Failure ≠ Final

20 07 2017

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

(Thomas Edison)

 

Suggested Resources:

Edison: A Biography (Matthew Josephson)

Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success (John C. Maxwell)

Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure (Andreas Kluth)

 

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Mind Body Connection: Depression Hacks

14 07 2017

If you deal with depression, sporadically or regularly, please read.

I’ve dealt with depression in varying degrees for decades.  It’s not pleasant but a reality for many of us.

Recently I’ve been learning new things about the connection between one’s physiology and the thoughts in the mind.  When you experience depression, so much of it manifesting in an array of unpleasant thoughts (“you’re a failure” “things can’t get better” “life sucks” etc.) and brooding dismal feelings, it’s very difficult to make the connection to your body.  Your physiology—the way your body functions—has a lot to do with your encounter with depression.  More than you know.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor so this is not to be taken as professional advice from one trained in medicine.  If you suffer from more than mild depression, please seek help from someone trained in medicine and psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.

I’ve learned a few things that help.  Here they are and the cost is zero or minimal:

  • Get into the sunlight. Exposure to sunlight, without sunglasses, is helpful for increasing your levels of serotonin, which is indispensable for dealing with depression.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that gives you the feeling of well-being.  You’ll need to do this for more than a few minutes.  I know two people, one of whom is a child of mine, who moved from the cold, wintry region of northern New York (with very long, cold and dark winters) to Southern California.  When they either returned to northern New York or reflected on their lives there, they remarked at how little sun there is and how a lot of sun affected their sense of happiness and joie de vivre.  No surprise that in areas where there is a lot of precipitation and darkness, the rates of alcohol consumption and other addictions go up.  They’ve even taken steps—via sun lamps—in Scandinavian countries to counteract this.  SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a very real phenomenon
  • Exercise regularly.  Do cardio—whether gym, walking, or workouts in your own home.  I love weight lifting.  Exercise boosts helpful endorphins.  We were made to move, not sit.  The reality of sedentary occupations and lifestyles in our time means we have to be intentional about this.
  • Listen to jazz or rock and roll in the dark and cold months. I learned this on my own.  For example, I love film scores.  But during the dark and cool months, it’s best for me to listen to music that lifts me, energizes me and gives a sense of play and rowdiness.  Heavily emotive music is best for those months with lots of sunshine.  So the score to Schindler’s List is better at other times, as much as I love it.
  • Get with people, especially those who love you. There’s nothing like good friends and family to quash monsters of the mind.  Isolation only makes things bleaker.

We’ll explore this more in future posts.  This is something many of us endure and deal with.  So any helps here will improve our quality of life.

 

Suggested Resources:

 

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (David D. Burns)

The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time (Alex Korb & Daniel J. Siegel)

 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKJxxq74c-8

 





Ask the Right Questions

13 07 2017

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” (Anthony Robbins)

I once asked one of the pupils of the late Dr. Edwin Friedman why his teacher was so effective as a Family Therapist.  His answer was telling.

“Ed Friedman was a rabbi.  And rabbis tend to deal in questions rather than answers.  I like to ask questions because they lead to better questions.”

One of the secrets of life is to ask the right questions of life, of people, of literature.  It’s known that one secret to successful comprehension of a book is that one must ask the right questions of the book.  You don’t ask of a science text, say A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking), what you would of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Here are some helpful questions you should be asking yourself:

  • What do I really want from my life? Corollary is do I know what it is to want versus having a passing interest in a thing?
  • Who do I spend the most time with? And is this helping me or hurting me? “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn)
  • Am I simply going with the flow of interest and information that floods the news and social media? Or do I take the time to get to the truth and separate as much fact, fiction and bias as I can?

There are other questions.  These will get us started.  More in the coming blogs.

 

Suggested Resources:

Friedman’s Fables (Edwin H. Friedman)

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren)

http://sourcesofinsight.com/day-20-ask-better-questions-get-better-results/

 

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“You Can’t Outsmart the Work”

7 07 2017

Chris, Jeff and I all went to the same school to work in our respective Master’s programs back in the early 2000’s.  Our studies were challenging and we enjoyed our learning experience.

Jeff went on to earn a Ph.D in Leadership Studies at a fine school on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.  Those pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree spend a lot of time in books and writing, like their counterparts in the medical and legal professions, to name just two disciplines.

Some time later, Chris and Jeff got together—reflecting on their educational journeys.  Their conversation went along these lines.

Chris:  “So, how is your Ph.D program going, Jeff.  I bet it’s intense.”

Jeff:  “For sure.  I’ve never read and wrote so much in my life.”

Chris:  “What does it take to get through a Ph.D program?”

Jeff:  “You’d be surprised.”

Chris:  “Oh really?  What do you mean?”

Jeff:  “Well, the ones who make it through a doctoral program like this aren’t the ones you’d expect.”

Chris:  “Really.  Who make it through and who don’t?”

Jeff:  “Not the geniuses.  The ‘Einsteins’ are the ones who wash out.”

Chris:  “Really?! Why?” (This goes against the standard assumptions of genius and success.)

Jeff:  “Because you can’t outsmart the work.

 

Well.

 

There is gold here.  And it is this.  There is no substitute for putting in your time and paces to earn a high degree/platform or income.  10,000 hour rule again.   One could fairly apply the 19th century label of “snake oil” to a lot of get-rich-quick schemes and thinking that so many of us gravitate to to make as much money in as little time with as little effort as possible.

We cheat ourselves when we do this.  Self-deception is delicious but it bites hard in the end.

Here’s a couple of quotes to ponder on the value of hard work:

  • “Wizard?  Pshaw. It’s plain hard work that does it.” (Thomas Edison, on being called a wizard)
  • “I was made to work. If you are equally industrious, you will be equally successful.” (Johann Sebastian Bach, author of over 1000 musical works in all sorts of genres)
  • “The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working. One is tempted to stop and listen to it. The only thing is to turn away and go on working. Work. There is nothing else.” (Albert Einstein)

Questions:

  • Do you love work or loathe it, seeking to avoid it if at all possible?
  • If you loathe your work, what can you do to change your approach to it? Perhaps cultivate a new field of work, a new discipline?
  • Are you aware of the genius/talent discussion embodied in the “10,000 hour rule” and the Edisonian maxim, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration?” As a counter to the rule read here.

 

Suggested Resources:

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Geoff Colvin)

Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)

 

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You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

6 07 2017

I’ve used this phrase a lot over the past year or so.  I did not know that it originated with Socrates, one of the greatest minds in human history.

“You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know” means….

  • You are aware that you have blind spots and a limited, human perspective on everything.
  • You, therefore, will not become complacent and assume a kind of dangerous omniscience about any matter of life. Thus….
  • You will be continually learning. Every day.  Until your heart quits.
  • You realize that the first step to becoming a truly educated person is to come face-to-face with your own ignorance.
  • You will carry yourself humbly, not with arrogance, knowing how little you really know about everything.
  • You will be less inclined to opine and pontificate with the rest of the human race, especially when your opinion is not asked for or wanted.

Suggested Resources:

Know What You Don’t Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen (Michael A. Roberto)

The Magic of Thinking Big (David J. Schwartz)

 

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Show Your Work

2 07 2017

“What’s the rule everyone learned in third grade math?”

Mentor and counselor, Doug, asked me that question a few years ago as we sat in his office.  We were discussing what it means to be a curious individual.  By “curious” is meant not simply someone who surfs the internet, looks stuff up on Google, binges on Netflix or scrolls endlessly on Facebook to see what their friends are doing.

“Okay, what was the rule in third grade math?”

I was rusty and decades removed from Sister Siena and third grade math in Bishop Kelley school. Our discussion had to do with authors we read and why.  A curious person, I learned, was one constantly asking questions, seeking to think things through, make connections and, as it were, do the math about life, people, and reality.  Doug pulled a book out of his desk.  I was quite familiar with the book and the author.  He directed me to the endnotes, or lack of them, in the back of the book.

“The rule was ‘show your work’ or you don’t get credit even if you got the right answer.”

“Ah.  Now I remember.” Images of long division appeared in my mind.

Doug then contrasted the book he pulled from his desk (“he doesn’t show his work”) with the works of a scholar we both read and respected, Walter Brueggemann.  A peek at the endnotes and bibliography of any Brueggemann book show that he is 1) curious, having done voluminous research, 2) an author with integrity, giving attribution and not passing off brilliant insights he gleaned in his reading as his own, and 3) humble, realizing that seeking the solitary advice of his own brain was unwise and fraught with danger, if only in the blind spots.  Cave ab homine unius libri (“beware the man of one book”).

What’s my point?

One, question what you hear.  Nobody gets a pass.  Not you, not your parents, not President Trump, not your boss, not mainstream media of the Left or Right, not the Pope, not your minister.  And not the experts.  Review all and do your homework.  Caveat: You will be a pain in the neck to others when you do this, chiefly to the incurious with an agenda.  Be prepared.

Two, give credit when you’ve acquired something, learned something from someone else.  Plagiarism is not sniffed out in schools and print media only.  We are all composites of the people and influences that have touched our minds and lives.  You’re building on the work of others, even if that’s difficult to admit. (Attribution for this insight goes to a friend, Penn.)

Robert Dick Wilson was a biblical scholar of the late 19th and early 20th century.  He mastered forty-five languages and dialects.  (Resume breathing.  I did say forty-five.)  One thing that stirred one of his interviewers was the habit of Professor Wilson giving proof for every statement he made.

He showed his work.

Questions:

  • Are you able to describe the processes you follow to come up with answers? (In Information Technology, we call these algorithms.)
  • Are you curious or simply bored? A curious individual is known for many things, chiefly not accepting simple solutions and pat answers.
  • Do you give attribution, credit where credit is due?

Suggested Reading:

Show Your Work! (Austin Kleon)

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day (Michael Gelb)

The Craft of Research, Fourth Edition (Wayne C. Booth et al)

 

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Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman On Truly Knowing a Thing

14 12 2015

RichardFeynmanBBC

“See, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something and therefore, I see how they get their information and I can’t believe that they know it.” (Richard Feynman on pseudo-sciences, 1981)

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (Richard P. Feynman)

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