Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Magic of Conversation

I had a friend once who was telling about his brother in law. His brother in law was the kind of guy that didn’t really talk much, but you had this feeling that there was something really deep inside. Like when you were to look at this person, you were to get this feeling that there is something really special here. He never seemed to get upset. Anyways, he said that there was this problem he was having at work. He had noticed a problem on the production line where he worked, and it seemed that he was the only person to notice this. And he was kind of afraid to tell his boss, because she had a reputation for being kind of strict and by the book. He was really afraid to approach her, and start a conversation with her.

I had another friend that was a really good salesman. He worked for some really interesting modeling agency. His job was to go out and walk up to any girl he saw that he thought qualified as a model. He said at first that it was really nerve racking. He thought that he would receive a lot of rejection, approaching attractive women all. He had this imagination that they might misunderstand his motives, and not realize that he was offering them an opportunity rather than taking advantage of them. I loaned him a book of mine that I’d read on the subject.

Which is interesting when you think about it. Everywhere you go; there are all kinds of people walking around. All with different histories, backgrounds, and stories about what they see around them. Some of them can be really interesting, and some can even be fascination. It’s awe-inspiring when you look around you and when you see this person, you can imagine the treasure that is inside them. A friend and I were talking once about this subject. When the topic of being able to approach new people came up, he merely stated what he thought was the obvious. There is treasure! And when you think about it, how many ways can you imagine discovering treasure inside others, and sharing it with them? Imagine how you can make them feel incredibly happy. And the cool thing is they probably won’t even know what’s going on, so they’ll probably think this new happiness is coming from you.

After my friend read the book I loaned him, he was able to go out and approach many women every day. A large percentage said they weren’t interested, but even the ones that said “no thank you,” were polite to him, and thanked him, anyways. Even on days when he went out and didn’t get any contact information for his company to follow up on, he still was able to feel a boost to the ego, just for the experience.

So when he finally approached his boss to tell her about the problem on the production line, she was amazed at his perception. She was so happy, that he got a promotion, and at their semi-annual meeting, she gave him additional thanks in front of all his coworkers, because he’d saved the company so much money. Amazing things happen when you use your ability to communicate.


How to Quickly Beat Stress for Good, Everytime

Your report is overdue. You’ve heard rumors at work, and you wonder if your job is the next one to be cut. Your wife says if you’re late one more time you’re sleeping on the couch. Your kid just failed his third grade spelling test. You desperately need another cup of coffee because you were up late last night worrying if you could make your mortgage payment. Everyday you turn on the news there’s nothing but bad news. Terrorists. Shootings. You look forward to the weekend only to find put of tasks beginning to grow out of hand, out of reach. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

You are stressed. Perhaps you have a little big of high blood pressure. Perhaps your doctor even recommended something about that. Of course, he likely didn’t give you any helpful advice. Maybe a handful of pills that your insurance wouldn’t pay for. He just told you of the dangers of stress, and in telling you how many different ways it can kill you, probably made it even worse. I won’t tell you that most doctors think that stress is behind fully 75% of illnesses today. I won’t tell you that stress is directly responsible habits such as drinking, smoking, over eating, that can cause a slew of health problems, and shorten your life by ten years or more. I’m sure that you already knew that.

Because you are sitting there now, reading this, in that chair, you can naturally begin to realize that you are about to discover the secret that can beat stress before it even starts. Not that stress is all bad. You need a little bit in life to keep you motivated. You can keep the good stress. Competition among peers, a slight bit of frustration that naturally turns into curiosity to give your brain a boost as you are about to learn something new here.

I’m talking about the deadly, useless stress that only seems to make everything worse. That is what you need to get rid of.

The secret? A combination of your breath, appreciation, and choice. Sounds hokey. Sounds metaphysical. Sounds like some goofy tip you’d read in a free online article (wait a sec..). But guess what? It works. The more you practice it, the sooner you will realize that because it is up to you to choose how to respond to your environment, it is you that can decide to feel stress, or not. It may not seem like that now, but after you give this a go, I mean a serious effort, and keep practicing, you’ll your life change for the better.

Ready to learn? Ok, here we go.

If you can try now, fantastic. Otherwise try it at home or when you won’t be disturbed for a couple minutes. It takes a couple minutes to learn, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to do it in the middle of a heated conversation and nobody will be the wiser.

Take in a deep breath, hold it just a bit, and then exhale. After you exhale, wait a little bit before you inhale again. Wait until you build up a fairly strong desire for oxygen. Then inhale slowly, and as you do so, feel a deep sense of appreciation for the air you are breathing (I said this was hokey, right?). You might need to try this a few times and really feel the gratitude for the air, the oxygen, whose absence would surely kill you must faster than any amount of stress.

Then when your lungs are full, hold it again. And really imagine all the molecules in your lungs greedily extracting the oxygen from the air and transferring it to your red blood cells, to carry and feed your body. Delicious nutritious oxygen food that keeps you alive. Just before you breath out, when you are feeling the gratitude for the gift of life from the air you breath everyday, say to yourself:


and then as you breath out slowly, again say to yourself:


And let it sink in, really sink in that it is up to you to choose all your reactions to the world. All the ways you respond to how people treat you. From your wife of fifty years to the guy that bumped into you on the way to the bus stop. It is up to you to wish things were different, to figure out a way to extract what you want from your circumstances. It is up to you to choose to be a victim, or a victor. It is up to you to feel stressed, or feel relaxed. It is up to you to give in to hypertension, and take bottle after bottle of pills that may or may not work. The choice is, has always been, and always will be yours.




You can practice these three anywhere. Walking, driving, sitting, watching movies, even during sex. The more you practice the easier it gets and the more it will become second nature to you.


Make A Choice – The World is Yours

So there I was hiking with my friend. We had been doing switchbacks for several hours, and were both very tired. We got to a point in the trail where we had two options. One was to veer up the left, where we would have to traverse over several large boulders. If we went up to the left, we would get to our destination in about an hour. If we followed the regular trail, we would get to our destination in about three or four. Normally, something like this would be a no brainer, as one hour, especially after hiking switchbacks all day, is much better than hiking three hours. The only problem is that the “shortcut” up to the left was over several large boulders. We decided to give it a go. After about half an hour, I realized I might be in way over my head. My friend was already about half a kilometer up ahead of me, almost out of earshot. I was getting really nervous and anxious, as every third or fourth boulder was wobbling when I stepped on it. I was afraid if I slipped, I might bust an ankle. I didn’t know what to do.

I had a friend once that was an electrical engineer at a very large company. They hired him for his engineering skills. He was well regarded as an electrical genius, as he was responsible for ironing out the bugs in the machines that they were developing. They were in a meeting, getting ready for the big boss to come from the east coast. They had to decide, as one of their major projects was behind schedule. There was one of two ways they could go. They were fairly divided on what to do, and nobody really wanted to make a choice for fear of repercussions from the big cheese.

Its’ interesting what happens when you make a decision. When you make a strong choice, and you are congruent about it, people will almost always follow your decision without question. It almost seems as if people would rather follow somebody who makes a decision that they disagree with rather than choose on their own. Great leaders throughout history have always said the secret of their leadership is the realization that people want a strong and congruent leader who will stick to his decision regardless of what it is.

So my friend was able to see the clear solution. He raised his hand, and offered it to the management at the meeting. They were impressed, and accepted his idea. When the boss came, and approved of the idea, naturally my friend got all the credit. His ability to make a decision and take responsibility for it launched his career up into management, with more responsibility, more exposure, and of course, more money.

And when I finally decided to go around, it was as if a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders. Even though I arrived at our campsite a full four hours after my friend, I had a great time hiking alone. It was something that I’ve never really done before. Hiking alone, out in the Sierra mountains, with only the beauty of nature around us. All because I was able to make a simple choice.


Notice This Opportunity That is All Around You

So there I was. Sitting in the middle of a third semester test in calculus. Three dimensional integrals. I was panicked. There was another method that we had recently learned, but I could remember it. I was panicking. Surely I would fail. The harder I tried to think, the more difficult it became. My mind was frozen like a turkey a week before thanksgiving. I checked the clock. Fifteen minutes left. I looked at the half solved equation. No idea what to do. I looked at the girl sitting next to me. She always did well in class. Maybe looking at her calm face would give me inspiration.

It was just like when I was driving down the freeway. I had just bought a new Toyota. And I was amazed that there were so many Toyota’s around before. And so many just like my car. But then a car, just like mine, began to tailgate behind me. They were driving really close. I was getting nervous, but not too nervous. I kept driving, still amazed that there were so many cars just like mine. Maybe the person behind wanted to make friends because we had the same car. Maybe she wanted to exchange emails or something. I looked back and she had no license plates, which meant that she had purchased her car recently as well.

It’s weird the way that works. You do the same thing day after day, and you don’t really stop and notice what is around you. It’s easy to not realize that there is something wonderful right in front of you. Some wonderful opportunity. And once you see this opportunity, you can’t help but to imagine now, what wonderful things will happen when you take this opportunity. And opportunities can come in many shapes and sizes too. They can be something that you never would have expected before. All you have to do is relax, open your eyes, and appreciate what is right in front of you.

So I finally realized the car behind me was a friend that I worked with about five years ago. When I finally recognized her, we exchanged hand signals and pulled of the freeway. We went to a fabulous Indian restaurant and caught up on old times. That’s another strange thing. I’d driven down that street literally hundreds of times and wasn’t aware of that particular restaurant.

And as soon as I glanced over at my classmate, something about her shirt reminded me of the new method we learned to solve three dimensional integrals. After I realized that, the test was a snap. Because I did sit there with a frozen brain for a few moments, I didn’t finish the test, and only got an 82, but that is a lot better had I not distracted myself so I could look around and see what was there. Wonderful things happen when you do that.


Boldly Speak Your Truth

I remember when I was in third grade. I had a huge crush on my teacher. One day we were doing this math problem, which when I think about it was like those sudoku puzzles that have become popular in the past several years. It was some kind of math puzzle, and she had told the class she was having a contest to see who was the fastest. Because I was madly in love with her, (despite her husband) I was determined to win. I raced through the puzzle, certain that I would be the fastest. I double checked my answers to make sure they were correct. I was about raise my hand when something incredibly unexpected happened. I froze. The room was quiet. I looked around at all my classmates furiously working on their puzzles. The room was silent. Our teacher was looking at us with a look only a teacher can give. My heart was pounding in my chest. I willed my hand to move but it didn’t. I was about to lose my chance to win the love of my third grade teacher.

My other friend, who was in a different class was from my boy scout troop. We would go on these hiking trips once a month, and get to camp out. It was fantastic. I had just joined the boy scouts, and had just been introduced into the world of camping away from parents. It was kind of scary at first, but once we got up into the mountains, it was fantastic. We would hike for a few hours, and then find a nice place to camp. Once we set up camp we would go exploring. Sometimes we didn’t find much interesting, but once we found a rattlesnake coiled up against a rock. Normally my friend is terrified of snakes, but for some reason, out there in the wilderness, after hiking up a steep mountain trail, we were somehow able to feel less afraid. It was kind of like our fear transformed itself into curiosity.

It’s strange when that happens. You see this thing, and if you are not careful, all you think about is the bad things that can happen regarding it. But the secret is when you see this, in front of you, you can become curious. Curiosity is a wonderful thing to have. It can help you discover new things, and figure out problems, and overcome obstacles. All you have to do is step back from your fear, and see this as an opportunity.

Which is what we did with that snake. We didn’t get to close, but we found a long branch that had fallen of a tree. We took turns prodding the snake, and making it strike towards the branch. Naturally, we got in big trouble when we came back to camp. I guess adults in boy scouts get kind of upset when boys go off on their own and play with poisonous reptiles. But it was an experience I’ll never forget. We saw something that normally would have terrified us, but because of our shared experience, we were able to look at this with fascination and learning.

So I finally raised my hand, and if I thought I was in love with my teacher before, wow. The approving look she gave me and the wonderful feeling I felt when she told me I got the perfect answer in front of the class was one of the greatest third grade experiences that day. All from breaking through my imagined fears and boldly speaking up.


Speak Your Mind – And Achieve Your Desires

I was waiting downtown in the hospital recently. It wasn’t the emergency section of the hospital, it was the place where people needed to see a doctor for things that weren’t life threatening. I was holding a number, one of those numbers that you grab like when you go to the post office. There was a big electronic board up and it showed the numbers changing as people went into the office. The peculiar thing was that the numbers weren’t really changing according to how many people went into the room where the doctor was. It didn’t take me long to figure out that people were just crowding their way in, instead of patiently waiting for their numbers to be called. I wanted to speak up, but for some reason I didn’t. Maybe because I was sick, or maybe because I was new in town and didn’t really know anybody there.

It reminded me once when I was in first grade. I used to be really shy. Once I had to go to the bathroom really bad. Back in first grade, you were always supposed to do what the teachers said. It wasn’t recess, so I was afraid I’d get in trouble if I asked to go to the bathroom. So I sat there with my hand on my crotch, I don’t even know if I knew when recess came. I was just a kid, I hadn’t realized that the most general rule in life yet.

It’s interesting when you look at some kids. They just scream out whenever they want something. They haven’t learned to be shy when asking for what they want. i was studying a book on persuasion, and it said the most natural persuaders and manipulators there are little kids. They scream and people ten times their own size scramble to take care of them. It’s like if you are a little kid, you when you want something, you just ask for it. You don’t wait for permission. When you are hungry, you scream for food. When you want something, you don’t rest until you get it. And when you are a kid, the only rule in life is keep screaming until you get what you want.

Finally the teacher saw me and told me to go to the bathroom. When I came back, she told me that it’s ok to ask for things that you want, it’s ok to ask somebody in authority to let you do something. Because if you wait until they notice you need something, it might be too late. I thought that was a particularly nice lesson for a first grade teacher to teach a little kid.

So finally I stood, and walked over to the door. I noticed the people sitting next to the door, and I asked them in a fairly loud voice if there was some kind of line, or do you just push your way in. And maybe it was because I was a little impatient, but I said it loud enough so that most people heard me. And after I said it, I noticed that people started looking at their own numbers and obeying the rules. As it turns out, the nurse that was supposed to be taking care of the number system had a last minute emergency, and wasn’t able to come in until later. I’m glad I spoke up when I did, I might have been waiting there all day.


Social Proof – Good or Bad?

I was riding my bike through a park near my house this morning. I saw this old guy next to a small stream. The stream is actually a drainage trough that leads to the ocean. They have built so there are several steps going down as the stream flows out. That way the water can pool in each area between the steps. In a few steps, where the man was looking, there were several fish. He explained to me that these were poi fish. When I asked him why they were so big, he explained that there was an elementary school nearby, and the kids would feed them on the way home. Because they can eat anything, the poi eagerly gobbled up anything the kids threw at them, providing it was edible.

One of the friends I used to work with was a very picky eater. She would take forever to choose what she wanted from the menu. Whenever somebody suggested something, she’d come up with a reason why it wouldn’t be good. Not fresh. Too expensive. Vegetables out of season. And the funny thing was whenever she finally decided to order something, she would invariably see something that somebody else had ordered and decide to change her order. Many times it was something that somebody had suggested earlier, and she’d dismissed for some reason or another. I always felt sorry for the waiter or waitress that had to go back and explain to the chef that he or she would have to start over again.

It’s funny how social proof works. You see somebody standing on a street corner looking up at the sky, and you look at the person. But if you see ten people looking up at the sky, you will almost automatically look up at the sky. This phenomenon has been described by many scientists as a shortcut of thinking. Instead of walking up and asking each person what they are looking at, and then making a determination whether or not to take a gander, the brain automatically floods the body with a strong desire to follow the crowd. It’s as if the ability to think for yourself gets temporarily shut off. This can be helpful, and invariably was helpful during our period of evolution. If you saw a bunch of your cavemen neighbors running very fast one direction, you either had the instinct to immediately join them or get eaten by whatever was chasing them. It can have huge negative effects when you are following the crowd in a bad direction, like in Nazi Germany, for example. Certain traits of human nature can be used both for good and evil. It’s important to monitor your thoughts and actions, and make sure they are your thoughts and actions, and not because somebody or some group of people have hijacked your brain.

But my friend finally realized that it was ok to take the advice of friends. And she learned to take her time to make a decision, so that when she finally made it, she was able to stick with it. And the rest of us were happy because we were all secretly a little bit embarrassed for the waiter. All in all it was a good decision.

And since I’ve been feeding the fish, my favorite part is watching how all the fish that are nowhere near the place where I throw the bread into the water come rushing over as soon as they see one of their fish buddies eating. I guess they follow the rules of social proof as well.


The Two Percent That Will Change Your Life

It’s amazing when you think of all the different plants that people can eat. What’s even more amazing, is that many of them can grow right next to each other, eating the same food, in the same soil, and produce a totally different vegetable or fruit. And to the untrained eye, (like mine) the seeds are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Could you imagine what it was like in the old days, before agriculture was invented? Cave men probably found seeds, and depending on series of prayers and dances they performed, they hoped the plant would yield either tomatoes or watermelons, or perhaps even papayas. Ok, it probably didn’t happen that way, but you can see my point.

Two small seeds, almost identical, when put in the same soil and give the same water and amount of sunlight will turn into two completely different things. In each seed is the blueprint to grow a completely different end product. I don’t’ know which is more amazing, that such a tiny compact seed has such incredibly detailed instructions, or that the soil and the air contain the raw materials that when assembled by the each respective plant will produce two different flowers or fruits.

I guess it’s in the seed’s DNA. The instructions, or blueprints to assemble together the raw materials to produce the end result. All animals have DNA. There is currently a debate ranging about human behavior. Which has more of an effect on a person? DNA or the environment? Nature or Nurture? The difference between the DNA of great ape is only two percent different than that of a human. Two percent. That accounts for all our art, our creations, our inventions, our language, music, poetry, religions. What does that two percent account for?

Science is only now beginning to be able to map the human genome, meaning that they can only start to see what part of DNA does what. But I suspect, as I’m sure do you and most other scientists, that the difference is in our brains. Our brains that have evolved to be flexible and creative and think of ways to survive in any environment. That two percent in the structure of DNA gives our bodies the instructions to take the same building blocks and grow into a rational, thinking, creative adult.

If the difference in ape intelligence and human intelligence is only two percent, what would making only a two percent shift in your outlook do? What would making a two percent shift in your thoughts and beliefs do? Most scientists agree that most people think the same thoughts day after day. What happens when you think something new? Something creative, something inspiring? What is the difference in thought between somebody that just bumbles their way through life and somebody that realizes greatness? I dare to say it is much less than two percent. I believe that a single thought can shift the entire course of your life, for better or for worse.

What thoughts are you thinking? Are they the same thoughts you thought yesterday? If they are, you don’t have to think them if you don’t want. Go ahead. Think new thoughts. See what happens.


Synchronicity and the Spanish Priest

I had an interesting experience today. I was out looking for a shop to buy a piece of cloth to use as a backdrop for my recent project I’ve started. Having only lived in my current city for a few months, I wasn’t quite sure where I could find a fabric store, as I only wanted a large piece of fabric. I wasn’t looking for anything special like a bed sheet or anything. Each person I asked at work gave me some different information. One person told me this place, another person told me that place, and I ended up writing down the name of one of the places, with kind of a vague idea of where it was.

Earlier in the day I had listened to a CD I bought several years ago. On the CD this guy was lecturing on the principle of synchronicity. Synchronicity is a concept made popular by the a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, Dr. Jung. He believed in some kind of superconscious, which has been described in several different kinds of areas of study, from religion to esoteric spirituality, to financial success. Basically the idea is that when you charge your brain with an intention, and “put it out there,” so to speak, the universe will respond. According to this theory, there is a kind of connection between people and things on some mystical level. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “what you want wants you,” or have had the experience of thinking of calling your friend, only to hear the phone ring as you turn to call them. I had the experience once where I picked up the phone to call my friend the moment he finished dialing my number. I picked it up before it had a chance to ring. I was expecting a dial tone, and didn’t hear one. He was expecting to hear the ring, and he didn’t hear it. So we both sat there for a minute going “huh?” before we realized what had happened.

I read a book called “Fooled by Randomness,” by Taleb, which basically said that all these synchronistic events are nothing more than random chance, and it’s our mistaken belief systems that delude us into thinking there is some magical connection between everything. While I don’t believe that our lives are nothing than a bunch of random pieces of matter clumped together wandering around, I’m not sure to what extent I believe in some superconscious brain that is connecting.  Whenever I develop a model for the world, I usually try to make it fit both basic scientific models and as esoteric as I can get away with.

So I was walking down this one covered shopping arcade, a big long covered street only open to pedestrians. I had walked down this street probably twenty times since I’ve moved here. The shop that I had written down was supposedly just south of this street, but I had no clue. I started thinking about another store I went to in another city I lived in to buy the same thing. Just as I was thinking about all the different colored rolls of material I was able to choose from, I looked immediately to my right, and there was a kimono store. Not just any kimono store, but the kind that had different rolls of material so you could make your own kimono’s. And cheap. One meter for between 2 and 5 dollars. So I bought a couple meters, it worked out pretty good (if you want you can go watch my youtube videos) so I’m sure I’ll be shopping there in the future. And while I was in there having a look around, a Spanish priest came in and said something to the owner, and then left. I’m not exactly sure how the Spanish priest fits into all this, but it seemed interesting. Perhaps foreshadowing for the future. Stay tuned.


Don’t Stop, Go!

Last night I was walking home from the movies. I had to walk through a bunch of rice fields. Because each rice field belongs to a different house, the road kinds of curves around. Not being very familiar with the area, I had to kind of guess where I was going. I knew the general direction I wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure if the path I had chosen would take me directly there, or through some roundabout way.

When came around a turn, I noticed a car that had passed me only a few moments before going the other direction. Hmm. Maybe he forgot something. When I turned the corner. I saw the reason he turned around. There was a big flashing sign saying that the road was under construction. When I approached the sign, sure enough, there was a large piece of road construction equipment parked there, and the asphalt portion of the road ended. On the other side of the fence was a rather ‘in progress’ looking surface. What to do. I checked me watch. The train station I was heading for was perhaps fifty meters in front of me. If I turned back, I would have to walk through the rice fields again, and go all the way around. Which would be about an extra kilometer or two. Which would mean I would miss the next train which was due in about ten minutes, and would have wait for the next one. Which meant that I would miss my connection train at the main station. If was only  an extra kilometer of two of walking, it would be a no brainer, since I love walking through rice fields. But when you factor in all the added delays I would experience, it was also a no brainer.

I jumped over the “Do Not Enter Sign” and negotiated my way over the ‘in progress’ road they were building. I had to hop over a couple holes, but I finally made it to a walkway, and to the station in time.

Sometimes when we go through life, we come up against what we think are stop signs. Many times we see the stop sign, and turn around, go all the way back around and take extra time. But are they really stop signs? The one I saw above was. It was real. But what happens when you come up against a stop sign in your imagination? If you ask out a girl, and she says, “no,” is that really a stop sign, or an invitation to try something different.

If you are working on a project, and you come up to some problems, are they really stop signs? Or just an invitation to use your ingenuity to jump over the imaginary fence and go around?

The car that was ahead of me had no choice, because the road beyond the stop sign wouldn’t support the weight of his car. But because I was walking, I assumed the stop sign was only for cars, not for pedestrians. What happens when you encounter imaginary stop signs, but you assume they are only for other people, and not for you?

Bad economy? No problem. They aren’t talking about you. You can jump over the fence and think of another way. Limited budget at work? Not for you. They mean somebody else. You can think of other ways to get the project done. You have to run thirty minutes a day and eat only oatmeal to lose weight? Nope, that’s for those other guys that are really overweight. You can think of a better, easier way to get in shape.

When you think about it, the only real stop signs that are the ones that are shaped like an octagon and pained red with the word STOP on it. And you know as well as I do that it’s really only a suggestion, anyways. For those other guys.