Music is emotional communication… explained

Some time ago I wrote a blog called “What is Happiness” – the blog talked about our human happiness, the opening of our hearts to truly experience passion in our lives and our ability to elevate our emotions and increase productivity across our relationships.

A very good friend of mine is in the music industry – I love our meetings, he is so inspired by music, old music, new music, we talk hours about music produced, artists, it is always a totally inspired encounter when we meet.

As a young man, I always enjoyed listening to music, I also had the great fortune to travel globally and really enjoyed to hear music from the country I would be visiting, I felt a strong alliance to culture and understanding with the country I was visiting. I may not understand too many words but was nevertheless enthralled. Was it because the sounds of human speech are thrilling? Not really.

Pharell Williams created “Happy”. The song has been highly successful, peaking at No. 1 in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and 19 other countries. It was the best-selling song of 2014 in the United States with 6.45 million copies sold for the year, as well as in the United Kingdom with 1.5 million copies sold for the year. It reached No. 1 in the UK on a record-setting three separate occasions and became the most downloaded song of all time in the UK in September 2014. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. A live rendition of the song won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards.


It is clear that with Pharell Williams he had much to celebrate communicating ‘Happy’ and sharing emotional love across the globe, but does music generally continue to emanate from our alarm clocks in the morning, and fill our cars, and give us chills, and make us potentially cry?

According to a paper by Nidhya Logeswaran and Joydeep Bhattacharya from the University of London, music even affects how we see visual images. In the experiment, 30 subjects were presented with a series of happy or sad musical excerpts. After listening to the snippets, the subjects were shown a photograph of a face. Some people were shown a happy face – the person was smiling – while others were exposed to a sad or neutral facial expression. The participants were then asked to rate the emotional content of the face on a 7-point scale, where 1 mean extremely sad and 7 extremely happy.

The researchers found that music powerfully influenced the emotional ratings of the faces. Happy music made happy faces seem even happier while sad music exaggerated the melancholy of a frown. A similar effect was also observed with neutral faces. The simple moral is that the emotions of music are “cross-modal,” and can easily spread from sensory system to another. Now I never sit down to my wife’s meals without first putting on a jolly Sousa march.

The question, of course, is what those elements are. One candidate is our expressive speech – perhaps music is just an abstract form of language. However, most of the emotion of language is in the meaning, which is why foreign languages that we do not understand rarely make us swoon with pleasure or get angry. That is also why emotional speech from an unfamiliar language is not featured on the radio!

Music is a proven common phenomenon that crosses all borders of nationality, race, and culture. A tool for arousing emotions and feelings, music is far more powerful than language. An increased interest in how the brain processes musical emotion can be attributed to the way in which it is described as a “language of emotion” across cultures. Be it within films, live orchestras, concerts or a simple home stereo, music can be so evocative and overwhelming that it can only be described as standing halfway between thought and phenomenon.

But why exactly does this experience of music distinctly transcend other sensory experiences? How is it able to evoke emotion in a way that is incomparable to any other sense?

Music can be thought of as a type of perceptual illusion, much the same way in which a university is perceived. The brain imposes structure and order on a sequence of sounds that, in effect, creates an entirely new system of meaning. The appreciation of music is tied to the ability to process its underlying structure — the ability to predict what will occur next in the song. But this structure has to involve some level of the unexpected, or it becomes emotionally devoid.

Skilled composers manipulate the emotion within a song by knowing what their audience’s expectations are, and controlling when those expectations will be met. This successful manipulation is what elicits the chills that are part of any moving song.

Music, though it appears to be similar to features of language, is more rooted in the primitive brain structures that are involved in motivation, reward and emotion. Whether it is the first familiar notes of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” or the beats preceding AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” the brain synchronises neural oscillators with the pulse of the music, and starts to predict when the next strong beat will occur. The response to ‘groove’ is mainly unconscious; it is processed first through the cerebellum and amygdala rather than the frontal lobes.

More than any other stimulus, music has the ability to conjure up images and feelings that need not necessarily be directly reflected in memory. The overall phenomenon still retains a certain level of mystery; the reasons behind the ‘thrill’ of listening to music is strongly tied in with various theories based on synesthesia.

When we are born, our brain has not yet differentiated itself into different components for different senses – this differentiation occurs much later in life. So as babies, it is theorised that we view the world as a large, pulsing combination of colors and sounds and feelings, all melded into one experience – ultimate synesthesia. As our brains develop, certain areas become specialized in vision, speech, hearing, and so forth.

Professor Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and composer, unpacks the mystery of the emotion in music by explaining how the brain’s emotional, language and memory centers are connected during the processing of music – providing what is essentially a synesthetic experience. The extent of this connection is seemingly variable among individuals, which is how certain musicians have the ability to create pieces of music which are brimming with emotional quality, and others simply cannot. Be it classics from the Beatles, Bob Marley or fiery riffs from White Snake and Led Zeppelin, the preference for a certain type of music has an effect on its very experience. It could be this heightened level of experience in certain people and musicians that allows them to imagine and create music that others simply cannot, painting their very own sonic image.

Music is a fundamental part of our evolution; we probably sang before we spoke in syntactically guided sentences. Song is represented across animal worlds; birds and whales produce sounds, though not always melodic to our ears, but still rich in semantically communicative functions. Song is not surprisingly tied to a vast array of semiotics that pervade nature: calling attention to oneself, expanding oneself, selling oneself, deceiving others, reaching out to others and calling on others. The creative capability so inherent in music is a unique human trait.

Music is strongly linked to motivation and to human social contact. Only a portion of people may play music, but all can, and do, at least sing or hum a tune. Music is like breathing, all pervasive. Music is a core human experience and a generative process that reflects cognitive capabilities. It is intertwined with many basic human needs and is the result of thousands of years of neurobiological development. Music, as it has evolved in humankind, allows for unique expressions of social ties and the strengthening of relational connectedness.

Music is linked to learning, and humans have a strong pedagogical predilection. Learning not only takes place in the development of direct musical skills, but in the connections between music and emotional experiences. Darwin understood both music and consideration of emotion to be human core capabilities. Emotional systems are forms of adaptation allowing us to, for instance, note danger through the immediate detection of facial expressions.

Whether music makes you happy or sad, one of the fascinating things that has become clear is that people from very different cultures and backgrounds will often agree on whether a piece of music sounds happy or sad – making it a truly universal form of communication.

As Hans Christian Andersen once said:

“Where words fail, music speaks”

Ever wondered why there is not an app for introspection?

On our journey towards self-knowledge, our first impulse is often to turn inward, introspect and self-reflect. We give great weight to our introspections. Most of us are confident that our perceptions of ourselves are more accurate than others’ perceptions of them.
Yet psychological research tells us that introspection is often a highly inaccurate source of self-knowledge. An over-reliance on introspection sometimes trips one up and potentially decreases one’s performance, reducing decision quality and even undermining self-insight.

A very good friend of mine said recently ‘have we lost introspection and values in today’s society’ – I paused to reflect the depth of this question, which is unusual especially when discussing such an interesting subject with my coffee and great company, but the facts are Millennial’s and the youth generation of society appear to be entirely an appendage of their smart phones. One study I read recently concluded that the average university student uses a smartphone for about nine hours each day.

According to research provided by CTIA in 2016, 2.27 trillion texts we sent globally and the US is responsible for 45% of the text traffic.
The take on smart phones is that you can customise them to give you exactly what you want. You are in charge. The trouble with this reasoning is that someone else is programming the apps you use; and those apps are programmed to get you to do certain things in certain ways that are generally to the advantage of the companies providing the apps and to advertisers. These apps may be useful to you, but they are certainly not your apps; they are not actually customised. And, they only offer the illusion of control.

Moreover, there is no app I know of designed to get you to stop looking at your smart phone and focus on the world around you or on your inner life. Some people listen to music or podcasts on their smart phones while they exercise, walk, drive, study, read, eat, or do practically anything. I’m all for listening to music and podcasts. But some of the activities listed above are actually great all by themselves.

Then there is the constant texting. Texting is very useful, I find, for telling people I’m running late to a meeting, inviting people to something at the last minute, coordinating family hordes on vacation and so forth. It is very apparent that humans prefer texting to face-to-face encounters. Millennials and youth have even characterised face-to-face conversation as a form of “aggression” – quite unbelievable!

If most people are going to shrink from having a human spirited in-person conversation with somebody else about a critical issue, how exactly are we going to move forward on the major challenges of our age? In order to address critical issues, one must do critical thinking. Where is the time for that when all one does is move from music selection, to podcast, to texting, to posting photos, to computer games, to email, back to music selection and so on? There’s never a dull moment with your smart phone. But are they really your moments in life?

One of my favourite quotes by Rabindranath Tagore, sends the message to us all when he said: “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

So much of our thinking is of necessity shaped by the mass media, it may be hard to imagine that the smart phone could really be the main reason for our inability to think our own thoughts.

Many writers have a high level of introspection which can explain an informal reflection process and a more formalised experimental approach to creativity, inner thoughts and creation.

It involves informally examining our own internal thoughts, feelings and beliefs. When we reflect on our thoughts, emotions, and memories and examine what they mean, we are engaging in introspection.

The term introspection is also used to describe a research technique that was first developed by psychologist Wilhelm Wundt. Also known as experimental self-observation, Wundt’s technique involved training people to carefully and objectively as possible analyze the content of their own thoughts.

Still, throughout our daily lives, we are constantly observing and analysing.

Whether it’s an important document for work or a confusing text from the opposite sex, we have successfully trained our brains to obtain data and examine it for deeper meaning or explanation.

While it has become second nature to think critically, the ironic part is we often forget to apply this concept to ourselves.
Introspection involves examining one’s own thoughts, feelings and sensations in order to gain insight.

Being introspective is often a rare quality in young adults, and with good reason: slowing down and taking a breather from our crazy lives is not always the easiest thing to do.

In a society fixated on fast-paced environments and a “go, go, go” mentality, it’s difficult to find the time to sit down and reflect. However, setting aside a small portion of your day for self-examination can be a lot more helpful than you might expect.

Here are seven ways introspection can be a positive tool in your daily life:
1. It allows you to notice negative patterns in our life.
2. It keeps you focused on the bigger picture.
3. It prevents you from worrying about things out of your control.
4. It helps you face your fears.
5. It allows you to clearly define happiness on your own terms.
6. It allows you to make decisions based on your conscience.
7. You will finally get different results.

When we continuously go through our lives the same way, we inevitably block the chance of changing things for the better.

By becoming more self-aware, we are able to have a better understanding of what we truly want in life. Naturally, this involves making changes, whether they’re significant or menial.

Of course, nobody likes change. It’s uncomfortable and scary, and we seek comfort in what we know.

While trying to decipher the reasons behind certain behavior often leads to confabulation, focusing on our immediate emotional reactions instead may serve us better in our quest for self-knowledge, as they are often a more direct reflection of actual attitudes. In the process, we should also be open to inconsistencies between our gut feelings and our preconceived, and seemingly rational, notions.

In the end, a single observer with only a few faulty tools in your toolkit will produce dubious data. We need to go beyond introspection, and expand our toolkit towards self-knowledge.

As Caroline Knapp once said:

“By definition, memoir demands a certain degree of introspection and self-disclosure: In order to fully engage a reader, the narrator has to make herself known, has to allow her own self-awareness to inform the events she describes.”

10 books that have influenced my life

Reading has a way of making an impact on our lives and changing the way we think, observe and ultimately influences our decisions. I reminisce beautiful moments that I would spend with my Grandfather whilst he would be reading and hoping I would sit with a book he had particularly chosen for me to enjoy the sunny afternoon in the New Forrest rather than be the inquisitive Grandson, asking him about every chapter of my Grandfathers book. 😊

When I discovered reading and the journeys it took me on, I consumed books day and night. Despite the lights out rule that applied at 7.30pm every night and the threat of grandparental disapproval, I continued to read under the covers with my bedside lamp at my elbow.

The quote by Alex Haley, ‘Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. Is so true. If you have ever turned to your Grandparents you will know how wonderful grandparents can be. I will never forget the special moments of reading and learning with my Grandfather and Grandmother.

I have been reading a lot recently. There are so many books that touch and influence my life. They have not only influenced me but instigated a lot of positive difference in my life. I believe if they can drive so much difference in my life, they will do the same to you. Some of these books unearth philosophies, drive innovation, creativity, spirituality and could be beneficial to your personal and career growth.

You do not need to head for the contemporary Best Sellers shelf for an excellent read. I have always taken the stance looking for acknowledged classics within the literary canon is a near certain way to find books which deserve to be on your bookshelf.
Reading, learning and consuming information and ideas is now a big part of my destiny and purpose. Some books change you more than others. My rule of thumb is that if I get one good idea, it is one book worth reading.

This tactic has worked well for me over the years, and the following 10 books are from my collection. All make for excellent reading and for different reasons, and I consider each one to be a classic worthy of anyone’s time. If you love reading, or want to take it up, these are all perfect books for current new insights and inspiration.

1. How To Fly a Horse – Kevin Ashton

As a technology pioneer at MIT and as the leader of three successful start-ups, Kevin Ashton experienced firsthand the all-consuming challenge of creating something new. Now, in a tour-de-force narrative twenty years in the making, Ashton leads us on a journey through humanity’s greatest creations to uncover the surprising truth behind who creates and how they do it. From the crystallographer’s laboratory where the secrets of DNA were first revealed by a long forgotten woman, to the electromagnetic chamber where the stealth bomber was born on a twenty-five-cent bet, to the Ohio bicycle shop where the Wright brothers set out to “fly a horse,” Ashton showcases the seemingly unremarkable individuals, gradual steps, multiple failures, and countless ordinary and usually uncredited acts that lead to our most astounding breakthroughs.
Creators, he shows, apply in particular ways the everyday, ordinary thinking of which we are all capable, taking thousands of small steps and working in an endless loop of problem and solution. He examines why innovators meet resistance and how they overcome it, why most organizations stifle creative people, and how the most creative organizations work. Drawing on examples from art, science, business, and invention, from Mozart to the Muppets, Archimedes to Apple, Kandinsky to a can of Coke, How to Fly a Horse is a passionate and immensely rewarding exploration of how “new” comes to be.

2. The Innovators – Walter Isaacson

Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and a guide to how innovation really works.
What talents allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their disruptive ideas into realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?
In his exciting saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He then explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee and Larry Page.
This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so creative. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.
For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity and teamwork, this book shows how they actually happen.

3. Creativity Inc – Ed Catmull

As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the world’s first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream first as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged an early partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later and against all odds, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever.
Since then, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner twenty-seven Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Now, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques, honed over years, that have made Pixar so widely admired―and so profitable.
Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation Studios―into the story meetings, the postmortems, and the ‘Braintrust’ sessions where art is born. It is, at heart, a book about how to build and sustain a creative culture―but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, ‘an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.’

4. Creative Confidence – Tom & David Kelley

IDEO founder and Stanford d.school creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, IDEO partner and the author of the bestselling The Art of Innovation, have written a powerful and compelling book on unleashing the creativity that lies within each and every one of us.
Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the “creative types.” But two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity on the planet show us that each and every one of us is creative. In an incredibly entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO, the Stanford d.school, and with many of the world’s top companies, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems. It is a book that will help each of us be more productive and successful in our lives and in our careers.”

5. The Organised Mind – Daniel J. Levitin

New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin shifts his keen insights from your brain on music to your brain in a sea of details.
The information age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data. At the same time, we’re expected to make more–and faster–decisions about our lives than ever before. No wonder, then, that the average American reports frequently losing car keys or reading glasses, missing appointments, and feeling worn out by the effort required just to keep up.
But somehow some people become quite accomplished at managing information flow. In The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, uses the latest brain science to demonstrate how those people excel–and how readers can use their methods to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time.
With lively, entertaining chapters on everything from the kitchen junk drawer to health care to executive office workflow, Levitin reveals how new research into the cognitive neuroscience of attention and memory can be applied to the challenges of our daily lives. This Is Your Brain on Music showed how to better play and appreciate music through an understanding of how the brain works. The Organized Mind shows how to navigate the churning flood of information in the twenty-first century with the same neuroscientific perspective.

6. Animal Speak – Ted Andrews

Ted Andrews is best known for his work with animal mysticism and for his bestselling Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small. Certified in basic hypnosis and acupressure, Andrews was also involved in the study and use of herbs as an alternative path in health care, focusing strongly on esoteric forms of healing with sound, music, and voice. In addition to his interest in metaphysics, Ted was a trained pianist and often used the Celtic harp, bamboo flute, shaman rattles, Tibetan bells, Tibetan Singing Bowl, and quartz crystal bowls to create individual healing therapies and induce higher states of consciousness.
The animal world has much to teach us. Some animals are experts at survival and adaptation, some never get cancer, some embody strength and courage while others exude playfulness. Animals remind us of the potential we can unfold, but before we can learn from them, we must must first be able to speak with them.

7. In The Praise of Slowness – Carl Honore

We live in the age of speed. We strain to be more efficient, to cram more into each minute, each hour, each day. Since the Industrial Revolution shifted the world into high gear, the cult of speed has pushed us to a breaking point. Consider these facts: Americans on average spend seventy-two minutes of every day behind the wheel of a car, a typical business executive now loses sixty-eight hours a year to being put on hold, and American adults currently devote on average a mere half hour per week to making love.
Living on the edge of exhaustion, we are constantly reminded by our bodies and minds that the pace of life is spinning out of control. In Praise of Slowness traces the history of our increasingly breathless relationship with time and tackles the consequences of living in this accelerated culture of our own creation. Why are we always in such a rush? What is the cure for time sickness? Is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down? Realizing the price we pay for unrelenting speed, people all over the world are reclaiming their time and slowing down the pace — and living happier, healthier, and more productive lives as a result. A Slow revolution is taking place.
Here you will find no Luddite calls to overthrow technology and seek a preindustrial utopia. This is a modern revolution, championed by cell-phone using, e-mailing lovers of sanity. The Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word — balance. People are discovering energy and efficiency where they may have been least expected — in slowing down.
In this engaging and entertaining exploration, award-winning journalist and rehabilitated speedaholic Carl Honore details our perennial love affair with efficiency and speed in a perfect blend of anecdotal reportage, history, and intellectual inquiry. In Praise of Slowness is the first comprehensive look at the worldwide Slow movements making their way into the mainstream — in offices, factories, neighborhoods, kitchens, hospitals, concert halls, bedrooms, gyms, and schools. Defining a movement that is here to stay, this spirited manifesto will make you completely rethink your relationship with time.

8. When Pride Still Mattered – David Maraniss

In this groundbreaking biography, David Maraniss captures all of football great Vince Lombardi: the myth, the man, his game, and his God.
More than any other sports figure, Vince Lombardi transformed football into a metaphor of the American experience. The son of an Italian immigrant butcher, Lombardi toiled for twenty frustrating years as a high school coach and then as an assistant at Fordham, West Point, and the New York Giants before his big break came at age forty-six with the chance to coach a struggling team in snowbound Wisconsin. His leadership of the Green Bay Packers to five world championships in nine seasons is the most storied period in NFL history. Lombardi became a living legend, a symbol to many of leadership, discipline, perseverance, and teamwork, and to others of an obsession with winning. In When Pride Still Mattered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss captures the myth and the man, football, God, and country in a thrilling biography destined to become an American classic.

9. More Human – Steve Hilton

Government, business, the lives we lead, the food we eat, the way our children are brought up, the way we relate to the natural world around us – it’s all become too big and distant and industrialised. Inhuman. It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to put people first. It’s time to make the world more human.
Steve Hilton, visiting professor at Stanford University and former senior adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, believes that the frustrations people have with government, politics, their economic circumstances and their daily lives are caused by deep structural problems in the systems that dominate our modern world – systems that are broken because they’ve grown too far from the human scale. He shows us how change is possible, offering the latest research, compelling stories and case studies from all over the world across industry, politics, education, design and social action to show us what can happen when we make our world more human. This book is a manifesto and call to action for a more local, more accountable and more human way of living that will make us more productive, more fulfilled and ultimately happier.

10. Daily Rituals – Mason Currey

The working methods presented in Daily Rituals are so diverse as to offer no easy formulas (or what are now known as “productivity hacks”). It’s a string of lifestyles that are often eccentric, but always human. If we want to emulate Franz Kafka or Jane Austen should we copy their routines or find the routines that are right for us, which is to say the routines that are us? Isaac Asimov had an impressive schedule, but he credited it not to self-discipline but to his father’s sweet shop, in which he assisted as a child, which would open at 6am and then not close until 1am. “You’re who you are,” advises Bernard Malamud. “Not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe.”
For most of us, our routines are imposed from the outside. They come from our employer or our family circumstances. They are the structure we rail against, the cage we dream of escaping. But is escape really so simple as just waking up each morning with no plans? Isn’t that just as terrifying? Or is freedom simply being able to reinvent your life around the work that you do, if that is also the thing you enjoy. “It’s not my work,” objects Stephen Jay Gould, quoted in his Daily Rituals entry. “It’s my life. It’s what I do. It’s what I like to do.”

Reading, learning and consuming information and ideas is now a big part of my destiny and purpose. Some books change you more than others, this is why I wrote “Freedom after the Sharks”, and more recently: “Meaningful Conversations”.

These 10 books were key to helping me change my life. I rediscovered hope for my future. I found my courage, strength, and my self-belief. I hope that by reading these books, you will find the same inspiration and motivation to take up the challenge and change your life.

Let us remember this great quote by Malala Yousafzai:

“One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

The Truth about Writing

I read a really interesting quote by the famous Ray Bradbury recently – it said: “Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” Ray was an American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer, I have followed some of his work and, as with Woody Allen, one compelling fact is that they both shared tremendous passion for reading and writing, Woody Allen once said: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time, if you have imagination”.

When I decided to become a writer and made the commitment to write “Freedom after the sharks” and then “Meaningful conversations”, every single day, was not a working day, it was the one factor of writing that kept me awake for the next 1000 words.

Sometimes I would not sleep, try to sleep and then wake up again, I would surface, get up early, make my exceptionally strong coffee, and sit down to write, I was incredibly fortunate the words just flowed in abundance.

When writing “Freedom after the sharks”, I was fortunate to be in one of the most spectacular destinations in the world, Sedona, Arizona – I compare Sedona with the Hawaiian Islands and even remote places of inspiration like Deia in the Spanish Island of Majorca, a remote and inspired destination where you can look out to mountains, space and feel the creative imagination flow.

“Meaningful conversations” was born in Eugene, Oregon on a beautiful May afternoon with my business partner and associate with his wife – we were discussing some of the problems of leadership in business today, whilst drinking a fine glass of Oregon Pinot Noir, watching the sunset over the Jasper Mountains and Mark expressed how he enjoyed ‘Meaningful Conversations’ across leadership.

I only ever had one point of writer’s block to date, and this was with “Freedom after the sharks”: it was with chapter 13 of the non-edited version, which finally made itself to becoming the epilogue in the book. Writing has a funny way of making you confront your fears, anxieties and only focus on your heart and the truth.

I have learnt through this experience that choosing a wrong point of view to avoid “the truth”. Perhaps you are writing from someone else’s point of view and not your point of view, which is generally why readers will purchase your book. Writers who uphold someone else’s version of a story rather than their own will find the unconscious hesitate if the flow of words and content. If you are blocked or you come to a stop, ask yourself. “Am I writing from my point of view?” Sometimes coming to that realisation can be enough to help your writing to flow once again, being true to yourself is being truthful to your readership, because it is from the heart.

Writing about something unimportant to you. Sometimes “writer’s block” is the way your unconscious has of telling you you are not writing about something important enough. Sometimes the writing flow is waiting for you to come up with a more substantive idea, your unconscious really does have a way to push your imagination, breaking new or better grounds to accomplish an idea that will command your loyalty. If you feel blocked, explore your current topic: does it warrant the time you are putting into writing it? Sticking to a topic of secondary importance is not conducive to good writing. It doesn’t command your loyalty.

We all love a great story. Whether we read or write or both, great stories can take us on emotional journeys of excitement, anger, love, despair and can live on for centuries. For thousands of year’s people have been moved by storytelling told around campfires, at bedsides, in theatres, in public squares… and today on Medium, Pulse, Thrive Global, WordPress, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, and books are sold in the Million’s everyday via Amazon, Barnes and Noble (Nook), Waterstones, Googleplay and iTunes etc.

The way the story is structured does not really matter; what does matter is the power of the story, how the story engages and connects with its readership.

Tell the right story the right way and you can illustrate even the most complex issue into one that is engaging and easy to understand and one that unlocks the mind’ creativity and imagination.

One of my hero’s in writing is Joseph Campbell – he explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth. In a well-known quote from the introduction of his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, Campbell summarised the monomyth:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

In laying out the monomyth, Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events (a call to adventure). If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials (a road of trials), and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift (the goal or “boon”), which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon (the return to the ordinary world), often facing challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world (the application of the boon).

Very few myths contain all of these stages—some myths contain many of the stages, while others contain only a few; some myths may have as a focus only one of the stages, while other myths may deal with the stages in a somewhat different order. These stages may be organized in a number of ways, including division into three sections:
Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return. “Departure” deals with the hero venturing forth on the quest, “Initiation” deals with the hero’s various adventures along the way, and “Return” deals with the hero’s return home with knowledge and powers acquired on the journey.

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, Campbell’s theory, has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. The best known is perhaps George Lucas, who has acknowledged Campbell’s influence on the Star Wars films.

So, in summary, whether you’re a novelist, a poet, a short-story writer, an essayist, a biographer or an aspiring beginner, when you write great fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, amazing things can happen. The best way to increase your proficiency in creative writing is to write, write compulsively, but it does not mean write whatever you want. There are certain things you should know first… it helps to start with the right foot…..

Another interesting quote by Ray Badbury which states:

“You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done. For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality. How so? Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come. All arts, big and small, are the elimination of waste motion in favor of the concise declaration. The artist learns what to leave out. His greatest art will often be what he does not say, what he leaves out, his ability to state simply with clear emotion, the way he wants to go. The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers.”

Happiness explained……

Following last week’s blog (“Do we have the power to say and do ‘when’?”), I was having extended thoughts on the subject on the ‘quality of one’s life’ and without using too many metaphor’s, ‘happiness’ is proven to be a major contributing factor to the quality of one’s life.

I have written extensively on the subject of happiness with blogs such as “What is Happiness?”, “Are good story tellers happier in life and business?” and many more subjects around love and relationships in today’s world – Richard Layard’s book ‘Happiness’ explains the paradox of happiness at the very heart of our lives – he has drawn on economics, psychology, neuroscience, sociology, philosophy and social policy – frankly there is little to disagree with his theories or indeed his findings. Neil Pasricha wrote ‘The Happiness Equation’, drawing on the same as Richard, but searching the collective wisdom of positive psychologists, dozens of Fortune 500 CEO’s and thousands of personal interviews, effectively attempting to solve ‘what is the simplest formula for a happy life? And Steve Hilton wrote ‘More Human’, a book that debates that much of our daily experience, from food we eat, governments we elect, the economy on which our wealth depends, to the way we care for our health and well being, has become too big, too bureaucratic, and too distant from the human scale, truly effecting our happiness and there are 100’s of more authors and books that study the human mind and behaviour on exactly how do we become ‘happy’.

In June 2016 the OECD committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the center of governments’ efforts”. 1 In February 2017, the United Arab Emirates held a full-day World Happiness meeting, as part of the World Government Summit. Now on World Happiness Day, March 20th, the OECD launched the World Happiness Report 2017, once again back at the United Nations, again published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and now supported by a generous three-year grant from the Ernesto Illy Foundation. Some highlights are as follows.

Norway tops the global happiness rankings for 2017 – it jumped from 4th place in 2016 to 1st place this year, followed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland in a tightly packed bunch. All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. Their averages are so close that small changes can re-order the rankings from year to year. Norway moves to the top of the ranking despite weaker oil prices. It is sometimes said that Norway achieves and maintains its high happiness not because of its oil wealth, but in spite of it. By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies.

To do this successfully requires high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance – all factors that help to keep Norway and other top countries where they are in the happiness rankings. All of the other countries in the top ten also have high values in all six of the key variables used to explain happiness differences among countries and through time: income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust, with the latter measured by the absence of corruption in business and government. Here too there has been some shuffling of ranks among closely grouped countries, with this year’s rankings placing Finland in 5th place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia and Sweden tied for the 9th position, having the same 2014-2016 score to three decimals.

Happiness is both social and personal. This year’s report emphasised the importance of the social foundations of happiness. This can be seen by comparing the life experiences between the top and bottom ten countries in this year’s happiness rankings. There is a four-point happiness gap between the two groups of countries, of which three-quarters is explained by the six variables, half due to differences in having someone to count on, generosity, a sense of freedom, and freedom from corruption. The other half of the explained difference is attributed to GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy, both of which, as the report explains, also depend importantly on the social context. However 80% of the variance of happiness across the world occurs within countries.

In richer countries the within-country differences are not mainly explained by income inequality, but by differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships: the biggest single source of misery is mental illness. Income differences matter more in poorer countries, but even there mental illness is a major source of misery. Work is also a major factor affecting happiness.

Unemployment causes a major fall in happiness, and even for those in work the quality of work can cause major variations in happiness. People in China are no happier than 25 years ago. Our China chapter is led by Richard A. Easterlin, who pioneered the economics of happiness more than 40 years ago. It contrasts the sharply growing per capita income in China over the past 25 years with life evaluations that fell steadily from 1990 till about 2005, recovering since then to about the 1990 levels. They attribute the dropping happiness in the first part of the period to rising unemployment and fraying social safety nets, with recoveries since in both.
Much of Africa is struggling. The Africa chapter, led by Valerie Møller, tells a much more diverse story, as fits the African reality with its great number and vast range of experiences. But these are often marked by delayed and disappointed hopes for happier lives. Happiness has fallen in America. The USA is a story of reduced happiness. In 2007 the USA ranked 3rd among the OECD countries; in 2016 it came 19th. The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption (chapter 7) and it is these same factors that explain why the Nordic countries do so much better.

The terms ‘quality-of-life’ and ‘happiness’ are often equated. This conceptual connection is more or less implied in the use of words. The phrase ‘quality-of-life’ suggests that life is good in all aspects. Such a good life must be a happy life. Both terms owe much of their popularity to their suggestion of inclusiveness. They came into use as slogans in discussions. ‘Quality’ of life was contrasted with mere ‘quantity’ of life (prolonging life at all cost).

Over the centuries, the term ‘happiness’ has been used as a catchword for all above mentioned meanings of ‘quality-of-life’. In philosophy the first two meanings mentioned prevailed: in social philosophy the meaning of good living conditions (happiness as the good society) and in moral philosophy the meaning of good performance (happiness as virtue).

In current social science the third meaning prevails; the word happiness is commonly used to denote subjective enjoyment of life. Subjective enjoyment of life is not a one-dimensional matter. One can enjoy the thrills of life, but at the same time suffer under its tensions. Likewise one can like life in one domain, such as marriage, but at the same time dislike life in another, such as work. In the literature on subjective quality-of-life, these appraisals are referred to as respectively ‘aspect-satisfactions’ and ‘domain-satisfactions’. These partial appraisals of life are distinguished from subjective appreciation of life-as-a-whole.

Happiness is the degree to which a person evaluates the overall quality of his present life-as-a-whole positively. In other words, how much one likes the life one leads.

So why it is so hard to maintain a continually happy and peaceful mind if we have all this potential for peace and happiness within us?
The term ‘quality-of-life’ suggest that the various things we deem good tend to coincide. Happiness is believed to be part of this syndrome. Happiness does indeed concur with several qualities of life, for instance with environmental qualities such as freedom and personal abilities such as autonomy.

Yet more of these qualities does not always give more happiness. Most of the relations are subject of the law of diminishing utility and much of the relations seems to be bound to specific conditions.

Further happiness does not concur with all cherished qualities – for instance not with state-welfare or with personal intelligence. Something deemed good may even reduce happiness. In reality there is thus less inclusiveness than the term ‘quality-of-life’ suggests. We should use the term only as a token, and base our reasoning and measurements on more distinct concepts.

Finally, all delusions function in this way, within our mind as well as the minds of others. They project their own distorted version of reality onto the world, and we become convinced that this projection must be true. When delusions arise within us we have lost our grip on reality and cannot see things as they really are. Because our mind is always under the control of, at least, subtle forms of delusion all the time, we should not be surprised at our seemingly never ending stress, anxiety and confusion. It is as if we are continually chasing mirages, finding only disappointment when they don’t seem to fulfil our desires or pacify our frustrations.

S. McCall once said:

“The best way of approaching quality of life measurement is to measure the extent to which people’s ‘happiness requirements’ are met. i.e. those requirements which are a necessary (although not sufficient) condition of anyone’s happiness – those ‘without which no member of the human race can be happy.'”

Do we have the power to say and do ‘when’?

One of my good friends recently visited me at my offices for coffee, we always have a set of thought provoking discussions and a set of “Meaningful Conversations”. The good thing about meeting my friend and associate is that I never close down the meeting early, we always have some much to discuss and we are both afraid of losing creative time.

We started to talk around one of his latest inventions ‘the listening map’ this gave me plenty to observe when suddenly if was my time to interject with my thoughts and I said ‘do we actually know when it is time to listen, for that matter do we know when to have the power to say or do absolutely anything in life? Is there a power of when?

This brought our thinking across to ‘What exactly makes for quality living? No two persons think alike on this matter. One may aspire for a bigger car, while another long’s for cycling lanes on main roads for a low-cost, pollution-free and safe commute. Rather than assuming what constitutes a high quality of life.

Quality of life around the world was revealed recently and the Great Britain did not even make the top 10. The UK has come 16th in a quality of life index of world nations. The index placed Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan above the UK in terms of quality of life, as the country placed 9th in Europe. The data from Numbeo, the world’s largest database of user-generated content about cities and countries, was collated from online surveys, not official government reports.

Happiness is proved to be connected to the quality of life, or is it?

The first World Happiness Report was published in April, 2012, in support of the UN High Level Meeting on happiness and well-being. Since then the world has come a long way. Increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. You can read it here: Paris, 1-2 June 2016 OECD WEEK

There are many factors that can influence the quality of life, but let’s consider: what do modern people mean by “quality of life”? The modern conception of quality of life is a combination of factors: environment, standard of living, mental and physical health, social position, education, etc. But can we say with confidence that these are the only factors that determine one’s quality of life, or is there something else? Something that is more important than all the well known and well studied factors?

Philosophers say that when you change your attitude, you change your life. This does not mean that external factors are not important, but a person’s mental state is sometimes the key to understanding an illness. Thus, we can conclude that quality of life is determined mostly not by external but by internal conditions. If we want to enhance the quality of life, we must focus our attention on those factors that may change people from deep inside; otherwise all external conditions, including high living standards and social positions, will be meaningless.

Talking about new technologies, scientists must always keep in mind harmony and nature, and only after analysing their inventions from this point of view should they decide to give life to them. We also have to remember that our life depends on the natural environment, and that in caring for nature we care for ourselves. When every single person tries every day to bring quality to every kind of activity and for every kind of human being, this will enhance the quality of life for everybody in the world. Freedom, creativity, learning, harmony in everything we do—these are the real factors that produce a high quality of life and a healthy nation, and provide our progeny with a strong foundation for the future.

There were some really interesting studies from the Quality of Life Research Unit, University of Toronto whose findings showed:
0ur definition of quality of life is: The degree to which a person enjoys the important possibilities of his/her life. Possibilities result from the opportunities and limitations each person has in his/her life and reflect the interaction of personal and environmental factors. Enjoyment has two components: the experience of satisfaction and the possession or achievement of some characteristic, as illustrated by the expression: “She enjoys good health.” Three major life domains are identified: Being, Belonging, and Becoming. The conceptualisation of those three domains of quality of life were developed from the insights of various writers.

The Being domain includes the basic aspects of “who one is” and has three sub-domains:

  • Physical Being includes aspects of physical health, personal hygiene, nutrition, exercise, grooming, clothing, and physical appearance
  • Psychological Being includes the person’s psychological health and adjustment, cognitions, feelings, and evaluations concerning the self, and self-control
  • Spiritual Being reflects personal values, personal standards of conduct, and spiritual beliefs which may or may not be associated with organized religions.

Belonging includes the person’s fit with his/her environments and also has three sub-domains.

  • Physical Belonging is defined as the connections the person has with his/her physical environments such as home, workplace, neighbourhood, school and community
  • Social Belonging includes links with social environments and includes the sense of acceptance by intimate others, family, friends, co-workers, and neighbourhood and community
  • Community Belonging represents access to resources normally available to community members, such as adequate income, health and social services, employment, educational and recreational programs, and community activities.

Becoming refers to the purposeful activities carried out to achieve personal goals, hopes, and wishes.

  • Practical Becoming describes day-to-day actions such as domestic activities, paid work, school or volunteer activities, and seeing to health or social needs
  • Leisure Becomingincludes activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction. These include card games, neighbourhood walks, and family visits, or longer duration activities such as vacations or holidays
  • Growth Becoming activities promote the improvement or maintenance of knowledge and skills.

I said earlier in my blog that no two persons can think alike, when you start to examine this within human chronotypes it shows human behaviour in a large interindividual variation in temporal organisation. By this I mean extreme’ “larks” wake up when extreme “owls” fall asleep. These chronotypes are attributed to differences in the circadian clock, and in animals, the genetic basis of similar phenotypic differences is well established. To better understand the genetic basis of temporal organisation in humans, the authors developed a questionnaire to document individual sleep times, self-reported light exposure, and self-assessed chronotype, considering work and free days separately. A report which was written by T. Roenneberg summarised the results of 500 questionnaires completed in a pilot study individual sleep times show large differences between work and free days, except for extreme early types. During the workweek, late chronotypes accumulate considerable sleep debt, for which they compensate on free days by lengthening their sleep by several hours. For all chronotypes, the amount of time spent outdoors in broad daylight significantly affects the timing of sleep: Increased self-reported light exposure advances sleep. The timing of self-selected sleep is multifactorial, including genetic disposition, sleep debt accumulated on workdays, and light exposure. Thus, accurate assessment of genetic chronotypes has to incorporate all of these parameters. The dependence of human chronotype on light, that is, on the amplitude of the light:dark signal, follows the known characteristics of circadian systems in all other experimental organisms. The results predict that the timing of sleep has changed during industrialisation and that a majority of humans are sleep deprived during the workweek. The implications are far ranging concerning learning, memory, vigilance, performance, and ‘quality of life’.

I recently read a fascinating book by Dr. Michael Breus PhD called “The Power of WHEN”, his ground breaking studies and easy to read book details the best time for you to have sex, ask your boss for a raise, and talk to your children. Exciting new research proves there is a right time to do just about everything, based on our biology and hormones. Dr. Breus’s new program supports us with a getting back in sync with your natural rhythm by making minor changes to your daily routine. Watch his video here: Why did Dr Michael Breus PhD write the book video

Scientific knowledge can improve the quality of life at many different levels from the routine workings of our everyday lives to global issues. Science informs public policy and personal decisions on energy, conservation, agriculture, health, transportation, communication, defense, economics, leisure, and exploration. It’s almost impossible to overstate how many aspects of modern life are impacted by scientific knowledge.

Final word, change is inevitable in life and your body will change over time, therefore it makes complete sense for you need to understand your biological clock and scheduling, you will learn when you can maximise your energy levels to get the most out of yourself and significant relationships in areas like sex, love, family, planning an event, work and even decorating the home. When you can identify improvement in these areas you can enhance your health and your life in ways you could never have imagined.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said:

“One must change one’s tactics every ten years if one wishes to maintain one’s superiority.”

Writing life’s tapestry and our journey in life

I was sharing coffee with one of my great author friends recently, discussing my new book “Meaningful Conversations” and we discussed how do we write life’s tapestry if the heart is blocked.

The feeling I am describing is when you sit down to write and instead of feeling an energetic creative flow, you sit completely paralyzed, staring at your computer screen & seething at the injustice of your lack of creative life, many people describe this as writer’s block.

Studies have found writer’s block to be a simpler problem: an inability to allow the creative process to flow because of unhappiness, this happened to me personally when I wrote “Freedom after the Sharks”. But there are different kinds of unhappiness, and it’s the writers job to be honest about which one they’re suffering from and in some respect this can be a very important part of a writer revealing the truth about his or her unhappiness, the truth is always revealed in writing as in photography Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote: “I doubt if these islanders are acquainted with any other mode of representation but photography; so that the picture of an event (on the old melodrama principle that ‘the camera cannot lie, would appear strong proof of its occurrence.”

Woody Allen makes fun of writer’s block. He wrote a play called “Writer’s Block”, and he wrote, directed, and starred in a film called “Deconstructing Harry”, in which the protagonist, Harry Block, tells his therapist; ‘For the first time in my life I experience writers block….Now this, to me, is unheard of….I start these short stories and I can’t finish them….I can’t get into my novel at all…..because I took an advance.’

This is the trailer:

Writers block immediately disqualifies Harry Block from being Woody Allen because Woody Allen is one of the most productive film makers of his and possibly any generation. Between 1965 and 2014, Allen was credited in for than sixty six films as a director, writer or actor, often and more than not, all three. To take writing alone; Allen has written forty nine full-length theatrical films, eight stage plays, two television films and two short films, in less than sixty six years, a rate of a script a year.

I have studied Woody Allen and when you look at his miraculous life you can ascertain that time was of the most importance to his every moment, this quote really says everything about his passion for writing:
‘I never like to let any time go unused. When I walk somewhere in the morning, I still plan what I’m going to think about, which problem I’m going to tackle. I may say, this morning I’m going to think of titles. When I get in the shower in the morning, I try to use that time. So much of my time is spent thinking because that’s the only way to attack these writing problems’
Allen had many philosophies which I admire but I feel the one that resonates with me the most is intrinsic motivation, ‘self-motivation is the only motivation’. In life there are natural forces that we cannot guide or control, but I have learned as a writer that the power to create always comes from within, you will see some of my personal quotes where I use ‘never, never give up on your dreams’, the truth always comes down to how much you really want to achieve your dream, do you like the idea, or are your driven to achieve your idea.

One of my mentors many years ago would say to me stop procrastinating and just do what needs to be achieved, I have never forgotten these words.

Writing is subjective, each and everyone of us has a distinctive view, like and dislike to genre, fiction, non-fiction, biographical or fantasy, you will never please everyone, but with passion you can create your best.

Much of writer’s block comes from fear of the unknown, worry across what others will think, Woody Allen also quoted why indifference is so important, something that we all can relate to in business today, when he said: ‘longevity is an achievement, yes, but the achievement that I’m going for is to try to make great films. That has eluded me over the decades.’

Finally, I would like to leave you with some thoughts on passion, I believe every single person on the planet has passion whether we like to recognize this or not, passion if directed in the right way or focus can create amazing things, however passion in the opposite can destroy. So many of us, for reasons only we can answer, do not implement, execute or action our true and resolute passion/s. Unfulfilled passion creates a cavity between our present and our true potential. You have all heard of the saying ‘if only’ or ‘it might have been different if’, we all need to chase our dreams, you need to be careful what you wish for, because it may just come true. Unfulfilled passion can only create negative and malicious intent which takes us away from our ultimate desires and purpose in life.

Steve Brunkhorst once said: ‘As we weave the tapestries of our lives, we gradually begin to see our designs from a wider angle of years. We may or may not be pleased with what we see. Yet, no design–not in the living world–is carved in stone. We have the gift of free will to change our designs as we wish. We are each a thread in the tapestry of our human family. Our outcome is woven of endless possibilities, because we can choose from a universe of endless possibilities. Every person can make a difference. Each thread is a possibility, chosen by the design of divine imagination. Our life-time designs arise from our divine gifts, unique talents, desires, thoughts, choices, and actions. At times, old choices–old threads–wear out. We see the past while we live in the present, and we can replace the old…with new ideas, new choices, and new actions. We can view the future through today’s eyes, and time blends all experiences, dark and light, into an awareness of authentic joy. May you live joyfully and abundantly today and throughout every season of life!’

Has technology killed love and romance?

love-and-romance

The London transport system commonly renowned for ‘The Tube’ and ‘Mind the Gap’ reliably transports 1.34 billion people a year across its network and the busiest train station in London is Waterloo station which commutes 95.1 million passengers a year (research provided by transport for London http://tflgov.uk). The most common factor in any commuters possession is a mobile device, catching up of online dating, facebook, linkedin, email or an embarrassing phone call for everyone to hear to the date, girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband about what is wrong with the relationship.

The facts, do we actually have time for our most precious relationships, do we give the time to build lasting, loving relationships around trust and values or do we constantly feel we can always do better with the latest api or technology app?

As children, we are taught that there will be one true love and that they’re going to solve all our problems and we’ll be happy forever, we are taught to wait for our perfect fit. But that’s not really how it works, is it?

Staggering advances in technology, communications and sciences across the world is one of the defining aspects of the last few decades. From social media websites to free video calling services from anywhere in the world just being a phone’s click away it would appear that the millennial generation has it all. But if we move past all the smartphones and gadgets and websites and take a hard look at the lives of Gen Y, we will notice that dating has become harder than ever.

Some people find it easy to fall in love, others not so much. We tend to fall in love with people who meet a certain criteria in our mind. This subconscious criterion is based on our past experiences, relationship with our parents or events that have happened in our lives. Based on each individual’s subconscious criterion, the reasons vary from person to person on why it’s so hard to fall in love.
When you think about it, despite feeling difficult, the problems people struggle with in dating sound pretty trivial.

For instance, we have been walking and talking our entire lives, yet walking up to an attractive person and opening our mouths to say “hi” can feel impossibly complex to us. People have been using a phone since they were children, yet given the agony some go through just to dial a person’s phone number, you would think they were being waterboarded. Most of us have kissed someone before and we have seen hundreds of movies and instances in real life of other people kissing, yet we still stare dreamily into the object of our affection’s eyes hour after hour, telling ourselves we can never find the “right moment” to do it.

Why? It sounds simple, but why is it so hard?

We build businesses, write novels, scale mountains, help strangers and friends alike through difficult times, tackle the thorniest of the world’s social ills — and yet, when we come face-to-face with someone we find attractive, our hearts race and our minds are sent reeling. And we stall.

Dating advice often compares improving one’s dating life to improving at some practical skill, such as playing piano or learning a foreign language. Sure, there are some overlapping principles, but it’s hard to imagine most people trembling with anxiety every time they sit in front of the keyboard. And I have never met someone who became depressed for a week after failing to conjugate a verb correctly. They are just not the same.

Generally speaking, if someone practices piano daily for two years, they will eventually become quite competent at it. Yet many people spend most of their lives with one romantic failure after another.

Why?

What is it about this one area of life that the most basic actions can feel impossible, that repetitive behaviour often leads to little or no change, and that our psychological defense mechanisms run rampant trying to convince us to not pursue what we want?

Why dating and not, say, skiing? Or even our careers? Why is it that a person can conquer the corporate ladder, become a militant CEO, demanding and receiving the respect and admiration of hundreds of brilliant minds, and then flounder through a simple dinner date with a beautiful stranger?

As children, none of us get 100% of our needs met. This is true of you. It is true of me. It is true of everyone. The degree of which our needs are not met varies widely, and the nature of how our needs are unfulfilled differs as well. But it is the sad truth about growing up: we have all got baggage. And some of us have a lot of it. Whether it is a parent who did not hold us enough, who didn’t feed us regularly enough, a father who was not around often, a mother who left us and moved away, being forced to move from school to school as a child and never having friends — all of these experiences leave their mark as a series of micro-traumas that shape and define us.

The nature and depth of these traumas imprint themselves onto our unconscious and become the map of how we experience love, intimacy and sex throughout our lives.

Psychologists believe that romantic love occurs when our unconscious becomes exposed to someone who matches the archetype of parental love we experienced growing up, someone whose behaviour matches our emotional map for intimacy. Our unconscious is always seeking to return to the unconditional nurturing we received as children, and to re-process and heal the traumas we suffered.
In short, our unconscious is wired to seek out romantic interests who it believes will fulfill our unfulfilled emotional needs, to fill in the gaps of the love and nurturing we missed out on as kids. This is why the people we fall in love with almost always resemble our parents on an emotional level.

AppleMark
AppleMark

The attributes that have come to define us and the overexposure that the 21st century human is subjected to leaves no dearth of psychological problems. More and more people each year are diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety problems. This becomes a detriment when it comes to dating. With dissatisfying home, office or academic environments the relationship in many cases become the dumping ground for emotional baggage.

While sometimes it is good to share and spell out feelings as they stand, it is not healthy to keep using your date as an emotional crutch over and over again. It is therefore advisable to work on your trust, abandonment or other issues before embarking on healthy dating choices.

We as human beings have a nasty tendency to crave for more in every aspect of our lives. Before we desire more, we have to learn to be grateful with what we already posses, only that is going to help us obtain more.

Life is confusing, and dating nowadays is more confusing than it has ever been.

Everyone is a commitmentphobe, everyone has attachment issues, no one takes anything seriously.

Maybe there aren’t any right or wrong answers, maybe nothing is black or white. Maybe life is just a big grey blob and you’re meant to create your own rules as you go along; not what that dating book said, or the advice your friends or your therapist gave you.

The fact of the matter is, romance isn’t dead – we’re just in danger of neglecting it. My advice? Visit your Grandmother and Grandfather and have them re-tell stories of how she was wooed by your grandfather; how they spent evenings dancing on the kitchen tiles and how a love note said it way better than a sweeping 140-character tweet.

Brene Brown puts these words into gret prospective:

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

10 ways to start 2017 on a positive note

images

As someone reminded me recently at a conference, agility is a very positive thing. Apple didn’t create the first digital music player, the first smartphone, or the first tablet computer, yet it came to dominate each category. Amazon wasn’t the first to sell books on the Internet, either. These companies succeeded not because they were faster, but because they developed products that were demonstrably better than their competitors.

2016 was a milestone year, let’s have a look at some of the year’s achievements:
March – Microsoft released a bot framework at BUILD
April – Facebook opened its Messenger platform at F8, and Telegram announced a prize for bot developers
May – Google announced its own Allo Messenger and voice-enabled home speaker at I/O, and Amazon made the successful Alexa accessible via a browser, without Echo hardware.
June – Today at WWDC, Apple opened up iMessage to third-party integrations and announced the Siri SDK
September – Salesforce adds AI: The new Einstein features will be able to deliver more predictive and personalised customer experiences across sales, service, marketing, commerce and other areas.
November – The announcement comes a day before Microsoft is widely expected to release its Skype Teams messaging app. Slack has also been busy in recent weeks making moves to integrate with Microsoft Bot Framework and IBM Watson artificial intelligence services.

But truly great companies don’t scramble to adapt to the future, because they create the future. Take a look at any great business and it becomes clear that what made it great wasn’t the ability to pivot, but a dedication to creating, delivering, and capturing new value in the marketplace. The technology companies that endure are the ones who spend years — or even decades — to create the next generation of products.

Which brings us to something else Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Clearly it is not a particular business category that defines a company, but its ability to solve problems for its customers. And you can’t solve really tough problems by simply moving faster. Great companies prepare the ground long before. Great businesses can be launched any time, even when there’s a downturn in funding.

While the start of 2016 might have spelled trouble for some well-established start-ups, it also saw the birth of companies tackling things like a cure for cancer, superfast internet, and competition for Uber.

Business Insider, http://uk.businessinsider.com, spoke to founders and venture capitalists and took a look at funding data to identify some of the start-ups that had the biggest starts in 2016.

Some names on the list are officially launching out of stealth, while others are still in their early months of forming a company.
Valuations for venture-backed companies doubled over last year to an average of $100 million, the highest in more than a decade, according to Pitchbook, a private financial-market data provider. Total venture dollars invested are on track to hit $74 billion in 2016, second only to 2015 over the past decade. And venture capitalists are basking in their best year since at least 2006, expected to end the year with $32.4 billion after raising $9 billion in the third quarter.

Here are 17 of the top start-ups to launch in 2017
1) Starry – is making more powerful Wi-Fi for your house. Website: https://starry.com
2) Juicero – wants to make the freshest juice you’ve ever tasted. Website: https://www.juicero.com
3) Cheddar – is betting it can be the new CNBC for millennials. Website: http://www.cheddar.com
4) Grail – wants to develop a test for cancer at the earliest possible stage. Website: http://www.grailbio.com
5) Juno – wants to be a driver-friendly alternative to Uber. Website: https://www.gojuno.com
6) Otto’s – self-driving trucks could revolutionise the industry. Website: http://ot.to
7) Simple Habit – wants to help stressed-out millennials. Website: http://www.simplehabitapp.com
8) Comparably – can show you how much you’re being paid compared with your peers. Website: https://www.comparably.com
9) Zipline’s – drones parachute blood and medicine to remote Rwandan cities. Website: http://flyzipline.com/product
10) Nanit – is a super powered baby monitor. Website: https://www.nanit.com
11) Truebill – wants to stop you from getting ripped off on subscriptions. Website: https://www.truebill.com
12) Winnie – wants to be the Yelp for parents. Website: https://winnielabs.com
13) Ritual – is making a better vitamin. Website: http://ritual.com
14) Recharge – lets you rent hotel rooms by the minute for whenever you need a rest. Website: https://recharge.co
15) Lola – is a new kind of a travel agent. Website: https://www.lolatravel.com
16) Pearl – will help turn your ‘dumb car’ into a cutting-edge model. Website: https://pearlauto.com
17) KnuEdge – wants to one-up Google and Intel. Website: https://www.knuedge.com

It is a fact that no business is guaranteed to succeed. But with the right level of energy, passion, determination to a belief in yourself and your product/service you can progress independently with your dream idea and business.
The beginning of the year has arrived and while it’s important to take some time to assess the positives and negatives of 2016, it is also worthwhile ensuring everything is ready for the year ahead so that 2017 does not start with unnecessary stress.

Many entrepreneurs are passionate about their chosen trade but aren’t always strong when it comes to the financial side of business. It is the little things that people often forget about. Simple things, like cash flow and budget that can make all the difference.

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The following 10 tips would make sure business owners cover all their bases and have a successful 2017.

1) Budget for the year ahead
2) Understand your business and its customers
3) Analyse your monthly management accounts
4) Keep your accounts and taxes up to date
5) Secure your IP/IPR
6) Know your limitations
7) Invest in good legal and accountancy experts
8) Build revenue streams with trusted relationships – no matter how small
9) Invest in cash recovery experts
10) Take a holiday and exercise every now and then

If you follow the tips you will see the benefits returned ten-fold.

As Henry Ford once said:

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

A Christmas and New Year Message

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May peace fill all the empty spaces around you, your family and your friends and your colleagues at this special time of year, and in you, may contentment answer all your wishes.

Raise a toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s brighter future.

May comfort be yours, warm and soft like a sigh.

And may the coming year show you that every day is really a first day and a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion, so that you have much to share.

May mirth be near you always, like a lamp shining brightly on the many paths you travel.

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Work with the best of your abilities in 2017 and show to the world your power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2017 may turn out to be a year when you are put on the road to everlasting success and prosperity.

Be the change that you wish to see at your workplace and take initiatives to make things better.

Wish your tomorrow is more prosperous, happy and successful than yesterday and today.

Looking forward to another year with hunger and passion to exceed at work and you are sure to meet with success.

Let new beginnings signify new chapter filled with pages of success and happiness, written by the ink of hard work and intelligence.

May the New Year bring us more wonderful opportunities for success.

Here’s wishing you the gift of peace and prosperity throughout 2017.