Tag Archives: habits

5 Friday Faves – Mission Impossible, Digital Dementia, Habits that Can Change Your Life, Piles of Books, and Food for Thought

Friday! Whew! With family visiting and some travel also, writing took a back seat the last couple of weeks. It’s always good for me to sit down at my desk and put words on the screen. Something really soothing to my mind in the sound of clicking away on computer keys. Hope the reading soothes you as well.

1) Mission Impossible – Nathan Mills, with all the lovely summer interruptions, still managed to get out an arrangement of the Mission: Impossible Fallout theme. Watch it here.  This makes the sixth of the Mission Impossible films  He covered the film trailer which blends the Mission Impossible theme and Imagine Dragons’ Friction.
Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Classical Guitar Cover by Beyond the Guitar

2) Digital Dementia

Brain researcher Manfred Spitzer coined the term “digital dementia”. It relates to the deterioration of brain function with the overuse of technology. This could include memory loss, attention issues, concentration, and emotional distress such as depression. He would have all digital technology taken out of classrooms. We know that is not going to happen, therefore we must intentionally “exercise our brains” in ways that counteract the brain drain caused by digital technology.  The following are found in Jessica Gwinn‘s piece:

  • Use Your Head. Retrieve information from your brain organically. Sit there and concentrate until you can recall it. [“Use it or lose it, the experts contend. The brain, just like a muscle in our body, can atrophy if we don’t use it.  Perhaps consider a digital sabbatical…If we focus instead on having real conversations, reading books, getting out into nature, and disconnecting from technology, we will be taking care of our brain health and our emotional health as well.”]
  • Crack Open a Book. That’s right. Reading an actual book rather than a tablet has been shown to improve memory retention.
  • Learn a new language. Putting you outside your comfort zone helps your brain work harder, which makes you smarter.
  • Play a new instrument. Instruments require the use of both side of the brain – like the piano or the guitar, for example, which help strengthen and balance it.
  • Get physical. Physical exercise increases blood flow and accelerates the transport of vital nutrients to your brain. – Jessica Gwinn, Dr. Carolyn Brockington

Overuse of Technology Can Lead to Digital Dementia – Jessica Gwinn

Dealing with the Effects of Digital Dementia – Tony Bradley

Digital Dementia: The Memory Problem Plaguing Teens and Young Adults

Kwik Brain: Memory Improvement | Accelerated Learning | Speed-Reading | Brain Hacks | Productivity Tips | High Performance – Jim Kwik, Brain Coach, Founder of Kwik Learning

Adam Gazzaley: The Neuroscience of Attention

3) Habits That Can Change Your Life– We develop habits of all kinds in our lives. They happen almost without thinking. Let’s consider what we want for our lives and then think of what habits we could deliberately put in place to support that desire. I love New Year’s Resolutions, and one of mine from this January is now a habit that will hopefully stick for the rest of my life. It is the habit of making the first voice of each day that of God. Attorney and thought leader Justin Whitmel Earley talks about that as one of his habits as well.

[I previously wrote about Justin Earley’s habits of love here.]

In the midst of life in a high-pressure law practice, he had a revelation that he wanted his life to be structured around habits of love. He lays out these habits on his website and book The Common Rule.

Photo Credit: The Common Rule

What habits would you like to eliminate to make room for others? What habits would move your life in the direction you hope to go?

The Common RuleJustin Whitmel Earley

Scripture Before Phone, and Other Habits That Could Change Your LifeTrevin Wax

YouTube Video – Waking up at 5AM Is Changing My Life – Jordan Taylor [Dealing with his phone addiction]

4) Piles of Books – If you love to read…and love books, in general, you may have something called tsundoku. BBC journalist Tom Gerken introduced me to this term which essentially means having piles of unread books. I struggle with this. Now, I will eventually read the books, but sometimes the stack gets larger as I fall behind on my reading. Keeping them close, as on my bedside table or desk, gives me the comfort of the possibility of reading them. To dangerous to put them on a bookcase unread. Such is the dilemma.

Tsundoku: The Art of Buying Books and Never Reading Them – Tom Gerken

Here’s my current pile. Some have been almost completed but not quite. How about you? Is tsundoku a word that defines the state you find yourself, regarding books yet to be read?

5) Food for Thought – Dave and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last weekend. We were passing through Williamsburg, Virginia, on that Saturday afternoon, with the plan in mind to stop at a favorite restaurant. It is Food for Thought and we love everything about it. The food is excellent and the whole restaurant experience prompts sweet conversation. You are literally surrounded by words at Food for Thought. Quotes of note. Conversation starter cards stacked on each table. Political and literary opinions framed on the walls. Whether Democrat or Republican, it is a friendly and welcoming place. The whole idea is bringing people together for food and talk – both of which are meant to be enjoyed and reveled in. During our meal, restaurant owner Howard Hopkins joined us for a bit of conversation. It felt as natural as an old friend sitting awhile on her way to her own table. Lovely time all the way around. I’m thinking this will be where we’ll be for our next anniversary.

Food for Thought, More Than a Clever Name – Tammy Jaxtheimer

Bonuses:

A Guide to the Science of Giving – Rafael Sarandeses

A Generation Grows Up in China Without Google, Facebook or Twitter – Li Yuan

The Most Dangerous Prayer a Christian Can Pray – Darrell B. Harrison

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg, Twitter

Jesus Understand Your Loneliness – Jon Bloom

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end,
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Thomas Merton

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder

Happy Friday! Here are my five favorite finds for this week:

1) Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar – About a month ago, classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted his arrangement of Fortnite Dances. Like the popular game and its celebrity players, this video skyrocketed. 5 million views and Beyond the Guitar YouTube subscriptions doubled over the course of days. Now he has a second video out featuring another set of Fortnite Dances.  Gamer or not, if you love music, this is a fun sampler!Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

The dances are fun to watch and feature a wide range of music. Nathan’s classical guitar renditions are uniquely beautiful. My favorite of the dance/music combinations on this video are Bluegrass, a polka or Russian dance, a pop oldie, and a Rock finale (where Nathan brings out his electric guitar!!). Enjoy!

2) Spring Rain – We’ve had a fairly dry Spring in Richmond, Virginia. What this means for allergy-sufferers is the barrage of tree pollens that make being outside insufferable. The yellow blanket on all surfaces this time of year could use a good washing.Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer

This week, finally, the rain came. As happens with rains in our part of the world in May, all of nature seems to push up, greener and more vivid. We can all breathe deep the freshness of the air and the beauty around us. For me, the sound of rain is as glorious as its visual aftermath. We don’t live where flash flooding is a problem, so I do want to remember that days and days of rain isn’t happy for everyone. Still, it is a welcome respite from the hot dry days of late Spring in Richmond.

3) Habits of Love – Thanks to Andy Crouch (see #4), I have discovered Richmond attorney and thought leader Justin Earley and The Common Rule. So thrilled about this. The funny thing is that I ALMOST heard Justin speak on busyness earlier this month but couldn’t make it work schedule-wise (ironic, huh?). When Andy retweeted this image from Justin’s Twitter page, I was captivated.Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

From there, I discovered The Common Rule website and Facebook page. Subscribed, subscribed, subscribed. Justin focuses on habit formation towards love. He has really useful helps on his website and through his email subscription. I am on it!

Photo Credit: Common Rule of Life, Facebook

Meaningful Work – a Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul – Shawn Askinosie

4) Andy Crouch on Shame – Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong. This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.

Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame

Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was good (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.

The shaming still happens in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents look good. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.

I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.

Sigh…any thoughts? Please.

[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]

The Return of Shame – Andy Crouch

The Shame Culture – David Brooks

The Rise of Shame in America – HonorShame

5) Wonder – we are surrounded by the wonderful. The older we get, the more the losses and hardships of life push in on our experience of wonder. Children, and especially grandchildren, help us with that. They fill our storm-dampened sails. I am so thankful we live in the same city as our children.  When we have time with them, we stand a little taller, walk a little lighter, and wonder comes home to nest. Just last night, while our daughter and I were having a visit with an old friend, Dave elected to play with our little granddaughter. Off they went (not sure who was more excited). After the visit, daughter and grand-daughter headed out into the night, with “Bye…love you” resounding out of the back window. A tiny hand waving…

Dave was full of wonder. He marveled at how they read the whole hour. How a two-year-old could be that captured by stories! Maybe she was also in her own world of wonder, in the company of a granddad who loved her.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hard to say, especially as a grandparent, who (in image below) is helping who…more.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Wonder is not just bound up in a child. It is all around us, in God’s own nature and his created nature. In all of us, bearing His image. Not just children, but everyone. I’m struck lately with how strong, and resilient, and persevering, and sharp most of the older adults are in my life. They are my heroes. Even when the mind and body weaken, life itself…the gift of life in all its forms and capacities…is a wonder.

Again, happy Friday! Hope yours is a rain-refreshed but not flooded weekend! [Edit: Have I got a story to tell for another day – It’s Friday night and the rain ceased to be refreshing hours ago – praying it stops!]

[Please share your own favorites or thoughts on above in the Comments. Much-appreciated.]

Bonuses:

Indoor Generation

Save the Storks – Pro-Woman, Pro-Baby, Pro-Family, Pro-Life

CNLP 192: Caleb Kaltenbach on How to Embrace an Outraged and Polarized Culture Most Leaders No Longer Like

Photo Credit: Matt Lieberman, Twitter

Photo Credit: Intelligence Is Sexy, Facebook page

On Being a Millennial Pastor – Leaders Who Don’t Remember the Glory Days – Erik Parker

5 Friday Faves – Assassin’s Creed on Guitar, Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership Development, Snow Days, Internet Discoveries, and the Cost of Security

Snow day!!! On a Friday. Do I need to say more?

Hope you are well, warm, and safe.

Here are my Friday faves from this week.

1) Assassin’s Creed on GuitarGuitarist Nathan Mills has just posted his arrangement of the main theme from Assassin’s Creed IV.

If you’re like me, you might not know what that even means – Assassin’s Creed. It’s a popular videogame set in the Caribbean during the 18th century. Lots of swashbuckling, sword-wielding pirates, I suppose. The best part of this game for me (since I never played)? This guy playing this arrangement on this guitar:

Follow Beyond the Guitar here. Every week, more music, just for us.

2) Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership DevelopmentCarey Nieuwhof is a pastor, writer, podcaster, and leadership coach. His thinking on  leadership development goes beyond the church straight into the secular workplace. He has much to offer to anyone wanting to raise up qualified leaders. His own wisdom and experience as a leader and student of leadership make him a worthy mentor. Then there are also his choices of leader interviews for his podcast. I’d like to point you to two he interviewed and then posted among his Top 10 Podcasts of 2017.

They are Todd Adkins and Craig Groeschel.

Adkins on intentionality: Leadership development requires intentionality. If you think that leadership development is going to naturally happen over time, you’re wrong. Usually leaders are also ambitious doers, and striking a healthy balance between doing and developing is only something that happens with intentionality.

Adkins on building leaders from within the organization: Are you building people or buying them? If you look at your staff and realize that you bought most or all of them, then it’s time to reevaluate your leadership development culture. There is a time or a place to buy staff, but a healthy leadership culture also produces leaders from within.

Groeschel on feedback: Create a culture where feedback is craved rather than avoided. The higher you rise in any form of leadership, the harder it is for people to tell you the truth. As a leader, your posture sets the tone throughout the organization. If you don’t ask for feedback and receive it well, you’re limiting your own growth and the growth of everyone working around you. Not only will people refrain from telling you what they think, they will also fail to hear constructive criticism for themselves.

Groeschel on delegating: Delegating empowers other leaders in your church. Lead pastors try to hold on to too much because of issues with trust and control. But delegating empowers other leaders and breaks down the limitations that come with one person carrying the load. Overtime, pastors should give up more than they could ever think possible.

7 Ways to Grow Church Attendance by Increasing Engagement – Carey Nieuwhof – There is so much wisdom here, not just about church attendance but about how to get folks engaged. With the tension of disengagement and productivity in the workplace, Nieuwhof gives sound counsel on how we can demonstrate valuing and increase engagement.

 Photo Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

5 Things Every Church Leader Should Unlearn in 2018 (if You Want to Stay Relevant) – Carey Nieuwhof

3) Snow Days – Love snow days. The sparkle of sun-lit snow. The profound quiet. How all the other colors around us pop against the white background. The breaking up of routine. The pot of a favorite hot on the stove. Movies, books, fires in the fireplace. Mmmmmm.

Thankful also for all those folks out there who keep working – you medical and emergency staff, you power and water company employees, you whoever you are who still get out there in the deep cold. Thank you!

4) Internet Discoveries –The internet is replete with fascinating subject matter. The danger is being drawn off task by chasing rabbits that pop up during a “quick check” of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Here is one that happened to me this week and, as it happens, enriched my life (even momentarily). Photography is my hobby, so when the Master Class with Annie Leibovitz came up in my Facebook feed, I watched the teaser. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the video, she talked about photographing Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Penn Warren. He had cancer at the time and would later die from it. If you love poetry, maybe you know his work. Or that of his daughter, Rosanna Warren. I didn’t know them until now.

Studying some of Robert Penn Warren’s biography and reading father’s and daughter’s  poetry was a highlight of this week’s finds.

Poetry inspires me but I am not a student of poetry. This was a momentary, fascinating find. Have you had one of those finds this week – incidental, serendipitous? Please share with us (Comments below).

5) Cost of Security – Anyone who travels on airlines (especially since the 2001 9-11 bombings) knows something of the cost of security. There have been too many other public attacks since then, moving us to give up personal privacy and freedom for the sake of safety and security. We have all been in these conversations; some of us even in on the decision-making related to security protocol.

So what makes this a find of the week? This statement made around a table of friends earlier this week: “Convenience and habits are the enemies of security.” It got me to thinking about what we are willing to give up, in terms of convenience and routines, to fortify our security (and the security of others, actually). Things like passwords and keys are not easy to keep up with, but they are essential in today’s world. Photo Credit: Slideshare

Routines or habits that make us more vulnerable might need changing. Like going back and forth to work the same time/way every day. Or running alone. Or being the last one out of the building. When we have routines in our public life, we tend to become less situationally aware. If we all do the work of assessing our own security situation and become more in tune to potential hazards, then we may avoid losing more personal freedom and privacy to other agencies given the task of keeping us safe.

Something to think about…and I have this week. Tightening up some habits and tweaking some routines.

Why Convenience Is the Enemy of Security – PC World

Situational Awareness – It Could Save Your Life…or Someone Else’s – Deb Mills Writer

Hope your weekend looms happily ahead of you…with time with those you love. Blessings and Happy New Year!

Oh…and please leave some of your own finds in the Comments below for us all to learn from you.

Bonuses

NegotiatingThe Art of Letting Other People Have Your Way: Negotiating Secrets From Chris Voss – Podcast – Farnam Street Blog

EmpathyGet the Gift of Empathy to Innovate and Digitally Transform Your Organization – Brian Solis

  • “True leaders don’t invest in followers; they empower others to become leaders.” – Brian Solis

Your Body After You Stop SmokingPhoto Credit: WebMD Facebook page

Shyndigz – a dessert restaurant (always a pleasure, not just for the sweets but the surroundings. A beautiful experience. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Shyndigz website

Gel Pens – Celebrating these wonderful little inventions. About the time our daughter moved from pencil to pen, we were living in Cairo, Egypt. In the Korba district of the city, we found a lovely little gift shop called EveryMan’s. This was the place and the season, mid-90s, that we discovered gel pens. I was reminded of the wonder they are this week during our mid-week small group meeting. We were all women in attendance with just Dave as our only guy (which was unusual). At some point, the conversation turned to gel pens (oh, we were writing New Year’s resolutions), and we all sang their praises. Dave commented, “I feel like we wouldn’t be having this discussion if there were more guys here.” Probably…their loss, his gain to be in our mix that night.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Adam Grant’s Book List for 2018

Photo Credit: Grant Snider, Karen Swallow Prior

Monday Morning Moment – New Year’s Day – Resolved

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body AND the spirit.

Today we started another sugar detox to deal with those few extra pounds from all the great holiday eating. Also started a gentle-on-the-heart decluttering project. Will deal with exercise at some point.

What I’m most excited about are the resolutions that were actually spurred on by our pastor during his sermon Sunday [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. Cliff challenged us to commit to some to the Lord…together.

In fact, before the end of the service, we were to think, pray, and write down our resolutions and place them in a self-addressed envelope. He will mail them back to us in three months to encourage us back to resolve if we have faltered at that point.

Cliff preached from 1 Corinthians 1 about the callings God has placed on our lives…and with the callings He empowers us, providing all we need to be successful. Our responsibility…privilege, really…is to resolve to enter into the life God intends for us, rather than play around with something much less. God calls us into deep relationships with him and with each other. We can miss that by paddling around in the shallows of life…choosing superficial over the supernatural.

Anyway, I was resolved, before that sermon, to go deeper with God this coming year and to surrender myself to Him in my relationships with others as well. Cliff’s encouragement came at just the right time. I especially appreciated a phrase he used about God being the “first voice” in our ears each morning. Not our phones, not email, not social media, not any other distractor. Just His voice…first.

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example to us of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life as the focus of that ministry.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. I am resolved…

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Monday Morning Moment: Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

5 Friday Faves – Reading Wars, Lord of the Rings on Guitar, Walking in America, Boomer Parents, and Susan Boyle

You know the story…how fast this week (this month, this year) is flying by. No time to waste. So let’s get right with it. Five of my favorite finds this week.

  1. Reading Wars – What does that even mean, right? It’s the title of Philip Yancey‘s captivating article on waging battle on the mental clutter that crowds out even the possibility of deep thinking. What is our weapon against the onslaught of shallow that we expose ourselves through social media, email, and texting communication? Reading. Reading for learning. So simple and yet how many minutes a week do we commit to it?

“A commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush [which also happens with distracted media scanning] while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish.” (Philip Yancey)

Photo Credit: Envision Experience

Sure, we can learn from what we find on social media. My friend Ann Lovell pointed us to this article through her Facebook page. If I just scan the article then I continue to “not” learn from it…as happens with most of the content that shows up in my various newsfeeds. This time…I’m taking it to heart. Yancey points out several cultural powerhouses who commit to a mininum of 5 hours of reading a week. I am joining them. Thanks, Mr. Yancey. Thanks, Ann.

[Sidebar: Whole cultures in the world prefer oral vs. written information delivery. Deep, detail-rich, reproducible storying. I wonder how these cultures are changing because of the same short-cut habits of sharing information we have developed here in the West. What do you think?

2) Lord of the Rings on Guitar – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted another of his arrangements this week. This one is from the legend Lord of the Rings Trilogy. You who love LOTR as much as I do will recognize The Riders of Rohan. It is another great orchestral piece translated by Nathan to classical guitar (like Beyond the Guitar‘s recent Game of Thrones arrangement). Just beautiful. Takes us back to the glorious battles of Lord of the Rings.

3) Walking in America – I feel so fortunate to have neighbors who walk. They make it so easy for me to join in even 6 days a week. It’s amazing how such a simple exercise wakes up the brain and loosens up the body. Whether we can afford a gym or whatever our health situation, walking is something we can do for ourselves. [Winter pic, I know, but it shows these neighbors of mine are out walking in all kinds of weather.]

After seeing the video below comparing “Walking in America & Walking in South Korea” I am glad for an easy neighborhood to walk in. However, it’s also clear how those in huge cities make do, with walking and staying healthier.

We should walk as much as they do in South Korea.

Posted by ATTN: Life on Friday, July 14, 2017

Here’s How Much the Average American Walks Every Day – Laura Donovan

Here’s How People in 8 Other Countries Stay Healthy – Slideshow – Anna Medaris Miller

What Steps Data Tells Us About Country Lifestyles – Angela Chieh

4) Boomer Parents & Their Stuff – What are we going to do with all this stuff? Our parents’ stuff and our own. The kids just aren’t interested in it. Samantha Bronkar’s article on the subject is thought-provoking. What do we do with all the collections? All the unique, hand-worked furniture? All the china and glassware? When we start down-sizing, we may have to think creatively what we do to dispose of these treasures of years past. Any thoughts?Photo Credit: Pinterest

I wonder, if our civilization is around for another 100 years, what will be in our natural and civil history museums? There could be a gap with all the “stuff” that will go eventually into today’s landfills. Would love to hear your thinking on this…as one of the many with unwanted treasures.

5) Susan Boyle – Just a few years ago, a middle-aged Scottish woman walked on the stage of Britain’s Got Talent and shocked the world with her singing. On that night and the days that followed, everyone in the English-speaking world had heard of Susan Boyle. Here’s the performance that brought her celebrity and a place in our hearts:

Just this week, I heard her sing Unchained Melody. Still magical. Her lovely simplicity in demeanor and her mesmerizing voice are a powerful combo. Do you know what happened to her? She’s still out there and is now a wealthy woman still living in her small family home in West Lothian, Scotland. She had a dream…and it came true. Her life inspires us all.

Happy Weekend. Be safe and be inspired…so much to enjoy in this life and to take joy in…even in the hard.

5 Friday Faves – Music Lessons, Final Fantasy, Grandchildren, Leadership Guy Jon Mertz, and a Smorgasbord on Success

Beautiful day outside…hope the same is the case for you.

Here are my Friday faves this week:

1) Music Lessons – I was the worst student at music lessons. My mom was so determined that I would learn to play the piano. Seriously, I don’t even remember having a piano in our home…we must have, right? Dear old Mrs. Bowles taught me my first lessons. She and her husband owned a tiny general store in our neighborhood. She was ancient…and kind. I loved her but not enough to practice. Some weeks, my only time on the piano was our lesson. Do you think she could tell?

This week, I discovered an enthralling post on music lessons written by Tom Barnes, senior writer for Mic. The title is Music Lessons Were the Best Thing Your Parents Ever Did for You, According to Science.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

In the article he lists 13 scientific benefits of the many more derived from music lessons. Below, I’m posting his list, but don’t miss his brief and fascinating commentary on each one. Here’s his article.

Taking Music Lessons:

  1. It improved your reading and verbal skills.
  2. It improved your mathematical and spatial-temporal reasoning.
  3. It helped your grades.
  4. It raised your IQ.
  5. It helped you learn languages more quickly.
  6. It made you a better listener, which will help a lot when you’re older.
  7. It will slow the effects of aging.
  8. It strengthened your motor cortex.
  9. It improved your working memory.
  10. It improved your long-term memory for visual stimuli.
  11. It made you better at managing anxiety.
  12. It enhanced your self-confidence and self-esteem.
  13. It made you more creative.

All three of our children had piano lessons early in their schooling. They all did music through high school then took different paths afterwards. After her high school girl band and college chorale experience, our oldest plays piano just for her own pleasure now. Our middle, Nathan Mills, moved from piano to classical guitar and is now doing music professionally and giving lessons himself. Our youngest loves opera and is teaching himself the harp. Music lessons are definitely worth their investment…even beyond the music itself.

2) Final Fantasy – No, this isn’t some bucket list or deathbed wish. This is a video game. In fact, it’s a very popular one and has been around since 1987. This past week marked its 15th update. During our boys’ growing up years, I wasn’t enamored of video games, but I also never really sat down and got to know what they were about (my mistake). Final Fantasy is a good-vs.-evil battle game. Its musical themes are beyond beautiful. Our son, Nathan, has arranged many of the themes for classical guitar. Most recently, he has posted the Valse di Fantastica. As I’ve listened to this piece over and over, it makes me wonder at the times I kicked him off gaming to do something else more valuable with his time. Yet, the music stayed in his head and heart. I’m glad he’s kept the music…and here it is for you.

3) Grandchildren – These littles are so worth the wait. I say if you don’t have your own grands, then find some to love. Never enough love for children – tiny ones or those nearly grown. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay

Reuters posted a news story by Madeline Kennedy that touts the health benefit for seniors of occasionally caring for their grandchildren. Without going into the statistics, this German study reported that those who care for their grandchildren, on an occasional basis, actually live longer.

This and other studies (see article) point to time caring for grandchildren as benefiting cognitive function, as well as physical and mental health of the grandparent. These benefits could be enjoyed by caregivers not related to the children as well. Also a distinction was made that the study related to occasional care-giving (rather than full-time care) and depended on what was considered stressful or non-stressful by the grandparent.

I say, “let the little children come”.

4) Leadership Guy Jon Mertz – One of the many reasons I love Twitter is how much I learn from those I follow…including learning from those the ones I follow follow. Matt Monge, of The Mojo Company, tweeted this week about Jon Mertz‘s article on Four Essential Leadership Ladders. Mertz is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. He is an intelligent empowering writer on leadership (as is Matt Monge).

Photo Credit: MaxPixal

In Mertz’s article on leadership ladders, he’s not talking about building or climbing ladders for our own success but for the success of others. What a lovely and timely concept! He prescribes four different leadership ladders – family, personal, organizational, and community. Read his piece here.

Within his article on leadership ladders, he references his 3 articles below. I read them all, and you will want to as well.

Discontentment – a Great Leadership Challenge – Jon Mertz (don’t miss the comments at the end of the article.)

Leadership Fails and Who Cares? – Jon Mertz

Always, Always Entangle Purpose With Life Work – Jon Mertz

5) Smorgasbord on Success – OK, we all define success in many ways. Couldn’t think of another exact word – being effective, making a living, realizing a dream, leading well. I’ve been reading a lot lately about leadership and about business start-ups. This week has made for a bounty of discovery on these topics (including Jon Mertz above). I’m just going to post the links and you can choose what tickles your itch this week.

My biggest take-away is that if we’re willing to learn, apply what we learn, and push out of our comfort zone, we can make extraordinary advances in our work and workplace. I really believe that, no matter what our age or level. Here are some writers who say the same:

7 Habits of Highly Effective FreelancersEric Rosenberg

How to Boost Your (and Others’) Emotional IntelligenceTomas Chamorro-Premuzic  and Michael Sanger

Mark Cuban, Kobe Bryant, and 15 Other People Whose Incredible Work Ethic Paid Off Jacquelyn Smith

Why the Best Idea Doesn’t Always WinScott Berkun

20 Habits for Success I Learned Working for Two Billionaires Paul C. Brunson

Enjoying reading, thinking, talking about it with those who love you…and being outside. Please always share your thoughts with me in the Comments.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – Andy Andrews – 50 Famous Parental Sayings

Actual True Meanings – Classic Fairy Tales – Tongue-in-cheek – by Francesco Marciuliano

Monday Morning Moment – Empathy – Key to Creativity and Innovation – What?!

Photo Credit: Andy Orin, Lifehacker

Empathy is no soft skill. In fact, it can be a rare commodity in today’s workplace where we are competing for jobs, customers, time with the boss…pushing for that edge which makes us stand out over the guy down the hall.

We have seen empathy in corporate culture. Amazon immediately comes to mind, as does Apple. These companies have studied the wants and needs of their customers and they have put that research into play in their service and products. Customer loyalty is a huge outcome of feeling understood and valued.

Empathy and sympathy are two very different human experiences and expressions. To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. [read more at Dictionary.com]

Our neighborhood is in the middle of a huge engineering project being done by our local electric company. The wires are being put underground thereby keeping our service from being interrupted by windstorms. Various technicians and contractors have come to each of our front doors to let us know, courteously and apologetically, what disruptions must happen to eventually provide this service. The sub-contractors, moving throughout the neighborhood, have worked quickly and quietly, keeping disturbance at a minimum. Their work will all be completed soon with 1) only what disruption was absolutely necessary and 2) with a high expression of empathy for their presence on our streets and in our yards.

Disruption devoid of empathy is no business process anyone wants in their workplace…no matter what the outcome or benefit. Unfortunately, when it happens (and it does), we put up with it for what comes out of it, and because we have no other choice… If we are not careful our own empathy for one another suffers. Mark that.

Photo Credit: Lifehacker

For years, the word and process of empathy had become so common, it became almost without meaning. Something just ordinary. Nothing special. Now, it’s rising in favor again…probably, seriously, because of how competitive businesses have become. Too often, we err in business with putting innovation and technology as goals and standards without considering the customer or colleague. Decision-making proceeding ahead of information-gathering and analyzing impact on those most affected is not the way up.

Marla Gottschalk says it well in her piece Disrupting Organizations With Empathy, Forward thinking organizations hold great empathy for their potential customers. They design products that not only appeal to our emotions and senses, but address the problems we wrestle with in our daily lives. In each product, process or service — there is a little of us represented.

As long as we have empathy, I believe we’ll have innovation.

The same truth applies to the developing frameworks that support our employees. With empathy, we can achieve significant advances not only the way we work, but how we ultimately feel about our work lives. Whether we are considering leadership (See how empathy affects perceived leadership here), feedback, career development or work spaces — empathy matters.

Viewing work life from another’s perspective, can reap powerful results. We need to follow behind our employees and support their journey...Measuring our workplace problems is simply not enough to encourage healthy workplaces.” – Marla Gottschalk

Photo Credit: Brian Solis

I watched an episode of Chase Jarvis Live where Jarvis interviews Brian Solis – author of What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences and X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. Brian Solis is one incredibly smart individual, and what captivated me the most in that 45-minute interview? What he said about empathy: “What do you want somebody to feel after they’re done with you in every moment of truth?…Who am I really trying to reach? What’s a day in the life of their world? What could I do to have an impact in their world?…What does a relationship really mean? When you see the world outside [from their side], then you see the role you’re going to play…Empathy unlocks a whole new level of perspective…It’s not good enough to be good enough…or the best. You have to now understand the impact you want to have and the role you want to play in someone’s life and then who that person is and design for that. It’s so inspiring.” – Brian Solis

Marcel Schwantes lists empathy is one of the 10 leadership habits found in the world’s best leaders. Empathy is a discipline. It is hard skill that every leader and every person equipping themselves to lead must see and seek as valuable to leading well. Otherwise, the lack of empathy will eventually have a pervasive effect on the workplace and the service and product. Don’t let this happen to you or your team.

Finally, I want to close on a much-loved classic TV show episode. It is Star Trek, The Original Series. This episode is titled The Empath.Blog - EmpathyPhoto Credit: tos.trekcore.com

In the YouTube video of one of the episode’s scenes, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Spock are in captivity. The humanoid woman Gem is with them. She is unable to speak but has extraordinary empathic powers. She can feel the pain of another and take it into herself, thereby healing the other person, at a cost to herself. She is also learning from these three what genuine care and self-sacrifice are.

YouTube Video – “Empath” Episode – Star Trek – The Original Series

The Empath Episode – Plot summary, quotes, & other Trekkie details via Memory Alpha

Not the sort of topic we often toss around in our conference rooms or strategy meetings. Still…if we want to offer the best and be the best in our organizations, the lessons are clear…as are the warnings.

Empathy is Actually a Choice – Daryl Cameron, Michael Inzlicht, and William A. Cunningham

Why Genuine Empathy is Good For Business – Jeff Booth

The Importance of Empathy in Everyday Life – Video – Andy Orin

The Key to Creativity and Innovation is Empathy – Brian Solis [Video from CreativeLive – Chase Jarvis Live]

YouTube Video – Brené Brown on Empathy

These 10 Leadership Habits Have Been Found in the World’s Best Leaders – Marcel Schwantes

The Invention of Empathy: Rilke, Rodin, and the Art of “Inseeing” – Maria Popova

Monday Morning Moment – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.

What is this phenomenon?

Mike Torres, of Refocuser, gives an excellent definition, as well as an explanation of function, in his piece Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become.  Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. Mike Torres, Refocuser

Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.

Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.

I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.

When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.

How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.

Debbie Hampton has written an excellent summary piece on this that will help kick-start any new habit formation necessary for us to continue to do excellently in our work. She was influenced by Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work published in his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. I have listed below Merzenich’s 10 elements of how we can rewire our brain. You will find Hampton’s summary on each very instructive. [I comment briefly on each but don’t miss what she says in her article.]

10 Core Principles for Remodeling Your Brain

1. Change is mostly limited to  those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!

2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse)  the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.

3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.

4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.

5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.

6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.

7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.

8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.

9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).

10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.

Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.

As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.

 

Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits – Mike Torres

How to Rewire Your Brain for Success – Trevor Blake

Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life – Trevor Blake

Brain HQ Website

How Does Neuroplasticity Work – an Infographic

Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story – John Holt

Deadly: Brain on Multitasking – Bukunmi Adewumi

Toxic Thoughts – Dr. Caroline Leaf

Saturday Short – Eating Healthy – Elastic Is Not So Much My Friend As a Close Acquaintance

Photo Credit: Sweet Little Bluebird

Sitting at my desk, I’m sitting very straight with great posture thanks to the corseting effect of jeans that fit me better a few months back. Struggling into those button-top, zippered jeans was one of those New Year wake-up calls. Eating healthier is usually one of my top resolutions, but it didn’t make the list this time…well…yet.

I was going to write how elastic is my friend and then discovered a West Coaster named Aurea has a food blog by that name (Elastic Is My Friend). Then, given my wrestling on this pair of jeans, I’m thinking elastic is more a close acquaintance…not as close as these jeans feel right now, but much preferred over them.

A friend of mine and I talk a lot about language.  Words are a great interest of mine, and it’s fascinating how their usage changes over time. Take the word “muffin tops“. In another “once upon a time”, muffin tops (that bulge over the top of our too-tight jeans) was called “love handles”.  The latter is a much more affectionate or endearing phrase than the first. Both words are a bit of a tease, as in poking-fun-at-sort-of-thing, but Urban Dictionary gives us women, at least, a break. Its definition calls love handles cute, curvy, etc.

Photo Credit: Foodiggity

Anyway, I digress.

Eating healthier would definitely help me become friends with both elastic and these jeans, which are causing me to breathe more shallowly than is probably healthy right now.

What would help me eat more healthy? Not all the diets out there that are either trendy or costly…just not into all that focus on food.

In the not too distant past, I have turned my eating habits around and made jeans my friend using three actions.

  1. Lay off the sugar. – Everything has sugar in it. Well, almost everything. I’m not into extreme food plans, but just getting sugar out of my  diet for a few weeks or months has resulted in weight loss, a change in my appetite, and even my food preferences. Since everything has sugar in it, I’m not talking about everything, but the obvious concentrated sugar foods.
  2. No Fast Food. – When I prepare food, I tend to make healthier food than when I drive-through or pick up something on the run. Not rocket science, but for me, it has to be something I resolve. Just too easy to pull in and pick up a fast lunch or beverage.
  3. Eating Stops at 7:00pm. At some point, I have to determine to “Stop the Madness!” For me, if I exit the kitchen by 7:00pm (not carrying food) and just don’t go back in there…my habits and cravings will change. They have before…they can again.

So mid-way through January, in a pair of jeans I can still fit in…I’m resolved to begin moving in this direction. Not the strongest resolve I’ve had going into a new year, but stronger than I had this morning.

Elastic…aaaaaahhh. Looking forward to peeling out of these jeans and putting on my pajamas later…AND closing the door on the kitchen at 7:00pm.

I’m thinking there could be some sort of conspiracy in the fitness clothing industry how it’s all so stretchy and comfy, with elastic at the waist. Effective for work-outs but just as lovely lounging on the couch in front of the TV…with that enormous bowl of popcorn or dish of ice cream.Photo Credit: NYTimes, NPR, Pinterest

Sheesh!

Focus! Need to definitely keep wearing these jeans until bedtime.

How about you? Any helps in forming habits where we don’t need such close friendships with elastic? Please share in Comments.

YouTube Video – ActiveWear

YouTube Video – Fed Up – Official Trailer