Archive for October, 2007


All Hallows Eve

Fall is fully upon us here in the Midwest. There are more leaves on the ground than on the trees. The air is crisp. The last day of October is upon us. By themselves the events have no real meaning, yet each can bring about so many different responses from people.

Fallen leaves have a sound and a scent all their own. There was a time when I despised leaves and cleaning them out of the yard. Now I am content to scuff through them and let the wind take care of them.

Crisp air brings earlier mornings to defrost the car. Out come the hats, gloves, scarves, and thick socks. Heavier coats make their way back into circulation. The sky is preternaturally clear, especially at night. Some interpret the chill as a harbinger of winter and think ill of it. (I enjoy clear fall nights.)

October 31st holds memories of candy and costumes, pumpkins and parties. Some think of November 1st as discount candy and pumpkin day. My family currently lives far enough out that we have no trick-or-treaters nor any ambition to take our daughter prancing for candy (I’ll buy some tomorrow).

People have different interpretations of events.
Is tomorrow a day of prayer for the martyrs or discount day?
Is Fall an enjoyable time or a foreshadowing of a bitter winter?
Is the weather responsible for how we feel or is it our interpretation?

How do you choose to live each day?

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The Rumors Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Today was one of those milestone birthdays that ends in a zero. In spite of all the intimations to the contrary I’m still alive, kicking, and having fun!

I have a beautiful family. We are all healthy. We live on 57 wooded acres and get to watch the deer and turkey wander through the yard. I am challenged at “work” doing cutting edge research and constantly learning just to stay afloat. I am able to share what I have learned with friends like you. I am heartily blessed!

Of course I also know it can get better than this, and it will. I have many lofty goals involving clean water, nutritious food, and open education for everyone in the world. I also have shorter term goals involving helping many more people learn to love life. As far as I have seen I have a rare set of interests and talents that span many “different” fields and I take on the responsibility to share what I know with as many people as I can.

I may be a multiple of ten years old today but it is far from the end of the world. In fact I am less than a quarter of the total years I’m planning on living! And if the amount of work I got done today is a sign of what my future holds then it shan’t be long until those worldly goals are accomplished and I’m looking towards the heavens in earnest.

We all are talented and gifted.
What are you doing with the time allotted to you?

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I’m Waiting!

There is a scene in the film The Princess Bride where Vizzini stops in the middle of his carefully drawn out plan to wait. He leaves Inigo to wait for the Dread Pirate Roberts to get to the top of the cliff. He leaves Fezzik to wait for Roberts to catch up. He waits to have his final battle of wits with Roberts — to the death!

Almost all of us choose the most inopportune times to wait. We have a plan, we have the resources we need, and yet we wait. I’ll bet that 99.99% of the time it is pure fear (the other 0.01% being fear mixed with something else).

Are you afraid to “fail”?
Are you afraid to show that you are not perfect?
Are you afraid of what others think?
Are you afraid of change?
Are you afraid of success?

How do all of these things change when we recognize that there is no such thing as failure — only feedback. That if we were perfect we wouldn’t be here. That people are so stuck on their own issues that they rarely think about you. That change will happen and working with it is much easier than fighting it. That being “successful” doesn’t mean you can’t keep your valuable relationships — it means you can serve more people by leveraging your assets.

What Dread Pirate are you waiting on instead of following your plan?
You do have a plan, right?

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Modeling Success

Getting ahead in life can be challenging. Raw talent will only get you so far. (I hit that wall several times before recognizing it.)The best way that I know of to break free when stuck is to follow those who have gone before. Find  someone who has done what you want to do and model them. Read what they write, watch what they do, listen to what they have to say, watch how they react to circumstances.

Watching from the outside can be very valuable, however getting inside the head of the person you’re modeling can be invaluable. Even if you are timid about contacting your “idol” remember they are only human and the worst they can do is break the illusion of who you imagine them to be.

Of course there are times when potential mentors open their doors and welcome questions. When these opportunities arise you should be prepared and strike while the iron is hot. You may come up with questions like this:

You’ve simplified Internet business to Traffic+Copy+Product, you’ve simplified time/life management to (something like) Leverage-Distractions+Family**2, and so with your apparent skill at consuming information and taking action how would you summarize your learning strategy?

What questions do you have about language patterns or accelerated learning?
Ask them here and I will answer them on Monday.

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The Power and Peril of Habits

Habits are neither good nor bad by themselves.

New situations require more attention than familiar situations. One of the ways that we make new situations more familiar is through habits. We also use habits as shortcuts. Rather than expending mental energy every morning we have developed habits for getting out the door. We have one place for our keys. We park in about the same place every day.

I’ve written before about the troubles I get myself into when my habitual patterns get interrupted. (Keys locked in the car, lights left on, tasks forgotten.)

What about when other habits play out uninterrupted but no longer serve their intended purpose? I had one of those recently lead to 10 hours of manual labor. As we were finally getting the shared laboratory machine back into service I realized the whole mess was from a misapplied “shortcut” habit.

What can we do to put our habits to best use?

Noticing them is a good step.
Analysing how well they currently serve our needs is another.
Ending counterproductive habits is also useful.

I suggest starting with the easiest to notice such as verbal habits or guestures. Start small and build up positive momentum before you tackle the big world-changing habits.

What habit will you end today? What more useful habit will you use to replace it?

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The Burden of Communication

Today I was sharing a theory and got the response “so you think it’s just psychosomatic.” I chose to ignore the warning signs and continued “since it involves mind (psyche) and body (soma), yes, you could say it is psychosomatic.” After the scathing response I started to argue definition versus connotation until I remembered that the meaning of communication is the response that you get.

Put another way: what I think I am saying is less important than what the other person thinks I am saying.

If that doesn’t make you squirm a bit read it again.

This firmly places the mantle of responsibility on each of us to ensure actual communication, the transfer of thought and meaning to someone else, is occuring. If what I am saying is not being understood it is solely my “fault” and it is my responsibility to do something differently in order to communicate clearly. No more indignant you know what I meant or that’s not what I said! responses.

This afternoon I ran across a great neurological explanation that supports my original theory. Now it is up to me to be creative in continuing the conversation so that I can clearly communicate my ideas.

In what situation today will you take responsibility for your communication and practice your behavioral flexibility?

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Do You Own Your Language?

The idea of owning your language is more than just noticing what you say. It is noticing what words you use to say it, what other effects your words could have, and what your words reflect about your internal state.

Recently a friend was feeling under the weather and she said “I am sick.” A few days later when I started to feel less than 100% I said “I am fighting off the sniffles.”

Notice the difference. She was willing to identify herself as “sick” whereas I made an active statement of what I was avoiding. She was out of circulation for a while. I was running out of kleenex but progressing through my days with a minor inconvenience.

Did the difference in language cause the difference in down time? I don’t know.
Did my body react more favorably in “fighting” than if I had owned the [potential] illness? I believe so.
How could I improve the statement? Instead of focusing on what I do not want (the sniffles) I can focus on what I do want (staying well).

Is the glass half full or half empty?
Will you be sick or fight to stay healthy?
Who owns your language if not you?

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Help Yourself (By Helping Others)

I am a good proof reader. I can usually see what is actually on the page rather than what I expect to see. I have a sizable vocabulary that helps me identify misspelled or misused words. The trouble is that I don’t just see the mistakes I feel them. So when I’m reading a book and find mistakes I am moved to tell the author and/or publisher about them. With print books I let inertia take over and do nothing. However, with digital text I feel almost compelled to tell the author when there are typos. (And yes, I welcome your pedanticness too!)

Generally when I let people know they have room to improve their prose I either get ignored or blown off. There have been a few times where my feedback has been welcomed. I am now friends with one particular author because she not only welcomed the feedback but requested any further assistance I was willing to provide.

This “volunteering” of mine is related to “going first” where you recognize that the only way to change other people’s actions is by changing your reactions.
Which leads us back to the topic at hand.

What is the best way to learn something? Teach it.

One aspect that makes this true is the clarity necessary to explain something to someone else. As a student you only need to “understand” a topic well enough to pass the test. As the teacher you eventually have the material mastered to such an extent that you can explain the topic, answer arbitrary questions about it, and come up with some way of measuring how well the students are understanding the material.

The other aspect that seems to make this true is reinforcement. The more often you are exposed to material the more likely you are to master it. The more senses you apply in your study (which now includes teaching) the more likely you are to remember, recall, and realize your full potential. Neuroanatomy suggests what many already know: speaking words in your own voice is much more powerful than just hearing someone else speak those same words.

Today’s quiz:
Where are you ready to “go first” and start influencing others with your new behaviors and attitudes?
What do you know, or want to know, well enough to share with others?
Which insights about your special topic will you choose to share first?
Who do you know that can benefit from your limited experience because they have even less experience?

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