#57 How To Be Smarter About Risk: Karen Firestone

This show may very well save you money, boost your career and help you make smarter decisions.  

It's about risk.

Our guest is Karen Firestone - author of the new book “Even The Odds - Sensible Risk Taking in Business Investing and Life."  She is President and CEO, of Aureus Asset Management, an asset management firm she cofounded after 22 years as a fund manager and research analyst at Fidelity Investments. Karen is a contributor to the Harvard Business Review blog.

"I think that sensible risk taking is something that we should all think more about," says Karen. She argues that most of us are too gullible.  "It's more fun to be enthusiastic and positive about the outcome of something that involves some risk than be pessimistic and skeptical."

Karen shares her personal stories and knowledge about investments, starting a firm, changing careers, surviving in the workplace and raising kids.  

Karen's four principles of risk taking:

  • Right-sizing. Consider how big the risk is before you commit to a decision. 
  • Right timing. Is this the right time to change your lifestyle or career?  For instance, don't open an ice-cream shop in November!Relying on knowledge and experience. Know as much as you can about the risk you are taking.
  • Remaining skeptical about promises and projections. "If you show up at a blackjack table and you don't know how to play, you are going to be out of money in five minutes."

#2 Fix It Shorts: 2016 Presidential Campaign: Lessons From History. Sean Wilentz

How many times have heard somebody say that the political campaign has reached a new low?  How much worse is the 2016 race compared to previous elections?

We asked Princeton University Professor, Sean Wilentz, to give us a history lesson. 

In his latest book, "The Politicians and the Egalitarians" Sean makes the case for pragmatism, arguing that politicians serve the country best through the art of compromise.

 On this episode, he tells us that "nasty, slimy stuff" is nothing new in Presidential campaigns, using the wild rhetoric of 1828 and 1860 as examples.  But what is new this year, Sean argues, is hyper-partisanship, "where you cannot imagine the other side even existing. You want to obliterate them. You want to wipe them off the face of the earth." 

The SOLUTIONS start with us.
 How we talk about those we disagree with.  Are you gleefully vilifying the opposition?

  • Go beyond our information silos.  Read and listen to those we disagree with. allsides.com has daily examples, looking at the news from the left, right and center. Follow journalists who cover solutions.
  • Revitalize civil discourse. If you have a strong disagreement with friends or neighbors, consider setting up a living room conversation.  

Support politicians who are pragmatic and work for common ground.
Useful articles: "What The Decline of Partisanship Would Look Like" and"How Conservatives and Progressives Will Work Together Next Year."
 

#51 The challenge of self-driving cars. Eddie Alterman: How do we fix it?

With technology in overdrive, self-driving cars are no longer a fantasy.  The first autonomous cars and trucks made by major auto manufacturers could be on the road within several years.

But "Fix It" guest Eddie Alterman, Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver magazine says not so fast.  "It's a scary concept anyway you look at it," he tells us. 

"The autonomous car is a very inelegant, very complex and a very fraught solution to the problem of texting while driving... and of information coming into the car when people should be driving."

For Google, Apple, Microsoft and other big data companies, autonomous cars are a big opportunity. Instead of keeping their eyes on the road, motorists could use their driving time to consume more digital media. 

But Eddie Alterman says a mix of self-driving and traditional vehicles on the road would create danger. "People will deal with or accept flawed humans crashing into each other. I don't think people will accept supposedly fail-safe machines crashing into each other"

(above photo: Lokan Sardari

Solutions:

  • Understand the danger of mixing traditional cars with self-driving vehicles on the same roadway.
  • Promote the use of background technology to make driving safer. Examples: cruise control, vehicle stability, lane departure warning systems.
  • Adopt autonomous vehicles in "closed" environments such as industrial sites.
  • Encourage car-sharing and other initiatives to reduce commute times.  
  • Resist the temptation to encourage drivers to surrender control of their time behind-the-wheel.

#50 Building a Better Workplace: Social Psychologist Ron Friedman

The numbers are alarming.  A 2015 Gallup poll found nearly 70% of U.S. employees say they're either bored or disengaged at work.

The cost to employers has been put at more than $500 billion in lost productivity. The cost to workers is incalculable - in human misery, unnecessary stress and lost opportunity.

Workplace psychologist Ron Friedman is the author of "The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace." Ron says there's an astonishing gap between the latest science and most the modern workplace.  He has some great tips for both employers and employees.  

Ron's solutions for employers:

  • An engaged workforce is more creative, focused and stay with their company for a long period time. This saves money.
  • Employees need to be competent and connected to one another, yet they need to have autonomy - feeling they have choice in how they go about doing their work.
  • Invite employees to share their ideas.
  • Encourage learning: give your employees a quarterly reading budget. Establish an office library.
  • Invite employees to take their vacation time and switch off from work at night, so they can live a balanced, healthy life.
  • Workplace design and hiring a diverse workforce play a very important role in creating a better workplace.

Ron's solutions for employees:

  • Reframe the way you look at your job. Present a case that could add value to your employer.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Greater variety often leads to more work satisfaction.  
  • Look for ways to re-create your job to allow yourself to do more of the things you enjoy doing more often. 
  • Regular exercise. It makes you smarter, more focused and creative at work.

 

#47 A Better Way To Report The News: David Bornstein

In this episode, we interview David Bornstein, who writes for the Fixes blog of The New York Times and is co-founder of SolutionsJournalismNetwork.org.

"The news tends to focus far more on what's wrong than on the credible efforts around the world of people who are trying to fix things, whether they are successful or not." David tells us. 

"I think the main thing is that the problems scream and the solutions whisper. The problems are always clamoring for attention. Solutions, you really do have to be proactive and go look for them."

David says that solutions journalism focuses not just on what may be working, but how and why it appears to be working, or alternatively, why it may be stumbling. Using the best available evidence, it delves deep into the how-to’s of problem solving, often structuring stories as puzzles or mysteries that investigate questions like: What models are having success reducing the dropout rate in public schools? How do they actually work? What are they doing differently than others that’s resulting in a better outcome?

Solutions Journalism network goes into newsrooms around the country, and trains editors and reporters on the imperatives of the "now what" aspect of reporting.  Solutions journalism helps news organizations play a stronger role in the communities they serve.

 

#41 Mark Earls Explains Donald Trump: Emotions & The Power of "We"

Let's face it.  Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have won far more votes than almost any "expert" forecast. 

The reason may well be that emotions and learned behavior from others play a far bigger role in our decision making than most of us realize. 

Our "Fix It" guest Mark Earls - the HERDMeister - is an award-winning British writer and consultant on marketing, communications and human behavior. In his latest book, "Copy, Copy, Copy," Mark shows how we vote and buy stuff by copying others - our friends, family and our neighbors.

"Donald Trump is "much smarter than we give him credit for," says Mark.. "He gets that people need to feel stuff rather than think about it." 

In his advertising work, Mark has used the lessons of behavioral science and marketing success to advise clients.  He shares his fascinating, if somewhat frustrating insights with us.

As voters and consumers we can learn from what his research tells us - even when he go to the supermarket or spend time with friends. 

"I would not recommend buying grocery shopping when you're hungry," Mark tells us. And...  "If I find myself in a British bar I tend to have a glass of beer and that's how it goes, unless somebody else around me goes 'ooh, a gin and tonic. I haven't had a gin and tonic for a long time'. So we both have the same thing."

Original Photo taken by Gage Skidmore: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/8566727275