How to chop wood then carry water.

Smile, breathe and go slowly but don’t look back in anger, I heard you say. This combination (mash-up) of two quotations (one from Oasis and one from Thich Nhat Hanh)  is having a profound influence on my life at this moment. You see, I am listening to Oasis and reading The Art of Power and loving both. In this moment, right now – they matter deeply and profoundly to me.

I have come across many clients who are living in anger and hate (living in the past) and are only looking forward in fear and towards perceived uncertainty. I have learned a great deal over the last few years about looking around and being totally aware. Right now. You see for me anger, hate, resentment, fear, jealously, envy, worry, doubt, mistrusting, conflict – these are all things that can feel very real at that (this) time. At the time I was experiencing them, they were the frame for my world. However, they are of the mind and just excuses to hang on to yesterday or to live in tomorrow.

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my stronegest influencers in the last ten years. He is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist.  His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. Thich Nhat Hanh has published over 100 titles on meditation, mindfulness and engaged Buddhism, as well as poems, children’s stories, and commentaries on ancient Buddhist texts. He has sold over three million books, some of the best-known include Being PeacePeace Is Every StepThe Miracle of MindfulnessTrue Love and Anger.

His writings offered me some very practical methods of bringing mindfulness and loving kindness to the very centre of my being. You don’t need to be a Buddhist or spiritual to benefit from his teaching and learning this technique.

If you haven’t come across him before, here is a quick biography. Thich was born in Vietnam in 1926.  He became a Buddhist monk at the age of sixteen. During the Vietnam War, Thich chose to help villagers suffering from the bombings and the aftermath of war rather than to sit and quietly meditate in his monastery.  In the early 60’s he founded the School of Youth Social Service, rallying near 10,000 student volunteers to rebuild homes, organise agricultural cooperatives, and re-establish order in the lives affected by the ravages of war.During travels to the United States during the 1960’s, Thich spoke for peace in Vietnam.  During one of his visits he spoke with Martin Luther King, Jr and convinced him to oppose the Vietnam War publicly.  This helped to galvanise the peace movement that continued through the 70’s and until the war was finally ended.  In 1967 Dr. King nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize.

So Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by /Her soul slides away, “But don’t look back in anger”, I heard you say. –

What I have come to accept (it has taken a lifetime) is that being present is an experience everyone should aim for, every day. It is a time when I feel completely at peace with the moment  I am in, right now. It is the basis of being amazing every day. If you get in the habit of being present, then you may notice some (or all) of what I have noticed –

  • I have feelings of intense calmness (only good eustress).
  • I notice I am smiling more (as do other people).
  • I am kinder to myself (physically and emotionally).
  • I am trying to be kinder to other people (with no motive – altruism).
  • I am not rushing as much to meetings (I am not late, but not early).
  • My reflexes are faster and I join the dots quicker.
  • My mind is clearer and this clarity solves problems.
  • I am more decisive and take better decisions.
  • I know what I want, right now.
  • I know what is right for me, right now.
  • I am better at public speaking, training, coaching and performing.
  • My confidence is deeper without arrogance.
  • I am dealing with death and life as equals.
  • I know and accept that am not perfect – but I am becoming more real.
  • I accept I have many faults and I own them (I eat too fast for one thing).
  • I feel stronger and more passionate about making a difference.
  • I am quieter and read more.

The old Zen standby, chop wood, carry water simplifies this to a feeling of not multi tasking or running faster, yet getting nowhere. I can now see how the past keeps creating my future, and when I am conscious of this, I get to make another choice. I get to forgive the past and embrace the now. When I was living in the past or future, I missed out on the freedom and peace in the now. Lately, I am becoming aware much sooner and quicker when this happens.

The simple truth is being present is when you choose to focus on a particular time frame. There are only three possible time frames: past, present and future. Once you become aware of the thoughts you are having and the content of those thoughts, you will notice which timeframe you are in at any given time. You will begin to notice how often your thoughts and feelings are focused on the past or the future. These thoughts are riddled with judgments, comparing the past or future to your present situation.

Most busy people spend so little of their time being fully present. The rest of the time, they drift in and out as there attention wanders. Your mind may even seem to be out of your own control. How can you be more present?

I start with the power of the breath. By taking many slow rhythmic, even breaths, I concentrate on this cycle; no gaps or holding the breath. Some people say do this through the nose, others through the mouth. I don’t mind as long as it is slow, rhythmic and even. Breath, along with change, is the only constant. I believe being present starts with the breath.

Now take a moment to consider what are you doing right now.  Consider, as a correspondence to that moment of suspended breath-time, what you’re doing right at that moment.

  • Are you ‘just’  reading this post?
  • Where are your thoughts?
  • What are you thinking about?
  • What are your emotions?
  • Where are your hands?
  • What is the time?
  • Is it moving slowly or fast?
  • So you are reading – that’s it…so, just read.

Part of the answer to being present is to learn how to become a ethnographic observer. A witness if you will. Become a witness to becoming aware of what you are doing – exactly what you are doing – in any given moment. Try to observe it, name it and stand away from it. When we cling to a now rather than simply bearing witness to it and letting it pass by, we become trapped in time as it passes.Then develop the routine of letting the rest go; much like bearing witness, whatever is not there in that moment let go.

Be there, right there, right then.

Then gently come back to the breath, when the world or your thoughts begin to again intrude, simply come back to the breath. The constancy of breath can create the constancy of presence for us, if we choose to show up. The act of being present is, in a sense, a meditation without meditating. The stillness here, though, comes from action – breathing, attending, witnessing, releasing and breathing again. This simple cycle can profoundly change the way that you experience our world.

Be Amazing Every Day

Go slowly, smile, breath (slowly evenly and rhythmically) and don’t look back in anger. Chop wood. Carry water.

 

Which is better: Aggression or Collaboration?

It must be obvious surely? Or perhaps a trick question? Well the answer is not as obvious as you may think. Human beings probably have killed in war more members of their own species than any other animal species on this planet. It is undeniable that ours is a pretty aggressive species when compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. Aggression and war are hard-wired into the brain, but so are acceptance, empathy and collaboration. But which is better? There’s only one way to find out: FIGHT! is a recurring feature within Harry Hill’s TV Burp.

The term aggression comes from the Latin aggressio, meaning attack.Every night on the news there are reports about murders, wars and rapes. You might want to start by stop watching the news. But the news isn’t the only place where people encounter violent or aggressive behaviour. We see it at work, while commuting, on the tube and in the home. You can observe it in queues, shops offices and in sport. It starts in the school yard and grows as we get older.


I am a huge fan of Psychologist Robert Plutchik, whom identified eight primary emotions which he coordinated in pairs of opposites: joy versus sadness; trust versus disgust; fear versus anger and anticipation versus surprise. He created the 2D wheel and a conical 3D version in 1980 as a tool for understanding his psycho-evolutionary theory of emotion. Intensity of emotion and indicator colour increases toward the centre of the wheel and decreases outward. At the centre terror becomes fear and then apprehension; ecstasy becomes joy and then serenity. Secondary emotions are displayed as combinations of the primary ones. The cross over and closeness is revealing when we look at our emotions towards aggressiveness.

Researchers in ethology (which is the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour under natural conditions) believe that aggression confers some sort of biological advantages. It all comes down to economics and the notion that aggression, much like anything else, has benefits and costs. Aggression may help an animal secure territory, including resources such as food and water. Aggression between males often occurs to secure mating opportunities, and results in selection of the healthier/more vigorous animal. Aggression may also occur for self-protection or to protect offspring.

Konrad Lorenz stated in his 1963 classic, On Aggression, that human behaviour is shaped by four main, survival-seeking animal drives.Taken together, these drives—hunger, fear, reproduction, and aggression—achieve natural selection. Well maybe. Humans share aspects of aggression with non-human animals, and have specific aspects and complexity related to factors such as genetics, early development, social learning and flexibility, culture and morals. What are these benefits and costs of aggression? Aggression between groups of animals may also confer advantage; for example, hostile behaviour may force a population of animals into a new territory, where the need to adapt to a new environment may lead to an increase in genetic flexibility.

It is interesting to note that during the Cold War, politicians on both sides used their belief that war was highly likely to justify the manufacture and deployment of more and more nuclear weapons. Yet the belief in the near inevitability of war makes war more likely. In 1978 Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson published a ground breaking book On Human Nature. The book tries to explain how different characteristics of humans and society can be explained from the point of view of evolution. Aggression is, typically, a means of gaining control over resources. Aggression is, thus, aggravated during times when high population densities generate resource shortages. According to Richard Leakey and his colleagues, aggression in humans has also increased by becoming more interested in ownership and by defending his or her property

With increased understanding of the relations between genes and environment behavioural scientists have acquired a deeper understanding of the bases of aggression than was previously possible. The brain is awash in chemicals, including hormones and neuro-transmtters that accentuate or dampen its responses and influence its organisation and operations. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay, amplify, or modulate signals that are sent between neurones and other cells.There are many different hormones and neurotransmitters, of which the most important are glutamate and GABA, which excite and modify synapses. From all of the possibilities explored and the theories made, you might think that there has been a conclusion made about exactly where aggression originates as well as what could incite a particular aggressive action, but there has not been. However the following compounds seem to be most active:

  • Adrenalin, which triggers the fight or flight response
  • Testosterone, which stimulates aggression
  • Oxytocin which instills trust, increases loyalty, and promotes the tend and befriend response
  • Oestrogen, which triggers the release of oxytocin
  • Endorphins, which reinforce collaborative experiences with pleasure
  • Dopamine, which generates a reward response and fortifies addiction
  • Serotonin, which regulates moods
  • Phenylethylaline, which induces excitement and anticipation
  • Vasopressin, which encourages bonding in males in a variety of species

Out of the last few years of neurophysiological research has emerged a new hope that solutions may indeed be found to the chemical and biological sources of aggression. But there is a caveat. While War has yet to be reduced to a simple set of deterministic biochemical events taking place exclusively within the brain, research clearly demonstrates that basic neurological processes provide all of us with alternative sets of instructions that lead either toward impasse or resolution, stasis or transformation, isolation or collaboration. While no one really knows the exact causes of aggression or if it can even be said that there is one thing that causes it. So, although, there may not be one conclusive answer to why people are aggressive, it doesn’t mean that a combination of theories can’t be right or that someday, researchers will find the answer.

The Cold War and the resonant fear of nuclear fear is now largely over, but old wars continue and new ones have been initiated in many parts of the world. You may hear that the waging war as an inevitable consequence of human nature. This attitude is not only dangerous in encouraging the view that war is the method of choice for settling disputes, it is also very wrong. To get the right answer requires not only a profound understanding of how the brain works, but a global shift in our attitude toward conflict, an expanding set of scientifically informed techniques, a humanistic and democratic prioritisation of ethics and values.

We don’t need a fight to know, we need to begin with a willingness to start with ourselves.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Failure: Don’t look back in anger

It took me 10 years to become an overnight success. Successful businesses can take years and years. Let’s face it, we all make mistakes and I have made more than most. Failure is the most important step to my reaching success, but it can still feel like it’s crushing my soul. Having talked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I have learned something very important: failure is absolutely the norm and essential. Accepting this failure as a lesson is one of the most important things I have ever learned. Consider my new quotation poster on my wall:

My first comedy gig 10 years ago was a disaster. There were 2 people present, one went to the toilet and the other left. I kept going. Jerry Seinfeld was booed off the stage the first time he tried comedy. Soichiro Honda was rejected by an HR manager at Toyota Motor Corporation when he applied for an engineering job, leaving him jobless until he began making scooters in his garage and eventually founded Honda Motor Company.

So I start a revolution from my bed / ‘Cos you said the brains I had went to my head. -Oasis

Most of us know that failure is a reality of life, and at some level, we understand that it actually helps us grow. Intellectually, we even acknowledge that the greatest achievers (past and present) also routinely experienced colossal failures.I believe and teach that failure can be taken one of two ways

  • Either as a catalyst and stimulant for learning and doing better next time, or
  • as the ultimate defeat you never let yourself recover from. This is true in your professional and personal life

Yet still, we hate to fail. If you surveyed 100 successful entrepreneurs and asked them if they were successful on their first product I would bet you that 99 percent would say absolutely not. Noting of course that 86.3 percent of all statistics are made up. We fear failure, we dread it, and when it does happen, we hold onto it. We give it power over our emotions, and sometimes we allow it to dictate our way forward (or backward). Some of us go to great lengths to avoid failure because of all the pain and shame associated with it. To make failure your friend and not your enemy, you must overcome it. Here are my strategies for moving on after a tough break.

. Don’t look back in anger (I heard you say)

Each time you fail, your fear of failure becomes smaller, which allows you to take on even bigger challenges. Making mistakes is not a big deal as long as you learn from them and avoid repeating them. Completely ignoring what happened isn’t helpful, so set aside a specific amount of time to wallow as much as you want. Take some time to be angry, upset, and frustrated so you can get it all out. If it’s something small, all you may need is an hour to pace around or cry in a pillow. For something larger, give yourself a full 24 hours to let it all out and wake up the next day with a clean slate. If you need more than a day, that’s okay, but make sure it’s an amount of time set by you and that you stick to it. You get that time to be as mopey as you want, but when it’s over, move on.

2. Slip inside the eye of your mind: accept and process it

Failure is an integral part on the way to success and self realisation. Michael Jordan said it best, I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Maybe you think you’ve mostly gotten over a bad business experience, but you find you still obsess about how you should have acted differently. There’s a big difference between lingering on a failure and taking the time to accept it, process it and glean lessons from it. Understand right away that some things are not in your control. It is a marathon, not a sprint. The quicker you stop getting upset, the quicker you can use this as a lesson to move on.

3. Try a little tenderness and talk about it

You know she’s waiting / Just anticipating / For things that she’ll never, never, never, never possess, yeah yeah /But while she’s there waiting, without them / Try a little tenderness (that’s all you gotta do) – Otis Reading

Successful people will never laugh at you or judge you when you fail, because they have already been there and they know about the valuable lessons you can learn from failure. Talk to somebody you know about how you’re feeling. It’s well known that just talking about something can make you feel better. Take a load off and express yourself. Chances are whoever you talk to will try to make you feel better, but even if they don’t, saying how you feel out loud puts that information out somewhere besides your brain.

3. Keep on keeping on and make it happen

No matter how often you fail, you are not a failure as long as you don’t give up. Does it feel like you made such a stupid blunder that nobody else could have possibly done so before? That’s very unlikely. There’s nothing new under the sun, and that includes mistakes and perceived failures. No matter how much you believe in what you are doing, something is not working. Take a step back or go for a walk (BDNF time). Breathe (Slow rhythmic and even). Take some time off from the project. Visit your family and friends and love what is most important. You live one time, and this is just a passing phase. You will get through this, but you have to clear your head if you are going to win. Again, push forward.

4. Challenge Yourself to Do It Again – hit me baby one more time.

Whenever you step outside the comfort zone and whenever you try something new, failure becomes inevitableGet back on the horse and ride again, even if the horse threw you off the last time. Prepare for battle: This is not for the faint of heart. You have to separate your feelings from this game. It’s a business: it’s cut throat; it’s bloody; it’s a war. You must get back on the horse and do it again. You were working on the wrong project… so what? You are passionate, you are driven and applying those qualities to the right project you will be successful.

5. Focus on the Positive

Each failure makes you stronger, bigger and better. Don’t brush mistakes under the rug, but also don’t stop yourself from looking at all the positives you’ve managed to create. There’s always a balance in business. Maybe you didn’t snag that one big client, but what about all the others you’ve secured? You’ve likely already proven you can be successful on this path, so don’t let one fall determine who you are or colour your impression of an already positive overall effort.

Don’t you know you might find / A better place to play / You said that you’d never been / But all the things that you’ve seen /Will slowly fade away

6Don’t make it personal.

Failure is a great teacher and it allows you to learn some of the most valuable life lessonsSeparate the failure from your identity. Just because you haven’t found a successful way of doing something (yet) doesn’t mean you are a failure. These are completely separate thoughts, yet many of us blur the lines between them. Personalizing failure can wreak havoc on our self-esteem and confidence.

7. Try a new point of view.

Failure teaches you that a certain approach may not be ideal for a specific situation and that there are better approaches. One of the best things you can do is to shift your perspective and belief system away from the negative (“If I fail, it means I am stupid, weak, incapable, and am destined to fall short”) and embrace more positive associations (“If I fail, I am one step closer to succeeding; I am smarter and more savvy because the knowledge I’ve gained through this experience”). Every mistake is a learning opportunity, and after you’ve moved past your emotions, it’s important to revisit your mistakes with a new perspective. Look at what you did that went wrong, but also look at what you did that was right, and what you can do better next time. Failure is rarely so black and white.

Accept failure and rejoice. Failure is awesome. Failing fast gets you that much closer to success.

Don’t look back in anger, I heard Tim say.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Handling the President’s Brain (and yours)

Handling the President’s Brain (and yours)

Ouch. I broke a small (but apparently essential) bone in my right wrist over two week ago, while being a good citizen (don’t ask). I didn’t want to put any pressure on our ‘in crisis’ UK Accident and Emergency departments, so I self diagnosed it as a sprain and treated it with ice and compression. I was of course a complete idiot. I had an X-ray of my wrist today and yes, a scaphoid fracture was diagnosed. On the bright side,two week of pain and swelling forced me to use my non-dominant (left) hand and I started to think about the effect of neuroplasticity on handedness, my brain and the brain of the President of the USA.

Let me explain why. The percentage of the world wide population whom are left-handed is about 10%; this figure seems to be consistent across all countries. Left-handedness is somewhat more common among men than among women. While we may think the terms left and right are used to define handedness, there are actually four distinct types:

  • left-handedness,
  • right-handedness,
  • mixed-handedness, and
  • ambidexterity.

There is a fantastic statistic I came across, that 7 of the last 12 Presidents of the US have been left handed, which appears statistically significant (although 2 were ambidextrous). Amar Klar, a scientist who has worked on handedness, says that left-handed people have a wider scope of thinking and points to the disproportionately high number of Nobel Prize winners, writers and painters whom are left-handed. Michael Peters, a neuropsychologist at the University of Guelph, points out that left-handed people have to get by in a world adapted to right-handers, something which can give them extra mental resilience. [See the end of this post for details of the International Left Handed day].

Ziggy played guitar, jammin’ good with Weird and Gilly; and the Spiders from Mars, he played it left hand…’

Famously Jimi Hendrix was naturally left-handed but his father, Al, initially tried to force the young James to play right-handed. He believed playing left handed was a sign of the devil. Hendrix took right-handed guitars and restrung them for playing left-handed. Hendrix did continue to write right-handed. Other great left handed guitarists include Tony Iommi, Kurt Cobain, Paul McCartney and many more. But it wasn’t always easy for some of them…Blues legend Albert King was not only left-handed, he was an upside-down player. King played right-handed guitars (usually Gibson Flying Vs) simply flipped over, so the low E string was nearest his feet. He also used unorthodox tunings, as low as C to allow him to make sweeping string bend.

In many European languages, including our very special English language, the word for the direction ‘right’ also means ‘correct’ or ‘proper’. Throughout history, being left-handed was considered negative. The Latin adjective sinister means left as well as unlucky. There are many negative connotations associated with the phrase left-handed: clumsy, awkward, unlucky, insincere, sinister, malicious, and so on. In French, gauche means both left and awkward or clumsy, while droit(e) means both right, as well as law and the legal sense of right.

Though no one knows exactly what makes someone left or right handed, it is tempting to say it is genetic. New research the challenges this belief: the University of Nottingham’s Prof. John Armour and Dr. Angus Davison, and University College of London’s Prof. Chris McManus, have ruled out a strong genetic determinant in influencing handedness. William Brandler, of Oxford University’s MRC Functional Genomics Unit and first author of the earlier study that found a genetic association, warned previously that their results did not completely explain the variation of left- and right-handedness within the human population. As with all aspects of human behaviour, nature and nurture go hand-in-hand. The development of handedness derives from a mixture of genes, environment, and like Hendrix’s father, a cultural pressure to conform to right-handedness.

Ok, so now I am officially down to one functioning non-dominant left hand. Could I become the next Jimi Hendrix? Or maybe the next US President (I can’t, as I was born in the UK). How can my brain help me be better, faster and quicker? Let’s go back to my earlier blog about the brain and acknowledge it’s fantastic plasticity and it’s ability to continually adapt and rewire itself. Even in my old age (jump in here and say ‘but, you are not old Tim’) my clever brain can grow new neurones. Severe mental decline is usually caused by disease, whereas most age-related losses in memory or motor skills simply result from inactivity and a lack of mental exercise and stimulation. In other words you better use it or lose it.

So can my super impressive brain change to cope with my hand disaster? Generally our brain is a brilliant thinking organ that learns and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action. Mental stimulation absolutely improves brain function and protects against cognitive decline, as does physical exercise.

You may be surprised to learn that there are benefits to you when using your opposite hand. It feels awkward and you are likely to have much less control over what your non-dominant hand can do, but when you use your opposite hand you are growing your brain. I am using my right wrist injury as a chance to permanently grow my brain. I made an intention to start using my left hand for as many tasks that were previously always done with my right. It is time to grown my brain.

The human brain is an smart organ that improves through mental stimulation and challenge. In fact by using your non-dominant, or opposite hand, it confuses your brain. Which is a good thing. Using your opposite hand will strengthen existing neural connections and pathways in your brain and even develop more efficient pathways and connections. It’s similar to how physical exercise improves your body’s functioning and grows muscles (you may remember my blot on Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor). Some therapists have used an exercise where they ask their patients to write with their opposite hands, and it allows people to access some suppressed emotions. The brain is in charge of keeping you functioning and it does that with predictability. It needs some stress and a challenge to get stronger.

Neurobics™ is a unique system of brain exercises using your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways that encourage you to shake up your everyday routines. They are designed to help your brain manufacture its own nutrients that strengthen, preserve, and grow brain cells. Created by Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center, neurobics can be done anywhere, anytime, in offbeat, fun and easy ways. So why not give it a go and begin to grow your brain and make faster and quicker. Start with:

  • Try using your non-dominant hand to write. It’s tough at first but keep going.
  • Use your non-dominant hand to control the computer mouse or television remote control.
  • Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand.

You’ll probably notice it’s much harder to be precise with your movements. When I first started to brush my teeth with my left hand, it was hard to actually move my hand instead of my head. Using your left hand might remind you how you felt when you were first learning to write your name, or tie your shoelaces. You will probably feel awkward, but this just means you are teaching your brain a new skill.

Maybe you will become a future President, a Proteo-Hendrix or both. Maybe you will just grow an amazing neural network.

My advice: Be Amazing Every Day but don’t bother breaking your wrist to do it.

International Left-Handers Day is held annually every August 13th. It was founded by the Left-Handers Club in 1992, with the club itself having been founded in 1990. International Left-Handers Day is, according to the club, “an annual event when left-handers everywhere can celebrate their sinistrality [meaning left-handedness] and increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed.” Sponsored by Team America.

What They Didn’t Teach You in School

Metacognition and the 4 Simple Actions for Success.

Can you imagine your gravestone having your ‘net worth’ carved in it? I hope that you genuinely can’t imagine that; so what would you like on the headstone?

We belong to a remarkably quirky species. We are unique, as a species in understanding metacognition. This is often described as the process of ‘learning to learn’ and what it means is giving individuals a range of strategies they can use to monitor and improve their own development. Being engaged in metacognition is a salient feature of good self-regulated learners. The activities of strategy selection and application include those concerned with an ongoing attempt to plan, check, monitor, select, revise, evaluate, etc. I have been training people in this technique for years and it is currently coming to the attention of a wider audience.

Our lives are inundated with practicality and productivity. We think that if there’s no purpose to something, there’s no point in doing it. In my own personal journey of trying to be a better person, I realised that it was all about aiming to be Amazing. Nothing more, nothing less. When you are Amazing, you’re effectively better in every aspect of your life. When I coach and train individuals and groups I am encouraged by the powerful changes that result. There seems to be some universal themes to this change and many people report that they have been dealing with these problems since school. This email from one of my clients to another potential client, explains this further,

I hope things are going ok for you there, actually I hope they are going better than ok – but if not, then I have a man I’d really love to introduce you to, he has been training me recently and I have to say that I feel that his insights have been nothing short of revolutionary for me. Things that seem really simple and obvious, but which I did not know. I think 2015 is going to be my year of getting my life back. I am confident that 2015 is going to be the year I get my life back, and you know how long it has been since I have said anything like that.’

You know how you can hear something a hundred times in a hundred different ways before it finally gets through to you? That powerful understanding is what clients seek and really want. Many are challenged by the fear of change. Their need to embrace change and realise it happens for a reason is one of my first objectives. It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it. What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow. You never know. Things change, often spontaneously. People and circumstances come and go. Life doesn’t stop for anybody. It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day. It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now.

I always start my training and coaching with 4 Simple Actions; simple life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago and have been reminded of ever since, but for whatever reason, haven’t fully grasped.

1. Change Your Physiology First. Stop being a headless chicken (Kinesis) and learn to use the power of Eustress. Learn to breath properly and reduce stress, and increase eustress. Being busy does NOT mean being productive. Busyness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect. Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time. We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritise properly, and say no when we should. Being busy rarely equates to productivity these days. Just take a quick look around. Busy people outnumber productive people by a wide margin. Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time. They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc. They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep. Yet, emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their day planners are jammed to the brim with obligations. Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance. But it’s all an illusion. They’re like hamsters running on a wheel

2. Take Action Now: Excellence, Always. Thinking and doing are two very different things. Success never comes to look for you while you wait around thinking about it. You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. Knowledge is basically useless without action. Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work on meaningful goals. Ask yourself,

  • What’s really important to you?
  • Have the courage to build your life around your answer?
  • How would you explain what you do to someone new?
  • What is your remarkable point of view in 8 words or less (R POV 8)?
  • If you got run over by a bus, could you guarantee that your successor is better than you are?

3. Become a Brilliant Listener. Are you a good listener? The chances are are very high that you are not and that you’re getting worse. Some people are very good at speaking, telling their stories and being able to inspire others. But being a good listener is often more important than speaking. It gives a deeper level of understanding about someone’s situation, and helps to know what words are best to use and what words should be avoided. Nothing is more important than the ability to listen. It is a subject that can be studied and mastered:

  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … listener?
  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … at hiring?
  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … at evaluating people?

4. What You Own is Not Who You Are. Material goods that you may or may not have are not relevant. It has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person. Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need. That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences.

So imagine what you would have on your gravestone now. What really matters? What will make you say,

2015 is going to be my year of getting my life back?

Be Amazing Every Day

7 Ways to Improve Your Linkedin Posts

I am 100 Pulses old today!

  • Want more Clients?
  • Want more money?
  • Want more people to read your posts?

Well, in Linkedin terms I thought it might be helpful to describe my experiences, experiments and outcomes. Not every post you write on Publisher is going to get tens of thousands of views. My 100 posts have been viewed 40,000 times, have had thousands of ‘likes’ and spawned much comment (data here).

Wisdom is the result of the distillation of your experiences– Adamus Saint-Germain

I love writing these posts (#1 position in Business is PASSION) and I have only recently found that it was relatively easy to distill one’s knowledge for others. It is also a great way to showcase your knowledge and expertise in any given area and that’s a big part of content marketing.

It seems that lots of people are reading my posts. As a result I am getting some new work and reminding others of my areas of excellence. Many readers take time so say thank you and kindly say how much they enjoy reading the posts (thank you!). It is part of my daily ritual to research, think deeply and write these posts. The secret is to get up early.

Here are my 7 key elements for writing and posting on Linkedin:

  1. # 1 Have A Good Title: Coming up with that ideal title doesn’t require enormous creativity. It requires just one thing. You don’t need a mysterious question that begs the reader to click on your title or a sensational headline to compel visitors to click. You just need a number. A number in your title is a great way to get people to click on your blog post. A blog post title with a number (better yet numbers) in it is almost guaranteed to perform better than one without it. In my case (see all figures here) it stimulates the most viewers. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the top posts of all time right here on LinkedIn. They all have a number in their titles. Perhaps one day, blog title number fatigue will set in. But it hasn’t yet.
  2. Use Attractive Images: Visuals show up prominently in the LinkedIn newsfeed as they do everywhere else. Make sure that you use a visual at the top of your blog post that resonates with the professional demographic that make up LinkedIn and try making your own!
  3. Brief and Engaging Business Content (600 words approximately seems to be the average): My posts are on the long side but your posts don’t need to be. I believe that for professionals where time is money, many simply don’t have the time to read through a longer post. Keep it short and simple when possible.According to numbers from LinkedIn 6 out of every 10 LinkedIn users are interested in industry insights. The most demanded type of content among LinkedIn members should be in the front of your mind when you start posting. Insights, in general, are quite popular among users. Second to industry insight, company news appeals to 53 percent of LinkedIn members.
  4. Keywords: Every social network plays around with their news feed or timeline and thus have an algorithm similar to Facebook Edgerank. LinkedIn is no different. LinkedIn has to decide what posts to display on who’s network updates, and I would tend to believe that if you publish too frequently, that might be hurting your chances for maximum impressions for each post.
  5. Timing: I’ve found that downtime during office hours works well for catching people who have a few spare minutes to read; for example, right before work (7-8am), during lunch breaks (11:30am-12:30pm) and right before leaving work for the day (4pm). As for days of the week, I’ve always had the hypothesis that LinkedIn essentially shuts down outside of work hours.
  6. LuckThere is always a degree of luck in anything but remember that cognitive bias can make you think that doing ‘random’ things actually influences the chance of success. Read on here.
  7. Good Marketing / Sharing Strategy for your Post: Using the right channels can significant help the number of views our post gets. Do some analysis and look at the key groups and # hashtags that represent the audience you are writing for, including:
  • Twitter groups and key influencers
  • Facebook timeline and timeline in other groups
  • Google+ hangouts
  • Start a conversation and ask good questions
  • Get the right # and let others find you
  • Get picked up by key groups by being specific.

So in my humble opinion it does pay to be thoughtful about your Linkedin post strategy. With some consideration, changing strategy, testing (firing bullets then cannonballs) and making your own luck, you will get more visibility than you’ve previously had on LinkedIn. That will lead to more engagement, brand recognition and possibly even more business for you.

Be Amazing Every Day

Innovation: It’s a not a dog-eat-dog world

Innovation is not born from the dream. Innovation is born from the struggle.

Simon Sinek

Simon’s words are both profound and a little bleak. In the realm of business, people often say that it’s a cut-throat ordog-eat-dog world. The phrase survival of the fittest, which was not used (first) by Darwin but by the philosopher Herbert Spencer, is widely misunderstood. For most people the phrase survival of the fittest evokes a picture of nature red in tooth and claw, a brutal struggle, which the strongest individuals are destined to win. Survival of the fittest has been used (in society and business) to justify greed, selfish behaviours and everyone for themselves attitudes. The ‘fittest’ can actually mean be the most loving and selfless, not the most aggressive and violent In fact, in biological terms the fittest can mean the cleverest, the best camouflaged, the most attractive – or even the nicest. In any case, what happens in nature does not justify people behaving in the same way.

On August 3, 1857, Frederick Douglass delivered a “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua in New York. However shortly after he began Douglass sounded a foretelling of the coming Civil War when he uttered the most quoted sentences of all of his public orations,

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Struggle can be defined in many ways and has several meaning:

  • to try hard to do, to achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems
  • to move with difficulty or with great effort
  • to try to move yourself, an object, etc., by making a lot of effort

The struggle to survive is seen throughout evolution and natural selection. Natural selection is simply a description of what happens in the living world. It does not tell us how we should behave. The concept of struggle for existence is of competition or battle for resources needed to live.

Maybe at last, we are witnessing a shift in mentality and behaviour from the past approach of dog-eat-dog competition between businesses, business units, and employees to the future approach of collaboration across multi-functional teams, departments, organisations and business ecosystems: interconnectedness rather than separateness, collaboration rather than competition.

Traditionally start-up firms have faced a real struggle when challenging established businesses with a well-financed parent company. When James Dyson began work on his bag-less vacuum cleaner in 1978, the last thing on his mind was how Hoover would react to his muscling in on their market. Five years and 5,127 prototypes later, the Dyson G-Force Dual Cyclone arrived and revolutionised the vacuum cleaner market. Hoover, once the dominant US brand, had become complacent and failed to innovate. Dyson – now Sir James Dyson – could see a gap in the market for a top-of-the-range product that went about its job in a completely different and, arguably, more effective way. His gamble paid off handsomely.

He established his product in Japan, then in Europe and by 2007 Dyson was the market leader by revenue in the US – Hoover’s own backyard. But it was a gamble. Dyson seemingly blanked out the possibility that Hoover could use the financial muscle of its parent group, Whirlpool, to blow him out of the water. It wasn’t until 1999 that Hoover made its move. It tried to imitate a Dyson and Sir James went to court to protect his invention and he won decisively.

I am pleased that the shift from struggling companies which are seen as the breading place for innovation to one where we could have collaboration and synergy. It is a myth that nature has evolved over millions of years of combat and competitive struggle; more it is that evolution is down to networking and partnerships.

Of course there has been, and always will be competition in life, yet evolution benefits far more from collaboration than it does from competition. What we see in the wild is not every animal for itself. Cooperation is an incredibly successful survival strategy. Indeed it has been the basis of all the most dramatic steps in the history of life. Complex cells evolved from cooperating simple cells.

Multicellular organisms are made up of cooperating complex cells. Super-organisms such as bee or ant colonies consist of cooperating individuals. So does our business environment. Collaboration encourages the transcending of traditional boundaries used to separate teams, departments, business units and organisations; it interconnects artificial separations in business, encouraging sharing, creativity, empowerment and innovation. Innovation is something that is key to this world; it is what has allowed humanity to excel to limits far beyond anyone’s imagination. It is what makes the impossible, possible and it is what constantly gets us wanting to improve the world even more.

All companies are part of the greater economy, which includes your competitors, customers, suppliers and prospects. And many businesses look at the ecosystem as a zero-sum game where growth in their company will result in a decline in their competitors and vice versa. In reality that is rarely the case. Successful transformation requires courage, not fear; it is not for the faint-hearted. The more we understand and explore our own business environments and wider business ecosystems (as well as our own inner motives and values) the more we find pathways for success. The encouragement we need is for learning through doing, growth through experience, success through failure.

Innovation (even in it’s over used format) is not simply about building the future; innovation is about solving problems in the present. Looking around us in nature and human nature, we find enablers to assist us to survive and thrive. Innovation is not bred in places that are too comfortable or too easy. It is brought upon when someone taps into the brilliance of their own mind and thinks what currently exists sucks and wants to improve it — so they go out there and create it.

Being innovative is not a trait that everyone has, but the issue is many of the people who do have it decide not to do anything with it. Action is what sparks innovation, it’s not being afraid to use trial and error to figure it out because at some point you will fail, but eventually you will figure it out. Improving quality standards (Excellence, always) and customer awareness will improve all companies competing in that industry ecosystem. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats and this rings true in the world of business.

In nature, which has been dealing with dynamic change for some 4 billion years, we find it is the species that collaborate and interconnect more with their respective ecosystems that are more resilient to changes in their environment. The ecosystem they live in becomes more resilient the more interconnected the stakeholders are within that ecosystem.

The same is true for business.

Be Amazing Every Day

You say you want a revolution?

There is a revolution coming, if Googles chairman Eric Schmidt is to be believed. Not the sort that Russell Brand hankers after (or as the Guardian puts it rather well:The comedian’s desire to lead a global revolution is undermined by his smug, shallow manifesto).

But a revolution none the less. At Davos 2014, Schmidt warned that the constant development of new technology will put more and more middle class people out of work. Before you through down your laptop, smash your tablet and trash your smartphone, (and have a glass of Sancerre) it’s worth remembering that human workers survived the earlier industrial eras of steam, electricity, the telegraph, micro-chips and globalised media. We continued to work because with every new level of automation, new jobs are created that replace those that are lost.

You say you want a revolution, well, you know / We all want to change the world / You tell me that it’s evolution, well, you know / We all want to change the world / But when you talk about destruction / Don’t you know that you can count me out / Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right..

Seth Godin once said that if you can’t describe your position in eight words or less, you don’t have a position. Tom Peters’ version is R.POV8, which stands for Remarkable Point of View in 8 Words or Less. Tom Peters & Seth Godin try this:

Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right ?

Peters’ discusses the need for organisations to declare their position in the market in simple, clear and compelling terms . His R.Pov8 is really Excellence, always and only needs one symbol – a Pantone #032 (red) exclamation point. I think it fits him perfectly.

Here is my R.POV8: Inspiring people to be amazing every day. But here is the big problem – we are just not satisfied. Not satisfied with life, our jobs or our technology. Certainly not with the technology we have at work. Recent figures show only 39 percent of employees in Germany are satisfied with the technology that they are provided with at work, according to a recent Forrester survey. The picture is only slightly better in the UK with 53 percent satisfied. It is this technology expectations gap that is leading not only to disgruntled employees, but lost customers across of lots of industries. Tom Peters often uses the phrase ‘white collar revolution’ (WCR). Like so many of his predictions, the idea of a revolution transforming the world of the white collar worker, in much the same way as blue collar work had been in the preceding decades, has now become a mainstream concept. So how does this work?

Let’s look at something else that is amazing: your smartphone. However if you ask it to do something and it doesn’t have an ‘app’ for and it just sits there. Just plain dumb. The smartphone up until this month needed programmers to write apps. The WC revolution I am talking about is the one inspired by Google’s secretiveDeepMind. DeepMind Technologies to be exact, is a London-based artificial-intelligence firm acquired by Google this year for $400 million. It revealed last month that it is designing computers that combine the way ordinary computers work with the way the human brain works. Excellent as I am a huge fan of neuroscience and technology and this smells of convergence. They call this hybrid device a Neural Turing Machine (NTM).

Turing is of course back in the news again, with the new film staring Benedict Cumberbatch. Here is the film’s R.POV27:

Genius British logician and cryptologist Alan Turing helps crack Germany’s Enigma Code during World War II but is later prosecuted by his government for illegal homosexual acts.

The ‘Turing test’ is the test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. In the original illustrative example, a human judge engages in natural language conversations with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. The big ‘hope’ with the new NTM is it won’t need programmers and will instead program itself. DeepMind’s solution is to add a large external memory that can be accessed in many different ways, which Turing realised was a key part of ordinary computing architecture, hence the name Neural Turing Machine. This gives the neural network something like a human’s working memory – the ability to quickly store and manipulate a piece of data.

DeepMind’s breakthrough follows a long history of work on short-term memory. In the 1950s, the American cognitive psychologist George Miller carried out one of the more famous experiments in the history of brain science. Gorge Miller I have written about often as his ‘Law’ inspired the ‘my toaster talks to me’ problem about capacity to examine ‘what something might be true of..’

Miller was deeply interested in the capacity of the human brain’s working memory and set out to measure it with the help of a large number of students who he asked to carry out simple memory tasks. His conclusion was that the capacity of short-term memory cannot be defined by the amount of information it contains. Instead Miller concluded that the working memory stores information in the form of chunks and that it could hold approximately seven of them.


Neural networks, which make up half of DeepMind’s computer architecture, have been around for decades but are receiving renewed attention as more powerful computers take advantage of them. The idea is to split processing across a network of artificial neurons, simple units that process an input and pass it on. These networks are good at learning to recognise pieces of data and classify them into categories.

The longer term impact of DeepMind could be massive, prompting some doom-sayers and non rational observers to warn (again) of job destruction at a faster rate than new jobs can be generated with mass middle class unemployment leading to social unrest. As Google’s leader notes, the rise of automation as nothing short of a second industrial revolution. He believes the way work is conducted will be radically different in the future as many human tasks are automated by algorithms and computer services.

Schmidt’s call for a debate is a timely reminder that all these things also have the potential to create new levels of human value and better lifestyles for people. Technology replaces humans in many ways but new opportunities are created to exploit these technologies too. The White Collar Revolution is coming. Whether your country’s economy is now recovering from the global recession or is still bumping along the bottom, or slipping back into the gloom, the WCR gives a new perspective. A remarkable point of view, that could change the world. A new era of work is upon us and new types of work will emerge to exploit the new technologies that we will use.

Bring on real Excellence and the White Collar Revolution!

Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right .

Be Amazing Every Day.

Big Data and Winning the Lottery

Big Data and Winning the Lottery

There is no rhyme or reason. If there is no rhyme or reason why something happens, there is no obvious explanation for it. Imagine you had to randomly select one person, from a giant database of everyone whom has ever lived on earth. I know this is unlikely but bear with me. What are the chances that person is Steve Jobs?

The answer is a very big number: 1 in 107,600,000,000 .

So, now imagine being able to pick the 6 numbers of tomorrow’s lottery: the chances are one in 13,983,816. Not too bad?

So consider this real event and think about the chances of it really happening. On September 6th, 2009, the Bulgarian lottery randomly selected as the winning numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, 42.

On September 10th, the Bulgarian lottery randomly selected as the winning numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, 42—exactly the same numbers as the previous week.

  • Fix?
  • What are the odds?
  • Could a massive fraud have been perpetrated?
  • Had the previous numbers somehow been copied?
  • More on this later.

For a long time, economists, scientists and science-fiction writers alike have pursued the question whether you can accurately predict the future from the past given sufficiently large groups, big data, historical information and computational power. In one of science-fiction’s classics books the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov, introduced the fictional scientific concept of Psychohistory. The essential idea in psychohistory, is that while one cannot foresee the actions of a particular individual, the laws of statistics as applied to large groups of people could predict the general flow of future events. Asimov used the analogy of a gas: an observer has great difficulty in predicting the motion of a single molecule in a gas, but can predict the mass action of the gas to a high level of accuracy. Maybe that is the future.

You may have read the book by Nassim Taleb on the black swan theory. It is an excellent and still relevant example of understanding data. Worth watching him explain it here. It is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The theory was developed to explain:

  • The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.
  • The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  • The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.

Black Swans are events that can totally change the course of history, sort of like the unexpected appearance of a mutant with psychic powers in Asimov’s Foundation, except that they occur far, far more often. As examples of such Black Swan events he cites the rise of the Internet, the personal computer, World War I, the 9/11 attacks, and our ongoing financial meltdown.

Models based on analyzing historical data are very good at accurately measuring the risk in a portfolio under normal market conditions, the kinds of markets that explain 99 percent of events and follow the familiar bell curve or normal distribution. But, every so often, say one percent of the time, improbable events happen that are way outside a normal distribution. Such market events are totally unpredictable, that is, the future could not have been predicted based on past behavior, because the improbable event is something that has rarely, if ever, happened before.

But there is a massive neuroscience and psychology problem called cognitive biases. These are tendencies to think in certain ways. Cognitive biases can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment, and are often studied in psychology and behavioural economics. To give you my two of my current favourites (I have already dealt with Gamblers Fallacy and the God of Gaps).

Firstly the rhyme-as-reason effect is a cognitive bias whereupon a saying or aphorism is judged as more accurate or truthful when it is rewritten to rhyme. Yes truly. Researchers looked at people who judged variations of sayings which did and did not rhyme, and tended to evaluate those that rhymed as more truthful (controlled for meaning). For example, the statement ‘What sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals’ was judged to be more accurate than by different participants who saw ‘What sobriety conceals, alcohol unmasks’.

One of the most famous examples of this persuasive quality of the rhyme-as-reason effect, see ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’ the signature phrase of Johnnie L Cochran, Jr. in the O.J.Simpson trial.

The second joyful example of a cognitive bias is the so-called IKEA effect. It is a cognitive bias that occurs when consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. The IKEA effect is thought to contribute to the sunk costs effect. It occurs when managers continue to devote resources to sometimes failing projects they have invested their labour in. Have a watch of this brilliant Dan Ariely talk on What makes us feel good about our work? –

Back to the Bulgarian lottery result. It was unusual in that the duplicate sets of numbers occurred in consecutive draws. But the law of truly large numbers, combined with the fact that there are many lotteries around the world regularly rolling out their numbers, means we shouldn’t be too surprised—and so we shouldn’t be taken aback to hear that it had happened before. For example, the North Carolina Cash 5 lottery produced the same winning numbers on July 9 and 11, 2007. The lottery is a six-out-of-49 lottery, so the chance of any particular set of six numbers coming up is one in 13,983,816. That means that the chance that any particular two draws will match is one in 13,983,816. But what about the chance thatsome two draws among three draws will match? Or the chance that some two draws among 50 draws will match? There are three possible pairs among three draws but 1,225 among 50 draws. The law of combinations is coming into play. If we take it further, among 1,000 draws there are 499,500 possible pairs. In other words, if we multiply the number of draws by 20, increasing it from 50 to 1,000, the impact on the number of pairs is much greater, multiplying it by almost 408 and increasing it from 1,225 to 499,500. We are entering the realm of truly large numbers. How many draws would be needed so that the probability of drawing the same six numbers twice was greater than one half—so that this event was more likely than not? Using the same method we used in the birthday problem results in an answer of 4,404.If two draws occur each week, making 104 in a year, this number of draws will take less than 43 years. That means that after 43 years, it is more likely than not that some two of the sets of six numbers drawn by the lottery machine will have matched exactly.

As our world becomes increasingly integrated, fast changing and unpredictable, we expect large improbably disturbances or black swans, to occur more frequently, not only in finance but across business, government and society in general. Mathematical models, information analysis and fast computers will continue to be extremely valuable tools, critical to the smooth functioning of our complex systems. But, when the going gets really rough, no machine or model can ever make up for the wisdom that only comes from human judgment and experience. As long as you understand your bias!

Be Amazing Every Day.

21? Again? Oh please. What is your emotional signature?

21? Again? Oh please. What is your emotional signature?

21 days to break a habit? No, absolutely not.

21 Emotional states in humans? Not a chance.

5 Human Senses? (No way! There at least 19, maybe as high as 26 or more).

I don’t believe any of it. Round numbers are just too convenient. Even comedy has it’s own ‘special number’ of 28, (thank you Stewart Lee) which is both meaningless and significant. In hospitality, service and retail we live in an increasingly digital world. Yet we don’t yet understand the power of the emotions and the effect of the senses. Even the sense of humour is being distorted by the digital paradigm. We work, shop and play digitally most of the time or at least the digital device is used at some point during these activities.

Emotions (and therefore all our senses) play a massive role in our personal lives, yet as business leaders we often turn a blind eye to the importance emotions have in customer behaviour, attitude and ultimately business success. What is the emotion that your customers leave your shop, business, or restaurant with? What senses have been engaged in a thoughtful and positive manner? The new (2014) business model is to understand the DNA of the Customer Experience. It is now more crucial than ever to know how emotions drive value and ultimately why the customer will return, tell others through social media or even through the old school ‘word of mouth’.

The case for focusing on emotion as a mechanism for building a better experience for customers is a compelling one. The methodology for undertaking the necessary emotional analysis is practical, simple, potentially very effective, and enables organisations to benchmark themselves by sector and model best practice. Most of our daily activities are facilitated, shared by or experienced with some type of digital device. The crucial word in here is the emotional experience.

 

We all search for meaningful, intriguing or shocking experiences every day of our lives. All these experiences have one thing in common: they are multi-sensory. Giant super stores pump the smell of freshly baked bread into their beautifully welcoming and lit opening portals. The traditional five senses model (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) is credited to Aristotle. But humans have a lot more than five senses. The commonly held definition of a sense is any system that consists of a group of sensory cell types that respond to a specific physical phenomenon and that corresponds to a particular group of regions within the brain where the signals are received and interpreted.

So here are the 19 – 26 most likely human senses (and I am not saying there are not more)…

  1. Sight: This technically is two senses given the two distinct types of receptors present, one for color (cones) and one for brightness (rods). (+1 to total)
  2. Taste: This is sometimes argued to be five senses by itself due to the differing types of taste receptors (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami), but generally is just referred to as one sense. For those who don’t know, umami receptors detect the amino acid glutamate, which is a taste generally found in meat and some artificial flavouring. (+ 4)
  3. Touch: This has been found to be distinct from pressure, temperature, pain, and even itch sensors.
  4. Pressure: receptors in our skin and inside our alimentary canal.
  5. Itch: Surprisingly, this is a distinct sensor system from other touch-related senses. See my article on knismesis and gargalesis.
  6. Thermoception: Ability to sense heat and cold. This also is thought of as more than one sense. This is not just because of the two hot/cold receptors, but also because there is a completely different type of thermoceptor, in terms of the mechanism for detection, in the brain.
  7. Sound: Detecting vibrations along some medium, such as air or water that is in contact with your ear drums.
  8. Smell: Yet another of the sensors that work off of a chemical reaction. This sense combines with taste to produce flavors.
  9. Proprioception: This sense gives you the ability to tell where your body parts are, relative to other body parts. This sense is one of the things police officers test when they pull over someone who they think is driving drunk. This sense is used all the time in little ways, such as when you scratch an itch on your foot, but never once look at your foot to see where your hand is relative to your foot.
  10. Tension Sensors: These are found in such places as your muscles and allow the brain the ability to monitor muscle tension.
  11. Nociception: In a word, pain. This was once thought to simply be the result of overloading other senses, such as touch, but this has been found not to be the case and instead, it is its own unique sensory system. There are three distinct types of pain receptors: cutaneous (skin), somatic (bones and joints), and visceral (body organs) (+2)
  12. Equilibrioception: The sense that allows you to keep your balance and sense body movement in terms of acceleration and directional changes. This sense also allows for perceiving gravity. The sensory system for this is found in your inner ears and is called the vestibular labyrinthine system.
  13. Stretch Receptors: These are found in such places as the lungs, bladder, stomach, and the gastrointestinal tract. A type of stretch receptor, that senses dilation of blood vessels, is also often involved in headaches.
  14. Chemoreceptors: These trigger an area of the medulla in the brain that is involved in detecting blood born hormones and drugs. It also is involved in the vomiting reflex.
  15. Thirst: This system more or less allows your body to monitor its hydration level and so your body knows when it should tell you to drink.
  16. Hunger: This system allows your body to detect when you need to eat something.
  17. Being Full: The feeling of satiation (when you feel full after eating) which uses a stomach based neuronal and hormonal control system (involving a ‘brain’ like structure in our stomachs and the hormone Gastrin).
  18. Magentoception: This is the ability to detect magnetic fields, which is principally useful in providing a sense of direction when detecting the Earth’s magnetic field. Unlike most birds, humans do not have a strong magentoception, however, experiments have demonstrated that we do tend to have some sense of magnetic fields.
  19. Time: This one is debated as no singular mechanism has been found that allows people to perceive time. However, experimental data has conclusively shown humans have a startling accurate sense of time, particularly when younger. The mechanism we use for this seems to be a distributed system involving the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia.

So as companies wake up in late 2014 and begin to understand all 26 (or more) of the senses and how they change the customer emotional experience or theEmotional Signature (as Steven Walden and Kalina Janevska put it rather brilliantly), they will need to examine the rational, subconscious, and emotional elements of an experience. But these are not the most exciting developments. Much more intriguing and perhaps slightly shocking technologies are being developed to help us touch, sniff and taste digitally.

We already have various vibrations on mobile devices to let us know when we perform certain functions. Notice the difference in vibrations (haptic function) when you press the keyboard to when you receive a text or tweet? Soon we will be able to feel textures of fabrics and other materials via the use of ‘microscopic’ vibrations send to our mobile devices.

Do you remember Google Nose? It was one of several April Fools Day jokes created by the company a while ago and pretended we could search for a particular smell and then get a whiff of it through our smartphone. Except Google Nose isn’t a joke anymore. It’s called the oPhone, it’s real, and you’ll be able to buy one before the end of the year.

However, the oPhone hasn’t been created by Google. Instead, it comes from a team of scientists, artists, and generally crazy people who make up the Olfactive Project, alongside art and design center Le Laboratoire in Paris, and a team of students from Harvard University. It’s not just a cool, if slightly bizarre, tech experiment either. There’s a real ethos behind the oPhone.

Apparently, sending each other smells may be a better way to communicate emotions than simply using words, as it removes barriers such as language and culture. The oPhone website talks about global communication, and a world where smells are a moving gesture of friendship. It’s a bit flaky but few people would misinterpret the overall meaning behind the smell of roses, no matter what language they spoke.

Now, although the name suggests we’re going to see a phone, the idea is misleading. It’s a device that connects to a phone. Smells are generated by the oPhone accessory after being selected and sent from your smartphone, like a smelly, wordless text message. The oPhone project has been running for a while,and has been demonstrated several times over the past year..

These digital and sensory combinations (combined with massive changes and speed of development of new technology) will change the emotional landscapes for all businesses. The idea that happy customers are more likely to remain loyal, try new products and services, and spread good news about their experiences has started to catch on. Without emotion, all predictions of value were substantially less accurate.

However, there are some people who do seem to have other senses. Maybe for them the emotional experience of retail, restaurants and hospitality will remain a challenge. How to focus their senses and develop their emotional resonances. For example, there are many people who can sense impending weather changes. And many people feel that they can sense when someone else is looking at them. No scientific proof for any of these senses, yet…but I am sure the is a nice round number waiting to be put into the myth factory. 42.