≡ Menu

Learning to run on little rocks

We’ve all practiced stepping from one rock to another at some point in our childhood. Most of us learnt pretty quickly not to look down at the rocks as we skipped over them, speeding up on every try, but to look where we were trying to go, the destination. If you looked down, you knew what would most likely happen, splash, into the water you went.

Thoughts are no different.

Thoughts are simply the rocks with which we get into our future. They are the necessary mental stepping stones for our consciousness to navigate the “I” that is each of us from here in our thoughts to there where we eventually find ourselves. We have to be able to explain to ourselves how we got from here to there.

If we allow ourselves to look to closely at any one thought, to fall into our thoughts as it were, we over focus and become neurotic about a single thought, one possible event or moment; splash into the cold, watery depths of thinking and over thinking we will go.

If instead we learn to step gently on our thoughts, to diminish them in importance while our eyes are always kept clearly focused on our destination, then we learn to run with full awareness and commitment to that and only the smallest amount of thought necessary is given over to actually moving us forwards in our journey.


At Peace and In Joy

Boy, did I just have fun writing this. Sweet to be relieved of it.

[Image not my copyright, but unknown.]


I realise that as I grew up I was not able to be at peace nor in joy with how and who I was. The fundamental me that was emerging was not OK. It had to be curbed and frightened into conformity.

Recently, I found myself in the oddest of situations.
I smoke, but only when outdoors, no secret to my friends. And, there may be some people who might say, “Oh! what a surprise. He seems so level headed and clear thinking. Why would he smoke?” I wish I knew the answer. I am exposed, and obviously not clear thinking enough. Do you feel the shame in there somewhere?

However, that ‘recently’ I was just referring to was being caught in the act by someone who I knew disapproved of the habit, and who was some good many years my senior and a university lecturer to criminal judges (good Lord, can this embarrassment get any worse?), and while standing outside his home (yes, it can). It threw me for a loop. I tossed the cigarette behind me and pretended it was never there. Ha? WTFH!

I was 15 years old, at the monastic public school I had been condemned to in England, caught in the act of smoking by my house master . . . and I did exactly what my father did when my mother used to catch him being just a little too interested in some female party guest whom he was dancing with, the artful dodge, the pretending it never happened, the whoops. This is what is called a character flaw. (Darwin might have called it a very clever survival strategy, if you can get it right.)

However, I was not so practiced as my father at ‘getting it right’, or perhaps my house master was not as tolerant as my mother, and alas, he also ignored the fact that it was indeed into Darwin’s ancestral home, turned school, that I had been banished at the beginning of my boarding school career at the age of 8, Elston Hall (the place and Darwin’s ideas must have rubbed on on me, surely).

Either way, a deeply solemn look and the promise of swift and painful consequences appeared on my house master’s face. My cigarette had been seen. Worse still, I had tried to hide my behaviour. Enough said.

Why would a grown man of 56, who for the most part has his wits about him and is at peace with who he is not and who is, suddenly revert to this juvenile, guilty behaviour?

Programming. Deep, easily triggered conditioning that never seems to want to go away. We are bound to repeat it. And, the kicker is, the very behaviours we exhibit are the same automatic behaviours our parents exhibited, and their parents exhibited, and so on, all along reacting to the same kinds of situations, often with shame and embarrassment. Each generation hopefully does a little bit of cleaning up of this unfortunate behaviour along the way—civilising, as it is called.

So, what do you do when you’re 56, a conscious smoker (ha!), caught inflagrante, embarrassed, and suddenly deeply aware of the whole sordid little story?

Tell the truth with the person or people involved and see if you can at least get a good laugh out of it. Or, post it on your blog, otherwise . . . the experience is kind of wasted.


Charisma Nonsense

In my ongoing quest to answer the question ‘What’s really going on here?’ in response to lay articles written about psychology, I was drawn to a piece in the Guardian newspaper (UK). The author seeks to understand, and hopefully untangle, yet another claim about a psychological trait, this time it’s the claim that charisma can be taught. Apparently, charisma is the ‘must-have’ for all modern leaders and the rest of us who just want to get ahead (or impress someone we find attractive).

In his article, Colin Drury does an admirable job of tackling this topic. I breathed a sigh of relief as I came to the end of his piece where he denounced as dubious the claim, made by so many coaches, that they can teach this psychological trait to any well-paying punter. Spot on, Colin. The claim is not even close to being true. To be sure, charisma is a very real personality trait, however, I firmly maintain that it cannot be taught or learnt as it is the product of a very specific pattern of thinking whose origins are, we believe, genetic. (Sorry, if it was on your Christmas wish list.)

What worries me more than the existence of these charlatans selling charisma, who after all take their name from 17th Century hawkers of potions—ciarlare, Italian ‘to babble’—is the fact that there seem to be so many amongst us who are perfectly willing to hand over large sums of money to try to become something we simply are not. Why are people so eager to masquerade in this way and risk being seen for who they are, pretenders? Why are people not exercising and sharpening their innate talents in ways that will yield positive results?

Of course, peer pressure, the media, loony psychologists and coaches hyping nonsense such as “Ten Traits Every Great Leader Shares”, and “What You Must Be To Make An Impression”, are all to blame. Well, if chasing rainbows is your thing, good luck to you. For those rather more grounded individuals who would like to know and grow their real genius, I invite them to explore their thinking patterns here. Find your genius, stand on solid ground and just be your charming, honest self. Being genuine is a character trait and a charm more powerful than charisma.

PS. Charisma is a trait that arises out of Future mind. The MindTime project’s technology maps thinking patterns within the framework of time and is founded on a well-respected theory of mind published in the scientific literature (the theory of MindTime). To visit our project web site click here.

The original article by Colin Drury from the Guardian is a must read.


I study human time

I’ve been living this past year and a half on a Greek island.
I’ve made some wonderful Greek friends.

The first time I met Giorgos, an electrician by trade, we were sat in a cave on a beach (that’s a story for another time). My Greek was and still is, scant. Giorgos’ English, while better than my Greek, is quite rudimentary. So, our conversations are usually short and to the point.

“What you do?” Asked Giorgos that hot afternoon as we sheltered in the cave.
“I study time.” I replied earnestly. “Chronos.” I said, showing off my Greek.
“What you mean?” He quickly asked back.

I was about to embark on a light explanation of mindtime and our theory of thinking when I noticed he was looking at his watch and said.

“What you need to study time for? It’s 2 o’clock!”

Such are the very best Greek philosophers.


There are no Introverts or Extraverts



Here’s another one of those curious articles about personality and psychology that keep popping up all over the place in major news outlets these days.

This one is from Inc. magazine that recently published an article titled, “There is no such thing as Introversion and Extroversion [sic].”

Really? They seem to be very widely used terms. So, what’s going on here? Perhaps a bit of insight into the situation might be in order.

The field of personality testing, such as it is, is littered with personality traits, e.g. introversion and extraversion, each claiming to measure a specific aspect of a person’s personality, people’s outwardly observed behaviours. Some of these have been extremely well tested and validated, such as the introversion extraversion scale (a part of the NEO or Big 5) researched and validated by Messer’s Costa and McCrae. Yes, unfortunately, the very one our Inc. writer seems to be most upset about.

But, and this is perhaps where our Inc. magazine writer is going with his article, do these personality traits when taken individually or together actually add up to an understanding of person and what makes them tick? In his article the clearly frustrated writer appeals to us to abandon the introversion/extraversion scam (and perhaps this trait based approach in general), telling us, no more, this approach is flawed.

Herein lies the problem.

Observing a monkey, or measuring its personality, cannot lead you to understand the nature of the monkey nor its mind or motivations. It can only lead you to observations and your own speculative conclusions about what you may have seen or measured. Unless you have a model of how monkeys think, a theory of monkey mind that has been validated and correlated with all other validated scientific observations of monkeys, until then, you have only your own labels and ideas about how things actually work.

This is an issue that is plaguing psychology and more specifically the psychology of individual differences, or personality testing as it is commonly known. This approach to understanding people has been misinterpreted by the lay public as validation that an observer, or personality test, can understand the workings of another’s mind. The label becomes the explanation rather than a shorthand descriptor. This is garbage of the worst kind and not what any self-respecting psychologist would agree to.

The only way to understand another’s mind is if we understand the fundamental patterns or structures that shape human thinking—amounting to an a priori theory of mind—and can measure them in a given individual. Only such an a priori theory, of which there are none in traditional trait-based personality testing, can be used to predict human behaviour and intention.

After 22 years of working on such a theory and publishing it—the theory of MindTime, my colleagues and I sympathise with the author’s frustration at the abuse of personality trait labels. The damage they can do in our post truth era is obvious. They get in the way of people developing a true understanding of people and their thinking (perceptions, motivations, needs, preferences, thought patterns and processes). Now that we have an a priori theory that scientists can hang their hat on, perhaps we can give up on this limited and limiting old approach?

Inc. magazine article link: http://www.inc.com/joshua-spodek/there-are-no-such-things-as-introversion-or-extroversion.html


The psychology behind Disney’s creative genius

Few would dispute that Disney understood very well the psychology of young and adult minds alike. His insights led him to lead the creation of some of the greatest story telling ever known. What few people know is that he also understood equally well the psychology of human collaboration. He designed his organisation and the creative collaborations that produced so much success around a simple and yet stunningly powerful principle.

There is a way to properly combine the diversify of thinking in every group of creatives. And it is possible to teach people to understand and communicate across the individual differences successfully. [click to continue…]


The illusion of your dream job


There’s a wonderfully little article in the Sunday November 27th edition of the BBC online. It’s about dream jobs, or rather the lack of dream in the dream job once it manifests. Did it ever happened to you that the long imagined vacation simply was not as blissful as previously imagined? That retirement is dull and flat? The man of your dreams turned out to be a lout? Or, your childhood heroine a criminal all along? Psychologists call the human tendency to temporally experience mostly positive scenarios when imagining something that is desired, affective forecasting.

As is often the case, articles such as these have us believe that most people, if not all, experience these kinds of tendencies of human psychology relatively equally, in this case the article is written about affective forecasting.

The truth is that those who suffer most from the negative effects of affective forecasting are a particular group of people. The folks with great imaginations who are also not particularly drawn to details or facts (let alone researching them). In other words, the dreamers and visionaries, sales types and socially extroverted, the ‘leave it to the last minute’ people. In the mindtime framework they are known as Future thinkers.

Maybe that’s why they also tend to blow through jobs like children unwrapping their Christmas presents? Great imaginations and the ability to just keep experiencing the newness of life over and over again.



When you sit still

Very, very, still,

You begin to glimpse the impossible nature of it all,



Sit very still, breathe very lightly and ask yourself this,

How is this all possible?

Yes, it is true. There is something so far greater than you can imagine. So much sweeter and more loving,

But, to even catch a glimpse, you must sit very, very still.

{ 1 comment }

What your desk says about you



A recent article on the BBC web site made “What your desk says about you – Whether you’re a clean freak or a slob, your workspace may reveal a lot about your personality,” caught my attention.

Some years ago I walked into a print broker’s office in San Francisco. He was out and on his way back. So his receptionist and I stood in his reception chatting for a few minutes. She asked what my company did (I was there to have business cards made and she had noted the name of our organisation—the mindtime project).

“We measure and map human thinking.” I replied.

“That sounds very interesting, so what can you tell about me?” She smiled a little self-consciously.

“Well, let me explain this in the context of your desk and why you keep it the way you do.” I said.

After a couple of minutes she was suitably impressed by the predictive nature of a person’s desk, but for some reason she had a massive grin on her face.

“What is it?” I asked.

“What can you tell me about my boss?” She replied, opening the door behind her.

It was as though a small bomb had exploded. It’s epicentre was clearly his chair which stood waiting his return. No doubt he was the explosion of ideas and information. And, I bet he knew where every single thing he needed was stuffed no matter how long ago it was stuffed there.


I turned to her and said. “I’ll bet that, from what I see here, he is often running late, over commits, has a ton of great ideas but executes on few of them. He is very likely highly connected with a substantial network of acquaintances and friends and he thrives on difficult challenges. He is probably also one great sales person.”

“Wow, spot on again. No wonder he pays me so well to stay. We actually make a very good team. As long as I don’t touch his desk.”

“Ah, yes. That’s sacred ground.” I intoned. “Best not to mess with other people’s survival strategies.”



Sweet remembrances

There will come a time in your life when you will look back on the past as being more significant than the future.

When this times comes, and it surely will, will you look back and remember times when you joked and laughed with love in your heart, when you sweated and pulled mightily as a part of something worthwhile and constructive?

Will you fondly remember the look of joy on a person’s face as you gave to them of yourself, every last sweated drop of your soul?

Or, will you look back and remember, with bitter regret no doubt, on conflicts you perpetuated, judgements you heaped on others, bitter feuds and disagreements that held you separate from people who you might otherwise have called your kin?

These now are those years from which you will fashion your remembrances.

This is it.

This is when you get to give and when you make your bed.

You shall reap what you sow. You are making your bed.

This, right now is all you have to make a difference which will last with you in your heart.

This is your future experience; it may be sweet and you may make it hell.

That is your God given choice.

Make of it what you will.