What do people think of you?

What do people think of you? Are you kind, aggressive, fat, happy, depressed, generous or something else? You can take any number of personality tests or online quizzes to learn more about who your are but there is a problem. 

Learning more about who you are does not tell you anything about what people think about you.

Reading the reviews of your work or your last performance review will not tell you what people think about you, and asking people what they think about you will not tell  you what they think about you.

There are countless problems with the question, what do people think about me. One is that other people’s perspective of you is as varied as the number of people you know. Stephanie may think you’re brilliant because you helped her find a great job but David thinks you’re an asshole because you haven’t called him back in a month. It’s called the fundamental attribution error. People generalize their opinion of others based on a narrow slice of time. The day you were tired changed the person the world saw compared to the day you were first engaged. 

Then there is the problem with them. What is there perception of your political stance, the way you dress or the type of work you do? What they think of you is highly influenced by their beliefs more than who you really are. 

Let’s also not forget that people may hate your last book, but love how much money you give to charity. They may love your music but hate the way you dance. You are not a singular entity anymore than the state you live in. I like Texas. . . until I have to drive across it.

So what do people think of you?

Everything.

They think the worst and they think the best they are completely wrong and perfectly accurate and everything in between. The question shouldn’t be what do people think of me, the question is how can I serve the people who do think about me. How can I become the best version of myself so that the people around me benefit from my growth. 

How do I accelerate personal growth?

I just finished Unleash The Power Within, the four day, 10-15 hour per day Tony Robbins event designed to help you break through limiting beliefs, learn how to achieve more and become a better version of yourself. It is a massive event designed to answer the question, how do I accelerate personal growth. It was amazing. 15,000 people in the Los Angeles Convention Center dancing, screaming, crying and growing all at the same time, for more hours over a weekend than most people spend all week at work.

It was total immersion, which is one of the things that Tony teaches. One of the pillars of personal growth is to take massive action, which is what we did. But the truth is I didn’t grow while I was there, at least not in any way that is measurable by normal means. My bank account certainly didn’t grow, my health and fitness may have gotten worse, (the food in L.A. is amazing!) and my projects in my businesses suffered because I was there.

Why Go?

And yet,

I personally grew. Most of the time when someone asks how to accelerate personal growth, what they are really asking is, how can I make more money, how can I get more freedom or how can I get something else that I want, faster than the average person. and the answer is to take a step back.

Back Up

Take a step back and evaluate where you are, take a step back and define what you want or take a step back and learn what you are missing in order to make your goals a reality. In this world of constant motion and movement, most of us don’t take the time to stop and gain clarity on where we are going, we just go. It’s like getting in a car and driving whatever direction it happens to be facing, constantly going faster and faster, without understanding where you are really driving.

Accelerating personal growth isn’t hard. If your goal is to learn Spanish, you can do it in a few months, if you want to read 50 books, buy an account with Audible and listen all day, by next year you will have met your goal. But accelerating growth for the sake of growing is a problem.

You have to know where you’re heading before you speed off to get there.

If your product is losing your company money, more sales will just put you in bankruptcy faster. The trick to accelerating personal growth is easy. As Tony says, “take massive action.” This will accelerate everything in your life and it is easy.

Knowing where you are going in life is difficult.

The Correlation Between School and Success

mark rossini

There is a correlation between bad students and big success. But it isn’t what most people think.

Prevailing wisdom says, “The better one does in school, the better they will do in their career, their finances and in life overall.” But the numbers just don’t support that thinking.

Bad Students/Successful People

President George H.W. Bush said “I refuse to release my high school transcript. I failed chemistry and I don’t want anyone to know that.”

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard his junior year, Mark Zuckerberg dropped out his sophomore year.

Here is a list of just a few successful high school dropouts.

NUUMI

What School Doesn’t Do

In this article in Inc., Ilya Pozin explains that GPA does not measure incredibly valuable attributes. Values such as leadership ability, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, or unconventional problem solving go unchecked. In fact, one of the most valuable topics for understanding success is the study of heuristics, which most schools never even touch.

But there are outstanding examples of great students, who failed at life. People like Harry Markopolis, Ignaz Semmelweis and Pol Pot who were champions of education. But they either weren’t able to find success, or in the case of Pol Pot, was just a horrible person. Saddam Hussein was one of the biggest proponents of education. Under his reign Iraq had a 100% primary school enrollment and Hussein set out to make sure every person in Iraq could read.

The Student Loan Crisis

Yet we still believe, despite mounting evidence that the path to success is formal eduction. All while wading through a student loan crisis that could be the next downfall of our economy. In a world where over half of borrowers still haven’t paid off their student loans 20 years later, we have a $1.5 trillion crisis on our hands. Not because we need it, but because we are perpetrating a lie. The lie that formal education is the path to success has turned out to be a nightmare for some. It’s a complete farce to most of the people with a 17 year-old student loan for a degree they aren’t even using.

If good students are struggling and bad students are finding great success, why are we pushing our youth to be good students?

Choice Architecture

I was so embarrassed. 

I walked right into the door; not through an open door, but directly into a closed door, hard. My knee struck the bottom half of the door with a loud bang, my head nearly bouncing off the glass where the hand-written sign clearly read, “Pull to open door.” The whole store choice architectureturned and looked when they heard the loud thud of my knee hitting the door that I had pushed hard against the jam. I could feel the color drain from my face as I slowly looked at the cashier, who smiled and said . . . . .

Choice architecture is the study, not of the decisions we make, but how those decisions are presented to us. Restaurants know that a line on a menu about cheesecake is worth much less money to a diner than having the cheesecake brought to the table side on a beautiful cart and showcased. Even if the cheesecake is exactly the same, as a rule we pay more for the presentation. In this example the restaurant has executed perfect choice architecture. They have built the presentation in such a way that we are more likely to choose what they want us to have. 

And I think it’s fantastic. 

Let me explain with another example plucked from the dining profession.

Sommeliers

A sommelier is someone who tells you what your wine will taste like before you buy it. Then, when you pay much more for a fancy table, fancy bottle, and fancy description you can say, “oh the sommelier was right, this does have a nutty after-taste,” even though countless scientific studies have proven that a lot of the taste of wine is imaginary. The flavor of wine comes as much from our expectations as the grapes from which it was made. So the choice architecture plays a huge role in the entire experience.

Or think of it from a 21st century perspective.

The last bit of software you bought solved a problem yes, but you paid more for it than for the other option because you had heard of it before, the purchase process was simple and the website was beautiful. You didn’t even shop the competition. If you had, you probably wouldn’t have chosen them anyway because their website is clunky, no one you know uses them and it was a lot easier to go with something you are familiar with than to research another option. The choice architecture guided your decision. You went with the simple choice, which is what most of us do.

We hire people to make our decisions for us.

Mostly because they are better at it than we are. 

Those people that we hire to make choices for us create great choice architecture around our decisions. They arrange and situate our choices to help us choose what they want us to have. 

And it’s great. 

Here’s why.

Snake Oil

On it’s face it sounds horrible. Someone who manipulates the system to get us to choose what they want us to use, buy or have seems shady at best. They are using the same process snake oil salesmen used 100 years ago, right? Well not really. The snake oil salesman tricked people into buying vegetable oil that didn’t do what he promised it would do.

He lied.

But the cheesecake from the table side is delicious, and the software does work. We aren’t being sold, in most cases, a complete lie. We are getting something for the money we spend. The choice architects are not con-men. They are creating expectations for their own product when they dress it up. And unlike the snake oil salesman, they are still around hours, months even years after you buy. They field your comments or service their product for you after the purchase, which the snake oil salesman never did.

Expectations

Good choice architects present their product as having a higher value than their competition because they know customers can be disagreeable at times. They add options, tweak the light and clean up the presentation to raise our expectations of their work. And often, they raise the price. Yes it makes them more money, but it also elevates what you expect from the product. This makes you more discerning, more demanding but also more appreciative. By presenting simple, beautiful, higher-priced options they are taking the guess work out of our decisions, and we pay more for that service.

We have hired them to make our decisions for us.

Plus you really do think the wine has a nutty aftertaste when the sommelier says it will. Your expectations guide your reality. When you expect the outcome your mind makes you think it’s true. In this article from Psychology Today, David DiSalvo explains this placebo effect. He explains that when a choice architect prices a bottle of wine at $50 and another at $10, we think the $50 bottle of wine tastes better, even if they are both the same wine. It’s a psychological nuance we all have. We anticipate value defined by, among other things, purchase price.

But wait, if we think the wine tastes better, doesn’t it actually taste better?

Your Reality

No one can take away the experience that the choice architect has given us of a better tasting wine, even if all she did was raise the price on the bottle. The wine does taste better, so she did us a favor. We hired her to make our choice for us, and in return she gave us better tasting wine.

It happens every day. We hire someone to help us make a better choice, and usually they do.

Unless you are waking out of the door in a specific store in my home town that has a round handle for pushing and a flat plate for pulling.

Opening Doors

For over 40 years now I have hired people to train my brain that round handles on doors are for pulling and flat plates on the same doors are for pushing. They have done a fabulous job making the decision to push or pull a door a simple transaction for me. For the last four decades I have not stopped at every door I encountered, examined the jam, looked for instructions and then made my choice. It has always been a simple event.

The choice architects in the door opening business have been very proficient and consistent in my life. So proficient that any hand-written sign on the door goes completely unnoticed by me as I confidently stride through a skill I have mastered thanks to the universal standards set forth by our choice architect friends who engineer the door experience.

There could be a flashing neon sign, with elephants doing cartwheels and dollar signs saying “don’t push this door!!” It would be overshadowed by the years of Pavlovian training my brain has been through. It surprises me that anyone would think that writing “Pull to choice architectureopen door” on a piece of paper would fix the problem of the wrong handled door.

The Language of Choice

In fact I would guess that most people of every race, creed and denomination speak the same door opening language as I do. In fact I know they do. I know they do because psychology says they do. I know they do because marketing 101 explains they do. And I know they do because when I could feel the color drain from my face as I slowly looked at the cashier, he smiled and said . . . it happens all the time.

I fired my first choice architect today.

If we want to have any influence with the people around us, we have to understand choice architecture. We must have a sense of how people make decisions. Writing a sign and sticking it to the door was purely a waste of time, nothing more. It was an exercise in futility because the sign never intercepted my conscious during the transaction, and I’m not the only one.

It Happens All the Time

The cashier said, “it happens all the time.” If it happens all the time, that means the sign isn’t working! The sign isn’t working because no one looks for directions before opening a door. This is choice architecture at it’s purest. The choice to pull or push open a door comes solely from the shape of the handle on the door, nothing else.

So when no one buys your product, listens to your talk or reads what you wrote, it isn’t because they are screwed up. It probably isn’t because your product, speech or writing is bad either. Often we lose influence because we get the architecture of the choice wrong.

If what you are offering is of any value to others, you owe it to them to understand choice architecture, even if all your are doing is helping them open a door the right way.

The Case for Disagreeableness; the “Turn the Other Cheek” Myth

Should people turn the other cheek? For the next 1000 words you will disagree with me.

In the sleepy little town of Snowflake, Arizona (you read it right; Snowflake, Arizona) a man named Joey molested a student in the locker room of the high school after a weights class. Just a few short months later, another man named Bryce walked into the local bank, stoleturn the other cheek $30,010.00 from the business in which he was a partner, after stealing a $10,516 trailer and forging the title into his name.

When both cases were reported, it was nearly impossible to persuade the appropriate leadership to take any action. The leadership in the company turned a blind eye to the theft of over $40,000 and the school leadership flatly refused to call the police on the molester.

Taking Action

When action was finally taken against both men, the townspeople were in an uproar . . . against the people who called the proper authorities! The calls were, “how could you send Joey to prison?” and, “don’t you know a lawsuit could ruin Bryce’s life?”

These anecdotes may portray the town as full of horrible thieves and morally bankrupt people, but it’s quite the opposite. The town is largely LDS, a branch of Christianity with some of the strictest rules concerning behavior this side of the Menonites and the Amish.

The town is full of very kind people who believe that honesty and truthfulness are next to Godliness. You would like visiting Snowflake. You would like it more if you knew someone there. A drive through the town reveals beautiful homes, clean streets and waving neighbors. The populous understands completely that molestation and theft are wrong. And yet these crimes went almost completely ignored. How did these good people see the accounts of these actions, and turn a blind eye?

Disagreeableness

The answer is disagreeableness. 

But not how you think.

Most psychologists categorize human personality into 5 factors. They are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The acronym OCEAN is often used as a reminder. Kendra Cherry outlined what are called the Big 5 in her April 2018 article in verywellmind.com where she explains that each trait is a range, or spectrum. She says. . . 

pastedGraphic.png-It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes. For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension.-

Where a person lands within the range of each category tells us a lot about that person. I’m sure you can think of someone you know who is extremely introverted, and their counterpart who is the life of the party. Strictly based on those personality traits, I can quickly assess that your introverted friend is quieter than your extrovert amigo. They are also much more calm. These are the traits of those respective factors.

Agreeableness

Then there is agreeableness. It sounds more like a positive personality trait rather than a spectrum. Shouldn’t we all want to rank as high as possible on the agreeable spectrum?

The answer is absolutely not. 

I’m sure you don’t agree with me at this moment. But after I describe the dimensions of agreeableness to you, you will be certain I am wrong.

Agreeableness encompasses attributes such as kindness, cooperation and trust. People who rank high on the agreeableness scale are said to care more about people other than themselves while their low-ranking counterparts are more competitive. They care less how others feel and have little trouble insulting those around them. 

So why would anyone want to be disagreeable? Why be the person who insults their peers?

Because it can be the kindest thing we do.

That’s Enough

Joey pinned down a younger, smaller, weaker student. Prior to the commencement of any felonies a very agreeable weights coach named Art walked onto the scene of the large, strong adult man holding down the younger student against his will and said, “that’s enough.” 

Then he left.

He abandoned the victim at the moment the victim needed him the most. Art was much too agreeable to intervene.

When the victim told his parents they immediately went to the school. Larry, the principle said, “that’s just boys being boys.” Larry was too agreeable to cause a ruckus.

Where Was The Principle?

The family went to the police who conducted an investigation and charged Joey with multiple felonies. The question from the investigator was, “Why did the parents have to call us? Where was the principle?” The answer, he was busy being agreeable.

When Hollace, the Superintendent was forced to take action against the coach who turned his back on the victim, he gave Art one day off before the Thanksgiving holiday. Hollace was just to agreeable to do much more.

turn the other cheekWhen the community came together to take a stand, the result was a group that raises money for the school. When pressed as to why they didn’t fight to have Art fired they said, “we don’t want to do anything negative.” The same school that let down one of their students, the same faculty that flatly refused to take action was rewarded by the community with proceeds from bake sales and car washes. The town was too agreeable to disrupt the status quo.

Leaving Town

The victim and his family left town. The harassment and vandalization they received from a few of Joeys friends went unpunished and was more than they cared to handle. The townspeople and their Christian beliefs were just to agreeable to stand up against the aggressors.

One of the characterizations of Christianity is described as turning the other cheek, a phrase borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount. It has been used to describe incredibly kind acts, like the kind treatment of POWs in Communist Korea. In largely Christian societies this act of agreeableness is highly regarded. But it is not something that is universally taught in the New Testament the way it is interpreted now. In Matthew 5:39, during the famed Sermon, Jesus says, “if a man strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the other as well.” 

Turn The Other Cheek

But the sermon is wrought with metaphor. In the same sermon Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” and likened good works of men to light. It is not a section of the Bible that can be taken literally. Aquinas wrote the following regarding the turn the other cheek passage.

“To interpret the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount literally is to misunderstand it. This injunction signifies rather the readiness of the soul to bear, if it be necessary, such things and worse without bitterness to the attacker.” 

It has been explained that Jesus was not teaching Christians to lay down in the face of evil, rather to stand up to evil while resisting the urge to hate the evildoer. Turn the other cheek is not a charge to cowardice. It is a call for self-control while fighting evil. In my book SWAY, I laid out the influence of those on the autism spectrum (very convincingly I must say), but their influence does not come from weakness. It comes from strength in their convictions.

Payroll

When Bryce stole over $40,000 he was mad at his business partner, John. The week prior Bryce insisted the company make his friend Scott a third partner. Bryce explained that he wasn’t comfortable moving forward without Scott as partial owner. John refused to bring Scott on. So Bryce asked the accountant, L’Erin how much money was in the account. She explained there was $35,000 but a $5000 bill was due, plus payroll for the week. 

Bryce, in his fit, explained to L’Erin he was cleaning out the account. He was putting all of the company money in his personal account and he would pay her from that account. L’Erin was just too agreeable to say no.

Unfortunately Bryce stole his partner John’s paycheck and did not give it back. Nor did he pay the crew that was working the week prior. Because that crew was John’s sons, who were filling in for Bryce and his sons while they were on vacation at the beach. Bryce stole the paychecks of his partner and his partners sons and L’Erin never made a peep, because that would be disagreeable.

Just A Reaction

Curt, the project manager also knew about the stolen money. Bryce paid him with a personal check as well. When asked why he didn’t say anything to anyone about what was happening, his answer was, “Oh, that was just Bryce’s reaction.” Curt was just to agreeable to make waves.

We value agreeableness. The guy who never says anything negative and the lady who always has a compliment hold a special place in our hearts, as they should. It is right and good that we value those behaviors. It is a heuristic we use to gauge each other. 

But we have to pay attention to context.

Turning the other cheek means standing up to wrong without hating the wrongdoer.

It is a lesson I am learning while I try to curtail my anger towards a man who assaulted my sons friend and another who stole my sons paychecks. I do not struggle with the standing up portion, it is the other part that is hard for me. I look forward to the day when I automatically get this right.

But today it is hard.

What It Takes

Agreeableness has a place, probably in most situations. But it takes a level of disagreeableness to make change. Steve Jobs was disagreeable enough to disrupt the idea of what a phone was. Gutenberg had enough disagreeableness to change how we record information. Disagreeableness is mandatory to force good onto evil. It took disagreeableness to fight for civil rights, stop the charge of Hitler and even for Jesus to fight against the evils of the first century.

So why would anyone want to be disagreeable?

Because in order to stop bad things, we have to stand up to bad things, which takes a level of disagreeableness. When Art was too agreeable to step in it was cruel, not kind. When L’Erin was too agreeable to stop or report theft it was a felony, not friendliness. 

Why be the person who insults their peers?

Because we have to call out wrong when we see it, and calling someone a thief or a child molester is an insult.

 Even when it’s true.

The Truth About Censorship

Socrates

In 399 B. C. Socrates was tried by a jury of 500 for refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state and for corrupting the youth. 280 of the 500 Athenian jurors found him guilty. But censorship then was much harsher than today. 

They sentenced him to death. censorship

He was taken to a jail where the execution would be performed and the executioner would be himself. Athenian custom was that executions were performed by drinking a cup of hemlock. The following is Plato’s description of the ordered suicide of Socrates.

The Suicide of Socrates

-When Crito heard, he signaled to the slave who was standing by. The boy went out, and returned after a few moments with the man who was to administer the poison which he brought ready mixed in a cup. 

When Socrates saw him, he said, ‘Now, good sir, you understand these things. What must I do?’

‘Just drink it and walk around until your legs begin to feel heavy, then lie down. It will soon act.’ With that he offered Socrates the cup.

The latter took it quite cheerfully without a tremor, with no change of color or expression. He just gave the man his stolid look, and asked, ‘How say you, is it permissible to pledge this drink to anyone? May I?’

The answer came, ‘We allow reasonable time in which to drink it.’

Beyond The Grave

‘I understand’, he said, ‘we can and must pray to the gods that our sojourn on earth will continue happy beyond the grave. This is my prayer, and may it come to pass.’ With these words, he stoically drank the potion, quite readily and cheerfully. 

Up till this moment most of us were able with some decency to hold back our tears, but when we saw him drinking the poison to the last drop, we could restrain ourselves no longer. In spite of myself, the tears came in floods, so that I covered my face and wept – not for him, but at my own misfortune at losing such a man as my friend. Crito, even before me, rose and went out when he could check his tears no longer.

Steadily Weeping

Apollodorus was already steadily weeping, and by drying his eyes, crying again and sobbing, he affected everyone present except for Socrates himself.

He said, ‘You are strange fellows; what is wrong with you? I sent the women away for this very purpose, to stop their creating such a scene. I have heard that one should die in silence. So please be quiet and keep control of yourselves.’ These words made us ashamed, and we stopped crying.

Socrates walked around until he said that his legs were becoming heavy, when he lay on his back, as the attendant instructed. This fellow felt him, and then a moment later examined his feet and legs again. Squeezing a foot hard, he asked him if he felt anything. Socrates said that he did not. He did the same to his calves and, going higher, showed us that he was becoming cold and stiff. Then he felt him a last time and said that when the poison reached the heart he would be gone.

Don’t Forget

As the chill sensation got to his waist, Socrates uncovered his head (he had put something over it) and said his last words: ‘Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don’t forget.’

‘Of course’, said Crito. ‘Do you want to say anything else?’

There was no reply to this question, but after a while he gave a slight stir, and the attendant uncovered him and examined his eyes. Then Crito saw that he was dead, he closed his mouth and eyelids.

This was the end of our friend, the best, wisest and most upright man of any that I have ever known-

Censorship

Today we live win a society that welcomes the free flow of ideas. Anyone can have a blog, speak about almost anything or teach on any subject they choose. Censorship today is nothing compared to the past. There is nothing stopping you from going out and having influence. Start now.

Milton Erickson

Mirroring is one of the crucial steps in building rapport. Science has uncovered what they call mirror neurons in our brain that automatically take on the speech and gestures of those around us. We act, speak and often feel similar to those with whom we interact. This is the study of mirroring. One of the forerunners in the study and use of mirroring was Dr. Milton Erickson.

Milton Erickson

One story has it that a 17 year old, polio stricken Erickson overheard the doctor telling his mother that Milton would not live through the next day. So he asked his mother to place a mirror in his room so he could watch one more sunset. Milton Erickson

Fortunately for us, young Milton Erickson survived much longer than one more sunset. But the mirror remained. Eventually Milton began to notice small muscle movements of his own. He also had the time to watch people as they interacted with each other. The little twitches and movements he saw in the mirror watching himself became clear in other people. He realized that when people got in a state of rapport, they often mirrored the movements, words, tones and even breathing of each other. Eventually he used this knowledge of mirroring in his practice as a therapist. He was able to quickly build a sense of belonging in the clients who hired him by mimicking their tone, words and gestures.

Mirror Neurons

Erickson learned that these subconscious actions are powerful, which opened doors to the healing of patients through subconscious means. Most times we aren’t aware of mirroring. It doesn’t matter if we are the mirror or the mirroree, we usually don’t see it. But it happens anyway. Erickson found what scientist now know is the result of mirror neurons.

The American Pshychological Association explains it like this.

From The American Psychological Association

-You’re walking through a park when out of nowhere, the man in front of you gets smacked by an errant Frisbee. Automatically, you recoil in sympathy. Or you’re watching a race, and you feel your own heart racing with excitement as the runners vie to cross the finish line first. Or you see a woman sniff some unfamiliar food and wrinkle her nose in disgust. Suddenly, your own stomach turns at the thought of the meal.

For years, such experiences have puzzled psychologists, neuroscientists and philosophers, who’ve wondered why we react at such a gut level to other people’s actions. How do we understand, so immediately and instinctively, their thoughts, feelings and intentions?

Finding The Evidence

Now, some researchers believe that a recent discovery called mirror neurons might provide a neuroscience-based answer to those questions. Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else Milton Ericksonperform the same action. They were first discovered in the early 1990s, when a team of Italian researchers found individual neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys that fired both when the monkeys grabbed an object and also when the monkeys watched another primate grab the same object.

Neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti, MD, who with his colleagues at the University of Parma first identified mirror neurons, says that the neurons could help explain how and why we “read” other people’s minds and feel empathy for them. If watching an action and performing that action can activate the same parts of the brain in monkeys–down to a single neuron–then it makes sense that watching an action and performing an action could also elicit the same feelings in people.

Far-reaching Consequences

The concept might be simple, but its implications are far-reaching. Over the past decade, more research has suggested that mirror neurons might help explain not only empathy, but also autism and even the evolution of language.

In fact, psychologist V.S. Ramachandran, PhD, has called the discovery of mirror neurons one of the “single most important unpublicized stories of the decade.”-

The next time you are speaking to a friend, hold your arms in a certain pose, different than theirs. You will notice that eventually they will mimic your stance. Or try to replicate their breathing pattern as you speak. If you get this right, the other person will open up, be more forthcoming and yo will develop rapport almost immediately. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mirroring.

Mirroring is one of the things psychopaths do so well, it’s what the Twitterverse did with each other when they destroyed Justine Saaco, and it’s one simple way to improve your influence.

Positive Traits of People With Autism

(My book, SWAY was largely based on this article from the people at verywell.com. Please enjoy!)

If you’re the parent of a child with autism (or an adult on the spectrum) you’ve probably heard a lifetime’s worth of information about the challenges and deficits associated with the disorder. But for every downside to autism, there seems to be an upside too. People with autism have uniquely positive traits that are rare or even nonexistent among typical individuals. It’s important to note that these positive traits are not unique to savants with special talents or skills; rather, they are present in almost every person with autism.

If you’re tired of hearing about the problems associated with autism, try pinning this list up on your fridge or sharing it with friends, family, and school staff. It’s time to celebrate the positive!

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The Easy Life

People say they want an easy life. They want to reach retirement, throw away their alarm clock, sit back and do nothing. If everything was taken care of for them, they could live the good life.

I don’t believe though, that  the easy life is the good life. 

When fishermen in San Fransisco stopped feeding the seagulls it turned into a disaster. Not because all of the seagulls started eating the natural food, readily available to them, but because the gulls had been given their sustenance for so long they had forgotten how to keep themselves alive.

For generations they had come to the piers and docks to be fed the remains from the fishing boats. Life was easy. Everything they needed was handed out and they need not go out and fish themselves. They didn’t need to get better, stay sharp learn more, because they were comfortable.

And the gulls began dying in droves.

Easy stops us from growing, if we let it.

Easy will keep you right where you are, if you allow it.

Easy is the opposite of great.

If we want to have more influence, make a change in the world or do bigger things, we have to avoid easy.

We must chase after what is difficult.

Mark Rossini

Mark Rossini tried to stop 9/11. But he ran into a psychological barrier which we all deal with regularly. If those around him didn’t allow this one thing to dominate their actions, thousands of people would’ve been saved.

Cork

The word cork can mean so many things.

Cork is a device for plugging holes, a porous texture and a color in the family of brown. It takes context to know which meaning the word takes on in a sentence. The phrase nine eleven was the same way, until 2001.

It could conjure thoughts of the iconic Porsche 911 in Carmine Red. Nine eleven might have made people consider the emergency phone number system implemented in the late 1960’s in the U.S.

But now the phrase causes most people imagine two planes crashing into the World Trade Center Towers. Like me, most people see the images of people fleeing in the streets as the giants of finance crumble to the earth and melt from the skyline.

mark rossiniThe terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 caused a huge ripple in the sea that is the world. For those of us who were raising young families during that time, it shook our feeling of security and safety to it’s core. We wondered what the world would look like when our children matured. Would the U.S. still exist as it did that day, and just how long would this new war, fought for old reasons last?

Defining Moments

It was a defining moment in the lives of Generation X. Up to that point the Challenger disaster, Rodney King riots, O.J. Simpson trial and the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal were likely the most memorable events of our lives.

But 9/11 changed everything. Suddenly we were thrust into politics, religion and chaos. We had never witnessed an event that killed thousands of people in a single day. Our generation had never seen the beginning of a war of that scale. We had never had so many unanswered questions dumped upon us in such a short amount of time.

One of those questions, which was asked over and over again was, “How could this happen?”

It seems the answer was simple.

CNN breaks down the timeline this way.

September 11, 2001

Nineteen men hijack four commercial airlines loaded with fuel for cross country flights, to carry out a terrorist attack on the United States orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

— 8:46 a.m. ET (approx.) – American Airlines Flight 11 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The plane is piloted by plot leader Mohamed Atta.

— 9:03 a.m. ET (approx.) – United Airlines Flight 175 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The plane is piloted by hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi.

— 9:37 a.m. ET (approx.) – American Airlines Flight 77 (traveling from Dulles, Virginia, to Los Angeles) strikes the Pentagon Building in Washington, DC. The plane is piloted by hijacker Hani Hanjour.

— 10:03 a.m. ET (approx.) – United Airlines Flight 93 (traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco) crashes in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The plane is piloted by hijacker Ziad Jarrah.

What Really Happened?

That is technically what happened. But the question is not in reference to the timeline of the day. The question is in reference to the fact that 19, highly unskilled and very questionable men walked through multiple lines of security offered by the U.S. government and killed thousands of people on American soil with almost no trouble.

How did that happen?

How did 19 guys with box cutters accomplish such a heinous crime, with the CIA operating mainly out of the country and the FBI functioning inside our boundaries, and utilizing a budget of tens of billions of dollars?

The answer is they walked through a psychological quirk that existed within the agencies. It is not an oddity or rare. In fact it something for which most of us have the capacity. This quirk was best demonstrated and discovered in an experiment on how animals related one thing with another.

Dogs

1965 was not a good year to be a test animal. Martin Seligman was much crueler to dogs than would be allowed today. His test started by ringing a bell, then shocking a dog immediately thereafter. He was attempting to prove the association the dogs developed with the bell and the pain of the shock, which he did. Eventually the dogs would flinch from he sound of the bell, even if no shock was administered.

But the second part of the test was the most interesting.

He built a large pen with a short wall dividing the pen into two sides. The wall was short enough for the dogs to see and step over easily. Seligman then placed a dog on one side of the pen.The floor of that side had been set up to become electrified. He administered a shock to the dogs and what happened next was, well shocking.

If the dog had previously been jolted during the bell experiment, it would just lay down and take the jolt. During the bell experiment the dog had no control over the treatment. It had learned that the shocks were out of it’s control. In the dog’s mind there was nothing it could do to stop the pain. So it would just lie down until the shock ended.

If the dog had not been shocked it would simply jump to the other side of the pen, safe and happy. What Seligman uncovered was what he coined learned helplessness. Seligman had unknowingly trained those dogs to believe the shocks were a condition of existing. The dogs thought there was nothing they could do to stop the shock. So even when there was a clear and available opportunity to leave, they did not. They were trained to be helpless.

Humans

In the decades following the research, learned helplessness has also been found in humans.

We will often do nothing if we have been taught or trained that nothing we do matters. Sometimes we feel it’s impossible to affect change or find something better, so we sit in the painful situation, hoping it will go away. We find ways to cope with the feeling of helplessness in the form of mood-altering chemicals, hobbies or sayings to occupy our mind and make us believe we are not in control. Things like, “the rich get richer,” or “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” and “if it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all” lead to the same learned helplessness the dogs felt.

The outcomes of situations are often what causes pain in humans. It could be the death of a friend, the loss of a place to live after losing a job or the end of a relationship that we wanted to keep that hurts us deeply. Negative outcomes to situations are the source of most human suffering. But it is what we think about those outcomes that determine our mental state.

Attributions

It is in the moment when we assign blame for the situation that we determine our perspective on what happened. That moment when we attribute reasons for the situation shapes everything. Psychologists have found many types of these attributions, but there are three that we use with devastating results. They result in learned helplessness. They are:

  1. Internal

Internal attributions name the person for the outcome, and nothing else.mark rossini

  1. Stable

Stable attributions are attributions that don’t change with time.

  1. Global

Global attributions don’t change across situations.

Situations

For example, if a person loses their job, they may assign many reasons as to why it happened. They may think it’s because they are incompetent, their boss was a bad leader or the industry is dying.

When the person who was fired feels incompetent, that is an internal attribution to that outcome. If that person is incompetent, all responsibilities for the outcome lie within the person. That internal attribution can be the beginning of learned helplessness. So if the problem lies solely within the victim of the outcome, the same results are bound to follow that person to the next job.

If the attribution was that the boss was a bad leader, that would be an external attribution. That reason stays with the lost job, not with the person, making a new job a decent solution to the problem. External attributions don’t usually lead to learned helplessness.

Options

That person being incompetent is not, however an example of a stable attribution. One can be better trained, competent in a different field or develop a new discipline to overcome their shortcomings. But, if they attribute their skin color or gender to the loss, that is a stable attribution. Those are things that aren’t likely to change.

A global attribution would be that the person was working at a store which became obsolete, like a record store. Globally, the industry of analog music decomposed to digital music. The industry of any type of physical music such as CD’s is all but gone. If the attribution to the job loss is that the record business is dying, it would be a global attribution. Consequently, if the person assigns that along with an internal attribution that the only thing they know is the record business, it is a recipe for learned helplessness.

Football

Learned helplessness is the mindset that causes people to continue doing something that will never get them the results they want. If the person who lost their job thinks the record industry is dying and they only know that industry, they are helpless. But there are better, realistic examples of learned helplessness. For instance, it is the reason football teams still punt on fourth down.

In American football the team with the ball has four chances to move it ten yards. If the team reaches or exceeds ten yards at any time, those four chances, or downs, start over. When they don’t move ten yards or more in four downs the other team gets the ball right where the fourth play stopped.

Given that the other team may get the ball anyway after fourth down, most teams choose to punt, or kick the ball away. In other words the team gives up the chance to complete the full ten yards, or even an opportunity to score, so they can put the other team in worse field position on the next play. This puts the ball as far away from their end zone, where the other team scores, as possible. So punting makes it more difficult for the other team to score, in theory.

But the numbers say that isn’t true.Math

The math is complicated, but essentially every yard on the field is given a value relative to the potential the team has of scoring from that position. When an astute coach factors in the potential they have of completing the full ten yards with the field position of the other team after a punt, it becomes very clear that punting is a bad idea almost always. Not only is the team giving away 25% of their chance to score, but they are doing it to put the other team in a field position that almost never equates to a big change.

If the other team had to start the next play from where the ball landed on the field it may be a different story. But that isn’t the case. The other team catches the ball and then runs it back from whence it came. This return of the ball back towards the end zone, plus the loss of 1 out of 4 chances to score makes for devastating math.

The science on punting is not a theory, but is proven mathematically, and functionally on the field. But teams still punt, like addicts who need a fix. This research has been around a long time and most professional coaches have at least heard of it. Yet they still kick away the football on fourth down.

The Reason

David Romer of the University of California, Berkeley and National Bureau of Economic Research who did the research that resulted in this unconventional bit of wisdom thinks he knows why. He says that in the moment the coach chooses to  kick the ball away, they are not thinking about winning. They are thinking about their job. He explains that if the team acts conventionally and loses, the coach can blame the players for the loss. But if they act unconventionally and lose, he carries the burden. So, out of fear and learned helplessness, coaches continue doing what they’ve always done, which is wrong.

Well, most coaches anyway.

In 2015, the Kansas City Star wrote an article about a “radical” coach who had changed his philosophy on how the game of football should be played. Jeff Cruce had decided that he would follow the tutelage of people like David Romer and coach Kevin Kelly, who adopted the concept to great results. The article was written early in the season, before the results could be established. But they were fascinated with the radical coach Kelly who was defying the status quo. They explained him this way.

The Article

-Kelley, the head coach at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock since 2003, has won four state titles using his radical brand of football. You’ve probably heard the story: Kelley’s teams never punts — save for the most extreme situations. They always onside kick. And they generally treat football games like one never-ending, hair-ablaze two-minute drill. Kelley’s strategies — and their subsequent success — have made him a cult figure in football circles.

He is a constant media curiosity — commanding recent profiles from HBO’s “Real Sports,” the Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and pretty much every publication that enjoys weird sports stories. He is adored on the Internet. (Twitter is obsessed with many things, but it LOVES coaches who never punt.) And he has become a fascination in the upper echelon of football. Earlier this year, according to the Post, Kelley scored a one-on-one meeting with former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, who now works for the Atlanta Falcons.

But for all the attention, Kelley has remained something of a loner — a one-man revolution against the punting fascists of the football world.-

Radical

A idea is only newsworthy if it’s rare. And it stays a rare idea when the majority of people would rather sit in the pain of what is wrong than jump to the freedom of success. In the midst of learned helplessness, good ideas like not punting seem radical.

Learned helplessness can cause dogs to sit through a shock, coaches to keep doing what doesn’t work and huge government agencies to shrug their shoulders and say, “that’s the way it is around here” in the face of mounting evidence that danger is coming.

Mark Rossini and Doug Miller

Doug Miller was an FBI agent assigned to the CIA’s Alec Station unit. It was the unit assigned to monitoring Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. Miller was concerned about Khalid al-Mihdhar who was a known terrorist that had obtained passage to the US. His bosses at the CIA were not.

On Sept 11, al-Mihdhar would help fly American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

20 months earlier, on January 5, 2000, Doug Miller learned that Khalid al-Mihdhar had a US visa. In December of the previous year the CIA tapped the phone in Yemen belonging to al-Mihdhar which began the snowball of information on him, including his possible link to an attack in 1998 on the East African embassy. So Doug Miller wrote a memo intended for the FBI, explaining that a known terrorist with ties to Al-Queada had a US passport and could be headed to the US. Because the CIA manages foreign matters and the FBI is in charge of domestic issues, this seems the logical course of action. This terrorist is about to leave foreign soil and land right in FBI jurisdiction.

Blocked

But a CIA officer named Michael Anne Casey blocked the letter from going to the FBI with a note saying, ‘pls hold off for now per Tom Wilshire’ who was deputy chief of Alec Station. Miller was also told that this wasn’t a matter for the FBI. These reactions were the exact opposite of what should have happened. CNN explained the dichotomous event this way.

. . . according to FBI agent Doug Miller who was assigned to the same station, Alec Station (a specific CIA branch that monitored Al-Queda) that director Tom Wilshire CIA was, Tom stopped a cable from Doug that would have relayed information about two top terrorists entering southern California for three months, a crucial hand off to the FBI that usually occurs for every terrorist they know of that is entering the USA. Tom Wilshire stopped the transfer of information, and did so on purpose. Tom had a reason, yet, is failing to reveal what that reason is or why he did it. It was definitely done intentionally.-

Mark Rossini

Enter Mark Rossini. Mark was an FBI agent temporarily working with Alec Station at the same time as Miller. He was aware Casey and Wilshire blocked the memo and became furious. Rossini was so concerned that the information was blocked, he questioned Casey about the memo personally. In the explanation of events in historycommons.com, Rossini’s interaction with Casey is described this way.

-According to author James Bamford, Rossini was “perplexed and outraged that the CIA would forbid the bureau’s notification on a matter so important.” Rossini will later say: “So the next day I went to her and said: ‘What’s with Doug’s cable? You’ve got to tell the bureau about this.’ She put her hand on her hip and said: ‘Look, the next attack is going to happen in Southeast Asia—it’s not the bureau’s jurisdiction. When we want the FBI to know about it, we’ll let them know. But the next bin Laden attack’s going to happen in Southeast Asia.’” Rossini protests, saying, “They’re here!” and, “It is FBI business,” but to no avail. Even though he is an FBI agent, he cannot pass on notification to the bureau without permission from his superiors at Alec Station.-

Nine Eleven

And so, the term nine-eleven became a moniker for a horrible tragedy, that now seems to have been preventable.

Why did Casey and Wilshire stop this flow of this life-saving information?

In the years that have followed 9/11 there have been many theories. There is the the logical concept that the CIA was attempting to recruit high-ranking members of Al-Queada as double agents, and didn’t want the FBI interfering. Then there is the Truther movement, a fraction of the population who think the US orchestrated the attacks.

There is even a segment of the Truther’s called the No Planer’s who believe the planes were actually holograms surrounding missiles fired by the US. This group seems loosely lead by a man named David Shayler. He is a former British MI5 agent who has a strange resume to say the least. Shayler blew the whistle on devious and illegal activity within MI5 and was considered somewhat of a British hero for a time. But he has since been arrested dressed as a woman going by the name of Delores Kane and then claimed to be the Messiah.

This is How We Do Things

Despite the reason, the CIA had an issue sharing certain, crucial information with the FBI. To the point that when the voice of reason spoke up in the form of Mark Rossini, it was swiftly silenced by the dominant culture of secrecy. “This is how we do things,” is a dangerous, but dominant psychology that can happen in humans.

Especially humans who have been deeply trained that protocol is life, such as CIA and FBI agents.

A note explaining that a terrorist has landed on US soil that must be approved before it is sent to those responsible for protecting the US, is a form of learned helplessness. It is the dog lying in the misery, rather than stepping over the wall into safety.