Don’t Take Anything Personally

I read this book ages ago and it still rings true. This week I wanted to share the Four Agreements if you haven’t read it. All quotes are from Wikipedia.

Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Ruiz states that while this agreement is the most important, it is the most difficult one to honor. For this agreement, Ruiz first analyzes the word “impeccable”. The word impeccable comes from the Latin word peccatus meaning “sin”, and the “im” in the beginning of impeccable is the Latin prefix that means “without”. Ruiz describes a sin to be anything that goes against oneself, and therefore being impeccable with language means to take responsibility for one’s actions and remain without judgment against oneself and others. In essence, this agreement focuses on the significance of speaking with integrity and carefully choosing words before saying them aloud.

Agreement 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally

The second agreement provides readers with a way to deal with hurtful treatment from others that they may experience in life. It advocates the importance of having a strong sense of self and not needing to rely on the opinions of others in order to be content and satisfied with their self-image. This agreement also allows readers to understand the notion that each individual has a unique worldview that alters their own perceptions, and that the actions and beliefs of a person is a projection of their own personal reality. Ruiz believes that anger, jealousy, envy, and even sadness can lessen or dissipate once an individual stops taking things personally.

Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions

The third agreement describes the issue of making assumptions, how it leads to suffering, and why individuals should not partake in making them. When one assumes what others are thinking, it can create stress and interpersonal conflict because the person believes their assumption is a representation of the truth. Ruiz believes that a solution to overcoming the act of making an assumption is to ask questions and ensure that the communication is clear between the persons involved. Individuals can avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama by not making assumptions.

Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best

The fourth agreement allows readers to have better insight on achieving progress towards their goals in life. This agreement entails integrating the first three agreements into daily life and also living to one’s full potential. It involves doing the best that one can individually manage, which varies from the different situations and circumstances that the individual may encounter. Ruiz believes that if one avoids self judgment and does their best in every given moment, they will be able to avoid regret. By incorporating the first three agreements and doing the best they can in all facets of life, individuals will be able to live a life free from sorrow and self-ridicule.


There’s a lot to unpack here. Take a week to think about this. See if you can follow any of The Four Agreements. Which one is the easiest? What does it say about the one you find the hardest?

If you’re interested in learning more about the book there’s a website to learn more.

Contact me I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tension is relieved upon completion of the task, but persists if it is interrupted

Have you ever wondered what makes a cliffhanger work? There are cliffhangers in movies, thrillers, novels. Even music has cliffhangers – you wait for that last final resolving note.

As we discuss telling stories at MCC in new ways, through podcasts and videos on youtube, I wanted to focus on a specific storytelling tool – The Zeigarnik effect.

Bluma Zeigarnik was a soviet psychologist who discovered in 1927 that “an activity that has been interrupted may be more readily recalled.”

Zeigarnik’s professor noticed that a waiter had better recollections of still unpaid orders. However, after the completion of the task – after everyone had paid – he was unable to remember any more details of the orders.

Zeigarnik designed a series of experiments to uncover the processes underlying this phenomenon.

A task that has already been started establishes a task-specific tension, which improves cognitive accessibility of the relevant contents. The tension is relieved upon completion of the task, but persists if it is interrupted. Through continuous tension, the content is made more easily accessible, and can be easily remembered.

The Zeigarnik effect suggests that students who suspend their study to perform unrelated activities (such as studying a different subject or playing a game), will remember material better than students who complete study sessions without a break. – Wikipedia

How can we use the Zeigarnik effect to get students to come back for our services? How can we leave things half done? How can we insert games into our learning activities?

If you’re interested in learning more about the Zeigarnik effect, Wikipedia has a great write up.

Did this post spark some new unfinished ideas in your head? Contact me, I’d love to hear about it!

Stay present. Be natural. Share your delight.

The last post did extremely well! The last post is the most viewed post I have ever written: Objective data doesn’t go deep enough to engender trust

This week I decided to stick with storytelling and share more tips based on the books I’ve read. Here are 3 tips from Doug Lipman from his book “Improving your Storytelling”:

  1. Stay present.

“Great performance does not necessarily require great effort. But the moment we stop thinking in the present, we begin to fail.” – Lipman

  1. Be natural.

“Do whatever seems natural to you to get the story across.” – Lipman

  1. Share your delight.

“When the story begins she comes afire with her tone of voice, with rhythm, with the images and feelings in her stories, with her fascination with words – and with her desire to share her delight.” – Lipman

Did this post help you tell better stories? Contact me if you have any questions!

Objective data doesn’t go deep enough to engender trust

Today I want to talk about The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling  and the power of telling personal stories.

We are on the cusp of creating a new podcast to share the knowledge and opportunities we have access to with the students we serve.

My hope is that we can read through this blog  during the marketing meeting then take 5 minutes for discussion. I’ll make this post as short as possible so we have time to discuss when we meet.

We learn everything from stories. My daughter is obsessed with Jack and the Beanstalk. It’s all about those magic beans! Stories teach us how to feel, how to process our emotions. Stories teach us how to think. We passed on our knowledge through stories before the written word. Even our written word takes the form of stories. Something would be very off if Goldilocks and the Three Bears looked and read like a grocery list.

Stories allow us to embody the experience.  Our mirror neurons fire up. We react to the defeat of misfortune. We cheer while the hero beats the demon. We cry through stories. We bond through stories. We learn through stories.

“Telling a good story is like giving a mini-documentary of what you have seen so others can see it too.” – Simmons

Before we get started we need to agree on what kind of stories we want to tell. Which of the following story types do you think we should stick with?

“There are six types of stories that will serve you well in your efforts to influence others:

Who I am stories
Why I am here stories
The Vision story
Teaching Stories
Values in Action stories
I know what you are thinking stories” – Simmons

The Humans of Manoa stories were “who am I” / “why am I here” stories. The student success videos were “vision” / “values in action” stories. That leaves “teaching stories” and “I know what you’re thinking” stories. How could we tell those stories?

I believe we should triple down on personal stories.

“Personal stories let others see who we are better than any other form of communication. Ultimately, people trust your judgement and your words based on subjective evidence. Objective data doesn’t go deep enough to engender trust.” – Simmons

I took a quick poll and asked staff to share their podcast recommendations. These podcasts featured interviews with authors who write books on career, employment, and management topics.

Interviews with authors might make for good listening as long as the interviewer has read their book, has good questions, and can keep the conversation from getting dull.

I also got some informal feedback from the staff about what they believe students would be interested in learning about now.

  • Changing economy
  • How markets are changing
  • Developments being made at UH
  • Direction global markets and economies are going

I believe our podcasts should showcase helpful information, upcoming events, showcase new ways of accessing our programs and services. But I believe the majority of each episode should continue to focus on telling personal stories.

“People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith – faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell.” – Simmons

What kind of stories do you want to tell? Ok marketing team, let’s do this! I’ll set a timer for 5 minutes. Go! Contact me if you have any questions!

When I look at these beautiful things, I’m left with an aching feeling

living it upOnline shopping is booming during the shelter in place orders.

I get it.

You need a coping strategy to ride out storm. If you don’t find ways to pass the time indoors your mental health will start to decline.

I’ve been reading and gathering the best strategies for coping with these uncertain times. Here are the top four strategies that keep coming up. Are you ready?

4 Steps to Staying Sane during Uncertainty:

  1. Go for a walk for 10 minutes outside every day – best to do it early in the morning so the feel good vitamin D effects last throughout the day.
  2. Maintain your sleep hygiene – Go to bed at the same time every single night.
  3. Contact friends and maintain social ties – Just because we can’t see each other face to face doesn’t mean we don’t need to find other ways to stay in touch. Setting dates and times for online hangouts gives your mind something to look forward to all week.
  4. Eat leafy greens – My friend likes to say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Put garbage in your body and you’ll feel like garbage. Double up on those dark leafy greens.

Then there are objectively bad coping behaviors. Some people play Fortnite for hours. Some people load up their shopping carts on Amazon.

A few weeks ago I finished reading James Twitchell’s book “Living it Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury.” Twitchell makes some interesting connections between self soothing and luxury shopping.

Keep your wants in moderation or you might regret it.

“One generation’s indulgence becomes the next generation’s necessity.” – Twitchell

Stay off the platforms with aggressive advertising. Just because it looks live everyone’s using it, doesn’t mean they are.

“People often do not know what they want until they learn what others are consuming.” – Twitchell

Advertisements in the feed will make you want the thing that is being advertised. Think you’re above it? Immune to it? Think again. This cognitive bias being used against you is called the Mere Exposure Effect. Just seeing something 7 times will make you want to own it.

“While organisms may possess the skills to act rationally, they often don’t. Individuals are not calculating machines with fixed tastes but rather social animals who interact with and are influenced by the flock, the tribe, the in-crowd.” – Twitchell

Think the mere exposure effect won’t affect you? Don’t be so sure about that.

“I do care. When I look at these beautiful things, I’m left with an aching feeling of desire and a slight dissatisfaction with my current life. Luxury is incredibly powerful, and it gets to almost all of us, even when we’re told it’s meaningless.” – Twitchell

Consider taking a break from scrolling through your social feeds this week if they include aggressive advertising. You are being advertised to. Your mindset is being changed. You may start thinking you need these products.

Be mindful of what you consume. Stick to the 4 Steps to Staying Sane. Contact me if you have any questions!

Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust – it precedes it.

51p0mziztfl._sx329_bo1204203200_Brene Brown, a researcher from the University of Texas, became the “vulnerability expert” after she recorded a TED Talk  on The Power of Vulnerability 9 years ago in 2011.

I remember the video coming up on my feed. I watched it. I hated it at first. Then it started to make a little sense. Then it was revolutionary.

I always thought vulnerability was something to be embarrassed about. Something to be ashamed of. Something to be worked out of your system. Something to hide.

Exposing your vulnerabilities is the opposite of what you’re taught in karate. You’re expected to shield it. Hide it. Deny it.

Brene Brown recast vulnerability as a super power in 20 minutes.

You can utilize vulnerability to form stronger bonds with everyone in your life. Daniel Coyle provides concrete methods to increase your vulnerability in his book “The Culture Code.”

“Our social brains light up when they receive a steady accumulation of almost-invisible cues: We are close, we are safe, we share a future.” – Daniel Coyle

If you’re not vulnerable people will stop giving you feedback because they don’t think you can handle it. So you need to be extra.

“You have to hug the messenger and let them know how much you need that feedback. That way you can be sure that they feel safe enough to tell you the truth next time.” – Daniel Coyle

I’m still thinking about which comes first – vulnerability or trust? It’s like that riddle about the chicken and the egg. Which one needs to come before the other one?

“Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust – it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.” – Daniel Coyle

It takes a lot of trust to be vulnerable.

“Being vulnerable together is the only way a team can become invulnerable.” – Daniel Coyle

It’s better to play with ideas to find out how strong they are. Mindlessly enforcing directives just because creates a culture that is brittle because it is invulnerable.

“There’s a spirit of provocation constantly at play, to nudge, to help us think beyond what’s immediately in front of us. And it usually starts with questioning the big obvious things. It’s never confrontational – she’d never say, ‘You’re doing the wrong thing.’ It’s organic, embedded in our conversation.” – Daniel Coyle

It comes down to one thing.

“The number one job is to take care of each other.” – Daniel Coyle

I love getting emails from readers. Contact me if you have a story about how you flipped your vulnerability and leveraged it as a super power!

All collaborations are a love affair

51p0mziztfl._sx329_bo1204203200_We fall in love with a creation, a work of art, a song, a poem, or piece of code. We’re floored. Just gagging. There’s something about it that we couldn’t have ever possibly concluded. Like Einstein and the Theory of Relativity.

We want to know what genius was behind it. What nurture/nature paradox produced the human being that thought this up? How audacious! How tenacious! How did they think so clearly and elegantly? How did they put such a novel spin on it?

So we google them,we watch their videos on YouTube, and we follow them on Instagram. Then we retweet their posts about Reactive Native because everyone needs to know about this right now because I’m really feeling this and I want to be the first one to recommend it to my friends.

In “The Culture Code – The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups,” Daniel Coyle explains that successful collaborations are like triangles. Stable. Three-pointed. Elementary.

“To live comfortably in a triangle, it seems to me that certain feelings about oneself have to be in effect. The individual has to feel good about himself and be able to stand on his own two feet without having to lean on someone else. He can be temporarily odd-man-out without feeling bad or rejected. He needs to be able to wait without feeling he is abused. He needs to be able to talk straight and clearly, and let the others know what he is feeling and thinking and not brood and store up his feelings.” – Daniel Coyle

Choose the wrong advice to follow and the triangle breaks down. The collaboration tanks. It’s barely noticeable but then the more you look at it, the more you realize it’s actually happening. The work doesn’t sing anymore. The paint starts to peel. The communication gets rough, like someone bumped up the elasticity in the physics world. The rice starts to taste sour. The gears rust and the collaboration seizes up.

“Pain instructs.” – Benjamin Franklin

This weekend I talked to my friend Larry on Zoom. First we talked about the new widgets at WWDC. Then we tried to figure out exactly how long the new laptop batteries could theoretically last with Apple Silicon. Then we started to talk about how the stay at home order has affected our moods and productivity. That’s when the conversation really got interesting.

Larry and I both work out. Not a lot. But we have “set it and forget it” routines that keep us fit and active. The spike in infections in California and Hawaii made us both reconsider how wise it is to run outside, and now we’ve both stopped running.

We’re both noticing our moods tanking. We have goals we’ve set for ourselves. And now that we’ve postponed them. We don’t feel good. Literally, we don’t physically feel good because we’re not coming through on the promises we made to ourselves.

“Self esteem became hooked more easily when a person had not really developed a solid, appreciative sense of his own worth. Not having his own, he would use an other’s action and reactions to define himself. If someone called him green, he would agree with no checking and take the other’s comment as one fitting him. He was green because the other person said so. It’s easy for anyone with doubts about his own worth to fall into this trap.” – Daniel Coyle

Larry and I discovered that getting things done contributes so much to our self-worth and actual feelings of well-being that we need to reassess our goals to set new metrics to gauge our success.

Sticking to the old goals leaves us feeling bad. Because we’re not coming through on what we said we were going to do. That’s the reason we’re so immaculate with our words.

“The single most crucial factor in understanding how an initial love relationship flourishes is the feeling of worth each has for himself, together with how he expresses it and what demands he makes of the other, and how each acts toward the other as a result.” – Daniel Coyle

All collaborations are a love affair. Even the collaborations you make with yourself. Keep the relationship from tanking by building up your own self-worth.

The way to keep your self-esteem high is to come through on the things you say you are going to. Be immaculate with your word. But also understand that these changing times may require you to take a moment and assess how you’re doing. Do you need to take a look at the script? Maybe it needs a rewrite? Maybe it needs some new characters?

Are you living your life from an old script?

“If humans never find their sameness, they will never meet; if they never meet their differentness, they cannot be real or develop a truly human and zestful relationship with one another.” – Daniel Coyle

Keep your collaborations on point and take care of your self-esteem. Did this post raise any questions for you? Contact me I’d love to hear about it.

When you want to change someone’s mood, tell a story

Today I finished reading the book “Thank you for Arguing” by Jay Heinrichs. Heinrichs uses historical figures like Cicero and Homer Simpson from fact and fiction to illuminate the art of argument.

The book is written in a hilarious tone with lots of asides for pro tips on how to argue more effectively.

I had a hard time deciding what to post because there’s so much good content in this book. Today I want to focus on the topic of persuasion.

“Persuasion can attempt to influence a person’s beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, or behaviors. In business, persuasion is a process aimed at changing a person’s attitude or behaviour toward some event, idea, object, or other person, by using written, spoken words or visual tools to convey information, feelings, or reasoning, or a combination thereof.” – Wikipedia

Persuasion gets a bad rap because of all the negative attention it receives. Books like The Hidden Persuaders and Influence shine a negative light on persuasion. They talk about how it can be used to compel people to do things they don’t want to do or that could even harm them.

Each of us uses persuasion on a daily basis. We need to use persuasion to communicate our needs, assess the needs of others, and work together to create win win situations like Stephen R. Covey talks about in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

In order to persuade someone, you need to sound like him.

“You persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his.” – Heinrichs

The audience only cares about three things. Have you prepared? Do you know what you’re talking about? And what do you have to offer me?

“Persuasion doesn’t depend on being true to yourself. It depends on being true to your audience.” – Heinrichs

Heinrich encourages readers to keep the three parts of the proposal firmly in mind as you are persuading:

“Every proposal should have three parts – payoffs, doability, superiority. Describe the benefits of the choice, make it seem easy to do, and show how to it beats the other options. You might even keep your audience in suspense, not telling them your choice until you have dealt with the alternatives. Rhetoric is most effective when it leads an audience to make up their own minds.” – Heinrichs

Don’t think you’re getting through to the person you’re trying to persuade? Are they expressionless in the face of your crystal clear valid points? You might need to change up your strategy.

“When you want to change someone’s mood, tell a story.” – Heinrichs

Finally here’s one of the pro-tips Heirichs shares in the sidebar of the book. The idea is to show the audience that you are just like them. It’s called the Pratfall effect:

“Reveal a weakness that wins sympathy or shows the sacrifice you have made for the audience.” – Heinrichs

How do you persuade in your work and life? Have any horror stories of taking persuasion too far? Contact me I’d love to hear about it!