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Mindconnection eNL, 2008-09-07


In this issue:
Product Highlight | Brainpower | Finances | Security | Health/Fitness | Miscellany | Thought for the Day


1. Product Highlight

Instant Rebates On Selected Scanning Pens
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Sale runs through September, 2008 only.

2. Brainpower tip

I recently had a conversation with an old friend whose life has truly tanked. How is he handling this? He's concocting a sort of alternate universe that allows him to blame other people for how he got to where he is. Using fallacious logic, "creative" fact gathering, and a whole lot of mental energy, he's been able to devise quite the story. Of course, it doesn't square well with reality. But, that's the point of such an exercise.

This coping strategy helps a person avoid the discomfort of facing reality. "It's not my fault" soothes the ego and lets those insecurities and self-defeating behaviors continue to thrive.

But coping and curing are quite different. How much better would it be if, for example, he identified just one of his many problems and analyzed what he could personally do about it? Rather than waste brainpower rationalizing personal failings, it's more advantageous to direct that brainpower to solving the problems you are facing.

The person in question blames his first ex-wife for his current financial condition. They were divorced about 15 years ago and it was financially a clean break (no support payments or alimony), so right there you have a clue that he's not looking clearly at the situation.

They divorced because he was abusive physically and verbally. If you were to write a book on how to be a poor husband, he'd be poster child for about 80% of the material. He cherry picks his facts, saying he was a good husband because he "didn't get drunk and run around with the boys." He conveniently forgets all of his points of failure in this endeavor. And he conveniently forgets that he abused his next wife the same way, causing her to leave him as well.

He's retired now and his money is running out. He has medical bills that are draining his savings, but his health ills are all caused by his compulsive overeating. He has refused to get help for his compulsion or even try to overcome it himself, despite the obvious consequences. So now that the money is about to run out, he has adopted a "why me?" attitude and blames someone who has nothing to do with the problem.

It's easy to point fingers and say, "Well, that guy's just an idiot." In fact, that's a normal response, so don't feel bad if you responded that way. But the problem is that in finger-pointing we risk not looking at our own similar issues. As a consequence, we may go about with our own self-defeating behaviors and not stop to think through the causes and possible cures.

It takes courage and discipline to look at whatever problem you're having and ask questions like:

  • What actions of mine could have contributed to this problem, and am I still doing such things?
  • What actions can I take to ameliorate or even fix this problem?
  • How have others solved a similar problem, and what changes did they make?
  • Am I making any real progress? In what ways, and by what yardstick to I know this?

If you put yourself to this task, you will find that you have ample ability to formulate solutions. The reason is when you stop wasting brainpower on excuse-making, you will have huge reserves available for problem-solving. Use those reserves, instead of wasting them. Imagine if you could multiply the mileage of your automobile by a factor of ten or do the same with your salary--that would produce some impressive results. So does removing the brainpower-drag of excuse-making.

3. Finance tip

We've all heard the adage, "Time is money," yet most of us waste staggering amounts of time. This has a cost, even if you don't count it in dollars. If you don't count it in dollars, you should. One way to look at it is this: if you use your time wisely, you can reduce expenses on "time saving services" and other things that suck up your money.

One way to stem the flow of wasted time is to use e-mail rather than making (or receiving) a phone call. Most people think the phone call is quicker, but it usually isn't.

From a productivity standpoint, phone calls are disasters. Have you wondered why just about every company you deal with has a phone tree, though just about every consumer hates those things? Phone trees aren't implemented to direct you to the right department. They are implemented to discourage you from picking up the phone and costing that company what is usually a quite needless expense.

Further, if your call goes through to a salaried individual, that person has to make up for the call on his or her personal time. Phone calls are one reason why white collar workers in America work 65 and 70 hour weeks. Think about that before you pick up the phone to contact someone you do business with.

Phone calls are synchronous communication, so the caller necessarily must interrupt the other person. For that person to get back to where s/he was prior to the call takes about 30 minutes, according to some studies. I think that number is conservative for people who work in concentration-heavy jobs such as engineering or law. This is one reason why attorneys tend to bill much lower for e-mails than for phone calls and why executives have a gatekeeper to filter incoming calls.

Here's the math on my own typical workflow. A 15-minute phone call takes me an hour (15 for the call, 15 putting the call into notes, and half an hour trying to get back to where I was when interrupted), on a good day. Sometimes, though, I just can't get back to where I was and the rest of the day is pretty much shot. But, let's assume the numbers given at the outset and look a little more at the math....

I can type more than twice as fast as I can talk and I can read 10 times faster than I can listen (and more accurately). So a 5 minute e-mail puts me 55 minutes ahead of a 15-minute call. That's a huge competitive advantage.

But take care you don't adopt an "e-mail only" policy for business or personal communications. This mentality is becoming more pervasive, and that's also costly when it goes beyond common sense and into absurdity.

Obviously, if an e-mail can't do the job then it's pretty pointless. The usual reason an e-mail doesn't work is the person writing it dashes it off to "save time." So, instead of spending 10 minutes thoughtfully composing an e-mail and then writing a good subject line, that person ends up trading e-mails back and forth a few more times and then hopping on the phone. Total time consumed by "saving time" this way can easily run 4 hours. The solution is to spend 10, 15, or even 20 minutes making sure your e-mail is logical, limited in scope, and clear.

You don't have to be an outstanding writer to achieve that. In fact, if you can't write that way you can't speak that way either. The phone offers no actual advantage in communication to a person who can't articulate, unless the other person is able to drag out the correct information and clarify.

But what about those times when an e-mail is simply inappropriate? You have a couple of options. One is to just pick up the phone and call. Another is to send an e-mail to make an appointment for a call. Use your judgment as to when to choose which option.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a phone call, whether incoming or outbound. But a call does cost time and thus money to make and to receive. In many cases, it's well worth it. Think of the last time you had a stimulating phone conversation with a friend, and how e-mail would have made it far less stimulating.

Timing is also a factor. One complaint of consultants, telecommuters, and others who work from home is they get nonbusiness calls during business hours, as if their working from home means they aren't really working. One "friendly" call at the wrong time for that person can result in several hours of unpaid overtime. A real friend won't do that to someone.

Try to make calls only in those situations where a phone call is clearly the best method. And don't think you have to answer a phone just because it's ringing.

4. Security tip

Most people understand the dangers of being distracted by a cell phone while driving. This issue has been thoroughly tested and documented, so let me provide a brief explanation if you don't understand.

The human brain cannot multi-task. It just doesn't work that way. When you try to do two things at once, your brain has to switch between those tasks. There are switching costs associated with this.

In one study, people sat in a test room with monitoring equipment and took on the role of drivers. Every single one of them had periods of "brain suspension," in which they actually did not process visual information. In this study, people carried on a conversation via cell phone, and then also with a person sitting next to them. The results were the same.

The reason for the blindness that carrying on a conversation uses some of the same brain resources that seeing does. Ordinarily, you don't have a problem with the switching issue. But when hurtling along the highway at 70 MPH or trying to make split-second decisions in city traffic, the switching can cause enough of a delay in your response to prove fatal to you or to that child who just ran in front of your car.

Lesson: If you're driving in any situation where you may need to suddenly stop or swerve, shut up. Alert your passenger(s) by saying something like, "This looks dicey. I need a few seconds of quiet so I can drive safely."

So much for talking and driving at the same time. What about walking and talking at the same time? That brings up a common fallacy about cell phones. Criminologists are reporting that people used to avoid bad areas of town or dangerous conditions, but now feel emboldened because they have their cell phones with them (apparently failing to understand the adage, "When seconds count, the cops are only minutes away.").

The one group that has shifted  behavior the most this way is--can you guess? Teens. They are busy texting and are almost oblivious to their surroundings. They don't notice the suspicious man or the car that has jumped the median.

If you're in a dangerous place, put the phone away. It won't help you. Being alert and then adjusting according to whatever is out of place is what you need to be doing. And you can't do that if your attention is on a conversation.

Here's a parting thought. Have you ever heard any coach tell an athlete, "Keep your eye on the ball and your cell phone and the spectator in the fourth row, and be thinking about what you plan on doing tomorrow...."?

I'm  going to go out on a limb here and take a wild guess that you have heard only, "Keep your eye on the ball." Why do coaches insist on focus, instead of multi-tasking? You know the reason, so keep yourself safe by focusing in any situation in which proper attention is paramount to your safety.

5. Health tip/Fitness tips

6. Miscellany

  1. A starfish doesn't have a brain. So, it has much in common with your CONgressman.
  2. We don't run ads in our newsletter. We do get inquiries from advertisers, all the time. To keep this eNL coming, go to and do your shopping from there (as appropriate).

  3. Please forward this eNL to others.

7. Thought for the Day

If you're stewing over a wrong done to you, the other person doesn't need your forgiveness nearly as much as you need to forgive.


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!).

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