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Pure Genius: Reaching Your Next “New Normal” Using the Incredible Power of a Two Word Question!

What does New Normal mean to you?

Want to quickly and powerfully get to your next level of New Normal?  How about watch this 16-minute instructional video and utilize the incredible power of a two word question!

All the best!

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Pure Genius: Are You Growing or Dying?

If you accept the premise that you cannot simultaneously be both dark and light, then it would stand to reason that you cannot simultaneously be love and hate, or simultaneously growing and dying.

Logic, mathematical reasoning…call it what you want. In the end, you can only be one or the other, and in all cases, the choice is just that—a choice. Your choice!

So what is it for you? Growing or dying? Quite a heady question for most of us to consider, especially if we answer honestly. One premise goes like this: The way you do one thing is the way you do everything! Under that premise, it becomes impossible to claim that you are growing in your fitness and health (eating well, sleeping enough, managing stress, exercising) and simultaneously taking lots of prescription drugs, or abusing alcohol. The “dying part” kills off the seemingly “growing part” every time.

Enter Power Versus Force to Help Out

In the powerful work of Dr. Donald Hawkins in Power Versus Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior, the Phd psychologist outlines what he calls “levels of consciousness” that determine in large part, how we play in life. I have never been a big fan of psychology, although Hawkins developed his framework using quantum physics (much more reliable than psychology) and the chaos theory to come up with an algorithmic formula for determining predictable human behavior. Algorithms I trust much more than psychology….with all due respect to the Phd earned by Hawkins.

Essentially, he mapped levels of consciousness to predictability of behavior. For example, if my primary level of consciousness were “anger”, it would become rather easy to predict my behavior at any given moment. You would simply ask, “What might an angry person do in this situation?” You might not predict perfectly, but you could probably make a short list of possibilities that would be eerily accurate. You would most likely then prepare accordingly for the (predictable) actions I might take…and protect yourself somehow.

Levels of consciousness evolve for individual and even groups of humans, and at some point in life, become mostly a choice. That concept of choice makes Hawkins work so interesting. Consider an acquaintance, coworker, or a person at church who carries around a “victim mentality”. You know the type. They have talent, resources, and opportunities, and they (choose to) dwell on the circumstances in their life that seem “unfair”. Consequently, it appears to others that they are wasting their talents and abilities in favor of complaining. After a while, my guess would be that you do the same as others—you begin to avoid this person as rather toxic.

Back to predictability. If the way you do one thing is the way you do everything, then won’t a victim reliably follow the path a typical victim would follow? Would a growing person, intent on learning and forward progress predictably follow a path of curiosity, accepting challenges, and creating meaning?

You get the idea.

The Levels of Consciousness to Consider

Rather than choose your level of desired consciousness, use this list to find or identify where you stand currently. There is no right or wrong in where you find yourself. That simply represents the beginning of your journey—the starting point. Remember, that all progress starts by telling the truth! No one is watching nor listening, so why not tell the truth about where you are starting your journey?

Hawkins’ scale goes from 0 to 1,000, and to give some context, it is estimated (by his mathematical equation) that fewer than 100 people on the planet are in the top tier (enlightenment), so you might play the odds here and not choose that as your guesstimated level of consciousness.

[table id=8 /]

Did you resonate with one specific level of consciousness? Generally, people know this intuitively. It just feels right. Congratulations on having the guts to answer honestly. That provides the opportunity to ascend the scale, if you so choose.

Before you make any choices, here are some observations to note:

  • The red levels of consciousness are associated with abundance, starting at “courage”. The blue levels of consciousness are associated with “scarcity”. Neither is better or worse, just predictive.
  • Did you notice that most athletic teams, from Little League to pro sports, align with pride, which falls just below the “abundance” line? Interesting to note how some of the greatest teams in the history of sports speak about love, willingness, and acceptance, rather than pride. Sure they are “proud” of what they accomplished, and they played with a spirit of love for the game, their teammates, and even a respect/love for their opponents.
  • I guesstimated on the two leading political candidates for President. Doesn’t Hillary fit well into the characterization of “rigid, controlling, and fighting”, associated with anger? Some people have a less flattering word for her, but the scarcity characterization fits well, and predicts also why she cannot and will not unite the country. That’s not possible from a scarcity mindset, especially not anger.
  • Even lower on the power scale comes Donald Trump, who seems perfectly described by desire (“seeking power, prestige, and money”). Could he be even less capable of uniting anyone in the country? Predictively, the answer would be “yes” as he is working from a level of scarcity, that would have him grab power, prestige and money for himself above those he has been elected to serve.
  • If you’re keeping score, know this: Only 1 in 7 people on the planet, in any country or economic region, choose to live above the level associated with “abundance” (i.e. the “courage” level). Only 1 in 7! The higher that any one person rises on the levels of consciousness scale, the more that their level of consciousness can affects the masses. For example, a person at peace can counter the energy level of 70 million people! When you think in terms of the simple power of the Dali Lama, you get the idea.

Nothing Either Good or Bad. It’s Just a Choice!

Shakespeare said it best: “Nothing is either good or bad. Thinking makes it so.” Where you find yourself on the scale of consciousness simply shows where you are today. So be it. The key is where you aspire to move—either up or down the scale—and what that choice then allows for your life’s opportunities.

Consider the opportunities opened or closed by choosing to move in the direction of “willingness” (310, clearly in abundance/power) from the level of “fear” (100, clearly in scarcity).

  • What opens up as possibilities?: enjoyment of work, challenges that create growth, volunteering (as opposed to being asked)
  • What closes down as possibilities?: hesitancy, complacency, or any form of blame

Is one level of consciousness more appropriate or desirable than the other? Shakespeare can answer that best…”only thinking makes it so.” Your choice makes the difference.

Growing, Dying, and Transformation

How does transformation work? It’s simple. You simply choose a path for which you commit to move towards.

Where did you find yourself on the list of levels of consciousness? If you like that level, are you growing or dying? That is, are you at a level above 200 or below 200? Remember, it’s not a knock. It’s just where you are right now.

If you choose, simply pick a higher level that you aspire to pursue. Assuming that you are not there already, partner with a coach or mentor to begin to live the life associated with that level of consciousness and begin to enjoy the possibilities—both those that are opened, and those that will now close.

Human transformation exists as one of the most beautiful and simultaneously powerful sights to behold. You will become a more peaceful, grounded, and fun person, and your life will change in all aspects. In the end, the way you do one thing is the way you do everything.

So choose. Transform. Live a great life.

All the best!

p.s. If you are serious about transformation—business or personal, reach out, and I would be honored to partner with you to make that a reality. I make the process of transformation safer and more attractive than standing still.

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Pure Genius: Getting the Big Bang for Your Bucks Using the Redefined 80/20 Rule!

We’ve all heard – and maybe applied – the “80/20 Rule”…in business, poker, dividing up work assignments or eating homemade cookies. In this 17-minute video, learn powerful distinctions for using the 80/20 Rule, where, how and why. You’ll dramatically improve your results!

All the best!

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Pure Genius: Transform Your Productivity With This Simple Tool

“You may as well be great today, because you’re going to put the time in regardless!”

This sums up my sentiments on productivity, passion, Genius, and making a difference in everything you do every day—from the way you work, to the way you parent, partner, or exercise—you may as well be productive and feel good about what you accomplished.

So…what did you accomplish today? Did it seem worthwhile? Did it make a difference in someone’s life? Given the choice, would you repeat the activities you did today, or replace them with others?

All fair questions, especially if you are pursuing a life of meaning, significance, and contribution.

How To Up the Ante

We love neuroscience. We love simplicity. Most brilliant concepts are at their core, quite simple.

Give your brain a concept, idea, or challenge, and your brain gets to work…right away. You see, your brain is rather agnostic, works 24/7, and holds unlimited creativity when in the right mood. Why not put it to work every day? And if you’re going to put it to work, why not put it fully to work on what’s most important?

We agree.

Well, neuroscientists claim that your brain can hold 7 ideas, concepts, ‘to-do’s’, numbers, etc. at one time. Clearly, we will not argue with neuroscientists, as they tend to be smarter than we are. However, if your mind is capable of holding 7 items, doesn’t it make sense that having that same mind focus on fewer items would simply condense that concentration and focus more intently, since there is less to worry about?

Again, we agree.

We all get the same hours each day, and yet what gets produced, created, or ideated in that time varies wildly between any two people. One person assesses their contribution as ‘significant’ and another feels stuck in ‘administrivia.’

Our claim: You can transform your productivity when you limit your focus to one primary objective, and two secondary objectives each day.

Have you seen the calendar of a productive person? Generally, their daily calendar is organized, yes, and limited in the quantity and variety of activities to accomplish each day. Their system tends to rely on discernment in the planning, and quality in the execution.

How would it feel to know that you had only one primary focus each day? Truth is, you do. That primary focus simply gets tossed in with several less important agenda items, until such time as you feel like the day may have gotten away from you.

The Breakthrough in Productivity

As soon as you log onto your computer each day, you have entered someone else’s agenda. Email is the perfect example. Checking your email, answering, deleting, or “opting-out” of emails requires you to react to someone else’s agenda.

For optimal productivity, what if you knew in advance of the start of your day, the key objective to accomplish, as well as the secondary and tertiary objectives? We call that your “Top Three”, and there is a clear “Top ONE” to accomplish.

The definition of a “Top ONE” equals this: The successful completion of this ONE objective equals a successful day, all by itself.

Great for clarity, huh? But if the completion of the Top ONE equals a successful day all by itself, what would accomplishing of the Top Three equal? In short, it would equal a great day! Pieced together successively, you would then create a great week, a great month, quarter, year, or decade.

You get the idea.

Here’s the system in terms of the actions to take:

  • Discern – those activities (only three) that would create a successful day.
  • Plan – the time and atmosphere needed in order to accomplish.
  • Protect – the work (or play) resources to complete the objectives chosen.
  • Execute – your Top ONE first, before you move to your Top Two or Top Three.
  • Assess and Discern – how you did today, and then set up tomorrow.

The system works from day to day, focusing on the Top ONE each day. Simple. Achievable. Malleable.

The Top Down Approach

How the heck can you succeed when you accomplish less?

The “trick” is focusing on important and impactful objectives in less quantity, in such a way that your brain only has to create and solve in fewer areas. Accomplishing more important objectives in less quantity tends to eliminate the need to take care of the seemingly endless list of smaller objectives. You end up with a greater feeling of accomplishment, since, by definition, the completion of your Top ONE equals a successful day all by itself, and because you protect yourself from the “brain drain” connected to too many meetings, calls, or tasks that do not produce big results.

In order to do so, your day has to start with the focus on your Top ONE, and then work down, rather than “taking care of some smaller items before I get to my important ones.” Ever get to the early afternoon, with that heavy feeling that you have worked hard and simply fallen further behind? We all have. The “Top Down Approach” avoids that trap.

Here’s how.

Start with the simple system on any spreadsheet. Comment below, and I will send you a template that you can customize.

First, you start with your Top ONE and Top Three for your year. If you held one objective that equated to a successful year all by itself, what would that be? Then what would the second and third objectives be?

Move down (remember, “top down”) to your quarter. What is your Top ONE and Top Three of the quarter? Then your month, week, and day. Each follows the same focus—one primary, and two secondary—in order to create purposeful discernment.

With this system, you create the dilemma on purpose: What objectives are worthy of my time, attention, and focus? If given only three, you have to make them count. The world slows down a bit, compared to a longer list of lesser important items. For any given day, your spreadsheet might look like this: attention, and focus? If given only three, you have to make them count. The world slows down a bit, compared to a longer list of lesser important items. For any given day, your spreadsheet might look like this:

[table id=6 /]

Imagine if this were the whole day for you? You certainly could and would accomplish more, but your focus and priority were centered upon these three items? Life would become simpler, yes, and tracking key objectives would replace lots of lesser activities.

In the end, the little items tend to take care of themselves, because your focus on more important objectives.

Now, combine this with a week that also holds Top Three’s. You would still have your day (today) as well as your week, in order to discern, plan, protect, and execute. Your week and day together on your daily planner might look this:

[table id=7 /]

Notice that today’s objectives are not necessarily directly connected to the week’s Top Three, but can be. As long as I make progress on my weekly Top ONE and Top Three throughout the week, that week becomes successful.

The Energy Associated With Success

When you get stuck with days on end of ‘administrivia’ how does it feel when you leave work? How about when you get ready to drive to work in the morning?

The feeling we hold connected to the quality and contribution of the work we do goes a long way towards the energy we hold as a contributing factor to a great life.

What would it feel like to string together a series of “successful” days, and create a successful week? Take that a step further and string a set of successful weeks together and create a great month, then months into a quarter and quarters into a year.

You get the idea.

Nothing shifts your personal energy level more than living in the ecosystem founded upon purpose, significance, and contribution. It affects your physical energy level. It contributes to a healthier body and mind. It actually improves your health and sex life.

All by focusing on less…and accomplishing what really matters?

Yup.

Active discernment does just that, as you accomplish from the most important down, rather than the other way around.

Comment below, and I’ll send you a template to use starting today.

All the best!

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Pure Genius: Dramatically Improving Accountability Through the Use of Unique Genius™!

We’re all expected to be accountable for results.  Since this is expected, we don’t pay much attention to accountability … until it goes missing!  In this 14-minute video, learn how to tie accountability to your Unique Genius™ and make any accountability concerns simply go away.

All the best!

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  • One takeaway you got from today’s training
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Pure Genius: The Biology and Psychology of Fear Based Activity

A life insurance client in New York City often shares with me that although he would much prefer that his 175 person sales team (one of the most successful in the world) sell from a platform of self-confidence and high self-esteem, he acknowledges that oftentimes, the sales process works much more effectively when the sales team is scared…really scared!

“One of the best things that happens to their sales is the birth of a child, a new house with a bigger mortgage, or a divorce,” claims the general agent of this life insurance sales company. “They get really concerned or even freaked out about supporting their lifestyle, and it shows up in their sales! Would I like them to sell in a more progressive attitude? Sure. Do they sell well out of raw fear? Absolutely!”

Well, what do you do well when you are driven by a primal sense of fear? Sell? Produce results? Exercise? Compete?

Fear can work well as a motivator…but at what price? Fear can also bring out the worst in us.

We offer some of the biological and psychological effects associated with fear as a primary operating mode. We will also offer some strategies to shift away from fear.

Let’s go!

What Fear Does to our Physical Body

“When people are frightened, intelligent parts of the brain cease to dominate”, Dr. Bruce Perry explains, quoted in an article published on the Time magazine website. When faced with a threat, the cortex responsible for risk assessment and actions cease to function. In other words, logical thinking is replaced by overwhelming emotions, thus favoring short-term solutions and sudden reactions.

Blood tends to rush to the major muscle groups, a biological safety mechanism developed from years of hunting for food in dangerous locations. At any given time, a human might have to run quickly—presumably very afraid—from a predator. When this occurred (it still does) large amounts of cortisol are released, temporarily ceasing digestive functions, and lessening blood flow to the brain, and increasing the blood flow to legs and arms, so as to use in running or climbing.

Think of your last presentation or speech. Right before you went “live” did your throat get suddenly dry, and your palms sweaty? Did you stagger a bit at the start, with the words not coming out so freely?

All of this ceased once you realized that you were safe enough. Initially, however, the millions of years of biology kicked in, and you had blood flowing to your major muscle groups, but not your brain! Not so helpful when an audience member asks you an impromptu question!

As Dr. Perry points out above, the real danger is making decisions in this mode. How often have you made a decision you regretted out of anger (a form of fear) or in haste? We all tend to regret those types of decisions, as the “cortex responsible for risk assessment and actions cease to function”. The neocortex stands in charge of language and logic, so most likely, you may have used language at that moment that you do not normally use—a bit “spicy” perhaps—and you likely would have decided upon an action or decision that did not fully represent you at your highest values and purpose.

Certainly not your intention, and yet fear drives us to these depths.

The Impact of Chronic Fear on the Body

Living under constant threat weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. Other consequences of long-term fear include fatigue, clinical depression, accelerated aging, and even premature death.

Fear can also impair formation of long-term memories and cause damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. This can make it even more difficult to regulate fear and can leave a person anxious most of the time. To someone in chronic fear, the world looks scary and their memories confirm that. Their brain creates a closed, self-fulfilling system of anxiety.

Moreover, fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions. All of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately—certainly not at our desired vision of how we would like to act.

So whether threats to our security are real or perceived, they impact our mental and physical wellbeing.

How the Fear Appears in the World

Anger is the primary outcome of chronic fear. Those who act out their insecurities as anger are the most fearful (and dangerous) of all people. Those who act with anger are deeply immersed in fear. When two kids fight on the playground, generally they do so out of fear. It may be fear of looking like a chicken to friends, or losing their girlfriend (or boyfriend), or it may be fear of physical harm. It is rare that fights occur over reasonable issues. Fear is the catalyst that fuels anger. Anger is a state of consciousness that attracts not so attractive “drinking buddies”: insecurity, violence, and poor choices.

The long-term effects of fear can be even more devastating than the short term. We are all what we practice to be. If you practice baseball every day you will become a good baseball player. If you practice being happy every day, you will become happy. If you practice fear (anger) every day, you will become a fearful and angry person. People often train themselves to perpetuate these negative behaviors, most likely unknowingly. There are times when this behavior has been practiced for so long that the person is unaware that they practice fear and anger. It becomes their practiced behavior for dealing with any challenge. Not surprisingly, anger tends to sit foundationally, as the driving emotion behind substance abuse, as the “release” for the anger is found in chemical dependency.

It becomes a bit of a cliché, but how often do you see the scene in a movie where a fight or stressful situation is followed by the main character asking for a drink to settle them down?

Well, if the effects are this significant, how do you remedy the situation and shift out of fear to a more enlightened and healthy state of being?

Every Tension Has an Antidote

Short-term and chronic fear can shift or “be treated” with various antidotes and remedies, depending upon the desire and ambitions of the person involved, and also the level of fear. Consider the idea of living in a constantly fearful state of mind…clearly not much fun at all, and the health effects become devastating.

The shift comes from first declaring a new direction, and then implementing practices that support that new direction. Much like practicing baseball every day will make you a good (or at least better) baseball player, practicing new “exercises” that support a healthier and more sustainable state of mind and health will improve just that—your mental and emotional state, and your overall health!

Here are a few simple remedies or “antidotes” to fear—both short and long-term:

  • Exercise: the more vigorous, the better, as the body has to pause and reset for the period you engage in a spin class, running hills, or yoga. Every exercise works well, and doing so outdoors works even better, as sunshine is great for absorbing Vitamin D, the so-called “sunshine drug” that improves your mood.
  • Meditation or prayer: Both hold the same effect—clearing or resetting your mind, and offloading that which you carry emotionally—at least for a period of time. Your will lower your blood pressure, relax more, and develop a sense of calm by engaging in either practice regularly. Phone apps are a great way to start. Try “CALM”, as it offers 2, 5, 10, 15, up to 45 minute guided meditations, so that you do not have to “be good at it” to get the benefits.
  • Connect with people: As hard as this sometimes can be, a good conversation with a friend or family member works wonders to lower fear, anxiety and anger.
  • Develop your higher purpose: On a logical level, fear is not your goal…and it often shows up in spite of your efforts. Developing a strong sense of (higher) purpose tends to overwhelm or “crowd out” the option to live in fear.
  • Redesign your Self Talk: our brain believes and acts upon what we say. Say negative things about yourself, and your brain will push you in that direction. If you could redesign your “Self Talk” to support what you wanted in life, what would you shift towards?

In the end, living a great life certainly gets easier and more enjoyable free of fear and fearful decisions. Make your choice to shift even higher in the direction of what you want and live your highest purpose.

All the best!

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Pure Genius: Achieving Big Outcomes Without Motivation! Here’s How to Do It!

How and when do you motivate your team to produce great results? What if you threw out motivation as a strategy and replaced it with something much more effective? In this 11-minute video, learn the simple, powerful replacement for motivation … and why it works so much more effectively to produce big results in your team.

All the best!

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  • One takeaway you got from today’s training
  • A question you’d like to ask me

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Pure Genius: Music, Sports, Alzheimer’s and Growth

How Our Brains Grow With Physical and Emotional Stimulation

Perhaps you have a parent or grandparent facing the rough journey known as Alzheimer’s.
Well, music has been known to affect those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, but why it has an effect on these patients has not always been clear – until now.

Similarly, learning a new sport has a similar effect on the brain, but for different reasons. That is now also becoming clearer as to why it occurs. Both music and physical activity remain as viable and attractive choices for most people to enjoy, even later in life. The health benefits now seem even more reason to make these choices—perhaps the earlier, the better.

Listed below are some of the simple reasons why music helps slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and we also list below that, the reasons why learning a new sport helps. The reasons are different, and connected by a common thread—they both trigger brain activity of a certain sort.

Should you run out and learn to wakeboard, play tennis, or sing opera? Perhaps not, but the research is pretty clear: you do not have to practice music well, or perform like a champ at a new sport to reap all of the benefits in your brain.

Let’s start with reasons why music helps to delay (prevent may be a bit strong) Alzheimer’s Disease in patients, even if they have never played music until later in life.

Music Helps Dementia Patients Recall Memories and Emotions

Ever stirred by Queen’s, Bohemian Rhapsody, your favorite “guilty pleasure”, or Mozart’s 5th Symphony? Music can do that to us.

A recent study shows that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients can recall memories and emotions, and have enhanced mental performance after singing classic hits and show tunes from movies and musicals – a breakthrough in understanding how music affects those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Researchers determined the effect music has on dementia patients, by leading half of the participants through selected songs while the other half listened to the music being played. After the musical treatment, all participants took cognitive ability and life satisfaction tests. which showed how participants scored significantly better when being lead through songs, rather than only listening.

So sing away…in the shower, in the car, or in the kitchen!

Here are five reasons why researchers believe that music boosts brain activity:

Music evokes emotions that bring about memories.

Music can evoke emotion in even the most advanced of Alzheimer’s patients. Neurologist Oliver Sacks says that, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” By pairing music with every day activities, patients can develop a rhythm that helps them to the recall the memory of that activity, improving cognitive ability over time.

All of this occurs even after the diagnosis of the disease!

Musical aptitude and appreciation remain as two of the last remaining abilities in dementia patients that can improve.

Linda Maguire, lead author on the study wrote, “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s.” Because these two abilities remain long after other abilities have passed, music is an excellent way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person.

In short, you really can teach an old dog, new tricks, even if they do not perform the tricks at a high level of skill.

Music can bring emotional and physical closeness with others.

In the later stages of dementia, patients often lose the ability to share emotions with caregivers. Through music, as long as they are ambulatory, they can often dance. Dancing can lead to hugs, kisses and touching which brings security and memories.

The nuns in grade school were right. Dancing does lead to morally decadent activities!

Singing is engaging and social.

The singing sessions in the study engaged more than just the brain and the area related to singing. As singing activated the left side of the brain, listening to music sparked activity in the right and watching the class activated visual areas of the brain. With so much of the brain being stimulated, the patients were exercising more mind power than usual.

Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has an entire web page dedicated to music therapy in Alzheimer’s patients. They say that, “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.” This is because music requires little to no mental processing, so singing music does not require the cognitive function that is not present in most dementia patients.

Finally, you can sing the words any way you like, and get away with it!

If Music if Good, Could Sports Be Even Better?

Learning in midlife to juggle, swim, ride a bicycle or, snowboard could change and strengthen the brain in ways that practicing other familiar pursuits such as crossword puzzles or marathon training will not, according to an accumulating body of research about the unique impacts of motor learning on the brain.

When most of us consider learning and intelligence, we think of activities such as adding numbers, remembering names, writing poetry, or learning a new language. Such complex thinking generally is classified as “higher-order” cognition and results in activity within certain portions of the brain and promotes plasticity, or physical changes, in those areas. There is strong evidence that learning a second language as an adult, for instance, results in increased white matter in the parts of the brain known to be involved in language processing.

Regular exercise likewise changes the brain, with studies showing that running and other types of physical activities increase the number of new brain cells created in parts of the brain that are integral to memory and thinking. Who’d a thunk you could get smarter by becoming a dumb jock?

“We have a tendency to admire motor skills,” said Dr. John Krakauer, a professor of neurology and director of the Center for the Study of Motor Learning and Brain Repair at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. We like watching athletes in action, he said. But most of us make little effort to hone our motor skills in adulthood, and very few of us try to expand them by, for instance, learning a new sport.

In doing so, we could be short-changing our brains.

Past neurological studies in people have shown that learning a new physical skill in adulthood, such as juggling, leads to increases in the volume of gray matter in parts of the brain related to movement control. Tough first choice, but other new physical pursuits work just as well.

Even more compelling, a 2014 study with mice found that when the mice were introduced to a complicated type of running wheel, in which the rungs were irregularly spaced so that the animals had to learn a new, stutter-step type of running, their brains changed significantly. Learning to use these new wheels led to increased myelination of neurons in the animals’ motor cortexes. Myelination is the process by which parts of a brain cell are insulated, so that the messages between neurons can proceed more quickly and smoothly. In short, we get smarter by doing these types of activities.

Scientists once believed that myelination in the brain occurs almost exclusively during infancy and childhood and then slows or halts altogether. Instead, it turns out, learning the new skill had changed the inner workings of the adult animals’ motor cortexes. Oddly enough, pursuing an already established physical skill did almost nothing to increase brain function.

Learning a new sport or skill when you are old enough to be a parent to your instructor is psychologically uplifting, as well as beneficial for the body and brain. It reminds you that your body can still respond, that it can still yearn for movement and speed—all while your brain improves its function! That seems like a great combination indeed!

In the end, it’s all about growth and learning—healthy at any age, but especially beneficial as a fun and achievable ‘insurance policy’ against growing old.

So go ahead. Sing in the shower, or better yet, sing in the car on the way to a Tae-Kwon Do class, or while you learn to swim as an adult.

Your brain will be glad you did, and so will your heart!

All the best!

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Pure Genius: Can you Catch Stress, And If So, How Do You Avoid That?

You catch colds from co-workers, which no one likes. Can you also catch stress from your teammates or family members? The trend is pretty clear that you can. In this 14-minute learning video, find out how you catch the stress, and more importantly, how you avoid catching it!

All the best!

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Pure Genius: Using the Wisdom and Power of Ignorance in Your Team!

Remember when you were a kid, and you took on a completely improbable task, only to succeed? You might see this in your own kids today. They set out to sell the most gift wrapping paper in their class, despite the challenge that your neighborhood is flooded with kids from the same school selling the same paper, to the same neighbors.

Don’t your kids set out enthusiastically, knowing that they will simply sell in record numbers? Of course they do! Well, a client in Las Vegas recently interviewed a candidate (who he hired on the spot) who sold over $150,000 worth of Girl Scout cookies in one year!

How? She simply went with her dad to work, and sold “floor to floor” to businesses, who bought the cookies in record numbers. The sales took place in less than one month, and she only showed up after school! Many of the floors self-organized the sales for her, while she was at school. Amazing? Yes, but only if you think in more traditional sales figures. The trick was, she simply did not realize that selling $150,000 worth of cookies in a month was anything that could not do!

She employed “the wisdom and power of ignorance” and it can work wonders for your team as well.

Our Brains as Filters

Why is it that kids can take on possibilities without much time or energy wasted, while adults spend endless hours talking themselves out of all kinds of simple things?

Remember, the only difference really between children and adults is height, so if that remains the case, adults can play in this “anything is possible” paradigm too! It just takes a bit of turning off your developed brain a bit….like going back to that childlike wonder.

Our brains are trained over time to find more reasons why we cannot do something than they are willing to consider what we can actually do. That’s why we cut budgets and sales projections, rather than setting higher revenue goals. We also set out to lose 10 pounds, rather than get into the best shape of our lives, which would require much more energy, courage or work—but a goal for which we would take much more pride in!

We have simply lived long enough to be realistic in what to expect….or are we really being just pessimistic? It’s a fair question.

At best, our brains protect us from delving too far into unrealistic ideas, goals, or objectives. At worst, our brains (especially when in a team environment) allow us to get talked out of going for the biggest prize, the top spot, or a big raise. We learn instead to play more conservatively, or cautiously. Then, we cannot get hurt as much if we fail. We learned this all through school mostly.

Do you remember playing that way at the park when you were a kid? Probably not, as that is where you and I both learned risk tolerance, taking chances, adventure, and the idea that “anything is possible”. We were willing to let go of the chains on the large swing, and dismount high into the air, or go really high on the opposite side of the teeter-totter from our sibling.

In short, we simply did not know any better, and the results often left us with a complete sense of wonder and adventure. Well, if you did not know any better as a larger kid version of yourself, do you think you could dig deep to access that same mode of operation in yourself and in your team?

High Performing Teams and Goals

One of the primary hallmarks of high performing teams rests with the idea that they pursue and desire well defined goals. These goals require that there is a “big prize” and then the team needs shorter-range, compelling and clear goals that unify and galvanize them on shared purpose. Sequencing these to an annual result works well, but it’s key that the team wants to achieve the goals. This is the equivalent of a “what if” or a “dare” on the playground. It sounds like a kid wondering if you could pump hard enough on the swing to actually go all the way around the top, or if you could fly off of the teeter-totter.

We learn as children that you can….sort of, if you’re willing to risk failure, or a trip to the urgent care center. When you fail as a kid, you just move to the next adventure on the playground. High performing teams do this pretty well too! They simply do not dwell on the (short-term) failure and get back to chasing the objective or goal instead. That’s just more fun!

Here is a short list of the rewards that high performing teams earn when they use the wisdom and power of ignorance to set a lofty or super challenging goal:

  1. Focused attention Nothing gets everyone’s attention like a really big goal.
  2. Teamwork – A big goal requires and demands teamwork. It makes every position vital.
  3. Learning – If structured well, a big goal will require learning in order to succeed.
  4. Adventure/Fun – Even when teams fall short, they have lots more fun with big goals.
  5. Resiliency – Big goals create resiliency in teams, as there will be challenges!
  6. Transparency – Big goals require us to face our deficiencies authentically and quickly.

In the end, when an effective Team Leader (or parent) is being most effective, that Team Leader simply asks the team, “What If?” and then allows the team to design the conversation and the final version of the goal. The Team Leader can edit, and should never create. Let the team do that, as once the team members have designed and created a big goal, they certainly will own that goal much better than if the Team Leader or “senior leadership” forces the goal upon the team.

Ownership rests as the key—when the team that creates the goal also owns the goal, the entire list of benefits shown above all come about in some measure. If the team never really owns the goal, no amount of leadership can make them as effective.

For kids, this looks like a dare—“I dare you to do this or that!” No more powerful words are spoken at the playground, at an amusement park, or even at home. Kids simply lack the wisdom to realize that they are most likely not capable, nor would it be advisable to take on such a task.

So they simply play….and succeed a much higher percentage of the time than adults do. Therein lays the wisdom and power of ignorance.

So What About Your Team?

Ready for your team to utilize the wisdom and power that kids use—namely, ignorance?

It’s simple really. You have one of two options:

  • Challenge the team, but do not specify the end result nor the road to accomplish it. Again, we want the team to design, create, and own the end goal, such that they fully drive the results. Your language might sound like this:

“We’re going to win this year’s ‘Top Selling Team’ award. Who’s in?”

  • Ask a “what if?” question of the team. The end result is the same, if the team picks up the ball and runs with it. Remember, as the Team Leader, your job is to edit, not create. Otherwise, the team will not fully own the goal. Your language might sound like this:

“What if we took over the “Top Selling Team” position this year?

Either way, you purposefully engaging your team will result in them having waaaaay more fun at what they do, learning waaaay more than they would have without the big goal, and win, lose or draw, your team and each team member will become a better person for having gone on the journey with you and with their teammates.

Go for it! You’re not wise enough to realize that it’s outrageous. That’s most likely one of the key reasons you will most likely succeed.

All the best!