One need not turn it off completely, though there is little down-side to doing so. We would all be better off if we turned it off for long periods of time.

I stopped watching TV news many years ago. I do not miss it. When I stay in a motel I will turn the news on to see if it has changed any. I am never disappointed, it remains bad or even worse.

Try a TV fast for a day or a week and see how much less stressed you feel. Significantly limit your social media diet and see how much extra time you have to do better things. If you do read on-line find sources that are uplifting, genuinely informative and often positive. You have control over the things you watch and listen to. Read a good book instead. Play with your children. Talk to a friend. Take a walk. Treat yourself to a break from this nonsense. You will reap the benefits and in time you will see less and less need to spend time with TV or social media. You may even find yourself abandoning them altogether.

Read Seth’s post here.

Learn how to manage your time to achieve more of what you want to do in my book, Effective Time Management. Get free lessons on how to use your time more effectively with my Effective Time Management Lessons.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

A Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Synopsis of Content:

In Defense of Food Michael Pollan has given us the most important book on nutrition in this decade. He strikes back at the deluge of diet books and nutritionalism that has confused Americans now for two generations. He uses science to attack the “science” behind the nutritionalism that has so distorted the American attitude toward food and has left Americans as the most over fed and under nourished in the world.

After poking generous holes in the various theories and diet fads of the past 40+ years Pollan gives us some very decent guidance about what we should be eating and how we should be thinking of food. His fundamental thesis is simple: we should eat food, not too much, and mostly plants. By that he means:

Eat food:  the evidence is overwhelming that we should eat food in as natural a state as possible. We should eat whole foods, not processed foods or refined foods. We should eat more like our ancestors of a century or more ago. If you cannot pronounce or do not recognize the ingredients on a package don’t eat it. If there are generally more than five ingredients don’t eat it. If it contains highly processed and refined foods, including grains, sugar and oils, don’t eat it. If your great grandmother would not have recognized it – don’t eat it. Eat everything else. Eat fresh and frozen (but unprocessed) fruits and vegetables. Eat meat that is not processed or filled with hormones, chemicals, etc. There is a bit more to it than that, but that captures the essence of eating “food”.

Not too much: Americans eat on average 700 calories more per day than they did just 50 years ago. We are bigger, fatter, more obese, and have more disease arising from poor nutrition than ever. We have more diabetes, heart disease and cancer from eating junk food. We also have too much fat on our bodies because we exercise too little and eat too much. Portion sizes are too large and our food is more loaded with fats and sweeteners.

Mostly plants: while one does not need to be a vegetarian to eat healthy, the more meat one eats, especially fatty and processed meats, the less healthy we are. Plants provide the healthiest nutrients and the least unnecessary calories for our body if they are fresh and wholesome.

Pollan points out that various ethnic diets, especially in the Mediterranean and Asia are far healthier because they follow these three simple guidelines. The modern American diet, on the other hand, with its processed foods, high fructose corn syrup laden drinks and quickie pizza and burgers is a short road to disease.

Our youth, who have grown up on this diet, and will less exercise than Americans traditionally got, may be the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents.

Pollan is not a radical. He does not say you have to eat tofu and raw food all day. There are many very healthy, delicious foods that you can and should eat. His indictment is against the highly processed and inadequate foods that dominate our diet today.

This is not the first book to send this message – but Pollan does a very good job as a careful journalist to bring us the facts to support the position he takes. By adhering to the simple guidelines he suggests we can regain health as well as our waistlines. His arguments are compelling as well as reasonable.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

This is very well written. He writes in an engaging style and yet provides the footnotes and sources that support his position.

Notes on Author:

Michael Pollan is an accomplished author and journalist and is the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. He writes for NY Times Magazine. He also authored The Omnivore’s Dilemma among others.

Related Website:

http://www.michaelpollan.com/

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Eat food that is wholesome, as natural and whole as possible and with as little processing as possible. Stick to the outside of the supermarket, if you must buy food in supermarkets, aiming for in season produce, fresh unprocessed meats and dairy with as little processing as possible. Avoid artificial ingredients and “convenience foods”.
  2. Make sure to get exercise every day.
  3. Eat slowly and intentionally, and only eat until you are full or nearly full. Reduce the size of portions that are all too common in the Western diet today.

Publication Information:  

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

©2008 by Michael Pollan. Published by Penguin Books. 205 pages not including Sources and Index.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

Follow Up on Blowbirthdaycards.com

A few days ago I wrote about a new service that allows you to send a “personally written and signed” birthday card using digital technology to save time. I sent the card to myself and now for some follow up. See that post here.

The card was delivered right on time, one day before the birthday for my brother. I then hand delivered the card to him. He liked the card and thought it clever.

The envelope appeared to be hand addressed. I suspect they do that using a print font but it looks very much like the real thing. I was impressed that it was mailed on time.

As I mentioned last time the one flaw I found was that when they print your handwritten note and signature if you are careful on how you space it in your photo to them it will appear written over the printed message in the card. The one suggestion I have for them is to mention this in their instructions.

If you want to avoid a trip to the store to send a personalized card this is a good way to do it. I have no affiliation with this company and have posted this just for your information.

Check it out at www.blowbirthdaycards.com .

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

Managing Your Time: Digital vs. Analog

There are countless gadgets, apps and paper products available today to manage your time, keep a calendar, etc. In addition to the traditional journals, calendars and day books on paper (analog) there are hundreds if not thousands of digital products that do the same things but somewhat differently.

Michael Hyatt recently posted on his blog a good article comparing some of the advantages of digital and analog time management devices. He is selling a paper planner he calls the Full Focus Planner, so his article is aimed at promoting that product a bit. Hyatt uses both analog and digital approaches and explains why.

Pros and Cons

Technology has its advantages for sure. It is very efficient. You can schedule a repeating event once and it will continue to appear on future dates where you want it, for the rest of the year or many years to come. You can use most digital products on all your devices: phone, tablet, computer. Most of them have reminder features that will alert you in advance about a deadline or appointment. Web based products allow multiple people to use and have access to the same calendar. Most digital products have search capability that will help you find that future (or past) event, appointment or reminder that you cannot find.

Technology also has its disadvantages. It depends on electricity: either hard wired or batteries which can run down. It often depends on access to the internet. Digital devices can be distracting. Entering information on them can be more difficult. It is much more difficult to preserve a permanent record of what you have done – all digital memory is vulnerable. Digital devices are more delicate than paper products if dropped, crushed or rained on.

Paper products or analog as it is now called has advantages. There is a comfort in using pen and paper that cannot be duplicated on a device. Perhaps more importantly is that recent scientific studies show that writing things down engages the brain in more effective ways then entering information on a digital device. These studies show that the mechanical process of writing engages different parts of the brain, may cause you to think about things more fully, creates better memory and recall and can enhance understanding. Paper products do not beep and do not distract.

Analog products cannot be as easily shared by others. Repeating events must be manually entered one after another for all future dates and most of them only allow planning out for one year. Paper is vulnerable to water damage (as are digital products), and there are no search systems, you have to manually look through the paper product to find things which can take some extra time.

The last factor the distinguishes technology from paper is what I call the trust factor. Yes, you can lose your paper planner and if you do lose it (and cannot find it) you are out of luck. Everything in it, except for what you can remember, is lost for good. You could also lose your digital device but they are usually backed up (perhaps on the cloud) which makes it easy to recover the contents. In over 40 years of carrying around paper planners and digital devices I’ve never lost either. I keep track of them. For me the risk of losing them is very small.

What is not so small is the risk of dysfunction. If I enter information in a paper planner it will always be there. And the planner will always display the information when I open it. There are no batteries to run down, no system failure, no crashing, and no loss of connection to the internet, all of which can plague a digital device.

One last thing: small digital devices display information in a relatively small space. You cannot look at an entire month and clearly see everything planned out as you can with a paper planner. I use an iPhone and have until recently used the calendar that comes with the phone. Recently I converted to the Google Calendar and I prefer it. It still does not show a full month of events in a way that clearly maps out day long events contrasted with hourly events. They all look the same. I wish the Google Calendar would allow you to color the entire day to show it has a daylong event.

The Best of Both

Hyatt advises that we use both to gain the benefits of both. The digital device is better for repeating events and appointments in general. The paper planner is better suited to thoughtful planning, reflection, goal setting, etc. I have at times used a paper planner as a backup to the digital device. The disadvantage to that is one must enter everything twice. The advantage is a sense of security – you are not likely to lose information if it is in both.

I like Hyatt’s suggestion of using paper (analog) for planning, goals, etc. and using the digital device for reminders, appointments and repeating events. This method is more expensive and requires more time but more time planning and thinking about how we use our time is not necessarily a bad thing.

Each person will have their own needs and their own preferences. Many people will not want to have two systems. If you are open to the idea though I suggest you try it. You may well find Hyatt’s suggestions useful. Read Hyatt’s full article here. Try using both a paper planner to capture big picture ideas and planning and your digital device for appointments and repeating events. You may find it very useful.

Learn how to manage your time to achieve more of what you want to do in my book, Effective Time Management. Get free lessons on how to use your time more effectively with my Effective Time Management Lessons.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

Goal Power

Everything You Need to Know About How to Use Goals to Achieve Anything by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:   Goal Power! Everything You Need to Know About How to Use Goals to Achieve Anything by Daniel R. Murphy

Synopsis of Content:  

Goal Power! is a concise introduction to the fundamentals of creating effective goals and executing them. You will learn how proper use of goals leads to success and can enable you to achieve anything you want to achieve.

Learn how the number of goals you have affects your ability to achieve any of them.

Learn how to properly define a goal with sufficient clarity to motivate you and help you achieve your aim. Learn how to use short term and long term goals.

Learn how to execute a goal and sustain efforts for the long term.

This book provides a fundamental guide on how to create, write out, implement, measure and achieve goals. It discusses the number of goals you should have, or not have. You will learn how in the implementation stage how to reassess goals and make mid-course corrections.

At the end of the book is a step by step guide on how to create a great goal.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is clearly written with examples and well organized.

Notes on Author:  

Daniel R. Murphy is a blogger and author who has studied success for over 30 years. He has authored hundreds of articles on financial success, success in general, personal development, leadership, and time management.

Other Books by This Author:

The Success Essentials
Your Financial Success
Effective Time Management

To learn more about these books go to: http://danielrmurphy.com/books-etc/

Related Website:   

http://danielrmurphy.com

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:  

  1. The fewer goals you have the more you will achieve on your goals. Ideally working on one goal at a time leads to the most success. More than three goals at any one time can so deplete focus and energy that none are achieved.
  2. It is critical to write your goals down. Written goals are achieved far more often than unwritten ones.
  3. Goals should be clearly and simply written and should be time bound. They most often should be measurable.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Goal Power! by Daniel R. Murphy
Copyright holder: ©2015 by Daniel R. Murphy
Publisher: Albany Publishing Co.

Goal Power! is available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

New Way to Send Greeting Cards

According to NPR (National Public Radio) Americans buy and send about 6.5 billion greeting cards every year. Among those the most popular are for Christmas and birthdays. Most of these cards are still the paper kind that people buy in a store and send through the post office. However a strong competing e-card industry has developed to make the process easier and faster.

Most people however seem to think that a real paper card signed in ink by the sender is more genuine, or in some way more meaningful. Ironically, according to a NPR article, older Americans favor e-cards more than younger people. Millennials seem to be favoring paper cards.

So is it possible to have the best of both worlds, combining quick and convenient internet technology with the paper greeting card? At least one company is doing just that. At www.blowbirthaycards.com you can order a birthday card on line, add your personally written message and signature and they will send it by post anywhere in the US. You do need a smart phone to do this. You write your message on a blank piece of paper including your signature, take a photo of the message and text it to Blowbirthdaycards. They then imprint your handwritten message and signature onto the card and send it for you.

They have a large selection of cards to choose from – rivalling what you will find in most stores. It takes some time to select your card (so many choices) and then send them the message. It takes less time however than it would take to go to a store, find a card, buy it, write in it, address an envelope, take it to the post office, etc.

I sent one card so far at the time of this writing using Blowbirthdaycards.com. It has not as yet arrived, when it does I will let you know how it worked out. The process is relatively easy. They explain it pretty well at their site. You do have to make sure that you leave space on your written message for whatever message is printed on the card in advance… I did not see that mentioned on the site and learned about it from doing it.

The variety of cards to choose from is excellent and for people wanting to save a bit of time this works well. If you find yourself having put off the task of sending a card this last-minute service may save you. You can tell them the date you want it delivered and not worry further. The site also lets you save cards to reuse them and create reminders to tell you when to send them.

If you would like to send a personalized paper birthday card and save some time this is a clever way to do so. It cleverly combines the best of both worlds: digital and paper. I will report back here in a few weeks with the final results on cards I send this way… but you need not wait for me, check the site out for yourself.

Check it out: https://www.blowbirthdaycards.com/

I will post again later on how it all turned out.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

Checking In

http://effectivecommunicationadvice.com/keys-for-effective-communication

What do you like about this blog?

Why?

What about it do you dislike?

Why?

Four simple questions. I would love to read your answers. As I write this I have 975 blog posts posted since I began in 2008. I have 7 scheduled to roll out in the next few weeks. By the time this is published I will have over 1000 posts up. That is a lot of writing and a lot of thinking. But if it does not interest you or help you in any way it does not matter. Does it?

Right now I am putting out one or two book reviews each week. Those will wind down by December. I will still publish reviews but I will  publish other things more often. I need to learn of what you the reader wants to read.

I can only do that if you will tell me.

Would you do me a favor? Answer just one of those questions or all four if you like. Post them as a comment or use the contact me link below to send me a private email. Either way it will really help me to improve this blog and make it serve you better.

In the end that is what is important. Blogs are for readers, not writers.

Thank you in advance. I really would appreciate hearing from you.

Questions? Comments? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to post your comments or questions below or if you want to contact me privately you can do that here: CONTACT ME HERE.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

Mental Models II

A week ago I discussed James Clear’s article on how to think better using Mental Models. This week I want to take a second look at this concept and look at another post by Clear on this idea.

Clear defines a mental model as, “an explanation of how something works. The phrase “mental model” is an overarching term for any sort of concept, framework, or worldview that you carry around in your mind”.

“Mental models help you understand life. For example, supply and demand is a mental model that helps you understand how the economy works. Game theory is a mental model that helps you understand how relationships and trust work. Entropy is a mental model that helps you understand how disorder and decay work.” Clear also observes that mental models guide how we perceive the world and how we behave.

Mental models can be very helpful but they are not perfect. “There is no single mental model from physics or engineering, for example, that provides a flawless explanation of the entire universe, but the best mental models from those disciplines have allowed us to build bridges and roads, develop new technologies, and even travel to outer space. As historian Yuval Noah Harari puts it, “Scientists generally agree that no theory is 100 percent correct. Thus, the real test of knowledge is not truth, but utility.””

Charlie Munger said that 80 or 90 important models will carry about 90% of the freight to make you a worldly-wise person.

Clear has assembled a starting list of some of the most common mental models in a number of disciplines. In invite you to check out his list and read up on some of those models. The better you understand them the more effectively you can use them. You can read more here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com

The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

A book review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:   The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

Synopsis of Content: 

The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a blueprint for how to effectively improve something through the establishment of a key goal, develop a system for measuring performance of the goal, and then following through with its execution. The authors advise focus on no more than three goals and if possible only one. They argue that too many goals dilute effort too much resulting in too little being achieved toward any one goal. To really effectively achieve a significant goal requires a high level of focus and that happens best with three or fewer such goals.

The approach is to develop a big goal, something vitally important. They call this a WIG which stands for “wildly important goal”. Once the goal is identified it is necessary to develop certain measurements to determine if the goal is being achieved.

The first measurement is the “lag measures”. This measurement tells you if you are achieving the actual goal. For example if the goal is lose 25 pounds then the lag measurement is losing 25 pounds. This is the ultimate measurement of achievement.

Next you must identify those actions that will most likely enable you to lose 25 pounds. As an example those actions may include restricting daily calorie intake to 1800 calories and increasing exercise to 5 miles of walking or running each day. These are called the “lead measures”. For this goal then the lead measures are calories consumed per day and miles walked or run per day.

The next step is to measure performance on the lead measures every day and track both the lead measures and the lag measure to determine performance and achievement of the goal. It is important to post these measurements on some form of graph or table where everyone involved in the goal can see how they are doing. Participants are held accountable for their contribution to the lead measures at a weekly WIG meeting where the posted data is reviewed and each participant’s contribution is reviewed.

This system was developed primarily for organizations and teams within organizations. However at the end of the book the authors discuss case studies to show how the same system can be used for personal goals.

Throughout the book case studies are presented showing how this method helped various companies and organizations to improve their performance, often in substantial ways. It builds cohesion and accountability in the team, or if done by an individual for that individual.

What I found useful about this book:

The focus on finding ways to measure the actual actions needed to achieve a goal is very helpful whether you are working with an individual goal or a team goal. The way the system fits together and accurately measures performance as well as accountability is an elegant and powerful concept. The real life examples show that it can really work in the real world.

Readability/Writing Quality: 

The book is well organized and well written. It provides all the information needed to understand the method and what makes it work.

Notes on Author:  

Chris McChesney works at FranklinCovey as a Global Practice Leader for design and development of the 4 Disciplines method.

Sean Covey is Executive Vice President at FranklinCovey and directs its international operations in 141 countries. He was involved in the original creation of the 4 Disciplines methodology.

Jim Huling is a consultant with FranklinCovey working with the 4 Disciplines. He has worked in corporate leadership in Fortune 500 companies and privately held companies.

Related Website: 

http://the4disciplinesofexecution.com/

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:  

  1. Identify the most important improvement you can make or the biggest problem you need to solve in your organization or your personal life. Create a Wildly Important Goal to address that improvement or problem and then use lead and lag measurements to track progress and motivate follow through.
  2. All organizations can measure the performance of their employees and their teams on a bell curve with high performers on the right side, poor performers on the left side, and the average performers in the middle. Use the 4 Disciplines to move that bell curve to the right – to make everyone more effective performers.
  3. Measurement of the attainment of the goal and the actions needed to get there are key to motivating people and achieving an important goal.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

Copyright holder: © 2012 by FranklinCovey Co.

Publisher: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Books2Wealth Book of the Month: December 2015

You can buy the book here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com