That you have been many selves – your 3 year old self was a different person from your 7 year old self who was a different person from your 11 year old self? And if you believe this, how many selves do you have?
That you have one self and when, to extend the argument, you go to heaven, God does not have to decide whether to make you your 3 year old or your 7 year old self or you 11 year old self or your 99 year old self because they are all one?
When you introduce yourself to the other people in heaven who will you be?
After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn
That kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman
Not the grief of a child
And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid flight
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers
And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every good bye you learn.
Veronica A. Shoffstall
If anyone has a biography of Veronica Shoffstall, please point in the right direction. Thank you.
It’s tough to write a CV, particularly when we’ve changed career slightly or done something unusual.
Learning from a twitcher
By chance, today I listened to a program on bird watching and learned about the ‘rare man’ committee. Apologies for the sexism, but we psychologists have something to learn from what an experienced ‘rare man’ said the qualities needed from a person who sits on the ‘rare man’ committee and ‘rules’ on the claims that fellow twitchers have seen a rare bird.
OK, I wouldn’t sit around all day looking for a rare bird, but the advice was sensible.
These are the qualities needed for someone who wants to sit on the ‘rare bird’ committee.
An applicant needs a track record that other bird watchers recognize
An applicant needs specialist knowledge to contribute the committee
An applicant needs awareness of their strengths and weakness that will affect their judgment
There was a fourth, I think, but it seems this is one of the few BBC programs that will not be repeated!
Why we find writing a CV difficult
Generally, I think we find the middle point relatively easy to describe. We find the third difficult. More on that just now.
Our CV is an act of leadership
We find the 1st very difficult when we have changed our career in some way. We are frustrated as noobes, for example, when we are asked for experience. We are infuriated as experienced people when our experience is not recognized by people who sit in judgment on us. When we live somewhere like the UK, we recognize inherent class bias that engenders the most off-putting blindness and bad manners.
The way the bird-man put it is helpful. Describe your track record in terms the other party recognizes. We need therefore to know something about what they expect. In New Zealand, where I lived for a while, we would highlight our previous job titles and we would put our firms in a lighter weight font. Where we worked didn’t resonate with the locals. We also stripped off our qualifications. If the job application asked for a degree, we didn’t elaborate. We just said Yes.
It is astonishingly destructive to have to do this and HR departments should be on to it. It is discriminatory, excluding and ultimately very bad for the firm. Where there are very dissimilar tracks into an organization, it is up to HR to tell the alternative stories so their line managers understand them.
But HR departments are rarely competent. Sorry but we know that to be true. And because they are rarely competent, it is up to us to exercise leadership I’ll give you an example. Once I had a student who had come up the hard way. I advised him to state but not emphasize his good university degree and highlight three features of his background.
His father was an underground miner. He grew up around miners and he understood their concerns.
Because he grew up at a mine he spoke 4 languages.
Before he came to university, he worked as a temporary teacher. That wouldn’t be a track record that was ‘recognized’. But while he was a teacher in this remote rural school, he coached his school athletics team and took them as far as the Provincial championships. That would be recognized.
He walked into a very good job on a graduate trainee in a leading multinational. Had he not emphasized this story in his way, he would have fallen foul of class bias.
It can be hard for an individual to identify features of their background that will resonate with people they have never met in a sector where they have no experience. It is hard for us to recognize those features in our own CV. That’s our task, though. To find those points where we resonate with the people we are going see. That is the leadership task.
Our strengths and weaknesses
Oh, how questions about strengths and weaknesses make us shy. But I will tell you why. The question is always asked in a frontal way. Very, very rude of interviewers to do that. They need to probe what your strengths will be in their team and what will be your weaknesses. But that is their job. You cannot know because you have not been in the situation before. By the time you know, you will be ready for the next challenge.
Thinking about the referees of rare bird sightings helps, I think. An applicant would know where they think they would want to play a leading or substantial role and where they would take a following or lagging role. It can be help, possibly to think about where you think you might speak up and where you would be listening hard.
Whatever, when an interviewer is frontal, remember that it is their bad manners not yours. Take a deep breath. Exercise leadership.
Orient yourself: Repeat the common & shared goal.
Remind yourself of why you want to be with these people: Repeat their three contributions.
Steady your audience: State your contribution and state your main agenda as you see it.
Your goal is not to answer their question. Your goal is to bring everyone together. Leadership.
Thank you rare bird man. If anyone heard the fourth criterion, do let me know.
I am sure none of us thought we could learn anything about productivity from our lecturers and professors at uni. I can almost hear you falling off your chair laughing at the idea.
Surprises in classical research on the productivity of professors
All good research surprises. Boice’s work on the productivity of “New Faculty” packs the surprises.
What you didn’t know about academic life
First, some basics. Academic life is amazingly brutal and competitive. Young academics are supposed to write academic articles and get them published. The whole process takes forever and it is hard to know how well you are doing. But if you don’t succeed in publishing a handful of articles every year, you will lose your job, be quite unable to get another one, and have to start another career at the bottom of the ladder.
In short, you have to do difficult work, you have to “sell” it in a long process that takes years, and you are gambling everything. How would you feel? What would you do?
Trying too hard
The typical young academic panics. They promise themselves that they will work very, very hard. Day 1: the alarm goes off at 5am. Maybe they get up; maybe they don’t. If they do, they stumble to their desk and stare at their work. Their confidence plummets and they don’t do a lot.
Never mind. They promise themselves they will catch up at the weekend. They refuse to go out and on Saturday evening, they sit down at their desk, and stare at their work . . .
Oh, you know what happens next. You’ve been there. This goes on-and-on until a deadline forces them to get going and then they pull several all-nighters, make the deadline just in time, and blame the typos and shoddy writing on running out of time.
Guess what? This is a “hiding to nowhere”. And the problem is not lack of discipline. The problem is trying to do too much. This is binge-working based on a romantic notion of work.
Get over it! Work is work. Did you hear that? Work is work. You aren’t brilliant. You aren’t capable of massive amounts of work.
Very successful people work playfully. Little-and-often
You are capable of doing your work and loving it.
Boice studied academics, young and old, often watching them when they work. Productive academics look lazy. (They do, don’t they?) They move around in a relaxed fashion often because they have a little secret.
They do get up early, but so they can spend an hour or so writing every day while the house is still quiet.
They don’t jump to writing the finished article all at once though.
They get up. They sit down.
If they feel unmoved to work, they free-write. They will probably tear up what they have written tomorrow, but they get the creative juices going.
Tomorrow they come and carry on.
By working every day, they don’t have to remember where they got up to and they just carry on, adding stuff, deleting stuff, structuring and editing.
Slowly and painlessly, the work clocks up without any binge-working or panic.
With that casual hour done, they can afford to be relaxed with people, to do admin work, to be friendly to students, to read, to do lab work, to discuss ideas.
What can other-workers learn from professors?
Other work is no different.
Agile is simply the same process. We work on one project at a time. We define what needs to be done and we concentrate on it. Other priorities are shut out until it is done. But despite the rugby-terminology of scrum and sprint, we don’t rush. Burn-down is for tasks. Burn-out takes us nowhere.
If working little-and-often is so right, why don’t we all do it?
Where we fail is that we don’t have the guts to work little-and-often. The secret is a good mentor who can act as a pace-maker. But we don’t always have a good mentor. So we need to get into the habit early of working a little on our main project every morning.
Here is a set of slides I put together for first-year students with some of his observations. I link to Boice’s book is below. I do recommend it. It is a stunning piece of research about productivity with real insights on how to join that small group of people who achieved 700% of what we achieve. After that it is up-to-you.
Try it this way perhaps. If you haven’t made progress during the week, on Saturday evening, don’t cancel your plans. But before you go out, free write for 20 minutes. That’s all. Just write what is in your head for 20 minutes. Then go out. And get Boice’s book. I promise you that you will be surprised, relieved and unburdened.
Wonderful! TED has posted an old video of Viktor Frankl lecturing. You may recall that Viktor Frankl survived a concentration camp. He advocates searching for meaning, even when objective conditions are dreadful.
Funny, engaging and interacting easily with young students, Frankl is worth watching for his ideas, his style, and his ability to weave classical ideas and contemporary examples, data, anecdote, poetry and wit.
Looks as if there is no download, so you will need to head over to TED to see the clip.
Viktor Frankl on YouTube talking about meaning in horrible conditions
Here is another clip of Viktor Frankl speaking on You Tube.
Quotations from Viktor Frankl
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.
Get a lot more done by focusing intensely on a goal
One of the stunning results of psychological research of the second half of the 20th century is that goals and feedback raise performance dramatically.
Depending on our starting point, we can raise our performance between 10% and several hundred percent by focusing on a fixed target and getting timely feedback about how close we are to our goal.
Target & box-ticking culture in the UK
In Britain, goals and feedback have been adopted widely and are known here as targets and box-ticking. Some people intuitively grasp there is something wrong with the system. Others believe that we are somehow able to control doctors, nurses, teachers and police officers and GET MORE DONE.
What is wrong with targets & box-ticking?
You have to look no further than the work of British psychologist, John Seddon, to understand what has gone wrong.
Why do goals and feedback dramatically increase our performance?
A goal gives us a fixed point to aim at and an environment where we learn what makes a difference. Feedback about our progress to our goals, preferably built into the task itself, helps us work out what works and what doesn’t.
Why do targets and box-ticking dramatically fail to raise our performance?
Targets (and box ticking) are not a system of goals and feedback. They are a plain old fashioned assembly line in which we perform simple movements at a set pace.
An assembly line was innovative in 1910 but it was overtaken by Toyota in the 50’s when they realised they could work much more effectively by throwing out the set pace “do it like this” methods and charging each person with investigating for themselves what works and what doesn’t.
University students routinely play the the “beer game” (and its descendants) to learn an important fact about assembly lines. Fixed ways of doing things don’t fit the natural variety of life. Too often what we do does not fit what is required. Fixed ways of doing things generates errors. Fixing errors is expensive. Before long, we have a mess and our budgets are way out of control.
Would I try to drive from London to Edinburgh at a fixed speed?
Let’s take a simple example. If I decide to drive from London to Edinburgh at a fixed speed, I quickly run into frustration I am much better off responding to variations in traffic conditions as I go.
Having a person plan my trip from an office in Cardiff, for example, might look good on paper but it doesn’t work. It is far better to give me good maps, a sat nav, and breaking news about traffic conditions.
I can take a break earlier than intended to escape a tail back, for example. I can take a detour along back roads and drive further faster. And other days, my trip will go smoothly along the full length of the M1, and I will arrive early.
That’s life. And it is cheaper, more enjoyable, and much more efficient that excessive planning.
Turning our GP’s and kindergartens in to assembly lines is so 1910
The attempt to turn every feature of Britain from GP’s offices to the kindergarten into an assembly line is very simply 100 years out of date. It is time to supply the person doing the job with the information they need to do it. They still need training, yes. They will value coaching; of course. They could use data to explore their own effectiveness.
The job of a manager is to provide the information they need in a timely way. The job of management is to provide data that tells us about coordination. Where is the tail back? Where is traffic heavy and about to cause another tail back? Managers have (or should have) the overview that the person on the job, or driving the single car, does not have, and cannot have because they are busy driving.
Managers are responsible for the outcome of our collective decisions. They are responsible for tail backs. They cannot make decisions for each of us though. They cannot. It is not practical. And it does not work because the only way to tell us all what to do, is to tell us all to do the same thing. And then our collective behaviour is not sufficiently flexible and adaptive and we get the very tailback that we were trying to avoid.
The way to avoid tailbacks is to keep each of us making our own decisions on the basis of relevant up-to-date information.
It’s harsh to say it, but if a manager does not understand that standardisation causes chaos, they should never have been appointed. This is MGMT101. It is taught in first year in university. We learn it in the boy scouts. We learn it when we organize a sleep-over.
A GP, for example, needs information on the state of health of their entire patient group. Then they can allocate resources sensibly. Discretion to spend half-an-hour with a patient might lead to a well thought health programme that resolves dozens of problems. Equally a frequent user might be distracted from unnecessary visits by non-medical interventions, such as family meeting.
A GP is highly motivated to work flexibly precisely because it helps them eliminate the queues. No system thought out elsewhere will achieve that. Instead, it creates dissatisfied patients who are not getting their issues dealt with and who then return to the system for more attention.
A goal of keeping these 2000 patients in good health is very different from a target of seeing 30 or so patients a day. Feedback about the health of 2000 patients is very different from filling in forms about whom one has seen.
If GPS’s get everything done and every one healthy and go home early, is that wrong? Emergency calls can still be routed to them at home.
It really is time to demand some “evidence based management”. If a government department wants targets, then let it set up properly conducted trials to compare their method with methods recommended by psychologists. Not just Seddon. All psychologists. It is time.
I’m fascinated by the panic induced by the ‘hung parliament’ in the UK.
Turning our urban soullessness into a village square
Earlier today, I went shopping in the TESCO superstore. Those superstores are soulless and too big to shop in comfortably but in theory, everything is there. My logic in darkening their doorway is that they have a fresh fish counter and I can find the rarer items, like popcorn and sea salt, that I can’t get in my local Co-0p.
The reality though, is that the marketers have taken possession of the store and goods are not longer in categories. I wanted little capers and following the logic that older English people might have cooked a fish pie in a forgotten world, I picked on elderly shoppers to ask if they had seen any. The first person was looking for poppy seeds; the next was looking for butter beans. I sent the second to speak to the first – he found his beans. Then he helped me find vanilla extract for my porridge (next to the flour not next herbs and spices – that’s where you find vanilla pod).
What is the point of my repeating his minutiae of English living? Well, it is this – when we work together, we both enjoy the shopping experience and complete it more successfully. I also learned a lot about older people’s use of computers, family finances and the English diaspora. Many English people have children and grand-children living abroad.
Do the English like being alienated?
And I learned about attitudes to politics.
As a general rule, English people don’t want to know about politics. They change channels when politics come on. They think I am daft for thinking the current negotiations in Westminster are very healthy.
When in doubt though, I think that when we put our minds together we can work anything out. And it is fun, too. I would prefer to be wrong for trying to get people together than to wallow in learned helplessness.
But then maybe I don’t get. After all I was feeling depressed about the political system on election day and it is the current process that makes me feel the system work. I could be wrong again.
The psychologically powerful factor called collective efficacy
Psychologically, trusting other people is a spiral-effect. We trust, we act together, we succeed, we trust more.
Collective efficacy is immensely powerful. Extending research in schools and the work of management theorists at Case Western, just emphasizing where we are competent and where we believe each other to be competent, will give us an economic boost.
Think 10%. That’s a lot. No amount of money thrown at a problem produces that effect.
But to get that effect, we have to take the first step. We have to acknowledge each others competence.
We know other people are not good at everything. They don’t need to be.
I wish I was done but I am not. People who type in my url (http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org) will find me directly. I am rebuilding my Google page rank slowly.
But out there are people who subscribed to the RSS feed of my old blog. I have one myself coming in to my Pageflakes (a feed reader).
How do I redirect all these feeds to my new blog and make my feeds for the new blog available to those who want them?
The immediate answer is to use Feedburner but I could never understand it before. I made a concerted effort yesterday and if you are like me, you might find this useful.
Some basic building blocks in understanding feeds
1 WordPress, whether WordPress.com or WordPress.org automatically generates feeds call http://myblogname.wordpress.com/feed or http//myblogoname.org/feed (or .com or .net or whatever you are using).
2 WordPress also automatically generates a feed for your comments following this format http://myblognhttp://feeds2.feedburner.com/flowingmotioname.org/comments/feed
3 Some themes will generate extra feeds such as http://myblogname.org/category/nameof category/feed
Any one who cares to picks up this name and put it into their feedreader such as Google Reader. Pageflakes even finds the feed for me. I just type in the url (http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org) and it scampers off to the site, ferrets around, and comes back with the feed name.
Keeping count of my feeds
Of course, it is really interesting to know how many people are pulling in my feeds and where they come from. To do this, I sign up to one of Google’s many free services, Feed Burner.
I used my gmail to get in, I type in my url (http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org), it asks me to give this new feed a name, and it generates another feed in this format http://feeds2.feedburner.com/flowingmotion.
All good. We can add some frills. We can ask for a full set of statistics and ask for a Browser friendly option. But what happens next? Well we have to connect the blog to Feedburner in some way.
Before we do that, make another feed for your comments (turn http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org/comments/feed into a feedburner feed)
Connecting your blog to Feedburner
At this point we have your standard WordPress feed that looks like http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org/feed and the Feedburner feed http://feeds2.feedburner.com/flowingmotion.
To connect the two, you will need to download the Feedsmith plug in. You can go to the Dashboard on your blog, left side column, Plugins/Add new and upload. Everything will go find except that you will get an error message.
There is a hack to fix this. Download the plugin to your harddrive and unzip it. Delete the pdf file and the files and the files for Mac. Now zip up the program file only. This is important. The program file only. You zip by going to File in Windows Explorer menu bar.
Now upload the new zipped up file and activate it. It will want to know the feedburner names for both feeds. Save.
Now sit back and wait 24 hours.
When tomorrow comes you should see two things.
1 On your blog, when you hit the RSS symbol, you should be flicked directly to http://feeds2.feedburner.com/flowingmotion (not to the old feed http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org.feed) even though you changed nothing else on your blog.
2 The same should happen for your comments feed.
3 You should also have some statistics showing up. Enjoy! You are ready to rock n roll. From now onwards, when people pull your feed, they will pull it through Feedburner who will keep count for you.
I mentioned before that I feed in the classical WordPress feed into Pageflakes. Those carry on working just fine. In addition, my old WordPress.com feed continues to operate. It is pulling content from my new blog quite fine.
I double checked and Pageflakes continues to discover my ordinary feed, not the Feedburner feed. If someone types the name of your url into their Google Reader, this is also true. So some feeds don’t get counted. I imagine that to fix this, we would need to adjust the code in WordPress. Not too hard, but I’ll experiment with that another day.
The time has come to redirect my WordPress.com blog
Finally, the time has come to redirect my two year old blog with its 740 posts from http://flowingmotion.wordpress.com to http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org.
To remind you of where I am
The original blog is on http://flowingmotion.wordpress.com
An exact replica (with some theme updates) is on http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org
When I imported a copy of the original (see earlier steps), I made sure that I adjusted the permalinks first so the post urls are exactly the same, except for the name of the domain (wordpress.com and jojordan.org).
Why do I want to redirect my WordPress.com blog?
The problem I need to solve now is this. If someone linked to me on their blog post,, say 18 months ago, a reader would follow their link to the original blog but the last post there would be as of a few days ago. The blog would look deserted and because it has no updates, it will slowly lose page-rank, or google-favour.
I can’t ask everyone who has ever linked to me to update their links. That’s not feasible. So how can I bring those visitors to my new blog and keep my standing with Google too?
How does the redirect from my WordPress.com blog work?
What I can do is to set up a permanent redirect – a 301 for geeks – from http://flowingmotion. wordpress.com to http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org. Then when someone follows an old link, they will be taken through the magic paths of the internet to the WordPress computers, and their computer will redirect the reader to Dreamhost, who will serve up the version of the post on their computers.
The reader will barely notice the redirect. They have what they want and they are on an active alive blog where they can interact with humans and leave comments (which link back to their work).
I, of course, can update my posts when necessary, provided I leave the title intact.
How do I redirect my WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted version?
To accomplish this feat, I go through three steps.
Redirect my new blog temporarily to WordPress.com
On my new blog at Dreamhost, I log in to Dreamhost (not my blog), go t0 Manage Domains, and choose the line for my blog which happens to be a sub-domain in this case (http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org).
Now I am going to pick Full Hosting and remove it. Scary, huh? I am not going to delete it in the far right column. I am going to remove the hosting in the middle column. This will keep the copy on the Dreamhost intact and I will recover it shortly.
Now I am going to chose the DNS for the same record and go to the next window. In the middle, there is provision for a Customized domain. In there I see an A – that is for IP addresses. I don’t need that. But in the dropdown menu is CNAME – I choose that.
Then under Value I insert the url for my old blog, which in my case was http://flowingmotion.wordpress.com. [Note well there is a fullstop (period) there. Make sure you put it in.]
Redirect my old blog to Dreamhost
Now I head off to the WordPress computers and login as usual to my old blog http://flowingmotion.wordpress.com. Under Dashboard, at the bottom of the left hand column, I choose domains, and add the domain name for my new blog which is http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org.
Worpress checks that is has access and that by definition I own the new blog. That’s why I had to open it up temporarily.
When it sees everything is OK, it tells me to whip out my credit card and page $9.97 and reminds me that I must pay them every year to keep the redirect going. So put this date in my diary!
(At some point, I set my new blog as the primary blog. It is self-evident when you see it.)
Reclaim my new blog
Now I head back to the Dreamhost computers, log in to the “panel” (not to my blog), choose My Domains, find the line with my blog (in my case a sub-domain http://flowingmotion.wordpress). I chose DNS and go and delete the value for the CNAME, which you recall was http://flowingmotion.wordpress.com. Update.
I go back to My Domains and chose my blog again and this time stay on that page, go to the middle column and select full hosting. A new window comes up. I check the settings and choose full hosting.
Now when I put http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org in my browser, I should bring up my blog. When I put my old http://flowingmotion.wordpress.com in the browser, it should send me at the speed of internet over to Dreamhost and show my blog in the browser.
Of course, it didn’t go quite this easy for me. My redirect got in perpetual loop and the advice from Dreamhost, unfortunately, was “Wait. These things take time.” Fortunately, young Nick Cochiarella from Olney nudged me 12 hours later to tell me Dreamhost were wrong and I got back in touch with them to check my settings.
This is what happened. Two steps back, before the One Click Install, when I set up the subdomain I had chosen the wrong combination of make http://wwww go to http://. There are three choices and I left it on the default.
When I One Click Installed, my wordpress on Dreamhost was set up as http://www.flowingmotion.wordpress.com. When I redirected from WordPress.com, it was to http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org because that was the only choice we have.
Once I had corrected the address of my new blog by logging onto the blog (not Dreamhost panel) and taking out the www in the address registered under Dashboard/Settings/General, everything worked fine.
I also went back to the Dreamhost panel, Manage Domains, the line with my blog and DNS, and fixed up the redirects there to send any traffic looking for http://www.flowingmotion.jojordan.org to http://flowingmotion.jojordan.org.
I’m still a bit confused by it all. The point is to remember you have an address registered within your new WordPress blog. You may not think of it as you are staring at an unfamiliar Dreamhost panel
With the way things are in Greece, and the UK debt scaring the politicians silly, a lot of Brits are happy that we didn’t join the Euro. After all, we can always print money and inflate our way out of our profligacy, right?
Understanding how the Euro-zone works
We get the bit a about using the Euro in just about every European country but ours. Otherwise most of us have the slimmest ideas about why the Germans are quite so mad with Greece and how all the lego-bits for running the Euro fit together.
“we get it, we’re drunk drivers, we’re selling our cars and resolving to get around on a German-piloted bus.”
Phrased-like this, it’s a bit easy to understand. Mathew Yglesias has written a brilliant primer on the European Central Bank.
If you know as little as I did at the start, it is about a ten minute read