Get Happy: How to Use Your Mind to Change Your Brain

This photo triggers a great experience for me when I got up super early and went out to a hide on a South Island NZ beach and waited patiently for a yellow eyed penguin to walk across. You may not see him/her in the photo but I know I did. Positive experience savored.
This photo triggers a great experience for me when I got up super early and went out to a hide on a South Island NZ beach and waited patiently for a yellow eyed penguin to walk across. You may not see him/her in the photo but I know I did. Positive experience savored.

Lewis Howes interviewed Dr. Rick Hanson on episode 207 of the podcast The School of Greatness and I listened when I woke up unusually early this morning. I found this to be super practical advice on dealing with negative, self-defeating thoughts. Especially because I am suspicious of positive thinking techniques that feel like psyching myself up (or out). Rick Hanson distinguishes between positive thinking and his work, “I believe in realistic thinking and positive experiencing.”

I do believe I am basically a good person and am capable of greatness, but somehow my brain did not get the memo. It replays lots of negative memories and thoughts that undermine my basic sense of wellbeing and sap my energy. UC Berkeley professor Rick Hanson’s research and teaching in neuropsychology suggests that we can rewire our brain in short 20-second sessions throughout the day.

I do not want to give your detailed notes on the interview because my hope is you will listen to the entire 55-minute interview. Here are a few teasers.

“The brain is like Velcro for the bad, but Teflon for the good because that’s what helped our ancestors survive in harsh conditions.” So it is harder to learn from good experiences. We have to do it consciously in 20-30 second increments using HEAL. Have the experience. Enrich the experience by savoring it for just a little longer. Absorb the experience. Link the experience and ultimately replace negative experiences with positive. (Hanson explains this in much more detail in his NYT bestseller, Hardwiring Happiness.)

When asked what are 3 truths about the world, your life, that your learning boils down to and Hanson told a story about Froggie similar to a fairy tale in many world traditions. A bunch of frogs fall into a vat of cream. The slick sides of the metal vat kept them from climbing out. They all continued to struggle and eventually they each began to drown. But Froggie is determined and keeps swimming, and keeps kicking and didn’t give up. Eventually the cream turned into butter and became solid enough for him to jump out of the vat. So keep churning.

P.S. I discovered Lewis Howes at World Domination Summit. And my friend Carole shared her favorite podcasts with me and recommended the Stitcher app for easier listening. I made The School of Greatness one of my favorites.

Getting Started on the Journey: World Domination Summit Part 2

The second day of #WDS2015 opened with the photographer Jeremy Cowart’s multimedia presentation. He explained his journey from an average student who frequently told his parents, “I can’t.” His dad’s refrain was the bible verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Jeremy discovered he could draw and focused on design in University. He was an early expert user of Apple computers and design software. He got a job with an ad agency and enjoyed the money but did not find creating ads for air conditioning units particularly inspiring. This ultimately led to starting his own ad firm and then becoming a digital photographer.

Dr. Lissa Rankin explains Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.
Dr. Lissa Rankin explains Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

His success as a photographer has allowed him to do special projects such as his project chronically the aftermath of Haiti or creating portraits of Rwanda survivors who have forgiven each other. When his older brother died unexpectedly before age 40 Jeremy realized that none of us know the length of our lives and he was determined to share everything he knows about photography with his children. He created hosting 120 different video lessons to pass on all of his photography expertise.

Dr. Lissa Rankin presented her story of how she discovered her life purpose or calling. She quoted Martha Beck from her book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, about those people who are members of the team who feel an special call to make the world a better place. She left her traditional and soul sucking ob gyn practice to create the Whole Health Medicine Institute. She has written one book, The Fear Cure, about how to overcome fear to accomplish our goals. We make fearful assumptions, such as uncertainty is unsafe; I can’t handle losing what I cherish; It’s a dangerous world; I am all alone. By changing our perspective we realize that uncertainty is a gateway to possibility; Loss is a gateway; We live in a purposeful universe; We are all one.

In between speakers WDS alumni spoke about some of their projects. Tess Vigeland, former NPR radio host, announced her forth coming book, LeaP. Another alumnae shared a new college forming to help young men and women figure out their life purpose and then go on to University or other training at Wayfinding Academy. Another gave all attendees a $150 gift certificate to classes on

After the afternoon break we enjoyed two final speakers. They were tasked with offering practical advice on how to get started with our own journey. I especially appreciated Asha Dornfest. Her gentle humor and down to earth approach was helpful. As she said, sometimes we can hear all of these great speakers and beat ourselves up for not having a more epic life. Her presentation was called, “How to be a Grown-Up.” She shared some basic myths and truths about being an adult. Myth 1: grown-ups stick to the plan. Truth: Embrace course corrections because variables always change. Myth 2: Baby steps are for babies. Truth: small consistent steps are the surest way of reaching your goal. If you meet resistance, then go smaller. Start small and keep going. Myth 3: Grown-ups are sure of themselves. Truth: Self-confidence grows every time you keep a promise to yourself.

The final speaker Derek Sivers gave us an excellent example of how this is practically applied. He created CDBaby.Com as a hobby and created one of the first on-line music stores. He eventually sold it for $22 million, then gave his money away to support music education. He challenged us to know what we want: money, prestige, fame, legacy or freedom. Then focus and optimize for that value. Do not get distracted by your business plan. No one knows the future and your business plan is fiction. Commit to a problem you want to solve and do not get attached because no plan survives first contact with the customer. Ask instead of answer; learn instead of preach. Derek shared many stories of how CDBaby set themselves apart by simple things like answering the phone by the second ring or paying musicians weekly.

Closing questions: What have you been afraid to try? What steps will you take to get started?

Finding my Voice at World Domination Summit 2015

Outside the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Jon Acuff, author of several books including Do Over, anchored #WDS2015. He called us forth to rediscover our voice. He invited us to get back in touch with our 3rd grade self and ask if our 3rd grade self would be happy or full of regrets if we met him/her today. I thought back to my long drive to Arcata on Wednesday when I reconnected with an idea for a fictional story I want to write. My third grade self would say “work less and write more.” He went on to give us some inspiration and some tools (including a worksheet on

We were all abuzz about Kid President. Robby Novak, aka Kid President, and his uncle and producer Brad Montague taught us some dance moves. Then Brad explained how Kid President evolved into the phenomenon it is today. On the one hand Robby and Brad’s messages are simple: 1) Be nice or treat everyone like it’s their birthday; 2) You matter; your voice matters; 3) Sharing is good; 4) Invite everyone to the party; 5) Enjoy it. My favorite quote, and one that relates to the previous post on failure, “There’s always a reason to complain and always a reason to dance. Choose to dance.”

I discovered Chris Guillebeau’s blog and book Happiness of Pursuit last year. Through his website I discovered the World Domination Summit.The WDS asks participants “How will you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” Intrigued, I tried to buy tickets last year and learned how quickly it sells out. So this year I signed up for alerts and set my calendar, then I bought tickets for me, Sarah and Marcos as soon as they were available. That was months ago, and I had to reconnect with my motivation. The speakers have made it easy.

I was especially inspired by Lewis Howes‘ moving presentation calling us to be super humans instead of super heroes. I added his podcast School of Greatness on Stitcher. There is another day of speakers and a few more world records to break.