Is your lizard brain taking over?

The horse was a focal point of human transportation in the 1500’s. Plains Indians ate buffalo as their primary meat. Hunting buffalo was important in the food gathering process and back in the days where there wasn’t a farm or slaughtering house to outsource all of the nourishment, it had to be caught from the wild. During the hunt, each of the Indians would head out on horseback in groups to alarm, chase and exhaust the gigantic beasts.

It is true that various Plains Indians would occasionally chase buffalo over a small cliff. The Indians, when they found a suitable bluff, would conceal themselves behind the rocks with hides. When the herd would start to move towards the bluff, the Indians would jump up from behind their rocks, shouting and waving the hides, keeping the buffalo moving toward the cliff, according to a caption by Alfred Jacob Miller.

During these critical moments when the buffalo would be forced to make a decision to save their life, their lizard brain would be put into hyper drive. This last ditch effort was dictated by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. When this part of the brain is initiated it creates a sequence of nerve reactions that will prepare the body for running and fighting. Chemicals adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline are released into the blood and cause every part of the physiology to prepare for battle. The same brain that protects the buffalo is what foundation that also affects human psychology.

When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our more well thought out beliefs exist—and moves us into “attack” mode. This state of alert causes us to perceive almost everything in our world as a possible threat to our survival. As such, we tend to see everyone and everything as a possible enemy. Like airport security during a terrorist threat, we are on the look out for every possible danger. We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. We narrow our focus to those things that can harm us. Fear becomes the lens through which we see the world. – Neil Neimark, MD

Your lizard brain is not making decisions that will help you

On a basic level our lizard brain only has the ability of looking out for the basic food/shelter physiological needs and doesn’t allow us to make rational decisions when it is engaged. How many people are walking around with their lizard brains telling them what to do?

The Indians were dependent on the fact that these buffalo were acting solely on the most primitive part of their brain. Modern society has caused a lot of additional stressors that didn’t affect generations prior. Since there’s such a risk to us for falling ill and degrading our quality of life, it’s important to consider whether or not our lizard brain has taken over.

Next time you are feeling anxious, angry or tense, take that opportunity to ask yourself: Is this my lizard brain talking? Find a moment to release the claws of the lizard and regain control of self. This is a mantra that will help you become the best you possible.


“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” ― Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

Finding life’s sweet spot

The more experiences that lend themselves to me in life the more I realize the world is a giant spectrum. On each side is a great extreme that is commonly referred to as “black or white”.

With my scientific background it’s hard to break free from molecules, chemical structures and pocket protectors, trust me. But as I began to expand my mind into different realms I realized its not either side of the scale that matters, but that sweet spot right in the middle.

Whenever my mentors counseled me in the form of advice I was taught to seek out those two ends of the spectrum and attempt to bridge the gap to help see what was not in focus.

This is where the solution lies. Hiding, in plain sight.

Life is situational in nature. While the lot of us are struggling in the rat race to make complexities out of simplicity, the wise men are meditating on its simplicity.

I’m almost positive that I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that the highest respected people in the world are those who are proponents of simplicity. It takes an enormous amount of effort for a toddler to put his or her toys back in the box but hardly work at all to throw them about a room. And quite often they are willing to do this readily.

If we look at ourselves as unruly preschoolers, we can begin to see the correlation. Our default state is to revert back to the kind of behavior we learned as children. One of the most interesting books I ever picked up was All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

It was interesting to see how banal life’s lessons really are in the grand scheme of things. Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Clean up your mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say sorry when you hurt someone. Put things back where you found them.

Funny when you think about it. How much more complicated the world has become when we get a job, a husband or wife, kids and a house full of responsibility. At the root of it all are these key principles that have been there riding along in the back seat all along.

Herein leis another important gray area of life.

Accepted is the concept of settling down and pushing forward with a certain motive over time but the key to happiness is in persisting to create more experiences. Experiences lead to revealing to us the sweet spot of the spectrum we are looking for.

Bigots and racists are those who have not the experience to appreciate the beauty in culture. Elitists are those who have not the experience to earn their keep in the world from the ground up. Sexists are those who have not the experience to embrace differences in individuality.

The list could go on.

A basic therapy lends itself to seeing the spectrum of life and tackling the blindness that prevents us from seeing the sweet spot by pushing forward with new experiences as well as adoring simplicity throughout the process.

These lessons have taught me much about well being.

Little Things

Last week I was traveling to a conference and was forced to valet my car at the hotel that was hosting our event. As I surrendered my keys the gentleman sped off in my car and I went inside without thinking much of it. A few hours later, when it was time to leave, the same person parked the car in front of the large double doors entering the lobby. Reaching down into my pocket there was hardly a ball of lint to be found.

“I’m terribly sorry, but I do not have any money with me now.” I stated regretfully. The man looked a apathetic, “Tell you what, tomorrow I’m coming back again for the conference and I will make good on my word to tip you when I return.”

The valet attendant nodded his head but didn’t make solid eye contact with me as he shut the door behind me and ran off to the next car.

Next morning I arrived at the same location but a different attendant was at the entrance. Since I wrote down the name of the gentleman who had served me yesterday, I asked for his whereabouts.

Spotting him I headed in his direction with my hand extended toward him, “Thank you for your understanding. It’s a day late.”

He took the money and instantly lit up, “No one ever comes back. Dozens of people make that promise and never follow through. Thank you.”

The entire mood change of the man indicated to me how much the little things in life are often forgotten. When you are able to make a positive change in someone else’s life simply by holding to your word, it’s clear we as a civilization have a long way to go before reaching “enlightenment”.

Today’s challenge is to step outside of the normal boundaries of habit and try to make a small impact in a strangers life. It will pay forward exponentially.

There is no reality only perception

It can be difficult at times to see where someone else may be coming from when it comes to viewpoints. Lately I’ve realized that there truly is no reality, and it is our perception that rules 100% of the time. Philosophically, no two people will see the world in the same way and this affects how we live daily. When learning how to understand yourself better and as well as other people, it helps to take into account what perception you are viewing the world from at any particular moment.

A story I read once made me realize how we truly operate on various grounds of misperception (I am going to recite it to the best of my memory):

While boarding the subway northbound toward the city, I noticed it was an unusual day on the MTA. Passengers were uneasy to say the least. Reaching up to hold on to the handrail as the doors closed I noticed a man whose children were creating a rude disturbance in the crowd.

They ran in circles screaming, playing, whining and causing the others on the train to grit their teeth. The father? Apathetic at best.

“You think you can keep those kids under control, sir?” I finally gathered up enough nerve to ask. I felt triumphant to speak up as I did. The official spokesperson of every other aggravated commuter aboard that rail car.

He looked at me slowly and life hardly flickered once in his eyes. Nodding his head down then back up again he said softly, “I do apologize. We are returning from the hospital. Their mother is terminally ill with cancer.”

The moment stood still.

What is it like to hear that news? As the father? The children? How could the rest of us be so insensitive?

Suddenly the minor aggravation of the uncontrolled children didn’t seem so major anymore. How many times in your life have you let your perception get in the way of how you interpreted reality?

Can we wire ourselves to subconsciously take a step back when we are about to react to a situation and consider the thousands of possible other viewpoints at play? When we are able to do this, it is boosting what I like to call, our emotional intelligence. Relating to others and seeing things from other angles makes us happier people in general.

Are you willing to accept that your perception is not reality? Lately I’m understanding that there is no reality. If we all look at one scenario and derive different outcomes, the truth is self-evident.

The Power of Interdependency

Life is a constant state of transition. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are growing and transitioning towards something new, something better. My core philosophy centers on constant growth and development. I think of transition like chronic pain. Those who experience chronic pain often don’t realize they are experiencing pain until they take a pill that alleviates pain. When the pain starts again, they then recognize it. So, too, is the experience with transitions. We don’t recognize change until a change takes place. One day, we look back and think to ourselves, “How did I end up here?” These changes are often small and take place over extended periods of time.

The large changes, however, are easier to pinpoint. I happen to be going through a big transition at this point in my life. Regardless of the magnitude of the change, one thing remains the same during transitions for all of us: we can’t do it alone. Just today I sent a text to someone in my network to show her my gratitude for helping a total stranger during a life transition. It amazes me that someone is selfless enough to spend time helping someone they don’t even know. There is a power in knowing people in my life care about me and will always be there to support me through changes. There is a power in being that source of support for those around me. There is a power in interdependency.

I wrote a blog post a while back about a seemingly small interaction I had with a valet. People like valets don’t often receive the thanks they are due. I didn’t have cash on me at the time, but I told the guy I would get back to him because I was grateful for his service. A few months later, I was back in the area for a conference and hunted this guy down. When I approached him with the money and reminded him of our agreement, his whole demeanor changed. His face softened as he looked me in the eye and explained that no one ever took the time to do that. That exchange taught me that there are many people who don’t receive recognition for what they do.

So how does that valet relate to those helping me through transitions now? What does it all mean for society? How can we, as a society, have more meaningful exchanges with others and learn to be interdependent?

The answer is simple. Our task as human beings is to thrive with others. The truths of life are basic knowledge. Cliché statements are nothing new or original; that’s exactly what makes them clichés. What’s remarkable, though, is what we begin to learn when we live by them. How different would our world look if we really did treat others the way we wanted to be treated? What could you accomplish today if you honestly lived life to the fullest? Who could possibly stop you if you and those around you weaved a web of positivity and support for one another?

By carrying out these simple ideas, we are creating a remarkable situation for ourselves, but more importantly, for others. I challenge you to take the opportunity to genuinely thank someone in your life for something they’ve done. You are guaranteed to make an impression on that person. Watch what happens when you begin to build those around you up. By investing in others, you are investing in yourself. If we aren’t living life with one another, we are wasting time. Strength does not come from solitude and independence. True strength comes from the ability to rely on others and offer the same unconditionally.

Our Brains Are Outsourced

Real issues facing the world today are the realities that we are no longer in a position to hunt and gather our own food. All of our physiological needs are outsourced to other people who build our houses, design our cars, manufacture our food and create community infrastructure.

As we move away from utilizing our bodies as they were intended, ie: functioning physically to meet these needs, we are finding ourselves sitting around and just thinking.

Thinking a lot. Who am I? What is my purpose? What is his or her purpose? What feels good? What feels bad?

These thoughts race through our heads the more we lose the distractions of having to care for ourselves. This presents a very real issue in society.

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs is a great psychological model that describes the importance of certain mind functions we commit to during our lives.

Abraham Maslow (1954) presents a hierarchy of needs model which can be divided into basic (or deficiency) needs (e.g. physiological, safety, love, and esteem) and growth needs (cognitive, aesthetics and self-actualization). One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization. Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization. Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs. Life experiences including divorce and loss of job may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of he hierarchy. Maslow noted only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs. Excerpt from

When self actualization becomes more dominant in our daily routines, it abstracts what we feel are the most relevant topics to consider. The lesson here is we must be patient with others in understanding the existential issues that arise from having a more actualization culture are natural.

We are commonly seeking answers to our deep philosophical questions in ways we don’t recognize. While many of us are not as deep as others, there are many cases where misinterpretation is likely.

Since this article only lightly brushes on the topic of self actualization, we will discuss in depth in the future about how this affects society specifically. It is important for us to practice mindfulness daily. Recently a quote has stuck with me in particular, “He who lives in the past is depressed. He who lives in the future is anxious. He who lives in the moment is at peace.”

Money Isn’t Real

What if it all collapsed? The entire financial system destroyed. Some prepare for this event their entire life, create sovereign identities separate from the “United States of America, Inc.”, stockpile beans, shotguns, HAM radios, whatever.

What’s left after the dust settles?

All of the work done to create business, commerce, buy time, stack resources, whatever it is we think to do with money is now eliminated.

Most of us don’t touch money anymore. It sits on an Excel spreadsheet at our bank as we debit/credit transactions through electronic handshakes.

It’s meaning less and less to us what the value of the money is we work so hard for.

Is it important to our survival? Most certainly it is. As culture evolves and our life is distilled down to the most essential form of “Who Am I” the value of the products we work so hard to create for consumption are now scrap metal.

I don’t blame you if you think my stand is to leave the system all together. Set fire to all the education and skill that made me the man I am today.

That’s not true at all. It gives me more motivation rather than less, to make a difference in the world. It puts a solid underline over the following mantra that I created and keep coming back to:

Money isn’t real. Time and people are.

Exhausted from the aftermath of a decade long analysis session of what things there are to do and what things there are not to do, I realized in lieu of the fact that I don’t have as much time as I think.

Every moment is a magic moment. It’s time to press forward with leading in every aspect of life. Forget obsessing over whether or not my ideas are viable for revenue. Or how to market it. Or how to whatever.

All the money I look to collect during my venture means nothing when the time spent collecting it is lost forever. What a disgusting exchange of pleasantries.

Money isn’t real.

Time and people are.

195 Countries And You’ve Only Seen One

A few years ago while traveling in a hostel in Toronto, an Australian that I made friends with noticed I was fumbling through pockets for my passport.

“Do you mind if I take a look at that?” he asked.

After handing it over I watched him simply stare at the cover before looking through a few pages. Little did I know that the United States passport holds some of the greatest power for travelers in the world. He almost tugged a little on it when I reached back over the table for it because of the value it has for those bitten by wanderlust.

A recent news article published by CNN talked about the top ranking passports and how that small little book affords me access to 147 countries. It piqued my attention to search for this post from Traveller:

USA and UK passports are the most powerful, each possessing a total of 147 countries its citizens can visit without needing a visa.   Some of the least desirable passports are from Bhutan (40), Myanmar (28), Nepal (38), Afghanistan (38), Iraq (38) and North Korea (44). These countries can be notoriously difficult to get a visa for.

The weight of it hit me after reading about the different passports of the world. Especially those listed as “least desirable”. It means those who were simply born in a country have less ability to travel and see other parts of the world. Wow, that’s powerful.

I told myself, “There are 195 countries in the world, and I’ve only seen one.”

Sadness and excitement swept over me at once. It’s time to get busy.

I Want To Be More Like A Baby

When I think about role models, I usually think about someone like Steve Jobs. He was a brilliant contributor to technology and focused on personal growth along the way. Abraham Lincoln also comes to mind. He was a self-made man who taught himself everything he needed to know, and he did great things for America. I can think of plenty of people I’d like to shadow, but today, I want to be more like a baby.

Once you stick a baby in his playroom, it’s destroyed in a matter of minutes. There is no way the baby will simply play with the blocks you put out in front of him. After two minutes of blocks, he will be tearing books off the playroom bookshelf. Then, he’ll find his way to the nicely organized toy cars and start ramming them into the wall. Before five minutes are up, he will have also thrown his stuffed animals all over the room.

Babies are into everything they can get their hands on because they don’t yet know what makes them happy. Elementary aged kids don’t have it figured out either. If you ask a 3rd grader once a week what she wants to be for 10 consecutive weeks, you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Once we become adults, we are expected to instantly have it all figured out. By freshman year of high school, we should know what colleges we’re applying to. By senior year of high school, our major better be selected. Once we’re seniors in college, we are doomed for failure if we don’t have our first “real job” lined up.

What happens to those of us who don’t have it all blueprinted by the time the clock strikes midnight on our 18th birthday? We should aim to be like babies. Everything we can possibly get ourselves into, we should. If you aren’t happy in your career but don’t know what you want to do, join a Mastermind call or a professional networking group. For those who aren’t sure what to pursue an education in, take a semester off and travel abroad. Why continue living somewhere you aren’t happy? Live for a few months in a number of different cities.

As we get older, it becomes less socially acceptable to act like a baby. But when was the last time you saw a baby cry out of genuine unhappiness? They don’t. The only time babies make a fuss is when they’re hungry, tired, or need their diaper changed. Babies spend the rest of their time doing whatever they want to find happiness. They don’t care if their mom has to clean up the playroom; they’re exploring all their options, and no one is going to hold a baby back.

The Secret Inside Your Network

“I launched a Go Fund Me campaign, and I set a date for the first event.”

“After realizing I’ve taken on so much work, I raised my prices last week. People are still buying.”

“I took the first step towards becoming my manager self by hiring some people to do work for me.”

These statements are just a glimpse into what you might hear if you listened in on my weekly Mastermind phone call. Together, our group shares wins and challenges in both our personal and professional lives. We work through the struggles and triumphs together. We create business ideas together. We challenge each other to reach new heights.

I got the idea for this Mastermind group a few months ago. I was planning a weekend trip to the mountains. My friend, Jonathan, sent me a web, which mapped how the ten of us going on the trip were connected. That particular web stemmed from Jonathan; he had connected most of us together through dinner parties, weekend adventures, whatever.

It took me staring at the web for some time to realize that I have a network of my own. I initiated the Mastermind phone call to share that network with others and help connect people who can problem-solve, support, and challenge one another. This group of people has a burning desire to continually advance themselves. Each member knows that life is about people, and progress doesn’t happen solo.

Fast-forward a few months.

The calls have gained a reputation of their own. People are begging to be on the phone calls because they’ve heard about our high-engagement conversations. The business ideas created on these calls are now in the public eye. Never did I think when I started these calls at the beginning of 2015 that I would be getting paid to host them. Who would have imagined that people would be paying me to train them to form their own Mastermind groups?

My passion to develop leaders wouldn’t be very useful without a network of people to develop. Where have you set your sights? Chances are, your next goal can’t be reached without connecting with others. It’s time to break out that old, black phonebook- or your iPhone6- and reach out to the people in your life. You’ll be surprised at what comes next.