Weekend Reads: The “How To” Edition
I confess that I am a list maker. What’s not to like about making a list and checking things off? It makes me feel organized and effective and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Of course, the converse is also true. Having a list that gets longer by the day tends to drag me down. Inertia can set in, as well as denial.
McGill University neuroscience professor Daniel Levitin states that those who make lists are more productive. When you make a list, it “takes that mental juggling out of the picture: You don’t think about what you have to do, and you’re not distracted (at least not as much) since it’s written down in front of your face.” By making a list, you free up the mental space necessary to tackle whatever activity you are currently engaged in.
David Letterman is famous for his “Top 10 Lists.” Over the course of his career, he delivered 4,605, spanning “things that almost rhyme with peas” to guest list providers Jim Carrey and the Beach Boys.
So, why do I love lists so much? Here is a list of reasons why.
How-to guides provide the same sense of relief. Five (or so) easy steps to fix anything? Perfect. I check off each step and my problem is solved. Hopefully.
In the hopes of removing the clutter from your brain and your weekend, here is a list of lists and guides to ease you through some of life’s complexities.
Investing and the Economy
- How to measure prosperity is a good place to start. Gross domestic product (GDP) has routinely been the metric of choice, but “it is a deeply flawed gauge of prosperity, and getting worse all the time.” A better measure of prosperity requires three specific changes, one of which is to simply “improve GDP as a gauge of production.” (Economist)
- More timely is this list of 5 Things to Watch in the August Jobs Report. Among other things, “a high number of Americans on the sidelines of the labor force suggests there’s more slack in the jobs market than the headline figures suggest.” This brings to mind an article I read detailing the growing concern about “less privileged white Americans” and “the bitterness — the ‘primal scorn’ — that Donald Trump has tapped into among white Americans in struggling areas.” (Wall Street Journal; Atlantic)
- Of more personal interest, questions about the motivations of their financial service provider are one reason individual investors seem to prefer the advice of friends and family, regardless of their lack of expertise. Here, Robert Stammers, CFA, details “How to Win Investors’ Trust” as a way of reconnecting with clients and rebuilding the credibility of the financial industry. (Enterprising Investor)
- Aswath Damodaran outlines how to invest internationally in this CFA Institute Take 15 interview. In essence, he advises against focusing on countries over companies by noting that “country selection is not an investment strategy, but part of building a portfolio that minimizes risk.” (Enterprising Investor)
- When seeking to hire qualified people, the goal is to find employees who will stick with the company over the long haul. Those who best fit the culture of the company. How do you find these individuals? Here are 5 Interview Tips to Find the Long-Term Employee. My favorite? The “airplane test”: “Can I see myself sitting on an airplane next to this person for four hours, or being stuck with them for a long layover and not want to pull my hair out?” (Wall Street Journal)
- Why and how do organizations kill an idea? Maybe it’s just plain bad. Or maybe “you’re an insecure weasel.” There is always meeting it to death — we have all seen that happen. Whatever your method or motivation, here is a lesson on “How to Kill a Good Idea.” (Fortune)
- Speaking of meetings, did you know that the “average working American spends 40% of their workday” in various sorts of work gatherings? Can you imagine how much more you could do with that extra time? If you find yourself stuck in more meetings than you can handle, “Here’s How to Avoid Another Insufferable Meeting.” (Fortune)
- If you can’t stand it any longer and have run screaming out of the office, odds are you might be looking for a new job. But wait. You might have an unexpected bonus waiting for you at home. Here are five signs that your kid “might just be the next Silicon Valley success story.” (Wall Street Journal)
- In the event that you are not quite so fortunate to have the next Bill Gates in your living room and instead are the parent of a happily spending millennial, you might need this guide to help you figure out “How to Talk to Millennials about Money.” (Enterprising Investor)
- The next time you find yourself faced with long lines at a supermarket, bank, or anywhere, here are some tips for picking the line that will move the fastest. One that had never occurred to me: “Most people are right-handed and tend to veer to the right,” so go left. (New York Times)
- How many of you get the requisite seven to nine hours of sleep each night? Sleep has wonderful benefits: “It can help us recharge to wake up refreshed and ready to start our days; it can help us lose weight; it can help improve our memories; and it can even make us happier.” If you find it difficult to sleep, as I do, science can help you fix those common sleep problems. (Tech Insider)
- And finally, should you decide to re-invent yourself — or perhaps you just want to impress — here is a how-to on being an impostor. I think I shall ditch my backpack, find a hat, and jaywalk, all while swirling my wine glass with confidence. I have always wanted to be a New York wine connoisseur. (New York Times)
Yes, there is a power in naming things, in writing them down. It gives a sense of hope that life is a process that we can control. However, it is also important to remember that “the biggest and best things in . . . life happen entirely by accident.” List or no list.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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