Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Retrospective

As 2010 comes to a close, I want to take a look back on this year and appreciate where the events of the past 365 days have brought me.

2009 ended as one of the most challenging years in my life.  I was very unhappy, confused, depressed, lonely and really didn't care about much at all.  I decided in the final two weeks that I needed to turn things around and the best way to do that was to keep myself too busy to think about things.  I set many daily, weekly and monthly goals across all of my personal creative interests / hobbies, personal finances and professional career.

The year started great, I had a new things to keep my attention and I started achieving goals at a very rapid and satisfying rate.  In February things started to back slip and I found myself questioning why I was working so hard at things that didn't seem to matter in the "big picture" of life.  I started doing a bunch of soul searching and started to slip back into a deep depression.  All of this came to a head in March, when I was forced to learn a very hard life lesson.  Although the next several months were very hard, and I wasn't sure how things would end up, all worked out as best it could.

Starting in April I was able to take a step back and look inward at myself to try and figure out why I had spiraled to the all-time low I had hit in March.  I started reading a lot and changed the focus of the books from interests / hobbies to self help topics and the study of why people do the things we do... diving into several Psychology topic areas and finding that I really enjoyed the study.

The next several months had me rebuilding my self image, and getting back to the person that I remembered before 2008. I met knew friends and forged new relationships.  I started to enjoy life again.

I had several goals around losing weight and at my high point I was able to lose almost 45 lbs.  The bad news is I'm pretty sure I've put most of that back on... boo!  Oh well - it gives me another goal for 2011, right? 

The final months of the year finished strong with new songwriting projects, website consulting jobs, being signed as Technical Reviewer to three books currently being published, and a freshly renewed spirit for the holiday season!

As I look back on the documented goals that I had for 2010, I can't say that I managed to accomplish them all, however here are some things that I did manage to accomplish the following...

  • Moved content and preparing for launch of as the central site for all projects that I'm involved in.
  • Cut way back on Fast Food consumption
  • Am now back to being a non-drinker, with estimated savings of $5k per year
  • Have written and composed four new songs this year
  • Read over 60 books
  • Achieved many of goals around hobbies and interests
  • Designed three new t-shirt designs for ZicApparel
  • Completed 3 of 7 hiking trails at the Waterloo Discovery Center
I'm sure there are many more things, but I'll now turn my attention to 2011 and making it the best year ever!

I'll be posting my "2011: A Look Forward" post on Sunday and it will be available on the new website only, so please update your bookmarks and follow me on my journey.

Thanks so much for reading...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's Christmas Time

DECEMBER rings in as one of the best months of 2010!  A fabulous way to close out the year and look forward to a fantastic 2011!  I enjoyed spending time with those special to me and close to my heart. 

Kelley and I attended a pretty great little concert at the beginning of the month and spent some quality time through the holidays. My mom came over for a visit and will be here with me through New Years.

This was a year to remember the great holiday memories from years past, but to not be sad when remembering them. Instead of mourning the ones we miss, we celebrated with those that are here to enjoy it.  The holidays really had much more meaning to me this year and I look forward to taking advantage of the time I have left with family and friends.  That last statement may sound a bit morbid, but we aren't all here forever.  Our time with each other is limited and precious and I realize this...

It was a small trip through the Christmas light display in Jackson that really put me in the mood to enjoy the holiday season this year.  It's funny how the little times can mean so much.

As I sit here on Boxing Day, thinking back on the past couple days, I feel very blessed.  I'm lucky to have folks that care about me and I look forward to next year being one of the best ever!

Happy Holiday's to you and yours...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: "The Will To Change" by Bell Hooks

I recently finished this book and although it wasn't exactly what I expected, I did enjoy the book nonetheless.  The book focuses on "love" and the ability for men to show emotion, express feelings and basically be in touch with their feminine masculinity.  It covers how rare this is in today's society.  The book was written in 2004 and is still accurate for today's times.  It talks a lot about feminism and how the movement back in the 60's / 70's got a bad rap from the women that used it as a "man hater" type of position.  In actuality the book says in it's opening, "Every female wants to be loved by a male. Every woman wants to love and be loved by the males in her life. Whether gay or straight, bisexual or celibate, she wants to feel the love of father, grandfather, unlce, brother or male friend. If she is heterosexual she wants the love of a male partner."

The book goes into great detail telling why the majority of males lack the ability to love in the way that their women would like them to love.  It describes the Male Patriarchy (and uses the word Patriarchy way too much in my humble opinion) as the main reason for the way things are today, the reason why boys are told at a young age not to cry or show emotion, and how this culture brings up children with the idea that the male of the species is in someway superior to the female.

I'll share with you a few quotes from pages I made note to return to after reading the book, these will sum up the highlights of what I learned or insights I enjoyed from this book.

"In an anti patriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved."

"Many anti patriarchal parents find that the alternative masculinities they support for their boy children are shattered not by grown-ups but by sexist male peers."

"Much of the anger boys express is itself a response to the demand that they now show any other emotions. Anger feels better than numbness because it often leads to more instrumental action."

From "The Heart of the Soul" by Gary Zukav and Linda Francis - "Anger prevents love and isolates the one who is angry. It is an attempt, often successful, to push away what is most longed for - companionship and understanding. It is a denial of the humanness of others, as well as a denial of your own humanness. Anger is the agony of believing that you are not capable of being understood and that you are not worth of being understood. It is a wall that separates you from others as effectively as if it were concrete, thick, and very high. There is no way through it, under it, or over it."

"Usually this moment comes in adolescence, when many caring and affectionate mothers stop giving their sons emotional nurturance for fear that it will emasculate them. Unable to cope with the loss of emotional connection, boys internalize the pain and mask it with indifference or rage. Usually adult males who are unable to make emotional connections with the women they choose to be intimate with are frozen in time, unable to allow themselves to love for fear that the loved one will abandon them."

"Most folks believe we are hard-wired biologically to long for sex but they do not believe that we are hard-wired to long for love. Almost everyone believes that we can have sex without love; most folks do not believe that a couple can have love in a relationship if there is no sex."

In reference to the movie "American Beauty" - "They echo the patriarchal message that if a man stops work, he loses his reason for living."

From "Love and Survival" by Dean Ornish - "I am learning that the key to our survival is love. When we love someone and feel loved by them, somehow along the way our suffering subsides, our deepest wounds begin healing, our hearts start to feel safe enough to be vulnerable and to open a little wider. We begin experiencing our own emotions and the feelings of those around us."

Old standards of male sex role versus new masculinity discussed and organized in good fashion on this site that I was able to locate with the help of the Goog.

"To heal, men must learn to feel again. They must learn to break the silence, to speak the pain. Often men, to speak the pain, first turn to the women in their lives and are refused a hearing. In many ways women have bought into the patriarchal masculine mystique. Asked to witness a male expressing feelings, to listen to those feelings and respond, they may simply turn away."

"Integrity is needed for healthy self-esteem. Most males have low self-esteem because they are constantly lying and dissimulating (taking on false appearances) in order to perform the male sexist role."

"The love women are looking for in a relationship with men is one based on mutuality in partnership. Mutuality is different from equality."

Overall a good read and it lead me to some other works by Nathaniel Brandon and Terrance Real, among others listed above...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm Thankful

Another Thanksgiving has come to an end and I'd like to take the time to post a quick note about some of the things that have me counting my blessings this year.

I'm thankful that I have a Mom that is my biggest fan, best friend and is there when I need advice or just a shoulder to cry on... we've been through a lot and she's my rock.

I'm thankful that decisions I've made have given me a challenging career which I enjoy very much, about 85% of the time.

I'm thankful that although I turned 37 years old this year, I am still a kid at heart, with an imagination that stirs my soul to create and express myself in any way possible.

While I'm on the subject of age, I'm thankful that I've made it through the year and I'm still working towards making sure I make it through next year.

I'm thankful to have a roof over my head and although I've struggled quite a bit this year, that things have worked out for the most part.

I'm thankful to have friends that are patient enough to show me that they care about me, listen to my rants, be there when I need them, and know how to give me space when that is what I need. I'm thankful to have made some great new friends this year and although I don't get to see a lot of my friends, I hope they know how much they mean to me.

I'm thankful to have a large extended family that supports me in my journey and I know I could turn to if I needed it. No matter where life takes me, we're blood and if you ever need me, just call.  If I don't answer, leave a message...  :)

I'm thankful that I have angels watching over me daily, guiding me in my decisions and guarding me from harm. I miss you all dearly, but I can still feel you, so I know you're with me.

I'm blessed beyond words, for the short list above and many, many other things that I have trouble expressing, today I'm reminded and reflect and give thanks.

"Try To See It My Way" - The Psychology Of Persuasion

The title of this post, a lyric borrowed right from a Beatles song, is quite fitting as I'll be going over the topics covered in Robert Cialdini's book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion".

How I came to find out about this book

I stumbled across this title in the library catalog when looking for books that had "Psychology" in the title.  The title caught my eye and the price was right, so I decided to grab it for a quick read.  Little did I know that I'd enjoy the book so much.

I have to admit that the subject matter of this book really grabbed my attention and had me wanting to come home and read the next chapter, each covering many "weapons of influence" that can and are used in day to day life to influence our decisions.  Many of these I hadn't given a second thought, but this book brings to light why we should be aware of these methods.

The book covers the following "weapons of influence"...

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment & Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity
I'll cover a bit of each area to give you the overall idea of how people can take advantage of you by using these methods to influence your decisions.  I highly recommend that you pick up the book and read it front to back if you're at all interested in getting a more in-depth explanation and some great examples.

The book starts out telling how these various methods are used in everyday situations to influence our decisions and that many times we may not even realize it since we've come to decide on things quickly and in an automatic fashion. An example is given of a store owner that has had problems selling off a specific line of jewelry.  The owner leaves a note for one of the clerks the next day to put everything in the cabinet that is holding that jewelry "price x 1/2" or "half price"... however the clerk misunderstands and marks the jewelry at twice the price.  To the owners surprise the entire lot of jewelry sells off at two times the price for which it was recently listed. The owner, stunned, called the author of this book asking for an explanation as they knew that the author was an expert in the area of psychology.  The author describes the action as more of an automatic response based on the purchasers lack of understanding of what they are buying and it's true worth and the fact that most people will associate expensive with good.  As we all know, this is not always the case.  In this example - it wasn't.

Cialdini touches on the study of ethology as a way to show that as animals we're similar to other species that have hard wired decision mechanisms that will react in a fixed action pattern to certain stimuli.  He talks of the Mother turkey, who's mothering instincts are triggered by a chick's "cheep cheep" sound.  The presence of this sound, even if the chick is not real - which has been tested through multiple experiment, will trigger the auto response of the Mother to perform motherly duties and treat the chick as healthy offspring.

We have similar hard-wired behavior patterns that can be triggered and this book covers compliance tactics used by others against us, and in some cases how they can be used for good. 

In the first chapter he covers the Perceptual Contrast concept, which I found quite interesting.  Basically it states that we're affected by our perception of how one item contrasts to another.  The example given is of a gentleman going into a clothing store to purchase a suit.  If the man comes in and says to the salesperson that he needs a three piece suit and a sweater, the salesperson will do best to show the man the suit first, the more expensive item.  This was the sweater, in contrast to the suit, will be perceived as less expensive.  The contrast principle is well known and well used in society today and whether we realize it or not, the way that things are presented to us can influence us in many ways.

As part of this chapter an experiment was explained and I just had to do it to see if it worked.  I took three glasses of water, one hot, one room temperature and one cold.  I put my left hand in the hot water and my right hand in the cold water.  At the same time I removed my hands from those glasses and put them both into the room temperature water.  To my surprise, my right hand felt like it was in hot water and my left felt like it was in cold water, even though they were both in the same glass of room temperature water!

On to what the author refers to as six "weapons of influence"...


The first "weapon" in the arsenal is reciprocation.  When used this invokes a feeling of indebtedness and so we feel that we have to comply to a request made of us.  An example in the book is the Hare Krishna movement and how they will approach with a gift of a flower.  They will state that the flower is a gift, and that if you wanted to make a donation it would be greatly appreciated, but not necessary.  This feeling will be enough to make most of us give something in return, even though we never wanted the "gift" in the first place.

This is used in many other areas as well.  The book notes an example where a University Professor tried an experiment and mailed Christmas Cards to a random list of people to see their reaction to receiving a card from someone that they did not know.  Surprisingly, the professor received many cards back, most not evening questioning the card.  An auto-response in full effect!

Another example of this type of influence method is reciprocal concessions.  This is where after the initial request is made and turned down a smaller follow up request is made and uses guilt to get you to comply.  We've all run into this one before on the phone.  Let's paint the picture - you're sitting down to dinner with the family, just opened a nice bottle of Jack and a call comes in... you answer it in your best Denzel impression and greet the caller.  They say that they are calling from BlahDiBlah Charity and give you a sad story about how there are people out there that need your help (there are, but usually they aren't linked with these telephone solicitors, I give to charity - I just seek out ones that matter to me instead of giving in to others that enjoy interrupting family time) and they say something to the effect of "can we count on you for a $50 donation?", to which you reply "No".  The next part is the concession where they ask for a lower amount or ask you to buy a calendar, or some small item and drop a "surely, we can count on you for ..." line.  Next thing you realize you've committed to some lesser amount.  The point being that you didn't want to commit to any amount.  The book gives another great example of an experiment where the author asked college students to volunteer to chaperon juvenile delinquents on a zoo trip, with the majority of them turning down the less than exciting offer after the request was made.  However, when they lead this request with a larger request of spending two hours a week with the juveniles for two years, a request that the experimenters expected to be refused, they found a much greater success rate in getting those asked to commit to the second request of a day at the zoo.  Crazy, right?

The key here is to analyze the requests as they come in and not feel the need to comply with the second request because of refusing the first.  We should really take the time to analyze the request to ensure that this is something we truly want to do, separate from any other request made of us.

Commitment and Consistency

It turns out that consistency is something that has a pretty high value in our society.  We feel that we "know" someone when we can predict the way they will react to something.  People don't appreciate someone that takes a stand on a certain topic and will defend their position only to find that the next time the topic is brought up the person has changed their original view.  Have you ever been in a conversation where you've take a stand on one side of the issue just to find out new information as the discussion progressed.  Did you change your original stance or defend the position that you committed to?  Even when you realized you might be wrong? Don't lie...  :)

I've been there myself, lots of times. The book mentions that inconsistency is sometimes looked at as a worst trait than being wrong.  It mentions a situation where, after a lecture, Michael Faraday was asked if he meant to imply that a hated academic rival was always wrong, Faraday looked at the questioner and replied, 'He's not that consistent.'

"Influence" touches on this principle as the second "weapon" that can be used against us.  The exploitation happens when we commit to something, it could be something fairly small, such as saying that we agree or believe or like some idea or product.  Once we do this a request can be made that will use the consistency principle to influence our decision.  There are quite a few good examples in the book, some small and some quite large such as the way that Chinese POW Concentration camps would have captured soldiers commit to a small belief such as saying or agreeing that "the United States is not perfect", which is something that is pretty easy to agree to, but then through psychological manipulation they would build on that commitment and have soldier write out what they didn't like about the US, and then agree that perhaps some of the communist beliefs "weren't so bad after all" and then they would use this information and distribute it out as propaganda to other camps, showing other soldiers that there are pro-communist people in their same position. I mentioned this example since one of the most powerful examples of commitment is written word or public commitment.  It's hard to say that you didn't agree with a certain idea, stance, product, anything if you wrote the document and signed your name to it. It's even hard to convince yourself otherwise after doing so.

One of the ways that this was used in the past was by companies who would send out "free" product in exchange for your statement on how you use their product and enjoy it.  These are similar to buying user reviews, but once they have them, they can use them any way they would like to market their product.

Speaking of "Like", I also find that this principle is used on Facebook.  We see ads that tell us that one or more of our friends have chosen to "Like" this product / service / person, which may influence us into also making our statement, or at very least might allow the company to reach out to you and ask for your support by stating that you were recommended by a friend.

Think of how this principle is used in Sales.  The book calls out a statement from within "American Salesman" magazine which talks about the importance of the first sale, because after that they are no longer a prospect, they are a customer. This first person will result in a change in mindset for the salesperson and the client and will be used to influence future purchases.

The commitment principle has strong psychological ties, so we need to be aware when someone might be using it against us.  There are times though, when this one can be used for good, such as the public commitment that someone makes at a weight loss clinic or as a promise to quit an addictive activity like smoking.  "Influence" gave a great example of a person who gave cards to people they respected, on the card it said "I promise you that I will never smoke another cigarette".  Such a public commitment is powerful and in this case was enough to support the person through the quitting process.  After all - once you've committed to something, it's important to stay consistent.

Social Proof

The third "weapon" draws on the fact that when we are put in a situation where we're not sure what we should be doing, we'll look at others to see what they are doing and follow along. I really think this is one of the most powerful weapons, and it's used so heavily through our modern society.  The book mentions many, many great examples from small, such as the laugh track, to large such as cult behavior and the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.

The author touches on various other facts about how people react in emergency situations in a group setting as opposed to an individual setting.  There was a case in New York where a woman was attacked three times over a 30 minute period, there were almost 40 people that witnessed these attacks and yet nobody called the police.  In these large group situations it seems that we'll look around and see that nobody else is doing anything, so why should we?  Or we may assume that somebody else is going to help and then nobody helps...

Another interesting statistic from this section of the book was the increase in automobile accidents and plane crashes after high profile suicides / murders are publicized.  The book calls out to research done by David Phillips on what is called the "Werther Effect", also referred to as Copycat Suicide.  It's a very interesting topic and I won't go into depth here other than saying that external social influences can be very powerful and we may not immediately realize it when they affect us or our decisions.

Some of the defense mechanisms revolve around being aware when something is "faked" such as a laugh track and choosing on our own whether to follow along or not.  Another example was how Native Americans would hunt buffalo by herding them towards a cliff.  The herd lowers their head and just follow the leader, blindly... even if it's right over a cliff and to their death.  With that said - it's important for us to be aware of our surroundings and decisions, to make sure that they are our own and that we're not just "following the lead".

I believe this will get more difficult with the explosion of social media on the internet.  Everywhere we look we're seeing what our friends are doing, what they like, what we should like, we're constantly being influenced.

Above is a recent example from Lil' Wayne.  He recently posted a request for all "true fans" to buy his new album on Facebook, even if they already owned it.  In checking SoundScan results (see below) through the Rap Basement website it looks like his request worked as fans who felt that they were helping him out and may have even felt a personal tie since he was probably speaking to them when he said "true fans".

There were plenty of comments on this post that were negative though.  Some fans weren't falling for it.  There's nothing wrong with supporting an artist that you enjoy.  Asking your fans to buy something twice just because you want them to might be pushing it a little, but hey - almost 25,000 people clicked the "Like" button for that status post.


We all want to be liked, it's in our social make up.  The desire to be liked by others is very strong, and when exploited, others can make us like them without really knowing why, or without having really built a relationship that validates the feeling of liking them.  An example from the book is a the person listed as most successful car salesman in history, Joe Girard. A Michigan boy ("can you feel that?") who claimed that all that was needed to close the deal was "finding the salesman they like, plus the price; put them both together and you get a deal."

He's right, and I've been through a car sale recently enough to know that these are the two things I'm looking for when working a deal.  However, what makes me "like" someone that I barely know?

There are several key characteristics covered in detail in the book, so I'll just do a high level summary.

The first is physical attractiveness. We like people that are good looking, it's a fact, and the reason that modern marketing is filled to the brim with good looking people. The book even lists out that looks can affect not only your success in business, but in life in general, stating that even attractive convicted criminals may get lighter sentences based on their appearance.  Not fair, right?  Tell me about it.

The second characteristic is similarity.  We like people that are similar to us or perhaps have a similar job.  Basically if the person can relate to us, we like that.  This is why a car salesman may look to gather some social data from your clothes, or other sources like your trade in that might tell them what you like, things like golf clubs in the trunk may have the salesperson drop hints that they like golf so that you'll think that you have something in common. On my most recent visit to the dealership, the finance manager claimed to have went to school with me, I later found out that this was a lie, but at the time it made me feel like he was working the best deal he could for me because we were "friends".

The third characteristic is something that can be used pretty easily and that is compliments.  A subtle "hey - I like you" or "I can tell you're a smart person" will be enough to suck us in.

A fourth characteristic is contact / cooperation.  It's easier to like someone that has the same goal that we have since we believe that we're both working to achieve a mutual benefit. 

Conditioning and association also play into our decision to like someone.  This could be things that we've been taught as we've grown up or experienced first hand.  An example is given of the negative association that is tied with the people that give us the weather forecasts, however association can be positive or negative. The book also notes the example of sports fans association to their favorite team and how strong that can be...

Exploiting the liking "weapon of influence" is pretty easy and many people will try to use this to persuade you to do something they want you to do.  The part that makes this difficult is that we're hard wired to want to be liked and to like others.  A quote from "Death Of A Salesman" sums it up quite well, "the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead.  Be liked and you will never want.", unfortunately for those who have read this book / seen the play, we know how this ends.


I'll be honest, when I saw authority listed as one of the "weapons of influence" I wondered how effective this method could really be, as a good friend of mine says "you're not the boss of me!" and as individuals we do what we want to do, right?  Right?

Well the first part of this chapter opens up with an experiment where volunteers were brought in to take part in a study to find how punishment affects learning and memory. They were met by the Professor of Psychology for a well respected school and told that they will be part of an experiment where there will be a "student" and a "teacher". The student's goal is to remember a series of items / answer questions. The teacher's role would be to punish the student in the event of a wrong answer by delivering an electric shock.  Rather than giving you all the gory details here in type - I'll link you out to the experiment page and just say that I was shocked (no pun intended) by the results!

So it seems that authority, or the need to feel that we're doing the job that is expected of us is a powerful tool.  This can be exploited fairly easily by having us believe that the person asking a request of us is in a position of authority, whether that be true or not.

There are facts supporting the theory that we don't question the orders of people in a position of authority, whether it be a police officer, or a doctor (or other expert).  The book has another example that I thought was pretty scary, which is that over a week stay hospitals have an error rate of approximately 12% when delivering patient medication.  The main reason behind the errors being that nobody questions the doctor's orders.  The example given was a patient that was complaining of an earache and the doctor wrote out his orders to give a set amount of medicine to the patient in their right ear, but he abbreviated "right ear" to "R ear" and sure enough, the orders were followed through and the patient received ear drops rectally.  Seems pretty silly, right?

It's easy to fall into a place where we can be influenced by authority, but this book poses two questions to ask that will help us validate that this is someone that we should be following.

  1. Is this authority truly and expert?
  2. How truthful can we expect the expert to be here in this current situation?
Depending on the authority of the person involved, I can imagine this may be difficult to do in some situations.


The final "weapon of influence" may be one of the most used and I know from experience that it can be exploited in ways that are very powerful in influencing our decisions.

the way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost
- G.K. Chesterton
This method is used by many in the retail industry to draw interest around products / services.  There will be time limits imposed on offers, quantity limits, basically anything to make you think that you had better act right now otherwise you'll be missing out!  This is quite good timing as today is Thanksgiving, which means that "Black Friday" is tomorrow, a day when the shopping malls and retail stores are packed with folks trying to get the "best deals of the year" on items that they likely don't need.

As another example Direct Buy uses a form of this "weapon", as it requires people to sign up on their introductory visit, they force people into a decision quickly, imposing an unrealistic time frame to take advantage of those that will not take the time to think about it and instead just join.

Other examples of this being exploited might be social groups or associations that require membership to participate.  Of course, when I think of this "you can't have it" attitude that makes everyone one want it, I think of Cartmanland!

Another pretty funny example of how strong the desire can become for something that one can't have is the decision of Dade County, FL to prohibit laundry detergent with phosphate in it in 1972.  The result was people going to other counties to get and "smuggle" the soap back home.

The book gives many other good examples as well, but my favorite example involved a person who bought and sold used cars and knew how to use this method to his full benefit.  He would research local cars for sale and then based on his knowledge would choose the best deal that was offered at a price where he thought he could do little to it and still make money on it.  He would clean the car up and then list it for sale in the local newspaper the next weekend.  As people would call and inquire about the car, he would set times to have them come and see the car.  The time given to all people inquiring was the same time.  What this did was create a situation where scarcity existed.  The first potential buyer would arrive and may be able to haggle a bit, but when a second potential buyer showed up, it put them in a position of either buying the car or losing it to the next potential buyer... a beautiful situation for the owner of the car.  Even if the first person said no, the second buyer may have to deal with a third potential buyer.  This reminded me of the way that auctions work, which are very similar, although I have to believe they are a bit less awkward than the situation above, but trust me - I'm going to use this method the next time I sell my used car.  :)

I know that there is a ton of information in this post, but I really enjoyed this book and trust me, although some of the concepts are talked through here - the book gives much more detail, examples and explanation for why and how we can be influenced by these methods.  I highly recommend it and would like to hear what you thought of the book. 

If you have any thoughts on this post please feel free to leave me a comment.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Define "Busy"

I've been as busy as a bee... a really busy bee... a bee that is working two or three hives at a time!  OK - maybe not that busy, but I've been keeping myself occupied per usual.

I finished off the following books this week.

Both were good books, however I really enjoyed "Influence".  So much so that I'll save a special blog post for it!  As for "If You Want To Write", what I received from the book was it's simple message that "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say" and that we should write if we want to write.  We should write from our perspective and be sure that we're putting ourselves into our writing, and if we do we'll end up with something that will be interesting and unique and readers will enjoy.  We should also not focus on writing as a way to make it rich... there is much more worth to be gained by simply expressing ourselves to others and if we're lucky enough someone will read it and be inspired or entertained. Heck - this blog is a perfect example of that.  In case you hadn't realized it yet, I write for me.  I'm sorry if this rubs you the wrong way or if you take offense to the statement, but at this time, I use my blog as a tool to capture my thoughts on a wide variety of topics.  Where I can, I like to sprinkle in a tip or two that I've learned, but in the end the "value" of this blog is what I get from writing. it.  That's not to say that I don't secretly hope that others are enjoying something in my posts... but it's not my main goal.

I've started several other books that I have picked up at the library over the last week or so...

Along with this I've been working on designing a logo for a friend's business, working on my own brand for "thinkNadon" and preparing to launch the new website.

As if that wasn't enough, I've also been working on a finishing up a couple t-shirt designs and a new ball cap design.

In between all of the noise I work a minimum of forty hours a week and fit in social time whenever possible.

busy [biz-ee]
adjective -
actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime.

Yup... that's me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Self Study Degree - PSYCH 111 - Introduction to Psychology

The first required reading book has arrived.  This aligns with the University of Michigan course mentioned in the subject.  The course detail can be found here. I'm excited to start this book and hope to get through a good part of it this weekend.

As part of the class work it sounds like there are some research projects.  I'll try and find my own and post my findings along the way.

Let's begin!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Latest Reading

I picked these up from the library this week.  Hoping to start them this weekend.  Most of the interest in these stems from the recent investigation into Masculine Psychology.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

He: Understanding Masculine Psychology

Each new book that I read is usually a recommendation from a book that I'm currently reading or a result of the search for knowledge in a new area that may be spurred on from any one of many daily influences.  Before this year ends I will put together a visual reference of the titles that I've read and where / what lead me to each book.

Today's post is about "He: Understanding Masculine Psychology" by Robert A. Johnson.  From the back cover - "He: Understanding Masculine Psychology is based on the myth of Parsifal's search for the Holy Grail. In his book, Robert A. Johnson explores the insights of this story and discusses its signifigance for masculine development in the present day."

How I came to find this book

I was lead to learning more on the topic of masculine Psychology from a newsletter that I received via email.  The email had a link to a new course on "Being a Man" and how it will help you attract the type of women you want, etc. (etc. here is used to fill up all the other not so useful information that is contained in the link I'm about to share)

The web page had a very interesting story about how a boy moves from the initial stage of innocence into manhood amidst a bunch of marketing material.  Near the bottom of the page it mentioned the "science behind the course", which grabbed my interest because I'd rather search out my own conclusions rather than being handed a compressed, opinionated version from someone else, and it mentioned that the course had a special guest that was a leader in the field of masculine psychology. This phrase and field of study was new to me, so I did a quick wikipedia search, which lead me to learning about this field and finding to my pleasant surprise that Freud and Jung had studied and did analysis on this topic.  I also found the following info on the Wikipedia page that definitely peaked my interest.

Born of the female body
Jungian analysts Guy Corneau and Eugene Monick argue that the establishment and maintenance of the male identity is more delicate and fraught with complication than that of the establishment and maintenance of the female identity. Such psychologists suggest that this may be because men are born of the female body, and thus are born from a body that is a different gender from themselves. Women, on the other hand, are born from a body that is the same gender as their own.
A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it is confirmed only by other men.
A quick search through the library catalog and I found this book by Robert Johnson, a Jungian analyst and author.

Thoughts about "He"

The book is well organized and as it said on the back cover, is based on a myth / story of a young man's pursuit for the Holy Grail and the cast of characters that he encounters through his life, each having their own meaning and influence on the young man.

It starts out by describing "The Fisher King" as the King of the Grail Castle, and how when a King is wounded all in the Kingdom are affected. It talks about "The Fisher King Wound" as being the time when a young man moves from innocence to the second of three stages in his life.  It's the time when he realizes that the world is not all good and sets him on his path for redemption.  The wound could be physical or mental, but it is one that The Fisher King will carry around with him as he searches for redemption.
"The first touch of consciousness in a youth appears as a wound or as suffering"
It touches upon the phases of evolution of a man.
"The archetypal pattern is one that goes from the unconscious perfection of a child, to the conscious imperfection of middle life, to the conscious perfection of old age."
The Fisher King wound is the event that takes a man from stage one to stage two.  It says that as a wounded King, he'll be able to see all the greatness around him, but not partake in any of it as he is wounded.
How many times have women said to their men: "Look at all the good things you have; you have the best job you have ever had in your life. Our income is better than ever. We have two cars. We two and sometimes three day weekends. Why aren't you happy? The Grail is at hand. Why aren't you happy?"

The man is too inarticulate to reply, "Because I am a Fisher King and am wounded and cannot touch any of this happiness"

The book goes more into detail about the wounded King and describes how the "wound" can be healed. It says that "the naive part of a man that will heal him and his Fisher King wound."

The book moves from there into the story of "Parsifal" a young boy of little consequence and talks about his move from boyhood to manhood.  There are several quotes that stand out to me. One is when Parsifal is greeted by five Knights one day and he realizes that he wants to become a Knight.  His father and brothers have met a fate of death by following that path, although this is not known to Parsifal as his mother sheltered him from this in hopes that he would not meet the same fate.
"but no mother has ever succeeded in keeping her son from danger when his father's blood begins to stir in him."
This quote hit home and I know this feeling all too well.  I know that my father's blood surges through my veins and that the things I've learned through his habits could lead me to dark places. I am aware of these things though and make a conscious effort to avoid the negative, and focus more on the good.

The book continues with the story and Parsifal's journey and much more is reference and explained as it relates to man's journey through life. How he deals with confrontation, needs to understand and display his aggressiveness, needs other men for guidance, and must move past his "mother complex".
No son ever develops into manhood without, in some way, being disloyal to his mother. If he remains with her, to comfort her and console her, then he never gets out of his mother complex. Often a mother will do all that she can to keep her son with her. One of the most subtle ways is to encourage in him the idea of being loyal to her; but if he gives into her completely then she often finds herself with a son severely injured in his masculinity.
It states that a man must move his focus of affection to another, whether it be internal source such as his own inner feminine side, or external with a female companion of his own age.

The book continues with Parsifal's journey and his godfather's advice to "never seduce a fair maiden or be seduced by her" and his introduction to the "Blanche Fleur" or "White Flower".

There is an entire chapter on mood and feeling and I found it quite interesting.  It relates to the statement the godfather made above and basically states that allowing a mood to overtake a man is actually giving into the inner feminine side and moving away from ones reality.  It says "Feeling is the ability to value; mood is to be overtaken or possessed by the inner feminine".  By giving into moods a man can't have true feelings, he must be aware and must only choose one or the other - feelings or moods.
Man has only two alternatives for relationship to his inner woman. Either he rejects her and she turns against him in forms of bad moods and undermining seductions, or he accepts her and finds within a companion who walks through life with him giving him warmth and strength.
Of course I believe that for most men they don't realize that there is this inner struggle that happens.  Most of this likely happens on the subconscious level.

The book does touch a bit on how a woman can deal with this struggle and understand how she can work to bring her man out of these moods when they occur. It talks about depression and inflation and how both can be a negative as they are extremes of each other and how the best path to follow is the middle ground, something that ancient Chinese refer to as Tao.

On a good note, the book explains that the feminine side of man is the creative side.  The masculine side is the part that drives the man to create what the inner feminine has brought to him as an idea.

The book continues on with the myth and talks about Parsifal's visit to the Grail Castle (where the Holy Grail resides) at a young age and how although he's in the presence of what he searches, due to his naivety he doesn't realize it or know how to react.  He misses the opportunity to know the meaning of life due to his mother complex. It mentions that although "the Grail" is always close by and within reach of man, it seems that around the ages of 16 and 45 seem to be the point in a man's life where it is most easily found.

The books describes six basic relationships that a man bears to the feminine world.  It mentions all have noble meaning and can serve man well, but if they are intertwined they can cause confusion and contaminate the thoughts of man. Man must remain conscious in understanding how each will affect him.

His Human Mother - the woman that gave birth to him.
His Mother Complex - his internal regressive capacity to want to return to a dependency on his mother and be a child again. This is a man's wish to fail, his defeatist capacity.  "This is pure poison in man's psychology"
His Mother Archetype - "the feminine half of God"
His Fair Maiden - man's inner woman, his internal companion, source of inspiration / creativity
His Wife or Partner - needs no explanation
Sophia - "the Goddess of Wisdom"

The book mentions a crossroads in regard to "the Grail" and "the Grail Castle", a man is constantly in search of the Grail, and understanding it. He may get several attempts as described earlier, but must be ready and ask the right questions to find it.  It's that search that can lead us in bad directions such as down the path of danger, drug use, promiscuity.  A constant search.  "A woman experiences the Grail in a much different way from a man. She never leaves the Grail Castle and keeps a sense of beauty, connectedness, at-homeness in the universe that a man does not have."
A man creates out of his restlessness; a woman creates by knowing what always was.
"Many men try to make a flesh and blood woman fill the Grail hunger. This is to ask a woman to fulfill a role she can never carry (who can be a living archetype?) and to miss the human miracle she is in fact."

The journey continues on as Parsifal searches to gain entry back into the Grail Castle.  It covers more challenges that he must go through while gaining strength and maturing as a man.  It talks about how at man's highest moments of achievement "the Hideous Damsel" can arrive, basically reminding him of all of his failures. They refer to all these phases as happening throughout life and that this stage referred to in the book as "the dark night of the soul" most often coming to thought at two or three in the morning, literally in the darkest hours. It says man has to come to understand and be humbled by these moments to evolve and move past them.

The book covers a time during middle life when a man will move from extroverted state to a more introverted state and is described as the "Hermit" character.  This character is an important one as it's the one that allows one to perform the self-discovery needed to again evolve.  It is the Hermit that guides Parsifal back to the Grail Castle, where upon entering, with life's maturity in him, he asks the question  "Who does the Grail serve" and finds the answer "the Grail King" which could also be interpreted as God or Self.

This book and the myth it follows really focuses around the meaning of life from man's eyes and even though the myth used is one popular from the twelfth century, it's lessons are fitting for modern day.

This glance at masculine psychology definitely leads me to want to learn more and has enlightened me in several ways. I'll be picking up Robert Johnson's other books "She: Understanding Feminine Psychology" and "We: Understanding The Psychology of Romantic Love"

I'll leave you with a final quote from the book...

The object of life is not happiness, but to serve God or the Grail.  All of the Grail quests are to serve God. If one understands this and drops his idiotic notion that the meaning of life is personal happiness, then one will find that elusive quality immediately at hand.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Latest Grabs for Weekend Fun

I picked up the following books yesterday at the Chelsea Library.
I'll post my thoughts on them as I begin reading.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scholastic Pursuits and the Freedom To Learn

"The World Is Your Oyster!" - have you heard this phrase before?  I did a bit of research and found that it comes from Shakespeare's play "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (Act II, Scene II) and the actual line is a dialog between two characters.

Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
Pistol: Why, then, the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open. 

Although there is some debate to the actual meaning, my interpretation is that "Pistol" is saying "Ok - that's fine, if you won't lend me the money, then the world will be the oyster where I will find my treasure (the pearl).
We live in a fascinating time.  No matter what your interest, we have the ability, through research and community (online or local), to not only find out more about any topic but we have the ability to connect with experts in the field.  Many of these resources are free or of little cost. The world and the level at which it is interconnected really does allow us to find any treasure for which we want to search.

I have a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Information Systems equivalency (see footnote) from the University of New York (2004), as well as two Post Secondary Diplomas from the Toronto School Of Business (Computer Programming - 1996 / Network Design and Systems Support and Analysis - 1997) and I've often thought about going back to school to continue my studies.  Recently, I have had an interest in the study of the mind and the ties between it and human behavior.

As I was thinking about my options for obtaining additional education I cringed when I started to think about cost and the time constraints that embarking on such a journey would bring. Then I had an idea...

I started by searching for the top Psychology schools, of which I found Stanford and University of Michigan were two top rated schools in that field of study. 

University of Michigan being local to me, I figured I would continue my hunt for knowledge by checking out their Undergraduate Degree in Psychology programs and I found one that was of interest to me. Here is the link -  U of M Psychology - Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience.

It's great that the schools publish their full course curriculum, as that allowed me to do another search to find out what text books were required for each course. I was able to find the Michigan Book and Supply site. This site gives you the ability to choose a semester, and a major area of study, then choose the course number, and instructor. After you've been walked through that you'll see a screen that pops up the required text books for that class.

Michigan Book and Supply is a great way for students to search for the books they need and purchase them right from the website. You know and I know that I don't roll that way and so instead I grabbed the ISBN of the required books and started searching on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Some of the books were available in eBook format... interesting.

Even more interesting was the fact that the first book listed here was available through my regular Michigan Library channel.  That means that some of the textbooks will be available for free!  Most excellent.

This led to another idea... 

What if I was to follow the U of M Psychology Degree curriculum as a course of study on the topics that have been of interest to me lately?  What a great way to have a structured learning experience and be reading the same textbooks that students at the University of Michigan are reading.

I started to wonder if I completed the course study outside of the school, what would be the difference between myself and someone that attended the university? What would I be missing that students would get by attending the College of LSA at U of M? The lectures? The experience? Group study? Accessibility to the professors? Can you think of other things?

Are there ways that I could supplement those experiences through community resources?

What about if I was to study the course books and then "test out" also known as "examination for credit" for each course? I realize that this is not a new idea - so the thought of it intrigues me. Not all schools allow this and I'd need to research whether U of M was one of those schools. The previous link calls out to a website, but it looks like it was never actually started.  That's ok though, because if you want to know if this is possible, you can follow me on my journey. I'll post any updates to this blog under the category of "self study degree" and we'll see what can be accomplished.

If what I believe is possible, this could be a low cost option that offers a similar structure and study progress to that of a university while being outside of the higher education facility.

What do you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Equivalency - This is an official document that contained an evaluation by staff at the University of my educational background, including certifications, plus my years of work experience in the IT industry.

I'm Thinking About Starting A Blog...

Ok, so you got me... I don't need to start any other blogs, but this one will be moving to a new blog service shortly.  I've decided to move over to Wordpress because of the ability to customize the design of the blog and the widgets used.  I'll keep this blog around for archive purposes, but my 200th blog entry will be on both sites and at that point I'll only be putting new content up on the Wordpress site.

No worries, I'll make sure that I post a final message on here that redirects people over to the new blog site.

In the meantime if you want to laugh, you can always check out one of my other weblogs.

MySpace Blog Archive - click here. Good stories about "Adventures in Spiderville" and other fun stuff.

My contact with a Russian Bride scam artist - click here. I recommend starting at the first post for this one and working up to the most recent to enjoy the back and forth communication.  Be sure to let me know what you think of the song as well.  :)

Have fun.

Some love for the Goog - Google Voice

I bet your happy to see a tech focused blog post from me, right?  I'll admit that this one is a bit of old news.

Google Voice was launched quite a while ago. It was something that I was interested in right from the start. With help from a co-worker who was on it, I was able to get an invite to check out this very cool service.

Imagine one number to rule them all...

Google Voice allows you to setup a phone number in your area code and then use it to centralize all of your call management.

For example, I setup my new number to forward on to my cell phone.  You can also have it try multiple phones which makes things very handy.

It has built in voice mail and can send you an email with the transcription of the voice mail message, or can even send you a SMS text message!  You can also record custom greeting messages and if you wanted to go a step further setup custom messages for callers based on Groups that you can create and use to organize your contacts.

Here's an example of a message I left on the Google Voice number yesterday - as you can see it's got the content of the voice mail right in the message body, or I can choose to open it and listen to it.

As far as SMS capability, you can send and recieve texts with your number, and even forward those on to your other phones.

Other features include call screening,  and you can even create widgets, like the one I added to this blog.  (I'm not sure if I'll keep it up here or not, but it's a cool idea!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Man's Search For Meaning./ How Dare I....

There are many times in a person's life when things just click, a profound moment.  I have been blessed throughout this year with these moments around what seems like every corner. For me, most of these moments have come while expanding my knowledge through reading and self-discovery.  For those that have followed the blog, you know what I'm talking about and what I've been reading, so I won't bore you with the details, just check out some of my previous posts.

As I sit here at 6:20pm, in Chelsea, Michigan, not the place I was born or grew up, but the place I've called home for the past four years, I feel blessed.  I feel blessed that I have had the opportunities that I've had in my life and I'm excited about the future.

It's a fall day, and the wind is strong... very strong!  The wind through the trees makes a roaring sound as it passes over the leaves that have been strong enough to stay attached through the previous days.  Other leaves fall down from the sky with each extra strong gust, filling it as if a flock of birds were flying above. Each leaf has a unique pattern of rising and falling while almost dancing on the wind and flirting with gravity.

My view to the west is of the lake I live on, Sugarloaf Lake.  The water is nowhere near as calm as it can be on the days when there is little wind.

I am here by myself and posting this entry from the deck attached to my residence.  I am surrounded by only nature, and I am aware of my blessings.

Today I finished the audiobook "Man's Search For Meaning", by Viktor Frankl.  An amazing story of survival through what I could only refer to as what must have been terror in multiple concentration camps in Nazi controlled Germany in the 1940's.  Before being a prisoner, Frankl was a well respected neurologist and psychiatrist.  During his personal experiences in these camps he was able to analyze how humans react when put under enormous stress and loss of hope, loss of meaning in one's life. He also was able to see how individuals could, even in the absolute worst situations imaginable, rise up and overcome these odds and survive where most would have given up.  He was able to analyze the human spirit of other prisoners, and himself and share his findings with the world through this book. 

The book is broken into three main parts.  The first dealing with stories of the human spirit within this prisoner camps and reaction to specific situational examples.  The second an introduction to Logotherapy. The third is a case for "Tragic Optimism"

This book has many great lessons and I figured I'd share a few that had extra special meaning to me.

In the preface of the book, Gordon Allport says "To live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in the suffering" and I find this statement really hit home with me.  As a human, part of life is suffering. We will all suffer at times in our life. Some may be extreme and out of our control, some may be trivial and brought on by our own self. Many will fall in between those extremes.  We will also all suffer at the time of our death. This book discusses the "how" some chose to suffer under extreme circumstances.  A quote that is mentioned early in the book and again multiple times after is from Nietzsche, "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."

Read that quote again - it's another one of those times during the read that really hit home for me.  No matter what we are faced with during our life, if we have meaning, we can rise above it. We can find the courage to overcome and live life to the fullest that we are afforded.

Frankl explains that the power lies in choice. That humans have the ability to choose their attitude for any situation presented to them. We can adjust and adapt. We can choose to live or choose to give up.  There are many examples through the book where prisoners had lost the will to live, and Frankl explains exactly what that looked like and how other prisoners could tell that it would not be long after the loss of will to live that the prisoner would die.

Frankl, through his suffering found meaning for life, and because of this was able to survive.  Through various accounts he tells how he would try to help others find meaning as well.  Through his study what he found is that the "will for meaning" is a strong influence on a life. With it a human can thrive, without it we can exist but will live at less than our potential, and when put under stress and suffering having the meaning / reason to live could be the difference between life and death.

Frankl mentions that we do not need suffering to find meaning, in fact if the suffering can be avoided by change within the person or environment, then it should at all costs.  To suffer when you are in control of the situation is unwise.  What he points out is that the stories in this book offer proof that people who are suffering in a situation they can't control can still find meaning for life. It is possible!

I won't go too far into Logotherapy in this post, other than to say that Frankl says it is the method to help the patient find meaning in their life to overcome their situation.  The three ways described are through action, what I would refer to as the doing side of us or creative side. Through interaction with others or experiences, this is the method where love falls into and Frankl believes that love could be one of the strongest meanings to humans. The third method can be through attitudinal values, such as finding meaning in being a good person, being compassionate, knowing your worth based on the person you are. I will say that I'm very interested in learning more about this area, especially in the treatment of depression or in cases where people have a feeling that life has no meaning.

The third part of the book discusses "Tragic Optimism" and the best way I can describe it is those who have gone through or are going through great suffering and choose to live their life to the fullest. Mentioned in the book as "the defiant power of the Spirit", it's inspirational in the most meaningful way possible. Below is an excerpt from the book.

But the most powerful arguments in favor of 'a tragic optimism' are those which in Latin are called argumenta ad hominem. Jerry Long, to cite an example, is a living testimony to 'the defiant power of the Spirit' . . . To quote the Texarkana Gazette, 'Jerry Long has been paralyzed from his neck down since a diving accident which rendered him a quadriplegic three years ago. He was 17 when the accident occurred. Today Long can use his mouth stick to type. He "attends" two courses at Community College via a special telephone. The intercom allows Long to both hear and participate in class discussions. He also occupies his time by reading, watching television and writing.' And in a letter I received from him, he writes: 'I view my life as being abundant with meaning and purpose. The attitude that I adopted on that fateful day has become my personal credo for life: I broke my neck, it didn't break me. I am currently enrolled in my first psychology course in college. I believe that my handicap will only enhance my ability to help others. I know that without the suffering, the growth that I have achieved would have been impossible.'
This book describes what is possible and as you can tell by this post, it's had a great impact on me.  I highly recommend it.

Just before arriving home I stopped at a local coffee shop with good friends for conversation and an afternoon coffee.  At one point in the visit I got up to go to the washroom and I noticed a man and women off to the side. The man was in a wheelchair and looked to be paralyzed from the neck down, In an effort not to stare I caught out of the corner of my eye that the lady was holding the drink to the man's mouth so that he could take a sip. As I entered the restroom and locked the door, I thanked God for all my blessings. I have known suffering and tough situations in my life, but those have made me who I am today and I know that I've known nowhere near the suffering that this man that I passed by has known.

Imagine my surprise when upon leaving the coffee shop and returning to the point that I had left off at in the audiobook, I was greeted with the example of Jerry Long that I posted above.  Mere moments before I had seen a man in a similar situation and I said these words upon reflection...

"How dare I... How dare I feel bad about my situation and the life that I've lived. It has been a life filled with choices that have been made by me, nobody else. The majority of what I refer to as suffering is self imposed with feelings of self-pity and regret instead of looking back on my experiences and understanding that they have shaped who I am."

As I arrived home and pulled into my driveway, I posted the following on Facebook.

"I choose my attitude in all situations, I choose my destiny, only I can choose to reach my full potential. Happiness is a by-product of my choices. If I'm not happy, guess who I get to blame? Better yet, guess who can change circumstances making me feel that way?"

As the sun sets and I reflect on the many lessons that I learned from this book and the future reading it will influence, I can't help but feel good. My search for meaning continues as all of ours will throughout different times in our life, but I am hopeful and optimistic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Various Fields of Psychology

I was browsing around the interwebs tonight and came across this page.  It lists out various fields and topics of study for Psychology careers.  I found it quite interesting and it gave me some ideas on where I'd like to focus some study time next.  Understanding more about how we interact with each other will help in all areas of life.

Wikipedia of course gives a much more detailed definition of Psychology.

Some of my interest lies in the fields of Developmental Psychology and Neuropsychology.

I'm sure all of you college grads out there are wondering why I'm spending so much time on things that are likely taught in first year psych classes.  Well - I went to a business college, and my degrees were accelerated courses that covered only technical classes, so I missed out on all the fun! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Direction, Focus and Progress

Similar to this image, topics on this blog have been all over the place.  I'm thinking of taking some of this in a new direction and perhaps breaking off very topic focused blogs for each area I like to discuss.  Lately I've been feeling like my life is a little bit of the same, so I guess I'll just chalk it up to life - imitating art.  :)

I've been wondering where I want to spend my energy lately and it's important that I figure it out so that I'm not spending time on things that don't matter or don't allow me to progress in some forward motion.

I recently signed on with a publishing company as a Technical Reviewer for some upcoming web technology titles, which is exciting and will definitely take some of my time.  Other than that - I could spend my time on many other of my creative pursuits that I've mentioned over the years on this blog.

  • I would really like to spend some time and get my photographs organized and complete my 2010 Photography goals.
  • I would also like to make good progress on the book that I want to write.  I have a goal of having 100 pages before the end of year.
  • I still have unfinished t-shirt and hat designs that I want to get ready and market through Zic Apparel, I also have an interesting idea for a watch design.
  • Let's not forget that I'd really like to continue writing lyrics and using any available options to communicate through music.

On top of all of this I find that I have a strong desire for education and self-discovery through reading and other outlets.  I find myself really enjoying all the new information and trying to figure out why the world is the way it is ... and even more enjoyable is seeing if I can use that new information to somehow help make it a better place or make me a better person.  These growth experiences have been quite fulfilling.

When I find myself with too many things on my to-do list, sometimes it's best to take a step back and organize them into smaller chunks.  I take some of my Dale Carnegie training and try to live in day tight compartments.

I think it may also be time to revisit one of my favorite reads, "Getting Things Done", by David Allen.  This is a book I reach back to again and again to remind myself of techniques for setting priorities for tasks and making progress in getting them completed.

What is your favorite method for getting organized?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Genetics, Attraction and Natural Selection

For those following my reading list lately you'll know that I've been on a genetics kick lately.  I've also been enjoying what I'll refer to as "The Study of Why" lately. The original questions started for me last year and each topic that I've learned more about has usually peaked my interest in another area, which leads to more reading and more questions.  I'll start by saying I should have called this post "random things I've been thinking about lately", but that did not have the same ring to it.

Last year I started investigating a few of the pickup artist titles like David DeAngelo who says that "Attraction Is Not A Choice" and that there are certain things men and women are hard-wired to react to, and if you learn these things you can tip the scales in your favor.  He's not the only one that says this, in fact most of the male focused dating books, guides, websites etc, out there say something very similar.  I will give David D some props though, because his course material really focuses on bringing all of the areas that he's studied to put backing behind his words, and he mentions them in his courses. One of his selling points is that he's done the hard work for you and read a bunch of books so that you now won't need to take the time needed to read them. Therefore you can take what he's saying for the truth, or better yet, investigate further and draw your own conclusions based on what you find. Being a curious cat... I chose the latter.

It was David D that mentioned Matt Ridley's "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature" which turned out to be a great book!  I'm so happy that I took the time to read this book because it led me to want to learn more about genetics and led me to Bruce Lipton's "The Biology of Belief". More about this great book in a bit but first let me dart off in another direction for just a second.  It's just a quick rant, stay with me...

As I was surfing yesterday I seen an ad claiming something similar to David D's "Attraction Is Not A Choice" statement and I had to do a bit more digging to find out if they backed up their "training" with as much research as David D seems to do.  Long story short, no they didn't.

This really frustrated me because I know that there are a lot of people buying these e-books and DVD's hoping that they'll learn the "secret" to attract a woman or get a date and they're just being served up information that they could have found elsewhere if they looked and without the need to pay for it.  This, of course, had me questioning "Well, what's the big deal?  This is what everyone does to make a buck, this is what the whole commercial industry / capitalism is based on - convincing people that you have what they need and for a small price you'll give it to them."

I guess there is nothing *wrong* with this, I just think it's important to note that for any program out there in the self-help category it's very unlikely that the concepts you're paying for are new ideas.  If you take the time and do the research you'll be able to find all the same information and perhaps even more thorough information on the topic. Start at your local library...  :)

Ok - back to the program and point of this blog post.  Based on the reading I've been doing on the first topic in the post subject, Genetics, I'm finding that - yes, we are passed on traits at conception from our parents, but these traits are just that - portions of our parents genetic make up, fused together to create our own unique genetic footprint.  Genes can't think for themselves, they can't make you do things, and environmental influences like things you learn and choices you make will have a far greater impact on your physical appearance.

Sure, we may end up with "our daddy's chin" or "our mommy's eyes", but just because your father is thin, doesn't mean that you will be thin.  I don't believe that we get only the best genes from our parents, although it is fact that we get an equal part from each parent, and they got an equal part from each ot their parents. And with scientific advances through the years we can tap into our DNA to find out / prove our genealogical lines.

This leads me to believe that our genetic make up may play a role in a small portion of our physical appearance, but I don't think it will be tied at all to what we find attractive.  I'm still researching information to prove / disprove this statement.

If our genes don't hold the key to why we find some people attractive and others less attractive, what does?  Are the extrenal environmental influences the things that give us the understanding of physical beauty?  Is it those Victoria Secret and Calvin Klein ads that are influencing our determination of beauty?  Perhaps it's all the commercials that tell us that we're not perfect and need to work on ourselves to be better?  All of those external resources adjust our own body image, the picture we have in our own mind of ourselves and what we like and dislike about ourselves. If the key for understanding beauty lies in the mind, it's a learned concept, this means that it can be modified / adjusted, which makes sense.

The analysis of beauty is not something new, there are many others that have looked deeper.  Although there are some new ways that science looks at it based on what has been referred to by society as beautiful, such as facial analysis like this one.  I scored a 5.75 out of 10.  I'm looking for a good source to start researching overall beauty analysis more for myself, so if you know of any - please leave a comment and let me know.

"The Red Queen" was a great source for telling more about what men look for and what women look for in a potential mate and contrasted the human species rituals against other animals.  It really is an interesting read and I do understand there is more to attraction than just physical beauty.  Most of the pick up artist material focuses on the other things that women find attractive such as wealth, status, personality and protective qualities.

Now I find myself wondering about Natural Selection and how natural it really is...?

Natural Selection basically says that only the best genes will survive and procreate and that will evolve our species in a good way.  I don't know about this - I have to believe that there are plenty of great people out there with fantastic genes that don't procreate.  It has me wondering if procreation is the only thing that passes along your influence on this world or is it any type of creation? Beethoven didn't leave a parental legacy, although he was not the only son in his family, does this really mean that he was a victim of natural selection? Are those the type of genes that we want to weed out? I can't believe that - and that is the reason I need to learn more about natural selection.  Again - if you have any good sources, let me know. The movie "Idiocracy" has a funny look at natural selection gone bad. 

I am also researching and understanding the power of belief and how truly believing something can make it a reality, even in situations when science says that it shouldn't be real.  In "Biology of Belief" various situations are offered up as proof of this... from a simple concept to understand like firewalking, where people walk across a bed of lit coals, some of them getting burned and some not.  Those that believed that they would be ok and not be burned, come through unscathed, even though science says that this should not be possible.  Another more complex example might be found in the use of sugar pills to treat a variety of illnesses which worked just as the regular medicine did when the patient was lead to believe that they were ingesting the medicine needed and that it would work.  A third more powerful example may be the scenario where three patients who believe that they need knee surgery, have a procedure done, but one of them is just opened up and no actual corrective surgery action were performed.  All three patients recovered in similar manners.  The one that had no real surgical work done walked with a cane before the surgery and went back to performing normal life activities including physical activities they enjoyed before the injury.  Can the mind and ones beliefs be this powerful?  Yes - I'm believing they can. In fact, many, many books I've read this year include the concept that truly believing something is the first step to achieving it.  The trick is that you can't fool your subconscious... so we may need to start there if we want to truly believe. I'm completely fascinated by this area of science and as of late (2000 and later) there have been some great advancements to prove theories and I will be digging deeper into this in the future.

Let me try to tie what I've rambled about above together in some way.  At this point, I believe that genes may control some aspect of our physical appearance, but I'm not clear on how much versus how much is controlled by external sources as we live our life.  Physical appearance is one of many things that may attract someone to someone else, but what is beautiful and how much do social pressures play into our decisions on who we end up as a potential mate?  Lastly, if there are good genes out there from good people that don't pass them along, is that truly due to natural selection?  Is natural selection truly based on the best/strongest survive or do the folks that survive evolve not only through genetics but through what has been left behind by all of humanity?

I know, I know ... I'm a wild man...but lately, these are the things that have been on my mind.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment, recommend a book or video... or just tell me to "simma down na!"