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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Marshmallows

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Thought I'd start out the week by sharing with you three articles that I'm looking forward to digging into. The first two come from the current issue of The New Yorker. One recaps the famous study on kids who are promised two marshmallows if they can keep themselves from eating the one that's placed in front of them for a short period of time. Researchers are revisiting that study to see what can be learned about teaching self-control. (For an example of how hard it is for a five year old not to gobble up a marshmallow, check out this clip - stay with it through the guy that's talking in the first 30 seconds or so):

I'm not sure if the editors of The New Yorker meant to send a message with their story selection, but later in the same issue is a fascinating article called the "The Death of Kings." It recounts how the overuse of leverage over the past twenty years led to the excessive consumption that has put the global economy where it is today. (I don't want just two marshmallows. I want 20 million marshmallows!). One of the more interesting aspects of the article is the recitation of different epiphanies that Wall Street financiers had that told them things were about to radically change. One that struck me was someone noticing that the $350 million opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics came just a month before the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The last article I plan to take a closer look at this weekend is the cover story in this month's issue of The Atlantic. It's called "What Makes Us Happy?" and reviews 72 years of research at Harvard about what leads to and constitutes a long and happy life. Bad news for the makers of Lipitor - the study finds that cholesterol counts at age 50 don't matter so much. What does matter is the quality of one's relationships and the capacity to make "mature adaptations" (e.g. altruism, humor, planning ahead, impulse control and finding healthy outlets for potentially damaging emotions like aggression and lust).

Is it just me, or does everything seem to come back to the marshmallow study?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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