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The tall poppy syndrome - how achievers cut themselves down

The tall poppy syndrome is a phenomenon where high-achievers are attacked or resented for their success - New Zealand is particularly known for its intolerance of people who achieve success. A PhD student at Victoria University recently completed a thesis about the syndrome. A linguist, Jay Woodhams concluded that many people pre-empt these attacks by using self-deprecating language about themselves. This is not surprising, and accords with my own experience. However, what is a little more surprising is his conclusion that this desire to cut others (and ourselves) down stems from 'entrenched Kiwi ideas about egalitarianism [which is not] 'necessarily a negative thing. If you believe in an eg

The secret to happiness

Who knew? The secret to happiness is going running with your friends in a gorilla suit. I have become very interested in personal resilience lately, and over the weekend I watched the award-winning documentary film 'Happy'. The documentary explores the science of happiness, which has burgeoned over the last couple of decades, especially in the US. Research indicates that while 50 percent of the level of happiness any individual experiences is determined by genes (called the 'genetic set point or range'), only 10% of an individual's happiness is determined by circumstances such as income, status, age, where you live, or even health. A whopping 40%, these happiness scientists tell us, is deter

Brunner coal mine - holiday destination?

This is a photo of the mining settlement of Brunner, perched on the side of the Grey River, on the West Coast of the South Island. The photo is interesting in itself. The mine can be seen in the middle ground, with houses on the deforested flanks of the hills behind the mine. Coal ready for transport by rail can be seen in the foreground. Tailings can also be seen spilling into the river. It is also of historical interest. The Brunner Mine became the site of New Zealand’s worst mining disaster, when in March 1896 an explosion deep in the mine killed all 65 miners inside. It is likely that the explosion was caused by a pocket of methane gas being accidentally ignited. 33 of the victims are bu

Why the BA is the degree of the future

Is the Bachelor of the Arts (BA) threatened with extinction? Not according to Prof. Paul Spoonley, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Massey University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In fact, in his interview with Radio NZ's Jesse Mulligan last week, Prof. Spoonley argued - rather convincingly - that the BA is the degree of the future. This comes at a time when many students are increasingly turning to 'vocational qualifications' - degrees or other qualifications that prepare them for a particular job, such as engineering, IT or marketing - and the BA is seen as being in decline as it loses relevance. But Spoonley argues that as we face unprecedented change in the job market, where many jo

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