Sunday, August 26, 2012

Book Review (Part 1) - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I've never before seen the need to divide a book review into 2 parts.  I guess that's because I've never reviewed a book that had enough important points that it needed 2 posts.

This book is amazing.  I mean that.  I've read books by Dale Carnegie, Mitch Albom, Randy Pausch, Dave Crenshaw, The Arbinger Institute,  etc...

I've read therapy books, business books, self-help books, time management books.  I've read books on communication, strengthening marriages, influencing others, making friends, etc. etc. etc...

I've don't know if I've ever read one that was as good as just the first half of this book - let alone the whole thing.

Covey easily could have made this into 2 books.  The first half is better than an entire series of other self help books.  It teaches you how to be effective as an individual. 

What do I do when I read most books - I write down my favorite quotes - make a blog post, make a facebook post, and move on.

I am halfway through the book.  I have actually done what the author asked.  I have written down and explored my values.  I have written my own eulogy as I hope it will be - if I live my life the way I want to.
I have written my personal mission statement (which will continue to be revised).
I have encouraged my employer and co-workers to develop a mission statement together for our workplace.

I have been moved to action.  That's proof enough to me that this book can make a difference.

It doesn't focus on techniques.  Sure it tells you things you can do to change and ways to get better; but the point is not the specific action or technique - it's the underlying value or principle.  Covey works very VERY hard to help you figure out what you really care about.  What are the underlying principles that guide your life?  What do you hope to have accomplished when you die?  What makes you effective as a person, rather than successful in one facet of life?

We seem to have gotten away from that - growing as people.  He talks about the sad transformation that has happened in American business.  We've gone from learning how to build true rapport and make the best of ourselves and others - to learning how to manipulate others.  We've learned how to schedule every minute of every day to get everything done on our checklist - without ever knowing what was truly important in the long run, and without leaving room for spontaneity. We've been taught to just  - have a positive attitude.

Being positive is not a bad thing - but it is a result, not an action or a technique to achieve success.

He teaches us that we can't treat people like things.  Our employees are likely not living up to their potential, they're living up to ours.  We are the problem, and as we change, they will be more apt to change themselves.  If we want employees to better understand our goals and vision - then we need to understand them.

"Few needs of the human heart are greater than the need to be understood" - p. 10

"The real beginning of influence comes as others sense you are being influenced by them - when they feel understood by you." - p. 10

Ralph Waldo Emerson - "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you say." - p. 22

To try to change outward attitudes and behaviors does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigms from which those attitudes and behaviors flow. - p. 28

Covey spends a good portion of the book talking about perspective.  We see things differently depending on how we've been conditioned in the past.

Here's his example:

He was teaching a class - one half was shown one picture for ten seconds the other half a different picture.

Then both sides of the class were asked to describe the woman in the drawing below.

Is she old or young?  Petite nose or big nose?

The two halves of the class argued on each question because they completely disagreed.

Well - they had been conditioned, in 10 seconds no less.

One half of the class had first seen the drawing on the left, the other half - the right.  Then both were shown the combination picture - and the arguing began.

So what do think happened when we've been conditioned our entire lives to see things on e way, and someone else has had a completely different life, and sees things a completely different way.

We can look at the exact same thing - and describe it in completely opposing ways. 

"The way we see the problem is the problem."  -p. 40

Einstein - "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." - p. 42

Every significant breakthrough in the field of scientific endeavor is first a break with tradition, with old ways of thinking, with old paradigms. - p. 29

Successful people did not become that way by chance.  They had a very purposeful personal development, and it has taken time and hard work.

Aristotle - "We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - p. 46

Marilyn Ferguson - "No one can persuade another to change.  each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.  We cannot open the gate of another, wither by argument or by emotional appeal." - p. 60

Thomas Paine - "That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.  It is dearness only which gives everything its value.  heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods." - p. 62

Here are the first 3 habits with my favorite quotes from each.  Explaining the habits would take to long for this post (it's long enough already).  Read them - then read the book.

HABIT 1: Be Proactive

"Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions." - p. 71

"The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person." - p. 72

Ghandi - "They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them." - p. 72

"Proactive people aren't pushy.  They're smart, they're value driven, they read reality, and they know what's needed." - p. 88

"Don't get into the blaming, accusing mode.  Work on things you have control over.  Work on you." - p. 93

HABIT 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Oliver Wendell Holmes - "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within is." - p. 98

"It's incredibly easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life... working harder and harder climbing the ladder of success, only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall." - p. 98

"Don't get caught up in the 'thick of thin things'." - p. 105

Rolfe Kerr - "Hustle while you wait." - p. 106

Victor Frankl - "We detect rather than invent our missions in life." - p. 128

HABIT 3: Put First Things First

"Integrity is the value we place on ourselves.  It's our ability to make and keep commitments to ourselves, to 'walk our talk.'  It's honor with self."- p. 148

"The enemy of the 'best' is often the 'good'."  p. 157

"You simply can't think efficiency with people.  You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things." - p. 169-170

Friday, August 24, 2012

Getting Better - One FDG at a Time

750 million people use Facebook.
50% check it every single day. 
Every 20 minutes on Facebook one million links are shared.
I update Facebook between 3 and 10 times per day.

I spend too much time on Facebook - because it's my kind of social.  I love, LOVE to make peanut gallery comments.  I love to share, analyze, research, debate.  I like being challenged.  I like reading news stories I would never have found on my own.  I like having an easy venue to chat with old friends.  It's a very efficient place to make requests to borrow things from neighbors, or find a  place to watch the big game on a huge T.V.
I like Facebook.  I think it is useful; a good thing.

But is "good" getting in the way of "better?"

I try to make people think.  I try to show another side to each story; I try to show why the "extreme opposite view" might not be so extreme.

I try to get my friends talking.  I talk about politics, religion, medicine, parenting, and sports.  I post things knowing it could cause quite the debate.

But what is the point?  Does it ever change anyone's mind?  Is anyone a better person because I posted something on Facebook?
Is anyone's life really any better because I spent time on Facebook?

Am I wasting my time?

I don't know the ENTIRE answer - but I do know that I am at least wasting some time, and I could be using Facebook for something better.

I could post inspirational quotations.  I DO actually.  I post a lot of quotes from the books I read.  They have inspired and edified me - maybe they'll do the same for someone else.

That's not enough.  I want something real; something that might actually make a difference in the long run.  I know I can't change others, that's a futile endeavor.  I can only change me.  So I decided to start there. 

Each day I will be grateful.  I will publicly show my gratitude for one of my Facebook friends.  I won't just copy and paste a canned line saying "thanks for being my Facebook friend."  I will write something meaningful and honest.  I will tell people why I appreciate them and what they mean to me.  I will tell them about specific attributes or memories or moments that I have enjoyed.  I will give a Facebook Display of Gratitude.

I started two weeks ago.  I'm planning on doing one each day through Thanksgiving.  That should mean I'll do 109 FDG's.  It's really not much - but it's better than what I was doing before.

Isn't that the whole point - to do better than we did before?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Natural Supplements for Mental Health

Many supplements are nothing more than expensive additives to your urine - but there are some that have real value.  Some work very well and have good solid evidence to back them up.  
Here are some supplements that work for mental health problems.

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9):
What for: Depression
Dose: 400 micrograms daily (up to 800 if pregnancy is possible)
     - Rx dose: L-methylfolate 15 mg
Warning: Don't take more than 1000 mcg per day

SAMe (S-Adenosyl methionine):
What for: Depression
Dose: 400 - 1600 mg daily, can go up to 3000 mg per day if needed.
Warning: If taken with antidepressants like Prozac (SSRI, SNRI) it has a very small chance of causing a very dangerous reaction - Serotinin Syndrome.  It can also trigger mania in patients with Bipolar disorder

Ginkgo Biloba
What for: Alzheimers disease and sexual dysfunction from taking antidepressants.
Dose: 120-240 mg daily
Extra info: It takes 8 weeks to start working, so be patient.  It does no good for people who just have stressful lives, it helps people with alzheimers.

What for: Anxiety or Insomnia
Dose: 450 - 600 mg daily
Warning: It can cause headaches and an upset stomache.  No one knows if it's safe in pregnancy
Extra info: It takes a while to work.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
What for: Depression
Dose: 1-2 grams daily (MUST contain both EPA and DHA)
Warning: Don't go over 3 g daily, it can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding

St. John's Wort
What for: Depression
Dose: 900 - 1800 mg daily (usually spread out over the course of the day)
Warning: It can reduce the effectiveness of TONS of prescribed medications, like birth control, blood pressure and cholesterol meds, blood thinners, immunosupressants.  So check with ALL your doctor's before taking this.

What for: Insomnia
Dose: Good luck (literature disagrees).  Start as low as 0.25 mg, go as high as 9 mg daily.
Warning: High doses could cause you to sleep too long.  So again - start low.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Man’s Plea for Modesty

First Things First:
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is responsible for their own actions.
Men and Women are responsible for their own thoughts, their own actions, their own choices.
No one can force anyone else to make a choice.
Everyone is also responsible for understanding how their choices affect others.

I am a husband, a father, a church leader, a doctor, a friend, a neighbor, and a fellow citizen.  I now wish to speak openly to women in every single one of those capacities and plead with them to be modest.

As a Husband:  After God, my wife is the most important person in my life.  I treasure her, love her, and plan on being married to her for all eternity.  I will be faithful to her forever.
I am also a male, with a Y chromosome and testosterone, and guess what?  I find women attractive.  I don’t ogle women, but when a shirt is so low cut I can see a woman’s belly-button through the neck-line, it’s a little hard to miss.  I know other people do not control my thoughts, feelings, or actions.  Nevertheless, living life the way I want would be easier if women would cover themselves up.

As a Father:  I have 2 daughters.  The oldest is 6 years old.  She knows that she shouldn’t run around the house naked, and she should change clothes in her bedroom.  Right now it is fairly easy.  She knows she can’t wear tank-tops, or short shorts, or anything like them.  She also knows that girls who do wear those clothes aren't bad and don't need to be judged.  We simply choose to live a different standard.  What scares me is what she is going to learn from her teenage friends 10 years from now?  When she sees them showing off their "assets" and getting all the boys attention – what lesson will she learn?  What boys will she try to attract, and will she stoop to immodest dressing as well?  Which influence will win?  Family, or the world?

As a Church Leader: I wish the young women at my church knew that they are worth more than money can buy.  They are chaste, they are modest, and they are virtuous.  It is such a rare thing that it makes their worth beyond measure.  Don’t give in.  Don’t take the short cut.  There really are worthy young men out there.  Some are juvenile, and don’t look like much now.  Give them time, they’ll catch up.  When you don’t work to attract the low hanging fruit, you eventually attract the high class men.  You’ll weed out the leering eyes, the cat calls, and the cheap thrill guys - and end up with high class friends, fun dates you can tell your parents about, and eventually a worthy and adoring husband who appreciates all of you, not just the amount of fat sitting on top of your pectoral muscles.  
For those women who already have a husband - why dress in a manner that attracts anyone else in that way?  Choose your love, love your choice, and dress accordingly.

As a Doctor:  I can’t believe how many women come to see a psychiatrist dressed like they are going to a club, or they forgot to get dressed after waking up.  Some seem to be dressing and acting in a way to appear attractive in my office.  Do you really want to look attractive to your shrink?  Your doctor is making good money to help you, don’t treat him like some dude at a bar that you want to impress.
It is my estimation that some immodest women dress that way because they lack self-worth and self confidence.  Their personality, wit, smile, and conversation style aren’t enough to get a man’s attention, so they revert to the good ole’ inborn sex drive which have such difficulty repressing. 

As a Friend, Neighbor, and Fellow Citizen:  We are human beings.  We are not primates or mere mammals whose entire purpose in life is to survive and reproduce.  I believe we are children of God.  Even if you don’t believe that, I hope you’ll respect the fact that I’d like to treat you that way.  I don’t want to ever think of you as an object, nor do I want others to treat you that way.  I don’t ever want to see you and be ashamed to look at you because you’re showing too much skin, or your clothes are so tight they might as well be skin.  I don’t want to have to end our conversation quickly because if someone driving down the street saw us, I’d feel ashamed because you’re dressed immodestly, and gossip might spread.

Please note: I am not excusing men.  
I know many women wouldn't dress immodestly if men didn't like it and didn't give women more attention because of it.  I get it.  I really do.  Men will carry the blame for their own thoughts, feelings, desires, and actions.  Men are not excused for their actions just because a woman is attractive and shows off her body.

Even so - to women everywhere: Respect yourself, that’s my real plea.  If you don't see modesty as a means of respecting yourself, then respect me enough to cover up so I can enjoy our friendship with no concern and no worry.  I plead with you, be modest.

Here is an interesting post by another blogger: Women in the Scriptures

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Demeaning Dim-Witted Diatribe of Presidential Politics

I expect outrageous claims in politics.  While I think it’s wrong – it seems to be like flailing and whining in professional soccer.  It’s never going to stop, so just get used to it.
I expected many things this election cycle. 
1.       I expected quotes to be taken out of context, like “You didn’t build that.”
2.       I was ready for name calling like “Romney Hood” and “Obamaloney.” 
3.       I expected the media to lean to the left, and FoxNews (Fair and Balanced) to try to even things up by leaning so far to the right that even I couldn’t bear to watch.
4.       I expected Romney to get slammed for being rich.
5.       I expected Obama to get slammed for the economy.
I didn’t expect this.
Four years ago I was ashamed of the Right Wing.  The “Birther” movement was just plain dumb.  I don’t know if it was really started by Hillary Clinton’s campaign or not, but I know who kept it going: The Far Right.  It was ridiculous.  What made it worse?  When President Obama gave in and released his Birth Certificate.  This didn’t settle the debate – instead it was used as fuel for the fire.
Where was the “Long Form?”  Why would he hide that version?  Why not release everything?  What’s he hiding from us now?  Is he Kenyan?  (Then it digressed back to asking if he is Muslim or not.)
It was hideous.  The State of Hawaii verified he is a US born American citizen.  That should be the end of it.  That is the requirement – and he met it.  He owed no further proof to the American people.
The right wing kept it going so long that 3 years AFTER being elected and serving as our President, he released his long-form birth certificate.  He gave in – and a sad precedent was set.
The Law doesn’t matter.  What matters is – What the Loudest People are screaming for.
The Democrats gave up the high ground.  Pundits and Apologists said “He settled it.  He put the argument to rest.”  Really?  Google “Birther” or “Obama Birth Certificate” and see what news stories come up for the last 2 days.  The issue is not at rest.
Harry Reid has taken the baton from the Republicans, and he’s going for the gold medal.
He accused Mitt Romney of “Not Paying Taxes for a Decade.”  He cites an anonymous source, a SINGLE anonymous source, and now we're off to the races. 
Romney released 2 years of Tax Returns – did that settle it?  No - again, it was fuel for the fire.
Where are the rest?  Why would he hide the other years?  Why not release everything?  What’s he hiding from us now?  Is he a Tax Evader?  (Then it digressed back to asking if his Dressage horse will win the Olympics)
AGAIN – it’s hideous.  The IRS has not reported him for Tax evasion.  People honestly think the IRS ignored a multi-millionaire politician?  You think they missed a decade of not paying taxes while he was governor, running the Olympic Games, and running for President last time?
The Federal Government has said he filed and paid his taxes.  That should be the end of it.  That is the requirement – and he met it.  He owes no further proof to the American people.
Sadly – I know this issue will never be put to rest.  If Romney releases the tax returns – it will only add fuel to the fire, just like President Obama’s Birth Certificate.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"I'd Like To See You Do That"

I hate it when people say that.

While watching the Olympics I've seen many mistakes.  Sometimes you feel bad for the athlete because they tried so hard, but failed.  Other times you say they should have done better, but they just weren't physically or mentally prepared.

It's like when I'm watching a Cowboys football game and Romo overthrows a receiver who could have had a touchdown.   I yell at him "Come on Romo, get your act together, that was a gimmie TD!"

That's when a friend looks over at me and says "I'd like to see you do that."

Of course I can't do that.  I'm 5'6", 150 lbs, and didn't even play football in high school.  I don't pretend to be an NFL franchise quarterback.  Romo does!  So I am going to hold him to that standard.  He has chosen to make a living playing a sport.  By definition he only makes money if people watch,  are entertained, and come back to watch more.  So he better do his job.  I am his customer, and I am paying for entertainment.  If he doesn't entertain enough people by winning games, he is not going to keep his job.

The same is true for me.  How long will I keep my job if I keep writing prescriptions wrong, misdiagnosing and mistreating patients?

I should be judged on my ability to diagnose and treat mental illness.  After all, I went to medical school, and I am in a Psychiatry Residency.  I profess to be a doctor, and I am being trained as a mental health professional.  If I hand out Valium like it's candy I should expect to be questioned by colleagues and disliked by patient's families.

I profess to do something well - and I should be judged accordingly.  Why can't we all just agree to that?

I expect my car mechanic to fix my car better than I could - that's why I am paying him.  Basically, I expect everyone to be better at what they do than I could be - that's why they get paid to do it.  Right?

I'm not recommending we all become annoying name callers and hecklers.  We don't need to berate people who have worked very hard, but fall short of the goal.  We don't need to be mean.
We need to expect that they meet a standard.  People shouldn't be offended when we ask them to live up to their own profession's standard.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Parent's Breaking Point

I remember hearing stories like:

"Mom jailed after duct taping pacifier to baby's head" (a 4 month old died from this)
"Sleep deprived mom shakes baby to death" 

I remember thinking - how does a parent get to that point?  How could a parent be so unloving, so selfish, so abusive, so careless?

Then I had my own child.

It only took about 3 weeks to understand.
I was a first-time parent and I tried desperately to do everything right.  I knew my wife would need sleep more than I would, so I tried to be the one up most at night,  After all - my wife was recovering from labor, was nursing, pumping, and stayed home with our baby all day while I was at work.
It was 3:30 a.m Wednesday morning.  I had worked the last two days, and I had to work the next three.  I was trying desperately to get my baby back to sleep so I could get just a little rest.  My baby had been fed, changed, held, snuggled, swaddled, and everything else I could think of... and she was still screaming at the top of her lungs.  I had bags under my eyes and I was so tired and worn out that I was literally trembling.  I was haggard, and couldn't take another second.  I was holding my daughter in front of my face as she screamed and screamed.  All I could think was "Maybe if I scream louder than she is, she'll stop, or somehow we'll fall asleep from hearing me scream instead of her. (I didn't do that)

Does that sound ridiculous?  It does to me.  But when you're sleep deprived to that level, a lot of things sound reasonable that aren't.

Another time I was trying to get our baby to stay asleep with a pacifier.  As long as she had the pacifier in her mouth she would stay asleep.  As soon as it fell out she would wake up crying.  I tried putting blankets on both sides of her head so she was less likely to turn her head.  I thought of ways to keep the pacifier in place.  I thought of attaching a tiny ribbon to the pacifier and laying the edges of the ribbon under her head.  Then the tension would hold it in place till she turned her head or rolled over.  (I didn't do that either)

I had a friend tell me once about the day she knew she was too sleep deprived.  She said: "I was feeding one baby when my 16 month old walked up to me screaming.  I thought to myself.  If I pushed his head with my foot just right, he might tip over and hit his head hard enough to be knocked out - but have no permanent damage."  My friend was mortified that she had that thought, and called her doctor right away to ask about post-partum depression and sleep deprivation.

That's when I realized I was lucky.  I had a spouse to help.  I had parents to help.  I also had a lot of training about all the bad things that can happen and how to avoid them.  I'd been taught to put the baby in her crib and walk away.  Make sure the baby is safe, then go to the other end of the house.  Tell my wife I'm going for a drive.  Do something else.  A safe screaming baby will survive in her crib for a few minutes. 

I knew those lessons, but I understand now how a parent can get to the point of thinking that "shaking the baby might work," "tying the pacifier around their head will keep it in place," or "one sleeping pill won't hurt the baby."
They are wrong of course, and I don't condone their actions. I don't excuse them or think there shouldn't be consequences for child abuse and neglect.

But I don't demonize those parents either.  What if I were a single parent?  What if I didn't have a stable job, friends and family to help out?  What if, what if, what if...

All parents have a breaking point.  It doesn't mean you're a bad parent, it means you're human.  The goal is not to deny the breaking point, or to say "that'll never happen to me."  The point is to know it will happen and to prepare for it.  You need to build yourself a safety net so when it does happen, you don't make a terrible decision.