2) Preventing Alzheimer's and other Brain Disorders
I'm kidding, I'm kidding ? Welllll, maybe half-kidding. Like Laurence Olivier is supposed to have told Dustin Hoffman, I think, when Dustin was having a hard time of it over something or other, "Why don't you just act?" I ask you: is not every time a prospect and salesperson, or two colleagues meet, a dramatic situation?
I was in a documentary about my high school basketball coach forty years ago, which ended with a Voice Over of me explaining that the key to his success was?you guessed it?continually illustrating every point with anecdotes and drawing streams of analogies, so we not only learned things we didn't understand from things we did, but how to continually do that, ourselves. One part of the movie showed the coach with a player, asking how he woos girls if he doesn't have any ?act.? When I entered the recreation center where the film was being shot, and the staff there asked what I'm doing now, I responded off the top of my head, that ?You can over-dribble, over-pass, over-shoot, or get trapped in the corner of a conference room or dining room as easily as you can on a basketball court.? The gentleman who has done the insurance Continuing Education classes where I live for decades is a legendary storyteller. He was grooming a colleague to take over for him, the last time around, who tried emulating his act. After two minutes, she reverted to the same old same old.
The best do the SAME THING as the rest of folks do. They just DO it differently, just like you can tell in an instant the difference between people who are into dancing, and the happy few who have dancing in THEM. You can hear in every syllable the command they have of every facet of speech, and people sense my sensitivity as a person, from the genuine sensitivity with which they control the tone and pitch and tempo of my voice. THAT, my friends, is the art of communicating. My sons commented when I got divorced and they stayed with me, how much better I cooked than my ex-wife. What else is cooking but caring? I started chopping up zucchinis and red peppers and putting them in baked ziti instead of Kraft's packaged macaroni and cheese. Most salespeople shovel their driveway more carefully than they speak to their prospects. Talking is easy. Three-year olds can talk. Thinking is a whole other ballgame, kids. That's all some do differently that I can think of: they think about every infinitesimal detail of what they're doing. Of course, like hitting a baseball, they don't think about it WHILE they're talking. It's as natural as Ted Williams' swing because they practice it as long and hard as Ted Williams did. It's never too late to learn. Anyone who wants to improve their ability to get across to people, the Coloring Book exercises and drills will get them there. People are amazed at how much they knew, which no one ever showed them how to use, and how powerful it is once you get hold of the reins. Do you have any idea how many people read books and listen to CD's about getting their head or act together? All I'm doing is explaining how those experts perform their magic trick People don't need another batch of Habits or Chicken Soup recipe. They want someone to show THEM how to do what all those experts are doing! It isn't any more complicated than hitting or throwing a baseball. Of course, there's pee-wee ball, and then there's the big leagues, but speaking of which, did you happen to "catch" the Little League World Series. The announcer commented that one pitcher's delivery and follow-through were so smooth, it looked like he was handing the catcher the ball. The same thing happens in finance, I'm sure you know.
Dealing with the situation as behaviors like other programs do, is easier for those people to learn about and explain to other people than changing how people actually think. The only problem is, it doesn't work. The brain runs the machine, so just knowing that someone should be flexible, for instance, doesn't really help them to become flexible. Figuring out the dynamics of how people think, from the way that writers make us think, took a lot more doing. As I said before, the real solution to selling and every other objective is literally right under the experts' noses the whole while they are talking, without their knowing it, much less their audiences:: learning how they spoke would help people more than what they are telling them. Everybody's drinking the chaff, and throwing away the wheat. The kicker is that, of course, it doesn't just make communicating and selling easier, but everything else someone does. By the same token, the program is also self-correcting, and accelerates the rest of someone's learning curve, as well. If communication and selling exercises and drills are analogous to those that athletes and musicians do, to improve their performance, it doesn't take a genius to realize that they are also applicable to everything else someone does. A new client confided to me afterward that he found it difficult knowing whom to trust. ?You can tell whether someone is the real deal or a wolf in sheep's clothing,? I told him, ?whether they are revealing the truth or concealing it, from the process they use when they speak, just as a teacher knows the answer is right before seeing it if the student was formulating the problem correctly.? The cruel irony is that salespeople who back off when people raise objections or want to "think" about it because they're too nice to assert themselves, give the misimpression that they were just wolves in sheepskin, and the seemingly "tough" cookies, who seemingly "make people" do things, actually get them to do those things because they can tell that the salesperson's soft coating is part and parcel of them, not some pastiche, and therefore feel more comfortable with people who speak the way they do.
Benchmarking is one of the most common practices in business, and an essential element in Team Building. What's the point of having teams if they don't compete on some level? Records are made to be broken, as they say. The reason the top firms recruit students from the top colleges for the top positions is that they know that to have gotten there, those students have over many years raised the bar and gotten used to doing more work better and faster than their counterparts elsewhere. An artist doesn't just transform reality when he represents it; the process of doing so transforms the artist at the same time. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the laws of composition are as inviolable as those by which the physical world is composed, like Boyle's Second Law of Thermodynamics:
Pressure X Volume Temperature
remains constant within any given situation, be it a balloon or a business meeting. The better someone gets at expanding the Volume of a given matter with illustrative anecdotes and analogies, putting the matter in perspective with the world at large, the Cooler they literally remain under Pressure. We've already gone over the MANY benefits of remaining cool, that is to say, being OBJECTIVE, perhaps the foremost of which is being far better able to ACHIEVE ANY objective. Getting more specific, the greater the Scope of someone's anecdotes or analogies, or their Depth, Vividness, or Clarity, the better they remain Cool under Pressure. I would hope that by now, IF you have read the rest of the book up to here, you are able to fill in other variables besides sheer Content that achieve the same results, such as the stronger or suppler someone's Form, Style or Tone, the better they likewise remain Cool under Pressure. Other parts of the book explain in greater detail what is meant by Form, Style, and Tone, but for example, the illustrative anecdotes consists of some Character, Action, Setting, and Time frames, and separating the amorphousness of events into its components this way lends itself to drawing analogies between them and things like them in the world at large, some of which are more suitable, suggestive, and powerful than others, as for example that knowledge is associated with light. Sometimes the absence of something can be even more dramatic than its presence, just as darkness creates suspense or connotates confusion or lack of knowledge to cope with a situation. Beethoven's pauses are as dramatic as any of his notes. As the great Russian short story writer, Isaac Babel put it in ?Guy de Maupassant: ?No iron can stab the heart like a period in just the right place.? Boom: and there it is, in JUST the right place! Naturally, once you get the hang of it, you start COMBINING composition elements like a real artist, and not merely double their effect, but start piping into that magical realm where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. I mentioned that emotional and behavioral flexibility go hand in hand with intellectual flexibility in The Coloring Book for Teaching by Numbers lesson. The same can be said with regard to stress, of course, which costs businesses some $250 billion each year, so one would suppose that stress takes a heavy toll on the individuals causing that loss, as well. Stress is caused when the pressure that is normally distributed throughout an object, the way cables hold up a suspension bridge, becomes focused on one part of the object that is not strong enough to withstand the pressure upon it alone, like a back or foot or joint. Emotional stress works the same way, and furthrmore clouds our mental processes, so we are more likely to make mistakes, distributing our weight while engaged in physical activities, and even unconsciously doing so in the many ways that our body functions automatically, as when we breathe and our internal organs do what they do. Not only does the anecdotal process naturally distance someone from events, making them a third party narrator of them; analogies objectify our subjective experience of those events, transforming them into something other than themselves, with which we can more readily grapple, just as scientists can more readily examine something's properties by creating an apparatus for doing so, and the analogies furthermore enable someone to examine the matter at hand in terms of something else, with which they are more familiar, deflecting from the stressfulness of the moment. Can you think of a more interesting study than whether merely teaching people associative thinking skills reduces their stress and improves their health? What if the very number of times that people ask, "Okay?" "Alright?" or "Y' know what I mean?" is related to their sick days and health insurance costs? How much is it worth to health insurance companies to cure that, not to mention Get People Out of Therapy and Into Reality? How much is it worth to businesses to not only reduce their insurance costs, but improve employees' flexibility, communication skills, and sheer learning power at the same time? People who cannot see one thing in terms of another, which is around 80%, are forever blowing things out of proportion. I've mentioned that SCIENTISTS have actually PROVEN that 80% of paper clips that get used for procrastinating rather than holding paper together. Ever hear the 80/20 rule in business? 20% of people do 80% of the work. The other 80% are likewise the ones who can't put things in perspective. I allude to this again at the end of the Lesson on Leadership, and one way or another throughout the book, but dear Team Builder, think about how many of your colleagues, clients, and suppliers are doing something other than what they learned in college or WISH they were doing, instead of their jobs, and how much more effective both they individually and your team would be if you just taught them HOW to APPLY all their knowledge, experience, and skills to the task at hand. Everyone learned a certain amount of math. Nothing you ever figured out, past Sixth grade, equaled anything BUT BY EQUATING certain constants with certain unknown variables, whch the increasingly complex mathematical PROCESSES that you learned, enabled you to FIGURE OUT. They can do it; YOU can help. Don't do workshops on being inspired. Show them how to use what already inspires them! EVERYONE is much smarter than we give them credit for. I had to tell a financial services company issuing me a credit for stuff I agreed to look at for a 30-day trial, that I've closed mortgages in less time than it took them to issue the credit! Better yet, the Sr. VP--sharing second in command of a HUGE health insurance company that just merged with another HUGE one--was apologizing to me for the three-month delay in my being paid after getting more people enrolled in their Medicare plan last year than any agent in the state (not the goose you want to cook), and now I'm talking to him about being paid for MY services in bringing their operations and acounting systems together, which he hadn't realized was such a HUGE problem until I started kicking and screaming about it because too much was at stake to me to let it slide, as hundreds of other agents were doing, at HUGE loss to this company, unbeknownst to the SENIOR VP!!! My point being, they probably have a Latino kid, for instance, whom no one ever bothered talking to because he's Hispanic, who is a magician with a jig-saw in their trade show display making department, and probably knows more about coordinating things coming in, getting done, and going out better than the doofuses in charge of sales or accounting. I'll go you one BETTER; just one more: when I asked the gal who does the marketing pieces for this financial services firm I hooked up with, to think of target markets like day traders, to send the pieces to, she looks up at me and says, "I'm not a financial person; my background is design." Guess what their main financial workshop is called: Financial Planning Made Easy BY DESIGN!!! In a million years, no one else there would think of suggesting to her, nor would she ever notice, that DESIGN = DESIGN. Goethe and Beethoven weren't just buddies because of their notoriety. They knew they were doing the same things with different tools. ALL DAY LONG, she's doing something OTHER THAN what she REALLY KNOWS how to do, because she never saw that they're ANALOGOUS!!! Why? because in 16 years of schooling, no one ver taught her how to do that! Nor did the MBA's and IT super-certified people there. How do you like THIS one, which of course would be MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE with people who've had MY program: what if everyone in every company put ONE idea about bringing their knowledge or skills to bear on some other aspect of the business, AND from this you create calendars for each department with the ideas FOR that department generated by the people in other departments--or suppliers and clients, alike? Is that a walk-off grand slam, or is that a walk-off grand slam. What a great promotional item: a calendar with Operations, Finance, Marketing, Administration categories, for people to put suggestions about EVERY DAY, which then get compiled for those departments to use AS calendars the next month!!!!
There are any number of brain exercise programs developed by psychologists, none of which do anything, as mine does, to improve how people actually connect what is going on around them with themselves, which is largely a function of language, just as the underlying programs that connect information in computers, like COBAL and JAVA, are spoken of as languages. Athletes and musicians do exercises to improve their speed, strength, stamina, flexibility, timing, and touch, but none of that have anything to do with the ability to play any sport or piece of music.
With one eye, read what I am saying; with the other, follow how I am saying it. Glance back over several magazine articles in different fields, right in your facility, the same way, and what I call The Uniform Structure of Information will start to pop out at you, as dazzling as those ships and wolves camouflaged in the famous brushstroke paintings. The nurses, the executives, the recreation therapists and physical therapists, and maintenance crew have different ones. As different as their content may be-indeed, as different as all the articles in every other magazine--Time, Cosmopolitan, Home & Garden--or book like them may be-there is also one overriding common bond between them: how the articles or books are written, which of course manifests how the people who wrote them think. Anecdotes illustrate each point in every article, with analogies drawn between the matter at hand and situations like it in the world at large. Just as there is a relatively uniform structure to people despite all their differences, to the clothing that everyone wears, and likewise to the very atoms of which we are composed, different as hydrogen and phosphorous are, there is likewise again a uniform structure to information. The laws of composition are as inviolable as those of biology and physics, and just as applicable to every situation. Text is text. What no one else seems to realize is that so is everything going on around and within you. Surprise, surprises: life itself is a reading comprehension test! If too many pieces of the puzzle are missing, is it any wonder that neither the speaker or the listener are getting the picture?
Clinical and industrial psychologists have correlated the use of illustrative anecdotes and analogies with the retention and use of information. You can think of it as a kind of Microsoft of the mind: an operating system, so to speak, that enables people to formulate the flux of events and information coming at them and stored within them, to retain and use afterward. Closets have hangers, so you can find what you want. People who hang their thoughts, so to speak, on other thoughts that are already there, can access them more readily afterward. People who don't have such hangers increasingly have trouble remembering what they were even looking for, or thinking about. Our mind innately formulates the flux of events as anecdotes and analogies when we dream, to facilitate comprehending them. We don't understand the connections our mind makes between what we don't understand and things we already know, so our dreams seem strange to us. What I am proposing, in effect, is teaching people at risk of losing touch with reality how to use the way their mind innately works to connect everything going on around and inside them with what was already inside them and has always been all around them. The beauty of the program is that when they learn to read the underlying structure of whatever they read, not just the content on the surface--as people have been trained to do their whole lives, so they can get past the next test or meeting--they will see how every article or book they pick up is doing the same thing, which will provide continual practice in acquiring the skill for themselves.
People who learn how to explain the matter at hand in terms of other things like it in the world at large, which they and their listener already understands, not only remember and use information better, but also become more receptive to new ideas, able to tell how new things coming at them are similar to things that they already know, as well: not just on a macro level about sports, activities, and systems, but on a micro level, comment by comment at a ping pong table or dining room table! In fact, Dr. Trilling had been telling medical students for decades about the power of illustrative anecdotes in eliciting information from patients and intervening in their lifestyles; then realized after reading something of mine that there is as much more to weaving a brief story than meets the eye as there is to wielding a scalpel and everything else one learns in medical school. Merely telling your staff or clients to use anecdotes and analogies without showing them how is like telling people who worry too much not to worry about it. Like dancing or playing a musical instrument, it is to some degree a talent, but largely a skill that anyone can learn and will improve faster and further the more systematically they practice, for which I have developed exercises and drills like those that dancers and musicians do to improve how they perform. Information slips through someone's hand like water when they don't grasp its structure, and anecdotes are the most familiar narrative structure to everyone. We start learning from Kindergarten on to classify things according to common characteristics-round pegs in round holes, animals and plants-and continue doing so with increasing sophistication throughout our educations. Since that narrative process is the one common bond between every expert in every field, it is obviously the key skill of all skills to learn. They seem to write and speak brilliantly because they have brilliant ideas, when in reality, it's the opposite: they have brilliant ideas because their narrative structure facilitates them. That is why I call the program The Coloring Book for Thinking by Numbers. In time, again like dancers and musicians, someone no longer has to think about the program; the program in fact thinks for them. A Fourth Grader once asked if this process of illustrative anecdotes and analogies is what the "Think Outside the Box" sign by the Guidance office meant. Her next question was how you get outside the box. You will see soon enough. The cruel irony, which besets all too many people, is that someone who cannot get outside the box, is all too often lost in it, as well.
Many of your staff-and probably most of you reading this-already communicate the way I am suggesting. Like all experts, you just took this ability for granted, and never thought of teaching it, unaware of its significance in the grand scheme of things.
The better someone gets at seeing things in terms of other things, the more readily they start to see themselves as something other than they were. Lo and behold, when the books are put away for the summer and the diplomas have all been hung, life itself turns out to be the ultimate reading comprehension test! When I was asked by a group of 500 salespeople at a conference what was the one thing I recommended they do to improve their sales, I blurted out, "Read Plato," who said that the role of a teacher is to show people what they already know. I was told by the conference hall manager that the building literally shook, my audience laughed so hard. Clearly, none of them could make the connection between the ideal form of a chair and the person sitting in it.
Learning and communicating are as linked as breathing in and out. People who learn this transformational process will invariably transfer it to other residents, family members, and friends.
Learning how to LEARN, to begin with, is a whole other ballgame from remembering times tables and algebraic formulas, grammar and geography, historic events, scientific laws, athletics, and the other fine traits that teachers and colleagues and family members try to instill in us like leadership, discipline, and teamwork. Knowing how to learn is being able to figure out things you don't understand from what you already know. Where this gets even more interesting is that learning this process of recognizing similarities between things, also enables people to remember facts and ideas better, by connecting them with other ones they already know. I ask you: how smart is it, teaching residents-or staff-all kinds of things, without teaching them how to LEARN first?
A 7-year old severely learning disadvantaged girl asked me to do more magic tricks, the second time I showed up in her classroom. Not knowing any, I asked what she meant. "The way you change one thing into another all the time when you talk," she replied. A ten-year old asked if you could change your whole brain this way. "And the world," I replied; "the whole darned world."
I am now going to give you a simplified version of how to perform the magic trick, understanding that you will need further help learning it well, just as golf or dance videos don't replace the need for lessons. Apropos the very nature of the process, let's go back to how you learned everything you know: again, classifying the basic components of situations according to common characteristics, just as nouns, reptiles, and islands have. Television gives us a vast body of situations to examine. Most of you know the main Characters, Settings, and Time frames within which, say, Star Trek, Bonanza, and I Love Lucy occur. Some Action takes place at the start of each episode, around which the rest revolves: a problem with some place or person. Every situation has these components in common, but people don't necessarily use them when describing a situation. The more obvious something is, the more easily it is overlooked.
We live in a four-dimensional universe, and our mind transforms it likewise four-dimensionally. Drawing analogies puts situations in perspective with the world at large, which enables us to keep matters in proportion. The line of reasoning between the immediate and the world at large is your second dimension.
The intellectual, emotional, spiritual, or tangible plane someone speaks about is the third dimension. Knowledge is widely associated with light. We cry when we're sad, sweat when we're afraid, and boil when we're angry, so waters are associated with emotion. Spirit, of course, with the land and sky. And trees, the ground, and such with our corporeal selves.
Lastly, the four qualities laid down by St. Augustine, by which all works are measured are Gravitas, Profunditas, Luminas, Claritas. The scope of Shakespeare's world is more vast than John Updike's. Some people have a deep understanding of few things; others have a shallow understanding of a great many. Some moments and people are more vivid or intense than others. Some are clearer or murkier.
And then, of course, there is that most elusive of all intangibles: time. Time works two ways: the period of which we speak, and being able to move fluidly between several of them, and the tempo with which we speak. Most people learn to read monosyllabically, trying to do so as fast as possible. Many students have told me that pointing out the musicality of words, which contains their emotional element, made them aware for the first time of how poorly they treated siblings, friends, and pets. The ability to retain and use experiences goes hand in hand with that of extraneous information. The very meaning of what happens and elsewhere is a function of how well someone sees it in terms of other things than itself. Songs and poetry in general do that more intensively than prose, of course.
I mentioned being able to create exercise drills to improve the speed, strength, stamina, flexibility, timing, and touch, with which someone grasps and uses information. Everyone who ever excelled at anything carried the exercises and drills given them by a coach or teacher beyond that, and made up their own, playing with the process to turn the rigor into a game within the game. For example, you can think for 15 seconds or longer, if you like, about a Character, be it from experience, a movie, or elsewhere; then an Action, a Setting, and a Time period; an idea, an Emotion, an Aspiration, a Sensation. Or you can go to analogies of them that come to mind, as you go through them. You can see how Fast you can do this, how Long, how Strong they come to mind, how Flexibly you change directions or speeds, how aptly your Timing is with them, and how subtly the Touch with which you apply them. Or you can just work on Speed, just Strength, and so forth.
Life can be stressful for any number of reasons, and the change in one's whole way of life in Assisted Living can dramatically add to life's stressfulness. Framing events in terms of others like them deflects from the stressfulness of the matter at hand. Everyone talks about relationship building and turning negatives into positives, but how well can someone relate to other people or turn negatives into positives, who cannot relate one thing to another, in the first place? There is no chicken soup in a soul; men are not from Mars, nor women from Venus, and there isn't a book, nor teaching, nursing, or medical school course anywhere, teaching anyone how to teach other people to see the world in perspective that way. By the same token, connecting what is going on around and inside onself with the world at large is reassuring, whereas being unable to do so has to be terrifying and depressing.
I also suggest-URGE-getting someone involved WITH YOU in the memory retention exercises discussed at length in the Learning How to Learn First lesson and mentioned throughout the booking numerous guises, just as children learn by playing games together.
NOTE: See what I did a moment ago, likening MENTAL exercises to prevent or overcome brain disorders to the way children PLAY together, both to make it easier for you to understand and more palatable to do? THAT PROCESS is The Key Skill of ALL Skills--CONNECTING the immediate situation with things LIKE IT that you're already familiar with, putting the situation on a HANGER, so you can access it more READILY. The coats come and go; the HANGERS stay there. GOT THAT? People lose the ability to remember because they never learned in all that they learned how to put thoughts on HANGERS this way, Connecting the unknown with the known.
The best that a Nobel Prize winning biochemist, Eric Kandel, can say on page 206 of Memory, From Mind to Molecule, with Larry Squire, who runs the Memory Resarch Laboratory at U.C. San Diego, is: "if a way can be found to combat the forgetfulness that is so common among otherwise healthy individuals without adverse effects, this would certainly be a worthwhile achievement." A textbook called Neuroscience (Sinauer Associates: Sunderland, MA, 2004, page 752) states that "Just as regular exercise slows the deterioration of the neuromuscular system with age, age-related neurodegeneration and associated cognitive decline may be slowed in elderly individuals who make a special effort to continue using the full range of human memory abilities." No more than children are ever shown how to learn, to begin with, adults never learn what using the full range of human memory means, nor does anything in either textbook tell them. To grasp what the full range of human memory means, you have to go outside the sciences, to literature, music, and art. No one needs to read The Odyssey or Remembrance of Things Past, know Beethoven's or Mozart's symphonies, nor have seen a single Picasso or Van Gogh painting, to take or teach my workshops. I bring you the underlying central theme that runs through all the arts, encapsulated: that how reality is represented in it is a model for learning to observe and respond to it as artists do; in other words, utilize the full range of human memory. I was recently watching the BBC's retelling of As You Like It and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Virtually every line is explaining something the audience (and character) doesn't understand in terms of something we already know. The art of ART is also the art of LIVING. Unfortunately, few people ever get that, so they miss the whole point of it, and just get the lesson on the surfacce.
What you have here is like a cloth, which can be used to improve job performance of every kind at every level, just as a decorator can make curtains, sofas, or wall hangings with a fabric. I have unravelled, so to speak, the very fabric of information, which determines our state of mind the same way the information in our cells determines our physical well-being. The process of using anecdotes and analogies--again, as I show how to do, not just telling people to do it--not only makes communicating, learning, and remembering easier, but everything else someone does, by bringing everything else they know to bear on the matter at hand. Need I add that doing things well makes them more enjoyable.
The idea here isn't to lay down a program in stone, but that using it will continually bring to mind new ways of applying it. Like learning to dance or play an instrument, or cooking and gardening, for that matter, someone can learn about it in a couple of hours or less, if need be, but ultimately you spend the rest of your life really learning them, just as there isn't much point to learning a physical fitness regimen if you don't use it regularly.