Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Green Lantern: Courage and Honest

Comic Column:
Courage and Honesty

by Bryan Stroud

"'In God We Trust' doesn’t have to be a slogan on the back of a coin, but can be a motto that shows we will be honest in our dealings with others because we report to a higher authority than just our own needs and desires."

Showcase Comics No. 22, Oct. 1959.  “S.O.S. Green Lantern,”
by John Broome, penciled by Gil Kane and inked by Joe Giella.

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”
 Sven Goran Eriksson
My favorite era in comic books, the fabled Silver Age, began in 1956 when it was decided to resurrect the super hero genre after a forced absence of some years. The creative geniuses at DC Comics reintroduced The Flash in the covers of Showcase Comics that year, and soon it became evident that they had a hit on their hands. A few years later, hoping that lightning would strike a second time, they introduced the Green Lantern. The DC Comics geniuses did redesign the Green Lantern’s costume and gave the character a new original story and secret identity. For it’s upcoming 50-year anniversary, let’s take a peek into Showcase #22 from October of 1959. The first story, entitled “S.O.S. Green Lantern,” was written by John Broome, penciled by Gil Kane, and inked by Joe Giella.

Our story begins with a scarlet-skinned alien lying in the wreckage of his spacecraft somewhere in the southwestern United States. Abin Sur is wearing the uniform of the Green Lantern Corps and he is dying. His duty now is to find a worthy successor to replace him and pass on the battery of power. Using his incredible power ring, he sends forth an emerald beam to search this foreign planet for one worthy of such power, and who, “must be without fear!”

The beam swiftly engulfs the planet until it finds ace test pilot Hal Jordan, plying his trade in a flight trainer. His aircraft, now bathed in the greenish light, is quickly transported to Abin Sur’s crash site. 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
 Winston Churchill quotes
When Hal Jordan enters the wreckage, Abin Sur greets Hal and introduces himself telepathically. The alien then explains why he has summoned the young earth man, pointing to the green power battery, which to Hal Jordan looks a lot like, you guessed it, a green lantern.  Abin Sur explains, “…it is a battery of power…given only to selected space-patrolmen in the super-galactic system…to be used as a weapon against the forces of evil and injustice…” He then uses the ring to bathe Hal in its glow and, to his satisfaction, finds that, “Yes…by the green beam of my ring…I see that you are honest!  And the battery has already selected you as one born without fear! So you pass both tests, Hal Jordan…”

With his dying words, Abin Sur explains how he came to be in this predicament, and how the ring is vulnerable only to those things that are yellow in color, a side-effect of a necessary impurity in the metal of the power battery. As he slips the ring onto Hal Jordan’s finger, Abin Sur also relates how it must be recharged every 24 hours by touching it to the power battery.


“If you wait to do everything until you're sure it's right, you'll probably never do much of anything.”
 - Win Borden

Soon after this bittersweet exchange, Hal Jordan dons the uniform of this new responsibility and begins testing the ring’s power. To Hal’s surprise, the ring seems to “obey” his every mental command, and in direct relation to the force of his will. With these nearly limitless new powers, Hal Jordan vows to honorably discharge his duties in accordance with the counsel given him by Abin Sur. 

The rest, as they say, is comic book history. Today, the Green Lantern is still a huge fan favorite, having enjoyed nearly uninterrupted character development and publication continuity since its inception. Two years ago, the United States Postal Service even included the Green Lantern in their DC Comics postage stamp series. 

One of the particularly interesting facets of this character profile is that Hal Jordan didn’t choose to be a hero. It was he who was chosen. This means, among other things, that he had to have a lot of on-the-job training, so to speak. Suspend your own disbelief for a moment and imagine being given virtually unlimited power with only a couple of caveats: a vulnerability to the color yellow and the need to recharge every 24 hours. Pretty heady stuff. Obviously, there was some excitement for Hal who, as a test pilot, probably longed to travel into space. But I also found it quite intriguing that Hal was required to be utterly fearless. Since his “beat” included a pretty large space quadrant, you can see where fearlessness would come in handy when confronting the unknown while be-bopping around the galaxy. 

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear- not absence of fear.”– Mark Twain
Fearlessness and honesty. These were the fundamental requirements for this assignment. While they are truly heroic attributes, Hal somehow needed to temper them with enough humility to learn how to use his new abilities in a positive and meaningful way. 

I don’t know about you, but I have not been called upon recently to wear any sort of power ring. I have a hard enough time managing power tools. But each of us do have a role to play in defending our portion of the galaxy. Not from alien intruders, but from those forces that work against the heroic virtues of courage and honesty. Abin Sur’s beam only found one man who possessed the virtues necessary to command such power, which was perhaps and indictment against a society that had replaced courage and honesty with conformity and situation ethics. The message here is, at the very least, to remain vigilant and not allow our heroic virtue to be eclipsed by the “easy way” so often promoted by popular culture.

With the proper amount of effort and self-discipline- additional heroic attributes- I’m sure that even I could begin to overcome my fears, which, of course, are the real barriers between who I am today and who I know I must be in the future. Honesty is critical to so many of the things we each would like to accomplish, and is an absolute iron-clad must for successful interpersonal relationships. You and your significant others cannot have rich, meaningful relationships without honesty’s fruit: trust. In your professional relationships, your employer trusts you to perform certain responsibilities and in turn, you trust him or her to hold up their end of the bargain. “In God We Trust” doesn’t have to be a slogan on the back of a coin, but can be a motto that shows we will be honest in our dealings with others because we report to a higher authority than just our own needs and desires.

Courage, honesty, and the self-discipline to learn and continue to grow. These heroic themes are exemplified by many fictional heroes and can be the highway markers that lead us to our best heroic selves in the real world. May we all be as successful at finding our true lives as Hal Jordan was, as we also seek to live as the heroes we wish to be before we are chosen for service.
-Bryan Stroud

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Movie Message: Living By Words

Movie Message: Living By Words
The Transporter shows us how to live by words, and Harvard's MBA students give us what words to live by.

"What if we had a code of conduct, the management equivalent of the Hippocratic oath?  What if we actually lived up to our billing and became leaders who don’t just make a difference in the world, but make a difference for the world?" - Max Anderson, Cambridge, May 2009

What could a fictional character from a high-energy action movie possibly have in common with Harvard Business School graduate students?

Both have decided to live by words.

In the movie The Transporter (2003), we are introduced to Frank Martin, a highly-effective "driver" whose former Special Forces training gets him in and out of trouble. But what I love most about the Transporter movies (there are now three) is how Frank Martin's character has been designed. Each movie follows the exploits of this mercenary driver - a "transporter" - as he moves all kinds of people and products from one place to another. Although Frank Martin began the first film driving a customized BMW 7-series, and finished Transporter 3 driving an Audi A8, his uniquely-designed character traits have remained the same.
What separates Frank Martin's character from most others is his adherance to rules. He follows, rather, lives by a strict set of rules. For example, Rule One is never change the deal; Rule Two is no names - Frank Martin doesn't want to know who he's working for or what he is transporting; and Rule Three is never look in the package. These are some of the rules that define Frank's character - not just his fictional character, but his fictional character's character.
"Man lives not by food only, but by words." - Tiger Todd

Transporter 2 (2005), we get a further glimpse into Frank Martin's character and how the words he lives by continue to define him. When the wife of his wealthy diplomat client wants more than a shoulder to cry on - and she seeks out Frank Martin to fill the void in her soul left by her absentee husband - only a strong commitment to his rules can save them both from the consequences. The following dialog from Transporter 2 illustrates the kind of character that heroes should aspire to live into. In this scene, Audrey Billings has come into Frank Martin's cottage and, using her body to seductively push Frank Martin against a wall, is shocked by his resistance:
Audrey Billings: “You said if I needed anything...”
Frank Martin: “I can't.”
Audrey Billings: “Why, because of who I am?”
Frank Martin: “It's because of who I am.”
While average men might dream of this kind of encounter with a beautiful and wealthy woman, it is clear that Frank Martin is not an average man. From living by rules - his governing principles - he has become the kind of hero who is focused on his mission. Frank Martin also shows that respect for another's family begins with developing respect for oneself. Audience members watching Transporter 2 were able to witness something almost unheard of: how a single man’s principles and accurate moral compass could save a family from the consequences of infidelity. By modeling this positive behavior, we can gain inspiration and courage to be “more than mere men,” even if we still need to learn some more rules. Frank Martin - yes, a fictional character – was also able to offer a growing population of unfathered and unmentored young men a powerful lesson on how to be honorable and respectable in relationships with women.

“It is curious - curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare." -Mark Twain (1835-1910)
What words do you live by?
Switching gears to real-life heroes, let's talk about how Harvard's MBA class of 2009 applied the same principle and, in so doing, changed the world's financial system.
Discouraged by the carelessness and lack of respect that many MBA's and financial managers had shown the people of the world, this league of graduate students did what heroes do: they took matters in their own hands. First, they hypothesized that the fundamental issue at the core of the world's financial meltdown was not the overselling of securities, but that those to whom people's finances had been entrusted didn't think about anyone but themselves - the antithesis of both heroism and entrepreneurism - and that what what they were doing was at all unethical. In a coversation I had with the head of UCLA's MBA program just before the financial disaster, I was informed that students are not taught about the connection between people and money because it was irrelevant. Sadly, many MBAs soon after became irrelevant. But not so with the MBA students at Harvard.
Their diagnosis for the activities that led to the financial system meltdown was that MBA's had no Code of Conduct - there were no rules or words for them to live by like there are with other professions, including doctors, lawyers, and warriors. An MBA's Code of Conduct must support fiscal responsibility and honorable dealings with their clients and markets. So Harvard's MBA student-heroes acted, declaring a new standard for ethics in business and financial management that is quickly becoming adopted by businesses and business schools around the world.

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” - W. Clement Stone, 1902-2002

For their commitment to Live by Words, and for taking courageous and Heroic Action to bring human ethical standards to the financial industry, we proudly honor the Harvard MBA Class of 2009. Well done, heroes.

Read about their own words and support their
Code of Conduct here.
Are you ready to live by words, too? Repeat the MBA Oath out loud now:


"As a business leader I recognize my role in society.

•  My purpose is to lead people and manage resources to create value that no single individual can create alone.

•  My decisions affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and tomorrow.

Therefore, I promise that:

•  I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society.

•  I will understand and uphold, in letter and spirit, the laws and contracts governing my conduct and that of my enterprise.

•  I will refrain from corruption, unfair competition, or business practices harmful to society.

•  I will protect the human rights and dignity of all people affected by my enterprise, and I will oppose discrimination and exploitation.

•  I will protect the right of future generations to advance their standard of living and enjoy a healthy planet.

•  I will report the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.

•  I will invest in developing myself and others, helping the management profession continue to advance and create sustainable and inclusive prosperity.

In exercising my professional duties according to these principles, I recognize that my behavior must set an example of integrity, eliciting trust and esteem from those I serve. I will remain accountable to my peers and to society for my actions and for upholding these standards.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor."

Behavioral Change for Changing Lives

Drug-Free Behavioral Change also Changes Lives
by Dr. Alonzo M. Jones, Ph.D.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” - Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President (1861-65)

ADHD or SID? That is the question

I teach martial arts, drug prevention, and behavioral modification classes at the Richard Steele Health and Wellness Center. One of my students, a young girl I'll call Destiny, had severe problems with reading, spelling and math. Her teachers suggested to her father that he place her on ADHD medication. He responded by saying he would never place his daughter on that type of medication, “After all,” he continued, “How could a teacher diagnose my child?” This is not an article on the pros and cons of ADHD medication. Rather, it is one family's journey to having their lives transformed through an alternative route.

Destiny's father asked if there was anything I could do to help. From my experience with countless young people, as well as from from education and training as a Health and Wellness clinician, I informed him that Destiny could be suffering from learning disabilities like dyslexia or dyscalculia. Among English-speaking children, an estimated 2 to 15 percent have trouble reading or spelling, problems broadly classified as dyslexia. From 1 to 7 percent also struggle to do math, a disability known as dyscalculia. Many times these “Learning Disabilities” have been confused with ADHD*.

(*ADHD is typically identified in children between the ages of five and 11 years. The condition is more common in boys than girls and is conservatively estimated to occur in two to three percent of the school population. Symptoms persist into adolescence in as many as 80 percent of the children diagnosed with over 30 percent still suffering significant symptoms into adulthood. There are three different subtypes of ADHD including the Primarily Inattentive Type, the Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive Type, and the Combined Type. Symptoms in the Inattentive Type include failure to give close attention to details with frequent careless mistakes, problems following through with instructions, and susceptibility to distraction by extraneous events. Examples of overactive and impulsive behaviors include excessive talking, difficulty taking turns, and being overenergized.)

In listening further, I thought Destiny might not be experiencing ADHD, but rather SID (Sensory Integration Dysfunction). After 15 years of research, investigators now believe these conditions frequently involve so-called partial functional problems with the senses: in affected children, the eyes and ears accurately register sights and sounds, letters, numbers spoken syllables, but that information is misinterpreted as it is processed in the brain. Dyslexic individuals are more likely to make mistakes performing tasks that involve regulating small eye movements, which suggests that a lack of control over visual attention may contribute to some cases of dyslexia, according to Dr. Burkhart Fischer.**

(**Dr. Fischer is emeritus professor of neurophysiological biophysics and founder of the Optomotor Laboratory at the University of Freiburg in Germany.)

I recommended that if this little girl's dad was opposed to drug use, we should try targeted sports training to improve sensory processing. The research suggested that this approach could have a positive effect in helping his daughter learn to control her visual attention - the possible culprit behind her problems with reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6 KJV

Destiny's father seemed willing to try anything - except drugs - since his daughter was consistently failing in school. He wanted her to succeed in school and in life without drugs, particularly after hearing from friends that many of their children who were prescribed ADHD medication early in life, began self-medicating with Alcohol, Marijuana, Methamphetamine, etc., when they became adults.

Our behavior modification sessions began with Destiny learning to focus on her stance and basic movements. As she advanced, I could then begin teaching her how to hit the focus mitts, as well as lead her through focusing exercises such as meditation and kata, typical components of the martial arts.

Now two years later, Destiny is considered to be in the “maintenance stage" of her development by the Transtheoretical Model of Evaluation. Her family has noticed a substantial change in her behavior and comprehension. Much to their delight, she is also on the honor role in school and has received several awards for academics and behavior. This should not be viewed as an isolate instance either, for I have seen the same drastic changes in behavior and academic development occur with many children who receive assistance with their sensory processing. It must be noted that most marital arts programs are great conduits for behavioral and academic development with youth diagnosed with ADHD. I must also add that it is not martial arts alone that rewrites children's behavior, but a holistic training process directed toward these outcomes. Many of my martial arts colleagues can attest to similar positive outcomes as those witnessed with Destiny. This strongly suggests that what has been often labeled "ADHD" may actually be a dysfunction of the senses that can be corrected through a specialized training process.

Destiny's family no longer needs to worry about ADHD or an increasing tendency toward adult self-medication. Based on the knowledge, coordination, and character-building lessons that Destiny has learned in the process, her parents can also have confidence that they are raising a daughter who can take care of herself. -AJ

Note* It is noteworthy that for all the behavioral changes typically brought about by medicines, there are proven psychological techniques which can have the same effect. There are a wide variety of mental training methods designed to increase concentration, manage emotional intensity, improve decision making under stress and optimize performance under adverse conditions. These methods have been proven effective in the performance environment; however, there is still little or no research on the use of these interventions with the ADHD athlete.

DR. ALONZO M. JONES, Ph.D. is Chief Operating Officer of the Richard Steele Health and Wellness Center and is also co-chair of the Southern Nevada Community Gang Taskforce Intervention Subcommittee. A Former Health and Wellness clinician for the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Jones remains a celebrated behavior modification coach. He was recognized by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations for achieving success rates in prevention that far exceeded national standards. His D.Min. Degree with specialization in Pastoral Psychology supports his holistic approach to human and community development. As a sought after trainer for clinical prevention programs, Dr. Jones is also certified through SAMSHA. He is a Grand Master 10th Degree Black Belt and has received numerous national and community awards, from the Clark County School District, the Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, and the Metropolitan Police Department, to name but a few. His community contributions have led to the City of Las Vegas receiving the Outstanding Achievement Award for Local Government Innovation. Hero School is privileged to be strategic partners with Dr. Jones and the Steele Center in our Community Transformation Initiative. 

Comic Column: Teamwork and the Justice League

Comic Column: Teamwork
Article by Bryan Stroud

“Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” - Vince Lombardi (1913-1970)

The Brave & the Bold No 28. 1960 featured the first appearance of the
Justice League Of America

Heroes, I’ve found, share common traits with one another and I’ve used this little column to explore some of the attributes that make each heroic in their own sphere of influence.  We’ve looked at courage, honesty and sacrifice and this time, I’d suggest that heroes are nearly without exception altruistic.  They like to help others because they can.  Furthermore, they often work well in teams.  Think of your local fire department, members of a military unit, or smoke jumpers who protect our forested areas.  There is most certainly strength in numbers, and maybe that’s one of the reasons that a team of heroes can make good sense, working toward a collective good.

The Silver Age was beginning to kick into high gearat DC Comics when a new/old team was introduced to the world in the early months of 1960.  The Brave and the Bold title contained, with issue #28, the first appearance of the Justice League of America, which was based on the old Justice Society of America from the Golden Age.  Interestingly enough, this debut story didn’t contain anything like an origin story for the team, which consisted of the best known heroes in the DC stable:  Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, the Flash and the Manhunter from Mars.  The cover was done up courtesy of Mike Sekowsky on pencils with Murphy Anderson inking while the interior art was accomplished by Mike Sekowsky again on pencils, inked by Bernie Sachs in chapters 1, 3, and 5; Joe Giella in chapter 2 and Murphy Anderson in Chapter 4.  Gardner Fox is the writer of “Starro the Conqueror!”

Starro is, in essence, a gigantic, space-going and intelligent star fish who has come to Earth, doubtless up to no good.  When it enters the ocean, it creates three duplicates of itself from native star fish and the mischief is afoot.

Aquaman learns of the threat from one of his finny friends and promptly contacts the other members of the League for an emergency meeting.  Superman and Batman are indisposed, so the remaining five members gather at their concealed HQ to discuss the menace and how they’ll deal with it.  Assignments are swiftly made and the team goes out to divide and conquer, with Green Lantern tackling one of the Starro creatures in the Rockies, engaging it with his famed power ring in a titanic battle until ultimately prevailing and returning it to its natural state as a harmless sea star.

On another front, Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter join forces to face off against another Starro at Science City, where it is in the midst of attempting to absorb the brainpower of the gathering of prominent scientific minds at a convention hall.  The massive creature literally lifts the building containing them and heads for the upper atmosphere.  Wonder Woman is close behind in her robot plane and uses her magic lasso to try and stop the beast, but she’s having some trouble.  The Martian Manhunter, meanwhile, aids with his super Martian breath to blow the shattered remains of some meteors into the Starro duplicate.  The aerial battle rages for some time, but through determination and teamwork, the two heroes overcome the menace and are hoping their teammates are equally successful.

The Flash, meanwhile, has rushed to Happy Harbor, home of Snapper Carr, a local hipster, who’s been working on his family’s yard with fertilizing components.  When the Flash arrives, he notes that Starro has cast some sort of mind-numbing spell on the populace, with the exception of the young Snapper.  Flash quickly engages the monstrous menace, creating a spinning vortex around it.  Starro barely makes it to a nearby lake, but the Fastest Man Alive isn’t that easily discourages and is next seen using his high speed feet to cause ground vibrations, revealing the creature between the parted waters.  Ceasing the rapid movements, the walls of water fall onto the creature, putting it out for the count.  Snapper has arrived, meanwhile, and the pair head for the town to check on the residents, who now seem to have been released from the mental spell.  He and Snapper head for a rendezvous point with the rest of the JLA.

As the final chapter unfolds, the original Starro is plotting.  It has lost its three “deputies,” but has gleaned their collective intelligence and power and plans to finish the task of taking over Earth.  Little does it know that five heroes are on their way to thwart the plan.  Starro, however, won’t go down without a fight and uses its clairvoyant abilities to probe the mind of Green Lantern, turning itself yellow to be immune to his power ring.  It hurls a blast of energy at Snapper Carr, who’s tagged along and it is ineffectual, stimulating the curiosity of police scientist Barry Allen, also known as the Flash.  While Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter keep Starro busy, the Flash instructs Green Lantern to use his power ring to create a spectroscope to analyze Snapper Carr and see what is making him immune to Starro’s power.  They determine a higher than normal level of calcium oxide or lime on the young man.  He confirms he’d been using it on the lawn and they quickly deduce that lime will defeat Starro, just as oyster men use it to battle star fish that threaten oyster beds.  Barrels and bags of lime are appropriated in the blink of an eye and the members of the Justice League use it with abandon, destroying the creature known as Starro.

So what did this first recorded adventure of the Justice League of America teach us?  First and foremost, it taught the value of team work.  United in a common cause, the greatest heroes on earth gathered together to formulate a strategy, deploy their assets (dividing and conquering Starro and its duplicates) and came back together for the climactic finish of the terror, pooling their resources for the greater good.

Whether consciously or not, this storyline would become a noted pattern in the future adventures of the Justice League of America.  The team would consistently come together to meet whatever threat had appeared; tackled it in teams of two to three members, and collectively neutralize the enemy during the course of the story.  It was particularly notable and effective when a similar team of super villains were the foe, because a villain is self-serving and incapable of trusting anyone else.  Inevitably those “teams” fall apart in the clutch, while true heroes come together, pooling their strengths, complementing their gifts and watching each others backs to deal with the task at hand.

Heroes look out for one another, and they don’t mind at all being part of something bigger than themselves in order to achieve even more.  I’m reminded of the old definition of a team: Together Everyone Achieves More.  Obviously, individual preparation is essential, and we must not lose sight of that as we continue to strive to be our best selves, but do be ready to answer the call and join the team.  Great things will undoubtedly follow. 

Three Steps for Getting Power from Quotes

Hero School's Three Steps for Getting Power from Quotes

"Man lives not by bread only, but by words." - Tiger Todd

Quotes are everywhere. They can console us. They can inspire us. And they can even motivate us. But most of the time they just sit there and do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Just more advice from old people or dead people. Super.

So what's the point?

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” - Henry David Thoreau

I want more. In fact, I expect moreI don't need some stinkin' quote that was spoken or written by someone who has been dead for a century-or-more to just sit there and do nothing! If quotes are so powerful, why am I not experiencing any of that power?

"But the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." - The Book of Hebrews

What if we could experience power from quotations simply by mixing them with something else, like when flour, sugar, milk, and baking powder are combined with eggs to produce cake, or when two-parts Hydrogen is combined with one-part Oxygen to make rain? Even though each ingredient contains its unique properties and latent power, each will also continue to sit alone in the kitchen or the cosmos until they either rot or evaporate unless they are combined with other substances and become something greater.

I discovered the recipe for experiencing the power from quotes - purely by accident - during some traumatic relationship events in 1999. In reading Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People during that tumultuous time, I was introduced to this excerpt from a quote by Albert E. N. Gray:

"The successful person has the habit of doing the things that failures don't want to do." - Albert E. N. Gray

If Mr. Gray was correct, then successful people have the habit of doing what they don't want to do - but know they must do - while unsuccessful people have the habit of not doing what they don't want to do - even when they know these are the things they should be doing! Whew! Since I was tempted to do only what I wanted to do in my relationship crisis - which included keying her car and giving all of her things to charity - this quote helped me keep my integrity in the midst of challenging circumstances.

This understanding led me to the formula - or recipe - for experiencing the power lying dormant within quotations. After typing the Albert Gray quote into a document, I was inspired to also type a message to myself, instructions on how to live by those words. Here is what the document looked like when I was finished:

"The successful person has the habit of doing the things that failures don't want to do." - Albert E. N. Gray

So Tiger, the very things you don't want to do are the very things you must do first if you want to succeed.

The quote gave me the wisdom regarding success, and I wanted to be successful - particularly in future relationships. Next, I needed to align myself to this wisdom. It has been ten years since I first began living this way, but only recently have I been able to understand the operation of this very simple formula.

I now humbly share the formula with you.

Three Steps for Getting Power from Quotes
Keep in mind, the following formula will work only after first deciding to live by words.

Step 1. Write out the quote that speaks to you.

Step 2. Below the quote, write a message to yourself of how you will follow the quote's wisdom.

Step 3. Read the quote and the message to yourself every morning and, without a second thought, just do what it says!

Step 1. (The quote)

"Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year - and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade! " - Anthony Robbins

Step 2. (The message to yourself)

"So (insert your name), stop thinking about what you wish you had done last year, and instead write down some elements of what your dream life would be like in ten years. Now (insert your name), what could you do today that would bring you a step closer to manifesting the life of your dreams?"

Step 3. Do what the message says, NOW!

Find the quotations that speak to you, but rather than simply collect them, invest the time to experience each quote's power by combining them with a message to yourself, and then take action until your quote has manifested itself in your life.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Karaoke as Education!

Karaoke as Education
by Tiger Todd
Did we know what the words were before they were on the screen?

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer 

As a native Nevadan, I’m also a product of its public school system. In reality, I’m more a product of Nevada’s public school system and my dad’s entrepreneurism, a six-month stint in a body cast after being run over by a drunk driver at age 4 (that explains a lot, huh?), multiple skull fractures from multiple collisions between my big, hard head and even bigger, harder objects (that explains even more), no cavities (thanks Colgate), an ex-wife or two (the fault of my hard head once again), and all of the movies I’ve watched more than twice. Still, my public education was very important in defining who I came to be. While most of my vocabulary did come from my life experiences, it was the school district that actually taught me how to read. 

Mr. Morrow’s 6th grade English class at Robert Taylor Elementary School in Henderson, Nevada was where my reading speed really took off. The year was 1975 and Mr. Morrow used a kind of overhead projector that flipped sentences on the screen at a pretty good clip. We were challenged to read each line of text before the next line appeared. I hadn’t realized it until now, but this was like a prehistoric form of karaoke.

In the 1990s, my education from lyrics evolved with the advent of actual karaoke. I’ll not forget the first time I attended a large-screen karaoke party. Initially, I was fascinated by both the quantity and caliber of the "closet" singers in attendance, but I soon found myself mesmerized by the words to the songs that danced melodically across the screen. This was not Mr. Morrow’s machine, and neither were the intriguing sentences, particularly in this case from the Beatles’ song, Come Together:

He bag production he got walrus gumboot
He got Ono sideboard he one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease
Come together right now over me 

Walrus gumboot? Spinal Cracker? Could these really be the words? We are certainly not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Wait...didn't the group Toto record "Hold the Line"? We aren't even in MTV's Real World anymore. Maybe the lyrics were some 1960s code for “We’re invading America and will replace Perry Como.” There is probably some music aficionado out there who understood exactly what these words meant - and the words to every other Beatle’s song - but not me. 

Just think for a moment of what these words must have sounded like to a kid hearing or reading them for the very first time? Probably like the other words we made up as kids. Today as an adult, however, what weirds me out the most about Come Together is the thought that there may actually be someone out there whose “feet” are NOT below his knees...

The Value of Our Words

"You must unlearn what you have learned." - Yoda

The older I get, the more I find that the words to many of the songs I grew up with are not the words I thought they were. In a Junior High assembly in the 1970s, fellow eighth grader Michelle Small and I sang, 
You Don’t Have To Be A Star,” by Marilynn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. While we were a big hit with the hundreds of students who filled the gymnasium that day, I recently learned that the words to the song were not the ones I sang. In fact, I was way off. The actual line from the song, “You're rejected and hurt…to me you're worth, girl, what you have within” was beautiful, moving, and unfortunately, not anything at all like what I sang. My rendition replaced this insightful passage with, “Your rejection of Merv, to leave the earth, where you haven’t been” was, in retrospect, just plain scary. Come on, gimme a break! I was only 13, and my 13-year-old self knew less about just about everything than most 13-year-olds know today. Boy, was I na├»ve. Maybe at the time I was simply too young to understand the complexities of relationships. Perhaps my mental vacuousness was a result of being stuck at Piaget’s Concrete Operational Stage of development so I didn’t yet have the ability to think abstractly or draw conclusions from the lyrics. In any case, my substitution was flawless, so no one- including me- was the wiser. It probably didn't hurt that the sound system in the gym was standard government-issue so the hundreds of kids in attendance couldn't really discern the lyrics anyway. Or maybe they thought the words that I sang were the right words, too.

Where are you learning your Life Vocabulary?

My limited vocabulary as a teen illustrates just how influential our social networks and non-scholastic sources are to our competence and understanding of the real world. Incidentally, the real world I am referring to is not the contrived environment by the same name on MTV, but rather, the world of interpersonal communication, business relationships, and respect for colleagues. As teachers and parents will attest, today’s teens’ on-board dictionaries have few if any of these terms since they are not typically comprised of words learned in a classroom or from a Merriam-Webster dictionary. In many cases, their vocabulary and definitions come from their music, experiences, surroundings, and the people they hang with during their formative years. 

"I looked up my family tree- and found three dogs using it." - Rodney Dangerfield 

Talk about no respect, as a sheltered child in the 1970s, most of the people I was allowed to hang out with were adults. This left me handicapped when communicating with children my own age - but with a distinct advantage with adults. Instead of talking about sex, sports, video games, and sex, like most teen boys (and grown-up boys) do today, I was communicating with old people, listening to old-person songs, and learning old-person jokes. Of course, hanging out with adults - instead of kids - did help me become a pretty good student since I related more easily to my teachers - the ones grading me - than I did to my classmates. My old person communication skills were also embellished by my babysitter- a black-and-white Sony TV- and by my language teacher- an AM/FM clock radio. Dialogue from TV Shows like Lost in SpaceGilligan’s Island, and Star Trekand the lyrics from songs by the CarpentersPeter Paul and Mary, and the Bee Gees, also helped to shape my vocabulary, my sense of humor, and my character(s). Judging by the experiences I’ve had and the quotes I still use in conversations today, I have become what I’ve learned.

Hell's Angels meet the Powerpuff Girls

Sometimes it is difficult to get every attendee of our Hero School® programs to understand the gravity of the phrase, “We become what we learn.” I encountered one tough customer about 5 years ago during my Saturday morning class for homeless men at Catholic Charities. He was already hard to forget, this gaunt, graying, 6’4” Hell’s Angel-type sitting in the front row. But it was the series of tattoos on his forehead that made the task of forgetting him utterly impossible. My mind was vacillating between trying to decipher the 3 indistinct blotches on his forehead, and the wonderment over what would possess anyone to be tattooed "there." A tattoo on my butt? Maybe. On my forehead- are you crazy? So I began tactlessly, “Nice tattoos...are they the three Powerpuff Girls, you know, Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup?” A sneer and a grunt followed. Of course I thought I was being very clever. Then came the most disturbing response; one that I certainly did not expect. “6-6-6,” he began. “Got ‘em when I was 16.” I was stunned, to say the least, but in this class, my showing any reaction could give these men the upper hand. “Cool!” I responded. “So, your parents were Christians, huh?” He didn’t want to talk about it so my mind wandered back to thinking about the tattoos. Apparently, forehead tattoos don’t hold their shape very well once you get into your mid-50s, but what part of our anatomy does?

“We become what we learn.” –Tiger Todd

The next 45-minutes of the class period elapsed without incident while I continued to rattle-off numerous examples of how people "become what they learn," whether becoming engineers by learning engineering, or becoming plumbers by learning plumbing. I then explained how I had been cursed in relationships by the songs I learned, particularly the songs of Barry Manilow. DON’T JUDGE ME! Of course, the men in the class laughed - as you probably did just now. So I asked the audience what the songs were that they had learned, and suddenly there was a loud “clunk” behind me on the front row. I spun around to find the man with his tattooed forehead pressed against the table. I asked him if he was O.K. and after a bit, he looked up at me with tears in his weary eyes and almost sobbed, “My songs…mysongs…” “What about your songs?” I inquired. “I became my songs- the songs I learned." "What were your songs," I ventured. "Highway To Hell and Born To Be Wild!” It has been 30-years since AC/DC released Highway To Hell, but it had been more than 40 years since a young man of just 15 had been free to live his own life. For 40 years, the lyrics to songs like these played in his head, reinforcing what might have been only a short season of rebellion, until they had eventually taken root and he was made into their image and likeness. 

“We can try to understand the New York Times effect on man.” – The Bee Gees

The lyrics to Highway To Hell and Born To Be Wild are not the words that change men anymore. Still, today’s prominent gangs, while very different in appearance from the Hell’s Angels of the 1960s and 70s, have indeed become what they have learned through the same curriculum. “Hell” has been replaced with “crib,” and “babes” have been replaced with “bitches” since the “brotherhood” became a pack of “dogs.” And while it is tempting to get sidetracked here and start thinking exclusively about gangs, the most important and significant component of both groups is the educational delivery system that created them. Furthermore, being judgmental of Angels and Gangstas will probably only incriminate us, since we too have become what we have learned. If our life today is in turmoil, perhaps it is because we have been learning turmoil. It is highly likely that our curriculum for daily living - the newspaper, the Evening News, and the Times - have generated this kind of life - one that corresponds to their agenda and curricula. It may actually take the words to a song like Stayin’ Alive on a Karaoke screen for most of us to truly understand the New York Times affect on man.

What are some of the effects that the songs we learn have on our lives? I wrote a little about this in (the soon to be published book) Uncommon Sense, on how my “hero complex” was formed by a combination of the songs I learned as a child. Remember, engineers become engineers because they learn engineering. Just because what people have "become" is not a college course title like, “Gangsta 101,” or “Advanced Family Dysfunction,” doesn’t mean there isn’t a curriculum that we’re learning. We become what we learn, whether we like it or not.

The great news for every human is that we can still become the kind of people we wish to become, regardless of what we have learned to this point. Yes it's true, but this miracle only works for humans so if you are an animal, there is no use in reading any further.

Since we become what we learn, we must exercise our free will and choose what we will learn. Perhaps more importantly - based on the former examples - we must also keep ourselves from learning the “lyrics” that we do not want to become. This is true if you are a dishwasher and you want to be a chef, or if you are in dire financial straits and wish to become stable and wealthy. The dishwasher cannot become a chef if his hours away from work are spent listening to, doing, and learning everything else but that which creates a “chef” life. Similarly, the person in dire financial conditions cannot possibly become secure and wealthy if all she is listening to and learning from are the news outlets that insidiously and repeatedly teach her that she is on shaky ground, that she could lose her house, and that the wealthy are wealthy because they were born that way. We must try and understand the Evening News effect on man. The effect is not the same on the wealthy largely because they make the news. Instead, the debilitating effect is on the regular person who doesn’t have a fleet of financial experts disseminating the news for him or her.

"The greatest ignorance is rejecting that which you know absolutely nothing about." - Jessica Branch

If you don’t want to become something, then just don’t learn it. It’s a simple as that! Many people cannot escape guilt, fear, and the curse of repeating history, since, like that tragic biker in my homeless class, they are already on a “Highway to Hell” and don’t know how to turn those damaging songs off. I’m convinced that the songs that we let play inside us - whether the condemning words from an unfit parent or the inspiring words from great teachers or poets - are in large part responsible for our future successes and failures. The songs themselves are not causal, but hugely influential. It would do some of us a lot of good to change the station.

What is your song? What words are carried around through your head by a familiar or haunting melody and performed by The Artist Formally Known as Stepdad? Take a look at the things in life that have been difficult for you to overcome or attain, and then take a look at the lyrics that are being played the most in your life. If they are not the lyrics you want to live, then maybe it’s time to learn some new songs.