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Personal Brainstorming with No Agenda, on Random Topics

A simple way to proceed effectively on a daily and weekly basis in this ultra-hectic world

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In the course of my day or week, I find myself sitting at a table, on a bench, on a couch, or someplace pleasant. During that time, I might be waiting for someone to arrive, listening to music, or otherwise have a few minutes to myself. Invariably, I reach for a pen and a piece of paper, of any size, and start making notes.

What kind of notes do I make? They are random in nature and purely personal. I might list items that I need to pick up on the way home. I might list things that I want to accomplish in the next few days. “Is there a room or space in my house that needs cleaning?” “Do I need to take the car into the service station?”

500 Personal Brainstorms

These random notes, at random times, have proven to be invaluable.  In the last 10 years, I likely have created 500+ lists, roughly one per week. The notes are like personal brainstorming sessions. I write down whatever comes to mind.

Not every item that makes the list represents a ‘to-do.’ Some items are merely observations, keywords, or random phrases.

Soon, I mow down the items to the best of my ability. I don’t let any list items linger; I either transfer items to my master to do list, or handle them on the spot. In any event, I cross off or transfer everything, and then discard the original piece of paper. This ritual helps me to feel whole and complete.

Let’s Do it Again

The next time I’m out and about, which could be the next day or sometime next week, I might generate another list. I put the minutes I have to good use – waiting, listening, or reflecting. Or I’ll make a new list, knowing it contributes to peace of mind, greater focus, and an enhanced sense of personal energy.

If you’ve never tried brainstorming for one, I heartily recommend it. You can write down random items like I do, or you could focus on a particular issue. It’s your choice, but in any case, you’ll find the techniques to be satisfying rewarding, and a simple way to proceed on a daily and weekly basis in this ultra-hectic world.

For Your Eyes Only

Here is a sampling of random notes to myself as I mark them down, with no rhyme or reason, but it all works for me:

* Send current topic list to Nancy
* Ask Ashley if there’s any renewed program interest
* Send 50 topics where else?
* Update with lecture bureau
* Check out CDs on wealth, retirement, travel, and leisure

* Ensure that “The voice” is on my DVR recording schedule
* Where to send the UPS article?
* Greensboro properties, Winston-Salem properties
* Find the green sun screen
* Strawberries still good?

* Visit Cary Town Center
* The snow scraper goes
* Replace remote batteries
* Re-pot all the plants
* Add these notes to this article as examples for readers.

The great benefit of creating these lists on the fly is that I feel whole and complete when I return to my house or my office, because I have no lingering thoughts spinning around in my head. My current thoughts are all on the little slip of paper.

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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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Business

William Randolph Hearst: His Role is in American Progressivism

The origins of today’s Leftist, slanted news can be traced in part to William Randolph Hearst

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The origins of today’s Leftist, slanted news can be traced in part to William Randolph Hearst. Here are notes and excerpts from William Randolph Hearst: His Role is in American Progressivism, by Roy Everett Littlefield, published by University Press of America, in 1960.

▪ Historians and journalists alike [remember, this is only up until to 1959], have been harsh on Hearst’s sensationalism. One wrote that his papers were inferior to others because he had a disregard for the truth. The purpose of a Hearst newspaper was to “splash sensation” that would “paralyze” the public.

▪ A critic wrote, “in the strict sense, the Hearst papers aren’t newspapers at all. They were printed entertainment and excitement.”

▪ Another critic said: “because Hearst fabricated news stories, his newspapers were as sensational, flamboyant, and irresponsible as any major newspaper ever published in America.”

▪ A fourth critic charged that Hearst, because of his lack of sincerity and intellectual honesty, did more to degrade the entire American press than anyone else in history.

Yellow Journalism

Yellow journalism refers to that which is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.

▪ One of Hearst’s closest advisors and friends for 39 years relished the role of yellow journalist by saying, “I am the yellowist journalist in the world.” He explained how he had artists make his type the largest and blackest of all newspapers. One time he printed, “WAR, SURE”, causing news boys to put the Journal on top of the pack and all the other papers on the bottom, which became the habit of news boys.

▪ Like Joseph Pulitzer, Hearst used large headlines and numerous illustrations to reach immigrants who were barely literate.

▪ The Hearst technique, common to all his papers, centered on getting the visual attention of the public. Hearst explained that the typical reader should be able to review the headline of a newspaper and get a reasonably clear and complete idea of the news of the day. The headline also served as an advertisement of the newspaper. Hearst employed wider columns, larger print, and darker type.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

One of Hearst’s key editors told his reporters, “There is no need ever to use a word of more than three syllables in a newspaper. Remember that a newspaper is mostly read by very busy people, or by very tired people, or by very uneducated people, none of whom are going to hunt up a dictionary to find out what you mean.”

▪ Hearst appealed to the lower classes’ baser instincts, and his sensationalistic journalism had its most spectacular hour in the times that led to the Spanish American War. From the start, Hearst and Pulitzer advocated every means possible to aid the rebels in the Spanish American War. Hearst used his newspaper as a vehicle to foment public sentiment for the war, and in this respect, single-handedly played one of the biggest roles in getting America into the war.

▪ A guiding Hearst principle: “Never forget that if you don’t hit a newspaper reader between the eyes with your first sentence, there is no reason to write a second.”

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Making Smarter Decisions

How to make smarter decisions when you don’t have all the facts (which is nearly all the time)

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Annie Duke, a professional gambler, has written an intriguing book,  Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All The Facts. The text is great; I took a lot of notes and saved many excerpts:

Life choices we make are bets on a specific path, as distinct from a range of potential alternative futures. Job and relocation decisions are bets. Sales negotiations and contracts are bets. Buying a house is a bet. Ordering the chicken instead of the steak is a bet. Everything is a bet.

Ask someone, “Want to bet?” when they claim something to be true. It puts them in a different place than when they simply state what they believed to be true. Thinking in Bets can help us reshape our approach to the world, and improve all aspects of decision-making in our lives.

Overview

We humans are disastrously biased in our decision making. We fool ourselves into believing our beliefs whether they are worthy of our trust of not. Our biases systematically impede our decision-making.

Most people don’t actually think through their beliefs. They hear something from a source they hold in high esteem and then maintain that belief. Recognize when you’re in an “echo-chamber” where only viewpoints you’re currently comfortable with are expressed.

We are quick to form beliefs, tend towards absolutes (this is right, that is wrong), and indulge in “motivated reasoning,” seeking out confirmation while ignoring contradictory evidence. Believing is easy; we are wired to believe

Our beliefs impact how we view the world, then how we act, and how we plan for the future. We are loath to update our beliefs, especially when a change would be a challenge to our self-narrative. Our decision-making is only as good as the accuracy of our beliefs, which are hopelessly biased and often wrong.

Because our beliefs are based on past experiences and inputs, it is wise to be purposeful about the inputs and experiences that we have going forward as that will guide our future selves.

“Resulting”

We judge decisions based on how they turn out, known as “resulting,” in which we believe results indicate the quality of our decision: If we succeeded it was a good decision, but if we failed, it was a bad decision.

We guard our self-image via “self-serving bias,” which distorts our view of the world: We take credit for all good outcomes and blame bad luck for all bad outcomes, even when the truth is often shaded in grey.

Resulting ignores the role of luck. When a desired outcome doesn’t occur, it does not always mean it was a poor choice. It could have been bad luck. This insight moves us away from right-wrong thinking, and towards a probabilistic approach to interpreting outcomes, like betting in poker.

So, assess decisions on the basis of how they were made, not how they turned out You can win with a poor decision and lose with a good one. In the long run, it’s the decision-making process that counts.

Stop thinking in certainties and recognize probabilities, and avoid imagining situations as either-or. Most things lie along continuums.

Taking Action

Embrace uncertainty, by thinking in bets. Calibrate your confidence on a more granular level. Rather than say, “I know X with 100% certainty,” express a lesser confidence of, say, 65%. Calibrating preserves our self-narrative if we happen to be wrong, and it also makes us more credible.

Assess outcomes after the fact, through “outcome fielding.” Was an outcome driven by luck or skill, and in what combination? After winning a high profile tournament, for example, a poker player was focused not on basking in glory, but on de-constructing his play, and what he could have done better.

Practice tough love in the service of “truth-seeking.” No whining about how bad luck hurt us. No patting ourselves on the backs. Truth-seeking requires a special kind of contract with yourself.

Listen to arguments from all sides to get a clearer picture of the truth. Observe the world around you and learn from the choices that other people make by observing.

Create a group of individuals who can provide us with feedback on our weaknesses and blind spots. Focus on accuracy, accountability, and openness to diverse views. Court dissent and differing points of view, and take responsibility even when doing so is painful.

Strength in the Moment

We tend to act based on how we are affected right now, rather than how we will feel later. When we reach for that doughnut, rather than for a healthy apple, we’re doing so at the expense of our future self. Employ the 10-10-10 process: what are the consequences of each of my options in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years?

Finally, exercise caution after a streak of positive or negative outcomes to avoid becoming emotionally charged in a way that prevents us from thinking clearly.

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