Category Archives: Goals

Driven Forward

Awaken Your Inner Explorer

What is the human spirit?

It’s been the subject of poetry, movies, music and philosophy since the dawn of time.

It’s cool to talk about, sometimes beautiful to describe.

But what IS it?

Is it possible to describe from a purely biological perspective?

Let’s give it a try from a purely evolutionary perspective.

One way to look at any human “trait” is to imagine a couple groups of ancient people, some who had the trait, some who didn’t.

So, how would something philosophical like the “human spirit” be represented in a group of ancient people?

How would we know the difference between those who had “it” and those who didn’t?

I imagine two groups of cave people. One group is content to sit around in a particular valley.

Maybe they thought they had enough food, enough shelter, that it was “good enough.”

Then there was another tribe, who ALWAYS wondered what was over the next hill.

Even though they’d gone over hundreds of similar hills before, and found more or less the same thing, something in them kept driving them forward.

This second group, the one who had this mysterious “spirit” are the ones that populated the Earth.

They are the ones that took risks, paddling canoes across huge oceans, using only the stars to guide them.

They are the ones that spread out and figured out how to live under nearly every condition imaginable.

That other tribe, that figured a few trees and some animals to hunt once in a while was “good enough,” what happened to them?

Sadly, we can see those people among us as well.

Even within ourselves.

Whenever we accept things the way they are.

Whenever we sit around and hope “somebody else” is responsible for solving our problems.

But just as surely as we flip the channels around and stare at social media all day, that ancient drive still exists.

Patiently waiting for you to wake it up.

Once you do, you can become an explorer of your own life.

Learning more, doing more, experiencing more, discovering more.

There’s a HUGE world out there.

Waiting.

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Conquer The Planet - Not Women

Never Let Her Catch You

It’s been said that there are two great tragedies in life.

Not achieving your goals, and achieving them.

What in the world does this mean?

If you achieve them, it feels cool for a while. But then what? Contrary to popular desires, having something isn’t nearly as rewarding as pursuing something.

So long as that something is big and important to you, for your own reasons.

Humans feel on purpose in the pursuit.

That’s when we feel most alive.

So when we get to a point where we finally get there, we lose that feeling of being “on purpose.”

On the other hand, if we ever have to face a reality that our goals are absolutely unobtainable, that sucks even more.

One of the crazy ways this plays out is with females and relationships.

Women are hard wired to chase, but not quite get.

So when they “get” (or think they get) it messes everything up.

This story plays out again and again.

Girl is attracted to a guy. Girl chases guy, and “gets” him. Then she “domesticates” him.

But once he’s “domesticated,” she no longer feels the thrill of the chase, or the “spark of romance” in the relationship.

She has him, but it’s not the same as ALMOST having him.

She gets bored, and she starts to look elsewhere for the same excitement.

The poor guy, of course, has no idea what’s going on.

How can you avoid this?

Never let her “fully” catch you.

ALWAYS be chasing something, so she always has to chase you.

Don’t ruin it (for both of you) by letting her catch you.

Always have something big that you’re pursuing.

Even if it’s decades out in the future.

If you have something HUGE (according to you) that you are pursuing, this is the most attractive thing a woman can find.

A Driven Man who has big plans for his life.

She’ll test you, she’ll want to control you, but deep down, she WANTS to keep chasing you.

Let her, and always be one step ahead.

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Conflict Of Interest

Finders Keepers

So I went down to the video store the other day to return this DVD that I’d forgotten about. It was about three weeks overdue and I thought I might get into big trouble, or at least have to pay a big fine. I really should look into netflix or something similar. So I threw the DVD in my backpack, and hopped on my bike.

When I got there, I realized I had a problem. There was no video store. It had been completely transformed into an auto parts store. I’m assuming it was an auto parts store because they had a gigantic stack of tires out in front, and this big inflatable gorilla on the roof, who happened to be purple. He was holding an inflatable sign that said something about that week’s particular sale.

I checked the back of the DVD. I was in the right address, and I double-checked the date. Whoops. It wasn’t due three weeks ago; it was due a year and three weeks ago. I checked the title. Nothing I remembered watching. But how did it get where I found it? Sometimes you find the strangest things in the strangest places.

For example, once I was in Taiwan, doing my laundry. I had been there for about eight months, and hadn’t seen American money in quite a while. So imagine my surprise when I found a dollar bill in there with my socks and jeans. How in the world did that dollar get there? Was it some message from beyond? Was it a sign from the gods of wealth? Was I hallucinating? I’m not sure, but a dollar is a dollar, if you catch my drift.

When I was a kid I used to watch those guys down at the beach with their metal detectors, hoping to find chests filled with gold and silver, or at least a quarter. I don’t think I ever recall watching them find something. I think I remember watching them bend down a couple times, and pick something up, but I don’t ever remember their faces showing delight or that expression you get when you experience sudden and unexpected wealth. It was more like an, “oh crap,” kind of expression. Then they’d look around, and then toss it back into the sand. Couldn’t have been worth much. I suppose people that do that have a couple different criteria that they are satisfying at once. Obviously, if they were after money, and only money, there are better ways to get it. But if they like the idea of searching for money, rather than finding it, while doing it a nice place like the beach on a pleasant afternoon, well, then I can understand why they’d go down there and take their sweet time.

It’s interesting when you take apart your desires, and really take a hard look at all your criteria underneath your desires. The other day I wrote something about “integration of parts” where you take something you’re after and figure out all the underlying criteria. Sometimes your criteria can surprise you. I’m sure most of those guys that were looking for coins at the beach would tell you they’re looking for money, but if you asked them how much they’d like to go home with, and then gave it to them in exchange for them not looking, they might not take your offer.

It’s a combination of wants and needs, largely unconscious that make up our seemingly conscious desires. And since most of our wants and needs have overlapping deeper criteria, it can be hard to change one thing without changing everything else.

Humans, and animals in general, are funny like that. Most of our biological parts serve a couple functions, at least. Take your hair follicles for example. The ones on your face, arms and back serve two purposes. One is to grow hair, and the other is to let out oil secreted by your sebaceous glands. It would be a waste of time to build two separate tubes on your skin, one for the hair to grow, and one for the oil, so nature built a shared piece of equipment. When everything is working together, you grow hair and keep your skin moisturized. When things don’t get along, you get a pimple. Or at least you did when you were in high school.

Same goes with unconscious intentions. Many times a behavior will serve two intentions. If the intentions are working well together, the behavior will be a good behavior, like smiling at people, or being patient in line at the supermarket when the goofball in front of you has eight billion coupons and then all of a sudden wants to pay in pennies when you’ve got that important meeting that starts in three minutes and if you’re late it will mean certain doom. Or something like that.

Of course in the above situation, it would be helpful to alter your behavior, such as take a step back and look for a line that is moving quicker. It probably wouldn’t do to well to strangle the guy, despite how good it would feel.

I was talking to a friend the other day, and he was telling me all the problems with the American educational system. He said the main problem is that this one humungous institution serves many different criteria, sometimes conflicting, and the learning of students, at least according to a few, is arguably not the most important. At least depending on how you describe education, which is one of those vague nominalized verbs that has as many different meanings as there are people who work in the system.

Anytime you tweak the system in one direction, you maybe increasing the effectiveness of one criterion, but lessening others, and that will cause immense pressure to move back to the status quo. Kind of hard of steer that ship, unless you crash it into a big iceberg, which you couldn’t see because so much of it was below the surface.

So after asking around, I figured out that the video store that had been there switched to pure mail order. So I’m stuck with this DVD that I don’t want to watch. They have my phone number and address, so I suppose that if they want to get a hold of me, they know where to find me.

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Focus On What’s Important, Not What Isn’t

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

When I was a kid I played little league. One of my problems was watching the ball hit the bat. I remember my coach was always saying to do just that, but I kept looking up to where I wanted the ball to go, or where I expected it to go I swung and connected correctly. It seemed a lot easier to “watch the ball hit the bat” when you were supposed to bunt, but I never really liked bunting. Something about sprinting towards first base and always worried you were going to be thrown out.

I must rather enjoyed hitting one into the outfield, and thinking of second base on the way to first base. Rounding first, slowing up a bit and checking to see what the ball was doing was a great feeling. A mixture of success, control, and possibility for more. A bunt, on the other hand, is pure danger. Like you are challenging the pitcher to a race. Of course, when you bunt, you aren’t supposed to bunt it right back at the pitcher, you’re supposed to bunt toward the first baseman or the third baseman, providing they haven’t read your signals and are playing way up.

They say baseball is a game of inches, and when you’re talking about bunting, they are certainly right. But it’s much more fun to blast away and hit the ball as far as you can (or at least intend to), so you don’t have to run very fast towards first.

I finally figured out way to drastically improve my batting, and start to hit it out of the infield on a consistent basis. It was just a small addition to how I usually practiced.

I used to date this girl in high school. I guess it was your normal high school relationship. Nobody really knows what you’re supposed to do. You’re lucky if you can get a car. Being in high school, I never had much money, so going out on dates was always a challenge. Drive somewhere, sit around, and hopefully make a move of some sort. I found the best dates were the ones where I didn’t worry about the little things along the way, when I was able to focus on the big picture, so to speak.

When there was something big going on, (and free) like a county fair or some kind of event, it was much more fun. I was able to look forward to something large, rather than focus on every single nuance of the conversation along the way to just parking somewhere and hoping something “happened,” if you catch my drift. Those dates were always worrisome, as I felt I needed to maintain every little change in the mood, and keep the interest level up.

But when we went to some carnival or something, I didn’t even worry if my date was having a good time or not. I just kind of assumed it, as I was having a pretty good time myself. Those dates were always much easier, and ended much better (ahem.)

Once with a couple of friends, we decided to go skydiving. It was the tandem kind, where you strap yourself to an instructor. You get to pull the cord, but he is there, strapped onto your back in case you black out or something. That is perfect for first timers, as it only requires about fifteen minutes of instruction. It’s pretty idiot proof. The alternative is to jump with two guys on either side of you, but that takes several hours of instruction and drilling.

One thing the guy I was strapped to said just before we leapt out of the plane. He said not to look down. At first I thought that was the regular advice given to people that are afraid of heights. If you look down, you’ll freak out, and lose your nerve. But he was referring to the minute or so after we jumped out of the plane, and was free falling.

That was without question, the most exhilarating minute of my life (except the obvious exception). And it was also the quickest minute (except the obvious exceptions). The reason he said not to look down is that you tend to find some spot below, and try to focus on it, or “fixate on it,” as he said. And when you do that, you miss out on the feeling flying. When you are free falling, you only actually feel like you are falling for the first couple seconds. After that, you hit terminal velocity, which is when you stop accelerating. And you feel like you are literally floating on air. If you look down, you’ll miss out on the fantastic feeling, and spend your brain energy staring at something that isn’t important. If you keep looking forward, and enjoy the experience, it will be much more memorable, much more thrilling, much more extraordinary. So when he said “don’t look down” he wasn’t trying to keep me from getting scared, he was trying to make sure I got the most enjoyment out of the situation.

And the funny thing about learning to consistently hit the ball out of the infield was to practice doing the thing I hated the most. Bunting. I’d go to the batting cages, and stand there like I was going to swing, and then at he last minute, lay down a bunt. I must have looked pretty foolish practicing bunting in the batting cages, but it really trained my hand/eye/bat coordination.

Pretty soon I moved from simple bunts, to short, slow swings, to bigger swings, and to full motion full power swings, all while keeping my eye on the ball the watching the ball hit the bat. Pretty soon I was smacking them all over the place.

Just changing where you place your focus can make all the difference.

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How To Stay Focused For Automatic Success

Horizons

Once a long time ago I took a drive with a friend of mine. We started in Los Angeles, and our only goal was to make it to some city in New Jersey within a certain amount of time. I think it was something like five days. That’s about three thousand miles over five or six days, which is a lot of driving each day.

We had the route planned out, and our destination was clear enough, and the math was all figured out. Our basic plan was to wake up at six every morning, and start driving. We didn’t even figure on mileage per day, we just figured if we drove for twelve hours a day, with a minimum of stopping, we’d make it in time.

Sounds like a good plan, right? Only there was one thing we neglected to take into consideration. While this small detail didn’t affect the overall outcome of the trip, it made it a little bit more troublesome than we’d anticipated.

I had a friend once that really enjoyed math, and so he majored in math in university. He never really knew what he was going to do, he only knew that he liked math. He ended up being a high school teacher, but for a while he was a bit worried. When he graduated, he started looking through the want ads, and going to job seminars, and even went as far as to sign himself up with a few headhunters.

The thing about a degree in math is that by itself, it’s not all the applicable to very many industries. If you studied some kind of applied math like statistics, or actuarial science, you can do pretty well for yourself. I remember even reading several years ago about some huge ranking a major newspaper did on different jobs, using all kinds of factors like salary, working conditions, opportunities for advancement, etc. And an Actuary was ranked number one.

But my friend didn’t study any applications, just basic math theory. I think they called it foundations. Most people who focused on that aspect of math usually went on to get their PhD’s or something. Which was why my friend was a bit worried.

He figured just by doing something that he liked, that would be enough. Luckily, he really enjoys his teaching job, and he graduated when there was a severe shortage of math teachers in the public schools, so he could pretty much choose any school he wanted. But had he majored in something like history, or art or something, he wouldn’t have been nearly as lucky.

My other friend was much more specific. He studied a specific branch of electrical engineering. And when he was only halfway through university he already had talked to several different companies, and knew exactly what kind of people they hired, and what kinds of extra curricular backgrounds they liked for their fresh graduates. Needless to say, he was much more focused, and when he graduated he already had several offers lined up. And they were all for quite a bit of money. That must have been a pretty good feeling at graduation ceremony.

I went to this seminar once on goal setting. It was one of those local things they have every now and then down at the learning annex. This guy was saying that there are two kinds of goals. There are directional goals, and milestone goals. He said the directional goals are like walking toward the horizon. You will always walk in the same direction, but no matter how far you go, the horizon will always be a fixed location way off in front of you.

So long as you pick a point off in the distance, you’ll keep walking in the same direction. But if you only have a directional goal, it’s easy to get discourage, as you will never seem to make any progress. It’s tough to stay focused through will power alone.

On the other hand, there are milestone goals. Like if you pick something specific, and you know exactly what will happen when you achieve. Not only will you have something solid to look forward to, but you’ll also have evidence that you’ll collect along the way.

But if you only have a bunch of milestone goals, you could very well end up walking in a circle, so to speak. Each time you achieve your goal, you could pick another one, but if may take you back toward where you started. It’s easy to fall into a trap of oscillating back and forth between two extremes.

The best is to have a combination of the two. When you choose a solid directional goal, and several milestone goals that are lined up in the same direction, it would be like walking toward the horizon, and achieving several significant goals every so often along. These will be enough to keep you motivated and keep you going, and the horizon will always be there beckoning you to keep going. If you keep this up, pretty soon you’ll be accomplishing some pretty fantastic stuff, as they will tend to increase in size along the way.

The easiest way is to pick something way off in the distance, and then work your way backwards until you have several small pieces of achievements laid out in front of you just waiting for to start walking along your path and scoop them up along the way.

The funny thing that happened to us on the way to New Jersey was we’d get to six or seven at night, and figure we’d done enough driving. So we decide to stop for the night, only to look on our map and find that the next town wasn’t for another hundred miles or so. And when you’ve been driving for twelve hours, and you’re about ready for a cheeseburger and a couple beers, and a soft bed, another hundred miles is a long way.

But at least it was a hundred miles in the right direction. I’d hate to imagine what it would be like to realize we made a mistake and had to turn back for a hundred miles. That would be devastating.

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The Ritual Of Adulthood

Quest

Once there was a group of kids that had been sent on a mission. They were not to come back unless their mission was successfully accomplished. To do so you not only mean obvious failure, but also would indicate their lack of ability to take on further missions. They had been charged by the elders of their tribe, and had been on the road for some time. After they had set out, it had been quite for a while. None dared to speak, lest they violate the silent tension that clung relentlessly about the group.

At first the silent tension was troublesome. It gave rise to thoughts and anxieties of failure and rejection. But then the tension became accepted, then comfortable, and finally like an unseen security blanket that bound the group together. They would all fail or succeed together. To speak would snap the tension, and likely destroy any chance of success. Or so they thought.

Pain is an interesting thing. Biologists tell us the body evolved an inability to grow resistant to pain, as to do so would certainly not lead to reproductive success. Any creature from any species that had the ability to grow accustomed to pain may become injured, and not take reconstructive efforts. A bleeding animal wouldn’t lick it’s wounds and give it self the anti-bacterial effects of it’s own saliva. It would slowly remove itself from its own gene pool, and after only a few generations, any individual within the group with this “ability” would be extremely rare.

Other sensory input, on the other hand, that doesn’t require immediate attention can easily be temporarily ignored. Hunger, thirst, smell, slight discomfort due to outside ranges in temperature.

But emotional pain is a completely different ballgame. Neuroscientists are only just beginning to understand the role that emotions play in everyday human life. And even then the input they have is still a mystery. From a scientific perspective, emotions are nearly impossible to measure. You can’t very well hook somebody up to an emote-o-meter (unless you are a scientologist) and see what effects the different emotions have on physiological and biological functions of the mind/body/nervous system.

Until very recently, most scientists believed that emotions played on part in decision-making. Emotions were viewed from the Vulcan standpoint of getting in the way of logical thinking. It was believed that without emotions, we could always make the best choices, and never make mistakes.

Then a couple of surgeons had the opportunity to test this theory out during a particularly interesting brain surgery. The portion of the patient’s brain that was thought responsible for emotional feelings was temporarily “disconnected,” and since brain surgeries can be performed with an awake patient, they figured they ask him a couple difficult questions (like the kind you find in a high school ethics book). They were stunned to find out that he couldn’t even make the most basic decisions without the input of his emotions.

If you break everything down into either a pain or pleasure emotional response, and assume those are the drivers behind every decision, it makes sense. Your brain has this amazing capability of imagining several future outcomes of every single decision, usually unconscious, and checking to see what would produce the most pleasure, and the least amount of pain.

Luckily, through millions of years of evolution, things that keep us alive and safe, as well as propagate the species generally give us the most pleasure. Like good food, good sex, and a nice safe place to sleep at night. Things that put us in danger tend to give us emotional pain, like high places, loud noises, and tigers.

It can get complicated when our rational minds know that one particular choice is a good one, but it goes against our hard-wired programming from millions of years of evolution. No matter how scientifically sure you are that it’s probably not a good idea to have one more bowl of ice cream, it can be near impossible to squash your desire through willpower alone.

Of course, if you successfully avoid the ice cream enough times, you’ll build up a resistance to that evolutionary drive to continually eat whenever there’s food available. And pretty soon you’ll get used to expending emotional energy to suppress your million years old biological urge. So much so that when you do have an occasional bowl of ice cream, the “guilt” associated with it, which is really a temporary release of that emotional discomfort that you’ve grown accustomed to, is enough to mess up your pleasure of eating.

Of course, if you are trying to lose weight, this isn’t so bad. For many, to lose their craving and taste for something rich and calorie dense like ice cream would come as a blessing.

But what about more complicated things? What if you make a decision, one that requires some conscious willpower and faith in the face of unconscious resistance, but you aren’t nearly as scientifically sure as you were when you avoided the ice cream? When you put up with the emotional discomfort long enough, it’s easy to start to question your decision that you made earlier; no matter how sure you were when you made it.

It can be extremely helpful to set up some good anchors and targets to stay focused on, if you expect those tough times to come. Figure out exactly why you are embarking on your mission, and what the specific pay off will be when you get there. So when you do come across those rough patches, you’ll have something to focus on to pull you through. If you make a decision that isn’t really in your best interests, either because it’s not really your goal to begin with, or you aren’t sure what outcome you’re after, it’s extremely difficult to stay on track.

Make sure you take enough time to build your target, and make it as compelling as possible before starting on your operation.

When the group boys finally returned after a successful mission, they were given generous accolades from their tribe. They hadn’t known it, but this was a ritual performed on young boys to ease them into manhood. This had been passed down for generations immemorial, and in previous generations had been used to prepare young boys for the life and death struggle of the daily hunt. In recent times however, the ritual had gradually taken on a symbolic meaning, as the tribe had slowly evolved into a successful agricultural community, and hadn’t needed to hunt animals for many years. Nevertheless, they found it useful to send the boys on a quest, to give them a taste of setting their sights on something far off in the distance, going after it, getting it, and bringing it home.

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Goal Achieving Machine

You Are Hunter

I was sorting through this old stack of books I have, in order to see which ones I want to keep, and which ones I want to get rid of. I’m getting ready to move in a few days, and I don’t want to bring too much extra junk with me.

I found this interesting book I bought a couple years ago called “Why Men Don’t Listen And Why Women Can’t Read Maps,” by Barbara And Allan Pease. I remembered reading it and was amazed at some of the cool things I learned. It was basically the differences that exist between men and women, differences that go far beyond basic plumbing.

It all stems from our evolutionary past. While men would be out hunting every day, women would take care of the cave. And taking of the cave meant keeping all the kids together, protecting them from predators, and finding whatever edible roots and other foods they could find.

Humans existed this way for hundreds of thousands of years. We’ve only been living in agricultural based societies for about ten thousand years or so, so we are still carrying around our basic programming and wiring.

One of the ways that manifests itself today is how we communicate. Women had to learn to communicate on many different levels at the same time, while men never evolved such a skill. Since women were taking care of kids, they developed an ability to read facial expressions much better than men. An interesting study, which was cited in the above book, showed this pretty convincingly. They showed a bunch of women a bunch of kids’ faces, and then had them guess at their mood. The women came up with several different descriptions, and combinations thereof. The men, on the other hand, either said “happy,” “sad,” or “angry.”

Another interesting thing was how our respective vision evolved. Since men were out hanging all the time, males developed vision that was really good at seeing things far off in the distance, but crappy at seeing things up close in our peripheral vision. Women, on the other hand, have much better peripheral vision, but not such great vision for looking at things off in the distance. That’s why sometimes men can’t see things that are literally right in front of them, to the exasperation of their partners or spouses.

That’s another reason why men rubber neck so much when we’re at the mall, and we see something in our peripheral vision that may or may not be an attractive female. We actually have to turn our heads in her direction to see. Women, on the other hand, are capable of checking out every guy in the place, including evaluating their fashion sense, without even moving their eyeballs.

There are tons of other really interesting and eye opening (get it?) revelations in that book. If you are at all interested in scientifically recognized differences between men and women (many of them politically incorrect), I highly recommend that book.

One thing that struck me was that in our evolutionary past, it seems that humans spent their days in two different “modes” of operation. Hunting, and resting. The whole day, if you were a man, was spent out hunting and finding food. Once the sun started to set, you’d head back to the cave and stare into the fire for a few hours, and then sleep. If you were a woman, the day was spent foraging around looking for things to eat, and watching over the kids. When it became dark, and nocturnal predators came out, it was time to head back to the cave, and keep everybody safe for the night.

It seems that even in our modern society, we can break down our activities along those lines. We are either hunting, or trying to achieve some goal, or resting, or recovering, or taking a break until we can get back in the game and go after the prize, whatever that may be.

It seems that humans were built specifically to hunt, or seek. Resting isn’t nearly as rewarding unless it’s after we’ve achieved some goal. If you’ve read Psycho Cybernetics, then you know that Dr. Maltz compares the human mind to a self-correcting missile. Choose a target, fire away, and correct your course based on the feedback you get.

The interesting thing is that no matter what you do, it will always be directed at some goal. For many people, that goal is chosen by somebody else. Your boss, your company, your commanding officer if you are in the military.

Of course, as in the cave example, these goals can frequently overlap. Many times our main goal is to get enough resources so that we can effectively rest and recuperate when we need to, so that we can get out and achieve more goals.

If you are going after a goal that’s not really your choice, this can quickly seem like a vicious circle. You go to work go make money to pay for your house and your necessities so you can get enough rest every night in order to go to work so you an make money to pay for your house etc etc.

These can seem like a relentless treadmill if you are always making money for somebody else. But when you take the time to choose a goal that is really important to you, and you make consistent progress, there’s not much that feels better.

It would seem that the human mind was designed to feel enormous pleasure to see a goal on the horizon, chase after it, track it down, and kill it. We were built to hunt, built to achieve.

Of course, it can be difficult to hunt completely for yourself. Even in our past we had to form groups and alliances and sometimes give our efforts to the achievements of others. Getting to the point in life where most of your efforts are toward your own personal goals and choices can take a lifetime of effort. But if you only start small, choose small goals that are important to you, and only you, you can slowly build on your successes. And once you get a taste of the kill, there’s no going back.

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The Road, The Inn, And The Psychotic Jazz Musicians

Where To Now?

Once, many many years ago, I took a road trip with a bunch of friends from college. Not really friends, although we referred to each other as friends at the time. More like contextual friends. Dorm friends. As soon as we moved out of he dormitory (at my particular school, they only let you stay in the dorms one or two years) we kind of drifted apart.

Groups are kind of funny like that. They can form for a specific purpose, and so long as that purpose exists, everybody can get along great, hang out during off times (off times from whatever the group was formed for), and even meet up with each other’s families on occasion. But once the purpose for the group goes away, so does the group.

I saw this once in action when I got a book signed by a famous author of a cooking show on TV. In order to get his signature, you had to wait in this long line, twice. Once in the morning to get your particular number, and then later in the afternoon, when you came back to get in line based on your number.

So the people you stood in line in the morning were the same people you stood in line in the evening. And both times the waiting was quite lengthy, giving everybody ample time to start conversations beyond mere politeness. And having everybody leave and then come back in the afternoon was another factor that added to the feeling of “closeness.”

The people I was standing next to in line had formed this small “group” of about six or eight people. In the two hours or so we spent together, we became like best friends. Exchanged emails, showed each other family pictures, the whole deal. But as soon as the purpose for our group vanished, (we got our books signed) the closeness and feelings of camaraderie vanished as well. Boom. See ya.

That was kind of like the group I went on this road trip with. The purpose for our group lasted much longer, two full semesters, but it vanished just as quickly as the book-signing group once the reason for the group’s existence.

But while we hung out together, it was fun. We shared common enough interests (music, alcohol, girls) and disinterests (school, studying) that it was enough.

So it seemed like a great idea to take a road trip when there was a holiday on a Monday, giving us three days to goof off. One of the guys had recently bought this big van, and we talked him into driving somewhere. We didn’t know where, only that we wanted to go on road trip.

Since we were all pretty broke, we figured we’d have to sleep on the ground, instead of staying indoors, so our only requirement was that we would end up at some open place or campground where we wouldn’t get into too much trouble with our music other loud noise. The problem was that none of us were quite sure where that was.

We knew that in three out of the four possible directions we could go in would lead us to pretty large areas with no houses, but beyond that we didn’t have a clue. So we started driving, not knowing where we were going. Only that we had three days to kill before we got there and back, wherever there turned out to be.

One of the guys was majoring in Jazz, and he was telling us about this period in Jazz history where it was all the rage to play completely extemporaneous music. No notes, no predetermined set of beats or melody (I’m not sure if that is even the right terminology). Just four or five guys playing whatever they felt like playing. Sometimes it would coalesce into something that sounded pretty cool, but most of the time it would sound like utter nonsense, according to this guy.

He said that period in Jazz didn’t last long, as least they didn’t produce a lot of records, because nobody bought them. A few people that were really into the scene thought it was cool, but he explained that it never caught on big enough for that to be any musician’s main playing style.

He did bring a tape for us to listen to, and I have to agree it sounded pretty awful. Not really awful, but like completely nonsensical. Nothing you listen to music for, to relax, to be inspired, to pump up your emotions, would be satisfied by listening to a bunch of guys completely out of sync. It sounded like that brief second or two they sometimes leave on the record when an orchestra is warming up, just before the conductor takes over and leads everyone to play some masterpiece together.

It’s kind of cool, as it adds a sense of so many different people with so many different instruments out there, that suddenly come together and play as one entity. But a whole album of that stuff? No thanks.

We found out that without a specific destination, the novelty quickly wore off. Pretty soon finding a destination became our destination. Our requirements became less and less restricted, and any place that was flat. At first we wanted a place with a nice fire ring, so we could have a fire, but as it got later and later, we just wanted to get out of this guys van. It was one of those vans that didn’t have any chairs or windows in the back, so we were all sitting on the floor.

Pretty soon we just pulled off to the side of the road, sat on the ground, drank our alcohol, and fell asleep.

When they say that the road is better than the inn, I think it’s a given you have to have a pretty decent inn that you are going to. Otherwise the road can be a pretty boring and pointless journey.

The funny thing is, is that you really never even have to get to the inn. So long as you have a solid idea of where you’re going, that’s good enough. But without a known destination, it can get pretty boring, pretty quickly.

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How To Model Others To Easily Achieve Excellence

Doin Some Cookin?

I was watching this cooking show on TV the other night. I don’t usually watch cooking shows, but this guy was pretty entertaining. One thing I liked in particular was he didn’t seem to measure any of the ingredients. It was a handful of this, a pinch of that, a little bit more of this. Even when he cooked some of the dishes, he never said what level to set the heat to or for how long to cook them. Just throw some stuff together, stick it in the oven until it’s done, and next thing you know you’ve got a gourmet meal on your hands.

I took a cooking class, two cooking classes a few years ago. Asian cooking. We learned to cook Chinese, Thai, and Japanese food. Two different course, and two different instructors. But they had two completely different approaches to cooking.

The first class I took (the classes were each four weeks, one night per week) she was extremely specific. Cut this exactly this way, measure this, make sure to shake the measuring spoon exactly three times to let the ingredients settle, but don’t shake too much, otherwise they’ll settle too much. Make sure to wash your hands and the instruments (cutting board, knives, measuring spoons, etc.) after each and every step. I was even lectured about placing the washed utensils in the drying rack at the proper angle so they would dry properly. Extremely detailed. The food, however, was magnificent. I don’t remember what we cooked exactly, but it was better than anything I had in a restaurant.

The other lady, who was from the course I took a few months later, because I had enjoyed the first course so much, was completely different. She was more like the guy on the cooking show. Put some of this in; add a bit of this spice, and a dash of that spice. Cook until it looks done. The food came out just as tasty, but not as “perfect” as the first class. This lady seemed to have the philosophy of showing us the general idea of how to make stuff, which we could later add to our own tastes. Whereas the method taught by the first lady didn’t seem to lend itself too much to improvisation. Being somebody who likes to cook, but rarely from a recipe, I rely heavily on improvisation. I have cooked some doozy experimental meals in the past, some good, some outrageously horrible. Once I tried making peanut butter popcorn, and it didn’t come out so good. One of the many tragedies of theory meeting reality.

One thing I noticed about the temperament of the two ladies is that the first lady seemed to be what I would describe as a type “A” personality. Detail oriented, always has a shopping list when they go to the store, lives and dies by their personal planner.

The second instructor seemed much more relaxed and a “make it up as you go along” type of person. While neither is better or worse, both characteristics have their strong points and weak points, there is evidence of type “A” people suffering more from stress related diseases. There’s also evidence of type “A” people making more money than the slackers among us.

One interesting idea I read in a book on personal development is that you can train yourself to be either type “A” or type “B” depending on the situation. If you need to perform some consistent behavior to get a specific result, you can train yourself to follow a specific set of instructions to maximize your success. Likewise, when it’s the weekend, you can easily switch into type “B” mode, and sit on a park bench and stare off into space when it’s time to unwind.

The trick is to develop a “switch” that sends you into automatic behavior mode when the situation calls for it, and being able to turn the “switch” off when the job is done.

One way to do that is through modeling. When you model somebody, you unconsciously soak up as much as their behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes as you can to achieve the same result they want. For example, if you are a student, and you have a difficult test coming up, it may help to model the most diligent person in your class. For the time being, simply pretend that you are them, as much as you can.

Where do they study, how long do they study, how many breaks do they take, how long, and how often. How do they motivated themselves, whey they are feeling lazy, what do they say to themselves to keep them focused, what do they visualize when they see themselves achieving their goals. Are there any authority figures from their past telling them supporting messages (in their imagination) while they are studying.

These some things that can collectively turn you into a studying machine. If you need to “switch” on this behavior, develop a kind of external anchor that you can use to put you in study mode. I had a friend once that was studying for a chemistry exam, and one of his “heroes” (as much as you can have a hero if you are a chemistry geek) was the guy that came up with the chemical structure for benzene from a dream he had of a snake eating it’s tale. This guy (the hero) had a relentless desire to figure out how stuff worked, so much that it permeated his dreams.

So when this guy (the student) wanted to get into “the zone,” he would sit at a table, place both palms on the table, close his eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Then he would imagine the ghost, or the spirit of the benzene guy slowly slinking into his body from behind, and giving him all his motivation and desire to figure out how stuff worked. He (the student) said this really helped to study, and he always did well on his chemistry tests.

So if you can figure out what you want to achieve, figure out somebody that has already done it, and come up some kind of physical “switch” along with a useful hallucination to help you take on their behavior. You may find that this can help you more than you realize.

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Who Is Steering Your Ship?

Full Speed Ahead

It’s funny the way things work out sometimes. There are all kinds of stories about how some character spends their whole life running away from something only to find it was what they needed all along. They just needed to see it in a fresh light. Or the familiar story of somebody running away from something, where that thing turns out to be their destiny. They weren’t able to face it unless they went through whole journey to escape, which in reality was a journey to give them the experience of understanding what it truly was.

There’s that familiar one about the guy form Egypt who sees a fortuneteller, who tells him me will meet death in exactly on week. So the guy jumps on the next ship to the furthest possible port away from Egypt. Exactly one week later he is wandering through a marketplace, completely confused but happy. Confuse because he has no local currency and can’t understand the local language at all. Happy because he has escaped death. Then he turns the corner, and is shaken out of his daydreams by death himself. Death stares at him in disbelief. The guy finally decides to confront death, and ask him why he is so confused. Death responds that he is surprised to see him, because he has an appointment with him in Egypt in one hour. But unforeseen events took him to this faraway land. He is glad he ran into him, and promptly takes him on the spot.

I was reading this interesting book on biology the other day. (The Meme Machine, by Susan Blackmore) .Not really biology, it was all about meme’s and how meme’s spread. The particular chapter, however, was talking about recent discoveries in brain chemistry and activity. They have figured out a way to light up different areas of the brain, to see which areas are active during which thinking processes. In many cases, people make choices before we are consciously aware of them.

They’ll hook somebody up to one of these machines, and tell them to press a button when they see a ping-pong ball coming at them. They have identified the area of the brain that “lights up” when we are consciously aware of things going on around us. At least consciously aware of people throwing ping pong balls at us. They have also identified the brain areas that light up when our automatic muscles respond to the approaching ping-pong ball. Certain bits of adrenalin is sent to certain muscles that would move in case the ping pong ball needed to be deflected. They’ve tried it with several different angles, and from a biomechanical analysis, can determine before hand, which muscles would be primed with energy for motion, and sure enough, these are the muscles that primed by the brain when the ping-pong ball is thrown.

The interesting thing is that our conscious minds are the last to find out what is going on. The ping-pong ball gets thrown, our reality detection system (eyes, ears, etc) register the ping-pong ball as coming, and the brain automatically primes our muscles to respond. Only after our mind/body system has been prepared for the “intruder” into our personal space, is our consciousness pulled into the loop. Only then do we start to give meaning to events. After the fact.

They’ve even done more complicated studies, where it’s not a simple ping-pong ball. Where there is a range of choices to make, based on the physical incident. And many times, our conscious minds don’t get to take part in the decision making process. Our conscious minds are only made aware of the fact after the quick decision has been made, and then we come up with a bunch of stories and rationalizations about what is going on.

The purpose of this particular chapter was to question the whole idea of choice, and free will. Every choice we make is based on choices we made before, and those are based on choices we made before that. If at the most fundamental level, our conscious minds are only made aware of certain events after the fact, how in the world are we to believe that we are cruising through life as conscious, sentient beings making rational choices about how to live our lives?

It’s like our conscious brains are the captains of gigantic ocean liners whose course has been set long ago by unknown agents, and we find ourselves at the wheel, and delude ourselves into thinking we are actually steering the boat.

There is a fairly popular idea among Christians to “Let go, Let God.” Meaning that the good Lord knows what He’s doing, and when we try and force the issue, we just make it more complicated. When we simply “Let go,” and let God chart our course, life will be much easier, or at least we will fulfill God’s plan with much less resistance.

This works great if you are a devout Christian, but what about the Atheists among us? What happens if you take that same argument, to “Let Go,” who is doing the steering then? Is our mind/body system really smart enough, knowledgeable enough, and experienced enough to get us to where we want to go, assuming we really know where we’re going?

There’s the analogy that we really do steer the ship, it’s just that it takes a long time to change course. And when you do set your course, you’d better make certain that it’s really where you want to go. If you are trying to steer a giant ship around the ocean willy nilly, you’ll only frustrate yourself, and make the passengers sea sick.

One of the things that can happen when growing up in modern society is our course gets pretty much set for us, and it can be terribly hard to change it halfway through. It seems like a good enough idea to go through school, get a decent degree, get a job, find a mate and start a family. Those of you that have made drastic career changes halfway through adulthood know that it can be met with resistance by those around you, and even by yourself. Many are essentially dissuaded from making drastic changes, some for better, some for worse.

But if you are heading for a crash, I think it is better to change course much sooner than later. I’m pretty sure the captain of the Titanic wish he would have seen those icebergs much sooner than they did.

The beauty of having a mind/body system that works so well on auto pilot, once you choose a decent course, and make sure it’s the right path, you just have to input the coordinates, figure out the actions, and get to work. Everything after that is automatic. Just keep plugging away, knowing that you’ll get there eventually. So long as you double-check every once in a while to make sure you’re heading in the right direction, you can be fairly certain you’ll arrive.

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Success with NLP

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