• Multitasking: Why Two Tasks Work and Three Are Overwhelming

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    In today’s social media driven environment, opportunities to multitask at warp speed proliferate. Online, we can dance from snippet to snippet of news, music, e-books, webinars, job postings, how-to tips, etc, etc.  But how much of the “information” is our brain actually capable of absorbing?

    Two (I was going to cite three but thought better of it after reading article #2) fascinating articles shed much needed light on the highly vaunted “art” of multitasking.

    In The Myth of Multitasking, Karen Hopkins, reports, “when we think we’re getting better at multitasking, we’re really getting faster at switching back and forth between two different things at different times… training gets the ‘Thinking Brain’ to think a little faster. So we’re switching tasks quickly enough to appear to be doing them simultaneously. Which,” she continues, “is still nothing to shake a stick and sneeze at.”

    I almost missed that simultaneous “shaking a stick and sneezing!”

    In the second, more recent article published in Scientific American, How the Brain Keeps Track of Two Tasks at Once, Katherine Harmon points us to new research which”illustrates how the brain can simultaneously keep track of two separate goals, even while it is busy performing a task related to one of the aims, hinting that the mind might be better at multitasking than previously thought.”

    Etienne Koechlin, director of the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Paris and coauthor of the new study shows that “rather than being totally devoted to one goal at a time, the human brain can distribute two goals to different hemispheres to keep them both in mind–if it perceives a worthy reward for doing so.”

    Caveat Emptor!  I said I was only going to cite two articles, but I’ll just point you to this third one by Naomi Kenner and Russell Poldrack which tries to explain What Happens When You Try To Do Three Things at Once?

    As I try to visualize this, the first thing that comes to mind is “visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads” but, then, they are all sugarplums, aren’t they?

    "Can You See What I See?" illustration by Walter Wick

  • Creating A Life: Never An Overnight Success

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    Rollo May, wrote in his book, The Courage to Create, that: “Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being… the creative act brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life.”

    I remembered his words this morning when I saw Lynn Saville’s remarkably creative photographs in her NY Times piece, Scenes From the Night Shift.

    Saville describes herself, “As a photographer, I work the night shift — when daylight gives way to moonlight, neon, and street light…”  and she discovers details barely discernible in the bright light of day.

    Many of us in this third stage of our lives have become entrepreneurs, composing our own lives. Freed from the restraints and requirements of our early and mid-years and not seeing a ready-made niche, we begin to create our own design for a purposeful life. Mary Catherine Bateson, author the classic Composing a Life, has written a new book to be published in September, 2010.

    In her new work, Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, Bateson notes that,”with its unprecedented levels of health, energy, time, and resources, aging today is an improvisational art form calling for imagination and willingness to learn.”

    No matter how powerful our imagination or willingness to learn, however, we cannot design a new life overnight. Success takes time, contemplation, testing, failing, reconsidering and trying again.  First, of course, we need to determine how we define success.

    Reflective inquiry is required to assess priorities. We need to allow time to uncover those rich details which were masked by bright light of day.  It is time, as any night photographer must, to open the aperture and extend the exposure to capture the hidden aspects and patterns integral to bring our new lives into being.

    Lynn Saville: "Fulton Landing Warehouse"

  • No fainting goats… and no sheep!

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    This fascinating “White” paper, Take Charge in Changing Times: Ten Career Tips from Australian, Joanna Maxwell is a must read. I rarely use “must,” preferring to let readers make their own choices, but there are so many valuable insights here, it is a must! The insights are grounded in reality – the kind of tips that first seem so obvious we cannot understand why we had not noticed them before. These “Ten Career Tips” are just as applicable for any aspect of our lives – not just our business genes. Even better – the words and the colourful art are incredibly good fun!

    workincolour.com.au

    Joanna’s highly creative website WorkInColour: Work.Think.Live.In Colour is a feast for your eyes, mind, body and soul. Enjoy!

  • Don’t Be a Linkedin Neo-Luddite!

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    First, let’s consider the word, Luddite. Today it is tossed about in the same way as one might refer to a cyber technology dolt, but it is based on a real, 19th-century social movement in England. From 1811-16, during the Industrial Revolution, a group of textile weavers in the English Midlands deliberately destroyed mechanized looms, which were depriving them of work. The name is reputed to have come from Ned Ludd, one of the first workers to smash a mechanized loom.

    Twenty-first century technology wizards have appropriated the term to classify anyone – not bent on destroying the technology but rather – purposefully refusing to adopt technology tools. Unfortunately, seniors often need extra encouragement to learn and trust today’s technology so they are pushed down the ladder of attractive job candidates.

    All of our skills have value and we need not fear having to throw our seasoned expertise aside for new tools. I think of it like this photograph I snapped in my garden yesterday. I was struck by the tenacity of last year’s blossom, now paper thin, still clinging to the red twig where new bright green leaves have just sprouted. The beauty lies in the fact that the narrow twig supports both the old and the new growth equally.

    Soooo, give the new technology a try. We know that 80% of job offers are derived from networking and, if a tool such as Linkedin can expedite that, I am all for it.

    Linkedin is a professional network – not a dating network, and it provides a way for you to “see” how people are connected to one another. It will help you find that valuable introduction to someone in the organization or field in which you would like to work. You will also learn a little about people’s professional history, so when you obtain that introduction you immediately have a relevant point or two to discuss.

    Linkedin also raises your professional visibility. It gives people an instant way to see who you are, what you have done and where you would like to go. Moreover, if you are 60+ and have a presence on Linkedin, it mitigates the stereotype that you haven’t a clue about how to use today’s technology tools.

    Creating a Linkedin Profile is not technically difficult because you are given templates for each component.  You do not have to know one stitch of computer programming. The challenge is to stay within the number of characters Linkedin allows for your general summary and each job description. But this is a good challenge; the exercise will keep you focused, force you to eliminate any fluff and keep your tone consistent – throughout Linkedin as well as any other media in which you promote your “brand.” As a sample, you can view my Linkedin Profile at: www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethisele

    My Profile is a little robust because I cross reference this blog and my Twitter account on it to optimize my online presence. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of my Profile. This is not to toot my own horn but, rather, because you will see the big blue “Contacting You” box. This is extremely important because it allows you to control access to your information.

    Ready to give it a test run…  There’s a lot of support online and one resource I’d recommend is the blog by Jason Alba, author of the book, I’m On Linkedin – Now What???

  • What Is One of Your Most Powerful Assets?

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    Positive Thinking! Yes, it may sound a bit hackneyed but if cultivated and nurtured it truly can change your life, your work and your well-being.

    The trick is not just to “think” in a vacuum but rather to mobilize positive thoughts so they become habit forming.

    Leo Barbuta, author of the Zen Habits blog offers a valuable condensed guide to help develop your positive thinking habit:

    • Realize it’s possible, instead of telling yourself why you can’t.
    • Become aware of your self-talk.
    • Squash negative thoughts like a bug.
    • Replace them with positive thoughts.
    • Love what you have already.
    • Be grateful for your life, your gifts, and other people. Every day.
    • Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.
    • Don’t compare yourself to others. But be inspired by them.
    • Accept criticism with grace.
    • See failure as a stepping stone to success.
    • Surround yourself by those who are positive.
    • Complain less, smile more.
    • Imagine that you’re already positive.
    • Then become that person in your next act.

    Once this becomes second nature to you, you will realize that it is your nature and every next step you take will be much easier.

  • What Do Stone Age Eggshell Engravings and Seniors’ Higher-Order Reasoning Have in Common???

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    60,000 Year-Old Engraved Ostrich Egg Shell Fragments

    Both illustrate the wisdom of the ages: early, pre-historic human wisdom and the evolution of higher-order reasoning among today’s seniors.

    Jim Emerman, Executive Vice President of Civic Ventures led me to this reassuring paper, “Reasoning about Social Conflicts Improves into Old Age”, from the National Academy of Sciences.

    “It is well documented,” the paper posits, “that aging is associated with cognitive declines in many domains. Yet it is a common lay belief that some aspects of thinking improve into old age. Specifically, older people are believed to show better competencies for reasoning about social dilemmas and conflicts.”

    …We show that relative to young and middle-aged people, older people make more use of higher-order reasoning schemes that emphasize the need for multiple perspectives, allow for compromise, and recognize the limits of knowledge.”

    Bolstered by this encouraging news, I starting poking around the National Academy of Sciences’ site to see what other relevant bits of wisdom I might find.  Being Spring and just past Easter, I was drawn to their “Stone Age Eggshell Engravings” article about the earliest reliable evidence of an engraving tradition that continues to thrive today. Moreover, the eggs “represent a system of symbolic representation in which collective identities and individual expressions are clearly communicated, suggesting social, cultural, and cognitive underpinnings that overlap with those of modern people.”

    Hooked, I then Googled “Stone Age Eggshell Engravings” and found this article by Jonathan Amos, BBC Science correspondent, which refers to the National Academy of Science paper and includes the marvelous photos (above).

    Amos reports that, “the markings are almost certainly a form of messaging – of graphic communication…. Symbolic thought – the ability to let one thing represent another – was a giant leap in human evolution, and sets our species apart from the rest of the animal world… Understanding when and where this behaviour first emerged is a key quest for scientists studying human origins.”

    So, at 60,000 years plus 60, I’d say Savvy Seniors’ “little grey cells” are still functioning remarkably well!

  • $160 Billion: The “Contributions” Of Older Adults

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    Today’s seniors annually contribute approximately $160 billion to the US economy in paid work and countless other unpaid activities.

    This nugget was uncovered in a recent article from The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College. This month the Center has published two articles of great import regarding both the contributions of the older workers and how to keep them engaged.

    The first is a note from Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Director of the Center, who on March 31st , attended the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility convened by President Obama and the First Lady. The focus of this convening was to address how: “The aging of the workforce urges us to create work environments that support the productivity and engagement of workers of all ages and across all career stages.”

    The second article is a fascinating “conversation” with the Sloan Center’s Director of Research, Jacquelyn B. James, PhD. about The “Contributions” of Older Adults. Just one of the topics included is her eye-opening take on the current buzz regarding reverse-generativity.

    And her answer to the question, “In general, do people believe that older adults are still developing and productive later in life?” is a refreshingly honest shot across the bow: “No, not by a long shot!”

    Many interesting insights here, as well as in James’ recent book, The Crown of Life: Dynamics of the Early Postretirement Period.

  • Good Leadership and Moral Clarity in the Clear Light of Spring

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    Spring has sprung in Maine - at last!

    Yesterday, a reader emailed to comment on my post, Dancing to the Music of Leadership. I called the video brilliant and offered kudos to its creator Derek Sivers.

    My reader said, “Not sure this works for me —put a funny-looking mustache on the guy, have him wear a brown shirt, and you get another kind of crowd-pleasing ‘leadership’…  Crowds are not always right.”

    I responded: “You are so right. Your comment gives me goosebumps. But, moral clarity aside, I do love the simplicity in Derek’s commentary regarding how a movement is formed.”

    While I am delighted my reader pointed out something I should have grasped and addressed in my comments on this video, I also stand by my kudos for Derek’s ability to communicate in plain simple English just how a “crowd” or movement happens to follow a charismatic, entrepreneurial leader. It is, as many have said, easier to deal with the devil you know…

    The more we understand the underlying dynamics of a movement, the more opportunity we have to nip the malevolent ones in the bud. One the other hand, if we don’t have a clue, we might find ourselves swept away with the brown shirts or today’s tea cups before our moral clarity genes kick in. Once you’re in a “movement,” it can be cumbersome to extricate yourself. Here in the midst of New England’s mighty maples, we’d say you’ve been caught in the sap’s downward flow when you should have waited for the sugar to rise.

  • Dancing to the Music of Leadership! No Fool’s Errand…

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    Granted, this cinematographer is no Pedro Almodóvar, but this is the best 3-minute video on leadership that I’ve ever seen!

    In his inspired video, Derek Sivers deconstructs how a “movement” happens.

    1. He begins with a Dancing Fool  – someone with guts who is not afraid to set himself apart from the crowd, stand alone and even look ridiculous.  A natural born leader.

    2. The dancer’s moves are simple and easy-to-follow.

    3. The dancer wins his first follower. “We vastly underrate the critical role of the first follower,” says Derek. “It is the follower, after all, who transforms the Dancing Fool into a leader.”

    I won’t give the rest away. Watch the video to see what happens when the 2nd follower enters the picture…  when the crowd grows…  and what happens when it’s no longer cool to not be dancing with the Fool.

    It’s brilliantly simple. Kudos to Derek Sivers!

  • Diamond Dewdrops and Dragonflies: Would You Fare as Well under the Scrutiny of a Macro Lens?

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    Copyright: Miroslaw Swietek

    Glistening in the early morning, dragonflies, flies and beetles take on an unearthly quality as the dew gathers on their sleeping bodies. Captured in extreme close-up, one moth appears to be totally encrusted in diamonds as it rests on a twig. These remarkable photographs, published in the UK’s Daily Mail online were taken by physiotherapist Miroslaw Swietek, an amateur photographer, at around 3am in the forest next to his home.

    Writers espouse that “God is in the details,” but the same is true for job seekers. Appearances do matter, and it’s not just the obvious details such the shine on your shoes, the length of your skirt or when your trousers last saw a decent crease. You must also consider the less obvious and what they reveal.

    If, for example, you are anxious about your age, did you ever think that the employer may be more worried about your obsessing over it: that, if you are overly concerned about what others think of your age, you could become distracted from the job at hand? This scenario (pointed out to me by “Ask the Hunter” guru, Nick Corcodilos) is a lot different than the employer’s seeing your age as a serious drawback. Yes, age bias does exist but you need to stop obsessing, take control and get ahead of the story.

    Try to reframe the years. Repurpose that chronological statistic in age-positive words such as experience and wisdom. Even more important don’t hide your passion. Show that you care, you have a tremendous amount of energy and you are highly motivated to lead a purposeful life.

    Provide specific examples of ways you have applied your experience to business or community challenges. Your research should have uncovered problems the future employer needs resolved. Build your insights into a mini solution-based plan.  Keep it mini; don’t try to blow their socks off with a full-fledged strategic plan. Remember you are trying to engage not overpower, and often the best solutions are organic and collaborative so leave plenty of room for teamwork. Enthusiasm is contagious. Before you know it, your age and experience will be perceived as assets – like the dewdrop diamonds on the wing of Swietek’s dragonfly.

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