You and Me, Baby, ain’t nothing but Mammals…

The Neuroscience of [making] Love

One of the most ground breaking shifts in neuroscience has been the acceptance that our brains are wired to connect with each other. Much of social-brain has been dedicated to using basic neuroscience to understand a variety of social interactions from our professional interactions all the way down to our most intimate interactions. Today our journey leads us to the pinnacle of our most powerful social interaction – love.

As a creature on this green earth we share one similarity with all the others animals and that is the desire to reproduce. The comfort level of expressing sexuality in this culture is cyclical. In one generation you had people making love in the mud while Jimmy Hendrix performed live on stage, but in the generation before that you had a riot on your hands if a woman’s skirt rose above her knee. Today sex and love are all around us. Pick up any magazine and there are tips about how to please your lover and what will drive the opposite sex crazy. It’s time to sort through the mess of pop culture and give you the neuroscience behind “getting it on.”

Mars, Venus, and Monkey Sex

What goes on in our brains in our most intimate moments? Science can now venture down that road to catch a glimpse of our brains activity in some of our most powerful personal moments. The first thing I want to tackle is the difference between men’s brains and women’s brains in relation to sexual perception, because what goes on in our brains during moments of passion actually differs between sexes. For the longest time it was a common belief that men were predominantly visually aroused while women on the other hand were cognitively and emotionally aroused. A raft of recent research has actually shown just the opposite.

Four groups were recently subjected to arousal testing: a heterosexual male group, a heterosexual female group, a homosexual male group, and a homosexual female group. All groups were exposed to different kinds of erotic video ranging from Bonobo Chimpanzees, to man on woman, man on man, and woman on woman. While the images were viewed fMRI testing allowed researchers to see brain activity of the subjects. As it turns out none of the four groups had a strong reaction to the Bonobo Chimp porn. Interestingly enough researchers discovered that heterosexual women’s arousal increased with the intensity of the sexual activity being viewed, regardless of who was in it.  Men on the other hand were far more physically selective with their arousal response, meaning that men are more particular in who arouses them. Likewise, lesbian women showed a particular arousal response like that of men.

A popular work of art made so because of the visual appeal of all sexes.

A popular work of art made so because of the visual appeal of all sexes.

Overall this study suggests that women are more flexible when it comes arousal then originally thought.  We’ve heard time and time again that “sex sells”.  This would go far in explaining future marketing campaigns based around revealing images designed to appeal to women. It should also be noted that in social relationships women are often more emotionally attuned than men, leading to the original theory that women rely more on emotions than physicality for arousal. Though there is some truth behind the emotion argument for women on the whole, what you see is what you get (aroused by).

Sexy WiFi

Some where right now a guy is showering with Axe Body Wash. When he’s finished he’ll towel off, get dressed, and then, if marketing holds true, he will get mauled by a pack of ravenous, horny, albeit very attractive women.  It’s kind of absurd to think that simple scents can have that powerful of a reaction with the opposite sex, but neural research is suggesting a secret nerve in the brain whose main role is to detect pheromones from our partners.

For the longest time in medicine it was believed that there were only 12 cranial nerves in the brain.  However a nerve has been discovered. It’s called nerve 0 or the Terminal Nerve. Interestingly enough all vertebrae mammals have this nerve in their brains, especially humans. This nerve in our brains is located at the front of the brain, right behind the forehead and above the nasal cavity. What is unique about the sense of smell in humans is that our perception of smell proceeds right to the part of the brain that processes it. In all other senses they proceed to the thalamus (relay station) and then to another part of the brain. This nerve may play a vital role in the detection of pheromones.

A pheromone is a chemical signal that triggers a natural response in another member of the same species. For the sake of keeping with the theme of this article, sex pheromones are believed to help encourage sexual activity when shared between two people. There have been colognes for men out there that promote the use of pheromones in their scent. First off if you purchased this cologne I feel sorry for you, and secondly in your attempt to get some you’ve been mislead. The range of pheromones is extremely limited. Indications are that people do exchange such secret pheromone messages, however you have to be really close to pass the message. Like, kissing close. If there is a connection between people and your intimately close the processing of your pheromones may what takes you to the next step. Pheromones could act like an unseen olfactory cupid – putting a romantic twinkle in the eye of a mate [ Scientific American Mind]. When you’re close enough for that good night kiss more might be going on in your brain than you originally thought.

You and Me, Baby, ain’t nothing but Mammals…

The sexual brain is an interesting brain. We’re all animals, essentially. Our needs are basic, and shared with our friends in the animal kingdom. Our new brain allows us to sometimes veto our most primal urges, however once those pheromones start flowing and our emotions kick in we’re really no different that any other animal on The Discovery Channel.

Sex Sells. Even when it comes to designing a Disney Princess. In a straw pole taken by my creepy friends they selected Princess Jasmine the most seductive of all princesses.

Sex Sells. Even when it comes to designing a Disney Princess. In a straw pole taken by my creepy friends they selected Princess Jasmine the most seductive of all princesses.

Creativity is the New Key to Success

carlstedt_kompositio_1965_l

Are you an artist? Depending on your age your answer will vary. You see, if I were to walk into a kindergarten class and ask this question nearly all of the hands would go up in agreement. However, if I waltzed into a general education college class and asked this question only a handful of students would raise their hands. The truth is that we are all artists, whether you know it or not. For beginners we have to broaden our perception of art from a guy wearing a beret holding a paint brush and attacking a canvas like a skilled swordsman. Art is creativity, and creativity is boundless and freeform.

 

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

 

Symbolism and Light Sabers

 

We all share a common characteristic in our brains that allows us to do something that is uniquely human, and that is create, interpret and understand symbolism. We have our highly evolved neo-cortex (new brain) to thank for that. It’s our new brain that through evolution allows us to think in abstract and hypothetical. This is important because symbolism is the cornerstone of creativity.

 

I was recently playing Star Wars with my nephew and we were using these green swimming noodles as light sabers as we battled in a duel – I was the Sith Lord and as a result got my arm chopped off. The part I want to focus on here is the green swimming noodle, because that is far from an actual light saber as possible, I mean it’s a water toy. However, our ability to rethink and perceive that noodle as a light saber, and not a noodle, is a distinctly creative, human, and cognitive skill.  Thousands of years back when we were just starting out as apes in a jungle the ability to see a rock for something more than a rock was a huge advantage to our species. No longer just rocks, we now have a hammer to crush up food or a projectile to protect us from pursuing hunters.  Long ago we left the jungle behind, but we still keep our creativity and symbolism with us because it’s still vital to our survival.

 

Symphony, Success, and Back to the Jungle

 

Our lives are filled with symbolism: mementos, keepsakes, logos, brands, signs – most of these carry emotional weight only strengthening our perception. This process of interpreting symbols is often processed in our brains out of our consciousness so this process is often taken for granted. It’s important we spend time discovering our own creative processes in addition the creative processes of others.

 

Everybody has been through a process of creative inspiration, meaning that they witnessed or experienced an event that is seemingly unrelated to another event but some how gives it explanation or purpose. I call this the Apple/Gravity effect. For example: Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from a tree and some how came up with the theory of gravity. Just think about that. It’s freaking mind blowing! The diversity of perception is fuel to our creativity. This ability to link two or more unrelated ideas is known as symphony.

 

I mentioned how we lived in a jungle many thousands of years ago. Well guess what, our culture is becoming a jungle again, and surprise, surprise, we need creativity to survive. Let’s look at our business world for a moment. There is so much competition and abundance out there that it’s scary. In my line of work I may be up against as many as 16 different vendors on a given deal, all offering similar goods and services as myself, now add a degree of uncertainty because of this crap economy and you can begin see the jungle I’m talking about. Alright Kevin, what are you getting at? If all products are essentially equal in quality the only differentiating factor is the emotional and creative appeal that is associated with the product. This means creativity and symphony are the X factor to success, especially in a turbulent competitive world. Creative thinkers step up. We need you now more than ever.

 

Pursuing Creativity: Creative In

 

I’ve heard a lot of people say “I’m just not that creative.” That’s a load of crap. They don’t have a creative disability; they’re just out of practice. The reason kids are so creative is that a child’s brain is nearly twice as active as an adult’s brain and as a result children have this desire to observe and explore everything. If you want to be more creative you need to open yourself up to new ideas, new concepts, and new perceptions. This will allow you to expand your thought and possibly provide the link that might lead to relevant symphonic ideas.

 

Pursuing Creativity: Creative Out

 

Externalize your creativity: write, draw, cook, doodle, dance, or something completely crazy that we don’t even know about.  Here’s a fun game I like to play when working with a new college class. Take out a blank piece of paper and a pen. You will have two minutes to write down as many uses for an object as you can think of. Have a friend give you a random object and begin. This is a practice in divergent thought, and you’ll be surprised with how many or how few uses people can come up with in that time. Once you’re done share your results with others and find out how they came up with that idea. Repeat with new objects. Keep in mind there are no wrong answers when you’re thinking divergently.

 

Lastly, define yourself as an artist, because in some way or form you are one. Personally, my art is people. I use the science of social interactions to better understand people so I can empower them and energize them to reach new levels of success that weren’t there previous to meeting or working with me. Okay, now it’s your turn. How are you an artist?

here's what i came up with

here's what i came up with

The Neuroscience of Stress

there are many different kinds of stress, some can actually be good for us in small doses, however on the whole stres hurts people.

there are many different kinds of stress, some can actually be good for us in small doses, however on the whole stress hurts people.

Stress, it affects every single one of us whether we like it or not. Stress can stem from a variety of things: work, play, love, family, and the list can go on for miles. Anything that we’re emotionally invested in, directly and even indirectly, has the potential to cause us stress in our lives and often does. You cannot avoid stress. Eventually it will seek you out and hunt you down. So if you can’t avoid stress, you might as well be armed to better deal with it.

Like, are we Talking Good Stress or Bad Stress?

Actually, not all stress is the same. For anyone who has ever played a sport you’re probably familiar with butterflies – and I’m not talking about the animal formerly known as the caterpillar. What I am talking about is that queasy feeling that you get in your stomach right before the big game. However, a small dose of stress, like butterflies, can go a long way. Michael Jordan openly admits to having had butterflies before big games, but that didn’t sop him from performing at amazing levels throughout his career. It may have actually helped fuel him.

A stark contrast to butterflies is aversive stress. This is a serious form of stress that is debilitating, and can significantly hinder our performance. This type of stress manifests itself differently in every single person. In fact, neuroscientists struggle to link a single set of universal physiological responses to aversive stress because every person perceives stimuli differently and therefore reacts differently. Dogs may not frighten me; however dogs may scare the hell out of one of my friends leading to a stressful response. This is the type of stress I want to focus on in this post, aversive stress.

Defining Aversive Stress

University of Washing professor and author of Brain Rules, John Medina, describes this negative form of stress as having three main attributes.  1. There must be an aroused physiological response detectable by an outside party.  2. The stressor must be perceived as aversive, meaning if you had the choice of avoid the situation all together you would. 3. The person must not feel in control of the stressor.

A Stressed Brain is a Useless Brain

In relation to stress there are two key hormones at work in our brains, adrenaline and cortisol.  At low levels cortisol helps our brains function optimally by facilitating thought and cognition. In response to a stressor soaring cortisol levels paired with a boost of adrenaline can literally paralyze the brain’s critical abilities. In this stressed state we no longer focus on the task at hand, but instead we shift our focus and attention to the stressor which results in sub par performance of our task. In addition to how we respond, prolonged stressful states can actually negatively affect the way we learn and intake information. Furthermore, stress lowers our body’s ability to fight off illness because our immune systems weaken with our hormonal surges.

 stress relief

Control Freak

Stressors that are perceived as out of our control often do the most damage to our brains and bodies. When we perceive to have little or no control over a situation the hypothetical negative outcomes we tend to focus on are knock out punch. It’s simple. Human beings don’t like the unknown. In relation to stress, human beings hate the unknown, especially when the unknown is almost certain to result in a negative outcome. Our current economy is a prime example. There is no telling how bad our economic situation may continue to get, but because the future is unknown and laced with negativity it gives many people a reason to stress.

On the flip side having too much control leaves us too emotionally (hormonally) invested in things that may not be of actual concern to us. It’s important to learn what you can and cannot control in your life and more importantly accept it; by doing so you can deflect potentially stressful situations and the biological response that accompanies them. This is easier said than done and often requires you to pull away from your emotions in a heightened state to examine your response from a logical stand point.

How we deal with stress has a lot to do with our biology. Some people are just biologically better at dealing with stress than others. In fact, men, on average tend to be better at coping with stress than women. I will note that this does not make men more capable than women, because on average women are much better at perceiving other’s emotional states. It’s a give and take of social intelligence that balances out in the end.

Stress at Work

Whether you’re an entry level employee or an executive, you’re face to face with stress every single day in the work place. Stress has a trickle down effect from the very top of our organizations that can permeate the entire culture of a company. There is and always will be constant pressure to improve and achieve our goals. Sometimes this pressure is enough to cause aversive stress, and for many it does.

Leaders and bosses should be extremely mindful of stress formation and stress reaction amongst their employees. The pressure of constant improvement coupled with negative outbursts from a boss can be disastrous for professionals. Stress, like our emotions, is contagious. If the tone of management has become increasingly negative or perceived as hostile, you can rest assure the quality of work will suffer in the long run unless changes are made.

Bosses should make a conscious effort to focus on how they choose to motivate and communicate with their staff. If you’re in the unfortunate situation of working in a job that causes you great amounts of stress my best advice is to get out. There is no telling the toll that the stress may be taking on your brain and body.

You’ve got to move it move it. What? Move it!

Movers and Shakers 

I have a niece and she is crazy. I mean she is just plain nuts. She is also only two years old, so she is living up to the “terrible two’s” stereotype, if not surpassing it. Now I don’t mean to say that she is a bad kid – and she’s not, she’s absolutely adorable – but she just gets into everything. She is curious, as all children are. If something has her attention she’s going to make a full effort to explore and find out more about it. The need to explore is a human trait and is deeply rooted in our neural evolution. For thousands and thousands of years humans have been very active in exploring planet Earth (and other planets too). Our activity as a result of our exploration has had some pretty profound impacts on our brain development. 

 Humans are made to Move 

notice that all of these people are in motion. that could be you!

notice that all of these people are in motion. that could be you!

Who wants to walk 12 miles with me today? Any takers? Probably not.  It might surprise you to find out that our human ancestors traveled as much as 12 miles a day. They did this to find food, safety and to explore. Thousands of years of traveling did much to improve the brain functions of early man, and it still holds true for humans today. 

 Our brains make up only 2% of our body mass, yet account for 20% of our energy use. That’s an incredible fact considering that if the brain was like the rest of the body is should really account for 2% of energy use. Oxygen is vital to brain nourishment. Activity (exercise) does humans a lot of good. When the body is moving during exercise it pumps blood and oxygen through out the body and especially to the brain. Nitric Oxide is a flow regulating molecule that through exercise creates more blood vessels in the brain in some pretty key areas. This process of neurogenesis helps improve our cognitive ability. 

 Don’t be a couch potato 

 

I highly recomend this book.

I highly recomend this book.

University of Washington Neurologist and author of the book Brain Rules, John Medina, shows that our society gives us a lot of reasons be a couch potato. Things like television, computers, and video games often allow people to sit around for hours upon hours with little body movement. Couple that with fast food and you wonder why America is the world’s fattest nation.  John goes a step further and examined some of our most institutional environments that we created for ourselves and how they negatively impact our brain development and chemistry. I’m talking about classrooms and cubicles, the mainstays of our educational and professional systems. Think about it for eight plus hours a day our children and coworkers are often sitting motionless at a desk or trapped in some fabric-lined neural jail cell. For our brains to function optimally we as humans need to move. 

Active Performance 

It’s important to note that exercise alone will not improve your cognitive ability but repeated tests have shown a strong association to improved cognitive performance. In fact it was found that physically fit kids and adults had faster response times compared to their over weight counter parts. What’s more amazing is that physical activity and exercise were found to decrease your odds of Alzheimer Disease by 60% and stroke by an amazing 57%. 

The great news is that you don’t have to run marathons to benefit from exercise. All you have to do is walk about 20 minutes a day three days a week and be more conscious of your dietary intake. It really doesn’t take much. It should also be noted that balance is key to exercise. Overdoing workouts will negatively impact your brain function. So be fit in a manner that comfortably works best for you. Walk when you can and breathe deep and often because Oxygen is so important your brain’s health and development. 

 We have the same brains our early ancestors did that walked 12 miles a day. So be active and make the most of your brain. I’ll leave you with this quote from John Medina that sums up why humans are made to move.  

“We were not used to sitting in a classroom for 8 hours at a stretch. We were not used to sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours at a stretch. If we sat around the Serengeti for 8 hours – heck, 8 minutes – we were usually somebody’s lunch.”

The Problem with Success

Every person has some sort of desire to better themselves in some form or way. Being the social creatures that we are we almost always use social benchmarks to gauge our growth and development. I’m talking about awards, promotions, elections, friendships, fame, and love. Striving to become successful is important in personal and professional relationships. In order to get where we want to go we make goals for ourselves, and if everything works out in the end we reach our goals and hopefully become a success story. 

Success, however, is not what it seems. It’s been said that you can tell a lot about a man’s character by how he deals with hardships, but you can tell even more about a man’s character by how he deals with success. Success can take many forms and is the aspiration of many, but success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance will always lead you to failure that could have easily been avoided. Success is the kiss of death. Don’t believe me? Take these organizations for example: The Roman Empire, The Soviet Union, Enron, General Motors, Michael Jackson, and the list goes on. I believe that we have to fundamentally change our view of success in this country so that we can weather the storms of success that the future may bring. To do this we’re going backtrack and take a look at goal setting.

 The American Nightmare

In a recent survey of 18-25 year olds conducted by The Pew Research Center that focused on “the American Dream”, 81% said their dream was the become rich, and 51% said their dream was to become famous. This is a far cry from the American dreams of our parents and grandparents. They once dreamed of owning a house of their own and providing for their family. Here we are some 40-50 years later and our dreams have been stretched to absurd wealth and fame. Alarmed? You should be Generation Y is our future. I’m nervous and I’m only 24. I’m in the thick of this mess, but alas I have not yet been perverted by dreams of wealth and paparazzi. 

 

success can lead to this...

success can lead to this...

 

Whenever I work with college classes I always talk about this survey, because when you hear it sounds really absurd.  What I try to explain to the students is that it’s okay to want to be successful but you have to understand that just wanting to be successful isn’t enough to actually make you successful. Many people believe that attributes like wealth, fame and success are goals themselves when in fact they are actually byproducts of hard work, growth and development.

Michael Jordan was famous because he was the best at basketball, Dave Matthews is famous because he’s a dedicated and talented musician, and Gandhi was known the world over because he was a person who strove to be the pinnacle of morality and righteousness. Their fame was secondary to their talent and hard work.

Goals and Objectives

Goals and success are just concepts. Objectives, however, are very real. The only true way to reach the level of success you desire is to set obtainable objectives in your life. If your goal is to get an A in a college course then make your objective to read every chapter. If your goal is to become a better baseball player make your objective to take 100 ground balls after every practice. Are you getting the idea? Objectives are what bridges the gap between where you’re at now and where you want to be. Objectives put you in motion; they ensure you’re moving towards your goal by breaking it down in to manageable chunks. Set goals in your life, but more importantly set objectives and stick to them. Objectives will get you where you want to go in life.

Most people who reach success have done a great job a sticking to their objectives to get them to that point in their life. However, one of the most difficult things is to stick to your objectives once you’ve reached your goal. Most people welcome in the arrogance and forget what got them to that point in their life. Never forget your objectives.

 The Great Ones

 

 

these two sport giants understand the true meaning of success

these two sport giants understand the true meaning of success

 

 The great ones are the people who have continual consistent success. Michael Jordan won his first three NBA Championships by working hard to become one of the most explosive players in the game. His second three championships were won late in his career after he’d lost a step in his speed. He reset his objectives and focused his game around a new shot, the “fade-away jumper” and dominated the competition in a completely new way.

 Tiger Woods is another prime example of continual success. After winning more major tournaments in his young career than most golfers win in their life times he decided to set a new objective to correct his swing. This wasn’t easy because Tiger struggled for a few tournaments, but all the while he remained committed to swinging his clubs the correct way knowing that it would make him a more consistent golfer in future tournaments. The end result was more major tournament wins including winning the US Open with an injured leg. Most people would be happy with a single major victory but Tiger knew that to keep winning majors he needs to set objectives to develop all aspects of his game.

 Success is Dynamic

Many people have the misconception that success and leadership are the end result of our objectives, but that’s simply not true. With each success in your life you’re stepping through the door for another challenge. Success is dynamic and like you it’s always changing. Understand your talents, identify your weaknesses, create your goals, and follow through with your objectives that will lead to success. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Always repeat.

Embracing Failure… Becoming The First Penguin

You’re Going to Fail

 

You are going to fail. It’s that simple. You are going to fail. Now it might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but at some point down the line you’re going to mess up.  And it’s not going to be some little screw up either. It’s going be really bad. For some of you, you’re going to see it coming. For others you’re going to get blindsided. Some of you, bless your hearts, are going to do everything right and then guess what, you’re still going to fail. Some of you probably all ready failed. Have you gotten the hint yet? Everyone fails in some form or way in their lives, be it professional or personal. But one thing is for certain, there’s no getting around it. So you might as well embrace it, because failing isn’t as bad as you think.

 

Why We Fear Failure

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A student fearing failure is a student handicapped by outdated educational ideals.

 

Now as you read that first paragraph your stomach probably turned a little bit and some thoughts started flowing through your head about things that could fail in your life right now. Maybe is that deal waiting to close? Maybe it’s that first date?  We as a society fear failure. We are terrified of it. Through our educational development we’ve been conditioned to fear being wrong. Failure is stigmatized in our educational systems. It is the reason why when a teacher asks a question in a kindergarten class all the hands go up and when a professor asks a question in a college course only a handful of hands go up. At some point along the way we as learners begin to think that being wrong is the worst possible outcome, and we run our business like this too.

 

Think about it this way. All of us spent the first 18-22 years of our lives being told that failing is wrong. The truth is that academic life is geared around your success. In most cases if you get a C in a course that is the pretty bad, when in reality its average. Failure in the real world is much different because anything goes and you need to take chances to succeed. If you consistently got a 4/10 on your college quizzes you would probably get an F in that class. However, if you were a professional baseball player and 4/10 at bats you got a hit you would be going to the All-Star Game.

 

 

The Other Side of Failure

 

Hypothetically failure is horrible, but in retrospect failure is often essential to success.  So why is failure essential to success? Well there are two main reasons that I can think of: The first is because only through our mistakes and failures we can truly begin to learn and develop. The other reason is that failing over time begins to make us resilient to aversive conditions.

 

Michael Jordan said it best. He said, “I can accept failure. What I can’t accept is not trying.” That is what I am getting at. If you try, if you really give it all you got you’re going to get something out of the process of your attempt. So the end result is that you goofed or things didn’t go according to plan. The odds are that if you truly gave your best effort you’re going to walk away knowing something that you didn’t before.  That is what matters most.  Ask any great champion or stand out in their field and they will tell you the same thing. Failure leads to success.

 

What Juggling Can Teach Us about Failure

 

In my senior year of college I heard Curtis Zimmerman give a speech. Curtis is a tall large framed man who slicked his brown hair back and wears thin wire framed glasses. Curtis is a world renowned entertainer and circus performer. He can swallow swords, eat fire and juggle like it’s nobody’s business. The culmination of his speech is to have a person come on stage who can’t juggle and learn how to juggle in front of the entire audience, and best of all he guarantees they will learn to juggle, and the person, nervous as they always are gets it every time. Curtis then puts on a juggling show where he’s juggling three, four, and five balls in different patterns and ways that people have never even seen before and he’s getting really into it he says, “Do you know why I am able to do this so well?… Because I’m not afraid to do this.” And he lets all of the balls fall on the floor. “The reason I can juggle so well is because I have dropped the balls more than any other person in this room. My past failures are the reason for my current success.”

 

The First Penguin

 

The late Randy Pausch PhD, author of The Last Lecture and former professor at Carnegie Melon, gave out a First Penguin award each year when he was teaching to the biggest failure in trying something big and new because he thought this should be celebrated. The idea came to him because First Penguins are the ones that risk their lives to jump into water first even though it might be filled wih predators.

penguin08

Behold the glorious First Penguin. This penguin is the first to dive into the water. That water might be filled with predators or that penguin might get first dibbs on all the tasty fish in the ocean. Take the risk.

 

My best advice is if you’re not the first penguin find someone who will make you the first penguin, find someone who will push you into the frigid waters below. When I first started my job right out of college I was fortunate enough to have a boss who embraced failure and taking chances. Believe it or not I was scared to make phone calls to clients because I was scared I might mess up and fumble my words on the phone and sounds dumb. So my boss sat at my desk with me and made me make some calls. I was so nervous I messed up a lot at first, but then I realized that this wasn’t so bad at all. After while my initial fear wore off and I became quite good at the phones. Now I start off every phone block session with a random call to a business in a phone book just to get my goof up out of the way. I used to be that little penguin on the edge of the iceberg looking into the water, scared to jump. Today I’m still that little penguin, but now I’m doing back flips into the water and give it my best effort every time I jump.

 

Be that first penguin. Celebrate your attempt even if it ends up in failure, because odds are you’ve learned something important along the way. Good luck.

 

Some quotes and media on failing that you might like.

 

“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

                                                            – Batman’s Dad

 

“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”

– Carl Jung, Psychologist

 

“My reputation grows with every failure.”

                                                            – George Bernard Shaw

 

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”

                                                            – John Dewey

 

 

 

Are You Socially Intelligent Enough to Lead?

 

more than likely this woman hates her job. how about you?

more than likely this woman hates her job. how about you?

 

Hate Your Job? Join the Other Millions of Americans…

 

A recent survey conducted by Entrepreneur Magazine suggested that 77% of Americans dislike their jobs.  Most of the people cited that office politics as well as their bosses were part of the reason why they disliked their current occupation. I found it really interesting that it was other people, and not job descriptions, that were given as the main reason for people hating their jobs.

 

Today’s business world is a fickle beast.  It moves at break neck speeds and demands everything from you and your peers.  In corporations there is a constant sense of urgency as you’re held to quarterly results and expected to reach your growth goals.  I have spent a great deal of time researching the culture of corporate America and it’s scary to see the negative progression of our supposed “productive cultures”. There is a growing demand for results and lessening of support. This current culture crisis in America would be enough to make anyone hate their job, yet most of the negativity is directed at our bosses.

 

Believe it or not, there are some vestiges where good corporate culture fosters success and growth. It’s really sad that these businesses are few and far between but they do exist and the reason they succeed is because of their management and social intelligence.

 

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership

 

In September of 2008 Harvard Business Review posted an article that tackled this very subject. It was titled Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership and was written by Daniel Goleman, PhD and Richard Boyatzis. If you subscribe to HBR I would highly recommend checking out this article. This article was viewed as ground breaking and cutting edge by the business community.

 

Goleman, who is the leading expert in social intelligence, looked at management from a social neuroscience perspective.  He focused on the importance of empathy and understanding and becoming attuned to others moods. He stressed the importance of developing a genuine (that is the key word here) interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.  As it turns out certain people have a biological predisposition that allows them to be more emotionally attuned and aware. However, it’s important to note that these skills can be developed over time.

 

In the past it has been common practice to promote a worker based solely on results. Promoting based only on results seems to make perfect sense, however more often than not this decision to promote based on numbers backfires.  Sales is a prime example. I have seen numerous sales reps promoted to managers, and at the same time I have seen a vast majority of them fail in their new position. The reason being was though they could produce sales results they do not have the social intelligence to enable their staff to produce the same results. Sadly most do no understand the nuances of understanding and communicating so they try to force results and goals on their staff and that’s where rifts start to form. Results are important when selecting a manager, but along with results social interactions should be looked at heavily to ensure you’re getting a person who is skilled in understanding and communicating with others.

 

A Happy Boss is a Great Boss

 

Research suggests that top performing leaders elicited laughter from their subordinates three times as often as mid performing leaders. A reason for this is that being in a good mood helps people take in information effectively and respond nimbly and creatively.  Laughter is paramount to social intelligence. It’s been said that when communicating with another person laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

 

There is a line though when it comes providing a positive environment. There are strict bosses out there and conversely there are bosses that are not strict enough. A good manager and leader will know how to handle that line because they will have understood how to interact with each individual employee to get the most out of them. Leaders have to be demanding but in ways that foster a positive mood.

The carrot on a stick method doesn’t make neural sense.  If you want to succeed in the long run you need to break away from the trite management strategy that would have you threatening your staff and scaring them into results. It might produce some short term results but it comes at a high price in the long run – the loss of trust from your staff. Become a socially intelligent leader; genuinely understand the strengths, weaknesses, goals, and talents of your staff and yourself. Enable your staff for long term success and have fun while doing it. Accomplish this and the results might surprise you. After all, research in the past decade has confirmed that there is a large performance gap between socially intelligent and socially unintelligent leaders.

Monkeys, Ice Cream Cones, and Mirror Neurons: The Three-Way That Gave Way to Social Neuroscience

work those mirror neurons baby monkey. work it!

work those mirror neurons baby monkey. work it!

A Macaque monkey sat in his cage in the corner of a neuroscience lab in Italy during a hot summer in the mid 1990’s. The monkey looked a bit goofy wearing a helmet type device that was rigged with electrodes that were supposed to detect a neuron that fired when the monkey raised its arm. As one of the Italian researchers entered the room the monkey sat with its arm at its side. The Italian researcher, like most people during a hot summer’s day, was enjoying an ice cream cone.  He turned and inspected the monkey’s cage and noticed that nothing was going on. The monkey was just chilling with its electric rigged hockey helmet and its arms still at its sides.  What happened next was amazing. The researcher raised his ice cream cone to his mouth and the electrodes starting registering that the monkey’s neuron was firing. However, there was one problem: the monkey didn’t raise its arm.  As the researcher raised the ice cream to his mouth again the neuron fired once more. Something was up…

 

 

 

Like most great discoveries this was a complete accident. What the researcher and his monkey counterpart stumbled upon was called a “mirror neuron”. A mirror neuron is a neuron which fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another animal. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of another animal, as though the observer were itself acting. Though the monkey didn’t actually move it’s arm the neuron still fired because it mirrored or made a connection with the researcher when he raised his arm.  Currently science has only found mirror neurons in humans, primates and some birds.

 

This very discovery was the seed that would eventually grow into Social Neuroscience. Social Neuroscience functions on the principle that we are wired to connect. Mirror neurons amongst many emerging discoveries are proof our brain’s very design is to be socialable. This means that every person we encounter has an affect on our brain, and that in turn, affects our bodies. Dan Goleman, author of Social Intelligence has this to offer:

 

“To a surprising extent, then, our relationships mold not just our experience but our biology. The brain-to-brain link allows our strongest relationships to shape us on matters as benign as whether we laugh at the same jokes or as profound as which genes are (or are not) activated in T-cells, the immune system’s foot soldiers in the constant battle against invading bacteria and viruses.  That link is a double-edged sword: nourishing relationships have a beneficial impact on our health, while toxic ones can act like slow poison in our bodies.”

 

Think about it this way: Can you ever recall a time when either you or a friend was in a particularly bad relationship with a significant other? At the end of the relationship did the constant fighting and ill tempered interactions affect your biological state, as in you felt sick, tired, or even nauseated from having to deal with that person. That’s Social Neuroscience at its worst, however, it gives a stark introcuction into how social relationships and interactions can truly affect you both in the short term and the long term.

 

Social Intelligence is an advanced companion to emotional intelligence. Now that I have somewhat introduced both I can begin to give some more examples of situations and people you might encounter or have encountered and how to get the most out of those people and situations.

The Importance of Balance, and Why We “Black Out”

 The human brain is the pinnacle of efficiency. That 3lbs piece of white and grey matter has enough energy flowing through it to power a 10 watt light bulb. That’s enough energy to make Uncle Fester jealous. Now to begin to understand the brain we need to understand how it uses its energy. For the brain to remain highly efficient and functioning properly it relies on being in a balanced state. That means the brain needs both positive and negative processes working at the same time to create a balance.  If your brain falls out of balance some weird stuff can go down. To best illustrate this let’s look at a favorite college past time, “blacking out.”  Keep in mind this is going to be a very rudimentary explanation.

Why We Black Out

As I mentioned before the brain has both positive and negative processes. The fuel or energy for these processes is called Glutamate and GABA. Glutamate is the neurotransmitter that fuels your brain’s positive processes.  GABA is the neurotransmitter that fuels your brain’s negative processes. The plus/minus processes of Glutamate and GABA create the balance your brain needs.

But it’s Friday, and you’re thirsty. So you strap on your toga and you hit the town. Next thing you know you’re throwing back shots, cranking out keg stands that will whip a party into a frenzy and what the hell, you even shotgun a beer or eight. You see the funny thing about alcohol is that it potentiates GABA. So with a little added help from booze GABA becomes more abundant in your brain, and that offsets the balance your brain needs to function properly.

The area of your brain that is associated with short-term memory is called the hippocampus, and is normally fueled by the positive neurotransmitter Glutamate… but not tonight. Since GABA is in excess it overrides some of the functions of your hippocampus, affecting your ability to process memory. So when you wake up on a futon, naked, with a bunch of strangers you can blame it on your brain for not being balanced. No worries though, by the time you wake up and shake off your moral hangover your brain’s activity should have balanced itself back out.

 

 If you’re confused just remember your dashboard.

 

 That’s right, think of your dashboard and dials, specifically your temperature gauge. Think aboBalance is good! Don't over heat and don't get cold.ut it, you always want your temperature to be right in the middle of that gauge. If the pin moves too far towards The H (Heat) your car would over heat and not work. If the pin moves too far towards The C (Cold) your engine isn’t going to work properly either. You want that pin right in the middle, balanced.  So how does this relate back to social intelligence?

 

 

This idea of balance is important because it can be applied to your desired emotional state. It’s proven that the higher your emotions run, the more difficult it is to perform basic functions. Similarly if you don’t have enough emotional stimulation you can’t perform a task optimally either.  You want your emotions to be like the heat gauge on your car, in the middle range – not too hot and not too cold.  People who are emotionally and socially intelligent can control the flow of their emotions by thinking and priming their emotional state for what has happened and what might happen. Thw higher your emotions run the more difficult it is to control your impulses and that could lead to you doing something you might regret.  So next time you begin to feel your emotions starting to get the best of you take time to think and find your emotional balance. The lesson of balance is essential to the success and development of your emotional and social intelligence.

The History and Possibilities of Social Intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is a phrase coined by Daniel Goleman, a Harvard University professor who specializes in the emerging field of Social Neuroscience. He has been at the forefront of emotional intelligence for many years now having published three groundbreaking books on the topic.  Here is a brief excerpt from an insightful book he wrote, it’s called Working with Emotional Intelligence.

 

“The rules for work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yard stick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training or experience, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other.”

 

Let’s look at business for example. Today’s market place is continually evolving.  As competition grows and the intelligence of the customer continues to expand, the end result is that people, not products, will be the deciding factor in successful business. At this point in the game every company out there has a product that is similar if not “better” than the others.  However, people are what differentiate a product in the market. People are what make the connection between companies and organizations. People help bridge the organizational gap and drive business.

 

 

EQ – The New Kid on the Block

 

Since the IQ test became common practice it has generally defined the intelligence of a person, but as it turns out, only in part. The funny thing about IQ is that it’s a static form of intelligence. That’s right, static. It remains the same over time.  In fact your IQ will more than likely remain the same well after your teen years.

 

I would like to introduce EQ – IQ’s emotional counterpart. It’s your emotional intelligence, and it is dynamic. You got it, dynamic. Your emotional intelligence is ever changing and always developing through out your life time.  It’s completely up to you how much you’re willing to develop your EQ.  There is no correlation between IQ and EQ.

 We've all seen the iceberg analogy.

Some of you might be wondering if there is a difference between men and women in EQ as women tend to be viewed as more “in touch” emotionally. Actually women and men are equal in terms of EQ because the strengths and weaknesses balance out: Women are more emotionally aware and men are more resilient to stress. Emotional Intelligence is how you handle yourself. Social Intelligence is how you handle yourself and others in social situations.

We’ve all seen the iceberg analogy.

 

 

 

Forecasting: our nation’s youth continue to get smarter and smarter; however their social skills are rapidly declining. One researcher commented that “Kids today just can’t take criticism.”  In our society we attribute a high IQ to automatic success. That is false. Not all geniuses succeed in life. It has been proven over and over again that the main determining factor in success is EQ, not IQ (though it should be noted that one must possess an adequate IQ). Emotional Intelligence is what can make the difference between an average performer and a superstar.  

My vision is that by making people cognizant to way they perceive and act they will gain a better understanding of themselves and in turn also gain a better understanding of the people they interact with.