You may not know, if you only read this blog for the statistics content or the snarky comments, but I was the first American to win the world judo championships. I sometimes ponder the value of all of those years spent training on the mat and all of the years coaching after that. It’s not as if judo brought me any great fame and fortune. When I think about it though, I often see parallels between sport and business – or life in general.
Today, The Invisible Developer and I were discussing employees. In a startup, you can’t always hire highly paid experienced staff – the budget just isn’t there. Here’s one of the things I’ve learned from all those years of judo. It’s not the kid who is winning the junior national championships who is always going to be your Olympic medalist. Look for the kid who is training harder, who is willing to learn and doesn’t think that he or she knows it all already. Look for the kid who is willing to make mistakes and admit those mistakes. One person may be winning all of the trophies today but if some other kid is in the gym training harder and longer that kid will eventually catch up. Maybe not this year and maybe not next but as my lovely daughter Julia says,
Life is long.
The same thing applies now when I look at employees. Someone may not know every single programming language in which I would like him/her to be proficient or how to code a macro or use some application. However, if that person is willing to admit ignorance and eager to learn, that’s a good sign.
80% of success in life is just showing up
That’s what Woody Allen said but I think it’s an overestimate. I think half of success is just showing up and 30% is being willing to admit what you don’t know, acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. If you find people who are what some term “un-coachable”, is because they aren’t willing to learn for one of 2 reasons.
- They think they already know it all and no one could tell them anything.
- It’s just too much effort to be bothered. They just don’t care about getting better.
You see the exact same 2 types in business. I’ve told this to students, colleagues and employees:
No matter how great you are at what you do, there is a line across which it is not worth the pain in the ass of putting up with you.
If you aren’t a superstar at coding or whatever it is but I see you coming in day after day and trying your best, what I have learned from judo is you are going to come out ahead of the person who is too good to bother to consider anyone else’s opinions and pass up sleeping Joe over there in the corner who is just doing the minimum to get by.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post that showed student achievement was not what made a difference in whether students persisted in playing our games. With the exception of a few students who were very low achieving, e.g., non-readers in fourth-grade and up, there was little difference in the pretest scores of students who gave up at the first math problem and those who persisted.
What did make the difference, then? My next hypothesis was that it was the teacher that made a difference. To test this hypothesis, I did an Analysis of Variance with SAS using PROC GLM. The WHERE statement was used to eliminate extreme observations from the analysis – students who had attempted more than 50 problems. Complete code is shown below.
PROC GLM DATA= teach ;
CLASS teacher ;
MODEL prob_correct_N = teacher ;
LABEL prob_correct_N = “Problems Completed” ;
WHERE prob_correct_N < 50 ;
The teacher variable explained 22% of the variance (F = 9.79, p < .0001). When grade level (grades 4-7 were included in the analysis) was added to the model, the additional explained variance was trivial – about 0.5%.
In the figure above, produced by default for this analysis when ODS GRAPHICS is on, a box and whisker plot is given for each teacher, showing mean, median and outliers (note the numbers on the plot are observation number for outliers and not a value for the dependent variable). There are clear differences among the teachers in mean number of problems completed.
The next step (thank goodness this is a longitudinal study) is to see what those teachers are doing that explains persistence.
Shameless plug #1 :
I will be giving a talk at the Western Users of SAS Software conference tomorrow (Thursday, September 8, 2016) at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco that includes a lot more detail about the use of SAS for program evaluation.
Shameless plug # 2:
I was going to write more about graphics using SAS but I realized it was a Friday before a three-day weekend and most people don’t want to think about work – and that is the point of this post.
Many of the people who I know have done a far better job planning for retirement financially than they have planning for anything in their life other than work. So yes I guess this is one more post about work-life balance, of which I personally have none. This is obvious by the fact that I am writing this blog using voice input software rather than sitting on the couch watching reality TV – or maybe by the fact that I took one day off to have an operation and was back working 10 hours a day pretty much as soon as the anesthesia wore off. But we’re not here to talk about me, hypocrite that I may be.
Recently, “I ran into” three people who I have known for years. I put ran into in quotation marks because one of them was actually dead and I simply received the news from a mutual friend.
Let’s call them all Bob(not their real names) and start with Bob number one(or should I call him Dead Bob). If you ever heard the song, Eleanor Rigby, that was kind of Dead Bob but with more money, which I’m sure you will agree is not much help to you if you are dead. Now, DB made a number of what I would consider ethical compromises in his career. He always used the excuse if I don’t I’ll lose my job. I never understood that because why would you want a job where you had to compromise your principles? Also, it wasn’t even as if DB was making millions of dollars – not that that would make it okay, but it would maybe make it slightly understandable. So here you have it, someone who lived only to their 50s, had a middle management position, not a lot of respect from the people around them and that was it. When I look back on the times that DB overlooked sexual harassment or agreed to promote the boss’s nephew who had no more qualifications than a drowned rat, I wonder what was the point? In the end, he had a mediocre life with no respect from the people around him. What a waste! Don’t be a DB.
Bob number two, is 70 years old quite well-off financially and a pretty good guy. I asked him why he was still working when he didn’t need the money and I know that he just likes his job kind of okay. I was a bit shocked by what he told me. He’s been married forever and he said that he just couldn’t take the idea of spending all that time with his wife! He said it’s fine the way it is now, when they see each other at dinner time, maybe go out and try a nice restaurant. However, he said that when he takes a few days of vacation, or even on the weekends, she kind of drives him nuts. She does things like ask him to take out the trash and then two minutes later asking if you took out the trash. It’s stuff like that multiplied 1000 times over. He says that it’s much better to keep things the way they are because if he was home 24 – 7 he’d probably end up strangling her.
Bob number three is the most like me. He’s 67 years old, owns his own business and could easily just shut the doors, go home and not work for the rest of his life. He still goes to work every day though, not because he likes his work so much, although I know that he does, but because he’s never really done anything but work. Yes, like many people, he was into sports when he was young but that’s been 40 years or more. He’ll work 50 weeks a year and maybe going to vacation for two. In brief, he still working because he doesn’t really have anything to do but work. He doesn’t have any real hobbies that he’s into and is not one to sit around and watch TV. So, Bob Three is pretty much still working on autopilot – not to imply that he’s not doing a good job but rather he’s doing a good job because that’s what he’s always done.
All three Bobs could have had more of a life than they did/do. Maybe it’s too late for them but I feel like Scrooge in a Christmas Carol where I’m looking at the past and future and it’s my opportunity to change what the future would be. If you’re not as old as Bob two or three, and you are not dead (which I presume because you’re reading this blog) then it’s probably an opportunity for you, too.
Maybe you want to try that now, try to imagine what it would be like if you are retired and if you really hate that picture do something to change it.
One of my concerns not being able to use my left hand has been how I’m going to be able to continue coding.
However, SAS was a whole different story. Working on my paper for the Western Users of SAS Software conference, I had to run some analyses just to verify what I was saying in the paper. I’m a little obsessive like that. I may have run a procedure 500 times but before I write about it in the paper I will still run some analysis just to be 100% sure that the binomial option does exactly what I think it does.
Also, it is very helpful for an audience particularly if seeing a technique for the first time to see the output that is created. Because SAS is a very natural language, especially when using the statistical procedures rather than say, macro programming, it was actually quite easy to run a PROC FREQ with pretty much every known option. Even a data step that included data lines and entering the data was a piece of cake.
Now of course most programs are going to be a lot more complicated than a proc freq with a data step, but still I can see how I could easily do a lot of SAS programming using Dragon.
Once I figure out a few of the mathematical symbols, I should be able to do just about anything with SAS,
I think this is a pretty important point because if you have a physical disability that makes it difficult for you to use a keyboard you might want to consider learning SAS as a valuable career skill. If you put that knowledge to gather with knowledge in the content area, for example, a degree in statistics you would be very marketable.
This was on my mind because I just returned from a site visit at a vocational rehabilitation project where their goal is to find jobs for people with disabilities.
I wasn’t thinking of going to anymore SAS conferences for a while after the one in September just because my schedule is very very packed. However, I think I might make an exception in a year or two and demonstrate how one could use Dragon to write SAS programs using only their voice.
Actually, Dragon worked better with SAS than it did with this blogging software. Yes, I am now only writing my blogs using voice input software as I saving any typing I do for actual programming.
So this is attempt number two with voice recognition software. Now that I have my new custom splint on and I look something like Darth Vader with the robot arm I thought I had better not just keep doing the same thing that caused this problem in the first place.
The arthritis in my hands has just been getting worse to the point where I just had my left thumb, reconstructed. I know from other sports injuries that what happens when you injure one part is that other body parts get stressed and start to get injured. For example if you injure your right knee you start putting so much weight on your left knee to compensate that your left knee soon is giving you problems as well.
The Dragon software that I have only works on Windows although the Mac version is coming out very soon. So far it seems to work better than read and write the Google Chrome extension I have used.
What I like about this software so far is that it can do more than just type. It will open a web browser you can correct and underline words and do other formatting.
It’s going to be kind of weird to get use to dictating instead of typing. I’m sure it’s going to take me a while after all I’ve been typing for probably 40 years. I’m certain though that this will help the problems I have with my hands a lot. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do a lot of coding with this, though who knows.
I don’t think it will really work on planes and airports where I spend an inordinate amount of my time. Maybe it will though, I have a friend who is visually impaired and she talks into her phone all the time giving it messages and commands so I’m sure it’s just a matter of getting used to it.
Well I currently have about 900 unanswered e-mail messages, I also have an IRB application to complete and loads of documentation to write. I expect just like learning to use a word processor for the first time this will be a bit of a time-consuming learning process but well worth it in the end.
You’d think that talking to your computer would feel more natural and it would be easier to write but I can’t say that’s the case at all. Obviously I’m much more used to typing.
We’ll see as time passes if this gets easier. I presume it does.
Do you use voice recognition software to type? If so, how long was it before you felt comfortable doing it?
you can make anything into an opportunity.
For example today I had this very unpleasant operation on my phone actually that was my thumb not my phone. as you may have guessed comma I am now writing using a piece of voice recognition software.
It’s a Google Chrome extension. this makes me happy for two reasons. the pain pills are not one of them.
the first reason is that I have been wanting to experiment more with Google Chrome extensions.
At some point we are planning on using Chrome extensions 4 for our game making camp. this is a great opportunity for me to start learning more about how extensions work.
The second reason this is a great opportunity is that I have wondered for some time what I’m going to do when I get old.
I’m just not sitting around knitting type of person. my hand has been bothering me for quite some time. it’s only a matter of time until my other hand starts to bother me as well. So I’ve been wondering about this comma what could I do if I didn’t work.
Now all kinds of people including all of my relatives most of my friends tell me all of the time that I should not work so much. I mention that I did not ask any of these people their opinion? You see the issue isn’t that I can’t think of things to do instead of work. the point is that I like to work and the thought that I couldn’t do it anymore is a bit depressing.
There are a few drawbacks of read and write for Google Chrome which you may have already detected. One is that it has a rather random view of capitalization. I’m sure that if you read this post closely you can identify other drawbacks. for example like Siri it often misinterpret your words. I left most of the errors here so that you could see. I did fix a few where the sentence made absolutely no sense.
I found it works better if you speak more slowly.
So far it hasn’t been too bad. it was super easy to install and I figured out how to use the speech to text by watching 2 minute YouTube video.
On the other hand haha that’s a joke since I only have one hand – it seems like the only way to get the premium features is to be at a school that licenses those at the school or maybe classroom level. right now I’m using the 30 day trial version.
The other problem I have found is that sometimes the microphone just randomly quits working. toggle it off and on to fix Problem.
2 move 2A new line All you need to do is say those words which ironically since I wanted actually those words in the sentence I had to take them otherwise it would have gone to a well you know.
now if you read this you can see it kind of makes me look like a cross between a teenager using text-speak and someone with a very poor grasp of grammar and spelling. however I think that much of that could be improved with practice and getting 2 no the software better. we’ll see if with practice the voice recognition can be accurate at a faster speed because this slow pace is pretty annoying. the invisible developer just told me that I sound like a bit from Find old radio show called the slow talkers of America.
New line I also think it would be really really difficult to write code using this with all of the special characters required like square brackets and curly brackets parentheses etcetera etcetera.
After a few weeks tough trying this out I’m going to check out dragon I have a friend who is visually impaired who uses that so I’m going to ask her 2 show me because I’m sure she knows all of the special features as I believe she even used it to write her thesis.. You’re line
If you have any other suggestions either 4 Chrome extensions in general or on using Speech-to-Text software please post it and the comments.
Since it’s the 4th of July, I figure no one is very work-focused today and it would be a good time for one of my occasional rants.
I read a book this week, The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf. It was a good story for a lots of reasons, a primary one being that it didn’t follow the usual narrative of beautiful damsel in distress rescued by charming prince.
In fact, the beautiful damsel is kind of a stupid jerk and it is her overlooked, smarter sister who heads out to find a knight to save the castle. Said knight isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, either. In fact, most of the knights in the story seem to have been bonked on the head a few times too many.
In the end, the beautiful damsel is rescued by the not-too-bright knight and they go off to King Arthur’s court. The sister ends up with another guy who pretty much sucks at being a knight, so he gives it up and they live happily ever after together as he takes over the family lands and becomes a highly successful farmer.
One reason I almost never watch TV or movies is that the story is so predictable. Love at first sight. Unappreciated younger brother becomes greatest knight ever through magic potion/ love of a good woman. Bad guy defeated by good guy. Lots of fighting scenes. Overlooked woman develops into a beauty and the guy finally notices her.
More people should write their own story. Truly , fighting occasionally , with intervening sitting around the castle drinking beer waiting for a fight does sound like an incredibly boring life. A lot of the stuff the Knights (and people now) fight over is stupid.
“You insulteth mine honor.”
Yeah, so we should hack each other to pieces with swords? Get over it.
The ‘savage damsel’ falls in love with a knight who falls in love with her beautiful sister. When she has the chance to make him love her forever, she starts thinking past the first minute she imagines him declaring his love for her and tries to see being middle-aged, sitting by the fire with Sir Dumb-As-A-Rock and concludes, “Oh, hell, naw.”
Sir Lancelot loses a joust and disappears. And he doesn’t come back.
I liked the book a lot because it didn’t follow the recipe for fantasy stories. I ordered it for my granddaughter because it has a great life lesson – write your own story.
My usual disclaimer when I write about a product: No one paid me diddly-squat to write this.
It’s been a good week for the darling daughters.
The Spoiled One graduated summa cum laude, also president of the senior class, and is heading to the east coast to attend a small liberal arts college where she has an academic scholarship and a spot on the soccer team.
The book co-authored by Darling Daughter One and Darling Daughter Three won International Sports Biography of the Year, and the two lovelies pictured above flew to London to receive the award.
The Perfect Jennifer has tenure now and is finishing out another year of being an outstanding teacher.
A couple of years ago, there was a book with the thesis that Chinese mothers are superior and all Americans are raising a bunch of lazy slackers. It irritated me and I wrote a blog with the title “Why American mothers are superior” because that seemed more professional than “Go Fuck Yourself” . And no, in all seriousness, I really don’t think that one race or country has better mothers, but I also think the idea that if we don’t regiment our children lock-step for 18 years straight into MIT we are a bunch of losers is irritating as fuck.
You might think this is my rubbing it in post to say, “How you like me now? My kids are doing awesome.”
You’d be wrong. To paraphrase Erma Bombeck yet again, no mother should ever be arrogant because she can’t be sure that at any moment the principal won’t call to tell her that one of her children rode a motorcycle through the gymnasium.
I wanted to talk about something different – definitions of success that Tiger Mom Lady probably would not understand at all.
A friend of mine has a son in his mid-twenties who lives at home. He earned a degree from a two-year college. He is not crushing it as a hedge fund manager, but rather, has a regular job with benefits. I’m sure Tiger Mom would be dismayed if he was her kid.
My friend was distraught over the situation at work. The company had been acquired and reorganized. Her new boss was a nightmare and she came home in tears more often than not. Despite over a decade of good performance, she was afraid she was going to be laid off and was becoming depressed and stressed. They couldn’t afford to make the payments on their house on one income, and they had already lost a home back in 2008 when the housing marketing imploded. They were the collateral damage of those hedge fund managers.
It was at this point that her son (remember him?) stepped up. He had been living at home to save money for a down payment on a house of his own. Since he is single, has no children and gets along well with his parents, it seemed like a good arrangement, and he was paying them rent, but a lot less than it would cost to go out and get his own apartment. Plus, there were those home-cooked meals. He said something like this,
Look, you took care of me for 26 years. I make enough money now to cover the mortgage. If you are that unhappy about your job, quit. Even if you don’t quit your job, at least quit worrying about being laid off. I’ll pick up any slack. Between Dad and me, we got you covered.
Look at this family – they all love each other, the mom, dad and son. They get along well enough that he feels comfortable living at home to save money. Her son is hard-working and appreciates the fact that his parents have done what they could to support him. He can take the perspective of another person, see the stress his mother is experiencing and offer to do what he can to alleviate it out of appreciation for what they have done for him.
In my view, my friend is a success as a mother and her son is a success as a human being.
In a very random life event, I was asked a lot of questions recently by people exploring making a movie about my life. This is not the interesting part, because in Hollywood people are always talking about making movies that come to nothing …
The interesting thing was how many times the answer to a question was,
Sister Marion, my sixth-grade math teacher.
I was not a very prepossessing child.
In fact, if there was such a word as anti-possessing (which there is not), that would have defined me well. I was short, overweight, often dressed in my brother’s too-big clothes because I was too lazy to look for my own uniform and didn’t care about my appearance. I was also the type of child who knew the definition of words like ‘prepossessing’ and mocked other children, and teachers, if they did not. It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that I was not wildly popular.
My grades were not the best, partly because I often forgot my homework in the mad rush to get five kids out the door early enough that my mother could make it to work on time. Partly it was because I am EXTREMELY near-sighted, a fact no one discovered until the third or fourth grade (thank you, Lions Club vision screening!) and even after that I usually could not see the board because I could not manage to have a pair of glasses for more than a few weeks without losing them. Glasses were not cheap and my family didn’t have a lot of extra cash so it would usually be months between pairs.
Then, I got the chicken pox and was out of school for a week. Despite all of the bewailing about how stupid today’s children are compared to yesteryear, back then we learned fractions in sixth-grade, not fifth, and I had missed the entire week when these were introduced. A petty teacher (and the world has too damn many of those), might have been gratified by the fact that a pain-in-the-ass, know-it-all kid was finally going to be put in her place.
I’d like to think that Sister Marion realized that the only thing I felt I had going for me was being smart and that’s why I had to rub everyone’s face in it. Maybe she realized I needed a friend, and a new perspective.
Whatever it was, she paired me up with another child in the class, Diane, who wasn’t a star student overall, but was very good at math, and told her to explain to me what we had learned while I was out. Not only did I get caught up on fractions, but I learned not to underestimate people based on appearances or first impressions. Just because a person wasn’t a great reader didn’t mean she couldn’t be good at math. Diane and I actually had conversations, and she introduced me to another friend of hers, also named Diane. I called one of the Dianes on the phone – it was the first time I had ever had another kid at school to call – and I was 11.
Sister Marion was nice to me. If you think every teacher is nice to every child then perhaps you need to go back and read the beginning of this post. When I think back, I can only think of two teachers I had before I got expelled from the public school system who were consistently nice to me, Sister Marion and Mr. Cartwright, my 8th grade algebra teacher.
It’s probably no coincidence that I’m good at math and made a career of it.
It’s funny how often when they asked me questions, Sister Marion’s name came up.
Did you have a teacher who you particularly admired?
Was there a teacher who interested you in mathematics?
What made you decide that you wanted to teach?
Who were your role models in life?
I’m not saying that she was the only person who was a role model or who made a difference. However, she was exactly what we try to be at 7 Generation Games – a change in the trajectory that made me shift from doing all right in school with no effort to doing better and better with more effort. She was a person that made me think I could be more than ordinary.
Of course I make an effort to encourage the students who show exceptional effort and ability. Then, I remember Sister Marion and make an extra effort to also encourage students who are annoying, rude, don’t do their work.
When I think of Sister Marion, I am reminded yet again of the truth of that saying:
I touch the future. I teach.
Want to see what I did with math once I grew up?
Since I already called my mom on Mother’s Day, I thought that I’d talk about another woman who was important in my life, a mentor, who I probably haven’t talked to in 20 years. (I know, I’m such an ungrateful bitch. )
Dr. Jane Mercer was not even in the same department as me. My dissertation was an analysis of the psychometric properties of Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Revised , Mexicano, and she was a sociologist renowned for her expertise on the impact of social and cultural factors on intelligence test scores.
Shortly after I finished the first draft of my dissertation, my advisor received some distressing news (no, it wasn’t that he was my advisor, he already knew that). He and his wife had begun dating as very young teenagers. Other than his military service during World War II, they had been together ever since. When she was diagnosed with cancer, he walked into the dean’s office and just said, simply,
… And went on sabbatical with about a four-minute notice.
Everyone completely understood. His colleagues took over committee responsibilities. As his doctoral student that was furthest along, I taught his courses, like inferential statistics.
I was his only doctoral student writing a dissertation, and someone needed to step in to supervise my research. That was Dr. Jane Mercer.
Not only did she read every draft of my dissertation, recommend articles I read and journals to submit publications, introduce me to people at conferences (not a gesture to be underestimated when one is looking for a position) but, more importantly, she provided advice on life.
Here are a few of the things I learned from Dr. Mercer just by observing her.
1. NO MATTER HOW FAR YOU HAVE GONE DOWN THE WRONG ROAD, TURN BACK! Taped over her desk, Dr. Mercer had a piece of paper with this proverb typed on it. No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, turn back. We’re told in America that quitters never win, bloom where you’re planted, you can’t fight city hall, you’re never going to win against big corporations. Making a change in anything from your employer to your gym to the crowd you hang around with can be treated as an act of disloyalty. People stay in situations long, long after they should have left because they are ‘committed’, ‘invested’, ‘cannot leave now’. The unwillingness to turn back after going a long way down the wrong road is the second biggest barrier most people’s happiness. The biggest is fear, which leads me to …
2. Have the courage to speak the truth as you see it. Being the most brilliant researcher in the world does no good to anyone if you are afraid to publish and publicize unpopular results. In the 1970s, many people thought intelligence tests were the answer to psychology’s long history of physics envy. At last, we were a real science with actual numbers, not this whacko dream interpretation stuff but measurement – hey, IQ even has a math word – quotient, in the name. Not to mention, companies like The Psychological Corporation and Educational Testing Service were big business (still are). Jane Mercer sincerely believed intelligence tests systematically underestimated the intelligence of low-income, minority children. In the case of Diana vs the State Board of Education, a lawsuit was filed on behalf a few Mexican-American children, including a little girl who spoke Spanish as her first language, was tested in English and determined to be mentally retarded. All of the big names (and big money) lined up on the side of the State Board of Education and Jane spoke up for the side of Diana. This may not seem like much now, but back then she had to stand up to a LOT of opposition, it was not happy times. She did it anyway.
3. Yes, you CAN have a job and a family. Men do it all the time. Jane was older than me and of that generation that was told women could either have a career or children but not both. By the time I met her, her four sons were all adults. She and her husband got along fine and seemed to agree that since they were both parents of these children they could both engage in parenting them. We couch things in daunting terms “Can women have it all?” Of course no one has it ALL. I’m finishing this blog post in the Denver airport. That empty spot you see at the end of jetway is where the plane I am taking back to Los Angeles should be.
I would like to have a non-eventful flight out of Denver airport, just once. You see, none of us can have it ALL but no one asks men whether they think they can manage a career and children.
4. Being the first or only woman in an area doesn’t mean you have to go along with that happy-to-be-here crap. Yes, she was a tenured professor at the University of California, which had damn few of them, but that didn’t mean she had to accommodate in any way because of her gender. Don’t take on female doctoral students because you don’t want to be type-cast as ‘only a good advisor for women’? Screw that! If they needed an advisor and she could help, she was on board. Don’t speak out about intelligence testing because people will think you are shrill or too emotional, not a real academic? Screw that twice! As you can see, I have taken that lesson deeply to heart but with less of her limits on profanity.
Woo-hoo – plane boarding now – only 90 minutes late – gotta go. Happy Mother’s Day.