Archive for the ‘Life’ Tag

Living in an Uncertain World: Keeping Your Options Open   Leave a comment

We all have these moments when we say, “It’s raining :( I wish I would have taken my jacket with me”, “I wished I had filled gas in that last gas station”, “I wish I had bought another bed sheet for my in-potty-training daughter’s new bed”, etc. What’s common to all these self-proclaimed verdicts is that these unfortunate situations are avoidable by better pre-planning, in particular in what I call: Keeping Your Options Open.

The premise of Keeping Your Options Open is simple: when you have several similar options, choose the one which leaves the most unlocked doors. For example, imagine you want to replace a burned out light bulb at home. You go to Home Depot and can either buy a single bulb for $1 or a 4-pack for $3. Maybe you really only need one, so you might buy just one without overly thinking about the options. Or maybe because of the price you are tempted to buy the 4-pack. According to Keeping Your Options Open, you should buy the 4-pack, not because of the price or because you will use the other three eventually, but because if you buy one and it fails — it was broken, you broke it, there’s a bad circuit, etc. — you end up with no light and will need another trip to Home Depot. Unless going to Home Depot is your definition of leisure time, you should probably pay the extra $2 to have four attempts at fixing your lighting situation. Then you can also consider you will likely end up using the other bulbs eventually. Buying two single light bulbs is also a good solution, if four are too many. If the numbers were different, say the store only had a 10-pack for $7, buying a few single bulbs might be a great answer.

Maybe you are an expert in changing lightbulbs and do it for a living. In such circumstances, you might know for sure one bulb will do. Or maybe an expert knows that 50% of the lightbulb installations fail and having two or three bulbs makes more sense. Unless you are an expert, you have a modest intuition as to whether one would suffice. Thus, you shouldn’t bet too much on buying just one bulb and instead easily make the decision to shell out two more dollars, due to the uncertainty of the situation. The same level of uncertainty might exhibit in less controlled environments. A good example is when weather is involved. Should I take a jacket to a trip to Seattle or London? Probably yes. Should I take one to Death Valley or Morocco? Probably not. Should I take one to Prague? I don’t know, so probably yes, or maybe I should do more research. This is also true when people are involved: as I’m making a cup of coffee for myself, should I ask my spouse or roommate if they want too? I should. If she wants coffee but I didn’t ask, I’ll likely end up making another trip to the kitchen, having to wait for the water to boil again, collecting all ingredients again, using another spoon, etc. I’d rather make two drinks up front. If she doesn’t want coffee, asking the question doesn’t hurt. And there are many more random events, in contrast with the more skill based one from before, for example: should I count on the bus being on time? Do I really need to take my purse/wallet with me tonight? You can’t really be expert in these situations, so if given multiple options, choose whatever is safer.

In some cases, it’s not necessarily that you have to decide in advance, but can rather postpone making the decision to later, when hopefully you’ll have better intuition or maybe even facts. Packing a jacket doesn’t mean you have to carry one on you throughout the trip; if the sun is up, it is then that you can decide to leave the jacket at the hotel. Not bringing your jacket removes such future options (let’s say buying another jacket is not a good outcome due to the price). That’s why I have a spare jacket in my car, and a picnic blanket, a child’s scooter, and a ball. Obviously many of us arrive to the same conclusion intuitively, but using your frontal cortex rather than your cerebellum helps you avoid the situations where your intuition is incorrect. Listening to the inner voice saying “but I don’t need four light bulbs” might be a hasty decision, whereas looking at the price difference might tilt the balance.

These situations are maybe too simplistic — the options before are almost equivalent. Having a spare jacket in the car doesn’t “cost” you too much. So is paying $2 more for the extra bulbs. But as the cost becomes higher, it is harder to commit to an option that you might not need. Perhaps packing an jacket is a tough decision if you were planning to bring only a carry-on. And what if each bulb cost $10? $20? $100? Obviously you wouldn’t want to bet too much. I’ll save discussing statistics based decisions for another day.

The thing is that our lives are filled with these almost-identical choices. This leads us to our last example. You want to replace your glass of lukewarm Coke — Coca Cola, for those outside of the US — with a colder one; you walk to the kitchen and pour the useless drink down the drain, only to discover there’s no more Coke in the fridge — too bad; if only you kept your options open by fetching the new drink before disposing of the previous one, you might have used ice instead to cool down the last glass of Coke. The more you practice this skill, the better you notice these opportunities, which elude most people, leaving them to arbitrarily pick the seemingly easiest path. By bringing more and more situations into light, you get better at avoiding the pitfalls and will be a much happier person.


Posted September 13, 2017 by Ohad Kravchick (myok12) in Life

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A more equal union   Leave a comment

I am the first to admit I do not have the BEST relationship, but I try every day to make it as equal as I can. I sometimes ponder my life before having kids and after. Before, life was SO easy – I mostly did what I wanted: going here, buying this, meeting that person, but also going shopping with my spouse, going to a romantic movie together, and to sundry activities that I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. These days are long gone. Today, and two daughters deep, things are really different. I now almost exclusively do things I wouldn’t have chosen to do: go watch Cars 3, go to the restroom for a whole 5 minutes in the middle of the movie (no intermission in movies in the US), prepare dinner, pick it up from the floor afterwards, do the dishes, brush my kids’ teeth, change diapers (thankfully these days are over for me), wake up in the middle of the night to put a baby back to sleep, give a pacifier, etc.

I know way too many friends, all of them well raised, well intentioned, avoiding many of these or other tasks at home. I’m not sure what other men are telling themselves as they avoid these, maybe some kind of white lies: there’s no need for me to wake up in the night – the kid wants mommy anyway, they can go to the park without me – she loves going to the park with them, etc. I sometimes say these too, mostly when I’m tired, overwhelmed, or hungry. But many times, I hear men put these “walls” around them to protect themselves from these chores: I have to put the hours at work, I can’t change diapers or I can’t stand the smell, I don’t know how to prepare dinner, do the laundry, do dishes, etc. While this might be true for some, these excuses are just excuses, temporary ones at most. This might sounds funny, but if you had to make dinner at your workplace, would you have said you can’t? You might say “it’s better that at least one of us sleeps well at night”, but did you ask her what she really wants, without pressure, in a frank discussion? Just as you have done before the kids, you should now do even more. I know you have zero time for yourself, for maintaining sanity, for relaxing, but think about your wife – she is doing MUCH more, giving up WAY MORE than you. Or you might say to yourself “she wanted kids, I just agreed”; while that might be the case, that’s not how partnerships work. When you buy a house, maybe she wants it more, but BOTH OF YOU agree to pay for it for the next 30 years. It was the same when you agreed to go to the ballet – once you said yes, you tagging along with a sad face isn’t really doing your part; you have to bite the bullet and actually participate. Same for kids, house, chores – you should make time for these. It is all about bearing the burden equally. If you like to go watch a game over with friends, make sure she has similar time going out with her girlfriends. If you like staying in bed in the weekend, do it on Saturday, then clear out Sunday morning for her, taking the kids out, making breakfast, etc. If you don’t like taking them to classes, take them to the park instead. If she took a day off to join your child’s field trip, you should join to the next one. How many nights or weekends did you stay alone with the kids and how many did she?

Volunteering is an important aspect. Without you suggesting, there’s so much your wife can push you to do. Why should she have to ”boss” you around? Aren’t you a consenting adult? I don’t say you have to give up a 100% of your time; conversely, take as much time as you want, but make sure she takes similar time.

Lastly, I want to make a point about work: it’s really easy to use it as an excuse for having to stay longer, for staying at home working while everyone else go to the zoo, etc. This is your choosing. Especially if you are the main breadwinner, it’s easy to use this excuse to have your way. But again, this is you choosing to persist the imbalance between you and your spouse. You can choose to say to yourself “I’ll do it first thing on Monday morning” instead. You can choose to not have to reply at evenings. You can choose to take the day off when school is out or your kid is sick. You should be a better role model to your friends and colleagues — I will appreciate not being in the minority when it comes to work-life balance —  a better role model to your wife, to your kids, and to yourself. You can do it — to a more equal union!


Posted July 10, 2017 by Ohad Kravchick (myok12) in Life

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