“How to Make Easy Exercises More Difficult and More Effective”

In How to Make Easy Exercises More Difficult and More Effective by TC from T-nation he gives us a few ways to save time by making some exercises more difficult. I really liked:

Real-World Squats

Let me ask you a question: how often in your life do you walk up to an object hanging from a tree, carefully place it on your shoulders, and lower it to the ground?

Hunters typically don’t find dead deer hanging in trees. Generally, the thing’s lying on the ground and they have to pick it up.

What I’m trying to get at is the conventional squat is screwed up. It’s not a real-world movement. Our entire motor program, from childhood on, was developed to pick things up from the ground instead of the opposite.

That’s probably why a lot of people have trouble learning how to do the squat.

Well, I’ve adjusted the movement. I’ve made it more “real world,” but in doing so, I’ve also made it harder — and consequently, more effective.

I rarely start my squat from a standing position. Instead, I place the loaded bar onto the safety bars of the power rack and start from the ass-down position.

Guess what I’ll be doing next leg day?

Eliminate Body Fat by Eliminating The Need For It

The human body is remarkable at conserving energy. It will quickly adapt to changes in the external environment to create an internal state that it can maintain. You can increase the amount of daily calories you consume and your body will respond by increasing its metabolic rate to burn off the increase. Talk to any body builder and they will tell you that adding 3 pounds of muscle per month requires that you increase your caloric consumption by more than 350 per day; many lifters find that they need to eat an extra 1000-1500 calories per day to add any weight. If the body did not have the ability to adapt and boost metabolic functioning in response to caloric increases they would need just the 350 per day to add 3 pounds per month.

One of the more effective survival mechanism of the body is the fat storage system because it allows humans to store energy during times of food surplus and utilize that stored energy during food shortages. This system is, for the most part, an all or nothing thing – you will either be storing fat or you will be using fat.

Maintaining stored fat requires energy because body fat needs oxygen and, therefore, a blood supply. The cost is small, but over a long period of time, or if there is a lot of body fat, the cost will be dramatically increased. High blood pressure is one consequence to obesity because of the increased need for blood vessels to service the large amount of fat – the heart has to push blood around miles of extra tubing so it has to work harder.

However, the body does rely on what I can transient fat storage / utilization (TFS/U) to help it get through the periods of time when blood sugar level drops to a critical level and food is not eaten. TFS/U deals with periods of less than 12 hours, the usual maximum time that anyone will go without food as a result of sleep. Even people who eat a calorie balanced diet (equal in the amount of energy that they eat vs. what they burn off) will rely on the TFS/U throughout the day because they are eating three meals a day; this feeding schedule is insufficient at delivering the constant energy needs to fuel their daily activity. As a consequence, the body remains motivated to keep storing fat because it is being utilized fairly consistently.

The notion I am putting forward is that, in a caloric equilibrium state, the body will rid itself of excess body fat if we eliminate the need for transient fat storage. The rational is that the body will do what it can to conserve energy. Since body fat requires energy to maintain, energy can be conserved by getting rid of it. However, the only way to eliminate the need for TFS/U is to maintain a constant blood sugar level through frequent feeding and eating food that cause slow and steady increases in blood sugar.

The Next Generation Gap

Say Everything By Emily Nussbaum of the New York Magazine

This article shook me awake. I had only thought the techno-kiddies were enjoying their toys and not being socialized by them. It’s a frightening realization just how powerful new technology is at shaping the direction and development of the younger generation. Generation X’s Pac Man pales in comparison to this generations unfathomable access to information in its ability to shape how we become who we are. They aren’t techno-kiddies, they are individuals and the first generation who have been raised with the Internet as something that is and not something that will be.

This is Jakob’s vision: a place where topless photos are no big deal-but also where everyone can be known, simply by making him- or herself a bit vulnerable. Still, even for someone like me who is struggling to embrace the online world, Lodwick’s vision can seem so utopian it tilts into the impossible. “I think we’re gradually moving away from the age of investing in something negative,” he muses about the crueler side of online culture. “For me, a fundamental principle is that if you like something, you should show your love for it; if you don’t like it, ignore it, don’t waste your time.” Before that great transition, some Susies will get crushed in the gears of change. But soon, he predicts, online worlds will become more like real life: Reputation will be the rule of law. People will be ashamed if they act badly, because they’ll be doing so in front of all 3,000 of their friends. “If it works in real life, why wouldn’t it work online?”

If you are over the age of 25 I recommend you read this article and take whatever steps are needed to get yourself back in the game.

Feeling Good and Cognitive Distortions

During my last year of University I was introduced to a book that dramatically changed the way I view and engage the world. It’s too bad it wasn’t one of the assigned readings. Feeling Good – The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D. was an eye opener for a couple of reasons. The content of the book is first rate. When you read it you are hit with that “of course this is how it is” feeling that makes it very easy to understand. But the gem of Dr. Burns’ book is the practical exercises he presents for you to do to try and help you see the truth of what he is saying as it is manifested within your behavior. It would be a good book without the exercises, it is a life changing book because of them. Reading the book cover to cover and doing the exercises will improve your life, even if you are feeling good already.

As I worked my way through the book a strange feeling gripped me for the first time. I became aware that I had never learned how to think or how my brain works with information. As a psychology student I was exposed to a lot of scientific evidence that documented the outcome of thought processes. But we didn’t touch very much on our conscious experience as it comes to how we create an understanding of the world. I realized that we are born and as we mature we are schooled in language, math, science, history, etc…. all things that will increase the likelihood that we’ll be come productive members of society; the goal is to produce tax payers who will find their role, procreate and raise more tax payers. Very little of our socialization this has anything to do with the individuals themselves, it is gear towards creating the functioning parts that make up the whole.

Burns take on the task of illuminating the thought process as it deals with the individuals. What I think is the best part of the book are the sections devoted to cognitive distortions because I found myself making a lot of these perceptual errors.

First off realize that what we think about the world is NOT necessarily what is actually going on in the world. Our interpretation of events is based on our past experience with the world. If we make the right interpretation we will be fine, our world view will be in line with reality. But if we make the wrong interpretation, we can run into trouble. Take the actions of a young child who see fire for the first time. They have no behavioral event inventory with fire, they have no world view of it, and may decide that it is bright and warm like the sun but not damaging to touch and choose to grab it. They end up getting burned. It’s a valuable lesson for them because fire does burn you more quickly than the sun does.

The child making the decision that the fire is just like the sun is a cognitive distortion. It is an assumption they make that they believe is true, but which isn’t. In the case of the fire, the outcome is fairly obvious, a lesson that hurts. But with higher level things, the outcome can be more insidious and damaging. If the child who sees his father lighting the fire that eventually burned them creates a connection between the fire and his father, he has made a damaging cognitive distortion because it *may* impact the way the child views their father. They could end up thinking that there father is capable of burning them directly and withdraw from this parent in a protective reflex.

This example is fairly simplistic, but it is how the brain works. It’s an effect pattern matching engine that looks for patterns that will improve chances of survival.

Dr. Burns has a list of 10 cognitive distortions that he has observed people making:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  2. Over generalization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
  4. Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  5. Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
  • Mind reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don’t bother to check it out.
  • The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  1. Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
  2. Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  3. Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  4. Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of over generalization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  5. Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

What You Actually See When You Are Part Of The Other Crowd

Today I turn 34. I am happy about this because last St. Patrick’s day I realized that I was part of the other crowd. I think my exact phrasing was “I’m no longer one of the people who matters, I’m just an old guy.”

I had gone to the bar with some of the people I worked with. One of them was a girl I had been on a couple of dates with and I had hoped having a few drinks together would be enough to loosen us up and spark some sort of chemistry. She’s a really smart girl but the conversation always seemed laboured. Anyway, my brother was in town visiting his friend Clif and they had ended up at the same bar. Des and clif are older than me and all of us felt the same “we don’t belong here” feeling. We left fairly quickly after we realized that everyone there was a lot younger than us. It was a very difficult moment for me because I had been sensing that I was becoming an old guy for a while – I hadn’t sent a single text message, I didn’t have a myspace page and I didn’t enjoy getting drunk at a bar any more.

On the way home they asked me what was going on and I told them that today, I was old.

I didn’t get the girl either, there was no chemistry.

But what I did get was better. I got my peace of mind about who I was. I was forced to accepted that my looks were fading fast and that my youth was gone. It was tough that night and the next day, I was pretty depressed – it wasn’t a “turning 30″ depression because it lingered through the next day until I stopped by my brother and sister in law’s place. When I talked to Des about how I was feeling and about the lack of chemistry with the girl he let me know that I am a reflector, that I tend to go into conversations as a blank slate and take on the mood of the other person. If they are engaging or open, I will follow suit, if they are closed and withdrawn, that’s how I will be. The end result is that how I feel during a conversation is basically how the other person feels during the conversation. I hadn’t noticed this until he brought it up, but once he said it out loud, it was obvious that it had been that way all along.

That was a year ago yesterday and I regard that day as the start of the best year of my life so far because once I realized that my youth was gone I became free to just be whatever I am instead of trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. There are much lower expectations of immediate success when you aren’t counting on your looks to help you close any deals. I had a new appreciate of hard work because what I do became more important than what I am.

At least, as I look back on the last year, that’s how I see it.

What Emotions Mean And What To Do With Them?

My dad once told me to not mistake a feeling for a thought. It took me a while to get it but he was saying that feelings are something, you do feel them and they impact your body, but they are not the same thing as thoughts.

Okay, I don’t really think I would have ever come up with that notion by myself. I mean the way feelings feel, they have to be real.

They are real. Every feeling you experience is made up of a specific combination of neural transmitters and hormones. When a stimulus causes the emotion to be evoked your body will release the chemicals and they will wash throughout the body playing whatever role they need to play.

Think about the feeling of guilt. There’s a sense of doom in it and there is a powerful darkness that taints your perceptions. This is a chemical reaction inside your body. It will last a few seconds if you immediately stop thinking the guilt inducing thought. I would say that the life span of the chemicals that cause the physical sensation of guilt is about 3 or 4 seconds.

The same thing applies to all the emotional states, the chemical that cause them to be feelings will only impact on the body for a short period of time.

So what? Well, ever notice that happiness seems to be harder to spontaneously maintain than something like anger? When you think about it, all of the negative emotions seem to fuel themselves while the positive ones tend to fade away very quickly. This is probably because these negative emotions served to warn us about something that could endanger our chances of survival. These feelings needed to be easy to maintain because the dangers would never really go away. Feelings like happiness and satisfaction really don’t increase our chances of surviving, they are positive and add a lot to the quality of life but feeling happy doesn’t alert us to something that could kill us.

I see emotions this way: They represent the degree and quality of dissonance between what the sense organs are inputting at that moment in time and what the brain predicts should be going on. It’s a system that came to be because we don’t have the capacity to be consciously aware of everything that is happening in the world and all of our past experiences at the same time. The amount of information that our sense organs process and send to the brain is mind-boggling. What is happening right now is made up of billions of pieces of information and there is no way that you can be aware of that much data. Consider everything that you have ever done, these experiences were made up of trillions of pieces of data. All of this data has been run through your brain, processed for meaning, assimilated into a world view and stored as required.

Emotions alert us to specific errors between what we sense and what we think we should be sensing.

Now given that the brain doesn’t know the difference between what is thought and what is reality, we will learn to associate particular thoughts to particular emotions and will replay the conditioned thought when we experience the emotion. The thought will then give way to more of the emotion and so on.

The key to make your emotions work for you is to identify the period of time between the stimulus and response and to consciously respond instead of reflexively respond. There is very little you can do to alter the emotional response, and frankly you shouldn’t be willing to change it, because it is an adaptive system that helps us survive. However, you should allow the emotional sensation to be experienced and then fade away. Feeling the emotion is critical because it means something unusual is happening, but that is all. Sustaining the emotion does not reveal any more information and will only serve to impair logical thought. Once the emotion dissipates, you then respond with pragmatic action.

This task is initially pretty difficult. In fact, many don’t believe that there is a period of time between stimulus and response; and for them, there isn’t. But if you work at it, you will gain the ability to identify the period of time and, with lots of practice, teach yourself NOT to react. For example, getting cut of in traffic can be infuriating, but it isn’t cause for you to freak out and seek retribution. If you are in your car, there’s a very good chance that you weren’t driving around waiting for someone to cut you off. Chances are you were going somewhere to do something that didn’t involve the driver of the other car. Why should you let their actions dictate your behavior? It is simply illogical to do so but in the fit of road rage this is exactly what happens. The stimulus of being cut off causes the release of anger chemicals in the body. A temporary state of anger becomes a complete rage as the emotion fuels itself and causes the complete loss of rational thought. At this point, anything can happen because the anger is all consuming, the body is continuing to pump out anger chemicals which regulate the fight or flight responses. These responses are at best, very primitive and they tend to fuel physical action.

The reality of the car cutting you of is that someone else is a jerk or in a big hurry and wants their car to be where your car is. A full fight or flight response is not required here because your life is not in danger. That reaction is disproportionate to the stimulus because the time was not taken to assess the meaning of the stimulus.

Emotions provide us with valuable information about the world that our conscious mind cannot. They alert us to dissonance between what is going on in the world and what we predicted should be going on in the world. They provide us with a little more information that we can use to make better decisions but we need to keep them in control because, left to grow, they taint our judgment and impair rational thought. It is very easy to create a loop to feed back into them, causing the message they were trying to tell us to be completely lost.

At this age, it IS fun being that bad at anything

6 years ago I went on a date once with a lovely girl. It was a blind date with a cousin of a university friend and we went to a patio for a few drinks. During the evening we chatted about many things and, after she told me that she had taken a lot of dance classes when she was younger, I mentioned that I had been considering taking ballroom dancing lessons. I had been, so it seemed like a good chance to set up for a second date.

When I said it she immediately said that I shouldn’t do it. When I asked why, she said “at this age, it isn’t fun being that bad at anything. You are going to be horrible because it’s new, so why bother?”

That statement stuck with me more than she did because there wasn’t a second date.

It is, of course, incorrect as it applies to me. Yeah, I suck at most new things, and yes, it is horrible to be that bad at anything. She was wrong because she was saying I shouldn’t do these things because I would be bad at them. To me, you try something new because it may be fun and if it is, you’ll stick with it and improve. It’s the doing of the thing that is important.

Her attitude also took out of play the enjoyment or pleasure you will get from actually improving at a specific task. I think this is the more tragic aspect of her comment. Learning can be fun if you like what you are learning but the act of learning is also very rewarding. Think about the last time you had something difficult to learn, blogging software perhaps. Do you recall the moment you finally got it and what that moment felt like? Many people refer to these moments as epiphanies and there is usually a sense of well-being associated with them. For me, the moment of getting something that I’ve been trying to learn is a good moment, it feels good.

It doesn’t really matter what it is, I feel good when I get it. I’ve had a bunch of different and seemingly random jobs, but all of them share two things in common, a chance to learn and a chance to improve. My ability to load bundles of Roxul insulation into a trailer may never be tested again in my life, but it was a rewarding skill to acquire – you’d be surprised the number of ways you can load a truck wrong, but each small improvement was accompanied by a small reward. Challenging employees is one of the key components to keeping them highly engaged because it creates a self-reinforcing environment for the worker. Once you stop learning, if you do not find the task enjoyable, you will soon stop performing the task.

I know with certainty that if I took up ball room dancing, it would have been challenging and I wouldn’t have been very good at it. But I would have practiced and I believe that I would have improved; others have learned how to do it so there’s a good chance that I could learn too. And I know with equal certainty that I would have found the learning to be rewarding because that is what motivates us to keep learning.

Maybe one day I will try ball room dancing and I’ll know for sure what it is like to be that bad at something. If she was right, it will be harder today than it would have been 6 years ago. If she’s wrong, I’ll find the activity enjoyable.

Relationships – If you can’t give it your all, should you be giving at all?

I think it’s time to check out once you stop being able to give it 100%.

Watching someone spin their wheels wasting potential is hard, particularly when it involves a relationship. Rarely are these people happy with what they are doing, but so often they seem oblivious to the fact that they are not happy. Well, more accurately, they seem oblivious to the fact that things don’t need to be the way they are. They forget that they have the free will to change the situation, to make it or seek out something that is better. When asked about it, they seem to think that they’ve invested so much time into it, that it would be a shame to walk away without making sure it wasn’t going to work. This only makes sense if they know how to identify when it is not going to work out, but most people have no idea how to.

One of the first indications that things have hit the wall is when you stop giving a relationship your all. Lets face it, falling in love is nice and kind of irrational. It’s impossible to fall in love with someone you can’t love. You may be able to fake it, but it isn’t love. True love requires a leap of faith that you will take only if you feel a connection to another person. You need to be willing to give it your all because, it you ever stop and think about it, you may find yourself questioning the logic of your decision. Love is an all or nothing thing and it requires complete buy-in from both parties. The state of being in love is sufficient enough to prevent you from judging your partner harshly for things that you do not like. Feeling contempt towards another is impossible if you are in love, even if their actions are contemptuous.

Take one of your a love relationships that ended and think about the circumstances surrounding the breakdown and its eventual end. At the beginning they could do no wrong. You felt good being around them and the little things that you would usually find annoying were cute, funny or just little quirks. They’ll often stand out in your mind because you find them really annoying, but since they are the way your partner is, you start to consider them just part of how they are. You know they are harmless so you let it all go, but they are still annoying – her laugh pitches so high that it could break a glass, his constant “that’s what she said” joke to everything is classless, but you love them so it doesn’t really matter. You change your perception and presto, the annoying becomes part of the package that you love. You buy in and everything is fine.

Until one day when you find yourself not telling them a joke or a story because you don’t want your skin to crawl in response to her laugh or hear him say “that’s what she said” when you tell him about your mothers knitting group being too large to be fun anymore. They’ve worn a little thin on you, altering your perception isn’t so easy anymore so you alter your behavior. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because you know that you knew it was annoying before and you’re aware that things fade over time. Hey, that’s part of relationships and you’ll learn to avoid setting up the joke or making her laugh. Strange though, you’re changing yourself, not your perception but your behavior. Suddenly you are not being yourself anymore and you stop giving the relationship your all – when you give it 100%, you are being yourself, nothing is censored and you are being with all of your passion. It’s easy to sustain because it requires no thinking, just pure living. But once you start to alter your personality, you begin to give less and less of yourself. That can’t be good.

Of course it isn’t good because the next thing to appear is contempt. You will begin to resent the other person because they are not letting you be you, or you feel that you have to change what you give because of how they will interact with it. Contempt is one of the key signs that a relationship is in serious trouble. It indicates that a value judgment has been made and that you (the holder of contempt) has placed the other on a lower level and therefore worthy of less respect. Since people tend to act in a very self interested way, feelings of contempt will be followed by a further withdrawing – why would you invest in someone who you have little respect for?

Well, the pattern holds this to be true, you don’t invest, you begin to give less and less. The loving relationship that you gave 100% to starts to get less of your effort and passion. It is usually at this point when it has ended, but since you don’t want to walk out on the time investment you have put in and since you don’t know how to identify that it is over, you stay in it. Another couple of months (years) should be sufficient enough for you to realize that it is over and has been over for a very long time. Problem is, you can’t be friends anymore because your contempt has long since turned into hate and since you didn’t have the self-awareness to identify that the relationship has been over for a long time, you likely blame the other person for wasting so much of your time.

Well, here is the cold hard truth, you are to blame because you didn’t pay attention to the signs that things had gone south. We’re dealing with love here, one of the greatest emotional states of being that human kind can engage in, but also one of the least understood and illogical experiences on the planet. You were able to over look some very annoying behavior because you were in love with the person. Okay, you altered your conscious perception of the annoying behavior but you cannot influence your unconscious perception of it and this is where the difficultly lies. Your unconscious brain takes in and processes a lot of information that you are completely unaware of. Since the unconscious brain doesn’t really have a direct voice, you are never really aware of the results of this processing. However, it does tend to manifest itself in emotional states and gut feelings – remember the first time you didn’t make a joke and then thought “I don’t want to hear her laugh”? That was your unconscious mind directing your behavior. It is more powerful, or, more honest than your conscious mind because you cannot interact with it as efficiently. Remember when you withdrew slightly but didn’t know why? He asked you what was wrong and you said “nothing” when you both knew there was something wrong. Again, that is your unconscious mind telling you something very important. Even if you don’t know what it was, you DID experience the decrease in engagement; people who give 100% do not withdraw. They just don’t, that not what full engagement is all about. Sorry, the warning signs were there, you decided not to listen to them because, well, you didn’t and that’s all I’m going to say about that part of it.

So why should you watch for the behavioral manifestation of your unconscious mind? Simply put, if you feel in love in the first place, you already did listen to it. Think about it, if love was a conscious thing, you’d be able to fall in love at will with whomever you wanted – the rich unattractive guy could be the man of your dreams, the beautiful girl with a keen eye for antiquing and adopting vicious cats could be your wife, if only you could get on board with it. But that isn’t love. Love is an emotional state and it comes from the unconscious mind. Our species, and those species that we came from, have been mating for millions of years. Given that mating predates language, who we select as mates is determined almost exclusively by non-verbal factors. Your conscious brain is close to powerless to impact the process because it is so new on the evolutionary scene.

I can’t stress this point enough. As an individual, you are driven to keep the species alive through procreation. You are naturally going to seek out the best mate because this will result in the best offspring. Since the conscious mind plays almost no role in this process, your emotional state will impact it more completely – the best mate will appeal to you for unconscious reasons vs. conscious ones. Now given that you are directed by it to find a mate, you should also be in tune with it to let you know how things are going in the relationship. While there is no physical separate between the conscious and unconscious mind, each aspect of thinking has certain advantages over the other. In the case of the unconscious mind, it tends to work with nonverbal communication and other paralanguage components and create an emotional state based on the outcome. It is much better at picking up when it’s time to get out of a relationship because it isn’t going to be worried about all the time that has been invested in a relationship, it’s too busy worrying about finding an ideal mate and making the species stronger.

If you want to save months of your life and a lot of your immediate happiness, start identifying, accepting and actioning on the outcome of your unconscious thoughts. When it comes to love and relationships, since you can’t logically talk yourself into it, don’t use logic to keep yourself in it.

How Not To Talk To Kids

{Exercise} Before you read the article I’m linking to I want you to try something. The article is about praising children so write what you think is the best way to praise children if you want to improve their self-esteem.

After reading Po Bronson’s New York Magazine article How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise you may find yourself thinking “of course that is how it is”.

Dweck and Blackwell’s work is part of a larger academic challenge to one of the self-esteem movement’s key tenets: that praise, self-esteem, and performance rise and fall together. From 1970 to 2000, there were over 15,000 scholarly articles written on self-esteem and its relationship to everything—from sex to career advancement. But results were often contradictory or inconclusive. So in 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature. His team concluded that self-esteem was polluted with flawed science. Only 200 of those 15,000 studies met their rigorous standards.

After reviewing those 200 studies, Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement. It didn’t even reduce alcohol usage. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort. (Highly aggressive, violent people happen to think very highly of themselves, debunking the theory that people are aggressive to make up for low self-esteem.) At the time, Baumeister was quoted as saying that his findings were “the biggest disappointment of my career.”

{Exercise} Were you correct with what you wrote down before reading Bronson’s piece?

I have a psychology degree and did learn about conditioned reinforcement and reward scheduling, but it never struck me that the things they learned from experimenting on dogs, pigeons and rats apply to human beings as well. If the rat will walk a maze 100’s of times to earn a food pellet 5% of the time, the child will read 100 pages to get praised for reading 5 of them. It makes sense now.

You are born with “talent”, which is what we are praising when we tell someone that they are smart or good. But children do not know how they came to be smart or good. Since it’s just something they are, they have no idea how to make more of it.

As a parent or mentor you can only influence behavior. Experience has taught us that you need to put a lot of effort into actualizing talent potential. If a child is to remain smart or good, they are going to need to continue to put sustained effort into achieving it.

Birds Don’t Say “What is in the way IS the way”

About a year ago, one of my friends sent out a mass email to everyone he knew with the following quote “What is in the way IS the way”. I smiled when I read it. He was one of the few people who replied to my mass friend email with the “Who Are You Not To Be” quote. Today I happened across the quote “If a Bird Can’t Fly, It Walks”. Just fantastic.

I’ve seen my share of injured animals. The one thing most injured animals have in common is an intense desire to keep living. They will fight predators viciously, they will attack food rivals violently and they will engage the world using whatever powers they have left. Birds with broken wings keep looking for food, dogs with three legs keep looking for other dogs to run with and beavers that live in streams during droughts go looking for water somewhere else. They keep doing what they do, regardless of the hardships that my befall them.

I doubt the experience of consciousness for an animal is anything like that of a human, and that is one thing that makes them remarkably stronger in the survival sense. Maybe they have moments of feeling that they were unfairly victimize but the only thing that directs their behavior is a desire to survive. They’ll keep trying to attract mates, hunt and find food and seek out a safe shelter for protection. They are not going to become socialist victims looking for a handout and to be taken care of because something extremely challenging happened to them.

I don’t know the statistics for human beings that suffer equivalent injury to a bird losing its ability to fly but unfortunately it happens a lot. But if you pay close attention to it, you’ll notice more and more of these people interacting in society, living a life that is different, but rich and rewarding. It would seem that many who do find hardship falling into their life will do what the bird who can’t fly does and start to walk, using whatever abilities they have left to continue living. Once acceptance occurs, human beings have a remarkable ability to continue living and having a rich life.

The bird quote isn’t a direct comparison to a physical injury that a human can sustain, it’s a metaphoric equivalent to not having the ability to do something a particular way.

There is no doubt that the life of a now flightless bird is going to be different. It may have to adjust to eating different foods, particularly if it relied on flying to hunt, but it doesn’t mean that there is no food to eat, just that it’s going to be different food. Its shelter may not be the same, if, for example, it nested in a tree because it can’t fly to it, but it will find something that offers some protection and affords that bird the opportunity to rest in relative safety. It makes do and it keeps on trying to live.

The same is not true for most human beings. Many of them will see not having a particular ability as an insurmountable roadblock in the path to something they want and never consider the possibility that they may have other skills that would make it possible. We all know someone who wants something better than what they have but when you ask them what they are doing to achieve it they give you reasons why they aren’t actively pursuing it right now. For example, the friend who wants to be a manager but sees not having any management experience as the reason to not try, the female friend who wants to date a particular coworker but sees her height as a reason why he wouldn’t want to go out with her, the male friend who wants to have a better body but doesn’t know how to workout so doesn’t bother going to the gym because he doesn’t want to look or feel like stupid.

The lessons from “what is in the way IS the way” and “if a bird can’t fly, it walks” are exactly the same here. These people are defining the path they need to take to achieve their goal in terms of their limitations and therefore the only way to achieve a particular goal. If they were flightless birds they would have defined the path in terms of what they can do and come up with a second possible path, one that is passable based on their present abilities.

If you want to make life easier, you need to start thinking about challenges in terms of what you can do instead of what you cannot do. When you give reasons for why you can’t do something instead of coming up with solutions to address these deficits or ways to bi-pass them completely, you’re basically admitting that animals have more ambition and a stronger will than you do.