Tribute to Greatness

It’s inspiring to hear Nelson Mandela’s story over and over. The desire to contribute, to change the world for the better, to learn, grow, change, evolve and persevere is only a small part of his legacy. I love to help people, especially young adults,  develop these characteristics in themselves because when more of us live this way, the better the world becomes for the rest of us! Thank you Mr. Mandela for contributing to and inspiring so many!!

Food for Thought

An athlete I’m coaching texted me the image below with the quote. One of the many keys to living successfully is to integrate mind and heart! Many people have a tough time doing so, especially if they work in fast paced, ultra competitive environments like professional sports or big business. Part of the reason I spend so much time coaching others to be more present is that by spending more and more time in the here and now people gradually acquire the ability to integrate head and heart more fully! Presence is the magic that allows us to use our minds in the service of our hearts as we learn to slow down enough to both hear and listen!

Leadership Lessons

I love reading the Corner Office section of The New York Times Sunday Business section. This week Mr. Bryant interviews Lynn J. Good, the CEO of Duke Energy. Her sense of responsibility and dedication to others originated from parents who were educators with a tremendous work ethic. For instance, while growing up her neighbor was a widow and the family always called this neighbor before going to the supermarket or mowed her lawn as they did their own. Working at Arthur Anderson, the failed accounting firm, taught her that family, friends, and relationships are just as important as work and perhaps more important for happiness. I see a lot of executives whose lives are out of balance. I teach balance, harmony, and flow as fundamental to long term success in life and business! Ms. Good also addresses the value of communication for effective leadership. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I would suggest that great communication is essential to happiness as well! People who form close ties and do intimacy well tend to be far happier than those who communicate poorly and struggle with relatedness.

Choosing Psychotherapy instead of Drugs

An article in the Business section of the Sunday New York Times suggests that testosterone replacement therapy has become a marketing bonanza with sales of popular drugs like Androgel to treat “low-T” becoming blockbusters. The problem of course is that a lot of the trend is driven by profits and not necessarily effective research. Simple tests for low-T are so general that anyone stressed or depressed could fail them. For instance, do you have low energy or decreased libido? Many middle aged men might say yes when the underlying cause could be stress. Instead of using drugs with potentially harmful side effects like increased incidence of heart disease or cancer, psychotherapy or behavioral change is far safer and perhaps just as effective longer term. There simply isn’t enough research to keep up with all the marketing hype. Sound familiar? Money from drug sales often outcompetes the hard work of behavioral change. As always, sometimes drugs are necessary but many times they are simply profit centers for big business.

Depression and Insomnia

An article in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times addresses the link between insomnia and depression stating that new research suggests the link goes both ways. Anyone who has ever experienced insomnia knows this intuitively as sleep or lack of sleep clearly affects one’s mood. The research also suggests that brief cognitive behavioral therapy with an antidepressant pill is the best form of treatment. In my extensive clinical experience (30,000 plus hours) this advice is simplistic. I watched a famous doctor on television suggest that everyone with high blood pressure should be on medicine. Pills are problematic in general. For instance, research also suggests that regular exercise is just as effective in treating mild to moderate depression as antidepressants. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a no-brainer. Medication, however, is often toxic to the body and has significant side effects that many doctors understate. Anyone who has ever been on an antidepressant understands this as well. Sometimes, drugs are necessary and clearly helpful but not without a cost. Behavioral change, though difficult, is a better long-term solution. If you are stuck in a job or relationship that you can’t stand or don’t have the skill to create, then a pill will have limited value. Finding the right coach, mentor or therapist and making tough decisions or difficult changes is often the best remedy. Pills should be a last resort.

Adventure versus Safety and Security

Paul Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and contributor to National Geographic magazine, is walking around the world! 21000 miles in seven years! He is early in his journey but has already noticed how bound humanity is to cars loosing directional sense and many other common sense skills. He calls this loss Car Brain. His observations include how most drivers miss the celebratory opportunities of small towns and villages as well as countless other cultural experiences! Comically, it is society’s “marginal people” as he writes in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times, that help him “find his way across the planet.” Good luck Paul. I wish you well!

Being Proactive

An article in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times by Mary Lou Jepson, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, is fascinating. It took years of increasingly desperate and bizarre symptoms for doctors to finally discover a pituitary tumor that decimated her body’s ability to produce hormones, especially cortisol, a stress hormone key to immune function. Being proactive, she took it upon herself to get the proper treatment when many doctors dismissed her needs or didn’t get proactive enough themselves. As she writes: “without the ability to fine-tune my hormones and neurochemicals I believe I would have been trapped as a near-imbecile, wheelchair-bound, in my mother’s basement for an abbreviated and miserable adult life.” I coach everyone I work with to develop and trust their instincts, and be proactive and engaging! Clearly, Ms. Jepson’s ability to do so has been a huge part of her recovery and success. Great job!!

Coaching Golfers

The more golfers I coach, the more I love it. Golf is a very complex sport because the ball doesn’t move! That may sound counter-intuitive but it’s not – what I mean is that because the ball doesn’t move without the golfer making a swing, the mental game is even more important. I just shot at 76 at Yale golf course over the weekend. It was a great round but especially good considering that I’ve only played four times all fall. I was relaxed and peaceful with nothing about life or business bothering me. When I coach athletes, I help them eliminate all the dramas and distractions in their lives. This is huge. Having a clear mind and playing at one’s best is almost synonymous. I also work on present moment time and teach others to do so. The more present we are the better we play! There’s so much more…

Early Childhood Education

This picture is crinkled because The Sunday Review section of The New York Times traveled with me back from Los Angeles on a recent business trip. I took it with me because I agreed with Nicholas Kristof’s perspective on early intervention so much. As I have mentioned before, I worked at a Head Start Program (Federally mandated preschool for economically disadvantaged children) for three years in the late 90’s. I found the cycle of poverty, poor education, violence, and neglect among these children profoundly disturbing. What many middle upper class people don’t realize how far behind these children fall at such early ages and how much their emotional intelligence is impacted in early childhood. The Oklahoma experiment with mandated preschool for all four year olds and education for overwhelmed mothers sounds wonderful. I hope it succeeds and provides a model for other states!

Investing in Education

In his weekly column in the New York Times Review section, Nicolas Kristof discusses the fundamental need for America to address poverty and crime by investing in preschool education and other early childhood education programs. I worked as a mental health consultant for three years at a Head Start Program in South Norwalk, Connecticut. I saw firsthand the value of early childhood education and the need for it. These poor, mostly African American and Hispanic kids, even with assistance, had little chance at the kind of success and opportunity that wealthier children have and continue to have in America. By age 5, the achievement gap can be as much as two years.  In affluent towns, the school systems and teachers are far more skilled at delivering high quality education and support. Impoverished inner city environments put a tremendous burden on the young. Many children are raised by young mothers who lack the skills and resources to parent well. Without additional early assistance, as Kristof writes, we will be increasingly jailing troubled adolescents and young adults who could have been saved.