Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: FOCUSED

This is a perfect book. 

It's a short, simple, heartfelt autobiography of a women overcoming tragedy and defeat.  It is the story of Noelle Pikus Pace; and Olympic athlete who was #1 in the world until her leg was broken by a 1,400 pound runaway bobsled going 60 mph.

This is a story about family and faith.  Noelle tells us what it was like to have her career derailed. How she struggled to get back to the top, only to finish one tenth of a second too slow to get the bronze medal. 

She tells of the heartache of being away from her husband and children.  Her lack of focus and scattered goals while meandering through years of Olympic training.

Then her decision to take her family with her for the rest of her training.  Her realization that in order to be the athlete she wanted to be, she also needed to be the wife and mother she wanted to be.  As her focus became clear and she chose family and God, AND Skeleton racing - she was able to live the life she wanted.

She realized that she didn't need to focus on other racers, or be competitive AGAINST them.  She could be a competitive athlete, by becoming the best version of herself.

As she says in the book:
"Be fearless and love yourself for who you are and what you can offer. Share your talents, whatever they may be, with those around you. Be humble when you recognize you have a gift, and continue to develop it. Help and encourage others as they try new things and develop their talents. Don’t be afraid for them to succeed. Their success cannot diminish your talents unless you allow it to. Compliment yourself when you do something praiseworthy. Compliment others as well. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses, and strive to make them stronger. Don’t strengthen your weakness in order to beat someone else, but strengthen them to become the best version of yourself. Finally, and most important, dare to be you!"

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: The Fifth Discipline

Grade: C+

This is the third book I have recently chosen not to finish.

Time is precious.  I am not a businessman.  I am not a CEO, or a manager.  This book was not worth the time and not worth the energy needed to learn a new language.

The Fifth Discipline is very dense, very detailed, and it makes up its own terms and then uses them extensively. 

There were many parts I loved, examples that were eye-opening, and stories that were inspiring.  I finished 85% of the book over 11 months of reading and finally gave up. 
The author appears to have spent too much time inventing terms.  He has his own name for each kind of system, and interaction, and leadership style etc...
After about 300 pages I got lost in the new lingo and couldn't even understand what he was trying to say.
Others will say this book is the businessman's bible.  To me, it is now a book to be given away or sold in a garage sale.  As my friend Jim would say "The juice ain't worth the squeeze."

Here are a few parts I liked and want to remember:

"Today's problems come from yesterday's 'solutions'."
"How do we see a business, as a human community or as a machine for making money?"

"If people don't have their own vision, all they can do is 'sign up' for someone else's. The result is compliance, never commitment."


Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review: Tao Te Ching

It always seems odd to write  a "book review" of any sacred text. 

This may not be the "scripture" of my own religion, but I know how I treasure and revere my own sacred text. Thus I hope to treat others with the same respect.

This is a very short book that could be studied for centuries - in fact it has been.  It was written in the 6th century BC by Lao Tsu, a record-keeper at the Zhou dynasty court in China.

There are 81 Chapters (they are more like poems really).  Each is less than one page, the shortest has less than 30 words.  As a line in the fifth chapter points out: More Words Count Less

It's as if Lao Tzu wrote down the most deeply meaningful and simple proverbs of the court.  We could read any single line and ponder on it for weeks.

Some parts remind of therapy:

Move with the present. (14)
Let the mind become still. (16)
People love to be side tracked. (53)
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.  So give as much care to the end as to the beginning. (64)
The truth often sounds paradoxical. (78)

There were many parts that sounded like what I learn in Sunday School every week:

Heaven and earth last forever. (7)
Misfortune comes from having a body. (13)
Become as a little child once more. (28)
Restraint begins with giving up one's own ideas. (59)

There was simple straight forward truth:
No fight, no blame. (8)
He who does not trust enough will not be trusted. (23)
He who brags will not endure. (24)
He who knows he has enough is rich. (33)
Before receiving, there must be giving. (36)
The world is ruled by letting things take their course. (48)
Those who know do not talk, those who talk do not know. (56)

There was sound advice:
Accept being unimportant. (13)
Achieve Results: but not through violence.  Never boast, never be proud. (30)
I have three treasures which I hold and keep: The first is mercy;  the second is economy; the third is daring not to be ahead of others. From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity; from humility comes leadership.(67)

There were also multiple references to "The Ten Thousand Things" which I took to mean "everything in the world" but I could be totally wrong there.

This book can be read quickly in an hour or two. It can also be pondered on for lifetimes.
I found it useful. I will keep thinking about the parts I highlighted and the little bits I wrote here.  I think that is part of the measure of a book, and certainly of sacred texts:  Does it stay with you?  Does it change you?

I know it will stay with me, we shall see if it changes me.

I recommend it.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Pogo Stick Saga of 2014

My daughter wanted a pogo-stick for Christmas.  So, as the dutiful father I scoured the Thanksgiving weekend  ads and found one for sale.  We were visiting my in-laws in Pocatello, Idaho and once I found one for sale I cajoled my father-in-law into going shopping with me.
We dutifully drove to the rundown Kmart on the North end of town, found our prize, and moved to the checkout counter.

Would I like to buy a year warranty for $3?
Well, my kids are going to beat this thing to death, and if any part breaks for any reason in the next year they’ll give me a new one.  SOUNDS GREAT!

The pogo stick box was way too long to fit in a single bag so they teller put one bag on the top, another on the bottom, and I slipped the receipt in the bag and walked out with my prize.
WHAM!  Gale force winds slammed against me as I sprinted into the parking lot trying to keep the pogo stick from flying out of my hands.  The bag on top went flying off into the air, then the wind struck the pogo stick and sent it toppling out of the bag on bottom.  I bent down to pick up my daughters Christmas gift and saw the receipt fly out of the bag and skid across the parking lot. 

I secured the pogo stick under one arm and started running after the receipt.  Just as I was about to step on it the wind whisked it out from under my foot.  I started doing a Charlie Chaplin imitation as I slammed my feet over and over again onto the pavement trying to pin down a receipt that kept evading my shoe.  My father in law was doubled over in a full on belly laugh at this point.
I tried at least 12 times to step on the stupid receipt as I chased it all the way across the parking lot until I saw it fly up and over the curb and into the middle of 4 lane traffic. 

The road was VERY busy as it was the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
I watched the receipt flip and float and then land in the gutter on the other side of the street. 
It paused.
Maybe, just maybe I could get to it.  I started to step into traffic and try to sprint across the street when I saw the receipt flip up and over the curb and into the corner of a large stone wall.
It stopped.
The wind was holding it prisoner in the corner.  My prey was trapped!

I ran across the road and just as I stepped over the far curb I panicked as the receipt flipped and flew and blew into the entrance of some large facility.  I looked up and saw that this facility had a large parking lot.  The entrance was foreboding with huge car destroying blockades in the road and a guard house   between the entrance and exit lanes.

The receipt had blown just over one of these metal blockades on the side of the guard house.
The blockade was only about 4 feet high. I could probably hop over really quick and grab the receipt and hop back before the guard ever noticed.
Besides would the guard really care?  This facility couldn’t be THAT worried about security could it?
 I looked at the wall and saw three Big Bold Letters: 


What were the chances? My receipt infiltrated the FBI?  COME ON!!

What’s the penalty for hopping the barricade into an FBI facility?  I didn’t really want to find out. 
I saw the receipt start to flip up in the wind and I took the pogo stick out from under my arm and extended it over the barricade and pinned the receipt against the pavement.
 I couldn’t let it blow away. 
Now I was standing just outside the guardhouse at an FBI building with my arms over their barricade holding a receipt against the ground by means of a pogo stick.

By this time my father in law had come and parked in the entrance and was walking towards me.
Just then the guard looked up from her television and saw one man reaching over the barricade while another walked up behind him.

She ran out of the guard house yelling at us and trying to ascertain the seriousness of the situation.

I must have looked ridiculous as I stood, grasping a pogo stick like my life depended on it over the barricade.  

She questioned my about the receipt, about the pogo stick, and about where I had bought it.


My father-in-law could have been helpful, but instead he just kept laughing and laughing as the guard finally bent down, picked up my windblown and tattered receipt, and handed it to me and let me pull my pogo stick back over the barricade.

My daughter better LOVE this gift.  She has NO IDEA what I went through... 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: The Happiness Advantage

Grade: B

Riveting research gets a little stifled by the author’s pride.

Did you know Shawn Achor went to Harvard? 
No really. I’m quite certain of it.  He only mentioned it about 27 times in this book, so it was kind of subtle, but if you read between the lines you too can pick up this hidden gem.
I promise not to mention it again – because it was the only glaring annoyance in this otherwise useful book.

This book could also be called: The Placebo Effect.
It is very very VERY real.  People dismiss the effect of thought on our physical body – and it’s HUGE.

Thought is what leads to hormone release.  Perception of fear releases adrenaline.  Perception of happiness releases Dopamine.  This book discusses Oxytocin and Cortisol and many other hormones and it points out the absolutely real physiological effects of each.

Doing the exact same physical activity, with the thought that you are exercising – leads to more weight loss and increased muscle gain.  HORMONES matter.  THOUGHT matters.
Being “happy” can kill pain better than narcotics. Exercising can cure depression better than antidepressants. 
Being Happy decreases heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other PHYSICAL diseases.
This is not about positive affirmations or “think a happy thought.”  This book is not Peter Pan advice to help us fly away from tragic lives.
This book is science.  Research study after research study proving that our mental outlook on life makes a HUGE difference in our physical health, our finances, our family, our friends, our entire existence.

This book is very worthwhile – because the author doesn’t just say “Get Happy” – He gives you specific tasks and practices to accomplish it.

My favorite chapter was “Principle #6:  The 20 Second Rule”
It talks all about "activation energy."
It takes very little energy to keep a signal running along a nerve.  But it takes a burst of energy to start the flow.  You have to provide enough “activation energy” to start it.  Kind of like getting  a car rolling on a flat road.  You have to put in a ton of energy to push the car from a dead stop but once it’s going it doesn’t take much to keep it going.
It is the same way with habits.  Habits are very hard to start.  Forming them can be a nightmare.
The answer – DECREASE the activation energy.  Make it as simple as possible to do the habit each day.
What ever you want to do: put it in your natural path.  Take away all need for decision making. Make it harder NOT to do the new thing.

If you want to exercise first thing in the morning – sleep in your gym clothes.
If you want to learn to play the guitar – keep the guitar in the middle of the room where you will almost run into it every time you walk through your house.
The same is true for habits you want to STOP.  Make it much much HARDER to do the thing you want to stop.
If you check your e-mail WAY too often and you want to stop – delete your shortcut, and don’t let the computer remember your password.
Make it require time, energy, and a whole lot of work to do the WRONG thing.

This chapter is genius.  The entire book is good.

I recommend it.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Common sense is not common action." - p. 146

"Coercing employees into awkward icebreakers or forced bonding activities, like making everyone at a meeting share something about their private lives, only breeds disconnection and mistrust. Better that these moments happen organically - which they will if the environment is right. The best leaders give their employees the space and time to let moments of social connection develop on their own" - p. 193

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Industrial Cleaner being inserted in your food!

Saleratus (Chemical formula NaHCO3) is finding its way into more and more products you use on a daily basis.

Saleratus is a powerful cleaner used to in Silver Polish, Tile Scrub, Drain Cleaner and more.  It is an odorless white powder which is very hard to detect.

It is such a powerful absorbent that it can eliminate noxious odors, masking spoiled foods. 

It is likely in your cupboard and refrigerator right now, preventing you from smelling which foods have gone bad. 

Saleratus is dangerous for many reasons.  

It is well known for its explosive properties and is commonly used by amateur bomb makers who can’t get a hold of regulated combustibles.
Saleratus is discovered through fracking, mining, and other corrosive means.  It can also be made in a lab by combining ammonia with sodium chloride and carbon dioxide.  

Due to its abundance it is now a cheap additive used in your food.

Most commonly it is being found in breads, cakes, muffins and even your morning pancakes.

There are even reports of its use in toothpaste!

Find out more at this Wikipedia page: 

First get educated, then join in the fight to ban Saleratus from our food!

(it is currently being marketed under many names so as to not be easily identified.  It may also be listed as: sodium hydrogencarbonate, nahcolite, sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ativan causes Alzheimer's. (Xanax and Valium too!)

I treat people with anxiety and sleep disorders all the time.  I have seen many people who take the medications daily.  I even have plenty of friends who have told me they take Xanax or Ativan or some other "benzo " like Valium, Klonopin, Restoril, etc...

If you've taken daily doses of one of these meds for 180 days (6 months), your risk of Alzheimer's may now be 84% higher.

Yeah.  I know.  FREAKY!

It doesn't matter if those 180 days were all together in a 6 months block, or spread out over 5 years.  The increased risk of Alzhemier's is the same.

It wasn't a small study that gave me these numbers.  The researchers looked at 10,000 people!

1,800 of them had Alzheimer's disease, the other 8,200 didn't.  Most of them were about 80 years old.

The researchers did everything possible did avoid "confounding factors" like the fact that some people who are developing Alzhemier's but don't yet have a diagnosis may be prescribed these medications for their symptoms.

So the researchers didn't count any benzo use in the 5 years before diagnosis, it had to be in the five years before that.

Short term benzo use was not linked to increased Alzheimer's rates at all.  0% increase for people who took benzo medication for less than 90 days.

90-180 days of benzo medication use caused a 32% increase.

180+ days of benxo use caused the 84% increase.

Overall there is a 51% increase in Alzhemier's diagnoses among those who took benzodiazepines.
Having said all of that.  I am NOT telling people to stop taking their Ativan or other benzo medications.  I am not your doctor, I don't know your situation, and stopping these meds cold turkey could kill you.

AND - you should know about this risk.  You should know that 5 millions Americans have Alzhemier's disease.  An overall increase of 51% doesn't mean one or two more people have Alzhemiers because of their anxiety pills.  It means an extra 1.5 Million Americans have Alzhemier's because of their anxiety/sleep/epilepsy medications.

Now You Know.