Monthly Archives: March 2012

Finding That Hidden Switch Inside

Sensible procedures for quickly returning to your best self

This blog aims to provide a new psychotechnology for maximizing human performance and happiness, derived from a synthesis of the author’s experience and the relevant findings of science both modern and ancient. The construct posits three levels of waking consciousness:

  1. Flow state — the most desirable state in terms of performance and happiness, where things happen perfectly and one feels a seamless part of everything. A non-ordinary, altered state of consciousness that occurs when you are totally immersed in and merged with an activity you have practiced well and you have simultaneously given up caring whether you win or lose, rising above all negativity and all of your usual ordinary concerns. Action just happens without hesitation, like a child at play.
  2. Observer state — the second most desirable state, in which your attention misses very little of what is going on inside you and around you. The access window to Flow, this state is a form of meditation/contemplation that requires no closing of eyes or immobility, but does require self-honesty/objectivity and paying very close attention both inside and outside.
  3. EOP (Emergency Oversimplification Procedure) — the typical state of the overwhelming majority of human beings today, from which individuals spring infrequently into the higher states in rare moments of clarity and nobility. In EOP there is always a background dilemma, a sense of incompleteness, of wanting and being attached to something that you may or may not get.

In my theory the EOP state is not the natural state of the species but arises from a multi-millennial delay in integrating our evolutionarily most recent brain part, the cortex. Like children handed loaded machineguns, with our newfound inventiveness running amok, our weapons-centric culture has handed control of the planet to those who possess the most powerful weapons, and now through proxies they control everything else as well. This has been true since earliest recorded history. In fact the invention of written language appears to have been the catalyst for the only culture we know, which has made information overload and distraction the way we spend our days, separation our hidden assumption, and EOP our state of being.

Yet every philosopher worthy of such designation has explained that we need not live this way. Each in his/her own way has explained how to peel away the tarnished layer of the outer accidental self to find the pure inner self that exists always, despite whatever culture we find ourselves in. Collective wisdom and understanding from philosophy, theology, science and commonsense proverbs have always existed as a form of primitive psychotechnology. “Primitive” because the whole problem has never been clearly defined. Therefore the solutions have always been merely rote methods that work for reasons beyond the understanding of even those who practice and teach them.

I’ve spent my lifetime trying to figure out the things that spontaneously propelled me into the higher states, having first experienced Flow when performing onstage as a child, being part of a show business family. Over the years, working at it daily, I’ve discovered procedures that help me stay in the higher states more of the time. I rediscovered many of the same procedures that others before me have rediscovered. There are few among us who themselves have not discovered some of this — each of us has come upon some of these truths of how to be one’s highest self. Like me, most people strive to be the best they can be, often without even knowing they are doing this, nor explaining it to themselves in any philosophical or otherwise reasoned way.

Years back I founded The Human Effectiveness Institute to share these procedures, the ones that work for me and for 3000 or so readers of the first edition of what is today the book Freeing Creative Effectiveness — all reporting (unsolicited) positive results. The Institute also exists to understand the underlying scientific mechanisms, i.e. why these psychotechnological procedures work to elevate the mind into the higher states. In an earlier post I provided hypotheses drawn from my theory as to which brain parts are involved in each of the three states of waking consciousness. These hypotheses are the starting point toward making psychotechnology more of a science than an art. Today it is an art more than a science — or a soft science in contrast with the highly-regarded hard sciences.

In the rest of this post we’ll focus on what to do when you find you are not in your best place — and how to get back to your best self as quickly as possible. We’ll divide this into two short sections: (1) the first time you do this, and a few times a week after that, when you can grab an oasis of alone space to check in on your self, and (2) on an ongoing moment-to-moment basis.

The first time, and in alone spaces after that

First, how do you know you’re not in your best self? That part is easy, here are the symptoms: you’re not happy, something is bothering you and you may not even know what it is. You are making mistakes and making things worse. There is a loop going around in your head telling you so many different things about you and your life that you don’t like — you don’t know where to start and you feel defeated before you start. Those conditions are the clue to quickly find that hidden switch in your head.

The practical, sensible procedure when you are having this kind of experience, the first time it happens from now on, is:

  1. You need to be alone for awhile.
  2. You need to let your mind dump the problem statement and whatever solution idea fragments it may have by simply transcribing — taking dictation from your mind, in the form of incoherent notes or however they spill out when you are not trying to make them read well for other people.
  3. Note how much you care about — are dependent upon — certain attachments, as if you are an outside observer watching yourself as a scientific subject. Note how many of these attachments are ignoble things — like envy, jealousy, pride, vanity — that you would rather not see in yourself. Consider what you might do with your life if you gave up caring so much about these specific things or about any specific things. Being looked up to, having more money, whatever forms your attachments take.
  4. Give it all up. Even if you are just pretending, or experimenting — picture and feel that you are tired of it all, and you don’t want these things any more. You are not dependent on anything or anyone. Whatever happens, you will be strong enough to start from scratch and be creative and make decisions to flow with whatever reality deals you. Vividly envision losing it all, and being tough enough to withstand that loss.

One piece of psychotechnology common to many Buddhist and Hindu traditions is to meditate on a corpse in order to eventually lose all horror about it — a common practice also for doctors and nurses. This illustrates the psychological principle at work: it is possible to get used to anything, to the idea of losing anything, given enough time and mental practice. It doesn’t happen overnight in most cases, although sometimes it does.

Will life be worth living, you might ask, if you stop caring about all the things and people to which and to whom you are now attached? You don’t have to stop caring — you can still love people and things even more — it’s just that you are becoming fatalistic and accepting of whatever might happen that would cause you to lose these people and things.

In the moment, in the midst of action

Any time you notice you are not in your best self — making mistakes, losing your temper, feeling lousy or scared, whatever it is — re-set your mind by erasing everything. “Clear the mechanism” as Kevin Costner’s character says to himself in the movie “Love of the Game” (a film that shows what Flow state feels like to a baseball pitcher, as Bob DeSena points out).

Assume that any sense of dilemma is a lack of clarity, that if you were thinking straight you would be accepting what is and dealing with it without negative emotion, just with pure effectiveness. The one thing you want is to take whatever life hands you and deal with it most effectively, and anything short of that is rejected out of your mind and body instantly.

At first you will find yourself re-setting again and again as you slip back into the old time-worn ways of mental hand-wringing, but over time your mental muscles will toughen up. Just stick with it and you will become indomitable.

I know that many of my readers have already been practicing this for a long time, and this post may seem elementary to you, though the review can’t hurt. Since our aim is to always widen our audience to reach as many people as possible, we will sometimes return to basics.

Wishing you Flow and Observer filled days.

Best to all,


Choosing Your Lens at Will

Science in all its amazing advances still admits it does not know the ultimate truths of our existence — who we are, why we are here, what reality is. In place of this knowing some choose faith as one lens e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, et al. Even though perhaps attending a specific church, many slide easily into the prevailing unspoken lens of our times — the lens that earlier science gave us and which still sticks in our head (and eyes). We assume unthinkingly that the lens of science has not changed in 200 years.

The old lens is the lens of materialism, which says matter is the primary constituent of the universe. The lens that says the universe is an accident, and the force of its accidental explosion into being caused and still causes most major interactions to occur through collisions, e.g. stars, planets, satellites, asteroids, comets. The lens that says life also began by accidental collisions forming chemicals and then proteins and eventually life. Life then evolved through the destruction of all but the accidentally survivable species. And life then evolved consciousness accidentally, and the consciousness we experience is a phenomenon projected by the material brain somehow, all on its own. And of course, each consciousness is forever separate, cut off, and in competition with everything else in the universe for survival, eking out as much contentment as possible against great odds.

Science has matured enough to realize that the latter is all a lens and not proven truth. In fact its central premise, all that exists is matter, has been utterly blown away. Matter turns out to be (as Indian sages said thousands of years ago) an appearance of what is really going on, which when you are able to detect really small interactions, everything is ultimately not matter, but energy. Matter is made of energy. Another way to see this is that the macro phenomena we associate with the word “matter” are illusions of the interactions between our sensory apparatus and the energy swirls in our immediate vicinity. One scientist once said it this way (wish I remembered which scientist): matter is just light revolving rather than moving in a straight path.

My favorite physicist John Wheeler then decomposes energy as the ultimate substrate of matter by saying that information is even more basic and foundational than energy to what the universe is.

These are all still lenses, ways of gestalting the universe. Not scientifically proven truth, nor fact. Models. Constructs. Ways of talking about things, ways of looking at things, ways of seeing them.

It’s good to be able to remember this and not be stuck in making fixed immovable assumptions that are hidden from ourselves, based on the autonomic and forgotten use of lenses. Because then we use these hidden assumptions as the basis for decision making, even when we do not realize we are making decisions every moment. Choices that keep us moving in a direction that at the same time might be a direction we complain about.

In the absence of knowing much, there is a way of making decisions that works extremely well when it is actually applied. This is called Game Theory.

With Game Theory, when you don’t know what the outcomes will be, you list possible outcomes and then see which ones you like. Then you see if you can convince yourself to make the decisions that will get you moving in one of those preferred directions.

How much meaning do you want to see in life, in your everyday, second-to-second life? If you want there to be rich meaning abounding, then choose a lens that gives you that view. A lens that makes things more explainable and understandable. Remember, it is still just a lens!

For example, let’s say that in terms of the nature of reality, there are really only two clusters of lenses to choose from. One says there is something like a God, and the other says there is nothing like a God.

Through the lenses that say there is something like a God, there appears to be an abundance of meaning in our lives. In the other cluster of lenses, there appears to be a dearth of meaning — much happens that makes no sense, nor do we expect it to make sense.

I was in this lens for many years. It came from being so impressed by science as a kid. I can testify that there are good things about this lens. For one thing, it makes one feel terribly independent, an independent thinker, since most of the world is in the other lens cluster. It sometimes strips away so many considerations that you can quickly look at situations and see the barest of elements, the quintessence. There is a certain minimalist “cleanliness” if not clarity.

Emotionally the lens of being alone in an unbenevolent universe can be toughening, allowing you to more easily become fatalistic and to shed many of your attachments. You get in the habit of not making assumptions but rather being very commonsense and down to earth. Very empirical. You don’t lean on illusions or faith or anyone else to define reality for you. All of which can be good.

The God lens from the standpoint of Game Theory has its benefits too. Again we are not saying anything definitive about the true nature of reality. We are only discussing the lenses we can look through.

Through the lens that says the universe is not accidental and intelligence was present from the beginning, intelligence may indeed be the ultimate “information processor” that both started the universe and is the universe. Everything else — information, energy, matter — is epiphenomena arising in appearance from this intelligence as the single existent thing in the universe.

This is somewhat of a new lens — I might even be inventing it — in the cluster of lenses I have dubbed the “Something like God exists” cluster.

The other lenses in this cluster are more “religious” in their depiction of the underlying intelligence. Mine is more “scientific”. On the other hand, when one looks back through history for others who have espoused lenses similar to mine, one goes all the way back to native shamans and to what for a long time we have called “pantheism”. Certainly all mystics use lenses that come close to mine in the sense that they are mystics —  admitting they still operate in the mists, with no one fixed ideology.

This scientific-mystic lens affords meaning to everything. Use this lens (without believing it to be the truth, nor disbelieving it) if you yearn to have more meaning in your life. You will always see the meanings as tentative without become locked into them, but at least you will see a wealth more meaning in your life.

Since meaning adds a sense of value to all human beings, the Game Theory “bet” on intelligence behind the universe is a better bet than the opposite bet, because it imputes more value to life.

However, I am not saying you should make a bet, just continue to keep an open mind, and experiment with both lenses.

In fact it will help you shoulder on the mantle of this lens to remember that you don’t know the meaning of life or reality — nobody does, it is all a wonder-fully thrilling awesome unknown. This makes it interesting, mysterious-mystical, immense, awe-inspiring. Wouldn’t we be missing something if we did know everything?

Since a universal intelligence of some kind cannot be ruled out, this lens allows you to entertain explanations for things in every moment both with and without God or Universal Intelligence in your mindstream.

Wearing this pure empirical maximal-skeptic lens you will start to see possible reasons why certain things happened — as if the universe is trying to help you — even by putting certain training obstacles in your path. I call this noia — being the opposite of paranoia.

By seeing things as possible gifts from the universe even if they are not, and even if they don’t feel like gifts, you gain some leverage from being able to see how to use the event better. Game Theory.

You benefit most by being able to switch lenses at will. Have fun!

Best to all,


Recall the Moments When You Shined

Not for ego gratification, but to be that You on command

We’ve got to start taking daily vacations. Not only is that what life is all about — what it is meant to be every second of every day — but on top of that, we then give far better service to each other.

Emotion is more powerful than Will in the average person today, because of Acceleritis, and the EOP condition it causes, bringing us down from Observer and Flow states where our Will is stronger than our emotions.

Emotion is the body casting its 800-pound vote through a cascade of brain chemicals, resulting in specific neuron energy gains in the amygdala and other brain locales, specific neuron energy reductions in the prefrontal cortex and other places, glandular secretions, and adrenalin. There are so many powerful brainwashing mind control technologies in play that you are typically helpless, in EOP, to do anything but be swayed into whatever those tyrannical electrochemical drivers impose on us.

It’s not at all dissimilar from what happens in the brain from chemicals such as sodium pentathol and more modern/secret drugs used in paramilitary and military interrogations. In the case of emotions the brain’s chemical process doesn’t necessarily get us to tell the truth. What it often does is restore sovereignty of our actions for a time period until we get out of it, to a loop between our limbic system and left brain, which is our “lower self”. Call it the ego. 

You believe your self to be that being.  (I know “your self” is one word, but made into two words it has a different meaning and is a provocative subconscious stimulus to a more empirical mental stance) You unhesitatingly fall back into those positions that are so easy to slide back into. You have those rapid flashes of envy, resentment, fear, etc. that you are so used to you don’t even notice them or consider them abnormal. You say things to your self that if you were listening like you do in the Observer state, you would see you are just wasting time trying to project an image to yourself of your latest achievements, or some other useless folly. You are not showing the noble side of your character.

You are highly unlikely to get flashes of insight, inspiration, happiness, gratitude, or love in EOP. These things are not at home in that state because the brain signatures are very different. The allocation of energy armies across the various parts of the brain is not conducive to these more beneficial and enjoyable experiences. Nor to high performance for your organization, your family, the world in general, your self, or the Universe (the power and brains behind which, some call “God”).

High performance is our obsession at The Human Effectiveness Institute. It is so easy to move the world toward improved decision making. These little tricks are not so hard. They make us feel so good that they fairly quickly take over as our preferred state of being. Challenges can kick us out of that state and in the early going it takes us a while to notice and then work our way back up to Observer/Flow states. With practice, we are kicked out, clear the mechanism, and get back in. Sooner or later we are almost always there, with rare relapses. But from the start, the process just makes us happier.

Don’t you know people who seem to be so mentally strong that they almost always seem happy, positive, never say a bad word about another person? There are more of us every day. It’s happening already. It’s happening all around us. More and more of us practicing random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our actions coming from the knowledge that “with all beings and all things we shall be as relatives” (Sioux Indian proverb).

Sure, some of those people are still basically egotistical. It’s a phase. They’ll grow out of it. At least they are enthusiastic about something even if it is their own self.

An upbeat attitude goes a long way to inciting higher performance in one self and others. The affective/emotional is more powerful than the intellect. Negative emotion — even mild background radiation so-used-to-it you forget that it is inherently negative — conditions and entrains weak intellectual strategies/tactics, whereas positive emotion does the opposite to the cognitive faculties.

It’s worth a lot to get your self into a good mood. And where’s the penalty — what’s there to lose? It’s all upside — it feels good — you feel good — and you make others feel good. A total no-brainer.

So how do you get your self to feel good? A daily vacation is a great start.

All it means is you take a break and do whatever you want to do. Create a space away from other people (sometimes that is not necessary but it usually is in the beginning). Then you just do whatever you feel like from second to second. You play. Like a child again. Like who you really are.

Take notes if you feel moved to do so. Only then — no pressure.

If you’re home, empirically seek inner detection as to the feelings evoked in you when you gaze at objects in your home. Best to start with one and stay on it for a minute.

The point of this is in part just being attentive in the moment, slowing down, deceleration from Acceleritis — but it’s also to reconnect with parts of your self that might be buried just beneath the surface. Things that are so familiar to you, you no longer notice how you feel about them. The fact is, you probably love practically everything that is in your life right now. You probably would miss some of the things that you suppose you hate. Maybe I’m wrong but you are the only one who will know, you’re the only observer who can tell what the truth is about your own feelings.

When you’re on vacation, you want to be in bliss. It’s the whole point, so why not do little experiments that are fun and are part of checking out your feelings, in order to make sure they are in bliss — and if not, you get them there.

You aren’t in a hurry when you’re on your daily vacation. You won’t accomplish the vacation objective fully if you are conscious of how soon you have to get back to work and thus trying to cram in the fun, still speeding, still in the clutches of Acceleritis.

A personal experience as an example. I was taking a vacation alone at home on a Saturday, my day for most of my weekly nonprofit work and writing. I always feel great on the Sabbath as a result of it being a vacation day for me.

So I happen to be in my closet and my eye falls on a particular shirt. I feel a wave of love wash over me. I love that shirt. It is like a human being to me or a pet — I feel such tangible love for it. I realize that wherever I look I am still feeling love. It’s not just the shirt. I love all of this. I love life. It feels like it’s been this way continuously for as long as I can remember, although that’s not quite the case. Yet the way I feel at this moment is that I’ve always loved everything and how could it possibly be otherwise. I feel like I am looking at the Universe the way God would — the way God does.

I am back in the original consciousness in terms of the affective dimension, although not omniscient not omnipotent. I think of God then and a wave of gratitude comes over me — reverence too but mostly gratitude. What a great game you/I/we created. I love this game!

When I go back to work it is not because the vacation ended but rather it’s what I really want to do. A flood of ideas later validated by experience rush me so fast I have to write in my own shorthand, leaving out letters.

Start giving your self these daily vacations, please. And during vacation whenever you feel like it, jot down the times you were at your best in this lifetime, whatever times you shone mightily like the Sun. There is a richness of positive emotion at these times, and it’s good to bask in that feel-good-ness, to remember what it feels like rather than to bask is ego-glory. Capture it as an Observer not wallowing in ego about these events. Scientific detachment. Objective honesty with your self. Record the facts as a scientist in your diary or journal or whatever note keeping system you have for these vacation journeys.

Go back and look at this “Possible Flow State” record whenever you feel like it.

The point is to deeply realize without blockage or limitation that you can do this again. You can be that you on command.

In fact there is no scientific reason why you cannot live in Flow state virtually all the time. You might need a five-year ramp to get there and along the way there may be more Flow experiences each month, which you can record in your objective log.

It’s not just to pump your self up. It’s to manifest more Flow and Observer state in your life, so you enjoy life more but particularly so you can give high performance in your work and your love life and your life in general.

This I wish for you! And you can do it with no help from anyone. And it is not effort-laden work because it is vacation. So please, start now!

Love to all,


Who will be the next Google?

Looming opportunities for technological innovation

Google is a rich company because it developed the first search engine that really worked.

Someone was going to do it. There were a bunch of search engines. There still are. But Google got it right ahead of the others.

They did smart things after that too of course. Quickly did a 180 on advertising, from considering it bad to making it their business model. And they saw sponsorship of keywords as the way to generate billions fast. They did all of that really quickly. Some might say they were shallow in their original anti-advertising positioning, or cynical in being able to turn on a dime on what they considered a morality issue, but those are not the real answers. I think they were smart. They got the message quickly. That’s a good thing. Not being stuck is a good thing. Being able to look at things anew by sheer self-will is a good thing.

Imagine if back when the Greeks invented the alphabet, there were competitors with alternative alphabets. That was sort of the way it was with search engines, which are a kind of alphabet for finding things in endless meme space.

Apple is a rich company again because they continue — ahead of others — to give consumers the easy and beautiful way to get into computers and other computer-based technology based on computers. It’s really simple to get on the mental emotional side of the consumer and see what they are going to love. But simple does not imply easy or common, in the context of reality as it is here on Earth in 2012. Love is simple but people screw it up all the time. Simple, today, is not so simple to achieve.

AOL was a rich company for awhile because it was the first to make email and chat and an Internet-like experience available to people who were not gadget-minded or technology-oriented.

Facebook is a rich company because it was first to activate people to celebrate themselves and their friendships. The name helped, although MySpace is a good name too, so it wasn’t just that. MySpace somehow did not make it something one had to do. Facebook became something everyone had to do, even if one’s wall is being painted by everyone else including people you don’t know, and you never have time to update it yourself.

The relative yesterday-ness of AOL and Yahoo appears to be the result of not constantly re-inventing themselves to leapfrog ahead with still more technological innovations. Instead falling behind in figuring out what their users love, as our formidable editor Yana Lambert points out.

Perhaps they lost focus on technological innovation when they got caught up in learning the advertising business, which is a complex Glass Bead Game that can take up all one’s perceptual, intuitive, intellectual and emotional capabilities. The lesson at any rate is that if one wants to continue to be a rich company one has to continue to innovate technologically and not just in terms of advertising methods.

Where do the opportunities lie in early 2012 for technological innovation that will totally disrupt the playing board once again in terms of our everyday lives?

  1. Discovery Engine. Like Pandora, but for all content. Helps people discover things that interest and delight them that they are not discovering today. Collaborative Filtering Technique (CFT) as used by Amazon et al is just not good enough. Some degree of scalable content coding (keywords) is needed in order to add insight into why readers who bought Hermann Hesse also bought Thomas Mann. What keyword-codable qualities can be attributed to both authors? (My former company Next Century Media is still nurturing some technology that I started in this area — by way of full disclosure as I still have a little stock.)
  2. Self-Discovery Engine. Same thing but pointed inwards to find out more about yourself. Perhaps a program in whatever replaced Prolog. Carries on a conversation with you. When it strikes a chord, it brings out and shows you content that reveals a side of you, validating that you can now see a new side of you, because you find that content does resonate with you. This technology ideally gets developed in the same stream as the Discovery Engine. Xyte is a company to watch in this field. Freud was the first inventor in terms of popular self-knowledge in modern times but the quest goes back to the Vedas.
  3. Voice/Hand Signal/Eye Signal Command. Military technology carried over to the consumer world making cellphones, tablets, PCs/Macs, TVs etc. more capable of starting processes from simpler commands rather than screen and keyboard touches. Touchscreen is already far ahead of keyboards, but still they require many steps to get to what you want, where a single spoken word could get you there in a second. Today’s smartphones already have some voice command capabilities. One day you will be able to say “That” and look at something and your screen will fill with colorful thumbnails of things the world can tell you about the object you are looking at. Vizkinect is a company to watch. They are bringing down the cost of eye tracking and are currently focused on advertising but the implications of their work are much broader.
  4. Biofeedback for the masses. For years work has been going on to bring down the cost of biometry so that it can scale into a consumer market. One day it will get there and we will be able to afford yarmulkes with sensors and eyepieces that together tell us instantly the truth about our inner state. We can then learn that e.g. the last sentence I thought in my mind is not speaking from my prefrontal cortex but it is coming from the corpus callosum and limbic interactions that drive my ego. People will use this instead of drugs. It will literally get them high — higher than EOP that is.
  5. Agent. Apple in the era of the failed Newton device talked about a “consumer agent” — a bot that you could send forth to roam the Web for you, tirelessly doing your bidding to bring you insights, schedule your calendar by dealing with other bots and with real humans, etc. This will be a huge productivity booster when someone invents one that is really usable.
  6. Idea Mobilization. Technology that brings ideas and thinkers together automatically and suggest the ways their ideas already fit together. You get an email from a bot that links you with other people who turn out to be exactly the right people you should be meeting and working together with to solve problems you are both working on. LinkedIn being a baby-step model.
  7. Marketing the Individual. This turns advertising around and advertises the individual over the Web. The next natural evolution of Facebook. The kind of thing I have long thought would be the perfect premium incentive to offer people to opt-in to ongoing research online. Is this where Facebook is going with its new Timeline feature?
  8. Genomics. Seattle is a hotbed of innovation in this field. We are not far from the day when every person can afford to know his or her own unique genome early in life. Genomics should not be used to limit opportunity as in the State deciding the course of a person’s life based on the person’s genetic strengths and weaknesses as in the movie Gattaca. People should use their self-knowledge the way they want to use it, freely. They would do best to focus on their potential genetic strengths. Will be interesting to see if genomics correlates with astrology.
  9. The New Grid. As more people begin to generate their own electrical energy (solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, etc.) they will have surpluses that can be uploaded as a way of gaining discounts on their energy bills, and later as a way of earning income. This is being held back by the old energy grid that sends electricity outward but is not everywhere capable of two-way traffic. Ironically the cable companies have some of the right-of-ways. If such a two-way grid existed everywhere, T. Boone Pickens would have gotten his Texas wind farm and could have sold cheap electricity to the whole country. Con Ed is said to be one of the players working on two-way grid.

Those are some areas where technological innovation will be popping disruptively in the years ahead. Companies will get rich by being first to get it right in each of these areas.

Best to all,


A More Alert Reaction

Just one of the benefits of Observer and Flow States

 “A word to the wise is sufficient.” Confucius may have said this. The same conditions causing Acceleritis also reward those of us who can spend some time in the two higher states of performance. In the sped-up culture that continues to accelerate, we are more successful if we can extract learning and act on it quickly without delay.

The techniques, which we call psychotechnology, to help us stay in the Observer and Flow states therefore become important to learn and put into practice.

The wise are able to learn from a single experience without repetition because they are counting the cards. In the same sense that Captain Picard would say “more power to the shields”, the wise person has wordlessly said to himself/herself, “more power to observation”. This is why we say the entry into Flow state is through the Observer state.

It’s easier to turn on the Observer state than it is to just decide to turn on the Flow state.

The Flow state is a delicate balance of many variables. Having prepared by practicing being in the moment, not being attached to how well you perform or to anything else, being in the Observer state, having your skills in some degree of close balance with the challenge slope of the moment — these all must click for Flow to engage.

For the Observer state to take you over, there are fewer requirements. You must be single-pointedly focused — intensely following the thread of what is going on in the now, including and especially in your own mind and body, but equally in the “external” world. You must be intellectually honest with yourself, objectively critiquing your own last thought and feeling. You can’t critique what you don’t notice and so you are paying such close attention inwardly and outwardly that you are catching every inner impulse. You are bringing into your conscious awareness some of what would normally pass by subconsciously.

Getting into these “altered” states of consciousness is a “yogic” process — it is exactly the same kind of process one goes through in order to gain control of normally-involuntary muscles in the body, except in this case they are normally-unused “muscles” of the mind.

Some of what the Human Effectiveness Institute has rediscovered can be found in ancient Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga texts. I found it there years later, having discovered Flow state on stage at age 4 in the Catskill mountain resorts (then in their heyday).

An early experience worth sharing is one in which my Flow was so in the moment that I was unable to hear or even later remember the words I had adlibbed that got such huge laughs. Here’s an excerpt from a memoir I wrote for my Dad, bandleader and MC Ned Harvey:

Fat Jack was considered to be the hippest comic in the world by the denizens of the Borscht Belt. Jack E. Leonard was an insult comedian who may have created the genre. Don Rickles was next in the insult comedy lineage.

Speed and cleverness were the two main criteria. Fat Jack could backhand a comeback over the net even before the incoming line had ceased to echo in the air, and his riposte was both unpredictable and used the raw material of the incoming line. This was the stuff of genius.

Later I would think in terms of the terabytes per nanosecond of computing speed that would allow Jack to search his files, put together alternative combinations, and select the optimal response.

We were in our room in the Frat House, under the canteen…

In the room besides Ned, my mother Sandy, me and Fat Jack were a few other musicians and Bernie Klein the stage director. Jack was holding court and the other adults in the room were convulsed in spasmodic laughter. I was silent and missing a lot of the humor. I was maybe 5 years old.

For some reason Jack singled me out with his gaze and threw me a line. Then something weird happened — something that had never happened before.

I said something back and after an instant’s shocked silence the group broke up in surprised laughter. I was not able to hear my own voice. I had no idea what I’d said.   

Jack smiled too but threw me back a clever counterpunch that I also couldn’t hear — I answered him in the same voice that everyone else but me could hear. Again my line got a big laugh, bigger than the first. This went on for a while.

When it was over and the conversation moved on, I began to be able to hear again. Jack gave me a sweet goodbye, not characteristic for him. I had no idea what had happened.

There are levels in Flow we have written about here before. The level at which one is so sewn into the universe that subject and object merge, and there is no inner rehearsal — this is the level where it’s possible to eject words so effortlessly one cannot later recall what they were. The first words are not checked in any way and are just allowed to flow through motor control without a second thought as to result or risk. This has only happened to me one time since, with the same audience appreciation. The great standups did it almost every night.

Incidentally, “don’t attempt this at home” as they say on TV gator domination and hotdog skateboarding crash shows. Don’t run off at the mouth trusting that it will be Flow. Actions should be in the opposite sequence: first sense that you are in Observer state and then when you are in Flow state. Only then can you loosen the valve on top of your mental stream of consciousness as a firehose without embarrassing consequences.

The standard state of human consciousness in all industrialized cultures has as one of its aspects the psychic spark gap between the thought of what to say next and the act of saying it. That distance is enough to take the average person at the average time out of Flow. However, using Fat Jack as our above-average model, he might have had an inkling of what his foil was going to say next, so Fat Jack might have had a split second to forethink an answer and another split second to do a gut check before he was delivering the line with perfect command of his voice.

Flow neurology will be very interesting to study. There is a significant speedup in the thought process and ability to see one’s own mind (thoughts, feelings, images) clearly.

Let there be no miscommunication: we are not recommending that you say the first thing that pops out of your mouth. Definitely wiser to not interrupt. Wait for the moment and then if you have something significant to say, say it, letting yourself have the added time to refine and challenge whatever it is you think is worth saying next.

You and the people in your team don’t need to get to such levels of Flow in order to vastly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your operation. (And obviously it would not be helpful to have no memory of what you’ve said.) Everyone else being in EOP most of the time, if you can move yourself and your people up to spending a quarter of work time in Observer state, you’ll be in the top percentile of high-performing teams, analogous to a winning sports team and elite paramilitary units.

What you want are sensible procedures for instilling this level of alertness.

Here are a few starter steps:

  1. Share the model of EOP, Observer, Flow. Present it as a model, a construct, a lens, a useful fiction, a stimulant. If it is later scientifically validated, that’s great, but for now the thing is to test and observe results. The only reason we founded the Human Effectiveness Institute is because in our experience the techniques we share are useful in increasing innovation and success.
  2. Create an atmosphere where there is nothing to fear. Support people when they make mistakes, while correcting them in good spirits and being on their side.
  3. Take side notes to keep the mind clear of distractions. Ultrabrief one- or two-word trigger phrases that will remind you of the thought or feeling. Stay observant and connected in the now, with the inner/outer attentional focus described earlier in this post. Share this technique with your team as well.
  4. Reset all beliefs and expectations back to zero, except for agreements and dutiful obligations. Reconsider all possibilities. Erase assumptions. Especially the hidden ones. Root out hidden assumptions and expose and neutralize them.

Here’s to more alert reactions, and to even more anticipatory and effective pro-actions!

Best to all,