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Name of author Rick Baker, P.Eng.

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Finding the forest around the trees

by Rick Baker
On Jan 19, 2012

Can you imagine what it would be like to be an ant specialist?

I mean, can you imagine making a career of studying ants - being a myrmecologist.

That's what E. O. Wilson did.

What started as a study of ants led E. O. Wilson to some very-interesting conclusions on a variety of topics. He wrote a number of books, including 'On Human Nature'. 

About human beings, E. O. Wilson said,

"We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom."

He went on to forecast,

"The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely."

This forecast makes sense.

The question is, how do we prepare ourselves to be the synthesizers E.O. Wilson describes?

One factor that cannot be ignored is SEEK SIMPLE: at least every once in a while, take the time to look for the simplest solutions.

And, as a piece of Seeking Simple, we must slow down enough to consider the obvious: as an example, we can learn from Obvious Adams. Obvious Adams is a book written by Robert. R. Updegraff almost 100 years ago. Updegraff wrote about common sense and he wrote about the fact simpler is almost always better.

Updegraff also wrote Five Tests of Obviousness. You can use that test when you analyse situations and problems. 

That is one step toward becoming a synthesizer.




Is our way of thinking affected by our personality?

by Rick Baker
On Jul 22, 2011
Is our way of thinking affected by our personality?
Are we born positive thinker or do we learn from experiences (usually difficult)?
One of my LinkedIn friends asked those questions.
Here is how I answered…
Like you I think about these questions.
Based on personal experience and expert opinions [which I have read], the answers appear to be yes, yes, and yes.
Yes - some of our personality is directed by our genes. For example, experts have apparently identified long and short forms of a gene that is correlated with optimism and pessimism. Optimism-pessimism is connected with ‘positive thinking’, so – Yes – the genetic predispositions we are born with can cause us to be ‘by nature’ more-positive, less-positive, or middle-of-the-road.
The good news is – Yes – regardless – we can learn and teach ourselves how to become more positive.
It seems to me genetics influences about 50% and we can choose the other 50%...by working on things we see as promoting ‘positive attitude & positive thinking’.
Here’s what I mean by 50% - 50%.
When we are born we are predisposed to be negative or middle-of-the-road or positive. I envision this like a Bell Curve where 25% of people are genetically negative, 50% are genetically middle-of-the-road, and 25% are genetically positive. The extent of negativity or positivity is not fixed. Picture it as falling within a range…i.e., each of us is born with a predetermined range where we either ‘tend’ to be negative , ‘tend’ to be neutral, or ‘tend’ to be positive. While, as research strongly suggests, a range like I have described is set by genetics…pessimistic people can work at being at the most-optimistic end of their range, neutral people can work at being more-optimistic, and optimistic people can work at making sure their optimism stays within the bounds of realism. [Too much optimism carries some unfortunate consequences.]
How do we make sure we are positive enough?
What can we learn from experiences?
Many things...
As examples:
  • We can learn how to understand ourselves, particularly our moods
  • We can learn how to avoid negative situations [because situations impact on mood]
  • We can learn how to focus on using our strengths rather than correcting our weaknesses
  • We can learn how to have a thick skin…i.e., so others do not offend us
  • We can learn how to bolster our self-confidence


Personalities @ Work | Put Your Best Brain Forward

Measuring Emotions & Feelings

by Rick Baker
On Jul 20, 2011
We don't bother to measure our feelings and emotions.
At least most of us, most of the time, don't measure our feelings and emotions.
That's not to say we don't 'register' our feelings and emotions. And, that's not to say we don't behave in accordance with our feelings and emotions.
We do those things.
We do register the fact we feel this way or that. And, we do recognize our feelings and emotions play a role in what we do.
We just don't measure what's going on.
Maybe we are generally content with our feelings and emotions...so, why bother analysing them or taking the time to measure them?
Maybe we don't think we can do much about our feelings and emotions...like, they happen and that's it?
Maybe we've thought of measuring our emotions and feelings but couldn't quickly identify how that might be done...then, we got busy and that thought slipped away?
Regardless, maybe today we are thinking it would be a good idea to figure out a way to measure our emotions and feelings.
If that's something you’d like to do then there are simple ways to do it.
About a dozen years ago Brian Tracy recommended a technique which is simple and helpful. He recommended a scale from Minus10-to-Plus10.
  • a rating of ‘Minus 10’ means you have the most negative possible feeling about the situation at hand. As examples...utter disgust and raging anger
  • a rating of ‘Zero’ is absolutely neutral...take it or leave it
  • a rating of ‘Plus 10’ is the most positive feeling about the situation. As examples…sheer bliss and pure love
I like the Minus10-to-Plus10 approach much better than any other 'yardstick' for measuring emotions/feelings.
A Minus10-to-Plus10 approach forces us to accept the reality of negatives and positives.
It also makes sure we do not lose track of the fact, when you boil it down, we only have 2 types of emotions:
  • Emotions that make us feel Good
  • Emotions that make us feel Bad
That helps remove all the mumbo jumbo about optimists versus pessimists. Everyone experiences Good feelings and everyone has Bad feelings.
A Minus10-to-Plus10 approach also allows us a wide enough range to make and be pleased about baby-steps of improvement.
It’s easy to give and receive advice like, "Your problem is you don't have a positive mental attitude. Think positive and all will be well."
On the other hand, that's not really very practical. To alter our feelings, if our goal is to have more good feelings then, we need to overcome deeply ingrained Bad Habits...some of which we know and can identify...and some of which are deeply rooted in our subconscious.
While we may never uncover the deep roots of habits we can always register and measure our feelings and emotions.
Using a Minus10-to-Plus10 Scale© we can calibrate any and all our feelings [or emotions if you prefer to describe it that way]. Some of this goes without saying...catastrophes can generate extreme frustration or anger or compassion or grief, etc. Other feelings and emotions, the ones that we experience throughout every waking moment of every day, are more subtle and their root causes are less clear. Regardless, the feelings and emotions influence what we do next...they influence how we feel next…and, repeating, they influence what we do next. And, they generate patterns of behaviour that show up later...including years later.
We can choose the behaviours we desire then create those behaviours.
We can use the Minus10-to-Plus10 Scale© to create those behaviours.

Our Changing Brains

by Rick Baker
On Jul 19, 2011
Here’s what I think...
  • When we behave [take action], our behaviour alters our brain…maybe only a little, maybe much more than a little…depending on the situation...and the nature of our behaviour [our action].
  • When we think, our thoughts alter our brain… maybe only a little, maybe much more than a little…depending on the situation around and the nature of our thoughts…probably, also depending on the strength of the emotions/feelings we are experiencing at the time we are thinking.
  • When we are not consciously behaving or thinking [for example, when we are asleep] things happen inside us that alter our brain… maybe only a little, maybe more than a little…likely, these changes are minor but they build over time. For example, brain-things likely happen during our sleep to place experiences of the day into our ‘memory bank’.
Considering the fact we are thinking and behaving 100% of the time we are conscious and we are not conscious the rest of our living hours…
I am saying our brain is constantly changing…physically…maybe a little, maybe much more than a little…but always at least a little.
I recognize this has not been verified empirically…i.e., it is not proven.
It seems to me this is just common sense.
While many people have said our brains are like computers I do not agree with that. Our brains have wiring, connections, and on-off switches like computers. Maybe once they are established most or maybe all of the connections are unchangeable. Maybe some of the brain wires are unchangeable. Regardless, the brain wires are replacing themselves, and growing, and moving around and the connections are multiplying/popping up in new places and dying/ceasing activity in some places. And, the switches are doing that too.
On a macro scale the brain is changing slowly unless there is a catastrophe like a stroke.
On a micro scale the little pieces of stuff in the brain are in a constant state of flux…ebbing and flowing with our thoughts, our behaviour, and all the mysterious workings of our subconscious.
Certain behaviours and thoughts align with Good Work Habits. The more of these behaviours and thoughts we do/have the more we will self-inflict brain changes aligned with Good Work Habits…as described in the Napoleon Hill classic ‘Think and Grow Rich’. [Note: I do not recall Napoleon Hill ever indicating the brain itself changed. Rather, he said our thoughts resonated and connected with “Universal Intelligence”.]
Certain behaviours and thoughts align with Bad Work Habits. The less of these behaviours and thoughts we do/have the less we will self-inflict brain changes aligned with Bad Work Habits. As in – Don’t Think and Don’t Grow Poor’.
The truly great news is recent scientific developments have provided much new evidence to illustrate/suggest the above is more than just directionally correct.
While many have said Think and Grow Rich is a nice little motivational book, recent scientific developments are illustrating/suggesting the book contains ‘the secret’ – as in the book, ‘The Secret’ - to successful business [and life].
Recent scientific developments are beginning to validate the fact business people who desire riches can get them using a Think and Grow Rich process. This validation will help business people understand how simple actions [New Work Things] can generate material people changes and those people changes can generate profitable business.


by Rick Baker
On Jul 7, 2011
WARNING: "The following interviews and commentaries may fail to provide entertainment only. The views and opinions expressed herein, unless copied from some other source or sources, are those of an individual speaker or writer as the case may be and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of any of the aforementioned sources, their respective affiliates, or their employees."
Have you ever made up your mind? Probably, you’ve said you’ve done that many times. Probably, you’ve said something like, “Well, I have given it some thought and I have made up my mind”. Then you went on to explain your decision.
OK, you agree, you have made up your mind in the past.
How did you do it?
When you made up your mind, I suppose:
  1. You started with your mind ‘as it was’,
  2. You considered some options,
  3. You thought in an organized way, &
  4. You came to a decision and got it done.
Yes…that sounds like the way you make up your mind.
Much like you have make up your bed….right?
You make up your mind and you make up your bed…those are just parts of everyday life…right1?
OK, you agree…let’s compare those two facts of everyday life.
When you made up your bed:
  1. You started with your bed ‘as it was’…it was all messy,
  2. You considered some options…including, doing nothing because you’re just going to undo it later,
  3. You thought in an organized way…including thoughts like: what happens if relatives visit and go through my room... I shall fluff up the pillows and place them just so... I shall pull up the sheets... etc, &
  4. You came to a decision and got it done...you stepped back and admired your fine work.
Notice how I slipped in some detail at each step.
Let’s go back and try to slip some detail into the sequence of making up your mind.
  1. You started with your mind ‘as it was’…
OK – how ‘was it’?
How was your mind when you started to make it up?
Here’s a tougher question…
What was your mind when you started to make it up?
What is your mind?
Write out a clear answer to that last question:
My mind is

If you are struggling with defining or describing your mind then recognize you are not alone. For example, see Footnote 2…it provides the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of the noun ‘mind
If you are thinking “I don’t need to know what my mind is in order to be able to use it or make it up or control it” then you may be treating your mind worse than you treat common possessions like your bed.
When you have a clear answer to the question “What is your mind?” then we will be able to move on to step #2 of Mind CONTROL.
  1. Please review the at the beginning of this ‘commentary’. For greater certainty, it would be extremely dangerous to interpret this metaphor as a statement in support of the art of . .WARNING making up beds This bed-making example is for solely presented because of its rich illustrative value
  2. Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary definition of the word MIND
    1 : recollection, memory <keep that in mind> <time out of mind>
    2 a: the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons b: the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism c: the organized conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism
    3 : intention, desire <I changed my mind>
    4 : the normal or healthy condition of the mental faculties
    5 : opinion, view
    6 : disposition, mood
    7 a: a person or group embodying mental qualities <the public mind> b: intellectual ability
    8 capitalized Christian Science: god 1b
    9 : a conscious substratum or factor in the universe
    10 : attention <pay him no mind>


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