Monday, March 24, 2014

Notes from Spark and Words that Work

Really enjoying the book Spark about the positive effects of exercise on the brain. So many studies that show exercise is actually miracle grow for the brain. It is a very research based book. Here is some information that I found interesting. I know it is a little like reading a research study, but the implications are pretty powerful... In Naperville, Illinois, gym class has transformed the student body of nineteen thousand into perhaps the fittest in the nation. Among one entire class of sophomores, only 3 percent were overweight, versus the national average of 30 percent. What’s more surprising— stunning— is that the program has also turned those students into some of the smartest in the nation. In 1999 Naperville’s eighth graders were among some 230,000 students from around the world who took an international standards test called TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), which evaluates knowledge of math and science. In recent years, students in China, Japan, and Singapore have outpaced American kids in these crucial subjects, but Naperville is the conspicuous exception: when its students took the TIMSS, they finished sixth in math and first in the world in science. I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters. It’s a handy metaphor to get the point across, but the deeper explanation is that exercise balances neurotransmitters— along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain. And as you’ll see, keeping your brain in balance can change your life. As fundamental as the neurotransmitters are, there’s another class of master molecules that over the past fifteen years or so has dramatically changed our understanding of connections in the brain, specifically, how they develop and grow. I’m talking about a family of proteins loosely termed factors, the most prominent of which is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Whereas neurotransmitters carry out signaling, neurotrophins such as BDNF build and maintain the cell circuitry— the infrastructure itself. Say you’re learning a French word. The first time you hear it, nerve cells recruited for a new circuit fire a glutamate signal between each other. If you never practice the word again, the attraction between the synapses involved naturally diminishes, weakening the signal. You forget. The discovery that astonished memory researchers— and earned Columbia University neuroscientist Eric Kandel a share of the 2000 Nobel Prize— is that repeated activation, or practice, causes the synapses themselves to swell and make stronger connections. A neuron is like a tree that instead of leaves has synapses along its dendritic branches;eventually new branches sprout, providing more synapses to further solidify the connections. These changes are a form of cellular adaptation called synaptic plasticity, which is where BDNF takes center stage. Cotman conducted this experiment not long after BDNF was discovered in the brain, and there was nothing to suggest that exercise had anything to do with it; his hypothesis was an act of sheer creativity. He’d just finished working on a long-term aging study designed to see if the people whose minds hold up best share anything in common. Among those with the least cognitive decline over a four-year period, three factors turned up: education, self-efficacy, and exercise. Indeed, in a 2007 study of humans, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20 percent faster following exercise than they did before exercise, and that the rate of learning correlated directly with levels of BDNF. Along with that, people with a gene variation that robs them of BDNF are more likely to have learning deficiencies. Without Miracle-Gro, the brain closes itself off to the world. Ratey, John J. (2008-01-10). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (p. 45). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition. Also reading Words that Work. Here are his rules for an effective marketing message... 1. Use small words 2. Use short sentences 3. Credibility is as important as philosophy 4. Consistency matters 5. Novelty- Offer something new 6. Sound and texture matter 7. Speak aspirationally 8. Visualize 9. Ask a question 10. Provide context and explain relevance

Monday, March 25, 2013

Here are some of my favorite quotes from How Will Your Life Be Measured by Clayton Christensen " My wife Christine and I started when we were newly engaged, with an end goal- a specific family culture- in mind. We didn't think about it in terms of culture, but that is what we were doing. We decided in a deliberate fashion that we wanted our children to love each other and to support each other. We decided that we wanted our children to have an instinct to obey God. We decided that we wanted them to be kind. And finally, we decided that we wanted them to love work." Being deliberate about what we want will dramatically increase the likelihood of us achieving it... "I would for example, never work in the yard unless I had at least one- and often two- kids hanging on to the handle of the mower. For the longest time, they werent really helping at all. Pushing a lawnmower with children hanging on, barely able to touch the ground, didn't make mowing easier, but that didn't matter. What really mattered was that it allowed us to define work for them as something that was a good thing. We did it together. It was fun, by definition. And I made sure they knew they were helping the family." Advice I wish I would have read a few years earlier, but as the African proverb mentions.... "The best time to plant a tree is five years ago, the second best time is today."

Monday, October 01, 2012

Lake Powell Quote

"We had a sense of courage toward life new to us all. The mere fact of our remoteness helped us to shake off the layers & layers of people’s personality. Which we had falsely regarded as our own and showed us new selves undreamed of." -Winifred Hawkridge Dixon 1919

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The last couple of weeks I have been reading talks and books on the subject of gratitude. I have had a very profound feeling of gratitude for so many good things in my life. There are too many to talk about here. I am just grateful for the abundance of life and feel that abundance not scarcity is the way of nature if we will align ourselves with the principles that allow it to occur. Note I didn't say "make it happen" Because it is the way of nature, we just have to get of the way and not sabotage the process. This was one of my favorite quotes in my reading on the topic... “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”

Cael Sanderson

Cael Sanderson was our speaker at the deicing conference this year. AMAZING! it is so rare that a world class athlete is also a world class coach and is thoughtful as Cael. He talked much more about the mental side of performing well than the physical. Below are some notes I took while he was talking. These principles stuck out to me: 1- Get VERY clear with your vision. Once your vision is clear, the work becomes more meaningful and easier. 2- As a leader or coach, my role is not to add expectations, but to remove them and help people see their purpose and potential more clearly 3- There is never a reason to be negative- it is not productive for anyone- ever. Find something to be positive about even when it is hard. If your goal is to help someone see themselves for their potential, how is being negative going to forward that purpose? 4- Speak to yourself in present and powerful language. Instead of saying "I want to win" say "I am winning" The way we speak to ourselves is crucial. 5- Focus on things that I have 100% control of. Have a vision board. The actions become easier when you are really clear about your vision and purpose. The way you talk to yourself is critical. Speak in the present. I am winning. I am ready. Not I want to win. Speak in the present with power. Don't try to suppress negative thoughts, plant positive thoughts. I'm just here to serve my team As soon as I realized that it wasn't about me, I was able to make a huge difference as a coach. Love your enemy is not for your enemy, it is for you... Look at the situation from the players point of view as a coach My job as a coach is not to add expectations, but to help them remember their purpose and help them rise up and be the best that they can be. When you mine gold, several tons of dirt needs to be removed but you are not looking for dirt, you are looking for gold. Find something to be positive about What you need to do as a leader is share your passion for what you are doing. Negativity is exhausting and contagious... A job of a coach is not to point out mistakes, that is a characteristic of a poor coach. Be prepared and know your purpose For practice during the Sanduski thing, for practice they watched Lion King and chewed bubblegum Celebrate small wins and have fun... There will always be a million reasons to lose and only one reason to win- because you want to. If you want to motivate someone, challenge them. People respond to challenges. Remind people of their purpose. That is the role of a coach. The fishing is best where the fewest go After you feel you have done all you can, it is the ten minutes that you keep with it after that, that will make you an Olympic champion. My goal as a freshman was that I didn't want my opponent to want to wrestle me again I focus on things that I have 100% control of. Most injuries in wrestling are due to bad choices. Being responsible in the moment of choice.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vistage Discussion- Managing Thoughts- Mary Lore

A great reminder that whatever we focus our thoughts on expands. If we are expecting great things out of our life and that is what we are thinking about, in most cases- that is what we will get. I will say that I feel like a lucky guy- good things just seem to happen to me- maybe it is not luck after all..

On the other hand, if we are looking for what is wrong with a situation and expecting bad things to happen, we should not be surprised when we get exactly that.

We should focus only on the things we want more of in our life.

The most successful company are those where every employee understands how their individual role contributes to the larger goals of the company and know that the companies goals leave the world a better place.

Quit saying I need to… I have to… I must… instead say something like “It is important that we…. Because….” “I am… I am choosing… I make a difference when…” “I wonder what it would be like if…”

Make sure I am doing every day the things that bring peace.

Unconscious thoughts –vs- not conscious thoughts We can be aware of our thoughts- we just choose not to. My brain is not me. I am not my thoughts- I am the observer of my thoughts. I have learned about this philosophy a few times over the years from people like Wayne Dyer- there were some things that clicked for me during this discussion. The idea of us being the watcher- being detached from our thoughts. The separation between our soul and our brain is an interesting one that we will never appreciate without disciplined effort.

Stress- Is the continuance of using poor responses to a situation instead of giving the brain a new thought and a higher way to deal with the problem.

Some great questions to ask:
1- What can I say or do right now that is for the greater good?
2- What can I do right now to be of the most service?
3- How can I help?

I have also really enjoyed Wooden on Leadership. Many of the principles are not new, but seeing how they have been applied by probably the most successful coach of all time is very interesting to me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How the Mighty Fall- Jim Collins

I enjoyed the book How the Mighty Fall – here are a few quotes I enjoyed…

“It turns out that a company can indeed look like the picture of health on the outside yet already be in decline, dangerously on the cusp of a huge fall.”

“I have concluded that there are more ways to fall than to become great.”

Some things that are markers that a company is on the verge of a fall

Stage 1
• They are neglecting their primary flywheel
• Arrogance and expecting success regardless of the quality of our investments and decisions
• Losing focus on continuous learning
Stage 2
• Unsustainable quest for growth- confusing big with great
• Undisciplined discontinuous leaps
• Declining proportion of the right people in the right seats
• Using cash just because we have it. Not investing wisely
• Too much bureaucracy
• Poor succession planning
Stage 3
• Amplify the positive- discount the negative
• Big bets and bold goals without empirical validation
• Incurring huge downside risk based on ambiguous data
• Erosion of health team dynamics
• Externalizing blame
• Obsessive reorganizations
Stage 4
• A series of silver bullets
• Searching for a leader-savior
• Panic and haste
• Radical “revolution” with fanfare
• Hype precedes results
• Initial upswing followed by disappointment
• Confusion and cynicism
• Erosion of financial strength
Stage 5
• The death spiral

“While no leader can single-handedly build an enduring great company, the wrong leader vested with power can almost single-handedly bring a company down”

The waterline principle- “If you blow a hole above the waterline, you can patch the hole, learn from the experience and sail on. But if you blow a hole below the waterline, you can find yourself facing gushers of water pouring in. pulling it toward the ocean floor. “

“There is no organizational utopia, all organizational structures have their trade-offs and every organization style has inefficiencies. We have no evidence from our research that any one structure is ideal in all situations, and no form of reorganization can make risk and peril melt away.”

“The right leaders feel a sense of urgency in good times and bad, whether facing threat or opportunity, no matter what. They’re obsessed, afflicted with a creative compulsion and inner drive for progress- the burning hot coals in the stomach- that remain constant whether facing threat or not. To manufacture a crisis when none exists, to shriek that we’re all standing on a “burning platform” soon to collapse in a spectacular conflagration, creates cynicism. The right people will drive improvement, whether standing on a burning platform or not, and they never take well to manipulation. “

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Lost Symbol

I picked up Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol in the SLC airport this last Friday. I liked his books Angels and Demons and the Davinci Code. They were both well researched and although it is hard to tell fact from fiction at times, I learned quite a bit about the derivation of languages and symbolism. I have enjoyed reading Brown’s new book- it actually coincides with some of the discussions we had a lake Powell. By observing a situation, or by changing the way we think about a situation not only changes our paradigm- it causes an actual physical change to occur. There is a new branch of science called Noetic Science that deals with this topic and is discussed in Dan Brown’s book.

I find this topic fascinating. There are connections that happen in nature that we just do not currently understand. I like Einstein’s quote “That which is inpenetrable to us really exists. Behind the secrets of nature remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything we can comprehend is my religion.”

The fact that we can actually change a situation by thinking a certain way about it makes thinking constructive, positive, creative thoughts even more important than if we were only pure observers. One of my favorite books is by James Allen and is called As a Man Thinketh When I read it again this year, I will do it with new eyes. It is hard to know how far to take this- but the topic of proactivity and the responsibility we have for our relationships or our situations in life may be sculpted by our thoughts long before we put a shovel to the soil.