On Luck

Standard

1

On Luck

One of the few things I often think about is just how lucky I have been in my life. Routinely when people ask me how my day is I give them the same answer – “Every day is a great day.” When I utter this statement people frequently look at me perplexed. No doubt the first thing they think is that I must be lying or exaggerating. I can confidently say I am not. My reasoning is simple – I quite literally have no problems in my life and am not apprehensive to state that any potential “problems” that I can state I have experienced are not meaningfully significant.

The following is just a short list of some of the things I have never had to deal with or endure in my entire life: a physical or intellectual disability, lasting hunger, 2 police brutality, leaded water, any disease or infection of any significance, homelessness, poor education, any sort of direct racial bias/racism, abusive parents, gun or drug violence, lengthy periods without access to a computer, internet, or informational database, political instability, any sort of environmental disaster, or financial instability of any kind.

What may not be obvious to the average reader is that my inexperience with almost all of these circumstances comes down to pure luck. Yes, some of these events can be received from my work ethic, but luck is certainly the dominant factor. I cannot control the weather. I did not choose my parents. I did not choose the color of my skin. I did not choose my genetic composition. I did not choose where I was born or grew up. I did not choose the school system I attended. The easiest example I can conjure that can explain this point succinctly is leaded water and hunger. The severe and irreparable adverse effects of leaded water and hunger are well documented. 3 I could for a second believe that I am smart, that I work harder than most people, it is because of my sheer effort that I am as successful as I am, and I deserve it. However, this is simply not true. Here is the proof. All I have to ask myself is the following – would I still be as successful as I am today, would I still be as hard of a worker, and would I still be as smart as I am today if I had 10% more lead in the water I drank when I was a child? How about if I had 10% fewer calories? What about 20%? The answer is simple – I would not. If everything I have ever worked for, and everything that has supposedly been a result of the work I have done in my life can all be erased with just either of these two variables – did I really work harder than most people or it is luck. Staying true to my framework for choosing ideas 4 and general notions of logic, the likelihood of each event must be weighed against each other – luck is the most likely variable that has determined most of my success.

I believe there are several points to take away from this conclusion that are worth elaborating on. First, those who have never faced any of the above problems, they should be thankful to the individuals that were capable of providing them the privilege they take advantage of and the luck they experienced. More importantly, individuals should understand that when they see struggling individuals remind themselves of the advantages that they had that they did not take any part in determining and the privileges absent from the other person’s life. Unfortunately, there is still a pervasive belief that people can simply get ahead by working harder. 5 For those that believe this, consider for a moment how different your life would be if any of the aforementioned factors changed even slightly. Moreover, I plead with those who still believe this principle to ask exactly how much harder do we want people to work. 6 I implore those to determine for me how does a teacher work harder? How about a coal miner, a waitress, or a truck driver? Move faster or work longer? Such modest acts could have an impact, but I am near certain they will not radically or even moderately change one’s overall situation. The fact is there are innumerable jobs where working even 10% longer will most likely not change the current situation, decrease one’s overall happiness, or worse endanger their life and the lives of others. Would we want a truck driver driving two or three hours longer? Do we want teachers devoting even more hours in the day to their students? 7 Should coal miners extract even more coal in some of the abysmal working conditions at the expense of their physical health and well-being? I do not think it is radical that the answer to all of these questions is no and I am not sure of how anyone could justify such as position.

Lastly, I believe people should recognize, given the dispositive impact luck has on life’s outcomes, encouraging people to reflect on the role luck plays can be a method to garner support for a redistributive society. If much of one’s success can be attributed to luck – a fundamental contradiction to a meritocracy – should we want a society that rewards luck and not compensate those with the most unfortunate of circumstances. The ideological divide between those that desire a redistributive society or not is undoubtedly a fundamental division between liberals and conservatives, and a recognition of the determinative impact luck has is necessary to critically evaluate how our political, economic, and social systems are currently constructed and how they should be designed.

 

Reddit comment link: https://redd.it/8fxvvo 

A Side Note On Annoyances

Standard

 8

A Side Note On Annoyances

In my first post and in my conversations with colleagues, I have stressed that this blog was intended to discuss antitrust and its related concepts. However, I fully admit that every so often I need to digress from this original intention as I did when I published my post on how I choose ideas that I support.

In this post, I need to take a moment to vent about several activities that truly frustrate me. Life is full of things that annoy us, however, most of mine are derived from five specific activities. In my efforts to mitigate these annoyances as much as possible, I have drafted a set of rules and considerations which I will hold myself accountable to every time I engage in any of these situations and share my thoughts with as many people that I can ultimately alleviate all of our suffering.


1) Asking for help

People need to recognize how overworked everyone is and approach others with caution when they need help. Everywhere I go the emotional expression on an individual’s face when they are asked to complete a task is indicative of how great a place is to work. Below is a set of considerations one should utilize before engaging the help of another employee.

    • How many employees does the individual you are asking for help supervise?
      • The degree of the request must be inversely proportional to the number of people supervised by the individual. i.e. the lower the number of people overseen by that person the more complicated your request can be.
    • How many people does the completion of your task benefit (you alone, the entire office, etc.)?
      • The amount of deference and leniency that is given to determine whether the individual should be asked to complete your request is directly proportional to the number of organization members it effects. i.e. the more people the individual supervises the less willing you should be to ask them to help you. 
    • Are there any administrative, bureaucratic, or knowledge barriers preventing you from fulfilling the request yourself? Are there any time constraints preventing you from learning or completing the task yourself?
      • Obviously, employees such as CEO’s have lots of responsibilities and commitments that lessen their ability to do things themselves.  
      • However, individuals should make these constraints known to the person you are asking for help as it increases the desire and willingness to complete the requested task. 
  • When asking for someone’s help, is the question or task you are asking for help on directly related to a function, where given the intrinsic nature of the individual’s position, such that the person you are asking is best able to complete the task and there is a high probability that:
    • 1) You would not be successful in the completion of this task, or
    • 2) Attempting to answer the question yourself constitutes foolishness, or
    • 3) The task is too difficult to explain and the completion of this task is either:
      • A) A one-time request, or
      • B) Sufficiently outside your job description where knowing how to do the task is does not substantiate what so ever you actually learning how to do it yourself.

2) Sending emails

People need to stop sending so many emails. Unfortunately, the career path I have chosen offers no recourse. 2 Nevertheless, while I understand the advantages of emailing, it is not always the most efficient means of communication. Below is a set of considerations one should utilize to determine if an email should be sent.

    • Is documentation of this event necessary? Do you desire accountability with this communication to the individual you are sending the email to?
    • Is there a likely probability that the response you will get will be adequate to solve your problem?
    • Is there a likely probability that you will get a response in the format that you want?
      • Is the request less ambiguous through an email than through other forms of communication?
        • Deference should be given to the least ambiguous form of communication.
    • Is sending the email necessary?
      • The desire to an email should be inversely proportional to the complexity of the text contained in the email and its length.
      • Note: The transfer of documents, for practical purposes, can only be done through email.
    • Who initiated the conversation?
      • Usually if someone emails, they would prefer an emailed response, unless stated otherwise.
      • Communication should be sent in the method it was received.
    • Do you know the person(s) you are sending the email to is unable to communicate through other means?
      • If not, try another means to communicate first.
      • Does waiting a reasonable amount of time open up an opportunity to not send an email?
      • If so, wait and communicate through those means.
  • How time sensitive is the issue? Does the email specify which method of response is required?
    • If the issue is not time sensitive or does not specify the method of response required, deference should be given to the most expedient form.
      • A phone call is usually the most expedient form of communication, whereas sending an email only adds to the barrage.

3) Having meetings

Managers and executives need to stop having so many unnecessary group meetings. In my short time as a working professional, I have come to realize that it is axiomatic that the net happiness of an office is inversely proportional to the number of meetings. Below is a set of factors to consider as to whether a meeting is necessary and if so the procedures one should follow to ensure an optimal outcome.

  • What are the factors to determine whether a meeting is necessary?
    • Are you looking to build camaraderie among your colleagues? i.e. Is the meeting meant to be a social gathering of some kind, rather than a professional setting to assign tasks and/or provide updates on current projects?
      • If so, do you believe that a meeting is really the optimal way to accomplish this task? Why not try an out of the office activity?
      • Are the topics sufficiently difficult and complex that they cannot be communicated through other means and where a meeting of multiple minds will decrease the interval between having a problem and finding a solution?
  • If a meeting is necessary then…   
      • An agenda must be provided or at least documented that details:
          • Who is speaking?
          • On what?
          • For how long?

     

      • Does the meeting facilitator have a clear and purposeful objective for the meeting that is known to the attendees of the meeting?

     

      • All participants must have all of the documents to be reviewed during the meeting at least one hour prior to the start of the meeting to review them to prepare for questions and feedback. 
        • I believe that the questions and feedback on the material and subject matter used/discussed in a meeting ultimately provide for a richer and more impactful meeting than the communication of the idea and documents in general. Should the documents be sent out, it is the responsibility of the attendee(s) to read them beforehand.

     

        • Does everyone have to be there for the whole meeting time? 
            • If so, all parts of the meeting should be directly relevant to their current or future work.

           

          • Note: This is the point of the agenda, it allows people the option to only attend the segments of the meeting they need and that are relevant to them unless joining the meeting part-way through would cause an interruption sufficient to derail the meeting.  
  • What are the factors needed to access the quality of a meeting?
    • Does everyone know what they are being held accountable for? Are the deadlines and, if necessary, the instructions or guidelines for completing the task clear, direct, and unambiguous?
    • Is there a division of responsibility between employees completing the task clear and the standard for successful completion of this task clear, direct, and unambiguous?
    • Do the individuals whom the tasks have been assigned have the proper authority, intellect, and financial resources necessary to execute the task(s)?
    • Is reasonable time given to complete the tasks balanced out with the demands of the enterprise and current workload of the employee(s)?
    • Does the employee(s) who are assigned the task(s) understand the “greater importance” of this project in the grander scheme of the enterprise? Is the importance of the issue sufficiently communicated to those who are working on it?

4) Driving

People really need to conduct themselves better on the road and simply need to be aware of their actions and how they may be perceived by other drivers. Below is a set of common situations and what procedures should be used when engaging in any of the actions.

    • When should the horn be used? 
      • The horn is the single most frustrating appliance in a vehicle. There is certainly no other appliance where the difference between what the customer needs or expects and what is actually given is greater. The horn is designed both to communicate awareness of an unknown or known event to another driver and to express positive awareness (something that would benefit the other person) or negative awareness (your own frustration with the other driver). Since a typical horn only has one volume and one sound the only aspect of the horn the user can control is its duration. Thus, long horn blasts should be used to communicate frustration and negative awareness, and short horn blasts should be used for everything else. 
    • When should turn signals be used? 
      • Anytime and every time your vehicle changes lanes or cardinal direction.
    • When should your vehicle accelerate? 
      • Immediately when a traffic light turns green and when merging onto a highway, see below.
    • How should one merge onto the highway? 
      • The moment your vehicle enters an on-ramp, your vehicle should accelerate to highway speed or not less than five miles-per-hour below it and immediately put your turn signal on to provide notice to other vehicles that you are seeking to merge.
    • What lane should your vehicle be in while driving? 
      • 99% of a driver’s time should be spent in the right lane. The left lane should only be used to either pass a driver, and subsequently getting back into the right lane as much as possible or to take a left-hand exit or turn. 4
    • When should high beams be used? 
      • High beams should be used only when there are no vehicles in front of you or approaching your direction.
    • When is your vehicle allowed to tailgate another vehicle? 
      • Never
    • When can a phone be used while driving? 
      • Only for emergency calls. The phone should never be used while driving for business or pleasure.
    • When can an individual text while they are driving?  
      • Never. Simply pull over.
    • When can a driver go through a red light? 
      • Never
  • When should drivers voluntarily give up the right of way, such as at a four-way intersection? 
    • Never. Drivers should not give up the right of way. Driver safety depends on a precise set of rules that govern everyone. When a single individual decides to change the rules in favor of being nice or are simply hesitant to make a decision, this situation only increases the probability of accidents as it is impossible to make your decision to waive the right of way known to other drivers outside of yourself and the person you are giving the right of way to as other drivers make the correct assumption that you are following the designated and established rules. 

5) Volume in public places

People need to be aware of the noise they are putting into their surroundings. This includes everything from talking on the phone in public to playing music loudly in your vehicle.

    • How loud should one’s voice be when talking in public? 
      • The voice of any individual should match that of the surroundings and sufficiently loud to communicate the message you are trying to convey appropriate enough for the setting and taking into consideration that there are other people around you that are not (or at the very least should not be) interested in what you are saying.  
        • For example, a waiting room in a doctor’s office is not the appropriate venue to be loud or even at a normal volume.
    • How loud should my music in my car be? 
      • Noise is a very important component of safety on the road, disturbing this vital stream of information whether selfishly or unknowing endangers yourself and others. As such, your music should be loud enough to damage your ears as much as you want such that the music cannot be heard more than one car length in diameter of your vehicle.

Reddit link: https://redd.it/6x3xlk 

Sources of Information

Standard

Exciting posts are coming up on Antitrust and other related topics.

In the meantime, here is a short post as I have been asked many times where I obtain my information. Most of them are presented below in no particular order.

Please contact me if there is any I should consider adding. Enjoy


Organizations which I read from as often as I can and derive most of my citations from:

Influentials: Individual work I hold in the highest regard and read as often as I can: