Altered States: Just add water. And a lot of salt.

If you solve problems using code you understand the storm that is within. It’s Tron meets The Matrix. Everything in your head is fighting for resources, algorithms crunching numbers, pointers going astray in your stack and the garbage collector nowhere in sight to clean the mess up!

Monkey Brain

There are solutions to this madness. The process is called calming your monkey brain typically through Meditation. But Meditation isn’t for everyone. Many have tried and failed because let’s face it, the classic method of Meditation sucks. It is a pain in the back side to sit there for an extended period of time trying to cut out all the distractions of the growing pain in your back to the ~70db pollution hitting your auditory sensors. Why do we still encourage meditation the old school way when there are far easier and more effective methods to calm the monkey mind?

John C. Lilly

In 1950s we knew little about sensory isolation. Many great minds speculated that insanity would follow any attempts to turn off our core senses — visual, auditory and kinesthetic. All with the exception of 1 badass scientist, John C Lilly. He proposed that if one could isolate the mind from external stimuli one could experience heightened sensory perception. He devised the first isolation tank, a dark soundproof tank of warm salt water in which subjects could float for long periods in sensory isolation. He proved his hypothesis right. And the rest is history. Google John C. Lilly to learn more about his work.

John C. Lilly built a modern day version of a meditation tank.

The Architecture of an actual Isolation Tank aka Floatation Tank
The Architecture of an actual Isolation Tank aka Floatation Tank

Today, such isolation tanks (aka floatation tanks) are found all around the world. From spa centers using it to relax the body to sport centers to expedite recovery (eg. Australian Institute of Sports) and to private use to explore the mind like John C. Lilly and myself do. Yet very few people know about it. So let me tell you more.

Where it all began for me

I have been “floating” starting in Australia since 2008 and later in the US. I was inspired by the 1st episode of Fringe. Dr Bishop used an Isolation Tank (also known as sensory deprivation tank) to connect Olivia and Agent Scott’s mind to tap into the dead agent’s mind to retrieve information related to the case. Low level protocol stuff. Yeah pretty insane utility but what if. So I took the red pill and went down the rabbit hole.

You may hear the word “floating” being used. This reference is more rosey but means the same thing; isolation tank experience. You float inside the isolation tank like a cork on water due to the high concentrate of epsom salt. If you have been to the Dead Sea you will know what I mean. A secondary benefit of the salt is muscle relaxation. Epsom salt has been used for centuries for muscle aches.

The Apollo ELV Float Tank — #1 Floatation Tank
The Apollo ELV Float Tank — #1 Floatation Tank

As you can see from the pictures, the cause creates an effect ~20mins into the journey you will feel like a brain floating in space. Disconnected from your auditory, visual and kinesthetic senses. This heightens the mind’s processing ability so you can begin exploring your private sea, your mind, in a conscious state.

At the end of a 1 hour floatation session you will feel like your body and your mind got a massage.

The Theta State

The goal with both meditation and floatation is to reach the theta state. This is a state where you can consciously listen to your subconscious mind. Or let’s put it a different way, experience hallucinations without drugs, insanity or sleep. Monks train years to do this through meditation while staying consciously awake. Your body does this naturally every night but you consciously switch off aka fall asleep. Recall those auditory or visual flashes you get before your off switch kicks in and you fall asleep? That’s a glimpse into theta state. In an isolation tank you are consciously awake observing your subconscious mind. Most of the time. No years of training required. For me it turned out after 3 floatation sessions I was hallucinating baby!

Supercomputer

Our subconscious mind is a powerful supercomputer (no surprises there) which constantly gathers, calculates, builds patterns & connections faster than we can consciously observe (process). I think this is a natural safe measure so we don’t go insane. Now imagine being able to tap into this wealth of stored info for a bit. You know when you sometimes get a gut feeling — I believe that is the output from all the processing bubbling their way to your conscious mind. I use the isolation tank to tap into this and get my answers faster then waiting for them to bubble to the top.

Why isn’t this a Company benefit yet?

Floating should be a company benefit. Heck, even more.. a company policy. If an employee is having a hard day for whatever reason (personal or business) just send them to an isolation tank for 1 hour.

That’s empathy right there;

  1. Identifying your employee is experiencing some distress and
  2. Do something about it that will have a far reaching impact on their emotional state than a 1:1 talk or sending them home.

We are human creatures with emotions. Fact. Ignoring this fact in my opinion is narcissism. If you have empathy do something constructive and help your colleague.

Finished a big project? Scrap the default lunch mode celebrations — take the team to a Zen center and have them all float. Afterwards you can all reflect on the achievement while sipping camellia tea. Better?

Run an experiment

There are float centers up and down the Bay Area and all around the world. Google it. Run an experiment with your team or yourself floating at least 5 times — 1 every week. That’s a tad over a month. Measure the experiment so you can quantify it and remove any cognitive bias. Then reflect on your calmness, clear head, relaxed nature and more empathy. Let me know what you find. There’s nothing more powerful than experiencing the power of this amazing mind and body hack for yourself.

Float already!

Few final snippets before I wrap this up.

Be vigilant about the tank

The Tank you choose needs a good ventilation system. High temperatures will race your heart just like a steam room does. It will become extremely unpleasant. I had it happen to me. Reached 144bpm and it was the worst experience ever. The Apollo ELV Float Tank is the best tank I have ever experienced. It is the Tesla of Tanks!

If its important, don’t sleep on it

Float. You will get more insights.

Tired?

Float. The Epsom salt does wonders to your skin and muscles. Afterwards, you will feel super relaxed. And if you fall asleep from exhaustion inside the tank you will be fine floating like a cort. Should you tip over, the high concentrate of salt will burn a hole in your head *j/k*. It will sting tho.

At a minimum, start with 3 float sessions

It will take some time for you to learn how to fully let go and relax your body while suspended like a cork. Only then will the mind let go.

Installing a tank at your company?

If you were inspired by what you learnt here and decided to install a tank at your company then please invite me over for a float session. Or if you need help or have questions please reach out.

More juice on Isolation Tanks & Sensory Deprivation

Happy Floating!

PS. This article also appears on https://medium.com/the-road-to-silicon-valley/a-better-way-to-meditate-in-a-sensory-deprivation-tank-6b61d360f5d0#.1ppvk69af

~ Ernest

Progress === Happiness – Thank You Tony Robbins!

Tony Robbins is a legend. No I’m not a newbie to Tony Robbins. This is not my first time I’m hearing Tony talk. But few days ago I watched Tony Robbins — I Am Not Your Guru on Netflix and managed to shed few tears. The content was refreshing and it resonated with me. I think it will with you too. It’s too good to hold back. Watch it now before Netflix removes it from their catalog. You won’t regret it.

Who is Tony Robbins

Also known as Anthony Robbins, Tony is a life coach who inspires people to wake up and change their lives. Tony is also known for his self-help books Unlimited Power, Unleash the Power Within and Awaken the Giant Within and stage events that span 4 days of 12 hours each day where you get to walk on fire, hug with strangers and cry. A lot. Tony is truly amazing.

A Date With Destiny

The show “I Am Not Your Guru” is a — 1st time ever — recording of Tony’s annual event called “Date With Destiny” held on an exclusive island in the Caribbean wth a small group of people and Tony’s entourage. I heard of Date With Destiny back in 2008 during Tony’s UPW (Unleash the Power Within) beginners seminar but that was it.

UPW — Unleash the Power Within

So back in 2008 I was given a free ticket to attend the 4 day UPW. I must confess, if it wasn’t for the free ticket I would have never gone. UPW turned out to be my pivotal moment. It changed me — fast! Apart from walking on fire spectacle, Tony showed us how to free ourselves from the constraints of our mind and unleash the power within. This made a huge impact on my life resulting in my big move from Sydney (Australia) to Silicon Valley in 2009.

UPW, Tony Robbins telling a story we can all relate to — how we are sometimes 2mm away from a breakthrough

So here I am in Mountain View, CA, and thanks to Netflix democratizing how we experience entertainment have now experienced the power that only Tony Robbins is capable of igniting. I don’t intent to summarize the show, you should just watch it. But what I intend on sharing with the golden nugget that struck a cord with me. Something that Tony said that really resonated with me and I am certain will resonate with you. It very well may be a great starting point when one feels lost and seeks direction.

Progress is Happiness

“If you are growing in anything you will feel better. Financially, Emotionally, Spiritually, Relationship, your Body etc. Your going to feel better in your body. Thats what we are made for. We are meant to grow so we can have something to give. You can’t give something you don’t have.”

and…

Life is Growth.

Tony Robbins then introduces what he coins as the “Primary Question”. This is a Question that’s unique to you. A question you need to ask yourself on what is driving your life at the moment. Tony explains..

Questions control what you focus on,

What you focus on is what you feel,

What you feel is your experience of life.

That moment when you realize something profound
That moment when you realize something profound

This was so profound for me that I felt like I finally started to understand my current situation. The pieces were making sense. My head was clearing. I found direction again.

The more I pondered about my Primary Question the more I could see this method apply to everyone. For example; this can apply to the way we experience the chaotic startup environment running or working for a startup, or how we deal with failure in any areas of our lives. We just need Progress to get out of the dark — finding progress is like that light in a dark tunnel. You should walk towards it to avoid being engulfed by the darkness.

Finally I will leave you with this quote from Tony..

“Stay in your head. Your dead.” ~ Tony Robbins

~ Ernest

EQ: Emotional Intelligence, 3 Brain Theory & Leadership

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. A skill now highly regarded as a necessity for great leaders. Traditionally analytical skills measured by IQ tests were considered as the pinnacle of leadership missing probably the most important quality of a leader, EQ.

Recently I gave Daniel Goleman’s book called “Emotional Intelligence” a spin. In his book, Goleman explains how emotions play a much greater role in thought, decision-making and individual success than is commonly acknowledged.

Let me explain.

Paul MacLean – 3 Brain Theory

Dr. MacLean said we do not have 1 brain but 3. Each brain evolved over time one by one over the older brain until there were 3 distinct brains interconnected with their own purpose and function. This is called the Triune Brain Model.

The 3 brains – starting in the center

3 brains - primitive, emotional & rational

1st – Reptilian (Primitive) is at the brain stem, root brain. This controls breathing, heart and organ functions. It is a part of the brain which cannot be reprogrammed since it regulates your body. Its goal is to make sure you stay alive and reproduce.

2nd – Limbic (Emotional) sits over the primitive brain and is impulsive and powerful. It controls how you feel to certain stimulus. Knowing something is right in your heart. It connects information to memory and works best during emotionally charged context. It serves the primitive brain giving pleasure to natural survival needs.

We like to believe that our decisions are based on our thought but in reality they are based on our “emotional state of mind”, how we feel at the time.

It’s important to know that there was an emotional brain long before rational brain.

3rd – Neocortex (Rational) is the newest part of our brain and is also referred to as the “thinking brain”. It sits on top of the emotional brain and it controls higher level processes such as logic, reasoning, creative thinking, language etc.

Neocortex tends to be swamped by the brains beneath it, especially the emotional brain on which it sits & connects to directly. The emotional brain is known to hijack your rational mind when it its basic needs for survival & reproduction are threatened sending a storm of messages to the lower brain to execute pre-programmed instructions in a fight or flight response. E.g. Fear sends stress signals to all parts of the brain immobilizing the body.

I’m sure by now you can see the importance of the 3 brains and their impact on us and people we lead.

A Japanese tale

There is a nice Japanese tale about a samurai and a zen master. The samurai wanted to know the difference between heaven and hell. The monk replied to the samurai “I have no time to waste with a lout like you”. The samurai flew into a rage and pulled his sword in anger yelling “I could kill you for your impudence!”. “That”, the monk replied “is hell”. Startled, having realised what the monk said the samurai put his sword away, bowed and thanked the monk for his insight. “And that” the monk said “is heaven”.
This illustrates the crucial difference in getting caught up in a feeling and becoming aware that you are getting swept away by it.

Socrates injunction “know thy self” speaks to this keystone of emotional intelligence. Awareness of ones own feelings as they occur and self-awareness as an ongoing attention to ones internal states – being aware of our moods and thoughts about that mood.

How to manage your emotions?

Here are a basic set of set of steps you can follow to learn to control your emotions and in turn understand the emotions and drivers of the people you lead.

  • Cease and challenge the emotion (e.g. anger) before reacting to it.
  • Realize that you cannot stop emotions flooding your mind. Emotions happen too quickly and outside your rational mind. But you are in total control of how you will react.
  • Have an open mind and realise that you may not understand the other story where the emotion was triggered. The situation might not be as bad as you perceive it.
  • Each thought triggers more emotions. So use the power of distraction to stop it.

Why is this important?

  • We are all affected by the 3 parts of our brain in making and dealing with decisions and people.
  • As a leader understanding how this affects you is fundamental in understanding your followers, those that you lead. How can you lead people if you do not understand basic fundamentals of how your emotions drive your world. Understand 1st, then apply.
  • Being an effective leader means you understand that people are emotional creatures and at times can get swamped by their lower brains in response to various environmental triggers.
  • Intentions and Behaviours are 2 different things. Behaviours are sometimes triggered by lower brain functions. Never make conclusions based on them, rather on the “true intentions” of the said individual, their rational mind. Have an open mind.

Emotional Intelligence

Before you can be effective at this you must understand your own emotions better just like the samurai in the Japanese tale. Once you learn to manage your emotions you will have a profound deep understanding of the people around you and how to best respond, motivate, lead and inspire them. That my life explorers, is true Emotional Intelligence.

emotional-intelligence-bubbles

Goleman in his book on Emotional Intelligence shares great stories and examples on EQ. If you haven’t already, spend some time immersing yourself in this knowledge. You will be surprised what you learn.

daniel-goleman-emotional-intelligence

~ Ernest

TED: 8 Things that Lead to Success by Richard St. John

After seven years and 500 interviews, analyst Richard St. John isolated the eight things that lead to success.

Richard St. John did a fantastic presentation at TED which I’m sharing here with you in a summarized format. Further down in the post is the actual video of Richard going over these points. Even though what is being said is nothing revolutionary, it’s still good to be reminded of what it has taken others to be successful.

In summary

What Leads To Success?

In detail

1. PASSION

“I’m driven by my passion” – Freeman Thomas (car designer, Daimler Chrysler)

Do it for LOVE Not MONEY

“I would pay someone to do what I do” – Carol Coletta (radio producer, Smart City)

2. WORK

“It’s all hard work. Nothing comes easily. But I have a lot of fun.” Rupert Murdoch (big cheese CEO)

3. GOOD

“To be successful put your nose down in something and get damn good at it.” Alex Garden (game developer)

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE

4. FOCUS

“I think it all has to do with focusing yourself to one thing.” Norma Jewison (filmmaker)

5. PUSH

“Push yourself. Physically, mentally, you gotta push, push, push.” David Gallo (marine scientist)

SHYNESS SELF-DOUBT

“I always had self-doubts. I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t think I’d make it.” Goldie Hawn (actor)

“It’s not always easy to push yourself. My mother pushed me.” Frank Gehry (architect)

6. SERVE

“It was a privilege to serve as a doctor” – Sherin Nuland (professor of surgery, Yale)

Millionaires serve others something of value.

7. IDEAS

“I had an idea – founding the first micro-computer software company…” – Bill Gamest (software guy)

Listen, Observe, Be Curious, Ask Questions, Problem Solve, Make Connections.

8. PERSIST

“Persistence is the number one reason for our success.” – Joe Kraus (co-founder, Excite)

Persist to Failure to CRAP = Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, Pressure.

What leads to success? – Passion, Work, Focus, Persist, Ideas, Good, Push, Serve

Video: Richard St. John: Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes

Yerba Mate Tea – Drink of the Gods

This tea rocks! If you had enough of caffeine jitteriness or its addictive tendencies, want to quit adding sugar to your tea or not a big fan of green tea but would love something that has both the power of black tea and the health benefits of green tea then look no further then Yerba Mate. It’s refreshing and energizing and has a nice list of health benefits.

“I reached the place of our vibouac by sunset and drinking much mate, soon made up my bed for the night. The wind was very strong and cold, but I never slept more comfortably.” – Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle, 1936

What is Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is a green leafed shrub, original of subtropical South America. It’s popularity is due not only to it’s exotic taste, but to it’s potent health benefits. It has been the drink of choice of the Guarani Indians in early colonial periods. More on Wikipedia here.

Yerba Mate - Drinks of the Gods

Health Benefits of Yerba Mate Tea

Here are a good bunch of great reasons you should be drinking this tea:

  • It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and full of antioxidants – yerba mate offers a higher concentration of polyphenols to pack a punch in the fight against free radicals,
  • Works as an appetite suppressant,
  • Due to its thermogenic compounds it helps you burn more fat by elevating your metabolism,
  • 100% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee but no side effects like the jitters or yellow teeth stains &
  • Promotes cell survival better than red wine or green tea. – Hard science sources

How does it look

Pictures speak louder than words. Here are some of the pictures I took of the tea.

Yerba Mate - Cruz De Malta

Yerba Mate - Cruz De Malta (the leafs)

Where to get it?

Yerba Mate is a lot harder to acquire in store due to lower awareness of this great tea. However there are few places online which sell Yerba Mate for basically next to pennies. Amazon as always has a good selection – notice the special Yerba Mate tea gourd for drinking this tea:

Yerba Mate - Cruz De Malta
Cruz De Malta 1/2 Kilo Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate - Rosamonte
Yerba Mate Rosamonte x 500 g Argentina Green Leaf Tea Loose Herbal Bag 1.1 lb

 

If you are in Australia, “Natures Green Gold” proudly introduces South America’s secret of well-being and vitality to Australian homes. Visit their website for Australian locations to pickup Yerba Mate: http://www.naturesgreengold.com/. Thanks to Nathan Hesse for sending me this link to help our Australian readers in acquiring this fantastic drink locally.

Tim Ferriss

Timothy Ferriss, an American author and public speaker speaks highly of Yerba Mate and it’s benefits in how it had helped him write his 1st NY Times Best Seller book called The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.

“2. Biochemically Fine-Tune. I found by accident that my best sessions all followed a specific ratio: 3 cups of yerba mate tea for each glass of wine consumed.” – Tim’s blog

Further reading

If you would like to learn more about Yerba Mate Tea then I highly recommend you read the links below. There is a wealth of information there. Alternatively send me a message and I will happily respond to your questions.

I love questions, so ask away!

Ernest

Links mentioned in this post

Stories submitted by Yerba Mate loyal customers:

“I drink Yerba Mate every morning. It is my way of waking up and greeting the day. It gives me an energy that is not a ‘hyped up’ feeling but rather like a natural energy that comes from a healthy lifestyle.”

Nancy Smith, Registered Nurse, Reno, Nevada More…

“When I sit down to paint yerba seems to give me the mental clarity and focus that I need in order to create to my fullest potential.”

Scott Cranmer, Artist, Audubon, New Jersey More…

“When my doctor suggested I give up black tea and coffee a year ago, I switched to drinking Green Tea for the perceived health benefits. However, I found it somewhat unsatisfying as a morning beverage. Luckily, I discovered Yerba Mate and I’ve never looked back. I began ordering my yerba mate from Nativa for their great services and prices (just one-third of what I was paying here in BC). Since switching to yerba mate, I experience none of the jittery side effects of coffee, sleep very well and just generally feel great!”

Jim Sutton, Family Therapist, Vancouver, British Columbia More…

Buddhism: How to Tame your Monkey Mind

Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly.

This is your mind – the monkey mind

Monkey Brain
Monkey Brain

I’m sure we can all relate to this. You lay down in bed wanting to relax / sleep but you mind is so busy you can’t stop thinking about a hundred things at the same time. An hour passes by and you still can’t sleep. Living in a busy world has its toll on our mental state. This toll is what the Monk’s call “The monkey mind”.

How to still your mind – Meditate

The single most effective way to still your mind (rid the monkey mind) is Meditation. Of course you can disconnect from society and go on a holiday but this doesn’t teach you how to manage the monkey mind rather temporarily escape from it.

Meditation is a great way to relieve anxiety, manage stress, and focus your mind.

There are many sites describing different methods (some overcomplicated) on how to meditate. The complexities scare the masses and they try to deal with it another way. The truth is that it’s very simple. Forget about those 300 page books and just do this:

buddha-meditation

1. Find a quiet place away from all distractions.

2. Get into a Lotus sitting position. As shown to the picture to the left. This is the statue in Bangalore depicting Shiva meditating in a Lotus position.

3. Close your eyes and start “deep breathing“. In through your nose and out through your mouth. It doesnt matter to what count you do it as long as you are breathing properly – using your diaphragm. If you aren’t not sure how to breath deeply read my post on breathing here.

4. Focus on each breath. Imagine the air coming in as pure white energy which gives you life. Imagine the exhaled air as black poison leaving your body. Did you know that the respiratory system is actually responsible of getting rid of 70% of the body’s waste.

5. Keep on doing this over and over. Your monkey mind will soon cease the wilderness and come to a standstill. When you reach this stop, you will experience “inner peace”. A feeling that cannot be explained, only felt and experienced. Enjoy this state for you have found yourself.

At first, start with a 15 minute meditation session and increase this up to an hour or more only when you are comfortable meditating for longer periods of time.

Why this works?

In a previous post I said “conscious mind creates the belief and the subconscious mind then executes the belief”. If your conscious mind is too busy with thoughts rushing in and out on s daily basis then how are you to send a consistent message to your subconscious mind on where you want to be in life and / or the level of success you are pursuing. Simple answer is you cannot. Your brain will filter all the noise and miss the key points.

Stilling your mind is the key here. So that you can consciously make clear and concise decisions and to tell your subconscious what you really want out of life.

Extra benefits – Bigger Brain!

The experts at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) have found that meditation helps build a bigger brain. Click here to read the article on this scientific finding. They used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of people who meditate and people who don’t and found that certain brain areas – specifically “the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus” – were significantly larger in people who meditate.

“We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior,” said Eileen Luders, lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. “The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue why meditators have these exceptional abilities.”

Because these areas of the brain are closely linked to emotion, Luders said, “these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators’ the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.”

This alone is a good reason to meditate. Gain a competitive edge today! … for free.

Let’s speed this up – how to make it work quicker

If you are impatient, like me, then you may be asking “Ernest, how do I speed this meditation process up?”. I too had this question and finally found the answer – Isolation Tank. After 20-40 minutes of floating in an Isolation Tank your conscious mind will come to a stand still and you will get to see and hear your subconscious mind. What does this all mean? – I explain in detail this natural wonder here:

There are also other methods like using the Silva Method to help with switching mental states. I will cover this in future posts and share with you free special audio to get you started instantly.

Here are other audio resources I use to get the extra edge

The Secret Universal Mind Meditation – This one is great to fall asleep to. As you sleep your subconscious mind will absorb the positive messages. This is my favorite.
audio-the-secret

Brainwave Meditation – The easiest way to meditate during the day.
audio-brainwave-meditation

Awakening Kundalini – Kundalini is the name for the extraordinary powerhouse of cosmic energy that resides within you.

audio-awakening-kundalini

Until then, silence your monkey mind and enjoy the inner peace.

Ernest

Developing the Leader within you by John Maxwell

Few of us are natural-born leaders, according to John C. Maxwell, the author of Developing the Leader Within You. Fortunately though Maxwell teaches us that the traits that are the raw material of leadership can be acquired. As Maxwell explains “You supply desire and I will show you how to be a leader”. So I immersed myself in this book on developing the leader within me. You can grab the book from Amazon.

developing-the-leader-within-you

“People don’t want to be managed, they want to be lead.” ~ John C. Maxwell

I have often found this point fascinating even before hearing it from Maxwell. A leader is someone who people will look up to because they aspire or see quality in that individual which they would want to see in them self. These people “want to be lead”. The leader must be good at managing them self before they are ready to start managing and leading others.

Maxwell speaks of Bruce Larson whom describes a leader as the one to take a place at the front and be able to handle the turbulence while the rest (those that are lead) are honking affirmations.

This draws similarity to how a flock of birds with a pack leader at the front breaking the air while the rest of the birds follow in sync. Nature it seems has engraved a form of leadership into all species on this planet. We just need to develop a desire to grow into those shoes.

He who thinketh he leadeth and has no one following him is only taking a walk. ~ John C. Maxwell

Leadership is defined as “ability to get followers”. If you work backwards from this you can figure out how to lead. It’s not a position (status / title), but to get followers. Status leaders exhibit frustration as they try to get followers.

This shadows the fact that leadership and the ability to influence others is vital to have successful relationships, a successful job or business and your overall satisfaction with life. The question you need to ask yourself is “What kind of an influencer will you be”.

The very essence of all power to influence is getting the other person to participate. ~ Harry A. Overstreet

The Lego blocks

Here are a few pieces of knowledge you might want to consider when building your influence and ultimately leadership:

  • Leadership is built like a set of lego blocks, from the bottom up.
  • Leadership begins with the heart not head.
  • You cannot lead people without loving them.
  • We want people to be results orientated.
  • Integrity keeps people. Charismatic personality draws people.
  • You gotta love em before you lead em.
  • Problems never stop but people can stop problems.
  • Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it!
  • A leader is great due to the way they empower others.

5 levels of leadership

The following are John Maxwell’s five stages of influence that individuals move through when building their leadership quality. Advancement to the next level can only happen once an individual has excelled in the present level.

1. Position – you start with a title and a level of authority it gives you.

2. Permission – people begin to follow you because they see something within you. This is the true beginning of influence with your followers.

3. Production – people inspire to become like you and thus try to produce at a higher level based on what they see you doing for the organization.

4. People Development – you have followers because of value you brought into their life.

5. Personhood – people follow you based on who you are and what you represent or stand for. This is the pinnacle of leadership here and a small amount of leaders reach this point.

Excellent leaders:

  • Great leaders-the truly successful ones who are in the top 1 percent-all have one thing in common. They know that acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task.
  • Create an excellent environment & believe in their team.
  • Know human needs. Being able to separate a behavior from intention is key in understanding people.
  • Control big 3:
    • finance,
    • personnel, and
    • planning.
  • Avoid 7 deadly sins:
    • try to be liked not respected,
    • not asking team for advise and help,
    • taunting personal talent,
    • not keeping criticism constructive,
    • not developing a sense of responsibility in team members,
    • not treating everyone same way and failing to keep everyone well informed.

Maxwell reminds us that to always make yourself available to your people.

What motivates people:

  • Significant contribution by allowing people to purse a cause that will have lasting impact.
  • Goal participation by giving ownership to your people.
  • Positive dissatisfaction by inspiriting positive effective change.

What demotivates people:

  • Public criticism.
  • Manipulations tearing down the walls in a relationship.
  • Insensitivity by not listening to your people.
  • Discouraging personal growth by feeling threatened by the success of others.

Developing the Leader within you

Becoming a great leader only happens once you set your goal and fuel it with a strong desire. There are great qualities of a leader one can always mirror from leadership stories, mentors, people we aspire et al and practice those qualities which ultimately can become your new habits.

I highly encourage you to read leadership stories of other great leaders like my all time favorite Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way. If you want a place to start then John C. Maxwell’s Developing the Leader Within You is ideal to understanding what Leadership is all about. Enjoy your journey and please share your experiences in the comment section below.

~ Ernest

Sun Tzu’s Art of War: outwit your enemy with your mind

The Art of War is a series of Chinese military treatise written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC. Sun Tzu was a warrior, philosopher and the greatest military mind in history. His teachings are based on Warfare but can be applied to business and personal life. His teachings are said to have predicted the outcomes of World War, Civil War and Vietnam.

Sun Tzu helps teach us to know our self, to know our strengths, our weaknesses and what we are capable of doing on the battlefield. He constantly reminds us it’s as important to cultivate a deep fundamental understanding of our adversaries so that we can better achieve our objectives. That is powerful and timeless!

The Book – Art of War

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The Story

The story begins with the ruler of the Chinese state of Wu whom agonises over a hostel neighbour Chu which wants to invade with an army of x10 (10:1) more then Wu. The King of Wu summons Sun Tzu to help. To demonstrate to the King that he is capable of turning anyone into a soldier, Sun Tzu uses the palace women as examples by showing them manoeuvres. Out of the women, he chooses 2 as the platoon leaders to make sure discipline is observed in their unit. When Tzu orders the exercise to begin the women laugh. Tzu says, maybe my instructions we not clear enough, so he repeats them. 2nd time the girls still giggle.

Sun Tzu says: “If instructions are not clear and commands not explicit, it is the commander’s fault.”

So… if the orders are unclear then it is the fault of the general that the troops did not obey. But if the orders are clear, and his orders have been clear, it is the fault of the subordinate officers that the orders are not obeyed. Sun Tzu has only 1 way to convince the troops that he is serious. He executes the subordinates’ officers infront of the rest.

To Sun Tzu, war is a matter of life or death.

This is the principle of his teachings. Once understood everyone from leaders to soldier will be motivated to succeed. Tzu appoints new officers and now the women follow his orders. Sun Tzu has proved his point to the King and is awarded a 30,000 army to fight an army 10x larger using his master work teachings of Art of War.

500bc bamboo strips which the teachings to success were written on.

3 key principles that unify his philosophies

  1. “Know your enemy and know yourself and in 100 battles you will never be in peril.” – intelligence is key.
  2. “To win 100 battles is not the height of skill – To subdue the enemy without fighting is.” – outwit your opponent.
  3. “Avoid what is strong. Attack what is weak.” – do not go head to head in battles.

The Story – continued…

Instead of waiting for Chu’s army to attack Wu, Sun Tzu invades Chu. But not head on. With brutal speed and efficiency attacking Chu outposts (a gorilla attack approach attacking smaller & weaker forces). This keeps Chu shifting forces between locations to protect their outposts tiring Chu’s army and gives Sun Tzu a better understanding of his enemy. Manoeuvre, surprise and deception are key here for Tzu. Greatest armies in war have always been won by brains not force. The board game Go can teach us something important here. It is more resource efficient to capture most territory with least number of stones.

Some great quotes from Sun Tzu

“In war, numbers alone confer no advantage – Do not advance relaying on sheer military power.” – Sun Tzu

“Know your enemy and know yourself and in 100 battles you will never be in peril.” – Sun Tzu

“There are five fundamental factors for success in war – Weather, terrain, leadership, military doctrine and most importantly – moral influence.” – Sun Tzu

“Put the army in the face of death where there is no escape and they will not flee or be afraid – there is nothing they cannot achieve.” – Sun Tzu

“It is essentials for victory that generals are unconstrained by their leaders.” – Sun Tzu

“The winning arm realizes the conditions for victory first, then fights – The losing army fights first then seeks victory.” – Sun Tzu

“When troops flee, are insubordinates, collapse or are routed in battle, it is the fault of the general.” – Sun Tzu

And so through preparation, deception and indirect attacks.. using his mind to fight the war, Sun Tzu outwitted the army of Chu and won the war. If you are interested in more detail I highly recommend you read this amazing book The Art of War. War leads to disaster – financial and human suffering. Sometimes the best way to win is to not fight at all. This is Sun Tzu’s ultimate secret!

~ Ernest

Vitamin D3 Deficiency: how to stay healthy & feel better during flu season

Winter is upon us in Silicon Valley and you know what this means? Shorter days, less sunlight, more coughing & sick people on that daily commute. More flu going around! Oh and not to mention more advertising to get a flu shot to stop you from getting sick.

So this post should hopefully make you a tad uncomfortable and hopefully educate you about a powerful yet forgotten supplement during the flu season… Vitamin D. All this while you get bombarded with advertising & doctors screaming for you to get the flu shot. What the hell is in a flu shot anyways? Is a Vitamin D supplement a better alternative? Read on and decide for yourself.

Vitamin D deficiency

vitamin-d3-caps

Most of us are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency and we don’t even know it.

  • Current research has implicated Vitamin D deficiency as a major reason in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.
  • Kevin Rose & Dr. Weil M.D. covered Vitamin D deficiency as a major cause of disease in detail here, and
  • The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey a group of researchers concluded that having low levels of vitamin D (<17.8 ng/ml) was independently associated with an increase in all-cause mortality in the general population. If you want to read more about Vitamin D click here.

“Vitamin D” isn’t even a nutrient! It comes from the sun, not from nutrition. – GRC

Vitamin D isn’t really a Vitamin like Vitamin C rather more like a powerful steroid hormone in our body which lays an important role in the maintenance of several organ systems. Critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body, from birth until death. Your primary source of Vitamin D is sun exposure followed (to a lesser extend) from food.

Vitamin D inexpensively promotes health.- GRC

Why the deficiency?

Ever since we started spending more time indoors we have been inadvertently starving our bodies of Vitamin D. We spend less time outside in the sun and more indoors working, driving to work instead of walking in the sun with the few exceptions on the weekends out and about. During the typical work week you will be hard pressed to get more than 45 minutes of good sunlight on your skin. But still then only your face and hands are exposed to the sun and possibly covered with sunscreen because as you may have heard… the sun is dangerous and you need to “slip slop & slap” – Aussie health slogan to cover up from the sun.

sydney-skyline

Vitamin D isn’t the only benefit we are missing out on by being indoors. In January 2010 I covered the issue of low LUX and it’s connection to depression and what to do about getting this corrected today without denting your wallet. This revealing post is located here – it goes hand in hand with this post and is highly recommended.

Setting people up to die

Vitamin D Science has a problem: Vitamin D is very inexpensive and cannot be patented.- GRC

Just go outside in the sun and get adequate amount of skin exposure or cheap (about 2.4 cents per day) supplements and you are ready to kick on. No pharmaceutical company wants to even think about investing any sort of money into trials or marketing of Vitamin D because it’s not financially rewarding. Instead when the flu season breaks, you will smell the fear created by these conglomerates to the tune of N1H1 and all its cousins and a need for immunization. Did you know that N1H1 flu shot had limited testing in Australian labs (6 weeks to approve) before hitting the shelfs. Yet so many people jumped to get the injection of something only few know what it contains. The message is simple,  pharmaceutical companies want to “keep you by” and NEVER to cure you or prevent any form of illness. Because there is no money in that.

Curiously absent from all the health advice being handed out on the swine flu by the White House, the CDC, the WHO and even the FDA is any mention of Vitamin D or other natural remedies that offer enormous protections from influenza infections. It is a well-known medical fact, of course, that influenza always gets worse during the winter months North of the equator and the summer months South of the equator (which are really called their “winter” months). This is because as sunlight hours lessen during the winter, the people living there become vitamin D deficient and are susceptible to influenza infections of all kinds. Read more about this in literature here.

But the prevention is so simple. All it takes is good daily exposure to the sun and some Vitamin D supplements to protected you and your family from the common flu and other degenerative diseases. Sounds easy, cheap and feels alright, right? Nature has all the answers but we sometimes fail to see past the smoke.

If you want to read more about Vitamin D uncovered and some great videos visit this site: http://www.grc.com/health/vitamin-d.htm

Vitamin D levels – getting yourself tested

Vitamin D is measured in ng/mL. You can find out your levels by getting blood work for 25-hydroxyvitamin D from your local doctor. Make sure you specifically ask for Vitamin D check when getting full blood work.

Your Vitamin D levels should be 50-80 ng/mL year-round. If they are not you need to act quickly and get them up.

Here is a good chart from Office of Dietary Supplements National Institutes of Health on Adequate Intakes (AIs) for Vitamin D:

ng/mL** nmol/L** Health status
<10-11 <25-27.5 Associated with vitamin D deficiency, leading to rickets in infants and children and osteomalacia in adults [4,13]
<10-15 <25-37.5 Generally considered inadequate for bone and overall health in healthy individuals [4,13]
≥15 ≥37.5 Generally considered adequate for bone and overall health in healthy individuals [4]
Consistently >200 Consistently >500 Considered potentially toxic, leading to hypercalcemia and hyperphosphatemia, although human data are limited. In an animal model, concentrations ≤400 ng/mL (≤1,000 nmol/L) demonstrated no toxicity [11,14].

When I got my levels checked in January 2010 they were dangerous low at 13 ng/ML!

Sure I spend a lot of time indoors but I also walk outside for around 1 hour a day. Still this isn’t enough. Therefore fast action to get this corrected was required.

Best ways to ensure adequate levels of Vitamin D

  1. If you are low, start with 50,000 IU tablets for 8 weeks. Your local doctor should give you a prescription for these if you are in the dangerously low zone.
  2. Regularly receive midday sun exposure in the late spring, summer, and early fall, exposing as much of the skin as possible (being careful to never burn). Beware of the times you can do this safely when UV index is less than 3. Especially if you are in Australia / NZ where the the hole in the ozone layer has spread.
  3. Take Vitamin D-3 (5000IU) per day for 2–3 months, then get a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Adjust your dosage so that blood levels are between 50–80 ng/mL (or 125–200 nM/L) year-round.
  4. Get blood work done regularly to make sure your levels of Vitamin D are in the safe zone.

So there you have it. Simple strategy to get your body back on track naturally fighting the common flu and protecting itself from other common diseases.
I am currently supplementing my lack of Vitamin D with 50,000 IU tables and will follow through with the Vitamin D-3 (5000IU) post the 8 week supply.

hot-air-balloon

I’ll leave you with some interesting notes I found online about Vitamin D – a conspiracy you say:

  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers report that people with low vitamin D may face increased risk of peripheral artery disease. Symptoms include narrowed arteries, pain and numbness, impaired ability to walk. This problem is associated with significant disease and death.
  • Circulation magazine reports that those with low levels of vitamin D had a 62% increased risk of heart failure. Those with adequate levels of Vitamin D lowered their risk of colorectal cancer by 72%.
  • People who live in regions with high amounts of direct sunlight have lower incidence of Type 1 diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer and and multiple sclerosis. Sunlight on your skin produces Vitamin D.
  • The Mayo Clinic Health Letter reports that 93% of patients ages 10-65 with musculoskeletal pain were Vitamin D deficient. Elderly women taking Vitamin D had fewer falls and better leg strength.
  • Vitamin D researcher, Dr. William Grant, reports that 15 types of cancer — colon, esophageal, gallbladder, gastric, pancreatic, rectal, endometrial, prostate, breast, intestinal, bladder, kidney, ovarian, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma — are associated with low Vitamin D levels. He also notes that adequate levels of Vitamin D can reduce your risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis an dother common diseases.
  • Professor Robert Heaney reports that raising Vitamin D levels in the body from 29 ng/m to 38 ng/ml can reduce your risk of getting cancer by 70%.
  • Our bodies make Vitamin D from sunlight hitting our skin, but our ability to do so diminishes four-fold from age 20 to age 70. This is why most people are Vitamin D deficient. This may be the reason so many people break their hips when they fall, have unexplained muscle pain, have heart disease, diabetes or hypertension.
  • For years the “recommended” dose of Vitamin D was 200 iu daily. Today, the recommendations from researchers are in the area of 2000 – 10,000 iu daily. The worse your health is, the more you require.
  • Big Pharma is hard at work on a drug the mimics Vitamin D. When they release it, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a push by Big Pharma to get the government to restrict the potency of natural Vitamin D or they will outlaw it using the guise that it is actually a hormone, not a food.

Further reading material:

“Vitamin D” Research – What and how the world is beginning to learn about the importance of “Vitamin D”
http://www.grc.com/health/vitamin-d.htm

Dr. Weil Interview: Geek Health Issues
http://kevinrose.com/post/354908516/drweil

Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit

If you are a fan of the TV Series Lie to Me (like me) you are going to love this book by Dr. Paul EkmanTelling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, Third Edition.

book-telling-lies

This book is the science behind Lie to Me. From breaking the law to breaking a promise, how do people lie and how can they be caught. All 20 years of Ekman’s knowledge in this field is encapsulated inside this fantastic book.

When people lie, their most evident, easy-to-see expressions, which people pay most attention to, are often the false ones. ~ Telling Lies

Who is Dr. Paul Ekman

Dr. Paul Ekman is a psychologist who has been a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. He is considered one of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the twentieth century. The character Cal Lightman of the television series Lie to Me is loosely based on him and his work. More on Ekman is detailed here: http://www.paulekman.com/ – Cutting edge behavioural science for real world applications

The Truth is Written All Over Our Faces – Lie to Me

Lie to Me – the TV series

Lie to Me, is about Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) and his colleagues in The Lightman Group accepting assignments from third parties (commonly local and federal law enforcement), and assisting in investigations, reaching the truth through applied psychology: interpreting microexpressions, through the Facial Action Coding System, and body language.

Me (Ernest) reading Telling Lies – “I give this book 5/5 stars!”

The Book: Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, Third Edition

Ok so you can tell I enjoy Lie to Me for all the WEALTH of educational, useful and practical material this show offers. The book Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, Third Edition is a companion to the show’s science. It digs deep into the research behind the accepted theories and introduces the reader to work Ekman done with the Secret Service, FBI, CIA etc… There are also extras which are not in the show like the difference between “manipulators” and “illustrators”.

Manipulators are hard to control and people cannot stop doing them for very long, especially when they are relaxed. They include all those movements in which one part of the body grooms, massages, rubs, holds, pinches, picks, scratches, or otherwise manipulates another body part.  For example; covering the eyes was common among patients who felt shame. Also people have a tendancy to move forward with interest or anger and backward with fear or disgust.

Illustrators however are called by the name because they illustrate speech as it is spoken. The best clue to deceit is when the number of illustrators changes from the norm. For example: people tend to illustrate more then usual when they are furious, horrified, very agitated, distressed, or excitedly enthused. Also the opposite applies. Knowing one’s common illustrators will help you understand what state of mind they are in.

Emblems however are common signs like the finger or the shrug which everyone knows what these mean. Emblematic slips happen subconsciously in response to emotion. Where emblems occur in presentation area (between the waist and the neck area) emblematic slips are never performed in the presentation area. Best indicator is to remember that when “emblematic slips” increase, illustrators decrease.

These indicators are part of the detecting deceit from Words, Voice, or Body group. If you are suspicious of a lie, pay more attention to the voice and body. The voice, like the face, is tied to the areas of the brain involved in emotion and is a great indicator. You might want to check out The Invention of Lying which gives viewers a comical yet revealing truth about the influence of lying and it’s impact on our society.

More to come

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.” ~ Verbal / Keyser Soze – The Usual Suspects

I started learning about clues to deceit et al some time ago because I was interested in catching lie’s people tell to take advantage of someone. Having been a victim several times, I decided to take action. Since then I have a number of interesting books on body language, micro expressions and practised on Dr. Paul Ekman’s Facial Action Coding System (FACS) software to improve my cognition in categorizing facial behaviors based on the muscles that produce them.

I wanted to know with more accuracy who is “full of it” and who is telling the truth.

I plan to blog more about deceit, body language and micro expressions in the coming months. I believe understanding the people around you is an important trait which one can masture to help with building better rapport, friendship, relationship and to be in a position to stop liars from misleading you. Wouldn’t it be great to know if that sales man just wants a quick sale and isn’t interested in your needs or whether that deal is shonky, and / or misleading.

Essentially, this knowledge helps you make better informed decisions about practically anything in your life. That’s something worth knowing!

I love questions, so ask away!

Ernest.

Links mentioned in this post: