What is important?

A student (HBS) recently asked me “What do you think the top ten (five?) things people do not want to think about but are important? (Think life responsibilities aka when it comes to getting an education, owning a home, being financially responsible, eating well, cleaning, raising kids, etc).” Here’s the abbreviated version of my response. What do you think?


1. How difficult it is to find qualified help: household, tutors, doctors, life partners, etc.

Certifications are marketing platforms and have no incentive to provide the information you attribute to the certification. Look at your experience at a gym. Anyone can get certified, but not everyone certified cares for her students. 

With information overload, we default to things like certifications because it’s better than nothing. But . . . that doesn’t hold up empirically.

2. The damage bad advice can do – economically, mentally, socially, emotionally, physically, etc. 

Frankly, we don’t even know how to tell what good advice / bad advice is. It’s too personal.

3. The effort, skill and patience needed to clean up after the death of a loved one.

Probate, financial docs, etc. Even dealing with utilities…. Took 6 months to get Tada’s cell phone turned off. Admittedly, wasn’t the first phone call made, but still, how many times should I have to call to say this man is dead, please stop charging us for the line. (as a side note, AT&T was showing data charges for him . . . um, hello, that’s literally not possible. Scoundrels.)

4. How to be organized for life – this is a BIG deal. 
A little bit of self organization goes a long way to satiating the feeling of control in life. Knowing where your keys are. Working out daily at the same time. Whatever it is, choosing a little bit of organization has been tarnished as OCD more recently. Being organized has been demonstrated to lead to 20% increased income, happier marriages, etc. But as you know, these kinds of social science stats are mostly garbage. Your mileage will vary.

5. Privacy.
BIG BIG BIG deal
We’ve given up all sorts of data to anyone who wants to read it. But we’ve also made it a function of society to pry. This is nothing new – gossip has been around probably as long as conversation has. It serves a purpose. But, the level of attack that strangers can now institute on us is frightening. 

From striping things out of your social media to plumbing perfectly legit public records and stitching them together. Gaslighting is real.

6. Social context – mob mentality
Having something taken out of context on social media can be absolutely destructive. I’m reminded of the South African women who sent a tweet among friend mocking her own social privilege but was taken as an insult by her outsiders. She lost her job, her life, has had to deal with very real death threats, etc.

There was a rush to judge her and social glee that she was being judged without knowing she was being judged. She never had a chance to defend herself before the social decision against her had been made. She was stripped of her human rights by the very ppl claiming to care about human rights. It was a proper witch hunt. But none of the witch hunters can ever be reprimanded. There’s no recovery for her. No punishment for them. It’s a horrific lack of balance.

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