Randomness, skill, and investments podcast

I recently listened to a podcast with Campbell Harvey on Randomness, skill, and investments.  I found the discussion on randomness and skill particularly fascinating.  All I could think of during this discussion is the military’s evaluation and promotion process.  How many of these “great” leaders were a product of luck or randomness when they were in certain assignments?  I would venture a guess that it was quite a few.  I know I’ve been the by-product of some great people working for me and helping me along the way.  People that I didn’t choose, but rather were placed in those assignments.

Human Resources Command (the Army’s proponent for promotion and assignment) says they promote the best Soldiers and try to match Soldiers with particular assignments.  I don’t know if the randomness starts there or if they amplify it.  For an example of what I’m talking about, let’s look at the evaluation of an Army officer.  One of the major parts of the evaluation is the senior raters comments and box check against where you stand compared to your peers.  For the comments, you can get a senior rater who writes well and in the language the promotion board wants to see or you get a senior rater who doesn’t write well.  You could get a senior rater that will mentor an officer and takes the time to write a good evaluation or you don’t.  You get an assignment/job that fits in line with your particular strengths or you are in one that exposes every weakness.  You get an assignment with an above average staff that does amazing things or one that isn’t.  And then for the box check that can depend on the size of the rater’s pool, how they manage their rankings, the timing of your evaluation, or your peer group could overall be top performers.  Now granted the rated officer does have some influence in his evaluation, of things they can control, but there are also some variables that are outside of their control (randomness and luck) that can either benefit or harm them.  These evaluations are then judged by a panel to promote the “best” officers.  They sometimes get it wrong, but unfortunately this is the system in which we operate.

In the end, is it possible to separate skill from luck or randomness?


where to go?

If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

I’m not sure about today’s prompt. I’ve been thinking about this most of the day.  There are several places I would like to travel, Europe, Southeast Asia, a tropical place. At this point in my life I’m leaning towards a relaxing place such as a secluded beach somewhere. The lure of the saltwater, the smell of the water, the heat in the air, the feel of the breeze, and the sand under my feet.  My mental escape place is such a setting. When I think about this place, I feel the calm and relaxed feeling I get as I’m transported to this mental tropical setting. What is amazing amount the power of the mind, I can zoom to this beach getaway in the speed of light. Thankfully for this post, I remember this spot in my mind and have returned there while I’m typing. I hope all of you can find your mental escape spot. Knowing your mental spot allows you to take a mental vacation. Happy travels!

Who wants to switch?

Who wants to switch blogs with me for a week?

If I had any takers I would have to politely decline. A person’s blog is a personal matter, something one can explore what they are passionate about, care deeply for, or just discover themselves. Instead of switching blogs with someone for a week, try a different persona for a week. Be a silly jokester. Be a passionate academic. Be deeply personal and bare your soul to the blog world. Don’t be someone you are not, but explore the different facets of your personality. Who knows, you may find a part of yourself you didn’t know existed. The thing about your online self is that you can be whoever you want to be, even for just a post or two. I can’t judge if that is good or bad, but I do know this blog is mine!

Sunset in Oklahoma 


I took this a couple of weeks ago from my parents back porch. One of the things I miss from Oklahoma is the beautiful sunsets.  This picture doesn’t do this sunset justice. However, for being taken with an iPhone, it turned out pretty well.  The colors were amazing, almost like they had been painted across the sky. I hope you enjoy this picture as much as I did when I saw it. 

All about that text

It’s a text, text, text, text world!

Writing something worth reading is a challenge.  In my job I have to write all the time through emails.  It becomes a challenge to communicate intent, purpose, direction, etc. solely through written words, especially if it is a difficult subject.  You have to make the email as concise as possible while providing all the pertinant information.  The real challenge lies in making the email easy to understand, interesting/short enough for the reader to get through it, and then getting the response needed based on that email.  At least in a face to face conversation, you can tell whether a person is getting your message by their body language.  With an email, it is pretty difficult.  You send it, hoping the message was received and actually read.

I don’t know if anyone else suffers from reading and re-reading emails trying to determine if that is the right “tone” you want to convey in the message.  Sometimes I ask myself if I’m coming off sounding as a jerk.  Email can be fairly impersonable sometimes.  It is hard to convey humor or sarcasm through an email.  Sometimes to make sure an individual understands I’m joking I’ll use an emoticon such as :).  However, this may detract from the message or professionalism of the email, but it seems one way to ensure the other person knows you are trying to be humorous.  I constantly ask myself before I hit send, is this the right message and tone I want the reader to get from the email I’m sending.  If not, I will re-write it.

I’ve known many leaders/people who hide behind emails.  They will send a scathing email out, but won’t personally talk to the people they are sending it to.  In my opinion, this is a problem.  A person shouldn’t communicate differently through an online medium than they would in a face to face conversation.  I personally don’t like using email to communicate with people.  I would rather talk on the phone or in person.  However, in a large organization this isn’t always the case.  I have to ensure that the words I write in an email are taken as I intend them to be taken.