Two recent Scientific American reports that speak directly to me:
1. Researchers have found that the intelligence of individual group members is not a good predictor of how well the group as a whole performs. Teams that perform best rate high in social sensitivity: their members interact well, take turns speaking and include more females than teams that perform poorly.
This may explain why I am often left off so many teams and why I am actually forbidden to join certain annual committees at my workplace.
I’ve been known to make people cry from time to time.
Stupid social sensitivity.
2. A multiyear study of nearly 2,400 surveyed subjects found that those who experienced negative life events reported better mental health and overall well-being than those who did not. Negative events included serious illness, violence, bereavement, social stress, relationship stress, and disasters like fires, floods, etc.
So those who had zero negative life events experienced more overall stress and lower life satisfaction.
And here’s the rub: Those who experienced a high number of stressful negative events also reported greater stress. While the authors note that its impossible to identify this sweet spot of adversity, their research suggests that around two to three events might provide the ideal amount of protection from future stress and unhappiness.
This study seems to support some of my personal observations and explain a little bit about myself. In my experience, I have found that people who have not experienced difficulty and tragedy in their early lives tend to be more fragile and easily troubled. Small problems can seem looming and daunting to them, and they often become paralyzed by stress and fear.
Conversely, I have often attributed my relative immunity to stress to the difficulties in my past.
After you have been killed twice, robbed at gunpoint, robbed at knife point, arrested and tried for a crime you did not commit, lived in your car, been slandered in public, and lived with a goat, everything less doesn’t seem so bad.
And my almost utter disregard for the daily stressors that impact so many people has proven frustrating to some of my friends and colleagues, and occasionally my wife. I can sometimes come across as nonchalant, cavalier and uncaring, when in reality I care a great deal about the tasks at hand but simply do not worry so much about any negative ramifications involved.
For some people, effort, concern, attention and stress are interminably linked.
I can be concerned about an issue, give it all my attention and work hard to resolve it without the worry of what might happen if I fail.
Unless that failure includes a shotgun-toting, switchblade-wielding goat and a jail cell full of bees, I know I’ll be fine.
The question is what would you prefer to be?
The slightly more fragile, more stressed out person who left a relatively happy high school experience for a traditional four-year college, followed by two years of graduate school, a good job, a stable marriage, a nice home and two lovely children…