Sunday, November 30, 2008

Being a Social Coordinator

In the lifelong quest of working on social interactions and developing a high quality and dynamic social network, there are certain actions one can take to put them on the best path to success. Over the past few months, my friends and I have been leaders in making social events happen, that is, coordinating BBQ's and other social outings. In this process, our social network has slowly grown, and often, we are the "go-to" people for our friends who are looking to have some fun.

I propose that being a social coordinator is an important step to developing a quality social life for a couple of reasons. The first is the obvious one of having social proof. If you are the one bringing everyone together and introducing people, they will all see how many friends you have and how you know how to bring the right type of people together. This will lead to more contacts as they want to bring their other friends into the world you have helped create with them. A second reason is having flexibility with people you do not know very well. If you run into a cute acquaintance on campus or at the grocery store, it is a lot easier to say something like, "Hey, a bunch of my friends and I are having a BBQ tomorrow night and you should come. Bring your friends!" as opposed to "Hey, it was nice seeing you. We should hang out sometime." Perhaps both are ok, but it is a lot easier for people to meet up with you if it is not a 1-on-1 interaction. Additionally, you are even encouraging them to bring their own friends (guys or girls of course). Now you have people who would typically not be comfortable coming to your house because it would seem "weird", who are now comfortable with the idea. The quicker you make them comfortable with you and your surroundings, the more likely the person, especially a girl, will be comfortable enough to do other things as well.

Another important part of this idea is that you are always designing your social life yourself. You are not relying on other people to make it happen. For example, I love having BBQ's, as opposed to going to a club and spending a ton of money. It is extremely cheap to fund even for a bunch of people (and people are usually willing to bring beer and other stuff). I can have steaks, corn, and potatoes for 6 people for around $20, which is a small price to pay for an ever expanding social network, as well as a good time and good food. By designing your own events, this gives you power to show people new types of things. For example, we have our BBQ's in the back of my friend's parent's house. It is not the coolest place in the world to go to...until people actually come and have a great time. I am pretty sure every one who has ever been to one of our BBQ's has come at least twice.

This process of being the social coordinator has an upward spiral effect. By showing you are someone who can take action and be a leader, you are portraying yourself as strong person, which will only make people want to be with you more. The only downside of being a social coordinator as it is simply not possible to start at zero. You need to have a least one or two other really good friends to be your partners. If you have one or two fun guys around and you start inviting a bunch of people, eventually people will starting taking a bite, and they will likely want to keep biting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


People often talk about finding the right balance in life between work, socializing, romance, and other aspects of life. In practice, however, this can be very difficult to achieve. I tend to be an extremely focused person, and I find it very difficult to switch modes from working to socializing.

Lately, I have been in an extreme work mode. I have done nothing but research, programming, and other studies. Nonetheless, in an effort to strike a balance, I started making some more efforts to hang out with friends. This has quickly caused a change in my interests and priorities. I find it very difficult to have the psychological strength to focus on studying and programming while wanting to be social or interact with girls. For this reason, I find a proper balance very hard to achieve.

There may be hope however. To get things done and achieve, it has been shown that extreme focus is very valuable. Trying to incorporate some studying AND socializing into every day of the week will likely cause too much distraction for one or the other. So perhaps, it is best to entirely focus on studying and other intellectual pursuits during the week, and ONLY focus on socializing and fun stuff like watching movies or playing games during the weekend. If you have the strength, the commitment to this type of schedule may allow you to be extremely productive during the week while maximizing your social interactions on the weekend.

This schedule is in an effort to minimize the effects of a cyclic psychology. While it may seem tough to batch your time in such a way, it is important to remember that working for a whole week will likely increase the chances of obtaining flow in your work which will make you not care as much about socializing anyway. Also, knowing that you are committed to a schedule will make you feel pressure to capitalize on your time. The important thing is not to see the week as a sacrifice, with the reward of the weekend. As your work becomes a flow experience, your week should be just as rewarding as your weekend. It will be interesting to see if one can successfully implement this and find themselves enjoying and being more successful in both their work and social life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Motivation

Motivation to do all the things we want to do in life is often very hard to obtain. Sometimes external factors help us obtain the motivation, but it would be much more convenient if the motivation came purely from within. Doing research and not having many external factors like tests or homework assignments can vastly slow down progress and significantly reduce effort. Ultimately, if you are doing the things you really want to do, motivation should not be too hard, but even then, it can be.

As an example, I am taking a programming class and learning many things I legitimately really want to learn. Yet, every time we have an assignment I dread starting on it. However, the fact that I am getting a grade and have due dates for the assignments forces me to start. Once started, I usually thoroughly enjoy the assignments. However, the external motivation of the class is essential to make me work on the project and ultimately obtain flow from the challenge of the assignment. I surely would not have learned as much as I have in such a quick time without the course.

It is easy to be motivated to work when external factors are involved and the work is consistent with your overall goals. However, when there are no external factors it becomes much tougher. For example, I told myself I would finish writing a paper on my research by the end of the week and gave myself two weeks to accomplish it. I actually finished it in just over one week, which helps to explain part of the problem. It is extremely difficult to assess the challenge and time frame associated with self-imposed goals. Therefore, you really have no idea when to set the deadline. I finished my paper in about 10 days but actually could have easily finished it within 7. However, if I had vastly underestimated the difficulty of my task, I would not have met my goal. But what would have been the consequence? Nothing. I think this is why a lot of people recommend people make their goals public so that if they do not complete them, they suffer the embarrassment, but I do not think I am too affected by embarrassment.

I am really not sure what the solution is to keep one motivated. It certainly helps to be working on things you care about, but even then, I find myself working at a prodding pace without the external motivation factors. Certainly a coherent incentive environment would be valuable for this situation but this type of environment will not always be available.

Another thing I have noticed about motivation, at least for me personally, is the motivation to do something physical like exercising is much easier to do than something mental like programming or something social like going to a bar. Perhaps this is something I have just trained my body to crave. Nonetheless, I can always make it to the gym to exercise. It is obviously much more mindless than doing mental work or being social and perhaps this is the draw of it. I am curious to see if any studies have been done to see how people's motivation change to do physical or mental work as well as the motivation to be social. The explanation may just be that I really have trained myself and have forgotten the pain period when I was first getting started. Maybe it really is possible to make a schedule for doing intense work, exercise, and socializing. However, it is just too easy to ignore any of these things. There has to be a way to make it easier. Any ideas?