Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Incomplete Solutions Can Do More Harm Than Good

Laws requiring the use of a hands-free system for talking on the phone while driving are killing people. Why? Research shows that what distracts us is not the fact that we have the phone in our hand. We are perfectly capable of driving safely with one hand. The distraction comes from the phone conversation. To decrease accidents and safe lives we need to decrease the use of phone conversations while driving. Hands-free or no hands-free. Yet by requiring the use of a hands-free system these laws send the erroneous message that it is safe to talk on the phone while driving - as long as the phone is not in your hands. So more people end up talking on the phone while driving and more people end up in accidents. A perfect example of a well intentioned partial solution that does more harm than good!

Granted, forbidding phone conversations while driving would be very difficult. Most new cars now incorporate a hands-free system. And millions of people every day make their commute more bearable by talking on the phone. Still, governments should be discouraging ALL distractions while driving, not arbitrarily forbidding some and sanctioning others. More importantly, they should realize the best solution (maybe the only solution) is to remove humans from the equation all-together. Sure, self-driving cars will have lots of issues, yet these issues pale in comparison to the millions of lives they will safe. But I am getting off topic here...

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Secret to Happiness, Good Health & Fortune

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about routines. I gave that post the "catchy" title Routine Sex. After doing so I wondered if that title was going to have a significant impact on the number of people that read that post. What do you think? Sure enough, even though the content of that post is not particularly better nor worst than my typical post, it has now been read by more people than any other of my posts. Titles matter.

What about The Secret to Happiness, Good Health & Fortune? Well, after writing this post I couldn't leave its original title, Tittles Matter, alone. After all, who would read a blog post with such a boring title?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Speed Quarters

I went to a networking retreat this week. This is a common thing in Silicon Valley. A bunch of people who work in the same industry but at different companies get together around an activity such as skiing or kitesurfing. There were about 30 of us staying in four different houses. At one point I went to the main house and found five people about to start a game of Speed Quarters. They invited me to join them which I did. For those not familiar with Speed Quarters, it is a drinking game. You have to bounce a quarter on the table and into a shot glass. If those around you do it better than you you get to drink a  lot... I think the last time I had played Quarters I was in college, so I have to confess I was a bit apprehensive at first. Yet playing seemed like a better alternative than seating in a corner with my iPad. Anyway, we played for about an hour and it was good fun.

As I recalled the experience the next day I realized there was more to it than a bit of fun and alcohol. The experience, as silly and superficial as it was, created a stronger bond among the players than anything else that I did during the retreat. Imagine that at some point in the future I am involved in a business transaction with some of the retreat participants. With whom am I likely to be able to be more candid and direct? With the person I had a "business" conversation or with the person I played Speed Quarters with? I will soon forget most of the conversations that I had during the retreat, but I won't forget the game of Speed Quarters.

Special and intimate experiences boost personal relationships. I imagine this is why fraternities, religions and other such communities have rituals and traditions that at first seem silly, or even backwards. They create lasting bonds... So boys, do silly things with your friends! Of course, be safe & respectful. Our Speed Quarters game was right before dinner and none of us drove there.

The boys only had one question for me: had did I do in the game? Well, I started very poorly. I couldn't get the quarter in the shot glass at all. But then I hit my streak and did pretty well. Only ended up drinking a bottle of beer (which as a lot less than the person who did worst drank).