Change this one letter, change the world

I had a dream last night that there was this document that had gone viral.  Millions of people had been sharing it – on facebook, youtube, twitter.

Somehow, in my inbox one morning, I received what seemed to be the original document, which appeared to have been altered before it was sent out on social media.

I looked at the margin of the document, and saw that it had been cut off because it contained this one word.  And throughout the document, this same word had been changed every time by adding a letter.

The word was “Our”.  Not the regular use of the word ‘our’ as in our citizens versus yours.  This was Our with a capital O, and it was a word that eliminated any other possessive adjectives.   The letter that had been added throughout the document was a ‘y’, to make all the ‘ours’ change into ‘yours’… as in ‘your problem’, ‘your economy’, etc.

The message of the original document had been designed to enlighten humanity…  to wake people up to the message of separation that is being spread like a virus.  In the dream, the original message had been seized by certain powers in the world – unnamed – that knew it would lead to revolution if people truly understood the use of the word Our with a capital O.  The original document was meant to show us how each time we complain about ‘them’, we are complaining about an illusion… that for every single problem in the world that we see, we are merely seeing a reflection of Us.  Every single behavior we can’t stand in another person is merely a reflection of what we can’t stand in Ourselves.  Every pain and sorrow we see in others, is actually Ours.

But because we constantly spread these altered images of ‘us versus them’, we get repulsed by others’ problems.  We hate them for it.  We hate them for having problems because we think their problems cause ours.  And we hate them for it because deep down, we think – they should know better.  And they should fix it.

But if there was no possibility to use the word “their” or “they”, and the only possibility was to use the word “Our”… we wouldn’t be able to turn away anymore.  We would need to face Our problems.  It would force us to see that every single tension, aggression, indifference, depression that happens in the world is a reflection of all of Our thoughts and actions.  We would see that every time we have a hateful, judging thought against anyone, it triggers a ripple effect around us that spreads like a disease.  We may not realize how much those judging thoughts affect everything else, but they seep in to how we view the world, and this affects what we choose to do, or not do, about the issues we see that anger us.

To face Our role in everything we see happening in the world is too overwhelming for most of us. The golden rule of ‘do unto others as we would do ourselves’ has become blurry because we have not yet learned to accept ourselves, and so we don’t know how to treat ourselves without harshness.  Every judgment we make about those around us is reflecting back to us the parts of ourselves we have not yet embraced.  Every hateful word we feel about someone else is a word we are actually feeling about ourselves.   And because we are so angry at our own mistakes, and we feel we are unforgiven by whatever authority we believe exists over us, we do the thing that we believe is going to make us feel better:  blame someone else.  Anyone else…. ‘our’ economy is bad because of insert name of a group of people outside of ‘us’.  My dreams are not coming true because insert name of someone else didn’t love me the way I needed to be loved. The world is in a terrible state because insert name of a religious group, generation, country.

The document was altered because it explained the power of using the word Our in a way that has never been done before – that our brains cannot even comprehend:   Our – without a ‘their’.  ‘Us’ without a ‘them’.  Our world is obsessed with stories and incidents where we can make one person or group into a ‘villain’ and the other a ‘hero’, where the hero must destroy the villain, rather than look at how both parties contribute to the world the villain is so desperate to ruin.  It all starts on a personal level, with every judgment and action.  The next time you see someone – anyone, be it in another part of the world, or someone in your family – notice whether you are inserting a ‘y’ immediately in front of the ‘our’ to make it feel less like there is any role you play in that scenario.

Because at the end of the dream, it was revealed that it wasn’t some unnamed authority that removed the word Our – that document went ‘viral’ because people shared it to give them the false sense of relief that comes from judging and blaming others for the state of the world, the state of our relationships, instead of looking at Ourselves and the role We all play in All of it.

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Understanding Brain Plasticity is Today’s Moral Imperative (5 MUST-read books for 2018)

We are the most nurture-dependent species that has ever existed on the planet.

This means that our brains are not just hardwired from birth. They are literally, physically, neurologically, moment-by-moment, formed and built by our experiences.

The more we learn about the brain’s plasticity, the less society can let themselves off the hook for not ensuring the safety and nurturing of our young.

We must stop acting as though behavior problems and mental illness are things that occur in isolation. We are social animals and what happens to us socially affects our brains, minds and bodies.


Agency is the belief that we have what it takes to change, to grow, evolve and ‘figure things out’. Understanding the malleability of our brain increases our sense of agency – not just as individuals, but who we are as a society and as a species.

We all play a role in how we are shaping each other’s brain architecture:
parents to children, teachers to students, leaders to employees and vice versa.

If you are an educator, social worker, parent or leader, please make 2018 a year where you learn more about neuroplasticity, the effects of trauma and adversity, and the influences of early childhood experience on our brain’s architecture.


“Our great challenge
is to apply the lessons of neural plasticity,
the flexibility of brain circuits,
to rewire the brains and re-organize the minds of people
who have been programmed by life itself
to experience others as threats
and themselves as helpless.”

– Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., The Body Keeps the Score



Here are five MUST-READ books to get you started:

Neuroplasticity (2016) by Moheb Costandi, Molecular and Developmental Neurobiologist, turned science writer. MIT Press 2016

The Pocket Guide to the PolyVagal TheoryThe transformative power of feeling safe, (2017) by Stephen Porges, distinguished University Scientist at the Kinsey Institute.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at their Best and Worst, (2017) by Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology, neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University.

The Body Keeps the Score (2014), by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, former Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry, Founder and Medical Director of the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute.

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World (2011), by David Deutsch, physicist at the University of Oxford, visiting professor in the Department of Atomic and Laser Physics at the Centre for Quantum Computation (CQC) in the Clarendon Laboratory of the University of Oxford.



I’m sneaking in three more book suggestions specifically for educators, parents and anyone involved in teaching the next generation (because growth mindset won’t accomplish what we hope it will if what and how we teach kids won’t help them thrive.)

Why Our Children Can’t Read, by Diane McGuiness, PhD, foreword by Steven Pinker

Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, by Dana Suskind, MD

Navigating the Social World: What Infants, Children, and Other Species Can Teach Us, Edited by MahzarinR. Banaji & Susan A. Gelman (part of the Oxford Series in Social Cognition and Social Neuroscience)

#growth mindset


Increase your understanding of brain plasticity
and how to build growth mindset at a
Mindset Neuroscience™ training workshop

5 Step Plan to Present Growth Mindset

 5 step plan to present growth mindset


A doctor from the UK, who is using my growth mindset self-study course to teach his staff about growth mindsets, asked me recently for ideas on how to prepare his upcoming presentation.  I gave him an overview of the steps I use for adult audiences, and thought this might be helpful to many of you!


So here it is!


5-step plan to present the idea of growth mindsets:
Create Buy-In
Plastic Brain Explanation
Key Phrase

Interactive Exercise


Personal Reflection


STEP #1 Create Buy-In
Show some type of research that shows how people with growth mindsets are more likely to demonstrate some type of improved outcome (I use studies that show this for education).


I sometimes start with this:


 “IQ & test scores are not reliable predictors of future success”

– Beliefs about intelligence and attributing academic success or failure to levels  of effort are stronger predictors of school performance than actual measured ability (ie., test scores)1


 Academic behaviors, more than tested achievement, predict course failure; positive academic mindsets encourage students to persist at schoolwork, which then appears as improved academic behaviors, leading to improved performance1


Source: Farrington, C.A., Roderick, M., Allensworth, E., Nagaoka, J., Keyes, T.S., Johnson, D.W., & Beechum, N.O. (2012).Teaching adolescents to become learners. The role of noncognitive factors in shaping school performance: A critical literature review. Chicago: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research\


Here are two videos related to youth education that you can also use to show some of the research:




*Showing research helps create ‘buy-in’ before you launch into the concept.*


STEP #2) “Plastic Brain Explanation”:


The first most important ‘exercise’ I believe is to give them the brain explanation on how plastic our brain is.  I tend to explain the process myself (I use clickable markers to represent neurons, and show them clicking together once the pathway is connected)


But if you’re not as comfortable explaining that, you could use any or all four of these videos:


  1. I would start with the SENTIS video on neuroplasticity,
  2. followed by this Khan Academy video.
  3. Harvard Center for the Developing Child: Experience Builds Brain Architecture
  4. or my animated video – you can skip to around the 2 minute mark to get right to the brain explanation.
  5. my youtube video to show you how you can teach the concept on a whiteboard in 5 steps


STEP #3) “Key Phrase”


Then write down (or say) the key phrase that has been used extensively in the research – the phrase that research shows sparks people into adopting a growth mindset is:
“our brain is like a muscle that grows with use.”


Another neuroscience phrase for the idea of brain growth and pathways is:


 “Cells that fire together, wire together”,


Personally, I did not actually know about the term ‘growth mindset’ or the above phrase when I was originally explaining this to students. I just explained the idea of pathways, and how we can intentionally build pathways, or be unaware of our ‘default’/auto-pilot pathways. That seemed to be enough to spark new, intentional and positive behaviors.


STEP #4)  “Interactive Exercise”


Use this video with three 10-second exercises to help students move from fixed to growth mindsets  by introducing them to the idea of brain pathways and how we can apply the science of growth mindsets to keep us from repeating fixed mindset behaviors.


(You can show them my video, but I think it’s better if you learn it well enough so you can model the exercise in real-time and demonstrate the exercises yourself.)


STEP #5)  “Personal Reflection”


Have them reflect on (privately or as a group discussion) these questions:


a) how babies begin with a growth mindset:  as they learn to walk or talk, they fall down over and over again, but do not have the mindset that “I guess because I’m making mistakes, I’m just not naturally gifted at walking.”  If we are not born with a fixed mindset, where does it come from?  It is a learned response.


b) where in your life do you have a growth mindset, and where do you have a fixed mindset?  One indication is how afraid you are of trying something new.  Is there an area in your life where you are too afraid to change a habit or way of doing something even though it is not giving you the results you want?


(you can use your own words for that, or use the reflection sheets and discussion questions from the Growth Mindset Course)


So that’s an idea of how you can present the idea of growth mindsets to your staff, fellow teachers, or students.
Let me know if you need more, or have questions!


“The person who says it cannot be done
should not interrupt the person doing it.”
– Chinese Proverb

Neurobiology of Innovation & Design Thinking

Hi everyone!

This is an extra message this month just to let you know that there is a video posted from my talk in Berlin/Pottsdam at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design Thinking from this September on the ‘neurobiology of innovation and design thinking’

I was joined by colleagues
Manish Saggar – computational neuroscientist at Stanford’s Brain Lab,
Caroline Szymanski from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development,
Sergio Agnoli from the Creativity Institute at the University of Bologna, and

Julia Von Thienen from the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design

Check out all the amazing talks,

such as Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist, Dr. Frederik G. Pferdt’s keynote

“The Future Now: A Healthy Disregard for the Impossible”, and

Stanford D.School’s Global Director and Co-Founder, George Kembel’s talk,

“Unleashing the creative potential of everyone on the planet”


As many of you who have seen me speak, you might notice that I’m more nervous than usual! I had to try to convey my passionate speaking into 10 minutes and kept getting cues that I was over time – lol… so my part feels a bit rushed 🙂
At the end, there are amazing questions from the audience (my favourite part!)


To create something new, there must be movement

Talking about, even “celebrating” mistakes is not enough
for us to become less afraid of failure.

And it’s not enough to help us learn anything new.

“Re-framing” mistakes is the first point of entry but it’s only the beginning.
(If you missed the previous post about this, click here to read it).

You must create a track record of movement

The next step to push through a fear of mistakes
and to actually create NEW behavior….
is to create a conscious record of surviving the discomfort and awkwardness that happens when we try to do something we’ve never done before.

The only way to build this record (aka., a conscious/explicit memory)
is to intentionally engage in movement despite our nervousness or fear of failing.

By movement, I mean things like:

  • movement of the body
  • micro-movements of the vocal cords and diaphragm (speaking, singing),
  • movement of fingers across a key board,
  • hand gestures,
  • movement of a paintbrush across a canvas,
  • moving electrodes on a person’s head or face to collect new information,
  • moving bits of data to create new combinations.

Sensorimotor mastery (automation) is needed 

Sensorimotor = using the senses and motor functions/movement

ALL learning – no matter how old we are, starts with sensorimotor learning
until it’s mastered into a semiautomatic process*.
Doing a movement enough times creates an efficient neural network
– also called a ‘schema’ (similar to something computer programmers call a ‘subroutine’).

*For more on this, read Patricia McGuiness’ book Why Our Children Can’t Read,
which is recommended by Stephen Pinker as “one of the most important books of the decade”. She gives a fascinating review of how how backwards we teach reading to kids. For a critical review of her approach and a totally contradictory

but also interesting point of view, read this New York Times Review).


A skill that’s automatic uses fewer neurons and less glucose,
so it feels like it takes much less effort.
Being ‘better’ at something means you are doing it more automatically.


The better you get, the less of your brain is actively involved. 

When you start out a new skill, your brain will gobble up glucose,
which will make you feel tired, awkward, and uncomfortable.

The more you move, the more automatic your movements get,
the less glucose your brain will need, the easier it will feel.

Once that happens, you can focus more on adding your own ‘flare’ and complexity to it.

For example, when a child is learning to read –
they need to master the sensorimotor movements of their eyes across the page,
and moving their mouth while saying (or mouthing) the words aloud to gain mastery.
Once that is automatic, they can move onto processing meaning.

p.s. –  SEEING is a MOTOR MOVEMENT: if our eyes didn’t move, our brains wouldn’t register that we are seeing anything.
LISTENING is a MOTOR MOVEMENT: our middle ear muscles tense and relax to hear either human voice or background sounds.


(click to download as a pdf!)


Make a new move, and then do it again and again


If you want to learn something new (or help someone else learn something new),
or be more creative – whether that means creating a new object, project, idea…
or even creating a new relationship, or a change in your life on any level ….

You have to bring an idea from the interior (your mind) to the exterior.

The only way to do this is you must initiate some new, intentional form of
​​​​​​​ physical movement, however small or microscopic. 

And you’ll need to do it again and again until it’s mastered on a sensorimotor level.

When people think ‘movement’, they often think of more obvious forms.
I’m talking more about ‘sensorimotor learning’  – but calling it ‘movement’.

Here are examples:

  • Moving a pen across the paper to express what you’re thinking or tell a story.
  • Moving your finger to push the submit, send, post or publish button.
  • Moving your mouth and vocal cords to say something NEW so someone can hear it.
  • Moving your lips, mouth and vocal cords to sing.
  • Dancing.
  • Walking.

Some other ideas:

  • Say something you’ve never said.
  • Smile at someone you’ve never smiled at.
  • Shake the hand of someone you’ve never met.
  • Share something about yourself you’ve never shared.

The key being, don’t just think about doing
or creating or saying something…

You need to actually get your body to make a movement it’s never made before.

And then do it again and again.

Eventually, you’ll have a track record
of surviving the discomfort of doing something new.
(Not pre-approved, not something you’ve done before. Something NEW).

You may never get over the feeling of nervousness (I haven’t!!!)
but having a history of surviving those feelings of anxiety
can give you the guts to feel that fear and create anyway.

That’s been my journey.

Now… If you want to help others  make those new movements, feel less afraid of failure,
there’s something else you can do to help.

That’s in the next month’s article.

Til then,


“The price of inaction is far greater
​​​​​​​than the cost of making a mistake.”

– Meister Eckhart

(click the image to download this pdf!)

Saying it in a cheesy way (my favorite way!),
if you want something new to happen,
you’ve got move it, move it  🙂 🙂


Mistakes ‘neurobiologically’ grow your brain.

“We don’t passively forget that something is scary.
We actively learn that it isn’t anymore.”

– Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky, Behave


We aren’t born afraid of failure.
We learn to become afraid of it.

Why does this matter?

Because, according to IDEO’s innovation experts David Kelley and Tom Kelley,

“fear of failure […] is the single biggest obstacle
people face to creative success”.

This is one of the most important issues of our time.


Because creativity and innovative problem-solving are the only ways
we, as a species, will evolve beyond our outdated systems, structures and
patterns of history repeating itself.

So what can we do about this?


To ‘actively learn’ that mistakes aren’t scary means we have to shift the way we SEE them.

When we see something as helpful instead of harmful,
we are more likely to approach it.

“The difference between greatness and mediocrity is often how an individual views a mistake”  – Nelson Boswell

To actively learn that mistakes aren’t scary
we need to know what a mistake actually is –
NOT the meaning we’ve learned to make about it,
but what it is actually is, on a bio-mechanical level.


Mistakes lead to electrochemical activity in the brain
called the ERN response.  

Go to this AMAZING Stanford website with exciting research related to this:

This ONLY happens when we make a mistake.
It does NOT happen when we get an answer right.

In fact, we don’t even need to realize we’ve made a mistake
in order for this ERN activity to happen.

When we understand how the brain learns, this totally makes sense…

If we’re answering a question correctly,
It means we’ve already activated
the neural circuitry needed to perform that task.

Let me repeat that…

Getting an answer right,
or doing something well is
just repeating neural activity that has already happened many times.

So, the ‘re-frame’ or ‘mindset shift’ is:

a) Mistakes literally (‘neurobiologically’) grow your brain.

b) A mistake means you’re a performer ‘in the arena’.

Not a bystander.
Not a critic.
Not just passively posting a ‘like’ or an emoji.
You are actually, actively, sparking new activity that is literally growing your brain.


c) A mistake is therefore a sign of growth and opportunity,
NOT weakness

In your own life, organization, school, or classroom…
whatever you collectively choose
to reward, to praise, to notice*,
becomes a group-mindset.    

(*in fact – there’s science that shows us testosterone helps amplify what we collectively reward and value.  Testosterone is not inherently an ‘aggressive’ hormone, it’s just that is what we have socially rewarded for a very long time)…  more on that later.  Read Robert Sapolsky’s book, Behave to find out more).


(click the image to download this as a pdf!)



When we choose to value things like mistakes, effort,
and even being someone who is ‘outside of the herd’,
we create ‘Psychological Safety’
to do those things we’re normally afraid of.

According to Frederik Pferdt – Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist,
(who I heard as a keynote speaker at the d.confestival in Berlin a few weeks ago),
‘Psychological Safety’ is one of Google’s keys to foster innovation.

The safer we feel about something, the more likely we are to approach it.
That’s how our brain works.

If we feel safe about making a mistake,
we’ll more likely try something we’ve never done before.


Re-frame mistakes by acknowledging what they actually are,
NOT the story that’s been passed down from previous generations.

According to the laws of nature,
mistakes are related to growth and evolution,
not weakness or inferiority.   

They are the very ingredient of anything NEW.


The more deeply you get this, the more sincere you’ll be when you tell people (including yourself) to try something new even if you might fail.

Ok… So that’s a piece of the puzzle —   a new way of seeing mistakes.

But then what?
Just keep saying mistakes are great without making any adjustments?
Of course not!
We then need to adjust, pivot, refine and try something new.


In next month’s article, I’ll give you key #2 to doing that NEW thing that moves us out of repeating our past and into a mode of creating a new reality.


Click on the image below to download it as a printable pdf



If you’re a parent or teacher, 

Read this ‘mistakes grow your brain’ article
specifically geared to educators, parents and caregivers!


If you’d like these monthly articles sent to your inbox, subscribe below!


What ‘mean’ people really need…

There is confusion about the words confidence and arrogance.

Confidence – means ‘with faith’. It means we have faith that we have what it takes to get through whatever it is that is in front of us.

If I don’t have confidence, I will not believe in my strength to survive whatever that unknown thing is – whether it’s someone with a different opinion, different appearance, a situation I’ve never been in….

If I feel afraid of whatever that new thing/person/situation is and I don’t believe I will survive that feeling of discomfort or the threat I believe it represents, I will not use my more evolved ways of being.. I won’t have time to think about ‘how can I engage with this?’ Instead, I will either want to run as fast as I can away from it – or if I can’t, I will curl my mouth and face up into a snarl and use my vocal cords to show how tough I am. Or I will want to build walls around me to keep that unknown/scary thing away. That’s the behavior we see that we call ‘mean’.

It’s funny that when we see someone we label as mean or arrogant, we think we should make them feel less confident. I disagree – I think they need to be more confident (aka. ‘with faith that they have what it takes to move through the fear of unknown/different people/situations’). It’s their fear of not surviving those threats that makes them arrogant.

In order to be more compassionate and of service to others, an arrogant person actually needs to feel that they are MORE important. Not more important than someone else. More important than they currently think of themselves. The idea of importance to me means – to ‘matter’.

We actually need more people – with every fibre of their being- to know they matter. Because that is when they realize they have something to contribute – something so unique and irreplaceable to bring to the group. When they know that, that they – and only they – can fulfill that sacred duty for humanity, they don’t have to fear being of no value to the ‘tribe’.

When they don’t fear that anymore, it means they are not on an alert of how they are going to be kicked out of the tribe (which is wired in us to equate with death).

When they don’t fear that they will be kicked out, they can stop being in defensive or offensive movement to make sure that attention is on other people’s faults. Because that is what happens. When we are not sure if we matter, we are not sure if at some point, we will just get kicked out by the tribe. So we need to make sure someone ELSE gets noticed for being of less value.

In today’s conformity and standardized-driven culture, we aren’t given space to figure out how we can uniquely contribute to the tribe. This means that the only thing we can do is figure out how we are more, have more, do more about that SAME THING that the others in the tribe are doing.

That means that the ONLY way I won’t get rejected is if I am more, have more, do more than someone else. Not related to my own unique talents, but in comparison to that same thing. As long as there is someone who is less, has less, does less than me – i’m safe, because the tribe will get rid of that person first.

So the absolute most important point of this is… the unique, irreplaceable contribution that you and only you can make. The more we get clear on this, the more important every person will feel. The more every person will know – without doubt – that their existence contributes something to the whole.

So our job is to figure out our own ‘thing’ that is so unique that no one else will ever be able to replicate it. And then help others do the same. The more we create space for this – in our classrooms, workplace, communities, and moment to moment conversations, the more confident people will be, and the less likely that arrogance will need to rear its head.


Creating Safety through Vulnerability

I was asked this question recently by someone who is a member of a nudist colony:


Yes,  you read that correctly..


“What is the neurobiological reasons people enjoy social nudism? What is its social impact?”
Many of you know that I LOVE getting asked new questions,
so I was very excited to explore this topic and see how it relates to neurobiology.
This may seem like an unrelated to the science of mindset
and empathy, but similarly to those topics,
the deepest root of this question is about
a sense of safety and vulnerability:
the two most critical ingredients every human needs to grow and evolve
(and have access to the brain architecture
needed for self-awareness,
so that we can shift our mindsets and behaviors).
A sense of safety is our absolute most primitive, foundational state

that must occur before any other brain activity can really happen.


Safety is a relative term, though: it’s based on each individual’s experiences.

When we feel safe, our most evolved system of interaction comes online
– it’s called the ‘social engagement system’.
It’s actually a cranial nerve that allows us to express our voice (vocalization),
use facial gestures and tense our middle ear muscles in order to hear a human voice.
We use this system to let others know two things:
our internal state, and our intentions.

This is called the Polyvagal theory –
it was discovered and coined by one of the most brilliant minds I admire: Stephen Porges.

When we feel safe, our most evolved brain architecture
is also accessible for us to be ‘conscious’ of what is happening,
and create what we call ‘explicit memories’.


This is very different than what happens when we don’t feel safe.

When we don’t feel safe, for example, with another person,
we attempt to first use our social engagement system –
we will use words and facial gestures to create safety.
If this doesn’t work, our next, lesser evolved system
comes online – our ‘mobilization’ system, aka fight or flight.

If we have experiences trying to use either of these systems
and they aren’t successful in creating safety,
our most ancient system is then recruited,
– the fold or freeze system, which is embodied by the ‘shame posture’…
Our folding over, heads bowed, in submission.
This is a system that we do everything to avoid being in
because it is almost like a resignation to whatever the threat is.
(The shame, or fold/freeze posture in mammals can often be fatal
because the heart actually stops, or the predator gets us).


That was a long way to say –

that we do everything possible to avoid shame.


And one way to do that is to seek to feel vulnerable and safe
at the same time.

If there is one area that we are born loving
and then learning to feel shame about, it is our bodies

– and in particular our nudity and sexuality.
(Much of this due to the societal influences,
including the dominance of religious doctrine over the millennia).

One way we can ‘create safety’ with each other
is to attempt to use our social engagement systems
during situations where our more ancient systems would normally come online.

So – ‘play’ is our way of using our mobilization (fight/flight)
but with vocalization and facial gestures.

We can play a sport or game, or other adrenaline-inducing activities:
adrenaline rises, blood flow to our skeletal muscles increases,
but we know we are ‘safe’ to use that system with those other humans.
(p.s. – All mammals engage in play – rough housing, chasing, etc.)


And so – the nudist situation would lead me to hypothesize

that it is a way of ‘creating safety’

using the social engagement system (talking, eye contact, facial gestures)
in a situation that would normally induce feelings of shame.

This gives us a sense of control over our nervous system –
which is incredibly empowering because our nervous system
can often be influenced by unconscious triggers.

The more we make those unconscious triggers conscious,
the more power we have over our life experiences.

​​​​​​Now… This does NOT mean I am promoting
social nudity in your workplace or classroom..

BUT what I will propose is the idea that you find some way
to allow for vulnerability and safety at the same time.

This could take the form of you – as a leader – talking about feeling nervous or embarrassed, about how you have no idea what you are doing sometimes.
Things like improv, spoken word, creating some type of art (which can be using words or objects) That lead your staff to feel ‘like a beginner’,
Like they have no idea what they’re doing..

But they’re doing it in a space that welcomes
Their vulnerability of being a novice or expert
And that expresses feelings – whether they are sad, nervous, joyful, raging, embarrassed, hopeful.

Find some way to allow for the people you are leading
to shed layers of what they think is the ‘approved of’ version of them.

And model what it looks like to really be who you are
– embrace your weirdnesses,
those things that don’t seem to fit with anyone else.

What a RARE thing to feel… And yet we all need to feel it,
the more the better: Safe AND Vulnerable … AT THE SAME TIME.


people are either obstacles or agents

we either see people as ‘obstacles’, as outside forces that can thwart us.

or we see them as agents – as catalysts that can spark our growth.

when i say agent, i am talking about the use of the word as it is used chemically.  as in for example laundry soap.

the agent there is one that breaks up the surface of the water so that it can allow the entry of the soap properties.

without this agent, the surface of the water is impermeable to change.

that is how we can view every single person on this planet.
as an agent.
as a teacher who pushes and prods us into allowing our external surface to dissolve – so that our awareness becomes more permeable to the energy and wisdom that is flowing through us.

each person triggers a new set of reactions within us. and these reactions lead to new desires. all of these are like chemical reactions, which then lead to more reactions – almost as though we are are a substance that is ‘chemically’ reacting to the medium of the universe .

Why do I think thoughts that make me feel bad?


The brain does not know which thoughts
make you feel “bad” or “good”.

To the brain, thoughts are just electro-chemical pulses used to react to your environment.

There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thoughts.

Unfortunately, though, this means that we have thoughts that make us feel bad
– even if that doesn’t seem to be what we want.

How does this happen?


Your brain created pathways a long time ago
that affect how you see the world

Your first thoughts about the world came from what was around you.

As a child, you probably got the same messages over and over again

For example, if as a child, you grew up in a household
where there was a lot of yelling and fighting, you may have had the thought more than once
that “the world is a negative, angry place”.


It may have even been more subtle, like

“people are easily irritated by me,”

“I’m the reason people are unhappy”.


Each time we have a thought, cells in our brain send ‘pulses’ to each other.

It could look like this:

X –   –   –   –   X

The more we were around those people,  the more those cells continue to ‘talk to each other’.

X- – – – – – – -X


Since we’re in the same environments over and over again, those cells tend to ‘talk to each other’ a lot.

The brain then starts to ‘invest’ in those pathways by sending white fat to cover the connection between those cells.


That white fat covering (called myeline) makes it so those cells have faster connections and are the first to activate when we are in different situations.


This means that… if, say, you were around really stressed out or angry people growing up…

there’s a good chance you have opinions about yourself based on those stressed out/angry/ depressed/anxious people’s beliefs about life and you.


Because you were around them a lot, you may have these ‘thick connections’
in your brain related to negative thoughts about yourself.

These pathways are not the ‘truth’ about you –
they were just created based on you reacting to the stress/anxiety of other people around you.


When you are really upset, there’s a good chance
you’re having negative thoughts that are coming from the past
– and those ‘thick connections’.


One way to lower the stress that comes from all of that ‘negative’ wiring is to simply be more aware…
you can do that just by asking this question the next time you get really angry or depressed about something:

“is my reaction to this event based 100% on what is happening only in this moment…  Or is it possible that part of my reaction comes from stuff that happened before this that makes me think this thing is worse than it is?”

This video explains this idea even further!