5. When I buy clothing made in Third World countries, am I exploiting the poor? Or in poverty-stricken areas, is any kind of economy good?
It'll surprise a lot of Americans to hear this, but in general buying cheap clothes from foreign factories actually helps the workers. True, there are problems with terrible facilities that use unsafe chemicals or lock the fire doors, but people in poor countries generally see factory jobs as better than many of the alternatives, such as peddling, farmwork, or day labor. East Asia has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty by developing a model of export factories.
Americans usually focus on the low wages and bad conditions—workers earning 15 cents for making a shirt that will sell for $15. But for the person who makes that shirt, the alternative is usually a job that is more dangerous and pays less. I interviewed workers scavenging in a dump in Indonesia, and I'll never forget the mother who told me that she dreamed that her children would someday work in what we'd call a sweatshop.
Of course, if you want to pay more for a shirt that's produced by workers who get better treatment, terrific. But it's the poorest countries, where wages and working conditions are the worst, that most desperately need the jobs. And the most effective foreign aid is often to start a manufacturing industry in those countries. — Nicholas D. Kristof
(Kristof is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times.)
6. As I get older, I'm terrified of losing my mind—the idea of dementia scares the hell out of me.
One of the best ways to prevent dementia is to challenge the brain. People tend to go for mental workouts like crossword puzzles, which are good, but exercise is better. It gives you a twofold benefit: First, whether you're learning a new sport or playing one you know, it makes your brain work in ways that it doesn't normally. When I play basketball, I'm calculating how to make a jump shot; when I jog, I'm daydreaming and brainstorming—things I don't do when I'm at my desk. Second, while crossword puzzles build your vocabulary, exercise builds your vascular system and promotes healthier blood vessels, so you can stave off the small strokes that are often part of the dementia picture. — Mehmet Oz, MD
7. I don't think I'll ever swim out from under the pile of work I have at the office!
You're right. The reality is that you'll never get to the bottom of your to-do list. The way our work world has evolved, it isn't humanly possible anymore. It's not just information overload; it's opportunity overload—there are always a million things to do. And please, forget multitasking. It doesn't increase efficiency at all, and it taxes brain cells in the frontal cortex, which has a terrible impact on performance.
Here's how to prioritize. I teach a concept called "dancing close to the revenue line." Evaluate the items on your to-do list in terms of their proximity to what will make money soonest for your company. Most people tackle the easiest tasks first so they can check off a lot of little things that don't matter at the end of the day. Instead, when you go into work, ask yourself, If I ran out of time today, what would be the one thing that, completed, would give me the greatest sense of accomplishment and contribution? When you take care of that, it won't matter if the rest of the day goes to hell in a handbasket. — Julie Morgenstern
(Morgenstern is the author of Never Check E-Mail in the Morning [Fireside].)
We Hear You!