1.01.2005

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» TIP: Pull, not push, your long TODO list to the finish line
» RANT: What do you call a trader with a $2 million bonus check?
» TIP: When your opponent drops the ball
» TIP: Know when to shut up
» RANT: When team players are not wanted
» TIP: Feed off your opponent's success
» TIP: Unleashing the Killer App and Dating: what do they have in common?
» RANT: Outsourcing is climbing the corporate ladder at Investment Banks
» TIP: Are you underpaid or 'overtitled'?
» TIP: When a shortcut falls short

TIP: Pull, not push, your long TODO list to the finish line

via Bloomu -
  • ...Advice such as "just buckle down and do it," "get organized," and "try harder" are based on a dysfunctional definition of procrastination. What they're really saying is: "If you weren't such a lazy bum you could do this. No fooling around. Life is dull and hard. There's no time for fun. Work is a horrible thing to contemplate, but you have to do it anyway." Most procrastination happens because through procrastinating we are temporarily able to relieve fears: fear of failure, fear of being imperfect, fear of impossible expectations. Most of these fears, in turn, are ultimately based in the idea that work and life are awful struggles which we must somehow get through and that this whole horrible process will somehow make us better people in the long run.
  • How do we get around these fears? By temporarily setting them aside, not in favor of reading the police blotter looking for possible future Cowboys coaches, or slam-dancing with the dog, or (insert your favorite procrastination activity here), but - - - SETTING THESE FEARS ASIDE IN ORDER TO MAKE A SMALL, IMPERFECT START ON WHAT WE WANT TO ACCOMPLISH. This idea is, of course, the basis of the sloppiness of most informal invention techniques (freewriting, looping, clustering, talk/writing, etc).
  • Don't plan on completing a project in one big push. This almost certainly means you will have to force yourself to do this enormous task. You can accomplish a lot more in small increments -- even fifteen minutes is enough time to do a little bit of quality work. Just get a decent start, and don't worry so much about finishing. If you start often enough, the end will take care of itself.
  • Create safety in the task...
  • How to talk to yourself
    • Replace "I have to" -- which promotes victimhood and resentment -- with "I choose to."
    • Replace "I must finish" with "When can I start again?"
    • Replace "This is so big/difficult/complex" with "I can take one small step: one rough, rough draft, one imperfect sketch."
    • Replace "I must do this right (i.e., perfectly)" with "I can be human." Accept "mistakes" as feedback, and part of the natural learning process. In fact, try to be imperfect. Intentionally do the first part of your project sloppily: rough draft in crayon, or on a coffee-stained old envelope. Worked for Abe.*
    • Replace "I've got to get this done; I don't have time for play" with "I must make time for play." Reward yourself with fun, friendship, exercise, whatever, after you've made your start. This makes making the next start much easier.

Combined, this becomes: "I choose to start on one small imperfect step, knowing that I have plenty of time to enjoy life."

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

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RANT: What do you call a trader with a $2 million bonus check?

via SmartMoney - Nassim Taleb would call this guy a lucky fool. Most people who are successful in the markets ignore the critical role that luck plays in their performance, says Taleb, a mathematician and trader... In his book, "Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and the Markets," Taleb writes of such traders: "They will act as if they deserved the money. Their strings of success will inject them with so much serotonin that they will even fool themselves about their ability to outperform markets." The loosely structured book is full of anecdotes and parables about successful traders who lose it all.

Taleb argues that traders identify as patterns what are actually random events, and see causality where there is none. They're also misled - and undone - by statistics. A professor who computes the average of his students' grades removes the highest and lowest numbers and takes the average of the remaining ones. People in finance, Taleb writes, borrow the same technique to determine, say, the average gain or loss of the S&P 500 index in the month of January and ignore infrequent events. They ignore the fact that a rare event - such as the Sept. 11 attacks - can send the market into a spiral...

It's the market that creates the indicator, not the indicator that creates the market. Sometimes you have a stock go up and people don't know why. We are very good at inventing reasons for things. I call it a back-fit explanation to things. A lot of these indicators are artificial indicators... When I was a trader [on Wall Street], people thought the most important number was money supply. Then it was the trade deficit number. These indicators are coming and going. It satisfies people's desire for explanation... The explanation is thought to be a determinant. I'm not skeptical of indicators, but of how people use indicators. Something has to be moving the market. The problem is that we're humans, we invent things, and convince ourselves of some economic explanation as to why it moved...

Information is bad for us is because of overcausation. You like the word "because." You want to know why. When you read a report you always have "because" attached to it. Your brain cannot ingest information unless you stick "because" in it; people won't pay attention otherwise. That's why journalists use it. When you read The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, they say the market went up on whatever reason. Oil prices went down, so the market went up. People like that because it gives them some form of story, you see a link between these two events. The thing is, it may work that way, it may not.

Often they give the same reason for two different things happening. Interest rates are up because of Saddam being captured, or interest rates are down because of Saddam being captured. Here you have overcausation. You need a diamond to cut a diamond. I'm using a story [in the book] to tell you why stories are bad for you... If I'm going to get a story, I'd rather get it from Proust than from Bloomberg. Journalists are delivering to us what we want from them. People wouldn't pay a dollar for the New York Times if they printed statistics. I'm calling on journalists to use their own methods to displace the misrepresentation we have of the world...

I believe there's a careful investor, and a wise investor. This is someone who accumulates options in whatever life gives them and gets an edge... To become Bill Gates you need more luck than skill. But to become a prosperous person, you need more skill than luck. Being thoughtful, second guessing yourself, being a little paranoid will make you prosperous. Stellar success is the result of a lot of these qualities plus luck. You need a healthy dose of hard work with an immense amount of skepticism, and you will be a good investor.

Some people who came to me who are successful say to me, you made me introspect and think I just could have been very lucky. I say, if you know that, if you're questioning yourself, odds are you have skills. I believe Warren Buffett has skills, but probably two-thirds of it comes from an environment that helped him...

I'm a stoic in the sense that you have to train yourself to derive enjoyment in random environments. In the market, it's easy to have skills, but do poorly. You have bad luck. You could be mistreated in a random environment. A lot in your environment you can't control; you'd feel a lot better if you were to focus not on what events are brought to you, but how you deal with them.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Something vs Nothing

Your Turn!

 

TIP: When your opponent drops the ball

via NYDailyNews - It is humor that often drives the final nail in the political coffin. The images of Gerald Ford falling on his face and hitting spectators with golf balls outlived his presidency. Jimmy Carter endured the Iranian hostage crisis and the misery index, but he had no comeback to the million yuks that followed his battle with an attacking rabbit... Ridicule is fatal.

It's not just late-night comedians declaring open season on Cheney after he accidently shot a hunting companion in Texas. Team Bush, playing catchup after it bungled the public release of the incident, decided yesterday that joining in on the fun was to its advantage. Presidential press secretary Scott McClellan joked that the burnt-orange color of the University of Texas football team visiting the White House had nothing to do with hunter safety gear.

"The orange that they're wearing is not because they're concerned that the vice president may be there," said McClellan, who was wearing a burnt-orange necktie. But "that's why I'm wearing it." Even the President's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, got in the spirit. In Tampa, he put an orange sticker on his chest, then cracked, "I'm a little concerned that Dick Cheney is going to walk in."

The White House abandoned the tack when victim Harry Whittington took a turn for the worse, but the cause was lost from the git-go. Partisan humor can't rescue Cheney. Not when a knowing, howling humor fueled by accepted truth has him in its death grip...

That's not to suggest the shooting will lead Bush to ask Cheney to disappear. Then again, he doesn't need to. The howls of laughter are doing it for him.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Ordinary vs Extraordinary

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TIP: Know when to shut up

I have known smart and well meaning managers and leaders who became annoying, Lisa Haneberg blogged, because they:
  • ...Insisted on telling stories to illustrate points that people understood 10 minutes ago.
  • Made a point to be "open" and "honest" so that the staff likes him or her and in the process came across patronizing.
  • Did the corporate speak thing to ad nausea - vision, mission, meet our goals, yada yada yada...

When we manage and lead, it is about THEM, not us. We want to be open and genuine and share something of ourselves - sure - but let's make sure that we are not inadvertently self-centered and make everything about us.

  • What WE think.
  • How WE are going to approach the situation.
  • How much WE care about them.

If we really care, we will shut up and listen! Acting on their priorities. Responding to their needs. Clarifying their questions. Sharing just enough to enroll and empower, but not so much as to put them into a mental slumber. That's what will make a difference...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness > When Less is More

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RANT: When team players are not wanted

So you need some fresh, innovative ideas. What do you do? Get a group of your best thinkers together to bounce ideas of each other? No, wrong answer, Dr. Christian Jarrett blogged. Time and again research has shown that people think of more new ideas on their own than they do in a group. The false belief that people are more creative in groups has been dubbed by psychologists the "illusion of group of productivity". But why does this illusion persist?

Bernard Nijstad and colleagues at the University of Amsterdam argue it's because when we're in a group, other people are talking, the pressure isn't always on us and so we're less aware of all the times that we fail to think of a new idea. By contrast, when we're working alone and we can't think of anything, there's no avoiding the fact that we're failing...

The researchers said "We suggest that working in a group may lead to a sense of continuous activity. This may provide group members with the idea that they are productive, because they feel that the group as a whole is making progress, even if they themselves are not contributing".

Other possible reasons for why people think they work better in groups include 'memory confusion', the idea that after working in groups people subsequently mistake other people's ideas for the own, and 'social comparison', the idea that in groups people are able to see how difficult everyone else has found it to come up with ideas too.

( Bartlett's Quotations includes this anonymous definition of a committee: "a group of the unwilling, chosen from the unfit, to do the unnecessary." Sadly, committees often fit this description. aka. Social Loafing)

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

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TIP: Feed off your opponent's success

CNNMoney - The common wisdom is that Wal-Mart's competitors sweat bullets when the undisputed 800-pound gorilla of retailing says it's going to play in their backyard. They fear the king of bottom-barrel prices will steal their business, eventually forcing them to drop their shutters, load up the wagon and scout out a "Wal-Mart-free" zone elsewhere.

However, not everyone is spooked... Wal-Mart's become a preferred co-tenant to retailers such as Fred's, Aldi and Anna's Linen because when it breaks ground in a new area, these retailers view it as an opportunity to piggyback off its traffic. "In retailing, the whole name of the game is to feed off your competitors' footsteps. Wal-Mart is the biggest traffic generator around. It gets over 150 million customers a week," "Retailers only have to look at the profile of a Wal-Mart customer and their spending levels. Those retailers that fit the target should try to compete with Wal-Mart on convenience and price," Maurin said.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

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TIP: Unleashing the Killer App and Dating: what do they have in common?

Bestseller author Kathy Sierra blogged
  • Look your best: You don't have to be the Brad Pitt of apps, but you should still make the effort to be pleasant looking... That whole "it's what's inside that counts" thing? It's true, but chemistry matters too, and we're genetically programmed to be attracted to attractive things... don't forget your mom's advice--"you never get a second chance to make a first impression."
  • Be fun: ...Be the one others want to be around. Make a list of the apps, products, APIs, frameworks, etc. that make YOU happy. The ones that make you think, "this is awesome." Or better yet, the ones where you never think about them at all... because you're too busy being awesome doing the thing that led you to that tool in the first place.Focus your energy on putting yourself on someone else's "makes me happy" list.
  • Be trustworthy and consistent: Make sure we can trust that when we click button A, thing B will happen. Every... single... time. And that it doesn't matter when we push it, or what you did before. Please, no unpredictable mood (or mode) swings. If you use a particular pair of methods in your API, and then reuse those same names in another part of the API, make certain that they all behave in exactly the same way -- or at least exactly as you'd expect in that different context (terrible API violation of this: the ejbCreate() and ejbRemove() methods for entity vs. session beans in EJB).
  • Don't be fake: Don't pretend to be something you're not. If part of your interface looks like it should do X, but does only Y (or worse, does X plus the recklessly dangerous Z), we may never trust you again. Don't try to be more than you are, and don't trick us into thinking you do one thing, when you actually do something completely different. Being simple and clean and real is far better than being a flashy fake.
  • Be polite, be helpful: Don't dash off in the middle of dinner to run an errand, but if you must, at LEAST tell us how long you expect to be gone, so we'll have some idea of when to become concerned. An application that doesn't tell you what's going on is just rude. It's OK to offer tips...
  • Be forgiving: We're not perfect. Sometimes we say or do stupid, wrong, or even dangerous things. Make it easy for us to recover and "save face", and we'll love you all the more. And the more you assume it was your fault, the better. Chances are, it was.
  • Be sensitive, be a good listener: But not over-sensitive. Pay close attention to the subtle things; don't make us have to yell at you in order to get a reaction. Try to anticipate our needs, but don't make assumptions! We never said this would be easy... and yes, we're a bit high-maintenance, but worth it ; )
  • Don't assume I'm an expert: You wouldn't expect that everyone you date will have studied human psychology, so you shouldn't expect a user to have read your manual cover to cover. Don't take us extreme helicopter skiing on our first date.
  • Be fun, Not funny: Be fun in the way that a great game of chess is fun (but not funny)... The best dates of all are with those who can make even the most trivial, mundane things seem... engaging and interesting. Find out what part of this experience really can be interesting, and enhance that.
  • Don't assume there's no competition: "There are plenty of fish in the sea" our mothers tell us when we're heartbroken at 15... There is always someone potentially better, and real loyalty can't be bought. "Frequent Buyer" points might make it look like we're loyal, but underneath we're just waiting for the right opportunity to dump you. Don't mistake current participation for long-term loyalty.
  • Married people really DO have more sex: No matter how fun the one-night stands appear, they're ultimately empty and unsatisfying. Go for the long-term commitment. Be in this for a lasting relationship. If you really really care, we'll know, and we'll be willing to forgive you when you screw up--as you always will.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

Your Turn!

 

RANT: Outsourcing is climbing the corporate ladder at Investment Banks

via CNNMoney - ...After years of outsourcing technology support and other back-office operations to countries like India and China, financial institutions are increasingly looking to move large portions of their investment banking operations abroad, according to a recent report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu... what began as technology support is now morphing into more analytic operations. "Most of the large financial institutions were in the IT side of outsourcing but as they leveraged that experience, they got more interested" in moving more of their investment banking and research activities abroad, said Niket Patankar, chief executive of outsourcing firm Adventity Inc.

Among the leaders in outsourcing and offshoring are the big investment banks: Citigroup (Research), Morgan Stanley (Research), Lehman Brothers (Research) and JPMorgan Chase (Research). Typically, those banks have moved their research analysis operations offshore in order to take advantage of the time difference between the U.S. and Asia as well as the cheaper labor. "Investment banking has a lot of number crunching that to a large degree can be done anywhere," said Alenka Grealish, manager of the banking group at Celent LLC. "By taking press releases and data feeds and digesting them offshore, the components can be made into basic analyst reports" that are available to clients early in the morning...

Offshore operations give financial services companies a foothold in new and emerging markets such as China, where there are more revenue opportunites than mature markets like the U.S. The report also predicts that driven by the need to take aggressive cost-cutting measures, the financial services industry will move 20 percent of its total costs base offshore by the end of 2010, compared to the current average of 3.5 percent...

It takes about three years for banks to see full benefits from an offshoring program, said Deloitte's Lowes, as companies overcome the initial learning curve of doing business abroad and gradually build their scale. Firms that aggressively expand their scope and scale will deliver much higher returns on the foreign investments than those that simply dabble in the practice, he said. Top performers can see cost savings of up to 60 percent while bottom performers report savings of less than 20 percent, Lowes said. Lowes added that those companies that reinvest some of their cost savings towards continuing to expand their operations offshore are going to be the true long-term winners. "The economics (of offshoring in banking) are strong and the risks are being successfully mitigated" he said. "Today it's a competitive necessity."

(The globalization of work tends to start from the bottom up: first assembling, followed by manufacturing, and later, programming. Can strategic corp planning be at the end of this progression?)

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

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TIP: Are you underpaid or 'overtitled'?

via CNNMoney - If you think your salary's unfair, consider this before you demand a raise: It's more likely you have a job title fancier than you deserve... that is, given a fancier title than actual job description merits.

"Over-titling" was a common practice in the tough financial climate of the past few years when, Coleman says, "many people were offered trumped-up job titles in lieu of salary increases. As a result, their actual experience level and value to the company may not be on a par with the salary they expect based on their title."

Indeed, when Salary.com compared employees' job descriptions (not necessarily their titles) with what they currently earn, 30% were found to be "overtitled," while nearly 35% were earning about what they'd be worth on the open market, and 20% were overpaid relative to what they could make elsewhere. Only 15% were actually underpaid.

Obviously, this can make it hard to figure out how much of a raise you could get by changing jobs. If, for example, you recently got bumped up to assistant vice president but without any increase in your real-life responsibilities, you'll get a distorted view of your market value unless you focus your search on jobs whose descriptions match what you actually do, rather than on those whose titles include the words "assistant vice president".

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

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TIP: When a shortcut falls short

The meltdown at MassMutual Financial Group -- did it all happen because a woman fell into the trap of taking on that special role of Business Wife..., Speech Writer Jane Genova asked. ...Susan Alfano, MassMutual's top female executive was also the chief executive officer's confidant and support system. Was there romance involved? That hasn't been proved. But, that's really not relevant. What is relevant is that a woman got caught up in emotional hanky-panky. And, from my experience coaching and writing for senior executives, that always leads to trouble -- for everyone and the organization.

Call it The Special Relationship Brand.

Flattered by the invitation (usually implicit) to become a "real" insider and not stupid about the potential career opportunity involved, the woman assumes the identity the power-that-is wants her to have... Needless to say in the process, the female Zelig loses grip on her own identity. And probably also her confidence that she can get anything on her own. Colleagues notice The Special Relationship Brand getting promotions and perks... Resentment could explode in the form of some kind of whistle-blowing. Or, the end might come as it did at MassMutual with Special Relationship Brand's being forced out. Or, the even more common scenario, the organization folds, the woman doesn't have the up-to-date skills, confidence and contacts (hey, who doesn't know what when on or was assumed to have gone on) to land on her feet somewhere else...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

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