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NFL PR Machine

August 30, 2012

I’m sure John York, Co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers did not see his

John York, 49ers CEO

presentation last night at the Commonwealth Club, as part of an NFL public relations roadshow, but that’s what it was.

Dr. York, who appeared with former NFL star Dan Fouts and San Diego trauma surgeon A. Brent Eastman, M.D. , was on hand to address traumatic injuries in the NFL. As head of the league’s Health and Safety Advisory Committee, his job was apparently to convince the crowd on hand that for the last 30 years the league has only had the best interests of its players in mind.

While this flies in the face of reality, particularly since over 2,000  former players are currently suing the league to seek compensation for their injuries, Dr. York insisted that the well being of the players has always been the highest priority.

Fouts was on hand to lend support with his litany of injuries, from pulled muscles

Dan Fouts, NFL quarterback

to a broken foot, back, shoulder and hand, many of which were blamed on late hits, which would not have been tolerated in today’s game. The real question might be, why were they tolerated then – when Fouts led the SanDiego Chargers in the 1980’s.

The Hall of Fame quarterback described his injuries in great detail, naming ‘assailants’ in most cases, but expressed clear disdain for the new rules implying that what  current 49er quarterback Alex Smith plays is not really football anymore. Presumably because he has only missed two seasons to injuries and is still able to walk.

Fouts, along with his friend and surgeon, Dr. Eastman seemed to contradict himself, when he supported Dr. York’s contention that the game was better off with the new rules.

York denied there was any pressure on team doctors to get players back into the game quickly, saying he knew that was the policy on the 49ers, although he could not vouch for the rest of the league. Fouts told stories of being pushed back into action despite injury, which York claimed would never happen today.

It’s not a question of a team owner calling the team doctor to apply pressure, the doctor does it on his own, beacause he knows who signs his paycheck.

This is particularly true with head injuries and concussions. These injuries have only been addressed in the last few years when the NFL finally stopped relying on a  discredited medical expert who claimed that head injuries and long term brain damage were not related. Dr. York says the issue is now being researched – most likely to buttress the League’s court defense .

The panelists may have convinced themselves but I remain skeptical, particularly since the NFL has been forced to make changes by lawsuits and owners who saw major hits to their bottom line when marquee players were out with season-ending injuries.

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Forty Years of Parachutes

September 20, 2011

At 84, you might think that Richard Bolles was ready to slow down. But the author of the seminal career coaching guide, “What Color is Your Parachute,” says that after 40 years of updating his work he has no intention of stopping.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the East Bay Coaches Chapter, Bolles left no doubt he has plenty of new ideas and that his books are still relevant as United States suffers through the worst recession in 60 years.

In an hour-long presentation that ranged from the humble beginnings of his book and career, to comments on modern politics he offered lessons on attitude, re-framing and relevance. Proving that he deserves the honor of the nation’s career coach.

He urged members to understand their own needs and experiences as a way to empathize with their clients. “What else do we live for? he asked, “than to use our experiences to help others?”

He suggested that coaches need to point out to their clients, depressed about lengthening unemployment, that despite the monthly numbers, there are still 6 million people who change jobs every month. “It’s all about attitude,” he told the group. Pointing out that if you think you won’t get the job you probably won’t. “Your job is to help your client be one of those 6 million.”

“Looking for a new job is now a survival skill, and we have to look at it that way,” he says. “just like food, clothing, or shelter.”

He says that while times have changed the basic dichotomy of how people look for jobs and how employers look for employees has stayed the same. “Employers just want to avoid mistakes, but potential employees still think that sending out millions of resumes will get them noticed. It won’t.”

Bolles has updated his “Parachute” books every year, except 1975, since it was first published in 1970. He includes a coaches appendix in the back but insists that, “people need to keep up. they have to have read my current edition, if they want to be included.”

Bolles, who lives in Danville, California, also had some pointed words for politicians, who he sees as short sighted as they cut back on the support system that US job seekers need, but more importantly he bemoans the lack of empathy he sees in Washington.

“I can’t believe that politicians and their supporters are cheering at the thought of people without health care, or the number of executions in a state.” he notes. Bolles says he has voted for both democrats and republicans, but adds, “this GOP is not mine, their only goal is to make sure Obama is a one-term President, so they can get his job.”

Bolles has been proclaimed “America’s Top Career Expert” and his books have been called among the most important of the last 80 years. But he says he plans to continue writing, holding workshops, and lecturing. “I’ll be updating my books,” he says “until I’m forced to say goodbye to my lovely wife.”

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Thinking About the Brain and Pain

March 8, 2011

Filed under: Book Review,Coaching,observations,Wellness — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 4:28 pm

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the brain recently. If you’ve read any of my book review posts you know I have an interest in how the brain works and what makes us, us.

But, over the last three weeks there seems to be a convergence of sorts. Two weeks ago the Wisdom 2.0 Conference was held in Mountain View. Billed as conference seeking “deeper meaning” in the modern technology-rich age, the event focused on mindfulness and trying to get participants to ‘be’ present, rather than always looking to something in the future.

The speakers were among the biggest in the field. If you are not knowledgeable in the field, trust me, those in the know, such as my wife, told me the people on stage were the thought leaders. What was more interesting to me was the attendees – well over half the crowd was made up of coaches of one type or another.

There were a few physicians, a couple of psychologists and many practitioners of mindfulness, or meditation of other holistic practices, but the largest group seemed to be coaches.

A key focus of the event was the effect of mindfulness on the brain and the enhancement of cognitive abilities.

Around the same time several articles came out noting the impact of the brain on pain.

One of them suggested that a patient’s expectations  would impact their pain level and that the expected outcome of a surgical procedure was affected by a patient’s  psychological state. My wife, the pain psychologist, has been telling me this for years.

Then, last week I attended a meeting of the Northern California Association of Pain Psychologists to listen to a lecture by Dr. Sean Mackey of Stanford on what happens in the brain when we experience pain. I had recently finished Melanie Thernstrom’s “Pain Chronicles” which I found quite compelling so I thought lecture would be interesting. Plus my wife didn’t want to drive alone.

Dr. Mackey is head of the Stanford pain program and is known world wide for the studies they do trying to isolate how the bran processes pain and other emotions.

Finally, I was brought full circle back to the Wisdom 2.0 coference by a New York Review of Books article on  V.S. Ramachandran’s The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human , which asks the question: If we know how the brain works does that really help us understand the human mind? And further, what implications does this have for coaching, management, or psychology.

I’m not sure what all this means but it seems clear the topic is pretty hot.

Think about it and let me know what you think.

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On Aging Well

October 2, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,observations,Wellness — admin @ 10:00 am

A recent convergence of events got me thinking about my age.

Over the last month I have paid my respects at the grave sites of  my four grandparents , visited my mother’s grave, and helped my 90 year-old father spread the ashes of his younger brother.

Modern technology allows me to keep in touch with a long-time friend who turned 60 and marked the event with a wonderful essay.

At the same time I celebrated the wedding of the beautiful daughter of a woman who I grew up with, but  died way too young seven years ago.

I have the feeling the universe is trying to tell me something, only I’m not smart enough to get the message.

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Coaching or Psychology? Who decides?

August 1, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,Management,Wellness — admin @ 7:38 pm

I recently had a call from a new client who told me he was already seeing a psychologist, but thought that having a coach would ’round out’ the work that he needed to do.

To be honest most clients don’t understand the difference – and neither do many coaches. If fact there is an ongoing debate about where coaching falls in the psychology continuum.

For many psychologists, coaching is just another form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) a branch of psychology which attempts to train people to make changes to patterns and lifestyles which impact their psychosis.

The difference is not so much the technique but rather the starting point of the client. Does he or she just need some help to see a new perspective or is there really an underlying clinical issue which needs to be addressed.

Many coaches work closely with psychologists so they can refer clients if they find issues which fall out of their area of expertise. In my case, my wife is a psychologist, who has also gone through training as a coach, and is a valuable resource.

Psychologists who are also coaches can often administer objective assessments if they feel there’s an underlying psychological issue.

Coaches, from non-psychological backgrounds, are not qualified to interpret test results, but they should have the training to recognize when there is a potential problem.

This is true in any situation but can be particularly significant in management coaching when a company is paying a coach to help an employee. Failure to recognize the difference between a management style that needs to be changed and a psychosis that needs to be address can lead to significant liability issues.

Most coaching clients are healthy well-adjusted individuals who just need a little help with specific issues but it’s up to the coach to make sure their potential client gets the help they need.

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Decisions, Decisions

May 6, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,observations,Uncategorized,Wellness — admin @ 4:20 pm

“How We Decide”, a fascinating book by Jonah Lehrer, is another is the long line of texts trying to explain to the general public how our brains work.

Lehrer uses real life examples to illustrate science, helping us understand the split-second decisions made by NFL quarterbacks, airline pilots, and even soldiers in combat situations.

A good portion of the book retraces many of the points made by the now-popular science of behavioral economics – books such as “Freakonomics,’ ‘Predictably Irrational’ and ‘Nudge.’ In fact all these books seem to use the same set of experiments to prove their points.

As their most basic level they all help us understand why marketing works as well as it does.

But Lehrer’s biggest contribution may be his last few chapters as he explains the process that scientists think goes on in our brains as we make a decision. Using fMRI which measures brain activity, they can look at which sections of the brain are most active as we make various kinds of decisions. Everything from simple “either-or” choices to more complex moral decisions based on values that are ingrained at a very early age.

His conclusion,- that decisions are basically a three way battle – suggests that the best tactic is to let brain’s thought centers battle things out, while you take a break.

Unconsciously, your brain will make a decision and your conscious mind will announce it. It may seem like an unconscious act but you really have no idea what was going on in your brain.

One section I found particularly helpful is the explanation of what’s really going on when we’re positive we have the right answer to almost anything. From politics to predicting human behavior, Lehrer notes, if we’re that sure, we’re probably wrong because we tend to ignore facts that don’t support the decision we already made.

So if you’re looking for something that’s easy to read on the beach but has a little more substance than that romance novel or murder mystery, try ‘How We Decide,’ and see what’s really going on between your ears.

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‘Weird’ Photography

February 18, 2010

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations,Tech,Wellness — admin @ 5:18 pm

Sometime in the next week you will notice that my website photo will change. It’s no big deal but hopefully I will stop hearing comments about my tie.

But, like everything else, there’s a lesson here.

To get the new photo I went to a local photographer. I just needed an image for the page but I never thought to ask about whether the photographer, Nan Phelps in Kensington, CA, used a digital camera.

She doesn’t . Nan uses a Mamiya C330 – a model I used as a photographer 30 years ago. What ensued was a lengthy conversation about whether she should switch, or at least offer customers a digital option.

“Photography is about the process,” she said, “I see it as art, and when I hear about other photographers spending hours digitally retouching photographs I cringe. I don’t mind being called weird, or old fashioned, I have a niche, I’m doing very well, and I meet many starving digital photographers, all stressing the need for a faster and faster turnaround. I just want to say stop.”

She was unmoved by my suggestions,  insisting she didn’t care if the digital shutterbugs  raced to the bottom offering lower prices.

“I don’t need to update my software or computer every 18 months, and I’m very proud of my work and don’t have to worry about whether an image I took with a digital camera might be one I want to enlarge but can’t.

It was a wonderful discussion and I have to admit she may have won me over. You can decide for yourself when the new portrait is posted, but just maybe, we’d all be a bit better off if we just slowed down.

I know there would be less stress and that could only be good. Thanks Nan.

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Wellness Coaching

January 28, 2010

Filed under: Wellness — admin @ 8:42 pm

Recently, the Boston Globe, published an article about Wellness Coaching.

Basically, the article talks about patients who need help with the emotional side of a disease. There certainly is a need for this kind of work. I am painfully aware of it because my wife is a psychologist who deals with injured patients who will have to spend the rest of their lives dealing with chronic pain.

But I have a few issues with the article.

If you get wellness coaching from a program sponsored by the hospital–how do you know the coach isn’t more interested in the well-being of the medical institution than the patient?

And by the way, why wouldn’t helping someone deal with the emotional impact of a  terrible disease or injury, be a normal part of the healing process–shouldn’t the doctor who is treating the patient take some responsibility for this. No, because the medical schools just teach technical skill and dealing with the emotional consequences is not part of the course work – too touchy feeley— takes too long–no money to be made there.
Unfortunately there is a connection between the psyche and healing – but don’t try to tell a surgeon that.

As you may have noticed this is a particularly sore subject because we see so many patients who are abandoned by their doctors when the surgeon can’t do any more and the patient is still in debilitating pain.

Wellness Coaching  that also involves healthier lifestyles (stress management, food consumption, exercise) as well as emotional support, is certainly needed, but it needs to start sooner in the recovery process and its focus should be on  a holistic approach.

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