April 7, 2017

Focus cues the direction of attention and effort to the most relevant specifics  (perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and/or actions) of a given environment while downgrading or ignoring the less relevant elements.

Prompt example:

Pay attention to what happens to the backing soda after the vinegar is added.

from Dr. George McCloskey

Executive Function Cluster: Attention


Self Regulation Executive Function Clusters

April 2, 2017




















Sense time













Estimate Time










from the work of  Dr. George McCloskey



April 2, 2017

Perception cues the use of sensory and perception processes to take information from the external environment or ‘inner awareness’ to tune into perceptions, emotions, thoughts, or actions as they are occurring.

Prompt examples:

Listen to me.  Look at the board.   How are you feeling now?

from Dr George McCloskey

Executive Function Cluster –  Attention


Nassim Nicholas Taleb excerpts from Antifragility

April 1, 2017

The avoidance of small errors makes the large ones more sever.

No true stability without volatility.

Focus on actions and avoid words which can lead to a health eroding dependence on external recognition. People are cruel and unfair in the way they confer recognition, so it is best to stay out of the game. Stay robust to how others treat you.

A man is honorable in proportion to the amount of downside he is exposed to for acting on his opinions.

Possession makes us worry about downside, this acting as a punishment as we depend on them. Success brings asymmetry: you now have a lot more to lose than gain. You are hence fragile.

When you have nothing to lose, you are anti-fragile at best, robust at worst.

Nothing can be done hastily and safely – almost nothing.

Anti-fragility is the combination of paranoia and aggressiveness.

Prepare for the worst, the best can take care of itself. Yiddish proverb

Being reviewed or assessed by others matters if and only if one is subjected to judgement by future – not just present – others.

A free person does not to win arguments – just win.

Anything that smacks of a competition is a destruction of knowledge.

The most convincing statements are those in which someone stands, ones in which one has maximal skin in the game; the most unconvincing ones are those in which one patently ( but unknowingly) tries to enhance one’s status without a tangible contribution. Show off if fine, it is human, as long as the substance exceeds the showoff content.

Stay human, take as much as you can, under the condition that you give more than you take.

It is easy to scam people by getting them to complication.

Some things can be, simply, to large for you heart.

Skepticism has traditionally been of expert knowledge rather than abstract entities like God.  Skeptic fideists like the Sufi El Ghazali were part of this tradition.

Avoidance of boredom is the only worthy mode of action.

When it comes to sustaining healthy and ethical activity, the trick is to be bored with a specific task rather than give up the whole project.

‘What is the payoff?’  – negative or positive – is often a better question than ‘what is true ?’ The answer to the former depends on the fragility continuum. Modify your exposure according – adjust your targets. Learn to get out of trouble. Vastly more effective.

Precautionary principle: if we don’t understand something and it has a systemic effect, just avoid.

Ask yourself how many things you need to disregard in order to act.

Just worry about Black Swan exposures, and life is easy. Exploit the positive one and protect against the negative ones.

Robust to error decisions require no more than a single reason.

One small observation can disprove a statement, while millions can hardly confirm it.

What we know to be right today may turn out to be wrong but what we know to be wrong cannot turn out to be right, at least not easily.

It’s not about what to do, but having a way to remove the bad.

Innovation is saying no to 1000 things. Steve Jobs.

It doesn’t matter how often you are wrong, just that you are right when it counts. Suckers try to win arguments, non-suckers try to win. We know we will be wrong most of the time when we check people for weapons at an airport. One side has larger consequences than the other. It is rather a good thing to lose arguments.

Never put your enemy’s back to the wall. Hope your enemies, your circumstances, put your back against the wall. Back against the wall folks tap all their resources, ones they didn’t know they had.









Soothe it or suck it

March 30, 2017

Helping someone seems harmless enough in the beginning. But past a certain point helping them can keep them from learning.  A person who isn’t learning becomes more and more vulnerable to harm over time.   And you become vulnerable over time as you surround yourself with people you have inadvertently worked hard to keep stupid. Most of us understand this.

But understanding is often not prevention. If reading this you recognize some resentment and exasperation about a current situation, it is probably a sign that you are the cause of the problem, not them.  Maybe you are becoming kind of an asshole to boot. People don’t like you even though you do a lot for them. To make matters worse, in this weakened state you have to find a way to do the thing you fear most, letting things go badly for awhile – stop fixing.  Instead, what I am proposing in this post,  is that to replace fixing with being soothing to folks as they go through the pain that accompanies most learning. You actually need to be nicer, a more beautiful person, because to break the cycle you are going to have to let things around you get ugly. You have to offset that ugliness with kindness and compassion.

It is a hard trap to escape though. We are actually addicted to repetitively using  ‘the fix’ to soothe pain and stress, theirs and ours.  We kill two birds with one stone, preventing their pain and our own with our fixes. It is pretty satisfying, we get to see ourselves as benevolent,  but ultimately, it is not too wise, and not really so benevolent

There is a time for everything:  a time to learn, a  time to fix, and a time to soothe. Of these three we are most likely to dismiss the importance of soothing others and ourselves. It does not feel productive, and seems like a waste of time to soothe.  Our deficits in understanding about how to soothe actually results in us becoming weaker and more fragile because we reflexively go to for the quicker fixes and block learning.  We develop asymmetries of knowledge and skill in families and organizations, making them more fragile.

It turns out being able to recognize your own pain and being able to soothe yourself is not really an optional skill. We have been duped by the promise that we are in a rat race that we can win and all this stress will be worth it in the end.   Our society shits on the skill of soothing ourselves and others, but since it is not optional to human functioning to be soothed, we instead spend billions on it:  alcohol, drugs, quackery, social media, infidelity, pornography, etc. We also self-soothe when we procrastinate, call in sick to work a lot, and avoid tough but important decisions and activities.






Overcoming your opponent

March 28, 2017

When Hatim al-Asamm of Afghanistan went to Baghdad, people surrounding him saying, ‘You are a non-Arab of halting speech, yet you silence everyone.” He answered, ‘Three things allow me to overcome my opponent. I am happy when he is right, and I am sad when he is wrong, and I try not to behave foolishly towards him.’

from Learning How to Learn

Idries Shah

What things will save humanity from the world?

March 26, 2017

There are 4 things. Accept the ignorance of others and spare them yours; spare for them from your substance, and do not expect any of theirs.

Hatim al-Asamm

from Learning How to Learn

Idries Shah



Reality owes us nothing because it has already given us everything

May 6, 2016

If I could become the best in the world at anything, it would be learning. Imagine what would be possible if you could learn to be a better learner.

So what is the basis of learning?

In The Dermis Probe, Idries Shah quotes Khamlat Posh who is responding to someone asking about discipleship.

Desire to learn is not the basis for learning, but sincerity is. The basis of sincerity is straightforwardness and a liking for balance.

I have always thought of sincerity as being intimately connected to desire. Asking myself what I want and why I want it has seemed to me to be the pathway to sincerity.


“Do I really want to talk to this person, or am I telling myself I do because what I really want is not to hurt their feelings?”

“Do  I really want to learn or do I really just want to find a way to be rich?”

So being straightforward with yourself about your desires begins to reveal the limit of desire. Desire is always selfish when it comes down to it.

Being straightforward actually works against a lot of desires. It can shatter social standing. It can cost you money. No one ‘wants’ to be straightforward. One hopes one can be straightforward, and that doing so won’t be so distabilizing as to shake one out of balance.

The Truth or Reality exist regardless of our desire to know it. It does not require us to add anything to it, like our desire for It. It is there to be experienced by people who are balanced enough to do so.  But we can’t force It.

Reality owes us nothing because It has already given us everything.

We owe It everything, yet It refuses payment.

We can only choose to resonate as best we can with It’s Gift.

Learn gratitude.  Learn straightforwardness. Learn to know and like balance. Learn sincerity.

Let them teach you.


Two ‘refusal rules’ to follow when you are stuck or procrastinating

May 4, 2016

If part of the problem is that you are just being lazy, own it, then try following these 2 rules if that is not enough to get unstuck.


I. Refuse to be a alone with the problem

Start conversations with people who are impacted by the same problem  or who are simply people who like to be helpful to you.

Try to reach agreements on how you can address the problem in a more coordinated way. Respect their decision to help you or not. Make sure they really want to help or can, and that they are comfortable saying no to involvement in your plan. If they say no, go to rule 2.

Sometimes just an agreement by them to be emotionally supportive can go a very long way.


2. Refuse to tolerate interference from people who decide not to coordinate efforts with you.

Sometimes people don’t agree with how you are going to address a problem and they want to do it their way. This can create more problems than the original problem! You can’t force them not to keep trying do it their way, but you can ask them to pause while you try it your way. You can also agree to try it their way for a time and if it fails,  ask them to try it your way.

Sometimes these conversations reopen the negotiations that ended when you were initially following rule 1.


Who in your life acknowledges that you matter ?

May 3, 2016

Oscar Wilde said that there is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. We tend to think our motive is win in our arguments or business interactions, yet often you might really be motivated by trying to satisfy your need for attention. Attention may be ‘hostile’ or ‘friendly’ but still fill the appetite for attention. In the act of fighting, each is acknowledging that the other matters.

Our failure to understand our need for attention routinely lands us in trouble because it leaves us at the mercy of anyone, however unpleasant, who’s willing to bestow some. When people feel ignored, a political leader who makes them feel acknowledged will acquire their support, even if he’s an egomaniacal tyrant with no plans to improve their lives. A controlling or abusive partner will doubtless pay you plenty of attention, even as he or she destroys you. Worse, you’ll be predisposed to believe it when you’re told the abuse or message or whataver comes along with the attention is “for your own good.”  You are vulnerable to the message that too often accompanies the exercise of attention towards them. ”

We think of “attention-seeking” as a character flaw, but maybe the deliberate skillful seeking of attention is what is missing for many of us. We are made wiser and stronger as soon as we start to see it as a universal need – met in healthy or unhealthy ways.


( I did not write this – just summed up an article by an author whose name I left out when I photocopied it. The author is building on the work of Idries Shah as it intersects with current sociological and psychological research)

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