Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If you can't be well-rested, at least you can be adored

(Said to Andrea one morning when our kids woke up entirely too early.)

I finished reading Switch the other day, and last night I decided what book I would pick up next: Climb: Stories of Survival from Rock, Snow and Ice. Andrea bought that book for me before we were married -- probably close to 10 years ago. I had not cracked it open until now. Oops.

Climb starts off with a prologue about a number of people who have died tragically while rock climbing. The first essay discusses a few of the tragedies that author observed: four events in which five friends died on some mountain face. This book is going to be a real pick-me-up.

In other news, Reed apparently loves to be the center of attention. I was posting on craigslist a child backpack, and as I was taking pictures, he jumped in front of the camera to be in the frame.

Andrea and I are hoping to go to Interstate Park in Taylors Falls for a day trip very soon. Unfortunately, it's getting too chilly to take the boys on an overnight camping trip, but there's plenty to do there for a few hours.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Changing the way you make decisions

I've been re-reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (Chip Heath & Dan Heath) as a way to improve my productivity at work. (It's already helped me quite a bit by using some "Shape the Path" techniques.) I hit an interesting section this weekend that discusses two basic decision-making models. The first is the "consequences" model:
The consequences model is familiar to students of economics. It assumes that when we have a decision to make, we weigh the costs and benefits of our options and make the choice that maximizes our satisfaction. It's a rational, analytical approach.
Then there's the "identity" model:
In the identity model of decision making, we essentially ask ousrelves three questions when we have a decision to make: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation? Notice what's missing: any calculation of costs and benefits.
This struck a chord with me. I thought about a recent decision I made that was based solely on the consequences model. I collected all the data I could, did a number of calculations, made a few adjustments to control for certain factors and then I heavily analyzed the results. My decision was ultimately based on how numbers played out. (Incidentally, I'm not satisfied with the decision I made.)

Then I thought about it some more. Most of the big decisions I make tend to use the consequences model. Should I buy this car or that car? Calculate the fuel efficiency, expected maintenance costs, insurance premiums and even weigh some non-monetary costs. Which vehicle will be better in Minnesota's winters? Will one vehicle be more of a burden than another when it comes to hauling kids around? There are costs involved there as well -- mostly in convenience. But there's little emphasis on identity. I'm not suggesting a car purchase be cosmetic; rather, how does my identity influence my decision? In such a scenario, the identity line of reasoning might go something like this:
  • Who am I? I am a person that values sustainable manufacturing processes.
  • What kind of situation is this? One car is built in a zero-landfill plant by an LEED-certified company; the other is not.
  • What would someone like me do in this situation? He or she would buy Car A instead of Car B because the former reflects environmentally-conscious values.
Another line of reasoning might be: I am a person who wants to buy American goods; one car is made by an American company; a person like me would buy that car.

I'm wondering whether the identity model would help make decisions that will ultimately lead to higher satisfaction. I suspect people place a higher relative value on identity than consequences, meaning that if the cost/benefit analysis doesn't strongly suggest you make one decision while the identity model suggests you do, it should be used as the default. It might take many thousands of dollars of extra cost on a vehicle, for example, to overcome your identity preference.

Furthermore, deferring to identity by default and using in-depth consequence analysis only when there's no strong identity preference may provide some extra fuel for the Rider discussed in Switch (which actually comes from Jonathon Haidt and his book The Happiness Hypothesis). In other words, if you consciously establish a default approach of not doing a cost analysis unless you have to and you instead focus on identity aspects, you may retain your power over the Elephant.

I'll tell you one thing: it's always better when we're together

We spent this weekend in Tofte, MN, at Bluefin Bay for Luke and Shannon's wedding, leaving the kids at Doug & Sarah's place while we partied. The order and nature of the events was pretty typical for weddings (rehearsal and rehearsal dinner on Friday; pre-ceremony events, beautiful ceremony, reception, etc.). There were a few things of note for Luke and Shannon's wedding that we'll remember for years to come.

First off, at the reception, the now-married couple had a photo booth -- an awesome idea that I had never heard about or considered before. For every set of pictures taken, two printouts were made: one for the subjects and one for a book the Kackmans get to keep. I actually really like how the pictures of me and Andrea turned out. The middle picture of that set is our 'surprised' (shocked? appalled?) look. After we took those, Andrea pulled Mom into the booth and did pretty much the same surprised shot. Luke's and my photos (on the right) were something to the effect of: morose, meh, and contemplative.

A few weeks ago, Luke asked me if -- before the wedding, while the bridesmaids and groomsmen/ushers were getting ready -- I would drive from Tofte to Grand Marais to pick up sandwich platters. The plan was to have one platter for the women and two for the men (there were four groomsmen and four ushers; also, we're all gluttons). Andrea and I made the drive, and despite being stuck behind slow drivers, it was very nice. The leaves weren't yet changing noticeably, but it was relaxing.

We got back to Tofte just in time, and we first stopped by condo #8, which is where the women were getting ready. We knocked on the door a few times, but no one answered. Andrea found someone in housekeeping who let us in so we could leave the food: one platter, a vegetarian sandwich for one of the women and a bag of condiments. We then asked if he'd help us get into #15 in case we needed it. (We figured everyone would already be there, but for some reason, they were gone from #8.) But when he asked, "Which #15? A or B?", we didn't know. The sheet I was given with instructions didn't say one way or the other.

Then a lightbulb goes off for Housekeeping Dude. We actually should be dropping these sandwiches off at Surfside -- which is a few miles down the road -- not at Bluefin. We unintentionally broke into some random peoples' condo and left them a veggie sandwich and a sandwich platter. I quick went back in and grabbed the stuff, and Andrea and I headed over to Surfside. As we're pulling in, I grab the stuff I need for the correct condo #8 -- one sandwich platter, one veggie sandwich one bag of condiments which... somehow... isn't in the car.

So to the folks at Bluefin Bay #8 who came back on September 10th to a random bag of Subway condiments amid all their stuff: no need to thank me.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I like turtles

I'm a little late in posting this, but a week ago, Elissa found a turtle on the road that amazingly hadn't been hit by any cars. She stopped, picked it up and brought it to our house for the boys to look at. Jacob and Reed loved touching it and showing Grandma Sarah. When we were all done enjoying his (or her) company, we walked over to the mill pond and let him go.

In other news, yesterday was my five year anniversary at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. We spent the morning volunteering at the St. Cloud Children's Home. Most of us did landscaping work outside while a few others cleaned up the chapel.