Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Does Technology Make Us Happier, Smarter, More Productive?

Most of us can’t seem to go a day without our precious digital devices by our side. But is modern technology really making us happier and more efficient? Results of a recent Harris Poll, suggest that many adults are divided on the pros and cons of modern technology. Try raising this question over Thanksgiving dinner with your relatives and you’ll see what we mean.

On the plus side, seven out of ten adults (71%) believe technology has improved the overall quality of their lives and more than two-thirds (68%) say it encourages people to be more creative. On the flip side, nearly three fourths of respondents (73%) believe technology is creating a lazy society, while almost that many (69%) say it’s too distracting. What’s more, nearly three in five respondents (59%) say technology is having a negative impact on literacy. How do these results stack up to your straw poll of family members?

Sure, two-thirds of Americans (63%) told pollsters that technology helps them learn new skills, but the majority of respondents said technology has a negative effect on:

  • Their relationships with friends (54%)
  • Their ability to live life the way they want (55%)
  • Their happiness (57%)
  • Their social life (58%)

Think about those stats before you bend over backwards trying to look cool and master every shiny new tech toy that comes down the pike.

Generational differences

As expected, Millennials are more likely than older generations to say technology has had a positive effect on key areas of their lives and researchers found that men of all ages are somewhat more likely than women to be technology zealots. So if your clients are primarily young adult males (i.e. tech entrepreneurs) then definitely hit the social, mobile, IoT pedal hard. But one size won’t fit all when it comes to your thought leadership marketing and client engagement. You’ll need to customize for each cohort.

Generational Effects of Technology
Gen Xers
Baby Boomers
Ability to learn new skills
Relationships with friends
Ability to live life the way they want
Social life
Relationships with family
Source: Harris Poll report, November 2015

As the chart above shows, we were especially struck by the generational differences about technology’s perceived impact on relationships with friends, social life and family. Why do you care? Well where do you think most of your “word of mouth” referrals come from?

While Millennials may be the most likely group to say technology positively affects their relationships, and the ones most likely to say it enhances their social life, their family and friends feel differently. Also, Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say their friends/family think they use technology too much.

Gender differences regarding technology

Men and women of all ages tend to differ when it comes to technology’s effect on their lives:

  • Women are more likely than men to say technology has become too distracting (76% vs. 70% of men) and that it gets upgraded/updated too quickly (67% vs. 57%).
  • They’re also more likely to believe it has a negative effect on their productivity at home (30% vs. 17%) and safety and security (18% vs. 13%).
  • That said, women are more likely than men to say technology can be used as an escape from their busy lives (50% vs. 43%).
A majority of men are more likely than women to believe technology has a positive impact on several functional aspects of their lives:
  • This includes their ability to learn new skills (67% vs. 60% of women)
  • To live life the way they want (50% vs. 40%)
  • Their work productivity (43% vs. 29%)
If you don’t think gender differences matter, then consider how you approach couples who come in to see you during discovery meetings and regular client updates. Are you really connecting with both spouses? But regardless of gender, technological devices have surpassed even TV as staples of daily life they CANNOT live without:
  • Without Internet access (67%)
  • A computer/laptop (60%)
  • Mobile phone (59%)
  • Television (55%)

That’s right. American can now go longer without television than they can go without their mobile phones, computers and Internet access. So when you sit down with friends and family this Thanksgiving, put down your devices, have a real-life conversation or two with the important people in your lives and give thanks for all of our modern conveniences. You don’t need to use them 24/7 in order to appreciate them.

Our blog has more about this and related topics.


Technology distraction, addicted to tech, Thanksgiving

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Power of Negative Thinking

If Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris were not enough, stock market gyrations, looming interest rate hikes and economic slowdowns in the U.S., China and Japan could give even the most optimistic among us reason to worry. As many of you will agree, the only thing worse than bad news is waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop.” We all have our own ways of coping with anxiety, and if you or a close friend or co-worker strikes you as a glass-half-empty person, that’s not necessarily bad.

A growing body of research, such as this new
study in the journal Emotion, shows that people who manage stress by thinking the worst can be a validation of sorts for those who embrace their anxiety.
Kate Sweeny, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and her researchers surveyed 230 law school graduates frequently during the four months after the California bar exam in July 2013. What they found was that waiting for uncertain news is often distressing, at times even more distressing than facing bad news. Researchers proposed two definitions of waiting well.

1. First, people can wait in such a way as to ease their distress during the waiting period.

2. Second, people could wait in such a way as to ease the pain of bad news or enhance the thrill of good news.

First, participants who suffered through a waiting period marked by anxiety, rumination, and pessimism responded more productively to bad news and more joyfully to good news, compared to participants who suffered little during the wait. These findings substantiate the difficulty of enduring a stressful waiting period, and suggest that this difficulty may pay off once the news arrives.
“One definition of waiting well is not having negative emotions. But not going through that thinking process leaves you less prepared to receive the news. That’s the paradox, the counterintuitive part of the findings,” according to Julie K. Norem, the author of “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking,” and a professor of psychology at Wellesley. Norem was not involved in the study, but commented about it recently in the NY Times, Good News About Worrying.

Coping strategies are generally separated into three directions, said Sweeny.

1.       Some people sought to suppress fears. “But the more you try not to pay attention,” Dr. Sweeny said, “the more aware you become.”

2.       Others sought silver linings. “They tried to anticipate something good in a bad outcome,” Dr. Sweeny said. “‘I will grow as a person if I fail the bar exam.’ But, she contended: “That’s defensive posturing. Why would they take the bar exam if they believed that silver lining?”
3.       Others aimed for a time-tested approach: hoping for the best, bracing for the worst. These people worried constructively, doing what researchers call “defensive pessimism,” or “proactive coping.” They dive into the worry maelstrom, surfacing with contingency plans.
“Set your expectations low and think through the negative possibilities,” Dr. Norem said. “It drives optimists crazy. But it shifts your attention away from feelings of anxiety to what you can do to address the disaster that might happen.”

I once coached a very successful teen soccer team that reeled off 28 wins in a row. My assistant coach, a defensive genius, must have said “Uh Oh, that’s trouble!” every time the opposing team pushed the ball within 30 yards of our goal. That was his way of coping and making the right adjustments as we conceded less than a dozen goals per season during our run. Right now I’m an assistant coach for a youth baseball team that went 25-4 and won the state championship last summer. Every time we get into a close game and the opposing team puts runners on base against our pitcher, our head coach starts shaking his head, muttering, “Damn, we blew it again. When are they going to learn!” But when the kids come back to the dugout between innings, he quietly pulls them aside one by one, helps them understand what needs to be improved, and more often than not, it gets done.


Whether you’re working with youth baseball players, mid-career professionals, or aging retirees, facing your fears and working through them can take you a long way. Although anxiety is perceived as a negative emotion, researchers say it doesn’t make you a bad (or unsuccessful) person to feel it. Most of you have clients who not only invest in the markets, but manage businesses or practices they someday hope to sell and who set plenty of other BHAGS in life (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). You just can’t sail through life in these high achieving spheres without some prolonged anxiety and worry.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and set realistic expecations. We’ll get through the latest round of all-consuming agita just like we did in 2008, 9/11 and World War II.


Power of negative thinking, constructive pessimism, Paris attacks, Julie Norem, Kate Sweeny

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Your First Draft Sucks—So What?

Eighteenth century French philosopher Voltaire famously said “perfection is the enemy of good.” I bring this up because many of you are starting to set your BHAGs for 2016 (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and have asked about writing a book, white paper, regular blog or newsletter column.

Take the writing process seriously, but don’t be intimidated. If you can tell a great story and/or have great expertise to share with your centers of influence, then the words will eventually flow.

According to Marketing Profs copywriting guru, Daphne Gray-Grant, “A crappy first draft will not only help you write faster, but it'll also give you time to improve the quality of your writing.” Why? Because the best writing always comes from editing, “and the sooner you write your first draft, the sooner you'll be able to edit it,” added Grant.

We’ll let you in on a little secret: It doesn’t matter if you’re a do-it-yourself author or if you have hired a coach or ghost writer to help you. You need to revise, revise and revise. There is no secret formula to great writing. There are no shortcuts. It’s just a lot of trial and error and grinding it out until you start stringing together thoughts and phrases that seem to flow and make sense. You’ll recognize it when you see it, but there is no road map for getting there. By the way, you’ll never have a truly perfect FINAL draft---just progressively better versions of what you started with.

That’s why a first draft is so often called a “rough” draft—it’s directionally on the mark, but nowhere near ready for publication. But, the sooner you get your rough draft started the sooner you will feel better about yourself. You will start to feel the momentum building even if you were a perennial C student in English.

If nothing else, you should never be ashamed of a lousy first draft as it’s the first step toward solidifying your ideas and helping you write faster, more fluently and more confidently.

Blogger Bryan Hutchinson noted in a recent post (Why Your First Draft Isn’t Crap) that every book, every article and every blog post starts off with a first draft. “A first draft is special. It’s when you first pen an idea in some coherent form, it’s when you've assembled ideas from notes collected on napkins and scraps of paper or from your voice recorder,” observed Hutchinson. And it’s probably the most important step to completing your project. “The first draft is the one that matters most. No one's ever gotten to the last [draft] without the first,” added Hutchinson.


So, have the courage to commit your ideas to written form. Put them in some kind of an outline. Come up with a big, bold headline to announce the codification of your ideas. Then take that final important step……by { fill in your real name}. That’s right. Placing your byline on a published body of work—no matter how long or how short—puts you in select company in today’s increasingly anonymous online culture. You’re a thought influencer who’s not afraid to come out from behind the safety of an on-screen account and stand behind an original idea no matter how well (or not) the prose actually flows.

Again, don’t let pursuit of perfection be the enemy of progress. Even Voltaire didn’t come up with that pearl of wisdom on his first try. Go for it!

Our blog has more about this and related topics.


Voltaire, writing process is difficult, first draft sucks, Bryan Hutchinson, Daphne Gray-Grant