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The Cognitive Prism and Emotional Intelligence

December 30, 2015

We all see things differently. Not literally – when the sun shines we pretty much all see it the same way – but emotionally.images

Our opinions, world view, emotional triggers are all a function of a complex cognitive prism that colors how we see the world.This prism is created both from our personality  and the events that shape our lives: the old nature vs. nurture debate that’s been going on for years.

I’ll let the psychologists figure out which is more dominant, but from a coaching standpoint, they combine to  help us create a view of the world that is unique.

What seems to make perfect logical sense to one person, is patently absurd to someone else. What seems like a logical assumption, which become the basis of a decision, seems obvious. In truth, it’s a coach’s job too help clients see that there might be some other interpretations.

Recognizing alternatives is one facet of emotional intelligence. Self realization helps us understand that there is a cognitive prism filtering every bit of information coming into our brain. Understanding the biases that are inherent in the prism, helps us understand why others disagree, and finally, taking steps to correct the distortions of the prism helps us grow.

In truth, many people don’t really want to make changes, but the real key is understanding that there may be a bias your view of the world. You can decide if adjustments are necessary.

Dealing with your our prism is key to your happiness, your interaction with others and every aspect of life – both at home and at work. This is emotional intelligence.

I was reminded of this prism a few days ago when I was working with a high school junior who was trying to figure out ‘the rest of his life’ during our 45-minute phone call. I was trying to help him decide where he should apply to college and what careers interested him.

Many young people have a wide range of interests and have a difficult time separating a career from a crush on a favorite teacher. The young man I was assisting had a range of interests that was even wider. He had always been a voracious reader and is familiar with topics ranging from history and religion to politics, economics and engineering.

For him, narrowing the list had become almost impossible, so he had decided to use income as his measuring stick. As he told me,”I really like history and enjoy reading everything I can find, but the only job I would probably ever get is teaching, and I know that doesn’t make that much money, so I think I’ll just consider that a hobby.”

He also ‘knew’ that engineers have the potential to make more money so it seemed logical that engineering was the best choice because at least his starting salary would be higher.

He could see no purpose in getting a liberal arts degree. Beyond the notion that an undergraduate degree limits your employment options,  he needed some facts to go with his assumptions.

I suggested that before our next call he do a bit of research.( If I just told him the answers he wouldn’t believe me anyway)

I gave him two weeks to answer the following questions:

What percentage of new employees in high tech had degrees in the social sciences?

What is the average lifetime earnings of a social science graduate?

What percentage of social science majors go on the get an advanced degree?

I am hoping that the answers will help readjust his prism and help him understand that some of the assumptions he was making were not based on reality.

If he still insists that an engineering degree is the only option, I certainly won’t try to talk him out of it, but he should  know all the facts before he makes his decision.

Next time you have a decision to make ask yourself what underlying assumption you might would to re-evaluate.


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CWAA: Can We All Agree – 12/26/15

December 26, 2015

Filed under: Can we all agree — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — admin @ 8:19 am

It was a slow week for news so I’m not doing my regular column.

Yes, I know Steve Harvey doesn’t seem to know how to read a

Miss Colombia, the new Miss Universe.

Miss Colombia, the new Miss Universe.

teleprompter and announced the wrong winner in the Miss Universe pageant, but despite what conspiracy theorists think,  we can all agree that he just messed up.

And yes, one of the most entertaining  candidates, not named Trump, dropped out of the GOP primary race, but we can all agree Lindsey Graham was not going to win.

Seth Blatter will have to wait eight years before he gets to run FIFA again, and we  have another World Cup in Qatar where the temperature will be over 100 degrees for many games which we can all agree is just absurd.

And we can all agree that Donald Trump again sounded like a third grader with no understanding of either basic bodily functions or Yiddish.

We can all agree that the NFL remained stubbornly consistent by refusing to fund a brain study of athletes on the same weekend that the movie “Concussion” debuted in theaters across the country.

The NBA on the other hand, apparently believes that athletes can impact society as they agreed to participate in anti-gun violence television advertisements.

Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, in Cambridge. (Boston Globe photo)

Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, in Cambridge. (Boston Globe photo)

We can all agree that one of the more unique stories came from Cambridge, MA where a Muslim couple served donuts and coffee to anyone who wanted to ‘Talk to a Muslim.”

I did find a couple of  columns that you might find interesting: one by Dave Barry and another, surprisingly, by George Will.

Enjoy, and if you want to read more, take a look at my review of the new Star Wars movie, or my short post on a memory from 2015.


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An NFL Photographer’s Tale

December 24, 2015

Filed under: Photos,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 5:08 am
Scientists who study the human brain like to point out that memories are the unique feature that sets humans apart from other creatures.

Mack Herron (42) and John Hanna (73)

Mack Herron (42) and John Hanna (73)

For  my radio show’s end of the year celebration I was asked to go through the list of folks who had passed away in 2015.
Among the famous and infamous on Wikipedia I found:
December 6, Mack Herron- American football player.
While his later life was apparently filled with drugs and tragedy, my singular memory of the diminutive running back for the New England Patriots, was him following blockers around left end, holding on to the jersey of Half of Fame guard John Hannah before they were both swarmed by the defense and rolled out of bounds into me and my cameras.
Some place in a collection of old negatives I have the photo, snapped just before the collision, but the memory – and fear – is as clear as day.

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My “Force Awakens”

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , — admin @ 4:53 am

Last week I included 6 links to newspaper reviews of the new Star Wars sequel. All of them pretty much praise the new flick. This week my wife and I saw the movie, so I can write my own review. The movie looks like it will make a billion dollars for Disney, so one bad review probably won’t hurt.

John Boyega-the latest Star Wras hero

John Boyega-the latest Star Wars ‘hero to be’

While it’s entertaining, “The Force Awakens” has several problems. First, is the gulf in acting talent between the old stars (Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher) and some of the newcomers, second is the believability of the script and third is the dialogue.

Luckily, in my dreams the night after seeing the movie, I had some ideas.

In my version, Harrison Ford, is trying to organize a read-through of script changes, attempting to fix some of the issues that I criticize in my review. Of course I take over the part of Finn –the rebellious storm trooper played by John Boyega.

The real -life rehearsal takes place as I’m trying to type my critique for my blog on an old Smith Corona typewriter that I recently loaned to a friend who wanted real “typewriter typeface” for her holiday cards. Remember it’s a dream sequence.

No one says any of this had to make sense, which is my main complaint about “The Force Awakens” – there are just too many plot twists that are not believable. The trick in creating great science fiction is that the viewer (or reader) suspends reality, but there are no obvious incongruities that force you to question the new reality.

For example, the evil First Order, can make a battle planet, but they can’t seem to neutralize four rebel characters roaming their new high-tech weapon? I know the plot line has been used before in a galaxy far far away, but this time it was just too contrived.

The joy of the older Star Wars episodes was that they presented an escape from reality that was at least semi-believable. The new version is not, and the dialogue is often tortured – to the point of being painful. Boyega is, by far, the least capable actor, and since the conclusion leaves his fate up in the air, we can hope that he does not recover, and a new “new star” is born.

There are a number of other examples in the same vein, but it would just be piling on to mention them. Let’s hope my new version gets made and this review becomes unnecessary.



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CWAA: Can We All Agree – 12/19/15 Edition

December 19, 2015

Filed under: Can we all agree — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — admin @ 6:44 am

Can we all agree that Paul Ryan is off to pretty good start as House Speaker, since he’s been able to actually pass a budget bill?

Can we all agree that regardless of who’s right, the DNC looks like they are taking sides in the Democratic primary battle?

Can we all agree that the new Star Wars movie was destined to make box office history weeks before it opened?images

Can we all agree that after favorable reviews in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, LA Times, Chicago Tribune,, SF Chronicle and virtually every other media outlet, the Star Wars movie will set attendance standards that may never be broken?

Can we all agree that the most troubling story of the week might be a reporter’s account of attending a Donald Trump rally?

Can we all agree that a proposed FDA age limit on the use of tanning booths will be an enormous waste of time? No-one should use them.

Can we all agree that we didn’t need scientists to tell us this was the hottest year on record?

Can we all agree that we’re not sure if  UN approval of the Syrian ‘peace process’ will make any difference, but it’s good PR?

Can we all agree that it’s only a matter of time before the GOP jumps on the anti-Chinese immigration bandwagon, now that statistics show more immigrants from that country are coming to California than from Mexico?

Can we all agree that Cubans may be getting more than they bargained for, once regularly scheduled flights from the US begin?

Can we all agree that having  Mr. Putin endorse your candidacy may not be the best thing for your campaign?

Can we all agree that very few folks are shedding a tear for Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical exec who was arrested on fraud charges this week?

Can we all agree that we are at least relieved that there has not been more violence in Baltimore in the wake of the hung jury after the first trial in the Freddie Gray murder case?

Can we all agree that scheduling a Democratic debate on Saturday night has made it all but irrelevant – just like the DNC wanted?

Can we all agree that just four days after the most recent GOP debate no-one even remembers who won or lost?

Can we all agree that the stark contrast between the New York and Los Angeles school systems to a bomb-threat letter is a function of the distance from the most recent terrorist attack?

Can we all agree that the most gut wrenching story of the week was the City of Flint Michigan declaring a state of emergency over the lead poisoning of its children from the city’s own drinking water?

Can we all agree that Journalistic integrity took a another body blow this week when it was revealed that billionaire Sheldon Adelson was the new owner of The Las Vegas Review Journal? Of course, the New York Times’ major error didn’t help either.

Can we all agree that the French citizenry struck a blow for tolerance when they voted against the far-right politics of Marine Le Pen? Could it happen here?

Can we all agree that we wish the Bill Cosby story would just disappear? I guess you could say the same for the Pete Rose saga.

Aaron Miller after meeting LeBron James (Boston Globe photo)

Aaron Miller after meeting LeBron James (Boston Globe photo)

Can we all agree that the strangest story of the week may be the Texas man who is suing Ford after he saw the truck he traded in, with his business logo still visible on the side, being used by ISIS in Syria?

Can we all agree that it’s a bit disconcerting when a hospital system, such as Kaiser, decides to open a medical school to teach their own brand of medical care?

Can we all agree that this week’s feel good story has to be Aaron Miller’s encounter with basketball start LeBron James?

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CWAA: Can We All Agree – 12/12/15 Edition

December 12, 2015

Can we all agree that for at least a couple of generations, Frank Sinatra’s 100 birthday, today, is worth celebrating?

Can we all agree that anything coming out of the current climate change conference, is just talk until nations actually do something concrete?

Can we all agree that even before the predicted El Nino, California is getting good news as weekly rains drench northern parts of the state and bring snow to the Sierra’s? We even had hail that piled up like snow in my back yard.

'Snow' in my Bay Area back yard this week

‘Snow’ in my Bay Area back yard this week

Can we all agree that the GOP is now reaping what they sowed by encouraging Donald Trump’s outrage at the establishment? Reaction has been overwhelmingly negative both in the US and abroad but it has only embolden him and his supporters.

Can we all agree that Donald Trump is just giving voice to fringe elements who are now considered mainstream?

Can we all agree that given his actual support, Mr. Trump has little chance of fulfilling his promise to take his postponed trip to Israel ‘after he is elected.’

Can we all agree that we envy the reception Syrian refugees are getting in Canada? And wonder if it will ever happen in this country – as it should.

Can we ll agree that last night’s apparent arson at a California mosque will probably not be the last?

Can we all agree that the rhetoric employed by the GOP is not far from the kind of arguments heard during the McCarthy era?

Can we all agree that it’s a bit surprising to learn the shooters in San Bernardino were ‘radicalized’ years ago, but somehow no-one knew it?

Can we all agree that the charges against an Oklahoma police officer for sexually assaulting 24 black women should have engendered the same outrage as the murder of black men?

Can we all agree that it’s not surprising that military students at the Citadel think it’s acceptable to portray KKK members in school skits, since they continue to display the Confederate flag in their chapel?

Can we all agree that when a sitting Supreme Court justice suggests that a segment of the population does not deserve to attend top-flight universities he should not be sitting on the bench?

Can we all agree that the demise of “No Child Left Behind” came about 12 years late?

Can we all agree that Rham Emanuel, mayor of Chicago is in big trouble? Even the President senses it.

The USS Zumwalt - the Navy's newest ship

The USS Zumwalt – the Navy’s newest ship

Can we all agree that the Navy’s newest destroyer looks like a modern version of the civil war’s USS Monitor?

Can we all agree that the man who attacked the Planned Parenthood Center in Colorado as a “warrior for the babies” is just another example of a fringe element encouraged by misguided politicians?

Can we all agree that despite what the GOP would have us believe, there seems to be some progress in the battle against ISIS?

Can we all agree that while there was nothing wrong with the President’s address last Sunday night, there was nothing memorable or particularly comforting. His policies will be judged by results not speeches.

Can we all agree that we might have made some progress this week in the war against assault weapons when the Supreme Court allowed a local assault weapons ban to stand?

Can we all agree that drug company owner Martin Shkrelis may be the most vilified businessman  in the United states?

Can we all agree that we were shocked when Fox News actually suspended an on-air personality for crossing the line in criticizing the President? Who knew they even had a line establishing a standard?

Can we all agree that unless we start to do something about climate change we may all be facing the same kind of red alert imposed in China this week?

Can we all agree that proposals to arm students with guns are not the kind of solutions we need to solve our weapons problem? Just ask the woman who tried to shoot a shoplifter in Michigan.

An finally, can we all agree that it was good to hear that President Jimmy Carter’s cancer seems to be losing it’s battle with modern medicine?

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CWAA: Can We All Agree – 12/5/15 Edition

December 5, 2015

Can we all agree that it’s already clear that the shootings in San Bernardino will not move  Congress to take any action to control guns?

Can we all agree that it makes little difference to the victims that the FBI will investigate the shootings as terrorism?

Can we all agree that even modest changes, like those being proposed in California will have a tough time standing up to the NRA?

New York Daily News front page this week

New York Daily News front page this week

Can we all agree that no matter how many extra border checks we impose, as long as automatic weapons  and thousands of rounds of ammunition can be purchased legally, we will continue to have one resident murdered every 15 minutes in the US?

Can we all agree that, as Nicholas Kristof said in the New York Times, when it comes to gun control we’re not even trying?

Can we all agree that the sight of a Presidential candidate giving a speech from a gun range the day after a mass shooting is repugnant? What must be going through the minds of the victim’s families?

Can we all agree that it’s a bit startling to see the media being allowed to rummage through the  alleged murderer’s apartment just two days after the shooting?  Was it good journalism?

Can we all agree with the President that enough is enough?

Can we all agree that the addition of 211,000 new jobs is good news, despite what the GOP would have us believe?

Can we all agree that Lamar Smith’s antics as head of the House science committee would be amusing, if he wasn’t dealing with such a serious topic?

Can we all agree that the GOP would rather just embarrass the President than enact meaningful legislation that could help save the planet?

Can we all agree that despite all the speeches, it’s tough to figure out what’s really going on at the climate conference in Paris?

Can we all agree that some of the GOP speeches at the Republican Jewish Coalition were embarrassing? It might be Ben Carson’s swan song.

Can we all agree that allowing women into all combat roles was the logical conclusion to allowing them to serve in the military?

Can we all agree that the Secret Service is now officially a disaster?

Can we all agree that FIFA, soccer’s governing body, may be incapable of any meaningful reform?

Can we al agree that the NFL referees  have been just awful this year? There is no consistency, and phantom calls or clear rule misinterpretations are determining the outcome in too many games.

Rules for covering terrorism

Rules for covering terrorism

Can we all agree that it was surprising to see Congress actually pass a spending bill that will become law? They approved a $300 billion highway spending measure.

Can we all agree that with  a little over 8 weeks until the Iowa caucuses and the GOP race still being described as a free-for all, the party is officially in panic mode?

Can we all agree that Dr. and Mr. Zuckerburg’s decision to give away 99% of their Facebook stock  will probably anger their offspring years from now when they argue about the leftover $500 million?

Can we all agree that the prospect of “Yes, We Have no bananas,” on future breakfast tables is disquieting?

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