Tag: Focus

Love, winning games, and living big

Written by on July 4, 2010 in Faith and Spiritual Life, Notes By The Way with 0 Comments

Seth Godin keeps writing things that challenge me to live to the fullest, not settle for life in a small story.  He writes:

…a never-ending cycle of optimization can become a crutch, a place to hide when you really should be confronting the endless unknown, not the banal stair step of incremental optimization. While Yahoo was optimizing their home page in 2001, the guys at Google were inventing something totally new.

There are so many ways we settle for less. Another is competition. “Winning” is supposed to have value. Demagogues are people willing to “wreck the system” to win. Demagoguery seems to be on the rise. What is the bigger story? Godin writes:

What happens when you define a win as getting closer to someone who wants the same thing? Or when you define it as improvement over time? Or in creating trust?

He’s talking about love, at least in part. Winning is nothing if the story ends there. Movies that end with the cheers of the crowd at the end of the game conceal that point. Victories in the big and small games we play recede with time into nothingness, and so do we if we attach …

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Constant stress, focused goals, and leadership not compatible

Written by on August 24, 2009 in Life and Family, Notes By The Way with 1 Comment

Does a stressful lifestyle lead to mindless behavior and strip away your ability to lead and achieve goals? Here are some conclusions from a study of rats (h/t Appel) subjected to constant stress:

On the one hand, regions of the brain associated with executive decision-making and goal-directed behaviors had shriveled, while, conversely, brain sectors linked to habit formation had bloomed.

In other words, the rodents were now cognitively predisposed to keep doing the same things over and over, to run laps in the same dead-ended rat race rather than seek a pipeline to greener sewers. “Behaviors become habitual faster in stressed animals than in the controls, and worse, the stressed animals can’t shift back to goal-directed behaviors when that would be the better approach,” Dr. Sousa said. “I call this a vicious circle.”

Chilling. I wonder how many people here in Japan fit this description, and I wonder about myself. How do you get out of a stress rut and recover the ability to focus and decide?

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Leading is inspiring people to participate with you

Written by on July 16, 2009 in Learning and Volunteering, Notes By The Way with 2 Comments

“Leading is inspiring people to participate with you.”

I wrote this in my notes last month while listening to Sherwood Lingenfelter, Professor of Anthropology and Provost of Fuller Seminary.

I’ve heard and seen many models and definitions of leadership: top down, bottom up, leading from in front (horizontal). I almost skipped this one, but the word “participate” grabbed me. I realized this is what I do, or hope to do, when I bring Japanese to Cambodia.


For those of you who don’t know the background of this post, here’s a quick summary of what we do. I have been taking groups of people from Japan to Cambodia for the past one and a half years. The primary purpose has been to develop the Japanese participants. They go to Cambodia where they share their lives and serve in simple ways. In the process, they have life changing lessons. Currently we’re in our infancy. Our long term purpose is to have a learning/serving community in Japan with some common experiences and values. We hope they will work together with us to support effective Cambodian leaders helping people lift themselves out of extreme poverty and move forward under their own power in the …

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The power of zoning out, big picture brilliance

Written by on July 12, 2009 in Faith and Spiritual Life, Notes By The Way with 1 Comment

I hate to admit it, but this is encouraging:

The regions of the brain that become active during mind wandering belong to two important networks. One is known as the executive control system. Located mainly in the front of the brain, these regions exert a top-down influence on our conscious and unconscious thought, directing the brain’s activity toward important goals. The other regions belong to another network called the default network. In 2001 a group led by neuroscientist Marcus Raichle at Washington University discovered that this network was more active when people were simply sitting idly in a brain scanner than when they were asked to perform a particular task. The default network also becomes active during certain kinds of self-referential thinking, such as reflecting on personal experiences or picturing yourself in the future.

The fact that both of these important brain networks become active together suggests that mind wandering is not useless mental static. Instead, Schooler proposes, mind wandering allows us to work through some important thinking. Our brains process information to reach goals, but some of those goals are immediate while others are distant. Somehow we have evolved a way to switch between handling the here and now

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Faking authenticity to get IT

Written by on January 5, 2009 in Food and Miscellany, Notes By The Way with 0 Comments

A new temptation for cynical leaders and evangelists (business and religious evangelists):

If you can fake authenticity in the new year, you will have it made.

Okay… But what is “it” and is “it” worth living a life of pretense? What are the consequences of faking authenticity?

At one executive leadership seminar I attended recently, the trainer explained that authenticity was the main attribute delegates needed to radiate, including “different types of authenticity for different audiences”. This means being a technocrat in the boardroom, a pragmatist among middle managers and an Average Joe on the shop floor.

From a Financial Times essay via Daniel Drezner

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