Category Archives: Theories

economic lesons of premium airline status

If you have premium status, you get better seats with more legroom.  But those seats are the most coveted so you’ll almost certainly be sitting next to an occupied middle seat.   But if you don’t have status you get worse seats (usuall near the back of the plane), but you have a better chance of not having to sit next to someone.  

Bad coach seats with an empty middle seat is BETTER THAN a good seat with a full middle seat.   So depending on when you are flying, you have to make a decision about how full the plane will be as you choose where you’d like to sit.

How to Disagree and always shooting the messenger

I love reading Paul Graham … I’ve read pretty much
everything he has written and while I don’t always agree, I always come away
from his articles with a new thought. In fact, I think he has most insightful blog/column out there.

 
Graham writes a new one entitled How to Disagree:

http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html


this is well worth reading. Many people have trouble disagreeing and the most common way to
discredit an argument is to go after the messenger. Graham points out this is a really a poor
argument as to why the messenger’s point is bad.

but most humans give too much weight to the messenger and not
enough weight to the message. That
makes sense from a purely evolutionary point of view. If Stephen Hawking says something about
physics, you might want to listen. But
if Britney Spears starts discussing string theory, you might think she’s talking
about bikinis and not theoretical physics. This reasoning works most of the time as usually Hawking has interesting
things to say about science and Spears is known for other talents.


But in politics and business, not listening to the messenger
can lead to very bad decisions. Giving
a little more weight to a new opinion of someone you like over those that you
dislike makes sense. But a good
decision maker should only weigh the messenger a little and focus much more on
dissecting the message. The boy who
cries wolf might be right sometime … you shouldn’t just reject the message out
of hand.

 

multi-tasking verses micro-tasking

People always say women are better multi-taskers than men. My bet is that the stereotype is largely true. Most men I know can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Where many women I know can do multiple things at the SAME time.

For instance, if you want eliminate my productivity, just put on the television. If the television is on, there is almost nothing else I can do. I am absolutely powerless. I cannot watch television and do anything else that takes brainpower. I might be able to fold laundry or run on the treadmill, but nothing where I am really utilizing my brain.

Many women can compartmentalize their brains better and do many things at once. There has been a lot of studies that claim to prove this but I never believed the studies before because it seemed to me that men and women were equally productive in the workplace. But what I didn’t realize was while women really excel at multi-taking, men compensate for this by micro-tasking.

Micro-tasking is the ability to do lots of different things in series while multi-tasking is doing different things in parallel. While parallel-processing is inherently better, you can make up for it by being very efficient when working in series.

You might think someone is a really good multi-tasker because they get a lot of stuff done in an hour but they might actually be a really good micro-tasker (maybe doing 20 different things in order for an average of three minutes each).

Instant messaging is the bane to people that love to micro-task but cannot deal with true multi-tasking. I can’t deal with IM – it makes any other work I was considering doing fall by the wayside. So like many people who understand that they are not a parallel processor, they organize life hacks to compensate for this.

After actively using ICQ in 1997-1998, I eliminated IM from my life. In fact, I tried to eliminate all unnecessary synchronous communication (which is why I love email – it is by far the best asynchronous communication medium ever invented). And while I use IM to communicate with people occasionally (I don’t have an IM client, I always use Meebo) and recognized the power of IM (I even invested in Meebo), IM should be for people who truly can multi-task and not poor chaps like me (and most men) who have to resort to micro-tasking. And, of course, IM is for people that don’t want to be productive (most people in the world).

Another life hack I made four years ago was to eliminate TV. I canceled my cable subscription because TV, to me, was like chocolate cake – it is so addictive that if it was available in my home it would be consumed.

If you’re a man, chances are you’re not wired for parallel processing. So if you want to gain efficiency and output, you’ll need to set up your life inputs to better gel with your internal systems.

(special thanks to my office-mate, Vivek Sodera, who pointed out these differences to me)

Higher wine prices boost drinking pleasure (people are sheep)

yet another article in the people-are-sheep category, Jonathan Abrams sent me this article:
Higher wine prices boost drinking pleasure: study

Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology found that because people expect wines that cost more to be of higher quality, they trick themselves into believing the wines provide a more pleasurable experience than less expensive ones.

The researchers said that when 20 adult test subjects sampled the same wine at different prices, they reported experiencing pleasure at significantly greater levels when told the wine cost more. At the same time, the part of the brain responsible for pleasure showed significant activity.

people are hard-wired to believe that things that cost more MUST be better. like a Rolex watch must be better than a Seiko watch (it isn’t) or a low-end Mercedes must be better than a Toyota (it isn’t either). but the brand makes you feel better. and that’s what people are paying for.

I have a friend who owns a very successful club in San Francisco. The number one drink ordered is a Kettle One (high end vodka) and Red Bull. Now most vodka come from the same stock and there isn’t any proof that one vodka is more likely to prevent hangovers than another vodka (unless maybe if it is infused with vitamins). So I can understand if you are going to buy a high-end vodka if you claim it tastes better … but you can’t actually taste the vodka when mixed with Red Bull. So people are buying the brand, the “experience” (whatever that means), the split second when they order that it makes them feel rich and can try to impress the bartender that they are willing to spend 50% more for the same experience.

i admit that i fall for these things all the time.

people bank on price. because price is usually a good predictor of quality and if you don’t know any better, that’s all you have to go on. it makes sense.

in a hotel, price often equals quality (except in an Ian Shrager hotel where the quality and service is quite bad but the brand is strong). in a vodka, people pay more because they feel better … they feel they have a nicer experience (even though Absolute probably ranks just as high as the 2x priced Grey Goose). in a wine, people truly believe a $200 bottle bests a $20 bottle (i’ve done tons of taste tests that showed people cannot tell the difference) .. and they like the experience of buying the best stuff.

sunny people verses angry people, lovers verses haters

People get very passionate about their causes, their religion, their business. People are awesome that way.

Some passionate people are “sunny” and others are “angry”. Not surprisingly, I’ve always gravitated toward those who are sunny.

There are sunny Republicans (Schwarzenegger) and angry Republicans (DeLay). There are sunny religious leaders (Rick Warren) and angry ones (Farrakhan). There are sunny technology blogs (TechCrunch) and angry ones (gossip blogs).

And while more optimists are sunny and more pessimists are angry, there ARE plenty of angry optimists and sunny pessimists. But sunny people are far more pleasant to be around. They may be just as passionate, just as intense, but they usually have a deeper love of humanity.

Sunny people are lovers. They enjoy the success of others … in fact, they celebrate others’ successes. They trust others. Innocent until proven guilty. People in Silicon Valley tend to lovers.

Angry people are haters. They can’t stand the success of others and want to bring those people down. They’re jealous of innovation and attention that isn’t directed to them. They’re suspicious that everyone is trying to screw them over and take them for a ride. Guilty until proven innocent. A lot of people in New York and L.A. are really angry.

Great American leaders are generally sunny. Great Russian leaders are generally angry.

Roosevelt (both of them), Reagan, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and Clinton were sunny. Nixon and Johnson were angry. (Ford, Carter, and the Bushes are not entirely sunny nor angry). Mike Huckabee has ridden up in the polls because he is sunny while Sam Brownback (both with similar ideology) faltered because he wasn’t perceived as a lover. John Kerrey was angry in 2004 (which is, my theory, why he lost when he should have won). John Edwards is an interesting candidate – he can be a lover and a hater both in the same day (and sometimes in the same debate).

If you’re liberal, you are angry if you hate George W. Bush but you are sunny if you hate the war in Iraq. If you are conservative, you are angry if you hate Hilary Clinton but you are sunny if you hate her plan to raise taxes. Demonizing people – whether it be the President of the U.S. or an ethnic group is what haters do. Lovers debate ideas.

Are sunny people more successful that angry people? Not sure. They are certainly happier. Angry people have a real sad life.

If you have a choice, be a lover, not a hater.