Kindly, Randomly Act

30 Day Transformation When I was 3 years old, 6 months after my younger sister was born, our father told my mom and us, his five young children, that he was going fishing…. and he never came back.

And they wonder why women don’t trust men!

That we survived, even flourished, is neither the story nor the topic of this article. The kindnesses that were shown us, often by strangers or mere acquaintances is what I will address… Acts that allowed our little family to survive and flourish. Not only the kindnesses shown to our family but also about seemingly random acts of kindness, heroism and selflessness perpetrated by many humans, from all cultures, ethnicities and religions and how cultivating this natural tendency can lead us all to happier and more productive lives.

Kindness differentiates mammals from all other animals. Scientists have found that homo sapiens has actually evolved to be a compassionate, sympathetic and KIND species, the implications of this are staggering. Consider Les Brown, motivational speaker, radio personality and congressman. He and his twin brother, Wesley, were born in an abandoned building in Miami, FL in 1945. They were given up for adoption and unbelievably adopted by Mamie Brown, a 38-year-old single woman who was employed as a cafeteria attendant! Mamie cared for Wesley and Les and even though Les was branded, horribly, as “retarded” both boys went on to become educated and highly contributing members of society.

Statistically, Les and Wesley Brown AND my siblings should have committed suicide, become drug addicts or criminals yet all of us graduated from college and went on to live productive lives. Mamie Brown was probably an AMAZING mentor to Les and Wesley, my mom was a fantastic mother, we had good genes and lots of circumstances went our way but I consider where we might have lived had my Uncle Chuck (no blood relation) not purchased a 4 bedroom home we could rent from him for $50/month or what we might have eaten if local grocer, Leonard Schrandt hadn’t let us “charge” our groceries…sometimes indefinitely or if my little sister would have lived if he hadn’t “sold” my mother a $500 car (with payments over 5 years with no interest) when Janis needed to get to a hospital for an emergency appendectomy.

Perhaps our story is NOT a modern day “Les Miserables” but much of literature is devoted to the telling of “selflessness” and random acts of kindness: Charles” Dickens “A Christmas Carol” (and actually many of his stories) much of Shakespeare’s work and many popular books today are based on themes of random acts of kindness and selflessness.

Why are we drawn to these stories? What resonates for us in their telling?

Darcher Keltner talks about this in his book: “Born to Be Good: The Science of a Life of Meaning“. He discusses Charlles Darwin’s groundbreaking work: Descent of Man”. In this book, Darwin does not talk about a “violent” “survival of the fittest”, instead, he reveals his findings that man is a profoundly social and caring species and that our drive toward sympathy is even stronger than our drive for self-preservation! When we ponder this construct, the fact that our offspring are so helpless and in need of care that it makes sense that those carrying genes that lent themselves to caring instincts, would result in a better survival rate. It has even been discovered that the Vagus Nerve, located at the top of the spinal cord, is hugely connected to feelings of altruism. The Vagus nerve is connected to many organs throughout the body and when activated can cause sensations like a warm expansion in the chest caused by witnessing a selfless act of a thing of beauty. When stimulated, the Vagus nerve can cause a decrease in heart rate and an increase in oxytocin: the hormone that makes us feel love and connection. This is the hormone released when women breast feed…why else would we keep doing this after they start biting?

The idea that compassion and empathy are automatic human traits helps us to understand stories like that of Cayden: a 3rd grader who, upon seeing one of his class mates set down his lunch tray because his lunch account was overdue, began a campaign through fundraising and bottle collecting to stamp out lunch account debt in his school and today it no longer exists. No child goes without lunch at Cayden’s school.
Does that story give you that warm glow?

Or Dylan, the 7 year old whose friend Jonah suffered from a rare liver disease. Dylan wrote a book about his friendship with Dylan called “Chocolate Bar” and so far, has raised over a ½ million $$ for research into this disease.

I WANT to be a kinder person. I WANT to be calmer and more compassionate. I now see that it’s actually in my best interest to work on this desire. Is it your desire, too? Sure, paying for the toll for the driver in front of me is kind, leaving $20 in a book at my local bookstore is kind…what about not snapping at my husband or rolling my eyes when a co-worker asks me a dumb question for the 10th time? What about just taking the flipping grocery cart back to the store even though they SHOULD have a spot for them? What about letting the guy in front of me on the freeway change lanes? Can we become a kinder, gentler people? Can being kind help to save families, communities, even lives?

I think so; the possibilities are endless. This is my challenge to you:

kindly, sometimes randomly, act

The Organized Mind

30 Day Transformation

This morning, when I woke up, I had decisions to make: sleep a few more minutes, check my email and text messages while still in bed or get up to get a quicker jump on the day. Once out of bed, I had a choice of at least 5 different types of toothpaste to use, 10 different face creams and a myriad of other personal care products. Next, I walked into my closet to choose between a ridiculous # of outfits. In the kitchen, I could have my first beverage be one of at least 12 different teas OR I could have Teecino, coffee or broth. Choosing something to eat was no different and I’m sure your morning contained similar decisions if you examined what’s in your house. This is just your house!

Today, we are confronted with an unprecedented amount of decisions to be made because of an unprecedented amount of information to process.

Information scientists have quantified all this: in 2011, we took in 5 times as much info/day as Americans did in 1986…that’s the equivalent of 175 newspapers! Just during our leisure time, we process 100,000 words every day! The world’s TV stations produce 85,000 hours of original programing and You Tube uploads 6,000 hours of video every hour! Just trying to keep our personal media and electronic files organized can be overwhelming…I’m still carrying around an external hard drive with the contents of the computer I had 2 years ago. We each have the equivalent of over ½ a million books stored on just our computer…that’s not counting our cell phones, iPods and even the magnetic stripes on our credit cards.

We actually have the brain capacity to store this information…some neuroscientists suggest we have infinite capacity for storage…it’s processing and retrieving it that comes at a cost. We have difficulty separating the trivial from the important and all of the processing makes us tired…literally! Neurons involved in processing and retrieving are living cells with a metabolism and they need oxygen and glucose to survive. When they have to work hard, shifting from one decision to the next, we experience fatigue. Every status update on FB, every text you send or receive competes for resources in your brain with more important things like business decisions, where you left your keys or how to make up with a loved one.

It’s estimated that we can process 120 bits of information/second…meaning we can “consciously” process it. Listening to me speak right now is causing you to process 60 bits per second…unless you’re tuning me out…so you can imagine what happens when 2 or more people start speaking at you at a time!

If you think about it, it seems odd that such an advanced species as humans has such a limited attention span. Our brains evolved to help us deal with the hunter-gatherer phase of existence. Our attentional filter (millions of neurons continually scanning the environment to select the most important thing to focus on) allowed us to not get distracted by things that weren’t important. For instance, while hunting, man would only be distracted by something that might threaten survival. We are programmed to recognize change in our environment, like an approaching predator.

We can think of all the information fired at us daily as a predator, or a change pulling our attention away from what our primary task should be in the moment.

For this reason, many of us have become what we like to call “multi-taskers”. In truth, our brain isn’t capable of multi-tasking…we are merely sequential-taskers and each time we jump from one task to the next, it comes at a cost both in energy available for brain functioning but also in effectiveness. According to Levitin and his colleagues, Cognitive losses from multi-tasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from pot smoking.

So why do some people seem to do better than others at managing information overload and appear to be more successfully navigating the waters of this age?

In his book, Dr. Levitin, outlines several simple strategies for every area of our life.

First, he stresses the importance of “off-loading” information, thus freeing up the brain to work on more important tasks. He calls this “externalizing or enhancing” memory.

Some tactics of externalizing memory are using “to-do” lists or brain-dumps. Many people use their smart devices or computers for this practice but because we use these for so many things: watching cat videos, sending emails, listening to music, the brain can be confused. Also, our hippocampus, the place in the brain involved in memory, remembers “where things are physically” and doesn’t recognize where you are storing things on your computer as a physical object in physical space.

Having a specific note book or even using 3×5 index cards (one card per idea) has proven to be an effective (while seeming so primitive) way for many successful business people to “off load” things that can’t be attended to now, need to be remembered but in the off loading, stop the brain from continually circling back. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook talks about this in her book “Lean In” and remarks that she often feels like she is carrying around a stone tablet and chisel at a high tech company like Facebook. (I’ve been mocked, myself, for always carrying my day timer)

Second, to avoid multi-tasking, Dr. Levitin suggests setting specific times for answering emails and checking social media, instead of doing so all day. Many of us are really confused by the notion of multitasking; in fact it’s listed as a desired trait on many job applications. Many of us think we are good at it and we are deluded. It’s really an issue of dopamine addiction and I am obviously addicted. It was fascinating to read that every time I get or answer and email, FB message or text, I get a little shot of dopamine, a pleasure hormone. Our ancestors needed this to make sure they stayed active and got things done but for us, it is completely distracting to get these little “instant rewards” for small, unimportant tasks, rather than focusing on bigger tasks that will ultimately result in bigger wins. The cost is depleting nutrients in our brain needed for important tasks and decisions, increasing the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, increasing adrenaline, which can cause brain fog, and creating the dopamine-addiction feedback loop.
Levitin also suggests exercising our brains by performing smaller tasks before taking on bigger ones and when you ARE taking on bigger jobs, break them into 50-minute increments and take frequent breaks…walking outside, stretching or daydreaming.

Third, he recommends limiting choices. Do you really need to read one more article on 57 features of a trip you’re considering? He says that there are only 3-4 factors that are important to us in almost every decision we are faced with.

Lastly, Levitin stresses the importance of enough quality sleep. Apparently, our brains assimilate the memories of the day during sleep and even continue to work on problems that we have been actively working on during the day.

My husband has been looking at getting a new car for a few months, and I really haven’t taken any interest until he scheduled a day that we went out and test drove cars and then spent time putting together the design and payment plan we would like for the car. That night, I had a vivid dream about what color of exterior and interior I wanted and we ordered the car the next day.

Many bigger companies like Microsoft and Safeway now have “nap rooms” so that employees can get de-stressed and refreshed and are seeing it pay off in productivity. Most sleep studies show that we perform best with 8-10 hours of sleep per night and a short nap in the afternoon. Levitin goes into great detail on this topic: when, during sleep, certain memories are better-stored, etc.…fascinating stuff.

Barring a nuclear explosion or zombie-creating virus, I can’t imagine that we will ever move toward “less information” hence, understanding how our brain works and adopting strategies like the ones laid out in “The Organized Mind” can only help us survive information overload and flourish.

AND I’d like to close with a quote by one of my favorite authors:

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What does it take to make an athlete?

30 Day Transformation

Every coach wants to provide cutting edge training techniques to help their athletes become the very best athlete that they can be. But they CAN”T do it all. Several other things go into to creating a TOP Athlete.

First: and you will be surprised by this, sleep is key. Unless your athlete/child is getting sufficient sleep, they can’t incorporate the gains made during their training sessions. Children need more sleep than adults and child athletes (and adult athletes) need even more. Children between 10 and 17 need 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night and sometimes, athletes of this age need even more. One good way to know how much sleep your child needs is to eliminate sound and light for 3 nights…a weekend, perhaps? On the first night, you may witness your child sleep for up to 24 hours! On the second night, a little less and on the 3rd night, your child will most likely sleep the amount they need regularly. It is important to make sure they get this amount of sleep every night! Not just for athletic performance but for school performance, health and happiness!

Second: Hydration. Hydration will help your athlete/child to

  • Optimize their athletic potential
  • Maintain adequate energy levels
  • Lead to the proper functioning of nerves & muscles
  • Think clearly & quickly
  • Acclimate to warmer or colder weather
  • Reduce the likelihood of cramps
  • Allow their heart to work efficiently
  • Accurately perceive intensity level
  • Assist in the maintenance of a cooler body temperature

How much water? Well, short of measuring urine output, most experts agree that we all need half of our body weight (in ounces) AND an additional quart for every hour of physical activity. Kids like cold water, so we encourage using Hydroflasks (or something similar) and filling them with ice AND water. (the straw top is a great addition for kids!) These are available at most sporting goods stores or through www.amazon.com or www.hydroflask.com

Third: Mental Conditioning! Talk to us about this and we will give you some suggestions.
We really like: https://www.competitivedge.com

Fourth: This is a biggie: Nutrition!! This is a huge blind spot for most parents and athletes. Many parents are mistakenly under the impression that their active child doesn’t need to worry about nutrition, other than having sufficient calories for their training demands! Nothing could be further from the truth! Athletes have considerable stress on their bodies from training and stress from competition, travel, etc. Getting anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and other key components FROM a nutrient-dense diet is KEY for your athlete/child to perform at high levels and to recover and lead a healthy life. It is simply not possible for anyone, let alone a child-athlete, to get enough nutrition from their diet. That’s why we many coaches and nutritionists recommend a nutrient dense, whole food concentrate AND a program of eating that gives your child their best shot at high level performance. Here’s a short video and you can see many more on our website as well as see the 30+ studies conducted on this program. We think you will agree, that this is the very best thing you can give your child-athlete as they train hard for their sport.

Let us know if you have questions. We can also arrange for scholarships for athletes that will offset the cost of participation in this program. There are a few requirements, so we’d like to go over that with you.