Goldman Sachs Headquarters, New York City
Goldman Sachs Headquarters, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This idea of work-life balance is now becoming one important factor in a person's life these days. For what would you do with your tons of money, when nobody is around you anymore to share it with? Or you are no longer healthy to at least enjoy it yourself?

Just what is all the point there is after all the trouble?


The hard-working investment banker got out of bed at 11 a.m. First a leisurely cup of coffee and some Greek yogurt. Then after a run, he and three friends spent the afternoon watching college basketball on television.

The junior banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized by his employer to talk to a reporter, was savoring a rarity: a Saturday off.

“It’s weird waking up, saying, ‘What do I do with my time now?’” he said.

In recent months, some of the biggest banks on Wall Street have upended tradition by urging their junior bankers to take weekend days off.

In January, Bank of America Merrill Lynch told its junior bankers to take four weekend days off every month. Credit Suisse and Citigroup have urged their analysts and associates not to work on Saturdays. Last year, Goldman Sachs recommended that its analysts take weekend off whenever possible, and JPMorgan Chase announced an initiative to ensure that young staff members would have one “protected weekend” every month.

“We want them to be challenged, but also to operate at a pace where they’re going to stay here and learn important skills that are going to stick,” said David Solomon, at Goldman Sachs. “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Some may view the schedule change for overworked junior bankers as insignificant. But in an industry in which grueling schedules are embraced as a badge of honor, it reflects a significant shift in corporate culture.

The move to rethink workloads accelerated last summer when a 21-year-old intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s London office died after an epileptic seizure. Reports suggested that he had worked three nights in a row.

The change also reflects the shifting realities: Wall Street is no longer the inevitable first choice finance graduates, some of whom are drawn to technology firms that often offer flexibility at work and big paychecks.

Sonia Marciano, a professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University, said her students expected more than big bonuses. “My students, men and women, talk much more openly about an expectation of work-life balance,” said Ms. Marciano, who has been teaching for 20 years. “It’s a shift that seems pretty real and substantial.”

The junior banker who spent the recent Saturday with friends, said that in his first year on Wall Street, he worked all but a few weekend days. His parents stopped hoping that he would answer the phone. He lost touch with friends and struggled to find time to exercise. “The toll that it takes on you as a person, it’s overwhelming,” he said.

He still works through the weekend when a big deal is imminent and responds to calls and emails when he is out of the office.

But on that recent Saturday, he watched college basketball without his BlackBerry beeping. Later, he and his friends went out for burgers and a night of partying. “A chance to recharge,” he said.

He arrived home at 5 a.m., bleary-eyed and ready for a few hours of sleep. But just a few. It was Sunday, and time to get back to work.

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, The New York Times International Weekly, April 5, 2014

English: London Business School logo
English: London Business School logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If brokerage is more apt to be for men, then modelling and product promotion is undoubtedly for women...

Who really makes the changes in an organization? It’s not always the people with the highest executive titles. A growing body of research has pointed to the importance of informal leaders known to researchers as “brokers,” who have the gift of connecting employees in productive new ways.

New research by Raina A. Brands of the London Business School and Martin Kilduff of University College London has uncovered a bias surrounding brokerage roles.

Professor Brands and Professor Kilduff examined what are known as “friendship networks” within organizations. In this sense, friends are the people you turn to for help, advice and information, whether or not they are in your work group. Simply put, you like and trust them, Professor Brands says. It’s within these friendship networks that much of an organization’s work gets done, Professor Brands says.

In a study of two separate groups – employees of an electronic-components distributor and a cohort of M.B.A. students – she and professor Kilduff identified brokers based on the high level of connectivity they displayed. They also identified the people who were perceived by their colleagues to be brokers. (Perceived brokers are not always actual brokers.)

Researchers asked members to evaluate their colleagues, including the actual and perceived brokers. This is where gender differences emerged. The researchers found that people tended to ignore the activities of female brokers and to exaggerate how much men served as brokers. If women were recognized as brokers, they were perceived more negatively.

“They incurred reputational penalties,” Professor Brands says.

“They were seen as more competent, but less warm.” Other research, she says, has shown that men who take on brokerage roles tend to receive benefits in the form of compensation and promotions, whereas female brokers’ careers are negatively affected.

Professor Brands and Professor Kilduff also analyzed the performance of the brokers’ teams. They found that women who were thought by their teams to be brokers tended to perform well individually, but at the expense of their overall team’s performance.

The professors noted that men are traditionally defined by words like aggressive, forceful, independent and decisive. Women, on the other hand, are stereotypically expected to be kind, helpful, and sympathetic and concerned about others.

Women are thought to excel in the social realm – so you would think that they would be seen as good work brokers, the researchers said. But “despite the widespread notion of women as social specialist, perceptions of the network position of women will be distorted because of the expectation that brokerage is man’s work,” they wrote.

Much of this distortion may be below the level of conscious awareness, Professor Brands says, and simply bringing it to employees’ attention could help minimize the reputational bias that women incur at work.

Taken from The New York Times International Weekly, TODAY Saturday Edition, April 26, 2014
Kansai International Airport(ja:関西国際空港),Osaka,...
Kansai International Airport(ja:関西国際空港),Osaka,Japan(大阪府)で撮影。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     On our way back to Singapore from Osaka, Japan via Kansai International Airport, we took the wrong Express Train, not knowing that there were 2. Since we usually make it a point to leave early, estimating about 2 hours from departure time, that incident caused a delay of 1 hour, still giving us an hour ahead of departure time.
     When we rushed to the check-in row, we were immediately met by the plane's airport personnel, telling us that the flight is delayed, which to them, warranted an endorsement - change of airplane.
     That is how I got this Wall Street Journal paper, where this short article is containted.
     Coincidence? I don't think so. Intelligent scheduling. I believe so.
     This is for all to see, to read, and understand. NOTHING is by chance, be it evolution or big bang. Everything has its time and season - and reason.

By Eric Metaxas

In 1996 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete – that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place – science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion – 1 followed by 24 zeros – planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion – 1 followed by 21 zeros – planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launce dint he 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. U.S. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis – 0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life that Sagan supposed. His tow parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest… We should quietly admit that the early estimates… many no longer be tenable.”

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life – every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what pint is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exit on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the value s of the four fundamental forces – gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces – were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction – by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000 – then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology… The numbers one calculates form the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator… gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something – or Someone – beyond itself.

Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” (Dutton Adult, 2014).

Taken from The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday – Thursday, Dec 31, 2014 – Jan 1, 2015
The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The bad eliminating 'more' bad...?

By Natalie Angier

After decades of focusing on such staples of bad behavior as aggressiveness, selfishness, narcissism and greed, scientists have turned their attention to the subtler theme of spite – the urge to punish, hurt, humiliate or harass another, even when one gains no obvious benefit and may well pay a cost.

Psychologists are exploring spitefulness in its customary role as a negative trait, a lapse that should be embarrassing but is often sublimated as righteousness, as when you take your time pulling out of a parking space because you notice another car is waiting for it.

Evolutionary theorists, by contrast, are studying what might be viewed as the brighter side of spite, and the role it may have played in the origin of admirable traits like a cooperative spirit and a sense of fair play.

The new research transcends older notions that we are savage, selfish brutes at heart, as well as more recent suggestions that humans inherently yearn to love and connect. Instead, it concludes that vice and virtue may be inextricably linked.

“Spitefulness is such an intrinsically interesting subject, and it fits with so many people’s everyday experience, that I was surprised to see how little mention there was of it in the psychology literature,” said David K. Marcus, a psychologist at Washington State University.

Reporting in February in the journal Psychological Assessment, Dr. Marcus and his colleagues described a survey they created to assess individual differences in spitefulness, just as existing personality tests measure traits like agreeableness and extroversion. A total of 946 college students and 297 adults were asked to rate how firmly they agreed with sentiments like, “If my neighbor complained about the appearance of my front yard, I would be tempted to make it look worse just to annoy him or her,” or, “If I opposed the election of an official, I would happily see the person fail even if that failure hurt my community.”

The researchers determined that men were generally more spiteful than women and young adults more spiteful than older ones.

For their part, evolutionary theorists have long been intrigued by the origins and purpose of spite, and a new report suggests that sometimes spite can make right.

Patrick Forber of Tufts University and Rory Smead of Northeastern University, both in Massachusetts, designed a computer model of virtual players challenging each other to single rounds of the ultimatum game.

According to the rules, Player A decided how a pot of money was to be shared with Player B. If B consented to the split, both received the agreed-upon portion; If B rejected the offer, neither player received anything.

The contestants were assigned one of four predetermined strategies, from the easygoing approach of, “When you’re Player A, you share 50-50, but when you’re Player B you accept any offer, no matter how stingy,” to the spiteful, “When you’re A, you make a stingy offer, but when you’re B you spurn a stingy offer.” The researchers then allowed the players to coalesce into mock societies, and they were startled by the results.

Although groups of excessively spiteful or selfish players quickly collapsed, and rigidly fair-minded societies were readily destabilized by influxes of selfish exploiters, the flexible sharers not only proved able to coexist with the spiteful types, but the presence of spiteful had the effect of enhancing the rate of fair exchanges among the genials. Dr. Smead said it seemed that “fairness is acting as a defense against spite.”

The results echo other recent research suggesting that human decency and cooperation require a certain degree of so-called altruistic punishment: the willingness of some individuals to punish rule breakers even when the infraction does not directly affect them.

Omar Tonsi Eldakar of Nova Southeastern University in Florida has studied the link between cooperative behavior and what he calls selfish punishment. “Why is everyone always assuming that it’s the good guys who are doing the punishing?” he asked. “Selfish individuals have more reason than anyone else to want to get rid of other cheaters.”

Using game theory models, Dr.Eldakar has demonstrated that when selfish players intent on maximizing their profits regularly punish other selfish players or exclude them from the group, the net outcome is an overall decline in selfish exchanges to a reasonably stable state.

“It’s like the Mafia,” he said. They end up reducing crime in the areas they inhabit.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, April 12, 2014