Dec 16, 2009

Dec 16 workout.... follow up to Dec. 4 blog entry

This is a follow up to post of Dec. 4... another example of a short workout.... please see post of Dec. 4 and add comments.... (here or there)

Dec 12, 2009

In Praise of Ballroom Dancing

My wife and I have been taking ballroom dancing lessons for about eight years. This is one of the best decisions we have ever made.

In an earlier post, I talked about being people who are spectators rather than performers and watching life go by rather than living it. Dancing (or not dancing) are prime examples of this.

First off, as a social activity, dancing will put you in contact with a lot of great people. Typically, great people have great relationships, and couples who fight all the time are unlikely to take ballroom dance lessons.

From the point of view of an activity as a couple, this truly qualifies as being "as a couple"... few things are truly done together..... if you go to some event with your spouse, you are often experiencing it individually, and in some social events, conversations are with many people other than your spouse, and you may only actually talk to each other at the end of the evening to ask whether you had a good time. In some cases, men watch the game while women converse among themselves.

Ballroom dancing on the other hand is, by definition done together, you will spend time enjoying each other, and that includes some good and bad times, because you have to work as a team in a coordinated fashion or it won't work, obviously! Yes, this can be challenging as well as rewarding.
Now, I have good news and bad news for the men. Ballroom dancing is the last bastion of male dominance left in our society. When you're the man, it is your job to lead and the woman's job to follow. That's the good news, but before you celebrate too much, I need to tell you the bad news. When you lead, you have a lot of responsibility. If you make a mistake with your steps, it's your fault, when your partner makes a mistake, well, .... it's still your fault, because you didn't lead right! I'm only half joking here. For the woman, if she has a strong lead, her part becomes much easier, but if she is not being led properly, it is virtually impossible for her to do well.

The woman is the beautiful painting, and the man is the frame. The woman is the guitar, the man is the player. A guitar, even the finest instrument, can't play itself. A good guitar player will tell you that a fine instrument is, in fact, a joy to play and actually easier to play, but the very best instrument will still sound terrible in the hands of a mediocre player, and a great player will do wonders with a department store child's guitar.

What guitar players are taught is to have a "light touch", where they have a certain firmness but not overly rigid. New drivers are taught something very similar when it comes to holding the wheel. So it is with leading in dance. In this case, though, the instrument is far more wondrous in her intricacies as well as inner and outer beauty.

What one discovers when they go from being a spectator to being a performer, when it comes to music, is that to play music, sing, or dance, gives one a feeling of harmony with the universe. (perhaps that is true of going from being a spectator to a participant in anything?) What I've said to my wife Lorraine, is that I think there is a reason dance has been a part of human culture even from the most primitive tribes. It just seems like something our bodies were meant to do.... (ok, not at first, but after you start to get the hang of it), and that feeling of harmony, (the only word I can use to describe it), especially when shared with someone you care about is a truly magical feeling. Incidentally, singles can dance with other singles, with whom they have platonic relationships and often do, and although this relationship may always be platonic, you will still care about each other because you will be sharing true joy together.

At this point, I should point out that yours truly is still mediocre as a dancer at this point.
There is a joke about going to the circus and seeing an animal act where a dog walks on his hind legs. You're not impressed that he does it well, you're impressed that he does it at all! That pretty much describes my dancing talent! :o)
I have however progressed to the point where I can start to see the potential and appreciate what it holds, enough that I want to continually improve and to dance for as long as my physical abilities allow.

Finally, the point that motivated me to make this entry. Dancing is heroic! Ayn Rand often refers to man's proper nature as a heroic being, and when one thinks of the concretization of what a hero would look like, it is embodied so well, in the proud stance of great ballroom dancers, who display, the grace, the strength, the pride of a hero, in a way that glorifies human beings and what they are capable of. One might refer to this as "bigger than life" but it isn't bigger really.... this is how we are meant to be, and this is within all of our reaches. The accompanying video is of professionals but even when going to local dances, when I see the dancers who have taken the time to practice and improve the finer points of poise, hand positions and grace, it is truly inspirational and it just seems right that people should do this.
Going back to my earlier post about watching life rather than living it.... if you want to take a real bite into truly experiencing one of the greatest things in life, I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Look forward to comments!!!

Dec 4, 2009

This morning's workout and follow up to post of Nov 14....

On, November 14, my post, "Exercise, A quick introduction of things to come", I promised that in future posts I would cover,

"-why 90% of what you hear about exercise is not only inaccurate but actually detrimental to your health and safety.

-why 95% of people will never look anything like the fitness models used in marketing no matter what they do.

-why the actual rewards of exercise while not as marketable are far more important.

-why overdoing exercise is something we get addicted to psychologically because we need to feel good about ourselves and impress other people, when most of what we do is unnecessary and detrimental.

-why so called "cardio" is based on inaccurate premises.

-why your exercise program should take less than an hour per week... (far less in most cases)

-why the continual achievement of goals in your exercise program will help build your character in ways that will cross over into every area of your life (your fitness program consisting of taking on and overcoming challenges and adversity is a miccrocosm of all of life)

-why health and fitness are NOT synonyms.

-why exercise per se is perceived by your body as a threat to its survival, and as such, your body seeks to protect you from this threat... so more is definitely not better.

-how proper exercise technology, like many technologies takes many years before it becomes mainstream, because of the resistance of existing misconceptions being so strong for so long. Most groundbreaking technologies from inception to mainstream, take as much as 20 years or more."

However, before doing so, I need to position why, I would have the audacity to be certain that my knowledge of proper exercise is more accurate than that of countless jocks, including professional athletes, coaches and even the vast majority of physicians and physiotherapists.

Well first off, I can simply recommend a book, which, arguably is the best book ever written on the topic, "Body by Science", co-authored by Doug McGuff M.D. and John Little. I would point out that many of the ideas in that book are certainly not new, as the authors acknowledge, with Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus machines, citing many of the same principles in his writings of the early seventies, and even he did not claim to be the originator of many of those principles.

The point I want to make in this blog, however, is simply why the incredible confusion does exist in this field in the first place and why it is actually perfectly logical that it should.

First off, three words: Selection Bias and Genetics. Let me elaborate. In this case, I will be referring to the results from strength training, sometimes also referred to as bodybuilding or weight training. In later posts, I will show that proper strength training is by far the most beneficial of exercise modalities and, some would argue, the only modality that actually qualifies to be called exercise in the first place.

Right from the start, I know I've alienated the cardio crowd, and you will have to wait for why I believe my preceding statement for a future post.

For now, one of the other reasons I'm going to focus on strength training, is because results from this type of exercise can most easily be measured in terms of either appearance through actual increases in muscle size and/or through increases in strength as demonstrated by the ability to lift increasingly heavier poundages.

Consider that in the general population, the actual percentage of people who exercise consistently over time is very small. For my upcoming book, I will do some research to come up with some more reliable statistics, but I believe I can make some reasonable estimates which, even being conservative, will show my point.

By exercising consistently, over time, I don't mean people who will tell you, "I used to be in great shape in college" or "a few years back, I was going to the gym diligently and got in the best shape of my life"; I'm referring to people who actually have been exercising regularly for years and still are today.

Of that small group, let's say, generously, 10% of the population, you then eliminate the folks who engage in exercise modalities other than strength training such as jogging, pilates, yoga, stretching, swimming, aerobic dance etc. Let me suggest that you will be left with 2% of the population, maybe.

The point here is not whether my statistics are perfectly accurate or not, anyone will agree that it is a very small minority of the population that engages in strength training over time.

First off, why are there so few people consistently participating in an activity that is largely considered to be beneficial. The quick answer that many people will give is that people are lazy or undisciplined. While there may be a considerable amount of truth to this, it does not fully explain this.

Interestingly, women often avoid strength training, because they fear developing large muscles, and men most often don't stick to it, because they don't produce these large muscles quickly enough (or at all).

Another reason is that many people wind up injured when they attempt a fitness program. This is increasingly true with an aging baby boomer population who try to regain former youth, by trying to do what they did when they were younger (and lighter) and wind up injuring themselves.

This brings us back to selection bias and genetics.... the people who tend to stick to it over time, do so because there is a larger percentage of them who achieve results quickly. Positive feedback for their efforts, keeps people coming back.... lack thereof gets people to quit. This is habit formation 101.... reward positive behaviour and ignore or punish negative behaviours.

Many people simply believe that the reason some people have large muscles is because they have knowledge of and apply proper exercise. The facts however don't agree with this. The ability to develop unusually large muscles is largely genetic, and very few men possess this trait and even fewer women, (which is why their fear of this is unjustified). The truth is, that, of the 2% or so of the population who strength train over time, there is a far higher percentage of individuals whose genetics allow them to progress quickly than there is in the general population.

Nassim Taleb in his book, "The Black Swan", in pointing out the errors we make cognitively, points out that the books we haven't read are more important than those we've read. When someone achieves success in a given field, be it business or athletics, they may well share how they achieved that success in a book or on a speaking circuit, and people will be eager to pay to learn their "secret", which those individuals, making the same cognitive mistake as we are, may believe they can sincerely offer.

However, there are usually thousands of individuals who may have employed very similar, if not identical strategies, only to fall far short of that success, or, in the case of athletics, suffer career ending injuries as a direct result of those same strategies, but their names will never be known, as there is not a large market for books on how people failed!

An example of how much successful athletes may owe more of their success to winning a "genetic lottery" than from knowing what they're doing comes from the animal kingdom. Below are photos of a Belgian Blue, cattle that has been bred in such a way as to maximize large muscles and yield more meat per animal, and, of an overmuscled whippet. Note that the bull's exercise program consists of grazing and lazing around. This whippet is not a racing dog but just someone's pet with a genetic defect.

Everything most people think they know about exercise is based on the experience of the very small percentage of the population I cited above.

As a result, most of what people think they know is wrong and simply does not apply to the general population. Much of athletic success is achieved despite the modalities utilized and not because of them.

What most people think is that conventional exercise programs help people to be fit and healthy, because they make what seems to be the logical connection that world class athletes appear to be extremely healthy because they have achieved supranormal levels of fitness (note I said, appear to be healthy). So here are a couple of challenging questions:

Does conventional exercise make people healthier, or are healthy people simply more likely to engage in conventional exercise? (or as I've said above, genetically gifted people are far more likely to stick with inefficient, often dangerous programs because they are the only ones capable of progressing on them, and remaining injury free enough to continue?) (note I didn' t say injury free, but "injury free enough to continue" because if you talk to most jocks, if they are honest will tell you they are dealing with chronic injuries... this is especially true of the cardio crowd)

Genetics is a huge part, and without taking anything away from the dedication of world class athletes, the fact is that even the greatest coach/trainer in the world will not create a world class athlete from even the most dedicated person who simply does not have the genetics.

In high school, I ran a 100 yard dash, if memory serves, in about 14 seconds. No amount of practice or dedication would have even had me win the local high school track meet, much less, achieve any type of national or international prominence. Sorry folks, despite "Rocky type, cheer for the underdog" stories that we would love to believe in, it is what it is. World class athletes are 1 in 100,000 or less. (probably closer to 1 in a million.)

99% of professional athletes are in the top 1/10 of 1% of the genetic pool, and most people who stick to exercise over time are at least in the top 20%.

However, here is the good news... all of us can achieve great benefits from proper exercise, and we can do so in far less time than is normally believed. In fact, it is not that you can get away with doing less, but doing less is an actual requirement.

The stress put on the body by proper exercise is such that the body requires sufficient time to recover properly from this.

Below is my workout of Dec. 16. A similar workout is what I do on a weekly basis or less and I am aware of people making great progress on even less frequency.

This post is already pretty lengthy so I will end it here, but note that those whose curiosity I may have peaked can get more information at previously mentioned sources or the links on the side of my blog.

Look forward to your comments.

Nov 29, 2009

My Mission Statement

One of the things I try to do each morning, usually as I'm walking my two grehounds, is to "connect to my mission" (See Stephen Covey First Things First, 6 step weekly planning process), which usually consists of talking to myself as I'm walking down the street. It is usually pretty early in the morning, so I'm counting that not too many neighbors are up or at least are not looking out the window to see me doing it. I recite my mission, (sometimes in the shower if not walking the dogs) out loud, and use it to try to get the day off to a good start to remind myself of what is truly important in my life. What follows is the actual mission statement and in brackets, credit for the sources for each part of it. My mission statement is a mosaic, if you will, of different ideas from different sources and has been about 15 years in the making, and continues to evolve today.

In future posts, I will elaborate on different parts of it, as my whole idea with my future book is really a more in depth look at all the areas covered in the statement and how to apply them in every day life in order to live to the fullest.

So here goes:

"I am the hero of my own life. (Andrew Bernstein) I have high energy, I have the ability to energize others around a common goal. I have the edge to make tough, yes or no decisions. I have the ability to execute those decisions and get results. I have passion." (Jack Welch)

"Today I will align myself with cherishing reality, focusing and having fun, so that I may have the energy that I need to enthusiastically, live, love, learn and leave a legacy of excellence." (James Redfield, Stephen Covey, Ayn Rand)

"I will be proactive (Covey) and grateful so that I may remain aware of, and profit from, all aspects of reality, especially those golden opportunities that could be disguised as hardships or problems."

"I will begin always with my mission in mind, (Covey) so that I may continually evaluate what the true priorities are in my life, taking care not to be a second hander (Ayn Rand) or a people pleaser." (12 Steps)

"I will keep those first things first (Covey, or 12 steps) every day, by choosing to think rationally (Rand) and choosing to act in accordance with reason, purpose and self-esteem." (Rand)

"Asking with intent, listening without excuse, acting with courage." (Covey)

"Think. Decide. Act."

"By doing this I will be adhering to the following spiritual principles, rationality, integrity, independence, honesty, justice, productiveness and pride." (Rand)

"From these will naturally follow, open mindedness, (12 steps), courage, (Rand) optimal state management (Tony Robbins), willingness, conscience, imagination, self-awareness, serenity, style and grace." (Covey, 12 steps)

"I will think and I will live in the spirit of win-win (Covey), earning rewards for myself by bringing true value to others, but I will never live my life for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." (Rand)

"I will seek first to understand, then seek to be understood, synergizing (Covey) with other worthwhile ideas and energy (Redfield) in order to multiply, with other people of ability (Rand) what I could produce alone."

"I will continually improve myself, by keeping proper balance between producing, relaxing, having fun and achieving personal growth, physically, financially, emotionally, mentally, spriritually and socially which features being loyal to the absent." (Covey)

"I'm not brave enough to be a coward." (Rand)

"I will die try trying my very best, with style and grace." (12 steps and movie "Life is Beautiful")

"Work like you don't need the money, love like you've never been hurt, dance like you do when nobody's looking" (source unknown)

"Choose to be happy. Smile when you're speaking." (source unknown)

"Lunge Forward!" (Cary Mullen)

"I am the hero of my own life. I have high energy, I have the ability to energize others around a common goal. I have the edge to make tough, yes or no decisions. I have the ability to execute those decisions and get results. I have passion."

Nov 28, 2009

Climate Change

Nov 20, 2009

Capitalism, Freedom, Morality, Entrepreneurship....

So far in this blog, which is my vehicle for putting down my thoughts for future book, I have touched on a few of the topics that will form part of the book; self-help, fitness, philosophy, which will all be elaborated on in future posts and of course, in the book.

Today, I would like to touch on politics and economics, or more specifically, how people should treat each other in society.

I am an avid proponent of capitalism, in fact, what is termed laissez-faire capitalism, which doesn't actually exist today, as countries that are referred to as capitalist systems, are more accurately mixed systems at best, as true capitalism means little if any government intervention in the private marketplace (other than providing rule of law to prevent fraud and violence, a critical component)while socialism, communism, theocracies or other dictatorships represent government run, or outright government owned economies.

Interestingly, capitalism is controversial and seems to have been from the outset, however one thing that everyone agrees on is freedom. As I mentioned in a previous post on exercise, there is a lot of confusion in that field, and there is at least as much confusion when it comes to capitalism.

The thing is, for me, capitalism and freedom are synonyms. Whenever someone criticizes capitalism, they are criticizing freedom per se, although they would loudly deny this. However, they can't have their cake and eat it too. Anything short of FREE enterprise means some government control of private citizen's activities, and that very simply means less freedom, period.

The very concept of individual rights, is so self-evident that I would challenge any opponents of it, to go spend a year living in a dictatorship and tell me how they feel when they get back (if they are allowed back, or lucky enough to escape).

As self-evident as it is, individual freedom, is a very recent development in human history. For the majority of man's history, he has been at the mercy of rulers, whether it has been kings, popes, or some other dictator, and the ruling has been done by force. People were always treated like beasts of burden under these systems, where they were forced to produce for the benefits of their rulers, and left enough of the crumbs to barely survive. (and to hopefully discourage overthrowing the rulers)

This has led to a series of uprisings against tyrannies, but unfortunately without the concept of individual freedom, the uprisings only seek to establish more "benevolent" dictatorships, (at least that is what the masses are told to support the uprising) but as Shakespeare has said, "power corrupts" and even the best intentions (giving huge benefits of doubt here) eventually just wind up being the next tyranny. ("Meet the new boss.... same as the old boss..." Pete Townshend)

Ruling men by force can in fact produce quite a lot, as, when threatened with their lives, people will do quite a lot to survive, however, it has one critical limitation: what you cannot FORCE people to do, is to be CREATIVE!

The introduction of individual freedoms, which started with the philosophical ideas of the Renaissance, led to a form of government, that is servant of the people and not the other way around, and includes a rule of law established not only to protect citizens from violent acts or fraud from other citizens, but as importantly, to protect citizens from abuses from their own government. Individual rights such as freedom of speech and choice of religion are often defended, but to me, the most under rated of these is simply property rights, where a person has the freedom to actually keep the fruits of their labor which are rightfully theirs. (the alternative would be slavery)

With this, the motivation to be CREATIVE began to exist, and the incredible power of the human mind and its creativity was unleashed, and the rate of progress in all fields accelerated exponentially, after several centuries of virtual stagnation during what is referred to as the dark ages.

And yet, despite the unprecedented progress and improvement in human quality of life it produced, capitalism, and freedom by extension, remain controversial. What is the moral foundation for opponents of this?

Well, here is my take on it: Capitalism is based on the premise that people are fundamentally good. Government controls are based on the premise that people are morally flawed and as such, need to be controlled.

This may sound simplistic but if you take time to think about it, no other explanation makes any sense to justify one person or group of people taking away the freedom of another person or group of people.

Now, first of all, let me clarify that when I say that people are fundamentally good, I don't mean that every single person is beyond reproach. There are of course many people who, unfortunately perform immoral acts, (a future post can explain, why in many cases, this is due to a lack of a proper philosophy where people are confused as to what is actually in their best interests) and let's face it, acts such as holocausts and other atrocities make it difficult to argue against the existence of pure unadulterated evil. However, the fundamental nature of an apple is to be sweet, juicy and nutritious, and no matter how many rotten apples may be out there (rotted by an improper philosophy?), it does not change the fundamental nature of an apple!

Secondly, for freedom to work, there must be a proper rule of law. While some will say this is a contradiction, it is not any such thing, in fact. Freedom for one means freedom for all, so our freedom does not allow us to infringe on anyone else's freedom, and (again with a proper philosophy), there can exist no true conflict between rational people. However the rule of law need not be complex or very encompassing. It need simply protect people from the initiation of force or fraud that will limit their freedoms. The proper role of government is to provide this protection, and a proper government has checks and balances to protect its citizens from any of its own potential abuses.

Now, to the idea that people do need to be controlled because they are morally flawed... it is very easy to defeat this argument even if I were to accept that people are morally flawed (which I certainly don't!).

Who is to do the controlling of these morally flawed people? Other morally flawed people?!!! If we accept that people are flawed, then where are we supposed to find the "better" (??) people who are qualified to do the controlling?

I am simply touching the surface on these concepts, and for a fuller explanation, I refer you to "The Capitalist Manifesto" by Andrew Bernstein, or "Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal" by Ayn Rand (in fact, any of the works by either of these authors, which you can find in links to the left)

Finally, I would like to present the concept that entrepreneurs or businesspeople are the heroes of a proper society. I must first give credit of course, to scientists who are the creative minds who make new technologies possible, and I will suggest they are also entrepreneurs but may not think of themselves that way.

Entrepreneurs are the risk takers who stake everything to develop an idea in pursuit of their passion for the rewards available to them under a proper system. (and while money is one of those rewards, as it should be, for many entrepreneurs it is their passion for creativity and a sense of accomplishment that are their greatest rewards) When people point out crooked businesspeople as a criticizim of capitalism, they are making a huge mistake of reasoning.... a crooked businessperson is not practicing capitalism, he is simply practicing immorality.... the concept of business is based on the concept of free trade between willing participants, pure and simple. Anyone choosing to act in a deceitful manner is guilty of fraud or force, both of which need to be outlawed (and those laws enforced) in order for a free society to function.

As a trader, I make you an offer, you either accept or you don't, after negociating, and we move on, either agreeing to a transaction, or agreeing to disagree and go seek another potential prospect....

The market dictates the value of my offering. If no one is willing to exchange the value I am asking in exchange for what I am offering, I must lower what I am asking, because by definition, my offering is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

However, I would like to add also that while we all recognize self-employed individuals as entrepreneurs, we must realize that employees are not slaves of their employers. They offer a value, their skills, and willingness to work, in exchange for a value, the wage and/or other employee benefits offered by the potential employer.

As such the employee and employer are also traders. An employer who seeks to abuse his employees by underpaying them, will simply end up with the poorest quality employee as his competitor willing to pay more for better quality will take from him his best people, thus producing a superior product and likely putting him out of business. Remember, there truly is no conflict between rational men.

This post is, like my initial posts on other topics, simply meant as an introduction of a topic that will be included and elaborated on further, in future posts and in the book.

My passion for this topic comes from working in financial services managing financial advisors who are self-employed and earn their livelihood by using their work ethic, ingenuity and people skills, to help their clients achieve financial security, (providing a tremendous value) and in exchange for this earning unlimited income potential, personal growth and the satisfaction of helping other people to achive their goals (receiving a tremendous value!)

Working with these folks, over the last 20+ years has continuously reinforced my conviction that entrepreneurs are the heroes, the Atlases, if you will, that hold up society on their shoulders, and it has been a privilege to be associated both with them as colleagues and with many of their clients who are also entrepreneurial.

Even the clients that they have who are not business owners, share a critical quality which is the ability to be long term planners and thinkers. By definition, the more a person uses his intelligence, the more he separates himself from the animal whose perception is extremely short range, and as such accomplishes the long term goals that cumulatively form the progress of the human race.

Look forward to all comments!

Nov 17, 2009

In Bahamas on Cruise right now...

.... so no time to write an article...(or choosing not to would be more appropriate) but thought this link to Dr. McGuff's latest post would be very informative.... enjoy...

Nov 14, 2009

Exercise... quick introduction of things to come...

Exercise and Fitness are extremely misunderstood.

There is an incredible amount of hype that surrounds the field making it extremely confusing to sort out what is true from what is deceptive marketing. (or just outright ignorance)

We must remember that there is no shortage of people willing to exploit people's fears about dying prematurely, and so since the days of the proverbial "snake oil*" salesmen and before... we continually look for someone to give us the magic potion that will help us live forever, whether it's the latest contraption, supplement or exercise routine, we open up our wallets willingly over and over again.

Probably as many people are looking for ways to "look good"...(see earlier post on "appearance vs. reality"), and of course there is no shortage of people willing to exploit that.

In future posts, what I will cover are:

-why 90% of what you hear about exercise is not only inaccurate but actually detrimental to your health and safety.
-why 95% of people will never look anything like the fitness models used in marketing no matter what they do.
-why the actual rewards of exercise while not as marketable are far more important.
-why overdoing exercise is something we get addicted to psychologically because we need to feel good about ourselves and impress other people, when most of what we do is unnecessary and detrimental.
-why so called "cardio" is based on inaccurate premises.
-why your exercise program should take less than an hour per week... (far less in most cases)
-why the continual achievement of goals in your exercise program will help build your character in ways that will cross over into every area of your life (your fitness program consisting of taking on and overcoming challenges and adversity is a miccrocosm of all of life)
-why health and fitness are NOT synonyms.
-why exercise per se is perceived by your body as a threat to its survival, and as such, your body seeks to protect you from this threat... so more is definitely not better.
-how proper exercise technology, like many technologies takes many years before it becomes mainstream, because of the resistance of existing misconceptions being so strong for so long. Most groundbreaking technologies from inception to mainstream, take as much as 20 years or more.

If you're impatient, check out the links of interest on the side... but look forward to hearing comments on this and other posts.

*note that the original fish oil came from sea snakes and was rich in Omega 3, so may well have been quite beneficial, but with the money being made, oil from other snakes was marketed with no similar benefits.

Nov 11, 2009

Quck post.... just a pic from my recent competion in Toronto, 4 days ago.... note, I achieved this with less than 15 minutes of weekly exercise. (not counting walking the dogs, some ballroom dancing and taking the stairs at work)

Watching life go by, rather than living it!

I read that natives used to fear getting photographed, because they believed that the camera actually stole a part of their soul which wound up on the photo.

At first, when I read this, I thought, how primitive and superstitious, but then after a while I started to wonder about this.

Before photography, and mirrors were common place, consider that most people rarely got to see their own reflection unless they happened to be staring into still water.

What I believe this caused was people who were more concerned with who they actually were, rather than who they appeared to be. With photography, film, etc., I believe we've become a group of people who have confused appearance with reality.

You will hear people say things like, I don't want to "look foolish" or dress a certain way so they can "look sharp."

Shakespeare said that "all the world's a stage", but have we become "actors playing a part", rather than actually trying to be someone who personifies values that we've chosen for ourselves?

And if so, have we actually lost our "souls"? as the natives first thought.

When someone becomes more concerned with how they appear than how they actually are, and worse, doesn't even realize they're doing that, life can become very hollow indeed.

I've heard very old people claim that you reach a certain age where one of the greatest freedoms achieved is when you actually stop caring what other people think. As a sales manager, I see many advisors struggle with fear of rejection, which is of course, an irrational concern with how they appear to others.

I use the term irrational because what people are doing when they engage in this type of behaviour is they are accepting the deception of what I believe Ayn Rand called "reality by consensus". Reality by consensus is where one believes that what "they" say makes it true. If I can manipulate people to believe I am cool, then that makes me cool. If people reject me, then I am less then. (the crux of peer pressure with adolescents, but do most people really outgrow it?)

Reality, of course, is not up to a vote. As Jack Welch's mother used to tell him, "don't kid yourself, Jack, it is what it is!" and Aristotle long before said, "A is A".

Objective reality logically dictates that causes have effects. What people do when they work on reality by consensus is they reverse the two. If I have a lot of money, the effect, that will make me the type of person who has what it takes, which is the cause. (even if that money is obtained in some fraudulent manner) If I only had Mr. or Mrs. Right on my arm, the effect, that would make me an attractive (physically and otherwise) person, the cause.

So we tend to go through life, in a state of confusion about the true nature of reality and filled with insecurities of all kinds about whether we "appear to be" rich enough, thin enough, cool enough, muscular enough, smart enough, etc. etc.

Part of this problem is caused also I believe by television and other mediums where we "watch people living". The book, "This is Your Brain on Music" by Daniel Levitin brings up an important point. Levitin makes the point in reference to music, but it carries to other areas of life as well.

He points out that the phenomenon of superlative performers being on a stage with spectators watching them is relatively recent in human history. We've come to think of certain people as performers and the rest of us as spectators.

He cites someone who spent some time with primitive tribes who encouraged him to participate in singing with them. When he replies, "I can't sing", the natives are confused about his reply thinking he has some sort of physical defect, as they are unfamiliar with the concept of "I can't sing" because in their culture, they don't have "performers and spectators".... everyone sings, and of course before television, families and friends would participate, everyone sang, or played a musical instrument and danced. The idea, that "I can't dance" or "I can't sing" really means, "I can't do this publicly because I will "look foolish" because I'm not good enough at it, for people to watch me.

So we watch our sports heroes, movie stars and talented musicians, sometimes thinking how lucky they are and how we wish we could be admired as they are. There is nothing inherently wrong with watching and admiring them, because these people give us an incredible gift by showing us what is possible for people to achieve, and the proper reaction should be for us to be inspired to go after our own goals, not to have a feeling of envy for people we mistakenly think can enjoy life on some level unavailable to us.

The truth is that most of us will not have the inherent gifts to become world class, (but we might) but all of us can live our lives much more fulfillingly by being "doers" rather than "spectators". What we can achieve in comparison to others is actually irrelevant, it is how much we can improve personally. (others should simply inspire us or we should inspire others, competition is for fun, worrying about "beating" others or being "beat" is just another symptom of worrying about how we appear.)

If we let go, of how we appear, (get our souls back!) and focus on the pure joy of doing (achieving) and "being" (how we really are rather than how we look to others) our lives will be far fuller.

We will cease to lead what Ayn Rand has called "second handed lives" (living according to what we believe are other people's expectations) where we are filled with insecurities for not meeting some artificial standard and resentment for not doing what truly makes us happy, and lead the lives of "prime movers" people who think for themselves rather than let other people do that for them...(if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything!) and who focus on being rational (not confusing cause and effect, or thinking reality is up to a vote) and as such, will feel secure, fulfilled and achieve the happiness which is, after survival, what we are all here for..... look forward to your comments and passing this on....

Nov 9, 2009

A History of Self Help/My Own Journey to Where I am!

One of the first books I read of a "self-help" nature was "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. I believe I was perhaps 20 years old at the time. The book is a classic of the genre. I later read "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill.

I have said at times that those two books were written and then every other book of the genre just repackaged them and sold them under different titles. Whether that's true or not, it certainly seems like a lot of the books sometimes referred to as "pop psychology" seem to say a lot of the same things over and over again.

Some will state that they simply repeat platitudes that are obvious. While I can see why some would say that, I'm not quite there and do believe there are some good points made by this material, and I would definitely recommend the two books named above. (but don't stop there)

Later, I discovered Tony Robbins' material and what I particularly liked about him that I thought was a step forward from most material I'd read to that point, was his insistence on applying his material immediately and not just listening to it or just reading. I can still remember listening to one of his tapes where he prodded the listener, "if you're not going to actually do this, turn the tape off, put it back in the set, and give it to someone who will actually take action!" (I paraphrase from memory)

I agree with much of Tony's work, but definitely not all, but I think his greatest strength is his ability to "sell" the material and for me, in any case, convince me to actually take action.

In fact, as a result of listening to Tony, I took steps towards buying a house after a divorce when I had no down payment, by contacting a realtor to see if he could find a seller, willing to hold a second mortgage for the down payment, which I wound up doing. The interesting thing is that same realtor eventually referred me to a lady as a recruiting lead for my financial services organization. I met and eventually recruited this lady, but more importantly, I eventually married her and Lorraine has been one of the main reasons I've been able to grow in my personal life and my career, so I could literally say, as hype would have it.... "Tony Robbins changed my life!" Corny, I know, but nevertheless, taking "massive action" as Tony would put it, did lead from one thing to another to another that led to the best decision I've made in my life!

Later, I read "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. Covey made the distinction between the "character ethic" and the "personality ethic" where he differentiated between "techniques", for example on how to win trust (win friends and influence people) as opposed to actually having the underlying charater trait of trustworthiness.

I felt this was a major step in going beyond the superficiality of much of what I'd read before. I eventually read virtually all of Covey's works, and actually became certified to facilitate the "First Things First Time Management/Life Leadership" material.

Also, his emphasis on "prinicples" that were timeless, universal and self-evident went deeper than Carnegie, Hill and Robbins, and I thought, OK, here it is I've transgressed "pop psychology" to something of substance.

Along this journey, I began to engage in my fitness program, and in so doing, discovered the works of Arthur Jones, Ellington Darden and Mike Mentzer....(more on fitness in future blog, a critical part of self-development that will be integral to this blog and my future book).

Mike Mentzer's continual references to Ayn Rand in his writings seemed to me, to be besides the point in strength training material, and I patiently waded through these references to get to what I really was looking for, the actual material on exercise per.

Then one day while visiting my cousin, I noticed a paperback copy of Atlas Shrugged, Rand's most famous book, and asked if I could borrow it. Frankly I had understood little of Mentzer's references to her in his book, but he'd peaked my curiosity so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I would recommend reading her fiction before her non fiction or especially anyone else's non fiction about her or her works. (Many if not most of her critics have never actually read her material)

To say that Ayn Rand's work is revolutionary is not hype; in fact it is an incredible understatement. As a result she is very controversial as she should be, because she will challenge everything you think you know about morality and that is just the beginning.

Through her work, and Objectivists (people who ascribe to her philosophy of Objectivism) would likely wince at the thought of having her listed along with "self-help" authors, I discovered the underlying flaw in all the previous works, which is a proper moral base. The title of this blog is "Being the Hero of YOUR Life" with the word YOUR in capitals, and in my first post I talked about putting the "self" back in self help.

Altruism, the idea that the highest moral ideal is to sacrifice to others is unortunately virtually universally accepted as being self-evident, however, how can one seek SELF-fulfilment when on another level they believe that to be truly moral they should be totally selfless. In fact, if they achieve self-fulfilment, often their reward will be to be labelled as selfish, causing them to feel they've "climbed the ladder of success only to discover it was leaning against the wrong wall."

Usually and tragically, they will never get to the top of any ladder because along the way, they will be plagued by "self-doubt, where their mind's wings should have grown".....(note Napoleon Hill did not die a rich man.) Enough for today... it will take several posts to elaborate on Objectivism (a philosophy for living on earth) and of course, I will not do it justice, but will refer you to the actual works of Ms. Rand. Coming up....more on how a proper morality based on reason can set you free... as well as why you only need a few minutes of exercise a week to be in optimum physical condition and why more will actually be counerproductive....stay tuned....

Nov 8, 2009

Beginning of a journey

This is a trial entry as I begin this blog, the goal of which is to share ideas that will eventually form part of a book that I have committed to write and self-publish by December 2011.

The message of the book, as the title of this blog says will be how to live a full life, using ideas to maximize results in all areas of life; physical, mental, financial, social, emotional, spiritual.

The underlying premise for all will be a rational philosophy encompassing the principles of reason, purpose and self-esteem. THE main distinctive feature of this blog will be the underlying philosophy which I believe is missing in all other so called self-help material.

You might say, I want to put the SELF back into self-help, and replace the rampant mysticism with rationality, so people will understand what realistic results they can achieve and, importantly, understand why they work, and contrary to the hype in this type of material, it will be a matter of showing that the true rewards of leading a fulfilling life are far greater than what is normally promised.

Stay tuned for more.... Best to all in Being the Hero of YOUR own life!!