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Mindconnection eNL, 2003-09-15

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In this issue:

  1. Brainpower tip
  2. Time tip
  3. Finance tip
  4. Security tips
  5. Health tip/Fitness tip
  6. Balancing act
  7. Why the eNL break?
  8. Thought for the day

Quick plug: See our Career Skills courses at

Invest in you. This is especially important, as the layoff trend continues the upward pattern it began 45 years ago. Today is that trend has been trending so long, it now looks almost as bad as it is. If you think this trend will stop "when the economy recovers," please contact me immediately about buying some swampland in Arizona.


1. Brainpower tip

We all have genetic limits. And we differ in our experiences. Thus, we have different strengths and weaknesses. It's easy to feel inadequate because we aren't as skilled or knowledgeable in a given area as we think we should be. A common defense against this feeling of inadequacy is a self-imposed delusion that we actually have talent we don't have. For example:

  • 80% of American automobile drivers consider themselves "above average" drivers.

  • 90% of American automobile drivers consider themselves careful and attentive drivers, yet we all know most folks are simply in a daze when behind the wheel.

  • Surveys show 70% of Americans consider themselves "skilled writers," and 20% consider themselves "great writers." Yet less than 1 in 100 can pass a standardized test of Standard Written English.

  • Surveys show 80% of American men consider themselves "great lovers." Surveys show 10% of wives consider their husbands competent in the sack.

  • Surveys show 80% of men consider themselves physically strong, yet the typical adult American male cannot do a single pull-up. The minimum fitness requirement is five. Pushups follow a similar pattern, different numbers. 

The list goes on and on. The point is we tend to take on delusions of competence, when what we should be doing is acknowledging our weaknesses and limitations and then developing effective responses.

  • A weakness is a deficiency we may be able to improve on. For example, taking a writing course or meeting with a writers group can help us improve our Standard Written English skills.

  • A limitation is a barrier to how far we can take the improvement. For example, nearly anyone has the mental gear to learn the rules of grammar and composition. But, very few of us can write a compelling novel. Similarly, nearly anyone can train to be able to do 10 pullups. But doing 50 requires superior (for that talent) genetics.

 What's an effective response? Here are some choices people make. You judge the effectiveness:

  • Denial and delusion. Already discussed. Gets you nowhere, undermines your belief in yourself, reduces your credibility with others.

  • Focus on the weakness. This reduces how much you can develop your strengths. Hint: Be you! When Michael Jordan retired from basketball to take up baseball, he found he did not have great strength as a baseball player. He could have devoted his energies to overcoming that weakness, but he chose to go back to his strength.

  • Develop baseline competencies, then focus on strengths. Identify your baseline competency needs. For example: just about everyone should be able to do five pull-ups, write in Standard Written English (if English is your language), carry on a polite conversation, and parallel park. It is not necessary to be the most physically fit, write like a pro, be the next Jay Leno, or be have the driving skills of an Indy driver.

Once you develop your baseline skills, ask what it is about you that makes you special. What do you really enjoy, and what are you really good at? Then, spend most of your energies developing your brainpower in those areas.

Don't let an incompetency hold you back, and don't be embarrassed by it. Consider the case of a man who used to stop people and ask them for directions to his own house. He would even stop and ask them questions like, "Excuse me, but did you see what building I just came out of? I can't remember." That man could have considered himself an idiot, and so could the people who answered his questions. But he did not and they did not. And today, we still think of Albert Einstein as a model of intelligence despite those "stupid questions" he asked every day.

2. Time tip

Last week, a writer for Women's Day Magazine interviewed me as a subject matter expert on time management. By the way, here's another quick plug. I do time management seminars. See I'm booked through the rest of this year, but if you need a speaker for a function or your company needs higher productivity--please consider me. I'm entertaining, as you can probably guess. But, as you can also probably guess, I have great information for the audience. Coming out next year: ProductivityAlert, an eNL I am doing with another subject matter expert.

OK, end of shameless promotion. Here is a tip I shared with Women's Day: Pay attention to your attention span. Too often, we set out to do a difficult task, and we don't stop until it's done. Many times, that's because we procrastinate until the last possible moment. As a result, we make mistakes or simply lose energy and the whole thing takes longer than it should.

The correct approach is this:

  • Break large tasks up into manageable blocks, rather than trying to do them all at once from start to finish. Start early, and you won't have to do too much at one time.

  • Arrange the blocks into your schedule.

  • Mix blocks up by their demand on the brain. For example, if you have four blocks that require processing visual information (doing your taxes, reading your e-mail, writing a complaint letter, paying your bills) break them up by injecting blocks that don't require processing visual information (call a friend, walk the dog, clean the kitchen up).

As an example, I don't sit down and do my taxes all at once. Starting in early February, I do about half an hour of work, then stop. I can easily pick up where I left off. Maybe on the first session, I import data from the previous year and go through the setup. On the second session, I start entering the current year's data. And on it goes. When I'm done, it doesn't feel like I've really worked very hard. And I'm done way before the normal "stand in line at the Post Office" timewaster that so many people engage in each year.


3. Finance tip

The Russell Factor is my new name for simply stopping to do the math. All of the math. A subscriber recently wrote to ask me about paying off a car loan. The loan is at 5%, and is for 5 years. They have four years left to go. Her husband wants to pay off the loan, using their home equity line of credit (HELC). Their HELC is at 5.75%, which is more than the car loan but the tax deduction makes it less. Currently, they have no other debt in their HELC.

She says the higher monthly payments will just add to their financial burdens and the tax deduction is a joke because the IRS has issued them a collection notice for taxes they don't owe and seized last year's refund anyhow (note: this seems to be a common problem with the IRS--the GAO found 94% of IRS notices are erroneous). So in her mind, it's a choice between 5% or 5.75%.

What happens when you plug in the Russell Factor?

  • Forget about the difference in loan costs, the IRS, etc. These are too nebulous to deal with.

  • The loan is not that expensive, so it isn't urgent to pay it off.

  • Making small extra payments on the existing car loan each month will result in an early payoff. If you run into money problems later, then you can tap your HELC.

  • Most experts consider a car loan to be consumer credit. Why would you put your home on the line for a consumer good?

  • Once you transfer your car loan to your HELC, you forget the monthly cost of that car. Then, you are tempted to "trade up" before you are done paying for the car. This puts you on a debt treadmill.

Apply the Russell Factor when you are unsure of how to proceed. 


4. Security tip

A reader sent me an e-mail suggesting everyone should put black tape over the VIN on their dashboard. The logic behind this suggestion was that anyone can copy your VIN and then have keys made for your car. This is not true.

If you cover up your VIN, you are going to have police officers wondering if you stole your own car. Do you really want to come out of the shopping center only to find your car has been impounded because police have good reason to suspect it is a stolen vehicle?

Instead of doing something that doesn't help but can only hurt, follow these common sense tips:

  • Park under a light and/or in a spot that has good visibility.
  • Hide any packages--put them on the floor, in the trunk, or under something in the car.
  • Lock your car.

Essentially, thieves are looking for the easiest way to steal a vehicle or its contents. Just make it harder. If you need expert advice, contact any or all of the following:

  • Your local police department. A detective in my city actually puts on neighborhood training sessions. It's amazing what police will do to help reduce crime. Just ask them for education.
  • Your car dealer. They often have good information, especially for your particular vehicle. I have found them a good resource. Don't buy a car alarm until you talk with them. And contrary to some of the drivel out there, alarms do reduce the number of car thefts. They aren't a guarantee, but they do help.
  • Your insurance company. Before you buy a car, get their advice on which cars are stolen the most. Some of these cars are high theft items because they are popular. Others are high theft items because their designs make them easy to steal.

Car jacking prevention.

  • When you stop your car behind another, ensure you can see where the tires of that car touch the pavement. If you cannot, you are too close. And when you are too close, you are vulnerable to the #1 carjacking technique.
  • Do not roll down your window for a suspicious-looking pedestrian. If the person tries to enter your car, drive away. If the person damages your car, resist the urge to get out and respond. The damage is a ruse to get you into a more vulnerable position. Drive off, and report the incident to the police as soon as possible. Remember, it's better to repair your car two weeks later than than to die five minutes later.
  • If someone rear-ends you at a stop, don't get out of your car. Call the police on your cell phone, and tell them you have just been hit and suspect a carjacking in progress. If you do not have police department number in your cell phone, put it in there now. 
  • Carry a weapon. I have a massive pigsticker in my car. If someone reaches into my car, that person will lose some tendons.
  • Lobby for right to carry laws, if you do not have them. I would prefer anti-crime laws in my state, but the folks here favor the criminals. When the question comes up, ask how being disarmed helped Michael Jordan's father. 



5. Health tip/Fitness tips

Back pain. When it strikes, we are amazed that it can happen to us. For some folks, there are structural reasons for back pain (for example, a spina bifida occlusion). For most people, however, back pain is due to two things (often in combination):

  • Bad posture
  • Weak abdominal muscles.

To correct bad posture, you will need to learn what good posture is and analyze the posture you do have. Your spine needs to follow a certain curve pattern. In most of us, this pattern is disrupted. You may wish to consult a chiropractor (one of the rare instances in which I think they can help) or ask your family doctor for a referral to a posture expert.

To correct weak abdominal muscles, don't do sit-ups! This exercise actually creates an imbalance, and causes the wrong stresses on the connective tissue. Plus, it exacerbates posture problems. There are many effective exercises for your abs. Here are some:

  • Front squats. My abs "kill me" after my squat routine. If you are doing squats and not working your abs, you are doing something wrong. Very wrong. Ask for guidance. Tip: Use abdominal contraction as a natural weight belt when doing any weight training.
  • Hanging leg raises. Be sure to arch your back on the downstroke, for proper tendon alignment.
  • Crunches. These are not quite as good as hanging leg raises. Be sure to tense your abs while doing them. If you are doing these right, you can't do very many in a row. I like to do four sets of 10.
  • Deadlifts. Be careful with this exercise. Do it right, and you add strength to your back (while also building your abs). Do it wrong, and you hurt your back. Form is everything. Don't worry about poundage.
  • Good mornings. An excellent exercise for the back, spine, and abs--though it's aimed at the hamstrings. If you don't know how to do this exercise, get advice. It's dangerous if done wrong.

6. Balancing Act

Think of all the various commitments you have. Each of them is like a ball in a juggling act. Some of those balls are rubber. Others are glass. You need to identify which ones are which, so you don't drop the ones that will break. Put some thought into this.


7. Why the eNL break?

We've had a long break between eNLs for two reasons:

  • I've been busy with improvements to the Mindconnection shopping cart system (it's much faster now, and it has other enhancements).
  • The sheer amount of e-mail during the recent spam/trojan/virus attacks meant I'd work very hard on an eNL only to have it lost in the confusion. Plus, readers had enough to contend with e-mailwise.


8. Thought for the Day

Whatever you spend your time doing, that is what you will become.


Wishing you the best,

Mark Lamendola


The views expressed in this e-newsletter are generally not shared by criminals, zombies, or brainwashed individuals.

Except where noted, this e-newsletter is entirely the work of Mark Lamendola. Anything presented as fact can be independently verified. Often, sources are given; but where not given, they are readily available to anyone who makes the effort.

Mark provides information from either research or his own areas of established expertise. Sometimes, what appears to be a personal opinion is the only possibility when applying sound logic--reason it out before judging! (That said, some personal opinions do appear on occasion).

The purpose of this publication is to inform and empower its readers (and save you money!).

Personal note from Mark: I value each and every one of you, and I hope that shows in the diligent effort I put into writing this e-newsletter. Thank you for being a faithful reader.

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