Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
We've heard it time and time again, often during moments of significant strife- "you never know why things happen the way they do, but everything happens for a reason." It provides us with a sense of comfort after the loss of a loved one, a job, or a goal that we were not able to achieve. It gives us the mental image of a higher being in the heavens, sitting back and holding the puppet strings of our destiny, with a calm and maybe even smug demeanor, knowing that everything "will work out for the best."
I have fallen victim to this mentality myself. I reasoned, it sure would be spiffy if there was an old wise man that was busy behind the curtain working out the kinks of my future. After all, I've had many moments where I would have been happy to blame my life circumstances on someone else, and after feeling like you're not doing a very good job "behind the wheel," sometimes having someone take over doesn't seem like a bad idea.
I am willing to wager this is one of the main reasons organized religion has existed for so long. Humans share a common need to put order and meaning to chaos. When the world is uncertain, and there is the thought that tragedy could strike at any moment- the idea that there is some profound meaning is a comfort to us all. As they say in times of war, "there are no atheists in fox holes."
However, Buddhism, which is somewhat of a hybrid between a religion and a philosophy, is based on the principle of annica. The concept of annica holds that everything is changing and nothing is permanent. At first, when I learned of this philosophy, it went against my very nature. My first reaction was, "so am I just supposed to be indifferent to every tragedy that strikes?"
Friend: "My mother just died."
me: "yes that was expected, what are you doing for lunch?"
However, Buddhism warns against indifference. In fact, indifference is the very opposite of the intentional practice of awareness that Buddhism advocates. We are not supposed to just float through the world unfeeling, yet we also should not become attached to the current circumstances, as they are always changing.
Consider this ancient parable:
There was a farmer who had a strong, hard-working horse. This horse could plough fields all day and carry heavy loads. The farmer's neighbors, who did not have such a prized animal, often said to him, "You're so lucky to have that horse."
The farmer, going about his work, simply replied, "Maybe, maybe not."
Then one day, the farmer's horse broke through the farm gates and ran away, leaving the farmer without the animal that he had come to depend on. The farmer's neighbors said to him, "Gee, you're so unlucky that your horse ran away."
The farmer, getting on with life without his horse, simply replied, "Maybe, maybe not."
A little while later, the farmer's horse came back with ten mares, all strong, fit and healthy. The farmer's neighbors gasped and said, "You're so lucky to now have 11 strong horses to work on your farm!"
The farmer, grooming his 11 horses, simply replied, "Maybe, maybe not."
The farmer's only son decided to take a ride on one of the mares. On the way home, the mare bolted and threw the farmer's only son to the ground, crushing his legs, which became infected, and later leading the son into delirium, balancing on the brink of death. When the farmer's neighbours heard this, they said, "Oh no! Your only son is dying! You are so unlucky."
The farmer, while aiding his son, simply replied, "Maybe, maybe not."
Before long, war was declared, and officials came to the village to draft the village's young men to serve in the army. Upon seeing the condition of the farmer's only son, the officials decided he could not fight, and so they did not draft him into the war. A few days later, the son's fever broke and he regained his health. The farmer's neighbors, whose sons had all been drafted into the terrible war, cried out to the farmer, "Oh, you are so lucky that your son did not have to go to war!"
The farmer, while hugging his son, simply replied, "Maybe, maybe not."
I am always comforted when I think of this story. It demonstrates how we must be the puppet string handlers of our own destiny, even when we don't feel like it. Although, it may seem as though we've lost our security blanket- when we let go of the idea of the "divine plan," we are actually evolving into a higher eschelon of thinking. A way of thinking that detaches us from destructive emotional states and frees our energy to take life by the reigns.
When I look back on the downfalls I have experienced in life so far, I can say in hindsight that I am glad they happened. If a professor from my past never called all my internship sites and ruined my chances of matching for a pre-doc residency, I would have never ended up in San Diego, having one of the best internship experiences of my life. Had my high school sweetheart never cheated on me and broke my heart, I might have never gone on to graduate school and earned my doctorate. Had my mom never been forced to take care of herself at an early age, she might not have found the reason to have a family, and this blog would have never existed, etc..
I guess what I am trying to say (in the least eloquent way possible) is that life comes at you. Life's a bitch. It throws you curve balls, and just when you think you have it all figured out, you are knocked on your knees, praying for some sort of clarity.
The very nature of the entrepreneur is that you are self-sufficient. Somewhere along the line, you have decided that you are in control. So whenever you find yourself in the midst of one of life's lemons, get up and make some lemonade, no one's gonna do it for you.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Dr. Entrepreneur is a blog made for entertainment purposes only. This is not intended to dispense psychological advice. If you need help, please seek the services of a licensed professional.
So I am ashamed to admit that I was reading Russel Simmons latest book "Do You." I usually do not make a habit of picking up what appears to be a gimmicky self-help book. However, I was bored and began scanning. The book captured my interest so much that I actually bought it. I have tried to set aside time each night to read another chapter. Last night's chapter was about acting on one's dreams.
Simmons went on to say that we must not wait for something to happen to us, but let ourselves become swept away by our ideas. It is only then that the world becomes a magical place and our deepest dreams are realized.
As I thought about this, I realized, this is the vital tipping point that turns a dreamer into a success. "Just doing it," is the pivotal action that separates the successful entrepreneur from those with mere ideas. Yes, it is inevitable that if we follow all our ideas, we will fail. We will fail more than we succeed, but we will never succeed without trying.
So many people have ideas, but wait for the right time, the right investor, the right life situation. There is no more right time than the present moment. I remember distinctly a time, late in my graduate school career when I was told that I tended to "act without much consultation." This was framed as a negative trait. I think in some way, I have carried this notion, always questioning whether my actions are courageous or just plain foolish. After reading Simmons' take, I feel that he confirmed something I always knew, but never quite articulated.
I hope that if you are an entrepreneur, reading this, maybe it will ignite in you that flame that carries you from stagnation to action.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Look @ Me! How to Get Noticed in 2009
More and more we are hearing the term“online press room,” or “online media room.” These are buzz phrases that you should become well-accustomed to if you are going to further develop your professional practice in 2009.
Psychologists are quickly making it in to the world of media, whether it be through online web talks, news outlets needing expert guidance, or community forums. By having a solid online press room, you are establishing a name for yourself and making it easy for journalists to quickly find out who you are and how you can help them.
Here are some quick and dirty tips for making the most of your online press room:
1) Diversify your media- make sure you have multiple forms of media on your page. This should include video clips, online seminars, radio recordings, and photographs (professional head shots). Unfortunately, the media is a place where looks count, and you want to put your best foot forward when presenting yourself and your practice. Journalists want to get a clear picture that you are “camera-ready,” without having to sift through a multitude of websites.
2) Pay a little extra to grab the spotlight. If a site offers a spot on their site with more exposure, it is always worth it to pay a little extra. Oftentimes, journalists are not going to spend their time going to the 33rd page to find you. At FreudTV, clients are given the option of being in the spotlight for only $10 extra dollars a month. Over a year’s time, this only amounts to $120 and can pay for itself with one media spot.
3) 3..2..1..ACTION! You have approximately three seconds to grab the user’s attention. This means that you need to make your online press room pop, and pop quickly. This can be done by developing an interesting headline or creating a “point of difference,”a.k.a P.O.D. (see below).
4) Your P.O.D. is the characteristic(s) that sets you apart from everyone else. Are you skilled in two unique areas of study? Are you coined the Happiness Diva? Anything that can set you apart, immediately gives you a hefty advantage over the competition.
5) How can I help you? Focus on how you can help your target market. If your specialty is anxiety related illness, then really focus on your work in this area. How can your previous experience apply to future programming? If you are a jack of many trades, really be creative about all the areas that you specialize in. Remember, some journalists may think these areas are called something different (i.e. “Multiple personality disorder” vs. “dissociative identity disorder”), so be broad and inclusive.
6) Make it easy for them to find you. Make sure your contact information is displayed prominently at the front. This may seem like a no brainer, but so many times, a professional may only have a link to their website. Many journalists will not take the time to sift through multiple links to find an email address.
7) Be active! The more presence you can develop through multiple venues on the internet, the more buzz you will generate. This can be through blogging, holding webinars, twittering, or posting your articles on your online press room. At FreudTV, users are able to both hold and attend webinars, as well as post multiple articles that appear on the homepage. These articles are then found by search engines, generating even more traffic to your online press room.
Dr. Colleen Long is the owner of FreudTV and Aesthetic Genetics. Her book is title Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E and can be found on her professional site. She is a professional coach and has helped many entrepreneurs build their businesses with her techniques. Her most recent work has been featured on About.com as well as The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Dr. Entrepreneur is a blog made for entertainment purposes only. This is not intended to dispense psychological advice. If you need help, please seek the services of a licensed professional.
John Kabat-Zinn and many other psychologists have discovered that meditation has a profound effect on how we feel. Studies have shown that in six week weeks of only three 20 minute meditation sessions per week, subjects were demonstrating profound changes in the left pre-frontal cortex, an area responsible for one’s feelings of well-being.
Not only does meditation help us in the long-term, but it helps us in the short-term, as well. It is through the practice of meditation that we are able to accept all the negative aspects of life without identifying with them. Although it is certain that we will all experience grief, suffering, loss, pain, anger, and despair at some point- by being practiced in the art of meditation, we are equipped with the tools to prevent them from taking us under.
Meditation is ours for the taking. It does not cost us anything but a few minutes of our time and patience. Meditation has also been shown to have various other health benefits, most notably with its connection to the Vagus nerve, which helps to decrease cortisol production (the hormone responsible for giving us those little stress guts).
I have run hundreds of “happiness” groups, focused on helping patients increase their feelings of well-being without the use of drugs or alcohol. A core pillar of these groups is the exercise of meditation. Many of those patients initially showed some resistance to the idea, likening it to some “new-agey” or “hippy” trend. Most were unsure of what it really was, and most importantly- whether they could do it right. Meditation is not an easy practice. It can often feel like changing the course of a river. The following are the basic tips for meditation that are sure to get you started in the right direction:
1)Posture- Make sure that you are sitting on a firm surface or firm pillow. You can either sit on the floor with legs crossed or in a chair with legs shoulder width apart. Just make sure that you are not leaning back on the chair back. Ensure that your back is upright, as if you are sitting on a horse. This posture helps remind the body that the mind is in control. It is a posture of dignity and respect, and symbolizes the act of meditation for yourself each day.
Make sure your chest is lifted and open. This shows that you are open and receptive to what this meditation brings. Make sure that your shoulders are back and relaxed, and that your mouth and jaw are also loose. Thich Nhat Hanh recommends you try slightly smiling.
2) Detachment- A common misconception is that meditation should be an absence of one’s thoughts. This is not possible. View your mind’s energy as you would a flowing river. Each leave that passes, represents a thought. It is your goal to observe those thoughts without judgement, like leaves on a river. Once we are able to separate ourselves from our thoughts, they can no longer bring us the same pain they once did. We soon become comfortable just being with our thoughts, even the most painful. As a thought comes to view, we might think “oh that is interesting that thought has come up now,” and let it pass down the river.
3) Routine- Make sure that you set aside some time for meditation at least three to five days a week, at first. My guess is that once you start to notice the benefits, you will be doing it seven days a week. Most of my patients were on a medication regimen, so I advised them to set aside time for their meditation at the same time they took their medication every day. Another favorite time is right after you wake. This is when the mind is the freshest and most restored. Some prefer right before bedtime. Just make sure that you are not confusing meditation with napping. Meditation requires an alert state of mind.
4) Hands- Your hands can be in one of several positions. These are known as mudras. Each position envokes different feeling states, such as balance, openness, or groundedness. One is the classical forefinger to thumb position. This can signal to the mind an on-the-spot concentration that is often needed for meditation. Another hand position is each hand on the knees, palms facing up. This signals a receptivity to your meditation, an openness to what comes. Some people prefer the traditional Christian prayer position, with both palms pressed together under the chin. The last position is hands on each knee, palms facing down. This envokes a feeling of groundedness, strength, and balance.
5) Eyes- Many people prefer that their eyes are closed. This can be a good thing in that you are not distracted. However, if you find yourself becoming sleepy, you may want to pick a spot about 4-6 inches on the ground in front of you and focus on this during your meditation.
7) Breath- As you get started, simply focus on the breaths coming in and out of your body. You can start by inhaling for four, holding for two, and exhaling for four. This puts the body in a deeper state of relaxation (you may even find yourself getting a slight buzz from the amount of oxygen you are taking in) because we do not normally breathe at this slow pace. As you inhale, notice your belly start to rise, as you exhale notice it grow smaller. Remind yourself that each breath is cleansing, like a broom sweeping out the cobwebs of the soul.
Ending- At the end of each meditation, many choose to clasp their hands together in the traditional prayer position, bowing their head in gratitude for the meditation as well as showing respect to a higher order in the universe.
Dr. Colleen Long has a doctorate in Clinical Health Psychology from Spalding University in Louisville, Ky. She is the author of Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E and is a successful coach to entrepreneurs around the world. Her professional site can be found on www.DrColleenLong.com, and she is the founder of Aesthetic Genetics- a site focusing on helping couples who struggle with infertility combat stress, which has been proven to be responsible for around 30% of infertility issues. She is the creative director for FreudTV, which is the only site of its kind, developed to help psychologists and psychiatrists connect with the media, as well as each other.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Entrepsychologist is a blog made for entertainment purposes only. This is not intended to dispense psychological advice. If you need help, please seek the services of a licensed professional.
After reading Chris Brogan's very helpful blog about writing a great blog, I decided to - yep you guessed it- write a great blog. Well, I tried my best, and I'll let you be the judge of its value.
So, per Mr. Brogan's advice, I added a catchy photograph (see above) and I began taking inventory of what I might have to offer fellow twitterattis (just made that up, not really sure what it means). I was trained for six years in grad school as a clinical psychologist, so I decided to put that education to good use (might as well, I'm paying for it now).
The theme of my entire blog persona is that of the hybrid entrepreneur/psychologist. Its meant to be a blog discussing the psychological aspects of entrepreneurship. While, I think other entrepreneurs can commiserate with my ups and downs along the path that I have chosen, I think giving some helpful advice on being an entrepreneur from a psychological standpoint might prove more beneficial, so here goes:
1) Going the Extra Mile- A friend of mine who is a former Olympic athlete once told me that his coach would motivate his teammates by saying, "of course everyone wants to go to the Olympics, but not that many have the dedication and drive necessary to get there." The same is true for entrepreneurs- ask yourself if you just like the idea of working for yourself, or if you truly possess the drive, dedication, and discipline it takes to be one.
2) Fueling the Fire- Do you sometimes feel like you have lost your entrepreneurial spark? All of us do at some point. Janet Hanson, Founder of 85 Broads was quoted in O magazine as saying that she had to sit and write out a list of all of her accomplishments during a very traumatic setback in her entrepreneurial path. We can all take a page from Hanson's book by sitting down and writing out all the things that inspired us to set out on this path in the first place.
3) Gaining Inspiration- It has been said that the best part of being an entrepreneur is working on your own terms, and the worst part of being an entrepreneur is working on your own terms. Don't let yourself be your own worst enemy. Expose yourself to inspirational stimuli daily. This may be in the form of reading another's blog, or reading a book about an entirely new subject. Inspiration can be found everywhere.
4) "Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing the activity, but in doing it," Greg Anderson (1964) This quote can be applied to the experience of being an entrepreneur. Watch out for unrealistic thoughts like, "once I reach > 4.5 million in revenue, I will finally be happy." Focus on your life today, and experiencing joy wherever you are along the entrepreneurial path.
5) Mind your thinking. A cardinal rule in therapy is that we feel how we think. If you notice that you are feeling skeptical and critical of your future success, begin monitoring your automatic thoughts. How many times during the day are you comparing yourself to fellow entrepreneurs and telling yourself that you don't quite measure up? These thoughts are normal, and it is natural and human to compare ourselves to others. However, make sure that these thoughts aren't outweighing the positive thoughts. If they are, a simple trick can be implemented- start implementing thought stopping: Choose it, Check it, Change it
Choose the negative thought pattern, check it to see if it is a realistic thought and what other rational arguments could be used to dispute it, and then change it to a more positive thought, using the rational arguments you have gathered.
This will seem like a tedious process at first, because you are creating a new cognitive thought pattern. Eventually, this will become your modus operandi and may notice a dramatic shift in your daily mood.
Ok, that's all I've got for now. Does any of this make sense or does it seem a little too "Dr. Phil-esque" ? I would be interested in hearing others' tips for maintaining stamina along the way.