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Flow – Part 3 (The Cycle)

Summary: “It is important to understand the four stages of the flow cycle.”

Flow is the term coined by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describing a favorable state of consciousness where people feel their best and perform their best. You can improve your potential to shift into the flow state by understanding the four distinct stages of the flow cycle. Since some of the stages can be somewhat frustrating, understanding the reasons for, and the value of, these frustrations can help you persist long enough to shift into the flow state when you might not feel like hanging in there.

  1. Struggle: The flow cycle begins with struggle. As you load your brain with information related to your area of focus, you begin to approach the limits of what you can consciously process (your conscious bandwidth). You might feel you are getting “in over your head”, stressed, and frustrated. Hang in there with this stage as long as you can…and then consciously take action to shift to the next stage – Release.
  2. Release: Relax, take a shower, take a walk, watch a movie, or do anything that will “change the channel” on your focused concentration. Let the chemicals (neurotransmitters), your brain anatomy, and brain waves do their work and take you into the flow state (see Flow – Part 2).
  3. Flow: Enjoy the transient-hypofrontality-ride…being in the state of flow!
  4. Recovery: Since flow has taken you for quite a ride in terms of enhanced performance and due to the feel good chemicals, this stage can be frustrating – coming off the “high” so to speak. Understand that this is when a lot of the learning takes place (memory consolidation, or transferring your experience/knowledge into your long-term memory). This is also a necessary step in order to replenish the chemicals and get ready for the next flow cycle.

Awareness that stages one and four can be frustrating helps you persist and enjoy more time in, and more benefits of, the flow state. That’s why it’s important to understand and think of flow as a cycle and expect that it’s normal to experience highs and non-highs as you move through the cycle.

Here’s a short and interesting video that discusses the flow cycle.

Stages two (release) and three (flow) of the flow cycle are definitely ways to joyfully participate in life. So are stages one (struggle) and four (recovery) if you really think about the big picture related to flow.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Sifting – Chapter 5: Bob’s Collision with Reality

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 5: Bobs Collision with Reality

Bob hung up the phone and stared at the line-two button. The light was out; the call was over. He sank deeply into one of the plush conference room chairs, rocked backward, let his head fall back and stared at the ceiling for a moment. Then, he leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands, and began talking to his outrageously expensive shoes.


“The Chinese!”



“This is unbelievable. I can’t believe this is actually happening!”

“How am I going to tell my family?”

“What will I do about the houses and the cars and the kids’ private schools? What will I do about everything?”

Had he looked out the window, he would have noticed a gleaming Gulfstream jet on its ascent and heading west, away from him, over the Pacific.

End Chapter 5


Author’s Notes:


Main takeaway: If you refuse to pursue a new adventure in life when it is time for you to do so, you will usually experience one of two things: your current world as you know it will “dry up”, become boring and you will feel a sense of restlessness (and many of the other feelings that Bob experienced in the first chapter) or, the world will somehow find a way to kick you off your current path and force you to embark on the new adventure that is meant for you.

  1. Have you every felt that your “spiritual or psychological center of gravity” has been, or is being, transferred to a new place and that it’s time for you to try something new, or do something differently?
  2. Have you ever felt, “Is that all there is?”
  3. Of the four following emotions: joy, sadness, anger and fear – which do you experience most often when considering your career, marriage, important relationships, and life in general? What are these emotions telling you about these various “adventures” in life?
  4. What new adventures are on your horizon, or in your near future?
  5. What adventures are long overdue?


The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Flow – Part 2 (The Brain)

Summary: “Flow Follows Focus” 

Flow is the term coined by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describing a favorable state of consciousness where people feel their best and perform their best. Let’s talk a bit about why flow occurs. The human brain has a finite capacity for focusing, or paying attention to, things that are going on in your environment and life. One thing you often encounter when studying flow is that “flow follows focus.” So, what exactly does this mean?

As you get deeper and deeper into a task or activity…and then you keep pushing to go even deeper, something called transient hypofrontality is triggered in your brain. Transient, meaning it is a temporary or passing condition, frontality refers to the pre-frontal cortex (sometimes called your thinking brain), and hypo refers to the fact that things are becoming less active, or shutting down (as opposed to hyper). So, as you keep pushing to focus more, and go deeper, certain functions of your brain (functions controlled or strongly influenced by your pre-frontal cortex) begin shutting down. And in this situation, shutting down parts of your brain is a good thing and significantly enhances your productivity.

For example, your dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex, best known for functioning as your inner critic, or voice of doubt, begins shutting down. Keep at it, and your superior frontal gyrus that helps produce your sense of self (so you won’t bump into other things and such) begins shutting down. Many parts of your prefrontal cortex involved in creating your sense of time, or temporal awareness, begin shutting down. In contrast to all this hypo-activity, your medial prefrontal cortex, a part of your brain that governs creative self-expression, is highly activated.

Think of this happening at the same time when you are surfing, rock-climbing, playing an instrument, in a deep conversation, or focusing on a task. Your inner critic is no longer nagging you, you become one with the wave/rock/music/conversation partner/task, you are totally “in the present moment”, and your capacity for creative self-expression, pattern recognition, and productivity skyrockets. Those are some of the main reasons that flow follows focus. 

And then…you experience a massive release of feel good, performance-enhancing, chemicals (neurotransmitters). First let me emphasize that in the case of the flow state, these chemicals are totally safe. But as a point of interest…why do they make you feel so good? That’s apparently because these endogenous (natural, internally-produced-safe) neurotransmitters have exogenous (externally-produced, such as street drugs) equivalents. Here are the natural/safe chemicals and their not-so-safe street drug equivalents: dopamine/cocaine, norepinephrine/speed, endorphins/heroin, anandamide/marijuana and serotonin/ecstasy. No wonder flow follows focus and is such a pleasure-inducing experience! Similar productivity-enhancing changes occur in terms of brain waves during the flow state.

As a practical matter, the main thing you need to remember is that flow follows focus. It’s simple, if you minimize distractions and maximize concentration/attention; you stand a good chance of inducing the flow state. The flow process is essentially the opposite of multitasking. Learning to induce flow more often is a great way to joyfully participate in life. Get focused and give it a try!

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Flow – Part 1 (General Information)

Summary: “It’s time to learn about flow.” 

If you are a leader of people, and you haven’t already done so – it’s time to learn about flow. Flow is the term coined by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi describing a favorable state of consciousness where people feel their best and perform their best. I believe future-minded leaders will seek to thoroughly understand flow.

According to a 10-year study by McKinsey and Company, top executives in the state of flow were five times (500%) more productive than those not in a state of flow. The study was conducted on executives, but apparently flow does its magic from the assembly line to the executive suite, and in many areas of your non-working life.

In a nutshell, flow is all about focus. When something grabs and holds your attention, your brain begins demanding more of your body’s available energy to maintain your focus. At some point, the brain begins shutting down certain functional parts of your neuroanatomy that compete for energy, but are not critical to the flow process. This energy exchange turns out to be a key factor in terms of inducing the flow state. For example, the brain area that serves as your inner critic shuts down, as does the area that handles temporal awareness, and the area that monitors your sense of self. When you no longer experience self-criticism, and you become totally in the moment, and you are, in effect, “one with your area of focus” (for example, one with the wave, mountain, or task); your creativity and productivity skyrocket.

As for the feel good aspect of flow, that seems to be due to the massive neurochemical dump that occurs when you shift into this form of altered consciousness. Norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and anandamide, all among the most potent reward chemicals the brain produces are released. Read Steven Kotler’s book The Rise of Superman, or watch some of Steven’s online videos, to learn more about this fascinating process. If you want to incorporate flow into your leadership style, I believe there is value in gaining some understanding of the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neuroelectical (brain waves) aspects of inducing the flow state described in Kotler’s book. More on these topics in subsequent postings.

Through various reverse-engineering techniques, Kotler and his colleague Jamie Wheal identified 17 specific flow hacks. Of these, nine are considered group flow hacks which should be of particular interest to those in leadership positions. In general, anything you can do to grab and hold someone’s attention and focus has the potential to induce flow. The most discussed flow hack involves matching workers’ challenges and skills. High challenges and low skills typically produce anxiety. Low challenges and high skills typically produce boredom. But when challenges ever-so-slightly exceed skills, people often experience flow.

This is a big topic for a short article. As I mentioned, I will expand on the various aspects of flow in other blog postings. Step one is simply becoming aware that flow can produce amazing leadership results and can do it in a way that is quite beneficial to those you lead.

I encourage you to consider learning more about how flow works.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Sifting – Chapter 4: Bob’s View from the Top

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Sifting – Chapter 4

Bob’s View from the Top

Monday Morning

At this particular moment, Bob seemed to be on top of the world. He was standing in the lavish executive conference room atop one of the tallest buildings on the California coast. While waiting to meet with the CEO of one of his largest clients, Bob glanced out the huge windows and saw mainly sunshine and blue skies. From this height, the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean was stunning.

If he closed this one deal, he would make ten times the amount his dad struggled to make in a good year on the farm. And it was only Monday! Three similar meetings were lined up in as many cities before the end of the week. A lot of people put a lot of work into these proposals, but now it was up to Bob to close the deals. This was no longer about the team. Bob knew success was in his hands, and he was both excited and anxious about that.

Bob momentarily thought of the sacrifices he had endured to get to this point in his life. They all seemed worthwhile now. Then for a brief moment, he wondered why he used the phrase “seemed worthwhile.” As Executive Vice President of the U.S. subsidiary of a huge and highly profitable global organization, he would quickly correct any wavering subordinate who used a phrase such as “seemed worthwhile.” His sacrifices were worthwhile! Sacrifices were a normal and necessary part of making it to the top.

Gail Johnson knocked lightly on the conference room door and quietly entered.

“Excuse me, are you Mr. Rushing?”

“Yep, that’s me!”

“There’s a call for you on line two. You can use the phone on the credenza at the other end of the room if you’d…”

Bob interrupted Gail, grabbing his ringing cell phone. He held his right hand up, palm facing outward toward her. After a brief conversation with the caller, Bob put his hand over the phone’s mouthpiece, gestured impatiently toward Gail and whispered, “Not now. Find out who it is and tell them I’ll call them back later.”

Gail nodded and calmly whispered, “Yes, sir.”

Gail returned to the conference room in less than a minute and waited patiently until Bob finished his call.

“Mr. Rushing, I’m very sorry to interrupt you again. The person on line two says he is a Mr. Dawson calling from Europe and that it is extremely important that he talk with you immediately.”

Bob flinched. “Oh, okay – sure, I’ll take that call. Close the door on your way out.”

Gail quietly left.

Bob felt a little wave of anxiety. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, cleared his mind, picked up the receiver and punched the second blinking light.

“Mr. Dawson, it is so nice to hear from you! How can I be of service to you on this fine day?”

The call took less than two minutes. Bob was stunned! He could not believe what had just happened! When he hung up the phone, his world was no longer the same!

End Chapter 4

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Soon, you will be more thoroughly introduced to a concept called the hero’s journey (also referred to as the monomyth) and you will learn more about an archetype (example of a person or thing) called the herald. For those of you unfamiliar with the hero’s journey, according to the Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, the role of the herald is to “issue challenges and announce the coming of significant change.” This event, in turn, “shifts the hero’s balance, and nothing will ever be the same.” It appears that Mr. Dawson is serving as a herald for Bob. In most of your lives, heralds, in various forms (humans, experiences, obstacles, etc.), are often trying to communicate messages to you. You, of course, may or may not hear, or pay attention to, these messages. The ultimate consequences of these messages are significant in terms of the unfolding of your life whether you hear and pay attention to them or not.

  1. If you are making any significant sacrifices to make progress in your career, do you think they are all necessary and worthwhile sacrifices? I do not personally have a definite answer to this question; I am just suggesting that it is a reasonable question for you to consider.
  2. Do you think you are ignoring any herald’s messages in your life?
  3. What do you think Mr. Dawson said that changed Bob’s world so suddenly?
  4. I highly recommend that you at least learn the basics of the hero’s journey. It will serve you well in terms of making decisions to help you joyfully participate in life. Enter “hero’s journey” in an Internet search engine and you will find plenty of information on it. I suggest you begin learning about the hero’s journey by watching the video I mentioned in an earlier posting titled Finding Joe (see film trailer here) and then reading The Writer’s Journey by Vogler. These two resources should give you a good foundation to take advantage of the wisdom of the hero’s journey when making major life decisions. If you cannot find the time to explore these resources, there are plenty of interesting YouTube videos that can help you learn about the hero’s journey. We will also discuss the stages and archetypes of the journey in more detail in subsequent chapters.

 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Adverse Childhood Experiences

Summary: “Childhood adversity has been scientifically linked to adult physical and mental problems.”

A while back I read a book about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) titled Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. It’s probably not a book that will end up in the hands of many business leaders. However, it’s a topic that business leaders need to know more about because ACEs are often among the root causes of many workplace problems. Others need to know about ACEs because there is probably a 100% chance that someone you deeply care about is suffering because of them. Maybe if you understand ACEs, you will have the opportunity to at least point these people in the direction of some help.

Childhood Disrupted lists three broad categories (abuse, neglect, household dysfunction) and ten specific examples of ACEs – physical, emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, mental illness, mother treated violently, divorce, incarcerated relative and substance abuse (here is the ACE questionnaire). These forms of adversity can literally and negatively alter the expression of genes that influence a person’s stress response system, autoimmune system, cardiovascular system and other vital organs and systems (through a process called epigenetics). Ultimately these alterations can lead to various forms of distress, disease and dysfunction. Even identical twins with identical genes can turn out quite differently because of the effects of ACEs and epigenetics.

Look around you; if you are hanging around with nine other people, there’s a good chance that six or seven of the people in your group have experienced at least one ACE. And adult troubles (physical and mental) usually increase exponentially as the number of ACEs increases.

If you have experienced one or more ACEs, you might want to read Childhood Disrupted, or watch some of the excellent videos on this topic. I usually warn people that the first half of the book is full of ACE case studies – and is a very tough read. However, the second half of the book focuses on how people can begin the healing process and reverse the effects of these early life toxic stressors.

Scientists have discovered that it’s possible to pass on the negative effects of ACEs and epigenetics to your children and grandchildren. Say you are one of the folks with multiple ACEs and you do not want to pass on the troubles to your children. Chapter eight is about Parenting Well When You Haven’t Been Well-Parented: Fourteen Strategies to Help Your Children. Whether you need help or want to help others, this is a good investment of your reading time. It is a way to help yourself and others more joyfully participate in life. Not a pleasant topic; but a very important topic!

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

P.S. I just remembered that an old book (probably out of print and only available used) called Your Inner Child of the Past by Dr. Hugh Missildine might also be very helpful if you are struggling with ACEs. Reading this book and Childhood Disrupted together could make quite a positive difference.


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Sifting – Chapter 3: Bob’s House of Cards

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Sifting – Chapter 3

Bob’s House of Cards

Sunday Evening 

Bob hadn’t gotten around to wealth accumulation yet. There would be plenty of time for that later.

He had, however, absolutely mastered consumption. He knew that the nation was built on debt. If it was good enough for the nation, it was good enough for Bob. With this in mind, and the ongoing flow of bills in the mailbox, Bob was excited about the upcoming week. His plan was to visit four cities in four days and close four deals. If just one of the deals hit this week, his trappings of success would be funded for yet another year. The house of cards would remain standing a while longer.

There was a low vibration rumor going around at work that Bob might get a call from the guy in charge of global operations. Bob wasn’t supposed to know about the potential call, but he had friends in high places at global headquarters in Europe. Something very, very big was going down! From what little he knew, the scope of the project was staggering. He also heard his name had been tossed in the hat to potentially head up the project. They needed a strong leader, and Bob thought he certainly qualified as the best of the best when it came to strong leadership.

All in all, Bob was doing quite well now, but this assignment would represent a quantum leap to the outer orbit of corporate titans. He would breathe rarified air and become a card-carrying member of the Gulfstream globetrotting super-leaders. It would be a stunning victory over his peers and organizational rivals.

Bob had a few enemies. It was all a necessary part of the game you played if you wanted to be a winner and stay on top. If Bob got this promotion – and according to his mole inside headquarters, he had a good chance of doing just that – there would be no stopping him. All of his efforts, all of the sacrifices, even the occasional ruthless annihilation of his adversaries, had brought him to this time and this place with this opportunity.

Bob tried to get his mind off the enormity of this new opportunity. It was mind-boggling, but Bob needed to focus elsewhere for now. Considering his personal cash burn rate, Bob needed to get some deals done. He didn’t quite understand how you could make so much money and run out of cash so often.

This time tomorrow, Bob would be on the West Coast meeting with one of his most lucrative clients and closing a huge deal. He needed to stay focused on this upcoming business trip and not get too far out in front of his headlights. That was one of those quirky things his dad used to say to him all the time – another gem from his dad’s anything-that-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger collection of quirky sayings that were supposed to explain life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

Bob was glad his wife and kids were going to be away at some kind of island vacation for the next few days. Since the phone service on the island was awful, it gave him a good excuse not to call, and he wouldn’t have to spend time on the phone talking about things he didn’t really care all that much about. He needed to maximize his focus on the business at hand and minimize any distractions for the next few days.

As he thought of this, his mind plucked another gem from the dad collection: “Son, don’t trip over a dollar to get to a nickel.” In Bob’s world, that translated into “Don’t trip over a million to get to a thousand.” In less than 12 hours, Bob would be on the West Coast doing what he did best – making things happen!


End Chapter 3


Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: There is a big difference in people focused on consumption (spending in excess of what they have) and true wealth. A person who makes $40,000 a year with a lifestyle that requires about $35,000 a year to maintain is wealthier than a person who makes $400,000 a year with a lifestyle that requires about $450,000 a year to maintain. Don’t confuse consumption with wealth if you want to joyfully participate in life. In other words, live within your means if at all possible.

  1. Bob is partially correct, there will be plenty of time for wealth accumulation later…until there’s not.
  2. Beware of counting on future events (pending “big” deals, inheritances, hitting the lottery, etc.) that will “bail you out” of a consumption lifestyle. With discipline and patience, you can usually work your way out of any excessive spending problems in a reasonable amount of time. In the right frame of mind, people often experience significant joy when reversing a consumption lifestyle and letting go of things and obligations.
  3. Do you think Bob is correct when he thinks, “making enemies is all a necessary part of the game you played if you wanted to be a winner and stay on top?”
  4. How do you think the demands of Bob’s job are affecting his personal relationships?
  5. So far, do you think Bob is a successful person or not? Do you think Bob deserves the potential promotion he has heard about?
  6. Consider reading, or re-reading, the posting The Slippery Slope of Spending and Satisfaction. Pay very close attention to the following statement in the posting: “Enjoy your money, but make sure it is serving you and not vice-versa. If you are already beyond the ‘enough’ point, I predict you will get more joy from getting rid of things than from acquiring things. Try it and see if it is true for you.”


The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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What Matters Most? (Part 4): Viewpoint of the Dying

Summary: “Dying people’s main regrets were things that you can easily have.” 

In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, author Bronnie Ware wrote about her experiences as a personal caregiver for terminally ill people. She was intensely involved with the care of these people for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. According to Bronnie, “Not everyone had regrets, but a lot more did than didn’t.”  Reading her book, or at a minimum knowing about these regrets of the dying, might help you be among “those who don’t have regrets” when you come to the end of your life. Here are the top five regrets that she heard over and over from those under her care:

I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me. This was the most common regret. In a body of knowledge called transactional analysis, experts speak of an ego state (frame of mind and associated behavior) called the Natural Child. This is the part of your psyche that is childlike (as opposed to childish) and simply “wants what it wants.” When you are making significant decisions in life, it is a good idea to “get into the Natural Child state of mind” and determine what you truly want before proceeding. Maybe you can, or cannot, find a way to make what you want happen when considering the realities of your circumstances, but why wouldn’t you at least begin by getting guidance from your Natural Child ego state? At a minimum, this might help you avoid frequently defaulting to what others expect of you.

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard (even said often by people who loved their work). According to Bronnie, “There is no point in success without balance.” Hard workers often felt they missed too much of their children and grandchildren’s lives and quality time with their life companion.

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. People suppressed their feelings too often just to keep the peace. They regretted holding on to resentment and their unwillingness to deal with, or terminate, unhealthy relationships sooner.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Many people missed their friends and felt lonely when they were dying, but often had no idea how to get in touch with them.

I wish I had let myself be happier. They desired more smiling, laughing and silliness in their lives.

Death has a way of stripping away many of the superficial concerns of life and helping people focus on the truly important. I believe paying attention to these dying people’s regrets will help you joyfully participate in life. Thanks to Bronnie for capturing their wisdom.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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What Matters Most? (Part 3): Viewpoint of Septuagenarians (and older)

Summary: “Learn from those who already know what you are hopefully going to know someday.”  

When preparing to write his book The Power of Purpose, author Richard Leider interviewed hundreds of people in their 70s and 80s (and followed up in subsequent years interviewing more people each year) and asked a simple question: “If you could live your life over again, what would you change?” Most of his responses fell into one of three categories:

  1. I would see the big picture.
  2. I would be more courageous.
  3. I would make more of a positive difference.

I’m not a member of that age bracket yet, but I am close enough to it, and have lived long enough, to understand these three comments.

I would see the big picture: Mr. Leider’s subjects often said, “they were so busy living day-to-day that they truly missed living their lives.” I personally hear people talk about wanting to eliminate, or at least minimize, busyness all the time. They want relief from a treadmill-like life experience. They want to focus on what is important and escape from reactive-responsive/crisis mode living.

I would be more courageous: One of the main issues here was to take more creative risk in life, especially when it comes to finding work and activities that were more meaningful to them.

I would make more of a positive difference: Unfortunately, everyone you interact with on a regular basis either energizes and uplifts you, or drains your energy. The interviewees seemed to want to operate in a way that would make all who encountered them think – “I am better off because I met that person.”

These seem like simple, and doable, things to me. However, I don’t think it is a good idea to wait until you are a septuagenarian to begin working on them. If you haven’t already done so, why not begin now? It seems like a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Sifting – Chapter 2: Bob’s Rise to the Top

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Sifting – Chapter 2

Bob’s Rise to the Top

An Observer’s View

From a distance, most observers viewed Bob Rushing’s rise in the academic world, the business world, and in life in general, as upwardly fluid, smooth, without any significant glitches, plateaus, or interruptions. Bob somehow made everything look easy.

Only Bob and a few others knew that things were not always as they seemed.

Bob’s basic philosophy in life was to go along with the plan, but it was not usually Bob’s plan. Everyone else, especially authority figures in his life when he was younger, seemed to always know with a great degree of certainty what was best for Bob. But going along with other people’s plans was the easy path in life since, admittedly, Bob didn’t have plans of his own.

With undergraduate and graduate degrees in his rearview mirror, and a great job with a global powerhouse, Bob accelerated in the business world at an accelerating pace. With a wink toward his competitors and what seemed like a blink in time, Bob became the poster boy for high-profile corporate fast trackers.

A wife with beauty-queen looks, two kids who only felt at home in private school accelerated-learning programs, cars that were always parked in the most visible spaces in front of restaurants by valet attendants, a home so large it should have its own ZIP code, a second home in the mountains with a view of prestigious ski slopes that attracted an ongoing crowd of free-spending, fun-seeking tourists – the list of success trappings went on and on and on, as did the chronic low-grade frustration and restlessness.

End Chapter 2


Author’s Notes: 

Main takeaway: Things are not always as they seem with people. Be careful measuring your success by comparing your life to what is going on with other people. You can almost always count on the fact that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is really going on in their lives. This is especially true with people considered by society as extremely high achievers. You will learn some of the main reasons why this is true when we discuss behavior tapes, monkey traps and other issues in subsequent chapters.

  1. Think of people who are considered highly successful in terms of titles, wealth, power, possessions and other typical aspects of life that society deems to be measures of success. Granted, some of these people may be truly successful by any measure you can think of, but do you think in some cases “things might not be as they seem” with these people? Do you personally know some people who fit this “things are not as they seem” description?
  2. What does being truly successful mean to you (just begin thinking about it…you will have plenty of opportunities to ponder this question throughout the book)?
  3. Are any of your major life decisions based more on someone else’s plans (grandparent, parent, teacher, sibling, guidance counselor, friend, etc.) than your plans?
  4. With all that Bob possesses, and has accomplished, why would he possibly be experiencing frustration and restlessness?
  5. What would you do differently if you were in a position to make decisions without regard to financial consequences or social implications?  Yes, from a short-term point of view this is unrealistic for most people (the mortgage, utility bills, tuition, etc. must be paid), but it’s still a question worth exploring if you want to begin moving in the direction of joyfully participating in life.
  6. Are things not always as they seem with some aspects of your life? Do any such differences matter in terms of your potential to joyfully participate in life?


The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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