Category Archives: health and fitness

a little bit on the science on happiness

– Check out all my posts on mentality, high performance and excellence in the welcome and index. –

shawn achor is a harvard scholar who has devoted a lot of time to studying chiefly why people are happy or unhappy. in this decisive ted talk (ted talks are great because they are obligatorily brief, concise, free and publicly available), he quickly shares his findings. happily, he chooses humor to connect with the audience and the viewer, a very agile setup and very little accessory elements such as charts or slides. it turns out that as many religions, philosophical traditions and wise people have said before, happiness is not a function of who you are or are not, what you have or have not, what you achieve or achieve not, or your standing in the world. it seems to be a lot more like all the other great human achievements, it is a discipline, a mindset and a lifestyle you build. and there is modern psychological research now to back up those claims.

everyone knows rich and prosperous people who are very content, but also equally moneyed and successful individuals who are not happy. the same for poor or disadvantaged people, some are bitter and resentful, but others in identical circumstances are happy and delightful. a happy mind is a mind that focuses inevitably on the positive, on greatness everywhere, on finding possibility everywhere and on gratefulness. human experience, as ericsson, schwartz, bandler, mckenna and others who have studied effective people and great achievers, always gets more of what it focuses on, and also gets better at what it does most of. so, happiness, positivity, energy, vitality, optimism, an upbeat spirit for those who have them are the result of conscious or unconscious training and repetition.

and that’s where achor closes at, with some practical, easy exercises, anyone can get better at having a happier, more optimistic life. as always, do and focus more on what you want more of, and keep working at it, results will eventually come and in this case, so will a happier existence.


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Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project, Video of conference Leading@Google 2010

Check out all my posts on mentality, high performance and excellence in the welcome and index.

As has been described in an earlier post, Tony Schwartz, is an expert on experts, and an expert on expertise. The company he started out, the Energy Project, has assisted major league corporations increase their employees’ productivity and morale. Schwartz delivered a conference in Google in 2008, and in 2010 went back to finish what he had started.

His message is once more the same: time cannot be expanded, when we have more work to get done there is no way to get additional hours to our days or weeks, and working longer hours is actually counterproductive. Energy, on the other hand, which is the capacity to get work done, can be kept at a maximum level, it is through the careful monitoring and tending to of our habits and methods we can keep ourselves really firing on all cylinders.

Schwartz goes into greater detail and offers much more evidence this time around, compared to his conference in the same venue in 2008. He mentions and explains the 4 kinds of energy we humans run on.

Schwartz critically calls for us to invest time and resources into understanding human physiology, because there is no better knowledge we could have than how do our bodies and minds work when we are trying to work . An obvious observation is that human beings are radically different than machines and computers, yet a lot of times we choose to push ourselves as if we were cybernetic.

Schwartz pronounces sleep and rest to be paramount. Sleeping appropriately  is dead serious, it’s even more important than eating right. Stress, and pushing our bodies to the limit to elicit the hormones that fear generates is along with cutting the hours we sleep a technique that a lot of people use to get work done, but it is greatly deteriorating in the short and long run. Living beings are oscillatory, everything about us has rhythm, our days do, our bodily systems do, our organs and tissues do, and even our cells do. Superior fitness is not the capacity to work harder for longer, superior fitness is being able to recover more quickly from exertion. And the best way to go is to incorporate renewal into the middle of our days and activities, because we do learn to and grow our capacity to recover; just as we learn to work more effectively, recovery can also be mastered. As we get better at recovering, we are fitter, and we are capable of working more productively when we work and feel better all around.

Superior working habits also demand that we learn to concentrate our undivided attention. When we tend to more than one thing at a time, each one item gets much less than the proportional share it theoretically should. Human cognitive power is very poor when asked to multitask, a lot of processing power is lost to nothing. Striving for flow, the state of absorbed attention and activity, and with practice eventually reaching it should be our objective. A later post will deal with the amazing concept of flow.

Schwartz closes this master lecture with a call for us to massively shift and alter the traditional work and productivity paradigms we operate under. The best way to get things done is to sprint repeatedly, rather than try to put ourselves through a never ending marathon. Work that we get done with our undivided attention, that is parceled in delimited and gradual stages and with regular renewal breaks distributed in between gets far superior production than what we can accomplish doing several things at once and always pushing until exhaustion.

This conference also runs for an hour, but it’s so good and edifying that it deserves to be watched more than once. Schwartz deals somewhat poorly with the time constraint he faces, but he does his best to keep it engagin, fun and light. His closing argument, which cites work by K. Anders Ericsson is shocking: superior results and performance do not belong to superior people, they belong  to people with superior habits and methods. If you want superior results for yourself, just develop the habits and routines the great ones live by.

Here you go.


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Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project, Video of conference Leading@Google 2008

Check out all my posts on mentality, high performance and excellence in the welcome and index.

Google is a very modern enterprise. It is legendarily progressive and avant-garde in its relation with employees and the perks it makes available to them. Very smart people fight each other to work there because of pay, amenities, freedom and relevance of the work they get done. Not only do they take very good care of their own people, most of what they do is made absolutely transparent and accessible. And because of that, in this occasion we are benefiting with this talk Tony Schwartz delivered at Google in 2008 being openly available on YouTube.

I came to know of Tony Schwartz and the Energy Project because Jonathan Martínez Pallares, a good friend of mine, recommended their work to me. The Tony Schwartz we are writing about here is a USA citizen who has worked as a journalist, author, and most importantly is currently an expert in high performance and expertise. An expert on experts, and an expert on expertise himself. What is that supposed to mean? Expert on experts as he has worked with, studied, analyzed, followed and learned from top world performers: professional tennis players, professional violin players, race car drivers and so on. How cool is that? Going to Olympic athletes and top performers and identifying the features common to all of them to understand how someone makes himself an outstanding high performer. Expert in expertise, because Schwartz also knows and masters the theory and works of the researchers who have started out and are expanding the scientific field of high performance. In future posts, I’ll talk about K. Anders Ericsson and other notable experts in expertise and also further work by Tony Schwartz himself.

This conference presented to you is stuffed with facts and information. Everything is backed by scientific research and facts. It’s all actionable knowledge, to help guide your priorities and take better decisions.

This is a master lecture in how we humans function and it covers short term immediate performance as well as long term health, motivation and peak performance. It turns out that our short and long term capabilities are aligned and interdependent as would be expected. The conference mentions sarcopenia, which is the process that absent exercise deprives the body of muscle mass and capability as we age. Sarcopenia affects all kinds of mental and cognitive performance, just as physical exercise also helps maintain intellectual vigor.  The lecture mentions nutrition, and its linkage to performance and maintenance. It mentions the importance of renewal and rest in order to allow for the body’s natural organic cycles to keep our bodies functioning at their maximum. On every relevant aspect to human performance and functioning, Schwartz knows and delivers.

This is a conference that runs for an hour, but it would be really hard to find a better way to invest one hour of your time. Schwartz’s motto: – Manage your energy, not your time- aims to challenge and revolutionize our paradigms on how we manage and the performance we get out of ourselves. This is a blunt call to action, Schwartz delves into the details in this later conference from 2010 which is also indispensable viewing. The time constraint he faces hurries Schwartz somewhat into some fleeting misstatements, but he tries to stay light and fun throughout. His is definitely an argument to understand, experiment with, heed and to take guidance from.


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Mind transformations

Check out all my posts on mentality, high performance and excellence in the welcome and index.

Paul Mckenna is an English hypnotist and change facilitator. As it seems he didn’t follow an academic path to where he is at. Mckenna started out and grew as a radio personality, learned of hypnosis through radio interviews he carried out, went into performing stage hypnosis and then learned of Richard Bandler and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and went into change work.

In working with NLP, he follows the routes of a lineage of people who work facilitating change, and who generate amazing results by unconventional means. NLP was initially modeled after the practices of Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and Milton Erickson; it was co-created by John Grinder and Richard Bandler. NLP expands from those facilitators’, and also incorporates additional techniques and insights. Mckenna, as one of Richard Bandler’s top pupils, also adds further tools to his work, but he is not an innovator in proper, he only assimilates from diverse sources.

Everyone tends to think they have massive problems, but in watching the cases portrayed in Mckenna’s show, a lot of people will think differently. Not only will most peoples’ discomforts, fears and obstinacies be taken more in perspective, but also a lot of heart will be drawn from these episodes for everyone to pursue bettering themselves.

These patients are commendable for their courage in tacking their problems, but also because of the bravery to have their processes be made public. As the show duly states, these people were considered incurable cases, and many had undergone years of therapy without showing significant change. Mckenna takes these cases with unwavering belief, proceeds with panache and you’ll be able to watch the results and judge for yourselves. Just check out episode 1, case 2 with Matt, which starts at about 16:00, you can then draw your own conclusions and always come back to the other episodes as time allows.

This show by Mckenna is very cool, the format is agile and informative, production is impeccable and perfectly planned in advance for they film everything of relevance to the cases, and I absolutely love the music they play; it’s a fine selection of late 90’s and early 00’s British house, acid jazz and rock.


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Body transformations

Check out all my posts on mentality, high performance and excellence in the welcome and index.

In life we have only what we build for ourselves, and that also applies to our health and fitness.

There is great proof of that in many body transformation videos around the internet. There’s people in them whose life was totally out of control, being overweight, weak, exhausted, and with many unhealthy habits. They just changed what they were hooked into, they were already very steady and predictable in their choices; they would hardly let go a chance to just watch TV and do nothing, to eat junk food and sugars, or to overeat, they always did all that, without fail. Then they took different choices and pursued them with the same focus and persistence, and it always pays off. Some other people were more normal, but it also takes huge determination and a lot of hard work to sculpt a body like they now have. These people look happier, fitter, healthier and rejuvenated after their programs, it’s hard to beat such advertising.

Everyone’s physique is the same in essence, there’s muscle, bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and they will respond and strengthen when treated right, no matter how many layers of fat someone currently has decided to deposit over them. So, once more, we have what we build for ourselves. The body you have, you have been busy sculpting it as it is, you might as well sculpt it in some other way and it won’t take more discipline or persistence than what you currently are unto. Results don’t come in one day, one week or one month, it takes at least half a year to start noticing improvement, and from a year to two years for your results to become permanent.

There are some fitness programs out there which are all the rage right now, like P90X. I think most everything will work if done right, but some methods have major strengths over others. P90X is comprehensive, it deals with everything from the workouts, to rest, to nutrition; and rest and nutrition are huge for body transformations. It also consists of different methodologies and disciplines that when used concurrently have an augmented effect on the participants’ bodies. And in opposition to traditional gym methods, these programs emphasize sequences that involve a lot of muscle groups and whole body movements, and that is a proven better way to work out compared to isolating individual muscles.

I share some videos of amazing and inspiring body transformations, especially the one that first called my attention to the whole subject; that of John Stone who starts exercising in the gym and takes pictures daily for a year. These are the ones I found most shocking and exemplary, but there are a lot more  available if you search for -body transformation- over the internet. Thanks to all these people who took action and have been so inspiring for me, especially Coach Yost and Coach Wayne.

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