Book Review: The Power of Habit

Since starting grad school, I haven’t read for pleasure much, but this summer had granted me some much appreciated free time and my boyfriend recommended I read “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg. After he shared a bit of what it was about, I knew he was right.

etc_stack12__01inline__202The book somehow blends marketing, sociology and self-help seamlessly into a series of interconnected stories and anecdotes that make this book impossible to put down. Duhigg discusses habits of individuals, organizations and societies. He explains where habits come from, the components of a habit and how to reform them. While the book itself is easy to read, my academic side was satisfied with the abundance of citations! I feel like Duhigg really did his research and if I questioned any of his statements, I could easily flip back and see where he got his information.

Understanding habits isn’t only useful on a personal level (and trust me, you will see habits in every part of your life after this book), but it is also useful for communicators. Duhigg provides helpful insights about how people make decisions, and shares several case studies about how companies use this information.


Our New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! Time to make resolutions for the new year that we’ll forget in two months. But this time it’s different for us, this time we’re putting our resolutions out on the internet (with a million other people) in the hopes that we’ll actually keep them, or inspire someone else. Oh, yes, this is breaking one of our “Social Media Pet Peeves” (see the blog here), but screw it, we’re allowed to break our own rules!

Ok, so here goes:

  1. Eat Healthy, Work Out, Feel Better About Ourselves Obviously we’re jumping on the New Year’s bandwagon for this one, but it’s a good goal. We’re aiming to tie on those running shoes more often, start thinking about what we eat, and get bikini-ready. I mean we live in San Diego, we pretty much need to be bikini-ready all year long. A few apps that will spur our momentum for this goal are: MapMyRun, Nike Training, MyFitnessPal, Pandora, and Songza.
  2. Join Relevant Clubs – There MAY have been some monetary gifts given this Christmas (the “curse” of being our age – too young to not get gifts but too old to think of something original). What better way to spend our new found cash stash than join a few clubs in our area. This is an opportunity to stay engaged with people in our professions as well as receive some discounts on networking events!
  3. Attend Networking Events Once a Month – So, now that we’re joining these clubs and receiving discounts on events, we better be going! Whether they’re free or fee-based we’ve historically had great times at these events and want to make sure we keep attending (even if we’d rather be chillin’ in our PJs)!
  4. Read Books That Will Help Us Grow as Young Professionals – After finishing grad school it’s really difficult to want to read another book about market research or engagement tactics, but we need to stay fresh! School gave us the insight to see the “ideal” way to act in our professions. It may not always be that way but it’s good to remember the basics, and be given some new insights on a regular basis. Our goal is to read one professionally focused book between pleasure reading. A girl can only get so much insight from Cosmo or the latest trendy read.
  5. Become More Engaged With Co-Workers – We both have some great professional  changes coming in the new year. Our goal is to be more engaged in our new work environments than we may have been previously. We’ve seen the power of “knowing someone” and our goal is to get to know the people around us and learn anything they have to teach us.
  6. Plan Upcoming Blogs Further in Advance – We have become very bad at this. In our first months we had blogs lined up for multiple posts. Being able to write with no pressure and having ideas and written blogs on hand made posting easy. Our resolution is to have at leas 2 pre-written blogs on hand in case there was no inspiration in any given week.

Well, those are our goals. In the coming months, we’ll see how successful we are at them. What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Have you been successful at keeping them in the past?

Writing a Thesis

Not all master’s programs require writing a thesis. In the Mass Communication and Media Studies program at San Diego State I was given a choice between writing a thesis and taking comprehensive exams. Most people choose comprehensive exams for various reasons, but a big part of it is that the commitment isn’t as long term. Yes, they are very intense and require studying for weeks, but a thesis is a more drawn-out process that can take a year or more of dedication. Despite this, I chose the thesis route. That choice is not for everyone, but based on my personal goals, made more sense. Here’s why:

  1. I had an area of research that I wanted to explore and become an “expert” in. For comprehensive exams you must have a solid understanding of a wide variety of topics. For a thesis, you choose one topic and dig deeper… and deeper…and deeper.
  2. I would like to pursue a Ph.D. at some point. Most doctoral programs want to see that a candidate has done their own research and has what it takes to see a project through from start to finish.
  3. Writing a thesis is part of the grad school experience that I wanted. I wanted to add to the body of knowledge in PR and have something that I could take with me forever.

Knowing I made the right decision about writing a thesis didn’t make the process easier. In fact, there were times where I was so overwhelmed I didn’t think I would ever get to where I am now (very close to done). It does NOT have to be that way though. If you’re writing a thesis, here are some tips that might help you out:

Faculty, students and alumni representing SDSU at the International Public Relations Research Conference where I presented my thesis as research in progress.

  1. Buy a book on thesis or dissertation writing and read it. Demystifying Dissertation Writing by Peg Single is a book my friend, Navy Cmdr. K.C. Marshall, bought for me and I should have read it cover to cover BEFORE starting my writing process. It is full of great tips about establishing a writing space, writing partner, routine and overcoming the many forms of writer’s block.
  2. Talk about your challenges! This is definitely discussed in Single’s book, but I still want to call this one out separately. Writing a thesis can feel isolating. It is by far the biggest project you have ever done and you are doing it by yourself. My thesis became a source of anxiety for me and it took me too long to speak up about it to my adviser. I eventually did and felt much better after venting. Maybe your adviser will be the best person to talk to or maybe you’d feel more comfortable with someone else. Talk to colleagues also writing a thesis or see a school therapist. Your university has resources to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. Use them!
  3. Think beyond “getting it done”. Of course you want to graduate, but if you look into conference and publication opportunities for your research, it will be far more rewarding.

Have any of you written a thesis? Any advice I’m missing?

50 Shades of Business Ethics

I am striving to become a marketing executive. I need to know all things new, hot, and in the public eye to try and determine how to entice the public to buy the next “big thing”. With that justification, I jumped on the bandwagon and read Fifty Shades of Grey… I swear I did it only for the advancement of my professional career.

Anyway, after wishing that E.L. James had a thesaurus to help her explain Grey’s “long fingers,” I determined this was not a novel that should be going down as a “classic” of our day. However, after flipping the pages and reading about the BDSM contract that the two main characters were in the throws of negotiation over, I realized: this is not a smut filled novel – it is a case of business ethics! Is this contract, and what would transpire after the agreement, ethical? I delved back into my notes from my business ethics course to analyze this situation further.*†

Justice Theory – UNETHICAL

Rawls outlines in his theory that what is ethical is what gives the greatest benefit to the least advantaged. With regards to 50 Shades it obviously depends on how we view advantaged and disadvantaged. Grey is getting his sexual kicks and he pretty much has everything else to be desired: wealth, good looks, long fingers, business power…. But, Anastasia is getting a free wardrobe (if she likes it – I assume in the second instillation we get to see if she does or not), a car, a laptop, fancy dinners, trips in a helicopter and a glider, a room in the nicest apartment ever, a pretty good sounding sex life, and I’m sure a ton of other stuff that I have forgotten. She keeps harping on the whole relationship-love thing, but since she didn’t have that in the beginning, I feel we can’t factor that into the Rawlsian picture.

Rawls’ theory also outlines Distributive Justice – how things should be distributed in a just society (wealth, money, power, etc). Based on this idea, I see ethical and unethical portions of The Contract. Ana will be receiving money and objects (distribution of wealth) but she is giving up her sexual power – which it seems Grey has plenty of. We can imagine behind the Veil of Ignorance many risk averse people would not agree to operate under a contract such as that between Ana and Grey. They would be worried they would be the ones experiencing the pain.

Finally, the theory provides us with the Principles of Justice (I am using the Principles prior to some of Rawls’ revisions):

  • Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others. There are five basic liberties: freedom of speech, thought, etc.

Immediately, I see a huge issue. The Contract takes away Ana’s basic rights – no speaking without permission, being told what to wear, and no direct eye contact. Since the rest of the Principles are in lexical order and the first is NOT MET, we can stop here and conclude that under Rawls the contract is not ethical.

Rights Theory – ETHICAL

Nozick describes his what is ethical under his Rights Theory as anything that is free from force or fraud. He does not consider all threats to be force. Force is only physical (or the threat of physical) harm or outright deception. Based on the story we know that although Ana and Grey both threaten to back out of the “relationship” if certain aspects are not met, these threats are not considered “force” by Nozick. Even though there may be “force” that occurs in the “Red Room of Pain,” this pain does not have anything to do with forcing Ana to sign The Contract and would occur only if she agrees. Also, both Grey and Ana are extremely forthcoming in their dealings with The Contract and what they would like added/subtracted.

Therefore, The Contract is ethical under Nozick’s view.

We can even use Nozick’s theory to say that all of the gifts Ana has received from Grey were received in an ethical manner. According to Nozick, “you deserve whatever you have received if force or fraud have not come into effect.”‡ Meaning us ladies all need to find a Grey-type figure to willingly give us things (if we are Nozickians).

Utilitarianism – UNDETERMINED

Under this theory the option that maximizes common good, wins. For Utilitarianism, we will look at the two options Ana and Grey have: to sign, or not to sign.

We would have to employ the Hedonic Calculus that is outlined by Utilitarianism to see which option wins, obviously this would weigh differently for each person:

  • Intensity (of pleasure or pain) – I think we see in the book that even though physical pain may occur once The Contract is signed the mental pain for Ana is stronger when she leaves Grey. Grey obviously has more pleasure if The Contract is signed.
  • Duration (of pleasure or pain) – If The Contract is signed this factor is continually negotiated, if it is not, the pain of loss is forever (man that was sappy).
  • Certainty/Uncertainty (probability of pain/pleasure occurring) – I think here we have a tie. 100% pain will occur if signed and 100% will occur if not.
  • Fecundity (amount of pain/pleasure that will continue to occur) – I think we can say that either way the pain will end. If The Contract is signed and either party doesn’t like it, it can be stopped at any point. If Ana or Grey walk away eventually the hurt will stop.
  • Purity (how pure is the pain/pleasure – not mixed) – I think on both ends it would be mixed, there is pain and pleasure associated with both options.
  • Extent (number of persons being affected) – Immediately, only Grey and Ana are affected. However, I can see Ana’s circle of friends being negatively affected if she signs.

According to the math it seems there is a tie, except with intensity, which seems to lead to the opinion that they should sign, and extent which leads to the opposite conclusion. Ana and her wavering soul would really have to sit and think about this one.

Objectivist Theory – UNETHICAL

Ayn Rand developed the Objectivist Theory. Under this mode of ethical determination it is essential for a person to sit down and ask themselves, “What’s good for ‘me’ in the long run? How can I be rational, use reason, and be the best I can be.”

Rand requires a little more detail than the plot tells us. At this point Ana wants to become the best publishing house intern she can be (really, the girl needs some higher aspirations), Grey wants to basically be the best controller of the universe and end world hunger (now, THERE are some goals). I’m not 100% sure about how a sex contract works into either of these two ambitions. So, if there is the possibility that it could hinder these goals it would be unethical – but Grey has seemed to manage just fine with similar contracts in the past. However, Rand claims that happiness is a by-product of virtue and one of the Three Cardinal Virtues is Pride. To gain and maintain Pride you must act to gain Self-Esteem. To me, through the book it does not seem that Ana gains as much Self-Esteem while experiencing “Red Room of Pain” exploits as she does “Vanilla” exploits. That leads me to believe she could be happier and more ethical if she does not sign The Contract.

Integrative Social Contract Theory – UNETHICAL

To determine ethicalness under ISCT we must determine:

  • Does this violate a hypernorm (the global test)?
  • Does this violate an authentic norm (the regional test)?

Although there is no set way to determine a hypernorm the two that are outlined are:

  • Core Human Rights: including those to personal freedom, physical security and well-being, political participation, informed consent, the ownership of property and the right to substance.
  • The obligation to respect the dignity of each human person.

A norm is authentic if:

  • Compliance is approved.
  • Deviance is disapproved.
  • Almost everyone does it.

If the situation violates either of these norms you stop because the situation is unethical – I think it’s pretty obvious from both a hypernorm and authentic norm analysis that The Contract would be deemed unethical. Unless I’m missing something and these contracts ARE the norm – then I guess I’m abnormal :/

Did I get these right? Do you see the analysis in the same way or differently? Please leave some discussion points below and don’t forget to follow Masters of What (it’s that little button over there on the right hand side)!

*Disclaimer: I have ONLY read 50 Shades of Grey, no further into the series…Don’t be mean and spoil all of the salacious details! Plus I’m sure MORE contract negotiation occurred in the other 2 books.
†Another Disclaimer: I did get an A in my business ethics course but I will not lie and say I 100% understood all of the intricacies in all of the theories, I maintain my right to have interpreted some things wrong – This is a big deal because I NEVER admit I could be wrong 😉
All quotes (and CORRECT knowledge about the subject) are attributed to my fabulous professor of my MGT 722 course: Seminar in Business Ethics and Social Institutions, Dr. Lori J. Ryan. Any INCORRECT information I managed on my own.
My Business Ethics Folder

I still have my Seminar in Business Ethics and Social Institutions folder, and love it. So much hard work was put into this folder.