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November 1998

"I saw a bumper sticker once that said 'At the end of life, the person with the most toys wins.' I think it is the person with the most depth of experience."
-Jim Sorenson, Director of Training, Context Associated

Summary of this issue:

Love and Food Metabolism
Deepak Chopra tells a great story on his Quantum Healing audiotapes. Apparently a study was being done on the link between cholestoral and heart disease. Rabbits were used for the test, which I don't support. I only share this story because it reminds us of an important point. The rabbits were divided into groups and fed a diet designed to raise their cholesterol to high levels. All of the rabbits developed high cholesterol except one group. Puzzled, the scientists began looking for an explanation, since all of the rabbits were fed the same foods. The only difference they could find was that the individual responsible for feeding this group did so in a very loving way. He cuddled them and talked to them each time he fed them. Key lesson: there is a good chance that the emotions we feel when we eat play a significant role in determining how we metabolize food. Sharing meals in the company of people we enjoy can make a huge difference in our health. We are not what we eat. We are what our bodies are able to metabolize and how they are metabolized.

"Simple and easy are not the same." –Dr. Joy Brown
Unique Perspectives on Problem Solving
Ever wonder how Bill Gates deals with pressure? This excerpt from the new book, Bill Gates Speaks, by Janet Lowe, may give you a clue:
"Today I work because it's fun. In that sense, I guess you could say that I approach business as a kind of problem-solving challenge. That doesn't mean I don't take business seriously, because I do. But life's a lot more fun if you treat its challenges in creative ways." –Bill Gates
This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Paul Hawken from his book, Growing a Business. One day it dawns on him that he will always have problems, and that so will every business. Following through on this thought he asks himself,
"..if every business will always have problems, what is the difference between a good business and a bad one? A good business has interesting problems, a bad business has boring ones. Good management is the art of making the problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them."
Working with Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman
As part of one of my regular bookstore scans (that's where I challenge myself by going to a huge bookstore to see how many books I can scan in an hour or two) I came across a new book by Daniel Goleman called Working with Emotional Intelligence, and it looks like he's done it again. This is not a rehash of his earlier blockbuster, Emotional Intelligence. The "hit ratio" was very high (i.e. the number of times I found a useful distinction each time I randomly flipped to a page). For one thing, he reminded me that emotions are contagious–they impact the people we are around in potentially significant ways. Studies are mentioned which prove that the impact can be positive or negative. Proactive thinkers may want to invest some energy cultivating emotional habits for optimum positive impact on people they interact with. Here's a great quote of Howard Gardner's from the book:
"My intelligence does not stop at my skin," writes Howard Gardner, the influential Harvard theorist. Rather, he points out, it encompasses his tools, such as his computer and its databases, and, just as important, "my network of associates, office mates, professional colleagues, others whom I can phone or to whom I can dispatch electronic messages."
The Mechanics of Visual Perception
The October 2nd edition of Science Magazine contains a breakthrough article on visual perception by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. There are so many things competing for our attention, the authors did some experiments to figure out what determines the items we notice and remember. My interpretation of the article is this: If we aren't focusing on a particular aspect of any given scene, while it may trigger a great deal of cortical activity, this activity largely cancels itself out. Very little if anything is remembered.

However, the authors discovered that when one object in the scene was given prominence in the visual field, the attention given to that object counteracted the suppressive influence of nearby stimuli. Directing attention to a visual stimulus cancels out the suppressive influence of nearby stimuli, thereby enhancing information processing.

Ever noticed how much you seem to learn while in the process of looking up something else? Having that "something else" gives you a context which serves as a basis for selecting objects to focus on in a crowded visual field. In a sense, reading involves the same process. Ever read a book a second time and notice things you didn't notice the first time around? That's because reading is 90% mental, and only 10% eye movement. The context you bring to each moment determines which ideas in the book you will notice, and which items get added to your memory banks via peripheral learning. In his book, The Einstein Factor, Win Winger suggests asking for an image to help you understand something you are about to read. Seems like this technique is based on the same brain chemistry phenomenon.

How to apply this? I'm beginning to learn about Windows NT 5.0 and Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, but I'm doing so without a specific application to drive my mental filters. To compensate, I created one by planning to do a series of audiotapes for my team at work that will provide overviews of these products. While most people would simply watch the video tapes and read the books, both my experience and the experiments described in this Science Magazine article suggest that much of their learning will be "canceled out" if they don't give themselves a specific reason to learn them.

"Not only do you have to avoid the bad ideas, but you have to avoid many of the good ideas for reasons of focus. Ideas are important, but they are relatively easy. What's hard is taking that list of hundred ideas and ranking them and picking the three that we're actually gonna do." –Jeff Bezos, as quoted in an interview with theSeattle Times

Life Lessons from Solitaire
I haven't played solitaire in years, but recently started playing to take my mind off things and wind down before going to sleep. I must have played 20 hands without a win, and began to wonder if it was even possible. With each hand my skills improved, but each time the cards fell in such a way that it appeared impossible to win. Then I asked myself, "What has to happen here for me to win a hand?"

The answer came on a hand where I came close to winning. When all of my options had expired, I just kept on playing, modifying the rules slightly just so I could see how the cards had to be played in order to win. I noticed that winning required a balance between two things: where the cards were played, and where they came from. In other words, I needed a balance between playing cards on the seven stacks and on the four stacks above them; and a balance between playing cards from the deck and from the face down cards in the seven stacks. I won the next hand fair and square. I don't know if it affected the way I shuffled the cards, or if it was just pure luck. Doing a "walk-through" as if I was winning seem to clarify my vision of what it took to win, and my actions seemed to follow accordingly.

The second life lesson from solitaire came a few hands later as my skills continued to improve: I bumped into mathematical probability. It became clear to me that there were always going to be hands where it made no difference how skillfully I played. The cards just didn't fall right. The best way to win was to increase the chances of getting a winning hand by increasing the number of hands I played; to get those losing hands out of the way quickly to make room for the hand that played perfectly. In solitaire, dating, and many other things in life, success is a numbers game. You may play your hand perfectly, but if the cards don't fall right, there is nothing you can do to change the outcome. But if you play enough hands and keep refining your skills, eventually you'll get a good hand and have the skill to make it into a winner.

"Worry is a misuse of the imagination." –Anonymous
John Gray on Optimizing the Dating Process
John Gray's book, Mars and Venus on a Date, is worth a look if you are single. Initially skeptical that it was just a rehash of his earlier best seller, he quickly convinced me otherwise. I discovered insightful new perspectives on almost every page. His six-stage dating process makes a lot of sense. I noticed that not all of the reviewers agree with me on this, so the ideas may not apply to everyone. When I read I sort by usefulness. I'm not looking for reasons to criticize; life is too short for that. While some readers are off dwelling on how silly certain ideas may be from their point of view, I'm quickly skipping over those in search of ideas I'm actually going to use in my daily life. The more useful ideas I find, the more likely I am to continue reading.

Notes from The Pursuit of Excellence Seminar
I recently audited The Pursuit of Excellence seminar, which is presented by Context Associated in Washington, Oregon and throughout Canada. I originally took the course eight years ago, and they let you repeat the course as many times as you want free of charge. I didn't remember the exact content of the seminar, just that it was a powerful learning opportunity. The surprise was how much of the material I have incorporated into my daily living over the past few years. I've been fortunate to have Jim Sorenson be the seminar leader both times I've attended. Jim's been teaching this course for 18 years and has accumulated an incredible wealth of real-life stories. He masterfully weaves these stories into each moment to reinforce key points often in very humorous ways.

A key distinction they teach is the important role purpose and support play in getting you to live above your comfort zone, which is where most personal growth occurs. Jim points out that a great way to test the effectiveness of your mission statement is by whether or not it inspires you to consistently live above your comfort zone. Support teams can also play a key role in providing the emotional infrastructure that helps us reach for new stars. If we ask them to, they can give us gentle and not-so-gentle kicks occasionally if they see us compromising on our dreams. If you look at the times in your life when you have made significant leaps in your personal development, I'll bet that one or both of these elements–purpose and support–played a key role.

This seminar is taught in a supportive environment that encouraged me to discover new truths, to develop new skills previously out of my comfort zone, and it prepared to take the next major steps in my life with excellence. For more information on this seminar, contact Della Toni at (206) 727-4383.

"Microsoft employees typically transmit more than 25 trillion bits of information per day over its Redmond campus network." -Seattle PI Newspaper, 6/3/98
Cool Products
  • Lemon Water - I drink the freshly squeezed juice of a baby lemon mixed in with a glass of distilled water each morning upon arising. If you do this, be sure to rinse your mouth out or brush your teeth afterwards.
  • Dry Skin Brushing - The skin is one of our main eliminative organs. One way to encourage detoxification and improve circulation is via dry skin brushing as recommended by Dr. Soltanoff in his book, Natural Healing. Purchase a vegetable fiber brush at a health food store and gently brush the non-sensitive parts of your skin (i.e. arms, back, legs, etc.). It takes about a minute but the pickup in energy is very noticeable. The people I've introduced to dry skin brushing were very impressed with the results, but tended to stop doing it after a while as did I. The challenge is that there are so many things to remember to do each day and still get to work on time and spend time with your family and friends. I try to do this once per week and to remind me to do it, I hung a piece of paper in my bathroom upon which I could write the date each time I remember to do it. One minute a week isn't that much time, and this chart helps me to track how often I am remembering to do it.
    "Earn this. Earn it!" -Captain John H. Miller, from the movie, Saving Private Ryan

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