Philosophy

Do you remember the headlines in 2017?

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 07.59.04.png

I decided to capture the news headlines for the whole year of 2017. About 3 headlines every single day. 

Why?

To illustrate how we’re all being manipulated by the daily media without us even realising it.

By March I started regretting it, but I continued and have added screenshots of those headlines to a Pinterest board. 

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/stayingaliveuk/headlines-2017

I’ve captured 1,100+ headlines about an average of 3 headlines per day. 

How did I decide what to pick?

Well I basically decided that if my eye, my attention, my internal guidance system drew me to a particular headline then that’s the one that got selected. Of course I did look out for the major ones, the big news items too. Unfortunately Donald Trump and Brexit obviously feature in abundance because there was some news on both every single day. 

I used the Apple News app to tap into the daily news and locate those headlines. 

I am delighted to nearly have completed the exercise with just 3 days left and will be taking 2018 off from even looking at the news app.

Have a look through the board and some of the headlines might surprise you. 

Enjoy!

Is it really all about politics or is it about leadership?

There are only two types of leaders. Those that instruct and those that trust.

I've never known a more exposed situation and narrative in connection with our countries’ leaders, whether it’s the USA, the U.K., the EU or further away, our leaders are being exposed for what they truly stand for. 

No longer can they be hiding in the forest and just send their troops out to face the battles. Their faces have to be seen, their words have to be heard, every move, every tweet, every bite is under scrutiny being analysed by the media and more importantly by everyone watching, the electorate, ‘The People’.

You might be watching via the TV, the Newspapers or Social Media and you're all forming your own opinions, your views on whether they are performing or not. It's like watching the latest blockbuster movie to see if it lives up to your expectations. You are literally awarding those leaders stars in your head. It's either 1 star or 5 stars, you decide. 

And then you can't help yourself by expressing your opinion via Twitter or Facebook, just like our leaders are now doing. After all we copy what our leaders do, for better or for worse. I've read some incredible debates on Facebook, where inevitably the unfriending happens and maybe ‘rage quitting’ from Facebook too. It's sad to see that colleagues and friends are falling out with each other. This is exactly what our leaders are hoping for, that  we chose one side over another and in the process fall out with each other.

Then there's the comedy, the GIFS, the stand-ups, the meme’s, the late late shows, the comedy news programmes and of course Saturday Night Live, the Russel Brands, the Russel Kanes of this world who are all joining in the discussion, the ridicule, further exposing our leaders with comedy but every time there's also a serious side behind it all. I never saw that much comedy about Barack Obama in his two terms in office, but now I see comedy every single day about Donald Trump and other U.K. leaders. The comedy is not flattery that's for sure. 

And whether those leaders believe that they are being prosecuted by the media or anyone else, they only have themselves to blame. 

The fact that those leaders are in office at the moment is a massive GIFT to the world.  Those ‘elected’ leaders are literally a mirror to all other leaders in the world. Whether we love or hate them, they are a reflection of how the top leaders in the world are treating their ‘People’. And with ‘People’, I mean the electorate, the citizens, the employees, the unemployed, the elderly, the sick, the poor, the homeless. 

And whether we like what we see or not, it's time we all take responsibility for our own actions and how we treat each other. Leadership starts at home, it starts in the office and it starts in your community. When we change our own leadership only then will our leaders change.

Does this mean there will be a revolution? Absolutely there will be. It has already started and will continue to grow. It's hidden and it's visible at the same time. There are new leaders emerging, but we haven't met them yet. They are not the ones you can see and hear in the public arena yet.  They are planning and watching in the background, creating and developing a following. I liken it to the 2nd World War underground movement. I'm not talking about terrorists although our current leaders and media (who are owned by governments) may call them terrorists. They are definitely not, their work is being done in a very peaceful way.  

Those new leaders will emerge like a breath of fresh air to most, not everyone of course will embrace them, but the majority of us will. They will speak a new truth, develop trust and put their self importance last.  It will be totally and directly the opposite of what we have in our world today.  But it will be a very very welcome change. The timing will be exactly right.

I'm for one looking forward to that day. Happy leadership! 🙌

PS. By the way, not sure if you're into numerology or not, personally I don't understand it that well, but a fun fact to consider.  When the big crash occurred in 2008, that year number adds up to 2+0+0+8=10 1+0=1, the start of a new cycle is always a number 1. Guess what 2017 adds up to? Correct it's also number 1.

Watch out for major changes in 2017 still yet to come.

We have a saying at home ‘expect the unexpected’.

Is ‘WHY’ really the best question to ask yourself?

 @linkedin & @gapingvoid

@linkedin & @gapingvoid

We have Simon Sinek to thank for making this word famous, very very famous and now many trainers, coaches, digital marketers incorporate this question in their discussions with clients. Me included of course. It's almost like we have been infected by it when we realised that actually ‘WHY’ haven't we been asking that question of ourselves.

Simon made us realise that we spend more time promoting what and how we do things and we forget about the ‘WHY’ completely. 

‘WHY’ do you think that is? 

Well, maybe it's because it's easier to answer what and how and much and much harder to answer ‘WHY’.

I don't know about you, but I witness many things in the world, whether it's in the news, on social media, in the things that people say, their presentations, their social media posts, all the content that's floating around, the faults and strange decisions that social networks like LinkedIn make and the one word that always comes up in my head is ‘WHY’. 

I often wonder now that when I witness that something, I realise they never asked themselves the question ‘WHY’, before they shared their content. 'WHY' would anyone want to know or care about this content that I'm sharing right now?

Of course now you are wondering whether I always as the question ‘WHY’ before I create and/or share anything. And the answer?

Of course not! I rarely do, but I can tell you now, after writing this article, I will be making sure to do so from here on in.

To be true to my word, let's discuss briefly my ‘WHY’ for writing this article, specifically featuring the image that's in this article.

A number of years ago I came across @gapingvoid, the handle for the artist Hugh McLeod and was totally inspired by his drawings. I had never seen anything like it and to this day I still haven't. I subscribed to his daily newsletter, which has a new drawing every single day. I then came up with the idea of saving the daily drawings to Pinterest and now I have over 800 pins of Hugh's art. But also his cultural ideas. I'm such a big fan I even purchased some business cards through Moo.com with his art on it and some cool messages on the back. My business card is always a big hit when I hand it over. 

Then LinkedIn came out with an eBook, which contained all his art and some appropriate messages in connection with content marketing. I loved it so much and decided that each page in the eBook would lend itself brilliantly to me writing some articles and blogposts with my thoughts about each of the messages contained within it.

That is my ‘WHY’ for this article.

I'd love to hear your 'WHY', will you?

LinkedIn created a brilliant eBook with my favourite illustrator. @gapingvoid (Hugh Macleod) creates the most amazing messages through his illustrations. Read more about him and @gapingvoid here: (http://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/team-members/hugh-macleod/)

Regularly I will share one of the articles and illustrations from the eBook and give you my opinion, interpretation, insight and my meaning.

@stayingaliveuk

 linkedinlectures.com

linkedinlectures.com

#contentmarketing #content #socialmedia #engagement #marketing #socialselling #sales #empathy #distraction #purpose #relevance #trust #love #mastodon #why #linkedinlectures

Online is great and talking is even better. Everyone's ultimate goal in business and life is to make real connections, where you meet someone face to face. Before that meeting a conversation is the ultimate icebreaker. I value my LinkedIn connections and realise that I don't really know you or what your goals are and how I might facilitate or support those goals. Feel free to click through and book a call with me (https://www.stayingaliveuk.com/discovery-call/). I have blocked out only Fridays each week, excluding holidays, for calls. Hope to speak with you soon.

One day we will all just be 'OLD'!

I agree it's a dreadful thought or is it? When we get closer to visiting our Maker, we start to forgive those that have done us wrong, we ask for forgiveness for what we may have said to or about those we did wrong, realising that actually we only have a few hours left on this planet. 

One day that is exactly what will happen to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. What they have said to each other will have hurt the other at some level, whether it was the truth or not, it doesn't matter. Throwing verbal abuse at each other is massive negative energy and will affect the other individual. Just think back to when someone verbally abused you. How did it make you feel?

Hillary and Donald are supposed to be the top leaders of the western world, they are supposed to be role models for other leaders, for teenagers and for children who aspire to achieve greatness themselves one day.

Many adults (we're all leaders in our communities by the way) around the world joined in with the verbal abuse, whether it was on TV, the press, Social Media, all of us showing younger people how to behave when things don't go our way. And the abuse continues and will continue for many years to come. This election will NEVER be forgotten, because we will be reminded of it, when every day the media will scrutinise every tiny little detail of Trump's Presidency. 

Can we truly look at ourselves in the mirror and honestly say to ourselves that we are outstanding leaders in this world of ours? Truly?

Watch this fascinating video interview with Simon Sinek, who stated that Donald Trump is a reflection of us. Ironically this interview was posted on YouTube on June 23rd, the day the UK voted for Brexit!

For me what the US Presidential Election of 2016 has shown me is that we as leaders have a very very long way to go to realise what true leadership is. And often we become great leaders when we reach a very mature age, an age when you realise how fragile this life is, an age when forgiveness comes easy, an age when you realise what you did and said wasn't actually that great. And by the way that age is obviously not 69 (Hillary) or 70 (Donald). 

One day we will all just be 'OLD'.

@stayingaliveuk

Are you practising Mindfulness?

There is an issue with the word ’Mindfulness’. It sounds like ’Mind-full-ness’. It should be called ’Mind-emptiness’

As I viewed my Apple News app for my daily fix of world headlines, I’m totally blown away by almost every other article talking about the US Presidency. Whether it's tapes, emails, quotes, the constitution it's all over my News app. There's almost no space for anything else. I really should stop looking. 

But that's the problem, it's hard not to. We're so wired-in to streams of content from all directions, that trying to ignore it is almost futile. 

It really is like living inside a Star Trek episode featuring The Borg. 

This is their quote:

“We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” 

Seriously that's how I feel sometimes. And when someone says to you, ’did you see...’ and I act all clueless, they look at you as if you've committed a crime. So does that mean we all get sucked in to mindlessly having to read, watch and absorb content that we'd prefer not to?

Being distracted by so much content is becoming a task in itself. How to decide what to read, what to watch and how to relax is now as stressful as work. I'm convinced that there will be a new career in helping people to switch off from ’content overload’. Helping them to identify the real things that are truly important in their lives and will move them forward in achieving their goals and dreams. One thing’s for sure, spending mindless time on Social Media and watching TV is not going to deliver that for us.

So what advise should I give you? I haven't a clue yet is my honest answer, as I've also been assimilated. However my goal is to chunk my time in 20-minute slots. I now even teach people what to do on LinkedIn each day in just 20-minutes per day. Feel free to have a browse through the slides below.

When you chunk your time in say 20-minute slots you will not feel as overwhelmed by it all. If you do need your daily fix of news and social media, just spend 20-minutes per day on it, that's it no more and no less. 

Test it our for a day. 

  1. Catch up with the news for 20 minutes in the morning.
  2. Sit down for breakfast for 20 minutes.
  3. Catch up with email in the office for 20 minutes.
  4. Perform some of your outstanding tasks for 20 minutes at a time.
  5. Attend or chair a meeting, make it last just 20 minutes.
  6. Spend some quiet time during the day, take 20 minutes.
  7. Maybe go for a walk for just 20 minutes.
  8. Spend some time with your kids, even if it's 20 minutes.
  9. Catch up with the news in the evening for just 20 minutes.
  10. Workout for a power exercise session again just 20 minutes.

And I could go on. Chunk it down into 20-minute slots and you will be surprised how much you can achieve. Be patient with yourself, experiment and try it out, even if you don't apply it to everything. You could never watch a film in 20 minutes and that's okay. Just try it out on a few things, especially Social Media. I'll be doing the same!

Let's share how you're getting on and enjoy the process.

LinkedIn created a brilliant eBook with my favourite illustrator. @gapingvoid (Hugh Macleod) creates the most amazing messages through his illustrations. Read more about him and @gapingvoid here: http://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/team-members/hugh-macleod/

Regularly I will share one of the articles and illustrations from the eBook and give you my opinion, interpretation, insight and meaning of the words and illustrations.

@stayingaliveuk

Have you ever considered engagement?

The first English-language newspaper, "Corrant out of Italy, Germany, etc., was published in Amsterdam in 1620.  I never knew that and I was born there!  "Corrant", was a translation of Courante, which means running or stream.

Nearly 400 years later and we've all become publishers. Who would have thought that.  Now we're all desperately looking to find readers of our published content.  There are literally millions of us writing and publishing updates about our work, our lives and on top of that writing millions of blogposts all over the web.

Why?

There is only one reason and that is to get noticed.

We want to be found, to become more successful in our work, maybe to leave a legacy and some of us even want to be famous.  

And by publishing content we believe that we may achieve these goals one day but we often overlook the human interactions that are needed for our content to be taken seriously.  I am no longer active in LinkedIn groups because I see everyone posting their blogposts, not even asking for comments, not even asking a question about the content they are sharing. 

To believe that human interactions with your content will just magically appear by what I call 'spraying and praying' is a crazy strategy and although you may experience a couple of successes here and there, in the long-term it will fail.

By all means write content, create eBooks and even become an author and then start finding your audience by engaging with them first.  Find their content and engage with it by liking, commenting and sharing it so more readers will find it. Ask them questions about their content, you may even wish to be challenging at times or have a decent (virtual) debate about some of it. 

The other day I was chatting to Julie Bondy Roberts and we agreed that all our time spent writing and publishing content is actually a marketing expense. So multiply your hourly rate by the hours you spend publishing your content, maybe curating content and even sharing your story updates across, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, plus all the others. I reckon most are spending around 3 hours each day, 90 hours per month (including weekends). Just multiply by your hourly rate and it's a very big number!  Are you getting a return on that?

Just saying...

LinkedIn created a brilliant eBook with my favourite illustrator. @gapingvoid (Hugh Macleod) creates the most amazing messages through his illustrations. Read more about him and @gapingvoid here: http://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/team-members/hugh-macleod/

Each week I will share one of the articles and illustrations from the eBook and give you my opinion, insight and meaning of the words and illustrations.

@stayingaliveuk

Have you ever wanted to step off the world?

On the 8th December 2015 at 15:50 when I received a call from Clair, my darling wife, I certainly wanted to step off the world.

Luke, my 14-year old stepson, ran away from school apparently very upset, he ran for over a mile and jumped 40 feet of a structure to hit the ground with force to try and commit suicide. I will deal with the ’why’ later.

In case you're wondering, he is alive, but...

He has multiple injuries and has been in several hospitals every since, indeed so has Clair, nurturing, supporting and encouraging him back to life.

His injury list makes painful reading, multiple skull fractures, brain injury, eye socket fracture, multiple fractures in one elbow, punctured lung, pelvis fractures, spinal injury, nerve damage to his bladder (causing him to be currently incontinent), broken ankle, crushed heel. He's had major surgery to his pelvis and spine and to his elbow.

Needless to say he's receiving some counselling for his state of mind as well.

This is going to be a very very long journey and currently this is without doubt THE biggest mission Clair, Luke and I are facing so far during our lives.

We’d like to think that our thought process is different compared to most and indeed we have learnt a lot from many thought leaders over the years, which will help us to get through this very challenging episode of our lives. However nothing can prepare you for something like this, not even the most enlightened and trained. It certainly has knocked my positive mindset for six. I’m sure it will be back, but it will be a while that’s for sure.

We believe ’Intention’ is hugely powerful, we use it in our lives every single day and now more than ever in our lives we are asking everyone we know to hold an intention for Luke’s healing and recovery. The ’Intention’ is shown in the image below. If you are interested in joining us with this ’Intention’, we would of course be delighted.

We know that already in a very short period of time our ’Intention’ has resulted in a positive change in Luke’s condition. I wrote and circulated the ’Intention’ within hours of Luke's accident. Luke was placed into sedation to assist his pain and also prevent any brain damage, as he did have some bleeding on the brain. When after a few days they brought him out of sedation and then when he could communicate slightly, he was able to know who he was, how old he is, who his family members are and all their birth dates. The consultant doctors thought this kind of a recovery of his brain injury was nothing short of miraculous (their words). 

I first learnt about intention setting during the summer of 2006, where I participated in the first ever group ‘Intention Experiment’ hosted by Lynne McTaggart in London with very interesting and successful results. Lynne is the author of The Field, The Intention Experiment, What Doctors Don’t Tell You and The Bond. You can check out her website and learn more about her.  She certainly has done some fascinating research.

I won’t even try to explain how intention setting works, because I have no idea, except that I have read studies and witnessed many of my own personal examples. You can probably divide the world into 3 camps, the scientific, the religious and the spiritual (non-religious). And there are some that hover somewhere in-between. I completely acknowledge the fact that some of you will say that 'Intention’ is just ‘prayer’ and at some level I do agree with that too.

Anyway for now you have to decide whether you believe or not.

Apart from creating some images with the intention words, I have also asked Lynne McTaggart if she could share the intention with her audience. She has very kindly agreed to send an email blast to her database asking them to take part. This will have potentially hundreds and maybe even thousands of people who are going to be taking part. Here is the link to the email that went out on the 8th January for a global multiple intention on 10th January.

I have also created a meditation audio track, which you can listen to on Mixcloud or YouTube. The embedded tracks are below.


I promised to share with you why Luke decided to commit suicide.

Truthfully we will never really know, except to say that he had planned it and had even written a suicide letter, which he handed to his ex-girlfriend, who he had only 48 hours previously broken up with. This was Luke’s first ever proper girlfriend at the very young age of 14 years. Luke is a very balanced young man and committed to his word. We believe that he had to follow through with it because he had committed himself in writing. He has managed to briefly speak to Clair about it at times when he has wanted to. The good news is that he does want to get better and fit again.

Back in 2014, I wrote an article about suicide to highlight the dangers of those thoughts in young people. Far more needs to be done to help younger people have a better understanding about their emotions in early relationships and that they need to talk about their feelings. Easier said than done.

Thank you for reading and thank you so much if you are deciding to take part. I will of course post an update on Luke’s progress in the coming weeks and months.

Much love and gratitude ❤️

Will Social Selling create a global economic revival?

You will probably get bored of hearing that people do business with people they know, like and trust! Actually I believe a better sequence would be trust, know and like, because by using social channels and especially LinkedIn we have the perfect opportunity to build trust first. I know it doesn’t roll of the tongue as well, but in my humble opinion it has to come first each and every time.

But how can you build that trust

By being active and by being interesting and interested. With 400 million (and counting) professionals on LinkedIn it really has become super easy to find the exact and relevant contact (buyer) for you to get in front of.

And most still get it completely wrong, because most of what I see and experience on social media and especially LinkedIn are promotional posts (adverts) and impersonal invitations to connect. 

Definitely not ’interesting’ and not ’interested’.

If we have a desire to see global economic revival on the planet then you need to start changing your behaviour on social media, especially LinkedIn and take a few minutes out of your busy day to think through and formulate a detailed strategy.

Here are just 3 quick things you can adopt to move in the right direction and set the right intention.

  1. Decide specifically and in incredible detail your ideal buyer (client). Identify the industry sector, the location, their seniority, their age, personal ambitions (assumed), interests, skills, sports team and anything else that will assist you to narrow down a shortlist of individuals. You have to become laser targeted. Being general is so from the previous century.
  2. Develop search and alert criteria on google, twitter and LinkedIn to explore and potentially uncover the individuals that match up with your ’ideal buyer’ profile. Keep looking daily, weekly, monthly until you become totally absorbed with who that person is, so much so that you can understand and predict their behaviour. LinkedIn is totally the best network to do much of this on, especially now with their Sales Navigator tool. It has never been a better time right now to access data for your research.
  3. Develop and curate appropriate and great content that will be super interesting to your ‘ideal buyer’. Over time you will develop a reputation for sharing great and ‘interesting’ content and your network will start to realise and appreciate that you are the person they are interested in learning from.

In addition LinkedIn have just released the ’Social Selling Index’ for every English speaking LinkedIn member. Have a look at my index below. You can see that this is a great measurement tool to help you and your teams drive forward and develop ’trust’ on LinkedIn. A better title would probably be the ’trust’ index.

Go ahead and grab your index via https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi

I have also shared below details of how the index is calculated, which confirms that by being active and developing the right strategy you will develop more trust. Trust leads to interest, interest leads to a conversation, a conversation leads to a meeting and a meeting leads to business.

 "Taken from LinkedIn's Sales Navigator support section as at August 2015"

"Taken from LinkedIn's Sales Navigator support section as at August 2015"

Just imagine if LinkedIn professionals focussed on getting their index higher they automatically will be seen more, develop more trusting relationships on LinkedIn, gain greater exposure and develop more opportunities.

Now just think for a moment, if just 1% of the 400 million LinkedIn members adopted a great professional approach for developing their network, do you think this would make a difference to the economic prosperity of individuals around the world?

By you and I changing the way we behave on social channels, especially on LinkedIn, I believe we would collectively have a major impact on the global economy. Not just by developing better and closer relationships with our networks but also by growing our enterprises, whether we are micro, small, medium or a large enterprise. 

Now it's your turn.  Please share below what your views are on Social Selling, Trust and the Global Economy. I'd love to hear your stories.

Teenager says: 'Sorry, I forgot...'

Really?

We all know that teenagers are wonderful people, they are the engineers of the future, the brilliant leaders of the world, the amazing inventors and very clever scientists. We value them and we respect them, well most of the time...

My brain goes purple with rage when I hear them say:

oh sorry I forgot, you know what my memory is like, I just didn't remember...

Why? Because in today's digital world there is absolutely no excuse for anyone, and I mean anyone who has a digital device to forget anything ever.

Teenagers, in the western world at least, have phones, iPods, iPads, iPhones, Androids, Computers, Laptops, Tablets, Kindles, Blackberries and many other digital devices.

All of these devices have something in common and that is they have apps like calendars, notes, tasks and reminders.

Why are they not using these tools?

Every parent and teacher needs to remind their teenage darlings that it's about time that they started using the devices for memory joggers or they will take those expensive devices away from them for ever, not just for a few days.

There should never ever, ever never, never never, ever ever never be an excuse to forget stuff that they are just to lazy to want to remember. It's too convenient to say ’I forgot’, it just doesn't wash anymore.

Remember they have to learn and remember tons of stuff at school and colleges to get through exams and get good grades. They are brilliant at doing this and they do actually remember huge amount of data in their young lives. They are actually much better than adults in doing this because they have to practice remembering stuff every day.

Time to hand out some tough love then, they either start using their devices also for remembering stuff instead of texting, instagramming, tweeting and chatting or they lose them.

Oh and just in case they don't have a digital device, remember pencil and paper?

Go on you can do it.

Are You Afraid of Rejection on Social Networks?

IMG_1187

You should be...

Many more social networkers are being more discerning in deciding who they connect with. I'm sure by now you've heard the saying: ’you’re network is your net worth’.

It’s more important for networkers to show off 'WHO' they are connected to, compared to 'HOW' many.

What's needed is some {old-fashioned} personal branding. If you're reading this then you're already a personal brand and you might not have realised it yet. It doesn't mean you have to be a Rock Star or some YouTube celebrity, although of course it would help. What's a personal brand? I'm not talking about celebrities, it's anyone these days, who has a profile on a social network, a blog or any other profile that resides on the web, like YOU! Personal branding 2.0 is alive and kicking. Anyone nowadays has a voice, whether, you Tweet, Facebook, Google Plus or LinkedIn, you and anyone else can share their inner feelings and thoughts about any national or any international affairs. Plus your opinion on companies, their customer service and their products and services, counts. Potentially you can cause massive damage to reputations of companies or individuals.

With this power also comes great responsibility.

I am assuming that your reputation matters to you and this means, you should take it seriously. Anyone with an internet connection can interrogate your presence on the web. And as you're probably reading this on LinkedIn, a search result of your LinkedIn profile will very likely appear on page 1 of Google when someone searches for your name.

In 1 keystroke any searcher can learn everything about you in a just a few seconds.

Doesn't this warrant a great presentation of your personal brand? It absolutely does. For the past few years we've all rushed to join the latest social network in 'fear of missing out' (#fomo) or ensuring that as a minimum we've got a profile in case someone happens to search for us there. And in that rush we have proliferated our profiles across these networks causing a huge amount of inconsistency. Here are just 4 items from my audit checklist for you to review and examine how you're doing with your own personal brand:

  1. Do you have different profile photos on different networks? Most of us are still super critical of the way we appear on photographs. This means we scour our photo library picking out the best photo that we perceive will represent us in the best light. What happens is you may select a photo of yourself in business attire and place that on LinkedIn. You’ll find another one from your holidays maybe with family and friends in a T-shirt, crop yourself and place that on Facebook. Or maybe a family picture and use that on Google plus or Twitter. And when you are developing your personal brand this type of inconsistency completely confuses the viewer.
  2. Are you using the company logo instead of a profile photo? If you are a big brand great, push your recognisable logo if need be. However if you are a small or micro business, using your logo is THE most impersonal thing you can do. And using a logo on your personal profile on LinkedIn is just plain silly and actual against LinkedIn's terms, which you agreed to, remember?
  3. Do you write a different ’about’ section on each profile? It's one of the easiest errors we can make. To become a recognisable personal brand you need to have consistency as readers will scan your profile and at least pick up a few keywords from your ’about section’ with an opportunity to remember them. If they vary greatly it will lead to readers being confused and not remembering anything tangible from your ’about section’. I know the no. of words allowed also varies greatly, which means that brevity counts.
  4. Are you using different header images across networks? Everyone has gone header crazy. Plus the sizes differ hugely. Furthermore how the header interacts with the profile photo and how it appears on mobile devices is another factor that complicates things further. Use your graphic designer to help you get the best look and resolution.

Take a few minutes and review your social networks and adjust them to be closer in line with each other. After all your personal brand is important to you, it's time to take it seriously.

@stayingaliveuk

ps. A great business friend, Richard Tubb @tubblog, asked me to review his media branding and this inspired me to write this article. Thanks Richard!

How Do You Test Competence?

The biggest challenge facing the UK economy is 'Skills Competence' and not 'Skills Shortage'. Everyone always looks at the glass as being half empty instead of half full. So focussing on 'Skills Competence' is better than focussing on 'Skills Shortage', don't you think? Competence is the holy grail, because assessing someone’s competence allows you to directly know whether they are equipped to do the job or not. We have a competence issue in organisations not a skills issue.

Competence: the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.

Appraisals, Annual reviews, Objective setting, 360 degree reviews or whatever your name is for reviewing someone’s performance doesn't assess competence. You can only test competence by asking the employee directly if they know the answer to a very specific set of questions that relate to ’what’ they need to know as an absolute minimum to do the job competently.

In every organisation things change. New products or services, new managers, changing procedures and processes, re-organisation which causes job changes, new sales and customer service processes, etc.

Job competency is always under pressure when change happens in an organisation and that's all the time.

To truly understand your employees’ competence you need to test them, regularly. Once you know their competence levels, you can do something about it.

Deploying learning materials in large silos (Learning Management Systems) or any other method of e-learning will allow you to teach skills but not competence. When you teach just skills, you have no idea if the learner has remembered the new skill and whether they've actually become competent in that skill. Indeed it takes time to become competent in any skill and usually it takes repetition of carrying out that skill before you become competent.

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We all know the following 4 phases of learning something new, like learning to drive a car:

1. Unconscious incompetence 2. Conscious incompetence 3. Conscious competence 4. Unconscious competence

The 4th phase is where we want our employees to get to as soon as possible, whether it's with Onboarding (Induction) or learning new skills/knowledge.

Every minute, hour, day, week or month that we take to get them as competent as possible, means the organisation is potentially losing money or not growing as fast.

The Psychology of Study goes as far back as 1932, when Mace wrote his book 'Psychology of Study' and the idea of ’spaced repetition’ was first muted. Earlier still we had Ebbinghaus who told us about the forgetting curve. It tells us that for centuries we've been debating how we can get humans to remember more than how to walk.

Let's take learning languages. If you've ever tried to learn a new language, then you'll know that only by repetition will you become competent in that language. Using flash cards are an even better way of learning to remember a new language. Put the English on one side and the translation on the other. Start with 50 cards on day one and when you know you have mastered a few, take those out of the pack and repeat the others. Keep going until you've mastered them all. It's fairly basic but it works.

It's the only way to become competent in that language. Of course you may decide to repeat it in 3 weeks, because unless you are using these sentences regularly, the chances are that you will forget them.

Take this concept into any skill in any organisation where you require it to become a competence in the person who is performing it and you will rapidly and successfully increase competence throughout the organisation.

Deploying this method is now easier then ever, allowing employees to become more competent through the power of mobile. Not only can you test competence and teach new skills, you can report on the overall competence of a group, a department, a division or the overall organisation. It allows you to succession plan, recruit for competence gaps, evaluate competence levels for new projects. It even tests the individuals who took the course, at the point when they are deemed to be ready to be tested over the phone by a real person. A great motivator for the learner to get up to speed and learn properly.

What if such a tool was available today? What a difference it would make to UK "Skills Competence', to the UK economy, to UK competitiveness, to the Economy of Organisations and especially to the people that work in them.

If any of the concepts above touched a nerve with you and you can see an application inside your organisation, please get in touch with me in the first instance. We’ll get a proof of concept rolling out for you within hours and start your organisation’s journey towards 'Skills Competence' quickly.

Wishing you massive success always.

uk.linkedin.com/in/stayingaliveuk/

@stayingaliveuk

 

Do you Appreciate Diversity in Social Media?

I engage with dozens of individuals each and every week and discuss the merits or otherwise of Social Media. Nowadays the workplace consists of different generations all trying to work together to fulfill a company’s mission.

The trouble is most of us don't have a clue how we can ensure that all the different generations get on together, let alone catering for them in the social media stakes.

IMG_0769

Let me share what I mean in a bit more detail.

Born between 1925-1945, you're a traditionalist, 1946-1964 and you are the famous baby boomer, the largest population group on earth. Gen X 1965-1979, Gen Y 1980-2000 and Gen Z 2001-now.

If you're a traditionalist you may already be retired or you will be in a mentoring and/or chairing capacity or very likely to be working in the 3rd sector.

As a traditionalist you value respect above all else. So being mentioned in a tweet incorrectly, accused of some wrong doing, you’ll be on the phone to your lawyer promptly. Not being shown respect is a major issue for you.

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Baby boomers really value relationships. That's probably why this group is one of the largest on Facebook, which in essence is a massive relationship community.

Believe it or not Gen X value life/work balance and these will be CEO’s who tell their teams to leave on time and spend more time with their families, making them more productive at work and satisfied with life. Social Media more than likely is a way to relax for them. Something traditionalists and boomers would never even consider as relaxing!

Gen Y, want to be heard, they are likely to be the most prolific on twitter, making their opinions known to the world and feel happiest when they receive likes or retweets. It means someone’s listening to them.

Gen Z, are too young I know, but watch out, they will be there soon and despite age restrictions on social networks, they've already been active for a couple of years and by the time they get to work, they will have been active for 7 years or so.

Most of us have only been active for a few years!

With all of these different generations working side by side, you can learn a huge amount about them from just watching their social network activity or maybe even the lack thereof.

It allows you some insight into how they relate to the other generations too.

Would you put a Boomer alongside a Gen X and get them to learn from each other or do you let all the Gen X and Y’s sit together in a pool and feed of each other?

Respecting diversity is important in communities, appreciating how they behave on social media, with some of THE largest communities on the globe, is becoming even more important.

Wishing you massive success always.

Michael

http://www.linkedin.com/in/stayingaliveuk

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Is your Social Media Policy liked?

I read with interest a recent newsletter with guidelines and policy on electronic communication and social media. Electronic communication has been around for a while and whilst it’s good to be reminded about what should and shouldn't be done, especially for new starters and young workers who may not be so used to email, in general it’s well established and most people know what is and isn't allowed. Social Media though is a different matter all together. The first question we have to ask ourselves is ’Why is Social Media so popular?’ Well because it releases dopamine in the brain, inside our pleasure/reward centre and that in turn makes it addictive. I wrote a paper on this last year, ’Do Social Networks Sell Drugs?’.

IMG_0656

As it’s addictive, it means for many it's almost impossible to leave it alone. Think about it, whenever someone, likes, shares, retweets, follows, invites, accepts, pokes or any other social network activity that has become part of daily behaviour, we feel good about ourselves. We feel like someone approves of us, in a world where mostly we receive criticism, it means we feel like we are getting praise. And of course that feels good and if it feels good, it becomes addictive. Especially young people, who get criticised by parents and teachers alike day in day out. Therefore when they are on social media they (mostly) will get positive messages. I know it has its down side too.

So now we need to think this through, because if it’s addictive and people can't leave it alone, will we still be as harsh on them when we catch them accessing their personal social media networks, whilst at work? Or do we accept, actually this is part of the modern world now and very little we can do to fight it.

Research from 2012 suggests that smart phone owners check their devices 150 times per day, about once every 6 minutes. But we're now in 2014, so we can safely assume it has gone up significantly? Americans aged 18-64 who use social networks say they spend an average of 3.2 hours per day doing so, according to research conducted in November 2012 by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (OTX). (http://styin.me/1b1O73t). I'm sure the UK is not far behind them and that figure will have gone up too.

flickr | rockerictic

One way to allow your employees to engage in social media activities is to supply them with an internal social media platform, which connects everyone inside the business, across geographical boundaries, allowing everyone to learn from each other and to collaborate on projects. Also allowing colleagues to like and comment on posts. This way you are distracting them from their personal networks, by allowing them to still engage in similar activities and satisfy their addiction. Actually personal Social Media, is allowing millions of workers to train themselves in order to assist their learning inside the workplace. Think about it, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have provided free online training. Make sense?

Of course there have to be some rules, but we have to recognise that there is a bigger picture and we need to be conscious of that too.

Wishing you success always.

Have You Ever Studied Ants?

flickr | samantha henneke I was recently in Greece and with temperatures in the 30’s, it's best to take it easy lie by the pool and observe the world around you, OK maybe people watch sometimes!

However even people watching gets boring, so whilst resting on my sun bed in the shade, I started studying the floor beneath me and to my amazement saw this fast moving highway of very small ants. Now usually in hot countries ants are very big, but these weren't and that made them all the more interesting.

As I studied them, I noticed that although their movements appeared random, many were carrying food crumbs back to their colony, which had entrances along a short section of a raised plant border wall. One by one several of these very efficient creatures were collecting these crumbs from all around the pool and taking this very important food stuff back to their colony.

By the way none of them actually ate the food on their journey back, which if you saw how far they were travelling, you would not have blamed them if they had. Now if this was a human doing this, ’collecting free food’, the chances are that it would have been eaten by the time they had completed the journey back.

I also noticed to my amazement that with larger crumbs 2 or even 3 ants would work together to carry it, as it was too big for just one.

This gave me an idea, next time someone in my party came back with cake at tea-time, I would use one of the crumbs and give those hard working ants a challenge. A super large crumb to see how they would manage this.

Have a look and see what happened, I recorded it on video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChZGj9BEQRk

What did I learn?

Ants are ’Team Players’, one ant who passes the crumb and checks it out, decides to start moving it and immediately another ant starts assisting, and then another and another until I counted 12 ants moving a massive crumb. Nobody said, ’that’s not my job’ or ’I’m busy doing something else, or ’its not in my job spec’. They just did it because they know that one ant will never manage it on their own and therefore they just started helping out. The ants who joined in just happened to be passing by, they weren't called from the colony, didn't get an email and nobody checked their calendar to see if they were available.

For me it was just the best possible demonstration of excellent team-work. Wow if business could learn just one lesson from ants and if employees and HR teams could stop their compartment thinking, what a different world we would have around us.

Each morning a few scouts would be up early looking for anything that they might have missed and as the day moved on and more holiday makers sat around the pool, eating and drinking, more ants came out scouting the neighbourhood. Obviously they had developed their knowledge that more crumbs would be available later in the day.

Accordingly more troops were scouting in the afternoon.

So here are 3 takeaways from this story:

  1. Be open to helping out anyone in your wider community or organisation, without being asked for help, ’Just Do It’.
  2. If there is a big task or project happening, go and ask if you can help out. They probably will say ’no thanks’ but make sure you insist, even if it is to make the coffee!
  3. Teach your kids or colleagues the power of team work and share the story of ants. I found this great film on YouTube, which will explain and share the story of ants and their incredible behaviour. Watch it together with your kids or colleagues. Teach them how they can adopt the same approach in life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-gIx7LXcQM

Success!

Do Social Networks Sell Drugs?

As published in The Non-Significant Journal of Business & Consumer Psychology Issue 2.1 - Spring 2013

Background

In recent years, an increasing number of scholars have sought to study and measure the impact of social networks (social media).

Social media network connection concept
Social media network connection concept
  • A 2010 study by the University of Maryland suggested that social networks may be addictive, and that using social networks may lead to a "fear of missing out", also known by the acronym "FOMO" by many students.
  • It has been observed that Facebook is now the primary method for communication by college students in the U.S.
  • According to Nielsen, global consumers spend more than six hours on social networking sites.
  • Consumers continue to spend more time on social networks than on any other category of sites—roughly 20% of their total time online via personal computer (PC), and 30% of total time online via mobile.
  • Tim Berners-Lee contends that the danger of social networking sites is that most are silos and do not allow users to port data from one site to another. He also cautions against social networks that grow too big and become a monopoly as this tends to limit innovation.
  • According to several clinics in the UK, social media addiction is a certifiable medical condition. One psychiatric consultant claims he treats as many as one hundred cases a year.

Introduction

Networks are not new; they have existed since the very first existence of cells on planet earth. It's quite amazing to know that our cells work together in networks to achieve tasks together. One such example is wound healing. For wound healing to occur, white blood cells and cells that ingest bacteria move to the wound site to kill the microorganisms that cause infection. At the same time fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) move there to remodel damaged structures. This is a wonderful example of how cells behave together in networks.

Even our brain neurons wire together in associative networks to create our memories and skills. Cell division even mirrors the way that networks grow.

We humans are no exception in nature. We exist and flourish as part of networks. We seem to have some inborn instinct to behave in this way, actively involving ourselves in many different systems of connections.

Thumbs up like button on white background.
Thumbs up like button on white background.

The first network we experience in our lives is the immediate family, where we learn how to be social by watching our parents and siblings. Beyond that, we soon learn how to ‘network’ with other groups of adults and children. We then start our social journey by joining many different networks, the nursery, primary and secondary school, the college and university and then our work and leisure networks.

The size, membership and complexity of these networks may grow or contract during our lifetime, but they always remain an important part of our experience. There are several theories put forward to explain this networking phenomenon, from Social Comparison Theory,Role Theory,Homogeneous Theory and the Social Identity approach. The evidence seems to point to the conclusion that networking is in part driven by our genetic make-up.

Tribes

These networks have a major impact on our lives. They determine how we see the world and how we see ourselves; we constantly monitor how we are accepted in our various networks.

Perhaps another word for these networks could be 'tribes'.

Belonging to a 'tribe', gives us the feeling that we are part of ‘something bigger’ then we are. It helps to give our lives more meaning and significance. The belief that you belong to a ’tribe’ is reinforcing, as it encourages you to relate more strongly with the other individuals in that ’tribe’. It helps with the identity that you have given yourself as you became an adult.

When your ’tribe’ behaves in the same way that you do, you will consider them the same as ’you’ and somehow feel a connection. It triggers an automatic approval, telling yourself that they are OK as they behave in a similar way to you.

The way that this translates in social networks is that individuals will follow people on twitter, send each other friends’ requests on Facebook or ask to be connected inside professional networks, like LinkedIn. We may have never met the person but for some reason we want to share intimate details of our lives with them.

Facebook
Facebook

Never in the world have we seen this kind of behaviour before. It did not exist before social networks appeared on the worldwide web. You could not have imagined walking up to strangers, people you have never met and suddenly start sharing your personal life with them. It just didn’t happen. We as humans need to trust someone first before we will share personal details. In social networks personal details are being shared all the time without any apparent shyness or reservation.

And the only reason this happens is because we have connected at some level with this stranger in a social network where their behaviour mirrors our own. In social networks we behave for around 80% of the time exactly the same way as everybody else. Just the act of being in a social network together, posting updates, sharing content means you are doing the same as everyone else and that makes you part of that tribe.

Significance

Social networks give us a platform for significance. According to Anthony Robbins, significance is one of the 6 human needs as per his Human Needs Psychology model.  We all have a need to be significant in our lives and when family and friends, like, comment or respond to our activity inside social networks, we feel good, we feel loved, we feel significant.

Dopamine is closely associated with reward-seeking behaviours, such as approach, consumption, and addiction. Recent research suggests that the firing of dopaminergic neurons is motivational as a consequence of reward-anticipation. This hypothesis is based on the evidence that, when a reward is greater than expected, the firing of certain dopaminergic neurons increases, which consequently increases desire or motivation towards the reward. This is why social networks are so addictive and why games inside social networks (e.g. Farmville) are so popular. Equally though, aggression is also evident in social networks and recent studies indicate that aggression may also stimulate the release of dopamine.

Why do humans enjoy social networks?

Humans are social beings, they thrive around other humans and other humans make them thrive. Without human interaction we have no reason to exist. Compassion and love is a ready built-in operating system, which we are born with. Without the love we experience on the day of our birth we would probably die. Throughout our lives we crave that love and connection with other humans. Especially as those humans are the same as us or expressed in another way, exist in the same tribe as us.

Anthony Robbins’ Human Need Psychology says that one of our 6 human needs is love and connection15 .

Physical social networks, whether it’s the family unit, our workplace unit or other tribal social networks, which we belong to for our sport, hobbies and political activities, all exist because there is some love and connection that takes place.

Virtual social networks via the web also exist for the same reason. The creators of these networks have been able to create certain activities to allow us to feel love and connection with a connection or a tribe that exists inside these networks. Whether it is ’liking’, ’commenting’, ’sharing’, ’re-tweeting’, ’favouriting’, ’re-posting’, the user feels good when this takes place or in other words they do feel loved. This is very addictive and when dopamine is released in the brain, we want to experience more of this feeling16 .

As human beings we also want to give out love and this is another one of the human needs and is called ’contribution’. And therefore in social networks we also like to contribute to our fellow human beings.

The way that this translates inside of virtual social networks is no different. For example by actively ’liking’, ’sharing’, ’commenting’, it makes us feel good and drives us to do more of it, whenever the recipient rewards us in some way for taking this selfless action. And guess what happens more dopamine is released and the more addictive it becomes.

Put on top of that Ivan Pavlov’s dog experiment

and ’ding, ding, woof, woof’, every time our mobile device makes that familiar notification noise, we know that this could mean more dopamine and more love, so we’ll react instantly to the need of that possibility.

How social learning grows networks

In 1961 Albert Bandura conducted a controversial experiment known as the ‘Bobo-Doll ‘experiment, to study patterns of behaviour associated with aggression. Bandura hoped that the experiment would prove that aggression can be explained, at least in part, by social learning theory, and that similar behaviours were learned by individuals modelling their own behaviour after the actions of others. The experiment was criticised by some on ethical grounds, for training children towards aggression.

Bandura’s results from the Bobo Doll Experiment changed the course of modern psychology, and were widely credited for helping shift the focus in academic psychology from pure behaviourism to cognitive psychology. The experiment is among the most lauded and celebrated of psychological experiments.

Penguin points
Penguin points

This study can be viewed as quite significant and why social networks grow so fast. When we see the activities of others in social networks, we start to wonder if we're missing out on something and whether we need to start involving ourselves. When we then discover that our tribe, (whether family, work, hobby or other tribe), is doing the same, we will stay and investigate it further. And that is when we start enjoying shots of dopamine in our brain and when the addiction of this social network interaction starts working.

CAUTION: NOT SUITABLE FOR MINORS

Conclusion

Social networks are here to stay, they've always existed and whether they are physical or virtual they are an important piece of our human make-up. My personal view too is that back in the times when humans went through war and terror they would draw closer to each other and grow closer socially. For example, during World War II, it was easier to connect with our fellow humans as we were all going through the same terror and strife. We would look out for one and other and support each other.

Basically we were giving each other a lot of love.

Bird Doodles
Bird Doodles

As the human population has grown and spread across the globe, some of the physical connections may have been lost. Virtual social networks have allowed us to make that re-connection with each other and in fact get in touch with people who we may not have seen for many years.

Of course this makes us feel loved and appreciated too.

And now, because these virtual networks show us how many fans, followers, and friends we have, this is proof to the world and ourselves how popular we are.  We take this metric as an important measure of how many people approve of us or rather love us, a kind of ‘love-o-meter’!

...or in Bryan Ferry’s - Roxy Music words...”Love is the drug I’m thinking of...”

 

Do You Follow The Crowd?

If you are in business or working for a business, you are more than likely examining the results for 2012 and wondering what 2013 will bring. Reinvention? Examining the offer? Going in a new direction? Looking for new partners, sales channels, sales people?

These may all be questions that are being asked at the moment and maybe your business coach or business consultancy is asking you to think about those too?

Last question, why do we do this now when we have crossed this magical December 31st into a new year?

Shouldn't we be examining these questions each and every month? Maybe some of you do, but...

There's something in our human nature that causes us to be creatures of habit and we have a habit of following the crowd and when the world at large is doing it as well.

flickr | nationaalarchief

David Bowie decided to not follow the crowd. On the 8th January he released a new single and announced a new album, after a decade in the dark. OK so what is special about that? Well nobody in the music industry or press knew about the fact that he was recording, and they had no idea that the single was being released until it was done on the 8th January. So it made the national and international news instantly.

designspiration.net

Why follow the crowd? We do it most of the time and research confirms that we are hard-wired to follow the pack.

Gregory Berns [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Berns ] is an American neuroeconomist, neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry, psychologist and writer. He did some experiments with the ABC network in the US and below is a summary of one of the social experiments that he researched.

They invited a group of strangers to Jean George's Asian restaurant in lower Manhattan for a fabulous dinner -- and a surprise.

Party planner Colin Cowie and his friend, Donna D'Cruz, were in on the experiment. Their role was to exhibit outlandish behaviour most people wouldn't dream of while out at dinner with a group of strangers.

Cowie and D'Cruz licked their fingers, a dinner table no-no. Cowie picked his teeth. The guests initially seemed not to take the bait -- until dessert rolled around.

D'Cruz told everyone they should pick up pieces of mango face first, using their mouth. Eventually, people who were total strangers at the beginning of the evening were passing fruit back and forth, mouth to mouth.

Only Harold and Maria, a Canadian couple, passed on the gustatory familiarity. Finally, Harold was the only one who dared to ask, what is the point of the dinner?

Cowie explained the experiment to the group. "I think because we broke the rules, and we made things possible at the table, several of you followed suit with it."

One woman at the table said: "I think the majority of people will look to see what others are doing and follow their example."

Conforming Can Have Dangerous Consequences

This test is an example of our human need to conform. In fact, Berns' experiment is a variation of one done many years ago by another scientist trying to decipher an extremely vicious instance of conformity -- why so many Germans followed Adolf Hitler down the path to death and destruction. Berns says there are two ways to explain conformist behaviour.

"One is that they know what their eyes are telling them, and yet they choose to ignore it, and go along with the group to belong to the group," he said.

The second explanation is that hearing other opinions -- even if they are wrong -- can actually change what we see, distorting our own perceptions.

Berns wanted to see what was happening in the brain during his experiment. Using an fMRI, Berns found that, during the moment of decision, his subjects' brains lit up not in the area where thinking takes place, but in the back of the brain, where vision is interpreted.

Essentially, their brains were scrambling messages -- people actually believed what others told them they were seeing, not what they saw with their own eyes.

flickr | library_of_congress

"What that suggests is that, what people tell you -- if enough people are telling you -- can actually get mixed in with what your own eyes are telling you," Berns said.

And for those who went against the group, there was another intriguing result: Their brains lit up in a place called the amygdala, which Berns calls "the fear centre of the brain."

"And what we are seeing here, we think, is the fear of standing alone," Berns said.

So why do people follow the pack no matter how ridiculous it seems? Perhaps it's not so much about good and evil, right and wrong, smart or stupid. It might be, as Berns' experiment suggests, that our brains get confused between what it sees and what others tell us.

Just knowing that might help us guard against it.

What product or service are you planning or considering that can be kept a secret until you are ready to launch it to your prospects and customers?

Keep your powder dry, have less fear about rejection and more resolve about success.

Stop following the crowd and be DIFFERENT in all areas of your business.

Success!

Will we really apply the learning globally?

There's no argument that the tragedy in the USA has touched the hearts and minds of millions around the world. And with Obama in charge, he has been able to capture the sentiment exactly right with the right words and hopefully the right subsequent actions. This is a lesson for us all on many levels and the following question also came up in my head.

20121218-202405.jpg The gunman killed many innocent victims and don't we as nations also kill many more innocent victims around the world every single day? If there was ever a lesson, surely it must be about the death and destruction that the human race engages in? I just hope we can learn from this and apply the learning not only within US gun laws but also around the world at large. Killing humans has to stop by everyone, no exceptions, no exclusions.

When you light a candle this Christmas, may I suggest that we do it for ALL the innocent victims that have been killed by humans?

With Love and Gratitude,

Michael X

What does Ben want for Christmas?

Meet Ben…

Ben lives in Worcester, had a tough time with his girlfriend, who had his baby and a paternity test confirms he's the father (OK so that's his story), but she'd rather go back to her ex boyfriend claiming that he's the father, so kicks Ben out. His now ex girlfriend is back with her ex, who does drugs and now she can go back to drugs too. Wondering what kind of life that baby will have? Ben in the meantime loses his job, loses his car and now has to go on a waiting list for a hostel, as its already full.

If he raises enough money, he may be able to get into a B&B for £25 per night, but only if he's really lucky. So far everyone is passing him by and not paying any attention to him, because they're busy buying Christmas presents for their families and rushing through the crowds, snarling at anyone who gets in the way. Ben reckons it will be the cardboard tonight, which he stores behind the yellow grit bin. That's his bed, the pavement is his home, his desk, his kitchen, his front room, the bathroom, oh I forgot to say his hands and fingers have this black and dirty appearance, you know the ones that look like they've really not seen water for a few weeks.

So I share a few pennies and wish him luck, walking away with my shopping bags and wondering and wishing if Ben will ever get that warm bed tonight or whether he will be under his cardboard bed sheltering from the cold.

If you are visiting the Worcester shops, look out for Ben, you'll only miss him if you are rushing selfishly around the shops, thinking only of the presents you still have to buy.

I know Ben isn't alone, there are many others. Happy Christmas Prime Minister!

Is Facebook the new Apple?

Well Facebook have done it. They have silenced the naysayers, the doubters, the fund managers who are still smarting about the dotcom collapse, the users who curse Facebook every day for making changes to the user interface without any regard for them, and the app creators who rely on their business fortunes and hoping for the continued growth of Facebook.

Facebook went public and made billions. Yes indeed someone wrote a cheque to buy loads of shares to make the owners very very rich indeed. (and Priscilla Chan is a very happy girl too!)

If you are reading this then it's an 85% certainty that you have a Facebook account. You may only have one to spy on your kids and then again, you may well be using it to stay in touch with "friends".

How many "friends" do you have? The average suggests you have somewhere in between 100 to 190 based on Facebooks's own research back in November 2011. http://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/anatomy-of-facebook/10150388519243859

And of those you probably only interact with a maximum of 6 and of those there are probably only 3 that you have a regular conversation with.

Facebook's growth has been phenomenal and unprecedented and there is no sign of it letting up. The power of personal recommendation has just got a 'whole lot' more important with their IPO.

The other day I was reading my newsfeed when I spotted this amazing image of cookies. Yes cookies! And someone had posted a thank you to the 'Campervan Cookies Co.' (http://www.facebook.com/CampervanCookiesCo) for making a great box of cookies for their client. And I loved them (well the look of them), the only thing was the company who had posted the thank you had actually forgotten to put their Facebook business page, so I had to ask for it and of course they obliged, so that I was able to find their page and like them.

So within in the space of a few seconds I was able to connect with a company I had never heard of, didn't even know existed, was so impressed with the recommendation that I was motivated to go and like their page, actually without even having tried the product!

So what do you think? Are you a business owner, consumer, student, charity or parent? Does the fact that Facebook went public affect the way that you will use the service?

Do you feel that you are going to be bombarded by adverts some time soon and will that turn you off?

Are you fed up of the amount of changes they make to the user interface every 6 months?

I would love to hear your views. So feel free to post them in the comments or if you fancy doing this inside Facebook, please go to http://www.facebook.com/stayingaliveuk

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Raise your glasses to Facebook and say Cheers!!

Do you really make assumptions all the time?

I read a fascinating article in Wired magazine by Jonathan Lehrer, where he discusses the phenomena of our brains making assumptions on how things work, based on a set of data that we have collected.  In fact we collect data in our brains all the time.  And when we analyse data we start making all sorts of assumptions and conclusions based on that data.

And of course we can never have enough data to make our decisions on and at some stage we have to decide that we have enough of it to base our decisions on.

And this happens all the time in the most dangerous industry in the world, pharmaceuticals.  This article highlights some lessons for us all on how we make assumptions all the time in our private, business and social lives.

I have extracted what I believe to be the important constituents from his article:

On November 30, 2006 executives at Pfizer - the largest pharmaceutical company in the world held a meeting with investors at the firm's research centre in Groton, Connecticut.  Jeff Kindler, the then CEO began the presentation with an upbeat assessment of the company's efforts to bring new drugs to market.   He cited "exciting approaches" to the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis.  But Kindler was most excited about a new drug called torcetrapib, which had recently entered Phase III clinical trials, the last step before filing for approval.  He confidently declared that it would be "one of the most important compounds of our generation".  Kindler told investors that, by the second half of 2008, Pfizer would begin applying for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The success of the drug seemed a sure thing.  And then, just two days later, on December 2, 2006, Pfizer issued a stunning announcement: the torcetrapib Phase III clinical trial was being terminated.  Although the compound was supposed to prevent heart disease, it was actually triggering higher rates of chest pain and heart failure and a 60% increase in overall mortality.  The drug appeared to be killing people.  That week, Pfizer's value plummeted by $21 billion (£14 billion).

The story of torcetrapib is one of mistaken causation.  Pfizer was operating on the assumption that raising levels of HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL would lead to predictable outcome: improved cardiovascular health.  Less arterial plaque.  Cleaner pipes.  But that didn't happen. (According to a recent analysis, more that 40% of drugs fail Phase III clinical trials).

The problem was, it's this assumption that causes a strange kind of knowledge.  This was first pointed out by David Hume, a Scottish 18th-century philosopher.  

He realised that, although people talk about causes as if they are real facts - tangible things that can be discovered - they're actually not at all factual.  Instead, Hume said, every cause is just a slippery story, a catchy conjecture, a "lively conception produced by habit".  When an apple falls from a tree, the cause is obvious: gravity.  Hume's sceptical insight was that we don't see gravity - we see only an object tugged towards earth.  We look at X and then at Y, and invent a story about what happened in between.  We can measure facts, but a cause is not a fact - it's fiction that helps us make sense of facts.

The truth is, our stories about causation are shadowed by all sorts of mental short cuts.  Most of the time, these work well enough.  They allow us to discover the law of gravity, and design wondrous technologies.  However when it comes to reasoning about highly complex systems - say the human body - these short cuts go from being slickly efficient to outright misleading.

Consider a set of classic experiments designed by Belgian psychologist Albert Michotte, first conducted in the 40's.

His research featured a series of short films about a blue ball and a red ball.  In the first  film, the red ball races across the screen, touches the blue ball and then stops.  The blue ball, meanwhile, begins moving in the shame basic direction as the red ball.  When Michotte asked people to describe the film, they automatically lapsed in the language of causation.  The red ball hit the blue ball, which caused it to move.  This is known as the launching effect, and it's a universal property of visual perception.  Although there was nothing in the two-second film - it was just a montage of animated images - people couldn't help but tell a story about what had happened.  They had translated their perceptions into causal beliefs.  Michotte would go on to conduct more than 100 of these studies manipulating the films.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_jKNlC2YKo

There are two lessons learned from these experiments.  The first is that our theories about a particular cause and effect are inherently perceptual, infected by all the sensory cheats of vision.  Hume was right that causes are never seen, only inferred, but the truth is we can't tell the difference.  And so we look at moving balls and see causes, melodrama of taps and collisions, chasing and fleeing.  The second lesson is that causal explanations are oversimplifications.  This is what makes them useful - they help us grasp the world at a glance.  

The article is far too long for me to include everything in it and I have not been able to find it online either.  However I think I have got the main message from it.

And the question I pose to you, is:  What assumptions are you making today, that are based on incorrect date or not enough data or just that you have perceived the information  in a certain way?  Is the red ball chasing the blue ball instead of them just moving independently of each other?

And then there is the other old saying: "Perception is Reality"

Success!