Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Predictably Irrational by Mike O’Donnell

Posted on April 7th, 2013 in Psychology, Self Improvement, Speaking, Toastmasters | No Comments »

This was my 5th speech in the competent communicator manual for toastmasters and the speech objective was “Your Body Speaks.” My two big improvement goals for this speech were to incorporate more hand gestures and to work on being a more dynamic speaker. Normally I memorize my speeches almost word for word. This is great because I can deliver an 800 word speech exactly how I wrote it without missing anything. The problem however is that if I stumble over 1 word, it completely throws me off. This is exactly what happened to me in my Enshrined in History speech. Instead of memorizing word for word this time, I focused on memorizing the structure of my speech and the transitions. That way I could free flow through each paragraph as I went along.

Another thing that I did differently this time was that I wrote in hand gestures into my script. This way I could practice linking pre thought out hand gestures with the different parts of the speech. Of course this is the opposite of being dynamic, but I think it really helped because it made me focus on how I am connecting with the audience.

Feedback and things to work on:

  1. Body movement: I tended to pivot and shift my weight from side to side. I need to either take a strong stance up by the podium or walk around and engage the audience.
  2. Gestures: Even though I specifically worked on incorporating hand gestures, my feedback was that they seemed to be too repetitive and I could have been more animated and dramatic with them.



Predictably Irrational by Mike O’Donnell


According to some researchers, we make well over a thousand decisions every day. Well, since you’re making so many decisions each day, has any of you ever stopped to wonder why you make the decisions you make? When asked, most people would say “because it was the best decision to make.” In other words, they considered their options and then made the most rational decision. (raise each hand and choose  winner) However, as Dan Ariely points out in his book “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” many of the decisions we make are actually irrational. To put this in simpler terms, Mr. Ariely believes that he can predict when you will make a decision that completely flies in the face of common sense! (hand waves across face dramatically)

Now, when I read this for the first time, I was thinking to myself, “Pretty bold claim there Dan, but I’m not buying it” (shake head and wave hand). Just as many of you are probably thinking, “He may be able to predict the ‘Average’ person’s decisions, but let’s get real here, we’re way smarter than the ‘Average’ person. I mean, we’re Toastmasters, right?” (Quotes | hands apart and thumbs out) Well, it turns out that Mr. Ariely has backed up his argument with a ton of interesting research and I’d like to share one of his experiments with you tonight.

In this experiment, Mr. Ariely set up a table with a sign that read, “One chocolate per customer.” (make the number 1 with your finger) When potential customers stepped closer to the table, they noticed that he was selling two types of chocolates. The first was a high quality truffle from Lindt priced at only 15 cents (raise left hand) while the second was your every day Hershey’s Kiss priced at 1 cent. (raise right hand). After a little while, Mr. Ariely looked at the sales statistics and was not surprised to learn that most of the customers acted with a good deal of rationality. About 73% chose the high quality truffle while only 27% chose the Hershey’s Kiss. (left hand goes higher)

In his next experiment, Mr. Ariely lowered the price of each chocolate by a mere 1 penny (squeeze fingers) making the price of the truffle 14 cents and the Hershey Kiss Free. Now according to all rational logic, everything should have stayed the same. The truffle was still the higher quality chocolate and since nothing changed in relative terms, the response to the price reduction should have been the same. However, when they looked at the sales statistics, they noticed that the Hershey Kiss became the favorite of 69% of customers (raise right hand) while the truffle was only chosen by 31% of people. (lower left hand) The presence of Free actually led people to make an irrational decision.

So, what is it about Free that’s so enticing? Why do we have an irrational urge to jump for a Free item, even when it’s not what we really want? The best analogy I can give for this is like when we go to a career fair. Every table we go to has something free to give us to add to our goody bag and the next thing we know, we have this big bag (illustrate big bag)  of free pens and flash drives and all this stuff that we’re most likely just going to throw out when we get home. If these companies charged just 1 cent for each pen and flash drive, how many do you think you would come home with? After repeating multiple variations of his experiment, Mr. Ariely started asking himself the same questions. And the conclusion that he came to was that every transaction has an upside and a downside. And when something is Free, it completely removes our fear of loss. This gives us such an emotional charge (clench both fists) that we perceive the item to be much more valuable than it really is.

So like I said in the beginning of this speech, we make over 1,000 decisions every day. Now that you’re aware that the fear of loss has a strong influence over your decision making, how will you react? Will you go on making the same decisions that you always made or will you use this information to become a rational human being?

Related Blogs

    Mike O’Donnell Utilizes Over 28 Hours in Train Rides to Learn His Way to the Top

    Posted on August 2nd, 2012 in Books, Efficiency, My Story, Philosophy, Psychology, Self Improvement, Time Management | No Comments »

    This past week, I had the opportunity to take a little vacation from work and spend a week at home in Newtown. This is one of the great perks of being an entrepreneur that you have the flexibility to do what you want. It also shows the power of building systems in your business and striving towards removing yourself from the org chart and having a business that can just run itself. We’re not there yet with the business machine, but that’s the goal we are striving towards.

    Thursday was my Dad’s birthday, so I decided to take the train to Morristown, NJ to Bob’s place Wednesday night so I could surprise him for dinner Thursday night. The train ride took me 14 hours from the time I left Montreal until the time I got to Morristown that night. They claimed there would be WiFi on the train, but it was very spotty the whole ride so I kept myself occupied with some good old fashioned offline learning!

    I started out the train ride listening to an hour long podcast from my friend Alex Epstein talking about, “The Dangers of Not Fracing.” I met Alex during my senior year at Penn State when I helped promote his speech on campus entitled “Vitamin O: America’s Healthy Addiction to Oil.” Alex used to be a fellow at the Ayn Rand institute, but has recently set out on his own as the Founder of the Industrial Center for Progress. Alex has been making quite the name for himself in the Energy industry by taking Objectivist principles and applying them to energy rights. We have briefly kept in touch since meeting at Penn State and I hold him as my chief information source for any energy related issues I am interested in. With the current media buzz about the dangers of Fracing, I was really excited to hear his point of view on the subject. Like always, Alex did not let me down and I learned some very good information. The kind of information that for some reason is always left out in traditional media sources like the fact that Fracing is essential to Oil recovery and accounts for almost 95% of all Oil extraction already. After listening to Alex’s Power Hour episode, I did a little researching of my own and found out that the movie Gas Land is a scam. They purposely left out crucial information and misled the public into thinking Fracing was the cause for natural gas contamination in public water sources even though the areas that do have water contamination have had this problem since the 1930s before Fracing was even used.

    After getting my Energy fix, I moved on to business and listened to the audio book for “Work The System.” Besides eating and taking a few naps, this 8 hour audio book took up the entire rest of my train ride and was well worth it. Sam Carpenter really helped me realize that you systems are not just important in your business life, but also your personal life. If you can view things through the lens of a system, then you can take the necessary steps to make sure the system works for you. Inspired by this book and what Sam teaches in it, I decided that I needed to start implementing more systems into my own life. On my train ride home, I created an excel dashboard to help manage my personal key relationships. I realize that everyone gets so caught up with their daily lives that it gets harder and harder to keep in touch with important relationships. This has happened to me on plenty of occasions, so I decided to make a list of important friends and business contacts and include fields for their contact information and industry expertise and also set a frequency of how often I want to make it a point to contact these people throughout the year. Some people are on a monthly basis while other people are on a bi monthly or tri monthly basis. Using formulas, my spreadsheet keeps track of the last month I spoke with the person and also tracks my communication progress so I know if I am behind schedule with keeping in touch. The spreadsheet is also conditionally formatted so if I forget to touch base with someone on a particular month that it will notify me to drop them a line and see how they are doing. Boom, just like that, I don’t need to worry about consciously maintaining important relationships anymore. I created a system and the system now works for me.

    So I surprised my dad Thursday night for dinner and had the opportunity to see his whole side of the family which was great. On Friday and Saturday, I headed down to Manyunk to see a bunch of my buddies. Saturday was great because we went to Summit Aid. The way I would describe Summit Aid would be picture yourself at a swim club with over 100 people, most of whom you know, with a DJ and bars set up all over the place. All day long people are partying and drinking and swimming and playing volleyball and all the drinks are pretty much free. Needless to say, it was a really fun time and I got to see a bunch of my friends that I haven’t seen since I moved up here to Montreal. Sunday was another great day because we had an all day bar b q at my house with my mom’s family. Tons of food, people, baggo, and wiffle ball all day long. It was a great vacation and it rejuvenated me and gave me that extra boost to make me want to come back to Montreal and keep kicking ass with the business so I can eventually achieve the not so lofty goal of lifestyle design.

    I left my house at 4:30 in the morning on Tuesday to catch my train out of Philly and never got back to my apartment until 8:30 that night. Much longer day than the ride down so I did a lot more sleeping on the train this time. However, I was still able to accomplish a good amount of learning.

    I started out by reading “The Charge” by Brendon Burchard. I’m about 50 pages into the book now and I’m not quite sure it’s something I want to spend time finishing. The premise of the book is to help you activate the 10 factors in your life that lead you to live a Charged/Happy life. In my opinion, it’s just alright so far. Right now, I’m much more interested in the 3 books I picked up from my dad: “The Knack” by Norm Brodsky, John Paul Getty’s “How To Be Rich,” and “Quantum Leap Thinking” by James Mapes.  I also started reading and highlighting an info course I received for free from Glazer Kennedy called “Inside the Mind of a Millionaire Maker.”

    After hitting the books, listened to a great interview from Ramit Sethi and BJ Fogg called the Psychology of Persuasion. Ramit is my personal finance guru and the one who helped me design my automated savings system (which sadly I had to halt to help myself make ends meet while we get things up and running up North). Psychology is definitely one of my primary interests right now as I continue my journey on becoming a master Marketer/Persuader.

    Finally, I listened to another Alex Epstein Power Hour called “How to Think About Energy.” I have to say; Alex really got me thinking on both the train ride down and back. This Power Hour once again merged the power of Objectivist philosophy with the way we should be thinking about Energy and Energy rights.

    As long as my travel time was, I think I would definitely opt for the train again next time because it forced me to dedicate time to my self improvement. I got to catch up on a lot of material that I’ve had on the backburner and I spawned a bunch of new creative ideas that I otherwise may not have had the opportunity to develop.

    Related Blogs