Is Ritalin the new “Mother’s little helper”?

5 05 2013

pills

IN the 1960s and 1970s, Valium (and associated benzodiazepines – benzos) were known as “Mother’s Little Helper”- a drug prescribed to stay at home mothers to help them deal with their lives – fundamentally, a way of sedating them so they would accept a life they were unhappy or bored with.

What a drag it is getting old
Kids are different today,
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
Theres a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

(Mother’s Little Helper, Rolling Stones)

By all accounts, it was an epidemic of medico-sanctioned drug abuse. A generation of women rendered passive, incapable of dealing with their dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Stepford wives.

Fast forward to the 1990s and 2000s. the drug de jour is Ritalin and other uppers to deal with ADD. ADHD, adult ADHD, etc.

Now I am not saying these syndromes do not exist. Nor that the drugs don’t work for some people. But then the Valium worked pretty well for women in the 1960s and 1970s.

But the explosion of diagnoses, and of prescriptions makes me suspicious. Are we waiting for someone to write a song about how we medicated our difficult children? What cost will they pay in their adult lives, when they haven’t learned to deal with their concentration, focus and behaviour without medication? What physiological effect will the drugs have one them?

And whose “illness” are we medicating?

For the full Rolling Stones Song, click here: Rolling Stones: Mother’s Little Helper





How to dress for your body type

21 04 2013

dress

how to dress





Memories……

1 04 2013

Memory is a funny thing. What one person remembers can be quite different from another person. Some of it is perspective, some of it might be personal views on the important aspects of an event. Apparently what language you speak and hence what words you have at your disposal also affects what you understand and remember about events. Presumably NLP works differently in different languages.

Most people seem to have their first memories around 4 or 5, although if you try to remember your earliest memory it is difficult to separate what you remember from what you have been told and photographs you have seen. My mother in particular seems to have taken advantage of this and denies events that I specifically remember in an attempt I allege is a rewriting of history. Her brother, meanwhile, used to allege that he could remember being born. Clearly we are a family for whom the truth has been a malleable concept.

But while our memories are already somewhat fallible tools, imagine if, like Star Trek, you had a holo-deck, and could create completely fictional events. You could people your events with real colleagues, friends and acquaintances. And while to you, they would seem to be real experiential memories, the other people would have absolutely no knowledge of the events you created.

PS Stumbleupon just showed me a Wikipedia page on parataxic distortion which expands on this concept.





Tough week?

2 03 2013

Perhaps it was the full moon. Maybe it was Mercury in retrograde (I don’t actually know what that means but several people told me it was this week). Or perhaps it is all just selective attention and confirmation bias.

Whatever you believe, it seems to have been a tough week for a number of my friends and colleagues.

So when the going gets tough….how do you survive, revive and keep yourself, your team and your colleagues motivated?

1. Review what happened. Is there anything to learn from it? Learn it, discuss it and move on. Blame and guilt are pointless emotions. Learn what you can then let it go.

2. Take a long term view. This is only one incident, one week. One bad week, bad decision or one unfortunate circumstance does not define who you are or what you are worth.

3. Be kind to yourself and others. Allow them to be kind to themselves. Beating yourself up doesn’t help. Sometimes you need a little quiet time to yourself, a chat with a friend, a pleasant distraction, a little treat. The important thing is to get yourself into a psychologically better place so you can move on and not let the negativity determine what happens next. Let it go.,

4. Work out what next. Also known as “getting back in the saddle”. Focus on the future, on your next step. This is not defeat, it is a temporary (transient) set-back. Resilience and persistence are your key words.

5. Conversely, know when to walk away. If the arena in which the bad thing occurred is not important….then why let it bother you? Focus on the meaningful actions, you don’t need to be 100% in all arenas.

Final thought: if the negative incidents are becoming a pattern….maybe there is a decision you need to make. You only get one life.





Why do you need permission?

1 03 2013

A former boss, whom I greatly admired (and still do), introduced me to the saying “better to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission”.

I am not sure if it a generation thing, or just me, but when I was growing up, and starting my career, whenever I wanted to do something the answer was always – go and do some study, get a degree, get a job in the industry, get some experience, work your way up the ladder. All very safe and sound advice….but fundamentally stopped me from actually doing what I wanted to do. More fool me.

Gen Y doesn’t seem to have this problem, nor the Millenials, and whatever nickname has been allocated to more recent generations.

Case study number one – my friend’s son, who at age 18 with a friend wrote, cast and filmed a movie (The Powder Clock, below). Sounds like an amateurish exercise? It really isn’t, the production values are very good. As I said to his mother, she had clearly forgotten to tell him that 18 year olds can’t make movies.

Many years ago, I did a course called Money and You, which at that stage was associated with Robert Kiyosaki. One of the things that I distinctly remember him saying was that if you see a job that needs doing, it’s yours. What he meant was – this was your opportunity, and opportunities aren’t thrown your way for you to get someone else to do them, they are thrown your way for you to do them. If you can see it, then you have identified your niche.

Case study number two – When twelve year old Craig Kielburger heard about a Pakistani boy his own age who was murdered for speaking about about child labour, he started a charity called Free the Children with some classmates. It now works with the United Nations and has been a recipient on Oprah’s Angel Network. (For more examples of children who have started charities, try this website.)

So what if your passion is to start your own business? Think you need to get a business degree or an MBA? Attract seed capital? Again – if you don’t think you need permission, there’s nothing stopping you.

Case study number three – Its actually quite difficult to choose, there are so many child entrepreneurs. Some are marketing to kids, others (such as Archer from Leanna’s Hair Leanna ) market to adults and have international delivery options. Google child entrepreneur and prepare to be confronted with why you haven’t got your act together yet! (Of course it has to be recognised that these kids have very supportive parents who have facilitated their businesses happening, since they are underage and therefore unable to sign a contract….but still.)





Let me ask you this……

23 02 2013

When I was at secondary school, there was a girl in my year called Alison. There were a lot of very clever girls in my year (it was a girls’ school so no clever boys), but Alison was acknowledged as the brightest of us all. Not only was she academically clever, she was also musical, sporty, unassuming (her parents made her ride her bike to school every day), obedient (she wore a helmet years before it became the law) and most importantly of all, nice. And as well as being very very bright, she also worked very hard. We might have liked her less if she had aced all the tests without working at it…except that she was also very nice.

Years before NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) became a “thing”, I knew about modelling – paying attention to the way others behave in order to take on qualities that you admire. And what I noticed about Alison was that she asked a lot of questions in class.

Alison’s question-asking meant a few things. Firstly, she was paying attention and understanding what was being said enough to formulate coherent questions. Secondly, she was adapting the information to make sure it “fit” into the way she thought about things. So if she was told information in one style and that style wasn’t her dominant style, she would ask questions in order to understand it from her dominant view. And thirdly, that she had a high level of curiosity, which exceeded the information she was being told.

And so I learned that asking questions was a good way of learning.

Fast forward two decades, to another question-asker. This time my boss. Now this woman taught me a lot about strategic thinking and organisational thinking. Again, the key was questions, this time questions to lead and direct people, questions that reframed the problem, and hence the way people were thinking about the problem, jump-started them in a new “track”, questions that gave people short-cut ways of memorising and understanding what they were doing at each level of strategic planning.

The key was….

1. Mission statements: WHY? (and sometimes WHAT?) (Why do we exist, what do we want to achieve / what do we do?)

2. Strategic / executive level : WHAT? (what are we doing?)

3. Operational level : How? (give that exec have told operations WHAT to do or WHAT goal to achieve, operations needs to sort out HOW they will do it / HOW they will achieve the goal.

The power of asking the right question goes further. A well-chosen and well-timed question can pull people out of analysis paralysis (what should we do, why do you want us to do that, what are the alternatives, what if we make a mistake, what are the pros and cons of each possibility, etc) and into HOW are you going to do this? This question skims over the quandary and directs thoughts to action. It can also empower people who aren’t sure if they should do something by essentially directing them to do it. Devil’s advocate questions can open up new expanses, and break down the barriers that contain thought, give permission to consider the (previously) unthinkable.

Does questioning work for you?





Inspiring Commencement Addresses

13 01 2013

We don’t really have the same culture of commencement addresses in Australia that the US seems to have. And while I am sure many commencement addresses are forgettable, every so often one pops up on Youtube (or elsewhere) that is amazing. Here are a few of my favourites….

Steve Jobs, Stanford University 2005
Jobs talks about getting fired from Apple and how he came back from that devastating setback.

***

Professor Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon, 2008
Prof Pausch was dying of cancer when he made a surprise return to Carnegie Mellon University.

“We don’t beat the reaper by living longer. We beat the reaper by living´╗┐ well… The question is, what do we do between the time we’re born and the time he shows up?”

***

Oprah Winfrey, Stanford University, 2008
After first embarrassing her god-daughter and giving us a view of the human side of Oprah, she talks about finding her way and the challenges she faced overcoming set ideas of what a television personality looked like early in her career.

***

JK Rowling, Harvard 2008
The Harry Potter author talks about her imagination and creativity at a young age and how her parents, wanting the best for her, encouraged “straight” education over the classics and artistic pursuits that interested her.





The Second Parent

10 01 2013

Friends of mine decided, when the husband was offered a package at work, that he would take a year off and be the stay at home parent while his wife went back to work to re-establish her career.

While he loved staying home with his sons, he found it incredibly lonely. None of his friends were stay at home dads, and in his sons’ school classes, the were no stay at home dads. The mums at the school gate didn’t really connect with him – it was a Mother’s club, a women’s club. His presence put a damper on the conversation, a stilted politeness. They could hardly bitch about their husbands and sex lives with him present! (OK I admit that is a stereotype, made to illustrate the point.) While he loved staying at home and loved the time with his sons, he was relieved to go back to work and have adult conversations again.

So in a society where we lobby for equal career opportunities, equal pay for women, why is a man’s (and presumably a family’s) choice to stay home not supported by the community?

Fathers report being treated as the “second parent” by schools, medical practitioners, hospitals, childcare providers. And as a mother, I also find that frustrating. While I do want to be contacted and involved in decisions affecting my children, why should the father not also be contacted.

As the mother of sons, this would be an excellent example for my children to see, to grow up to be good men, involved and caring for their children.

And I am sure for fathers, it is disrespectful.

“Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.” Margaret Mead
Every time we liberate a man, we liberate a woman. Mudmap





Thinking yourself into a corner

9 09 2012

Yesterday, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s father died. Although he had battled ill health, it was an unexpected death. The majority of her political opponents, the media, and social media pundits offered her their condolences, and newspaper articles eulogised on his role in bringing up and educating Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Whether you agree with his daughter’s politics or not, he did a good job bringing up his daughter to contribute to public life and achieve on her own terms.

But some social media pundits couldn’t help themselves. They made snarky comments about her, her father and various other personal issues. Speculation ranged from how he felt about her politics to whether the tax payer would pay for his funeral. It was almost like they thought she had arranged this personal tragedy for her own political gain.

Now I can’t help wondering – are these people like this in real life? Or, in real life, are they normal compassionate people who, despite differences of opinion, recognise that a personal tragedy is common to us all, a precondition of being human. People you and I would be happy to know.

There has been a lot of conversation in Australian media and social media about trolls – people who (usually anonymously) frequent social media sites for the purpose of vicious personal attacks. An anti-bullying ambassador, Charlotte Dawson, was hospitalised after vicious attacks on twitter (#diecharlotte) became too much for her.

Who are these people? Why do think they have a right to attack others?

At the same time, US news reported on a 16 year old who called for the assassination of her president, Barack Obama, via twitter. Where does this hatred come from? Why do people think this semi-anonymous (although in the case of the above 16 year old, her twitter handle was in her own name) forum is OK for vitriolic hatred, calls for violence and personal attacks, the sort of behaviour that most of us would not engage in, in real life?

There is a psychological concept called cognitive dissonance. Most of us like not to feel hypocritical. We like to feel we are logical, our thoughts, taken individually or en masse, make sense. We don’t want to seem to contradict ourselves.

So maybe these people have thought themselves into a corner, whereby their unrelenting hatred and attacks in a political context cannot be stopped, even for personal tragedy or common decency. They have objectified the focus of their obsession and no longer see them as sharing the common human experience that unites us. They cannot back down or rethink their position, no matter what.

This is not logic. This is irrational. This is hatred.

There is a level of intellectual sophistication involved in being able to deal with, to hold, two cognitively dissonant thoughts at the same time. Say, hatred for someone’s politics and compassion for them as a person not feeling compatible in one psyche. This sort of sophistication and maturity might not be expected from a 16year old (although her parents should cut off her social media accounts until she understands the concepts of treason and inciting violence as criminal offences) but it would seem the majority of trolls are not under-age.

But just like the metaphorical “paint yourself into a corner”, some people think themselves into small confined positions, from whence they are unable to be flexible and respond to changing conditions. But wouldn’t you rather react and change according to changing conditions (evolution having shown us the options are adaptor die) than make ourself into a public fool and be publicly castigated for your rigidly inflexible position? Let alone possibly do actual harm to another, as occurred with Charlotte Dawson.





Vale Stephen Covey

21 07 2012

Management guru Stephen Covey, best known for his worldwide best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, died on June 16 2012 from injuries sustained in a bike crash. He was 79 years old.

I read this book quite a few years ago. At the time I was in a bit of a self-help jag and while the idea of seven principles was very appealing, the content was not so very much different from a number of other self-help / management books at the time. Perhaps better organised.

But when I heard of his death it took me to a place when, as a teenager, I discovered Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, possibly the first of the great self-help books. I suspect that those a few years younger than me probably felt that Covey’s tome was the light for them, the way Positive Thinking was for me.

The self-help books were the start of a journey. They told me that anything was possible, that if I tried, I could make my life what I wanted. They gave real-life-stories of people who changed their lives (and I am still a sucker for a good “I-turned-my-life-around” story. And as I move into mid-life crisis territory, the idea of infinite possibilities appeals even more.)

I had the advantage of good health, reasonable intelligence, good education, a supportive family and being born into a western society in a period of peace and prosperity. If anything, my “problem” was too much comfort. There was no burning platform to make me strive to save myself from a life of misery and starvation. Unlike Stephen Covey, who grew up on an egg farm and as a teenager suffered a severe illness that turned him from athletics to academia, my life was comparatively easy and straight forward. If I studied, I got good marks. If I didn’t then the results were variable. I didn’t have to do physical labour and I didn’t have to worry where the next meal came from.

Since my teenage years I read a lot of self-help books until I got to the stage when they all seemed to say the same thing. When I started buying books for their titles and not reading them, I knew I’d done enough. I have listened to tapes, done courses, abseiled and walked on fire (yes really and no it doesn’t hurt). I like to think I have integrated most of what the books had to teach me and discarded the rest (it has to be said some of them are/were a little too new-agey airy-fairy for me. Take what works, discard the rest. It’s not a religion, you can pick and choose.)

There is a body of work now that says that the positive thinking, “I can overcome in any circumstances” attitude has not been a wholly positive thing for society. The would-be lover who will not take no for an answer becomes a stalker. The terminal cancer patient who refuses to accept that they are dying spends their last days struggling and suffering, losing the opportunity to say goodbye and to enjoy the last part of their life.

The underlying assumption is the Great American Dream – that if you work hard enough, or clever enough, you can be wealthy beyond you wildest dreams, a captain of industry, 100% delirously happy all the time, or whatever your dream is. This assumes that we all start with an even playing field – equality of opportunity. And this is plainly not the case. Those born without health, without access to food, safety, education, are not starting on the same playing field. This does not mean that they cannot also succeed or change their lives but their journey will be much harder. And it ignores the intervention of random events – the car-crashes of life, the luck, the lack of luck. Yes your attitude determines your life – but to use the technical language, sometimes shit happens.

The assumption that the life you lead is a direct result of your own efforts leads to a blame-the-victim mentality. If you can’t support yourself and your family, if you haven’t got the health and wealth you need to survive, then it must be your fault. Therefore you do not deserve compassion, or financial support. No unemployment benefits, no single parent benefits (blame the mother, bad luck to the children), no public health care, no decent public education.

And then we become an uncaring society. Society suffers – all of us. Desperate people do desperate things. Don’t make them desperate.

****

This blog took an unexpected turn in the middle. I don’t intend it to be a commentary on Dr Covey’s works per se, more an exposition and exploration of the assumptions and results of the self-help industry which was so very prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s when I was in my teenage years and early twenties.

I personally feel I got a lot out of various authors but I recognise that there is a debate to be had on the effects of self-help philosophies at a societal level.

For those wanting a quick refresher on the Covey 7 Habits, here they are:

Habit No. 1: Be proactive. Know yourself, be responsible for yourself and your own actions and effects. If you want to achieve something, do something about it.

Habit No. 2 Begin with the end in mind. Often used as the basis of visualisation, but more literally, just know your goal when you start out.

Habit No. 3: Put first things first. This habit is about time management.

Habit No. 4: Think win/win. “seek mutual benefit in all human interactions”.

Habit No. 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This one is about being focussed outwards.

Habit No. 6: Synergise. where the whole is more than the sum of the parts (for example, some teams achieve more because they “bounce” off each other than the sum of all their individual efforts).

Habit No. 7: Sharpen the saw. Keep yourself fit, educated, seek new information.

Not rocket science, but it was pretty good at the time.

If you would like to see Dr Covey in action, have a look on YouTube.