Monthly Archives: May 2012

Creating Joy

Volume 2, Issue 9

The more you enjoy yourself the more likely you are to shift into the Zone, bringing your friends with you

We continue to report on behaviors we have found to be correlated with Flow state over decades of making such observations. Flow, aka the Zone, closely resembles a supernatural experience because everything seems to be doing itself perfectly. To expand on our discussion from last post, we are considering the implications of the fact that Flow is prompted by autotelic behavior — that is, you are engaged in the behavior for its own sake, not in your quest for something else, some desired outcome. You are outcome-free and then Flow arises if your challenge slope is perfectly matched to your skills.

Joy and enjoyment are closely linked to autotelic behaviors. One doesn’t do something one hates for its own sake. This implies that you tend to be in a pretty jolly mood prior to the onset of Flow experiences. And in turn if the outcome you want is to be in the Zone more often, then it makes sense to keep yourself in a pretty good mood at all times. Besides, life is more fun that way.

Internally here are some steps you can take:

  • Non-acceptance of non-joy — “it’s simply unacceptable” is the attitude you maintain, and then work it out however you work it out. You remember it is not logical to maintain negative moods because they transmit negativity and thus reduce your effectiveness and influence. This involves a test of your will power.
  • Compared to what? In this step, you appreciate the current phase of your life by comparing it to how bad it could be. Gratitude to the universe for your life is conducive to Flow state for some reason, and that correlation has led me to my Theory of the Conscious Universe.
  • Enjoy the creative challenges. Take the long view with regard to problematic and vexatious relationship situations. Make a study of the relationship loop and put off decisive action until the recon and assimilation has been completed. You will actually see why X always happens, and how you can reduce the probability of X. Then you begin a patient series of trials to engage with the creative challenge of that particular relationship loop, which may recur in more than one relationship. Accept that each such problematic relationship has been handed to you as a creative challenge to rise above over goodly amounts of time. Make it a project.

Externally, other people may tend to bring you down. But most of them will be willing to get into a good mood if you start it. That’s why positivity is so much more effective than negativity.

Best to all,


Keep Positive Emotions Focused in the Present

Volume 2, Issue 8

Transmute negative emotion instantly

We continue our discussion of how to get into the Zone.

Gene Roddenberry was aware of the higher levels of life. He used the fictitious race of the Vulcans to demonstrate a species aware of these same higher levels, and who practiced severe control of their emotions. Presumably this would not only make them better people but would allow them to enter the supernatural-seeming Flow State, the scientific term coined by Czikszentmihalyi for the Zone.

The Vulcans were not very advanced in their understanding of emotions, or they would not have tried to control them. “Control” connotes stifling emotions, suppressing them, thus containing and compressing dangerous pressures that will then only rupture out somewhere doing even more damage.

The Human Effectiveness Institute agrees with the Vulcans that negative emotions are something you want to cut off ASAP to return to a balanced state of objective equipoise. Until that happens you are sucked into the emotions and mentally compressed — as if caught in a premeditated trap where your brain’s ability to think clearly is being squeezed in a vise-like grip by a giant clam, the clam being the emotions. They are definitely formidable opponents if one tries to squeeze them down. Negative emotions instead squeeze your cognitive part down. (Not so with positive emotions of course.)

A frontal assault against the emotions misses the point entirely since your emotions are the clearest expression of what you really want. Why would you want to not receive that valuable information?

Channeling the emotions is what’s needed here. Get aside the runaway horse and grab and steer the reins. Extract all the understanding from the emotional message and the messenger will relax.

Use of mental metaphors is a valuable part of the Institute’s IP (Intellectual Property) because they work. (That IP belongs to the public and our job is to get it all out to everyone in the most effective way.) Parts of the mind behave like animals, parts behave like robots, and other parts behave like they are the truest expression of your self’s spirit. Metaphors communicate effectively with all those parts at once, getting them all on the same page.

In the prior post we talked about the autotelic nature of behavior one engages in when in the Flow state, or the Zone. This behavior is being engaged in as an end in itself, because the player enjoys that behavior and makes himself/herself better and better at it. It’s fun. Winning is not the point. Glory and money and power and sex and big ego are not the point.

So you see the Zone also has an axiological basis. It’s about the values you have. Being drawn into obsessive fixation on the usual things listed above stops the chance for Flow entirely. You can’t serve two masters — Flow is all about unity. You can’t be lying to yourself and saying you don’t care about egoism or materialism — you actually have to have transcended those things at least during periods of Flow. If you rarely transcend those things you will rarely experience Flow, and vice versa.

Flow happens when your positive emotion is focused in the present, in the exact now — you are fully engaged in the moment, all of your mind is there, wrong decisions (if you make them) float away with no more than an instant’s regret, and you don’t go into a spiral of wrong decisions driven by anger at yourself, which of course takes you out of Flow.

If your positive emotions are focused in the past or future but not in the now, that is the very definition of how not to get into Flow, because your behavior is not autotelic — you are not doing the present activity as an end in itself.

Negative emotions arise when one is attached to something and feels thwarted or about to be thwarted in getting the thing one is attached to. They also arise when one is blatantly attacked — the time you really need to be in the Zone — so it is good to learn how to rechannel the emotional energies back into objectivity. This requires a degree of emotional intelligence and menschness.

When you find you can’t quickly snap back and you get sucked into a downward emotional spiral, ask yourself what is the thing you’d have to give up and not care about in order to relax naturally? Experiment with giving that thing up mentally — what if you lose, not a big deal — and then go ahead into the action with a sense of humor and fatalistic acceptance for the given fact that whatever is happening is happening.

You may say right now that losing is a big deal but you’ll be surprised how repetition of the exercise makes you stronger at being able to transmute negative emotions into self-understanding, clarity, and action focus. You can learn fatalistic objectivity — accepting “what is” and making the best of it — just the way you learned everything else, with your mind. That part is not supernatural at all. It has more tricks up its sleeve than any of us have used, and Flow is about discovering more of them.

Best to all,


Go for Flow in Your Métier First

Volume 2, Issue 7

Valuable lessons from two great scientists — one of the mind, the other of marketing

The Human Effectiveness Institute defines Flow as the state of autotelic perfect action. It is a brain/mind state where all parts of you are in synch, and is now popularly known as the Zone. “Autotelic” means you are doing the action for its own sake, not for its outcome, and it feels to you as if it is doing itself, because you are going with the flow (“automaticity”). This however is different from your robotic Emergency Oversimplification Procedure (EOP) state where you run off at the mouth, for example, without all your mental/intuitive gears meshing and thus you constantly undo yourself.

A subtle state indeed. Most people can remember having at least one experience of being in the Zone, but are not quick to agree that one can learn to spend more time in Flow. Most people consider it something accessible to top athletes, musicians, artists and other performers, but to no one else. The Institute’s mission is to change that perception.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, former Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, coined the term “Flow” and has written the definitive books about the phenomenon. His theories were developed while working to successfully improve the performance of the school’s lacrosse team. He created the accompanying schematic,

presented a few years back at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference, which shows that you are not going to get into Flow unless you are doing something in which you are already highly skilled. Flow happens when high skill and high challenge meet.

This means that to truly train yourself to attain Flow more often, you need to practice it within your own personal métier — the thing you do best.

For those of my readers who work somewhere in the broad field of marketing, I recommend Al Achenbaum’s new book. This will be a way for you to practice your skills at an even higher level, by absorbing the 1500 pages of lessons that must be the single most valuable treasure trove of marketing learning in existence, given where Al has been and what he has accomplished.

When I was a rookie at Grey, Al and his estimable right hand at the time (another luminary, Russ Haley) were moving the industry away from sole reliance on judging the value of an ad based on its memorability. They introduced the difficult new concept of attitude shift into a field that at the time was as auteur-dominated by creatives as Hollywood, and therefore just as hard to present science to. Yet they succeeded, with help from FCB’s Frank Gromer and his Study of Brand XL, which established that attitude shifts actually preceded buying changes (the only extant copy I know of is the one I donated to Ed Papazian’s library).

Back in those days Grey had assembled a brain trust of Al Achenbaum, Russ Haley, and Betty Coumbe on the research side, and on the media side Hal Miller, Larry Deckinger, Howard Kamin, Helen Johnston, and Norm Hecht — and me at the bottom of the food chain. These incredible mentors encouraged me to roam the halls at 5AM reading from all the unlocked files on the 11th floor at 445 Park — like a monk in the Alexandrine Library. This is how I absorbed Al’s teaching, as well as that of other luminaries. Plus Hal had his personal training program for two lucky pups, one of whom was me.

Al’s book is called (“and may I say, not in a shy way”*) Marketing Lessons From a Living Legend and is available from on their eBook platform, the Nook. Al is truly one of the all-time original Mad Men and he will help your quest for Flow even if you’re not in marketing but have an interest in how scientists have improved that art.

Best to all,


*From the song “I Did It My Way”.

Google Validates Psychotechnology for Business

Volume 2, Issue 6

The Human Effectiveness Institute defines psychotechnology as methods which increase human effectiveness.

With the collaboration of my old friend and former brainwave research partner Dan Goleman, Google is offering its employees a seven-week course called S.I.Y. for “Search Inside Yourself”. The course is delivered by its prime creator, Chade-Meng Tan, a Google engineer, and other teachers, and is offered four times a year. More than 1000 Google employees have already taken the course. Each time it’s offered, half the 60 seats are already taken by the waiting list. This video  will give you a feel for what it’s like.

This is potentially a major turning point. One of the goals of The Human Effectiveness Institute (THEI) is to bring psychotechnology into schools at all levels and into organizations in a widespread way. Way to go, Chade-Meng Tan, Daniel Goleman, Google, and the rest of the collaborators behind the S.I.Y. course. Now that Google is doing it, all sorts of organizations will follow with psychotechnology courses for their staffs. As I say, a major turning point for the good.

When you start considering psychotechnology for your own organization, here are some things to think about:

  • Is there a focal point you have in mind, perhaps some problem you are trying to solve? In Google’s case it was the pressure and friction issues. The driven high-achievers who make up the Google corporate culture experience 24/7 stress and some had boiled over, and from this challenge came the idea of using psychotechnology to channel the energies back into constructive directions. One of the key takeaways from the Google course is S.B.N.R.R. — Stop, Breathe, Notice, Reflect, and Respond. Our parents taught us to take a deep breath and count to ten — a variant of the same ancient piece of psychotechnological lore. We get the sense that the Google course is somewhat focused in the affective (feeling) dimension.
  • Are you looking for a broader spectrum of benefits — cognitive, intuitive and perceptual as well as affective? The Institute’s psychotechnology aims to cover the broadest ground for the widest benefits, designing workshops that focus wherever the need is greatest.
  • Make sure that participants will be given interactive exercises not just lectures. In order to accomplish actual behavioral changes, people must do more than just listen; they must practice internal techniques during the course/workshop.

Let it be known that the Human Effectiveness Institute is a resource you can turn to for bringing psychotechnology into your organization. The Institute has for more than three decades been developing course materials and conducting psychotechnology workshops for organizations ranging from major corporations to elite units of the U.S. military.

Do a search and give consideration to all potential sources. Check out the testimonials from people who have taken the courses and/or used the course materials.

In order to accommodate expected demand for psychotechnology, THEI will be partnering with Richard Zackon in the delivery of courseware. Richard and I will be launching our collaboration later this year with a workshop (Richard changed the name to “playshop”) focused on creativity for high-level research executives, through the auspices of the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF). More details here as we approach the date and ARF puts out the call for participants.

Psychotechnology for business is now not such a wild and crazy idea. Hallelujah!

Best to all,


Entering the Age in Which Business and The People Are On The Same Side

Volume 2, Issue 5

I first met Bob Herbold (see when he was at P&G, before he went on to be COO of Microsoft where he’s credited with a fourfold increase in revenue and a sevenfold increase in EBITDA. Last week I got to reconnect with Bob by phone and as in all my conversations with him I learned a lot.

Nowadays Bob is spending half his time in the fast-developing areas of Asia such as Singapore, Indonesia, Penang and Chongqing. He’s feeling the vibrant energy of these places, where companies from the U.S. and other developed nations can ride the ebullient ballooning of commerce. He notes the intelligence of the talent pool, the effectiveness of the education systems, and the willingness to work hard that he attributes to the population not having the excess self-esteem of American workers. I’m thinking Americans don’t have to give up their self-esteem (nor their hard-won rights as workers) if they are reinspired by a crystallizing and uniting vision — this might be a way to make us show the same focused yet humble drive of these new economic engines. Bob would like to see the USA fulfill Ben Franklin’s dream of a land of people taking personal responsibility to the degree that the need for unemployment insurance and welfare payments is naturally reduced. Undoubtedly the recipients of those payments today would protest that conditions outstripped their ability to take responsibility, and what is needed are better systemic solutions empowering personal responsibility — educational/training-oriented, incentives to create jobs, methods of helping small business, and so on.

A similar idea appeared in my 1976 report A Plan For America, which recommended strategies for empowering people to become plugged in where their talents and training could contribute the most success for themselves and for the rest of society.

Bob’s ardent wish is that the US government and the press could become what he perceives as less anti-business. He points out as one example the fact that US corporations are disincentivized by high (35%) tax rates on money that has already been taxed to bring cash back from overseas into the US. He goes on to say there are only the US and seven other Western nations with similar policies — out of all of the nations — whereas countries he considers smarter in adapting to changes, such as Switzerland, allow the money back into the home country without re-taxing it above the taxes already paid in foreign countries. He cites Switzerland’s 2.5% unemployment rate as indicative of what the US could achieve by learning from policies of other countries that are adapting better to the massive shifts in the world economic order. Clearly there is a question here of whether we can help our leaders find ways to better dial tax structure decisions to maximize US job creation.

My cousin Bernie like others in my immediate family growing up, was a union man. To show for it he had a steel plate in his head, where company-hired goons hit him with truncheons. This is an early impression I had of the seemingly natural strain between business and people. Today I no longer feel there is anything natural about such an adversarial tension between business and people. We all need the US to be more economically successful. We all need there to be jobs for everyone who needs and wants and is able to work. Business and people are the same folks looked at two different ways. What can be done to eliminate ancient distrust and get the whole team humming?

We need a new way to work at solutions together, collaborating between people and business. Business saw the need for an association called ALEC* to work out solutions good for business and to pitch these solutions to legislators. Social media has shortened the time it takes for seismic events to occur in our 21st century society. A blogger discovered ALEC and didn’t like it. One corporation found itself being misquoted as daring the people to boycott its products if they didn’t like ALEC. Digital conversation reaction sentiment was negative and voluminous, and now corporations are rapidly departing ALEC.

Why not replace ALEC with a digital platform that opens up such conversations about legislative solutions, to take place between business and people on all sides of the issues, together? We need innovative solutions because mostly what we get are old ideas recycled endlessly. With all of the media exposure taking place about our problems, why shouldn’t a non-negligible percentage of it be about constructive new solution ideas, good for business owners and workers alike?

The Human Effectiveness Institute has designed a digital platform for this purpose and is seeking the right partners to make it work. We call it The Democracy Channel. Bill Rouhana, CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul and a good friend has already joined us. Take a look at The Democracy Channel platform  and get in touch if you’d like to play a role in making this happen. It’s a good thing that business wants to help find new solutions, let’s just channel that energy into a venue where one’s customers want to help — where both sides win.

Best to all,


* For those who want to see what all the hubbub is about from a different point of view, here’s an interesting site: