Love to laugh – Why we should all be doing more of it!

I love to laugh!

Don’t we all? Trouble is, as we grow older, the opportunities to belly ache, hoot and laugh out loud seem to diminish. It is said that kids on average will laugh 80 – 100 times in a day. Little children can laugh up to 400 times in a day. From Sixwise, in an article that discusses how to reduce stress (always necessary), there is a section on the benefits of laughing.

“By the time we reach adulthood, we laugh only 5-6 times per day. You only need to watch children to appreciate the relationship between humor and enjoying life. Children will laugh at anything! If you ask them, ‘what’s so funny,’ they may say something like, ‘he looked at me!’ says Barbara Bartlein, R.N., M.S.W., a motivational speaker and consultant.” [BTW I also particularly like tip #15: To drive courteously. Isn’t there enough stress without having obnxious, selfish and dangerous drivers on the road?]

Calvin & Hobbes LaughterThere are apparently many purported health benefits to laughing, including helping to heal cancer & depression. From Nurses Together, laughter apparently also “lowers your blood pressure and heart rate, improves lung capacity, massages internal organs, increases memory and alertness, reduces pain, improves digestion, and lowers the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin.” And, here is a recent study (April 17 2009) as reported by Health on the Net (HON), saying that laughter increases good cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attacks for diabetics. Bascially, laughter would seem to be the panacea for many ailments; maybe we should all be prescribed tickets to see hilarious theatre?

One of the downfalls of smiling and laughter is the creasing of the face (evidently not appreciated if you have had plastic surgery, for example). The wrinkles that mark time on our faces also carry the history of how much we may have spent laughing and smiling as opposed to frowning and smirking. I would be easily led to believe that those who know how to laugh liberally tend to have a more positive outlook on life. On another level, for those whose humour involves self-derision, there is an equally appreciable sense of humility. Different from comedians who have the knack of helping us laugh, I am just more likely to gravitate toward those who are given to laugh, without shame. BTW, did you ever stop to consider if having a sense of humour refers more to the ability to make people laugh or the ability to laugh oneself? In effect, a sense of humour is about both per dictionary.com: “The trait of appreciating (and being able to express) the humorous…” In either case, it is a wonder you never see “own a sense of humour” on the CV.

So, in an effort to increase those smile wrinkles, to bring a smile to your face, and even encourage you to laugh, not just now as you watch, but every hour of ever day, here below is a five point bulletin designed to set your course straight and wiggly.

First, the classic from Mary Poppins, written By the Sherman Brothers (1964).

2/ Ok, Mary Poppins doesn’t make you laugh necessarily, but it sets the stage for a good smile. Now to do some laughing. Here is 1″40 of sheer enjoyment.

A good followup act is here with this little kid that has a funny, deep laugh. Just being around carefree babies is enough to bring smiles to all in proximity (although the parent may at times gain immunity!)

3/ Try this laughter yoga video, hosted by John Cleese. You can find out if and where Laughter Yoga clubs are near you at LaughterYoga.org. We had one dinner party where we began the dinner by all laughing for 10 minutes. Made for a super energy for the rest of the meal.

4/ I invite you to pop over to watch a short video podcast from ABC, broadcasting a report by the BBC, about the contagiousness of laughter. Watching a few babies giggling is bound to break out a smile. Visit here.

5/ And, fifth, I am glad to report that there is an official Global Belly Laughter day which happens to be my son’s birthday: January 24th. May every day be January 24th.

To close out this post on laughter, here is a wonderful Laughing and Smiling Oath:

The Laughing Oath
I do solemnly swear from this day forward
To grease my giggling gears each day
And to wear a grin on my face for no reason at all!
I promise to tap my funny bone often,
With children, family, friends, colleagues and clients,
And to laugh at least fifteen times per day.
I believe that frequent belly laughter
Cures terminal tightness, cerebral stiffness,
And hardening of the attitudes,
And that HA HA often leads to AHA!
Therefore, I vow, from this day forth,
To brighten the day of everyone I meet,
And to laugh long and prosper.
from:
The Laughing Classroom
by Diana Loomans and Karen Kolberg

Have a GREAT and LAUGH-FILLED day!

Did you ever consider…

Below is a collection of random thoughts. Some are my own, others come from various emails in circulation. Scroll down and peruse. And if you feel so inclined, add to the fray!

Have you ever considered why it is that we write Anno Domini (A.D.) in Latin for the “modern era” and when it comes to the “olden times“, we write the term Before Christ (B.C.) in plain old English.

Can you cry or sweat under water?

Shouldn’t the O in XO (kiss & hug) be related to the O that is love in tennis scoring?

Why do you have to ‘put your two cents in’… but it’s only a ‘penny for your thoughts’? Where’s that extra penny going to?

If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?
Chiffre Number 7 Seven


What did the number 7 ever do that it needed to be crossed (in mainland Europe)? If it’s because the number one has a pedastal, then what’s so great about number 1?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?


How is that if a murderer gets life, a mass murderer gets multiple life sentences, but a person who kills millions of people just gets house arrest (Pol Pot)?

Why are you IN a movie, but you’re ON TV?

Why is ‘bra’ singular and ‘panties’ plural?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?

Year of the Comma – An Existential Comment

2,009 versus 2009

When you need to write two thousand and nine, as in “five thousand years ago, two thousand and nine people participated in the world’s first game of Twister” (they didn’t), you might also write it as “5,000 years ago, 2,009 people participated in the world’s largest game of Twitter…” (no points, just a comma, for spotting the differenceYear 2009).

So, the question I have is why would we also write: “Today is May 9, 2009 and, 5,000 years ago, 2,009 people participated in the world’s largest game of Twitter“?

If we write 2,009 for a number, why do we drop the comma when we write 2009 for the year? When we write 10,000 B.C., moreover, we add the comma too.

My existential question du jour: When we get to the year 10,000 A.D., will we or will we not have integrated the comma? And if we do, at what point will some governing body decide to do that? Just the changes in computer programming to add the comma, much less the implications of Y10K with 5 digits, seem to boggle the mind.

I think this is a question we can safely put on the backburner. Failing that, we can hand over to some under-utilised bureaucrat in some over-run government. Your thoughts?

The Guns Crisis Continues – How can it be reversed?‏

Gun sales in the US have gone [blasted a hole] through the roof since the end of last year.

Time Magazine: The Gun in America
In November 2008, after the election win of Obama, requests for gun licenses in the U.S. spiked +42% to 1.5 million. The following months have seen year over year increases of between 23% and 29% (through March 2009).

Numerous theories abound for this gigantic leap, centering on Obama’s anti-gun past and a fear of a clampdown. Obama suggested a 500% tax hike on gun sales in 2000. With the continuing headlines of daylight massacres (57 people killed YTD in the US), you wonder how the gun lobbyists and fervent 2nd Amendment defenders resist. Yet, they maintain a lethal stranglehold on Washington, pushing back enough to have dropped the latest proposed ban on assault weapons.

Meanwhile, underneath the increase in gun purchases — hardly your regular anti-crisis remedy or an expected recession-resistant category — some speculate on a fear of increased violence and social instability generated by the crisis. Is it possible that the violence of gangs — that so desperately turn the impoverished (or immigrant’s) dream into a nightmare — will bleed into normal society? Is the US social fabric that weak? While racism and social tension admittedly abounds in many cities, one has to hope that very presence of Obama and his campaigns will bring the US through to the other side; at the very least, so that there is no massive breakdown in social order. I have to believe that we are observing, in this hike in gun sales, more exaggerated and outrageous fear-mongering.

What can be done to reverse this trend or, more importantly, undo the US proclivity to buy and use guns? On this the tenth anniversary of Columbine (April 20 1999), maybe it could be via the viral internet that a mass anti-gun movement could be started to aide the White House and the DC crowd to see straight. I remain deeply saddened by the American violence that is so hardly reconcilable with the world’s leading democracy.

Any such action should also be accompanied, in my opinion, by an element of greater controls on the video gaming worlds (PG, G, R, X-ratings?) that have clearly contributed to the wild dreams of the gun frenzied youth. At the same time, parental leadership and guidance must also play a major role in instructing their children, providing them love and solid (non-aggressive) values. The blame for the gun craze and the rampages is spread around: parents, schools and society at large. We must all take responsibility. Spread the word to un-gun the American Dream!

In case you didn’t know about the Woman with the Longest Nails in the World

Lee Redmond Longest Nails in the WorldA woman, named Lee Redmond, with longest nails in the world suffered a bad car accident over the weekend and lost all her nails.  It is hard to imagine, but she had not cut her nails since 1979.  The combined total length was nearly 9 metres, with the longest a thumb nail at 90cm.  The Guinness Book of World Records will need to find her successor.  (The GBWR site doesn’t allow you to search for more details).

Apparently, Ms Redmond was not the only Salt Lake City long nailed woman.  Here is another “famous” SLN (Salt Lake Nail, as opposed to SNL) case:  Barbara Wing Long Nails.  And there is quite an underworld in the long nail community — whose existence had completely skipped my attention previously.  Read here for more of the famous women, long in the nail.

Not sure that Chanel is ready to switch ad campaigns just yet, but points for originality.  All the same, I hope that Ms Redmond has a speedy recovery.  I am sure that the trauma of having normal-length nails will be hard to contend with: imagine the world of unexplored opportunities that will lie ahead of her, such as dialing the telephone herself, putting her fingers through the coffee mug handle, and so on…

The Ultimate Way – Doing it in Slow Motion

A Search for the Ultimate “Way” in Sports, Business and Life

Wayne Gretsky, The Great OneWhen people refer to the Great One, MariO or COsby, or then again Michael JOrdan, BjOrn BOrg or Tiger WOOds, one would not be surprised to think that they all share a hidden talent. The hidden or invisible talent? Seeing things in slow motion when, for everyone else, the puck or ball is travelling at the regular speed.

If this is true in sports, I have to believe it can also be true in business. When great business leaders are in the vortex of a crisis, I believe they see things in slow motion, which helps to digest the torrents of complex information, synthesize with precision and decide with crystal vision.

Going a step further, I am inclined to believe that there are also those who actually llive their life in slow motion. While life hurtles by for most of us mortals, some have a special talent that allows them to manage their lives at a different level. Just as the Great One didn’t manage to make the perfect pass on every single occasion, nor did Jack Welch have strokes of strategic genius behind every decision, one cannot expect (nor want) to live a life of perfection. However, for the big decisions and manifest other major dynamic moments, such as what to say in moments of turmoil, some people have the gift, what I would like to call “the gift of O”, the great O, Ω or Omega because of the sense of harmony and equilibrium inherent in that letter. Whether it is knowing what to say to someone in grief, making the impromptu wedding speech or galvanizing support from a bunch of strangers, some people’s energy and mastery of language is just a step above. They manage to size up the situation faster and find the right words quicker. In another sphere, it is the person who grabs the knocked over vase, catches a falling leaf or anticipates the rain. For these people, they seem to be a step ahead as they see life in slow motion. I would characterize the gift as a superior sense of balance, equilibrium & direction, a sense of self, anticipation and a 360˚ vision. Somehow, the gift of O as expressed in Life, as opposed to sports or business, is a much more complete concept.

I started to think about this post when I considered the transferability of the “eyes behind your head” talent that certain great team players have. If you have the genius in one field (sports), how likely is it that you will exhibit the same talent in business or in life? Somehow, I get the feeling that having the gift in one area is as good as it may get. What do you think?

ADDED 22 NOVEMBER:  I was turned on to this NY Times article, “Generation O get its hopes up” (Nov 7) after publishing this post.  It would seem that we are indeed in search for the Gift of O!

Common Factors in Web 2.0 & Sustainable Development

Web 2.0 and Sustainable Development – A Way of Life

Via personal predilection and, as it happens, in my work, I am embedded in Web 2.0 functionality. When I take a helicopter view of web 2.0, especially as it applies to the corporate world, I associate the 2.0 mentality with the desire to interact, to listen and to engage. Words such as “open”, “collaborative”, “flat” (as in hierarchy) and “collective intelligence” feature regularly in 2.0 vocabulary. web 2.0 is, at its core, social — thanks to the many new functionalities and the spirit that comes with it. And with it, the internet has gone from cold and impersonal to warm and interactive. Furthermore, web 2.0 is entirely global in scope, like all things on the ‘net.

Web 2.0 Graph Interlinking Circles


In another vein, I am personally committed to Sustainable Development (SD) and, in my professional world, am also engaged in the process. When I consider the mentality of all those who are also promoting SD, I think of the spirit of collaboration, community, an openness to new ideas, and a readiness to engage. And, in case it were not obvious, SD is also a global issue.

As part of any SD philosophy, there is a need to marry economic and ‘social’ benefits alongside the protection of the world’s natural resources. I like the definition that sustainable development is about the people, profit and the planet.

Sustainable Development Interlinking Circles Chart


I have for quite some time believed that, whether it is the mentalities of those involved or the inherent challenges when applied to the corporate world, sustainable development and web 2.0 are intertwined, not to say interdependent. And, as it happens, both topics are very much high up on personal and corporate agendas alike. Those that are engaged in sustainable development and web 2.0 live it both at work and at home. Both entail a state of mind. Both are about individuals engaging in a community affair. And, typically, I have found that when you are into one, you are into the other. Going further into the analysis, the similarities are more than skin deep.

Web 2.0 is a State of Mind


Sustainable development has a natural outlet via the web because its acolytes tend to be very web-friendly. When one looks at sustainable development initiatives (even in a corporate environment), the web itself offers wonderful opportunities. The most basic option is email. Rather than sending letters by post (and paying for and motoring the mail van), the web offers the option to send a paperless email (and even if the email must be printed out, it is quicker and you save on the stamp and the snail mail costs). Sustainable development is also about engaging with your community and there are terrific ways for building on-line communities that transcend borders, age and company lines. Similarly, whether it is an individual, a brand or a company that wants to link in with its community, it has no better way to do so than via 2.0 functionality.

Need to find meaning

In today’s world, especially true for the Gen Y — but also increasingly true for all generations — there is a heightened attention to find meaning. We are all, in our ways, trying to find or give meaning to our lives — and this is true in work as well. Whether a new recruit applying for a job or a current employee, there is an inherent need to feel that one’s values are aligned with the company for whom one is working [notwithstanding the crisis which may impair one’s ability to act freely]. Increasingly, it seems that, in the search for meaning, the professional must be personal. Participating in one or other social media or even writing a blog (in most cases) is a personal act — and the lines are now completely blurred with regards to the corporate “friends” with ever growing corporate functionality in second life, Facebook, etc. Similarly, being committed to sustainable development cannot and does not stop at home.

Sustainable Development & Web 2.0 in the workplace

This all leads me to the notion of bringing web 2.0 or SD into a company that is not otherwise “there”. In a serendipitous way, I was talking with some French friends and realized that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Social Media actually have the same initials when translated into French: R.S.E. (Réseau Social d’Entreprise et Responsabilité Sociale d’Entreprise). But, whether it is sustainable development or web 2.0, implementation at the company level requires significant change management. And, there are drawbacks or risks to engaging in sustainable development or bringing a web 2.0 philosophy in the corporate world. In both cases, it is hard–if not incredible–to be half web 2.0 or just a little sustainable development. Being half-hearted about either leaves you exposed to having your ear eaten off. Implementing web 2.0 functionality necessarily means being able and wanting to listen because it is about two-way dialogue. If your client has something to tell you, you better have a plan as to how you plan to react. If not, the syndrome of the “fake blog” is quicky rooted out. Similarly, if a company trumpets its responsibility in sustainable development, but behind is wasting water (cf Starbucks nailed by the Daily Sun in the UK), the community bites back.

Taking on SD or implementing web 2.0 environments are neither invisible, innocuous nor tempora
ry actions. Both CSR, as it relates to sustainable development, and the implementation of web 2.0 functionality and systems ultimately require a complete company adoption — and senior management involvement. Anything less will become either dysfunctional or causes disconnection, neither of which are healthy. Meanwhile, if there were ever any question as to why a company should want to go down either road (SD and web 2.0), it is increasingly obvious that the spirit of innovation is inherent in both. Web 2.0 has bred open platform innovation — bringing a wider ranging community into the innovation process. SD, when taken on board fully by a company, has an ability to transform old “in growing” models into vibrant, community-based models that combine ecological benefits (planet) with ergonomic improvements (people) and economic savings (profit), if not growth. By evolving corporate culture to encompass these state of minds, companies will benefit from attracting a certain profile of candidates. Both SD and web 2.0 have engrained in their approach an acute attention to the economics and, moreover, they both provide concrete and measurable benefits.

Three critical steps in “How To…”

But, you don’t get there overnight. So how to do it? As I mentioned before, it takes change management. I have three sine qua non suggestions — whether it is Web 2.0 implementation or Sustainable Development actions we are talking about.

First, part of the recipe for success is having senior management total benediction, if not involvement, to help push through the inevitable sticking points (company culture, etc.). Secondly, actions and implementation need to happen in bite sizes, but as part of an overall plan — otherwise, you can get the callout of “greenwashing” or fake 2.0. And, thirdly, when a company wants to undertake active CSR or integrate web 2.0 functionality (whether in intranet, extranet or internet sites), the internal communication and adoption by its employees are absolutely vital. Notions of greenwashing and web 1.0 management are immediately picked up by employees, so the internal marketing and actions must be carefully aligned with the external communications. Meanwhile, here is a good recap (below) from Search Engine Land on how to bring social media into a company (concept from Elliance.com).


So, in sum, Web 2.0 and Sustainable Development have paths that are intricately related. Not that Greenpeace is all about web 2.0 (of course, their site has plenty of interactivity), but, in that both SD and web 2.0 are associated with a way of life, they share many of the same traits and, to some degree, the same challenges. I scoured the web for others blogging on this particular topic, and I did come up with t
his article by Thomas Claburn at Information Week. What I did find more commonly was that there is room to act on Sustainable Development in a 2.0 fashion, namely Sustainable Development 2.0. Here is an October 2007 analysis from Knowledge Politics of Web 2.0 and International Development NGOs. For more on the topic, read below.

* Policy Innovations – Can Web 2.0 revolutionize CR by James Farrar, Gerhard Pohl, Emily Polk, Steve A. Rochlin, Devin T. Stewart, Andrew Zolli
* Diario Responsable
* Weitzenegger.de – Consultancy services merging 2.0 and Development

What do you think? What similarities do you see? Or do you disagree? Thanks to bring your engagement with you as you comment!

The Grand Divide Between Education & Teaching

The difference between Educating and Teaching… and the emptiness inside

I have decided to translate into English a post I did in French over the weekend due to the interesting discussion that it provoked. An article, entitled (for you francophones) « Il y a un divorce entre enseignement intellectuel et formation morale », by Jacqueline de Romilly, published in Le Figaro on October 29, 2008, inspired this post.

The article features a speech by Jacqueline de Romilly on the state of education and teaching in France. Education is a subject dear to my heart both personally and professionally. In a post I wrote earlier this year, I touched on the topic addressed in the speech by Ms. de Romilly, writing about the differences between education and training.

EducationWhile teaching relates to the transmission of knowledge and intellectual learning, Ms. de Romilly stresses the importance of education in the larger scope, including the transmission of values. “Education … means enabling someone to develop and flourish with his own qualities; for human beings, such human qualities relate to the spirit, character and suitability for life in society.” She cites three major problems in French ‘education’: (1) the poor knowledge of the language which affects the ability to communicate [with a risk of giving way to violence]; (2) a poor understanding of history and, therefore, of one’s past and one’s culture; and (3) a lack of reading of literature that is formative in the development of ideas and one’s imagination, not to mention what one can learn via certain iconic characters.

A fundamental concept is that the education of children begins at home. For example, at the dinner table, a family can forge links, telling stories and, at the same time, transferring the family history. But, today, with the quest for time, broken families and stress of work, the transmission of values, personal history and sharing of free time have become rare commodities for a child. I also know that the French philosopher, Luc Ferry, would approve when I say that we, as parents, must cultivate the passion for — and reading of — great classics, in which there are real lessons of life. In fact, it is vitally important for a child to develop his or her passion(s). Through this passion, a child will cultivate his/her curiosity, learn, connect and ultimately give meaning to his/her life.

Acting MasksSports CreativityExtending the concept of education beyond academia, I am a strong believer in the educational value of sports: how to work as a team, be a leader, to deal with physical challenges, to learn to win or lose with grace. Of course, sports are not all equal in the transmission of these values and are not necessarily for everyone. But for many, sport is also a avenue to channel one’s [excess] energy. In another domain, I believe deeply in the importance of performance arts, such as theatre and dance. Participating in theatre at school (I had roles in a dozen plays) was very formative for me – theatre called for the development of the self, opened me up to the diversity of personalities, and exercised my communication skills and stage presence. In England and university in the United States, I also greatly appreciated the art of debate – an environment that hones one’s talents in defending one’s ideas. It also serves to sharpen communication skills and how to compete in a public forum.

What struck me in the article by Ms. de Romilly was the way in which what she described echoed with the state of education – and society more broadly – in the United States. Ms. de Romilly does not cite the influence of the Internet which is normal to the extent the Internet is merely a tool and not at the root of the problem. But she could have expanded about the lack of attention span of children, distracted by the hyper-visual world, the addictive online games, chat rooms without profound meaning, and so on. Across the Atlantic in the US, a book was released this summer called “Why We Hate Us,” by Dick Meyer. In a similar sense, but coming from a completely different angle, Mr. Meyer writes of the lack of interest that have vis-à-vis each other. For Mr. Meyer, hate is not the hatred of fear & loathing, but the hate as in “oh, [women] don’t you just hate it when the men start talking about sports.” The level of conversation in suburban dinners in the United States, says Meyer, pushes some Americans to seek solitude, isolation (at the very least, it does nothing to encourage meaningful bonding). The conversation is too dehumanized. Many are disappointed by the lack of culture, the lack of depth – and indeed, the dulling effect of being permanently “politically correct.” Americans, he writes, naturally turn to the Internet to find interaction with others who share a specific passion, people who are present at any time within social media networks. Is the same phenomenon currently spreading to France?

Taking a helicopter view on Ms. de Romilly’s speech, I would say that teaching in France focuses too much on academics in general and should incorporate a broader scope on “education,” such as sports, theatre and even debate. With the emphasis on subject matters that promote the left side of the brain (maths, sciences…), schooling in France is flawed and gives less chance for children to blossom fully. Both Ms. de Romilly and Mr. Meyer talk about their values as “old” values; yet, even if some consider them retroactive, these are, in my opinion, timeless values and seem – in some circles, at least – to find a resonance on both sides of the Atlantic (and, of course, the Channel, too).

Blogs that have written on the book “Why We Hate Us”:
Page 99 Test
Campaign for the American Reader

Think Different — What do Feminism, Einstein & Sleep have in common?

Learning to think differently

As a marketer, I am always on the lookout for people who think and act differently. A part of my gestalt, my personality, I associate with people who think differently. Sometimes, that means being the contrarian or the devil’s advocate in a conversation. At other times, it just means looking at issues using different filters. Of course, thinking differently only happens in spurts and in certain arenas. There is plenty of good sense in thinking normally too. However, for the breakthrough ideas, putting on the rose-tinted glasses — or a re-wired thinking cap — is invaluable.

How does one actually come to think differently?

I cannot declare whether one is born to think differently or whether such a disposition is acquired at a given moment or simply over time. Using Apple products alone certainly won’t cut it, although I truly believe it has helped me as I have had to relearn lots of new functionalities (having crossed over from the PC world). However, that is only a recent transition for me. My journey into the world of thinking differently began more precisely when I was at University. And there were exactly three elemental building blocks which helped craft my propensity to think differently — each stemming from one central thought: Discover what you do not know. Being aware of what you don’t know is already a challenge because, you might say, how do I know what I don’t know if I don’t know it exists?

The three areas I became attached to studying were:

1. Women’s Studies.

In minoring in Women’s Studies at Yale University, little did I know I would end up working in a cosmetics company, serving primarily female customers. I fell into the subject of Women’s Studies via literary criticism; but I kept on taking more classes in a more or less direct pursuit to understand better the other 50% of the population. And no, it was not a pick-up ploy–not exactly the right environment in any event. More importantly, by studying Women’s Studies, I became aware of the study of all minorities — and how minorities are frequently obliged to think and act differently to succeed. Via Women’s Studies, I was opened to a whole new world of literature and literary criticism, fascinating insights into the differences between the sexes, the politics of touch (Nancy Henley’s landmark essay) as well as the interplay of females and males in groups (at all ages). I also embraced Jungian philosophy and my anima. I did not know how much, at the time, this minor would take on major importance in my career.

2. Sleep

As a rule, we tend to study all things conscious. Whether it’s history, literature or sciences (each basically through the eyes of men), the focus of our daily lives is what we know and do during our waking day. Thus, when I came across the study of sleep as a subject at university, I was enchanted: an opportunity to learn about the other 1/3 of our day. Certainly, there can be interest in understanding one’s own dreams — though, typically not given much credit in academic circles (nor for university degrees). But the subject of sleep is much more profound, including sleep disorders, sleep patterns… There are plenty of important questions that should concern everyone. For example, how much sleep do we REALLY need? Why do we sleep? On this question, scientists are still arguing (as regards adults). The science of sleep and the work of FSRs (famous sleep researchers) such as the giant apple seed and jazz man, William (“Bill”) C. Dement, is a completely undervalued field. I tip my hat to Professor Mark Rosekind for enlightening me on this fascinating part of our existence. I highly recommend any students out there to seek it out; you can start with Dement’s “The Promise of Sleep.” In the meantime, I can also recommend reading one of my favourite books “L’Art du Temps” or, in English, The Art of Time (by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber) which provides a shortcut view to how I manage my sleep and my philosophy with regard to time management more broadly speaking.

3. Left-handers

I am not left-handed and left-handedness is not exactly a “subject” in the same sense as Sleep or Women’s Studies. Left-handers are not unique — concerning apparently about 7-10% of the population (but they certainly get my attention on the tennis court). Neither is being left-handed a sign of a genius, although there are some wonderful examples, including Albert Einstein, Michelangelo (retrained right), Isaac Newton (the original Apple man), Charlie Chaplin, Benjamin Franklin, Bobby Fisher, John McEnroe to name a few. And, it’s worth noting that Apple chose a whole raft of southpaws — including Pablo Picasso, Jim Henson, Bob Dylan, Jerry Seinfield and Einstein — for their Think Different campaign. Interestingly, we have been fielding more frequently left-handed presidents in the US since Gerald Ford: four of the last six! In the history of the USA, there have been a total of seven lefties in the White House (6 coming in the last century) out of a total of 43 (i.e. 16%). At this time, it should be noted that that both John McCain and Barack Obama are left-handed (read here about Washington Post’s “Left-Handed Conspiracy“). There is a good body of research done on left-handers, indicating that lefties have a propensity to be more into visual arts. Also, according to this 2005 ABC report, there is the suggestion that being left-handed can entail some health hazards, too. (See also “Brains that work a little bit differently” by Bragdon and Gamon). But, what has always attracted my attention is that left-handers need to operate in a right-handed world. When I imagined my wife before even meeting her, I always thought that she would be left-handed. It turns out that she is absolutely right-handed, but created two sterling left-handed children.

So, what does this mean… at least, in the business world?

For one, I believe that having been attuned to these different topics throughout my adult life is part of how I have cultivated what is described as a “Whole New Mind” (in the book by Dan Pink and highly recommended reading), essentially a balanced right/left brain. In turn, this has been useful in coming up with new ideas and strategies. And finally, most importantly, it has led me to be more mindful of diversity. Whether international, unorthodox or just different, having opposing or alternative thinking people in your team is healthy and enriching. It also requires differing management styles to make the most of their talent. What are other areas of study that can procure “think different” mentalities? I’d love to hear your stories.

 

Others blogging on “think different”:
Mahmudahsan – with some English proverbs
Mackinnon on Think Differently – athough this looks sadly like a dead blog.

Review of The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

Thanks to my literary counselor, Kathy, I latched onto the novel “The Echo Maker” by Richard Powers. The book has been amply reviewed (NY Times, EW, Margaret Atwood at NYRB) and rewarded (Pulitzer Prize finalist). And if you want a quick insight into the book, try Wikipedia’s entry.

The story has three great points to it:
* a very vivid description of the frailty of life in today’s society
* a very appropriate rendering of life after September 11th — unheroic, unglorified.
* and, finally, a whole new unexplored territory for me to learn about in the form of rare neurological disorders (beyond Capgras Syndrome which was a discovery unto itself).

Aside from the gory details of middle America as portrayed through the lives of Mark and [fake-] sister Karin Schluter, the more salient character is a cognitive neurologist-cum-author, Dr. Gerald Weber who slides down and takes a wrong turn himself. His life and career epitomize the challenges of commerce … in medical field. And, throughout the book, in a parallel universe, you find out about the world of the migratory Sandhill Cranes where again commercial ends intervene in our interaction with nature. My one regret with the book is that the final reveal was too shallow and quick. Made me want to read on!

The book is novel, gripping and poignant. A very good read. And as if you needed any more encouragement, go buy at Amazon.