One reason is plenty, two is too many

If you have more than one reason to do something … just don’t do it. It does not mean that one reason is better than two, just that by invoking more than one reason you are trying to convince yourself to do something. Obvious decisions (robust to error) require no more than a single reason.

– Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

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Why “pursuing your dream” is wrong (2/2)

In Part 1 I argued that career satisfaction is built, not found.  The implicit problem is that if expertise tends to precede true passion, and world-class experts spend at least 10,000 hours honing their crafts, where along the trajectory of career development can we say, “I have given it a fair chance, and it is time to move on”? Continue reading “Why “pursuing your dream” is wrong (2/2)”

Why “pursuing your dream” is wrong (2/2)

Why “pursuing your dream” is wrong (1/2)

In 2005, the late Steve Jobs delivered a memorable speech to graduates of Stanford University partly on the theme of career dreams.  “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle,” said him, adding that “Money will come.”  After the housing bubble burst and lots of dream-chasers their lost jobs in 2007, I stumbled upon a 2008 Business Week article titled “Personality and the Perfect Job.”  Books titled along the same themes, such as Do What You Are follow a similar paradigm as well.  For those who needed a faster fix, the internet offered solutions too.  Stuck in life?  Oprah has a 28-question quiz to find who you really want to be!

The implication is clear: if you failed, it’s because that was not your real passion; pick another dream.

Over the past year, I began to wonder whether the endless pursuit for pre-existing passions is missing the mark altogether.


Photo Credit: Urbanesia.com

Continue reading “Why “pursuing your dream” is wrong (1/2)”

Why “pursuing your dream” is wrong (1/2)

Great Storytellers of Our Moral Decisions

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a medical research project.  In broad terms, the researchers developed a virtual tool to evaluate the skills of doctors on a particular procedure without performing on a real patient, and they needed people at various stages of proficiency to test the training program.  Since I was a total novice, it made me an ideal subject – I was expected to stumble and burn.  In fact, I was so clueless that I had to ask the experimenter to repeat the instructions for the simulation.  Then, through either sheer luck or innate talent (ha), I scored near the top of the chart.

Shortly after the study concluded, I was notified that after discussing with the co-researchers, the research team has decided to discard my data-point because “the instructions were given twice, which gave an unfair advantage over the other participants.”  I wanted to reply, “But if a complete novice can score like this without knowing how to do the actual procedure, doesn’t that say something about the quality of the virtual evaluation?”

More interestingly, if I had scored much lower than the average novice – making the results look even better – would the research team have thrown out my data-point all the same? Continue reading “Great Storytellers of Our Moral Decisions”

Great Storytellers of Our Moral Decisions

On Habits, Good Ones and Bad

At work I routinely saw patients who suffered from substance addiction.  Addiction is a powerful motivator – it is heart-breaking to see patients forgo buying life-sustaining food, water, and medications to “save up” for the next cocaine fix.  Traditionally science has pinned the mechanism of addiction to biological molecules.  However, over the past few decades, scientific studies began to show that behavioral neuropsychology – the intermingling of biological molecules, behaviors, and how the brain ties everything together into an experience – is a far more complete way to think about addiction.  This intermingling of different fields also shed light on addiction as a disease of a general, even beneficial, motivation pathway. Continue reading “On Habits, Good Ones and Bad”

On Habits, Good Ones and Bad