Category Archives: Life

The Most Powerful Question

I’ve always lived under the assumption that the question “Why” what the most powerful question. I’m now convinced there is a more powerful question that can unlock change in people. The question is, “What am I grateful for?” I just read this article on The Ladders written by UCLA researcher, Alex Korb, PhD. Alex is the author of the book, The Upward Spiral.

Previously I believed the question “Why?” to be the most powerful question. It came from Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints thinking process: The Five Whys. The idea was that if I ask why something happened, and then why four more times, I can get to the root of causation in a complex adaptive system. With that knowledge, I then can determine what to change. The challenge with that is that it is rooted in the past, and the future is often difficult to ascertain. In systems theory we talk about “what to change” and “what to change to.” This presupposes that we know that what we are changing to is the right thing to change to and that there is one and only one best answer. The problem that lies there is that there are rarely only one option to change to and even rarer still is that we can know that changing something will achieve the desired effect without unintended consequences in a complex adaptive system (CAS). The only thing that can work is treating the presupposition of what to change to as a hypothesis and continuously adapt our hypothesis until we are actually changing the most appropriate thing to the appropriate target based on current reality of the next set of emerging results, and to do so in small iterative and incremental sets so that we minimize the unintended consequences.

This approach sounds logical on the surface and years of research has shown the approach to be a useful model… until it isn’t.

Enter “The Most Powerful Question”.

The challenge with the “Five Whys” exercise is that is suffers from current reality, negative bias. It focuses on only the negative, and subordinates the negative(s) to the positive. As a result, we often don’t leverage what is working right, and use the positive to reinforce anything that emerges as a good solution. In CAS, these are called reinforcing loops: the stuff that keeps a CAS in its current state, or the stuff that allows the CAS to exist in it’s future state.

This is what makes the question, “What am I grateful for?” such a profoundly powerful question. It helps us see the reinforcing loops that will make whatever future state or future self emerge and exist without recidivism. And while unintended consequences can and will happen, it gives us a framework to become resilient in the future state.

“What am I grateful for?”

Today I am grateful for knowing that most powerful question.

Striving to be a Son of Light

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” — Yoda

I was watching Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back and this quote struck me given the scenes of Obi Wan and Qui-Gon as spirits in various episodes. What struck me is the following: our bodies are made of comic dust from stars that essential subatomic particles fused together due to gravitational forces. Yet we are sentient beings. How is that possible? Atheists have no reasonable explanation. As such, a certain “top of the food chain” pride sometimes creeps into our culture. Take the following example from a former Christian zealot:

“No one can stop us now ‘Cause we are all made of stars” — Moby

Me… I’m going to make it a point of not being prideful. Instead, I shall recognize my place in the universe as explained by the following passage.

27 “ Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven:“I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “ We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.
(John 12:27-36 ESVST)

Dealing with Sunday Anxiety

A set of playground seesaws.

A set of playground seesaws.

A colleague posted a question to our support forum with the following question:

I try to keep my Sundays focused on non-work. This evening, like many Sunday evenings, my brain is already attempting to plan my Monday. And then it wants to start working my Monday.

What are your tricks for keeping your off-work time full of non-work thoughts?

The irony is that while he would have posting this question, I was dealing with the same thoughts. Yesterday I was running through all the things I had to do, and all the things I was behind on. “Eat that frog!” kept running around in my head. Do I focus on the things I can just knock and feel a sense of accomplishment, or do I prioritize my work by importance/value and burn it down?

Here is my list of “turn it off” techniques for dealing with “Sunday Anxiety”:

1) Make one list: Only use one list.

2) Prioritize the list. I start with the Franklin Planner (NOT Franklin-Covey) approach of prioritization.

3) Next I categorize the list using the Franklin-Covey approach: Urgent and important, not-urgent and important, urgent and not important, and not-urgent and not important.

4) Cross out the not-urgent and not important items. (THIS PART IS IMPORTANT!) It clears away the junk that clouds my mind.

5) Find the Frog you need to eat and flip it to the top. (It should already be there, but the brain has a tendency to procrastinate or avoid the Frog because the Frog is ugly.

6) Find a few small things to sprinkle near the top to give you a sense of accomplishment.

7) Meditate/mindfulness

8) Read Bible

9) Meditate/mindfulness again

10) Contemplate the Frog. What makes is a Frog? Usually, what makes the Frog ugly is that the Frog is really an “Epic” thing comprising a lot of smaller things. One way to turn the Frog into a something more approachable is to break the Frog apart into those smaller things, then throw those smaller things back into the master list and reprioritize without losing the overall sense that you have to now do those N-number of things to Eat that Frog, but you also get the sense that you will be accomplishing something. You are activating the reward system of the brain.

I try to do this everyday. Sometime I fail. When things are really looking scary, I go work out or do something physical like yard work or chores. The trick is to find something that requires me to arrest my limbic system. (Read “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock)

Hope this helps.

 

Delta Airbus A320 Taking Flight

Essential Travel Tools for iPhone and iPad

A close friend recently asked me if I liked TripIt after he noticed the automated posts of my travel plans. This came on the heals of almost a year of constant business travel, so I figured I would give back my tips for the Road Warriors out there trying to remember what city and time zone they are in… trying to get back home to their loved ones without getting all wrapped around the travel arrangement axel.

Kayak for iPhone and iPad

Kayak for iPad

Kayak for iPad

First stop is my chief means of flights of fancy and those homes away from home. The Kayak iPhone and iPad apps are extensions to the powerful online site that harvests deals from Priceline, Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity, and CheapOair for airline tickets. They also have hooks into hotel sites, car rentals and cruises. The only thing they don’t have is the ability to book tickets on Amtrak.

The thing I like about Kayak is that you can set alerts on fare changes and cheap hotel deals. Kayak combined with the next app has saved me hundreds of dollars over the last year in refunds, vouchers and opportunities to save money.

TripIt Pro for iDevices

TripIt Pro for iPad

TripIt Pro for iPad

Next stop on this journey of travel apps is TripIt Pro. Like Kayak, TripIt Pro is first a Web-based app and the mobile apps for iDevices works in tandem with the mothership.

I use TripIt Pro for itinerary management, awards points tracking and price alerts (I’ve found out about price drops on flights I’ve already booked and received vouchers for the difference.) It also gives me flight info and has quickly told me about alternate flights when I had a flight delayed or cancelled. It also integrates with my calendar and email. It picks up email reservations, logs it in my itinerary, and then puts the event on my calendar. And all of my colleagues use it to know who is in what town on what dates: it also broadcasts this info on our corporate IM feed (Yammer.com). It posts general travel plans to LinkedIn and Facebook in the form of “Devin is preparing to leave for… ” and “Devin is returning to DC from …”. As an added bonus, I can designate people like close friends and my lovely wife as members of my Inner Circle. These members get look at the intimate details of any itinerary. Finally, I can always see my itinerary on my iDevice either through the app or through integration with my calendar.

TripIt also has a version for businesses. I and my colleagues have floated the idea of subscribing to this so that it is easy to coordinate pair-coaching opportunities as we float about the World.

FlightTrack Pro

FlightTrack Pro for iPhone

FlightTrack Pro for iPhone

I use FlightTrack Pro for gate information, flight delays, alternate flights, navigation around airports, weather delays, etc. It pulls my flight information directly from TripIt Pro (tight integration). I get notified of delays and gate changes typically before the majority of the crowd (including the gate employees), and can switch flights before the crowd has even figured out what is going on. Another nice thing about combining FlightTrack Pro with TripIt Pro is that I can invite my inner circle from TripIt Pro to view my trips. Then they can know when to meet me at the airport using FlightTrack Pro on thier iDevice. I also love that I can view the map of an airport that I’m not familiar with before I get there and know how to get through the maze of terminals and concourses without looking like a mouse that has lost its cheese.

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor for iPhone and iPad

TripAdvisor for iPhone and iPad

Another one of my essential iDevice travel apps is TripAdvisor. The TripAdvisor is just a better interface for my mobile device with their Webapp as the back-end. It allows me to find and read reviews of hotels, restaurants, and venues using either an address or geolocation. The app is also integrated with TripIt Pro so I can go from the address in my itinerary to TripAdvisor to find out other places around that address. When combined with the online Webapp, I can monitor airfares between locations that I frequent. I can also check for alternate hotels if I find the one I booked has suddenly had an outbreak of Bed Bugs.

Honorable Mentions:

Bed Bug Tracker

Bed Bug Tracker for iPhone

Bed Bug Tracker for iPhone

I’ve now tacked this one onto my essential travel apps as I have started visiting cities where there are Bed Bug problems in the hotels. So far this app hasn’t failed me. Eventually I need to write a blog about my one and only bed bug experience. I never want to experience that again. That was before a colleague referred me to this app. Now I check this app every time I go to make a reservation.

Egencia/Expedia TripAssist

Expedia TripAssist for iPhone

Expedia TripAssist for iPhone

I’ve been using Egencia for work related travel for a couple months now. It really isn’t that great, but it is worth a mention because when flights are cancelled, changed or when a hotel messes up my reservation or overbooks, I can simply use the app itself to autodial customer service to fix everything for me.

 

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Live Blogging Emma’s Black Belt Test

Showed up early and Emma was really nervous. She will be testing alone.

11:05
Already started. Incredible pace of jumping jacks.

11:08

Being judged on accuracy. Emma is really popping her moves. I’m nervous like crazy but confident.

11:09

Just did first form and nailed it! Her face is getting red though.

11:10

Now the Champion form.

11:14

More exercises.

11:15

Scores for the first part… 15 minutes… 100 push-ups and 100 jumping jacks, two forms with minor bobbles, blocks passed, kicks… above average, self-defense… above average.

11:20

Will have a couple questions coming up at the Black Belt Ceremony, on July 7th.

11:21

She PASSED!!!!

11:25

We’ll have to come back for the ceremony on July 7th. No worries about that.

BibleReader for Mac

OliveTree BibleReader for Mac

Showing the BibleReader Notes Pane

OliveTree gave us Christmas on Thanksgiving this year with the release of their incredible Bible software, BibleReader for the Mac OSX platform.

OliveTree has been around since 1998. Admittedly, I’ve been using their eBible software on the Palm, the Windows Mobile, the iPhone, and the NookColor for since the first release for each platform.

Continue reading

4 Hour Body Mindhack for Ice Cream Cravings

Moooooooose Tracks

Image by keira-anne ♥ via Flickr

I just figured out a very obvious but probably not popular mindhack for getting through the week on the slow-carb diet.

I love ice cream. Every night before going to sleep I love to have a big bowl of the stuff.

Since I am glucose sensitive, the bowl usually put me in a nice sugar-coma… which was no big deal because it was bed time. I inherited this learned behavior from my father who in turn learned the behavior from his father. The net result for myself and my grandfather was a nice layer of fat in my mid-section. Not-Good.

What I discovered was a mindhack to break out of the cycle of self-destruction.

Here is how the mindhack works:

  1. Rid your home of everything that you crave using your binge day. This will likely take several weeks, so have faith and patience.
  2. On binge day, eat out at some place that has that which you crave. For me, simply having ice cream after a nice meal was all that was needed.
  3. Pray for the strength and self-discipline to get past the cravings. Pray for forgiveness for not being a good steward of the body the Lord has given you. And pray to give God thanks for the incredible richness of life you have been given.

That’s it!

See? Wasn’t that easy? If items aren’t in your home, you can’t cheat… except for that stop for gas where you go in to pay and have to pass the ice-cream cooler on the way to the cash register. Curse you, 7-Eleven!!!

 

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Nothing else to say

WriteRoom on OSX

WriteRoom on OSX