Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘essay

What kind of a Move is the U.S. Making in Syria’s calamity?
Note: Article posted in 2013. A great way to analyse the process in the Syrian civil war and foreign interventions
U.S. Secretary of  State, John Kerry, directed that U.S. assistance to the armed Syrian rebels has been  authorized.
It comes in the form of a tranche of $60 million in aid,  initially said to be “non-lethal aid.” Supposedly, that translates as food and  medicine.
Kerry made the announcement this week in Rome, at a meeting  of Friends of Syria, a group of 11 nations.
The leaders of the acknowledged  Syrian opposition were there, too, and they decried the offer as too paltry, but  they are probably wrong to be upset.
 posted on March 1, 2013  in The New Yorker “In Syria, the U.S. Makes a Move”
anderson-syria-aid.jpg . Photo by Pablo Tosco
The odds are good that the declared U.S. assistance is just that—the declared assistance. New weapons of Croatian origin  have been flowing to the rebels since December via the Saudis, and have helped  them here and there on the battlefield.

It has been difficult to account for covert activities or triangulated  logistical operations. The British, too, have announced their willingness to  enhance their support for the rebels.

William Hague’s offer of aid from Britain, which would  require the lifting of E.U. restrictions, is for non-lethal “combat gear,” like night-vision goggles and flak jackets.

Underneath all the opacity and the declarations and the leaks, it seems  evident that the Obama Administration has decided to remain cautious but to  provide backing for Syria’s rebels, who are fighting an increasingly violent war  to unseat the entrenched military regime of Bashar al-Assad.

It is now a  23-month-old conflict with over 70,000 dead and  counting. (to reach 500,000 in 2018). Sometime this week, a million Syrians will have fled their country to neighboring ones as refugees. (To reach 7.5 millions outside and as many inside Syria)

In Jordan, there are now nearly half a million, and more are arriving every day. (And the same is for Lebanon). For the U.N. and other humanitarian agencies, Syria’s war is now the most urgent refugee crisis in the world, with no end in sight.

With Assad’s regime entrenched; fighting taking place daily in most of  Syria’s cities; Iran providing an apparently endless supply of war materiel to  Assad; the Russians, determined to act as power brokers, stubbornly covering the  regime’s back diplomatically.

Additionally, given Syria’s extraordinarily strategic position in the Middle East, it was inevitable that White House would  sooner or later have to come up with a policy to replace its wait-and-see hand-wringing.

Is it wise, or right, to arm Syria’s rebels? (Not wise)

Is it even a U.S. responsibility to do so? History will provide the final verdict, but there is probably not a  wholly right or wrong response at this point.

Syria’s diverse armed opposition is too engaged in war with the Syrian regime to be truly assessed, monitored,  and somehow “made safe” in exchange for U.S. support, and that seems unlikely to  change soon.

This is a hydra-headed war, a bit like a high-stakes poker game, and the best Washington can likely do is take a deep breath and sit down at the table to try  its hand, hoping to make some profit by doing so and not lose the family farm in  the process.

Given the U.S. role in the world, there is no real option but to play,  because out of Syria’s mess will come some kind of new reckoning between the  world’s powers where everyone’s leverage lies in the new Middle East.

The  Russians have staked their bets, and, in their own way, the Chinese, the  Iranians, the Turks, and the Saudis have, too. So has everyone else in the neighborhood, even the small fry. The result is a bloody stalemate.

For better  or worse, everyone is looking to the Americans to tip the balance, because that  is the role that a superpower, still in the game, is expected to play. This is  not about what’s right so much as it is about the game.

If the Americans want  the outcome to favor them and their allies they must try to help mold it. Direct  aid may have its risks, but no move at all means losing, too.

Israeli soldiers using Palestinian kids as shields. Photo by  Nidal Nidal Chehade.
الصورة الاولى من نابلس والثانية من موجهات سجن عوفر<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> جنود الاحتلال الصهيوني يستخدم الاطفال دروعا بشرية

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/in-syria-the-us-makes-a-move.html#ixzz2MNintcIn

Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller capture, “The Secret,” of leadership in five letters, SERVE. The beauty of SERVE is inescapable simplicity and actionable clarity.

By Dan Rockwell

Serve and learn to wear the delegator’s hat,

See the future: envision and communicate a compelling picture of a preferred future.

  1. What do I want to be true of the future?
  2. Why should anyone care?
  3. How will progress be measured?

sErve

Engage and develop others: recruit and align people for the right job. Create environments where people bring vision to life.

  1. What invited my engagement in the past?
  2. Which of these factors are missing in those I lead?
  3. How can I help teams and individuals grow?

seRve

Reinvent continuously: continuously focus on improvement.

  1. How do I need to change?
  2. Where do I want different outcomes?
  3. What organizational changes will accelerate progress?

serVe

Value results and relationships: generate measurable results and cultivate great relationships.

  1. Which is my personal bias as a leader – results or relationships?
  2. How can I compensate for the area that’s not my personal strength?
  3. What happens if I don’t broaden my definition of success?

servE

Embody values: live fully aligned with stated values.

  1. What values do I want to drive behaviors in my organization?
  2. How can I communicate these values?
  3. What are my actions communicating?

The ultimate question

“Am I a serving leader or a self-serving leader?”

Application

Apart from the ultimate question, the question that most hits me this morning is, “How do I need to change?”

It’s easy to see where they need improvement. It’s fun to “help” them. This morning, I’m the one who needs changing. I shouldn’t say, “This morning.” It’s every morning.

Organizations grow when their leaders grow.

The Secret” won’t take long to read but it takes a lifetime to live.

Which question in this post is most relevant for you, today?

How Hammers Become Screw Drivers

screw

Little Mary just knocked a glass of milk on the floor. That’s what two year old’s do.

There’s a group of five leaders at the table.

Bob waves the waiter over and says, “Could someone clean this up?”

Mindy says, “That happened because the milk was too close to the edge.”

Joe says, “Don’t worry, I’ll buy another one.”

Mark says, “Its ok little Mary, don’t feel bad.”

Betty says, “I’ll take little Mary to the restroom. Phil, will you get the waiter. Bob, I noticed another booster seat near the door, would you get that, please?”

Everyone employs default responses.

  1. Explain
  2. Comfort
  3. Teach
  4. Fix
  5. Organize
  6. Do
  7. Delegate

Expand leadership potential by imagining new responses.

Put on the delegator’s hat, if you tend to fix or comfort, for example. Become an organizer – in your imagination – if you’re a doer.

Become a screw driver:

Hammers see every problem as a nail. Expand your potential by becoming a screw driver.

  1. Identify default responses.
  2. Imagine new responses. Ask yourself, “How does Mary handle this type of situation?”
  3. Test new language.
  4. Invite feedback.
  5. Continue practicing your screw driver skills.

Leaders become ineffective – one string banjos – unless they imagine themselves in new ways.

Imagine you’re a screw driver. You can’t do what you can’t imagine. When default responses aren’t getting you where you want to go, imagine yourself with new ones.

What is your default response to challenges, problems, or opportunities?

What new response can you imagine that might take you further?

Kids Handle Pressure. And Others Fall Apart? Why

PO BRONSON and ASHLEY MERRYMAN, authors of ‘‘Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing’’ Published on February 6, 2013 in the NYT:

“Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?”

Noah Muthler took his first state standardized test in third grade at the Spring Cove Elementary School in Roaring Spring, Pa. It was a miserable experience, said his mother, Kathleen Muthler. He was a good student in a program for gifted children.

But, Muthler said, “he was crying in my arms the night before the test, saying: ‘I’m not ready, Mom. They didn’t teach us everything that will be on the test.’ ”

In fourth grade, Noah was upset the whole week before the exam.

“He manifests it physically,” his mother said. “He got headaches and stomachaches. He would ask not to go to school.” Not a good sleeper anyway, Noah would slip downstairs after an hour tossing in bed and ask his mom to lie down with him until he fell asleep. In fifth grade, the anxiety lasted a solid month before the test.

“Even after the test, he couldn’t let it go. He would wonder about questions he feared he misunderstood,” Muthler said.

Students at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on Jan. 25, the day before they took the SAT or SAT math subject test.
Clockwise from top left: Elana Ross, Linda Fan, Aryanna Jones,  Sasha Rae-Grant, Patrick Reed, Jeremy McMillan. Platon for The New York Times More Photos »

So this year, Muthler is opting Noah out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, using a broad religious and ethical exemption.
Just knowing he won’t be taking the tests in March has put Noah in a better frame of mind about school. “The pressure is off his shoulders now,” his mother said. When he doesn’t grasp a concept immediately, he can talk it through without any panic.
“He looks forward to science class and math class again,” Muthler said. “He wants to be a chemical or nuclear engineer.”

Muthler understands Noah’s distress; more mysterious is why her son Jacob, who is in eighth grade, isn’t the least bit unnerved by the same tests. He, too, is in the gifted program, but that seems to give him breezy confidence, not fear.

“You would think he doesn’t even care,” Muthler marveled. “Noah has the panic and anxiety for both of them.” Nevertheless, she will opt out Jacob from the tests, too, to be consistent.

Never before has the pressure to perform on high-stakes tests been so intense or meant so much for a child’s academic future. As more school districts strive for accountability, standardized tests have proliferated. The pressure to do well on achievement tests for college is filtering its way down to lower grades, so that even third graders feel as if they are on trial.

Students get the message that class work isn’t what counts, and that the standardized exam is the truer measure. Sure, you did your homework and wrote a great history report — but this test is going to find out how smart you really are. Critics argue that all this test-taking is churning out sleep-deprived, overworked, miserable children.

But some children actually do better under competitive, stressful circumstances. Why can Jacob thrive under pressure, while it undoes Noah? And how should that difference inform the way we think about high-stakes testing? An emerging field of research — and a pioneering study from Taiwan — has begun to offer some clues. Like any kind of human behavior, our response to competitive pressure is derived from a complex set of factors — how we were raised, our skills and experience, the hormones that we marinated in as fetuses.

There is also a genetic component: One particular gene, referred to as the COMT gene, could to a large degree explain why one child is more prone to be a worrier, while another may be unflappable, or in the memorable phrasing of David Goldman, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, more of a warrior.

Understanding their propensity to become stressed and how to deal with it can help children compete. Stress turns out to be far more complicated than we’ve assumed, and far more under our control than we imagine. Unlike long-term stress, short-term stress can actually help people perform, and viewing it that way changes its effect. Even for those genetically predisposed to anxiety, the antidote isn’t necessarily less competition — it’s more competition. It just needs to be the right kind.

Every May in Taiwan, more than 200,000 ninth-grade children take the Basic Competency Test for Junior High School Students. This is not just any test. The scores will determine which high school the students are admitted to — or if they get into one at all. Only 39 percent of Taiwanese children make the cut, with the rest diverted to vocational schools or backup private schools. The test, in essence, determines the future for Taiwanese children.

The test is incredibly difficult; answering the multiple-choice questions requires knowledge of chemistry, physics, advanced algebra and geometry, and testing lasts for two days. “Many students go to cram school almost every night to study all the subjects on the test,” says Chun-Yen Chang, director of the Science Education Center at National Taiwan Normal University. “Just one or two percentage points difference will drag you from the No. 1 high school in the local region down to No. 3 or 4.”

In other words, the exam was a perfect, real world experiment for studying the effects of genetics on high-stakes competition. Chang and his research team took blood samples from 779 students who had recently taken the Basic Competency Test in three regions of Taiwan. They matched each student’s genotype to his or her test score.

The researchers were interested in a single gene, the COMT gene. This gene carries the assembly code for an enzyme that clears dopamine from the prefrontal cortex. That part of the brain is where we plan, make decisions, anticipate future consequences and resolve conflicts.

Dopamine changes the firing rate of neurons, speeding up the brain like a turbocharger,” says Silvia Bunge, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. Our brains work best when dopamine is maintained at an optimal level. You don’t want too much, or too little. By removing dopamine, the COMT enzyme helps regulate neural activity and maintain mental function.

Here’s the thing: There are two variants of the gene. One variant builds enzymes that slowly remove dopamine. The other variant builds enzymes that rapidly clear dopamine. We all carry the genes for one or the other, or a combination of the two.

In lab experiments, people have been given a variety of cognitive tasks — computerized puzzles and games, portions of I.Q. tests — and researchers have consistently found that, under normal conditions, those with slow-acting enzymes have a cognitive advantage. They have superior executive function and all it entails: they can reason, solve problems, orchestrate complex thought and better foresee consequences. They can concentrate better. This advantage appears to increase with the number of years of education.

The brains of the people with the other variant, meanwhile, are comparatively lackadaisical. The fast-acting enzymes remove too much dopamine, so the overall level is too low. The prefrontal cortex simply doesn’t work as well.

On that score alone, having slow-acting enzymes sounds better. There seems to be a trade-off, however, to these slow enzymes, one triggered by stress. In the absence of stress, there is a cognitive advantage. But when under stress, the advantage goes away and in fact reverses itself.

“Stress floods the prefrontal cortex with dopamine,” says Adele Diamond, professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. A little booster hit of dopamine is normally a good thing, but the big surge brought on by stress is too much for people with the slow-acting enzyme, which can’t remove the dopamine fast enough. “Much like flooding a car engine with too much gasoline, prefrontal-cortex function melts down,” Diamond says.

Other research has found that those with the slow-acting enzymes have higher I.Q.’ s, on average. One study of Beijing schoolchildren calculated the advantage to be 10 I.Q. points. But it was unclear if the cognitive advantages they had would stay with them when they were under stress outside the security of the lab environment.

The Taiwan study was the first to look at the COMT gene in a high-stakes, real-life setting. Would the I.Q. advantage hold up, or would the stress undermine performance?

It was the latter. The Taiwanese students with the slow-acting enzymes sank on the national exam. On average, they scored 8 percent lower than those with the fast-acting enzymes. It was as if some of the A students and B students traded places at test time.

“I am not against pressure. Actually, pressure is good [for] someone,” Chang commented. “But those who are more vulnerable to stress will be more disadvantaged.”

As of 2014, Taiwan will no longer require all students to take the Basic Competency Test, as the country moves to 12-year compulsory education. The system will no longer be built to weed out children, but to keep them all in school. But academically advanced students will still take some kind of entrance exam. And those elite students will still feel the pressure, which, it bears repeating, will hurt some but help others.

“The people who perform best in normal conditions may not be the same people who perform best under stress,” Diamond says. People born with the fast-acting enzymes “actually need the stress to perform their best.” To them, the everyday is underwhelming; it doesn’t excite them enough to stimulate the sharpness of mind of which they are capable. They benefit from that surge in dopamine — it raises the level up to optimal. They are like Superman emerging from the phone booth in times of crisis; their abilities to concentrate and solve problems go up.

Some scholars have suggested that we are all Warriors or Worriers. Those with fast-acting dopamine clearers are the Warriors, ready for threatening environments where maximum performance is required. Those with slow-acting dopamine clearers are the Worriers, capable of more complex planning. Over the course of evolution, both Warriors and Worriers were necessary for human tribes to survive.

In truth, because we all get one COMT gene from our father and one from our mother, about half of all people inherit one of each gene variation, so they have a mix of the enzymes and are somewhere in between the Warriors and the Worriers. About a quarter of people carry Warrior-only genes, and a quarter of people Worrier-only.

A number of research studies are looking at COMT, including several involving the American military. Researchers at Brown University have been studying COMT’s connection to post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Quinn Kennedy, a research psychologist at the Naval Postgraduate School, is studying how the gene correlates with pilot performance. Douglas C. Johnson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, is part of a consortium of researchers called the OptiBrain Center, where he is interested in COMT’s role in combat performance and well-being.

While the studies are ongoing, the early results show those with Worrier-genes can still handle incredible stress — as long as they are well trained. Even some Navy SEALs have the Worrier genes, so you can literally be a Worrier-gene Warrior. In Kennedy’s sample, almost a third of the expert pilots were Worriers — a larger proportion than in the general population.

Kennedy’s work is particularly revealing. She puts pilots through a series of six flight-simulator tests, where pilots endure turbulence, oil-pressure problems, iced carburetors and crosswinds while landing. They are kept furiously busy, dialing to new frequencies, flying to new altitudes and headings and punching in transponder codes.

Among recreational pilots with the lowest rating level — trained to fly only in daylight — those with Warrior genes performed best. But that changed with more experience. Among recreational pilots who had the next level of qualification — trained to fly at night using cockpit instruments — the Worriers far outperformed the Warriors. Their genetically blessed working memory and attention advantage kicked in. And their experience meant they didn’t melt under the pressure of their genetic curse.

What this suggests, Kennedy says, is that, for Worriers, “through training, they can learn to manage the particular stress in the specific pilot training, even if it is not necessarily transferred over to other parts of their lives.”

So while the single-shot stakes of a standardized exam is particularly ill suited for Worrier genotypes, this doesn’t mean that they should be shielded from all challenge. In fact, shielding them could be the worst response, depriving them of the chance to acclimate to recurring stressors. Johnson explains this as a form of stress inoculation: You tax them without overwhelming them. “And then allow for sufficient recovery,” he continued. Training, preparation and repetition defuse the Worrier’s curse.

There are many psychological and physiological reasons that long-term stress is harmful, but the science of elite performance has drawn a different conclusion about short-term stress. Studies that compare professionals with amateur competitors — whether concert pianists, male rugby or female volleyball players — show that professionals feel just as much anxiety as amateurs. The difference is in how they interpret their anxiety. The amateurs view it as detrimental, while the professionals tend to view stress as energizing. It gets them to focus.

A similar mental shift can also help students in test-taking situations. Jeremy Jamieson, assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Rochester, has done a series of experiments that reveal how the labeling of stress affects performance on academic testing.

The first experiment was at Harvard University with undergraduates who were studying for the Graduate Record Examination. Before taking a practice test, the students read a short note explaining that the study’s purpose was to examine the effects of stress on cognition. Half of the students, however, were also given a statement declaring that recent research suggests “people who feel anxious during a test might actually do better.” Therefore, if the students felt anxious during the practice test, it said, “you shouldn’t feel concerned. . . simply remind yourself that your arousal could be helping you do well.”

Just reading this statement significantly improved students’ performance. They scored 50 points higher in the quantitative section (out of a possible 800) than the control group on the practice test. Remarkable as that seemed, it is relatively easy to get a result in a lab. Would it affect their actual G.R.E. results? A couple of months later, the students turned in their real G.R.E. scores. Jamieson calculated that the group taught to see anxiety as beneficial in the lab experiment scored 65 points higher than the controls. In ongoing work, Jamieson is replicating the experiment with remedial math students at a Midwestern community college: after they were told to think of stress as beneficial, their grades improved.

At first blush, you might assume that the statement about anxiety being beneficial simply calmed the students, reducing their stress and allowing them to focus. But that was not the case. Jamieson’s team took saliva samples of the students, both the day before the practice test to set a base line, and right after reading the lines about the new science — just moments before they started the first question. Jamieson had the saliva tested for biomarkers that show the level of activation of the body’s sympathetic nervous system — our “fight or flight” response. The experimental group’s stress levels were decidedly higher. The biological stress was real, but it had different physiological manifestations and had somehow been transformed into a positive force that drove performance.

If you went to an SAT testing site and could run physiological and neurological scans on the teenagers milling outside the door right before the exam, you would observe very different bio-markers from student to student. Those standing with shoulders hunched, or perhaps rubbing their hands, stamping their feet to get warm, might be approaching what Wendy Berry Mendes and colleagues call a “threat state.” According to Mendes, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, the hallmark of a threat state is vasoconstriction — a tightening of the smooth muscles that line every blood vessel in the body.

Blood pressure rises; breathing gets shallow. Oxygenated blood levels drop, and energy supplies are reduced. Meanwhile, a rush of hormones amplifies activity in the brain’s amygdala, making you more aware of risks and fearful of mistakes.

At that same test center, you might see students shoulders back, chest open, putting weight on their toes. They may be in a “challenge state.” Hormones activate the brain’s reward centers and suppress the fear networks, so the person is excited to start in on the test. In this state, decision making becomes automatic. The blood vessels and lungs dilate. In a different study of stress, Jamieson found that the people told to feel positive about being anxious had their blood flow increase by an average of more than half a liter per minute, with more oxygen and energy coursing throughout the body and brain. Some had up to two liters per minute extra.

Jamieson is frustrated that our culture has such a negative view of stress: “When people say, ‘I’m stressed out,’ it means, ‘I’m not doing well.’ It doesn’t mean, ‘I’m excited — I have increased oxygenated blood going to my brain. ”

As the doors to the test center open, the line between challenge and threat is thin. Probably nothing induces a threat state more than feeling you can’t make any mistakes. Threat physiology can be activated with the sense of being judged, or anything that triggers the fear of disappointing others. As a student opens his test booklet, threat can flare when he sees a subject he has recently learned but hasn’t mastered. Or when he sees a problem he has no idea how to solve.

Armando Rodriguez graduated last spring from Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy in Los Angeles, but he is waiting until next fall to start college. He is not taking a gap year to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He’s recuperating from knee surgery for a bone condition, spending his days in physical therapy. And what does he miss about being out of school? Competing.

“It’s an adrenaline rush — like no other thing.” He misses being happy when he wins. He even misses losing. “At least it was a feeling you got,” he said. “It made you want to be better, the next time.” Without a competitive goal, he feels a little adrift. He finds himself mentally competing with other physical-therapy patients.

Rodriguez recorded a 3.86 G.P.A. his senior year of high school and was a defender for the school soccer team. The knee injury happened during a stint on the school’s football team: his doctor had warned that it was too risky to play, but “I just had to try,” he said. He used to constantly challenge his friends on quiz grades; it’s how they made schoolwork fun.

But when he took the SAT last year, he experienced a different sensation. “My heart was racing,” he said. “I had butterflies.” Occasionally, he’d look up from his exam to see everyone else working on their own tests: they seemed to be concentrating so hard and answering questions faster than he was. “What if they’re doing way better than me?” immediately led to the thought, “These people are smarter than me. All the good schools are going to want them, and not me.” Within seconds, he arrived at the worst possible outcome: his hopes of a good college would be gone.

It might seem surprising that the same student can experience competition in such different ways. But this points to what researchers think is the difference between competition that challenges and competition that threatens.

Taking a standardized test is a competition in which the only thing anyone cares about is the final score. No one says, “I didn’t do that well, but it was still worth doing, because I learned so much math from all the months of studying.” Nobody has ever come out of an SAT test saying, “Well, I won’t get into the college I wanted, but that’s O.K. because I made a lot of new friends at the Kaplan center.” Standardized tests lack the side benefits of competing that normally buffer children’s anxiety. When you sign your child up for the swim team, he may really want to finish first, but there are many other reasons to be in the pool, even if he finishes last.

High-stakes academic testing isn’t going away. Nor should competition among students. In fact several scholars have concluded that what students need is more academic competition, but modeled on the kinds children enjoy.

David and Christi Bergin, professors of educational and developmental psychology at the University of Missouri, have begun a pilot study of junior high school students participating in math competitions. They have observed that, within a few weeks, students were tackling more complex problems than they would even at the end of a yearlong class. Some were even doing college-level math. That was true even for students who didn’t like math before joining the team and were forced into it by their parents. Knowing they were going up against other teams in front of an audience, the children took ownership over the material. They became excited about discovering ever more advanced concepts, having realized each new fact was another weapon in their intellectual arsenal.

In-class spelling bees. Science fairs. Chess teams. “The performance is highly motivating,” David Bergin says. Even if a child knows her science project won’t win the science fair, she still gets that moment to perform. That moment can be stressful and invigorating and scary, but if the child handles it well, it feels like a victory.

“Children benefit from competition they have prepared for intensely, especially when viewed as an opportunity to gain recognition for their efforts and improve for the next time,” says Rena Subotnik, a psychologist at the American Psychological Association. Subotnik notes that scholastic competitions can raise the social status of academic work as well as that of the contestants. Competitions like these are certainly not without stress, but the pressure comes in predictable ebbs and flows, broken up by moments of fun and excitement.

Maybe the best thing about academic competitions is that they benefit both Warriors and Worriers equally. The Warriors get the thrilling intensity their minds are suited for, where they can shine. The Worriers get the gradual stress inoculation they need, so that one day they can do more than just tolerate stress — they can embrace it. And through the cycle of preparation, performance and recovery, what they learn becomes ingrained.

It may be difficult to believe, as Jamieson advises, that stress can benefit your performance. We can read it, and we can talk about it, but it’s the sort of thing that needs to be practiced, perhaps for years, before it can become a deeply held conviction.

It turns out that Armando Rodriguez was accepted at five colleges. He rallied that day on the SAT. It wasn’t his best score — he did better the second time around — but it was not as bad as he feared. Rodriguez had never heard of Jeremy Jamieson. He had never read, or ever been told, that intense stress could be harnessed to perform his best. But he understood it and drew strength from it. In the middle of his downward spiral of panic, he realized something: “I’m in a competition. This is a competition. I’ve got to beat them.”

Editor: Vera Titunik

It’s certain that we live in uncertain times.

By Dan Rockwell

13 Power Tips for Leading through Uncertainty:

  1. Pull with – not against, higher ups. Grab the rope and pull, even if you disagree. Everyone who pulls in their own direction dilutes potential success. If you can’t pull with, jump ship, now.
  2. Aim to make a positive difference. Don’t simply survive. Survival doesn’t inspire.
  3. Listen and agree with expressions of fear. People feel minimized when you minimize their feelings. Affirm don’t correct. Ask, “What makes you feel that way?”
  4. Schedule a “hard truth” meeting to explore worst case scenarios, fears, doubts, and what if’s. The sole purpose is honest expression without solutions. Paint black pictures. Prevent anyone from minimizing or solving anything. Honor and respect pain and fear. You look like a fool when you ignore the obvious. End “hard truth” meetings with power tip #5.
  5. Schedule “tough solutions” meetings.
  6. Break challenges and problems into small pieces. Ask, “Can we fix this?” When you find something you can fix, ask, “What can we do?”
  7. Develop imperfect solutions. The search for perfect solutions creates uncertainty.
  8. Learn as you go.
  9. Celebrate small wins. Enjoy how far you’ve come. Momentarily forget how far you must go.
  10. Focus on things within your power. Uncertainty focuses on factors outside your control; decisions made by others, economic downturns, or regulatory fiascos, for example.
  11. Focus on positive behaviors and less on speculations. Uncertainty always causes speculation. Repeatedly ask, “Whatcan we do.” But remember to embrace power tip #1, first.
  12. Speak hard truths optimistically. Express highest points of confidence. “I’m not sure how this turns out but I’m giving it my best.” Pretending everything’s ok doesn’t instill confidence in those who know it’s not.
  13. Connect with others who faced similar uncertainties and challenges.

Bonus: Remain emotionally steady.

This topic was suggested on the Leadership Freak Facebook page.

Which power tips are most difficult and why?

What power tips can you add to the list?

“There is no more this feeling of lightness in the air around here…” said grandma (fiction story)

Grandma was perturbed this morning. She was not cheerful, and that is not uncommon early morning, to her and to me.

I realized that I love the night and loth the morning. Nothing in the waking up process carries much hope for a better life: Just the same routine for maintaining the survival process. Other people can’t wait to leave the house, under the excuse of going to work.

The Morning for grandma meant working studiously, without any interruption for hours on, until grandma falls down, claiming dizziness, back pain, chills, unresponsive muscles, unresponsive finger ligaments, arthritis…

The adage was “wake up early and devour the early worms…” as birds do and as the Chinese rice paddy growers do… And this age is probably behind us, since all these maintenance tasks do not generate any money to back up whatever wishes I still have…

Waking up very early in the morning, even after you crossed the barrier of 80 years, is a must… Doing anything is better than loafing around or waiting for the sun to warm the air and the body…

Better feel the chill and freeze the fingers than wait for the sun to come to the rescue…

The sink must be cleaned of dishes from overnight bingging of “other members of the extended family”…

Cooking for two families must be started, and usually two of the 3 dishes in the menu are burned for handling more than one job at a time…  And the cooking burner is flooded and must be cleaned…

And the level of anger and frustration reaches its zenith:  You cannot look such a bad cook after a life-time of excellent compliments…

Portions of the rooms in the house must be thoroughly sweeped and cleaned (floor, walls, windows, racks…). Even a decade ago, I used to clean the entire house in a single day.

I tried to appease grandma that her attitude is a matter of temporary depression, and told her an example of how to control depressive moods without medications.

How can you deal with depression? Here is this story:
“A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half… empty or half full” question. The “psychologist” smiled and inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Called out answers ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
The  psychologist replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
The psychologist resumed, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about the worries for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses.
But how can I do that?
When I go to bed the only ideas that come to mind are remembering the dear departed. I review all these dead people… I barely can get a snooze at night. And what about my ailing husband George, having so much difficulty breathing and coughing these horrible noises?
As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. But that’s what I do after 1 pm: I am just aware of my body pains and helplessness to perform anything. I am watching a bad TV screen and a mute sound.
Don’t carry the worries through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!
Putting the glass down is no problem: The glass drops by itself. It is picking up the pieces and sweeping the shards that are the problem.

President Barack Obama Speech at Jerusalem Cultural Center

President Barack Obama delivered a bold message to young Israelis in Jerusalem Thursday, asking them to see the world through the eyes of their adversaries in the Middle East.

In Israel proper, Obama speech sucked up entirely to the Zionist State and never mentioned Palestine or the Palestinians, which prompted many Arab commentators to view Obama and all the US administrations as actual lackeys to the Zionist movement

Grace Wyler posted in the Business Insider on Mar. 21, 2013, at 11:31 AM “Obama Just Finished His Speech In Israel, And People Are Already Saying He Made History”

“Addressing students at the Jerusalem Cultural Center, Obama called on a new generation of Israelis to take up the peace process — including halting settlement construction — and work harder toward achieving an independent Palestine.

This key paragraph from his speech concerning the two States of Israel and Palestine:

But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized.

Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.

It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. 

It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home.

Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

The speech was remarkably blunt, particularly considering Obama’s fraught relationship with Israelis and their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

At times, Obama even appeared to be trying to circumvent his Israeli counterpart, calling on his young audience to challenge political leaders on the peace issue.

” I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.”

“You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”

"I'll be speaking at GW in DC tonight, 7 pm Marvin center (800 21st St NW Washington, DC 20052) room 402"  -- Miko Peled
“I’ll be speaking at GW in DC tonight, 7 pm Marvin center (800 21st St NW Washington, DC 20052) room 402” — Miko Peled

The message was extraordinarily well-received, both by the audience and veteran Israel correspondents, many of whom are calling Obama’s speech “historic.” Here’s some of the reaction:

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic: 

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/obama-israel-speech-2013-3#ixzz2OCaQm2VJ

Societies’ Blind Spots through the centuries and civilizations

For various reasons such as maintaining structural hierarchies, preserving privileges, class struggle, religious and ideological dominance, knowledge development, economic systems… societies through the centuries had particular Blind Spots that hindered its progress toward equitable and fair rights to all the people.

For examples:

1. In the French revolution of 1789, somehow the rights for women were totally forgotten in the equation of Liberty, Equality, and Human Rights. Historians prefer to attribute this neglect to the notion that women were not an issue in this struggle, since societies were patriarchal in their structure for centuries and women managed to tacitly navigate the system in order to maintain sort of a power balance withing the family foundation… Mind you that it was the women who marched on the Bastille prison on October 1789

Prior to the French revolution there was the US revolution, independence, and Constitution and Bills of Rights… And still, women rights were no where to be found.

In the USA, women grabbed the right to vote in the 20’s after a long and arduous struggle of the Suffragists. This movement was successful as women from the highest ranks joined the fight. Women led the labor movements in the two decades 1840-60 https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/led-by-women-us-labor-movements-1840-1860/

The right to vote was secured in France shortly before WWII…

2. Slavery was an admitted way of life till the 18th century. Obviously, the darker the color the more evident it was that the person was more eligible to be worked as a slave, since the people Africa were theorized in religious circles to be denied the same kind of soul as the other lighter colored people… Giving the slaves the same rights as “free-men” was a “blind spot” that society could not fathom in any political discussion. The like of Spartacus movements were cruelly crushed as if bitten by rabid dogs…

3. The Industrial Revolution gave priority to hiring children for reasons entirely at odd with current laws. Children rights to safe and healthy environment was anathema in the political circles. Families would even encourage their children to go to work early on and supplement the resources instead of wasting precious time in school.

Fact is, through the ages, it was the tiny people, mainly children and drwarfs, who were used to dig tunnels in order to extract gold and silver: It was too time consuming to enlarge the passage of tunnels in the hard rock with hand tools…

4. Since the Industrial Revolution, the notion that environment degradation and air pollution were serious factors to consider in wealth generation was not considered. Commercial Whale Fishing went on for centuries before the idea that whales and fish can be depleted if marine life is not managed scientifically.

5. Four decades ago, the opinion that man is the main nemesis in earth climate change and degradation of water and air quality was not an issue in discussions.

6. Openly slaughtering animals was common occurrence and pretty natural to observe. Currently, laws and procedures are constraining how animals are killed and processed.

7.  The term “paradigm shift” in field of sciences and sociology is synonymous with “blind spots” in mankind march toward higher levels of dignity and respect for human rights…

7. I ask you to send me a list of blind spots that you are aware of in previous centuries, and the ones that were Not Blind Spots previously and are currently blind spots.

Essentially, blind spots are common behaviors once a culture is stamped as the normal way of living and thinking. Once a culture is chiselled in rocks and common laws, it is hard to deviate and consider other perspectives…

The main hindrance in spotting beneficial conducts for improving society behavior is the built in ideosyncraties that limit communicating efficiently with other cultures.

Every culture is endowed with facilities to spotting the blind domains in other cultures. If a civilization denies the right to its people to listen carefully and seriously study the trends in other cultures, then it is almost impossible to overcome the built-in blind spots in a particular culture.

Questions:

1. Have you tried to research the blind spots in your culture? For example, saying “How I came not to see this obvious shortcoming?” “How this natural right was oblivious to my mind?”

2. Many blind spots look terribly a matter of common sense a couple of decades later, and we failed to see the obvious looking in our face. What blind spots do you think will be uncovered in the next decade?

3. Modern quick, efficient and global mass communication facilities should generate mass contacts with other cultures. Do you think that this enhanced communication will greatly facilitate the uncovering of blind spots in many cultures?

4. Can you research the current blind spots that were not that blind at all in previous ages and civilizations? Spots that were not that blind or dark to the common people because they practiced what is currently viewed as anathema to progress? Think of these multinational companies destroying the livelihood of billion of people and preventing them from eeking a significant profit from their small family entreprises…

With humility for accepting other cultures as sources for breakthrough in mankind cooperation, and a flexible mind to comprehend other cultures way of life… it is possible to face global obstacles for a sustainable life on earth.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

April 2020
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