“Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart” by Dr. Mark Epstein

  1. Afflicted as we are with a kind of psychological materialism, we are concerned primarily with beefing ourselves up. Self-development, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-expression, self-awareness, and self-control are our most sought after attributes. But Buddhism teaches us that happiness does not come from any kind of acquisitiveness, be it material or psychological. Happiness comes from letting go. In Buddhism, the impenetrable, separate, and individuated self is more of the problem than the solution.
  2. The happiness that we seek depends on our ability to balance the ego’s need to do with our inherent capacity to be.
  3. From the beginning, the mother’s task is greater than just satisfying her baby’s physical needs, greater even than mirroring. She must also be able to leaver her child alone. This leaving alone does not mean ignoring, nor does it necessarily mean physically, or literally, looking away. An infant, after all, has to be attended to almost constantly. Leaving alone means allowing a child to have her own experience, whether alone or when feeding, bathing, or being held. When suspended in the matrix of the parent-child relationship, a child is free to explore, to venture into new territory, both within herself and without. This freedom to explore while held within the safety net of the parent’s benign presence develops into the capacity to be alone.
  4. In Western theories, the hope is always that emptiness can be healed, that if the character is developed o the trauma resolved that the background feelings will diminish. If we an make the ego stronger, the expectation is that emptiness will go away. In Buddhism, the approach is reversed. Focus on the emptiness, the dissatisfaction, and the feelings of imperfection, and the character will get stronger. Learn how to tolerate nothing and your mind will be at rest.
  5. Most of us have to free ourselves from overlearned responses that become habitual and restrictive.
  6. In the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, those moments of unknowing when the mind is naturally loosed from its moorings are said to be special opportunities for realization. During orgasm, at the moment of death, or while falling asleep or ending a dream are times when the veils of knowing are spontaneously lifted and the underlying luminosity of the mind shines through.
  7. But we have a powerful resistance to experiencing this mind in all of its brilliance. We are afraid to let ourselves go all the way. To set ourselves adrift requires a trust that for most of us was lost in childhood.
  8. “Be patient, do nothing, cease striving. We find this advice disheartening and therefore unfeasible because we forget it is our own inflexible activity that is structuring the reality. We think that if we do not hustle, nothing will happen and we will pine away. But the reality is probably in motion and after a while we might take part in that motion. But no one can know.” ~Paul Goodman
  9. If we feel empty, taught the Buddha, we must not let that emptiness paralyze us. If we are reaching for intimacy, we must let ourselves get out of the way. If we want peace, we must first learn how to quiet our own minds. If we want release, we must learn how to cease our own craving.
  10. The thinking mind remembers itself constantly, not wanting to forget or to be forgotten. It must always have something to do. Like an ever-vigilant, overly intrusive chaperone, it interrupts any possibility of connection.
  11. We are used to thinking of thinking as a good thing, as that which makes us human. It can be quite a revelation to discover that so much of our thinking appears to be boring, repetitive, and pointless while keeping us isolated and cut off from the feelings of connection that we most value.
  12. In the heart of the Buddha’s teaching: that it is possible to cultivate a mind that neither clings nor rejects, and that in so doing we can alter the way in which we experience both time and our selves.
  13. To one degree or another, we are all, like his friends, in a state of abbreviated, or interrupted mourning. Acutely aware of our own transience, we alternate between an aching despondency and a rebellion against the facts. We cling to our loved ones, or remove ourselves from them, rather than loving them in all of their vulnerability. In so doing we distance ourselves from a grief that is an inevitable component of affection.
  14. Opening oneself to one emotion deepens the experience of the other. The heart can open in sadness as much as it does in joy.
  15. In the Buddha’s teaching on transience, his point is that everything is always When we take loved objects into our egos with the hope or expectation of having them forever, we are deluding ourselves and postponing an inevitable grief. The solution is not to deny attachment but to become less controlling in how we love.
  16. “The antidote to hatred in the heart, the source of violence, is tolerance. Tolerance is an important virtue of bodhisattvas (enlightened heroes and heroines)—it enables you to refrain from reacting angrily to the harm inflicted on you by others. You could call this practice “inner disarmament,” in that a well-developed tolerance makes you free from the compulsion to counterattack. For the same reason, we also call tolerance the “best armor,” since it protects you from being conquered by hatred itself.” ~The Dalai Lama
  17. Mindfulness allows us to explore those aspects of our experience, like our day-to-day thoughts, that we usually take for granted.
  18. We do not get lots of realizations in our lives as much as we get the same ones over and over.
  19. Delusion is the mind’s tendency to seek premature closure about something. It is the quality of mind that imposes a definition on things and then mistakes the definition for the actual experience.
  20. We must learn to respond rather than react.
  21. It is the holding on to pleasure and the pushing away of pain that is the problem (not pleasure and pain themselves), we start to see how it is possible to practice in the midst of our daily lives.
  22. Putting down our burdens does not mean forsaking the conventional world in which our compensatory selves and thinking minds are necessary, but it means being in that world with the consciousness of one who is not deceived by appearances.
Advertisements
Posted in Books, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Always Leave the Office on Time” by Dr. Abdul Kalam

 

Resources control our lives. Money is the most tangible of these resources but so often we forget that we trade our most valuable resource for money, and that is our time. Much like real estate, there is a finite amount of it, and God isn’t making any more of it. However, unlike real estate, we can’t measure how much we have and more importantly, how much we have left. In a way this makes the value we put on our time invaluable or at least it should. The following seven steps are hopefully a brief reminder that at work, we trade our time for money. That time should therefore be spent in the most efficient manner possible. Are you spending it in a manner that makes you happy? Does this trade add value to your life? It was not until after I started a family that I truly realized the value of time spent with family versus time spent at work. It’s sad that the exchange rate at home and at work aren’t equal. 1. Work is a never-ending process. It can never be completed. 

2. Interest of a client is important, so is your family. 

3. If you fall in your life, neither your boss nor client will offer you a helping hand; your family and friends will. 

4. Life is not only about work, office, and client. There is more to life. You need time to socialize, entertain, relax, and exercise. Don’t let life be meaningless. 

5. A person who stays late at the office is not a hardworking person. Instead he/she is a fool who does not know how to manage work within the stipulated time. He/She is inefficient and incompetent in his work. 

6. You did not study hard and struggle in life to become a machine. 

7. If your boss forces you to work late, he/she may be ineffective and have a meaningless life too. 

Leaving the office on time means that you are efficient, have a good social life, and a quality family life. 
Leaving the office late means that you are either inefficient or incompetent, have no social life, and have less time for family.

Posted in Lifestyle | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“God and Stephen Hawking” by John C. Lennox

  1. One their own, the theories and laws cannot even cause anything, let alone create it.
  2. Wittgenstein’s statement that the “deception of modernism” is the idea that the laws of nature explain the world to us, when all they do is describe structural regularities.
  3. The aspect of epistemology at issue here is perception. Philosophers seek to understand the actual process that is going on when we perceive something in the external world; and even at this primary level there is already an difference of opinion. At one extreme in the debate stand Naïve, or Direct, Realism. It asserts that, under normal conditions, we have direct perception of the external world. I see a tree, for instance, and I perceive its existence and its qualities simply by looking directly at it, touching it, smelling it even.
    At the other extreme in the debate stands the Representative Theory of Perception (RTP). It asserts that we never perceive a tree, or anything else, directly. When we look at a tree, what happens is that our minds receive certain subjective impressions or representations of the tree; and it is these subjective representations—called sense-data—that we directly and most immediately perceive, not the objective tree itself. And it is on these sense-data that we depend for our knowledge of the tree.
  4. You cannot recognize something as abnormal if you do not know what is normal.
    This was actually well appreciated long ago.
Posted in Books, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Real Happiness” by Sharon Salzberg: Part Two

  1. Not paying attention keeps us in an endless cycle of wanting. We move on to the next thing because we aren’t really taking in what we already have; inattention creates an escalating need for stimulation.
  2. Everything goes away. Every sensation, every emotion, is changing all of the time. Each experience, however intense, is ephemeral. All life is transitory.
  3. It’s natural to perceive everything we think, feel, or take in with our five senses as being pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Whether we’re enjoying the sun on our face, hearing an insult, listening to music, smelling our dinner cooking, or feeling a wave of anger, the experience gets sorted into one of these three slots. It’s just what human do.
  4. When the experience is pleasant, our conditioned tendency is to hang on to it and keep it from leaving. That, however, is impossible. “Nothing endures but change,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. We long for permanence, but everything in the known universe—thoughts, weather, people, galaxies—is transient. That’s a face, but one we fight.
  5. We’re often so preoccupied with trying to make a pleasurable experience stay that we’re unable to enjoy it while it lasts.
  6. Mindfulness can allow us to experience fully the moment in front of us—what Thoreau calls “the bloom of the present”—and to wake up from neutral so we don’t miss the small, rich moments that add up to a dimensional life.
  7. For most of us, mindfulness is fleeting. We manage it for a moment, and then we’re gone again for a long period of time, preoccupied with the past, the future, our worries; we see the world through the goggles of long-held assumptions.
  8. Four crucial steps in dealing with emotions mindfully:
    1. Recognize what I was feeling. You can’t figure out how to deal with an emotion until you acknowledge that you’re experiencing it.
    2. Acceptance: we tend to resist or deny certain feelings, particularly if they’re unpleasant.
    3. Investigate the emotion: Instead of running away from it, we move closer, observing it with an unbiased interest.
    4. Not identifying with the emotion: The embarrassment or disappointment you’re feeling today isn’t your whole resume, the final word on who you are and who you’re going to be. Instead of confusing a temporary state with your total self, you come to see that your emotions arise, last a while, then disappear.
  9. Mindfulness allows us to watch our thoughts, see how one thought leads to the next, decide if we’re heading down an unhealthy path, and, if so, let go and change directions. It allows us to see that who we are is much more than a fearful or envious or angry thought.
  10. Wise observers of human behavior have pinpointed over and over again a core group of unhealthy human tendencies that are obstacles to happiness.
    They are: desire, aversion, sloth, restlessness, and doubt.

    1. Desire includes grasping, clinging, wanting or attachment.
    2. Aversion can appear as hatred, anger, fear, or impatience.
    3. Sloth is not just laziness, but also numbing out, switching off, disconnecting, and the sluggishness that comes with denial or feeling overwhelmed.
    4. Restlessness shows itself as anxiety, worry, fretfulness, or agitation.
    5. Doubt keeps us feeling stuck; we don’t know what to do next.
  11. “When you look into a pool of water,” writes Jon J. Muth in his children’s book Zen Shorts, distilling ancient wisdom, “if the water is still, you can see the moon reflected. If the water is agitated, the moon is fragmented and scattered. It is harder to see the true moon. Our minds are like that. When our minds are agitated, we cannot see the true world.”
  12. ~Pablo Neruda “Keeping Quiet”
    …If we were not so single-minded
    about keeping our lives moving,
    and for once could do nothing,
    perhaps a huge silence
    might interrupt this sadness
    of never understanding ourselves
    …Perhaps the earth can teach us
    as when everything seems dead and later proves to
    be alive.
  13. “The best way out is always through.” ~Robert Frost
  14. Lovingkindness is a power of the heart that honors this connection. When we practice it, we acknowledge that every one of us shares the same wish to be happy, and the same vulnerability to change and suffering.
  15. The happiness of others doesn’t take anything away from us.
  16. All human beings want to be a part of something fulfilling or meaningful; that we’re all vulnerable to change and loss; that our lives can turn on a dime—in an instant we could lose a loved one, our life savings, a job. We go up, and we go down, all of us. Vulnerability in the face of constant change is what we share, whatever our present condition.
  17. May I Be Safe.
    May I Be Happy.
    May I Be Healthy.
    May I Live With Ease
    .
  18. Reflection on the fact that all beings want to be happy—you, your friends, the person who’s giving you trouble. All beings want to be happy, may they be happy.
  19. Think of kindness as a strength, not as a weakness. Kindness isn’t an ally of foolishness or gullibility, but rather an ally of wisdom and courage.
  20. Remember that everyone wants to be happy. If we look deeply into any kind of behavior, we will see an urge to feel a part of something greater than our own limited sense of self, a desire to feel at home in this body and mind. This urge toward happiness is often twisted and distorted by ignorance, by not knowing where happiness is actually to be found.
  21. Recollect those who have helped or inspired us. Sometimes even a small act of kindness on someone’s part makes an essential difference for us. Cultivating gratitude is a way of honoring these people.
  22. “The problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” ~Albert Einstein
    Breaking away from our habitual ways of looking at thing, thinking at a new level, and responding differently take a good deal of courage.
  23. The practice of meditation is about having an immensity of vision as vast as the sky. It allows us greater perspective. We might not be able to change the circumstances of our lives, but we can change our relationship to those circumstances.
    Meditation allows us to stop looking for happiness in the wrong places. Real, abiding happiness, we discover, isn’t the result of getting our needs met temporarily. That often leads to an endless cycle of disappointment and escalating desire: The things we pin our hopes on don’t prove to be enough; the bar is continually being raised, and then we’re on the lookout for something more.
  24. Conventional happiness—the consolation of momentary distraction—is not only transitory, it can be isolating, shot through with an undercurrent of fear. Even when things are going well, we have the nagging feeling—in the midst of our pleasure—that our well-being is fragile, unstable, in need of protection.
Posted in Books, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Real Happiness” by Sharon Salzberg: Part One

“Just get out and do it.” That’s usually what I have to tell myself to take even 20 minutes of time to practice meditating. Like this book says, it can and will change your life. If you want another look at how it can change you, look at “10% Happier”. For me, the most powerful concept with meditation is that life marches on to its own drumbeat and there are many things we cannot control. Just having awareness of things, or people, or feelings that we experience help us come to the realization that lots of times all we can do is acknowledge those things and they will continue to be out of our control.

  1. Meditation has taught me how to cope with the profound truth that everything changes all the time.
  2. Attention: what we allow ourselves to notice—literally determines how we experience and navigate the world.
  3. “I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, deceitful. The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful, and serene.”
    The grandson asks which wolf will win the fight.
    The grandfather answers, “The one I feed.”
    Whatever gets our attention flourishes, so if we lavish attention on the negative and inconsequential, they can overwhelm the positive and the meaningful. But if we do the opposite, refusing to deal with or acknowledge what’s difficult and painful, pretending it doesn’t exist, then our world is out of whack. Whatever doesn’t get our attention withers—or retreats below conscious awareness, where it may still affect our lives. In a perverse way, ignoring the painful and difficult is just another way of feeding the wolf. Meditation teaches us to open our attention to all of human experience and all parts of ourselves.
  4. Skills to practice: Concentration, Mindfulness, and Compassion or Lovingkindness
    1. Concentration steadies and focues our attention so we can let go of distractions.
    2. Mindfulness refines our attention so that we can connect fully and directly with whatever life brings.
  5. This pause for nonjudgmental acknowledgement creates a bit of peaceful space within which we can make new, different choices about how to respond to something like anger.
  6. Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what’s happening and the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happening, stories that get in the way of direct experience.
  7. Meditation is a way to recognize our thoughts, to observe and understand them, and to relate to them more skillfully. (I like the Buddhist tradition of replacing the modifiers “good” and “bad” to describe human behavior with “skillful” and “unskillful.” Unskillful actions are those that lead to pain and suffering; skillful actions are those that lead to insight and balance.)
  8. Lovingkindness is a compassionate awareness that opens our attention and makes it more inclusive. It transforms the way we treat ourselves, our family, and our friends. Spending time paying careful attention to our thoughts, feelings, and actions (positive and negative) and understanding them opens our hearts to loving ourselves genuinely for who we are, with all our imperfections.
  9. Our assumptions keep us from appreciating what’s right in front of us—a stranger who’s a potential friend, a perceived adversary who might actually be a source of help. Assumptions block direct experience and prevent us from gathering information that could bring us comfort and relief, or information that, though saddening and painful, will allow us to make better decisions.
  10. Assumptions bind us to the past, obscure the present, limit our sense of what’s possible, and elbow out joy. Until we detect and examine our assumptions, they short-circuit our ability to observe objectively; we think we already know what’s what.
  11. Though we can affect our physical and emotional experiences, we can’t ultimately determine them; we can’t decree what emotions will arise within us. But we can learn through meditation to change our responses to them.
  12. Trying to avoid change is exhausting and stressful. Everything is impermanent: happiness, sorrow, a great meal, a powerful empire, what we’re feeling, the people around us, ourselves. Meditation helps us comprehend this fact—perhaps the basic truth of human existence, and the one we humans are most likely to balk at or be oblivious to, especially when it comes to the biggest change of all: Mortality happens, whether we like it or not.
  13. Daily meditation will remind us that if we look closely at a painful emotion or difficult situation, it’s bound to change; it’s not as solid and unmanageable as it might have seemed. The fear we feel in the morning may be gone by the afternoon. Hopelessness may be replaced by a glimmer of optimism. Even while a challenging situation is unfolding, it is shifting from moment to moment, varied, alive.
  14. There are moments when we sense that tomorrow doesn’t have to look like today—that the feeling of defeat that’s been flattening us for what seems like forever can lift, that our anxiety needn’t define us, that the delight we’ve been postponing and the love we long for could be nearer at hand than we’d thought.
  15. Sometimes a flash of inspiration kicks open that door: we hear a piece of music, see a work of art, read just the right poem.
    Sometimes pain kicks open that door: We lose our job, or lose a friend; feel betrayed or deeply misunderstood. In our distress, we suddenly feel an urgent need to look more deeply for understanding and an abiding sense of well-being.
  16. Concentration is a steadying and focusing of attention that allows us to let go of distractions. When our attention is stabilized in this way energy is restored to us—and we feel restored to our lives.
  17. Sometimes distractions are internal – the continuous replaying of old mistakes and regrets. (Why didn’t I listen to my dad? Or If only I’d married so and so?) or the nursing of past injustices we focus on things we can’t undo. Or we throw energy into obsessively fantasizing about a future that may never happen and then get terribly agitated about it, as if the woes we’re imagining had already come to pass.
    “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” ~Mark Twain
    Or we live in a state of perpetual postponement that blinds us to the potentially fulfilling moment in front of us.
  18. We often try to buy our way out of pain, regarding material possessions as talismans against change, against loss and death.
  19. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.
  20. Simple multitasking—it seems almost quaint—was motivated by the desire to be more productive and to create free time for friends, family, and fun. But Continuous Partial Attention is motivated b a desire not to miss anything. We’re talking on the phone and driving; carrying on a conversation at dinner and texting under the table… Continuous Partial Attention involves an artificial sense of constant crisis, of living in a 24/7, always-on world. It contributes to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, over stimulated, and unfulfilled; it compromises our ability to reflect, to make decisions, and to think creatively.
  21. “Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.” ~Henry David Thoreau
  22. Breathe naturally and focus on the sensations of each breath. If you have a thought or a feeling, notice it and then gently return to following your breath.
  23. You don’t have to evaluate your feelings content: just acknowledge it. You’re not elaborating on the thought or feeling; you’re not judging it. You’re neither struggling against it nor falling into its embrace and getting swept away by it. When you notice that your mind is not on your breath, notice what is on your mind. And then, no matter what it is, let it go.
  24. Straining to attain calm makes no sense, yet that’s often what we do.
Posted in Books, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Developing the Leaders Around You” by John Maxwell

  1. If you oversee people and you wish to develop leaders, you are responsible to:
    1) Appreciate them for who they are.
    2) Believe that they will do their very best.
    3) Praise their accomplishments.
    4) Accept your personal responsibility to them as their leader.
  2. Great leaders produce other leaders.
  3. An opinion before a decision has potential value. An opinion after the decision has been made is worthless.
  4. There is no success without a successor.
  5. A company must organize around what it is trying to accomplish, not around what is being done.
  6. I have seen people in an organization do things a particular way simply because the bureaucracy states it must be done that way, even when it hinders what the organization is trying to accomplish. Organize around tasks, not functions.
  7. Consistent accomplishment generates momentum.
  8. “Example is not the main thing in influencing others… its’ the only thing.” ~Albert Schweitzer
  9. Some of the qualities to look for in a person include the following:
    Positiveness: the ability to work with and see people and situations in a positive way.
    Servanthood: the willingness to submit, play team ball, and follow the leader.
    Growth Potential: a hunger for personal growth and development; the ability to keep growing as the job expands.
    Follow-Through: the determination to get the job done completely and with consistency.
    Loyalty: the willingness to always put the leader and the organization above personal desires.
    Resiliency: the ability to bounce back when problems arise.
    Integrity: trustworthiness and solid character; consistent words and walk.
    “Big Picture” Mindset: the ability to see the whole organization and all of its needs.
    Discipline: the willingness to do what is required regardless of personal mood.
    Gratitude: an attitude of thankfulness that becomes a way of life.
  10. Time on the job is no substitute for production in the job.
  11. “Friend, can you tell me something this town is noted for?” “Well,” replied the old man, “I don’t rightly know except that it’s the starting point to the world. You can start here and go anywhere you want.”
    All people do not view their current location as the starting point to wherever they want to go in the world. We as leaders must encourage those around us to see themselves in such a place.
  12. An important part of leadership involves casting vision. Some leaders forget to cast vision because they get caught up in managing. True leaders recognize a difference between leaders and managers. Managers are maintainers, tending to rely on systems and controls. Leaders are innovators and creators who rely on people. Creative ideas become reality when people who are in a position to act catch the vision of their innovative leader.
    An effective vision provides guidance. It gives direction for an organization… direction that cannot effectively result from rules and regulations, policy manuals, or organizational charts. True direction for an organization is born with a vision.
  13. “Unless a man undertakes more than he possibly can do, he will never do all he can do.” ~Henry Drummond
  14. “Men are developed the same way gold is mined. Several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold. But you don’t go into the mind looking for dirt. You go in looking for the gold.” ~Dale Carnegie
    Look for the gold, not the dirt; the good, not the bad. The more positive qualities you look for, the more you are going to find.
  15. So often, what people say their problem is really isn’t their problem. Their problem is the attitude which causes them to handle life’s obstacles poorly.
  16. When it comes to self discipline, people choose one of two things: the pain of discipline which comes from sacrifice and growth or the pain of regret which comes from the easy road and missed opportunities.
  17. Use the BEST acronym as a reminder of what people need when they get started with an organization:
    B: Believe in them.
    E: Encourage them.
    S: Share with them.
    T: Trust them.
  18. The leader’s major responsibility in the nurturing process is modeling… leadership , a strong work ethic, responsibility, character, openness, consistency, communication, and a belief in people.
  19. Norman Vincent Peale expressed it well when he said that the man who lives for himself is a failure; the man who lives for others has achieved true success.
  20. No one wants to spend his time doing work that is unimportant. People want to do work that matters. Workers often say things like, “I want to feel that I’ve achieved, that I’ve accomplished, that I’ve made a difference. I want excellence. I want what I do to be important work. I want to make an impact.” People want significance.
  21. Another way to add significance to the lives of the people you lead is to show them the big picture and let them know how they contribute to it. Many people get so caught up in the task of the moment that they cannot see the importance of what they do.
  22. To determine whether your people are committed, first you must make sure they know what it will cost them to become leaders.
  23. Ben Franklin set aside time every day to review two questions. In the morning he asked himself, “What good shall I do today?” In the evening he asked, “What good have I done today?”
  24. “A” priorities are ones that move the organization, department, or job function forward. They break ground, open doors to new opportunities, or develop new markets. They promote growth within people or the organization. “B” priorities are concerned with maintenance. They are required for things to continue running smoothly, such as answering letters or phone calls, and taking care of details. They are things that cannot be neglected, but they don’t add value to the organization. I have found that people often expend their best on “B” priorities because they seem urgent, and they give “A” priorities what’s left over. I always encourage my people to give 80 percent of their time and energy to “A” priorities and the remaining 20 percent to “B” priorities.
  25. You can’t turn people loose without structure, but you also want to give them enough freedom to be creative. They way to do that is to give them the big three: responsibility, authority, and accountability.
  26. Growth is not automatic; it does not necessarily come with experience, nor simply as a result of gathering information. Personal growth must be deliberate, planned, and consistent.
  27. When a leader’s goal is acceptability rather than excellence, then even the best people in the organization will produce what is merely acceptable. The rest may not even produce the minimum. When excellence is the standard, the best will hit the mark, and others will at least hit the board.
  28. Ten Guidelines for Handling Confrontation:
    1. Confront ASAP: The longer you wait, the less likely you are to do what must be done.
    2. Separate the person from the wrong action.
    3. Confront only what the person can change.
    4. Give the person the benefit of the doubt.
    5. Be specific.
    6. Avoid sarcasm.
    7. Avoid words like always and never.
    8. Tell the person how you feel about what was done wrong.
    9. Give the person a game plan to fix the problem.
    10. Affirm him or her as a person and a friend.
  29. Five things that every coach should do:
    1. Tell people what you expect from them.
    2. Give people an opportunity to perform.
    3. Let them know how they’re getting along.
    4. Instruct and empower them when they need it.
    5. Reward them accordingly to their contribution.
  30. All leaders can become good problem solvers. To do so, they must do four things.
    1. They must anticipate problems before they occur.
    2. They must maintain a positive attitude while they occur.
    3. They must all their resources to solve them as quickly as possible so they cease to occur.
    4. They must learn from their problems so the same problems do not occur again.
  31. When all players are treated and compensated the same, poor or mediocre performance is being rewarded the same as outstanding contributions by the best players.
  32. The leader should focus on performing tasks no one else can do, not simply on doing tasks he or she enjoys.
  33. I delegate according to the following steps:
    1. Ask them to be fact finders only.
    2. Ask them to make suggestions.
    3. Ask them to implement one of their recommendations, but only after you give you approval.
    4. Ask them to take action on their own, but to report the results immediately.
    5. Give complete authority.
  34. People become empowered when you provide them with three things: opportunity, freedom, and security.
Posted in Books, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The End of Absence” by Michael Harris

Have you ever been out to dinner with a friend or group of friends and you’ve looked around and everyone is looking at their phones. What is the appeal of these little devices that have become so pervasive in our lives? That little hit of dopamine we get when the soft buzz of a next text message comes in feeds the addiction dozens if not hundreds of times a day. We’ve replaced all of the quiet times in our lives with content and connection. But how is it that in a world that is so connected, we sometimes feel more alone than ever before?

  1. “Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral.” ~Melvin Kranzberg
  2. For those of us who have lived both with and without the vast, crowded connectivity the Internet provides, these are the few days when we can still notice the difference between Before and After.
    This is the moment. Our awareness of this singular position pops up every now and again. We catch ourselves idly reaching for our phones at the bus stop. Or we notice how, mid-conversation, a fumbling friend dives into the perfect recall of Google. We can still catch ourselves. We say, Wait…
    I think that within the mess of changes we’re experiencing, there’s a single difference that we feel most keenly; and it’s also the difference that future generations will find hardest to grasp. That is the end of absence—the loss of lack. The daydreaming silences in our lives are filled; the burning solitudes are extinguished.
  3. As we embrace a technology’s gifts, we usually fail to consider what they ask from us in return—the subtle, hardly noticeable payments we make in exchange for their marvelous service. We don’t notice, for example, that the gaps in our schedules have disappeared because we’re too busy delighting in the amusements that fill them. We forget the games that childhood boredom forged because boredom itself has been outlawed. Why would we bother to register the end of solitude, of ignorance, of lack? Why would we are that an absence has disappeared?
  4. How does it feel to be the only people in history to know life with and without the Internet?
  5. Just as every technology is an invitation to enhance some part of our lives, it’s also, necessarily, an invitation to be drawn away from something else.
  6. “Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” ~Henry David Thoreau
  7. When we don’t want to be alone and yet don’t want the hassle that fellow humans represent either, the digital filter is an ideal compromise.
  8. The phone is easy, people are hard. But even then, it’s texting that is acceptable since voice-to-voice phone conversations have too many potential pitfalls. Text messages, even if they lack subtle intonation, are discreet and controllable. And that’s a trade-off we’re eager to make. “We have to be concerned that the simplification and reduction of relationship is no longer something we complain about. It may become that we expect, even desire.” ~Turkle
  9. As our phone banish the wide-open possibilities of boredom, they deliver a strict context that lets us moor ourselves in an ocean of distraction that would otherwise drown us.
  10. I think to myself that nobody would want to hire an individual capable of thinking in full sentences. The only significant advantage left to the young will be their youthful looks—their sex appeal—for which an older population will forgive very much. This, I tell myself with a shot of glee, will fade. And then what will a constantly distracted fifty-year-old really bring to the table, except a facility with the technology that made him or her that way? But that, of course, is a fantasy; that fifty-year-old will be a multi-tasker in a multi-tasking world. And my own idea of a work ethic will be outmoded.
  11. There’s actually a chasm between me and folk five years younger. The other day, I was speaking with a young friend of mine—a journalist in his late twenties—and he thought nothing of carrying on a text conversation with someone else while speaking with me. It’s a common annoyance, barely worth noting, except that I’d been thinking about what it meant to be constantly put on hold by a person I’m sharing a beer with. It seemed to me that 80 percent of his attention procured 20 percent of my interest.
  12. Children do need moments of solitude as well as moments of healthy interaction. How else would they learn that the mind makes its own happiness? But too often these moments of solitude are only stumbled upon by children, whereas socialization is constantly arranged.
  13. One doesn’t see teenagers staring into space anymore. Gone is the idle mind of the adolescent.
  14. In reality, life outside of orderly institutions like schools, jobs, and prisons is lacking in “gold star” moments; it passes by in a not-so-dignified way, and nobody tells us whether we’re getting it right or wrong. But publish your experience online and an institutional approval system rises to meet it—your photo is “liked,” you status is gilded with commentary.
  15. Access to everything encourages exploration of nothing.
  16. Commensurate with the devaluing of expert opinion is the hyper-valuing of amateur, public opinion—for its very amateurism. Often a comment field will be freckled with the acronym INHO, which stands for the innocuous phrase “in my honest opinion.” It crops up when someone wishes to say anything with impunity and has become the “get out of jail free” card of public debate. “IMHO Mexicans should learn to speak proper English if they’re going to work in our restaurants.” Can’t touch me! Just my opinion!
  17. Some lens has been shuttered over our vision. We all have felt it. Even as we draw more of the world into our lives, gaining access to people and events we never had access to before, we feel that the things we gather lose some veracity in transit.
  18. All our screen time, our digital indulgence, may well be wreaking havoc on our conception of the authentic—how could it not? But, paradoxically, it’s the impulse to hold more of the world in our arms that leaves us holding more of reality at arm’s length.
  19. Without absence in our lives, we risk fooling ourselves into believing that things (a message from a lover, the performance of a song, the face of a human body) matter less. De Beers hoards its diamonds to invent a scarcity that equals preciousness. Perhaps we now need to engineer scarcity in our communications, in our interactions, and in the things we consume.
  20. When we think we’re multitasking we’re actually multi-switching. That is what the brain is very good at doing—quickly diverting its attention from one place to the next. We think we’re being productive because we are, indeed, being busy. But in reality we’re simply giving ourselves extra work.
  21. Having evolved in an environment rife with danger and uncertainty, we are hardwired to always default to fast-paced shifts in focus. Orienting responses are the brain’s ever-armed alarm system and cannot be ignored.
  22. Real thinking requires retreat.
  23. The internet allows us to know fewer facts, since we can be sure they are always literally at our fingertips… but we should not forget that often in the scientific discovery process the greatest challenges are to ask the right question rather than answer a well-posed question and to correlate facts that no one thought of connecting. The existence of many available facts somewhere in the infinite ocean of the Internet is no help in such an endeavor.
  24. Reconsolidation: every retrieval of memory involves thinking about it in a new way. We edit the past in light of what we know now. But we remain utterly unaware that we’ve changed it.
  25. Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. And I believe that memorizing something is the sowing of a thought.
  26. For many of us, the days begin and end with a consoling look at a phone or a laptop. We find ourselves on constant alert for connection.
  27. Will the omnipresence of choice, in other words, block us from the absences that so often fuel our desires?
  28. The American media adviser Lyman Bryson told us that technology is always about explicitness. Technologies—and online technologies especially, I think—focus our attention on one cramped view of things. They cut away the “haptic” symphony of senses and perceptions that make up real, lived interaction.
  29. The colonization presents us with an intellectual paradox—we know everything and we know nothing. Shoveling the Internet into our brains gives us a mental state where “we acknowledge that we’ve never been smarter as individuals and yet somehow we’ve never felt stupider.”
  30. It was Thoreau who first suggested it to me, the idea that we aren’t lonely because we are alone; we are lonely because we have failed in our solitude. Thoreau was never seeking out loneliness, after all. He went to the woods because of his loneliness; he went into the woods to enjoy the company of his bare self.
  31. The goal was to steer himself into crowds only when and how he saw fit. To not be drowned by “what was not life.” To limit the number of moments that brought him into the society of other men and women and thus to make them more meaningful.
Posted in Books, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment