Continue with reading notes from this book.
Three Degrees of Influence Rule: Our friends and their friends and their friends affect our happiness!
1. Happy and unhappy people cluster among themselves
2. Unhappy people are on periphery of the network
3. A person is 15% more likely to be happy if directly connected to a happy person (1st degree)
4. At 2nd degrees 10% more likely to be happy
5. At 3rd degrees 6% more likely to be happy
6. Each unhappy friend deceases the likelihood of happiness 7%
7. An increase of $10,000 of income per year yields only a 2% increase chance in happiness. Compare that to a 15% chance from a happy friend and a 6-10% from someone you may have never met, but to whom you are indirectly tied!
Alone in the Crowd, loneliness is a discrepancy between the desire for connection and the actual connections–spreads according to the three degrees rule. Each extra friend reduces the frequency of loneliness by 2 days per year (the average person feels lonely 48 days per year).
Strong ties affect people more deeply. Weak ties often link more people. People need both strong and weak ties in order to network successfully. Mix of strong ties to previous collaborators and weak ties for fresh faces balances rapport, organization, and creative ability.
Weak Ties = More potential connections! They may not be strong, but they open more doors. e.g. one has many friends but very few close ones. People with many connections (both strong and weak) are more likely to be at the center of a social network.
This posting consists of reading notes from this book.
We determine the structure of our network: how many people we are connected to. We influence the density of interconnections between friends and family. We control how “central” we are within the social network.
Some surprising findings regarding family feelings,
1. The strongest path was from daughters to parents
2. Parents had little affect on daughter
3. Fathers had a significant affect on wives and sons (What this means … when a father returns grumpy from work the whole household soon becomes miserable)… Ouch…
Even more surprising is this finding — happiness, it’s in the Genes. Long term happiness is affected by:
10% circumstance (i.e. quality of life)
40% attitude (what you think and do)
I surely wish I have this in my gene and let the rest work its way toward building my happiness.
The good part about the book is you can choose not to be a passive product of your environment by actively exerting influence upon your friends and those you associate with.
“If we are affected by our embeddedness in social networks and influenced by others who are closely or distantly tied to us, we necessarily lose some power over our own decision. … But the flip side of this realization is that people can transcend themselves and their own limitations. In this book, we argue that our interconnection is not only a natural and necessary part of our lives but also a force for good. Just as brains can do things that no single neuron can do, so can social networks do things that no single person can do.”
When the authors were asked “Are we better off if we stay away from friends with negative habits?” they answered,
“No. Stay connected! Although bad things can spread through networks, the overall effect of a close personal connection is usually positive. On the average, every friend makes us healthier and happier. So instead of dumping friends who do things we don’t want to copy, we should work to influence them to change.”
I love this book because I don’t need to dump some of my old friends.
Last Sunday, 2/20, while my daughter was at Barnes & Noble’s, I picked up this book, CONNECTED: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, 2009. The message of the book is clearly given — people are the products of their environment. If you want to know that person, take a close look at his circle of friends. As a Chinese saying goes,
However, to me, the strength of the book lies in its promise of some meaning and directions for social changes. When the authors were asked “Can people work to change their neighborhood environment to create positive effects on themselves and their community?” the answer from the authors is,
“Yes, absolutely! Make good behavior visible. A vast amount of research shows that we copy others and we shape our ideas about what is acceptable behavior when we see how others behave. Gandhi said, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’ But this really starts much closer to home: you must be the change you wish to see in your social network. If you want your friends to be healthy, make healthy choices yourself. And, as it turns out, this bounces back and helps you too.”
Same thing can be said of a parent. Whatever a parent wants to see in her children, be that whatever herself. It is so lovely true!
A week later all four groups were given a short-answer test to assess their ability to recall facts and draw logical conclusions based on the facts.
Those who took the test retained about 50% more information than those using other study methods. Isn’t that amazing!
“I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge,” said the lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University. “I think that we’re tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.”
Some explained that the students put up more effort and struggle for a test than they do for normal study. They engage in more active brain work during testing than the relaxing non-test environment. Their intense efforts might have helped them retain information more permanently. It makes sense when considering some students tend to drift away and less focus during normal study, but they have to fully concentrate during test. I would say the power of focus helps in the end.
A Kent State University psychology researcher believes testing gets people to come up with keyword clues, which bridge the gap between the familiar and new information. It strengthens ties between keywords and the newly-learned information.
While the researchers don’t have a definite answer as to why retrieval testing method is better than other ones in retaining information, the experiment does call our attention to one important function of testing, other than evaluating and giving grade reports.
On 1/20/2011, I read an interesting online report by Jeffrey Karpicke entitled “Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping.” Here’s the abstract of the report.
“Educators rely heavily on learning activities that encourage elaborative studying, while activities that require students to practice retrieving and reconstructing knowledge are used less frequently.
“Here, we show that practicing retrieval produces greater gains in meaningful learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. The advantage of retrieval practice generalized across texts identical to those commonly found in science education. … was observed with test questions that assessed comprehension and required students to make inferences. … occurred even when the criterial test involved creating concept maps. Our findings support the theory that retrieval practice enhances learning by retrieval-specific mechanisms rather than by elaborative study processes. Retrieval practice is an effective tool to promote conceptual learning about science.”
The research involved 200 college students in two experiments. In the first experiment, the students were divided into four groups. One did nothing more than read the text for five minutes. Another studied the passage in four consecutive five-minute sessions. A third group engaged in “concept mapping,” in which, with the passage in front of them, they arranged information from the passage into a kind of diagram, writing details and ideas in hand-drawn bubbles and linking the bubbles in an organized way.
The final group took a “retrieval practice” test. Without the passage in front of them, they wrote what they remembered in a free-form essay for 10 minutes. Then they reread the passage and took another retrieval practice test.
To be continued…
Republicans were voted in during last November’s mid-term election, on the promise that they would balance the budget and cut government spending. Tellingly, voters liked some cutting but stupidly, they never asked how and where to cut. Considering the nature of Republican party, people should know the cut will always benefit the rich and hurt the poor.
Even worse is the fact that they have voted for the republican Governor, Scott Walker, who not only cut whichever he sees fit but also threatens to deprive the legal rights of the powerless to collectively bargain with the powerful, so that the powerless mass will be totally at the mercy of whoever in power, just or unjust.
Now these same people have to live with the consequence of their election. While it might seem a bit far-fetched, it does remind me of a farmer who warmed back to life the frozen snake inside his shirt only to be bitten to death by the awaken hungry one.
Understandably, there is a need for the existence of an union who would speak on behalf of the powerless workers and function as a check against the greedy capitalists, especially when capitalists are boosted up by political power, as in the case of Wisconsin today. Sadly to say, their right to bargain could be outlawed just as easy as their rice bowls were shipped overseas.
Still, I wish Wisconsin demonstrators could win their battle over Scott Walker and could set a precedent for demonstrators in other states. Otherwise, the domino effect of their defeat throughout this nation is just unimaginable.
During the second week of January of 2011, I had the pleasure of reading a short writing by a 9-year-old boy. After that I had some email exchanges with his parent. I am glad to see the efforts on the part of the youngster and his parents. I have always emphasized the importance of good writing to my children.
When I was teaching at IPFW in 1995, I told my students that writing was an intellectual activities which demanded at least a clear thinking, logic and coherent, and a good flow of language. You would not be able to come up with anything worth reading if your head is as muddled as a dense pool of mud.
I believe nothing reveals a person’s quality, clarity and the depth of thinking more thoroughly than his writings. For a child, writing also demonstrates the level of maturity in his thinking. For an adult, his writing provides a window through which readers gain a peep at the writer as a person. One of my favorite columnists is Paul Krugman working at the New York Times. Reading his writings reminds me so much of this Chinese saying, that is, a writing is the mirror of the writer.
This is a true story of a colleague of mine, an individual as rare as giant pandas, that is, you really don’t have the chance to meet a person like her. Hence, I reached out to her, rendering her unreserved support.
She is a 30-year-old single mother of two, one 12-year-old, the other 5-year-old, full-time employee, recently awarded full-ride scholarship, one of only 10 people from across the U.S. selected out of about 12,000 applicants for full-ride scholarships to her chosen University under the Project Working Mom program.
With the scholarship, she will continue working on her bachelor degree and will go all the way to get her PhD. in psychology. Her dream started when she was in second year of high school. But it was delayed because of a baby when she was 18 and the need to make a living and support her two children. More than a decade has passed, yet she still holds tight to her dream.
Now she is more than ever determined to pursue her dream degree. She knows her road ahead will be full of hardships but she is resolved to let nothing stop her until she reaches her goal.
On 2/17/2011, on the way back from my daughter’s evening piano lesson, my son called telling me of his job offer. This is his first one working for a company, though he has been working on his own company, being his own boss, since his high school years.
Instinctively, I started lecturing to him on what a job means, that it means trust, responsibility, opportunity, even though I knew he had heard of it many times before. Here are two things I hope he will keep in mind:
(1) A job is at best an opportunity to learn and gain experience, to build network and connections.
(2) A job is always a preparation for the next step, a bigger responsibility.
I received this writing on 2/15/2011 via email from an old friend of mine. It always strikes a cord with me when I read his writings, perhaps it is associated with something from a distant time and land that is deeply buried in my memory but present no more. Anyway, it is so beautifully written. Here it is, even though my translation has not been loyal to the original.
Dreams are feathers. They are angel’s white wings, enabling your soul to soar in the blue sky. Without your knowing it, your feathers of dreams could be plucked out, one by one, from you through your daily trivial routines, until eventually the day comes when you find yourself dreamless, carrying out daily business like everybody else. Hence, take care of your dreams. With dreams, you are an angel. That defines your uniqueness.
On 2/12/2011, I write “From Tunisia to Egypt, the demand for change catches on like a wild fire and no one knows who will be the next.” Within one week, we witness a huge chain reaction following the fall of the presidents in Tunisia and Egypt, not just one country but the whole Middle East were galvanized to demand reform, democracy, end-of–the-incumbent, and all the nice things that westerners claim to have enjoyed. The anti-government fire is roaring in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudia Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, and Yemen.
Yemen’s president tried to put out the fire by handing out “No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock.” But, as these protesters saw the presidents in Tunisia and Egypt surrendered under pressure, they would settle nothing less than the same in their countries.
The tide has gathered momentum on its way throughout Middle-East and has become irresistible now. The rest of the world only needs to watch the wheel of history turning toward a better tomorrow for that part of the world–a true democracy, with freedom and more social and economic equality for all, even though some of us might suffer some loss from that part of oil-rich land.
Because brain matters, we should go extra miles to keep our brain healthy. Below are some of the author’s suggestions.
(a) make positive social connections
(b) healthy diet, high protein diet
(c) take daily vitamin and fish oil
(d) learn music
(e) exercise regularly, aerobic exercise
(g) engage in positive thinking
(h) positive meditation
(i) get help in organizing, goal setting and time management
Your daily habits and routines are either hurting or helping your brain.
Throughout a person’s life, one should take these steps to a healthy brain:
(1) Protect your amazing but fragile brain
(2) Taking care of younger brains
(3) Boost blood flow — especially important to the brain. It brings all the needed nutrients to the brain.
Remember the saying “Whatever is good to your heart is also good to your brain.” Understand factors that limit blood flow. Improve blood flow is the fountain of youth.
(4) Increase your brain’s reserve. The more the brain reserves, the more one can handle stress.
(5) Maintain the brain hardware.
(6) Lastly and most importantly, your ability to control your life is directly tied to the health of your brain.
On 2/11/2011, last Friday, my daughter did not have school due to teacher-parent conference day. For both of my children, I stopped going to TP conference ever since they started middle school. It is said these conferences are reserved for kids with school problems. Thank goodness, mine are not among them.
I took the day off, using my last year’s carryover vacation days. My daughter needed to do some project at library with her classmate. So, there we spent the whole afternoon.
Evening saw me shopping at Costco and BestBuy. We bought a 10-inch screen netbook for light and portability. My daughter was so tired that she took an evening nap. By the time she got up and was ready for some work, I was ready for night sleep.
Last Saturday, 2/12/11, on the way back from her drawing lesson, I chatted with my daughter about life being a journey. There is even a poem by Jack London on this. I said, “This saying is too platitude to mean anything. Life is much more than a journey. My daughter said, “It is an adventure. It is many things to many people.”
From the hell to the heaven,
There’s no straight way to walk.
Sometimes up, sometimes down.
Hope creates a heaven for us,
Despair makes a hell for us.
Some choices are waiting for me,
Which one on earth is better?
No God in the world can help me,
Choosing is the byname of freedom,
Different choice makes different future.
It’s stupid to put eyes on others.
I have to make up my own mind,
Going my way to the destination.
Facing success or failure,
It’s no need to care too much.
Only if I’ve tried my best,
It’s enough for my simple life.
–By Jack London
The book provides a brain system questionnaire. The more yes you have for the following questions, the more trouble you have with your brain, which means the more you need to work on your brain.
(1) Have trouble sustaining attention
(2) Lack attention to detail
(3) Easily distracted
(4) Tend to procrastinate
(5) Lack clear goals
(6) Are restless
(7) Have difficulty expressing empathy for others
(8) Blurt out answers before question has been completed, interrupt frequently
(9) Are impulsive, say or do things without thinking
(10) Need caffeine to focus
(11) Get struck on negative thoughts
(12) Are worried
(13) Have tendency toward compulsive/addictive behavior
(14) Hold grudges
(15) Become upset when things do not go your way
(16) Become upset when things are out of place
(17) Have tendency to be oppositional or argumentative
(18) Dislike change
(19) Become upset if things are not done in a certain way
(20) Have trouble seeing options in situations
(21) Feel sad easily
(22) Are often negative
(23) Often feel bored
(24) Feel dissatisfied
(25) Have low energy
(26) Experience decreased interest in things that are once fun and pleasure
(27) Experience feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness or guilt
(28) Have crying spells
(29) Have chronic low self-esteem
(30) Experience social isolation
(31) Feel nervousness and anxiety
(32) Experience feelings of panic
(33) Have symptom of heightened muscle tension, headache…
(34) Tend to predict the worst will happen
(35) Avoid conflict
(36) Have excessive fear of being judged or scrutinized by others
(37) Have excessive motivation, trouble stopping working
(38) Lack confidence
(39) Always watch for something bad to happen
(40) Are prone to quick startles
(41) Have a short fuse
(42) Experience periods of heightened irritability
(43) Misinterpret comments as negative when they are not
(44) Experience frequent periods of deja vu (feeling of being somewhere you have never been before)
(45) Display sensitivity or mild paranoia
(46) Experience dark thoughts
(47) Undergo periods of forgetfulness or memory problems
(48) Have trouble finding the right word to say
(49) Have poor handwriting
(50) Have trouble maintaining an organized work area
It is both amazing and unbelievable when we witness the unfolding of an exciting chapter in the history of one of the oldest civilizations. During early stage of Egypt demonstration, I knew of the eventual departure of Mubarak, but I didn’t expect victory came without a massive bloodshed. Mao Zedong once said political power was born out of gun barrels. Just look at Iraq and the thousands of death when US tried regime change.
The victory of people’s power not only left an indelible ink in its nation’s history, but more significant and far-reaching is its symbolic meaning and the fact that it threatens to dethrone the US-Israel dominance on that part of geopolitical chessboard. From Tunisia to Egypt, the demand for change catches on like a wild fire and no one knows who will be the next.
I heard many people expressed a mixed or even negative reaction toward the downfall of Mubarak. Of course, some people or countries feel the unrest and chaos will hurt their interests. Definitely so. Still, let Egyptians determine the direction and the fate of their country.
The following problems are related to poorly-developed prefrontal cortex.
(1) short attention span
(2) lack clear goals or forward thinking
(6) poor judgment
(7) unable to give close attention to detail
(8) lack of insight
(9) cannot learn from mistakes
(10) easily distracted
According to the author, keeping your brain sharp and healthy is prerequisite to good behavior. Hence, we should avoid the following behavior that will cause havoc to your brain.
(a) excessive alcohol
(b) drug abuse
(c) negative thinking
(d) poor diet
(e) chronic stress
(f) lack of sleep
(g) lack of exercise
(h) excessive caffeine
(i) too much TV or violent video games
I took my daughter to Barnes & Noble’s on 12/29/2010 when I had the week off to be with the children. While she was there, I took up a book called Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unlease Your Brain’s Maximum Potential by Daniel Amen. It is an interesting read with many picture of MRI images of brain.
The main theme of the book is mind (will power, self-discipline, ability to focus, high performance, concentration) and brain (physical one) are interdependent. Brain needs nutrients, exercise and proper thinking strategies to support a sound mind. Very often, failure results from a brain gone wrong.
“It all starts with your brain: how you think, how you feel, how you interact with others, and how well you succeed in realizing your goals and dreams. …The tough-love, kick-in-the-butt approach works for some people, but it leaves countless others feeling demoralized, hopeless and unworthy.”
Specifically, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the part of our brain that makes us most human with forethought, judgment, impulse, control, learning from our mistakes, and maturity. The PFC does not finish developing until mid-20s. Poorly-developed PFC is associated with ADD, anxiety, depression, addiction, and anger. People with well-developed PFC are thoughtful, creative, energetic, focused and effective.
To be continued…
On 1/24/2011, one of my colleagues told me that she was going to live on fruit and vegetable on one day in a week and she chose Monday. It was said that you would lose weight if you could keep doing that for sometime. My colleague said she planned to lose ten pounds, which seemed a very feasible idea.
Last Monday, she took the day off. This Monday, 2/7/2011, she had a huge yummy sandwich for lunch. When I asked her about her promise to eat only fruit and vegetable on Monday, she said she forgot all about it when she heard the mention of this Jimmy John’s gourmet sandwiches.
I shared the event with my daughter that evening. I am amazed but not really surprised to see how easy it is to make and break one’s promise.
While we try to understand others, we are also in the process of understanding ourselves. While trying to appreciate truth, kindness and beauty, we are also aware of their opposites. The purpose of this understanding is to be a better person ourselves.
It will bring us joy, happiness and the nobility of mind when we learn to be generous and forgiving toward those who might possess this or that weakness.
There must perforce be trust and understanding in human interactions. Things will turn out better than we have expected if we can maintain a positive attitude. You will be surprised to see many good turns in life when you can be more forgiving in face of human weaknesses. You will feel the warmness and see the brightness of the sun if you can keep your sunny smile toward life and toward everything around you.
Some people refuse to pitch in when you break your back hard at work but demand a share of the result of your work. Don’t think negative about it. Welcome to whoever wants a share, regardless what people think. After all, a fruit tastes sweet when it is shared with others. You might be teaching people how to respect themselves.
Some people pay fastidious attention to their appearance, in an attempt to cover up their inner emptiness with the surface of luxury. But their ignorance and stupidity are inevitably exuded via their manner of talking and behavior. Don’t disdain them for they don’t understand that one’s apparel is the indicator of one’s purchasing ability. It is in no way indicative of one’s true value. These shallow people serve as a mirror for us so that we will know better than neglecting our inner value.
In China, festival is the occasion when people get together with their extended family members, grandparents, aunts and uncles. In America for most of Chinese who are far away from their extended families, they spend festivals with friends.
It has become a custom for us to either invite friends to come over or go to friends’ house for a gathering. When Spring Festival falls on weekday, the party will be held on the following weekend.
This year is no exception. Yesterday we spent the evening with a family friend and had a nice time chatting over self-cooked food. The topics over dinner table were politics, parenting, and Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn book, all of which were my favorites.
Last September, a friend of mine sent me a powerpoint file with beautiful pictures and background music. I wanted to share it with my children but haven’t had a chance. On 12/27/2010, while I was working, I dug it out and decided to translate it and post it here. Below is the main idea of the writing.
The world is like a gigantic stage, on which a person is like a book. This is the most difficult book for us to read. Some people are willing to lend you their umbrella in sunny days but quietly take it from you when it rains. Don’t complain about this type of person because he does not want to be soaked in rain and does not want to share with other. Suck it up. Have your own umbrella ready.
Some people follow you everywhere when you are in power but leave you when you are out of it. Please understand that people praise you when you are in power because of their need. Now that you are no longer useful to them, there is no need for them to say nice words to you. If you can think calmly, ask yourself if you have placed too much trust in these people.
Some people use the most touching language to conceal their ulterior motives. Don’t hate them for their hypocrisy because they don’t have an easy life when they try to play double face, always running the risk of being exposed. Understand where they come from and wait till the day they initiate change in themselves.
“Travelling is using money to pull your physical self out of daily routine and into a new experience and a different level of existence. Reading is one kind of travelling, so is listening to music. It facilitates your soul to travel beyond your physical presence. A writer once commented, the benchmark of a great person is his/her ability to transcend his present life and into another realm of state.”
This piece was graciously sent to me by a friend of mine on 1/24/2011. It was so truly expressed. Since not many of us can afford to travel as much as we wish outside our immediate world, reading and music make up the difference. So, grab a book and let your soul fly and soar in an unlimited realm of your own creation.
I have both today and yesterday off to mark Chinese Spring Festival. Mother nature has showered upon us mountains of snow since 2/1, making it the perfect time to stay home.
The only fun thing that I can think about rabbit is Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s story, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, 1902. Potter’s vivid characterization and description of Peter Rabbit earned her a place in children’s literature that no one has ever matched since her time.
To celebrate the year of rabbit, my daughter and I indulged ourselves watching Spring Festival Gala during daytime and had a marvelous time.
On the Christmas evening, 12/25/2010, we went to a friend’s house for Christmas gathering, a nice social interactions, though the bigger children might thought it better to spend time on computer.
Before I went to bed that night, I picked up the recent Time magazine and found a short report in Lab Report section — “Happiness Is Other People.”
Its main idea is church going people are happier not because of their faith but because of “rich networks of church-based friends.” That makes sense when we explains why some non-churchgoing people register equal level of happiness as churchgoers because they have their circle of friends.
Remember friends can make you happy.
I have long thought the alliance would not be sustainable between self-claimed democracy-loving western powers and heavy-handed authoritarian Mubarak regime. Someday this alliance will be challenged. It is right now being challenged.
It is exciting to see thousands of Egyptians venture out demanding for western-style democracy, so reminiscent of Tiananmen Square and Berlin in 1989, heralding an earth-shaking political change in Egypt and possibly the whole Arab world.
Ironically, not many western powers have voiced support to this popular movement in Egypt, probably out of fear of damaging their interests or disrupting the stability in the region.
The die has been cast and the wheel of history cannot be reversed. We are witnessing at least the end of an authoritarian rule and at best the beginning of a democratic Arab rule.