Telling Yourself the Truth: Find Your Way Out of Depression, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, and Other Common Problems by Applying the Principles of Misbelief Therapy by William Backus and Marie Chapian was my introduction to cognitive therapy. At the time, I didn’t realize it; I thought I was reading about a uniquely Christian approach to overcoming depression. It helped me greatly at a time I believed therapy was less effective than religion, and for that, it holds a place in my heart forever.
“Misbelief Therapy,” as we have called our modus operandi, involves putting the truth into our value systems, philosophies, demands, expectations, moralistic and emotional assumptions, as well as into the words we tell ourselves.
When we inject the truth into our every thought, taking a therapeutic broom and sweeping away the lies and misbeliefs which have enslaved us, we find our lives radically changed for the happier better.
Jerry questioned his self-talk. He recognized something radically wrong with what he had been telling himself and realized his depression was not due to his impending divorce, but what he was telling himself about it. As a result he began to change the sentences he said to himself.
It wasn’t easy at first, but because he refused to be a “chump” to a pack of self-destroying lies, he taught himself to confess the truth. INSTEAD OF: I’m a failure and no good. HE SAID: The marriage failed, but I am deeply loved by God.
Misbeliefs generally appear as truth to the person repeating them to himself. They might even seem to be true to an untrained counselor. That is partly because they often do contain some shred of truth, and partly because the sufferer has never examined or questioned these erroneous assumptions.
Psychiatrist Willard Gaylin said, “A denigrated self-image is a tar baby. The more we play with it, embrace it, the more bound we are to it.”
Often, but not always, relationships change dramatically when one person drops the misbeliefs that generate and perpetuate bitterness and anger. Always the person who works to change misbeliefs will benefit even if the other person does not change.
One psychologist tells his patients that the truthful statement to make when you’re angry is, “I make myself angry.”
I have a basic working Mandarin vocabulary–what I call “traveler’s Chinese.” Though it’s one of my life goals to become fluent or close to it (mostly because it would be so much fun), I also feel that this basic level is extremely valuable in its own right. Once you get past the language basics and talk to some natives who–surprise!–actually understand you, the groundwork has been laid; you become confident. After that, you have fun with it: talk to people you meet, ask them to explain things, practice a bit here and a bit there. A decade or so later, you’re ready to visit the land of your chosen second language and make a lot of progress in a relatively short amount of time.
One more tip for you: at first, don’t worry about grammar too much. Get the main verbs, the main short words (“because,” “with,” “and,” “very,” and the time- and distance-related vocabulary) and the whole introductory conversation basics, then move on to your nouns–food, body parts, etc. When you practice, make as many mistakes as you can possibly make, grammar-wise; just get yourself understood. That’s the goal.
Basic Mandarin Vocabulary:
Conversational Basics and Common Phrases:
Hello: Ni3 hao3 How are you: Ni3 hao3 ma What is your name: Ni3 de ming2 zi jiao4 shen2 me My name is: Wo3 de ming2 zi jiao4 First name: Ming2 zi Family name: Gui4 xing4 How old are you: Ni3 ji1 sui4 le I am __ years old: Wo3 you3 __ nian2 Good morning: Zao3 an1 Good afternoon: Good evening: Wan3 an1 Yes: Shi4 No: Bu4 shi4 Please: Qing2 May I: Ke3 yi3 Thank you: Xie4 xie4 Excuse me/I’m sorry: Dui4 bu4 qi2 You’re welcome/I don’t mind: Mei2 guan4 xi1 No problem/I don’t care: Bu4 yao4 jin3 Where are you from: Ni3 lai2 zai4 na3 li3 I am from: Wo3 lai2 zi4 I speak __: Wo3 shuo1 __ Do you speak __: Ni3 shuo1 __ ma? U.S.A.: Mei3 guo2 American: Mei3 guo2 ren2 English: Ying1 wen2 China: Zhong1 guo2 Chinese (person): Zhong1 guo2 ren2 Chinese (Mandarin language): Pu2 tong2 hua4 Chinese (Cantonese language): Guang3 dong1 hua4 How do you say: Wo3 zem2 me shuo1 What does this mean: Shen2 me yi4 ci2 Say it again: Zai4 shuo1 yi1 ci4 May I ask: Qing2 wen3 Can you please: Ni3 ke3 yi3 Nice to meet you: Hen3 gao1 xin1 jian4 dao4 ni3 Be careful: Xiao4 xin1 (yi1 dian3) Hurry up: Kuai4 yi1 dian3 Wait a moment: Deng3 yi2 xia4 I am ready: Wo3 zhu3 bei4 hao3 le Both are fine: Shen2 me dou1 ke3 yi3
To be: Shi4 To go: Qu4 To want: Yao4 To use: Yong4 To need: Xu3 yao4 To know: Zhi1 dao4 To like: Xi3 huan1 To love: Ai4 To live: Zhu4 To be born: Chu1 sheng1 To die: Si2 To sleep/go to bed: Shui4 jiao4 To wake up: Xing3 lai2 To cook: Zuo2 (fan4) To read: Kan4 (shu1) To practice: Lian4 xi3 To make/do: Zuo3 To look at: Kan4 To see: Kan4 dao4 To look for: Zhao3 To walk: Zou3 (lu4) To run: Pao3 (bu4) To go to work: Shang4 ban4 To finish work: Xia4 ban4 To rest: Xiu2 xi3 To play: Wan2 To sing: Chang4 ge1 To smile: Wei1 xiao4 To laugh: Da4 xiao1 To hug: Bao4 To cry: Ai1 hao4; ku1; bei4 qi4 To dance: Tiao4 wu3 To swim: You2 yong3 To take pictures: Zhao4 xiang4 To go shopping: (Qu4) guang4 jie1; gou4 wu4; mai3 dong1 xi1 To go to the bathroom: Shang4 ce4 suo3 To take a shower: Xi3 zao3 To wash hands/face: Xi3 lian2/shou3 To ride (a bike, etc.): Qi2 To ride (a car–no movement): Zuo4 To visit (someone): Bai4 fang3 To visit (something): Can1 guan1 To leave: Zou3 To wait: Deng3 (dai4) To stay (there): Liu2 zai4 (zhe1 li3) To stay home: Dai4 zia4 jia1 li3 To stand up: Zhan4 qi3 lai2 To sit down: Zuo4 xia4 To find: Zhao3 dao4 To pay: Fu4 qian2 To break: Sui4; lan4 To fix: Xiu1 To take: Na2 To listen: Ting1 (shuo1) To lay down (something): Fang4 To lay down (body): Tang3 xia4 To meet (regularly): Peng4 dao4; peng4 tou2 To meet (past or future): Kan4 jian4 To show/indicate: Zhan3 shi3 To mistakenly think: Yi3 wei2 To try: Shi4 yi1 shi4 To taste/experience: Chang2 hang2; chang2 yi1 chang2 To guess: Cai1 yi1 cai1 To translate: Fan1 yi4 To hate: Hen4 To put on/wear: Chuan1; dai4 To change clothes: Huan2 yi4 fu2
When: Shen2 me shi2 hou4 How long: Duo1 jiu2 Early: Zao4 Late: Wan2 Soon: Hen3 kuai4 Not soon: Hen3 man4 Always: Zong3 shi4 Never: Cong2 lai2 (mei2 you3) Again: Zai4 Often/usually: Jing1 chang2 Sometimes: You3 shi2 hou4 Still more (time): Hai2 (you3) Daytime: Wan3 shang4 Nighttime: Wan3 shang4 Day: Tian1 Morning: Zao3 shang4 Afternoon: Xia4 wu3 Time: Shi2 jian1 Hour: Xiao3 shi2; zhong1 tou2 Minute: Fen1 zhong1 Second: Miao3 zhong1 This week: Zhe4 zhou1 Next week: Xia4 zhou1 Last week: Shang4 zhou1 Before/earlier: Yi3 qian2; zai4 shi1 qian2 After/later: Yi3 hou4; hou4 lai2; dai1 hui3 At the same time: Tong2 shi2 First: Di1 yi1 Second: Di1 er4 One time: Yi1 ci4 The first time: Di1 yi1 ci4 Midnight: Ban4 ye4 Long (time): Jiu2; chang2 shi2 jian1 A while: Yi2 xia4 Future: Wei4 lai2 Past: Ever: Guo1; ceng2 jing2
Size- and Amount-Related:
How much/how many: Duo1 shao1 More: Bi3 (jiao4) duo1 de; Less: Bi3 (jiao4) shao3 de A little: Yi1 dian3 A little more: Duo1 yi1 dian3 Most: Zui4 Some: Yi1 xie3 de Only: Zhi2 you3 Still more (amount): Hai2 you3 Almost: Cha4 bu4 duo1 Not enough: Bu2 gou4 Not quite: Bu2 tai4 Too (much): Tai4 Size: Da4 xiao3 Short (people): Ai3 Short (stuff): Duan3 Tall (people): Gao1 Long (things): chang2 Wide: Kuan1 kuo4 de Deep: Shen1 de Empty: Kong1 dong4 Amount: Deng3 yu2 Enough: Gou3 le None: Mei2 you3 yi1 ge Both: Liang3 Both/all: Dou1; quan2 bu2 de Another one: Zai4 yi1 ge Equal: Deng3 (yu1) How many?: Ji3 ge Another: Bie2 de One or two: Yi1 liang2 ge Either one: Bu2 lun4 . . . dou1 (hao1) Only: Jiu4 Pound: Bang4 Kilo: Gong1 jin1 1/2 kilo: Jin1 Still more: Hai2 you3 Others: Qi2 ta1 de Every: Mei3 yi1; mei3 ge Each: Mei3 yi1 ge The whole (one): Zheng3 ge4 The whole (time): Suo3 you3 (shi2 jian1) Everything: Yi1 qie4 dou1; shen2 me dou1; suo3 you3 shi4 wu4 Something: Xie1 shi4 Nothing: Mei2 you3 dong1 xi1; mei1 you3 shi4 Everybody: Mei2 ge ren2; ren2 ren2 Anything: Wu2 lun2 shen2 me Somebody: Yi1 ge ren2 Nobody: Mei2 you3 ren2 Anybody: Ren4 he2 ren2; shen2 me ren2 Everywhere: Mei3 ge di4 fang1; dao4 qu4 dou1 Somewhere: Yi1 ge di4 fang1 Nowhere: Mei2 you3 di4 fang1 Anywhere: Ren4 he2 di4 fang1
A direction: Fang1 xiang4 A location: Fang1 wei4 Here: Zher4 There: Nar4 High: Gao1 Low: Di1 Beside: Zai . . . pang2 bian1/lin2 jin4 Between: Zai4 . . . zhi1 jian1/zhong1 jian1 Ahead: Zai . . . qian2 fang1/qian2 mian4 Over/above/on: Zai4 . . . shang4 mian4; gao1 yu2 In: Zai4 . . . li3 bian1 Under: Zai4 . . . xia4 mina4 The top: Zui4 shang4 mian4; zui4 shang4 bian4 The bottom: Di3 bu1; zui4 di3 Side/limit: Bian1 Behind: Zai . . . hou4 mian4 Both sides: Liang3 bian1 This side: Zhe4 bian1 That side: Na4 bian1 Central: Zhong1 yang1 de Inner: Li3 bian1 de Outer: Wai4 bian1 de Right: You3 Left: Zuo3 Center: Zhong1 jian1 Close/near: Jin4 Far away: (Yao2) yuan2 To travel forwards: Ziang4 qian2 zou3 To travel backwards: Ziang4 hou4 zou3 On the corner: Zai4 jiao3 luo4 One block: Yi1 kuai4 zhuan1 To turn right: Xiang4 you4 zhuan3 To turn left: Xiang4 zuo3 zhuan3 To go straight: Zhi2 zou3 North: Bei1 South: Nan2 East: Dong1 fang1 West: Xi1 fang1 Easterner: Dong1 fang1 ren2 Westerner: Xi1 fang1 ren2
Other Small Words:
This: Zhe4 ge That: Na4 ge But/nevertheless: Ke3 shi4; dan4 shi4 If: Ru2 guo3; yao4 shi4 Which: Na3 yi1 ge Although/even though: Sui1 ran2 Therefore: Suo3 yi3 Will: Hui4; jiang1 (yao4) Should: Ying1 gai1 Because: Yin1 wei4 Anyway/regardless: Qi2 shi2; bu4 guan3 Also: Ye3; you4 Probably: Huo4 xu3; ke3 neng2 In addition: Ling4 wai4; hai2 you3; chu1 ci3 gi4 wai4 Instead of: Er4 bu2 shi2 Not so: Bu4 ran2 To: Qu4 (location); gei1; zi1 (time) From: Cong2; lai2 zi Of: Shu3 yu2 For: Wei4 (Word at end of a question): Ma (Word at end of a completed statement): Le
Here’s another installment in my happiness book summaries: The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor. I like its overview of the history of positive psychology and it’s thorough treatment of the topic. Also, it’s fun to read, and that makes me happy, too.
In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, announced that it was finally time to shift the traditional approach to psychology and start to focus more on the positive side of the curve. That we needed to study what works, not just what is broken. Thus, “positive psychology” was born.
In 2006, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar asked if I would serve as his head teaching fellow to help design and teach a course called Positive Psychology. Tal was not yet internationally well-known; his best-selling book Happier wouldn’t be published until the following spring. Under the circumstances, we thought we’d be lucky to lure in a hundred undergraduates brave enough to risk a hit on their transcripts by foregoing a credit in, say, advanced economic theory for one in happiness. Over the next two semesters, nearly 1,200 Harvard students enrolled in the class—that’s one in every six students at one of the most hard-driving universities in the world. We quickly began to realize that these students were there because they were hungry. They were starving to be happier, not sometime in the future, but in the present. And they were there because despite all the advantages they enjoyed, they still felt unfulfilled.
Based on my study of Harvard undergraduates, the average number of romantic relationships over four years is less than one. The average number of sexual partners, if you’re curious, is 0.5 per student. (I have no idea what 0.5 sexual partners means, but it sounds like the scientific equivalent of second base.) In my survey, I found that among these brilliant Harvard students, 24 percent are unaware if they are currently involved in any romantic relationship.
We become more successful when we are happier and more positive. For example, doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.
So how do the scientists define happiness? Essentially, as the experience of positive emotions—pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future. Martin Seligman, the pioneer in positive psychology, has broken it down into three, measurable components: pleasure, engagement, and meaning.
One of the most famous longitudinal studies on happiness comes from an unlikely place: the old diaries of Catholic nuns.10 These 180 nuns from the School Sisters of Notre Dame, all born before 1917, were asked to write down their thoughts in autobiographical journal entries. More than five decades later, a clever group of researchers decided to code the entries for positive emotional content. Could their level of positivity as 20-year-olds predict how the rest of their lives turned out? In fact, yes. The nuns whose journal entries had more overtly joyful content lived nearly ten years longer than the nuns whose entries were more negative or neutral. By age 85, 90 percent of the happiest quartile of nuns were still alive, compared to only 34 percent of the least happy quartile.
Research shows that unhappy employees take more sick days, staying home an average of 1.25 more days per month, or 15 extra sick days a year.
In one study I’m glad I never volunteered to take part in, researchers gave subjects a survey designed to measure levels of happiness—then injected them with a strain of the cold virus. A week later, the individuals who were happier before the start of the study had fought off the virus much better than the less happy individuals. They didn’t just feel better, either; they actually had fewer objective symptoms of illness as measured by doctors—less sneezing, coughing, inflammation, and congestion.
Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels. They help us organize new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and retrieve it faster later on. And they enable us to make and sustain more neural connections, which allows us to think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things.
Meditate. Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy. But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend years in sequestered, celibate silence to experience a boost. Take just five minutes each day to watch your breath go in and out.
Find Something to Look Forward To. One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.
Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness. A long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism—giving to friends and strangers alike—decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.29 Sonja Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher and author of The How of Happiness, has found that individuals told to complete five acts of kindness over the course of a day report feeling much happier than control groups and that the feeling lasts for many subsequent days, far after the exercise is over.
Infuse Positivity Into Your Surroundings.
Exercise. You have probably heard that exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins, but that’s not its only benefit. Physical activity can boost mood and enhance our work performance in a number of other ways as well, by improving motivation and feelings of mastery, reducing stress and anxiety, and helping us get into flow—that “locked in” feeling of total engagement that we usually get when we’re at our most productive.
Spend Money (but Not on Stuff). Contrary to the popular saying, money can buy happiness, but only if used to do things as opposed to simply have things. In his book Luxury Fever, Robert Frank explains that while the positive feelings we get from material objects are frustratingly fleeting, spending money on experiences, especially ones with other people, produces positive emotions that are both more meaningful and more lasting.34 For instance, when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases
Coors Brewing Company, for example, reported a $6.15 return in profitability for every $1 spent on its corporate fitness program. Toyota saw an instant jump in productivity at its North American Parts Center when it instituted a strength-based training for employees.
In fact, when recognition is specific and deliberately delivered, it is even more motivating than money. Recognition can be given in traditional ways—a complimentary e-mail, or a pat on the back for a job well done. But you can also get creative with it. One of my favorite examples is the one business consultant Alexander Kjerulf cites about a Danish car company that instituted “The Order of the Elephant.” The elephant is a two-foot-tall stuffed animal that any employee can give to another as a reward for doing something exemplary. The benefits come not just in the delivery and reception of well-earned praise, but afterward as well. As Kjerulf explains, “other employees stopping by immediately notice the elephant and go, ‘Hey, you got the elephant. What’d you do?’, which of course means that the good stories and best practices get told and re-told many times.”
Chip Conley, CEO of a wildly successful chain of boutique hotels, makes time at the end of his executive meetings to allow one person to talk for one minute about someone in the company who deserves recognition . . . Everyone else gets a mood boost as well—they get to hear about the good work being done at their company, and then they spend the next few days thinking about the good work of other employees they’d like to recommend during the next meeting.
Based on Losada’s extensive mathematical modeling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful.
In 1979, Langer designed a week-long experiment on a group of 75-year-old men.1 The men knew little about the nature of the experiment except that they would be gone for a week at a retreat center, and they could bring along no pictures, newspapers, magazines, or books dated later than 1959. When they arrived, the men were gathered into a room and told that for the next week they were to pretend as though it was the year 1959–a time when these 75-year-old men were merely 55 years young . . . After the retreat, most of the men had improved in every category; they were significantly more flexible, had better posture, and even much-improved hand strength. Their average eyesight even improved by almost 10 percent, as did their performance on tests of memory. In over half the men, intelligence, long thought to be fixed from adolescence, moved up as well. Even their physical appearance changed; random people who didn’t know anything about the experiment were shown pictures of the men both before and after the experiment, and asked to guess their age. Based on these objective ratings, the men looked, on average, three years younger than when they arrived.
In one of my favorite all-time experiments, Japanese researchers blindfolded a group of students and told them their right arms were being rubbed with a poison ivy plant.3 Afterward, all 13 of the students’ arms reacted with the classic symptoms of poison ivy: itching, boils, and redness. Not surprising … until you find out that the plant used for the study wasn’t poison ivy at all, just a harmless shrub. The students’ beliefs were actually strong enough to create the biological effects of poison ivy, even though no such plant had touched them. Then, on the students’ other arm, the researchers rubbed actual poison ivy, but told them it was a harmless plant. Even though all 13 students were highly allergic, only 2 of them broke out into the poison ivy rash!
One study of 112 entry-level accountants found that those who believed they could accomplish what they set out to do were the ones who ten months later scored the best job performance ratings from their supervisors.
Now fast-forward to the twentieth century, to one of the most well-known psychology experiments ever performed. A team of researchers led by Robert Rosenthal went into an elementary school and administered intelligence tests to the students. The researchers then told the teachers in each of the classrooms which students—say, Sam, Sally, and Sarah—the data had identified as academic superstars, the ones with the greatest potential for growth. [However,] when Sam, Sally, and Sarah had been tested at the beginning of the experiment, they were found to be absolutely, wonderfully ordinary. The researchers had randomly picked their names and then lied to the teachers about their ability. But after the experiment, they had in fact turned into academic superstars.
When you write down a list of “three good things” that happened that day, your brain will be forced to scan the last 24 hours for potential positives—things that brought small or large laughs, feelings of accomplishment at work, a strengthened connection with family, a glimmer of hope for the future.
It’s for this reason that, however counterintuitive it may seem, psychologists actually recommend that we fail early and often. In his book The Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Shahar writes that “we can only learn to deal
You’ve probably heard the oft-told story of the two shoe salesmen who were sent to Africa in the early 1900s to assess opportunities. They wired separate telegrams back to their boss. One read: “Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.” The other read: “Glorious opportunity! They don’t have any shoes yet.”
Imagine for a moment that you walk into a bank. There are 50 other people in the bank. A robber walks in and fires his weapon once. You are shot in the right arm. Now if you were honestly describing this event to your friends and coworkers the next day, do you describe it as lucky or unlucky?
Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.
To date, I’ve discussed Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End at least three separate times at at least three separate parties. Author and doctor Atul Gawande is everyone’s favorite author-doctor right now, and for good reason: he takes on a subject that no one likes to discuss but that everyone will one day face, offering valuable and practical advice. Two thumbs and two big toes up. (Questionably tasteful imagery intended.)
The book discusses the best way to broach the topic of hospice, life expectancy and other end-of-life issues. It also discusses how to make old age meaningful, even if that means less medical intervention rather than more. Gawande’s description of the difficulty of treating senior citizens, with their multiplicity of small and large concerns, is also very admirably done.
And it happens to us: eventually, one too many joints are damaged, one too many arteries calcify. There are no more backups. We wear down until we can’t wear down anymore. It happens in a bewildering array of ways . . .
Making lives meaningful in old age is new. It therefore requires more imagination and invention than making them merely safe does. The routine solutions haven’t yet become well defined.
In other words, people who had substantive discussions with their doctor about their end-of-life preferences were far more likely to die at peace and in control of their situation and to spare their family anguish.
“So that’s what stuff is.” That’s an important thought to have cross your mind at least a few times throughout your life. Don’t underestimate young children’s ability to grasp many basic chemistry concepts, either; the earlier you start, the less intimidated they’ll be by one of the most straightforward school subjects there is: science.
Basic Chemistry Knowledge Checklist
Chemistry: The science of what stuff is made ofChemical: Any kind of matter with constant properties that can’t be broken into its component elements without breaking its chemical bondsAtom: Tiny part of matter. It has a nucleus with protons and neutrons inside it and electrons moving around it. These parts are held together by electrical charges. Positive parts (protons) attract negative parts (electrons) and neutrons have no charge. Most of each atom, though, is empty space. Quarks are what make up protons and neutrons. A sheet of paper is probably one million atoms thick.
Matter: All stuff, visible and invisible
Parts of an atom (subatomic particles): Protons, neutrons and electrons
Three states of matter: Solid, liquid and gas. You can’t compress liquids or solids, but you can compress a gas. (You can flatten a solid, but the mass remains the same). This is because there is space between the particles in gas, and because there’s no bonding/attraction between the particles in gases. Note, though, that there are limits as to how much you can compress a gas. Do it enough and you turn it into a liquid (like liquid nitrogen).
Solid: State of matter with definite shape and volume
Liquid: State of matter with definite volume, varying shape
Gas: State of matter with no definite shape or volume
Molecule: Group of atoms that stick (bond) together and aren’t easily broken (until there is a chemical change). Fundamental particles. When molecules are messed with, the matter they make up might change state.
Element: A substance that contains only one kind of atom. (If the atoms are bonded in a different way, though, the element is an isotope.)
Particle: A bit of something that is still the original thing and not something else
Compound: A material that contains two or more elements that are chemically bonded together. The atoms of the elements can’t be separated by physical means and the end product has different properties from the original elements. Example: Cake.
Periodic Table of the Elements: A visual arrangement of the elements organized by their atomic number.
Atomic number: The number of protons (and also the number of electrons) in the atom, which indicates its substance
Mass number: The total number of protons and neutrons
Mixture: Ingredients mixed together but not chemically bonded. Can be separated again. Example: Air. Another example: The ingredients in a cake that are mixed together before being heated and formed into a cake.
Chemical bonding: The joining of atoms to create molecules. Atoms share electrons to form molecules. They do this to fill their outer shell and thus become more stable.
Chemical reaction: When the atoms in substance(s) rearrange to form new substances. Example: Baking a cake. Heat and electricity are often used to break the bonds.
Isotope: A different form of the same atom, with different number of neutrons. It has different physical properties but chemically it is the same.
Chemical symbol: The letters that represent the atoms of a particular element
Chemical formula: CO2, H2O, etc.
Ion: An unstable atom or molecule whose net charge is either less than or greater than zero
Enzymes: Catalysts that speed up chemical reactions in living things
Covalent bond: A chemical bond formed when atoms share electrons. Each atom still has its proper total number, but some of its electrons are attracted to the other atoms and stick there. Most non-metal elements are formed with covalent bonds.
Double bond: A chemical bond formed when atoms share two electrons each with each other
Ionic bond: A chemical bond formed when an atom gains or loses electrons
Metallic bond: A chemical bond between metals where free electrons travel between them
Electrolysis: Separating individual elements in a compound by passing an electric current through it when it is molten or in a solution
Salt: Any metal and non-metal bonded together. Salts have a crystal structure. There are many different kinds, not just table salt.
Organic compounds: Compounds that include carbon. All living things contain organic compounds, and many can be made artificially. They are used to create fabrics, medicines, plastics, paints, cosmetics and more.
Alcohol: Organic compounds that contain carbon, oxygen and hydrogen
Fermentation: A chemical reaction that produces alcoholic drinks. It is caused by fungi, which produce enzymes.
Semiconductor: A semi-metal element
Main metals (all those used in manufacturing): aluminum, brass, bronze, calcium, chromium, copper, cupronickel, gold, iron, lead, magnesium, mercury, platinum, plutonium, potassium, silver, sodium
Main alloys: Solder, steel, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, zinc
Crude oil: The raw material from which fuels like oil, fuel, gas are obtained. It is a fossil fuel that is often found in rock reservoirs under the seabed.
Plastic: An easily-molded synthetic polymers made from the organic compounds found in crude oil.
Polymer: A substance made of many small molecules joined together to make long chains. Some are synthetic (nylon), while others are natural (hair, rubber, wool, silk, etc.).
Carbon monoxide: A poisonous gas formed when fuels burn in a place with limited air (oxygen), such as an engine.
Oxygen: The element that helps plants and animals release energy from food. In the human body it is one of the most important things the blood sends the cell. As blood flows over body cells, oxygen and other nutrients are “let in” and waste products are deposited into the blood. It is the third most abundant element in the universe.
Hydrogen: An element that can form compounds with most other elements. Water is formed when hydrogen is burned in air. It is the most abundant element in the universe. (Helium is the second.)Carbon: The element that occurs in all known organic life. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe and is found in more compounds than any other element.
Read the rest of this series at Knowledge Checklists: Filling My Educational Gaps, One Subject at a Time.And peruse my full recommended reading list atBooks I Want My Kids to Read Someday.
None one, it seems, knows about The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression by Andrew Solomon. I mean, psychologists and therapists, do, but the general population, not so much. This is a shame. Solomon’s work is extremely long and a bit detailed at times, but the collection of information he presents is second to none on the subject. (I also appreciated the memoir sections of the book in which he discusses how depression feels to him.)
It is too often the quality of happiness that you feel at every moment its fragility, while depression seems when you are in it to be a state that will never pass.
A recent study has listed two hundred factors that may contribute to high blood pressure. “At a biological level,” says Sameroff, “blood pressure is really pretty simple. If there are two hundred factors influencing it, think how many factors must influence a complex experience such as depression!”
Is depression a derangement, like cancer, or can it be defensive, like nausea? Evolutionists argue that it occurs much too often to be a simple dysfunction. It seems likely that the capacity for depression entails mechanisms that at some stage served a reproductive advantage. Four possibilities can be adduced from this. Each is at least partially true. The first is that depression served a purpose in evolution’s prehuman times that it no longer serves. The second is that the stresses of modern life are incompatible with the brains we have evolved, and that depression is the consequence of our doing what we did not evolve to do. The third is that depression serves a useful function unto itself in human societies, that it’s sometimes a good thing for people to be depressed. The last is that the genes and consequent biological structures that are implicated in depression are also implicated in other, more useful behaviors or feelings—that depression is a secondary result of a useful variant in brain physiology.
It may also be that the very structure of consciousness opens the pathway to depression. Contemporary evolutionists work with the idea of the triune (or three-layer) brain. The innermost part of the brain, the reptilian, which is similar to that found in lower animals, is the seat of instinct. The middle layer, the limbic, which exists in more advanced animals, is the seat of emotion. The top layer, found only in higher mammals such as primates and people, is the cognitive and is involved in reasoning and advanced forms of thought, as well as in language. Most human acts involve all three layers of the brain. Depression, in the view of the prominent evolutionist Paul MacLean, is a distinctly human concern. It is the result of disjunctions of processing at these three levels . . .
In fact, no essential self lies pure as a vein of gold under the chaos of experience and chemistry. The human organism is a sequence of selves that succumb to or choose one another.
You may never want to write a memoir, but if you do, here’s your go-to reference: The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith.
However, I am quite sure that if you tell the truth, you will feel something real. “Feeling something real” is where I prefer to live, trying to palpate the small moments of life, the moments of intuition, the places where we fail and where we change.
What Ernest Hemingway taught us in the last century still gives good weight: What you leave out of the story is perhaps more important than what you put in.
Let’s say your one sentence—your argument (and all books are an argument, no matter how small)—is that life is really hard unless you get a good cat to live with. Great. Here’s how that will break down. By each phrase: Life. Is hard. Really hard. Unless. You get. A good cat. To live with.
When Quiller-Couch penned it, he was making the distinction between style and plain bad writing: “Style, for example, is not—can never be—extraneous Ornament.” Later, he gave us his famous instruction: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.” Elmore Leonard later qualified this for a modern audience: “If I come across anything in my work that smacks of ‘good writing,’ I immediately strike it out.”
Print out your draft and write in the margin what each paragraph does. This is called indexing. “Introduces Louis” is a good index next to paragraph one; “height and weight” might be next to paragraph two (which you now know you’ll kill if that’s all it does). Moving on through the piece, you’ll see if the points of the argument are laid out and if the math adds up to your conclusion. Have you repeated yourself? Have you established the same fact, though phrased it differently?
Pencil in hand, touch each word in every sentence, make hard decisions. Is there a shorter way to say this? A cleaner, more precise way? Each phrase needs to be assessed and judged. Look at that last sentence. You could edit it down to say, “Assess each phrase.” But that sounds dictatorial. Is that the tone you’re after? Then do it. If not, if something slightly more friendly is intended, leave it. You are editing as much for tone as you are for space, excavating down to the uniquely you, keeping in mind that yours is the voice we are listening to, and if that voice changes radically throughout the book, we’ll notice, and we won’t like it.
. . . While I’ve heard a bazillion pitches over the years, the one I keep always in mind when I write and edit is simply “I left.” Perhaps you left a way of thinking, a husband, or a habit. Perhaps you left one house and moved into another, and in doing so upped the ante on anything from your decorating to the drama in your life . . . We are fascinated by how people change and need little more than the moment of intuition to the moment of exit to keep our interest. “I left.” Paste it to your wall and refer to it as you edit.
Malcom Gladwell, y’all. He’s not just another writer. He’s a genius journalist, whose stories keep you on edge and intellectually stimulated at the same time–even his story about ketchup. (Yes, he’s written one, and it was awesome.)
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is about what happens when we make crucial decisions in the tiny span of time between external stimuli and logical thought. It takes you from a doctor’s office to a forest fire to a police shooting, recounting true events in vivid, journalistic detail. You’ll come away from the book understanding your mind a lot better–and respecting its powers of computation.
Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Hyon isn’t just about revision; it’s about writing. It’s a book on writing, with the revision angle. And it’s solid.
The book’s top-notch advice includes:
Know the difference between style and voice. Voice is unique to each author. Style can be captured in phrases or descriptions that apply to many different authors.
When you do a read-aloud of your script, don’t perform it. Read it straight.
Do riff-writing. “Most early drafts are ‘tight’—they are shells of what they need to be, outlines or condensed revisions of the full story.” Riff writing is when you quickly flesh out a portion of an early draft that needs more depth or room. “In twenty years as an independent editor, I ‘have rarely seen a manuscript overwritten . . .” Most are underwritten.
Add conflict to every single page. Even in quiet scenes, show inner conflict. Conflict shouldn’t be too up and down, either—it should rise slowly, evenly.
Avoid “sagging middles.” When conflict flattens out, or starts to go up and down, up and down endlessly without building, “. . . the reader will at some point get tired rather than more deeply worried about the outcome.”
The first chapter should raise lots of questions in the mind of the reader. Hook them good, right away with the main question of the book that’s not answered till the end.
The protagonist needs a backstory wound (emotional), as well as a universal need or personal yearning.
Read Newberry Award winning books. Young adults are a hard audience to capture, and the way these books do it is highly instructive.
Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Hevitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the equally fascinating follow-up to Freakonomics, draws unexpected, unintuitive conclusions about how world economics really works–how it influences our behavior, personal relationships and daily lives. Read it and/or its predecessor for a hint of how complicated the world really is.
Among other topics, the book:
Discusses the economics of prostitution. Says it’s safer and more profitable to go through a pimp. Also says a large percentage of tricks are done for policeman as freebies. Lots of street prostitutes make very, very good money.
Discusses the economics of terrorism or suicide bombing.
Discusses various problems with hospitals, including: recirculating the air spreads disease; there are info gaps or inefficiencies all over; very difficult to objectively measure doctor skill; chemotherapy is “remarkably ineffective.”
Discusses one method for ferreting out terrorists: analyzing their banking habits.
Discusses good behavior that’s due to profit motive and good behavior that’s due to true altruism. Example of a lady stabbed three times and the reporter saying thirty-eight witnesses looked on – but story a total fabrication motivated by notoriety it gave journalist and desire of PD to cover up or bury another story.
Says much easier to raise charity funds with personal stories than with stats.
Discusses Ultimatum and Dictator – games for research studies purporting to measure altruism – and the misleading results.
Discusses how, due to the power of unintended consequences, the best fixes are often the simplest and cheapest. Examples: the polio vaccine; doctors washing hands; encouraging doctors to wash hand by placing a scan of a bacteria-filled hand (one from an actual doctor in that hospital) as a screen saver on the hospital computers. Another example: drilling for under-earth oil when whales started to get overfished; the simple seatbelt. (Authors believe that a kid-fitting seatbelt would be a better solution than carseats, and much cheaper, but now that carseat laws are in effect, they aren’t being made.)
Discusses one man’s solution to prevent hurricanes (large tires that capture hot water and bring up cold water to the surface).
Discusses global warming at length. *Great section.* Says one group of Seattle inventors may have solved it: add liquefied sulfur dioxide to the air. Says CO2 is not the cause of global warming. Very interesting stuff.
In case you didn’t already know, Donald Maass is practically a legend in the book publishing world. In his mature, wise, yet conversational way, he’s written a slew of books on writing and publishing, including How To Be Your Own Literary Agent. I love the emphasis in The Fire In Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Technique To Make Your Novel Great on making your fiction (and nonfiction) snap, crackle and pop. This is one of the most practical and specific books on writing I’ve ever read.
A Brief Outline:
There is a big difference between storytellers–people who hone their craft relentlessly–and status seekers, who publish for money and recognition.
Great novels happen because the author is committed to making every scene, every line, not just technically good, but one that’s infused with the author’s own passion.
Protagonists shouldn’t be just Jane and John Does. They should be people we admire, want to spend time with, like the few friends we have that we would cancel plans to spend time with. Even antiheroes should be admirable in some way.
Similarly, every hero or protagonist needs flaws. Balance the bad and good in every character in the book.
Secondary characters are often one-dimensional, cliché. This is a major missed opportunity. Each should be 3D and memorable!
When editing scenes, look for their turning points and focus the whole scene around them. This will clarify the purpose of each scene. Something or several somethings should change.
The Tornado Effect: This is the big event in the book that affects all of the characters. Have one. Show how it affects them, too; don’t just assume the reader gets it.
Good description attaches emotions to detail. Both are found together.
Characters should have opinions. This makes us want to get to know them.
“The world of story is hyperreality. In a passionately told tale, characters are larger than life, what’s happening matters profoundly . . . and even the words on the page have a Day Go fluorescence.”
“Great books are fast reads because there is tension in every line. Characters are always at odds, even if just mildly, as with conflict between friends. This is the secret to page-turning fiction.”
“Micro-tension is the moment-by-moment tension that keeps the reader in a constant state of suspense over what will happen, not in the story but in the next few seconds.” Knowing whether or not guy gets girls doesn’t us for 300 pages. Knowing who will win this little battle of minds in this scene keeps us there for that scene.
The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist is the transcript of a series of three lectures the late, great Richard Feynman gave in 1963 at the University of Washington on the impact of science on other fields. And these days, it’s a science-for-the-masses classic.
Here are some quotes I like:
“What is science? The word is usually used to mean one of three things or a mixture of them. I do not think we need to be precise – it is not always a good idea to be too precise. Science means, sometimes, a special method of finding things out. Sometimes it means the body of knowledge arising from the things found. It may also mean the new things you can do when you have found something out, or the actual doing of new things.”
“Is science of any value? I think the power to do something is of value. Whether the result is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how it is used, but the power is a value.”
“The work is not done for the sake of an application. It is done for the excitement of what is found … Do you think it is dull? It isn’t.”
Once, the ancients believed that “…the earth was the back of an elephant that stood on a tortoise that swam in a bottomless sea.” What we now know about the earth and the universe is even more awe-inspiring, exciting, interesting.
On the unity of all scientific principles: Faraday’s ‘Chemical History of a Candle.’ “The Point of of Faraday’s lectures was that no matter that you look at, if you look closely enough, you are involved in the entire universe.” A candle involves combustion, chemistry, physics, etc. etc. Faraday’s great scientific contribution: he showed that electricity and chemistry were “two aspects of the same thing – chemical changes with the results of electrical forces.” And yet, in an introduction to F’s book, it talks about the practical application of this knowledge, just as reporters like to do today. This greatly understates the general importance of the principle! “So to say merely that the principles are used in chrome plating is inexcusable.”
Good scientists know and are comfortable with uncertainty. “All scientific knowledge is uncertain … I believe that it is of very great value, and one that extends beyond the sciences. I believe that to solve any problem that has never been solved before, you have to leave the door to the unknown ajar.”
The most credible person is the one that doesn’t have the answer. “… It is in the admission of ignorance and the admission of uncertainty that there is hope for the continuous motion of human beings in some direction that doesn’t get confined, permanently blocked, as it has so many times before in various periods in the history of man.”
“I do believe that there is a conflict between science and religion…” The young scientists learn the importance of doubt. He also learns of the vastness of the universe. “I do not believe that the scientist can have that same certainty of faith that very deeply religious people have.”
However, “…ethical values lie outside the scientific realm.” Not a lot of common ground; science doesn’t judge morality.
“The writers of the constitution knew the value of doesn’t.’ Wanted to be open to change.
Believes we are in an “un-age” because even though science is quickly advancing, our culture is unscientific. We prefer politicians with certain answers. We don’t like people changing their minds. “People are not honest… By honest I don’t mean that you only tell what’s true. But you make clear the entire situation. You make clear all the information that is required for somebody else who is intelligent to make up their mind. “We don’t do this.”
“Incidentally, people ask me, why go to the moon? Because it’s a great adventure in science.”
“We shouldn’t only think of the technological inventions when we consider the progress of man.”
Your Life Is A Book: How To Craft & Publish Your Memoir by Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann is my favorite book on memoir writing. Written by women in the publishing business, it’s heavy on the practicalities, light on the sappy girlie “dig deep inside” stuff.
Favorite quote: “Start anywhere. Because no matter where you start, you’ll end up where you’re meant to be.”
Other main points:
Consider these subjects: gender, race, politics, class, culture, religion, location, food, sex. All can provide a thread for the narrative.
Memoir must include epiphanies that you build up to after which the person’s life is changed.
Read other memoirs.
Ask what is the story you’re telling to yourself about yourself? Write it down in a few pages, then see if that’s your main theme.
Write down your dreams. Reread your old letters.
Your journal is not your memoir.
Writing prompt: What is one scene from your life that explains your whole life?
Each scene has 3 jobs: – To advance the plot, to deepen the characterization, to engage a major theme.
Don’t start with waking up or with the weather. Scenes should be unique.
Bring in a sense of place and time, good settling details. Your settling is another character. Make stories memorable. Don’t be in “no time.” Engage the senses.
Tell what the body is doing, what place and year or era it is.
Write about food! When in doubt, it’s a go-to. Describing meal details is very emotionally provocative and symbolic. Also very relatable.
Write about a journey.
If your book is channeled, channel a good editor, too.
I know you’re not going to take all my many book recommendations. But please. Please, take this one. The Art of Learning: A Journey in The Pursuit of Excellence by Josh Waitzkin recounts the author’s path to becoming an eight-time national chess champion (and the subject of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer), then his journey to several world Tai Chi championships. So you might say he had a pretty full life.
In telling his story, Waitzkin gives in-depth theories about the learning process, drawing parallels between two major areas of knowledge. His main theme is how to become not just good at something, but a truly excellent.
Waitzkin’s lessons in learning are many, and include:
Teachers do best not to lecture, but instead to allow for mistakes, then gently question the student about them. Waitzkin’s first teacher, Bruce, didn’t speak much. They just played: “Whenever I made a fundamental error, he would mention the principle I had violated. If I refused to judge, he’d proceed to take advantage of the error until my position fell apart.
Another lesson: teachers must not squelch the natural style of the student, or their love of the game. “Many teachers have no feel for this balance and try to force their students into cookie-cutter molds. I have run into quite a few ego maniacal instructors like this over the years and have come to believe that their method is profoundly destructive for students in the long run… Teachers should be a guide, not an authority.
“Much of the time in our lessons was spent in silence, with us both thinking. Bruce did not want to feed me information, but to help my mind carve itself into maturity.”
Another lesson: Some people are “entity” learning theorists and some are “incremental” theorists. (Terms of Dr. Carol Dweck.) Some kids are taught that their intelligence is fixed, an entity, part of who they are, while others believe deep down that skill is an incrementally learned thing. The latter do much better in every way, even stuff they start out poor at. Parents, teachers must resituate praise and commentary to reinforce this idea. Never say “you’re good at this,” only “you’ve learned this well,” etc. The child labeled “smart” at something won’t want to face a challenge, list he fail to live up to expectations.
Another lesson: Performing in the “soft zone” is better than in the “hard zone.” Soft zone… means interruptions can come, and you can flex with them, allow them, then get back into your flow thought. Hard zone means you’re tense, rigid and if anything interrupts you, you try to fight against it. Soft zone is when outwardly you look serene, though inside you’re fully focused.
Gives parable of man who wants to walk across the earth, though it’s covered in thorns. The “Hard Zone” fighter will try to cover all the earth with pavement. The “Soft Zone” performer makes sandals.
Another lesson: we must learn “numbers to leave numbers” and “form to leave form.” This means that the great performer first fully digests, assimilates all relevant knowledge of his trade, so that it’s later just a part of him – on automatic. His mind or subconscious does that part of the work for him, with no consciousness of it at all. He can even break the rules well.
The excellent performer notes the feeling he has when he does something right, even when he’s not sure exactly why it was so right – then seeks to replicate that feeling. In sports, this is when you seek a certain feeling while striking the ball. Not thinking about the technique at all. In chess, it’s when you get a feeling about a good move you make, then seek to replicate it later.
Another lesson: watch for times when your life outside your trade affects your performance. Example: at times when Josh was struggling with change and transition, he made mistakes on the board during times of transition – too slow to adapt to them. (In this way, sport or work can be like psycho analysis.)
Another lesson: “beginner’s mind.” Beginners and children aren’t afraid to fail. Experts think of every failure as a crisis, which greatly impedes improvement. “A key component of high-level learning is cultivating a resilient awareness that is the older, conscious embodiment of a child’s playful obliviousness.”
This often results in an “investment in loss” – times when you’re not performing optimally because you’re working on honing a new skill.
Also talks a lot about The Art of Tai Chi and the strength that you have when you don’t the opponent, but instead use their force against them.
Another lesson: “Making smaller circles.” When a writing student, for example, is blocked after being told to write about his hometown, the teacher tells her to write about a single brick of a single building. In order to become exceptional, we must break down the art to its very smallest components, then practice and practice those until every single nuance is deeply felt and understood. Example from Tai Chi: perfecting the art of the single, straight punch to such a degree that the arm barely has to move in order to deliver a powerful blow.
Another lesson: using adversity. Great performers see what they can learn from the worst circumstances. Example: perfecting left-dominant fighting when right hand is broken.
Another lesson: Not neglecting the internal or abstract or intuitive angles of the skill; undulating between these and the external or concrete or technical skills. Example: Nil players who use the off-season to review tapes.
Another lesson: Learn how to control two of his hands with one of yours (metaphorically). “Whether speaking of a corporate negotiation, a legal battle, or even war itself, if the opponent is temporarily tied down qualitatively or energetically more than you are expending to tie it down, you have a large advantage.”
Another lesson: slowing down time. This is what you do when you are so masterful at your skill that no matter how fast you are performing or how much information is coming at you at once, you “see” it all. The way you get to this point is by “chunking” – learning whole tactics or sections of knowledge so well that they are now intuitive, and don’t need to be broken down in your mind into smaller parts – it comes to you all at once – and “carving neural pathways” – practicing something so many times that it becomes automatic. The very first time you do a new skill, you’re chopping down trees in your mind with a machete… but every time thereafter, the path is more clear, easier and faster to travel.
Another way you can slow down time: to increase your mental perception through shock or heightened emotion. When Josh broke his hand during a fight, his awareness increased and time slowed down. The trick is to learn how to create this heightened awareness when you aren’t experiencing anything unique – to do it at will.
Another lesson: the importance of presence. “Everyone at a high level has a huge amount of chess understanding, and much of what separates the great from the very good is deep presence, relaxation of the conscious mind, which allows the unconscious to flow unhindered.”
The Grandmaster chess player looks at (consciously, focuses on) less than the master, but sees more.
Also, sometimes Grandmasters and expert fush hands competitors are able to almost read the minds of their competitors – can see the slightest move they make. The principle is stated in the words of a 19th century sage Wa Yu-hsiary. “At the opponent’s slightest move, I move first.”
Another lesson: The winner is the one that controls the tone of the game. Examples: Josh’s chess style is erratic; he thrives in the chaos. Others prefer a more methodical game. When he controls the time, he has a huge advantage.
Another lesson: It’s a hugely important to take breaks from your game at times. Josh took 2 weeks at sea with his family every summer, which felt like a huge sacrifice at the time. He also learned to take short mental breaks during chess matches – to stop studying the board for a few minutes and run up a few flights of stairs – and to tighten his recovery time between Tai Chi rounds to one minute.
Another lesson: If you want more serenity during your trade of choice, find something in your life that gives you a feeling of flow, peace – then either do that before you go to work or practice… or if that’s not possible, set up a short routine that you can do before your relaxation activity. Program yourself to enter flow during this “pre-flow” routine, then after it’s ingrained, you can switch to doing the “pre-flow” activities before you go to work, and it will create the flow, since your brain associates it with your flow activity. This is called “building your trigger.”
Another lesson: “Convert your passions into fuel…” make even negative emotions work for you, not against you. Example: Basketball star Reggie Miller used Spike Lee’s heckling to fire him up before a game.
Once you know what good feels like, you can zero in on it, search it out regardless of the pursuit.”
Another principle: Seek out competitors who are better than you are, or who work differently.
Another principle: learn from moments of great insight, leaps of logic, great inspiration and creativity. Don’t assume you just happened upon something inspired. Review it, break it down, learn why and how it worked. After you do this, you will have gained ground, permanently raising your level. From there, another new height comes within reach. “In that moment, it is as if you are seeing something that is suspended in the sky just above the top of your pyramid. There is a connection between that discovery and what you know – or else you wouldn’t have discovered it – and you can find that connection of you try.”
Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It is pretty darn controversial. Still, most of what the great Gary Taubes says is true. Though I’m unsure where I stand on the whole vegetarian versus low-carb/Paleo debate, I feel quite certain that blood sugar spikes are a bad thing. Read the book closely and draw your own conclusions.
Taubes argues that excess calories aren’t what make us gain weight, and that low-fat diets definitely don’t help us lose it. In short: the calorie theory is bunk—garbage science.
Taubes cites an early ‘90s collection of National Institutes of Health studies that showed that even while dieting, people often gain weight and lose muscle. Exercise doesn’t work either; it simply makes us want to eat more.
Our bodies, not our calorie intake, regulate our weight. Otherwise the couple of extra calories per day that lead to a yearly weight gain would almost guarantee we were all overweight.
The energy we spend and consume are dependent variables; one affects the other.
Of course, the type of food also matters. Carbs release much more insulin than protein or fat, and insulin is the fat-storing hormone.
Meat was the preferred calorie source in prehistoric times.
On a comprehensive analysis of 229 hunter-gatherer populations from 2000: “When averaged all together, these hunter-gatherer populations consumed about two-thirds of their total calories from animal foods and one-third from plants.”
The Diet Cure: The 8-Step Program to Rebalance Your Body Chemistry and End Food Cravings, Weight Gain, and Mood Swings–Naturallyby Julia Ross understands that extra body weight is a complex, difficult problem. It’s compassionate, but it’s super scientific, too, with some of the best weight loss advice I’ve read.
Eight major imbalances can cause overeating: (1) malnutrition due to low-calorie dieting; (2) unstable blood sugar; (3) low thyroid function; (4) food addiction and allergic reactions; (5) hormonal problems (imbalances with estrogen/progesterone/testosterone); (6) Candida; (7) deficiency of healthy fatty acids; (8) depleted brain chemistry / problems with mood and appetite regulators / low endorphins, serotonin (due to general stress, use of drug-like foods that inhibit production, and lack of amino acid from protein).
Gherlin spikes are another cause of undue hunger. They “…show up as a quick rise in hunger within an hour after eating. Won’t trouble you when you’re diet but can happen when you eat more oil, fat. “Studies with animals show that a high meal can cause a rise in Ghrelin, the body chemical that signals hunger.” But too much oil can cause hunger, too. (Ross calls this being “fat hungry,” but notes that the right amount of fat is different for everyone.)
Solutions to the above problems: amino acid supplements (the 4 key neurotransmitters are made of a.a.s), GABA, L-Tryptophan, other supplements; stabilizing blood sugar; getting more nutrition and calorie from food; avoiding sugar, flour and other food you crave excessively; ensuring you have enough EFAs, Omega-3’s and Omega 6’s; getting rid of Candida; getting thyroid thoroughly checked and treated; treating hormonal imbalances.
The book cites a great deal of research on low-carb dieting. “Keep in mind that humans were free of degenerative diseases until the twentieth century. And almost no people were vegetarian.” (294)
It also cites a Harvard school of Public Health study confirming that there is “. . . no association between low-carb diets and increased cardiovascular risk, even when these diets were
For stress, use: GABA, 100-500mg.
For depression, lack of energy, use: L-tyrosine, 500-1500mg.
For cravings, use: L-glutamine, 500-1500mg 2-3x/day (for brain fuel).
For being overly emotional, use: DL-phenylalanine (DLPA), 500-1500mg 2x/day (for the endorphins).
For anxiety, depression, PMS, insomnia, use: 5-HTP, 50-150mg 2x/day (for serotonin) or L-tryptophan, 50-1500mg 2x/day, plus fish oil and chromium.
DLPA/DPA and the most pure L-tryptophan are available only on the Web.
If you’ve never been pregnant and therefore need a different excuse for any extra pounds you might gain along the way, this book delivers. Also, a lot of what it says about individual differences in appetite control hormones is probably true.
The basic idea of How to Make Almost Any Diet Work: Repair Your Disordered Appetite and Finally Lose Weightby Anne Katherine is that hormones cause overeating and overweight . . . and that fortunately, there are a few supplements and simple eating habits that can help.
“Each cause of appetite disorder is related to an imbalance of the brain chemicals that control eating. One of the most potent of these is also the simplest to fix: excessive neuropeptide Y (NPY).”
“NPY is a chain of 36 amino acids. When it is released in the hypothalamus it makes a person eat—a lot . . . also tells the body to stop burning calories.” Too much NPY, and you’ll gain weight. You increase your stores of NPY when you skip meals, but it doesn’t “kick in” (isn’t released) until you actually start eating. (It assumes there was no food around until then.)
“If someone injected you with NPY, you couldn’t stop yourself from eating.”
“To combat this problem: never skip a meal. This also has the effect of increasing your levels of peptide YY (PYY), which counteracts NPY. PYY is also a chain of 36 amino acids, but it promotes satiety, acting as a “stop eating” sign.
“. . . When you started eating after a fast, your body held back on the PYY so that you would consume extra food.”
Normally, “Fifteen minutes after you begin eating, the PYY in your bloodstream should rise, reaching a plateau about 75 minutes later. At this point, you wouldn’t eat if somebody paid you to.”
“Your PYY levels remain high until long after you eat. This is why you aren’t hungry the morning after a large meal. However, if you skip breakfast, you won’t get your daytime PYY.
Solution: never skip breakfast. “Once your body receive its regular dose of PYY, your food intake could naturally be reduced by 33 percent every day, with no further effort on your part.”
Protein is the raw material for repair. Frequent feedings of protein give your brain a steady supply of the materials it needs to repair itself. The author recommends 50 percent complex carb, 50 percent protein snacks.
On “the addictive cycle:” In a primitive part of the brain called the VTA, neurons manufacture “the neurotransmitter dopamine, and then deliver it to the nucleus accumbens . . .” which is “your euphoria center.” Although different addictive substances act on various other parts of the brain, all addiction involves the VTA and dopamine.
“Almost every substance abused by humans has been shown to increase dopamine . . .”
Food acts on the VTA by promoting an endorphin release.
“An unexpected finding was that obese women were more anhedonic than overweight woman. Anhedonic means, literally, ‘no pleasure’ – that is, having a threshold resistant to the experience of pleasure.”
On sugar addiction: May also be exacerbated by opioid dependence, which can occur due to “intermittent, excessive sugar intake . . . Eating an excess of sugar on a regular basis actually changes the way genes express themselves in the brain, causing physical alteration. The brains pleasure receptors in the nucleus accumbens increase in a profile similar to morphine dependence.”
Stress and trauma also contributes by depleting our stores of “relief and effort neurotransmitters” (serotonin and norepinephrine).
Q: “If serotonin increases when eating sugar, why doesn’t satiety increase, too, since serotonin usually increases satiety?
A: “If you have sufficient supplies of tryptophan, serotonin will be readily released after eating starch, decreasing your appetite. Here’s the catch: As dopamine in the nucleus accumbens rises, serotonin simultaneously declines.” (137) Dopamine trumps serotonin. “Addiction trumps satiety.”
It’s hard to do justice to Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini in a few words, except to say that is very likely the best book on sales ever written.
Cialdini identifies the six major tools of influence (i.e. sales):
On reciprocation: Giving gifts—even very small ones—creates a major sense of obligation in the receiver to reciprocate. Often, they will jump at the chance to get rid of that perceived obligation. The takeaway for salespeople: Give small “free gifts” before making the big sale. Or, ask for something big first, then retreat to something smaller when they say no, so they feel they owe you the sale.
On consistency: People have, and want to have, a strong sense of personal identity. If a potential buyer is “primed” beforehand to identify with your product, they’re much more likely to go all the way with it. The takeaway for salespeople: Get potential buyers to identify with your product in some (seemingly voluntary) way, such as agreeing to write a letter, sign a petition, display a small sticker or logo, pass along an email, etc. This also creates a perceived commitment, which they are loathe to go back on later. Or, get someone to commit to a product by making a lowball offer, then raise it later.
On social proof: People copy each other. They just can’t help it. No one can do all the research themselves; they rely on others to lead the way. The takeaway for salespeople: Use the cliché pitches: “fastest-growing,” “most popular,” customer testimonials, etc.
On liking: Liking is also a super effective way to encourage the desire to buy. The takeaway for salespeople: Think about how can you get people to like or root for your brand—to be on your side, identify with your cause, want to spread the word.
The book also discusses the principle of contrast, saying that when you first try to sell a higher priced item, or you artificially raise the price to begin with, when you take it down a notch it feels like a great deal.
It’s hard for me to say how much meat we should be eating as a society. But the rest of the Paleo rules, I’m down with.
Neanderthin: Eat Like a Cave Man to Achieve a Lean, Strong, Healthy Body by Ray Audette makes a very convincing, research-based argument that at least some meat is good for us. It advocates paleo-style eating: eating natural- or near natural-state fruits, vegetables and meat but no dairy or grains.
Paleo rules: Do eat meats, fish, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and berries. Do not eat grains, beans, potatoes, dairy or sugar.
Here, a few important points:
On why certain foods are unhealthy: Many grains are inedible without human agricultural practices (milling, long cooking); legumes filled with aflatoxins, alkaloidic (toxins), etc. Must be cooked. Dairy not available till farming, or sugar. Potatoes not edible until fire.
The Paleolithic Era is the time in human history when we were hunter-gatherers. It is also the time when we were healthiest.
“Indeed, if we look at the skeletal remains of man prior to 10,000 years ago before the technological innovation of the Neolithic (Agricultural) Revolution—we find no evidence of obesity and very little evidence of the plethora of other immune system diseases that are so common today. When we examine the remains of humans immediately following the Neolithic Revolution, we see at once evidence of the obesity and diseases common in the modern world.”
The physical characteristics of humans shows that they are natural carnivores.
“. . . More than 95 percent of primates have a single-chambered stomach incapable of digesting most complex carbohydrates as they occur in nature (in the absence of technology).”
“Within this savanna environment, man is the only primate . . . There are few of the trees whose fruit and leaves provide the bulk of food for the creatures of the forest. Life on the savanna is dominated by grasses, grass-eating animals called herbivores, and the carnivores and omnivores that, in turn, prey upon these herbivores.”
“Our unique characteristics include a large lopsided brain, bipedalism, eye dominance, a lack of fur, and a unique variety of sweat glands. None of these physical traits (except bipedalism in some bird species) is found in other animals.”
Big brains are necessary for hunting large animals, and not as needed for gathering.
Social dependence is most often seen in pack animals that are carnivorous and protective.
Brain size increased as humans developed tools for hunting and therefore ate more meat. Big brains need more nutrition.
Humans also have a “relatively small lower gastrointestinal tract,” making concentrated calories like meat, fruit and nuts much easier to digest.
Bipedalism is only found in humans and some flightless birds. “As a human, when walking or running your hands are free to use a weapon which, if thrown while moving, greatly increases the weapon’s velocity . . . Bipedalism also allows us to use our hands to carry over large distance more efficiently than other primates. The long-distance carrying ability allows us (through sharing) a highly efficient division of labor in our hunting and gathering efforts.”
The human is the best long-distance hunter, partly because there’s no fur and therefore less overheating. The ability to hunt other animals when tired and hot in mid-day also helps. Head hair protects humans from the sun.
Handedness, which developed thanks to eye dominance, helped us learn to “throw an object with accuracy. This ability is what has allowed humans to become the most efficient hunters on earth.”
Our long-time relationship with dogs helped humans hunt, too. Dogs circled the prey and humans shot at them from afar.
On vegetarianism: “All the plants and animals that once inhabited the cultivated land must be killed to provide space for vegetable crops.” Kills ecosystem that naturally provides balance for all. “In fact, it is for this reason that the person wearing a fur coat has killed fewer than 10 percent of the animals killed by the person wearing a cotton coat.”
There are no vegetarian primates.
“Since ancient times, the most destructive factor in the degradation of the environment has been monoculture agriculture. The production of wheat in ancient Sumeria transformed once-fertile plains into salt flats that remain sterile . . .”
The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowermann encourages the self-proclaimed starving artist to man up, pick up the phone and sell his work. I have a soft spot in my heart for this book since it’s the one that convinced me to go out on my own with my writing.
What’s it about? Cold calling. Lots and lots of cold calling for freelance writers.
Some of the authors’ freelance writing tips:
Make a portfolio.
Write a professional bid letter and cover letter.
Get a logo.
Use an assistant.
Get a recorder.
Get Strunk & White, a style manual and other books of the trade.
Make a brochure or info packet.
Get a business card.
Be a standout vendor! Under-promise, over-deliver.
Get referrals to new clients from every client you work for.
Form personal relationships with clients and check up on them from time to time.
Send thank you notes and Christmas cards to remind clients you’re around.
Include in your quote meeting time, two rounds of edits, transport time, research and interviews, etc.
Use job agents.
Learn technical writing and writing software.
Do pro-bono work for nonprofits and friends.
Did I mention cold calling? Cold call 50 businesses per day.
Contact: ad agencies, graphic designers, marketing companies, PR firms, book publishers (for editing work), event production companies, and the communication departments, marketing departments and sales departments of corporations.