My $.02 on Gravity Payments 70K Minimum Salary

I first heard about this story in late July by reading this NY Times article. I also decided to read this article in Forbes, this one in Entrepreneur, and this one in Fistful of Talent.  Four articles is plenty for me to have an opinion.

Really, there are two pieces of this story that interest me.

Psychology – Price hears a psychology study and realizes his company can do better providing for people’s basic needs.  Fact: people who make 70K aren’t worrying about paying the basic bills.  “Price based the figure on a 2010 Princeton study he read, and an epiphany while on a hike with his friend who was struggling to pay her bills on an annual income of $40,000.” – From Entrepreneur.  Basically, just take a look at Maslow – employee’s have their basic needs taken care of and can then focus on other pieces like improving job performance, or saving, or creativity.

Maslow, Compensation, Benefits

Biblical Literacy – The man paid attention to this extremely disturbing biblical parable of the Workers in the Field that rocks me every time I read it.  Seriously, go read it.   The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t work like the USA works, and doesn’t work like we want it to work.  It won’t be “fair” they way we like to think of “fairness.”  Is Price a Christian?  Well, he grew up in a household of faith, but he isn’t anymore.  According to the NY Times –  “Mr. Price is no longer so religious, but the values and faith he grew up on are “in my DNA – It’s just something that’s part of me.”

Parable of the Workers

So, this crazy decision made his employees obviously uncomfortable.  No, it wasn’t fair within his company, and he definitely should have consulted other people on his decision.  It’s demoralizing to people who only got a slight salary increase for their already higher paying positions.  After all “ Giving large raises to lower paid, lower contributing employees may be well intentioned, but unless it’s paired with equitable raises for higher contributing employees, it is bound to cause dissatisfaction and turnover.” (As Forbes points out: Equity Theory!)  I can easily see other psychology principles coming into play pretty soon, like the fact that we easily get accustomed to the new normal – hello Hedonic Treadmill!

But, quite a lot of what I see in this is that we (journalists? Americans? pundits? fellow employees) continue to confuse the idea of labor value with personal worth, and at the same time, pretend that how much we earn shouldn’t/doesn’t affect how we see each other.

The change forced the employees to reckon with the way they judge their own worth and the way they judge the worth of other employees.  Suddenly, they’re all on the same “worth” scale, and so they cry foul, they see it as an attack on their personal worth.  If I’m suddenly making as much as the admin, despite my different duties and education, am I worth what I think I am?  Serious ego blow.  I think this is also a story about identity and the way we value people.

That, and the obvious workplace connection, is what makes me keep thinking about this story.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives us plenty of ways and formulas to help calculate salaries and benefits, but they don’t touch on how we as humans make meaning from that data and determine worth.  A lot of us take what the BLS says about labor value, and the emphasis on making money and spending money and determine that a salary is equivalent to their personal worth.  All you do is answer phones, that’s not worthwhile, you’re not worth a wage like that.  That’s not even close to true. My labor is worth a dollar amount, but my worth as a person is priceless.

What I think Price did is to try and make that discrepancy between worth and value a little smaller.  His method was flawed, imperfect and is causing waves, but I definitely applaud him for a radical decision and doing something.

The Key to a Great Summer

It’s July.

How did that happen?

I’m a planner and a doer by nature – and between those two, I slightly emphasize planning more than doing. It’s very easy for me to forget there are three components of every experience – anticipating, participating, and remembering.

So often, rather than remembering – or savoring – the experiences that I’ve had, I’m off planning the next experience.

Savor

Reading “Thinking Fast and Slow” in May and June, however, taught me something new.

The Remembering Self is in Control

What does that mean?

Daniel Kahneman tells the story of two groups of subjects who were invited to participate in a research experiment involving submerging their hands in a bowl of ice water for several minutes. (I know, makes you really want to be a research participant… right?) The first group of people experienced the frigid waters for a few minutes. The second group experienced the frigid waters for the same few minutes, but a key difference was the experimenter had the subjects keep their hands in the water an extra 30 seconds or so, but warm water was added to the bowl, which lessened their discomfort. After rating their experience, participants were more likely to choose to repeat the second, but longer, experience because it ended on high note!

There are several conclusions psychologist draw from this and other research.  They note that there are two “selves.”  One self experiences events – the frigid hands in the water.  Another self remembers that event – but through the lens of completion with a higher priority placed on the end of the event.  That warm water suddenly meant the experience wasn’t that bad… right?

The remembering brain shapes our memories, lives, decisions, and what experiences we will choose to repeat in the future.

How can I use this knowledge?

As I was contemplating my whirlwind June I realized – I want to have a GREAT SUMMER!  I don’t want to look back in August and ask “Where did it go?!”

I’ve decided to Spend More Time Savoring this Summer.

I used a framework I learned earlier this year – More Less Same – in order to focus and prioritize activities so that I could actively savor the summer experiences I love so much, like church softball, camping, and just being outdoors.  I needed to decide what I needed to do more of, and what I needed to do less of, and what I could keep the same.

MoreLessSame

Have you made a list like this before?

Using a calendar and flipping through my journal, I noted frustrations and triumphs and then listed several things to do more of – so that I could build in more time to Savor.

I want to do MORE…

Pictures – Especially, taking, posting on facebook, and getting into physical photo album form. Although there is always a danger that taking a lot of photos will destroy your memory of an event (citation) – looking at photographs of good times actually increases your happiness and confidence (citation). I’m only so-so about remembering to take pictures – but I want to be better.

Writing – I keep putting writing on the back burner in favor of reading or friend time – but I’d like to move toward more writing, whether it’s journaling, blogging, or even tweeting.

I want to do LESS…

Reading. I’m reading some great stuff right now (especially enjoying co-reading Kyle Strobel’s “Metamorpha” with my husband, and discovering AS King – recommended by LCarsLibrarian. ) But rather than trying to read a book a week, I’m just reading a few chapters at a time.

Exercise.  I’m still trying to run the North Shore Trail Series (Saturday the 12th, 6 miler!) But I’m focusing on maintaining my fitness levels, rather than increase them.

I want to do the SAME…

Praying – As I recently read and found amusing – praying for 30 minutes or more a day actively changes the way your brain works. This is probably about how long I pray every day – so I’d like to keep that the same. I also find prayer to be an excellent way to remember and savor experiences, as well as consider how to reorient your life to reflect your priorities and focal concerns.

Friendship Building – I love how many fun events we’ve been doing with friends lately – from church softball, to family volleyball, up to last weekend time spent camping.  I definitely want to keep going out a couple times a week in a socializing low-key fashion, but finding time to rest after each of these activities is key as well.

camping walk

So what about “Summer To-Do’s?”

Like other friends, I love making Summer To-Do lists, and have in the past… but I’m not going to this year.  There are a lot of items from my “30 by 30 list” that fall I want to check off – and that fall into the “More” and “Less” category.   I’m hoping to finish a wedding photo album before my 4th anniversary, as well as write some Thank You cards to big influences in my life.

Finally, I want to look ahead to August and plan a peak experience for sometime at the end of the summer – something that I can both anticipate – as well as savor as extra enjoyable.

How about you? What are you doing More, Less, and the Same of this Summer?

As always comment here, or on my facebook page.

 

Tackling To Do Lists

Understanding (your) Self:

In my social psychology class one week we studied the concept of The Self.  Roy Baumeister, author of the popular book Willpower, and editor of the text my class used, proposes that there are three basic roots, or areas of study, when considering selfhood: Self Awareness, Interpersonal Relations (how others perceive us), and Self- Control (how we make and achieve goals).

Since Self-Control is fascinating to me as a person trying to navigate this ‘growing up’ thing, I paid particular attention to that section of the text. I grinned when Baumeister cited some research that confirmed my personal experience that “self awareness is essentially for the sake of self-regulation.” Self regulation is therefore necessary to achieve goals.  My initial impressions of adulthood are that most of it is an exercise in self-control.

Self Control and Adulthood:

Well, in order to achieve anything long term (and in direct contrast to childhood – almost everything necessary to function in adulthood is long term – owning and caring for property, paying bills, contributing meaningfully to society, raising children…etc) you need to have a certain level of knowledge and mastery – which is mostly achieved through self-controlled study or experience.

Which leads to another personal conclusion that to-do lists are a necessary tool of adulthood in a modern world where we’ve got dozens of competing goals we need to decide between prioritizing.  BUT… even though tackling to-do lists will help you get many things done – depending on your level of energy, time, and motivation you might find it impossible to check things off.

This is why I think it is equally important to categorize things to do and then use the right strategy for tackling the To-Do list. I don’t think you can always accomplish tasks in the same way each time, mainly because you become accustomed to that particular approach and then start slacking off.  There’s a similar phenomenon in dieting – people get bored of eating cottage cheese, salads, and chicken every day so they start seeking novelty – and fall off the bandwagon.

Here are 3 of my strategies for tackling to-do lists and achieving focus.

Note: These strategies are particularly for tackling mental work.

3 Things Method

The Three Things Method:

Every 2 weeks I make a list of mental tasks that need to get done – generally things I can’t accomplish with my son around. This allows me to identify what times are useable (nap time, bed time) and what times aren’t (the witching hour 5-7pm). Then depending on the day and amount of time available, I pick 3 things (the most important on the list!) and focus on ONLY those 3 things – nothing else on the master list.  Clearing my mind of the other items makes it easier for me to focus.

Checkbox Method

The Checkbox Method:

I have a weak prospective memory – or in other words – I’m easily distractable. (Doesn’t the first one sound so much better?!).  I might sit down to read a book, then remember I need to answer an email, and find myself reading a newspaper article which prompts me to check my bank account.  It’s easy (for me) to lose an hour of productivity that way. Which is why, when I often start work I take a scrap piece of paper and make a series of boxes.  Each box represents 15 minutes of focus on a task.  If I complete 15 minutes of focus, I check it off.  If I don’t, I X it.  I feel a certain level of shame if I look at more than 2 boxes with an X in them, which prompts me to try harder to focus.  In my experience – focus begets more focus… and I can usually con myself into just fifteen more minutes of work.

Categorize Method

The Balanced Modes Method:

On my master mental tasks lists there are generally three types of tasks: thinking, reading, and writing. Although I sometimes have the energy to tackle 3 reading items… I often don’t. Who can read 100 pages of psychology textbook at once?  Answer: Not me.  So, I try and balance the tasks that I accomplish by switching between two modes.  First I’ll read for a set amount of time or length – then I’ll write for set amount of time or length.

Additionally…

I also like Gretchin Rubin’s 15 Minute “Tackle a  Nagging task” method which I read about in “The Happiness Project” (highly recommend!).  Sometimes tasks are so tedious, or difficult, or simply abhorrent that you can’t do it,  So, you break the task down into 15 minute pieces and you commit to doing 15 minutes (and ONLY 15 minutes) on the task every day until it’s complete.  This works for mental tasks AND other household tasks.

Could you see yourself using any of these strategies?  Do you have other strategies to get yourself through your to-do lists?

The Rain, ReReading, and Re-framing some Niggling Problems

 

I have been having a great time re-reading The Happiness Project and remembering it’s potent effect on my thinking.  I love the distilled nature of wisdom in books, as though everything the author writes about effortlessly came to him or her in the span of the time that it takes you to read it.  The murky mystery of what exactly is being uncovered through careful life experience is presented to the reader as though it was always unwrapped, crystal clear, and polished.

In reality I feel as though I discover life lessons more in the way of a stereotypical coal miner. ( I actually know nothing about mining other than 19th century pictures of child laborers covered in soot)  I imagine myself digging and digging and mostly getting dirty, sore, and tired.  The process of subterranean excavation yields muscles and perhaps a pay-off.  But then again, occasionally it doesn’t yield up any wisdom.

Child Coal Miners from 1800’s. Via StrangeCosmos.com

So, I reiterate that I love to receive other’s hard-dug diamonds (or coal) nuggets of wisdom and then combine them into my own mental framework.  Jean Piaget referred to this as assimilation – the process of taking new information and experiences and incorporating them into our old framework.  In this way we also modify what we’re assimilating, and we modify our own framework.

What I most have gleaned from my pecking method of reading Rubin’s book this time (a page here, a page there) is a reminder of the mental action of “re-framing.”  This has been particularly useful this dreary week as I’ve been tired and slow, unable to see a big picture anyway.

Re-framing involves taking the way we think about something, and changing our parameters to set the conflict or idea into a new context.  (As I’m writing this, I remember that I wrote a little bit about re-framing moral conflicts when I reviewed Christian Smith’s book Lost in Transition.)

These are some common ways that I have re-frame my own thoughts about things.

–       Instead of driving around the lot 3 times looking for a space at the grocery store, I tell myself I am getting a lot of exercise and park at the end of a row right when I arrive.

–       Instead of thinking about how rainy it has been this week and how tired I am, I imagine my vegetables at Farmer Dave’s receiving water from the heavens and growing beautiful.

–       Instead of being disappointed that I work on the weekends, I remind myself that I love what I do, and I’m able to make a difference in someone’s life.  Additionally, this is only for a short time, and I will miss it when I’m done.

–       I changed my list of “hard” books to a list of “important” books that I want to read.  Although some of the books on the list are indeed mentally taxing (City of God) there were others that I excluded because they weren’t “hard enough” to qualify.  Having re-framed this issue to be one of books that I think cool people read, a totally subjective opinion anyway, I included books that I am more excited about, and should help me reach my goal of 15 “Important” Books this year more easily.

What things do you re-frame in your life? What are things you probably should so you can avoid conflicts or lack-of-progress?

What stories do you tell (about) yourself?

Story is a basic principle of mind. Most of our experiences, our knowledge, and our thinking is organized as stories.” So, what stories do you tell about your experiences?

As I learn a little more about my new field of study (Organizational Psychology), as with any new field of study, I find it delicious to browse the library bookshelves for something that looks interesting to take away for a little light reading.  It’s a way of tasting a new food, without committing to a whole meal.

That’s how I picked up the book Management Rewired by Charles Jacobs.

It’s pop psychology meets business, the same way that The Tipping Point, How We Decide, and The Black Swan all are, so you know the tone.  Breezy, lots of examples, a few easy-to-digest points about how you might modify your thinking, or tweak your own environment.  There’s usually a lot of moments you think “Oh! So that explains my experience in my last job/relationship/crisis.”

In this book, Charles Jacobs writes to let business people know a few things that us humanities folks have always known, and that scientists are now corroborating based on research studies.  That is, the brain organizes it’s thoughts around stories.  He quotes a cognitive scientist Mark Turner to make his point, “Story is a basic principle of mind.  Most of our experiences, our knowledge, and our thinking is organized as stories.”  In fact, the way we tell our stories will certainly change the way that we perceive our world around, and help us to generate material which fits in with our conception of these yarns we are spinning. This in turn, changes our actions.

Then he goes on to talk about business management practices, feedback, cognitive dissonance, performance appraisals, task structure and a whole lot of other things which were interesting to me, but may or may not be interesting to you if organizational psychology isn’t your new thing.

However, what probably is your thing is framing your own life in a way that makes sense, that explains the way you live, act, and make decisions.  As I was reading, I was reminded of the sociological idea of roles, a set of connected behaviors, rights, and obligations that can be achieved or ascribed.  In fact, everyone has multiple role sets.  Some of my own include wife, student, mother, friend, blogger.  Most of use could generate at least a dozen of these roles in this list form to tell others with no thought whatsoever, but when it comes to living in our day to day life, it’s rare that we can present more than one or two roles at a time.

But, the underlying story we tell each ourselves about the way we live our lives is far more complex, partly, I think because it’s able to nuance these roles we have in a way that’s not always readily apparent to outsiders.  Though Jacobs on his book’s website says:

When Americans are asked what they do, they don’t respond with “I do volunteer work at the community center,” “I build ships in bottles,” or “I try to ensure the survival of my genes.” No, we answer with a description of our jobs. While other, more civilized countries may see us as a bit obsessed, the workplace is the center of our lives.

I think he’s neglecting to state the obvious, that we know our questioner is actually asking; “Where do you work?”

As soon as I read this, I realized it’s a particularly troubling question to ask of stay-at-home mothers (and it’s put to them often) because they can’t quickly answer with a role which is readily validated by society.  Everything must be framed around their child who they spend a great deal of time with.

But, what if the story they are telling themselves isn’t that they are first and foremost mothers?  How can they get that across in a way that isn’t acrimonious, especially since they have been put on the defensive from the start?  Probably by telling a story about what they view as the most important parts of their lives at home.  This is sort of a cop-out answer for now, but it’s as far as I’ve gotten in thinking through this idea.  In the meanwhile, I really like a quote from the preface of a book I recently skimmed which I think is applicable not just for mothers (though that is the context) but for anyone who feels as though they are defined by only one role in their life.

“When being a mom [or insert X here] looms so large that it obscures everything else God made me to be, other people are not seeing the real me” – Caryn Rivendeneira.

(Especially, I might add, in a traditional conception of what “mom” is: Such as the one pictured below.)

So, what do you see as your primary roles in life, or what stories do you tell about the way you live and act?

Work Conflict and Adult Development

Last week I’ve finished my classes for the semester.  The more intellectually enjoyable of these was a Psychology of Adulthood and Aging class which used this textbook by Stacey Whitbourne. During the chapter on Work and Leisure the author discusses the some of the various tensions which exist between home and work life, which fall into two categories.  At the time, the class had a lively discussion about what constituted the “worst job.”  And it’s always fascinating to see that one person’s worst job, is another person’s idea of heaven.

Another concept was that of the spillover model, proposing that attitudes and behaviors associated with one domain (work or home) have an effect on the other.  The second postulated interaction is the role strain model, stating that work and family involvement are inversely related.

I’m not sure I would define as “strain” in terms of a “split.”  Since in life, an inevitable amount of strain is not only likely, but desirable.  The strain of lifting weights leads to strengthened muscles after all.  However, a role sprain could indicate some unnecessary torque that required an evaluation.

The other notion of role strain I dislike is that it pits “work” and “family” as two self contained spheres which shouldn’t mix, and if they do, they are somehow doing a disservice to the other environment.  The only inevitable result of this is conflict.  Conflict, again, is a necessary aspect of life, at least according to my new hero, Georg Simmel, who believes that it’s the balance of superordination and subordination that each person experiences within his relations with the world.  And the only way to destroy a relationship is to withdraw completely from it.  Furthermore, any entirely harmonious group will not partake in any kind of life process. (p. 12. Coser. 1965)

The role strain model also seems to carry the implicit message that it is necessary to divide time either equally between work and family, or that one should focus solely on one domain at a time.  I protest! Not possible!  Not only not possible, but implausible, for no one can be completed by the necessarily somewhat impersonal work relations they undergo on a daily basis, nor the intimate and cloying family relations that occur from the stifling assumptions of people who know you so well they want to change you. (As I once aptly read in Coelho’s The Alchemist. )   Yet, simultaneously, these are the same people that take your work for granted on a daily basis, gloss over your most admirable qualities, and nitpick your insignificant faults. And stop laughing at your jokes.

Perhaps one of the most dissatisfying experiences of this (and well, all) semesters now where I’ve balanced work and life is the dizzying and saddening realization that I can’t do everything I want.  (And not just in a Rolling Stones kind of way), but in that, there will not be time in life to complete all possible pathways.  This is what I would more consider a time strain.  Or, as I was summarily told by my husband, the problem of my own humanity, with which I need to come to grips. 

It seems that the older you get the more you understand the delicate balance of choosing what activities to engage in.  The classes have taken up about 20 hours of my weeks lately, work another 40, and various necessary commitments most of the weekends, and that meant there wasn’t time to look for a couch for our apartment until now.  But, with the end of class, and a lessening of strain, I assume I’ll have a place to sit aside from the bed and the kitchen table fairly soon.  Which will cut down on back strain.  Ha.