SURPRISING COINCIDENCES: We tend to fail to understand how the basic laws of probability work and our selective attention, which lead to great surprise at many coincidences. Stunning coincidences are only natural — like stumbling into a close friend halfway around the world or meeting someone with the same birthday can be explained by simple mathematics.
In a group of 366 people, there’s 100 percent probability that two people will have the same birthday — since there are only 365 days in a year, excluding leap year. In a group of 23 people, there’s >50% two people in the room have the same birthday
We also have selective attention — we notice and remember coincidences, but we hardly ever heed their absence.
Credits: Guillaume Jacquenot (Wikimedia Commons)
FAT TEMPTATION: Drop a bunch of kale into your cart and you’re more likely to head next to the ice cream or beer section. The more “virtuous” products you have in your basket, the stronger your temptation to succumb to vice. When shown a burger, their average guess was 734 calories; when shown the same burger alongside three celery sticks, the average guess dropped to 619. These are not rational calculations; they betray the shortcuts your brain takes in its running tally of vice and virtue.
LIFE EXPECTANCY OF MUSICIANS BY GENRE: Musicians from the older genres – blues, jazz (including bebop and dixieland), country (including country and western, boogie woogie, honky tonk and bluegrass), and gospel (including spiritual and Christian rock) – enjoyed, on average, similar lifespans as those from the U.S. population with the same year of birth and gender.
The next group – R&B (including doo wop and soul), pop, folk (including ballad and polka) and world music – had lower life expectancies compared with the U.S. population.
Thereafter, the gap between population lifespans and average age of death for the more recent genres – rock (including rockabilly), electronic (including experimental, techno, disco, and funk), punk, metal, rap and hip hop – widens.
AREA CODE STATUS: San Francisco, a city with no shortage of status symbols, has just gained another: the 415 area code. As with all status symbols in San Francisco and elsewhere, a 415 number can be yours, for a price. 415 was a “sizable market” even before the appearance of 628.
But it’s not the most in-demand area code. “310” — Los Angeles — “right off the bat, are the hardest numbers to secure. People can’t get a 310, even a random 310 anymore.” Instead, they’re stuck with LA’s version of 628, 424. Nobody wants a 424, especially if they’re in business.
Other popular area codes: 214 (Dallas), 312 (Chicago), 305 (Miami), 404 (Atlanta), 818 (Hollywood), and 626 (Pasadena). These are “original area codes.
Most expensive number: 702 FORTUNE for $99,999. Most expensive ending digits -XXXX for $31,250.
The most popular area codes (PhoneNumberGuy.com)
AVERAGE MIDLIFE CRISIS AT 42: Spotify found that there’s a specific point when middle-aged listeners drop their sophisticated singer-songwriters, their “best of the 80s, 90s and today,” and spontaneously start listening to teeny-bopper pop again. That age is — drumroll, please — 42.
Listeners become less interested in popular music over time — until that little dip, circa age 42. (Spotify)
I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger. They take it out on their spouses, and they go looking for an easier story.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller
There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.
There are no soul mates. In fact, “soul mate” isn’t a pre-existing condition. It’s an earned title. They’re made over time. In my 20s someone told me that each person has not one but 30 soul mates walking the earth. (“Yes,” said a colleague, when I informed him of this, “and I’m trying to sleep with all of them.”)
WORKING TOO MUCH? No big city in this country works as hard—or at least as many hours per week on average—as San Francisco, where people log more than 44 hours at the office each week. People in Washington D.C. and Charlotte work the second longest work weeks, tied at 43.5 hours, followed by several cities in Texas.
Meanwhile, New York City, the city that supposedly never sleeps, ranks 12th on the list, at 42.5 hours per week. However, people living in the Big Apple spend more than 6 hours each week heading to and from work, nearly an hour more than that endured by dwellers of any other large city.
Cities Where People Work the Most (New York City Comptroller, WAPO)
BECOMING A LEADERS: Millennials are interested in becoming leaders — for different reasons. This ranged from 8% in Japan to 63% in India. Half of respondents from Central/Eastern Europe chose high future earnings as a reason to pursue leadership, while only 17% of Africans did. African Millennials seemed to care most about gaining opportunities to coach and mentor others (46%).
MANAGERS: in North America, Western Europe, and Africa, at least 40% of respondents said they wanted managers who “empower their employees.” Yet only about 12% of Millennials in Central/Eastern Europe and the Middle East chose that quality, instead technical expertise is the top pick.
WORK-LIFE BALANCE: Millennials strive for work-life balance, but this tends to mean work-me balance, not work-family balance. The dominant definition was “enough leisure time for my private life” (57%). Nearly half of respondents in every region said they would give up a well-paid and prestigious job to gain better work-life balance. Central/Eastern Europe was the exception, as 42% said they would not.
FORTY-HOUR WORK WEEK: Western economies, particularly that of the United States, have been built in a very calculated manner on gratification, addiction, and unnecessary spending. We spend to cheer ourselves up, to reward ourselves, to celebrate, to fix problems, to elevate our status, and to alleviate boredom.
Can you imagine what would happen if all of America stopped buying so much unnecessary fluff that doesn’t add a lot of lasting value to our lives?
WHITE V. BLUE COLLAR: My perhaps naïve hope is that when I tell students I’m not only an academic, but a “survival” jobholder, I’ll make a dent in the artificial, inaccurate division society places between blue-collar work and “intelligent” work. We expect our teachers to teach us, not our servers, although in the current economy, these might be the same people.