A Little Reflection Going A Long Way …


My friend Katie has been reflecting on events in her home town …Katie -P  Reflection

… and her sharing gives us a wonderful example of the power of self-reflection to stimulate critical thinking, which in turn leads to growth.  

Many of us now also have a strong model to use for our own self-learning.  Whatever your current position with regard to the many issues facing us as a society and you as an individual, less reacting and more thinking will create positive movement.

Feeling relaxed, and yet somewhat uncomfortable at the same time in the Heartland ….



World Philosophy Day 2014 – UNESCO

 PhilosophyToday is World Philosophy Day … a day devoted to thinking about thinking …

Philosophy is one of those much-maligned notions … we often misunderstand or simply do not recognize the centrality of our philosophies to how we live.  Too often, we run screaming from anything that smacks of a philosophical nature, a looking at a thing or a concept from a meta-view.  Sometimes being philosophical equates to being hard to understand, even when the best philosophy is as clear as clean water.

I have a new philosophy. I’m only going to dread one day at a time.

Charles M. Schulz

For some, philosophy equates to religion or spirituality, although it is not just that.  Our religious beliefs will reflect our philosophies around ourself and others, but philosophy also addresses non-religious issues.

For others, philosophy represents a wasting of time pondering “mushy” things, and not getting on with the business of living.  I blame philosophers for this one, since sometimes the philosophic among us take guilty pleasure in being mysterious through unclear or mystic thoughts, apparent only to them. 

Philosophy is common sense with big words.

James Madison

For too many, philosophy is idle consideration of minutiae and trivialities.  Philosophy can be sidetracked by interesting, but not universal questions and we sometimes just plain take refuge in considering the philosophy of a thing, rather than living that thing.

Philosophy often seems inaccessible or confusing, or at least it did when I studied it in formal education.  However, I have found that the consideration and creation of a personal philosophy, combined with the evaluation of jointly held philosophies to be the most important elements of my life.  

Insert your own closely held belief about life here:)

Our philosophy determines our lives.  

For much more about this day, click HERE.

Feeling rather thoughtful in the Heartland ….


Learning Old Lessons Again …

Ghost Writer - Wikimedia CommonsI was working with some words this morning …

It’s a weekly task where I take someone else’s thoughts, add a graphic, and make the package suitable for framing, or more correctly sharing online.   Usually the words come from one person.

This week, the words came from a guest poster and I could immediately sense the difference.   The flow was not as smooth, the phrases not as clear, and the overall impact was less.

My first thought:   Well, this is not good.   It’s not as good as usual.  It’s not what I have come to expect.  

My second thought:  Well, this person is learning.  They have not done this as much as the usual word-provider.  This is how they will get better at doing it.

My conclusion:   Sometimes we react from a position of assessment, where we are judging the worth of a thing against the yardstick of excellence, when we should be allowing for growth and learning.

This is a reinforcement that much of life is a process of learning and continual improvement.  I’ll bet even the masters of word and image and thought had a few clunkers and missteps along the way to their greatest accomplishments.

So … I will send a few well-chosen words of positive and critical analysis to help the person do better next time, while I let go of the idea that everything has to be as good as possible every time.

Learning anew an old lesson about learning in the Heartland ….




On This Veteran’s Day …

Veteran's Day 2014 posterVeteran’s Day has been part of my life  …

As a boy, I watched as what seemed like every adult male in our community, including my father, crammed themselves into their old uniforms and paraded around the square as the high school band gayly played.

Some made speeches, some offered prayers, and we always ended with “Taps”, as mournful and evocative a song as you can play on a bugle.

Then we went to the small cemetery near our farm and placed little American flags on selected graves to honor those no longer with us, followed by brief and quiet reflection and remembrance of each person.

Veteran’s Day was up close and personal to me …

During and after my military service, I sort of lost track of Veteran’s Day. The city folks celebrate differently than the way I grew up with.  The day seemed to become more about having a holiday, a day off from work, and sales in the big box stores.  Patriotic speeches which were like snack food (temporarily feeding our hunger, but soon gone) fill the air and much hoopla occurs.

On a more positive note, I enjoy the many personal stories that show up around this date about fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and others close to someone who stops to remember their service … up close and personal.

Today, I have only one wish for our annual celebration of those who have served and those who continue to serve …

Let’s dump the day …

Instead, let’s truly honor our men and women who have taken the oath, worn the uniform, and done what their country has asked of them,  every single day of the year.

Let go of the politics associated with whether you agree with every decision made by the country past or present.  Let go of whether you personally served or even know anyone who has.   Let go of the temporary pride that comes and goes with the appointed day.

Consider thoughtfully and carefully how our elected officials and laws affect active and retired military personnel and their families.  Take time to learn about how benefits and treatment are administered and dispensed.  Just ask yourself one simple question and honestly answer it to the best of your compassionate ability:

Are we truly honoring their service every day in how we care for them?

As stories of substandard and sometimes unforgivable treatment of those who have served continue to come forward, only one thought should be in our minds: 

We can and should do better with our financial, medical, psychological, educational, and economic support of military personnel and their families.  

Hold our elected officials and ourselves accountable for meeting this sacred trust to do what is fair, just, and right.

I am choosing intentionally not to beat the drum for any specific law or action that falls in this category.  My plea is not about supporting or defeating any legislation or candidate … it’s about all of us seriously treating our veterans in a humane and just fashion.

Trying to truly honor those who serve and have served in the Heartland ….


For context and history of Veteran’s Day, go here:  Veteran’s Day History

Book Review: Beyond IQ by Garth Sundem

Beyond IQ book coverWhen I received my review copy of Beyond IQ: Scientific Tools for Training Problem Solving, Intuition, Emotional Intelligence, Creativity, and More by Garth Sundem, I was immediately struck by one thought.

“… Yeah, right” (spoken with mild sarcasm)

 The title alone claims quite a few things, especially if you know a little about trying to use these skills or encourage their use in others.  

I skimmed the book in a random fashion, flipping idly through the pages, and was immediately aware that this book has a lot of lists, pictures, graphics, and symbols sprinkled liberally throughout, along with the prerequisite word content.

I was reminded of puzzle books that one can purchase at any book store, grocery store, or probably at any fast gas and cheap food place these days.   This set up my expectation that this was a light-weight book which would provide some diversion and enjoyment similar to my crossword puzzle books … and that would be the end of its usefulness to me.

… Was I ever wrong and I could not be happier to be so!

Garth Sundem has done his homework nicely, collecting the latest thinking around a wide range of topics related to neuroscience and how our brains help and hinder us.. I normally do not list chapters of books, since the titles are sometimes oblique without the accompanying content and sometimes because listing titles can be boring and provide no extra value. I am breaking my own rules with the following list of chapters, because they show in clear detail just what this book covers:

Insight, Practical Intelligence, Problem-Solving, Creativity, Intuition, Your Brain on Technology, Expertise, Working Memory, Keeping Intelligence, Wisdom, Performance Under Pressure, Emotional Intelligence, Willpower, Multitasking, Heuristics and Biases.

These short and compactly written sections are liberally endowed with short exercises to highlight the main points being discussed.  

An Example From Beyond IQ:

For example, I especially enjoyed the section on Problem-Solving, since this particular skill lines up with several of the other topics (insight, creativity, practical intelligence, wisdom, and so on) and is a topic which I try to nurture in others.

Sundem starts by describing the troubles encountered by Metropolitan State College of Denver as it sought to change its name to something more reflective of its academic stature (in other words, “college” to “university”). The story goes through several twists and turns to reinforce the idea that problem-solving has to include thinking beyond a narrow scope and considering many possibilities.

He then introduces Richard Mayer, a noted researcher from the University of California at Santa Barbara, who offers some solid learning on what makes successful problem-solvers different from the rest of us: “… the time they spend studying the initial state and the constraints – the extra time they spend clarifying the problem.” (p. 36)

According to Mayer, we solve problems in four primary ways: Random, Depth-First, Breadth-First, and Means-Ends Analysis Search. Mayer then teachs us about solving problems by using the everyday maze.     I had never considered the variety in our problem-solving approaches, until I had the opportunity to solve the same or similar mazes using each of these approachs.

After several more short examples and exercises, Sundem has some fun with a section on “Faulty Assumptions”, in the form of a list of brain-teasers designed to show us how the assumptions we make hinder us from effectively being able to solve problems.

One example from the list:


It’s a dark and stormy night and you’re driving down the street when you notice three people at a bus stop: an old woman who needs a doctor ASAP, your best friend, and the date of your dreams. You can only fit one other person in your car. What should you do?

I’ll let you chew on this before I share the answer.  (Bragging point: I got it within 10 seconds, but then I AM a professional.)

Sundem ends this chapter with a discussion on how to solve those aggravating little sliding tile puzzles … quite a trick when you consider that a simple 4×4 puzzles contains approximately 653 billion possible states.

However, the knowledge you pick up in this chapter and in others is not just for parlor games or to impress lesser mortals.

What did I Really Like?

I enjoyed the non-academic, but precise writing style which conveyed some fairly sophisticated concepts in accessible language and with good organization.

This is a great review of current neuroscience and decision-making knowledge.

The ability to actually do exercises that other books just talk about may be the single most valuable part of this book

Tying Up Loose Ends:  About that dark and stormy bus stop …

Sundem’s solutionmay seem obvious as we read:

Assumption: You must be the driver.  

Instead, give the keys to your best friend, who takes the old lady to the hospital while you wait for the bus with your dream date (who is now duly impressed).

Without intentional strengthening of our ability to creatively problem-solving and move past erroneous assumptions, many of us struggle to figure how to choose who to put in the car with us.

Bottom Line: Who Will Benefit From This Book?

Anyone who wants or needs to know how our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral selves come together will benefit from reading this book, whether you choose chapters of specific interest or read from the first page to the last.

If you are a leadership, business, or life coach, a teacher, a manager, or someone else who seeks to understand and help others understand how to make more effective decisions, this book has much to offer in terms of current knowledge and engaging exercises.

Enjoying imagining how much more effective my teaching and coaching will be when I use this book as a resource in the Heartland ….



Beyond IQ by Garth Sundem was published in 2014 by Three Rivers Press. 220 pages.  As noted above, I received a review copy of this title, which did not influence the comments above.  I was and am genuinely delighted by the value and learning I have found in this book.