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"A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom and joy but illuminates the way to true human potential." Paul Rademacher, author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dream Symbols 18: Types of Dreams Part 2: Lucid Dreams and the Senoi

Dream Imagery. Photo Credit
Lucid dreams, sometimes called waking dreams are a fascinating phenomenon. Essentially in a lucid dream one is aware of the fact that one is dreaming. Hence, many lucid dreamers are able to control the dynamics of their dreams. In other words, they are able to direct where they will go next in the dream, what they will do, whom they will interact with, and so on. Find many articles about lucid dreaming here.

From a therapeutic point of view, lucid dreaming offers enormous potential, as one could practice all that which one fears in real life, or all that which one is not yet good at in real life. Imagine, for instance, if you fear public speaking, or networking at a cocktail party. Practice in your lucid dreams, come to realize that it is, in fact, not so difficult, and theoretically, this savoir faire will now translate into your waking life, allowing you to make the transition into becoming a practiced public speaker, or a successful networker.

The Senoi, a culture from Malaysia that was stumbled upon in the 1930s by Kilton Stewart, an American psychologist and adventurer, used lucid dreams to maintain their society virtually crime-free. Stewart developed the Senoi Dream Technique which was directed towards spiritual development through the use of dream control and manipulation. The technique was based on Stewart’s expeditions in Malaysia working with the Senoi tribe of hunters and gatherers whose modern-day descendants are known as the Senoi Temiar. William Domhoff carried on some of Stewart's work on the Senoi Dream Technique and wrote about it extensively. A post on Grasshopper.com about Senoi dreaming here.

Unfortunately, the rather idyllic society of the Senoi was almost entirely destroyed during World War II, after they shared their dream system with Westerners. Nowadays there are still Senoi, but many will not talk about their dreams anymore. Some even deny that they have had such a dream system.

However, lucid dreaming is of no use if one is unable to accomplish it. Some of us, on occasion, especially if we have recurring dreams, may have had a sensation of deja vu in a dream. We seem to recognize events, sequences, places, people, or situation, and on the outer periphery of our consciousness we feel - in the dream - that we have been here before, but that is a long way from truly being lucid in the dream and being able to manipulate events to our liking.

An aid is available. The NovaDreamer was developed by Stephen LaBerge and others at Stanford (LaBerge is the author of one of the most highly-recognized books on the subject: Lucid Dreaming: The Power to Be Awake and Aware in Your Dreams). This aid is currently being re-tooled and once the new version is available (sign up to be notified), it is theoretically the best, most reliable, and most serious around.

The NovaDreamer works by giving users flashing light cues when they are dreaming. Users work with their devices to find an intensity and length of cue that enters their dreams without awakening them. In addition, device users should practice mental exercises while awake for the best preparation for recognizing the light cues when they appear in dreams. The devices are based around a soft, comfortable sleep mask, which contains the flashing lights. The NovaDreamer detects the rapid eye movements of REM sleep, when the wearer is likely to be dreaming, and give cues when the level of eye movement activity is high enough.

Apart from the LaBerge book about this topic (see above), there is another excellent, although older book, by Celia Green titled Lucid Dreams, and by Mary Watkins, titled Waking Dreams. Strephon Williams wrote the Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual. Jill Morris and Jeremy Taylor have also written excellent books. Numerous other - more modern - titles are available.

One curious question you might like to consider: if we are conscious when we are awake and not conscious when we are asleep, and if we are able to be aware of ourselves when we are awake, but not when we are asleep, then if during a lucid dream we are indeed aware of ourselves as "living" out the dream reality of our dream, then the conscious part of ourselves that is asleep is either awake - even though we are sleeping - during a lucid dream, or, if indeed our conscious self is asleep, then it begs the question: what part of us is conscious during the lucid dream? What do you think? Have you had a lucid dream?

Previous posts in this series are:

Dream Symbols 1: Pregnancy and Birth
Dream Symbols 2: Death
Dream Symbols 3: The Snake
Dream Symbols 4: The Butterfly
Dream Symbols 5: Flying
Dream Symbols 6: The House Part 1
Dream Symbols 7: The House Part 2: The Kitchen
Dream Symbols 8: The House Part 3: The Bathroom
Dream Symbols 9: The House Part 4: The Bedroom
Dream Symbols 10: Marriage
Dream Symbols 11: The Spider
Dream Symbols 12: Sex
Dream Symbols 13: Exams
Dream Symbols 14: Murder
Dream Symbols 15: Water, Swimming and Drowning
Dream Symbols 16: The House Part 5: The Cellar
Dreams Symbols 17: Types of Dreams Part 1: Paralysis Dreams

You may also be interested in viewing some of the recommended dream books and books on symbolism on my website, as well as some of the dream links on my links page.There are also some videos posted about Carl Jung and his take on dreams. Click here to view them.



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Friday, September 28, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Guilt is Good For

You cheated on your partner. You missed your child's volleyball game. You lied. You used someone. You stole something material. You stole something else such as another person's trust. You deliberately filed an incorrect tax return. When you cheated on your partner you told the person that you cheated with, that you did not have a partner. Your expense report is skewed in your favor. You plagiarized a paper at school. You pretended not to see someone in a public place in order to not have to say hello to them, because something about them embarrasses you. And you feel terribly, horribly, inexorably guilty about it.

Guilt is quite a useless feeling, unless it is used for something worthwhile. In other words, having done something that makes you feel guilty, the actual feeling of guilt is worth nothing to anyone, particularly for the other person, unless you use the feeling to change something in you.

This would generally take the form of an inner change or promise to yourself that whatever it was that was done, will not be repeated. It means that you acknowledge that you have learned a lesson, your guilty feelings are the ones that brought you to that point, and therefore you decide here and now, that you will never do or say this thing again. This is the only good thing about guilt. Feeling guilty to make yourself feel better by telling yourself that because you have a guilty conscience you are atoning for whatever it was that you said or did is totally useless. Changing the behavior such that on all future occasions you will not do this again, is however a highly positive outcome of guilt. It means that the guilt was worth it because it created a change in your intention for the future.


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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Joseph Campbell III: The Hero's Journey





This is the third in a series of sections of a video in which Joseph Campbell, possibly the world's greatest mythologist, is being interviewed. It is just under 10 minutes long.

Previous sections of this video can be seen here:

Joseph Campbell I: The Hero's Journey

Joseph Campbell II: The Hero's Journey



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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dying With Dignity

Botswana
So much has been written about palliative care lately, about the advances medicine has made, and about the fact that suffering has been alleviated to a high degree. Nevertheless, one hears stories, one reads statistics, and one knows people who have had to deal with terminal situations of one kind or another, who are in agonizing pain, and whose pain management is not working the way one might assume it should. I have inquired with several doctors about this subject, as well as looking it up on various websites, and the standard answer appears to be that pain management is often a very individual thing, one size does not fit all, and hence, for some people, the physician may need to make numerous attempts at trying to find just the right combination of drugs that actually do work. And it may not always happen in time to alleviate the pain.

Other situations involve people who realize they are well on the road into dementia, Alzheimer's, and other similar ailments that affect our neurological well-being. Away From Her, a recent movie with Julie Christie, recounts the story of a woman (Christie) who is aware of her brain's slow demise and demands to be put into a home, rather than allowing her loving husband to care for her. This is an option; others might wish to choose other options.

Then we come to those people who are infirm in other ways, quadriplegics, people in comas, and we could go on and on. None of it is pretty, and certainly none of it is easy.

With this post I have no intention of entering the ethical and moral issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide. My only goal is to offer information. Let everyone decide for themselves.

Exit and Dignitas, both Swiss organizations, offer solutions to these situations. The World Federation of Right to Die Societies also offers much global information. The end is made easier for those who wish there to be a planned end. This is done legally under certain conditions only in Belgium (since 2002), the US state of Oregon, and in Switzerland, There are many other associations in other countries, some of which can be found on either of these websites (Exit is perhaps slightly more informative in that sense), some of which include (some countries offer more than one organization): Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and Germany, India, Italy and Italy, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, and USA and USA and USA and USA, Venezuela, Zimbabwe. In these other countries legislation is not yet such, that this kind of terminal planning can take place legally, but the respective organizations offer information for those seeking it.


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Monday, September 24, 2007

A Romp Around the Press 1

Kiosk - Newspaper and Magazine Stand
This is the first post in what I plan on making a fairly regular feature in this blog: a romp around the press, eclectically chosen publications, and eclectically chosen articles that in some fashion tie in to the general theme of this blog of psychology, transformation, and freedom.

In each instance, by clicking on the link, you will be taken to the appropriate article.

Bill Gates tells us that saving the world is within our grasp. The evidence is in: we can stop diseases like malaria and TB from killing millions of people each year.

Although women are changing corporate culture, it's still lonely at the top. Experts and women executives discuss perception and reality.

The Economist writes about India’s secular greens and the devoutly religious who are on the same side in this instance of fervor against the dredging of a strait for the creation of a shipping canal across the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka.

Does this girl need lipo? Meet the specialists who said yes – and suggested Botox, too. The cynicism of (some) plastic surgeons is exposed. In another slant, we are informed that men's breasts are no joking matter. Age and hormonal imbalance creates a breast-like formation for many men. And in My Thai Colonic Irrigation, Ian Belchers recounts how he endured seven days of enemas ten years ago, and now, on a return visit he lost a stone, and some wrinkles...

Mind Reading is one of those subjects many of us look at with a certain amount of skeptcism. Yet Psychology Today tells us whether we know it or not, we're all street-corner psychics. Without the ability to divine others' thoughts and feelings, we couldn't handle the simplest social situations—or achieve true intimacy with others.

Want to train your MBA mind? Visit the MBA Gym, designed to give you some useful insights into what you might learn at business school. Each "workout" provides a free 15-minute introduction to some key business ideas. The purpose is to help you decide if an MBA could help you go further.

The 2006 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award was won by China Shakes the World, a “gripping” exploration of the economic and business implications of China’s breakneck growth.

Is silver the solution for what ails you? Want to get rid of germs? Mold and grime? Smelly feet? A growing number of scientists and businessmen say such a miracle substance exists, and in fact has for millions of years: Silver. Innovative technologies and approaches have fueled an explosion of products taking advantage of silver's antibacterial properties. Consumers today can buy clothes, disinfectants, laundry machines and other items that utilize silver as an active agent.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

William James I: How an individual settles into a new opinion

William James (1842 - 1910)
Many of you may have followed the fact that current authors - especially current authors of books that have become very popular - often mention that they first heard of the idea of the book they wrote through older writing, in obscure books, some of which are now firmly planted in the public's mind. One such example is As A Man Thinketh (available through my website, or send me an email with the title of the book in the subject line), by James Allen. The authors and speakers who populate The Secret refer to it, as do others, too numerous to mention.

I read As A Man Thinketh in 1991 or so, thanks to a friend in Cancun, Mexico, where I was living at the time, who lent it to me, and it was the first of many such "older" books that turned out to contain within them the seeds of many newer, popular books that have become runaway bestsellers.

Today I want to offer you a brief article by one of American psychology's major figures, William James (1842 - 1910), who contributed enormously to the field, and who maintained contact with some of his European contemporaries, Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung. While the article is written - from our 21st Century perspective - in slightly quaint language, it nevertheless contains much truth about the process of forming new opinions, making choices, and change. I urge you in particular, to pay close attention to the last paragraph.

How an individual settles into a new opinion
William James
From PRAGMATISM

The process is always the same.

The individual has a stock of old opinions already.

The individual meets a new experience that puts some of these old opinions to a strain.
  • Somebody contradicts them.
  • In a reflective moment, the individual discovers that they contradict each other.
  • The individual hears of facts with which they are incompatible.
  • Desires arise in the individual which the old opinions fail to satisfy.

The result is inward trouble, to which the individual's mind till then had been a stranger.

The individual seeks to escape from this inward trouble by modifying the old opinions.

  • The individual saves as many of the old opinions as is possible (for in this matter we are all extreme conservatives).
  • Old opinions resist change very variously.
  • The individual tries to change this and then that.

Finally, some new opinion comes up which the individual can graft upon the ancient stock of old opinions with a minimum of disturbance to the others.

  • The new opinion mediates between the stock and the new experience.
  • The new opinion runs the stock and the new experience into one another most felicitously and expediently.

The new opinion is then adapted as the true one.

  • The new opinion preserves the older stock of truths with a minimum of modification, stretching them just enough to make them admit the novelty, but conceiving that in ways as familiar as the case leaves possible.
  • An outreé explanation, violating all our preconceptions, would never pass for a true account of a novelty.

The most violent revolutions in an individual's beliefs leave most of his old order standing.

New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions.

The point I now urge you to observe particularly is the part played by the older truths . . . their influence is absolutely controlling. Loyalty to them is the first principle; for by far the most usual way of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconceptions is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear witness for them.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dream Symbols 17: Types of Dreams Part 1: Paralysis Dreams

Balanced Rock. Photo Credit
You are being choked to death. Your adrenaline is surging and you can barely breathe from the fear that courses through your body. You struggle to wake up, and then --- thanks be for small favors, you do wake up. You sigh in relief. As you are about to get up to get a glass of water, you become aware of a presence in the room. Very close to you. Menacing. Frightening. You remain absolutely still. You hold your breath trying to hear something. You just don't know what it could be, but you know something or somebody is there.

Finally you try to move. You can't. You are paralyzed. The presence continues there. You have never been so afraid in your entire life. You are certain something ominous is about to happen. Who could possibly be there in your bedroom with you?
Suddenly your body jerks. And now you really wake up. And you realize that when you were awake before, you were actually still dreaming, even though you had awoken from another dream to that new dream with the presence in your room.
You are still very shaky. You get up to get that glass of water. Finally, back in bed, you fall asleep again. And you are with the presence again, and you can't move again.
Horror story? Not at all. This is one of a variety of versions of a paralysis dream, that a relatively large percentage of the population goes through. Everyone appears to agree about one thing: they are very frightening, so much so, that some people prefer not to go back to sleep the night they have had one, to avoid the possibility of having another one.
No one seems to understand what causes them, although some research is being done. It has been suggested that much globe-trotting may be a cause, due to the frequent change of hemispheres and time-zones, and the consequences this has on our circadian rhythm, and due to the number of people who travel like this and have paralysis dreams, but unfortunately that theory does not always hold, as many people who never travel across time-zones, also have these dreams.
Another theory held that people who had been born by c-section were more prone to these paralysis dreams than others, but again, there are numerous people born this way who have never had a dream of this type. (The reasoning was that the foetus is "paralyzed" by the anaesthesia given to the mother prior to surgery, and that this was somehow revisited in dreams).
One thing some dreamers recount that appears to help: once you have a certain amount of familiarity with this type of dream, assuming you get paralysis dreams, try this: concentrate on your extremities (hands and feet), and try to jiggle or ever-so-slightly move a toe or finger, or just the very outer edge of it. This often seems to snap the dreamer out of the paralysis dream and allows you to move. Also be aware of this: you are not the only one dreaming such dreams. While not common, they are relatively frequent.
Previous posts in this series are:

You may also be interested in viewing some of the recommended dream books and books on symbolism on my website, as well as some of the dream links on my links page.

There are also some videos posted about Carl Jung and his take on dreams. Click here to view them.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Answer to Your Future May Not Lie in Your Past

Parthenon, Greece
You know that the person who you are today has evolved from the experiences, events, thoughts, and behaviors of your past. You've read this over and over and over again in psychological literature, philosophy, self-help, and so you look at your past with a microscope, and go over it with a fine-tooth comb in order to try to understand how you got where you are, what you did wrong, and what needs to be corrected in order for you to get to a different place in your future.

Stop right there.

There is nothing wrong with looking at the past in order to learn from mistakes, or blips in the road, but there is much to be said against dwelling there extensively. And there is a lot to be said for focusing on the now.

Whatever happened, has already happened. Whatever you thought, said, or did, already took place, and no matter how much you analyze it, do regressions to it, transform it, and work with it, it will always be the past and it will always be in the past. So logically, the place to look in order to make things change for the future, is in the now. Understand that your thoughts from the past and how you dealt with life in the past is what brought you your then future...which is your now, or your present circumstances. In order to change your future as seen from the perspective of now, it is your thoughts and actions in the now that need changing.

So it's not as important to analyze the past, as it is to do things differently in the present. That means looking carefully at how you are feeling now. What bits of your life bring you happiness and pleasure? Where do you feel good? And in what sectors of your life are you feeling frustration and defeat? With me so far? So look at those areas and ask yourself some questions. How do I react in these current difficult situations? What thoughts go through my head? What choices am I making? Am I making any choices at all, or am I merely reacting blindly? And that is where the crux of the matter lies. In awareness of the present moment and what you do with it. Change that, and your future changes. Do more of the same, i.e. perpetuate past behavior, and you will get more of the same. But change it and your life will change.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Taking the Complaint Challenge

South Africa
I can't believe this! (And I'm feeling a bit guilty about it). Here I go again, posting about someone else's blog...but it's worth it. Bear with me.

I wrote about his book The 4-Hour Work Week in a post recently, and I often check out Tim Ferriss' blog. Yesterday's post was about complaining. Better said, about challenging oneself to stop. The title Real Mind Control: The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment, says it all.

Imagine a life with no complaints...not because life is suddenly perfect, but because you choose not to complain. You choose to substitute complaining with other thoughts or words. It's worth a read. I recommend it. Another great way to go down that road to inner growth and freedom.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Total, Out-Of-The-Box Innovative Thinking

iDeAZing from http://www.grasshopper.com/
Flipping through blogs and other people's websites is a pastime I'd dearly love to have more time for. Sometimes you find some real gems...

In this case, I ran into a blog called Grasshopper Enterprises: Borders of Science, Borders of Imagination. The particular post I was so mesmerized by offers a free download of an iDeAZing.

iDeAZing is a creativity tool. It’s based on the premise that many “new” ideas are actually innovative combinations of existing options. The approach the blog owners have automated is a technique called morphological analysis.

iDeAZing can assist in exploring novel ideas in almost any arena; your creativity in defining the dimensions for ideas will be amplified in the combinations presented back. Read on.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Rock Paper?

Tree at twilight. Photo Courtesy www.epod.usra.edu
If you watch BBC, this - that there is such a thing as paper made from rocks - will not be news to you. But to me it was until a moment ago, when I heard about it, and then did a quick search on google.

It appears paper can now be manufactured from rocks, or, to be more precise, from mineral powder, presumably from rocks...read on

What is Rock Mineral Rich Paper?

In order to produce a metric ton of traditional wood pulp papers, an average of four metric tons of wood chips is utilised, which is the equivalent of felling approximately 23 large trees.

Rock Mineral Rich Paper differs from wood pulp papers in that, its composition consists of a large proportion of inorganic minerals (calcium carbonate) with a small infusion of non-toxic resin. This produces a unique tree-free paper with a 2:1 tear ratio that is highly water resistant and eco-friendly as well.
Read more.

Rock Paper: For Tree-less Photo Printing, an article about the advantages of rock paper over regular paper for color printing, and ViaStone: Biodegradable Paper Made From Stone, another article about tree-less paper.

This may not solve all our global warming problems, but it certainly sounds as though it is one of the steps we could take in the right direction.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hormones, Women, and Menopause

Lhasa, Tibet. Photo Credit
The New York Times carried an article today Do We Really Know What Makes Us Healthy? that brings much information to light for those women who want to better understand the results of the clinical trials carried out over years, that in 2003 caused researchers to state that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may bring on a higher incidence of breast cancer, and that, in the years since, a reduced incidence of breast cancer has occurred - according to some of these researchers - because so many women stopped taking HRT.

While I am a strong proponent of bio-identical hormones, as opposed to the type of hormones normal HRT recommends, I nevertheless feel that any woman facing the decision of whether to have HRT or not - whether bio-identical or otherwise - should first understand what can - and can not - be stated with certainty after the type of clinical trials that have been undertaken and written so much about.

Hence I recommend that you read the article.

Once upon a time, women took estrogen only to relieve the hot flashes, sweating, vaginal dryness and the other discomforting symptoms of menopause. In the late 1960s, thanks in part to the efforts of Robert Wilson, a Brooklyn gynecologist, and his 1966 best seller, “Feminine Forever,” this began to change, and estrogen therapy evolved into a long-term remedy for the chronic ills of aging. Menopause, Wilson argued, was not a natural age-related condition; it was an illness, akin to diabetes or kidney failure, and one that could be treated by taking estrogen to replace the hormones that a woman’s ovaries secreted in ever diminishing amounts. With this argument estrogen evolved into hormone-replacement therapy, or H.R.T., as it came to be called, and became one of the most popular prescription drug treatments in America. Read more.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Living Without Bitterness and Resentment

Apollo Sunrise. Photo Courtesy Apollo 12 Crew, NASA
I've often wondered if those people whose lives are filled with bitterness and resentment could just see for a moment in time what their lives would be like without the bitterness and the resentment (and the ensuing pain), whether they would then take the step towards making the choice of putting the bitterness and resentment behind them.

Because that is really what it's all about...making a different choice.

It's not so much about being compassionate towards the person (or insitution) who did whatever it was to them; it's also not so much about letting by-gones be by-gones. Much more than that it's about recognizing that you can continue to identify with whatever it was that threw your life out of balance at some point in the past (yesterday or a quarter of a century ago), and that caused much pain then, which is why the bitterness and resentment arose, or you can decide that you simply are no longer that person. That you choose to be a person without bitterness and resentment for you. For your own good. For your own inner freedom and growth. And particularly in order to make space inside of you. As you choose to turn your back on the bitterness and resentment, you no longer need to use up energy - psychic energy - (psychological energy) to keep up those feelings. So now your energy can be channeled towards totally different - life-giving - endeavours.

I began thinking about this today due to a review I read about A Mighty Heart, the true-life drama about the kidnapping and eventual beheading, on February 1, 2002, of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, starring Angelina Jolie as Pearl's widow Mariane, and produced by Brad Pitt. The movie, based on Mariane Pearl's very powerful book of the same title, allows the viewer to experience first-hand how a person who has gone through such a tremendously traumatic and painful experience - one that most of us will never have to endure - has managed to not carry a heavy weight of bitterness and hatred.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Paul McKenna's Success Strategy

Lost Village in China
The Times Online published this story today about Paul McKenna's just published book I Can Make You Rich.

Final Day: The Success Strategy

The millionaires I have interviewed while devising this system have all shared the same fundamental route to success. Today I reveal the six stepping stones to wealth. Paul McKenna

One of the most amazing discoveries I had when studying the high achievers for this book was that, while they all have their individual styles in business, they all share the same fundamental strategy for creating wealth. Broadly speaking, that strategy involves thinking about a product, service or business in an entrepreneurial way.

Today I will show you how you can use this same wealth-creating template to create your own successful projects. I used to find the idea of “entrepreneurship” a bit daunting, but then I spoke with Peter Jones, widely acknowledged as one of Britain’s most successful young entrepreneurs.
Despite his modest beginnings, his businesses have an annual turnover of £200 million. He pointed out to me that the word “entrepreneur” simply means “someone who gets paid for adding value”. When you are willing to think of yourself as a value creator, your “job” becomes quite simple: identify a field where you would like to add value, then identify the value you would like to add.

Now I will outline the six steps to wealth that emerged again and again as I studied the business geniuses for this book. Do not worry if you are already in business or are determined to remain an employee – these same six steps will be of great use to you to find the hidden wealth in your current working situation, whatever it may be.

Let’s get things started . . .

Step 1: Choose something you have a passion for or genuine interest in

Sir Richard Branson began in magazines and then rock music; Peter Jones took his fascination with tennis and computers and used them first to set up a tennis academy and then a business selling computer accessories. In his words, “Having a passion for what you do is very important, especially when you are going to be working all hours to try and make the business work. In addition, your passion and belief will motivate others around you.”

Of course, your passion and interest can come from what you hate as much as what you love. When Dame Anita Roddick started the Body Shop, she was as determined to provide a safe and animal-friendly alternative to the standard operating practices of the cosmetics industry as she was to create a vehicle for putting her beliefs into action about what truly mattered in the world.

Step 2: Figure out where you can add value

Once you have identified something you have a genuine interest in and passion for, you then need to look for what you can bring to that field that isn’t already there.

Here are some of the questions the rich-thinking entrepreneurs ask themselves in examining the potential to add value to any business, product or service:

–– Who is already making money in this area? –– What sets apart the most successful people in this field from the rest? –– What’s missing? What isn’t being done? –– What do the people who are already using this product or service really want? –– What can I offer that’s different to everyone else?

Step 3: Vividly imagine every detail of how the business will work

One of the surprising differences between the most successful entrepreneurs I interviewed and the rest was their willingness to take the time to vividly imagine the details of every new enterprise before leaping into action. For example, Sol Kerzner designs a hotel in his mind long before he builds it in the real world. He imagines every detail – how it will look, how each surface will feel, how the whole environment will be. Sir Richard Branson makes pages and pages of detailed notes, describing every aspect of the business in great detail.

Peter Jones actually “interrogates” the whole concept, searching for both the obvious and hidden areas of potential profits and potential obstacles to its success. If the obstacles can be overcome and he can see the business working, he gets a massive burst of motivation. He vividly imagines the business working and keeps this visualisation regularly in mind.

He says: “I am a great believer that it is always easier to achieve something that you have already done, even though I may have achieved it only in my own mind. This gives me great confidence.” However you choose to do it, taking the time to build your business in your mind and/ or on paper is an essential step in the process. Be sure to look at the downside as well as the up – the more potential obstacles you can foresee and solve in advance, the fewer real obstacles you will face and the easier it will be to overcome them.

Step 4: Evaluate the risks and decide which ones are worth taking

Willingness to take risks after calculating the upside and downside is a common one among successful entrepreneurs. The genius film-maker George Lucas made billions from the merchandising rights to his Star Wars movies. When I spoke to him, he told me that he got the idea when he took a careful look at the potential upside and downside of the very first movie in the series. “Everyone has since thought this was a clever financial strategy,” said Lucas, “but the truth is that I was concerned that the film might not work commercially. I knew it had the potential to achieve cult status, so I figured if I could make money on the merchandising it would help me to fund another film.” Here’s a quick way to calculate the risk/reward ratio of any new enterprise for yourself . . .

Calculating risks

1. Think about a decision you are considering making that feels a bit risky.
2. On a scale from 1 to 10, how much good could come of taking this risk if you are successful?
3. On a scale from 1 to 10, how much of a negative impact would this risk not working have on your business or in your life?
4. If the first number is bigger than the second, the risk/reward ratio is weighted towards action; if the second number is bigger than the first, it’s probably best to find another way to proceed.

Step 5: Take massive action

Another thing I noticed about the rich thinkers and successful entrepreneurs was that there is virtually no gap between their decisions and their actions. Once they decided to go ahead with a project, the first action steps were generally taken within 24 hours.

When Mark Burnett arrived in LA in 1982, he had £300 in his pocket and no return ticket. His first job was selling T-shirts on Venice beach. Today he is the most successful TV producer in the world. He told me his motto is “jump in” – take action even if you are not entirely ready. He firmly believes that a major part of his success has been his willingness to go for what he’s passionate about, even if he isn’t completely convinced he can actually pull it off. For myself, I like to think of action as the great equaliser.

No matter what your level of intelligence, education or capital, a willingness to take massive action instantly puts you on an equal footing with the wealthiest men and women in the world.

Step 6: Expect obstacles, learn from setbacks and keep moving towards your goals

Although only some of the rich thinkers I worked with would describe themselves as optimists, all of them are realists. Nothing in life unfolds exactly as planned, and a road without bumps is almost certainly not headed anywhere worthwhile.

Rather than take obstacles as a reason to give up or a “sign from the universe”, the truly successful entrepreneurs simply use each obstacle as an opportunity for creative problem-solving and creative action. If a business ultimately doesn’t work out, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move on. This resilience comes from self-belief and thorough downside planning. Peter Jones shared his version of this process: if obstacles keep occurring, I stop and ask: What can I learn from this obstacle? What do we need to do differently to make it work? I then create a new visualisation of how the business needs to function and keep running this scenario in my mind until I know it will work. If another obstacle or challenge occurs further down the line, I can then return to my vision for guidance and motivation. While things may not always happen totally as I planned, I always get to my goal in the end.



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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Learned Hopelessness & Your Health

Vai, Crete (Greece)
Learned helplessness and hopelessness are terms that have come into our vocabulary principally through the research of authentic happiness and learned optimism (click here to test yourself on learned optism) psychologist Martin Seligmann, who has been referred to here in this blog in the past. Learned helplessness can be understood as the near passive acceptance of unpleasant situations. This passive acceptance eradicates those reactions another more positive thinking individual might have, which would help the person to try to escape from or control the situation. Learned hopelessness is a more serious state, bordering on deep depression, that is the result of prolonged immersion in the prior state of learned helplessness.

In Seligmann's experiments with rats, dogs, and eventually (consenting) humans, it was discovered that when a test subject had experienced a situation where no matter what it did, it could not escape a negative outcome, its subsequent experiences of the same situation, even when conditions were much more positive, and the subject could have escaped the negative outcome merely by trying something different, that subject would invariably give up, assuming that it had no chance of escaping the inevitable.

Victor Frankl, the renowned psychiatrist who was held in Ausschwitz during the Holocaust, and father of logotherapy, wrote in his famous Man's Search For Meaning that one of the main reasons he was able to survive, was because he had not lost hope, as so many inmates of that hell hole had.

BBC Journalist Alan Johnston freed on July 4th of this year after being held by a Palestinian faction in the Gaza Strip for nearly four months, insisted that one of the main reasons he had been able to survive psychologically, was because he never lost sight of hope. So also speak - in some fashion or another - Nelson Mandela and Alexandr Solzhenistyn.

Hope and optimism are essential to our physical, psycho-emotional and spiritual well-being. In the above-mentioned research, and much more that has been done since, a state of learned helplessness can lead to a weakened immune system, heart attacks, cancer, and all manner of illnesses. In order to find your way back to such a state, if you feel that you are leaning towards learned helplessness or even hopelessness, you might begin by reading some of the suggestions made in earlier posts about reaching for joy and happiness.

If you are aware of a negative inner state, the first step is to realize that your awareness has given you a choice. The next step is to begin to implement that choice at every step of the way...little by little. Get your inner freedom back and begin to live your life that way you are actually meant to. Start now. Don't wait for some calamity to befall you and then begin, or regret that you didn't begin earlier. Take your life into your hands. Change the negativity and believe in yourself and what you are truly able to do.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Comparison Shopping For Emotions

Man Standing on Water. Photo Courtesy Ignacio Martel
Your friend tells you of her marital difficulties. While you commiserate with her, you privately think that although her problems and painful emotions are hard for her, what happened to you when you went through your own divorce, was infinitely more complex and dreadful to bear.

Your cousin tells you about his mother's foray into cancer and chemotherapy. You listen patiently, but remember your own father's agony, and again, privately consider that your situation was simply much more difficult. Your cousin just has no idea what difficult means.

A colleague relays a long and complicated tale of childhood abuse, and you listen - as one does - but your thoughts churn about the fact that what you know about abuse through your reading and what others have told you is so much more heart-rending. You look at your colleague, and while your heart goes out to him, you know that what happened was not nearly as bad as what you saw your childhood friend go through.

Someone else - over a long, leisurely dinner - tells you about financial difficulties she experienced when she first became independent and began working. She mentions how hard it was to pay for even a used car, and how she had to live in a very small apartment, that she shared with a roommate. You listen, but once again think that she really doesn't know what real financial privation is all about. Now if you were to tell her...
And another speaks of the infinite desperation she went through when she was widowed and had to take care of her own finances, write checks, speak to banks, and the broker. You look at her in a sense of inner askance. How could something so small, so almost ridiculous, have thrown her to that degree? And yet...for her it was monumental and required surmounting.

Our own emotions seem so much more important - or difficult - than those of others. We tend to compare them to what others tell us about their lives, and somehow our own stuff always seems to be vaster in scope or greater in pain than what we are hearing.

And it may be true...what you are hearing from the other person may, in fact, be of a lesser degree of difficulty if both situations were to be rationally compared. But logic and reason have little to do with emotions, especially difficult ones. I would like to suggest that all difficult emotions are hugely difficult - at least for a time - for the person who is undergoing situations that are producing them. Pain is pain, just as love is love. The depth of an emotion of another can not necessarily be guaged by us as we listen, nor can - and should - we compare them to our own.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Dream Symbols 16: The House Part 5: The Cellar

Gothic Cellar. Photo Credit
Coming back to the parts of the house section of this series, the cellar is an interesting phenomenon, as it refers to the lowest part of the house, the part that is actually interred underneath the part of the house that is visible and above ground.

This “under the ground” or subterranean aspect of a house is highly interesting because it may symbolize all those parts of our psyche that are not visible and somehow “interred” within us. Here we may be speaking of repressed memories, for example, and if a dreamer tends to visit the cellar of his dream house frequently, then it may be that in real life he is on the search for something that his conscious mind has forgotten or repressed and that he wishes to retrieve.

In much of the writing about Jung, and in particular, in his own autobiographical Memories, Dreams, and Reflections a dream he had as a child is recounted about his own descent into not only a cellar, but also much that lay beneath it, and the manner in which this influenced his future professional life.

Previous posts in this series are:

You may also be interested in viewing some of the recommended dream books and books on symbolism on my website, as well as some of the dream links on my links page.

There are also some videos posted about Carl Jung and his take on dreams. Click here to view them.


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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Our Own Rejected Thoughts

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Photo Credit

There's a wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that goes like this:

In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

How often have you not thought of something, maybe just as a fleeting thought or intuition that you paid little attention to, telling yourself that it was nonsense, or that it would never work, that the reisk was too high, or that you would, in all likelihood fail, or that if you were the one to think of it, it meant that it was not important, otherwise someone would have already done something like that, and so on?

In other words, you've had thoughts that for one reason or another you rejected ... and then, sometime later, perhaps only days, or perhaps decades, you see that someone else not only had the same thought, but they acted upon that thought, and did something about it, and the results of that thought were now something tangible or plausible that others could see, or touch, or hear, or smell, or in some way become aware of.

What happens at that moment; that moment of your own realization that your thought - your rejected thought - has been made reality by someone else, who, rather than rejecting it, took it, used it, made something of it?

Isn't that painful? Doesn't it make you feel all manner of negative things about yourself? Now you might even have to make up excuses for yourself for not undertaking action when you first had the thought. That's kind of like cheating at solitaire ... the only one who is betrayed is yourself.

So what can you really do when you stumble across one of your rejected thoughts made reality by someone else the next time? You can learn from it. Learn that your thoughts and intuitions come from a well-spring of creativity inside of you that you should not necessarily reject, that you might want to pay greater attention to. Learn that there may be great value in what you are rejecting and condemning to failure or brushing off as the silly meanderings of wandering mind. Give greater value to your inner inclinations and indications. Try them out. Then, instead of betraying yourself, you may find that you bring something to life that in fact gives you greater life.

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Have You Laughed Lately?

Copacabana Beach, RIo de Janeiro. Photo Credit
An apple a day...keeps the doctor away. How about a belly laugh a day makes life wonderful? Do you even remember the last time you had yourself a real belly laugh? The kind that made the muscles around your stomach ache? The kind that brought tears to your eyes? The kind that had you whooping? Maybe even snorting?

I find that many of the belly laughs I have are actually directed at myself or at something I have done or thought or said. I used to tell the story of a trip I took to Rio de Janeiro in the 90's. My hotel was perpendicular to Copacabana Beach, and from the balcony of my room you could indeed see the beach, so I was out there right after arriving from the airport, taking photos, and breathing in Rio.

As I looked around, I realized that the building across the street from the hotel was an apartment building, and that there was a man in shorts out on his own balcony, looking at me, and kind of making signs. I guess he thought perhaps I found his belly attractive...

I looked at him scornfully and studiously ignored him as I took more photos. He kept on making signs, but he didn't seem to understand that I just wasn't interested. Not even to smile, or wave, or acknowledge his presence.

This continued for four or five minutes, and he finally appeared to tire of my lack of interest, and so went back into the interior of his apartment. I, on the other hand, supremely superior to this mere mortal's fruitless signalling, slowly finished taking my photos and turned to go back into my hotel room through the French doors.

They had locked. From the inside. I could no longer get into my room. I was on the sixth floor of the hotel on a noisy street. I looked around, but realized, no matter how loudly I might shout, I would never be heard by anyone down on the street. I looked longingly into my room at the phone on the bedside table.

I gritted my teeth. I had no choice but to throw myself on the mercy of Mr. Big Belly whom I had been ignoring.

I looked across the street to his balcony. He wasn't there. I continued looking at it fixedly. He was my only hope. I had to get back to my room. I had appointments, needed to shower, change, and get going. If he didn't rescue me, I might be out there until the maid came the next morning to clean the room.

I looked across again. He still wasn't there. What would I do if he decided to exact revenge on my petty behavior? There he was! He had just come out. I jumped up and down. I waved. I felt like an absolute idiot. I had to get his attention. Finally he saw me. I gestured. I pleaded forgiveness with my hands. I mimed opening my door, and not getting in. I mimed a phone call, gesturing at him and down to the entrance of my hotel on the street level.

He nodded. He went into his apartment. He came back out after an eon. He made a V for victory. I thanked him with my hands. And several minutes later the Housekeeper came into my room and opened the balcony door to let me in.

I waved at the man in the shorts across the street and blew him a kiss.

I've gotten a lot of mileage from this story. Most of the time when I tell it, I laugh so much at myself and my arrogance that day, that whoever is listening to it, laughs with me.

Your belly laughs don't have to all be directed at you, but try and have one every day. It's great for your immune system, your blood pressure, your looks, your state of mind, it gives your body a great massage, and according to laughter therapists, it's just about one of the best things you can do for yourself.

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