Saturday, December 15, 2012

RSA Animate: The Divided Brain

(By Iain McGilchrist, published at RSA Animate on 24 October 2011 at the following link:

In this RSA Animate, the renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. This was first taken from a lecture which was given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA's free public events programme on 17 November 2010.

N.B. Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, where he taught literature, before training in medicine. He has an interest in brain research, and now works as a private consultant in London,  where he was a Consultant and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospital Acute Mental Health Services.  He is a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Best Way To Create World Peace

(By Lena Chen, Lena's Healing Haven, extracted from the Healing Insights Newsletter first published on 10 October 2012

Dear One,

All of us want world peace, and personally, I believe that it IS possible to achieve world peace if we remember the following truths.

1) We are all interconnected.

2) Everything is made up of energy.

3) Whatever we focus on, expands.

What are the implications? It means that our thoughts and emotions have an effect on the world around us - the people, the animals and plants, the environment, the situation, etc. In other words, by consciously changing our thoughts and emotions for the better, we can have a direct and tangible effect (very often, also observable) on everything around us.

It also means that instead of complaining and whining about people and situations which do not fit in our idea of a peaceful and fair world, we should focus on having appreciation and gratitude for those which do. As human beings, we often like to criticise the government, the economy, our workplace, the traffic, and of course, the idiots who exist in our world. :P

However, in doing so, we are actually sending energy towards those problematic people and situations and as a result, perpetuate the problem. It is similar to the all-so-important rule followed by skiers and cyclists. Place your attention on the path you WANT to go. If instead you were to look at all the obstacles in your path, you are more likely to actually crash into them.

Mother Teresa was probably aware of this fact, which is why she was quoted as having said the following: "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."

If you think about it, anti-war is just another form of war. As long as there is any kind of internal conflict within you, you are already contributing to the war. If you really want to promote peace, rather than raging and protesting against political parties who create wars, why not simply BE an embodiment of peace?

So here are the things you can start practising in your life if you are genuinely interested in helping to bring about world peace:

1) Forgive all the people in your life who have hurt you in any way. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you condone their behaviour. It means that you are willing to release the pain they have caused you, and set yourself free so that they no longer have the power to affect you in any way. (For more on this topic, you may read my newsletter on 4 reasons why people can't heal here:

2) Forgive yourself for your past mistakes. Recognise that you were doing the best you could under those circumstances (which include the beliefs you had at the point of time) and that you are in the process of becoming a better person. Release yourself from the self-blame so that you can expend more energy on improving yourself.

3) Practice feeling and/or expressing gratitude for the blessings in your life. Gratitude is one of the highest vibrations which means that besides making you feel good, you will also start attracting more wonderful things in your life. The happiest people in the world are the ones who are truly grateful for everything in their lives. It has even been shown in research that depressed patients who keep gratitude journals are able to overcome their depression in a relatively shorter period of time.

4) Practice acceptance towards everything in your life, including problems. Ever heard of the saying "Whatever we resist, persists"? When I started practising EFT where the main principle is about accepting the problem and yourself, I discover repeatedly that acceptance seems to dissolve the issue, almost magically! It's like the common advice you give for dealing with bullies. When you start accepting them, the bullies get bored and find new targets to pick because they really want the negative reactions from the victims. Problems are just like that! Of course, sometimes you may need to take constructive action towards resolving the problem, but even in these cases, the best solutions come from a clear mind that is unclouded by negativity, so acceptance is still the best way to go. Most importantly, learn to accept yourself including your imperfections. You may think that accepting problems would mean that you are allowing those problems to remain. It may seem counter-intuitive but the opposite is true. Those of you who has read my first EFT book may remember an anecdote about a mother with parenting problems who constantly berated herself for being a bad mother. We managed to use EFT to help her recognise that she is indeed a good mother, and I asked her if seeing herself as a bad mother in the past had helped her to become a better mother. She thought about it, and said it was the exact opposite. When she thought of herself as a bad mother, she became so grumpy and irritable that she got even more impatient with her children. So if you really wish to become a better person, the key is to first accept yourself, warts and all!

5) Practice mindfulness. Become aware of your thoughts, emotions and body sensations as they are your inner road signs telling you where you are on the peace continuum. This may seem rather obvious but there are so many people who are so caught up in the fast-paced outside world that they have pretty much lost touch with how they feel on the inside. At the same time, do not become attached to your thoughts, emotions and body sensations. When you are travelling towards your destination, you rely on the road signs for directions but you don't stay AT the road signs! Use your thoughts, emotions and body sensations to understand the messages your body is telling you, and allow them to evolve. Just like the way all rivers flow into the great ocean, if you just stay mindful towards your thoughts, emotions and body sensations and do not cling onto any of them, they will eventually lead you towards stillness and expansiveness, which is the true nature of your mind.

6) If you cannot practice any of the above, please refer to point 4! Please recognise that you are still a human being, and having flaws and imperfections is what makes you human. All these are ideals, and I am also still in the process of achieving these ideals. If a bud is still not ready to bloom, does the sun scold the bud for being slow? No, the sun continues to shine its rays on the bud, and the bud blooms when it is ready to bloom. If a baby learning to walk falls down, does the parent punish the baby for being a bad baby? No, the parent just encourages the baby to get back on his feet and try again, knowing that he will successfully learn to walk in time to come. In the same way, if you are still unable to practice forgiveness, acceptance or mindfulness all the time, just keep accepting yourself anyway, and understand that you are progressing on your path all the time and you will get there eventually.

N.B. Lena Chen is a practicing holistic therapist who specialises in Emotional Freedom Techniques (“EFT”) as well as Past Life Regression. Other than being a certified Emotional Freedom Techniques (“EFT”) Practitioner, Lena is also the author of a book entitled “Emotional Freedom At Your Fingertips”. Lena also conducts EFT Level I and II workshops as one of her life purposes is to empower other people and helping others to learn EFT definitely empowers them to manage their emotions and challenges more effectively. Lena has a natural gift and passion for counselling, writing and teaching. She has been interested in spirituality and self-development as a young teenager and while she has strong Buddhist roots, she also sees parallel teachings in other religions and feels that all religions ultimately lead us to the same place. She listens to her very strong intuition which helps her to facilitate healing for her clients to bring about deep and powerful transformations. She is constantly learning from those around her and strives to gain greater self-awareness and self-acceptance, which she believes is the key to breaking through negative patterns and achieving enlightenment.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Medical Journals: How Fast You Walk Is How Long You’ll Likely Live

(By the Easy Health Options: First published in article dated 4 Jan 2012 -

If you’re one of those people who stroll very slowly down the block, you better pick up the pace. Something may be gaining on you. Research shows that the slower you walk, the sooner death is likely to catch up to you.

In an analysis of the health history of more than 34,000 people over the age of 65, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that faster walkers had greater life expectancy.

According to these scientists, there are several reasons why walking speed may predict survival. "Walking requires energy, movement control, and support and places demands on multiple organ systems, including the heart, lungs, circulatory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems. Slowing gait may reflect both damaged systems and a high energy cost of walking."

In this study, if you walked slower than about 2 feet a second, it was time to start making sure your affairs were in order: And you only had time for a couple of more walks.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

RSA Animate: The Truth About Dishonesty

(By Dan Ariely, published at RSA Animate on 14 September 2012 at the following link:

In this RSA Animate, Dan Ariely explores the circumstances under which someone would lie and what effect deception has on society at large. In this case, he sought to examine the mechanisms at work behind dishonest behaviour, and the implications this has for all aspects of our social and political lives.This is taken from a lecture which was first given by Dan Ariely as part of the RSA's free public events programme on 10 July 2012 at this link:

N.B. Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioural Economics at Duke University, and is dedicated to helping people live more sensible – if not rational – lives. His interests span a wide range of behaviours, and his sometimes unusual experiments are consistently interesting, amusing and informative, demonstrating profound ideas that fly in the face of common wisdom. In addition to appointments at the Fuqua School of Business, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Department of Economics, and the School of Medicine at Duke University, Dan is also a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Predictably Irrational, and The Upside of Irrationality. His new book The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty will be published in June 2012.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Random Thoughts: Cease & Desist - Classy As Jack Daniel's

It is certainly understandable that the companies of today emphasize greatly on protection of their intellectual properties such as trademarks. This is especially so for retail products that hinge on their branding in the market place. The standard response for any trademark infringement would very likely invoke legal actions with threats to sue. However, the folks at Jack Daniel’s, one of America’s most iconic brands, proceeded with something which is quite extraordinary from the run of the mill legal perspective, opted instead for true southern hospitality toward Patrick Wensink, a Louisville-based author of a new satirical novel entitled "Broken Piano For President".

When lawyers of the popular whiskey brand spotted the cover of the book, it looked uncannily identical to the iconic black and white bottle labels used by Jack Daniel’s. But rather than issue legal threats, the company’s lawyers sent him what the author described as the perhaps the world’s most polite cease-and-desist letter.

The letter from Jack Daniel’s attorney Christy Susman reads: "We are certainly flattered by your affection for the brand, but while we appreciate the pop culture appeal of Jack Daniel’s we also have to be diligent to ensure that Jack Daniel’s trademarks are used correctly… As an author you can certainly understand our position and the need to contact you. You may even have run into similar problems with your own intellectual property."

It further states: "Because you are both a Louisville 'neighbor' and a fan of the brand we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is reprinted." Furthermore, Jack Daniels offered to pay "a reasonable amount towards the cost" if Wensink changed the art sooner than the reprinting, including the digital cover.

However, the most critical part of this legal letter was perhaps the fact that it was  written by a decent human being who cared about civility. The act was respectable and classy, just like the Tennessee Whiskey it sells, Jack Daniel's.

Patrick Wensink's, the author of "Broken Piano For President", original post entitled "Whiskey Rebellion" first published on 19 July 2012 can be found at the following link:

Monday, October 01, 2012

Medical Journals: Too Much Sitting Is Killing Us

(By Alliance Of Natural Health: First published in an article dated 3 Jan 2012 -

Studies say that even moderate to vigorous exercise doesn’t counteract the damage.

A study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation showed that each extra hour of television watching (the ultimate sitting sedentary activity) per day was associated with an 18% increase in deaths from heart disease and an 11% increase in overall mortality. People who watched TV for at least four hours a day were 80% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who watched two hours or less, and 46% more likely to die of any cause.

We have smart readers, and many of you will immediately ask: “Weren’t there other factors, not just sitting, that resulted in this outcome?” Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case. There are specific reasons why sitting, in itself, appears to be dangerous. The message seems to be to move around. But if you aren’t moving around, stand or lie down, which humans have done throughout their history. Avoid sitting in a chair, an activity that is relatively new for human beings and not at all good for us.

Surprising as it is, the increase in heart and mortality risk observed in the Circulation study affected people who met exercise guidelines—and were independent of eating habits as well! Studies reported significant associations between total sedentary time with blood glucose, blood lipids, and adiposity, even in people who performed moderate to vigorous exercise several times each week.

Animal studies also show that how much time we are sedentary is related to how well our bodies process fats. The studies in rats show that leg muscles only produce the lipase lipoprotein (fat-processing) molecule when they are being actively flexed—that is, when standing or, better still, walking around—and low levels of the molecule are associated with health problems, including heart disease. In short, sitting makes this important molecule slow down. In fact, actively contracting the muscles produces a whole suite of substances that have a beneficial effect on how the body uses and stores sugars and fats.

“Many people, on a daily basis, simply shift from one chair to another—from the seat in the car to the chair in the office to the chair in front of the television,” said to the lead author of the study. “Even if someone has a healthy body weight, sitting for long periods still has an unhealthy influence on blood sugar and blood fats.”

It should be noted that sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. They do completely different things to the body. Standing recruits specialized muscles designed for low-intensity activity—muscles that are very rich in enzymes. The lipoprotein lipase enzyme grabs fat and cholesterol from the blood, burning the fat into energy while shifting the cholesterol from LDL (the bad kind) to HDL (the healthy kind). When you sit, the muscles are relaxed, and enzyme activity drops by 90% to 95%, leaving fat to camp out in the bloodstream. Within a couple hours of sitting, healthy cholesterol plummets by 20%.

A Canadian study reached a similar conclusion. After adjusting for potential compounding factors (smoking, exercise levels, etc.), the study found that the longer people sat, the higher the risk of mortality from all causes except cancer.

The good news is that inserting breaks into your sedentary periods can help. Periodically taking time out from your computer, desk, television, and driving time to walk, move around, stretch, and flex your muscles, is good for you. These spurts of activity are associated with a smaller waist circumference, lower body mass index, and lower blood lipid levels, and better glucose metabolism.

A stand up desk might be a good idea as well. Don’t have room for one? Too expensive? Then pile some books or something else on top of your existing desk and put your laptop where you can type standing up when you want to, either often or as a break.

At ANH-USA, we believe that true health comes from a combination of diet (and supplements), exercise, and lifestyle. Politically, so much is happening regarding supplements and diet that we spend most of our newsletter space focusing on those areas. But science tells us that our lifestyle choices—simple decisions made daily—can make a huge impact on our health, for good or for ill.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


从前,有个人娶了四个妻子,第四个妻子深得丈夫喜爱,不论坐着站着,丈夫都跟她形影不离。非常宠爱。第三个妻子是经过一番辛苦才得到,丈夫常常在她 身边甜言蜜语,但不如对第四个妻子那样宠爱。第二个妻子与丈夫常常见面,互相安慰,宛如朋友。只要在一块就彼此满足,一旦分离,就会互相思念。而第一个妻 子,简直像个婢女,家中一切繁重的劳作都由她担任。她身陷各种苦恼,却毫无怨言,在丈夫的心里几乎没有位置。

一天, 个人要出国做长途旅行,他对他四个妻子说:“你肯跟我一块儿去吗?”












Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Random Thoughts: 三寸天堂

三寸差不多就是一米, "三寸天堂" 里的三寸日光应该是 "一米阳光" 的典故.

据传说终年云雾缭绕的玉龙雪山, 即使在最晴朗的日子, 阳光也无法穿透云层.

传说在秋分那天, 日月交合, 同辉同映, 神灵会在那天, 将人世间最完美的爱情阳光, 赐予人间. 如果那天云开雾散, 神奇的阳光就会铺满整个山谷. 每个被阳光抚摸到的人, 都会获得最美, 最圣洁的爱情.

但是善妒的山神, 在那一天从不开放胸, 那一天总是会有云, 有雾, 有雨. 所以人世间很难有完美的爱情.

而一米阳光就是上面故事的延伸. 虽然秋分这天的阳光无法穿透云层, 但是在玉龙和哈巴雪山交界, 穿空肃立最陡峭的崖壁上有一处山洞. 据说山洞里面居住的是殉情而死的风之女. 她痛恨山神刁难人世间的男女, 所以她会在秋分的正午时分, 趁山神打盹的工夫, 偷偷地将万丈爱情阳光, 剪下最绚丽的一米, 藏于山洞之中. 山神很快就会发觉, 他醒来后立刻追回那一米阳光.

所以这一米爱情阳光只能在人间停留一个盹儿的工夫就会消失. 如果有最勇敢最幸运的人, 在正午时分来到风之女的山洞里, 他们就会得到最绚丽的完美爱情.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Random Thoughts: The Peverell Story

(By The Butterbeer Experience: taken from the "Songs From Beedle The Bard" album)


I once happened ‘cross fair brothers three
Who thought they could use all their magic to thwart me
But I, being Death, being sly blocked their path
And said “Brave, cunning brothers oh what do you ask
I will give each a prize and then let brothers pass.”

The first brother begged “Please, Death, make me a tool;
A wand that will win every fight, every duel.”
So I broke a branch off of an elder tree
And I fashioned a wand for he thought he was worthy
And gave elder wand to the eldest of three.

Go, brother, I bid thee goodnight
I promise you’ll win all your battles and fights
But your wand will be stolen and you will be slain
Then you and I will meet again.

The next brother cried “Give me magic instead,
The power to bring others back from the dead.”

So I picked up a stone from the riverside
And I told him the pebble had magic inside
It would bring back the dead and his departed bride.

Go, brother I bid thee goodnight
You’ll see your love soon but things will not be right
You’ll drive yourself crazy 'cause she won’t be whole
And then I will claim your soul.

The youngest brother said “Death, I don’t trust your ways,
Please leave me alone ‘til the end of my days.”
And though I was reluctant, he was the wisest of the three
So I gave him my cloak of invisibility
And I let the young brother go free.

Go, brother I bid thee goodnight
Go take your new cloak and go live out your life
Be happy and healthy and when you are ready
You can take off your cloak and join me.

And that is the story of the Peverell brothers
They each made their choice, one wiser than others
They stripped me of wand and of cloak and of stone
And I bade young Ignotus be selfless and roam
And many years passed ‘til he called me his home
But I took the other two for my own. 

N.B. I rather like the moral of this story.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Tale of the Three Brothers

(As read by Hermione Jean Granger, from a first edition of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard", a collection of wizarding fairy tales, left to her by the late Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore)

“There were once three brothers who were traveling along a lonely, winding road at twilight. In time, the brothers reached a river too deep to wade through and too dangerous to swim across.

However, these brothers were learned in the magical arts, and so they simply waved their wands and made a bridge appear across the treacherous water.

They were halfway across it when they found their path blocked by a hooded figure. And Death spoke to them. He was angry that he had been cheated out of three new victims, for travelers usually drowned in the river.

But Death was cunning. He pretended to congratulate the three brothers upon their magic and said that each had earned a prize for having been clever enough to evade him.

So the oldest brother, who was a combative man, asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence: a wand that must always win duels for its owner, a wand worthy of a wizard who had conquered Death!

So Death crossed to an elder tree on the banks of the river, fashioned a wand from a branch that hung there, and gave it to the oldest brother.

Then the second brother, who was an arrogant man, decided that he wanted to humiliate Death still further, and asked for the power to recall others from Death.

So Death picked up a stone from the riverbank and gave it to the second brother, and told him that the stone would have the power to bring back the dead.

And then Death asked the third and youngest brother what he would like.

The youngest brother was the humblest and also the wisest of the brothers, and he did not trust Death. So he asked for something that would enable him to go forth from that place without being followed by Death. And death, most unwillingly, handed over his own Cloak of Invisibility.

Then Death stood aside and allowed the three brothers to continue on their way, and they did so, talking with wonder of the adventure they had had, and admiring Death’s gifts. In due course the brothers separated, each for his own destination.

 The first brother traveled on for a week or more, and reaching a distant village, sought out a fellow wizard with whom he had a quarrel. Naturally with the Elder Wand as his weapon, he could not fail to win the duel that followed.

Leaving his enemy dead upon the floor, the oldest brother proceeded to an inn, where he boasted loudly of the powerful wand he had snatched from Death himself, and of how it made him invincible.

That very night, another wizard crept upon the oldest brother as he lay, wine-sodden, upon his bed. The thief took the wand and, for good measure, slit the oldest brother’s throat. And so Death took the first brother for his own.

Meanwhile, the second brother journeyed to his own home, where he lived alone. Here he took out the stone that had the power to recall the dead, and turned it thrice in his hand. To his amazement and his delight, the figure of the girl he had once hoped to marry, before her untimely death, appeared at once before him.

Yet she was sad and cold, separated from him as by a veil. Though she had returned to the mortal world, she did not truly belong there and suffered.

Finally the second brother, driven mad with hopeless longing, killed himself so as truly to join her. And so Death took the second brother for his own.

But though Death searched for the third brother for many years, he was never able to find him. It was only when he had attained a great age that the youngest brother finally took off the Cloak of Invisibility and gave it to his son. And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.”

N.B. The Peverell brothers, Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus, are believed by some to be the subjects of the wizarding legend, "The Tale of the Three Brothers". Each possessed one of the legendary Deathly Hallows, where Antioch had the Elder Wand, Cadmus had the Resurrection Stone, and Ignotus had the Cloak of Invisibility. 
Peverell was the surname of a medieval pure-blood wizarding family. Hermione Granger reported in early 1998 that, according to Nature's Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy, the Peverell name was among the first to "become extinct in the male line", meaning that the name had died out among wizarding families. 
However, the Peverells had numerous descendants through female lines, but by the twentieth century only two such families could be identified through heirloom. They are the Gaunt family (the Resurrection Stone) and the Potter family (the Cloak of Invisibility).

Friday, June 01, 2012

Random Thoughts: The Distance Of Conscience

(By Mahatma Gandhi)

The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Five Leadership Lessons From Jean-Luc Picard

(By Alex Knapp, Social Media Editor at Forbes: Taken from Forbes' Website first published on 13 March 2012:

Captain Jean-Luc Picard is the model of a great 24th Century Starfleet captain. On his watch, the crew of the Enterprise successfully defended humanity against the judgement of the Q-Continuum, defeated the Borg, prevented the Romulans from installing a puppet government in the Klingon Empire, and encountered countless new species.
Although Captain Picard’s style was very different from Captain Kirk’s, he was also an incredibly successful leader. Here are five lessons in leadership that can take away from Picard’s voyages as you take your organization on its journey to boldly go where no one has gone before. 

1. Speak to people in the language they understand. (Or, it’s okay to threaten a Klingon.)

“In my experience, communication is a matter of patience and imagination. I would like to believe that these are qualities that we have in sufficient measure.”

One of the key challenges to Captain Picard during his voyages was the problem of communication. Even in an era where universal translators could translate virtually every language imaginable, communication is more than just a matter of language. The different races that Picard encountered had their own cultures, customs and values. In order to work effectively with them, he mastered the ability to communicate with them on his own terms. When he was challenged by Klingons, he had no problem getting back in their faces and swearing at them. In Klingon culture, that’s how one earns respect. When he was confronted with the Sheliak, who refused to grant him more time to resettle colonists on a planet they wanted, he wrung concessions out of them through their hyper-detailed, legalistic manner of negotiation.

Perhaps no episode, though, demonstrates Picard’s willingness to put himself in someone else’s shoes than “Darmok.” In that episode, Picard and his crew meet with an alien race known as the Children of Tama. Although the ship’s translators could make their words comprehensible, their speech wasn’t, because it was entirely structured around metaphor and allusions to their myths. Noting this, the Tamarian captain kidnapped Picard and marooned them both on a world where they could face a common enemy. Over the course of their struggles, Picard was able to learn and understand the Tamarian language, paving the way towards greater understanding between the Tamarians and the Federation.

Perhaps one of the key skills for any good leader is the ability to empathize and understand the people they work with, both on their team and outside their organizations. This is especially true in a globalized world. People bring to the table not only their skills, but also their experiences, personalities, and cultures. Understanding those cultures and experiences enables you to effectively communicate. 

2. When you’re overwhelmed, ask for help.

“You wanted to frighten us. We’re frightened. You wanted to show us we were inadequate. For the moment, I grant that. You wanted me to say ‘I need you.’? I NEED you!”

One of Picard’s constant foils was Q, a near-omnipotent being whose judgments of humanity bookend both the first and last entries of the TV series. One particularly memorable episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was “Q Who?” where, in a fit of pique, Q sent the Enterprise light-years away from their location, where they made the Federation’s first contact with the Borg. The Borg are a race of cybernetic beings that share a collective consciousness. When they encounter new worlds, they assimilate the planets’ technology and people into themselves. Their technology was years ahead of the Federation, and it became clear that there was no way for the Enterprise to win the battle and save themselves.

So Picard asked Q for help, which Q granted.

That’s a hard thing to do. Especially in our individualist American culture, where there’s a level of expectation that you solve your problems on your own. That sort of independence is far from a bad quality – indeed, the ability to be independent is an important skill for leaders. But equally important is having enough self-awareness to know when you’re overwhelmed, when the odds are against you and when you know you can’t win the battle by yourself. In those situations, a prudent leader will ask for help.

That’s something that seems obvious, doesn’t it? But how many of us have refused to acknowledge that we need help at some point in our lives? How many of us have been on teams led by someone who was out of their depth but unwilling to seek out any guidance? It takes a great deal of confidence to admit that you need help. As Q said to Picard after Picard asked for help, “That was a difficult admission. Another man would have been humiliated to say those words. Another man would have rather died than ask for help.” How many of us have been on doomed projects because the project leader was too proud or too blind to ask for help?

When the time came, Picard wasn’t afraid to ask for help. That allowed him and his crew to fight another day – and on that day, they did defeat the Borg. When the time comes, a good leader will have that same confidence to ask for help so that they, too, can fight another day.

3. Always value ethical actions over expedient ones.

“There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders.”

Leaders of organizations are often faced with ethical dilemmas – times when it seems that the easiest option is to just “bend the rules a little” to get things done. Captain Picard, too, faced this type of decision on a number of occasions. But Picard had a strong moral center, and he refused to do the wrong thing – even when that seemed to be the easiest thing to do.

One such occasion was in one of the seminal episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Measure of a Man.” In that episode, Starfleet had ordered Lt. Commander Data, an android, to disassembly and experimentation in the hopes that Starfleet could manufacture more androids to put them in harm’s way on dangerous missions so that members of other species, such as humans, wouldn’t be subjected to the dangers of space flight. Aceding to that request would have been the easiest thing to do. After all, how many friends had Picard lost in his years in Starfleet. It must have seemed wonderful, to him, for there to be the potential to prevent such deaths. Starfleet didn’t recognize the rights of androids – to them, Data was just property.

However, instead of just taking the easy way out, Picard recognized that Data was a sentient being worthy of the rights of other members of the Federation. He argued Data’s case passionately in a Starfleet legal hearing, pointing out that creating a race of sentient beings who were compelled to enter into dangerous situations amounted to a re-institution of slavery. His argument was convincing, and led Starfleet and the Federation to respect Data’s rights. This paved the way for the rights of other sentient artificial intelligences to be recognized by the Federation later.

In your own job, you’ll probably never encounter a situation where you have to convince the government to recognize a new sentient species. (If you do have that job, though, that’s awesome and please email me for an interview.) But in leadership situations, there are a number of temptations to do the wrong thing to make yourself look better, whether that’s cutting corners to beat a schedule or gaming numbers to make your results look good. It’s in those times we should look to Picard as an example of maintaining our integrity, no matter the short-term costs. In the long-term, integrity is what matters.

4. Challenge your team to help them grow.

“Lieutenant, you are a member of this crew, and you will not go into hiding whenever a Klingon vessel uncloaks!”

Oftentimes, the greatest challenge that a well-run team can face is complacency. When you have a great team where everyone is filling out their roles and doing a good job, it’s pretty easy to just let things lay the way they are and coast on inertia. The problem is, when you have a complacent team, no matter how competent they are, they can fall apart when they’re faced with a big challenge. In order to keep your organization nimble, it’s vital that you encourage your teams to stretch their capabilities, even if that makes them uncomfortable.

One of the more obscure, but favorite episodes of mine is “The Ensigns of Command,” where Picard ordered Data to a planet where Federation citizens had illegally colonized a planet belonging to the Sheliak. Data’s job was to get the colonists to evacuate before the Sheliak came, because they would kill all of the colonists when they arrived. Now, dealing with a group of impassioned humans fighting for their home wasn’t in Data’s comfort zone. After all, Data, as an android, didn’t have emotions and was often puzzled by them. But during that encounter, Data learned what it took to convince a hostile, emotional group to his way of thinking. That’s a lesson that paid off later in a future episode, when Data was assigned to command a ship with officers who were prejudiced against him for being an android. Without that prior experience, Data may have had a much more difficult commanding that ship, and they might not have successfully completed their mission.

Similarly, after Worf lost his honor in order to prevent the Klingon Empire from going to war, Picard still insisted that Worf deal with the Klingons who came to the Enterprise. He did that even though for Worf, facing other Klingons while he was dishonored caused him a great deal of distress and shame. By having Worf face his people, Worf came out of the end of his period of dishonor a much stronger Klingon, and later in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Worf was much more inclined to follow his conscience even if it shamed him in front of Klingons. In other words, Picard helped guide Worf into becoming a stronger and more capable man.

When you have someone on your team whose doing their job, and doing it well, it can be hard to assign them new or more difficult tasks in a way that shakes up your organization. But to be an effective leader, you need to shake them up, so that when your team faces harder crises, they’ll be more resilient and effective.

5. Don’t play it safe – seize opportunities in front of you.

“Seize the time… – live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

Captain Picard has a reputation for being a more cautious Captain than James T. Kirk, and in some ways that reputation is well-deserved. After all, Kirk took command of his Enterprise at the age of 31, while Picard was 59 when he took command of the Enterprise – D. But Picard had more responsibilities than Kirk, too. In Picard’s day, a starship wasn’t just home to members of Starfleet, but also the families of Starfleet personnel and their children. He had to be a little more cautious in a number of situations. But Picard’s caution wasn’t that of a coward or someone who desired to play it safe. Rather, it was the caution of a brave man whose youthful recklessness has been tempered by wisdom.

There are a number of occasions in which Picard was willing to take significant risks to seize opportunities to win the day for his ship and the Federation, and when he took those risks, he took them decisively. That ambition, and willingness to take opportunities in front of him, dates back to an incident when he was in the Academy. Then, he got involved in a bar brawl that resulted in his heart being destroyed and the young Picard nearly died. To the end of his days, he had an artificial heart instead of the one with which he was born.

In the episode “Tapestry,” Picard has a near-death experience in which he is visited by Q. Q gives him the opportunity to change one thing about his life, and Picard chooses to avoid the fight in which he lost his heart. At that point, Picard is thrust into the timeline that is the result of that act. In this timeline, Picard never rose above the rank of Lieutenant. He never got a command, because he had no goals. He drifted. He played it safe. And ultimately, his life didn’t amount to much. As Q put it to him when Picard asked for this new life to be taken away:

“The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did NOT fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is, or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda. Going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away-team on Milika III to save the ambassador, or take charge of the Stargazer’s bridge when its captain was killed. And no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe. And he never, ever got noticed by anyone.”

It’s easy to get stuck like that alternate Picard. You can do your job, and at the end of the day go home, with no real plan or goal – just coasting while you let other people tell you what to do. The lesson Picard learned from this experience is the same one that we should learn for ourselves. Life is short, and the time we lose is time we’ll never get back again. When opportunities present themselves, we need to seize them. We need to go forth in our lives, careers and projects with goals and be ambitious about carrying those goals out.

Picard didn’t want to look back on a life of dull competence without distinction, risk or achievement. He told Q that he would rather die than live one more day like that. That’s a vital lesson we can apply to our own lives – we have to seize change for ourselves. Nobody’s going to do it for us.

Final Takeaway:

Like James T. Kirk, Captain Jean-Luc Picard embodied several leadership lessons that we can use in our own lives. We need to learn to empathize with others so we can communicate with them effectively. We need to have the confidence to ask for help when we’re overwhelmed without feeling humiliated. When faced with the choice a famous wizard offered, between “what is right and what is easy,” we have to do what is right. We need to challenge our teams to grow and change so they can adapt to any situation. We need to seize opportunities as they come so that we don’t coast through our lives. Follow these lessons, and they’ll take us on the next stage of exploration. Which, in the words of Q on the show, is “not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

How Genuine Care and Compassion Affect Us

(By Sara Childre, President of Institute of HeartMath:

Did you know that your immune system, the body’s complex process of protecting you from illness and disease, is profoundly influenced by your emotions? It’s true: Anger, joy, love, depression, compassion and any of many other possible emotions affect your immune system and, ultimately, your health and well-being. Positive emotions, naturally, can help strengthen the immune system, while negative emotions can deplete it.

The effects of two specific emotions – care and compassion – on the immune system have been of particular interest to researchers, who have studied this phenomenon for decades.

How Genuine Care and Compassion Affect Us

In the mid-1990s, Institute of HeartMath Director of Research Rollin McCraty and a research team wanted to go beyond a 1980s experiment by Harvard Psychologist Dr. David McClelland, who found that immune-system functioning, as measured by IgA, or secretory immunoglobulin A levels, increased in students who were shown a video about Mother Teresa.

McCraty and the team wanted to know whether self-induced care would have the same effect as vicarious care, so they began by duplicating McClleland’s experiment and produced very similar results in their study, The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Compassion and Anger. After study participants had learned the Institute of HeartMath’s Freeze-Frame® Technique, they were instructed to employ it to help them intentionally feel care and compassion for five minutes.

Several days later, they were asked to feel five minutes of self-induced anger by remembering a situation or experience that made them angry and trying to recapture the feeling they had at the time.

The results McCraty and the team obtained were quite remarkable: In both cases, IgA samples were taken immediately after and then every hour to six hours. After five minutes of intentionally feeling care and compassion, the subjects had an immediate 41 percent average increase in their IgA levels. After one hour, IgA levels returned to normal, but slowly increased over the next six hours.

The researchers observed that self-induced care resulted in a much larger rise in IgA than the care experienced by viewing a Mother Teresa video. In some individuals, IgA increased as much as 240 percent immediately after they performed the Freeze-Frame Technique. Interestingly, there also was an 18 percent increase in IgA levels when the participants experienced anger, but an hour later, their IgA levels had dropped to only about half of what they were before the anger. Even after six hours, their IgA levels were still not back to normal.

Key findings: Heart-focused, sincere, positive feeling states boost the immune system, while negative emotions may suppress the immune response for up to six hours following an emotional experience. Read the abstract or the entire study: The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Compassion and Anger, 1995, Rein, Atkinson and McCraty:

Care, But Don’t Overcare

"A drop of genuine compassion is more effective than a gallon of drama-based sympathy, which often drains sender and receiver as the day ends." – Doc Childre, founder HeartMath

The quote above appears on Childre’s website, There he explains the site of the difference and importance of distinguishing between care and overcare. The following is excerpted from that explanation.

Care from your genuine heart regenerates your system, while overcare drains and debilitates your system. Overcare is when the mind and emotions cross the line of balanced care and get too attached and bogged down with whomever or whatever they care about. Once you become too entangled in another’s web and realize your energy is drained from overcare and attachment, you often can be seduced into blaming and resenting the people or issues you care about.

As you become trapped in the blame and judgment loop, you drain energy further because judgment and blame are energies that are not aligned with our heart of hearts or the way of spirit so they feed back into our system. The nature of our true heart is designed to care and support others, but it’s an individual responsibility to learn to discern and balance the personal energy and feelings that go out to others and within yourself.

Judgments are energies that are accountable, and their deficits play out within our mental, emotional and physical systems, even if we are unaware of it. Storing judgment and blame is counter-intuitive and counterproductive to personal empowerment, wholeness health, and resonance with yourself or others.

A HeartMath Tip: Below is a simple exercise adapted from HeartMath’s Cut-Thru® Technique to help you achieve emotional coherence, which has been shown in many studies to improve the efficiency of the immune system. The Cut-Thru Technique is discussed in greater detail in the HeartMath book, Transforming Anxiety by Childre and Deborah Rozman.
  1. Be aware of how you feel about an issue at hand.
  2. Breathe a positive feeling or attitude.
  3. Be objective, as if the issue or problem is someone else’s.
  4. Rest peacefully in this neutral state, allowing your heart intelligence to offer new perspectives and possibilities.
  5. Soak and relax all resistances and disturbing or perplexing feelings in your heart’s compassion.
  6. Ask for guidance, and then be patient and receptive. While awaiting an answer from your heart, find something or someone to genuinely appreciate.
For a deeper understanding of this topic, read the IHM newsletter article, Overcare – Make Sure Your Care is Helping, Not Hurting:

"Increasing your care for the concerns of the global whole brings spirit and increased empowerment to the personal self. Practicing wholeness care advances your effectiveness in self-care and manifestation of joy and personal peace." – Doc Childre

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The happy secret to better work

(By Shawn Archer)

The same speech as well as Shawn Archer's detailed profile can be found at the following site: The full text of the lecture is enclosed as follows:

When I was seven years old and my sister was just five years old, we were playing on top of a bunk bed. I was two years older than my sister at the time -- I mean, I'm two years older than her now -- but at the time it meant she had to do everything that I wanted to do, and I wanted to play war. So we were up on top of our bunk beds. And on one side of the bunk bed, I had put out all of my G.I. Joe soldiers and weaponry. And on the other side were all my sister's My Little Ponies ready for a cavalry charge.

There are differing accounts of what actually happened that afternoon, but since my sister is not here with us today, let me tell you the true story -- (Laughter) -- which is my sister's a little bit on the clumsy side. Somehow, without any help or push from her older brother at all, suddenly Amy disappeared off of the top of the bunk bed and landed with this crash on the floor. Now I nervously peered over the side of the bed to see what had befallen my fallen sister and saw that she had landed painfully on her hands and knees on all fours on the ground.

I was nervous because my parents had charged me with making sure that my sister and I played as safely and as quietly as possible. And seeing as how I had accidentally broken Amy's arm just one week before ... (Laughter) ... heroically pushing her out of the way of an oncoming imaginary sniper bullet, (Laughter) for which I have yet to be thanked, I was trying as hard as I could -- she didn't even see it coming -- I was trying as hard as I could to be on my best behavior.

And I saw my sister's face, this wail of pain and suffering and surprise threatening to erupt from her mouth and threatening to wake my parents from the long winter's nap for which they had settled. So I did the only thing my little frantic seven year-old brain could think to do to avert this tragedy. And if you have children, you've seen this hundreds of times before. I said, "Amy, Amy, wait. Don't cry. Don't cry. Did you see how you landed? No human lands on all fours like that. Amy, I think this means you're a unicorn."


Now that was cheating, because there was nothing in the world my sister would want more than not to be Amy the hurt five year-old little sister, but Amy the special unicorn. Of course, this was an option that was open to her brain at no point in the past. And you could see how my poor, manipulated sister faced conflict, as her little brain attempted to devote resources to feeling the pain and suffering and surprise she just experienced, or contemplating her new-found identity as a unicorn. And the latter won out. Instead of crying, instead of ceasing our play, instead of waking my parents, with all the negative consequences that would have ensued for me, instead a smile spread across her face and she scrambled right back up onto the bunk bed with all the grace of a baby unicorn ... (Laughter) ... with one broken leg.

What we stumbled across at this tender age of just five and seven -- we had no idea at the time -- was something that was going be at the vanguard of a scientific revolution occurring two decades later in the way that we look at the human brain. What we had stumbled across is something called positive psychology, which is the reason that I'm here today and the reason that I wake up every morning.

When I first started talking about this research outside of academia, out with companies and schools, the very first thing they said to never do is to start your talk with a graph. The very first thing I want to do is start my talk with a graph. This graph looks boring, but this graph is the reason I get excited and wake up every morning. And this graph doesn't even mean anything; it's fake data. What we found is --


If I got this data back studying you here in the room, I would be thrilled, because there's very clearly a trend that's going on there, and that means that I can get published, which is all that really matters. The fact that there's one weird red dot that's up above the curve, there's one weirdo in the room -- I know who you are, I saw you earlier -- that's no problem. That's no problem, as most of you know, because I can just delete that dot. I can delete that dot because that's clearly a measurement error. And we know that's a measurement error because it's messing up my data.

So one of the very first things we teach people in economics and statistics and business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, do we eliminate the weirdos. How do we eliminate the outliers so we can find the line of best fit? Which is fantastic if I'm trying to find out how many Advil the average person should be taking -- two. But if I'm interested in potential, if I'm interested in your potential, or for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, what we're doing is we're creating the cult of the average with science.

If I asked a question like, "How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?" scientists change the answer to "How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?" and then we tailor the class right towards the average. Now if you fall below the average on this curve, then psychologists get thrilled, because that means you're either depressed or you have a disorder, or hopefully both. We're hoping for both because our business model is, if you come into a therapy session with one problem, we want to make sure you leave knowing you have 10, so you keep coming back over and over again. We'll go back into your childhood if necessary, but eventually what we want to do is make you normal again. But normal is merely average.

And what I posit and what positive psychology posits is that if we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average. Then instead of deleting those positive outliers, what I intentionally do is come into a population like this one and say, why? Why is it that some of you are so high above the curve in terms of your intellectual ability, athletic ability, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, your resiliency in the face of challenge, your sense of humor? Whatever it is, instead of deleting you, what I want to do is study you. Because maybe we can glean information -- not just how to move people up to the average, but how we can move the entire average up in our companies and schools worldwide.

The reason this graph is important to me is, when I turn on the news, it seems like the majority of the information is not positive, in fact it's negative. Most of it's about murder, corruption, diseases, natural disasters. And very quickly, my brain starts to think that's the accurate ratio of negative to positive in the world. What that's doing is creating something called the medical school syndrome -- which, if you know people who've been to medical school, during the first year of medical training, as you read through a list of all the symptoms and diseases that could happen, suddenly you realize you have all of them.

I have a brother in-law named Bobo -- which is a whole other story. Bobo married Amy the unicorn. Bobo called me on the phone from Yale Medical School, and Bobo said, "Shawn, I have leprosy." (Laughter) Which, even at Yale, is extraordinarily rare. But I had no idea how to console poor Bobo because he had just gotten over an entire week of menopause.


See what we're finding is it's not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.

When I applied to Harvard, I applied on a dare. I didn't expect to get in, and my family had no money for college. When I got a military scholarship two weeks later, they allowed me to go. Suddenly, something that wasn't even a possibility became a reality. When I went there, I assumed everyone else would see it as a privilege as well, that they'd be excited to be there. Even if you're in a classroom full of people smarter than you, you'd be happy just to be in that classroom, which is what I felt. But what I found there is, while some people experience that, when I graduated after my four years and then spent the next eight years living in the dorms with the students -- Harvard asked me to; I wasn't that guy. (Laughter) I was an officer of Harvard to counsel students through the difficult four years. And what I found in my research and my teaching is that these students, no matter how happy they were with their original success of getting into the school, two weeks later their brains were focused, not on the privilege of being there, nor on their philosophy or their physics. Their brain was focused on the competition, the workload, the hassles, the stresses, the complaints.

When I first went in there, I walked into the freshmen dining hall, which is where my friends from Waco, Texas, which is where I grew up -- I know some of you have heard of it. When they'd come to visit me, they'd look around, they'd say, "This freshman dining hall looks like something out of Hogwart's from the movie "Harry Potter," which it does. This is Hogwart's from the movie "Harry Potter" and that's Harvard. And when they see this, they say, "Shawn, why do you waste your time studying happiness at Harvard? Seriously, what does a Harvard student possibly have to be unhappy about?"

Embedded within that question is the key to understanding the science of happiness. Because what that question assumes is that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels, when in reality, if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10 percent of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we can then affect reality. What we found is that only 25 percent of job successes are predicted by I.Q. 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

I talked to a boarding school up in New England, probably the most prestigious boarding school, and they said, "We already know that. So every year, instead of just teaching our students, we also have a wellness week. And we're so excited. Monday night we have the world's leading expert coming in to speak about adolescent depression. Tuesday night it's school violence and bullying. Wednesday night is eating disorders. Thursday night is elicit drug use. And Friday night we're trying to decide between risky sex or happiness." (Laughter) I said, "That's most people's Friday nights." (Laughter) (Applause) Which I'm glad you liked, but they did not like that at all. Silence on the phone. And into the silence, I said, "I'd be happy to speak at your school, but just so you know, that's not a wellness week, that's a sickness week. What you've done is you've outlined all the negative things that can happen, but not talked about the positive."

The absence of disease is not health. Here's how we get to health: We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. In the last three years, I've traveled to 45 different countries, working with schools and companies in the midst of an economic downturn. And what I found is that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I'll be more successful. And if I'm more successful, then I'll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting styles, our managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior.

And the problem is it's scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons. First, every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better school, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we're going to change your sales target. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. What we've done is we've pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. And that's because we think we have to be successful, then we'll be happier.

But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we've found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You're 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed. Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we're able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.

What we need to be able to do is to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of. Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you're positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.

We've found that there are ways that you can train your brain to be able to become more positive. In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. We've done these things in research now in every single company that I've worked with, getting them to write down three new things that they're grateful for for 21 days in a row, three new things each day. And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world, not for the negative, but for the positive first.

Journaling about one positive experience you've had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters. We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we've been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand. And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness. We get people, when they open up their inbox, to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their social support network.

And by doing these activities and by training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we've found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but create a real revolution.

Thank you very much.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to Deal With Manipulative People

(By Ryan Murdoch, extracted from a two-part article first published in Early To Rise at the following website:
Part One -
Part Two -

How to Deal With Manipulative People–Part One

Following your life's purpose with single-minded devotion is a challenging task at the best of times. But it's even harder when faced with people who try to impose their priorities on you in an effort to benefit from your work.

In a prior Early to Rise article about Simplifying Your Life, I talked about removing those things from your life that pull you off track and prevent you from working toward your goals. That includes those people who drag you down, who you spend time with out of sheer obligation, who prey on your good nature, or who pull you back into bad habits when you're trying to change.

You're going to need that support as you go forward on your journey, because not everyone has your best interests at heart. I must warn you, today's topic is a dark one. And I'm going to be very blunt about it.

There's another obstacle in the path to your success that can be much more difficult to deal with...

Today I want to talk about a personality type I call The Manipulator. I'm sure you've encountered this character before. Not content to pursue their own path while you pursue yours, The Manipulator imposes on your time and resources to serve their own ends. They co-opt your labor, play on your emotions and try to impose their worldview and philosophy on you.

We'll look at several common examples of The Manipulator. And I'll give you a few strategies you can use to keep them out of your life.

So who are these shadowy figures that hide in plain sight?

If you've ever worked in a company or an office, you know the type. It starts with "I need to talk to you. It won't take long." And it usually concludes with an "urgent" request for you to do something to help them out. Something that imposes on your time, that takes you away from your own work, that they need you to do right now, and that adds a burden while giving you nothing in return.

This is not the same as asking a favor of a friend. We help our friends out of a genuine desire to do something good for that person. And when we ask a friend for help, we're reaching out to someone we know is looking out for our best interests. It's mutual and it's genuine.

The Manipulator's "requests" are very different from this. They involve coercion. And with The Manipulator, if you give in you send a signal that you're willing to do more of the same.

Before you know it, you're working weekends and staying after hours, putting in time to further someone else's agenda while totally neglecting your own purpose and goals. Step by step, these people take over your life. You're especially at risk if you have a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility, or if you hate seeing work left undone.

Another major area where manipulation has been raised to an art form is, of course, the family. I'm not suggesting that all families involve such power struggles, of course. It's just a typical pattern when things go wrong.

The family is often the realm of the Passive-Aggressive Manipulator. This type masters such tactics as The Sulk, The Huff, and above all, Poor Me.

They browbeat you into submission by making it easier for you to give in to their demands than put up with their constant level of low-grade psychological warfare.

If you've ever heard a phrase like, "I'll never have any grandchildren and I'm gonna die alone!" then you've seen this tactic at work. Or how about, "If you loved me you wouldn't make such a big deal of helping me with this" —immediately placing refusal on the side of not loving or caring about this person. Okay, the first example was a bit of a joke and an imitation of my mother at Christmas dinner. But how many unhappy couples have you seen playing out some variation of the second example?

Unfortunately, there's no arguing or reasoning with a Passive-Aggressive Manipulator. They don't respond to logic, and they change sides and arguments at the drop of a hat. Their chief goal is to get you embroiled in conflict in the first place. Swallow your reply, nod politely, and go about your work. Oh, and good music and headphones help to block out the huffs ;)

There are other types of Manipulator too, but they all have a few things in common. They use emotion to lure you in. They play on your sense of obligation or duty. They're experts at guilt. And they all have an agenda that involves you doing something for them. Once they've drawn you into their world, it's very difficult to put things in perspective and see the relationship for what it is.

If you're reading Early to Rise, then you don't have time to waste on these sorts of games. You've got dreams to fulfill, projects to complete, and exciting visions to bring to reality. And unlike the manipulators, you're doing it through the sweat of your own brow–and with the help of others who pitch in because you're adding value to their lives.

So how do you smoke out these sneaky time wasters?

I'll tell you exactly how to spot The Manipulator in Part Two. And I'll give you a set of strategies you can use to protect yourself and your business. Stay tuned...

How to Deal With Manipulative People–Part Two

In Part One of this article I introduced you to a personality type I call The Manipulator: a covert operator who imposes on your time and resources to serve his or her own ends. If you didn't read Part One I strongly advise you to have a look here.

Today I'm going to tell you exactly how to smoke out these sneaky time stealers.

How to Spot a Manipulator

Here are some common warning signs that will help you spot the manipulators in your life:

Manipulators use a lot of "I" focused language. "I need you to do this" or "It would really help me if you did this." They rarely consider how to give value back to the person they're asking for favors.

Manipulators use a collective "we" that really means "I." Try translating what they just said by substituting "I" for "we". If all the benefits that will supposedly help the group, team or community really end up profiting that person alone, you've just spotted an attempt to manipulate you.

Manipulators "size you up" to assess where you're vulnerable. They use this to determine which tactics to use against you. Strong work ethic? You can be manipulated through your sense of duty. Empathetic? They can make you feel sorry for them. Intensely loyal? They'll use that sense of friendship to their advantage. Just remember, the problem is NOT that you're loyal, caring or a hard worker. The problem is the person who uses that to manipulate your thoughts and actions. Most people don't stop to think that their strengths can also be a weakness. But your strengths and values can be used against you because they make your behavior predictable.

Manipulators make a big show of talking about how dedicated they are to serving others. According to George K. Simon, author of In Sheep's Clothing, they use the "servant role" to cloak a self–serving agenda in the guise of service to a more noble cause, for example acting in a certain way out of "obedience" and "service" to some authority figure. I've known a few incredibly genuine, spiritual, charitable people in my time. They spoke at great length about those they wanted to help, the needs they were trying to meet, the good works they hoped to do and the resources it would take to accomplish their vision. But I never once heard them talk about themselves or how devoted they were to "service."

Manipulators often make a great show of their humility, and they take any opportunity to remind you of it. This makes them look harmless, and like they're "only trying to help." Have you ever heard the Dalai Lama talk about how humble he is? Me neither.

The frustrated Manipulator often drags a history of drama in their wake: broken friendships, failed partnerships, stories of sabotaged projects and detractors lashing out at them from every dark corner. They love to tell you all about these things, sorrowfully and with a pious expression, in order to play on your sympathy. And despite the obvious pattern in these incidents, Manipulators never take responsibility for their behavior. It is never their fault. Someone has always betrayed or taken advantage of them.

Manipulators rationalize. Their explanations seem to make sense. And you want to believe, because honest people want to believe that others are honest too. But their story never holds up upon further reflection. Up close, it's filled with obvious inconsistencies and holes.

Manipulators flatter you. They pretend to like the same things you do. To believe the same things you believe. To hold the same values. They ingratiate themselves very subtlety in an effort to win your loyalty, so you'll want to help them. Watch them with a totally different group of people and see them do the same thing. They have a history of swapping beliefs and convictions the way hikers change socks.

Manipulators make a point of telling you how honest they are–right before they rake you over. Honest people don't need to drone on about their virtues. Their actions and integrity speaks for itself.

This list is not exhaustive, of course. And not every red flag will be present in each case. But it does send a clear warning. If you encounter any of these behaviors, be on your guard.

How to Protect Yourself–And Your Dreams

Unfortunately there's no easy answer to this. Expert manipulators are good at pressing your buttons, and if you have even a shred of compassion you won't be impervious to every form of guilt.

In a work setting, I think the key is to set clear priorities and goals–and stick to them. Master the phrase "I'm not available right now." Defend your territory from the beginning, because once you give in it sends a message that you can be worn down. If you answer the phone on the 15th ring, it doesn't send the message that you're busy and don't want to be bothered. The Manipulator interprets this as "It takes 15 rings to get him to answer."

You must also be very clear about your own personal values. Think about them. Write them down. Stick to them. Having a clearly thought out code of conduct makes on–the–spot decisions much easier. If something conflicts with your code or your purpose, don't do it.

And that brings us to the next defense. Learn how to say "no." It's healthy to have boundaries and to know what you stand for. If you feel bad about turning someone down, you're a prime target for a manipulative personality. Remember: "I'm already committed, I'm not available right now." Manipulators have no power over you unless you give it to them.

Don't engage, and don't explain. The manipulator will try to call your values into question and put you on the defensive. You have no need to defend yourself, and you've done nothing wrong. You're free to follow whatever path you choose. Don't forget this when the pressure is on.

And what about those manipulators who operate closer to home?

It's a lot more difficult to set clear boundaries when it comes to close personal relationships, because you can't remove yourself from the situation or just stop interacting with them. In my experience, the best thing you can do is communicate your intentions clearly and firmly. And then stay true to your word. You'll have to ride out some flack regardless, but the Passive–Aggressive Manipulator will move on to easier targets if you consistently stick to your guns. 

Above all, never feel guilty when dealing with these people. You never have to apologize for following your dreams and working hard on your goals. You never have to make excuses or justify your decision when you say "no". And you should never feel bad for refusing to drop or postpone your most cherished dream to contribute to someone else's purpose.

And that's what it comes down to in the end. Your best protection against guilt is having a clear, strong sense of your purpose.

I remind myself each day that life is short. That I have only a limited amount of time in which to fulfill my dreams. That time spent on other things is time taken away from the fulfillment of my purpose. I take full responsibility for my life, my choices, and my success. And I keep my eye on the road ahead, and get back to work.

NB: Ryan Murdock is coauthor of the Shapeshifter Body Redesign program. When not helping people rediscover the body of their “glory years,“ Ryan travels the world’s marginal places as Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost magazine. Ryan's work has also appeared in Alo Magazine, the anthologies Traveler's Tales Central America and Traveler's Tales China, and Toronto’s Eye Weekly. His Outpost feature "Taklamakan: The Worst Desert in the World" was nominated for a National Magazine Award in Canada.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Random Thoughts: 延年



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Understand Your Brain: 6 Tricks to Help You Avoid Overspending

(By Mikelann Valterra, Contributor at Forbes' Money Wise Women, taken from Forbes' website first published on 13 March 2012:

Whether you need to spend less when you go out shopping or you want to be a more conscious spender, it helps to have a few tricks under your belt. Stores spend billions on the science of getting you to part with your money. They understand how your brain works and then use this against you. Well, with these tricks under your belt, you can beat them at their game and feel more in control. And you’ll be able to enjoy shopping without coming home with a spending hangover. (This article is focused on brick and mortar shopping. My next one will be on Internet shopping.)

1. Be wary of stores that are new to you. Why? We spend more money when we are in a new-to-us store. This is because dopamine- a wonderful feel good drug in our brain– is activated when we experience something new or exciting. (This is one reason we spend more when we are on vacation. We are in a novel situation experiencing new stores.) So try hard to come back to the store to buy your discovery. You may want to hit the new store at the beginning of your shopping trip and then tell yourself you’ll come back to the store later to make your purchase. Trust me, it simply won’t be as exciting the second time around and you’ll make a more reasoned choice.

2. Leave your credit cards at home when you go out shopping. Stores desperately want you to use a credit card because they know you’ll spend more if you do. (Macy’s is the worst offender, by the way. They are very aggressive in trying to get you to use a Macy’s card. Have you noticed?!) If you know the money is going to come directly out of your bank account, you will be more mindful and usually spend less. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming that when you buy items with a credit card, particularly things you enjoy, and you spend 20-30% more. There is simply too much of a delay between basking in the pleasure of buying those sh oes and feeling the pain of having to pay for them– later. You want to “feel” the purchase in the moment. Macy’s be damned. Leave your credit cards at home.

3. The magic 90 minutes. Stores and malls do many things to get you into the “zone” of shopping. Notice that there are never any clocks on the walls of a store, and they often don’t have windows. They are hiding the passage of time. Well, after 90 minutes, you do start to zone out and mindless spending goes up. So do this: set the timer on your phone for 90 minutes. When it goes off, simply stop for a bit. Take a break and have a cup of tea. Look at what you’ve purchased and think about your plan. (Do you want to return anything you just bought?) I’m not saying go home. But taking a break every 90 minutes keeps you from overspending.

4. Limit the number of stores you visit. It’s very simple: the more stores you visit the more you buy. People may tell themselves that they are comparison-shopping. But often people feel like they need to buy something for all the legwork they’ve put in! You become very “invested” in how much time you’ve put in. You’d better at least get something….

5. Don’t carry items around with you that you are contemplating purchasing in a store. The issue is that when you carry products around with you, they begin to feel like yours. You get used to them and you feel a little “pain” if you have to put them back. You feel like you are losing something. (Humans are funny. We actually hate pain and loss more than we love pleasure and gain. It’s a brain thing.) Hence, items that get carried around are more likely to be bought. So if you are eyeing something, keep it on the rack or shelf until you decide. And if you’re worried someone will swoop it up before you decide, “hide” it on a different rack or shelf. Come on; don’t tell me you’ve never done that.

6. Don’t interact with sales people too much. Yes, they are quite friendly. But the more you interact with them, the more likely you are to purchase from them, for several reasons. One is that they are often skilled at selling to you. But people often unconsciously feel, after a point, that they don’t want to let down a sales person who has helped them.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

AONC: Business Secrets from a Cambodian Tuk-Tuk

(By Chris Guillebeau, Editor of The Art Of Non-Conformity:

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia I met Mr. Rhet, who held up a copy of my book to greet me at the arrivals area. Mr. Rhet, also known as Rhett or just Ret, is a professional tuk-tuk driver.

The open-air taxis of Southeast Asia, tuk-tuks serve as an interesting introduction to life in the region, and I've had both good and bad experiences with them.

In Bangladesh, I rode in a death-trap tuk-tuk with a driver determined to provide me with a Formula 1 experience on the road to the Dhaka airport at 11:00 at night. To no avail, I kept yelling "Please slow down!" every time we rounded a corner or ducked in front of a sea of motorcycles. Almost an hour later I arrived at my destination, covered in sweat and shaking with fear. I survived, but aged at least a year in that 50-minute ride.

But in Cambodia last weekend (and plenty of other places), all was well in tuk-tuk land, and I felt safe using them as my primary means of transport. In fact, I enjoyed my time with Mr. Rhet so much that I decided to learn more about the whole tuk-tuk industry.

The Experience

If tuk-tuks are not available to take you around to cafes in your part of the world for $1-2 a ride, these videos from the back of Rhet's chariot will give you an idea of what you're missing.

Tuk-Tuk Cha-Ching

Informal surveys of expats and other drivers confirmed that most tuk-tuk drivers earn around $2-5 a day. But Mr. Rhet earns up to $50 a day in Phnom Penh, a princely sum in the world of Cambodian transport. How is this possible?

It helps that Rhet speaks some English, although he learned on the job and didn't have access to any formal training. To learn more, I talked with Rhet off and on for three days as he drove me around the city last weekend. These are the business secrets of maxing out your income as a Cambodian entrepreneur.

Work smarter AND harder. According to Mr. Rhet (and much firsthand observation), the average tuk-tuk driver is lazy. He spends his days sleeping, drinking tea, and playing cards. While it's nice that the tuk-tuk lifestyle allows for so much leisure time, multiple naps throughout the day are not conducive to getting paid. Rhet works hard, always staying "busy busy" as he explained. He gave me his number and told me to call anytime. "I will come to you right away," he said.

A good work ethic is critical, but Rhet also learned to focus on foreigners who live in Phnom Penh, not the backpackers and other short-term travelers who come and go. The difference is important, since it allows him to get paid for more trips, and also earn referrals to other expats as his client list grows.

Diversify your income. Mr. Rhet has a banner on the back of his tuk-tuk for a local coffee shop. He is paid $7 a month to display the banner, and a small commission for bringing foreign customers to the shop. (Interestingly, despite the commission he never tried to bring me to the shop. I took this as another good sign, since he wasn't trying to push me on something I wasn't interested in.) At the request of clients, Rhet also arranges trustworthy taxi drivers to ferry passengers on longer distances -- for which he also earns commissions.

Provide reassurance. No matter your business, you should think about the reasons why people will NOT hire you or buy what you sell -- then be sure to preemptively respond to those concerns. The concerns about riding in a tuk-tuk are a) safety and b) trustworthiness. "I am a careful driver," Mr. Rhet told me when I first met him, and unlike my death-wish driver in Dhaka, he really was.

Furthermore, some tuk-tuk drivers are dishonest, cheating foreigners who don't know better and lying about market rates. As you'd expect, Mr. Rhet isn't like that at all -- he sometimes dropped me off without taking any payment at all, and other times told me to decide for myself what to pay. Being trustworthy and reliable goes a long way in Cambodia... just like everywhere else in the world.

Be reliable. If I had an appointment with Rhet, he would always be there -- in fact, he was usually early. In almost every developing country in the world, people talk about "Cambodian time," "African time," or similar. But Rhet understood that Silk Air flights to Singapore and meetings in town operate on Western time, so I didn't feel the need to tell him to come any earlier than I really needed. If I told him to come at 4:30, I could walk outside at 4:25 and see him turning the tuk-tuk around the corner to park.

Get to know people and show initiative. Mr. Rhet was very friendly from the beginning. He asked when my return flight was and if he could take me back to the airport. I'm normally hesitant to answer questions like that, but I had a good feeling about Rhet, so I didn't mind telling him. This ensured he got paid twice for airport runs, a nice wage of $7 each time since the airport is a half-hour out from the city.

After we said goodbye, he asked me to tell anyone I knew about his service. (I don't think he expected me to tell 50,000 people, but perhaps that's another lesson on where initiative can get you.)

Back to the Airport

As we passed the "King Pizza Burger Bubble Tea Restaurant" and the "Johnny Walker On the Rocks Nightclub" on the way back to the airport, I thought about the divide between people all over the world. Most people spend their time playing cards and drinking tea, while a smaller group of people like Rhet are hustling. Which group are you in?

Then as I left Cambodia, I thought about how I could apply Rhet's lessons to my own business. I think I'm generally reliable... but how can I be even more reliable? Yes, I get paid from several different sources, but what else could I add? How can I show more initiative and creativity in the projects I'm building?

These "business secrets" may sound very simple -- but the point is, most tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia don't implement them, so they make $2-5 a day while Rhet earns ten times as much. Not everything that refers to tuk-tuk drivers is universal, but I'm pretty sure that most of us could apply at least one lesson from Rhet to make real improvements in the work we produce.

What about you -- how can you use these simple ideas to improve your own business or work?

Feel free to share a response for our community and any other tuk-tuk drivers who happen to be reading AONC.

Oh, and if you're visiting Phnom Penh and need a reliable driver, you can hire Mr. Rhet yourself by calling +855 12 543 767. (Please don't call him otherwise, so he can spend his time working and being with his family.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Medical Journals: Power Of Positive Thinking

(By the Underground Health Reporter)

Did you know that positive thoughts can produce health-enhancing biochemicals superior to any that a pharmaceutical company could ever manufacture—without any adverse side effects?

Contrary to what most people think, positive thoughts are not just whimsical mental images that make you feel good. Recent research has shown that our thoughts can provide relief beyond the superficial and temporary. When you consider that the average human being thinks of approximately 60,000 thoughts per day ... the impact our thoughts have on both our mental and physical health becomes clear.

A Single Thought Has the Potential to Produce Over a Million Dollars' Worth of a Cancer-Fighting Chemical! 

Positive thinking has been proven to strengthen the immune system and lower stress levels, thereby combating stress-related diseases such as heart disease ... diabetes ... psychosomatic illnesses ... and certain forms of cancer.

The emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology studies the connection between the neurological and immune systems, and is expanding scientific knowledge of the link between our thoughts and our health.

Such a connection has been demonstrated by the many case studies demonstrating the "placebo effect," which occurs when a patient believes the treatment he or she is receiving will indeed relieve the pain, and it does. Such positive and potent thoughts release natural chemicals called endorphins, which contain the powerful cancer-fighting chemicals interleukin and interferon. If you were to buy the anti-cancer drug Interleukin-2 (manufactured by Chiron Corporation with the brand name Proleukin) to treat cancer, a full course would cost you upwards of $40,000 ... plus a long list of the side effects.

Positive thoughts, on the other hand, are a natural alternative to cancer drugs—and could "make a million dollars worth of Interleukin-2," according to Deepak Chopra, M.D. And the best part is that there are none of the side effects that accompany drug use—and they cost nothing!

Thoughts are Physically Real—They Cause Biological and Physiological Effects

Dr. Larry Dossey, a supporter of mind-body study, explains the fundamental principle behind the surprising effects of placebos: "The body responds to mental input as if it were physically real. Images create bodily changes—just as if the experience were really happening. For example, if you imagine yourself lying on a beach in the sun, you become relaxed, your peripheral blood vessels dilate, and your hands become warm, as in the real thing."

When you think peaceful and tranquil thoughts, your body—specifically, your leukocytes, adrenal cells and macrophages—will start producing a tranquilizing biochemical similar to Valium. Unlike the drug manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche, which comes with side effects (some potentially serious), the tranquilizing chemical produced by the body has no side effects and supports the proper functioning of the immune system.

Research suggests that thoughts are powerful enough to be perceived as physical objects. Take the findings of Dr. Giuseppe Joseph Calligaris, a 19th century doctor who, in his doctoral thesis, "Thoughts Do Heal," concluded that a thought leads to actual physical sensations. This mind-body connection manifests in specific organs, which are linked to emotions.

Do you see the connection? Thoughts trigger emotions, which activate organs, which in turn affect our health. Therefore, we hold in our power the ability to transmute our thoughts into positive ones, thereby creating a cascade of endorphins that deliver beneficial healing effects.

Consciously directing one's mind to think positive thoughts that cause the body to produce health-enhancing biochemicals has been successfully done through biofeedback, guided imagery, meditation, deep breathing and hypnosis. When done right, these practices result in increased longevity, lowered stress levels, a healthy immune system and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Medical Journals: The Alternate-Day Diet

(By the Underground Health Reporter)

Did you know that following an "alternate-day diet" can turn on your "skinny gene," and help you to not only lose weight, but also live longer and healthier?

Researchers have identified a very simple weight-loss regimen that offers outstanding health benefits, from easing asthma symptoms and reducing blood sugar levels to preventing heart disease and breast cancer.

This diet also helps you live longer.  It's called by different names, including:
  1. The Alternate-Day Diet
  2. Intermittent Fasting
  3. Longevity Diet
  4. Up Day, Down Day Diet
Whatever the name, the fundamentals are the same.  You eat very little one day—half or less of your normal recommended caloric intake—and as much as you desire the next. This way of eating appears to trigger a "skinny" gene that promotes fat loss along with significantly better health.

Dr. James Johnson, respected metabolic researcher and author of The Alternate-Day Diet, explains, "The evidence says this is about the most healthy thing you can do for yourself."

Fewer Calories, Longer, Healthier Life

Since the 1930s, scientists have known that calorie restriction increases health and longevity.  Since then, countless studies have confirmed that animals restricted to a very low calorie diet live about 30% longer and reap measurable health benefits, such as:
  1. Clearer arteries
  2. Lowered inflammation
  3. Reduced blood sugar
  4. Less damage to brain cells
  5. Fewer age-related diseases
Calorie restriction may also help prevent breast cancer, according to recent research from the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre in Manchester, England.

The only problem, however, is that very few people have been able or willing to deprive themselves so significantly for any extended period of time!

The "Every Other Day" Breakthrough

The big breakthrough for calorie restriction came in 2003.  That's when neuroscientist Dr. Mark Mattson discovered that rats kept to a restricted-calorie diet every other day enjoyed the same outstanding health and longevity benefits as constantly deprived rats!

This discovery meant that for the first time, the weight-loss and health rewards of calorie restriction could be enjoyed by real people, not just lab rats.

Krista Varady, assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago, says, "It takes about two weeks to adjust to the diet and, after that, people don't feel hungry on the fast days."

Varady conducted a 10-week trial of 16 obese patients who alternated a regular, healthy diet one day and followed by 20% of their recommended caloric intake the next.  Participants lost 10-30 pounds, much more than the 5 or 6 pounds expected!

The Skinny Gene: Burns Fat, Lowers Blood Sugar and Inflammation, and Dramatically Improves Asthma

Scientists believe the stress of a sudden, sharp drop in food intake triggers a "skinny" gene known as SIRT1.  "This then blocks another gene involved in storing fat," explains Dr. Johnson.  "The body starts using up more of the fat stores.  As a result you lose more weight than you would from just eating fewer calories."

The SIRT1 gene is also associated with lowered blood sugar and inflammation.  Inflammation is linked to virtually every serious health problem and chronic condition, including aging.  Therefore, controlling inflammation iscritical to slowing aging and improving health.  It's also key to helping asthma patients, who stand to reap huge health gains from alternate-day dieting.

Dr. Johnson worked with scientists from the National Institute on Aging to conduct a study of the effects of alternate-day dieting on 10 obese asthmatics.  After 8 weeks, study subjects lost an average of 8% of their body weight.  In addition, they had 70% less inflammation in their lungs and 90% lower levels of damaging free radicals (linked with heart disease and cancer) .

"No other dietary approach to asthma has recorded anything like that benefit," says Dr. Johnson.