Monthly Archives: October 2012

The human mind has a shut-off device

This is from a post over at Farnam Street, (http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/) one of my favorite blogs.  This post is almost scary in some respects.  But this is what the mind does and it seems we all know this intuitively.

October 19, 2012

This passages from Trust Me, I’m Lying:

Once the mind has accepted a plausible explanation for something, it becomes a framework for all the information that is perceived after it. We’re drawn, subconsciously, to fit and contort all the subsequent knowledge we receive into our framework, whether it fits or not. Psychologists call this “cognitive rigidity”. The facts that built an original premise are gone, but the conclusion remains—the general feeling of our opinion floats over the collapsed foundation that established it.

Information overload, “busyness,” speed, and emotion all exacerbate this phenomenon. They make it even harder to update our beliefs or remain open-minded.

Reminds me of this quote from Charlie Munger:

[W]hat I’m saying here is that the human mind is a lot like the human egg, and the human egg has a shut-off device. When one sperm gets in, it shuts down so the next one can’t get in. The human mind has a big tendency of the same sort. And here again, it doesn’t just catch ordinary mortals; it catches the deans of physics. According to Max Planck, the really innovative, important new physics was never really accepted by the old guard. Instead a new guard came along that was less brain-blocked by its previous conclusions. And if Max Planck’s crowd had this consistency and commitment tendency that kept their old inclusions intact in spite of disconfirming evidence, you can imagine what the crowd that you and I are part of behaves like. …

Frozen Yoga and McMindfulness: Miles Neale on the mainstreaming of contemplative religious practices

Have you ever just “watched” or observed your mind, the thoughts floating constantly through your head?  Have you ever wondered “who” is doing all this thinking and why?  Do you think that there is any benefit to slowing the ceaseless flow and chatter of thoughts through your head?  Here is an interview with Dr Miles Neale about Mindfulness and Buddhism.  It’s interesting.

Buddhist blogger/Shambhala SunSpace contributor Danny Fisher in conversation with Buddhist psychotherapist and meditation teacherMiles Neale.

Rarely a day goes by when there isn’t some exciting news about the applications and possibilities of mindfulness, as taught in Buddhism, for our physical and psychological wellbeing. (Just this week, we postedabout a recent study that showed how “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has the same effect as antidepressant medication for preventing relapse among patients treated for depression.”) Of course, there is a shadow side to mining the world’s wisdom traditions for useful practices: also recently, The New York Times ran a story about this issue in yoga as it continues to grow into a giant industry independent from its religious roots.

Miles Neale, PsyD, LMHC, is a Buddhist psychotherapist, meditation teacher and expert on the clinical applications of contemplative arts and sciences. A fixture of Tibet House US andInterdependence Project programming, the NYC-based Miles is also Assistant Director of theNalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, where he collaborates on state-of-the-art clinical research of meditation, and teaches public courses on the Indo-Tibetan tradition. I spoke to him a little bit about trouble spots as mindfulness goes mainstream…

Miles, you’ve got a lot of interesting things to say about secular meditation programs. By way of getting us started, let me ask you: Cambridge University researchers recently discovered that mindfulness training can dramatically improve self-esteem and wellbeing among teen boys in particular. One of the results of their study is that many public and private schools will be putting into place mindfulness curricula. Your thoughts?

Well, Danny, by “interesting things to say,” I hope you don’t politely mean “controversial!” Let me be frank: the more mindfulness practiced by anyone, anywhere, the better off we all are. The recent findings at Cambridge University are really just further confirmation of a large body of research on the efficacy of mindfulness that has spanned nearly four decades. At this point, it’s a no-brainer: mindfulness works to reduce negative symptoms and increase wellbeing, period.

What did we think was going to happen if human beings, particularly the younger generation in the West—who are ordinarily hyper-aroused, over-stimulated, prey to a whole slew of addictions from caffeine and sugar to alcohol and pornography, whose main form of socialization is technology based, who often feel angry, depressed, marginalized and alienated, and who, as a result, act out with violence to themselves and others—were invited to take a 30 minute time-out, each and every day, from the whole ridiculous rat race we call urban life, and asked to gently turn their attention inwards, to follow their breath, to relax their bodies, to connect with their feelings, to enter into a caring relationship with themselves, to dis-identify with their obsessive thought streams and compulsive habits, and instead identify with a loving embrace with all living beings?

Of course a child’s self esteem is improved when they are more in touch with and in control of their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. And of course there is greater wellbeing when we begin to access our own nervous system’s natural brilliance by consciously flipping the switch from the reptilian fight-flight stress-reactive mode to the mammalian love-growth connect response. I’m ecstatic that we are finally encouraging our youth to practice the art of mindfulness; they need and deserve it so desperately. In fact, I think we all need to cultivate a radically peaceful internal environment in order to counter act the pervasive forces of consumerist greed, competitive aggression, and divisive self-centeredness.

The recent Cambridge University recommendations to include mindfulness meditation in our school curricula may represent a shift in consciousness. Perhaps we have overcome our suspicion of religion? Or, more likely, we are just now beginning to view meditation as a mental training, rather than as religious activity like prayer. And just as we encourage people to do regular physical exercise and eat a nutritious diet, we can likewise now openly encourage them to settle and discipline their minds without being identified with any particular religious worldview. That makes the power of meditation open and accessible to many more people, who, under different circumstances, would be discouraged and turned off.

Yet, in my view, there is a flip side to this argument that I think is worth raising, even if it is contentious: with all the positive attention meditation receives, and for all the wonderful psychological benefits it offers, it is still only one component of the overall Buddhist therapeutic approach known as the Three Educations (trishiksha) and refers to only half of the Eight Limbs of Yoga (ashtanga).

The questions I’m interested in these days include, “Are we ready to embrace the other components that constitute the rich psychological matrix designed for our optimal evolution and happiness?” “Are we ready to study and practice wisdom and ethics along with meditation?” “What is lost if we keep meditation separated from wisdom and ethics?” “If we overcame our suspicion of meditation, by seeing it as a mental training, grounded in science, could we do the same with the other components of the three educations?”

Speaking from that flip side, can you say a little bit about what we might be missing if we don’t adequately address the questions you are asking here?

Danny, think about the last time you went to yoga class. You sat down, chanted “om” three times, did eighty-seven minutes of intensive calisthenics—huffing and puffing, stretching and bending, contorting your body into a pretzel—and then, in the last 3 minutes of class, you may have been asked to settle all that revved up energy and focus on your breath in a meditation, all the while with no real philosophical basis for what you’re doing. That’s a typical picture of yoga in the America as it has been mainstreamed over the past four decades. This is what I call “Frozen Yoga”—with granola and chopped fruit on top! Looks nice, taste great, good for you…but it’s not a whole meal.

More than twenty million people are now practicing this way, in the so-called yoga boom—a multi-billion dollar industry. That’s a lot of folks, and a whole lot of investment. Some of the motivations drawing people to yoga these days include wanting to look great; develop nice abs; and earn the ever-elusive, yet incredibly spectacular “yoga body,” so that we can mimic some beauty posing in full lotus posture on the cover of a yoga magazine. All the while, however, we are continuing with an “ordinary lifestyle” outside the yoga studio, filled with anger, envy, pride, self-centeredness and greed, and ending, predictably, in more unhappiness. Maybe there are a few others who seek out yoga to increase flexibility, stamina, energy, and to find relaxation—all worthwhile pursuits—but none of these motivations speaks to real yoga—complete yoga. I’m sorry to burst the bubble.

What’s in danger of getting lost is the philosophical underpinning of yoga, the true purpose of yoga. Yoga is about harnessing life force (prana), opening the heart and freeing the mind of identifications to limited self-views. Yoga is designed for liberation—moksha, getting out of suffering completely, becoming a radically transformed human being, becoming more conscious, becoming fundamentally happy and loving. Yoga is the fulfillment of a meaningful life and the peak of a human beings evolutionary development—homo empathicus—if I may steal from Jeremy Rifkin. Most people practicing yoga don’t know what they’re dealing with in downward dog. They aren’t necessarily aware of the power-tools they’re playing with.

Sadly I see the same thing happening with meditation these days. Meditation is undergoing a similar surge of interest, albeit twenty years younger then the yoga boom. Everyone seems to want to learn and practice mindfulness. There are mindfulness workshops everywhere, mindfulness techniques for this condition and mindfulness for that condition, every other book is on mindfulness, and every third therapist wants to study mindfulness and use it with their patients. And like I’ve already said, that’s great—the more mindfulness the better—I stand by it and want to encourage it.

But I also see a kind of compartmentalized, secularized, watered-down version of mindfulness being offered, which I call “McMindfulness” in a forthcoming article of mine. Meditation for the masses, drive-through style, stripped of its essential ingredients, prepackaged and neatly stocked on the shelves of the commercial self-help supermarkets. From my perspective, McMindfulness lacks the integrity of the tradition and lineage from which it originates. My fear is that in wanting to procure meditation from Buddhism and the postures (asana) from yoga, we may be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

You see the Buddha didn’t just teach mindfulness, and Patanjali didn’t just teach postures. These great, enlightened sages taught the power tools within a psychological context, sandwiched neatly like the cream of an Oreo between ethics and wisdom. You can just have the cream—it’s lovely—but its more delicious as a cookie. People teaching and studying mindfulness these days typically focus exclusively on awareness training—you know, calming down, focusing on the breath, relating to thoughts and emotions with impartiality. This is incredible, and, as the research indicates, it does help to reduce symptoms and offer relief. But what happens when the high of the yoga class ends and the calm of the meditation session is over? You have to go back to the ordinary suffering of your life. Its like leaving your house a mess when you leave for a vacation—sitting on the beach for seven days is great, you feel rejuvenated, but you have to come home to the mess.

Buddhism and yoga are inner sciences (adyatmavidya) that aim for a radical revolution of lifestyle, attitude and outlook; they are about reshaping your life off the yoga mat and the meditation cushion. If you haven’t heard of the yamas and niyamas, then you’re simply not practicing real yoga. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the mother text of all yoga, everything we’ve ever wanted — peace, prosperity, vitality, success, and happiness — all come from keeping an ethically sound lifestyle. It turns out that the so-called “good life” of having everything you’ve ever dreamed, comes from leading a “good life” in relation to others, treating others as we would want to be treated. The wisdom traditions recommend that the ground upon which meditation and yoga are practiced be a morally sound life. By separating out the methods from the psychologies, I feel like we may be selling ourselves short of the deep, lasting change, transformation, and eventual freedom—that these ancient traditions have preserved over the millennia for all of humanity.

Let me get to the point, Danny: yoga and meditation without ethics and wisdom are merely techniques for exercise and stress-reduction. In my mind, exercise and stress reduction are wonderful, healthy activities, capable of helping us change for the better. We need more people to be healthier and relaxed—don’t get me wrong. And if people come to real yoga and complete meditation through the doorway—or the golden arches—of Frozen Yoga and McMindfulness—and realize, in their own time, there is much more that awaits them in the depths of their heart and minds, then I’m happy. My concern is in raising an awareness that the health and relaxation that folks are experiencing is just the beginning, just psychological platforms, prerequisites, and a prelude for a much greater learning process. Yoga and meditation are capable of taking us to the moon. But if we stay at the level of Frozen Yoga and McMindfulness, it is like we are using a rocket launcher to light a candle.

In my opinion, after forty some years America is ready to embrace “the full monty”—yoga and meditation as they were intended—as radical psychology. Not Hindu or Buddhist per se, but science of mind directed towards the ultimate goal: happiness and liberation. We need to build upon what twenty-million people are doing while they are in headstand, by alerting them to the fact that meditation is but one of the Three Educations (trishiksha) of Buddhism and that yoga postures are just one of the Eight-Limbs (ashtanga) of Yoga. That’s our mission at the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science: to provide a comprehensive education in the complete paths of Buddhism and Yoga, offered through the contemporary lens and language of Western psychology, medicine and cognitive science. We want to relate to the modern western mindset, but we also want to provide a full meal, or at least a taste of the real deal.

All of that said, what prescriptions do you have for yoga and meditation teachers in terms of better presenting Buddhism and yoga?

Turn down the music in your yoga class! How the heck are people supposed to meditate in poses with all that noise?

OK, more seriously, the traditional recommendations for an ethical life in the Yoga Sutras concern the restraints (yamas) and the observances (niyamas)—put simply, the behaviors yogis should abandon and which they should adopt in order to flourish. We should begin to consider the other fifteen hours of our waking day off the mat and cushion as spiritual practice. Remember the main principal of karma is that every action of body, speech and mind produces our own future experience—either pleasant or unpleasant. So we are in a constant dance of shaping ourselves and becoming anew. We have the potential to effectively develop our highest potential through conscious and benevolent activity. The idea is to regulate the habitual impulses of desire, aggression and misperception (the root causes of suffering) through practicing honorable behaviors and actions. But we have to start from the most gross, external level first, then move into more subtle levels of mind. The yamas and niyamas are essential for spiritual development, but are largely ignored in Frozen Yoga and McMindfulness.

The five restraints are: (1) not harming, (2) not lying, (3) not stealing, (4) not expending sexual energy indiscriminately, and (5) not acquiring unnecessarily. The five observances are purity in what we consume through body and mind; they are practicing contentment with whatever we experience in the present moment, transforming adversities and challenges into spiritual practice, committing to daily spiritual study and surrendering our limited ego to a higher potential. Something I have found helpful in trying to maintain the yogic lifestyle is having a method of accountability. Some teachers suggest keeping the “six times a day” book, in which you check-in and note in a journal every few hours how well you’re keeping your vows and commitments to the ethical path. By doing this, one practices mindfulness in everyday life, restraining negative impulses and cultivating positive virtues. It is truly a wonderful practice that I highly recommend.

In terms of developing wisdom, in addition to the many traditional prescriptions, I also recommend contemplative psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a real-time meditation between two people for the purpose of identifying intra-psychic blocks and limits, and the consequences of psychic trauma on interpersonal dynamics. One of the main contributions psychotherapy offers Buddhism and yoga is the consistency, accountability and unconditional support of another human being involved in our own psychological exploration and process. I think there is an unfortunate tendency for yoga practitioners and teachers to pooh-pooh psychotherapy and think we are taking the higher road of solo, John Wayne-style spiritual practice. There is the potential danger to engage in what’s called “spiritual bypassing,” where we neglect or deny unresolved psychological baggage in favor of the deep states of practice. That can become a way of finding psychic hiding places, false senses of security or superiority.

I work predominantly with yogis and meditators in my private practice, and see a contemplative therapist myself. Often times our psychological issues don’t just disappear like we expect, and in some cases our issues may actually get reinforced in spiritual context. We are all aware of the manifest result of spiritual bypassing: teachers sleeping with their students, students acting co-dependently with their teachers, passive aggression because no one knows how to effectively deal with their anger, group-think, escapism, self-neglect, or excessive guilt and shame because we didn’t achieve some ideal fantasy or aspiration. We can adopt a spiritual persona or mask to show the world, but then distance ourselves from our own humanity—the wounds, limits or frailties we are meant to accept and work with. Here our spiritual practice may just be perpetuating narcissism and the subtle, harsh, inner critique or sense of inadequacy that narcissism is designed to defend against.

In psychotherapy, the interpersonal exchange—intimacy, mirroring, emotional attunement, and empathy—are effective in resolving past traumas, blocks and neurosis precisely because these traumas were originally formed by interpersonal failures with significant others. The rehabilitation and growth comes from a new, more conscious, relationship in which we recognize and let go of old habits. Therapy offers a unique opportunity to experiment with and adopt new ways of being and relating. Divergence to solo practices like meditation—or, in therapy, self-reflection, self-acceptance and self-correction—occur in the context of a safe interpersonal field. Why should we exclusively work alone? I think this is arguably absent in the dharma and yoga centers, where the teacher is often traveling, preoccupied with a vast number of students, or unprepared to deal with a student’s personal baggage of past trauma, depression, relationship, sex and intimacy issues.

I’m not suggesting everyone needs a therapist, but I am recommending that teachers get honest in their self-assessment, and consider working closely with others. As role models, we should strive for high standards of integrity in our teaching in the classroom, but, more importantly, in our daily life behind closed doors. True yoga teachers are happy people, teaching others to be happy. That requires living a good moral life, along side an honest awareness and radical acceptance of our shortcomings, limits and shadows. For all our striving for perfection, we also need to make room for our imperfections as well. This is, I think, the essence of wisdom training and how it dovetails nicely with psychotherapy. Our goal is to clearly see the nature of reality—accepting ourselves as we are, here and now, rather than grasping to who we want to be, then and there.

SMALL ACTS OF LOVE AND COMPASSION CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

Let’s face it, everything STARTS small and grows larger.  This is a cool article from a blog that I follow.

http://tinybuddha.com/

Editor’s Note: This is a contribution by Mimi Broihier

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” ~Deepak Chopra

We live in an eternally pregnant present, full of possibilities for a bright future. I believe it has always been that way throughout the history of the world. That’s just how the universe works. Unfortunately, we haven’t always experienced our lives the way the universe intended, especially right now.

Humanity seems to be forever in a time of chaos, marked by violence against one another, and most of us do not know how we got that way or when it will end.

I admit that sometimes I long for the good old days of the status quo, when I could navigate daily ugliness with a shrug and sit through dicey evening news with a steadfast, glassy stare. It was easy to ignore my feelings and stay mired in dark indifference. I just turned off my heart to survive it all. It was safer that way.

But it is also very clear to me that the days of dark indifference are over. I think you might feel it too. Yes, life is filled with the same old problems and yes, life is fast. But we now move too quickly to rely on the same old solutions. Our survival tools are obsolete because humanity has upgraded. We are becoming more balanced. We are becoming our better selves.

Six years ago, when my small family moved to Denver for my husband’s job, I fought it tooth and nail. I hated the harsh, dry climate that made my nose bleed and the 1100-mile distance that kept me from the rest of my family and friends. The culture shock and the intense high altitude sun forced me to retreat, literally, to the inside of my house and the inside of my soul for comfort.

That was the beginning of creating my own better self. I read, meditated, and read some more. And I finally started to learn to balance my head and my heart.

My effort started an inward journey that continues still, even though my days in Denver are long gone from my personal map. But the experience of relying on my heart to inform my thoughts forced me to evolve.

I suspect the entire world is evolving, one person at a time. We are reaching a critical mass, a beautiful tipping point for humanity. We are leaving behind the outdated Handbook of Life, with all its heavy-handed solution of war, judgment, and oppression, and writing a new one from our hearts.

Some speak of long ago times when we lived as one loving community, creating lives that honored the masculine and feminine energies found in all humans. We used both sides of our brains, honoring logic and reason equally with compassion and intuition.

Could we be approaching this way of living again? This is what gives me hope amid the chaos. Those who feel compassion for others sense we need to enter a new era for humanity.

It is time to step forward and claim our rightful lives, the ones we gave away for thousands of years to war, torture, poverty, homelessness, sickness, pollution, slavery, murder, deceit, thievery, fraud, hatred, and judgment. Humanity is waking up to its own power again, and love and compassion can reign once more if we work together.

I believe that we are not meant to crawl our ways out of the muck just to stand at the edge, staring at people who are still stuck. We are meant to soar and radiate loving energy out into the universe, affecting not only our own lives, but those to come in the future, and those stuck hopelessly in the past.

Audacious acts of heroism are not necessary to achieve this. Small acts can do the job. It takes one minute to sign a petition, one dollar to donate to a cause, one thought to send a prayer, one kiss to radiate love.

Through acts of love and compassion we can upgrade ourselves and the vibration of Earth, bringing everyone along for the beautiful ride. Just check your new handbook for ideas. It’s right there with you, in your heart.

11 Simple Ways to Create Genuine Connections with the People Who Make Failure Impossible

This is from one of the most widely read blogs on the web.

http://zenhabits.net/

‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ ~Jim Rohn

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend.

There’s probably one thing we can agree on: The people around you dictate your success.

They can also forecast our failure.

There is no faster, more effective way to fill the gap between where you are and where you aspire to be than having the right passionate and supportive people in your corner. There is no bigger life hack.

Environment is everything. And it’s 100 percent in our control.

But it can be intimidating to change our surroundings, and most of us aren’t doing a thing about it.

Over the past couple years in creating How to Connect with Anyone, I’ve surveyed, interacted with and interviewed over 10,800 people on this very topic.

The responses were terrifying…

  • 85% didn’t think they were living up to their potential
  • 93% believed the people you surround yourself with are critical to success
  • 99% said they could be doing a better job of surrounding themselves with passionate, supportive and successful people

We know how important it is to connect with the right people.

We know how many things could be possible if we changed our surroundings. We’ve heard stories of the changes people have made, the businesses they’ve built, the weight they’ve lost, the lovers they’ve met, and the things they’ve experienced – just as a result of connecting with the right people.

Yet so few of us know how to tackle it. We have all kinds of reasons why we don’t reach out and make the connections we could – we don’t live in a big city, we’re an introvert, we’re not worthy, we have nothing to offer, we don’t know where to start…

So we do nothing. And the gap between dreams and reality widens.

So over the past decade, and more specifically the past year, I’ve gone on a quest to figure out how we can create that supportive environment that changes our career, business and life.

Years of studying social dynamics, human interaction and personal rapport (and being obsessed with making new friends), lead me to make some discoveries that have allowed me to connect and befriend people in all walks of life, from rock stars like Warren Buffett and Tony Robbins, all the way down to the interesting girl at the bar or the stranger on the street.

Most importantly, it showed me how to create that support team of everyday people who will not only inspire us, but more importantly, will refuse to let us fail.

It was that group that caused my business, Live Your Legend, to go from growing by exactly 0% for the first four years, to growing by 10x within six months of surrounding myself with a new group of people (including our good friend Leo!). Twelve months later it grew by another 160x and turned into the movement it is today.

The reason this happened was simple …

Changing my surroundings took my thinking from “How could I possibly do this?” to “How could I possibly not?”

When that shift happens, it ripples across your whole world.

So today I want to share 11 simple things you can do starting today to begin creating that environment of support that makes failure impossible.

11 Simple Ways to Connect with the People Who Make Failure Impossible

1. Know the impact you want to have. Connection starts long before the first interaction. Be the guy glowing with passion. Let the people around you feel your fire for the impact you want to have on the world. Prompt others to share what makes them come alive. Share in their excitement. There is no more empowering, genuine way to connect. If you don’t know the impact you dream of making, how will you know who you want in your corner to make it happen?

2. Fire toxic friends. This one’s painful, but an absolute requirement. Identify the people in your day-t0-day life who you notice constantly put your ideas down. The ones who don’t support you and leave you drained after an interaction. Make a list. You must start spending less time around them.

Leo is the poster-child of this and is actually one of the experts in our Connect with Anyone course just for that reason. He realized he had a job he hated, 70 pounds he wanted to lose, a sm0king habit he wanted to kick and a lifestyle that was killing him. He ended up moving his whole family halfway across the world to San Francisco – all in search of a more empowering environment. I’m not saying you need to be that extreme, but you must recognize how badly the wrong people can infect your potential.

3. Find new surroundings. Leo constantly stresses that you need to replace old habits with new, more empowering ones. Same with people. If you leave your toxic friends but have no one else to hang out with, you’ll likely go right back to them. This can start as simple as seeing one inspiring friend for an hour every week or so.

Take your passions and start to overlay them with the people in business and in life who see the world the same way. Take inspiration from everywhere: TED talks, movies, articles, local events, Google searches – anything goes.

4. Create a relationship road map. Write out the people you want in your corner. Be as specific as possible – ideally with actual names, but at least with industries and areas you want to spend more time with. Create a “Dream Connections” list of the industry leaders and game changers you’d love to meet and collaborate with. If you don’t know who you want to meet, it’s going to be pretty tough to meet them.

5. Discover who you already know. The odds are that you or the people close to you already know a handful of people who could change your world. Go through your existing networks including friends, colleagues, past employers, alumni groups, sports teams, friends of friends.

Who’s already connected to you in some way that you’d like to get closer to? Make a list of at least five, but keep going as long as you can list names. Then start setting up lunches and meetings to reconnect.

6. Enlist the help of others. This action alone will cause your community to explode with new interesting people. Ask your existing network who they know who fits the criteria of whom you’re hoping to meet. Ask every person you meet for a referral. Never leave a meeting without asking for one person they think would be good for you to meet and who would also benefit from meeting you. Always start with the other person’s interests in mind.

Only ask for one, though. Be specific, so it’s easy to think of someone.Sample Script: “Thanks Natalie, this has been a total blast. Also I’m curious, I’d love to chat with a few other people about long-distance trail running. Can you think of one person who comes to mind who would have some fun chatting through this stuff over a tea or a meal?”

7. Create unique value and learn to help anyone. All of us have things we can offer to others. Nothing feels better and nothing creates faster, more memorable genuine connections. What are your unique strengths, talents and passions? If you design logos, offer someone some free help with the branding for their new venture.

I once gave a copy of The 4-Hour Body to a new business friend who wanted to lose some weight. The next time I saw him, he’d lost 30 pounds. Is there any better gift to give? Before going to a meetup with a bestselling author and entrepreneur I admired, my wife and I created a list of our favorite vegan restaurants in San Francisco – because we knew he only ate plants and had just moved to town. We would have appreciated the same in his shoes. Your ability to help is only limited by your creativity.

8. Great genuine online connections. I see connecting online as maybe step one of twenty, but it is still an incredibly powerful, high-leverage step. Today there’s a community for every passion imaginable. You just have to do some looking. Join a private club or a forum. Even if it costs $20 or $100 a month, it’s worth checking out. You can always cancel later. I met my first group of online entrepreneur friends through Leo’s A-List Blogging Club, and his Sea Change Program has turned into an incredibly community for habit change. We’ve created our own members-only Connection Forum as part of the Connect with Anyone Course for this same reason.

9. Build your in-person community. As soon as you can, take the virtual connections into the real world. No matter how big or small your town is, you have to find people in the flesh and blood with whom you can spend consistent time. Check out meetup.com, Craigslist, Facebook & LinkedIn groups or the classifieds of your hometown paper. Or better yet, walk into the hot local restaurant or cafe and ask the owner what’s happening in your realm of passions. Start attending events and saying hello. Watch what happens.

10. Make people a part of your world. The more personal the better. Get out on double dates, have beers, go on workouts, travel together. Do anything you can to make these people a part of your life. But only if you genuinely care about having them in your life. People will see straight through anything less than honest intentions.

11. Show Up. Nothing happens if you don’t show up. If you never press send on that email, dial that number, or walk through the door of your local event, you will never find the surroundings you need. And often times that leads to 99% of the results … showing up. At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that has lead to the connections that have changed my world. And it’s the only thing that ever will.

If you aren’t willing to show up, nothing else matters.

So, who’s in your corner?

The most recent studies show that over 80% of people are not happy with their work. This is a tragedy. It also means that most the people around us encourage complacency. They endorse these lives of quiet desperation that so much of the world is living. They put down our ideas on how to be different, and think we’re crazy (or even stupid) for thinking we can take the road less traveled.

They tell us it’s impossible to actually build a life and career around work we’re truly passionate about.

The more time we hang around them, the more we start to believe it and the less we actually try to make a meaningful impact in the world.

But we have a choice.

We can choose to continue to hang around the people who tell us we’re stupid for thinking things could be different. Or we could surround ourselves with the people who inspire possibility.

The choice is 100% on us.

Either way, one thing is for sure. The people around us will change our world.

The question is, will they kill our dreams or make them come true?

That’s on you to decide.

You have more control than you likely realize.

Do something with it.

After all, what could be possible with the right people in your corner?

Scott Dinsmore is the founder of Live Your Legend and the creator of How to Connect with Anyone – an interactive online course to surround yourself with the world-changing people necessary to build your ideal business or career. The course is open for enrollment to the first 100 students until this Friday at 11:59pm PST. ZenHabits readers even get a special deal. Learn more about the course here.

One of my favorite posts from optionpit.com

When is the Best Time to Buy Option Premium?

Option traders, today we want to get a little more philosophical than we normally.  As you know, last week I spent much of the time pointing out that several stocks were hitting multi-year implied volatility lows:  GOOG and AAPL to name just a few,.  Even names like the banks and XLF are starting to get ‘cheap.’  This led us to the question:  when is the best time to buy option premium?

From a market makers perspective, I would argue that this is a hard question to answer.  Obviously, like all traders, market makers would love to be able to buy the absolute bottom of the barrel in volatility.  However, it tends not to work that way.  Take a look at the chart below from LiveVolPro:

aapl_12.JPG

livevol (r) http://www.livevol.com

If I didn’t tell you specifically that this is a graph of AAPL option IV, you might think that it was a biotech that had an FDA announcement go against it.  You could easily think that it is a stock price.  A good market maker trades options like it is a stock price.  He or she makes a market AROUND the volatility, not to actually take a position in volatility.  No market maker would choose to put on a big position into AAPL earnings (although they are often forced to).  Basically, market makers try to begin to accumulate options when vols are really cheap and build a position then.  This allows them to sell the options on the way up.  It is how they manage demand.

But what about the retail trader?  Should the retail trader try to pick bottoms and tops in options?  One could make an argument that they should in some of the index products, but in truth, probably not.  The difference between the market maker and the retail trader is the money and margin.  Typically, a market maker can always afford to buy more or sell more of something (when they consistently can’t, that is a sign they are going to blow out someday).  Retail traders do not have that luxury.  They typically get one or may 2 times to pick the bottom or top, and then they are often out of dough.

Thus, I would argue that retail traders should not try to pick bottoms and tops, but actually try to pick the ‘hump.’  By this I mean, traders should wait until volatility ticks up off a bottom or down off a top and then jump in.  It can be tempting to try and pick points, but unless you have the ability to go in to a trade 3-5 times and do more, one should not attempt to pick bottoms and tops on straight volatility.

Naked positions should be done on the round, not on the top or the bottom.  Does this also apply to spreads?  Kind of.  I would always argue that spreads give the trader better abilities to initiate a good trade.  We at option pit would much rather see a condor or butterfly sold because the trader perceived the spread as expensive vs. something mechanical like days to expiration.  The former shows domain knowledge; the later shows that a trader can read a calendar.