BY KC IFEANYI
[Photos: John Levy/Creative Management Associates/Wikimedia Commons; Carl Lender/Wikimedia Commons]
Spotify’s API lays bare basic information about its catalog of songs, like “key,” “tempo,” and so forth.
But how exactly does one measure “energy,” “danceability,” or “valence”? The latter dataset, which is defined by Spotify as a song’s positiveness, has become a key component in creating a gloom index for Radiohead songs and or finding out which Christmas song is the most depressing. Now, data journalist Miriam Quick has used Spotify’s data on the “energy” and “valence” of all the number one songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 in its 60-year history to pinpoint the top five saddest songs to top the charts.
Let’s count them down:
5. “STILL” — COMMODORES
4. “MR. CUSTER” — LARRY VERNE
3. “ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT?” — ELVIS PRESLEY
2. “THREE TIMES A LADY” — COMMODORES
1. “THE FIRST TIME EVER I SAW YOUR FACE” — ROBERTA FLACK
It’s a fun exercise, yes, but one that raises more questions than it answers. “Mr. Custer” is sad for many other reasons than what we’re here for. It’s hard to classify “Three Times a Lady” or “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” as sad songs, per se. They’re slow, and they both espouse the unending love for a significant other. As Quick mentions in her post, what isn’t taken into account with Spotify’s API data is the lyrical content of its songs.
The data Spotify creates and collects helps to parse its catalog to create playlists. While much of the heavy lifting is done by algorithms, there are indeed humans tasked with fine tuning the curation. But it all calls to mind the conversation around man vs. machine in providing recommendations through services like Spotify or Netflix. It’s something Tim Cook flagged as a concern in an interview with Fast Company recently. Apple Music leans on human curation for its playlists, and while he didn’t mention Spotify directly, he did note that he’s worried “about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.”
If the humanity completely dies in music curation, at least we’ll know where to go to find a sad (sad-ish?) song to play at its funeral.
You, like most people, probably use your phone too much. People spend an average of four hours a day staring at their handheld screen, according to the time-tracking app Moment, and that doesn’t include time spent using their phones to do other things, like listen to podcasts or take calls. Engage in any activity for that long and it changes your brain. Those changes may be positive if we are talking about, say, meditation. Less so if it’s time spent staring at your phone.
For the past three years, I have been conducting research and writing a book about our relationships with our phones. I’ve since concluded that phone time is affecting everything from our memories and attention spans to our creativity, productivity, relationships, stress levels, physical health, and sleep. In short, if you feel like your phone is changing you — and not always for the better — you’re not crazy. You’re right.
Phones, advertising-based apps, and social media are designed to be hard to stop using. It’s their business model: The more time and attention we spend on them, the more data they can collect and the more targeted ads they can show us. These companies are so good at manipulating our brain chemistry that we often don’t even realise that we’re being manipulated. By always making sure there’s a new post or a potential “like” waiting for us, they have conditioned us to associate checking our phones with getting a reward— which makes us want to check even more.
We have become like Pavlov’s famous dogs, trained to salivate when they heard the sound of a bell. And when we can’t check our phones, our bodies release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. We become twitchy and irritable. We reach for our phones in our pockets, even if we know they’re not there. We exhibit what addiction specialists would immediately recognize as symptoms of withdrawal.
All of which is to say: Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve tried and failed to change your phone habits, or if the idea of having a happy, healthy, and sustainable relationship with your phone sounds difficult. It isdifficult. But it is possible.
Here’s the right way to change your relationship:
Identify what you do and don’t like.
There are elements of phone use that are useful or enjoyable, and there are elements that make you feel like you’re wasting your life. Your goal is to keep the former and minimise the latter.
Stop saying, “I need to spend less time on my phone.”
That is a vague and meaningless statement, the equivalent of announcing that you’re going to “eat better.” If you want to change a behaviour, you need to know why you’re trying to change it — and what you want to be doing instead. Otherwise, you won’t last beyond breakfast.
Write down three to five activities that you know bring you meaning, satisfaction, or joy — maybe this is something you say you want to do but somehow never seem to have time for. Then ask yourself how your phone is preventing you from doing these things.
For example, I know that spending time with friends brings me joy. But I also know that I’ve gotten in the habit of texting instead of calling. This often results in a half-hour of me hunched over my phone, fighting with an autocorrect that thinks I’m talking about ducks. When I finally look up, I realize that I’m in my kitchen, alone and silent, having spent 30 minutes typing what would have taken five minutes to say.
Identify a goal.
Once you’ve figured out one way in which your phone is preventing you from doing something you enjoy, you are ready to identify a goal. (You can create as many as you’d like.) I like to use this template: “I would like to spend less time ___ and more time ____.”
For example: “I would like to spend less time texting and more time with friends in person.” Note how this is different from the vague (and meaningless) “I want to spend less time on my phone.”
What would make you feel successful? It’s important to be realistic — chances are you’re not going to finish a book in one sitting or have a weekend where every moment is packed with joy, productivity, and meaning. But if you know you feel happy when you see a particular friend, you could define success as having coffee with them sometime in the next week. If you want to read a novel, you could aim to read one chapter per night.
Make it easy.
You can try to change a habit through willpower alone, but that’s not much fun — and it doesn’t usually work. It’s much more effective to remove triggers for the habit you’re trying to change and add triggers for the one you’re trying to establish.
Let’s say that you want to read your book before bed, but you keep getting distracted by your phone. First, remove the trigger: Charge your phone someplace other than your bedroom. (If necessary, buy a standalone alarm clock.) Second, add a new trigger: Put a book on your bedside table in the spot usually occupied by your phone. This way, when you instinctively reach for your phone, you’ll encounter the book.
Do the same thing on your phone. Turn off notifications. If you want to spend less time on social media, delete the apps. (Then, if you truly want to check Twitter, you’ll have to do so from the much less satisfying mobile web version.)
Pay particular attention to your home screen: It should contain only tools, not temptations. Edit and arrange your apps to make it easier to do the things you want to do and harder to do the things that make you feel gross.
Take it slow.
You are not going to change your habits in a day. Nor is it realistic to try to change all your habits at once. Pick one thing to focus on at a time. Maybe you could spend five minutes today staring out a window instead of scrolling through your phone. Perhaps this Sunday morning you can wait until after breakfast to pick up your phone. Maybe you could check your email three times this hour instead of 20. There is always room for improvement, and if you’re moving in the right direction, no accomplishment is too small.
If a friend pulled out a cigarette and blew smoke into your face, you probably wouldn’t have a problem telling them to stop, because we have a societal understanding that doing so would be rude. But if that same friend pulled out their phone in the middle of a conversation with you, it’d be much harder to speak up, because we haven’t yet agreed on etiquette for our phones. This is never going to change unless we start talking about it, so start talking about it.
The next time a phone interrupts an otherwise pleasant interaction, use it as a conversation starter. Ask your friend, “When do you think it’s okay to use your phone? When is it inappropriate?”
If it feels too aggressive to directly address your companion’s use of their phone, just look around you for conversation starters. There are bound to be other people you can use as examples.
Remember that your goal is to feel good.
If deleting social media apps works for you, great. If you truly miss Facebook, reinstall it. In other words, experiment. You’re not trying to restrict yourself arbitrarily; you’re trying to figure out what you like and what you don’t. Ultimately, the point is to make sure that when you use your phone, it’s a conscious choice.
Be okay with imperfection.
You’re never going to have a perfect relationship with your phone. And that’s fine. The point is simply to have a clear sense of what a healthy relationship looks like and to catch yourself when you’re sliding off-track. If that happens — no, scratch that — when that happens, don’t beat yourself up. Just take a deep breath and keep going.
Everyone in all General Motors offices (including CEO Mary Barra) is banned from walking and talking or texting.
At General Motors, employees are not allowed to walk around on their phones. That’s pretty standard behavior for warehouses and manufacturing facilities, but this rule extends to the office. That means no looking at a phone on the way to a meeting. No taking calls while en route to the bathroom. No checking email while you’re going to the kitchen to get a coffee.
“We have asked people not to text and walk or walk and talk on phones because it takes your attention away from potential hazards,” says Jim Glynn, GM’s vice president of Global Workplace Safety.
The new rule, which took effect in January, came out of a letter General Motors CEO Mary Barra published in June 2017. It outlined a series of key agendas necessary to the company’s longer term stability, including a commitment to “safety in everything we do.”
Car companies are often quick to tout their safety standards because of the risks associated with driving. In 2017, some 40,000 people died in a car accident, according to estimates from the National Safety Council. Another 4.57 million were seriously injured, the report says, and crashes resulted in $4.13.8 billion in spending. Car manufacturing processes are heavily regulated to ensure parts and whole vehicles are thoroughly vetted before hitting roadways. While General Motors may already have standards to protect factory workers in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration, those don’t often extend to corporate offices. What Barra was talking about in that letter was taking safety to a new level inside the company.
“Some people are going to look at this as another rule. We’re being draconian,” said Glynn. “More important than getting your job done, we don’t want you to get hurt.”
In the era of smartphone addiction, people are thinking more proactively about how to untether themselves from their screens. In 2016, CareerBuilder and Harris Poll released a survey saying workers may be attached to their smartphones, but they’re not always working. Three-quarters of employers felt at least two hours a day were lost to distractions like texting and the internet, according to the report. It dubbed smartphones a “productivity killer.”
There’s also a field of thought that smartphones and the increasingly blurred line between working and not working is zapping workers’ energy. Business magazines frequently recommend planned time away from your phone, and even prominent CEOs are limiting their smartphone use. Deloitte’s Cathy Engelbert told Fast Company in 2016 that she doesn’t reach for her phone when she first wakes up in the morning. Warren Buffet famously uses a flip phone. Some execs are even bringing their smartphone restrictions into the office. Sheldon Yellen, CEO of restoration company Belfor, told CNBC that he doesn’t allow cell phones in meetings.
For GM, the smartphone concern is less about productivity in the traditional sense and more about distraction. When phones are away, “People just become much more aware of their surroundings,” says Glynn. That makes the overall workplace safer.
In addition to the cell phone policy, GM has also instituted safety review boards for all its buildings to identify safety hazards and implement and enforce workplace safety standards. The board hosts walking tours that employees are “strongly encouraged” to participate in once a month, wherein they walk around the office or manufacturing facilities and look for ways to improve the physical safety of a given facility. “This is a global policy. We do this literally around the world,” says Glynn.
In August, the company hosts a safety week. Every office around the world videos into a town hall where the whole company reviews various safety achievements. GM also anoints “safety heroes” who have gone above and beyond their general roles within the company to ensure that workplaces are protected.
“As we all kind of alter our behavior, we get more aware of other risks,” says Glynn. He says people are now more likely to use a railing walking down stairs, or will offer to help their colleagues if they see them carrying a precarious load. Glynn says the company isn’t strict about the policy—there are no hall monitors in the office—but that the presence of these rules has been really crucial in shifting behavior.
“It can’t be, We want to be safe most of the time,” he says. “You have to be consistent.”
By Rose Leadem
A man of many talents, Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most celebrated painters, scientists, inventors, writers, architects and historians of all time. In fact, it's safe to describe da Vinci as one of the world's greatest geniuses -- if not the greatest. The late Renaissance man had a diversity of talents, and his contributions to humanity went beyond the "Mona Lisa."
From his studies of anatomy to his engineering developments creating bridges for towns, even today, nearly 500 years after his death, da Vinci is still making history. In 2017, an early da Vinci painting was unearthed and auctioned at Christie's for $450.3 million -- the highest amount ever paid for an auctioned painting.
With his appreciation for learning and growing, there's much to learn from the Italian superhuman. For more, here are nine quotes from da Vinci to open your eyes up to the world around you.
This post was 43 years in the making
Today’s my 43rd birthday.
For the past several years I’ve marked each birthday with a post reflecting on things that matter to me and experiences I’ve had up to that point (you can read my previous birthday posts here).
This year, I’d like to share a bunch of things I’ve learned to do to make my life just a little bit easier.
Some relate to work and some to fun, but they’ve all helped me and I hope some of them can help you too.
Here they are, in no particular order…
1. When scheduling a meeting with somebody, always be the first one to suggest the time or place — don’t just ask, “When’s good for you?”
It’s great to be accommodating, but rather than outsource the meeting time/place to when is most convenient for somebody else’s schedule, take a shot at first suggesting whenever is most convenient for your schedule.
Most times they’ll agree to whatever works best for you.
2. When you screw something up and have to apologize, be angrier about the screw-up than anybody else is.
When you mess up, people want to know you’re sorry, but they really want to know that you care.
Show them you’re more upset about it than they are and they will often ratchet down their own frustration with you as a result.
3. Be empathetic with people you interact with who have jobs that are different than yours.
If you tell somebody you wouldn’t ever want their job because it seems really hard and that the work they do seems like it’s consistently underappreciated by others, they will love you. Trust me.
4. Learn to say no. Often.
This may be the most valuable skill you can learn in life.
The better you are at saying no, the more productive you will become, the happier you will be, and the easier life will be for you.
5. Use paper plates, but real silverware.
There are a lot of times when paper plates make things easier. But when you use a paper plate, still use real silverware — it will make your food taste better.
6. Only give your email to people you want to hear from.
If your inbox is disaster, it’s your own fault.
7. Carry cash as a way to stick to a budget.
If you want to put yourself on a budget, figure out a weekly amount and take it out in cash at the beginning of the week. Then only spend that amount. It’s much easier to not overspend when you use cash as opposed to cards.
8. Pay somebody to clean your house if you can afford it.
Unless you’re one of those sick people who actually get joy out of cleaning, this will be a good use of your money.
9. Spend money on things that save you time or use your time.
Most material items don’t do either of these things which is why they tend to be a hollow use of money.
10. Don’t be cheap with your heat or air conditioning.
The easiest way to make your life easier is to live it at a comfortable temperature.
11. Turn off all phone notifications.
They’re poison. While you’re at it, try to develop these phone habits as well.
12. Don’t keep your phone in your bedroom.
Need something to wake you up in the morning? Get an old school alarm clock. You’ll sleep better if you’re phone’s nowhere near you.
13. Start turning off lights an hour before going to bed.
Our bodies adjust to the sun setting and we can recreate the same effect indoors by gradually turning off lights in your house as you get closer to bed time. It will help you fall asleep quicker when the time comes.
14. Don’t have a mail bin — deal with it as you get it.
When you get the mail from your mailbox, don’t throw it somewhere to deal with later. Handle it right away. Throw out junk mail, pay bills as soon as you get them, and don’t ever have to stare at a mail bin full of stuff you have to get to later.
15. Use Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist to find new music.
It’s the single greatest algorithm I’ve ever seen and each week’s new custom playlist always includes multiple songs I’ve never heard from artists I’ve never heard of that I love. I bet yours will too.
16. Follow fewer people on social media.
Every time I cut down the number of people I follow on social media, it makes my feed infinitely more interesting. Thin the herd regularly.
17. Ban yourself from eating at restaurants you’ve been to before every once in a while.
For two weeks, only go to places you’ve never been before and you’ll discover new places you love.
18. If a place you’re going to is walkable, then walk there.
It’s good for you and it feels good.
(Note: This one’s particularly true if you live some place like Los Angeles — results may vary if your town has slightly less beautiful weather.)
19. Let calls go to voicemail.
Don’t ever feel like you have to answer the phone just because it rings.
20. Don’t try to have inbox zero.
It’s completely meaningless how many unopened emails you have in your inbox. Don’t waste your time chasing a goal that doesn’t matter.
(Yes, I appreciate the irony of me telling you to have snail mail zero but that a packed inbox is fine.)
21. No TV in your bedroom.
See: Everything I said about not having a phone in your bedroom.
22. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day — even on weekends or days when you don’t have to work.
Our bodies like routines and you don’t develop a routine by altering it every few days.
23. Pick the right person to marry.
Not easy to do, but highly recommended.
24. Don’t fight for little things. Do fight for big things.
This is true in your work, art, and relationships.
Don’t get hung up on things that don’t matter much, but dig in your heels when it comes to things that do.
25. Always help people advance their career.
Pass on their resume, recommend them, give them advice. It will come back to you in the long run.
26. Learn a flexible and valuable skill in college (or after college if you didn’t in college).
The skills you develop are more important than the credentials you carry. Develop a true skill will make everything else in your career easier.
27. Make monthly mixtapes or playlists.
You’ll always have music to listen to that you love and an easy way to take a fun trip down memory lane.
28. Upgrade for extra legroom on airplanes for any flight longer than two hours.
You’ll never regret it.
29. Spend money on convenience as opposed to extravagance.
Money spent on things that make your life easier will serve you better than money spent on things that make your life more impressive.
30. Use Google alerts.
If you have interest in a particular subject for work or fun, set up Google alerts to have new information about it delivered to you. It’s the easiest way to know more (and know more quicker) than most people about that subject.
31. Don’t get into negotiations.
Figure out what you think is fair, what you’re willing to give up and what you need to get in return. Make that offer and be willing to walk away. Don’t play games and try to “win.”
By the way, here are some more thoughts about how to get what you want in a negotiation.
32. Focus your efforts on things you can control.
Try not to worry about the things you can’t.
33. Choose an aisle seat at the movies.
Having nobody next to you far outweighs being centered to the screen.
34. Choose a window seat on an airplane.
You don’t have to get up whenever other people in your row want to get up and you don’t get bumped by every passenger who walks by during the flight.
35. Remember your opinion is as valid as anybody else’s.
Just because somebody disagrees with you or criticizes your work, doesn’t mean they’re right.
36. Watch lots of comedy.
Laughing makes everything easier.
Bonus points if you learn to actually be funny yourself because that will make things even easier for you.
37. Employ the “You took it last” rule.
When my brother and I were young, we developed a system to determine who would be responsible for putting the chips (or whatever we were snacking on) back in the pantry when we were done eating them.
Basically, whoever took the last chip was responsible for putting the chips away.
It turned every snack session into a game of chicken, trying to guess at what point it was safe to take another chip based on when you thought the other guy was going to stop eating.
Stressful? Maybe. But, it made it easy to figure out who had to get up off the couch, so it definitely made life easier.
38. Don’t let decisions linger.
If you’re not sure you want to do something, don’t delay the decision for no clear reason. Decide whether to do the thing or not as quickly as possible — when you delay for no real reason, you just let the anxiety around the decision build and make things harder than they need to be.
Decide and live with your decision.
39. Be confident…and humble.
Confidence will make everything you do easier.
However, if you don’t combine that confidence with an equal dose of humility, you’ll turn people off and things will actually become more difficult.
40. Question things.
There are a lot of “rules” in life that aren’t actually rules.
When you question things, you’re able to customize your life in ways that make things easier. It makes you realize you have more flexibility and control over things than you realize.
41. Don’t screw people over — especially your friends.
Especially your friends and colleagues. They can make your life easier in all sorts of ways if they trust you.
42. Figure out a template for all your passwords.
Create a template that makes each password you use unique, but easy to remember.
43. Find a place to keep track of your ideas.
Whether it’s an app, a blog, a diary, or a birthday blog post, keep track of your thoughts in some way.
They’ll deliver value to you in ways you can’t imagine and if nothing else, they’ll become an easy way to remember where your mind was at a particular time in your life.
And Finally, My Birthday Wish…
When I’m not writing epic birthday blog posts like this one, I’m busy writing my weekly For The Interested newsletter.
It’s a collection of ideas designed to help you get better at your work, art, and life.
I’d be thrilled if you’d click below to check it out and subscribe or tell others about it if you already are a subscriber.
The late physicist overcame huge obstacles to become the world's most beloved scientist.
By Geoffrey James
CREDIT: Getty Images
Best-selling author, award-winning physicist and beloved Star Trek guest star Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. Prolific as both a writer and public figure the late scientist made numerous wry remarks about the nature of life, science and the universe around us.
Here are his 25 best quotes IMHO:
It ain't easy bein' a tea drinker in a coffee drinker's world
It ain't easy bein' a tea drinker in America nowadays — and frankly, it never has been.
If you're a coffee drinker, I ask you to listen. It might be hard for you to understand people who live and drink outside your experience. Tea drinkers are forced to function in a society that, intentionally or not, excludes them and their hot caffeinated beverage of choice.
I'm not here to tell you whether coffee or tea is better. There's a whole crappy hot take industry dedicated to that. All I want is for tea drinkers to finally speak up for themselves and be recognized as caffeinated equals.
Pour yourselves a cup of your favorite beverage — we don't judge drinks here, unless it's Coke Zero — and hear my story.
For most of my twenties, I lived exclusively as a tea drinker, even though I never publicly identified that way. Back then, there was nothing lamer than ordering tea with your breakfast. It was a sin worse than ordering decaf after dessert.
Coffee drinkers just couldn't understand how anyone could prefer a chai tea latte to their beloved Frappuccino. How did I wake up in the mornings? What did I order at Starbucks? Did I have a bad experience with coffee — was I hurt in any way?
It got to the point where I, like many other tea drinkers I know, just started openly lying about my preferences. It wasn't that I didn't love coffee, it was just that I was, uh, allergic. My stomach was always very sensitive to acid, and, as much as I loved coffee, my, uh, intestines couldn't handle it. Or maybe it was my esophagus? Clearly coffee was the superior choice, I'd tell them. I was forced against my will to order Earl Grey at the diner.
But love isn't easy. Tea drinkers like myself often can't go out in public without putting themselves at risk of drinking inferior tea. Too often, we go out for breakfast or dessert and are only given one tea option — a crusty bag of Lipton's from 1989. Waiters won't even bother to let the tea brew. They'll just throw a bag in there and dump a cup of cold milk, then hope for best.
Who can blame them? They were trained to make coffee, not tea. They're a product of their environment — a coffee caffeinated monoculture.
Scarier still is when tea drinkers try to make a cup of coffee at work using the office Keurig. As scientists now know, you can't use the same pot to brew coffee and tea because coffee leaves a bitter aftertaste. During my tea days, I was forced to drink one bitter, coffee-tinged cup of tea after the next.
Some days it stung too much for my body to handle. On those days, dear reader, I was forced to drink juice.
There were other slights. Tinder dates would ask me to go out for a drink or coffee — never a tea. Bagel breakfast specials would often include one free coffee, just not a tea substitution. I often had nothing to drink at the end of a wedding, except my own tears.
Friends of mine would come over and ask for a cup of coffee, then realize I had nothing to give them. Alternatively, I'd go to their home and they'd just offer me some dusty ass Roibus concoction they got as a freebie in a Christmas sampler.
I'd have friends who were tea drinkers who had so many of the same experiences, and we lived silently. We didn't have tea-based web culture we could turn to. No one understood us when we said, "You don't want to see me without my Irish Breakfast!"
Under the cover of moonlight, we would travel to the city's distant tea shoppes. There we could order our chai tea lattes in peace, free from the judgement of 21-year-old coffee nationalist baristas. The outside world didn't understand us and our secret pleasures — our discounts, our Twinings variety packs, our sleepytime Valerian root tea which should probably be made illegal.
Over time, I relented. Lured in by the promise of acceptance (and, tbh, Dunkaccinos with whipped cream), I became a coffee drinker. Life became easier. I made corny coffee jokes. I got heinous mugs. I snapped at people in the morning and got away with it because "I hadn't had my coffee yet."
Even though I identify as a coffee drinker now, I'll never abandon my advocacy for the tea community. Wherever you are, tea drinkers, know that you have a friend here at Mashable. Let's drink — one milk, two sugars — to that.
Whether it's laughing at fail videos or relishing those times when a rival sports team lost the big game, we all enjoy watching other's misfortunes. There's actually a word for this. It's called schadenfreude. Literally, it means "enjoyment obtained from the trouble of others." It sounds twisted — and it is. Even more than you might think.
Schadenfreude is nothing new. Chances are it's been hardwired into our way of thinking of millions of years.
Emile Bruneau: One of the strongest arguments to my mind is that our brains evolved for millions of years in a situation when you had small groups of humans scrabbling out in existence against other small groups of humans in a relatively harsh environment. In order to survive that you’d need your group to be incredibly tight-knit, and so this would both select for something like empathy — feeling for the suffering for other group members — and also extreme aggression towards others, something like schadenfreude.
Schadenfreude and empathy are two sides of the same coin. They're both a response we feel to seeing someone else’s trials and misfortunes. However, there’s one big difference. Schadenfreude isn't something parents teach their children. Yet, researchers know that babies as young as 2 can experience it. All it takes is a little competition to trigger the reaction. For one study, 2-year-olds watched as their mothers doted on other infants. Later, the mothers were told to spill water on the infants. When they did, the onlooking 2-year-olds got so excited that some of them literally bounced with joy. It’s not hard to see how this childish rivalry could develop into something more sinister in adults.
And that’s exactly what Emile Bruneau studies. He’s traveled to many parts of the world to investigate conflicts, including: Americans and Mexicans on the Arizona border, Israelis and Palestinians in Israel, and Democrats and Republicans in the US. It doesn't matter where the conflict is or what it’s about, he’s found that at the root of it all is schadenfreude.
Emile Bruneau: We are extraordinarily motivated by who belongs to our group and who belongs to the other group. We have a strong tendency to think not just in terms of me and you but of us and them. And people who I identify as them, I’ll feel more schadenfreude towards them than towards us and certainly, that is the type of thing that drives behavior. If you feel empathy for somebody else you’re motivated to help them, similarly, if you feel schadenfreude you’re motivated to harm the other person.
Neuroscientists think they've pinpointed the area of the brain behind all this. For one study, Red Sox and Yankees fans watched simulated plays while a fMRI measured their brain activity. When a fan saw the rival team fail, a special area in the brain called the ventral striatum lit up. It helps process reward, pleasure, and decision making — suggesting the fans were experiencing schadenfreude. But the ventral striatum is also involved with decision making. But also, interestingly, fans who showed more activity in their ventral striatum also reported that they were very likely to harm a fan of the rival team either by heckling, insulting, threatening, or hitting. This could explain why schadenfreude seems to be driving human conflicts and violence worldwide. But isn't time that we finally shake off this archaic way of thinking?
Emile Bruneau: The modern world is very different than the world our brains evolved in and right now we're trying to solve modern-day problems with Stone Age psychology. In an environment that is global and multicultural where you have much less conflict where collaboration and cooperation can get you much farther than conflict, then yes, I feel like it is not as productive.
Instead, Bruneau is exploring how to use empathy to resolve conflict and move toward resolutions.
Emile Bruneau: Most recently what I've been interested in is how we intervene. How do we motivate empathy towards the other group? Interestingly enough, what I've found that interventions directed more at trying to challenge their cognitive perceptions of the other side are the types of things that kind of open up their empathy. So, it's almost like the best approach to opening people's hearts is by opening their minds.
This doesn't necessarily mean that you can't laugh at fail videos on YouTube. But perhaps if we all tried to have a bit more empathy for the “other groups,” we could make the world a better place
By Thomas Koulopoulos Founder, Delphi Group
"We get old when the weight of our memories and regrets starts to exceed that of our dreams"
When it to comes to the topic of retirement, the old rules no longer apply.
In 1935, when the Social Security act was passed, the age of retirement was set at 65. At the time, the average life expectancy was 61! Today, average life expectancy is just under 80 years. That one fact speaks volumes to how outdated our views and mechanisms for retirement are.
In fact, the percentage of the workforce representing workers over 65 has doubled since 1992. And that trend is expected to continue unabated. If you plot the increase in life expectancy along with the increase in work-life expectancy (that's the average age at which people stop working), the two actually merge in 2100. I often joke that if the work-life trend line continues on its trajectory after 2100, we'll all be working after we're dead.
Yet we are heading for an economic disaster by ignoring the implications of increased life and work-life expectancy.
The numbers are startling: Thirty-four percent of workers have no savings whatsoever; another 35 percent have less than $1,000; of the remaining 31 percent, less than half have more than $10,000. Among older workers between 50 and 55, the median savings is $8,000. And this is total savings, including retirement accounts.
Contrast that with the fact that experts say you should have eight times your preretirement annual salary saved in order to retire by 65 and continue a reasonable quality of life, commensurate with what you have become accustomed to.
The Retirement Myth
The truth is that we are doing an enormous disservice to society by setting retirement as an end goal to a long career. Advances in longevity are making supporting retirement for another 20 to 30 years impossible for 90 percent of all U.S. workers, whose only source of income is Social Security, which only pays from an average of just over $1,300 per month to a max of just over $2,600 per month.
While paid media ads that talk about retirement planning seem to be everywhere, the reality is that very few people are actually benefiting from retirement savings or planning. Although Boomers have an astounding $50-plus trillion in wealth that they will be transferring to Millennials and Gen Z (that includes all assets, not just retirement accounts), 80 percent of that wealth is concentrated among less than 20 percent of Boomers.
Even if you're lucky enough to be among the 20 percent, who have a $1 million-plus net worth and enough saved up to retire, there is some evidence that the classic notion of retirement may actually be harmful to your health.
The answer is absurd, and it's at the core of every failed strategy to paint the future with the same worn-out brush we used to paint the past.
A recent Guardian article about research on aging and retirement cast an interesting light on the topic. According to the article, "[Research conducted on] 2,956 people who were part of the Healthy Retirement Study funded by the National Institute on Aging in America ... found that healthy retirees who worked a year longer (over the age of 65) had an 11 percent lower all-cause mortality risk. Even the unhealthy group reduced their likelihood of dying by 9 percent if they delayed retirement." An analysis on the study was also published in the Harvard Business Review.
While it's hard to draw broad-based conclusions about the link of retirement to health, from this or other research, there is certainly growing evidence that working longer, especially at something you love to do, contributes to a sense of well-being and purpose that may increase longevity and certainly the quality of your life.
So, is there any good new in all of this? Only if we use it as a wake-up call to change the way we look at retirement.
Your Third Act
What amazes me is that every financial institution's white paper, study, or promotional piece about retirement planning is missing one critical thing: any mention of continuing to work! We need to wake up. Rather than perpetuate the mythology of work as penance and retirement as a time to be liberated from it, what if you replaced the concept of retirement with that of a third act in which you can continue to create value and receive value for those things that you truly love to do, while you also establish a balance with other personally fulfilling activities you may want to do more of?
In other words, why are we stuck on the zero-sum proposition of work is bad and retirement is good? The answer is absurd, and it's at the core of every failed strategy to paint the future with the same worn-out brush we used to paint the past. We desperately need to innovate the notion of retirement to catch up with the rest of the world.
While planning for a third act is something that everyone should seriously consider, whatever his or her economic situation, as an entrepreneur you have that luxury in a way few people do. You get what it means to build a business and a brand. You are the ultimate authority on where and how to invest your time and energy. In the same way that you would invest in a new product or service, why not invest regularly in preparing for your third act?
If you want details on how to do that, here's a previous article I've written on Inc.com about the specific tactics for constructing a third act. But my point here is to start doing it any which way you can and as soon as possible. It takes as long to build a successful third act as it does a successful business, about five to 10 years. However, I've yet to find anyone who cannot pull it off with a sincere and committed effort. You likely have a good 30 to 50 years for your third act--perhaps even more! So, isn't that worth a five-year investment of time?
If You Love It, Why Leave it?
In a prior Inc.com survey of 560 people, I asked respondents if they agreed with the statement, "I love what I'm doing so much that I can't imagine doing anything else." Fifteen percent absolutely agreed, 50 percent strongly agreed, and more than 75 percent at least somewhat agreed. So, if you're lucky enough to be in that majority, why not keep doing it?
Your third act will not only create an ongoing revenue stream, which you can modulate up or down as needed for the rest of your life, it will also allow you to use the knowledge, wisdom, connections, and perspective that you've gained over a lifetime in a meaningful way.
The bottom line is that the old rules were built for an economy and a society in which retirement was seen as a release from bondage--the liberating act from a lifetime of work. They were built for time when most work was manual and labor intensive, when brains were less valuable than brawn.
The new rules are for a world in which knowledge is the universal currency for creating value, a world in which you can use the experience of a lifetime to create what may well be the greatest experience of your life.
BY ELIZABETH SEGRAN5 MINUTE READ
A startup has transformed tea leaves into crystals that instantly dissolve in water, creating a quicker and more potent beverage. Tea addicts rejoice.
They say that 90% of our bodies are made of water. In my case, I’m pretty sure that I’m mostly made of tea.
I’m half Chinese and half Indian, so my childhood was spent guzzling oolong, Assam, or masala chai every day. In both cultures, tea-making is a ritual, one that involves steeping tea leaves in hot water until the flavors have been properly infused. The last significant innovation in the world of tea was the ingenious idea of putting leaves into a little bag–and that happened a century ago. But regardless of whether you use loose leaf or bagged tea, the process, if done correctly, can take a lot of time, which is lovely if you’re in a pensive mood.
But if you’re in a rush–like I am most mornings–it can be a drag.
To that end, I have good news for the tea drinkers of the world. A San Francisco-based startup called Pique has developed tea crystals that dissolve into water within seconds, totally eliminating the brewing process. This also means that you don’t have to worry about steeping the tea too long (resulting in a bitter taste) or too short (which makes it too watery). Pique has managed to replicate this approach across every single type of tea, from green to black to herbal. I’ve sampled every tea with the range and can attest that the flavor is indistinguishable from tea steeped in a bag.
Pique was founded two years ago by Simon Cheng, who studied Chinese history as an undergrad at Harvard. He spent many years traveling throughout China and the rest of Asia, where tea was readily available. “Tea-drinking was fairly effortless because it was brewed for you,” he says. “Even in offices, there’s usually a tea lady or gentleman who comes to fill everyone’s cup in the morning and throughout the day.”
Cheng was also fascinated by the health benefits of tea. Tea is rich in antioxidants, which protect the body from the effects of pollution. Scientific studies have also shown that it may also reduce the risk of heart disease and bone loss, while also helping to boost immunity and battle cancer. However, you need to drink large quantities of tea to experience any of these benefits.
“In Asia, I saw that people were drinking tea at such frequency, and it was of such good quality that they were able to reap the benefits of it,” Cheng says. “Most tea drinkers in the United States and in some parts of Europe don’t drink enough of it for it to truly be helpful.”
A Wakeup Call
Cheng graduated, went to work in a VC firm, then got a Stanford MBA, and then, one day, he got sick. Between his twenties and thirties, he was working so hard to get into top schools and thrive at his job that the stress began to wear him out. Eventually, both his lungs collapsed and he had to undergo three surgeries. He also experienced sleep apnea, a condition that affects your breathing during sleep. Cheng was on a constant cocktail of antibiotics.
“I decided that I was done with this lifestyle, and I wanted to take a completely different approach to my health and well-being,” he says.
This brought him back to tea. After the trauma of being hospitalized, he spent two years in Asia to learn about non-Western approaches to health. In the Yunan Province in China, he came across a local doctor who used tea as a medicine by creating crystals that could be dissolved into water. “He had overcome several technological challenges to creating these crystals,” Cheng explains.
It worked like this: Tea was brewed in very large amounts until all the water evaporated, leaving a tea paste. This paste was dehydrated, and when someone wanted to drink it, it would be rehydrated with more tea. This created a beverage that was highly concentrated, which allowed the drinker to receive the maximum possible benefits from the tea.
Cheng was inspired by this approach, but found that the heating of the tea leaves actually damaged them. So he developed a proprietary cold-brewing process that involves applying some pressure and very low heat to create crystals. The customer can then open a packet, pour it into hot or cold water, and immediately consume it.
There are some obvious benefits to this method. For one thing, it saves time. But this approach also ensures that all the nutrients in the tea stay intact, and you get six times the antioxidants that you would from a regular tea bag. The process also screens for heavy metals and pesticides, to ensure that the tea is pure. And the fact that the tea is contained within an airtight packet also means that mold and bacteria don’t grow, something that is actually very common in loose leaf tea and bags.
“Our goal is to help people in the modern world be able to get the amount of tea that they need to achieve the benefits from it,” Cheng says. “We also want it to be as safe and potent as it can be.”
The Reviews Are In
So far, the concept has been a hit, particularly in the natural foods industry. Cheng and his cofounder (and wife), Amanda Wee, secured a seed round of funding from First Round, Khosla, and Blueberry Ventures, though it did not disclose the amount. Pique was among the seven companies that made it into Chobani’s incubator, whose goal is to help startups trying to bring better food to more people.
Over the last two years, Pique has grown exponentially. Although this approach to making tea was different from what tea drinkers are used to, the concept seemed straightforward enough that supermarket buyers were eager to give it a try. Wee, the brand’s chief growth officer, has managed to get the product into 1,500 retail stores around the country, including Whole Foods, Wegman’s, and Sprouts, as well as onto Amazon and the the brand’s own website.
One box of Pique teas, which includes 14 packets, costs around $10, which comes down about to $0.70 a serving. This is more expensive than many basic teas, but it’s on par with many other premium tea brands and is certainly cheaper than, say, a Starbucks coffee.
But tea experts have also judged Pique’s tea to be objectively as good, or better, than teas that are steeped in leaves. It won three gold medals at the Global Tea Championships, which included criteria such as taste, convenience, and potency.
Cheng and Wee dream that, one day, tea crystals will become the main way that consumers drink tea. “There really hasn’t been much innovation in the world of tea since the tea bag was invented 100 years ago,” Wee says. “But for people who drink tea every day, we think this new approach could really improve their experience with the drink.”
As a tea addict myself, I would agree.