The accepted view of reality holds that human beings exist in the context of a vast physical universe “out there.” I doubt this description because there are no color, sound, textures, patterns, scent, and beauty – nothing of this kind in the natural world. All these qualities from the fragrance of jasmine to the sting of a honey bee and the taste of honey are produced by human beings, essentially the same as photon quanta of light has no color, such qualities are only in the biology of perception and the organs or capacities for perception that are subtle and, in a sense, invisible. There are capacities for inner seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and so on that have to do with the perception of the inner realm. There are capacities for intuition, direct cognition, synthesis, discrimination, and so on. All of these capacities are fueled by the substance of essence…These organs or capacities are connected to various energetic centers in the body that animate both the body and the human mind.
The existence of the physical universe “out there” and our participation in such a universe must be seriously questioned!
Service doesn’t start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take. We all feel happy, free, confused, and lonely, miserable and magical at the same time. You might be surprised to hear this, but we are into a world that is in good shape. In fact, the best shape that it had ever been in. The average person has never been better fed than today. Infant mortality has never been lower; on average we are leading longer, healthier lives. Child labor, illiteracy and unsafe water have ceased to be global norms. Democracy is in, as slavery is disappearing. People don’t have to work as hard to just survive. So, things are progressing. But I’m afraid that is not the full story. You will want to brace yourselves, because this is the bad news part.
The suicide rate for Generation X has gone up to 30% in the last decade, and 50% for the boomer generation. We have learned that atmospheric carbon levels surpassed 400 PPM for the first time in human history. Our honeybee colonies are collapsing, thereby threatening the future of our food supply, and all this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Rather ironic, considering that we live in an era where Facebook has spawned 150 billion connections, as we collectively shell out 4.5 billion ‘likes’ on status updates, every single day. Yet, a growing body of science is showing what we already feel deep in our gut: we are more isolated than ever before. The average American adult reports having just one real friend that they can count on…Just one! For the first time in 30 years, mental health disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder outrank physical ones among American children.
We have forgotten how to rescue each other. Yet, deep inside we all still have that capacity. We know we have it because we saw it during the Boston Marathon when runners completed the race and kept running to the nearest blood bank. We saw in Oklahoma where a waiter at a fast food chain decided to donate all his tips to the tornado relief efforts and triggered a chain of generosity.
In the movie Wall Street, there is a character named Gordon Gekko whose credo in life reads: Greed is good. Maybe, greed is good, but generosity is better! People consistently underestimate generosity, but human beings are simply wired to give. In one study at Harvard, scientists surprised a couple hundred volunteers with an unexpected monetary reward and gave them the choice of keeping it or giving it away. The only catch was that they had to make the decision spontaneously. Lo and behold, the majority chose — to give away the money! Greed, it turns out, is a calculated after thought. Our natural instinct is, and always has been — to give.
When you take Econ 101 in college, you will learn that all of economics is rooted in the assumption that people aim to maximize self-interest. I hope you don’t just take that for granted. I hope you challenge it. Consider the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa who have rocked the history of our planet with the exact opposite assumption, with the belief in the goodness of our human nature.
Six-year-old Ruby was the first African American girl to go to an all-white school on Nov 14, 1960. All the teachers refused to teach her, except for one Mrs. Henry. Ruby received constant death threats and on the way to class every day, people would line up to shout and throw things. Mrs. Henry instructed Ruby to not speak to anyone, as she crossed the jeering crowds every day. But one day, she saw Ruby saying something, so she said, “Ruby, I told you not to speak to anyone.” “No, Mrs. Henry, I didn’t say anything to them.” “Ruby, I saw you talking. I saw your lips moving.” “Oh, I was just praying. I was praying for them,” Ruby responded. Then she recited her prayer, and I quote, “Please, God, try to forgive these people. Because even if they say those bad things, they don’t know what they’re doing.” A six year old, wishing well for those who were wishing her harm. How generous is that? What does it say about the power of the human heart?
Our capacity to love is a currency that never runs out. May each of us tap into that generous ocean and discover every day, what it means to give. When we give, we think we are helping others. That is true, but we are also helping ourselves. With any act of unconditional service, no matter how small, our bio-chemistry changes, our mind quiets, and we feel a sense of gratefulness. This inner transformation fundamentally shifts the direction of our lives. It is not just about who we are helping, it is about who we ourselves are becoming through the process. When we give, we receive many times over or as the Dalai Lama once put it, "Be Selfish, Be Generous.” It is in giving that we receive.
When we think of generosity, we typically think of it as a zero sum game. If I give you a dollar, that is one less dollar for me. The inner world, though, operates with an entirely different set of rules. The boundaries are not so easy to decipher. Your state of being inherently affects my state of being. This is not feel-good talk. It is actual science. Research shows that, in close proximity, when people feel connected, their individual heart-beats actually start to synchronize — even with zero physical contact. In neuroscience, the discovery of mirror neurons has shown us that we literally do feel each other’s pain — and joy and joy is definitely not a zero-sum game. The law of abundance says that if I give you a smile that is not one less smile for me. The more I smile, the more I do smile. The more I love, the more love I have to give. So, when you give externally, you receive internally. How do the two compare? That is a question only you can answer for yourself, and that answer will keep changing as your awareness deepens.
Yet this much is clear: if you only focus on the externals, you will live your life in the deadening pursuit of power and products. But if you stay in touch with your inner truth, you will come alive with joy, purpose, and gratitude. You will tap into the law of abundance. May you discover that to be truly selfish, you must be generous. In giving, may you fully experience what it means to receive.
Our biggest problem with giving and receiving is that we try and track it and when we do that, we lose the beat. The best dancers are never singularly focused on the mechanics of their movements. They know how to let go, tune into the rhythm and synchronize with their partners. It is like that with giving too. It is a futile exercise to track who is getting what. We just have to dance. Realize that it is not just enough, as the cliché goes, to find your gifts. Gifts are actually meant to be given. Sometimes you are giving and sometimes you are receiving, but it doesn’t really matter because the real reward of that give and take doesn’t lie in the value of what’s being exchanged. The real reward lies in what flows between us – our connection.
The bad news is that we are in the middle of a crisis of disconnection, and the good news is that each and every one of us has the capacity to repair the web — to give, to receive and to dance. No matter what we have, or don’t have, we can all give. The good news is that generosity is not a luxury sport. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, when he said, "Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve." He didn’t say, "You have to be smart to serve." Or "You have to be famous to serve." Or "You have to be rich to serve." No, he said, "Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t need to know the second law of thermodynamics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. May we all find greatness in service to life! May we all give, receive and never, ever stop dancing.
Be obscure clearly–E.B. White
Influence techniques vary considerably in how effective, ethical and easy to perform they are. At the easy, more ethical end of the spectrum, is affirming someone’s right to choose. This is a benign strategy which happens to have the handy side-effect of increasing persuasion. But what if you are looking to use a little more effort to get a lot more persuasion-power? Then perhaps the disrupt-then-reframe technique is for you. Disrupt-then-reframe technique is more of a cheap trick which some might find morally questionable.
Davis and Knowles demonstrated the disrupt-then-reframe technique by selling note cards door-to-door for a local charity. Here are two different strategies they used. In the normal condition they told people it was $3 for 8 cards. Using this they made sales at 40% of households. In the disrupt-then-reframe condition, they first told people it was 300 pennies for 8 cards, immediately followed by; which is a bargain. This form of words encouraged 80% of households to buy the cards. It is a huge effect for what is only a small change in the form of words. So, how and why does this work?
Disrupt-then-reframe works by first disrupting routine thought processes. The pitch is deliberately made hard to think about. In this case people’s attention is distracted while they try to process this cryptic 300 pennies and why anyone would mention the price in pennies rather than dollars. Hot on the heels of the disrupt, in comes the reframe. For example, in this case the words ‘it is a bargain’. While people are distracted by the price in pennies for a second or two anyway, they are more likely to just accept the suggestion that the cards are a bargain. The disruption only works for a second; the reframe has to come immediately, before people’s critical faculties come back online.
Many might wonder if this effect was a one-off which wouldn’t work elsewhere. This looks unlikely since the disrupt-then-reframe technique has now been tested in 14 different studies on hundreds of participants. It has been shown to increase charity donations, encourage people to fill out surveys and help change their attitudes. It is even surprisingly effective in sales situations where people are normally wary of these sorts of shenanigans. The types of disruptions used can be quite childish. In one study, researchers trying to boost charity bake sales referred to cupcakes as half-cakes. In another to solicit charity donations, they flipped the phrase ‘some money’ to make it ‘money some’. Neither quite made sense, and that’s the point; the disruption should only be mildly confusing, not total gibberish.
On average, disrupt-then-reframe is stronger than the other standard persuasion techniques, including affirming autonomy. Even if you don’t want to use it yourself, the disrupt-then-reframe technique is useful to know about. If a salesman says something confusing, then he quickly sticks you with their reframe to make sure you take your time before making a decision and treat the reframe with skepticism. It’s amazing how such a simple disruptive manipulation has the power to befuddle.
Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi concentrates prior to a penalty kick at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on January 6, 2013. Messi may owe his trademark feints and body swerves to the fact his brain is busier than that of a less gifted player, according to a study into footballers’ minds.
Researchers at Britain’s Brunel University established that highly skilled footballers are able to activate more areas of their brain than novices when an opposing player approaches, allowing them to react to their moves more successfully. Published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, the research found that experienced players are able to hold back the urge to react impulsively, making them less likely to fall for opponents’ attempts to deceit them.
As part of the study, 39 players ranging from beginners to semi-professionals lay in magnetic resonance imaging brain scanner and watched clips of a junior international-level player running towards them with the ball. Occasionally, the oncoming player would produce a deceptive tactics and participants had to decide in which direction they need to move in order to counter. They were then grouped according to how well they performed in the task, revealing that strong performers were more attuned to the actions and movements of opponents than their less-skilled counterparts.
Our neuroimaging data clearly shows greater activation of motor and related structures in the brains of expert footballers, compared to novices, when taking part in a football-related anticipation task," said Daniel Bishop from Brunel University. Scientists believe that this greater level of neural activity is something that can be developed through high quality training, so the next step will be to look at how the brain can be trained over time to anticipate the moves of opponents.
Journal reference: Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology