The Power of Being Present

Val DiFebo, the CEO of Deutsch NY, the advertising agency, has plenty to say about leadership and business but what stands out to me is her comments in the Corner Office (New York Times Sunday Business section) about the power of presence. “There’s a real skill and an art to reading the room, and it drives me crazy when people are not present. You have to be present.” I couldn’t agree more! Whether working with executives, entrepreneurs, or athletes, I almost always start with presence. Many people, even so-called successful people, are rarely present. Instead, they are constantly plotting, planning, or rehashing. This is limited behavior eventually leading to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Being in the here and now as much as possible is powerful for a variety of reasons – nowness unleashes creativity, spontaneity, and joy to name a few!

Modalities for Processing Life

According to Dr. Kosslyn and Wayne Miller, authors of a new book called “Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights Into How You Think,” the right brain, left brain theory of different skill sets like intuition and logic is not true and based on a myth created from experiments on the corpus callosum decades ago. Instead, they propose an understanding of thinking styles based on top or bottom preferences: Mover, Perceiver, Stimulator and Adaptor! Their article in the Weekend Wall Street Journal Review  section is worth reading. Instead of thinking of people as basically left or right brained such as engineers or artists , this new research encourages us to understand that there are really four main styles not two!

Being Old is a State of Mind

I haven’t seen the movie yet but Robert Redford at 77 has a lot to share about aging, acting, and life. For instance, he is completely comfortable looking like himself – no plastic surgery or Botox. He is clearly an adventurous soul, cares about the environment, budding film makers and challenging himself even in his late seventies – pretty cool!

A Prerequisite for Empathy

I have spent quite a lot of time with both the rich and the poor in my life. As a psychologist, especially in training, I worked in residential treatment centers and hospital settings with the homeless mentally ill and others of few means. I also worked with poor children at a Head Start program and taught in an inner city college environment. Being an identical twin to a Wall Street guy and having lived and worked in an affluent community for the past 17 years, I have a fair amount of exposure to the wealthy including many affluent friends and clients. In general, I agree with Mr. Goleman’s perspective that the wealthy and more powerful tend to “pay less attention to us than we do to them,” a prerequisite for empathy! Less empathy means less caring. I just read another article in the New York Times business section about the CEO of Bloomingdales who values empathy, caring, and listening a great deal. I loved reading about Mr. Gould and hope others in positions of power and authority will emulate him!

The Art of Hitting

I love reading about and watching athletes and entrepreneurs who go about their tasks or jobs in ways that “feel” right for them but don’t necessarily abide by conventional standards! Cabrera is one of those guys who hit by “feel” and don’t do things that are technically correct or sound. I play golf well largely through “feel.” It’s great to have solid technicals but many times good fundamentals are not enough. Allowing yourself to “feel” your way through a skill is invaluable. This too takes practice and confidence but can add a dimension to your life and business that no technical skill can!

The Importance of The Afterlife

Samuel Scheffler, professor of philosophy and law at NYU, makes an argument in a New York Times Sunday Review article that we need to believe in an afterlife not necessarily because the Soul lives on but because without a belief in the survival of humanity our sense of purpose here would be thrown into disarray. Think what would happen if we knew an asteroid would end humanity just after we died? Would we care about cancer research or better engineering or many other professions that deal with an extended future for mankind? And what about having children? It’s both interesting and thought provoking to consider the necessity of an afterlife from this perspective!

Nairobi Mall Shooting

Unfortunately, we are too often reminded of the sheer amount of violence that occurs daily in the world. Yesterday, I briefly watched a television show on the Science Channel about aliens. Several physicists suggested that if aliens had the warp drive technology to travel many light years to our planet then it was likely they would be friendly. They reasoned that a society that advanced would have long destroyed each other had they not grown beyond violence. I see ego as the need to dominate, manipulate, and use others. If all of us learn to observe and unhook from ego, then we are doing our part to make the planet a better place!

Dealing with insomnia

Having experienced several bouts of severe insomnia in my past I found it informative to find out something I ready knew: that although insomnia is painful emotionally and can lead to physical exhaustion and other challenges but one’s cognitive abilities remain largely intact. In other words, though you may feel less intelligent or capable as a result of much less sleep, in reality, you can function well regardless. I did. The challenge, of course, is to address the underlying cause and dynamics before one’s health and well-being is affected. For me, this was complex and multifaceted. For some, it may be less so: cut out substances that interfere with sleep like caffeine and change your job/ relationship or whatever is truly not working in your life. A really good coach or therapist might be helpful too. Sleeping pills are problematic and a slippery slope so be careful!

Too many rehab centers

With a population just over twelve thousand, Malibu has 35 drug and alcohol rehab centers. With celebrity clients and a top notch location, facilities there can charge fees that are often two or three times going rates elsewhere – from 60 to 100 thousand dollars per month. Many programs are more new age too with less reliance on twelve step models and more customized treatment such as yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy and beyond. Is this a good thing? Perhaps for the wealthy but local residents are perturbed. As the French say: ce la vie!

Two-State Illusion

Ian Lustick, a U-Penn political science professor and Middle East expert since 1980, argues intelligently that a two-state solution to the mess in Israel between Palestinians and Jews is not only an illusion but its continued belief is causing harm to the piece process itself. He outlines why self-interest propels each party to continue to propose a solution that will never occur and has long lost it’s viability. For instance, professor Lustick suggests that the Palestinian Authority “needs it’s people to believe progress is being made toward a two-state solution so it can continue to get the economic aid and diplomatic support that subsidize the lifestyle of its leaders, the jobs of tens of thousands of soldiers, spies, police officers, civil servants, and the authority’s prominence in a Palestinian society that views it as corrupt and incompetent.” He goes on to outline American, Israeli, and “peace process” industry motives as well before discussing more realistic solutions.