3 Things I Learned at a Financial Conference that had nothing to do with $

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Last week I attended my firm’s annual conference, and it wasn’t all finance. Lucky for me, my firm sees the value in having interesting speakers, some on topics of finance but others on topics of wellness. Here are three things I learned that were non-financial at the financial conference.
1. Speaker Mark Zinder (www.markzinder.com) discussed how people think the best days of America are behind us. He shows why he believes otherwise by showing the “revolutions” over the past many years, such as the industrial revolution, electrification, and the railroads. Each period lasted about 45-60 years. Why is this significant? Because we are currently in year 44 of the information revolution (starting with the invention of the microprocessor in 1971). He believes that this revolution may soon come to an end, and a new one will begin. What will it be? He gave a few examples you may have heard of – graphene and 3D printing, including the ability to print organs. Are we on the cusp of something extraordinary? Time will tell, but it made me think and actually get a little more excited for the future.
2. Speaker Tali Sharot, PhD, discussed using the science of the mind to cause behavioral change. Much had to do with the optimism bias, meaning people imagine the future more positive than the past or present (somewhat contradictory to Mark Zinder, I must say). She relayed that optimists live longer, get over illness quicker and tend to be more successful in business, among other things. I have to say that I am definitely an optimist, almost to a fault. But if there are benefits, it must not be too bad, right? She discussed four principles to induce change, all positive: 1) Social incentives (all of your peers are doing it); 2) Immediate rewards (think of the tech gadgets that tally our miles ran or biked); 3) Progress Monitoring (see #2); and 4) Perceived Control (you have a choice). What I really found interesting is that she said when people make a choice they immediate devalue the choice not taken. I do this at the gym all the time-my trainer gives me a choice between the bike and the rower, I pick the bike and start railing on about how sucky the rower is. Check in with yourself next time you have a choice and see if you do it.
3. Speaker Dr. Robert Bulgarelli discussed the state of our health in the US (bad) and what it took to make change. Much of this was right up my alley as he talked about dealing with deep seated beliefs and values as one way to move forward with change. More importantly, he stressed a spiritual aspect of living featuring “A God of Your Own Understanding”. Then unbelievably he took us through a guided meditation! In the middle of a financial conference! It was awesome! So while I didn’t really learn anything new here, it made me happy and hopeful for the future that meditation was being introduced in a group of at least 300-400 people. I hope it impacted many attendees and they look into it further and perhaps even start their own practice. What a difference in the firm if that took hold! I hope to be an agent of change in that space soon too.
So even though I was somewhat weary of travel by the time these presentations were done, I found the content very engaging. I am always trying to learn new things and all of these speakers made me think.
What new things have you learned lately? If you feel like your brain is the same today as it was yesterday, it may be time to pick up a book, go to a lecture, or watch a documentary. Keep the cells alive!

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