Why Negativity is a Problem

As it turns out, we all have a problem with being overly negative. We may express this negativity differently, but humans are predisposed to be more negative than positive.

Why`consider that two thirds of the neural connections in your amygdala respond to negativity.

And the amygdala is our hot button for setting off emotional intensity. In other words, if we cannot find other ways to compensate for this overly negative hard wiring of the brain, our emotional reactions to the world around us will be biased.

So what? consider that negativity destroys connection. And connection is that mysterious emotional reaction that stimulates action and creativity.  Also consider that negativity — especially in its most intense form, anger — is sticky. Once we are negative about one thing, it tends to spread to all things around us.

So can we control this bias? yes, but it takes some practice. One of the things that adhering to a strategy regime can help with.

Spence: The Power Argument

We are now at the last section of Gerry Spence’s “how to” section of “How to Argue and Win Every time”. And this last section is about my favorite topic: power.

Gerry understands power in a way that few others do.  This is because he has felt powerless and gained power in himself. he felt the transition. He knows what he 9is talking about.

So where does power come from? Power is the produce of permission. When I feel someone is powerful, I am giving them the permission to be so. When I feel power in myself, I am giving myself that same permission. Gerry’s basic point is to never giver permission to others to take your power away. Insist on holding onto your power: be the center of your universe. That is the power stance.  Note that this is not “trying”. Losers try. Winners do.

This is not about becoming arrogant. Quite the opposite. One seeks and finds truth in oneself. That truth is humbling and powerful.

In some situations, argument is war (as in a court case). In these settings, one must win the war first by seeing what is really going on. And one wins by exerting control. Not over the opponent but over the war itself. That control is achieved by attacking. When does one attack. One defends when one’s strength is inadequate. One attacks when it is abundant.

Of course, you do not attack your loved ones and friends and employers. These situations require special treatment (which Gerry will give). We also do not attack the “man wearing the white hat”. We attack when it is revealed that he is the opposite. And even then, it is not an attack against the person but against the story. And the attack must be fair.

And when we are wearing the black hat? When we have wronged? The “bare facts” may appear damning. But we need to go beyond the bare facts to understand the larger story. And we should do the same with the bare facts that show another is wearing the black hat. This applies also when the Other has lied.

Gerry lays out ten elements for making the power argument

  1. Prepare until we have become the argument
  2. Open the Other to receive your argument
  3. Give the argument in the form of a story
  4. Tell the truth
  5. Tell the Other what you want
  6. Avoid sarcasm, scorn and ridicule
  7. Logic is power
  8. Action and winning are brothers
  9. Admit at the outset the weak points of your argument
  10. Understand your power

Gerry uses a very good example – an argument on behalf of a boy expelled from school and then a variation, on behalf of the teacher who over-reacted to the boy’s provocation. These are too long to reproduce or summarize here. But the point is clear — to make the power argument when his client is “wearing the black hat”, Gerry has to crawl into the hide of the Other and share the white hat.

Thinking about Master Minds

We know intuitively what a “master mind” is. It is the “brains of the operation”. This comic about Bertrand Russell gives the flavor

In fact, the “master mind” is more than just a smart person who gives orders. The real master mind is the person who finds incredibly smart people to carry out his or her orders. For example, Robert E. Lee had Stonewall Jackson for a time.

As Carnegie pointed out, this requires just two things. First, a common vision of what the group wants. Second, harmony that promotes sharing learning among those doing things in the group.

This is what Steve Jobs achieved at Apple and it is what Elon Musk appears to be achieving at SpaceX and Tesla. The culture of smartness starts with the master mind.

Is Growth on the Agenda?

There is a war raging just below the radar screen. It is a cultural war. And the war is over identity.

On the one side are folks who believe strongly that identity is an ethical construct. You are what you do. This is a classical idea. Indeed, it is the basis for Christian theology.

One is rewarded for being a good person (meaning one did good things during life). On the other side are folks who believe that identity is an illusion. We are what we believe. Doing is just a manifestation of our beliefs. I will call this the modern view.  In this way of looking at experience, life has no meaning other than what we give it.

The battleground over identity is growth. Does one grow via discipline (the classical view) or via learning (the modern view)? In case you are wondering, I am not a a classicist. in this sense. And I believe that the classical view of identity is being overturned. It will lose further sway in the 21st century.

Assuming that I am right for a moment, this has major potential impact on the value you that we place in things. In the classical view  the fixed conception of self implies a relatively fixed value for the things around us. One can think with confidence that a thing purchased today will have value tomorrow. In the modern view, the self is likely to change. And as it changes, the self sees the things around him or her in a new light. Value becomes less predictable.

From this point of view, one can understand why some advocate adopting a minimalist ideology. Holding onto things distracts one from learning and growing. So if you hold onto less, you will be more free to see things in a fresh light. Even things that you might consider now to be mundane.

BTW, this is not the same as stoicism. Stoics are predisposed to self-protection. One may or may not learn from a stoic lifestyle.

Releasing the Inner Jeeves

What separates people who think their way through life’s challenges and those who cannot? As I grow older, I fall back on a rather simple distinction. The quality of the inner voice. People often create difficulties for themselves when their inner voices give them conflicting, overly emotional, overly negative, or just irrelevant ideas.

Csikszentmihalyi calls this “psychic entropy” and one of his core ideas is that we all produce psychic entropy. It is normal. But some of us are better at managing it than others. Meeting challenges requires managing psychic entropy.

So how does one manage psychic entropy? You can read Cshikszentmihalyi’s book “Flow” to get some ideas. Or you can practice on your own.

Here is one way to do that. Jeeves is a character created by P.G. Wodehouse. In short, Jeeves is a valet. Not just a valet, but a very clever valet. He always has the solution to the problem that his master gets into. His master, Bertie Wooster is always getting into problems that he cannot get out of. So, from a story telling point of view, they are a brilliant match.

here is the thing. Jeeves has complete control of his psychic entropy. And you can practice being Jeeves to see what it feels like. Just do it. If you need a clue, watch this video.


Solve a Problem and Get Rich!

This is not a “get rich quick” blog. Nor is it a blog about managing finances or investing. It is a blog about thinking. Thinking? yes, thinking. It is a blog about learning how to use your mind more effectively. And I have a very basic piece of advice for you.

Two succeed, you need to master two perspectives. The first is inward. The inward perspective is about building personal capacity. It is not about the outside world, but about your ability to cope with the outside world. To learn how to build the capacity to engage. The second is outward. The outward perspective is about solving problems. Solve a problem and you will add value for others. Solve a big problem and you will get rich.

Here is the thing. to get better at problem solving, you need to get better at using your inward perspective. Got that?

The Power of the Mantra

For the last year, I have been building a habit. My early morning walk. I need this walk because I lead a relatively sedentary life. I sit behind a desk far too long for my own good. Over the years, i have gotten used to this, so much so, that it is hard to imagine being active.  So getting into this habit has been a challenge.

So far so good. And the one thing that has seen me through the development phase has been a mantra. I use the mantra whenever I feel a moment of weakness. When I hear myself say “Perhaps we don’t need to walk today …” The mantra is my answer. It is “This walk is the only thing that keeps you going.”

Mantras work and we should use them more. Here is a story of a young lady who needed a powerful mantra to help her lose 200 pounds. She succeeded.