Your friends have better lives than you do.

Feeling overwhelmed by social media?

Bad news.  Everyone has a better life than you.  You already know this, because you access Facebook.

But you can’t help yourself, because you suffer from FoMO.  Fear Of Missing Out.  Bobby Swar, a researcher friend, has studied this problem.

Because of social media, we know about more stuff we are missing out on.  And we hate to miss out.

Social media “broadcasts more options than can be pursued” according to another study (Przybylski, et al, 2013).  The researchers call it “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”

We don’t all feel FoMO equally.  The study shows that some people at some times are affected more.  People experience more FoMO:

  • when they have “lower levels of general mood and overall life satisfaction”
  • if they low feel in “competence, autonomy, and relatedness”

So when I feel sad, I am more likely to perceive that all of my friends own condos in Hawaii, continually receive job promotions, have more accomplished children, are thinner and more fit.

Today’s advice: let it go.  Don’t create myths in your mind about your friends.  Live a real life, here and now.  Be in the present.

::: Be fierce.  Be kind.  Be knowledge-hungry. :::


Want to live longer?

I am in Japan this week, meeting creative people.  I interacted with a really interesting person by chance.

Across the alley from the apartment where I am staying, I was awoken early in the morning by an old man banging on a pot with a hammer.

Determining a Japanese person’s age is difficult, but this guy was really old. He might have been born before Japan opened to the outside world in the 1860s.  I’m not sure.

6E046D1D-6D5D-4F5B-AEF1-D0EFA119322EThe old man procures old cookware that has been cast out, and repairs it all.  He beats out the dents and straightens where it is bent.  Then he apparently tries to sell them.  It is all done in a simple workplace  in his family’s garage.

Japan is a rich country by any measure.  No one needs to buy recycled pot and pans.  Affordable cookware is easily accessible.  But the man’s family realizes that meaningful work is key to keeping him alive and vibrant.

As you plan your retirement, have you focused on financial planning?  Hopefully you have also planned ways to make substantive alterations.  If not, retirement could bring rapid decline in health.  Retirement is stressful and can mean an end to meaningful contributions.  A Harvard study indicates that compared to those who keep working, retired individuals are 40 percent more likely to suffer heart attack or stroke.

Four recommendations from the study are (1) forging new social networks, (2) playing, (3) being creative, and (4) continued learning.  My advice: even if you are young, plan now.  Develop a system that will allow you to make a substantive creative contributions now and into old age.

Should you go back to college or university?

Will your career be advanced by going back to school?  Maybe, maybe not.


Do you wish you had earned a degree when you were younger?

Do you feel left out of conversations when people quote Jane Austen?  Do you wish you could use historical examples from the Peloponesian War?

Many people feel the allure of a piece of paper certifying university graduation.  I understand the attraction.

I believe that a well-rounded education significantly improves our lives.  It makes us better citizens, better problem solvers, and more interesting people.  I  believe it makes us more resilient by exposing us to the experiences of various people and cultures.  It gives us more information for options in designing our lives.

But it doesn’t necessarily bring more money.

Have you ever met a middle-aged person who was professionally stuck, then enrolled in university—at great sacrifice to present career, family stability, and household budget—graduated, and become tremendously successful?  Neither have I.  It might have happened, but not amongst a few thousand data points in my reference.

But the person often earns less after graduation.  Here is a common scenario: a 40-year-old person feels professionally stuck, and feels angst about having no diploma.  So the person quits a job, perseveres for four years, and begins the on-campus recruiting process.  Recruiters might be impressed, but they generally prefer to hire a person with the same degree from the same university who is 20 years younger.  That choice is perceived as both cheaper and less risky.  An older person might be more experienced, but that experience is four years old.

The return on investment (ROI) of a degree after a certain age is lower than for an 18-year-old.  Worse, the ROI is lower and lower for everyone.  Earning a professional degree in a field with enforced scarcity can improve earning power.  Example: quitting work as a nurse’s aide and earning a nursing degree can earn a positive return.

school decision tree

Are you considering going back to college because you love learning, but are horrified by the cost?  I have advised thousands of careers, and I believe that with few exception, the new degree will not meet expectations.

Rather than quitting employment to study, a person could instead gain new knowledge and skills through night classes, or (less expensively and more flexibly) through lifelong self-directed learning.  With proper guidance, personal development results can be significant.

I’m not anti-education.  See earlier blog posts to see that I believe education is the best way to improve individuals and our world.

Teach yourself to be successful.  Don’t outsource your education.

The question I am often asked

People often ask me for investment advice.  I don’t respond, because I am completely unqualified to respond.  I can give my opnions, but giving advice would be malpractice.  I consulted for Wall Street execs in the past, but my competence was unrelated to investing.

0D97A976-0FD9-446B-9D52-368E4D62200EThe problem: people desperately want experts to tell them what to do.  So we grasp at any hint of authority.  Have you visited Hawaii?  You can teach me about Polynesian cultural nuances.  Have you built toy houses with Lego blocks?  You’re my new construction contractor.

I’m not sure anyone is qualified to give specific investment advice.  But we ask anyway.   We want to shift the blame to someone else when we make mistakes.  This derives from . . .

. . . fear of risk.

. . . fear of responsibility.

. . . fear of error embarrassment.

That is a lot of responsibility to dump on someone.  The first time someone sought my advice I was flattered, because I was young.  Now I am wary.

We take child-raising tips from people who don’t like children, relationship advice from bloggers without any life experience, and college advice from college recruiters.

You can teach yourself to be successful.  You don’t need to shift the responsibility to others.

:::   Be fierce.  Be kind.  Be knowledge-hungry.   :::


To Be Creative, Specialize. Or Generalize.

To become creative—to consistently innovate—which strategy is best?  Should you focus expertise in your domain, going deeper?  Or should you be a generalist and learn broadly?

My experience, and research, leads me to believe that both are necessary.

Go Deep

6A52BB6F-9FB5-46F4-8454-24AFE8A29709.jpegYou can’t create a new guitar riff destined to become iconic, if you are not familiar with other great riffs. You should be able to play Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple), Iron Man (Black Sabbath), Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns ‘n Roses), Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana), and Satisfaction (Rolling Stones). Only then  can you invent a new one.  Creative solutions are typically developed by people with some expertise in their fields. We call this deep domain knowledge.

Can you develop a new intervention for cancer without years of researching what has already been tried?  I have always wanted to write a fiction bestseller, but I don’t try because I never even read fiction.  (My book on Amazon, from which I still receive royalties, is fictional but really is an allegory).

Go Broad

Innovation, according to Peter Drucker, typically comes through borrowing from other domains (HBR, 2002), however.  The big innovations that grab headlines are often born from converging knowledge types.

Neuroscience tells us that creativity often involves pulling from memories stored in our brains.  When we are faced with a problem, we access the database of experiences and knowledge in our brains and choose one as THE solution.  So the broader your knowledge, the larger the database from which to draw possible answers.

Unfortunately, everyone is becoming more specialized.  People are able to dig very deep into their own fields.  But they are less able to cross-pollinate knowledge from other domains.

If you want to reach creative eminence, make friends with people outside your profession.  Spend time with weird people.

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