Tag Archives: attitude

The Fallacy of Composition

Last block, I took ‘managerial economics’, which was my last core class.  Even though I was an econ major for my undergrad, it was still pretty challenging.  One of the topics my professor briefly mentioned was called ‘the fallacy of composition’, which means that a solution for one individual does not necessarily work for a whole group.  Though he didn’t go into a lot of detail, I found this idea really interesting.

This logical fallacy applies to a lot of things.  For example, some might claim that we need to pay down the national debt at the same time, while others might worry that this effort would depress the economy and cause inflation.  Others might say that Obama’s proposal to provide free community college education to all Americans might increase opportunities in some areas, but create a higher unemployment rate due to a lack of high-skill jobs in another.  In one case, it might make sense to localize control of the public school curriculum, and in another, a school could fall behind due to a lack of standards to guide a child’s development.

I am really lucky to be in a field where I am literally paid to ponder the pros and cons to every decision.  Finding solutions to problems in data is my passion, and I have always been a numbers person.  But the kind of mental processing to which most people are accustomed is merely linear thinking.  By this, I mean assuming a direct connection between one thing and another.  When we are faced with a problem we don’t understand, we tend to take a mechanistic view to identifying a solution, breaking the problem down to its individual parts and assuming that every effect has a single cause.  I think this type of rationale is valid, but not complete.

In order to truly facilitate a better world, I think it will be necessary for more people to adopt a synthetic, non-linear way of thinking.  Before any course of action, more considerations need to be made about external effects.  This is bigger than conventional game theory.  It’s definitely not easy to understand that affecting one part could actually affect the system as a whole.  This goes against everything that dictates how I do my work: you must think hard about the potential effects that can come out of a decision, even when you don’t have the data to support it.  This capacity to predict effects beyond what you are directly affecting is difficult to master, but I think will likely be the key to addressing challenges over time.  Unilateral decisions are not going to fix global warming, poverty, income disparity, or public health issues.

Systemic change is not going to happen overnight, but I hope I live to see some kind of progress in my lifetime.  Relying on numbers and statistics is important, but not as important as deeply considering the chain of events that can occur from making one choice compared to another.  When making a decision about the best remedy for the most pressing social ills, be sure to take a step back and effectively consider how others will be affected.  We need to come up with structures for thought instead of building thoughtless structures.  We need to let go of our experiences that turned us into conditioned humans instead of letting ourselves represent the human condition we once were as children.  When we were small, we found joy in bringing others happiness, and as we ‘matured’ and were burned a few times, we became more selfish and defensive.  The more people who come to master this difficult way of thinking, the better off this world will be.  We have become less alive.

I am not at all saying that I have never taken stances on issues that were self-serving.  I know I have hurt people and made mistakes.  But I think that creating a better future starts with me, hopefully inspiring others to share the same attitude.  The more we look out for each other, and the less afraid we become about making changes in our lives in order to benefit others, the more better off we all will become.  Individuals can make a difference everyday by letting go of judgment, hatred, and anger – things that all prevent us from living a full life.  Don’t get caught up in the fallacy of composition or in the numbers.  They’re a great place to start, but what’s truly important will be justified by something more.

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Empowering with Purpose: Why Hillary Clinton is an Effective Leader

Men and women around the world consider Hillary Clinton an exemplary leader.  Her leadership style resonates with many, ranging from listening intensely to being diplomatically assertive.  She has smart answers to today’s hard questions, and takes the best interest of the community seriously.   Highly skilled and intelligent, she has capitalized on her uniqueness in a turbulent political and business world to lead effectively in many important leadership roles, including First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, Senator of New York, and Secretary of State.

A leader cannot accomplish anything alone – a loyal and committed following is conducive to making a meaningful difference.  Hillary has a track record of effectively driving change by use of expert and referent power – that is, influencing others to rally beside her by sharing her powerful vision as well as supporting it with facts and evidence.

Hillary’s expert power was developed over many years of hard work in numerous capacities.  She realized her passion for public service early in her career during law school, but turned her vision into reality as she dedicated the rest of her life to serving her communities and gaining valuable insight along the way.  Her ability to convert pressing issues into impactful initiatives has as contributed largely to her thought leadership in a multitude of areas.

In Peter Drucker’s article, What Makes and Effective Executive, he examines the practices which enable leaders to collect the knowledge needed and formulate action to drive a significant impact.  During her 3-year tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary took it upon herself to travel over 956,733 miles to 112 nations to fully understand firsthand the extent of her responsibility and prioritize the issues facing her organization.  One of her biggest wins as First Lady was the enactment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, demonstrating her ability to build rapport and trust with both supporting and opposing groups.

Perhaps the most admirable of Hillary’s leadership qualities is her courage and modesty to assume personal responsibility and learn from her setbacks, including her loss in the primary election in 2008.  She takes criticism seriously without getting discouraged, and successfully bounces back from every downfall with a more seasoned perspective.  People are fallible, including experienced leaders –nothing is more respectable than for someone, like Hillary Clinton, to be unafraid to admit her mistakes, and move forward with persistence and determination.

It is this tremendous humility and professional will that contributes to Hillary’s referent power and makes her a “Level Five Leader,” a concept developed by author and consultant Jim Collins.  She conducts herself with compelling modesty, always awarding credit where it is due and celebrating the successes of others.  While many emulate her leadership ability when leading their own organizations and teams, she humbly acknowledges that she is just as inspired by her colleagues and supporters as they are by her, saying, “I always believed you could learn something from nearly everybody you meet, if you’re open to it.”

According to Collins, professional will means, “demonstrating an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results—no matter how difficult.”   One of the most significant initiatives Hillary spearheaded was the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.  She facilitated a shift in attitude among officials who were blocking the legislation, helping them understand how the bill represented core American values they share, while also listening and acknowledging their concerns.  She called the effort, “4 years of hard work to strengthen the relationship… getting them to see our point of view, and learning more about theirs.”

In today’s dynamic environment, Hillary demonstrates a stanch resilience to find creative solutions to complex issues and persevere in the face of difficult challenges.  It is unreasonable to expect any person to be a “Level Five Leader” 100 percent of the time, but Hillary Clinton embodies “a clear catalyst from good to great” in critical times when her judgment matters most.  Even those who disagree with her ideas see her in the highest regard as she has mastered the art of compromise and building productive relationships.  She says, “Part of the great challenge of living is defining yourself in your moment, of seizing the opportunities you are given, and of making the very best choices you can.”  As she has in each of her past roles, she continues to incorporate this philosophy into her leadership approach, guiding and inspiring others along the way.

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Self Pep-Talk

In spite of people always telling me that I’ve already accomplished so much for my age, there are often times when I reflect on the last couple of years of my life and can’t help but feel like I could have worked harder, and I could have done more.  What if I went straight into graduate school instead of decided to work?  What if I took a step back into an administrative position in DC, but was able to take two steps forward into the job in politics I really wanted?

And then I snap myself out of it.  There’s no point in questioning the things I can no longer change – I need to dedicate my energy to the things that are under my control.  I worked pretty damn hard to get to where I am now.  Even though I’m not where I want to be, I’m thankful I’m no longer where I used to be… and I know I’ll ultimately succeed in attaining everything I want as long as I continue to work hard, learn and grow.  I know I have so much potential to become anyone I want to be, but I don’t just want it to be potential – I actually want to become that person who inspires others.

Did you know it takes an oyster 5 years just to create a medium-sized pearl?  Remember, the best things are worth the wait.  Don’t rush the process, practice patience, and do not take short cuts.  There is no end to this lifestyle.  Just enjoy it and keep going.  Leverage your strengths, learn from your failures, and never give up.  Continue to identify your weaknesses and set goals on how you’re going to overcome them.  Changes will take effect because you are creating your own perfect pearl.

You can live a challenging, purpose-filled life in pursuit of your dreams or you can relax, sit back and watch others pursue theirs.  Every decision we make brings us one step closer or further from our purpose – the choice is yours.  “The journey won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”

#cantstopwontstop

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