Productivity: MIT’s Research on Being More Productive

This weekly Brain Boost is part of our Summer Scale Up series.

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What do the best researchers in the world have to say about productivity? Funny you ask… we found out! Here’s what a team of 3 MIT economists learned will help you be productive:

Increase Your Betweenness Centrality
Betweenness Centrality is a fancy way of saying that you benefit from being in the middle of many discussions. For example, knowing a little bit about a lot of projects benefits you. It also benefits you to have one foot in many different social groups rather than knowing everyone from one social group. Learn more about betweenness centrality here.

Learn to Use People Databases
People who can use people databases like LinkedIn are much more productive. For example, learning how to use Boolean search techniques to navigate your LinkedIn network is a high-value skill that we teach in our Career Hacking course.

Learn to Signal
The MIT research also shows that learning to digitally signal other people about your work enables you to be much more productive. For example, sending automated emails, chat notifications, or social network updates about your work are digital signals. Three great automated signaling tools are: –
BufferApp
MailButler
Yet Another Mail Merge

Here’s a discounted link to Eazl’s Advanced Management Training Program: http://bit.ly/eazlss15yt

Here’s the original research from MIT’s team.

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Direct Brain/Computer Integration is (Really) Close

How soon will human brains and computers be one? The technology is advancing fast. Faster than you might think. Interestingly, advanced human/machine integrations seems to have built a lot of momentum by helping people with disabilities overcome their disabilities and even be stronger by augmenting their human capabilities with machine capabilities.

Modified Humans
Rob Spence is blind in one eye and is a filmmaker so naturally, he decided to replace his eyeball with a camera. Now, he’s one of the many humans who are getting modified. Also, a team at Stanford has successfully enabled a paralyzed woman to type by building direct connections with her brain.

What’s Going on at Facebook’s Building 8
Facebook has been leading the charge in the human/machine integration area and the person leading this effort is a former head of the US Department of Defense’s Innovation squad. Her name is Regina Dugan and you can follow her on Facebook. Currently, they’re building systems that enable people to type at 100 wpm by decoding brain activity, decoding it into “virtual speech,” and deploying it as text. They’re also working on a way for humans to *hear through their skin*!

Towards Computer/Human Oneness
Here are some ways to keep up with what’s happening with computer / human integration:

Follow Facebook Building 8’s Regina Dugan
Connect with Dustin Tyler, an engineering professor who is at the front lines of developing physical objects that can feel, on LinkedIn
Follow Rob Spence, the guy with the camera eye who is working actively on this stuff at and check out his work and TED Talks

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There are Big Opportunities in Craft Products

Big brands like Coke, Budweiser, and FritoLay are seriously vulnerable to locally-made craft competitors. I think that there are big opportunities to take market share and then either hold it or sell a craft brand you’ve built on to big firms for large amounts of money. This Brain Boost is all about these big opportunities for smart, locally-focused, craft entrepreneurs.

The Craft Beer Takeover
In 2006, around 8m barrels of craft beer was shipped in the US. A decade later, in 2016, nearly 24m barrels of craft beer was made–nearly triple in just 10 years. Meanwhile–who was losing out? It was Budweiser. During the same period, Budweiser’s US shipments halved. That’s why AB InBev, Budweiser’s Europe-based parent company, has bought 10 American craft brewers in the last 10 years.What we’re seeing in beer makes sense to replicate in many other product categories: a locally-made, craft production takeover.

Craft Producers Have a Sustainable Advantage: Authenticity
Stanford MBA professor Glenn Carroll recently ran a massive survey which found that what drives sales in advanced economies like those in Europe, Australia, and the US is authenticity. He said “consumers are buying on the basis of their interpretation of the product and its story.” Craft products will always have a better story than industrial products because people want to feel a connection to the creators of a product.

Many Sectors with Opportunities
There are so many vulnerable product categories that it’s basically a menu for local teams ready to capture market share in their cities. Sodas and sparkling water is the fastest growing category and others include beer, liquor, and cider, snack foods, healthy packaged foods, dishware and ceramics and many more.

Our staff here at Eazl would be interested in helping your team take market share with locally-made products. Reach out to us any time at care@eazl.co–let’s talk!

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Three Ways to Build a More Supportive Family and Friend Network

You might like Eazl’s new course on giving great feedback. Here’s a link that will save you $5.

When you’re trying to launch something new, it’s critical to get some early momentum. Many of us hope that our family and friends will be the first people to support our work and if they don’t it can be hard. Recently, I launched a campaign to raise awareness about how we can use new laws to shift more than 1% (the current percentage) of the United States’ $1.4tn of personal savings to local communities (find out more at www.thebigdeal.us).

The campaign is making steady progress but I’ve been disappointed with the support I’ve received from some of the people in my close personal network. Part of that is my fault and in this Brain Boost, I’ve shared 3 recipes that have helped our family network learn to be more supportive of one another. I thought I’d share them with you.

Strategy #1: Build the habit of celebrating small wins. You can find Harvard’s research behind this here.

Strategy #2: Teach your family and friends how to use social media well. Specifically, using hashtags and profile tagging will make their social media support much more effective.

Strategy #3: Build a culture that supports progress. When you’re doing something that will take a while to build, you need people to help you stay focused by reminding you of your progress. You should do the same for them.

Have you had an experience when your family and friends network didn’t support you?

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Is Marijuana Good for Your Brain?

Is Marijuana Good for Your Brain?
New evidence shows that low doses weed might reverse the symptoms of aging in older brains. Exposure to THC might help older brains learn more easily and prevent memory loss. Andreas Zimmer from the University of Bonn in Germany says that after many repetitions of the experiment, his research team is seeing a “very robust and profound effect” of THC reversing the signs of aging in the older brains of mice.

The Experiment
Zimmer’s team gave young, middle-aged, and elderly mice a dose of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, over the course of a month. After a month, the team tested the mice’s ability to perform tasks like finding their way around mazes and recognizing other mice. There were two primary findings to these experiments:

1. Young mice who weren’t given any THC tended to perform better than middle and older-aged mice who also hadn’t gotten THC

2. Middle-aged and older mice’s performance improved significantly when exposed to consistent small doses of THC over the previous month.

Stronger Case for Weed
The University of Vermont notes that in 2016, legal marijuana sales hit $6.7bn in the United States. By 2020, they expect that the market for legal marijuana in the US will grow to $22bn –larger than the amount of money generated by the National Football League. With increasing evidence that there are wide opportunities for the use of marijuana for natural health, the legal marijuana industry might be one of the breakout industries of this generation.

Further reading:
Chronic Low Doses of THC Restores Cognitive Function in Older Mice
Follow Dr. David Nutt, Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs on Twitter
University of Vermont’s Report on the Legal Marijuana Industry in 2016

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Are We Living in a Simulation?

Elon Musk and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman have now publicly said in recent days that there is a strong possibility that we’re all living in a simulation. Are we? Is this the Matrix?

The Case for It
Though this idea was floated as early as the 17th century, it was popularized again in 2003 by Nick Bostrom, the founder of the Future of Humanity institute at Oxford University in the UK. It basically goes like this:
1. In the future, it is inevitable that human civilization will have enormous computing power
2. This computing power will surely be strong enough to run simulations to understand how their ancestors (us) thought, behaved, and evolved.
3. There is a strong chance that humankind will not self-destruct in the future
4. There is a strong chance that if future humans have the power to run simulations, they will run them.
5. Therefore, there is a strong chance that we are now in one of those simulations.

The Case Against It
People like MIT professor of physics Max Tegmark believes that, while there’s a chance that we’re in a simulation, it’s a slim one. His argument against this idea goes like this:
1. The laws of physics show evidence of ever-increasing complexity
2. Those laws would need to be mastered in order to run a simulation good enough for today’s smartest humans not to find flaws in the simulation.
3. We do not observe such flaws in the laws of nature, therefor it is unlikely that we are in a simulation.

Here are some fun links related to this subject
• Follow the Future of Humanity Institute on Twitter 
MIT Prof. Max Tegmark on Twitter
Y Combinator discussion of this topic
• Nick Bostrom’s 2003 paper on why we are likely to be in a simulation

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Facebook is Making You Sick

Facebook promises to deliver social connectivity, a way to promote your business or cause, and a lot more but we think you should beware about investing in the platform as more and more warning bells are signaling that social backlash is building.

Facebook in Bed
According to Facebook, the average Facebook user spends almost an hour on the site every day and recent survey found that the first thing many people do when they wake up is check social media applications like Facebook on their phones.

Comparison Causes Negative Impacts on Well-being
In today’s individualistic world, many of us compare ourselves to other people to gauge how we’re doing in life. Because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on Facebook, users increasingly believe that their own life compares negatively to the people they’re connected with on Facebook. In a new study, which was the largest ever conducted on Facebook use, researchers conclude that the use of Facebook is clearly connected to a negative impact on people’s overall well-being and especially on their mental health. You can find the study here.

Risky Business
Facebook has tried to convince business owners, bands, and brands that it is the place they need to build a following but here at Eazl we’re not so sure. There are growing calls from the health and academic communities for people to quit Facebook altogether and if you’re trying to grow a brand or a community, putting all of your eggs in the Facebook basket is risky business.

Check out some of Ludell’s tips for a technology detox that will help you be more productive.

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Three Mobile Apps to Help You Manage Debts and Save

It’s personal finance month here at Eazl and we wanted to share some mobile finance apps we love with you. If you want to learn about managing your credit and money, getting started with investing, and buying a house, go to here to save 40% on Eazl’s new financial empowerment class.

• Acorns automatically invests your spare change. Every time you make a purchase with a card connected to the app Acorns rounds it up to the next highest dollar and automatically invests the difference in a portfolio of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that you select based on your risk preference. When you want to take money out, you withdraw and however much you take out is sold from your portfolio. Acorns costs $1/mo. and is available to people in the US and Australia. Link: https://www.acorns.com

• Digit makes the decision to save for you. It’s an automated savings tool that connects to your checking account, analyzes your income and spending patterns, and then makes micro withdrawals–sometimes as little as $1 or $2–to set aside for you. When you want to access the money, you just text the app and the money comes right back into your checking account. It costs $2.99/mo. and it only works with US banks. Link: https://digit.co

• You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is a budgeting tool that doesn’t let you create budgets around money you don’t have – it forces you to live within your actual income. If you get off track it will help you see what you need to do differently to balance your budget. It also has a built-in “accountability partner” and online classes to help you get started. YNAB costs $50/year and it works everywhere but some direct data import functions only work in North America. Link: https://www.youneedabudget.com

FYI–nobody paid us to share these apps with you!

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United Airlines and China’s Century of Humiliation

David Dao was dragged off a United Airlines plane this week and the video of the brutal incident has gone viral. In China, it is estimated that the video has been watched more than 2 billion times. In this Brain Boost, Eazl business instructor Davis Jones talks about why the explosive Chinese reaction could be rooted in recent history–China’s “Century of Humiliation” and it’s rise to economic power.

“It’s Because I’m Chinese”
David Dao said that he was selected for “involuntary removal” by United Airlines because he is Asian-American. Some in China agree, and the Global Times, a state-owned newspaper ran a piece that gives credibility to Mr. Dao’s claim.

Roots of Humiliation
A phrase that’s known inside China is “The Century of Humiliation.” The beginning of the Century of Humiliation is usually dated around 1850 when free-trade agreements with Britain led to widespread opium addiction and the political unraveling of Qing dynasty. Later, events like the Japanese invasion in the 1930s and the eventual massacre and rape of Nan Jing where an estimated 300,000 citizens were killed and around 20,000 women were raped led Chinese society to bundle these years together as a time when China was fated to suffer terrible humiliations.

New Chinese Consumers
Today, media outlets, political leaders, and Chinese consumers are quick to report any incidents they view as discrimination against China or Chinese customers. As businesspeople and citizens outside China have more interactions with Chinese citizens, it is important to be aware that Chinese society increasingly demands recognition and respect. As their economic power increases, all brands and business owners will benefit by understanding more about Chinese history, the Century of Humiliation, and what that means for the psychology of Chinese citizens

Further Reading:
Chinese Consumers Boycott United
The Global Times says racism might have been a motive (Chinese)

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Does the Government Hate Freelancers?

As tax time comes in the US, Eazl has a question: does the government hate freelancers? Should we rework the tax code to make sense for self-employed people? Have your say! Answer the poll at the end of this video or leave your comment.

• The New 40%: Freelancers and self-employed people represent the fastest-growing portion of the labor market in the US and in many countries around the world. There are currently 55mm freelancers in the US and by 2020 freelancers will be 40% of the work force [1]. This trend will only continue as millennials and Gen Z are the largest groups who opt in to the freelancer work style.

• Support for Big Business: Meanwhile, governments around the world continue to flow money towards massive corporations. For example, the CATO Institute found that $10bn in farm subsidies went to publicly-listed industrial agriculture businesses, $4.4bn in special financing was directed towards Boeing, and Walmart has received more than $150mm in land grants and financing at the expense of US taxpayers. [2]

• 43.3% Tax Rate: Now that it’s tax time, freelancers are cutting relatively huge checks to federal and state governments… and taxes on self-employed people are rising. In her Piece for the Huffington Post, Nancy Humphries shows that freelancers who make under $110k annually pay an effective tax rate of 43.3% in the US [3]. That’s a higher rate than most billionaires! The US isn’t alone in raising taxes on self-employed people. The UK just passed a hugely controversial law requiring self-employed people to pay higher National Insurance Contributions [4] which many self-employed people say makes it even harder to survive.

Sources:
[1] See https://www.slideshare.net/upwork/freelancing-in-america-2016/1
[2] See https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa592.pdf
[3] See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-k-humphreys/selfemployed-pay-highest-_b_2397853.html
[4] See https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/09/self-employed-nics-increase-budget

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