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2012/12/10 - Author: Marco Neves

We watch the world through our senses – mostly our eyes if we can see, but not exclusively – but it is our brain that see it, after filtering it to better fit in our image of reality.

We have bias – things we believe to be true, behaviors we think are universal, expectations people – specific or in general.

Our mind does the best it can to make the world around us fit with our view of the world, by applying what we believe over everything we see, ignoring as much as possible that contradicts that view and getting our attention to anything that enhances that view.

A lie repeated enough becames  true.” doesn’t mean that the true will change just because someone decides to repeat a lie as if it was a mantra. It means that if we hear the same “fact” from a few sources we start to believe it and after that it is a lot harder for us to see anything that says that we are wrong than anything proving us right.

And that is what bias are. Things we believe to be true, and that have an impact on our perception of the world.

Bias are not restricted to some subjects or types of information. Bias are not restricted to some groups of people and do go away with education. Even our behaviors and our interpretation of others behaviors are altered by bias.

Even our abilities are influenced by bias. If you believe that a subject is really hard to understand, you’ll not try as hard to understand it as if you thought it was really easy.

If you think a guy is a playboy you’ll see every time he talks with a girl as a flirt or a pickup attempt, but if you think that a guy is gay you would see the same conversations as normal.

If you think a brand is expensive, you’ll notice more the price differences if a product of that brand is more pricey that a concurrent product, but you’ll notice more the superior characteristics of the concurrent if it is cheaper.

Bias influence our decisions on a very large degree. We are more likely to buy a car from a more expensive brand if we believe that brand to be more reliable than the alternative brand (even if in the end both cars are made in the same factory using the same pieces).

Most of us today tend to believe in statistics and think they are serious, we were made believe that averages tell a story. However, more than 80% of all published statistics lays or misrepresentations of the facts (this was just made up – it’s a common joke in the internet, but not completely inaccurate). Most statistics published in the mainstream internet and in the traditional media are not really representative of the reality – averages (the common published metrics), median and modes often tell different stories, and often we see averages being used as if they were the modes, when they are two completely different things.

Often, and this is probably the most common problem with statistics, the sample used is too small to be really indicative of any true reality – statistics based in interviews of a hundred persons is only representative of a small universe – and sometimes it is even hard to understand which universe. One person goes to a shopping and asks people how much they usually drink – and found out that in average people drink 4 beers each day.  A second person tries to reproduce the study and ask the same question to the same amount of people – and finds out that in average each person drinks 1 glass of wine per day. What was never published is that on of them made the interviews before a game in the club in one of the sides of the shopping, while the other made the interviews after service in the church in the other side.

Even in small universes is easy to get biased statistics. Imagine that you are in college and want to make some statistics about the students of your college – let’s say you want to find out how much do your colleagues read. Most likely you’ll try to interview the people you know better, and if you spend a lot of time in the library you’ll try to interview people next to it, but if you go often to the bar next to the college, you’ll try to interview people there. Can you imagine how that will make a difference in the results?

But, more important, can you see what’s the most important part on the previous examples? More than anything else, they show my own bias – that people who go to bars read less and people who read more go less to bars – and that football fans drink more beer while religious people drink more wine. In the end, if you are aware of your own bias, if you manage to notice them, they tell a lot more about you than they say about anyone else.

But, the important thing about statistics is that we get them in a daily bases and those statistics create bias in our mind. And we even apply those bias to statistics we see. We end believing easily in statistics that confirm our bias than in statistics that contradict them.

And that’s why bias are most of the time self-reinforcing entities, entities that we are not fully aware of, and that make a huge difference in our lives.

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The Super Hero

2012/12/06 - Author: Marco Neves

Disney did bring us the Charming Princes with their Happily ever after, and Marvel bombarded us with the super heroes. Ok, it’s not true that Disney and Marvel have the exclusive on Charming Princes and Super Heroes, they are just two of the biggest companies in that business in the last century.

The super hero is someone with a very special ability, something that (s)he was born with, or something that (s)he got later on live. The super hero may be someone from a different planet, the result of a experience gone… not exactly wrong, but at least unexpectedly or someone with very special technology. The super hero always have special abilities, always can do something more than everyone else around them. Most of the time the super hero tries to remain anonymous – everyone is not to be trusted with the identity of the protector, so that the super power is not abused.

But the super heroes of this world only exist on Marvel comics, not in every corner of our cities. The heroes of our cities don’t have special powers, most of them are people like you and me, trying to live their lives, and making the lives of those around them a bit better. The heroes of our world are the firemen who jump out of the bed at anytime to help put out a fire, the anonymous person on their way to work that sees a child getting in front of a car and runs to save the kid, the… the normal person that looks around and finds someone who needs help and do it just because it feels right.

The culture of the “super hero” may give us the idea that it takes super powers to save the world, but the world will always be saved by ordinary people with ordinary powers, except, maybe, for their willpower.

Don’t wait for the super hero, get out and do your part. Don’t be a hero, but be as helpful when that is asked of you.

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Under planing

2012/11/25 - Author: Marco Neves

There are two main problems you can have related with planing, over planing and under planing.

In this post, I would like to start by the simplest one, and most of the time the one that is simpler to solve, the one that you can find tricks and tools to make it more visible and less problematic.

Under planing implies planing really very little or nothing, as usually it doesn’t take a lot of planing to be able to have a acceptable money and energy flowing in your life – assuming you have a job, which nonexistence can make things a bit more trickier.

If you have an income source that is enough to pay for your bills and your food you are already better than most people, and with just a bit of planing you can get past the under planing boundary.

You have to plan to get out of bed early enough to get to work at the expected time, you need to pay all your bills before starting spending money in things that you don’t depend on, you need to sleep at least the minimum amount of time that allow you to do your job properly.

An under planner will do the opposite of this. You are under planing if you spend more money than you make, if you start spending money before you pay for your bills, if you constantly under sleep because you spend the nights in bars or watching meaningless tv shows or doing other purposeless things. You are under planing when you wait until the last minute to prepare your luggage and get ready to make a trip. You are under planing when you start to get ready when you are almost late for an appointment.

Under planing is common among the youth because… well, because they don’t know better, or if they do know better they don’t know how important it is for their future.

Youth, parents and planing is, however, the topic of a different post.

What about you, do you under plan often? On which areas of your life?

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Just for a day

2012/11/09 - Author: Marco Neves

Could you imagine a day when you wouldn’t expect others to behave according to your rules- none of your rules?

A day when you wouldn’t think less of anyone who don’t follow any of your rules – no matter how important you think those rules are?

Can you imagine a day when you would see all your rules as guidelines and allow yourself to bend one just a little bit?

Could that day be today?

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Spending time

2012/11/08 - Author: Marco Neves

How often do you catch yourself just spending time, doing things that don’t need to be done and that don’t add anything new?

It’s no checking facebook or twitter, it’s refreshing and rechecking facebook and twitter again, after you checked it for 10 times already in the last 10 minutes.

It’s not seeing TV, it is staying in front of the TV even if everything that is being broadcasted doesn’t interest you, or you saw it already and are not really interested in viewing it again.

It’s not reading a book, it is looking at the book as if reading it while your mind travels trough time and space, to what was or was not, or to what can or can’t be.

But, the true is that there is nothing else you could be doing with your time, with your life – that’s you.

At least until you find the one rule that you think you can’t break and that is holding you – and you go and break it. At least until you find the one person that you need to get to and tell her/him to go pound sand. At least until you find the one thing that you would really love to do and you do it. At least until you met that one person that will light your eyes. At least until you…

It doesn’t matter. Your luck will change someday. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do anything to change your luck, it doesn’t matter that you don’t do anything to meet new people, it doesn’t matter that you don’t try to do anything.

Your luck will change someday… just because by you wish it does.

Do you really believe that crap? Do you want your life to change? Get you butt out of the couch and change it!

Your life is what you make of it. You can’t go to college? Go to the library! Don’t get a job? Start a business. Do have have someone who love you? Love the world, love Life!

Yes, I know, it is hard! So hard that is not worth trying! And that’s why you keep spending time on facebook, on twitter, on tv, instead of starting something useful, something you would like, something someone else would pay to have, to use.

Yes, I know, you’re tired, you’ll start it tomorrow, when you are less tired. I know you only have a little bit of time now, it’s not enough, you’ll start it later when you have more time.

You know what… go and read the power of now. It seem that you didn’t read it yet!

And when you are done with that, go and start something. NOW!

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2012/11/06 - Author: Marco Neves

The origin of our specie is entangled with the evolution of our planet for thousands of years and traditions are a basic part of our culture, most likely from the beginning of our existence – traditions are observable is most (all?) primate species.

But where do traditions come from? Well, before that I would like to tell you a story.

A group of three monkeys was kept in a cage and a branch of bananas was hang on the cage with the monkeys, but when any of the monkeys tried to get bananas from it all the monkeys in that cage would be fired upon with jets of water.

After repeating that procedure a few times, any time a monkey tried to get bananas from that branch the other monkeys would beat him. At some point the testers stopped using the jets of water, but the beatings remained. Anytime a monkey tried to get bananas the would would beat him, no matter that the jets of water were not being used anymore.

But, to make it more interesting, one of the monkeys was replaced with another monkey. A monkey that was never wet because other monkey tried to get to the bananas.

As soon as the new monkey tried to get some of the bananas, the other two monkeys started beating him, and after some of this spankings the new monkey starts to join in beating the other monkeys when trey try to get bananas.

At this point another of the original monkeys was replaced by a new one that was never attacked with water. When this new monkey tried to get to the bananas, he was beaten by the other two and soon after also this new monkey would start beating the other when they tried to get to the bananas.

At some point the last of the original monkeys was also replaced by a new one. Now, in this cage, there is not a single monkey that suffered the original punishment  for getting to the bananas and, still, when the new monkey tried to get to the bananas, he was punished by the other monkeys, and soon he also would join in as a punisher.

This illustrates how traditions are born.

At some point in time one individual does something that have an impact (real or perceived – most often than not just perceived) in the live of others or in the live of the community. And when that happens rules and/or rituals are created to prevent or repeat that event.

Where do we find traditions around us, in our lives? Everywhere, in almost everything.

From the way people say hello to each other – and other similar interactions – to how commerce works. From what you eat to how you eat it. From how you interact with friends to how you interact with people you cross with in the street and never met before.

Traditions are, in the end, habits that are common to the majority of a group and, most importantly, that are not renegotiated every time, just assumed and used.

At some point in the past, I used to be part of a group that would have dinner every Wednesday, and have some fun after that. That was a tradition, not everyone would join every week, but every week  there was a group that would go out for dinner – dinner out become our Wednesday tradition.

In some western cultures it’s also tradition that men will take the first step and approach women they are interest in.

Tradition defined a lot of our daily interactions and in some places tradition have value of law in the absence of other laws.

Tradition can take a lot of forms, and be transmitted in the more diverse ways. From the aggravated look your neighbor gives you whenever you cross him in the street because of your long hair – tradition says that men are use the hair short – to the yelling – and beating if you are one of the unlucky ones – your parents gave you whenever they felt you were disrespecting some rule, to the cookbooks you can find today in most bookstores, and an huge amount of other practices, all contribute to get you in alignment with tradition.

Tradition, like almost everything else, if you want to take it all, have good and bad things. But unlike a lot of other things, with tradition you can pick what works for you and what doesn’t, you can choose what you want to keep, what you want to practice, and what you want to skip.

Traditions were mostly created to make life in society better, to make it simpler. But times change, and so do practice, knowledge and ambitious. Traditions, however, don’t change themselves, it take the will of people to change them, it takes a few people to step forward and say – those are not my traditions – and a few more more to follow them.

It takes you to ask yourself “Is this behavior, that society thinks is important, working for me or am I working for it? Where did it  come from? Does it still make sense or is it an outdated concept?”

In the end, you can let society choose how you should behave, or you can choose for yourself which ways you follow inlive.

Which traditions you think are outdated and should be abandoned? Which would you rather keep above all?

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