Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Emulate the Great

How can you learn whatever you want from any of your favorite heroes? By modeling what they think, feel, and do. In Think and Grow Rich, Napolean Hill writes:

"Experience has taught me that the next best thing to being truly great is to emulate the great, by feeling and action, as nearly as possible."
Imaginary Council of Heroes
Hill writes about using an "imaginary council" to shape his character:

"I followed the habit of reshaping my own character by, by trying to intimidate the nine men whose lives and life-works had been most impressive to me. These nine men were Emerson, Paine, Edison, Darwin, Lincoln, Burbank, Napolean, Ford and Carnegie. Every night over a long period of years, I held an imaginary council meeting with this group whom I called my "Invisible Counselors."

The procedure was this. Just before going to sleep at night, I would shut my eyes, and see my imagination, this group of men seated with me around my council table. Here I had not only an opportunity to sit among those whom I considered to be great, but I actually dominated the group, by serving as the chairman.

I had a very definite purpose in indulging in my imagination through these nightly meetings. My purpose was to rebuild my own character to it would represent a composite of the characters of my imaginary counselors."

Example Dialogue
Hill includes an example of his dialogue with his imaginary council:
  • "Mr. Emerson, I desire to acquire from you the marvelous understanding of nature which distinguished your life. I ask that you make an impress upon my subconscious mind of whatever qualities you possessed, which enabled you to understand and adapt yourself to the laws of nature."
  • "Mr. Burbank, I request that you pass on to me the knowledge which enabled you to harmonize the laws of nature, that you caused the cactus to shed its thorns and become an edible food. Give me access to the knowledge which enabled you to make two blades of grass grow where but one grew before. "
  • "Napolean, I desire to acquire from you, by emulation, the marvelous ability you possessed to inspire men, and to arouse them to greater and more determined spirit of action. Also to acquire the spirit of enduring faith, which
    enabled you to turn defeat into victory, and to surmount staggering obstacles."
  • "Mr. Paine, I desire to acquire from you the freedom of thought and the courage and clarity with which to express convictions which so distinguished you! "
  • "Mr. Darwin, I wish to acquire from you the marvelous patience, and ability to study cause and effect, without bias or prejudice, so exemplified by you in the field of natural science."
  • "Mr. Lincoln, I desire to build into my own character the keen sense of justice, the untiring spirit of patience, the sense of humor, the human
    understanding, and the tolerance which were your distinguishing characteristics."
  • "Mr. Carnegie, I wish to acquire a thorough understanding of the principles of organized effort, which you used so effectively in the building of a great industrial enterprise."
  • "Mr. Ford, I wish to acquire your spirit of persistence, the determination, the poise, and self-confidence which have enabled you to master poverty, and to organize, unify and simplify human effort, so I may help others to follow in your footsteps."
  • "Mr. Edison, I wish to acquire from you the marvelous spirit of faith, with which you have uncovered so many of nature's secrets, the spirit of unremiting toil with which you have so often wrested victory from defeat."

    My Take Aways
    There's a few things I like about this example:

    1. I like the idea of turning your favorite heroes into a personal sounding board.
    2. It doesn't matter whether you model from someone alive or from the past. It's an imaginary council.
    3. I think the process of visualizing helps you clarify what you really want.
    4. I think the act of visualizing from multiple perspectives helps you reflect on where you really are with regard to where you really want to be. It's a good way of exposing opportunities for improvement.
    5. I know from experience that modeling the success of others is an effective way to speed up learning cycles.
    6. I particularly like the fact that Hill called out that it's more than just modeling action, it's modeling the feeling. If you just go through the motions, it's not the same as being in the same state of mind or feeling your way through.

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    Sunday, October 28, 2007

    Launch a Crusade

    The fastest companies have causes that they use to launch crusades. In It's Not the Big That Eat the Small...It's the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business, Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton write about launching crusades.

    Causes Over Visions
    Jennings and Haughton contrast the definition of a cause with a vision:

    • Cause - that which gives rise to an action, a motive, a principle, a belief, or purpose.
    • Vision - someting perceived in a dream, trance, spell or stupor; something supernaturally revealed to a prophet.
    Example Causes
    Jennings and Haughton share example causes:

    • Charles Schwab - "To be the most ethical and useful financial services company in the world."
    • AOL - "To build a global medium as central to people's lives as the telephone or television, only more useful."
    • Hotmail - "To revolutionize and democratize communications."
    • Clear Channel - "Creating value for the shareholder."
    • Telepizza - "Creating a world of Telepizza citizens."
    Where Do Causes Come From
    Jennings and Haughton write:

    "Unlike missions and visions, which are generally created by commitees and sufficiently watered down to please everyone, offend nobody, and motivate no
    one, a cause comes from a defining moment in a leader's life."

    Criteria for a Cause
    Jennings and Haughton found eight criteria that were common to the causes of companies that consistently demonstrated an ability to get to market faster than their rivals:

    • Causes are never goals.
    • Causes big enough for crusades come from the heart.
    • The best causes are big, bold, and aspirational.
    • Causes are inclusive.
    • Causes aren't just about profit.
    • Big causes have an aha! effect.
    • A cause needn't be credible to the outside world.
    • Causes are expressed in few words. Disney's was building a place to "make people happy."

    Turning Causes into a Crusade
    Visions and missions often fail to achieve the desired objective. Discovering and creating a cause, and turning it into action is a replicable model, but it's more than hanging a plague on a wall. Jennings and Haughton write the eight steps that successful companies do:

    • The leader/founder/CEO must live the cause.
    • Those around the leader must also live the cause.
    • All key executives and managers must be seen as living the cause.
    • Everyone is invited to join the crusade.
    • Those not joining the crusade are invited to leave.
    • Reward activities that advance the crusade and punish those that don't.
    • Constantly celebrate the cause and crusade.
    • Eventually, the cause and crusade become the reason for existence.
    Key Take Aways
    In my experience, I would agree that a compelling "why" or purpose matters more than the actual "what" or vision. "Why" is ultimately the motivation. Whether or not a vision is compelling depends on how compelling the "why" actually is.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    "Can't Lose" System

    The "Can't Lose" System is a way to combat your fear of failure. It works by listing your fears, exposing distorted thinking, and identifying ways to cope. In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes:

    "You may feel hesitant to put your can'ts to the test because you don't want to run the risk of failure. If you don't run any risks, at least you can maintain the secret belief that you're basically a terrific person who's decided for the time being not to get involved. Behind your aloofness and lack of commitment lurks a powerful sense of inadequcy and the fear of failure.

    The 'Can't Lose' System will help you combat this fear. Make a list of the negative consequences you might have to deal with if you took a risk and actually did fail. Then expose the distortions in your fears, and show how you could cope productively even if you did experience a disppointment."

    Example "Can't Lose" System
    Burns includes an example of a "Can't Lose" System:

    Negative Consequences of Being Turned Down for a JobPositive Thoughts and Coping Strategies
    1. This means I'll never get a job.Overgeneralization. This is unlikely. I can test this by applying for series of other jobs and putting my best foot forward to see what happens.
    2. My husband will look down on me.Fortune teller error. Ask him. Maybe he will be sympathetic.
    3. But what if he's not sympathetic? He might say this shows I belong in the kitchen and don't have what it takes.Point out to him I'm doing my best and his rejecting attitude doesn't help. Tell him that I am disappointed, but that I credit myself for trying.
    4. But we're nearly broke. We need the money.We've survived so far and haven't missed a single meal.
    5. If I don't get a job, I won't be able to afford some decent new school clothes for the kids. They'll look scraggly.I can get some clothes later on. We'll have to learn to get along with what we have for a while. Happiness doesn't come from clothes, but from our self-respect.
    6. A lot of my friends have jobs. They'll see I can't cut the mustard in the business world.They're not all employed and even my friends do have jobs can probably remember a time when they were out of work. They haven't done anything so far to indicate they look down on me.

    Key Take Aways
    This technique strikes me as a great way to put things in perspective. I'm a fan of thinking on paper. I think that organizing your thoughts goes a long way for dealing with fears and coming up with rationale solutions.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Test Your Can'ts

    Test your cant's. I think the name says it all. This technique is about putting your negative houghts to the test. In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes:

    "An extremely successful cognitive technique involves testing your negative predictions with actual experiments. Suppose for example, you've been telling yourself: 'I'm so upset that I can't concentrate well enough to read anything at all.' As a way of testing this hypothesis, sit down with today's newspaper and read one sentence, and then see if you can summarize the sentence out loud. You might then predict -- 'But I could never read and understand a whole paragraph.' Again -- put this to the test. Read a paragraph and summarize. Many sever, chronic depressions have been cracked open with this powerful method."

    I like this technique! Rather than just think you can't do something, try and prove it. Test yourself and you may be pleasantly surprised.

    Count What Counts

    You get what you measure. Measuring can be as simple as using a wrist counter and clicking each time you do a behavior you want to reinforce. In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns shares an example of how one of his patients gained self-confidence using this very technique:

    “The solution turned out to be simpler than he anticipated. I suggested he obtain a wrist counter, so that each day he could count the things he did on his own without prodding or encouragement from anyone. At the end of the day, he was to write down the total number of clicks he scored and keep a daily log.

    Over a several week period, he began to notice that his daily score increased. Every time that he clicked the counter, he reminded himself that he was in control of his life, and in this way, he trained himself to notice what he did do. Stevie began to feel increased self-confidence, and to view himself as a more capable being.”

    I think the beauty of this technique is the simplicity. I think it works simply because your paying attention. It can be so easy to focus on the negative or ignore the good. In this case, you’re deliberately paying attention to your good behavior, and you’re making it “count.” It’s yet another way of getting what you focus on.

    How To Visualize Success

    Which works better, the carrot or the stick? In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes that clubbing yourself doesn't work as well as a fat, fresh carrot:

    "Suppose for example, you want to quit smoking. You may be reminding
    yourself about cancer and all the dangers of smoking. These fear tactics make you so nervous that you immediately reach for another cigarette; they don't work. "

    Burns shares a three step method for visualizing success that actually does work.

    Summary of Steps
    To visualize success effectively, take the following actions:

    • Step 1. List the advantages of taking the positive action.
    • Step 2. Fantasize you are in your favorite spot.
    • Step 3. Go through your list of benefits.

    Step 1. List the advantages of taking the positive action.
    Prepare a list of all the positive consequences that you would enjoy if you take the action. Write down as many as you can and prioritize them. List the most important first.

    Step 2. Fantasize you are in your favorite spot.
    Each night, before sleep, fantasize that you're in your favorite spot. This could be walking on a mountain trail, lying on a beach ... etc. Focus on every enjoyable detail and let your body go.

    Step 3. Go through your list of benefits.
    Once your body is relaxed, go through your list of benefits one by one. State each benefit as if you already have it. For example, you might say, "Now that I have greater self-discipline, I can take on other challenges."

    I like the fact that Burns is shares a technique he's successfully used on himself and with many of his patients. I know that mental conditioning is a common practice among athletes and peak performers. I'm also a believer that if you can see something in your mind's eye, you have a better chance of achieving it. If you can't visualize success, then chances are you won't achieve it (a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

    Chemical Imbalance May Not Be the Cause of Depression

    If you're depressed, do you have a chemical imbalance in your brain? In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, Dr. David Burns says there's no proof that chemical imbalance is a cause for depression.

    It's an Unproven Theory, Not a Fact
    According to Dr. Burns, it's only a theory not a fact that a chemical imbalance is a cause for depression:

    "There is an almost superstitious belief in our culture that depression results from a chemical or hormonal imbalance of some type in the brain. But this is an unproven theory and not a fact.

    We Still Don't Know the Cause of Depression
    Dr. Burns writes that we still don't know the cause of depression:

    ... we still do not know the cause of depression and we do not know how or why antidepressant drugs work. The theory that depression results from a chemical imbalance has been around for at least 2000 years, but there still is no proof of this, so we really do not know for sure.

    There's No Test That Can Demonstrate Chemical Imbalance is the Cause of Depression
    Dr. Burns writes:

    Furthermore, there is no test or clinical symptom that could demonstrate that a particular patient or group of patients has a "chemical imbalance" that is causing the depression."

    Key Take Aways
    I think this raises an interesting issue. When is depression caused by your thought patterns and when are your thoughts "under the influence" of chemicals. I think the meta-point here is that before resorting to chemical treatment, work through and rule out problems with thought patterns, and that chemical solutions aren't a silver bullet.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Why It's Great to Be Able to Make Mistakes

    Does fear of failure hold you back? In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes why it's great to be able to make mistakes.

    Why It's Great to Be Able to Make Mistakes
    Burns writes the following:

    1. I fear mistakes because I see everything in absolutist, perfectionist
      terms -- one mistake and the whole is ruined. This is erroneous. A
      small mistake certaintly doesn't ruin an otherwise fine whole.
    2. It's good to make mistakes because then we learn -- in fact, we won't learn unless we make mistakes. No one can avoid making mistakes -- and since it's going to happen in any case, we may as well accept it and learn from it.
    3. Recognizing our mistakes helps us adjust our behavior so that we can get results we're more pleased with -- so we might say that mistakes ultimately operate to make us happier and to make things better.
    4. If we fear making mistakes, we become paralyzed -- we're afraid to do or try anything, since we might (in fact, probably will) make some mistakes. If we restrict our activities so that we won't make mistakes, then we are really defeating ourselves. The more we try and the more mistakes we make, the faster we'll learn, and the happier we'll be ultimately.
    5. Most people aren't going to be mad at us or dislike us because we make mistakes -- they all make mistakes, and most people feel uncomfortable around "perfect" people.
    6. We don't die if we make mistakes.

    Key Take Aways
    I think contrasting two paths, helps illustrate the point. The fear of failure path is limiting and stressful. The make mistakes and learn path is unlimited.

    If you operate under a mindset where you can't take chances or make mistakes, you limit your growth and your experiences. Additionally, you get worse at dealing with mistakes because you always try to avoid them.

    If you operate under the mindset that you can make mistakes and learn, you stay in the game, grow and adapt. I think you also get better at dealing with mistakes. This can be anything from your own self-talk, to a support network, to your approaches for learning. If you keep getting knocked off your horse, but you keep getting back on, you get stronger, faster, and continue to climb. I think in life you're either climbing or sliding, and it's when you stop getting on your horse that you slide down.

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    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    Intelligence Doesn't Determine Happiness

    Is smart a criteria for happiness? In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes that it's not your intelligence, but your frustration tolerance that's the key.

    Irritability Quotient (IQ) and Your Happiness
    Burns writes:

    "What's your IQ? I'm not interested in knowing how smart you are because your intelligence has little, if anything, to do with your capacity for happiness. What I want to know is what your Irritability Quotient is. This refers to the amount of anger and annoyance you tend to absorb and harbor in your daily life. If you have a particularly high IQ, it puts you at a great disadvantage because you overreact to frustrations and disappointments by creating feelings of resentment that blacken your disposition and make your life a joyless hassle."

    Key Take Aways
    This point rings true. I think the meta-point is that it's not about lowering your expectations about things; instead it's about improving your ability to deal with things that don't go as planned. Another way to put it is, raising your bar over what you choose to let frustrate you, goes a long way for your happiness.

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    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    How To Deal With Criticism

    Criticism can cut you down or build you up depending on how you react. The choice is yours. In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes about the three reactions to criticism.

    The Three Reactions to Criticism
    There's three ways to react:

    1. Sad route - “I’m no good.”
    2. Mad route - “You’re no good.”
    3. Glad route - “Here’s a chance to learn something.”

    The Sad Route
    In this case, you let the criticism cut you down. You might even magnify the criticism. For example you might overgeneralize it and conclude your life is a string of errors. You might label yourself a screw up. The result is you end up sad and anxious. If you choose this path, it’s a road to depression and low-self esteem.

    The Mad Route
    In this case, you attack your critic. You go into fight or flight mode. The result is that you feel angry and frustrated.

    The Glad Route
    In this case, you either have self-esteem or act as if you did. Your response is investigative. Does the criticism contain a grain of truth? The glad route is gives you more options. By asking a series of questions, you’re in a position to offer a solution. If you need to compromise you can negotiate. If you were wrong you can admit it. If the critic was mistaken, you can tactfully point it out.

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    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    3 Principles of Cognitive Therapy

    I’m a principles and practices kind of a guy, so I always like to know the underlying beliefs behind a system. In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes about three underlying principles in cognitive therapy.

    1. All your moods are created by your "cognitions," or thoughts.
    2. When you are feeling depressed, your thoughts are dominated by a pervasive negativity.
    3. The negative thoughts which cause your emotional turmoil nearly always contain gross distortions.
    I’m not sure how the first principle explains moods from bio-chemistry (e.g. a sugar-high). Maybe the first assumption is that there are no bio-chemistry overrides currently in your system. In that case, then all your moods are created by your thoughts.

    This gets interesting. YOU control your mood by controlling what you think. No matter what happens in your life, you control the gap between stimulus and response. How you filter or perceive the world then becomes the biggest factor in how you feel!

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    Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Disarming Technique

    In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes how you can take the wind out of your nagging critic’s sails by agreeing with your critic, but making it your own decision, not theirs.

    Pushy Approaches Don’t Work
    Burns shares why pushy approaches don’t work:

    “Your sense of paralysis will be intensified if your family and friends are in the habit of pushing and cajoling you. This nagging should statements reinforce the insulting thoughts already echoing through your head. Why is their pushy approach doomed to failure? It’s a basic law of physics that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Any time you feel shoved, whether by
    someone’s hand actually on your chest or by someone trying to boss you around, you will naturally tighten up your chest and resist so as to maintain your equilibrium and balance. You will attempt to exert your self-control and preserve your dignity by refusing to do the thing that you are being pushed to do. The paradox is that you often end up hurting yourself.”

    Example Scenario for the Disarming Technique
    Burns writes about Mary, a woman in her late teens, who avoid doing things because it would mean giving in to her mother:
    “Supposed you are Mary, and after thinking things over you decide you would be better off if you got involved in doing a number of things. You’ve just made this decision when your mother comes into your bedroom and announces, “Don’t you lie around any longer! Your life is going down the drain. Get moving! Get involved in the things the way the other girls your age do!” At that moment, in spite of the fact that you have already decided to do just that, you develop a tremendous aversion to it!”
    Using the Disarming Technique
    Burns shows how to disarm the attack and avoid cutting off your nose to spite your face:
    “The disarming technique is an assertive method that will solve this problem for you. The essence of the disarming technique is to agree with your mother, but to do so in a way that you remind her you are agreeing with her based on your own decision, and not because she was telling you what to do. So you might answer this way: “Yes, Mom, I just thought the situation over myself and decided it would be to my advantage to get moving on things. Because of my own decision, I’m going to do it.” Now you can start doing things and not feel bad. Or if you wish to put more of a barb in your comments, you can always say, “Yes, Mom, I have in fact decided to get out of bed in spite of the fact you’ve been telling me to!””
    My Key Takeaways
    I don’t think anybody likes to be told what to do. At the same time, life’s full of unsolicited advice from family, friends, teachers, colleagues, bosses, you name it. In cases where the advice is sound, but you don’t like their approach and you don’t want to give up your power to make your own decisions, the key is take ownership for your decisions. It’s ultimately a win-win because., if they really had your best intentions at heart, then they’re happy to see the results. You’re happy because it’s your decision and you made it cleat that nobody is pushing you around.

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