How beliefs shape careers

Mathematics is one subject in which many people claim not to be good with numbers. It almost seems acceptable to suggest that there is an inborn, predetermined inability to deal with numbers that , to excuse, to the casual observer, a lack of trying and effort. Is there any truth to this predetermined ability? Or are people shaped and influenced more by society and expectation?

Research shows the latter to be true. In psychological research undertaken by Yale University, the attitudes of two groups of students were studied by psychologists. The students were high school students and they were tracked across the college studies and working careers. The results of the research undertaken in 2008 found that even though the students had been assessed in high school to have similar SATs scores, there were diverse outcomes in their future careers. Those that went on to successful careers were those that displayed a willingness for patience and a willingness to try. Those that did not persist when faced with the initial signs of difficulty were those that ended up with what might be considered less stellar careers.

The results of this research are hardly surprising. We know that hard work allows us to achieve good results. What is less known, however, was that the less successful group was more inclined to quote generalisations to support their lack of effort. When students faced initial difficulty in the subject of Mathematics, some claimed “I’m not good with numbers” or “I’m more of an essay person” or “My family are more artistic and creative types”. The problem is two-fold: these generalisations are made by adults to excuse their own lack of effort, and secondly, younger individuals pounce on them as an immediate knee-jerk reaction to difficulty, and held on to these “axioms”. Few of those who claimed at high school level that they were not good with numbers went on to careers requiring these skills.

It is more the environment that shapes ability. Environment also shapes reaction. To help kids succeed, some measures could include putting them in training environments where they have to develop skills at persistence, trying while manipulating information. One of these environments is in learning a musical instrument. As a piano teacher in Stroud Green  mentions, it is juggling six or seven skills while developing the patience to improve.

Hunting the perfect job

What makes a perfect job? A job is the combination of many factors and maybe the blend of these factors really depends on what you want to get out of it, and the lifestyle you want to lead. Lifestyle? What has that got to do with a job? Well, actually, a lot – because a job is something that allows you to obtain the means to live the life you want, then certainly the first thing to decide is the kind of life you want.

What kind of life do you want? Obviously we want to have meaning in our lives. We want to do things we enjoy, and have the means to do so. For some people, living thrill-seeking lives are important to them. They may spend weekends jumping out of airplanes, climbing mountains, going on long marathon runs – the adventure bug keeps biting and they have a zest for life and living. If you are one of these people, then you must find a job that allows you to do this. It may be you already are a good runner – in which case you may have to find sponsorship deals to allow you to do the things you want. But what happens if for example, you enjoy being an 10,000 metre runner and as you age you find you cannot keep up with the younger runners? After all, it is unlikely you will be running when you are 65 and still expecting to compete with twenty somethings. You may have to obtain financial sustenance in another form. Look at your track career and leverage that to your advantage. Become a life coach, or a motivational speaker. Speak of your training and the things you have learnt in life. Sell your experience – and be a coach in another field for another generation.

Life always presents opportunities but the best things to ask yourself are – what am I good at? What can I do? Then look for opportunities to do them. It may be something like playing the piano. You may want to follow a career in music. But you may not want to tread the difficulties with a piano career; in which you case you could take up a more stable job, while earning the money that would give you the chance to buy a piano and have lessons – still pursuing your passion! The balance of all these things will do wonders for your mental health.

Social Media, Business, and Mental Health

Some people claim it is true, while others dismiss it as utter hogwash. There are many who also piggyback on this theory in order to market themselves in a different light. What could this theory be then? It is the theory that your social standing could be judged by the social platform you use. Of course, when you signed up, it is likely that you went along with what might have been the more popular social platform at the time. And the idea is that the older the platform you use, the older your age.

Hence, if you are a Facebook user, and use it regularly, it is likely that you are in your mid thirties or forties – at least, while those who prefer Instagram are supposedly younger. The theory however hinges on the notion that social media users stick to one platform. There is nothing to stop one from switching across platforms, or using more than one platform, especially if one wants to appear hip.

Over the years social media has opened up possible avenues for income streams, mostly in the area of sales. After all, the possibility of sales is what drives advertising. If you have a large following, and you have created a product to sell, you can market it straight to your followers. This product can be anything from web templates, books, SEO advice, or crafts like jewellery. If you like singing, you can make a cover song and sell it, but just as long as you register for a mechanical license which allows you to do so. Cover songs can be better and more profitable than the original. Did you know that Hound Dog was not Elvis Presley’s own work, but a cover of someone else’s? (You can read more about this in the Piano Teachers N10 blog.)

You don’t need to even produce a product to sell in order to derive some form of income. If you have any followers who do these, you could market their products for them and get a percentage of the sales, in a process known as affiliate marketing. The role of social media influencer has also evolved over the years. This is a less direct form of marketing, where individuals present themselves as accomplished in their field, and refer to products that they use, in order that aspirational followers may follow suit. Think of the female blogs that talk about the beauty products they use. There is no buy now link, but people are subtly influenced to try out the products, after buying them of course, because they have read a good review which they don’t realise has been paid for.

Social media is great, but be aware of the toll it can take on your mental health. Initially you will be able to respond individually to your followers, but as they increase you will find it more and more difficult to respond and keep up, which may leave you mentally exhausted and dissatisfied. So while you open yourself up to more business opportunities, be careful that they do not overrun you!

The mental health strain of unwanted fame

What would you do if over a period of months you awoke to the reality that you were some sort of a popular celebrity? And what sort of a celebrity? The kind that features everywhere across the world, and has your face recognised and seen by many people.

The welcoming image of Shubnum Khan is one of the first things that people to countries such as Canada and Uruguay might notice. It is probably one of the things they have seen before they arrived, actually – because they will have had seen the face that welcomes immigrants to various countries such as Canada and Uruguay in a newspaper advertisement. But Khan is a muti-skilled entrepreneut. She manages a career as a writer and artist, in addition to being a consultant to a business in New York that sells carpets. She has also led treks to far flung regions such as Cambodia, she has appeared on advertisements by the McDonalds group in China, and also is involved in dentistry in Virginia. A multi-skilled lady, she also has links with a French dating website.

The wide scope of her involvement is amazing. Unfortunately none of it is actually real. It turns out that the South African author’s image was used without her knowledge when she unwittingly signed over the rights for her image to be used as a stock photo image. She claims that she was unaware, perhaps slightly naive in her thinking then, but many years earlier she had participated in what was called a 100 Faces Shoot, where a photographer promised professional portraits in exchange for being snapped.

So her image is plastered all over the internet, and she cannot do anything about it because the legality of the matter is that she HAD indeed signed off the rights to those images. I suppose anyone who woke up to that reality of unwanted fame may have cause for mental health concerns from others around them. After all the unwanted publicity can be detrimental to health. But Khan seems to have embraced it well, and the publicity from her sharing of her story can be actually leveraged to make the public familiar with her work. Her real work, of course.

A lesson to be learnt is that sometimes being shrewd and cautious are good skills to have in business dealings and can work to your advantage. In this particular case, owning the rights to your own image and other things you create can work to your advantage. So don’t be too keen to join things such as the Creative Commons Licence, because it is signing away your developed work. The composer Irving Berlin, for example, made sure to own the rights to Alexander’s Ragtime Band, a tune that made him millions in royalties and leveraged his career. (You can read more about this from the Piano Teacher N4 blog.)

But if you ever find yourself a victim of misrepresentation, because an image of yours was used without your knowledge, don’t panic – calm down and seek proper avenues of redress.

What football fervour can tell us

You can’t really escape World Cup fever this month in England. The football fever has taken over the country and everyone has been following the exploits of the England football team, and tracking the highs and lows.

England’s victory over Sweden in the quarter-final game was greeted with jubilant scenes. Fans were expectant and thought that this might be the year that football was coming home, to quote the words from the song by David Baddiel. It took place on a hot sunny afternoon, at 3pm, and so when the final whistle blew, an alcohol-fuelled crowd celebrated the victory. There is footage of fans smashing taxis, trashing furniture in IKEA, and generally other forms of anti-social behaviour. To say that this is the work of a few is rather masking the issue. It was a handful that caused the damage, but they were egged on by others who took part in the festivities.

Why are we such a repressed nation? And why is it that celebration cannot take place without alcohol, or happy scenes cannot be celebrated without the need to let loose and trash things?

Unfortunately – and you may disagree – this lack of respect for society and shared social things is inbred in people nowadays. Despite the technology and number of followers on Twitter or Instagram that people have, technology has made us less sociable in real life. People seem to care less about the things that go on around us unless it affects us directly, we have a stake in it, and it has the possibility of affecting us adversely. Otherwise we just carry on, ignoring the stimulus of life around us. We can blame the overflow of information around us – overloaded by information stimulus of life, we just switch off the parts that don’t matter. And as life continue to overwhelm us with information – remember that many terrabytes of information are produced every single day – it is not conceivable to think that society will become more and more disconnected with each passing day.

One may argue that we are just showing different sides to ourselves. We all have many faces that different people see parts of. The music composer Mozart, for example, was privately melancholic, yet outwardly choleric and effusive. (You can read about this in the Muswell Hill Piano Lessons website.) But is it healthy to partake in that contradiction – a happy celebration that involves anti-social behaviour? It only promotes mind and body disconnect, and sets up human beings to be more deluded in the future.

What the World Cup can tell us

The World Cup takes place every four years and this is the year that it is happening. If you have been following the football news on this blog, there was a post about how football, and the repeated impact of the ball on the head, can cause dementia.

But more importantly, there are effects that extend beyond physical deterioration. One is the impact of the “win at all costs” message that seems to be be perpetuated within the football industry.

Fair play seems to have been slowly eroded. Sportmanship appears a thing of the past, and being sporting is being soft; giving the opponent an edge.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that it promotes winning at all costs, such as through hoodwinking the referee, play acting, cheating in order to gain an advantage through a sending off or suspension.

What does it do for one’s mental health if we are so concerned with winning, that it overshadows how we view others and our actions?

You can view this pervasive attitude during many games. A player may have been guilty of a contravention, but when he is shown a card he may shrug his shoulders wiggle his fingers, and shake his head like the referee has made an incorrect decision.

This sort of behaviour influences impressionable minds of teenagers watching the game, and can distort their sense of right and wrong.

Football seems to be breeding delusion.

It teaches people to think they are never wrong, the fault lies with the decision, and that any admission of guilt – perhaps a bad tackle – only results in hampering your own team in the long run.

The price we pay for success is delusion and narcissism.

VAR was supposed to stop players harassing the referee. Now they surround and harass him to go to a video decision when he decides against them.

It is a new world from old beginnings, and for those looking for change, unfortunately it is still tinged with the past.

When the soft metal group Poison topped the pop charts, critics were quick to slam their style as “light keyboard music with guitars”, “hair metal” and all other derisory terms. But they proved that far from being deluded, going against the grain was refreshing, and there would always be a place for it.

And so football could do with a refreshing view, a new outlook. One where winning at all costs is de-emphasised in favour of more honourable values. Because if that sort of deluded narcissism is indulged, you will find more individuals going about their ways believing they are right, and society will implode.

Being too clever can make you blind – really?

Does being educated lead you to become myopic? This is what recent research seems to be pointing at, and what the NHS website seems to be endorsing. According to a study of nearly 68,000 participants, the research suggests that for every year spent in education, there is a decline of 0.2 dioptres in vision.

We all know the typical stereotypes of kids being brainy and wearing glasses. Everywhere we look this stereotype is being perpetuated. If you look at the character Cuthbert in the Dennis the Menace cartoons, he is the smart one in the class in the class, and like the teacher, one of few who wear glasses. Wearing glasses seems to convey some form of intelligence. Harry Potter wears glasses. The alternative stereotype is the muscular but dumb individual, big on muscles, small on brainpower.

The sample size of nearly 68,000 makes it of worthwhile consideration, unlike some research that (rather pointless) tried to use only a sample size of 20! Believe it or not, there was a piece of research on an important area such as smoking and vaping that published results after a sample size of 20 people were consulted. How is that even feasible? We have seen in the past how sample sizes skew statistics and this is how some manufacturers try to initiate the process of research in their twenty-year monopoly in pioneering new drugs; one can only speculate that this was why that particular research was published.

The research assessed the eye health of individuals are correlated them with the years spent in education. On the face of things, this seems to suggest that the more you study, the more your eyes deteriorate.

The more educated you are aiming to be, the more you have to sacrifice your sight.

Which is absurd.

It is not education that spoils the eyes. If that were the case, then all professors would wear glasses and have worse eyesight than the general population. And no teenagers would have high prescriptions.

The answer – if you can call it that – is what we do with our eyes. If we read in poor lighting conditions, then we put our eyes under strain and develop bad habits. For example, if you read with a overhead lamp and a shadow is cast on your book, or you lie on your back while hoisting a book upwards towards the sky, then you are straining your eyes; and if you spend more years (presumably in education) reading like this then you are going to develop myopia. But if you have good reading habits, then it is not going to hurt you to educate yourself and read, because you will not be doing much harm to your eyes.

But reading itself is not going to harm your eyes per se. We can point to various different activities that strain your eyes, such as watching too much television with faulty lighting, too much glare from scrolling cellphones in the dark, too much playing computer games and not noticing it has got dark … all these things strain your eyes.

In fact, if the researchers went back to the 68,000 people they surveyed, and asked how many people owned a smartphone, they would more or less get a close to 100% response and might as well have concluded that owning a smartphone leads you to developing myopia. It does – only if you focus for too long on it.

Poor vision has many causes – diet, prolonged focus and habit. One of the ways to help your eyes recover is to minimise the time you spend focusing on things close-up, and then to spend time outdoors to focus on things that are far away so that your eyes are not consistently taxed. If you were thinking of taking up piano lessons and then had to focus on reading the notated music, which may be tiny, and under dim conditions difficult, minimise the time you spend on it.

Being educated does not make you myopic – the poor reading habits that individuals have can be exacerbated by the reading demands that the pursuit of higher education requires. It is important to note the difference!