Monthly Archives: March 2009

Transfer Skills To Dance Through Life

I had an interesting experience this evening. I was invited to a dance performance by a friend of mine. He is part of a dance group, and they put on performance several times a year. He is a junior high school student, and whenever I speak with him he is incredibly shy. I gave me the ticket to his performance, and asked me if I’d come. Of course I said yes. I had no idea how big his group was, or how extravagant the performance was going to be.

It was incredible. I was expecting a small show, with perhaps parents and friends coming to see. It was in a large hall, downtown in the city where I live. I was surprised to see a large, long snaking line waiting for the doors to open. It was raining today, so the line had to form inside. The reception area of the hall itself is quite large, but it wasn’t built to accommodate a long, slinking line. So there was a lady holding a sign that identified the end of the line.

Finally the doors opened, and I walked in, and was lucky to get a seat. The place was packed, both levels. Before the lights dimmed, I found my friends picture, and figured out which group he was in. (Which was kind of difficult, as it was all written in Japanese.) The amount of moves and choreography presented was amazing. It was truly a professionally done show, that had obviously been well rehearsed.

That wasn’t quite what amazed me the most. This shy kid, who is almost too embarrassed to make eye contact during a normal conversation, was on fire on stage in front of thousands. In his particular group, he was the lead dancer. I remember back on Valentines day, when here in Japan it’s traditional for girls to give guys chocolates, he was lamenting that no girls had given him any chocolate. One of the performances his group did was him and about twenty girls doing a number on stage with him being the lead dancer.

Then when it came time when each group lined up and waited for their name to be called by the announcer, so they could take their bow, he blew me away. Instead of just saying “Hai!” and taking a bow like the rest of his fellow dancers, he did a quick dance move, and then blew several kisses to the crowd. Not the shy junior high kid that I imagined.

Which got me thinking, all of us have different resources for different situations. I think it’s important to realize this when we say things to ourselves like “I’m shy,” or “I’m not a good public speaker,” or “I’m not very smart.” All of us can be all things, in some context or another. The trick is to figure out how to transfer skills in one area of life into other areas. Up until now, I’ve been taking this kids statements of his being shy at face value. Never again. Maybe when I remind him how brave and relaxed he was in front of over a thousand people, he’ll convince himself as well.


Choose Your Thoughts, Choose Your Power

I was listening to a friend recently tell me about a rather unhappy experience he’d had recently. He was going to a local convenience store that he usually stops at on his way to work. He was wearing a t shirt with an emblem on the front that identified him with a particular movement that is both popular and unpopular at the same time. Those that agree with it’s philosophy are all for it, but those who don’t think twice about voicing their disagreement, as they feel that many will share their convictions.

So my friend walks into this convenience store, fills up his coffee, and is waiting in line to pay. The guy working behind the counter begins an open tirade against the organization on my friends t shirt. Now my friend was on his way to work, and only stopped in for a few minutes to grab a cup of coffee, so he wasn’t mentally prepared for any kind of debate. And as luck would have it, everyone else in the store seemed to be in agreement with the worker behind the counter. So my friend, who was only expecting to buy a cup of coffee, found himself surrounded by people that had no problem ridiculing him for what he believed in.

Keep in mind that the organization that he supports is a mainstream organization with a large percentage of the population on the same page. It’s not like he was advertising kiddie porn or something on his t-shirt.

He was totally taken aback, both by the fact that he was suddenly surrounded by detractors who through their apparent agreement didn’t feel any reason to hold back, and that the instigator was working in a large chain convenience store, where one would expect at least a surface level of professionalism.

Now my friend is an avid meditator. He told me that after the situation began, he stopped, took a deep breath, held it, and then exhaled. He did this a couple of times, and focused on his purpose. Enter shop. Buy coffee. Leave shop. He told me that after only a few breaths, he was able to feel centered, and allow the people the luxury of expressing their opinions. They weren’t going to harm him, they didn’t have guns or knives, they were just capitalizing on the fact that they had him outnumbered, at least with respect to the opinion suggested by the organization on his t-shirt.

I asked him how he specifically practices to be able to get to that level of uninsultability, and he says it’s simple. All you do is exhale all your breath, wait until you feel the desire to breath, and then breath in slowly while feeling appreciation for your breath above all else. Then when you fill your lungs, you hold that appreciation in your mind to the exclusion of all other thoughts. He said that it takes practice, but once you develop a habit of breathing this way for a few minutes every day, you will train your brain in powerful ways. You will train your brain to “detach” from automatically reacting to the world around you. Instead, you will learn to see and hear the events around you, and then have the presence of mind to choose how to respond.

It all sounds very esoteric and zen like, but it really is just practicing a behavior that you want to get better at. Nothing different than practicing a golf swing or your tennis back hand. You are practicing withholding any thought other than the appreciation of your own breath in your own lungs.

And from that space between outside reality and your choice of thought, comes incredible power and resourcefulness. Not a bad skill to have, if you ask me.


Program Your Mind For Success and Wake Up Happy

What do you do just before you shut down before bed at night? (assuming you go to bed at night)? I mean before you shut down the TV, all the lights, and put he dirty plates in the to wash sometime in the next few days? What is your routine or ritual that you go through every night before going to sleep? If you’re like most people you don’t give your final routine much thought. You do whatever you do, until you get sleepy, or it gets late, then shut everything down and collapse into bed. What if by spending a few minutes just before bed, you could not only drastically improve the quality of your sleep, ensure that you would wake up in a great mood with creative ideas on how to tackle your tasks for that day?

It’s a fairly simple procedure that I’ve recently discovered, part by studying various improvement techniques, and part by accident. The accidental part came from a course I recently went through on how to set solid goals and how to easily  make them happen. One of the techniques in the course is to review your goals, review the things you’ve done recently to achieve them, and then map out the next baby steps to take in the direction of their completion.

Normally, before I go to bed, I waste time surfing the internet. When I say waste time, I mean I don’t spend time reading informative articles, or watching inspirational videos on YouTube. I usually read the news sites, and sometimes check into a few forums that I participate in. I’ve found that some forums, no matter how positive the discussion starts out, it can sometimes turn negative rather quickly. And on top of that, I find myself sometimes agreeing with the negativity. I’ve noticed that nights I spend reading and agreeing with negativity, I not only have a hard time falling asleep,but I usually wake up in a crappy mood.

Then one night recently, instead of reading those internet forums with the same arguments made by the same people, I decided to journal on my goals. I just started free noting about what I’d done that day towards my desired accomplishments. Little things that I’d done to push myself forward. If you haven’t free noted, it’s not a really difficult thing to do. It just means to type without worrying about grammar or spelling. Something happens when you convert thoughts into words that you can read while you write. It’s like the solidify the thoughts in the brain, and when you do if for a while, you learn to not censor yourself, so you pretty much write whatever’s on your mind.

That night that I free noted I went to sleep in a lot better mood, I slept better, and I woke up really happy the next morning. To make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I tried it on a couple nights. The big test was on a Sunday night, to see how it would effect me on Monday. Sure enough, it worked. The technique is simple.
Just take something that you are working towards. Any goal will do. Weight loss, cutting back on smoking, anything. Then just write down any little thing that you did that day that was in the direction of your goal. It will train your mind to appreciate the effort you are making to improve yourself, and you’ll naturally start seeing more opportunities everywhere. And it only takes five or ten minutes a night.


How to be a Powerful Communicator

I remember I used to have this sales job. It was based on multi level marketing kind of structure. I don’t remember exactly what it was that they sold, some kind of paper products. It was a pure commissioned sales job, meaning that you only made money if you sold something. And if you recruited one of your friends, and they sold something, you got a piece of the profit. The job entailed going out and “cold calling” small business owners. If you have never experienced cold calling, I recommend you try it at least once. Basically it entails waking up to strangers and trying to sell them something. It’s a great way to force yourself out of shyness, and increase your self confidence. I’ll be honest, though, it’s incredibly difficult and can cause a lot of stress, if you are totally focussed on a need to make a lot of money. If you do it just for the experience, it can be a positive eye opener. You can learn a lot about yourself.

Because it was so high stress, at this company we would meet in the morning, have a kind of cheer leading type meeting, where we’d get all pumped up. Then we’d go out in pairs and cold call all day. We’d hit up about 60 businesses, and if we were lucky we’d get about three or four sales. That mean about fifty five rejections a day, ranging from polite to “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY SHOP! CAN’T YOU READ THE SIGN THAT SAYS NO SOLICITORS!” It really can be a way to develop thick skin, which can be useful in today’s climate.

After we’d head back to the office, we would have a breakdown meeting. I guess we would try and cheer each other up after getting rejected all day long. I discovered one very interesting thing during one of these meetings. One senior sales person asked how my day went. I said it was difficult, but it helped to be persistent. I remember that I used the word ‘persistent.’ And he responded with “Oh, so it helps to be diligent?” I kind of nodded, because it was late and I wanted to go home. Now it seems like a trivial difference “persistent” versus “diligent.” After all, if you look the two words up in the thesaurus, you’ll find the two listed as synonyms. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. When I used the word “persistent,” I specifically chose that word, because based on my own experience, that was the best word to describe my own personal experience for that particular day. When he reflected back my description of the experience back to me, he chose a different word. In my mind, that word didn’t describe at all the day I had. So the end result of his “coaching,” was that he didn’t appear to understand AT ALL what I experienced that day.

It reminded me of a seminar I went to once on communication. We were all asked to think of a duck. When we shared our ducks, they were all different. Small ducks, rubber ducks, even the AFLAC duck. A simple four letter noun yielded many different ideas of a duck. Is it any wonder that a abstract word like “persistent” can have such different meanings from person to person?

In some communication models, people are taught to paraphrase what people say back to them. I disagree with this. In the above example, the salesperson tried to paraphrase my words, which were a description of my own personal subjective experience, and failed miserably. In a split second, he became somebody that didn’t understand what I had gone through that day, simply by choosing one single word incorrectly.

How to get around this? How do you communicate to somebody that is telling you about an emotionally charged experience? Simple. Repeat back their exact words to them. I’ve heard this technique referred in some places as “parrot-phrasing” rather than paraphrasing, and I think the term is accurate. If the person in the example above had reflected back to me the same word, I would have felt respected and understood, rather than otherwise. It’s simple, and all that it requires is for you to pay attention to the person talking to you, and pay attention to the words they seem to put emphasis on. They might pause a litter bit before these words, they might say them with a different tonality. Be aware that these particular words have special significance to the person using them. When you treat the other persons word with respect, you will be treating them with respect. And it not only make you appear to be really a sincere, intuitive communicator, but it will make them feel safe in talking with you and sharing their experience.

How many situations can you imagine where this would be useful?


Reduce Stress, Improve Life

I was talking to my friend on the phone this morning. She was telling me about her boyfriend. He has one of those jobs where he’s on for three days, and then off for two. It’s great when their days off overlap, but sometimes it can be stressful. It helps that she has studied yoga for a while, and knows several techniques to help her relax when she is stressed out. She tells me there are several different types kinds of yoga, with different intentions. Some are for physical health, others are for spiritual rejuvenation, others are for overall stress reduction.

I think that stress is an under looked at problem in today’s society. Everybody has stress. The problem with stress, is that it goes undetected. It’s a quirk of the human system, either by evolution or some kind of omnipotent creator, that low level pain often gets put into the background of the mind. Acute pain is one of the few outside stimuli that can not be ignored, for obvious reasons. But mental or physical stress, unfortunately is one of those things that can too easily get ignored.

According to doctors and researchers, the biggest problem regarding stress is people that are under unhealthy levels of stress don’t even know it. They go through life, doing the same thing day after day, and not realizing how many problems the stress is causing them because they think its part of their normal life. They have carried the same amount of stress for so long, that it can even become part of who they are. Some can even feel uncomfortable when the stress is removed, because they have identified with it on such a deep level.

I was with a friend of mine on a bike ride a few years ago. His bike was broken, so he borrowed one from another friend. It hadn’t been ridden for a while, but since it seemed to be ok, neither of us gave it any second thought. After a few miles into the ride, my friend began to feel unusually tired. He’s in pretty good shape, so we wondered what the problem might be. Diet? Nope. Not enough sleep? Nope. Girlfriend troubles? Nope. As much as we tried, we couldn’t think of a solution, so we just accepted the fact that he was performing under par that day, and adjusted our speed accordingly. It wasn’t until after we’d completed the ride that we discovered the problem. The rear brake on his bike wasn’t releasing completely when he’d finished breaking. It was causing a slight drag on the bike, making him work just a little bit harder. Instead of a nice relaxing enjoyable ride, we went slow because we just accepted that we had to go slow.

The secret to reducing stress is to find the brakes that are holding you back, and release them. Unfortunately, in today’s society, the most popular solution to stress is to cover up the feeling. Alcohol, drugs. Even if you go to the doctor, you’re likely to get a prescription for drugs to mask the effect, and not address the cause.

The first step in reducing stress is taking an honest look at your life to discover what it is that is causing the stress. Work, family, money, all these can be sources of stress. The biggest cause, however, is worrying about things that you can’t control. Once you realize exactly where the line is between that which you can control, and that which you can’t, you’re on the right track. If you take little steps in the direction of the things that you can control, and release the things that you can’t, you’re well on the way to significantly reducing the amount of stress, and all the accompanying problems.


The Power of Pacing and Leading

I love to cook. Even more than loving to cook I love to eat. And when I like to cook, I like to use many gadgets to help me in those endeavors. One of my weaknesses in life is buying stuff that I really don’t need. I don’t know what it is, maybe I have a weak resistance to an effective sales pitch. Maybe I like to imagine all the wonderful ways I can use that gizmo that looks so incredibly cool here in the store or on TV. Most of the time, when I buy something, I really enjoy it for a while until it loses it’s luster. Then I go and buy something else. Rarely do I ever regret making a purchase. Once I bought a kitchen gadget from an infomercial, used it frequently, and then saw the commercial again. It was such a persuasive commercial, I was tempted to buy another one.

If you can turn off your automatic impulse buying response for a moment, you can learn a lot about persuasion from those infomercials. They grab your attention, lead you through a fantastically engineered sales presentation, and then make you think that you can’t afford not to buy what they are selling. Two of the techniques that they use fairly well are the principles of pacing and leading.

If you’ve read my article on rapport, then you know what I mean when I say pacing. Pacing is when you match the other persons reality as much as possible. You do and say things that they will agree with. You do this enough times that they slowly begin to turn off that “critical factor” that we all have in our brains that tell us be careful of things that we are not sure of. Once this “critical factor” is shut off, we will follow anybody,  anywhere. If you can pace somebody to the state where they have shut this off, you will be in a good position to begin to lead them.

When leading somebody, it is important to take them in small baby steps first. If you ask them to take a big step too soon, it will jar them back behind the protective guidance of their critical factor. If you’ve ever bought something from an infomercial, you’ve realized that the whole system is seamlessly set up to increase the amount of money you’ll spend. You start to watch the show. They are talking about how you hate to cook (uh huh). You have a long day at work, and when you come home you don’t want to slave away in the kitchen (uh huh). You wish there were a better way (uh huh). You’d like to spend only  few minutes to create a delicious meal for the whole family (uh huh).

Wouldn’t you know it? Here we have a brand new tool that can help you! (ok!) You can use this tool to slice (ok!), dice, (ok!) and puree (ok!)! And it’s not three hundred dollars, not even two hundred dollars, not even one hundred dollars. You can buy now (ok!) for the low low price of 39.95 (ok!).

Think about the actual product you are getting for your money. If you were sitting at home, and some guy knocked on your door, with the exact same product with the exact same price, you’d likely tell him no thanks. But watch a twenty minute infomercial, complete with studio audience and genius level engineered persuasion tactics, and you are rushing for your phone with your credit card in hand.

Same product and price, but two completely different methods of information delivery. Do you think it pays to be able to harness the power of persuasion? Do you think you owe it to yourself to learn this powerful technology?

Who would you rather be, the poor guy going door to door and getting rejected over and over, or the multi millionaire selling the same product on TV? Stay tuned for more articles on how to become a powerful persuader. Bookmark this page so you can come back and read articles under the “persuasion” category any time.


The Magical Power of Rapport

Try a little mind experiment with me. Imagine a friend of yours, one that you’ve known for a long time. You trust that person, right? If they suggested that you do something,and it didn’t sound too crazy, you’d probably do it, right? Me too. Now imagine if somebody that you didn’t know came up to you, and asked you out of the blue to do the exact same thing. How would you react? Probably the same way I would . Tell the person no thanks. If they persisted, then tell them to get lost.

What’s missing from this is a feeling of connection. A deep feeling of similarity with this person. Similar beliefs, ideas, experiences. It’s very hard for somebody that hasn’t known you for a long time to create this feeling. But what if there was? What if there were a secret method, known only to a few of how to create this feeling?

This technique is called rapport. The word rapport is probably familiar to you, but unfortunately it gets thrown around so much, not too many people really understand the power behind it. Rapport is that deep feeling that you experience when you are really connecting with somebody on an unconscious level. And the best part about it, is it’s really easy to do.

Here’s how.

The first step in rapport is to match body language of the person that you want to persuade. Mirror them as much as you can without getting caught. When they shift, you shift. This is so simple, yet so mindbogglingly powerful its amazing so many people don’t use this on a daily basis. If they are slouched a little bit, you slouch a little bit. If they are resting their elbow on the table, you rest your elbow on the table. I’m not going to even begin to describe how powerful this is on a first date, because I’m sure you can think of many ways you can use this.

The next step is to match their speech, as closely as possible. This one is a lot more complicated, because most people feel weird when speaking in a voice that is not ‘normal’ for them. It gets easier the more you do it, though. It’s important to match their tone and speed. If they speak really fast, you speak really fast. If they speak slow, and pause a lot, you speak slow and pause a lot.

The next step is to see their point of view. This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they say. This means listening, not interrupting, and really making an effort to see things from their point of view. Even if they have a belief which is diametrically opposed to yours, one such controversial topics such as abortion and gun control, hold your tongue. Listen patiently, and at least let them know that you respect their opinion, and you can see how they would have such an opinion. This is a major stumbling block for people. So much so that some people refuse to date or even be friends with people that have opposite opinions than theirs. This can be very limiting, as being able to see opinions from viewpoints than your own can be very rewarding.

These are just the beginning steps of developing deep rapport with somebody that you want persuade. But because they are so powerful, once you master these, you will have an edge over almost anyone you meet.


Breath In Power, Breath Out Fear

Have you ever had one of those days where you just feel that ‘blah’ kind of feeling? You just can’t get into a groove. Not like you are in a bad mood or anything, but you just don’t feel very inspired. You just want to hurry up and go home, and watch TV and forget about the outside world. Sometimes those days happen more often that I’d like. I’m not sure what causes it, maybe different bio rhythms or perhaps sunspots or something. If you are one of the lucky ones, and this rarely happens to you, I’m sure you know some people that have experienced this.

The tricky part is how to pull yourself out of this funk. When you realize that being in this funky state is not very productive, on any level, it seems to be a goal in and of itself to move yourself up to a higher level. One of the things that is so difficult of being in this ‘blah’ state is because it’s really not that painful, it’s easy to feel comfortable, so you lose sight of what it felt like when you were on top of things. And the longer you stay in this ‘blah’ frame of mind, the more difficult it seems to get out.

Recently I’ve discovered a method that helps me to keep out of that state on a daily basis. It’s kind of a visualization/breathing exercise I’ve been doing lately that I’d like to share.

What you do is get in a comfortable standing position. Bend your knees slightly, and let your arms hang at your sides.  Slowly exhale all you breath, until your lungs are completely empty. Then wait, just a few seconds, until you can feel that strong desire to breath begin to grow. Then slowly inhale, until your lungs are full. The key point is that as you slowly inhale, make sure to really feel appreciation for the air that is filling your lungs.  Imagine the appreciation starting at your root chakra, and then slowly filling up the line in front of your spine. When you have your lungs filled, imagine a ball of energy in your brain. Imagine that this ball of energy is pure appreciation, and let this energy of appreciation saturate all your neural connections in your brain, going into all your memories, all your thoughts, and all your plans for the future.

Hold the breath, and the imaginary ball of energy in your brain, for a few seconds. Just like the inhale, wait before you feel the need to exhale, and then exhale slowly. Imagine the ball of energy as a sponge which has soaked up all the negative energy it found while saturating your brain out into the universe.

Do this several times, the more the better. I practice Spring Forest Qi Gong every morning, and use this visualization while I inhale and exhale. It’s a great way to start the day, and can go a long ways to give you that nice relaxed, ‘can do’ frame of mind to carry with you throughout the day. And you’ll also find that when you start to practice this on a daily basis, you’ll inoculate yourself from any stray negative emotions that used to come your way.