life experiments

Tonight, I learned some interesting things from the experimental man, author, and Esquire magazine editor at large: A.J. Jacobs.   He came to the university to talk about what he has learned from the series of “life experiments” in which he has immersed himself.   He is famous for these experiments because he commits himself to the project, for better or worse, then writes about what he learned.

Some of the experiments he has undertaken, and the books or articles that resulted, include:

  • The book The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (2004)  —   He spent an entire year reading all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • The Esquire article “My Outsourced Life” (2005)  —  For 30 days, he out-sourced his life to two personal assistants in India and who did everything for him from answering his e-mails, to reading his children good-night stories, to arguing with his wife.
  • The Esquire article “I Think You’re Fat” (2007)   —  He, for 30 days, practiced radical honesty, which required that, among other things, he verbally express whatever thought that came to his mind at the moment that it came to his mind.
  • The book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (2007)  —  He lived for one year according to a strict and literal interpretation of all the instructions that the Bible provides for how people should live their lives.   This included, as examples, that one should stone adulterers, blow a shofar at the beginning of every month, and refrain from trimming the corners of his facial hair (which, he followed by not trimming his facial hair at all, because he didn’t know what the corners of his facial or head hair were).


The takeaway

So what was did I take away from his speech and talking with him afterwards.  First, that he is a nice guy who has a very loving/patient wife, but also that we can learn so much about ourselves, and each other, as very social and political animals, when we put ourselves in these extreme lifestyle experiments.   Most importantly, the experimenter learns a great deal about their own personal moral code.   Jacobs, for example, shared with us that he learned a great deal about how he feels about religion and how he came to the conclusion that he wants raise his children to be exposed to at least some form, from his Living Biblically experiment.  There are other lessons, but the important take away is that if you want to learn about yourself, conduct an experiment, with you at it’s center.

Tribal leadership

So, one of the unclear ideas that has been bouncing around in deep–almost subconscious recesses–of my brain was this idea that my leadership skills had anything to do with my background, which very much includes having experienced depressing environments and phenomenal teamwork.  Well, this TED talk by David Logan on the idea of ‘Tribal Leadership’ has helped me understand the value of my experiences and how it helped make me the person that I am.

A Fog Index < 21

Apparently (I read somewhere) you don’t want a Fog Index score greater than 20 if you are giving a speech to a live audience.  This is important to those of us that feel we should write as if we were going to read our writing to a live audience, because this implies our writing should also have a Fog Index score not greater than 20.

The Fog Index is a type of readability test for your writing that essentially indicates how long–on average–your sentences and words are.   The longer the words and sentences, the more difficult it is for readers to read, and the higher the score will be.

If you want a quick tool that calculates multiple readability tests (including the Fog Index) for your writing, check out:    The Readability Test Tool.

Why haven’t most TV networks posted full episodes of their shows online?

so here is something that is curious to me…

One of my favorite TV shows is ‘The Mentalist‘ and it is broadcast by CBS, and, unlike NBC, CBS does not offer the ability to watch full episodes of their TV shows online.

It would be so great if I could watch full episodes of The Mentalist online, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think it makes a lot of sense from a marketing and advertisers point of view as well.   And here’s why:

As much as I hate commercials, I would actually watch them if I was watching my favorite show online–especially if the network eliminates the automatic increase to the volume of commercials (but that is a different blog entry).    What I don’t understand is why other TV are not following NBC’s lead.   I see it as an easy sell for the network’s Chief Marketing Officer…

Tell advertisers that you’ll be able better target advertisements to viewers because you’ll know who they are after they log into the website.  Then continue by telling them that you be better able to target advertisements to us as a result.   Then close with, “and if you don’t believe me, proof that the online viewer will see your advertisement is the fact that he is there in the first place.  That is, a person does not accidentally find himself watching a full episode of a TV show.  An online viewer deliberately goes online, browses to the TV show homepage, and finds the episode–so you know they are watching.   How do you know if I’m even watching a show on TV?  …couldn’t I have left the room/house and the TV powered on and tuned to that channel?”

This makes so much sense that I wonder why CBS and other networks have not put their episodes online.  Did TV manufacturers tell them that if they do so, that they are no longer going to be friends?  What is it?

If there is a Chief Marketing Officer for a major TV network reading this right now, please correct me by leaving me a comment below.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.”

“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.”

I came across this quote, and it describes well how I seem to live my life…always curious and interested in experiencing new things, I feel my focus is divided amongst a number of things.   It being a native american proverb, only makes me ponder even more seriously if I’ll ever succeed at achieving my life/career goals.

There is another native american proverb, however, that gives me hope:

“If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come.”

Unfortunately the first proverb seems to carry more weight since it seems to be more physically evident.

My hope is that my curiosity and willingness to try new things are strengths; not weaknesses.   I think it is just a matter of finding a place where these skills are truly valued.

Fortunately, I believe a career as an entrepreneurial industrial designer is an ideal place for me.  I believe the career and the work will continue enabling my ability to innovate (i.e. that connect ideas from seemingly unrelated disciplines, to create new ideas/products).  I hope I am right!

awesome tool for organizing a meeting (and it’s free)

We all do it…but now organizing multi-person meetings will no longer be such an administrative pain thanks to   Using this well-designed and simple site is probably the most effecient way for an organizer of a meeting to schedule a meeting that fits all schedules of meeting participants.

Check out the website and a video demo of how it works out at

They even offer a dedicated subdomain for your companies looking to use their product as a company wide tool.