Friday, March 17, 2017

Et Tu, Brute?

Author:  Steven P. Piccoli, Ph.D.
               Translational Medicine Scientist and Biomarker Guru 

Wednesday, March 15th - the fateful Ides of March - is the 2061st anniversary of the death of the noted Roman politician and emperor, Julius Caesar. Why should I care? Is there something special about the number? No, 2061 is not even prime. But, as an undergraduate taking physical chemistry at Carnegie-Mellon University a long time ago, my class was assigned a pertinent problem. Assuming Julius Caesar expired on that auspicious date and exhaled his last sentient breath, what are the chances that right now, 2061 years later, I am breathing one of the exact same molecules that was expelled in a death throe from the lungs of ancient Rome’s most famous elder statesman? Most people’s first response is that there couldn’t possibly be any way that that could happen. But, the professor having asked the question… 

The gas molecules, once expunged from Caesar’s lungs, floated free and spread across the globe in a mathematically predictable pattern. One needs to make some assumptions about rates of diffusion, the size of Caesar’s lungs and the volume of the atmosphere of the earth, temperature and pressure gradients in the troposphere, and whether the gas is nitrogen, oxygen or argon (remember, it was a chemistry class!). Regardless of how you set the problem up and the assumptions which you make, the answer (work not shown) always comes out to be stunningly simple: about one. Every time you inhale, you are in direct physical contact with one molecule of Julius Caesar. 

Last week at the Professional Services Group of Mercer County, Jack Killion presented a very intriguing session on "Network All The Time, Everywhere With Everybody". I was amazed at the amount of directed energy he put into a networking regimen of apparently random contacts. (Random, like diffusion of a gas - starting to catch on?). Any single contact may not result in an actionable or measureable outcome, but over time, and with a sufficiently large number of interactions, events will transpire. It is statistically inevitable, much like now communing with Julius Caesar every waking breath. I realized I am also interacting with Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Johan Sebastian Bach, Marie Curie and Steve Jobs, as well as eight billion other people I have not yet met. I had never realized the strength of the vast network I had complete access to at my fingertips (or in Caesar's case, technically, my lips). My current physical network is powerful, but not as formidable as the combined reach of all their connections put together, and then amplified by those selfsame contacts ad infinitum. Every day I have the opportunity to speak with dozens of people - some acquaintances, some yet unknown to me – and communicate, network, interact. All I need to do is take advantage of each and every potential opportunity that either comes my way or that I deliberately develop, and eventually I can reach out to and will be known by every single person on the planet. Now that's a network!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Gratitude will lead to a better attitude

Author: Don Pillsbury
             Business Process Improvement, Metrics, Data Analyst Professional

As luck would have it, a few months before learning my position was being eliminated, I happened to read “The Gratitude Diaries – How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life” by Janice Kaplan. (Hint: Princeton Public, Mercer County, and Somerset County Libraries all have this book in their collection – you don’t need to purchase it.) The premise of the book is quite simple. Create a journal and every day note three ways you are fortunate. While three is often considered a magic number, in this case there is nothing doctrinal about the choice. Mrs. Kaplan found one too shallow and five too burdensome. Thus the trinity was a compromise. Admittedly, some days are more difficult than others, but breathing and getting out of bed are bona fide blessings. There is also nothing wrong with repeating a previous day’s appreciation.

Since turning 50 a couple of years ago, I have intentionally sought out experiences that challenge me to move beyond my traditional comfort zone. Two years ago, on a whim, I decided to learn how to unicycle. That proved to be one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever tackled.

Working on my gratitude list one morning was like looking at an M. C. Escher image and having it suddenly invert on me. On this particular morning I realized being unexpectedly thrust into the job market was the ultimate uncomfortable situation handed to me as a present. That paradigm shift was transformative. All of a sudden my situation morphed into the ultimate challenge. In light of my current situation, my mantra became, if I can learn to unicycle, I can find a new job. (I do a lot of cycling, so my analogies tend to be bike related.) While I can’t promise you having a spirit of gratitude will land you a new job, it will help you maintain a positive attitude and that, no doubt, will be beneficial.

I think the quote I recently read is dead on. “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t get anywhere until you change it.” Regularly taking time to write down just how lucky you are will encourage you to be mindful of what is going right in your life and help you move on.