2.01.2005

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» TIP: Make your actions count
» MISC: Seeing my 11-year-old perusing a website filled with photos of Britney Spears
» TIP: When you "blow it"
» TIP: Judo your Presentation
» RANT: "Step away from the computer Sir and put your hands up in the air. Now."
» TIP: Pull, not push, your long TODO list to the finish line
» RANT: It wasn't inspirational until you 'tossed' it
» RANT: What do you call a trader with a $2 million bonus check?
» MISC: You're Nobody Until
» TIP: When your opponent drops the ball

TIP: Make your actions count

via Fool - (Two lessons from Buffett) One, is act like what you are going to do is going to end up on the front page of The Washington Post because by the time a man is 60, he has the reputation he deserves. That is one of them, it sounds sort of corny and midwestern, but it is a good way to live.

Secondly, think of yourself as you go through (working) life as standing at the plate and people throwing you pitches. It is a very special baseball game. There is no one calling the balls and strikes and you can stand there forever. You have got all these people in the bleachers saying, "Hey, swing you bum!" on every second pitch. You just have to learn to ignore them and when a pitch comes along and it is straight but it is a little high inside, you let it pass. Another one comes along and it is a little low outside. Every once in a while a pitch comes along that looks like the sweetest, juiciest, fattest pitch you are ever going to see. And when it does, you swing from your heels on it. You come out of your shoes on it. That is how you go through life. And you are only going to get about ten swings like that, maybe five swings. That is what you wait for. Too many people go through life batting at every other pitch. So just wait for your opportunities and when they come you swing from your heels...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness > Efficient to Effective

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MISC: Seeing my 11-year-old perusing a website filled with photos of Britney Spears

I commented, "She sure is pretty. Which picture do you like best?"

"I don't know," he mumbled, embarrassed by his newfound interest in girls. "I'm just reading about her."

I came closer and peered at the screen. "Oh, really?" I said. "So, when did you learn to read Spanish?" - via RD

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Jokes

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TIP: When you "blow it"

Thanks to her apology, Oprah is the only one who seems to be emerging from the James Frey scandal smelling like a rose, Jane Genova blogged. A genius in human relations, Oprah knew the power of an apology. Yeah, it's totally disarming. When I worked in the hospitality industry, apology was the only tactic that never ever ever failed.

Unfortunately, in a number of legal circles, apology is underused or verboten. The most some attorneys will allow us to do is express regret. Forget that. Apologies can make perfect legal sense. What matters is how you position/package your apology... strategically apply the power of apology to communicating their point of view. They can do this with ease, grace and no legal reservations, if they get the mindset that an apology is form of empathy... The apology has many genres... The key here is to play around with the apology scenario until it is a perfect fit for the speaker.

Need more convincing? As a speechwriter I've had clients who, once they discovered the magic of apologizing, wanted me to "dream up" reasons for them to say they were sorry. Oh, I thought up reasons. And those apologies worked every time.

The best example of that was a chief-marketing-officer (CMO) who was giving a commencement speech during the 2001 global downturn. He said he was planning to apologize for having a good job when so many of them didn't as yet have any or were making applications to Starbucks. But then he thought about it. Since the average CMO keeps a job only about 23 months and he had his 19 months, he should soon be joining them with steam burns making lattes. He had that audience in the palm of his hand.

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

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TIP: Judo your Presentation

via PresentationZen
  • Strive for maximum effect with minimum effort: Make no mistake, "minimum effort" does not mean to slack off or give less than full commitment to the moment. Rather it implies the use of experience, intelligence, and skill. In the presentation context, it could translate into simple yet powerful visual support, a delivery style that makes complex data accessible without confusing, endless, overly verbose explanation. Sometimes, for example, a short story (minimum effort) can have a huge and lasting result (maximum impact).
  • Strive for mutual welfare and benefit: Presenters often seem focused only on their content from their point of view. Audiences - especially potential clients - want to know "what's in it for me?" Presentations should be two-way; they should be conversations. And while it sounds like a cliche in 2005, "win/win" should be the goal.
  • Strive for perfection as a whole person: ...in all our business dealings, including presentations, we must always embrace too the ideals of integrity, honesty, character, kindness, and so on. It is never just about winning the contract, as lofty a goal as that may seem at the moment... Think about the last challenging presentation you had that just did not go as well as you had hoped. Perhaps there was more "pushback" than you expected. Could you have done better by engaging your audience and answering the difficult questions while "reacting spontaneously and naturally without hesitation and without purposeless resistance"? In my experience, when I have received challenging questions from a skeptical or even hostile or aggressive person, a natural, non-aggressive response from myself always was more effective than showing any irritation or defensiveness. Butting heads is very easy to do, but usually leads to a sure defeat for us as presenters... "Victory over the opponent is achieved by giving way to the strength of the opponent, adapting to it and taking advantage of it, turning it, in the end to your own advantage."

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness > Style vs Substance

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RANT: "Step away from the computer Sir and put your hands up in the air. Now."

via CNet - (Is it possible to get too much of a good thing?) The typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, e-mail, instant message or other distraction. The problem is that it takes about eight uninterrupted minutes for our brains to get into a really creative state... The digital communications supposed to make things run more smoothly are actually preventing people from getting critical tasks accomplished...

"It used to be: 'I've got to be online, it's so frustrating that I can't get on,'" said Chris Capossela, a vice president in Microsoft's Information Worker unit. "Now that's happened. People are ultraconnected. And you know what? Now they are starting to realize, 'Wow, I want to actually stop getting interrupted.'"...

Desperate for some quiet time to think, people are coming up with low-tech strategies to get away from all their technology... "If you don't have that sort of free time to dream and muse and mull, then you are not being creative, by definition," said Dan Russell, a senior manager at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. After concluding three years ago that he was becoming a slave to e-mail, Russell decided to put his foot down. These days, he takes his time replying to messages. All his responses say at the bottom: "Join the slow email movement! Read your mail just twice each day. Recapture your life's time and relearn to dream."...

It's all part of a culture shift that has accompanied all of the new modes of communications. These days, corporate culture frowns on those who turn off their instant messaging software or don't respond quickly to the latest e-mail... "People start to look at you with contempt or disgust if you shift away from the technology," Honore said... Technology has kind of turned the tables on us," Honore said. "We move to its speed and its rhythm."...

Russell says humans just aren't that good at doing many things at once. The problem, Russell said, is that there are only certain types of tasks that humans are good at doing simultaneously. Cooking and talking on the phone go together fine, as does walking and chewing gum (for most people). But try and do three math problems at once, and you are sure to have a problem. "The paradox of modern life is that multitasking is, in most cases, counterproductive," Russell said.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness > Success breeds Failure

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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: It wasn't inspirational until you 'tossed' it

One of my favorite visual arts genres features imaginative pieces and installations built on "found objects.", Executive Coach Jack Ricchiuto blogged. They can be natural, household, land waste, or industrial discards and fragments that can go against any other media for flexibility and integrity in the creative process.

In conversational spaces, found objects are stories and snippets, factoids, observations, edgy ideas, new questions and distinctions. And the best conversations find ways to incorporate these objects into an interesting pattern of meaning and delight.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Something vs Nothing

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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

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MISC: You're Nobody Until

...Somebody Loves You. ("No, you hang up!" "No, you!")

Happy Valentine's Day!

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

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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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