Category Archives: Hypnosis

Peanut Butter Burger

Why Giving Advice Sucks

One time I was supposed to meet a couple of friends in Scotland.

I had arrived a couple day earlier. It was for a three week backpacking trip.

However, I had arrived late at night, and I wasn’t sure where I was going to stay.

This was before smartphones, so I couldn’t look anything up easily.

As I was standing there, jet lagged (after flying for twelve hours and taking a train for another three), dazed and confused, an old guy came up.

“Son, you look lost,” he said. He sounded a lot like Sean Connery, but with a mouthful of marbles.

He showed me where a bunch of cheap hotels, for which I was grateful.

Most of the time, though, when some stranger comes out of nowhere to offer advice, it’s rarely taken with a hundred percent gratitude.

Especially if the advice has some kind of ulterior motive behind it.

Most people have heard that giving unasked for advice rarely works.

Why is this?

Consider the presuppositions.

Imagine you’re at the grocery store, looking at the different flavors of peanut butter. You’re going to go home and make a sandwich.

Then some goof comes out of nowhere and acts like he’s the holder of supreme peanut butter knowledge.

What does this presuppose?

It presupposes that before he even introduces himself, he looks at you and KNOWS that HE knows MORE about peanut butter than you do.

Which is kind of insulting.

AND it robs us of the pleasure of peanut butter discovery.

This is why it rarely feels good if somebody we don’t know gives us unasked for advice.

It presupposes they know more about the situation than we do.

Even when people we know give us advice, it still doesn’t feel right.

Because it has the same presupposition of “superiority.”

Unfortunately, for most of us, this ALL WE KNOW when it comes to influencing others.

Sure, we find out a little bit about what they want, but that’s usually just the tip of the iceberg.

Then we proceed to tell them (or suggest to them) why they should do what WE want based on the little information they’ve given us.

It still is kind of insulting.

We’re basically telling them that with only that LITTLE BIT of information, we know MORE about the situation than they do.

This is why any kind of sales always has both low conversation rates and high stress.

You’re GIVING ADIVCE to people hoping they’ll buy something.

Luckily, there is another way.

Not just in sales, but any time you want to influence others.

And it doesn’t rely on YOU at all.

All them. All their ideas. All you’ve got to do is turn off your brain and ask a few questions.

Click Here To Learn How

You Can Always Find Your Way Back Home

Where Am I?

So what do you do when you suddenly find yourself lost? That’s what happened to me once. I heard from a friend of a friend about this magnificent party, and he’d heard from another friend some convoluted directions to get there. Both of us, and the friend, had only been living in the area for a few weeks, so it was pretty obvious what was going to happen. They were going to go straight after work, which was about 6 PM, while I had to work until a couple hours later.

I remembered the directions as best as I could, and decided I’d figure out how to get there on my own. It didn’t take long before I had no idea where I was, no idea where I came from, and no idea how to get back home.

I had a really interesting experience a couple of weeks ago. I had just moved to a new city, and a new apartment. I mean new for me, as well as a new building. Everything was new and modern and really cool. I had spent a few hours driving to this new town from my old town, which involved driving over this huge bridge (several miles long) since my previous apartment was on this big island. A really big island.

So there I was, about to drift off to sleep, when an idea hit me. I had spend all day packing moving, unpacking and setting things up in my new place, I looked around at my new familiar surroundings, and I predicted I would wake up in the morning and experience a few moments of absolute disorientation. When you look around and for brief moment, you don’t know where you are, how you got there, or the last few things that happened before you found yourself in your particular situation.

That has only happened to me a couple times, all after waking up in a strange place. Probably the most pronounced event was a night of heavy, um, entertainment after a Who concert. I woke up in my friends house, and for about five or ten seconds (which is a long time to have no clue where you are or how you got there) of complete discombobulation.

But as I lay in my apartment a couple of weeks ago, I looked around at my new furnishings, and actually predicted I would wake up in the morning and draw a complete blank for the first few moments.

And when I woke up, just as I thought, I drew a complete blank. But here’s the cool part: Before I remembered where I was and how I got there (moving and driving over the bridge) I remembered predicting that I wouldn’t remember, only then did I remember everything else.

It was like back in the old days of when they had to bootstrap the first computers. They had these giant machines that ran off of punch cards, and they had no memory at all. They didn’t have enough memory to turn on all their systems.

So the guy who was using the computer had to feed it a punch card that was only to tell the computer how to turn itself on and get started, and how to read the other punch cards. Once that “memory” was loaded into the computer, then you could stick other, more complicated, punch cards into the machine so it could finally be able to do what you wanted it to.

We take all that for granted, as all of our computers today are pre programmed with complex operating systems and software that makes virtually every machine plug and play. There’s a reason Bill Gates is one of the richest dudes on the planet.

That was a truly odd sensation, waking up in a strange looking around in complete and utter cluelessness, and then remembering that I wasn’t going to remember anything, and then starting to remember everything else.

And when I finally figured out enough to back track to someplace familiar, I was able to use that familiarity to backtrack to a road that I actually knew. And from there finding my way was home was easy. I had given up on going to the party (which I later heard wasn’t all that exciting, anyway) long ago.

No matter how far off track you get, your brain will always find ways to get back to what is familiar. That seems to be an underlying prime directive of our brains. Familiarity.

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Interrupting Patterns Can Lead To Expanding Opportunities

I Shot An Elephant In My Pajamas

I used to have this friend that had a particular skill. It wasn’t anything that was going to make him rich, or famous, but it was really fun to watch. The interesting thing was that whenever he tried to purposely do it, like think about it beforehand, it never was quite as amusing.

It even was less funny to watch, and more obviously forced, when there was a group of people, and somebody mentioned this particular skill, and then everybody turned and expected him to turn it on right on the spot. He wasn’t a shy guy, so he never melted under pressure or anything, but it seemed to be much more spontaneous whenever he just launched into this particular behavior without any prompting, and kind of riffed off of himself. Especially when it happened at a party or something when there were plenty of people around, and they were completely taken by surprise.

I was reading this article the other day about something called a pattern interrupt. This is something from NLP that goes way back. What is likely the most taught, or talked about, or referenced example is the handshake interrupt.

Milton Erickson, the famous hypnotherapist invented this, mostly by trial and error. He would walk up to somebody, stick out his hand, and right in the middle of the handshake, he would suddenly shift into hypnotist mode, and pretty soon the person would be standing there staring at his or her hand.

The way it works is like this. The brain is a very lazy organ. Perhaps lazy is the wrong word. The brain is a very efficient organ. It doesn’t want to waste a bunch of energy figuring out the same things over and over. The brain likes to find patterns, so that it doesn’t have to expend a lot of energy. Most people are surprised when they find out that the brain burns over twenty percent of your daily energy. So it makes sense it wants to make things as efficient as possible.

So the way it does this is it looks for patterns whenever possible. Like when you first learned how to open a door, you pretty much knew how to open all doors. And when you first learned the alphabet, you could read any font, regardless of how esoteric or flowery it was.

If your brain had to stop everything, and spend all its energy trying to relearn how to open a door every time, then you wouldn’t get much accomplished.

One of the reasons, according to many evolutionary biologists, for the reason of our powerful brain was because we had to develop all kinds of complex social skills as we evolved on the African plains. So a large part of our brain goes into reading body language, and trying to decide who to trust and who we can take advantage of.

So it makes sense that patterns involving other people are very important to the brain. Once we figure out certain behaviors that we do over and over again, it can potentially save a lot of energy.

Meeting somebody for the first time is one of those patterns. If you can imagine what it would be like if we had to invent ways to get to know somebody every single time we met somebody new, it would be an extraordinary burden on our brain. Meeting somebody for the first time is extremely important, because how accurately we judge them can have a profound effect on our future safety, especially when you consider what it was like back in the caveman days.

If you made the wrong impression about somebody, perhaps thinking if they were harmless when they were really a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it could be devastating later on. So when you meet somebody for the first time, you need as much brainpower as possible to “feel them out,” so to speak. Which makes the handshake interrupt very powerful.

The automatic portion of the handshake, where you respond by sticking out your hand when somebody sticks out there, grab it and pump it a few times, and say the automatic “My names Jack, nice to meet you, nice to meet you too…” is rarely given any conscious thought.

So when Erickson would stop right in the middle of the handshake, people were completely thrown off balance. The mind is do entrenched in the automatic behavior that there is a complete and total shutdown of all thought for a few moments as the “targets” tried to figure out what was going on. And during this brief window, Erickson would see how much he could get away with.

A typical interaction would go like this:

Erickson (sticking his hand out) “Hi!”
Mark (Responding with his hand) “Hi.”
Erickson (freezing the handshake in the middle) “Nice to meet you my name is….”

And then he’d quickly grab the other guys hand with his non shaking hand, gently turn it and lift it so the other guy was staring at his palm. He would do this in less than a second.

“..as you look at your hand you can start to wonder about all those things you’ve forgotten, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to stand here and think of all those wonderful things…” or something similar, that would take up as much of the guys brain CPU as possible.

Then he would walk away and leave the guy staring at his hand.

I think the reason my friend was so funny when he was so spontaneous, was that everybody was busy caught up in their pre-programmed “behavior” and they would be shaken when he started to act out his bizarre behavior. If you take any popular joke, a key element is something that is completely unexpected, especially if the joke is a play on words or something, and delivers a punch line that completely shakes up the imagine that you were led to automatically think.

The old Groucho Marx joke comes to mind:

“Last night I shop an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

Or the famous linguistic example of ambiguity:

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

I’m sure you can think of many others.

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Wait Your Turn

Outside!

So there I was, waiting for my name to be called. She came out of the small room, reading off several names from a list. Not yet. I looked around the room, nervous people, some chatting some staring blankly off into space. Some studying the backs of their fingernails with feigned interest.

Twenty minutes passed. She came out again, read off another handful of names, then she looked at me, and nodded. It was time.

Sometimes, when I was a kid, I would ride my bike down to the beach to go body surfing. During the summer, the weather was hot, and the water was warm, so I enjoyed it just as much when there weren’t any waves as when there were. Sometimes I just enjoyed floating, letting the slow in and out of the tide move my body about. Every once in a while I would hear somebody say “outside set,” which meant that not the current set of waves, but the next one coming looked to be pretty decent.

Of course, a decent wave to a fourth grader on summer vacation means something completely different than what you may think of as a decent set of waves.

There is an interesting phenomenon regarding wave interference patterns when studying light. There is a famous double slit experiment, where they take a piece of material, and then put two small slits in a certain distance apart. Then they shine some light through on the other side of the slit, and measure the interference pattern on the other side with a special photographic plate. Because light travels in waves (sometimes) when it shows up on the other side, there will be peaks and troughs. The peaks are where the crests of waves coming through slot A line up with the peaks coming through from slot B. The troughs are where the lowest points from A overlap with B. The blank spaces in between are when a peak coming through slot A meets up with a trough from slot B, and they cancel each other out.

You can see this for yourself, by holding up your forefinger and thumb. If you hold you forefinger and thumb as close to your eye as possible, and then look through the space between them at a light source, as you bring your two fingers together, you can see the interference pattern start to form just before your fingers touch. You’ll see a small, but distinct pattern of darker and lighter “lines” between your fingers.

They say that physics is only makes sense because we see it over and over again, on a regular basis. Those that study quantum physics, or particle physics, knows that it follows a set of rules that is completely different than the rules we are used to in the macro world.

Not exactly.

There is the thing called the “correspondence principle,” and basically says that the laws of physics are the same for huge bodies, like planets, people, and trucks, as they are for tiny bodies like neutrons and photons, it’s just that the laws are specific to the condition.

Like the speed limit on the highway is 75 miles per hour, but through the small town is 35 miles per hour. They both still fall under the same speed limit law, but the law specifies different behaviors based on the environment.

But when I bought a boogie board, everything changed. Instead of swimming furiously to get to a wave that would only carry my poor body surfing skills so far, I could paddle out a lot quicker, and ride a lot longer. Simply by adding a simple tool to my pastime, I was able to get much more enjoyment, with much less effort. The only thing that became difficult was getting out through the waves as they were coming in. Before, as only a body surfer, I could simply duck under the wave and wait for it to pass over me. But with my boogie board, it became difficult. Many times I would paddle directly at the oncoming wave, only to get knocked back further than where I originally started.

Before, when I was body surfing, and I looked out at the waves coming in, and I wanted to get to a spot out beyond them, I didn’t give the waves a second thought. I just ducked under the water and let them pass over me.

But with my new toy, that made surfing a lot more fun, sometimes it was a hassle. How what used to be nothing more than some simple waves became a complex issue of timing. I had to wait until the waves were just right before I had a chance to paddle out beyond them, and wait until the new set came in.

Until my friend told me the secret. Get this thing called a leash, and attach one end to the boogie board, and the other end to your wrist. Then you could duck under the waves like before, you just had to sometimes fling your board up in the air before you did so.

Kind of like a tool added to a tool to make the tool more useful. With that added skill, boogie boarding was a breeze. And instead of floating just by myself, I could sometimes even pull myself up, lay on my back and stare up at the blue sky as the waves tossed me about.

When she finally called my name, I was about to fall asleep. I went into the small room, and I was surprised to see that it was just like the big room, only smaller. They had magazines, a couple of tables, and one of those bottled water fountains.

Then I had to wait there for another twenty minutes or so, but that is another story.

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The Mountain Man’s Secret

The Fish

Once there was this guy who lived up in the mountains. Through a particularly strange string of events, he’d found himself with quite a bit of money, enough to quit his job for good. At first he spent time traveling around, and learning about different cultures, a few languages here and there. But when the thrill had worn off, he longed for place to spend the rest of his days in quite solitude. On thing he learned about himself was that he rather enjoyed being by himself, and could spend hours just sitting and gazing out at a peaceful meadow or countryside farm.

So he spent time searching for the right place, until he stumbled on this area in a semi rural mountainous area. He bought several hundred acres, after making sure there was sufficient water, and electricity wouldn’t be a problem. He had to contract with some construction engineers to get his electricity and phone lines wired in, but that wasn’t much of a worry.

After everything was built and set up, he had himself a nice cabin that was right on the edge of a large meadow, with a rather large stream running through the middle of it, and a fairly dense forest. Traveling through the meadow, it would become more and more flat after a few miles, and then open up into a large valley, which channeled down to meet the main highway. The road came only part way to the valley, after that there was access only by off road vehicle.

He’d gotten specific permits from the county planning office, and surprisingly had to sign several legal release forms, as for a good part of the winter, his cabin would become completely inaccessible, except by helicopter. That was why he chose to build his cabin on the border between the meadow and the woods.

Should a particular emergency arise, it was still feasible to get to his place by helicopter, even in the deepest snow of winter. But just a mile or so into the woods, he would be completely cut off for until the spring thaw. While he liked the outdoors, and enjoyed being alone for long stretches of time, not having access to emergency medical aid was not something he wanted to worry about.

During the other months, getting from his cabin to the main road through the valley below took a couple hours, and then to the nearest town where he could buy supplies was another hour. So he would make a run every couple of weeks, and load up his pickup truck with as many supplies as he would fit.

Make no mistake, because I’m using the word “supplies,” please don’t picture some scraggly mountain man buying beef jerky and shotgun shells. This guy liked his modern creature comforts just like the rest of us. In his cabin he had a large flat screen TV that was of course connected, as well as his Internet connection via satellite linkup, and having traveled the world extensively, he had acquired a taste for fine foods. He had an industrial size refrigerator, and a large walk in freezer that he kept fully stocked at all times, as well as an impressive wine cellar he had built to specific specifications to match identically that of a restaurant he’d grown quite fond of in the south of France.

But on to our story. One thing he particularly enjoyed was fishing in the stream/river that had started somewhere up in the mountains, ran down in front of his cabin (albeit a couple hundred yards awards away, as recommended by the builders) and became very large sometimes down the meadow.

There were plenty of trout, mostly rainbow, but a few brown trout in the stream. Despite all of the exotic food that he special ordered from time to time from the specialty stores in town, nothing tasted as good as freshly caught trout. He had developed several recipes that he used to prepare them, his most favorite being a simple lemon, garlic and butter concoction.

As he approached the stream, he found spot to start fishing. Long a fan of lures, he chose a spinner of no particular important, loaded it up and tossed it in. He slowly reeled it in, tossed it out again.

He did see a few interested fish, but none of them seemed too interested in his lure. He tried another lure, same thing. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. He’d once gone eight days in a row without catching any fish, so this wasn’t particularly frustrating, or out of the ordinary.

Until he saw it.

As he slowly reeled his lure back, after the 17th cast (had he been counting) there was a very large, very gold/orange fish following his lure. At first he thought it was one of those Japanese carp that some people build ponds for in their back yards, but it’s shape wasn’t quite right. The strange thing about this fish was that it didn’t immediately retreat when his lure drew close to the shore as he reeled it in. it seemed pause a little bit, swim up stream, and then drift just pas the point where the lure was to be pulled from the water. As if it somehow knew in advance where the lure was going to be extracted from the water.

After he set his rod for another cast the fish quickly darted back down stream. But when he cast and reeled in his line again, there was the same fish. Except this time, he was the only fish there. He performed the same peculiar behavior following the lure in, and then darting upstream, and drifting down just to the point of extraction. Then he (it) would linger just long enough, and then literally turn and dart downstream.

This went on for about more casts, when he decided to try another spot. He walked down stream for about thirty minutes, and found a spot where there was a large bend in the stream, where the flow slowed considerably, enough for large pool to form, much like a small lake.

He walked around the lake, stopping in several places. Each time the same thing happened. He’d cast out his lure, reel it, and it would be followed by the same peculiar fish, that would do the same peculiar thing.

Finally he decided to call it quits, as the sun would be setting within an hour or so. He walked back up stream toward his cabin. Just before he arrived, he decided he’d try one last cast. But there was that same fish, only this time, it didn’t dart away so quickly when he pulled is lure from the water.

He swam back and forth, seemingly agitated, jumping from the water at each turn. Perplexed, the stood and stared.

And then it happened.

There was a monstrous earthquake, that seemed to last several minutes. He could hear the rocks up through the forest come tumbling down the hillside, the loud cracking of trees as they plowed relentlessly through the woods.

When the shaking stopped, the fisherman looked down at the valley where he’d been fishing all day. All along the side of the river, as far as he could see, almost exactly parallel to the river, was a giant crevice that had opened up in the earth, and was slowly pulling all the water from the stream into it. Pretty soon the stream, now a gushing river, had completely changed direction.

He turned, quite shaken, and walked slowly back to his cabin, not sure what had just happened. One thing he did know, and that was he didn’t think he’d be eating fish any time soon.

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How To Apply The Powerful Integration Of Parts Technique

Union Talks

I was mindlessly reading various articles on the net the other day and came across a description of an NLP procedure I learned a few years ago in a seminar. It is pretty useful procedure, but many people don’t realize in how many different ways it can be applied, and in how many different situations for various results, both for yourself and for others.

The procedure is called “Integration of Parts,” and has been written about in quite a few NLP books. The interesting thing about NLP is people tend to think that it is set of tools that were “invented” and didn’t exist until Bandler and Grinders started their work. The actual truth is that all of NLP existed before, in various forms, they just weren’t called “NLP,” or they weren’t used in the specific way the “NLPers” are taught to use them.

One of the presuppositions of NLP is that the more flexible you are, the better equipped you are to handle different situations. You’d think that being taught this from the get go, NLPers would be able to see how the same procedures have been used for quite a while, some since the beginning of recorded history. In one particular book (I believe it was persuasion by Kevin Hogan, but I may be mistaken) he goes over a passage from the New Testament, where in one of St. Paul’s letters, he is clearly using the sales technique of “pacing and leading.” Only back then he didn’t call it “pacing and leading,” he was likely a natural salesperson.

The thing that many people tend to overlook is that NLP only collects the techniques and strategies that people that are “naturals” are doing anyway. They study excellence, elicit people’s strategies, and then write them down in an easy to follow recipe. Sometimes you’ll hear a particularly gifted and eloquent speaker, and people will whisper and argue whether or not he’s “using” NLP. A better question might be is he a natural, or did he learn those skills, or is it a combination of both?

A lot of people claimed that President Obama was “using” NLP while he was campaigning, but I think he is merely a naturally gifted speaker. If you study the tonality and gestures that he uses when he speaks, they aren’t anywhere near as proficient and congruent as in somebody who has studied embedded commands and anchoring.

But back to the particular procedure. Integration of parts. Lets say part of you wants to pick up the phone to make a cold call, so you can make some money. But another part of you is afraid of getting rejected. It would seem that you have two parts that have two completely different intentions. These warring parts create anxiety, stress, and a high turnover rate in any sales job.

So what do you do?

Integration of parts.

You ask the part that wants to make the call to come out and play. Put that part in your right hand. You then talk to that part, respectfully of course. Parts don’t usually get a lot of focus, and are used to operating in the background, so you need to be gentle. First chat him or her up a bit, and develop some rapport. Describe them as much as you can, in as many sensory modes as possible. Then ask the part what’s important about his top level intention (wanting to pick up the phone to make a call). Then do some basic conversational criteria eliciting skills and find out the intentions under that. You’ll probably need to go three or four deep to get to the big one. For example, he wants to pick up the phone, to make some money, to pay the bills, to not worry, to feel safe. Safety is important. Make sure at every step of the way to validate you part, and make sure they know you respect their intention.

Then you do the same with the other part. Make sure that before you do that, you ask the first part if they’ll sit tight for a bit. They usually will, as it’s nice to sit out side in the open. Once you chat up your other part for a bit, start digging down for their deeper level criteria. It doesn’t take long to get the “Aha!” when you realize that both parts are really after the same thing, only at different levels. The first part took a while to get to wanting “safety,” while the second part might be fighting for that right off the bat.

Once you find that both parts are really after the same thing, ask them if they’d like to join forces, like the superfriends. Most of they time they’ll agree, then slowly bring them together, and give them time to get used to each other. Once you combine your hands, you’ll be holding a new part that has all the strategies and resources of both parts, but not evolved into more powerful more resourceful part. Slowly bring this into your chest, take a couple of breaths, and do whatever hallucination is useful to let this new part sink down into your soul or wherever the parts live inside you. It’s different for most people. I knew this one guy that had all his parts living in an energy ball that floated behind him, and was tethered to the back of his neck. Not really his neck, the tether went right into his spinal column.

(Keep in mind this is only a hallucination, there really are no parts or anything called NLP or any of that other new age nonsense. It’s just pretty useful, that’s all.)

Can you see how this simple communication strategy between two entities with seemingly different intentions can work? You can use this for:

Union Negotiations
Sales Meetings
Asking for A Raise
Nuclear Arms Reduction Talks (if you’re into that sort of thing)
Deciding where to go on a date

And much, much more. You are only limited by your imagination, and you willingness to play with this and see what happens.

If you’re interested in a really cool guided meditation/dual induction CD (about twenty minutes long) that helps you through this process, check out the New Option Generator, from Learning Strategies Corporation.

Have fun.

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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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Insurance?

Wrong Turn

The other day I went out for a walk, and since I’m living in a new neighborhood, I wasn’t quite sure where I was going. When I started out, I looked around to make sure I could see some big landmarks, in case I got lost, I could find my way back. I wasn’t in much of a hurry so I didn’t bring a watch, and I didn’t have any plants to be back by certain time.

I didn’t really notice when it happened, but I looked up and instead of being surrounded by city type stuff like 7-11’s and liquor stores, I was surrounded by trees and rocks and dirt. I looked down and I noticed I was on some kind of trail, but not the kind of trail that you find in a national park. This wasn’t really maintained, it was more like a well-worn path, but it didn’t appear wide enough to have been made by humans.

I kept walking, as I said before I wasn’t in any kind of hurry. I looked around, and didn’t see any sign of houses or gas stations, but I figured if I kept walking, I’d eventually make my way out. That’s when I heard that strange, almost frightening noise behind me. It sounded almost, but not quite like a human voice that was experiencing some manner of distress.

Have you ever gone shopping, and ended up buying much more than you expected? I tend to do that sometimes, especially when I go shopping on a Saturday morning. It almost always happens when I go shopping before I make an effort to make something to eat. I may go to buy a box of yogurt, and end up with a frozen turkey or something. Once I went looking for a jar of instant coffee, and I came home with two dozen eggs. I’m not really sure why I bought so many eggs, but you never know when they are going to come in handy. It was at one of those “club” type stores, and you can buy the eggs in those big square things. I’m not sure what you call them, but they were cheap. They came out to be only about three cents per egg.

You can do a lot with eggs. Of course, you can make them fried or scrambled, or you can use them in a recipe to make waffles or some other product that you’d otherwise buy in a bakery. You could even drink them before your morning run if you were preparing for an exhibition fight to celebrate Independence Day. (In a fight you were expected to lose, no doubt).

I once saw this circus act where a guy juggled a bunch of eggs, among other things. He started off with regular balls, three of them. Then he increased to five, and then seven. (Have you ever wondered why professional jugglers almost always juggle an odd number of objects?) Then he switched to juggling other things, like the aforementioned eggs. Then he really impressed us by juggling some bowling balls, and some chainsaws. I’ve never tried to juggle chainsaws, but I imagine it could be pretty dangerous. You could easily get your arm hacked off if you aren’t careful. Or you might slip and fling a couple of chainsaws into the audience, and chop off a couple of heads. I’m not sure what a judge would do with you if that happened. I suppose they have some kind of insurance for that.

I have a friend that works in insurance, and he says his company has written some pretty interesting policies. Farmers buying insurance on cherry trees, movie producers buying insurance on actors that may slip out of rehab and back into drug addiction. Once a major television network bought coverage against some calamity that might cut into a live event they were televising. Insurance is an interesting business. No matter what you can think of happening, you can prepare for it, at least financially. You can even buy insurance against rain. If you own a jewelry store, you can buy insurance against rain on January first, and then have a huge sale, saying that if it rains on January first, all diamonds are only a dollar. That way if it rains, you’ll collect your insurance policy, and still make money by giving away diamonds for a dollar.

In Japan you can even buy insurance against getting a hole in one. It is a custom to have a big party and buy your friends all kinds of gifts and drinks if you get a hole in one, so you an buy a policy that will pay you about $10,000 if you happen to get a hole in one. Of course, you’d need to show all your receipts to prove you actually bought your buddies all the presents you are insuring yourself against.

I once was playing with this guy that could juggle a bunch of golf balls using only his golf clubs. Instead of catching the balls and then quickly flinging them back in the air, he used an eight iron and a driver, and bounced all the balls off the clubface. He could only do three at a time, but it was pretty impressive nonetheless.

When I turned around to see what was making that horrible noise, I had to do a double take. There was this guy standing behind me that was leaning his head back and shouting some weird noises toward the sky. I almost pulled out my cell phone and dialed 911, but then he noticed me and said he was a member of the bird watching club, and he was attempting to do some kind of birdcall. I don’t think it worked, because every time he tried, every creature within shouting distance would run away. But I got to give the guy credit for trying. As long as he was there, I asked him how to get back to the main road, and he pointed in the direction I was walking, so I continued on my way. And sure enough over the next rise I saw a huge sign for a 7-11. Naturally I bought a large slurpy before going back home. Maybe next time I’ll leave earlier so I can spend more time here before coming back to where I was before I started.

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The Mumbling Neighbor

Loose Ends

Once I had this really strange neighbor. He would seemingly be awake at all times. I don’t think he ever slept. We had these really thing walls, and occasionally when I’d wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I could hear him next door. And there were a few times that I’d stayed out all night, either at a friends house, or at some late night party, and I’d come home on a Saturday or Sunday morning at 5 A.M. He’d always be up, with his lights on, and he’d always be moving around.

I don’t think I ever saw him go to work. While it wasn’t in the ghetto, it wasn’t a particularly upscale apartment, so I didn’t think he was wealthy enough so that he didn’t have to work. I’d always figured he had some kind of government pension, or some kind of workers comp thing going, where he received just enough to pay the rent and the utilities, but not much else.

I’d pass by him on the stairway every now and then, and we’d exchange the normal greetings (Hi, What’sup, Howsitgoing, Hey, etc), or at least I’d start off the regular greetings. He would always acknowledge me, and it sounded like he was trying to say the same thing back to me, but he’d always add on a string of indecipherable mumblings after his apparent reciprocal greeting. They weren’t angry mumblings or what you may consider the mumblings of some homeless guy who has long drank himself past the point of sanity.

These were more like running commentaries that seemed to be going on all the time in his mind, and when I’d throw out a greeting, social conditions (from maybe a lifetime ago in his case) would require he respond in kind, but these responses would always bring with them whatever train of thought that was going on in his head. Like when you are fishing in a particularly deep portion of a lake, and you reel in your lure to recast, you bring up all the stuff that is growing on the bottom.

I went on a backpacking trip once, and we were particularly after some good fishing lakes. We had planned our trip through areas that had plenty of lakes, so that whenever we’d stop for the night, we would hopefully catch our supper.

This worked out pretty good, and we caught a lot of fish on that trip. The lakes were small enough so that you could walk around them, stopping every now and then to cast out a lure, and real it in, in an hour or so.

But there was this one lake, where after fishing all day, I calculated for every fish I caught, I would lose one lure. (Good thing I brought plenty of lures). Every cast that didn’t catch a fish would get snagged in the tall growing plants on the bottom of the lake, and I would invariably lose the lure to the lake. Perhaps the gods of freshwater rainbow trout demanded payment of some sort.

Payment is a tricky thing. Especially in the west, there are all kinds of different ways to tip people. I had a couple of friends once that went on a short cruise, and they were astounded at the number of people that you are supposed to tip on those ships. They were lucky they brought plenty of cash, despite the brochure saying that the price was all-inclusive. I suppose that at the bottom in small print, they likely had something like “gratuity not included,” but unless you know what’s up, you’d likely not even pay attention to that part.

Even in most restaurants today, if you have more than six or eight people, they automatically add 15% to the bill. In other parts of the world, tipping is completely foreign, and they always laugh at American’s who feel the need to leave extra money wherever you go.

Which is why I was so surprised that one day in Starbucks.

I had just paid for my triple shot of espresso (on ice), and had received my change from the cashier.

“Don’t forget the tip.” I heard the voice from behind me say.

I nodded my head. It was if the voice knew what I was thinking. Normally when I get a triple shot of espresso (with ice) I slam it right then and there, throw it in the garbage, and I’m on my way. I don’t bother sitting down. So I’m normally not thinking in “tip” mode. Contrarily, when I bring my newspaper and get something like a triple mocha, and I’m going to be spending an hour or so there, I always leave a generous tip.

But when you think about it, the work that goes into making both drinks is about the same, and the time I’m going to be sitting there shouldn’t factor in, since they don’t bring anything to your table, or come up to you and ask if you’d like dessert or anything.

As I dropped my coins in the cup they have at the register for that specific purpose, I turned to see who this self-proclaimed tip police officer was. I was shocked to see it was my crazy neighbor, except he looked completely sane.

He was dressed in a very sharp looking suit. His eyes were completely clear, he was clean-shaven, and I swore I detected a scent of Cool Water, by Davidoff.

“Hey.” I said, not having any clue what to say in this situation. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you see your neighbor you’d assumed was on disability due to some mental issues looking, smelling, and acting like the head sales rep for some cutting edge pharmaceutical firm.

“I know what you’re thinking.” He started. Now if I had no idea what I was thinking, how in the world did he?

“You see, things aren’t always what they appear. Some things are contextual; some things are based on structure, while others are based on content. The secret is that many things which appear to be based on content, are really based on structure, and really aren’t all that contextual.” He smiled, as if he made some incredibly and obviously salient observation of reality.

I, on the other hand, had no clue whatsoever what he meant by that.

“You’d better drink your espresso before the ice melts.” He smiled, motioning toward my plastic cup, which had been placed on the counter. I mumbled something in response, what I’m not sure. After I’d slammed my espresso, and looked back up, he was gone.

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A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To The Movies

This Post Ends With Whiskey

So the other day I was supposed to meet my friend downtown. She didn’t show up, and she usually isn’t late, so I gave her a call. Turns out I had my dates mixed up, so I figured I’d wander around. We were going to hang out at a coffee shop and then go see a movie, so I figured I might give that a shot. Only I hadn’t brought anything to read, and sitting in a coffee shop by yourself without anything to read can get pretty boring.

So I thought maybe I’d strike up a conversation with a stranger, and see how far I could get. I walked into the coffee shop, no luck. Nobody seemed interesting, or interested in having a chat with some strange guy who can’t keep his days straight. No worries.

I headed over to the bookstore; maybe they’d have something interesting enough. I checked the movie times, and there was something that looked interesting that was starting in a couple of hours. That’s the problem with living in a foreign country where not too many people speak English. When you go to the movies, often times you don’t have much choice.

Not like back home, where I can roll up to a thirty screen multi plex and spend fifteen minutes pondering the many movies starting within the next twenty minutes. Bookstores here are the same. If they do have an English section, there’s sometimes something interesting, sometimes not. Today there wasn’t anything that looked good enough. Back out to the street.

Which way, left or right? Left. I headed left, and figured I’d wander this direction for an hour or so before turning around. That way I’d make it to the 4 pm show. I’d hoped. I wasn’t aware of the incredible adventure I was about to go on.

Once when I was a kid I got lost in the mall. I thought my mom had deserted me. One minute she was there, the next she’d vanished, like in that creepy movie where aliens sucked people right through their bedroom windows.

This lady had this husband, and a kid, or something. Then these weird things started happening, like she’d remember her husband, but nobody else would. It was like he was erased from everybody’s memory but hers. All his pictures, her wedding ring, everything.

Then her son disappeared. Same thing. Nobody remembered him but her. She was all-alone, and everybody, from her best friends to her psychiatrist told her she’d always been alone, and she must be imagining the whole thing.

Only later to find out that aliens were stealing certain people, and erasing the memories of everybody around them. But when they took the people, they would snatch them, and suck them really really fast up into the sky. It was pretty funny, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be. Great set up, but goofy ending.
Anytime they have aliens as the culprits, you know something is fishy. Unless the fish themselves are aliens, in which case you’ve got some serious explaining to.

So there I was on the street, suddenly realizing I had no idea where I was. That was ok, as I sort of remembered some landmarks as I wandered about. Only when I looked around, I couldn’t see any of the landmarks I’d chosen. Perhaps I should have chosen some taller ones.

Suddenly I heard a voice from behind me.

“Son, you look lost.” He said. He sounded as if he had a thick Scottish accent. Only I wasn’t in Scotland. Hadn’t been for years.

“Yea, I was wondering how to get back to the…” Where was I going?
“The Movie Theater?” He finished my thought for me. How did he do that?

“Up that street, and then…” after that I couldn’t understand a word he said, as it was in such a thick Scottish dialect, he could have been sending me to the organ donor hospital for all I knew. I tried following his gestures, but they only told me to head back in the direction where I thought I’d come. Big help Scottish guy.

“Wait, one more time, please. More slowly.” I asked. He repeated the directions, only this time his gestures and words seemed completely different. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

I was reminded once of a distant relative in New York who explained that if you are lost, and happen to stop someone long enough to ask for directions be careful how they answer. If they give you a short, direct answer, they’re usually being truthful. However, if they give you some long winded answer, they are likely sending you on a wild goose chase to end you up in some location that is further removed from where you thought you’d wanted to go in the first place.

“But first, son, have a dram with me.” He said, putting his hand gently on my shoulder. He motioned his head back, and behind him was a Malt Whiskey bar. I didn’t know they had those in this part of the world.

“What the heck,” I figured. I didn’t really want to see that movie anyway. And it had been long time since I savored a nice single malt.

What happened next, is a story for another day.

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