Certainty Trap


Prospect theory suggests that humans have a natural inclination to choose certainty over uncertainty, even if it’s not utility maximizing or logical, thus over-valuing certainty. They use an example for a lottery to illustrate this, where people are more willing to earn a dollar over entering a lottery for $10, with 20% chance that they’ll win.

I understand decision making to be a combination of intuitive and strategic components. While our natural instinct is to over-value certainty, could we bank on doing the same for more important, bigger, strategic matters we face? It’s definitely not the logical thing to do but it comes down to whether we can face the 80% risk that we might lose? May be then it’s time to reevaluate all else we’re banking on?

So, if settling is not an option, how much risk is too much risk?

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Why is Generation Y Unhappy?


Source: Bright Side

Lucy is part of Generation Y, the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s. She’s also part of a yuppie culture that makes up a large portion of Gen Y.

I have a term for yuppies in the Gen Y age group—I call them Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs. A GYPSY is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.

So Lucy’s enjoying her GYPSY life, and she’s very pleased to be Lucy. Only issue is this one thing:

Lucy’s kind of unhappy.

To get to the bottom of why, we need to define what makes someone happy or unhappy in the first place. It comes down to a simple formula:

It’s pretty straightforward—when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy.

To provide some context, let’s start by bringing Lucy’s parents into the discussion:

Lucy’s parents were born in the 50s—they’re Baby Boomers. They were raised by Lucy’s grandparents, members of the G.I. Generation, or “the Greatest Generation,” who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and were most definitely not GYPSYs.

Lucy’s Depression Era grandparents were obsessed with economic security and raised her parents to build practical, secure careers. They wanted her parents’ careers to have greener grass than their own, and Lucy’s parents were brought up to envision a prosperous and stable career for themselves. Something like this:

They were taught that there was nothing stopping them from getting to that lush, green lawn of a career, but that they’d need to put in years of hard work to make it happen.

After graduating from being insufferable hippies, Lucy’s parents embarked on their careers. As the 70s, 80s, and 90s rolled along, the world entered a time of unprecedented economic prosperity. Lucy’s parents did even better than they expected to. This left them feeling gratified and optimistic.

With a smoother, more positive life experience than that of their own parents, Lucy’s parents raised Lucy with a sense of optimism and unbounded possibility. And they weren’t alone. Baby Boomers all around the country and world told their Gen Y kids that they could be whatever they wanted to be, instilling the special protagonist identity deep within their psyches.

This left GYPSYs feeling tremendously hopeful about their careers, to the point where their parents’ goals of a green lawn of secure prosperity didn’t really do it for them. A GYPSY-worthy lawn has flowers.

This leads to our first fact about GYPSYs:

GYPSYs Are Wildly Ambitious

The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security. The fact is, a green lawn isn’t quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY. Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream.

Cal Newport points out that “follow your passion“ is a catchphrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years, according to Google’s Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how prominently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time. The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase ”a secure career“ has gone out of style, just as the phrase “a fulfilling career” has gotten hot.

To be clear, GYPSYs want economic prosperity just like their parents did—they just also want to be fulfilled by their career in a way their parents didn’t think about as much.

But something else is happening too. While the career goals of Gen Y as a whole have become much more particular and ambitious, Lucy has been given a second message throughout her childhood as well:

This would probably be a good time to bring in our second fact about GYPSYs:

GYPSYs Are Delusional

”Sure,“ Lucy has been taught, ”everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling career, but I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.“ So on top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better—

A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn.

So why is this delusional? Because this is what all GYPSYs think, which defies the definition of special:

SPECIAL: better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.

According to this definition, most people are not special—otherwise “special” wouldn’t mean anything.

Even right now, the GYPSYs reading this are thinking, “Good point…but I actually am one of the few special ones“—and this is the problem.

A second GYPSY delusion comes into play once the GYPSY enters the job market. While Lucy’s parents’ expectation was that many years of hard work would eventually lead to a great career, Lucy considers a great career an obvious given for someone as exceptional as she, and for her it’s just a matter of time and choosing which way to go. Her pre-workforce expectations look something like this:

Unfortunately, the funny thing about the world is that it turns out to not be that easy of a place, and the weird thing about careers is that they’re actually quite hard. Great careers take years of blood, sweat and tears to build—even the ones with no flowers or unicorns on them—and even the most successful people are rarely doing anything that great in their early or mid-20s.

But GYPSYs aren’t about to just accept that.

Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor and GYPSY expert, has researched this, finding that Gen Y has ”unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback,” and “an inflated view of oneself.” He says that ”a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.“

For those hiring members of Gen Y, Harvey suggests asking the interview question, ”Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?“ He says that “if the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the ‘why,’ there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They’ve been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief.”

And since the real world has the nerve to consider merit a factor, a few years out of college Lucy finds herself here:

Lucy’s extreme ambition, coupled with the arrogance that comes along with being a bit deluded about one’s own self-worth, has left her with huge expectations for even the early years out of college. And her reality pales in comparison to those expectations, leaving her ”reality — expectations” happy score coming out at a negative.

And it gets even worse. On top of all this, GYPSYs have an extra problem that applies to their whole generation:

GYPSYs Are Taunted.

Sure, some people from Lucy’s parents’ high school or college classes ended up more successful than her parents did. And while they may have heard about some of it from time to time through the grapevine, for the most part they didn’t really know what was going on in too many other peoples’ careers.

Lucy, on the other hand, finds herself constantly taunted by a modern phenomenon: Facebook Image Crafting.

Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation. This leaves Lucy feeling, incorrectly, like everyone else is doing really well, only adding to her misery:

So that’s why Lucy is unhappy, or at the least, feeling a bit frustrated and inadequate. In fact, she’s probably started off her career perfectly well, but to her, it feels very disappointing.

Here’s my advice for Lucy:

  1. Stay wildly ambitious. The current world is bubbling with opportunity for an ambitious person to find flowery, fulfilling success. The specific direction may be unclear, but it’ll work itself out—just dive in somewhere.
  2. Stop thinking that you’re special. The fact is, right now, you’re not special. You’re another completely inexperienced young person who doesn’t have all that much to offer yet. You can become special by working really hard for a long time.
  3. Ignore everyone else. Other people’s grass seeming greener is no new concept, but in today’s image crafting world, other people’s grass looks like a glorious meadow. The truth is that everyone else is just as indecisive, self-doubting, and frustrated as you are, and if you just do your thing, you’ll never have any reason to envy others.

Lets be honest..


The more I live, the more people I meet, the more I see, experience and do, the more I question the idea of something or someone being ‘right’. Like many others around me, I was raised with a very rigid notion of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and most of my years, I have spent evaluating options, situations and people on that scale. It was never a problem because I wasn’t opinionated about what others should and should not do for most part and my definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ were just mine. And that was a good way of looking at it, until I realized that I could no longer pretend like I didn’t care about what the world around me was like, especially when I was ready to build relationships and friendships stronger than ever before.

I was however, challenged to rethink my ideals. Because by this time, I had met too many great, kind people who didn’t always fit into my definition of ‘right’. They were not doing everything ‘right’, but they were still pretty great people and those who I think were doing things ‘right’, seemed to have gotten it completely wrong. I am sure this doesn’t stand true for everyone, but it did for many of them.

I was left puzzled, and I re-evaluated what really mattered. May be the ideals we were brought up with (which might be great in theory) do not always govern the rules of life and we need to look at things for what they are. So, may be it makes more sense to be honest about us, than to be ‘right’ as this is what most of us had gotten wrong. We are so worried about being right, we forgot to be honest, real, kind and utilitarian. May be the rules were indeed made to be broken? Both in life and in our minds.

Happy Goal Setting!!


“Don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order. There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions. Don’t take life too seriously. Life is not meant to be taken seriously, as we are really temporarily here. We are like a prepaid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? Its okay, bunk few classes, take leave from work, fall in love, fight a little with your spouse, its okay. We are people, not programmed devices. Don’t be too serious, enjoy life as it comes.” – Ratan Tata

I’m thinking I need to set different kind of goals now 🙂

Exploring Dubai


My trip to Dubai was a rather short and sweet one. Every time I had been in there in the past, it was with parents and the aim was to shop till they dropped, but this time I wanted to explore the city and delve into the culture and tradition ‘for a week’.

June probably wasn’t the best time to visit because of the heat, but I have to say the heat was overstated, because you’re almost never indoors and cars, buildings even restrooms are air conditioned (rather uncomfortably, it gave me a flu yikes!). So, here’s what to look out for when in Dubai:

 Malls’ Fest: Dubai Mall, Mall of Emirates, Wafi Mall

Dubai is known for its malls, and I can see why. The malls are the biggest in the world and they have a whole life inside of them. For example, the Dubai mall has shopping, aquarium, souks, access to the burj Khalifa and the dancing fountains (among other things). A day atleast is enough to just explore this one mall.

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Mall of Emirates too is an interesting one, with the ski Dubai access.

Wafi mall on the other hand, stands out because of its architecture but it’s really not the place you want to go for shopping as it is very compact and the retailers are very limited.

Souks

There’s souks everywhere. Inside Dubai mall, next to Dubai mall, in old Dubai city, next to Wafi mall, inside Madinat-e-Jumeriah etc. So, you must experience these souks. While, they are ridiculously priced, they’re one of their kinds.

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Sightseeing: Madinat e Jumeriah, Palm Islands

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Jumeriah Beach Resort (JBR) Walk

JBR Walk is a street right opposite the beach where you ll find some great places to eat and relax.

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Fine Dining: Little Bangkok, Minato

Food in Dubai is AMAZING! By that I am not only referring to the local food, which too is great but also the international cuisines. Ones I got a chance to go to are Little Bangkok where the food is on point and the drinks are just exceptional.

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Another great restaurant I am recommending is Minato at Radisson Blu in Deira city. It’s Japanese buffet and live station for Tepinyaki was the best Japanese food I have had in a long time.

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Waterpark: Wild Wadi

Given the heat, it’s obvious why a visit to the waterpark makes sense. The water is regulated at a cooler temperature and the idea of waterparks is more to have fun and relax and less for the thrill of it. While we ended up going to the Wild Wadi, I hear Aquaventure is quite good too.

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Desert Safari

This is probably my favourite experience from the trip. We had ‘Arabian Nights’ arrange the day for us. Where we were picked up from our accommodation and driven into a desert. We were then taken for dune bashing (a very thrilling experience, if it’s your first time!) and later at the camp we were welcomed by camels and the option to try sandboarding. At the camp there was also local cuisine, shisha, henna tattoos, drinks, tanoora dance performance and belly dancers. Later in the evening we were driven back to our place on the highway.

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Burj Khalifaa – at the top

If you’re in Dubai, this is one thing you must do, for the views. There really is not much else to it, just the views of the city and an exceptionally fast elevator ride.

If you have more time, you can also grab a meal at ‘at.mosphere’. A restaurant built on the 122nd floor of Burj Khalifa.

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Dubai Nightlife: Boudoir

Dubai clubs and bars are not only known for their atmosphere and music, but also the grand architecture and service. I ended up going to Boudoir, for a night filled with music and fun, but the indoor permission to smoke was a huge turnoff for me.

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Things I wish I had time for: Dubai cruise, sky diving, water sports

How does a woman go about planning her career?


Recently, my mind’s been running paths to see where my career and life is going. I have had some career development mentor-ship and a read around. It is not surprising that when I began to collect my thoughts about where I see my career in 10 years, I had to consider the fact that I ‘d probably be taking a few years out to have kids and wait until they are old enough to go to a nursery for me to head back to work. Its interesting how a plan for my career, not much later, became a plan for my life where I saw the personal and professional struggling against each other – such is the life for women, right? And for the rare men who decide to make the same share of contribution at home.

I thought to myself, if at 30 my husband makes a director, I probably make a manager, or senior manager at best having spent fewer years in the workforce.

Having to leave the workforce for a few years, here I assumed was my choice but there’s possible solutions women (and other) leaders are presenting. Like encouraging growth in the child care industry, making it safer, cheaper and a more viable option. And by making maternal leaves more generous and creating a culture where men play a bigger role in child care and house work.

But there’s a counter argument to this, which I do feel very fondly for. Can the caretaker really bring up your kid the way you’d like? Is that how we want our next generation to be raised? And shouldn’t you (women and men) have the right to enjoy your parenthood? It’s not just about checking it off your list, right?

So what really is the solution? I am sure solutions and priorities are different for everybody. Not everybody has to leave the workforce, or have kids for that matter – but for me, I wondered how I could do justice to both my professional and personal pursuits.

So, what’s the solution if you do want to do all of that (which applies to me)? I thought hard and far and I think what would work best for me and for those who want to have a career, enjoy their kids and have a work-life balance, is to have options for flexible working. I have seen great examples in the workplace I am currently a part of it, which makes me rather fond of it. There’s executives who work from home and have little kids, visit the office once in a while and believe me I don’t feel any difference in the way they operate or work, especially as the companies are now global and teams scattered worldwide, where meetings happen over online conferences more often than in the conference rooms. I don’t think this is a permanent solution (while it could also be), but if you could have a few years to work flexibly, you never have to leave the workforce or miss out on seeing your children grow up. And you can always go back in full swing when you’re ready – sure you’d be making some compromise, but is there a better option?