Monthly Archives: May 2009

Choose Your Beliefs for Effortless Success

I was surfing the interwebs the other day and came across an interesting podcast. Some guy was talking about beliefs, and how they are really an interesting concept that, unfortunately, most people don’t give a second thought. They work as presuppositional filters on the reality that is outside our consciousness. The way they work is by separating out information that doesn’t match with what we think is true.

This is due to our evolutionary past. When we were in an area that was populated by red spotted tigers, our ancestors would quickly learn that they were dangerous. The brain was then programmed with a collection of information, sounds complex mathematical visual representations. If a red spotted tiger was detected by any one of our senses, it would automatically trigger a fight or flight induced panic, giving us the energy to run away. Conversely, when we lived in an environment which had a small green fruit that was extremely tasty and provided long term energy, that became important as well. So when our ancestors were out walking around and spotted one or a bunch of these out of the corner of their eyes, they immediately felt hungry and remembered how good these things taste.

Because humans can be so flexible and adaptable (arguably this is why we were the ones Mother Nature chose to give such big brains to,) we lived in several different environments. Because of this, we developed the capability of shifting the desirable and undesirable things in our environment for our brains to be on the lookout for. In one place and one generation, it might have been lions and purple fruits. In another place, and another generation, it might have been huge flying predators and small animals that were delicious.

So how does this affect you, and moreover, how can you profit from it? This is how beliefs work. Despite living in a modern society, where we have police to protect us from predators and grocery stores to provide us with all the food that we need, we still have these filtering mechanisms in our brains. These filtering mechanisms come into play when we have certain beliefs. The scary thing is, sometimes these beliefs can be self-sustaining. That is, if we believe a certain thing (even though it isn’t true) and see random events, which we take to be “proof” of these untrue beliefs, they reinforce the belief, making it harder to get rid of. Let’s say you believe that members of the opposite sex find you disgusting. You go through out your day, and because this belief has been programmed strong enough, you will only find evidence of it being true. Just like our cavemen ancestors only saw the purple fruits and ignored the rest, you will only register and remember the one odd fellow out of a hundred that behaves in a way that might be considered loathsome towards you. This of course reinforces the belief, which depressed you, changes your behavior, and actually invites behavior from others that reinforce this belief.

How about another example. You read the papers, watch the news, and decide the economy is in shambles. You go out, and only notice expensive things you can’t afford, people on the street begging for money, shops having going out of business sales, and so on. This reinforces this belief, and directly affects your ability to make money. What happens when you realize that even in a down economy, there are plenty of people making money? What do they believe about the economy? Many believe a down economy is the best time to start a new business venture, because you are getting in on the ground floor of future growth. Many people learn to see a down economy as an opportunity for wealth, rather than a scary situation.

The bottom line is you have two choices. You can choose to let your beliefs be set by others, and wander through life reacting to the world. Or you can sit down, spend a few hours, and choose powerful beliefs you would like to be true. For example, how would you feel if you believed you could easily make lots of money? How would it feel if you could easily persuade people to your way of thinking? How would it feel if you believed you were a highly talented writer, or musician, or actor? How would your life change for the better?

Although it does take effort, and time, the results are powerfully rewarding. You can either drift through life and hope to get lucky, or you can choose your beliefs, and go out and find (or make!) evidence of their truth. The longer you keep at this, the sooner the beliefs will start to sink in to an unconscious level, operating automatically.

This is where the magic really starts to happen.

The Power of Perspective

I lot of people have been talking recently about that new idea that’s been going around. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it or not, but it’s one of those things where you can’t be sure if it is just a passing fad, or if this will turn into something really worthwhile. I friend of mine found a copy of this a bookstore. Not the newer one, but the original book that was circulating around before that international guru got a hold of this and brought it back into the public consciousness again. I’m not sure if he is being true to the original authors work, but it seems to be starting off on the right track. You never can tell, though. I usually like to hold off judgment on things like this until they have reached a critical mass. I don’t know if that is good or if I’m just lazy, but it seems to have worked for me in the past.

It’s interesting the way things are looked at differently when considered from different angles. Especially when you throw history into the mix. Some ideas seem totally fantastic and obviously wonderful. Nobody can find any fault with them, as they sweep the nation with a wildfire rapidity usually reserved for deadly diseases. Then ten years later, you look back in time and think, “Dude, what were we thinking?” It’s interesting how a power of perspective can greatly give you expanded views of what you think is so obvious.

I took a seminar once on this very subject. We were instructed to sit in a chair, and imagine that we were a fly flying around our bodies. With our eyes closed, we imagined the fly looking at our hair, our ears, our legs and feet. Then we imagined looking at ourselves from the ceiling, the floor, and even through the window from the outside. Then we later tried during a normal conversation. We would sit across from somebody, and while we were talking and maintaining eye contact with the other person, we would imagine seeing and hearing ourselves from the other persons perspective. This is a lot more difficult than it seems. Quite often we would stop in mid sentence as we tried to focus on all these different things at once. One cool thing that happened is that after a few practice, runs, when we were finally able to maintain this new angle of perspective and hold a normal conversation, we found that our minds became very calm and quit. You don’t really know what all those voices are chattering on about in your head until they shut up for once. I really recommend trying this out next time you are having a not so important conversation. Hold off on doing this when talking to your boss, otherwise he or she might think you are a bit off. This takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it gives you an amazing clarity of concentration and focus.

The next step in the seminar was to look at our lives from different perspectives in time. From a newborn babies perspective, trying to imagine what it would be like before learning to walk and learn the alphabet. Looking at our present abilities would be astounding to an infant. Some things that we take for granted are really wonderful gifts that we overlook. Another exercise we did was to look at our lives from the perspective of our great great grandchildren. Some of the big problems that we think are so important looked absolutely tiny in comparison. Many people found that this simple exercise helped them to discover what is really important in your life. When you can release the small problems that are taking up valuable space in your brain, and sort out the three or four things that are really important, it can really give you a fresh enthusiasm for getting what you want out of life.

I would recommend doing this as often as possible, from as many different perspectives as you can imagine. The fly, the infant, the great grandchild, even of God, if you can allow yourself to do that without violating any of your beliefs.

People that do this on a regular basis find that your world will naturally expand and you will find yourself discovering new resources that you never thought were possible before. And all of this is possible with only a few minutes of imagination.

Imagining Words Can Be Reflecting Truth

Last night I was walking home from this bar. It was a bar I’d never been to before, but a few of my friends convinced me to go, since it was fairly new and didn’t have huge crowds. You could still hang out with a few friends, have a decent conversation, and enjoy the interesting international food they had. They also have about thirty different beers on tap from all over the world. It’s interesting when new bar opens up in a part of town that has lots of bars. If you start going there before it becomes popular, you are the only person there, so you feel like you are in the wrong place, even if you are with a group of friends. If you wait until it is the hippest bar in town, you can forget about every getting a table unless you go there at two in the afternoon. This place where I went last night was just at the perfect spot on a bars rise to prominence. Just the right amount of people to feel like you are in a popular spot, but not so crowded as to feel like each time you see the waitress she is in some kind of hurry to fill your order so they can make room for the next customer.

So after several drinks and appetizers of various ethnicities, we decided to part ways. I don’t remember what time it was, but it was later than the last train, so I had to find my way back to the main station to catch a taxi home. Since I was in an unfamiliar part of town, I kind of meandered around through alleys and side streets. I wasn’t too worried about what time I made it back, and crime in my cit is relatively low, so I just was kind of content to wander around and lazily make my way back home. You know how you do that, when you have a vague destination in mind, but you aren’t really concerned with how or when you will arrive. For some reason you just want to take your time with this, and enjoy the experience. Sometimes I think it’s times like this that are the most rewarding, because for some reason you can be open to opportunities that you would normally overlook.

Once I was driving to a friend’s house. He was having a party so I wasn’t really concerned with what time I got there. It was a bit of a drive, and he was a good friend from a ways back, so I knew there would be a couch or a spare room I would be able to use. So I was just taking my time driving through the mountain roads, stopping here and there to check out the views. He had just bought a nice house up in the mountains, and I had never been there before, so I wanted to take my time and enjoy the scenery along the way. Sometimes we go through life just too fast with tunnel vision, missing out on all the cool stuff that is around you.

So there I was looking through the windows of closed shops when I saw him. Or heard him, as he came up from behind me. Judging by his voice, he was a good 5 or six meters behind me, and I could see his vague reflection the glass of the retro clothing shop window I was trying to look through. (I don’t know why, I’ve never really been a fan of retro clothing.) He said something that was both vague and interesting. Vague in that I didn’t know exactly what he meant by it, and interesting in that I wanted to turn around.

“You can take small steps when necessary.” Is what he said.

“Excuse me?” I asked, turning around slowly.

“Small steps. I don’t know where you are going, how could I, but you seem to be going somewhere. Some people have a fear of moving in the direction of their destination, afraid that they will make a mistake. But you can take small steps if you need to. That way if you make a miscalculation of direction, you can easily change course to put yourself quickly back on track.”

“Oh, um, thanks.” I said, still not sure what he was talking about. He seemed to want to say something else, so I waited for him to speak.

“Awaken from the dream.” He finally said, after giving me a seemingly long once over.

“Huh? What dream?” I asked, checking the palms of my hands for some reason.

“That which you fear, that which you think you are afraid of, that which you think you lack, is all an illusion. You have everything you need. Right here, right now. You don’t need anything else. Everything you see comes from within.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of that, so for some reason I turned and looked back inside the vintage clothing. I was surprised to see that his reflection was no longer there. When I spun around, he was gone. A thousand questions ran through my mind. Was I imagining it? Had I drank too much? Was I too sleepy? Suddenly it hit me. Whoever, or whatever he was, it didn’t matter. It really didn’t matter, because I had a feeling that the words he spoke made sense. And when you think about it, the speaker of the words is really different than the words themselves. After a while, the words themselves are all that matters, so you can imagine this speaker as being whoever you want. And that can open the door to all kinds of opportunities. Now.

The Magic of the Turtle Brain Freeze

Once upon there were these two turtles. They had been friends since they started walking to school together. Most people don’t know that turtles only are allowed to take the bus until they get to the second grade. Then they have to walk. I think it has something to do with their shells and some sort of international bus transportation code regarding moving shells across the ocean floor. Not that they were necessarily sea turtles, because turtle bureaucracy is not very advanced, so when they create one law, it applies to turtles everywhere.

So these two turtles were walking home from school, where they liked to stop and play a few rounds of video games at their favorite ice cream shop. Another thing people don’t know about turtles is that they love ice cream. If you don’t believe me, you can go out and find a turtle, if you don’t already have one, and feed it some ice cream. But you must be careful though, you don’t want to give it a head freeze from eating ice cream too fast. One of the disadvantages of being a turtle is that they can’t reach up and grab their heads when they get a brain freeze from eating ice cream too fast. And although grabbing your head doesn’t actually do anything to decrease the length and severity of a brain freeze, it does give you the illusion of control, as if massaging your temples will cool down your brain temperatures back into the normal range. You’d be surprised at the amount of things that people do that don’t have any real effect, but we do them anyways because we think it gives us some sort of psychological advantage.

The other day I was talking to my friend about this. We were watching this couple walk by, and they were obviously exercising. We could tell they were exercising by the way they were walking. Instead of just letting their arms swing normally, like you do when you walk, they had them held up at a ninety degree angle and were pumping them as they were walking. Our discussion kind of spiraled in two different directions.

The first direction was when my friend said they were doing that, and not really getting any benefit out of it. Maybe had they been wearing weighted armbands or something. I haven’t read any studies where they compared how many calories you burned while purposely swinging your arms versus letting them swing naturally, so I wasn’t convinced either that there was any real benefit to walking like that.

Then my friend suggested that they weren’t exercising strictly for the calorie burn. Many people have discovered that exercising gives a solid boost to your self-esteem. And perhaps the boost in self-esteem is not really related to the actual amount of calories that you burned, but the perceived effort. I thought that made some sense, until my friend suggested a third reason for their apparent simple actions.

He suggested that they were actually trying to achieve an improved image in the eyes of the society at large. He said he had seen them before, and one of the reasons he remembered them was because of the way they were swinging their arms so much. So perhaps they were looking for some kind of recognition of sorts. Perhaps they wanted to be known locally as the couple that exercises together. That in itself might suggest yet another reason for the arm swinging. Perhaps if they created an image of themselves as the couple that exercised together, it would strengthen their marriage (if that indeed is what they shared).

Perhaps they were swinging their arms for altogether different reasons. Maybe they saw somebody on TV doing it, and thought it looked cool. Perhaps they are some kind of a mix of all the things together, and more that they have yet to discover. It’s really amazing when you really dig deep into the meaning that you see in the world.

You see this, and you think it means something, but the more you decide to wonder about this, the more you can realize there are so many different meanings to choose from, you can choose this to mean anything you like. And nobody will be the wiser. (Except for you, of course.)

So the turtles finished playing their video game. They had their parent’s permission of course, as long as they didn’t spend more than a dollar each on the game, and that the dollar had to come out of their allowance. They had learned earlier that they had to save their resources to spend how they liked, because everybody knows that when you are out of resources, you need to find a way to get more. Of course, sometimes finding more resources is more fun than actually spending them. Which is exactly what those two turtles did.

Give Me Victory, and Give Me Sex!

The other day I was watching this football game on TV. They were kicking the ball around, running up and down the field. I’ve heard that football players, or soccer players a they’re called in some parts of the world, are the best-conditioned athletes there are. I had an acquaintance once that I worked with that was a semi-pro soccer player. He asked me casually to participate in an upcoming marathon with him. Being a dumb high school kid at the time, I readily agreed. I thought it would be fun. He, being the semi-pro soccer player, was in fairly good shape, so running a marathon wasn’t a problem for him. Me, on the other hand, despite being a dumb high school kid, wasn’t quite as prepared, as I should have been.

Personally, I like the story behind the marathon. Some Greek guy ran 40 kilometers after the Greeks, led by the Athenians, defeated the Persians at the battle of Marathon around 500 BC. He ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to tell the Athenians that they were victorious. This wasn’t just a celebratory run. Had the Greeks lost at Marathon, the Persians would have marched straight to Athens and sacked the city, burned the temples, killed the men and raped the women. That was what happened back in those days. So the Greek guy who ran the 40K to tell the city was doing them a great favor. He was telling them they weren’t going to be killed and raped and then all their property destroyed. It would be a terrible thing to be sitting around hoping that a foreign army is going to come marching on your city in a couple days to make your last moments of life a new experience in suffering and pain.

The story goes that when this Greek guy reached Athens, he said the word “Victory!” and then fell dead. And of course, “Victory” in Greek is “Nike”, which is where the brand name comes from. Maybe if the poor guy had been wearing a pair of shoes, he wouldn’t have fallen dead. But I’m not so sure if that was the whole story, or the motivation for this Greek guy was merely to let the poor Athenians they were saved. You’ve heard the old saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger,” right? Well that saying is around because they actually did used to shoot the messenger. If somebody arrived with bad news, they generally were so angry that they killed the guy. I’m sure you seen or heard about the famous scene where the guy shouts “This is Sparta!” and then proceeds to kill the messenger and all his co-messengers by kicking them down that long well.

When the messenger arrived with good news, they did the opposite. He was treated like a rock star. Food, women, anything he wanted for a couple of days. This wasn’t really an official procedure of the city; this is just the way it worked out. Some guy would return from a big battle, and let the city know their men had succeeded, which meant that the other cities army wasn’t going to come and destroy everybody. Naturally, everybody was ecstatically happy, and the center of all this happiness was the lucky messenger. So of course, he got invited to parties, and orgies and whatever other celebratory customs were around.

So I don’t know if that Greek guy, who gave birth to both a very traditional Olympic sport and a world famous brand of athletic wear, had anything on his mind other than all the insane partying he was going to do for the next two or three days. Of course that version is not the most romantic version, but a funny things happen to stories over time. They get repeated and changed and take on whatever the current belief system that rests in the cultural consciousness. Because current western culture is still very steeped in traditional religious beliefs and sexual taboos, that part of the story is kind of only snickered at or not taken very seriously. Because, like it or not, a large part of the western culture is firmly rooted in the Church, namely because the Church was the major governing power until only recently. Stories from other cultures are either rejected, or filtered through the societies collective consciousness to mold to whatever messages we’d like to read into a story of historical event.

True power and choice comes when you can choose your own set of beliefs and filters through which you can see the world. If you can take a true objective view of the current values and priorities of the society you live, and only choose to take on those beliefs and values that serve you and the choices you’ve made for what you want your life to become, then you’re a step ahead of most other people. The sad fact about living in modern society is that most people are content to let others do their thinking for them, and dictate to them what is important and what isn’t. When you can truly learn to think for yourself, and decide your own direction in life, you will as victorious as the Greeks were at Marathon.

My friend finished the Marathon in around three and a half hours. I finished in barely under five. It took a huge amount of focus to keep going and not throw in the towel. I realized at about mile ten that I was in way over my head, so I had a tough choice to make, and both choices would have it’s own set of consequences. The next 16 miles proved to be a horrible. One of the things that greatly helped me to finish was all the people standing along the course cheering the runners on. It is one experience that I will never, ever forget.

Listen to Your Amazing Brain

Sometimes when you come across something new, some of us can have a tendency to compare it to things that you imagine that it is similar to, even though you haven’t decided to spend a lot of time investigating this. Neuro- scientists believe that because of the way the brain categorizes things fairly quickly, sometimes we put things into categories that they don’t really belong to. They tell us that this unconscious behavior is a leftover from evolution, and that while it served us well for hundreds and thousands of years it can give us trouble in modern society.

There is much disagreement on how “blank” of a slate we start out in life. There are the scientists that believe we are completely blank, and everything is culturally programmed into us. Then there are those that believe we start out with some kind of a filing system already in place, but it is completely empty. So that when we grow and move through life and experience new things, this pre-formatted filing system is filled up.

Whether we start completely blank, or start with a pre formatted filing system, most agree that we end up with some kind of system where we have categories our minds that things we experience gets put into. One of the fascinating aspects of this is that most of the time, our pre conscious processor takes the external stimulation, and decides on what category it belongs to (whatever it is!) before we are even consciously aware of what is going on. This is where those uncomfortable emotions come from when they seemingly come out of nowhere. Our brain sees something in the outside world, and decides it belongs in a category of danger or trauma, and that touches of a cascade of emotions. This is what people mean sometimes when they say they are “blindsided.”

For example, lets say you used to be in a relationship with somebody. It was going really well, and then suddenly it ended, to much emotional pain. That was years ago. You’ve completely forgotten about it (or so you think!) and you’re out walking around. You see somebody that doesn’t even remind you of them, so you don’t consciously think of them, but they happen to have the same kind of poodle that your ex had. The important thing to remember is you don’t realize any of this consciously. Your pre conscious processor sees the person, their clothes, and the poodle, and it searches your memory for similar items. It comes up with the poodle, and the corresponding feelings that the poodle unconsciously reminds you of. It’s important to keep in mind that the actual memories don’t necessarily come up, but the transient emotions do. So all of a sudden you’ll be feeling kind of icky for no good reason.

The brain is amazing this way. Sometimes stray thoughts will pop up out of nowhere, thoughts you haven’t had in many years. And although you realize you are thinking those old thoughts, you can’t put your finger on what triggered them. Your brain is always sorting through everything that comes in through your five senses, and comparing it to everything that’s ever happened to you, to decide where to put the information in your brain, and whether or not to bring it to your conscious awareness. It does this in a fraction of a second. So when you have those stray thoughts, something you saw, heard, smelled, or physically felt or tasted somehow reminded of you of some aspect of it. And our incredibly fast and incredibly smart brain has decided that there is some reason it’s given you the memory.

So what do you do? What do you do when you are eating chocolate ice cream and suddenly you have a childhood memory that has nothing whatsoever to do with ice cream? Simply accept the memory, and ask yourself if you have any unfinished business regarding that memory. Do you need to forgive somebody? Do you need to release some emotion so you can get on with your life? Do you need to remember to do something? Sometimes those memories are a warning of something that is coming up that you need to be careful about.

Once I was having a recurring memory of Magic Johnson when he pulled his hamstrings in the NBA finals several years ago. I had no idea why, but it flashed in my mind a few times over the course of several days. Later that week, I was in a situation where running outside was an appropriate behavior. When the time came for me to run, I took off sprinting. Within a few strides, I felt a sharp pull in my hamstring.

Had I been paying attention, I would have realized that my brain was looking into the future (I already knew I would be in the running situation) and warning me to stretch, or be careful, or go slow. Because I ignored the warning, I suffered the consequences.

The brain is a wonderful tool designed by our creator, or millions of years of evolution, or Mother Nature, whichever you choose to believe. Scientists are only beginning to understand how it operates. But that doesn’t mean you can use those seemingly random thoughts you get from time to time. You brain is trying to tell you something. See what happens when you listen to your own wisdom.

Design Your Own Trance For Love and Romance

I was talking to a friend of mine the other who had a rather interesting experience recently. He was telling about this stage hypnosis seminar that he went to. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a life stage hypnotist, but they can be pretty funny. People can do some funny things when under some kind of hypnotic trance. There was one guy who, every time the hypnotists said his name, he would automatically look out over the audience and see everybody without any clothes on. The audience got a kick out of that. There were other things like counting to ten and forgetting all the odd numbers, thinking their feet were glued to the floor, and thinking that they were professional singers. One of the most interesting things was at the end, when all the people that volunteered were given their post hypnotic suggestion as a thank you for volunteering. The hypnotist said:

From now on, every night you will have a full, restful sleep. You will fall asleep quickly and easily, and wake up refreshed and feeling positive and happy. You will always have wonderful dreams that will satisfy your every fantasy, even those you are too shy to share with your closest friend.

Because everybody saw how readily they took all the other suggestions, like clucking like a chicken and having joints made out of wood, everybody assumed, correctly, that they would take the above suggestion as well. And I imagine that suddenly everybody was thinking the same thing that I was at that time:

“Dang, I wish I would have volunteered!”

Of course, had the hypnotist told everybody what a wonderful post hypnotic suggestion he was going to give, and what a wonderful experience it was going to be, then everybody would have volunteered. Instead of relaxing and watching the show, people would have been wishing it were them up there. Because the hypnotist obviously knew what he was doing, he created the allusion that volunteering was scary and dangerous. So when people were watching the show, they could all think, “I’m sure glad that’s not me!” Of course this turned into, “I wish that were me!” at the end.

Of course, that’s how risk usually works. If you knew you were going to be successful going into something, it wouldn’t be risky, and everybody would be doing it. What separates the winners from the not so much winners, (or however you want to categorize ourselves) is that people that take measured risks, generally have a better life. Sure, sometimes they get embarrassed, or lose a few dollars, or look foolish in front of others, but they always seem to bounce back and learn from the experience. And the times that they do succeed, the rewards are enormous. It seems that people that make a habit of taking measured risks only need one or two successful outcomes to keep their belief in themselves up.

I was playing golf with a guy once who didn’t keep score. I asked him why not, and he said that if he kept score it would only frustrate him. I asked him what he looks forward to, if it wasn’t a good score, and he said the pleasure of hitting a good shot. He said the combination of the physical feeling of a nice swing, combined with the visual result of the ball landing on the green was a wonderful experience, and that he didn’t need to write down a number to record it. The experience was enough. I was surprised when he said he only made one or two shots like that during one round of golf, which judging by his skill level, was easily over a hundred shots per round. I asked him if all the other not-so-great shots frustrated him, and he said that going into each shot, he only focused on a potential good outcome. If he didn’t get one, he would immediately start thinking about the next shot, and forget the ball his just hit over the fence or into the water. I thought that was a pretty good strategy. He seemed to enjoy playing golf more than most people I’ve played with.

My friend said that one of the most interesting things about the seminar is that it is held in Bangkok, Thailand. The instructor always has this particular course (once a year or so) in an exotic location. The reason for this, my friend explained, was that even if you are not up on stage forgetting all the numbers between one and ten, most people are walking around in a hypnotic trance of some sort. If you are ever focusing on something to the exclusion of other things around you, you are in trance. It is unavoidable. The secret is to make sure your trances are positive and life affirming, like the golfer who only focused on positive outcomes. If you walk around thinking about your ball going in the lake, or that girl rejecting your advances, or that business venture you are thinking of failing, you won’t be very happy. On the other hand, if you focus on a good green landing, or a smile and a phone number, or a successful business, and keep these thoughts in your head despite what happens, you’ll do pretty good.

Are You In Sync with Infinite Intelligence?

This morning I was talking to my neighbor. Sort of my neighbor. She lives about three streets over, and has a huge rice field in her back yard. I live out in the countryside, and it’s not uncommon to see many houses that have pretty big sized rice fields next to their house. It’s kind of an old world traditional thing here that keeps people connected to their roots, so to speak. Lately people around here have been preparing the fields for planting rice, so they’ll be ready to harvest in fall. It’s interesting to watch the fields slowly, one by one, transform from lots of unkempt dirt and weeds, leftover from last season, into flat, tilled earth. And then flooded with water to soak deep into the ground, and then finally when they plant the seedlings. Then it’s only a matter of time before the result comes.

I went to a business seminar once, and the instructor was saying how creating a successful business is exactly like being a successful farmer. Many people start business with some vague hopes and only a partial understanding of the laws of human behavior. He said that when you have a clear outcome, and a solid understanding of human behavior, then your success would be inevitable. He went through a few examples of successful entrepreneurs that applied these principles. They knew exactly what they wanted, so much so that when it appeared, there was no misunderstanding. One of the dangers of not having a clear outcome is that when your wish comes true, you might not notice it. If you are having a bad day, or you just got into an argument with your boyfriend, you might not notice that what you’ve been working towards for so long is sitting here waiting for you to take advantage of this.

Farmers, on the other hand, know exactly what they want. They know how much they can sell a bushel of wheat for, and exactly what acreage is needed to produce exactly that much wheat. And they know exactly how to prepare the soil, and plant and feed the wheat, and when it’s ready to be picked. It’s like they buy a book on how to grow wheat and go to bed every night wishing the gods of wheat would visit them in the middle of the night and make the wheat magically appear. Sadly, too many people treat their business ventures that way. Especially folks that are starting a business for the first time.

One of the things that the instructor told us is that even if you don’t have a solid understanding of human behavior, if you have a solid goal in mind, and sufficient motivation and patience and drive to take you there, that will be enough. You jut have to be open to learn from your mistakes and be able to make adjustments along the way. One thing that he recommended was to dig underneath your motivations for that particular business, and find your underlying criteria for running our own shop instead of working for somebody else. He suggested once you have that, then you can shift your goals from being successful in that particular venture, to simply being a successful business owner. He explained that many successful businesses were started by people that had failed in several businesses before they became ultra successful. I think the average successful entrepreneur had five or six business failings before they finally hit their stride and began reaping the real rewards they were after. Persistence pays. This was due to their underlying belief in themselves, and their burning desire to be successful on their own.

So anyway, my neighbor was explaining to me the ins and outs of being a successful rice farmer. She started telling me how when she was a kid, she would sit and listen to her father tell her stories that his uncle told him and his brothers when they were kids. How you have to have a respect for nature and nature’s laws. And that how knowing and respecting natures laws is really not so difficult when you can embrace the cyclic nature of everything. Kind of like when you are on a swing and you swing your legs back and forth with just the right timing to get you higher and higher. Being able to pay attention to the cycles of nature, and not trying to control them, as so many people think you can do, but to respect and learn from them, and move in sync with them. Because when you move in sync with nature, you are moving in sync with the most powerful force in the universe.

And when you start to understand that people are also and expression of that infinite power of the universe, moving in sync with nature takes on a whole new range of possibilities.

The I-Have-No-Clue Method of Increasing Wisdom and Happiness

One of the best ways to find a good place to eat is ask local people. I’ve found more really good restaurants by asking locals and ignoring guidebooks and restaurant review guides than anything else. There are some interesting reasons why this is so. One of the main thoughts is to consider why the person is reviewing the particular restaurant. Some restaurant reviewers are concerned solely with reporting the quality of the food and the service as accurately as possible. Others seem to want to promote their own article writing skills, or their own culinary expertise. Of course, if that kind of thing is important to you, eating in a restaurant that has been compared with many other well-known and famous restaurants, then by all means. And I mean that sincerely, without any sarcasm.

My favorite kind of food is cheap and good. I am not a big fan of ambiance, or presentation, or the view from my table. I’m not even that concerned with the cleanliness of the restaurant. Some of my all time favorite meals have been eaten for less than a few dollars from street vendors of questionable sanitation.
Tacos in Mexico, Grilled chicken in Thailand, who knows what in Taiwan. It’s all cheap, and it’s all good.

I guess the difference is asking somebody who really knows, versus asking somebody who wants to pretend that they know, or is afraid of admitting that they don’t know. Sometimes one is a cover up for the other, and vice versa. Here in Japan it is considered socially rude to say, “I don’t know” to a customer. I learned that the hard way when I went looking for a specific map. I went to three bookstores before I realized that they didn’t have the map I was looking for. But because of social rules and constraints, they could only tell me to try and search in another bookstore, even though in hindsight I suspect that they knew I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for.

Sometimes it’s hard to admit that you don’t know. Maybe it’s because when we were kids and you did something wrong, and your parents would say, “Why did you do that!” When our best response was “I don’t know,” we got into more trouble. Maybe because every time in school when teacher asked us a question, and we said “I don’t know, ” we felt foolish and the teacher gave us a dirty look. (Or maybe this only happened to me!)

Whatever the reason, as adults it can be really hard for us to say, “I don’t know,” when somebody asks us a direct question. I was talking to this guy the other day, and he was telling me about his two neighbors that were talking once, and he overheard one of them explaining what his uncle told him when he was a kid:

An admission of not knowing is the starting point for all knowledge. When you allow yourself to admit to somebody, or even yourself, that you have no clue, that opens up space in your brain for more information and experience. When you pretend you know, and you really don’t, you are actually closing yourself to from these things.

Which is I guess why a lot of business management and sales books advise to answer with “I don’t know but I’ll find out,” and then to actually go and find out, and report back to the person in a timely manner. That will show you are honest, resourceful, and dependable, AND they will have the answer to their question. For many people though, this can be hard to do, as it sometimes feels dangerous to the ego. The secret of the ego is that most of the things that it is scared of are actually the opposite of what will really make you happy. When your ego thinks it is keeping you safe, it is actually keeping you from experiencing more success. But you don’t know that until you take a tiny leap of faith. I guess that’s why so many people live the way they do, behind the protective wall of imagined comfort.

But you’re not like that, right? Because you are reading this, and because you’ve had those experiences in your life, you can naturally take that tiny step beyond imaginary fear and experience life the way it was meant to be experienced. One of the greatest things about stepping beyond the imagined limits of the ego is that because so few people are willing to do that, you will be seen as some kind of super human demi-god. Or at least most people will look up to you. Which, paradoxically, will get you all those things you thought you were preserving, but didn’t really have, behind that protective wall of ego safety.

Take Charge of Your Mind

I was listening to these two guys arguing over some political issue on the radio the other night. Lately it has been a big issue, with people from both sides seemingly digging into their positions. Just like those two guys were. Recently it has been in the news quite a bit, and prominently written about on many online news sources and blogs. I’m sure you’ve seen more than enough of it recently. Which is why it was interesting that I listened to these two guys going at it for as long as I did. They weren’t really bringing anything new to the discussion; they both seemed to be repeating the same arguments that had been repeated from both sides already. I don’t know if the news has been slow lately, or there aren’t enough national disasters, but this issue, (and I think you know the one I’m talking about!) seems to be in the news way longer than it should.

It got me thinking about the way people argue their point. When you really dig below the surface of most arguments, they aren’t really arguments at all. An argument, of course coming from the mathematical or logical term, where a set of facts is presented, and an argument is how you illustrate that one set of facts logically leads to another set of facts. All cats speak Spanish, here is a cat, therefore, this cat speaks Spanish. All people are smart, you are a person, therefore, you are smart.

But if you listen to most arguments, they are really just a collection of synonyms and examples of their beliefs, and not why their method is better for a certain application. And not only that, they are contests to see who can most forcefully present their set of beliefs and collection of synonyms. Who ever forcefully and relentlessly puts forth their opinions the strongest is usually the winner. Even in political debates, where you expect a high level of logical skills, they just present their opinions over and over again.

There have been many extended studies of primates, and you’d be surprised how similar they behave to humans. There was one famous book called “Chimpanzee politics” written by Frans de Waal, where he studied a group of chimps for two years. They exhibited intricate and detailed political maneuvering, social rules and etiquette, different strategies that they used to interact with each other based on the individuals social status and standing. It was really extraordinary how we are much more similar to our primate cousins than we think Sure we dress up in suits and use eloquent words, but are the intentions below our actions any different?

Some say they aren’t. Some will point out that there is only a two percent difference in our DNA. Others will point to the book “The Naked Ape,” by Morris. Some will use complex social theories to describe how we really are no different than monkeys, and that the whole of our culture, religion, art, music is nothing more than a complicated expression of our natural desires. Others even go so far as to say that we are completely bound by our primitive urges, that we cannot escape the need to beat our chests and proclaim ourselves better than the next guy.

I don’t think so. I think that despite the huge proclivity for humans to behave, in many ways, identical to apes and monkeys, we don’t have to. Sure we come pre-programmed with desire for food, safety, sex that manifests itself in the form of housing developments, insurance companies, and a plethora of sex related marketing tools, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Mother nature only wants us to live long enough to produce more people. And she, in her infinite wisdom, put in us the drives and desires necessary to be able to do that without ever having an original though or plan of action. We can go through life being a complete slave to our drives and desires and still do pretty good.

But the great part about being human is that we have choice. We can choose to obey our desires as if they are our gods, and that will be that. Or we can merely acknowledge and accept them as only a motivating factor to drive us towards the life that we want. We can choose the outcome we desire, and organize our lives around them, so that we are not slaves to our desires, but we can turn them around and allow our desires to power us and motivate us to achieve any result that we want. Of course, it’s not easy. Just look around you and you will see many examples of this. Fast food for out bodies and minds are in absolute abundance in our society. Resisting can be difficult, but not impossible. Any true reward can be a long time coming, but when it comes, it makes it all worthwhile.

The big difference between us and our monkey cousins, it that we can choose, and despite the ease with which we can forget that, we know this to be true. We know that the fully human life we deserve is only a choice away. A thought away.

The biggest promise of humanity is the simple ability to choose our thoughts. This has been known, written about, and passed down orally since the ancient times. But it’s not easy. Especially today with a bazillion things to snatch your attention from where you want it to be. Like everything, with practice it becomes easier. Those that know this secret, and practice it are the engineers of the society we live in. The rulers, the captains of industry and the politicians that presume to tell the rest of us how to live our lives. You don’t have to listen. Choose your own thoughts. Choose your own destiny. Start today. Now.