Archive for August, 2012

Some Information About Landmark Education

For the most part, I am content with my experiences with Landmark Education. The information they offer is interesting and has its place, some of the coaches and unpaid staff are friendly and professional, and many of the participants are interesting, open and arrive with compelling stories. Up until two weeks ago I would have passively recommend the Landmark forum to most people. The only group I wouldn’t have recommended it to are those individuals who have (or are) borderline personality disorders or those who have some psychological issue because the unpaid staff isn’t qualified to handle the acute breakdowns that the intensive stress that participating in the forum places on a person.

I have changed my mind on that. I would only suggest Landmark Eduction to the same individuals but only after they read-up on the organization and watched France 3 documentary: “Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus” along with some of the reports / descriptions available on the site.

The video is captivating! The techniques of the French leader are a little more aggressive than those that I witnessed, but the essence of the experience remains identical; mind you, I mentioned that I had a blood sugar issue and needed to eat frequently so I was allowed to get-up and leave whenever I wanted and I didn’t spend a lot of time sharing, listening instead and offering my opinion of the story that was being told.

My experience with the organization has soured considerably since my forum weekend. I previously described the unpaid workers as “distant, guarded and lacked something that those who suggested I would gain from attending possess in abundance - authentic fearlessness” and this opinion hasn’t changed much. Almost everyone I have talked to sounds like they are using a script - I did mention this to one of them and was told that I was being obnoxious; a fact that I do not dismiss.

They attempt to sell constantly and have a very misleading way of articulating what they mean by “enrollment conversations”. Most of the participants, when told to go out and have enrollment conversations have them about enrolling other people in the Landmark forum. My enrollment conversations where about enrolling others in the possibility that I created for myself - of being authentic, creating a strong brand and helping people through my coaching activities. Less than 5 people at the forum and follow-up seminar regarded what I was doing in anyway at all, the rest simply wanted to know who I had enrolled in the forum and why I was so resistant to sharing it with others.

I did have an offline conversation with the seminar leader about this and she informed me that another male had gotten the same impressing from her (that enrollment conversations are about getting people to come to the forum) and that she was sorry that we had been given the impression. I thanked her for clearing it up, but she was on message about who are you sharing the Landmark forum with for the next special event the next time she was in front of the group.

Other than the some of the processes that they teach, the key thing I take from Landmark is their effective use of psychology to control the participants. The environmental manipulation is only a part of it - they control breaks, treat the people like children (including the unpaid staff) and create a contrived order in the room. But how they engage the people to create fear, a sense of ostracization, and a group think mentality is alarming in its aggression and effectiveness.

Admittedly, I was impacted by some of the techniques. I felt them happening but didn’t take the time to interrupt the process to ask and answer the question “so what?” While I never found myself seeking the approval of the leader or the people in my group, I felt off because I wasn’t getting along with them as well as others appeared to be. My allergic reaction to the sales stuff was noticed and not appreciated. Members of my group told me to get off it and just enroll people, as they had attempted to do. I personally felt stupid even considering it given that the first 3 months of anything are leveling period. I haven’t been in a position to know what I would have been advocating for until recently; and now that I am, I’m not advocating for it. The only egg on my face comes from my actions and these I can live with as they are both life lessons for me and chunks of information that I am passing along.

Creating Mentors Vs. Averaging Down

It has been said that you are the average of your 5 closest friends - this is a big reason why big life transformations are often accompanied by a change in friends.

To a lessor degree, the same thing applies to work - the people you work with will tend to become more like you and you will tend to become more like them.

It also applies to the gym you go to, the church you belong to, the sports team you play for, the places you shop, the school you attend, etc… - the longer you spend with people, the more similar you become to those people.

So what?

At its simplest, if you are having a crappy life, you may want to consider the company you keep. But before you completely overhaul your friends and cut off people forever, take a few minutes to uncover your own identity (how your view yourself in terms of worth and the life experience you believe you are entitled to). If you identify yourself as a loser, a drug addict, someone who has a crappy job, etc… there’s a very good chance that you’ll know a few people that match one or more of these characteristics. If you connect with a group of people that match your identify, swapping them out for a new group of people will likely only introduce you to a new group of the same. Fix your identity issue, engage a professional if you have no idea how to do that.

Assuming your identify isn’t an issue, a small change in attitude in this area can take you a very long way, and save you the challenges of finding a new peers group. The thinking here is that if you view those around you in a particular way (even if they are NOT as you view them) you will slowly start to become as you view them. Consider this for another moment. You begin to become how you think your friends are. You begin to become the same type of worker, parent, student as you believe your coworkers, spouse, and student friends to be. Reality doesn’t interfere with your notion as you become your thoughts about them.

In this case, the easiest way to progress and develop is to improve your attitude about your friends / peers / coworkers and view them as potential mentors - realize that they have something unique and important to teach you and notice that your differences are simply just differences in upbringing and experience, not flaws in personality. Adjusting your view of them in this way will create a clearing in your mind that will shift them into a place of power and helpfulness, allowing you to grow.

Remember, your mind controls the average that your friends are so flipping the switch to view your peers as amazing, outstanding and stand-up people may be what is needed to trend the average up.

What Neuroscience Says About Over Eating

Doctor Daniel Amen does a lot of research with the brain. Along one of the paths, tracking brain injuries with football players, he uncovered some very interesting things about the human brain:

As weight goes up, brainpower goes down. The size and function of the brain diminishes as BMI goes up….the larger people were, the smaller their frontal lobes were, and that’s a disaster because the frontal lobes run your life! Not only are we finding that overeating and overweight cause changes in the brain, but we’re seeing that brain patterns can influence how we respond to food.

It goes both ways. If you have low frontal-lobe activity, as is common with attention deficit disorder (ADD), for example, you’re much more likely to be obese. The frontal lobes are critical to making decisions such as food choices….

Consider the ramifications of this two way street. We’re born magnificent, capable of developing to our full potential and living a long illness free life. Our prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop until we’re in late childhood / early teenage years and grows throughout puberty - if we make it through most of childhood, there is a very good chance that we can have it all.

But along the way we get fat. It could be that our folks are too busy to cook healthy dinners, they didn’t know what to buy and cook, you were a picky SOB, whatever, you ended-up fat. As a result, your prefrontal cortex does not develop optimally and your brain in general is smaller than it would have been had you remained lean and optimal.

Moving through life, with a smaller brain, you suffer the consequences of having reduced executive functioning. Your working memory isn’t as good, your will power is compromised and your ability to anticipate the consequences and deal with the future just doesn’t hit on all cylinders.

Staying fat is easier because you don’t have the tools needed to think your way out of it, or at least, control your behavior out of it. You may never see a healthy weight again.

I don’t mean to scare you because you do have options here, but if you are over weight or have a tendency to over eat, you may need to consider enrolling an expert in helping you gain the skills needed to reverse the path of destruction you are on. Let them be your proxy until your brain repairs itself and can anticipate and plan for a better future.

Why I Challenge My Friends And Clients

It turns out that the brain needs to be challenged in order to operate more effectively; not just the consciousness parts of the brain but the entire thing. If stimulated correctly, repeatedly and for a period of time, it will begin to adjust its functioning to improve the quality of operating and this  will have a dramatic impact on all parts of the body.

For the last number of years I have been engaging my clients and friends in a particular fashion which helps to facilitate these changes. I have done this not because I knew it was helping them but because I personally find it to be a better way to engage the world. The goal is to feel better, think more effectively, and feel more connected to others. By boosting resilience in 4 areas, you will not only improve these things but you will actual live longer.

The four key areas are:

  1. Physical resilience - you need to move. It doesn’t need to be intense physical activity, but sitting or lying around without moving do nothing positive for the body or brain. Exercise teaches you brain that you behaviors matter. Moving will increase your ability to handle stress and recover from illness.
  2. Mental resilience - you need to think about problems and increase your ability to concentrate and focus your attention. Doing this will alter the physical make-up of your brain - increasing the complexity of the interconnection between the neurons - and it will allow you to solve problems more effectively which will boost productivity and potentially lower stress.
  3. Emotional resilience - you need to be able to find reasons to be happy or grateful. Happy people are sick less frequently, they have lower rates for illness and their stress response is shorter lived than their bitter or sad counter parts. Finding reasons to be happy is self reinforcing - it is rewarding from a chemical point of view - feel good neurotransmitters are released - and once it becomes a habit, you’ll find more and more reason to feel happy. This alone is well worth the effort taken to get good at it.
  4. Social resilience - you need to be able to see yourself as part of something bigger than just your own body. Those who feel connected to other people tend to be happier and experience stress less severely. A sense of gratitude is a perfect way to increase social resilience, physical touch is even better. Those who shake hands or hug others have an enhanced chemical response that increases feelings of openness and trust.

What does this all mean?

Well, on the simplest level, a better life is fairly easy to achieve but it may require some new behaviors and the creation of some new habits. If you are the type of person who doesn’t feel comfortable touching others or being open about gratitude, the social resilience aspect of having a better life may present a challenge to you, but in my experience, people don’t mind being thanked or hearing genuine expressions of positive emotion.

Realize that all of these are well within your grasp. You have been moving all of your life, so why not add in a little more if you notice you have been sluggish recently. Solving problems and challenging yourself mentally will cause the release of reward neurotransmitters which will feel good; the brain does this automatically if you just focus on a problem.

The tough one is the emotional resilience. We’re programmed to be fearful, so finding reason to NOT be scared doesn’t come naturally. But it’s a problem to be solved, and if you use this as one of the tasks to improve mental resilience your brain will be clearing off two items at once!

Going Every Direction From Now

Something funny is happening to my understanding of time. I noticed it starting to shift when I started taking my NLP course and the instructor asked where the past is. I pointed to my right, some people pointed behind them and others pointed to the left. I used to view it to be located to the left, but since I teach so much and spend a lot of time directly across from other people that I’ve reversed the location of my past.

I didn’t think it mattered much until I notice that I didn’t understand time.

Time is a word, it isn’t a thing. Most people have an understanding of time, an abstract odd kind of thing that they can’t put into words very well. We’re all good at using cliché to create a feeling of what it is, but these don’t move us closer to an actual understanding of what, if anything, it is.

I maintain that time is simply a way of looking at past, present and future. A shared understanding of an imaginary line in our heads which goes right and left, or forward and back from a point in the middle that we consider now. It helps us organize our memories in a way that allows us to see events as happening before or after other events. It seems like a straight line and there are nicely spaced increments understood to be minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc….

But this understanding isn’t very accurate for me anymore. It implies that there is a future and a past, and that the past is an unchanging thing existing somewhere to the right, left or behind us. It implies that there is one future laying in the opposite direction of the past. The only thing I like about this understanding is that there is a point on the line called now which seems to move magically along the line.

What no longer works for me about this model is that the past does change, it isn’t set in stone and the future is made up an billions of possibilities. The line is a cone shaped in the future and an imaginary cone shape to the past.

The abstract piece of my developing understanding is that while we cannot go back in time and alter what happened physically - in the case of the above time cone, what the light does - we can go back in time and alter what we think about what happened. Doing this will shift the location of now and create new possibilities for the future. And we are free to go back and alter whatever we like, whenever we like and make it whatever we want. All of this is possible because of the nature of time. Remember, time is a word and not a thing. Things don’t change, words can have many meanings.

So what?

Making the decision to see the history as changeable and not static opens up a world of new possibilities. For example, the crappy things that happened to you, they can be lessons instead of moments of victimization. The great things that happened can be moved back into the future and experienced over and over and over again. Your strongest moment can be cut and pasted into any times of weakness, and your weakest time in the past can have present or future resources carried into it. You can take the resources from someone else, even someone make believe, and add them to your past, present or future. All of this can happen if you accept that time isn’t a line but a ball of possibilities branching off in all directions.