Sunday, December 8, 2019

TheBrainThatChangesItself


I recently read The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge, M.D. (2007). 



In this book Dr. Doidge reviews the most current findings of brain research, and takes us inside the minds and work of some of the pioneers in the field of brain therapy.

Some of my biggest takeaways:

> Science is now providing irrefutable evidence that the brain has the ability to remap, reroute, and reorder itself in very significant ways.
> This dynamic of malleability is known as “neuroplasticity.”
> Neuroplasticity is not limited by age; the process can even occur in aging and aged brains.
> We can only affect long-term brain change through the intense paying of attention; divided attention does not lead to long-lasting change in brain mapping.
> When learning a new skill, mental practice is as beneficial as actual physical practice.
> Neurons that fire together, wire together.
> Novelty and learning new things is a requirement for continued brain health.
> The brain is shaped by culture; and culture is shaped by the brain.

My favorite quote:
“It [the brain] doesn’t simply learn; it is always ‘learning how to learn.’ The brain Merzenich describes is not an inanimate vessel that we fill; rather it is more like a living creature with an appetite, one that can grow and change itself with proper nourishment and exercise.” (p. 47)

Hope for many.  Clear guidance on the power of learning new stuff for all of us.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

CultureCrafting

Culture moves us.  It moves our thinking, it moves our behavior, it moves the way we connect the dots in making sense of our world.  Whether we're aware of it or not.  

The culture of each of the organizations we belong to - family, faith, teams, school, state, nation - impacts us in many ways.  Some of that impact is quite overt, some of it running deeply in the background of our unconscious mind.

Here's why.  Humans, above and beyond all currently known life forms, have brains of size and processing speed that FAR exceeds those of other "creatures."  Add to that the fact that our brains have plasticity, or malleability (Doidge, 2007).  

Culture, then, is the downstream effect of our ability to change and adapt and reroute and problem solve and discern and relate and ............................. to LEARN

So what? (you may be thinking).  

Leaders must be (or become) master teachers, to affect the learning that culture shaping requires.  

What is it that we should be teaching?  The three components of culture, I believe:
1) Ways of THINKING
2) Ways of BEHAVING
3) Ways of SYMBOLIZING

That teaching is best done with great intentionality (I also believe).

Lead on!  Teach on!

Monday, November 25, 2019

LEADership

Lots of folks are leaders.  Some are so mostly because of the titles they wear.  Others, the ones I admire most, are leaders as result of the influence they wield.

The most influential leaders I know manifest the following:
> Focus - they relentlessly pursue a few VERY worthy goals
> Passion - they are passionate about that pursuit
> Tenacity - they Do NOT give up on that pursuit
> Transparency - they communicate often, openly, without variation (no secrets)
> Integrity - their actions and words are always aligned
> Respectfulness - they treat others courteously and fairly - invariably
> Humbleness - they have "rank" (formal or informal), but rarely pull rank


Leaders like this, I happily follow.


Friday, November 22, 2019

InVulnerable

Actually, there's no such thing as InVulnerable.  We're all vulnerable.

What makes us so?
Hatred...and Love
Certainty...and Doubt
Fear...and Courage
Wealth...and Poverty
Ignorance...and Knowledge
Strength...and Weakness
Hegemony...and Hubris

Perhaps Vulnerability's ultimate threat to us is when we are blind to it.

Despite perceptions and performances, we're all in the same boat.  We're ALL vulnerable. 

Understanding our vulnerability (vulnerabilities?) is a good starting point for NOT becoming its victim.  And, for living a more generous, humble, and forgiving life.

As they say, "Dust to dust."  What really matters is what we do between those two dusts.

We can do better, and should.

Friday, November 15, 2019

ReBeginning

Whether we believe it the result of fluke accident or that of Intelligent Design, the cyclical nature of life is deeply embedded into the fabric of our being.  

Each day ends, a new one begins.  One year closes, another ensues.  Death occurs, new births relentlessly replace.  The circle of life, the cycle of life, runs constantly in the background.

What gives our lives meaning is the existential question that belongs, seemingly, to humans alone.  

Some questions worth cyclically considering:

Do the ones we love and care about know it?
Is the world a better place for our presence in it?
Are our goals worthy and noble (as individuals, as organizations)?
What have we learned that makes us better?
What do we need to learn next to make us even betterer?

Getting better, everyday, on purpose.  Living well, loving much, leaving better.

We get to decide, afresh with each new day.

Friday, November 8, 2019

FoodOverMedicine


I recently read Food Over Medicine: The Conversation That Could Change Your Life by Pam Popper and Glen Merzer (2013). 



This book is the transcript of a conversation between Popper and Merzer, both advocates for using nutrition to affect healing for humans.  Much of their conversation confirms what Moe (my lovely bride of 42 years) and I have been learning over the last few years about our own health and wellbeing.

Some of my biggest takeaways:

- There is mounting evidence that the health benefits of high-quality nutrition exceed that of conventional medical interventions for many of the chronic diseases plaguing Americans.

- Many of the chronic and autoimmune diseases we see in western cultures are the result of lifestyle and nutritional choices, and can often be reversed with changes in those lifestyle and nutritional choices.

- Conflicts of interest abound between researchers, corporations, and governmental regulatory agencies (within the medical, pharmaceutical, and nutrition fields).

- We, as a nation, would be far better served to focus on proactive health, lifestyle, and nutrition efforts than to continue to struggle with creating a comprehensive insurance umbrella which will never be able to meet the demands of the ever-increasing volume of health impairments.

- Popper insists that a plant-based diet is the surest and best pathway toward optimal health.

Dr. Popper may be one of the most intelligent humans I’ve had opportunity to learn from – an immense intellect, superb command of the subject matter, remarkable analytical skills, and excellent ability to articulate her knowledge.

If improved health is our goal, this book is well worth the time. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Cathartipostasy

Epiphanies are quite rare.  Cathartic experiences are quite rare.  "Damascus road" type events are quite rare.

Tackling sticky problems (whether as individuals in our personal lives or as teams dealing with organizational conundrums) is almost always best addressed using a simple recipe:
1) Admit there is a problem.
2) Define the problem as simply and clearly as possible.
3) Pick one (or two) action steps you believe will begin to affect improvement.
4) TAKE THE STEPS, by embedding them into our day-to-day business (habitize them!).
5) Review the impact of those changes on a regular basis.
6) Modify and adjust as needed.

Waiting for an epiphany, or a cathartic experience, or for some existential transformational solution.................rarely yields the outcomes we seek.

If the problem is OURS, then so likely is the solution.

Monday, October 28, 2019

SheepNoMore


I recently read Sheep No More: The Art of Awareness and Attack Survival by Jonathan T. Gilliam (2017). 



In this book, JTG provides a simple, layman-friendly guide to planning for our own safety and that of our families.  From his experiences as a Navy SEAL, an FBI agent, and a federal air marshal, JTG talks us through the importance steps of awareness and simple preparatory acts that can help us avoid dangerous situations as well as survive them if we ever find ourselves therein.

Some of my biggest takeaways:
  • Try to think from the perspective of an evil intender when considering the environments we’ll be occupying or visiting.  Think about critical assets, critical areas of exposure, and critical times of high vulnerability.
  • When visiting other locales, do a visual reconnaissance through Google Earth or similar technology to get a broader sense of the location, its particular vulnerabilities, and potential escape routes.
  • When traveling with groups of friends or family, discuss escape routes and re-assembly locations in case catastrophe or separation occurs.
  • Think through our options for how to escape or evade if faced with a dangerous encounter, AND also through strategies for aggressively fighting our way out should the first two options not be available to us.


My previous service as a school principal and school superintendent had already conditioned me to think in these safety-minded terms.  I had not, however, spent as much time considering danger avoidance and interdiction from a personal perspective.  Clearly, a gap in my thinking (and preparedness).

I have written often in this blog about the power of HABIT on our lives.  Situational awareness of potential dangers fits squarely in the “habit” category.  Just a little thinking and a little planning and a little practice for unexpected and dangerous eventualities could make a real difference for us and our families.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

StormPrep

Storms come through our lives. There's no getting around it. 

Just like the weather version of storms, we have no control of when life's storms will come our way, how long they will pelt us, or the amount of damage they inflict.

What we do control, however, is two things in relation to the storms of life:

1) our Preparedness. Paying attention to the warning signs, learning from our own and the experiences of others who have survived similar storms, and thoughtfully prepping for the eventualities requires some attention on our part, and a modicum disciplined practice (both thought practice and physical practice).

2) our Response. Bolstering ourselves physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually after the storm and moving forward immediately is the best and surest path to recovery. Almost always, this is done in concert with loved and valued others. Move on, together, one step in front of the other. 

While charading as an athletic coach decades ago, I recall often telling my players before a game that we could expect bad things to occur. Bad things - storms - would happen to both teams. That the victor would most likely be the one who handled the adversities with the most skill. And, that adversity is a much more accurate revealer of one's character than is prosperity.

True words when I spoke them to those young men and young women in my charge back then.

True still.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Nostalgiacide

The good old days are just that - OLD!

Pining for happier, more peaceful, times is a lovely delusion, but the clock stops for no one (arguably, not even for the dead). 

The people and organizations I admire the most are the forward-looking ones. They're the ones who only spend enough time looking backward to do two things:
1. Honor past accomplishments, heroes, and relationships.
2. Learn needful lessons from former fails and evil doers.

Time overspent on those two activities is wasted time. Why? Because today's future-oriented folks are busy creating today's accomplishments, heroes, and relationships. And, they're busy mitigating the prospects for today's underperformance and dastardly actors. 

We are, in many and even most ways, writing our own history, on both personal and collective levels. 

We can most assuredly do better (but not by spending an inordinate amount of time looking backward).

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

GracelessHopeless

I was raised in the Christian faith. My understanding of that faith has been shaped, re-shaped, thinned, thickened, refined, revised, reformed, transformed, hammered, smoothed, forged, .... you pick the verb. 

To say that that understanding has changed over time is the pinnacle of understatement. Each day I am challenged to learn new elements of that faith, AND to abandon pieces that seem now to have been misinterpreted.

The God of my understanding has likely not changed all that much over the last 60 years. It is clearly my understanding of that God that continues to.......... grow? clarify? evolve?

However, the word GRACE has not altered during my spiritual evolution. The unearned and un-earnable love and favor of the God remains the only safe ground for me to stand on. 

Grace-less means Hope-less, for me.  My Hope for betterness (both now and beyond, for both me and those with whom I share this planet) is grounded firmly in the GRACE of my highly misunderstood God.

I am most certainly the beneficiary of tsunamic GRACE.  

To whom much is given, much is required.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Versatelligence

The best leaders I know understand that neither they, nor the organizations they lead, live in a vacuum.  They know well that we are all situated within the milieu of interconnected humanity.

Thus, those astute leaders study and network beyond their bailiwick. Most of them consume content and make connections voraciously, both within their professional genre and beyond.

For example, those versatile leaders might explore content along the following lines:

  • Manufacturing - to understand better how to identify and mitigate bottlenecks in production.
  • Faith-based - to understand better the search for meaning, for themselves and for pursuing worthy organizational goals.
  • Psychology - to understand better how and why humans act, react, and interact the way they do.
  • Marketing - to understand better how to reach target audiences with the goods and services they produce.
  • Science - to understand better how the most current research informs practice.
  • Health - to understand better how movement, peace, hydration, and nutrition (in both their literal and figurative forms) impact performance and longevity.
You get the idea. Those truly wise leaders understand that they can never understand enough, and that they most certainly cannot understand enough if their learning focus is narrow.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Renegaze

Of course we all have flaws. Of course we all have shortcomings. Of course we all want to be better versions of ourselves.

What we are, what we aspire to, and what we can become is influenced by what we perceive that others see in, and expect from, us.

Let's flip the perspective:  If the eye with which I behold others can have a positive impact on their achieving their most honorable potentialities, their best selves, then why wouldn't I choose to focus on their bestness rather than their worstness?

In a culture that seems a bit too focused on tearing each other down, how about we choose to be renegade?  We get to choose what we focus on, no?