The Blog You've Been Missing

Greek Debt 101

May 8, 2010

Filed under: Management,observations — admin @ 10:50 am

I don’t usually comment on national and international news but this week I ran into an explanation of the whole Greek debt mess that helped me understand what’s going on.

In case you haven’t been following the news I’ll add some background. The world’s financial markets have been in an uproar over the last month because of fears that the Greek government will not be able to pay back money they owe to bankers and investors. The European Union has now pledged $140 billion to help them out.

The bailout has the Greek citizens up in arms because it will mean, tax increases, cuts in public spending (pensions, salaries) and a general belt-cinching they feel is unfair.

That’s the setup as they say, in the TV biz. But the reasons turn out to be pretty simple to understand.

The owner of a local business, who I know pretty well, is a Greek-American but he still has family back in the old country and visits often. So as I started to walk out of his shop with my purchase I asked, “What’s going on back home?”

“It’s simple” he says. “You see that piece of paper?” he asks, pointing to my receipt. “In all the years I’ve been going back, and all the things I’ve bought, I never got a piece of paper. They don’t write anything down, so the government has no idea who paid for what, or how much tax they should be getting. Now, they’re paying the price and they don’t like it.”

Sometimes, even the most complex international problems have a simple explanation. I’m sure the citizens of Greece have other opinions but this one makes sense to me.

Post to Twitter

Decisions, Decisions

May 6, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,observations,Uncategorized,Wellness — admin @ 4:20 pm

“How We Decide”, a fascinating book by Jonah Lehrer, is another is the long line of texts trying to explain to the general public how our brains work.

Lehrer uses real life examples to illustrate science, helping us understand the split-second decisions made by NFL quarterbacks, airline pilots, and even soldiers in combat situations.

A good portion of the book retraces many of the points made by the now-popular science of behavioral economics – books such as “Freakonomics,’ ‘Predictably Irrational’ and ‘Nudge.’ In fact all these books seem to use the same set of experiments to prove their points.

As their most basic level they all help us understand why marketing works as well as it does.

But Lehrer’s biggest contribution may be his last few chapters as he explains the process that scientists think goes on in our brains as we make a decision. Using fMRI which measures brain activity, they can look at which sections of the brain are most active as we make various kinds of decisions. Everything from simple “either-or” choices to more complex moral decisions based on values that are ingrained at a very early age.

His conclusion,- that decisions are basically a three way battle – suggests that the best tactic is to let brain’s thought centers battle things out, while you take a break.

Unconsciously, your brain will make a decision and your conscious mind will announce it. It may seem like an unconscious act but you really have no idea what was going on in your brain.

One section I found particularly helpful is the explanation of what’s really going on when we’re positive we have the right answer to almost anything. From politics to predicting human behavior, Lehrer notes, if we’re that sure, we’re probably wrong because we tend to ignore facts that don’t support the decision we already made.

So if you’re looking for something that’s easy to read on the beach but has a little more substance than that romance novel or murder mystery, try ‘How We Decide,’ and see what’s really going on between your ears.

Post to Twitter