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Boredom, Punishment, & Being Born

By: Michael Blankenship |

To do the same thing over and over again is not only boredom: it is to be controlled by rather than to control what you do.

– Heraclitus

Greetings from LA and Oahu!

This week we’re discussing… 

  • Why reward is a more effective leadership tool than punishment (and why you might disagree).
  • Why U.S. workers are leaving their jobs at record rates.
  • The probability of you being born. 
  • And how boredom is an opportunity for you to make better choices. 

We’ve also got a discount code for you on some high-quality protein bars 😉

And as always, there’s a riddle to consider, a question to answer, a photo to ogle, and a challenge to tackle. 


That’s a High Bar

Sponsored by Atlas Protein Bars

This week’s email is sponsored by Atlas Protein Bars!

Every delicious bar (we tried them for ourselves and loved ‘em!) gives you 15 grams of protein, 9-12 grams of fiber, 3-4 grams of carbs, and they’re 100% keto-friendly with no GMOs, no gluten, and no added sugars. 

And they’re setting a high bar. Check out some of these customer reviews…

“Most delicious protein bar out there!” – Connie S.

“These things are great! From texture to taste! I like all the flavors and there is no nasty aftertaste!” – Brian L.

 “Solid all around. I’m usually super picky with my protein bars but these are great tasting, have great texture, the macros are on point and overall really enjoyable with great ingredients.” – Adrian H

They’re giving The Tonic subscribers (YOU) 20% OFF your first purchase (minimum purchase price of $14.95). 

Just enter the TONIC20 during checkout to claim the discount. 

Here’s the link to their store — but we recommend their One-Time Sampler.

Punishment Vs. Reward

What is a better source of motivation: punishing people for their mistakes or rewarding people for their compliance? 

Multiple studies indicate that rewards are far more effective than reprimands. One study at a New York state hospital, for instance, aimed to increase the frequency by which medical staff cleaned their hands. Cameras watching all sanitization stations revealed that only 10% of staff would sanitize their hands before entering a patient’s room. 

This was happening when the staff were constantly being reminded of the negative consequences of not washing their hands via warning signs alongside the sanitization gel dispensers.

So they tried something else. 

Here’s how Tali Sharot at Harvard Business Review explains the change:

“An electronic board was placed in the hallway of the unit that gave employees instant feedback. Every time they washed their hands the board displayed a positive message (such as ‘Good job!’) and the current shift’s hand-hygiene score would go up.”

What happened? 

The rate of hand sanitization rose from 10% to 90% within just four weeks. Here’s Sharot again… 

“The brilliance of the electronic board was that, instead of using the threat of spreading disease, the common approach in this situation, the researchers chose a positive strategy. Every time a staff member washed their hands, they received immediate positive feedback. Positive feedback triggers a reward signal in the brain, reinforcing the action that caused it, and making it more likely to be repeated in the future.”

This is an important lesson for those of us in leadership lessons to learn (i.e. parents, managers, CEOs, teachers, etc). It’s far more motivating to reward people for compliance than it is to punish people for bad behavior. 

And if you disagree based on your own experiences as a leader, it’s probably because of a behavioral tendency known as “regression to the mean”, not because your reprimands have been effective. 

On Being Alive

What is the probability of YOU being born? 

In an article titled, Are You a Miracle? On the Probability of Your Being Born,

Dr. Ali Binazir breaks down the numbers — and it’s a good reminder to be grateful for the time we have on this earth.

Step 1. Probability of Boy Meeting Girl: One in 20,000.

Step 2. Probability of Same Boy Knocking up Same Girl: One in 2,000.

Step 3. Probability of Right Sperm Meeting Right Egg: One in 400 Quadrillion.

Step 4. Probability of Every One of Your Ancestors Reproducing Successfully: One in 400 Quadrillion to the 150,000 power. 

Yup… those are some big numbers. 

Here is Dr. Binazir conclusion:

“It’s the probability of 2.5 million people getting together — about the population of San Diego — each to play a game of dice with trillion-sided dice. They each roll the dice — and they all come up the exact same number — say, 550,343,279,001.

A miracle is an event so unlikely as to be almost impossible. By that definition, I’ve just proven that you are a miracle.

Now go forth and feel and act like the miracle that you are.”

The Great Resignation

In what some economists are calling “The Great Resignation”, U.S. workers are leaving their jobs at record-setting rates. 

In June, 3.9 million Americans quit their job. In July, another 3.9 million. In August, 4.3 million Americans quit. And in September, nearly a quarter of workers between the ages of 20 to 34 were not counted as part of the U.S. workforce. 

Why’s it happening? 

In an article from Time titled, Young People Are Leaving Their Jobs in Record Numbers—And Not Going Back, Raisa Bruner identifies a few different plausible reasons…

Burnout “Meanwhile, there are an estimated 10.4 million jobs in the U.S. that remain unfilled, as this exodus—dubbed the Great Resignation—offers young workers time to nurse the wounds of pandemic burnout and untenable working conditions with dramatic life changes.”

Savings —  “Workers like Green, who had well-paying jobs leading into the pandemic, have a greater sense of financial comfort after spending less and saving more during the past 19 months, says Harvard economist Lawrence Katz. Plus, the abundance of open jobs may—counterproductively—make workers feel more confident dipping out of the workforce.”

Childcare “Millennial women are particularly likely to stay home given the need for childcare flexibility. Over 309,000 women dropped out of the workforce in September alone.”

Read the full article to learn more. 

And if you’re one of the workers who quit their job recently, and if you don’t want to go back, here are some great ideas for how you can make money online

Boredom (For Growth)

Leo Tolstoy once defined boredom as “the desire for desires”. 

We all know the feeling — there’s some stuff that should be done, there are multiple things we could do, and then there’s our feeling of indecision. 

Because of technology’s near-constant ability to stimulate us, this sensation is more chronic than ever before. We know we shouldn’t just keep scrolling… but it’s the fastest and easiest way to get a dopamine hit; it’s certainly a lot easier than doing the things that would actually fulfill us.

And so boredom is that place where we teeter between knowing what we should do while being drawn to what’s easy

As such, it’s an opportunity to stop doing something meaningless and start doing something meaningful — it’s a signal from the self-aware part of our brain that we need to put our energy into something with more long-term rewards. 

Boredom is just the withdrawal symptom of constant stimulation. 

And while it feels like the answer is to stimulate ourselves yet again, that will only provide short-lived relief. The lasting answer is to decrease our baseline stimulation — to make a habit of spending less time on our phones and more time reading, writing, journaling, meditating, hiking, walking, learning music, and so on.

The more we lower our baseline stimulation, the easier it becomes to work on the things that we actually want to work on — because our brain is no longer expecting the quick-fire seduction of our smartphones, but the long-term satisfaction that comes with doing something difficult and meaningful. 

This Week’s Photo

Lukas Barth / Reuters

“Participant Norbert Dopf from Austria arrives for the German Mustache and Beard Championships 2021 at Pullman City Western Theme Park in Eging am See, Germany, on October 23, 2021.” via The Atlantic

This Week’s Riddle

Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!

Poor people have it. Rich people need it. If you eat it you die. What is it?

This Week’s Question & Answers

Answer this question — either privately or by replying to this email. If your answer inspires us, then we’ll ask for permission to include it in a future email!

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Here are some of the tribe’s answers to last week’s question: How do you keep yourself from procrastinating on important tasks?

“I remind myself what happened the last time I procrastinated (it’s never been good!) and I think of a way to make the task more enjoyable: listen to a great podcast, dance to music, a treat when complete, chatting with a friend.” – Malanie L

“I avoid procrastination by creating checklists and timelines. Knowing what small steps I need to take by certain deadlines can help me chunk out the work and get it done at a manageable pace. That, or I just do everything the day before it’s due in a mad rush and then promise myself I won’t procrastinate next time 😉.” – Abby B.

This Week’s Challenge

It’s easy to forget to be grateful for the food we have when we sit down to eat. Cooking together is both a reminder to be grateful and a fun way to bond with friends and family. Find a new recipe and cook with your friends or family — here are 28 recipes to choose from

Until next week, 

Mike & Alec

Riddle Answer: Nothing

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