The key to success? Remind yourself of how little you know.

You don’t want to be so modest that you don’t’ do anything, and just sit there like a puddle, but when you do things, you constantly want to be checking for your own biases.

One of the traits that hampers executives and leaders in many realms is over-confidence.  And so 95 percent of college professors think they have above-average teaching skills.  And Time magazine asked Americans, are you in the top one percent of earners?  And 19 percent of Americans believe they are in the top one percent of earners.  And yet, some people have the ability to look inside themselves and say, "Okay, I’m over-confident.  Actually let me stop. I missed something that will be germane."  


And so two researchers gave tests to business executives and tests about their own industries. And then they asked them, "How confident are you that the answers to these tests about your own industries are correct?" And people in the advertising industry were convinced they got 80 percent of the answers right on these tests.  In fact, they got 60 percent wrong.  The most over-confident industry was the computer industry.  And so people in the computer business thought they got 95 percent of the answers on the test correct.  In fact, they got 80 percent of them wrong.  

And so we all have this tremendous bias to be over-confident, over-value our abilities to pick out evidence that confirms what we already believe.  And so a wise executive says, “Hey, I’ve got an over-confidence bias.  I need to build modesty bootstraps for myself.”  Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner in his investment business, says, "Okay, here’s what I’m going to do to control my over-confidence.  Here’s what I’m going to do to bias myself in the opposite direction."

Peter Drucker, the great management guru had a modesty step. He said, "When you make a decision, write it on a piece of paper, seal it in an envelop for nine months, open it after nine months, and you’ll see that a third of your decisions were right, a third were wrong, and a third somewhere in between. But in most cases your reasoning will be completely irrelevant.  And if you do that, you’re going to remind yourself how little you know and you’ll build modesty bootstraps."  So you don’t want to be so modest that you don’t’ do anything, and just sit there like a puddle, but when you do things, you constantly want to be checking for your own biases.

​Is science synonymous with 'truth'? Game theory says, 'not always.'

Good science is sometimes trumped by the craving for a "big splash."

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  • Scientists strive to earn credit from their peers, for grants from federal agencies, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are strategic in nature. They're encouraged to publish exciting new findings that demonstrate some new phenomenon that we have never seen before.
  • This professional pressure can affect their decision-making — to get acclaim they may actually make science worse. That is, a scientist might commit fraud if he thinks he can get away with it or a scientist might rush a result out of the door even though it hasn't been completely verified in order to beat the competition.
  • On top of the acclaim of their peers, scientists — with the increasing popularity of science journalism — are starting to be rewarded for doing things that the public is interested in. The good side of this is that the research is more likely to have a public impact, rather than be esoteric. The bad side? To make a "big splash" a scientist may push a study or article that doesn't exemplify good science.

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer
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Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

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NASA and ESA team up for historic planetary defense test

Two space agencies plan missions to deflect an asteroid.

ESA's Hera mission above asteroid 65803 Didymos. Credit: ESA/ScienceOffice.org
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  • NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together on missions to a binary asteroid system.
  • The DART and Hera missions will attempt to deflect and study the asteroid Didymoon.
  • A planetary defense system is important in preventing large-scale catastrophes.
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