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Despite the Lures, Reduce Complexity and Take Charge of Your Day

Dial down the level of enticement that otherwise surrounds you to maintain effectiveness and to have more of a life

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The news media has society in a stranglehold. Even if you actively choose to ignore political events, the media has a way of reeling you back in, through soundbites, captivating headlines, and lurid photos, most of it for a ‘progressive’ agenda. Then throw in the non-stop pitches for the array of all the newfangled products and services that you ‘ought’ to acquire.

Juggling all of our personal and professional responsibilities, along with the ever-represent ‘requirement’ to stay informed adds up to a world of complexity, which can confound and debilitate us.

Complexity is frustrating. It causes us to spend countless hours paying attention to what could be summarized in minutes or avoided altogether, and untold sums of money to diminish or undo what perhaps didn’t need to be done at all.

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Complexity Won’t Subside

How does complexity show up in our lives? You’re frazzled by the staggering amount of technology already in your life. You need to find a manual to understand the manual that came with your computer.

You constantly find yourself immersed in a sea of technical terms, such as data relay, encryption, USB debugging, and CPU usage, that you would greatly prefer to not have encountered at all. You have no chance of understanding the two-dozen buttons on the remote control devices that come with your television set, DVR, DVD, Tivo, Dish, DirecTV and Roku.

Simply because you were born in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s and are a functioning member of society, the relentless drumbeat of complexity continues every day. Yes, the world is complex, society is complex, and your life is complex, but antidotes that offer relief are available and they are within your grasp.

Designed with Intelligence?

Any product or service that you acquire, any piece of technology, or anything you add to your professional or personal life comes with instructions, options, and features that someone else – an engineer – designed before it ever made its way to you.

As author Vance Packard told us more than 60 years ago in The Waste Makers, when it comes to operating a gadget, what we think represents our own shortcomings is often erroneous. The manufacturer made many decisions before the product was ever shipped from the plant, involving the quality of materials to be used and the design and layout of the various switches, buttons, and dials that adorn the appliance. The intelligence with which engineers design a product dramatically impacts how easy or difficult it will be for the typical consumer to use it effectively.

Consider clothes dryers, microwave units, blenders, radio/alarm clocks, and DVD players. Some of them, mysteriously, have instructions too complicated and confusing to fathom, while others are easier to operate. Did you luck out, or did the engineer/designer back at the plant have something to do with it? Hereafter, seek products designed with intelligence.

Recognize that having fewer switches, buttons, or dials does not necessarily mean that the product is less sophisticated or offers fewer benefits or features. Quite the opposite might be true! Simplicity, rather than complexity, is your product preference among items that otherwise are relatively equal in terms of cost, durability, expected life cycle, and warranty. If one item has dozens of features, while another has only a handful (namely the ones you need!), choose the latter and don’t fret about a possible upgrade later.

Who’s the Boss? You Are

Purchasing items with excessive instructions and complex operating procedures invites complexity into your life. You’ve personally acquired most of what surrounds you and are largely responsible for your immediate environment.

Less, quite often, can be more in terms of the favorable impact on your life, peace of mind, and quality of leisure time. In an age where a satellite dish can bring 60,000+ programs per month to your television set, ask yourself, would 4,000 or 5,000 programs be sufficient?

When I face a technical challenge, I give that task to a younger person – someone who has grown up with technology and to whom it is second nature.

Keep Complexity at Bay

By making basic but effective purchases and identifying needed helpers, we can keep complexity at bay. We can dial down the level of complexity that otherwise surrounds us in order to maintain effectiveness and have more of a life.

Exercise your power to acquire fewer television channels, subscribe to fewer publications, select products with a greater ease of use, and remember who is in control. You are! Not the government, not the media, and not some unseen force.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Education

Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above

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On the state and local level, as decisions are made about how and in what form we will educate the nation’s children, an age-old issue remains. The underlying causes of income inequality and civil unrest likely has less to do with media-inflamed coverage and more to do with a lingering issue that few people want to earnestly discuss: educational disparity.

In virtually every U.S. school system, the disparity year after year, decade after decade, and even longer, in mathematics competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, between African American students and other students is disturbing.

A Disturbing Reality

Here in the third decade of the third millennium, with a male African American high school dropout rate at 40% across the U.S., can anyone view the situation optimistically? Any responsible American would understandably be concerned.

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As Eric Hanushek, who is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, exclaimed “It’s remarkable.” Following his extensive analysis of the situation, he remarked, “I knew that the gap hadn’t been closing too much, but when I actually looked at the data I was myself surprised.”

In one community after another, and one school system after another, when strenuous efforts to bridge the gap do not bear fruit, invariably someone yells “foul,” as if some grand conspiracy is occurring and a magic wand, yet to be waved, could suddenly redress all. And, as if hard-working, dedicated teachers are not attempting their utmost for each of their students.

An Undesired Path

Consider the school system in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina. This locale, deemed, “The southern part of heaven,” by a variety of writers, is among the most progressive in the United States. The teachers and educators here have a vested interest in demonstrating that their school system, beyond all others, can succeed in the vital area of closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities.

Nevertheless, year in and year out the gap remains. So, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education becomes primed to try anything! Another in an endless line of supposed “fixes” was to eliminate the advanced math classes in the middle schools and to lump all non-pre-algebra students together, with similar plans to eliminate other advanced classes such as in language arts.

Just as you cannot easily erect a sound building on quicksand, and you cannot expect to solve a decades-old problem by starting with a shaky foundation. Taking a lowest common denominator approach to developing school curriculum has never consistently worked, anywhere. It frustrates the students and dramatically increases a teacher’s burden – all such students must then be taught at individual learning speeds. Do you know any superhuman teachers? If so, could you afford them?

Face the Real Issues

Permanently closing the academic gap between underachieving students and the rest of the student population requires addressing reality – airing the truth about the disparity – not resorting to politically “correct” psychobabble and curricula finagling for another ten years, and then another ten, and then another.

This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors.

Until solid analysis, exploration, and programs that address these issues are undertaken, no amount of wrangling with classes will prove to be the “winning formula.” And, school boards will have no chance of effectively addressing the continuing problem of poor academic performance among student groups.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Sign of Four, detective Sherlock Holmes says, “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The schools in U.S. communities routinely exhaust talented teachers with a task that cannot be solved by them, nor is it theirs to solve.

Students Eager to Learn

However improbable to those who wish to pretend otherwise, academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above and cracking the books, then coming to class as serious students, eager to learn, and primed to excel. Such achievement is not likely to occur any other way.

Otherwise, expect that income inequality and civil unrest will continue for decades into the 21st century.

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Education

When America Loses THIS, It Loses Everything

We are in a battle for the soul of our country. And that battle is over truth.

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We are in a battle for the soul of our country. And that battle is over truth. Truth must be the foundation of everything that we believe, honor, value, and esteem. If we don’t know what truth is, how can we stand for America? The left is at war with the truth and tries to reposition what it is that we believe to be true so that they can change society. We must stand for truth. PolitiCrosssing founder Chris Widener expands on the need to fight for truth in the short video below.

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