Archives for July 2010

How to Click Your Amygdala Forward

I first heard of clicking your amygdala forward when a guy contacted me on Linked In and had this as part of his signature. (Something like ‘have you clicked your amygdala forward today’?’)I was intrigued and immediately Googled it. It’s all very interesting and for those of you keen to access your creativite zone, here’s the low down.

The amygdalae are two almond-shaped structures (in fact amygdala means ‘almond-shaped’) located on each side of the brain in the frontal lobes. To find them approximately, imagine a line drawn from the corner of your eye to the top of your ear and about halfway along and an inch in is the amygdala.

The frontal lobes are responsible for pleasure, emotion, psychic ability, intuition, creativity and all the ‘good stuff’ and various things can ‘click’ us into this positive states, including smelling something nice, meditating and laughing. The problem is trying to access this at will.

Neil Slade has a very interesting site about the amygdalae backed up with solid research and describes various techniques to make the brain jump into frontal lobe mode. Here are three ideas he mentions that I use when I remember!

  • Imagine tickling all over each amygdala with a feather – this simple technique creates blood flow to the frontal lobes and improves with practice.
  • Think of the amygdala as a switch and imagine putting this switch to the ‘on’ position.
  • Imagine flicking each amygdala with your finger as if it was a pencil eraser and ‘see’ it moving back and forwards in response to the flick. This is a very good technique that I read on Neil’s forum and have used myself with some success.

Have a go at clicking your amygdala – it’s harmless, painless, free and let’s you access the best bits of your brain. What more could you ask?

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Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity – My New Hero!

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray and Love (which, of course, is set in Italy!)discusses creativity in this short and inspirational talk for TED.

I love motivational books and speakers and the Internet really is your friend with so many resources to educate, inspire and entertain. Recently, I have been trying to watch short films after lunch to get me in the mood for the later afternoon's work at the keyboard. I have to say it has definitely helped. Also, to get a writer talking about 'the muse' is just the icing on the cake. Elizabeth has such a charismatic and warm presence on stage too and a wonderful way of expressing herself. In short – I just loved it!  I hope you enjoy what she says as much as I did.

The 80/20 Principle

I am an avid lapper-up of business books and am currently re-reading Richard Koch's The 80/20 Principle. The premise on which the book rests – what Koch calls the universe's "wonkiness" – is that 20 percent of effort reaps 80 percent of rewards. This has been proved to be the case for everything from the wear on carpets to the percentage of the nation's wealtiest individuals. It was first highlighted by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto while studying wealth and income in England in the 1800s. Apart from noticing the unequal distribution pattern, Pareto also noticed it could be reapplied succesfully to other situations and time periods and thus the Pareto Principle (or Pareto's Law) was discovered.

Of course 80/20 is a catchy simplification. Often the proportions are 70/30 or 90/10, but the truth is there staring us in the face. A lot of us waste our energy and efforts doing stuff that brings little or no satisfaction and no benefits.

How does that affect business – in my case the writing business? Well, contrary to popular belief, being busy busy busy really does nothing at all. What we are after is focussed 'busyness' – analysing the work that brings you the most satisfaction and the greatest revenue and being ruthless about the rest. An example is the client who takes up hours and hours of time and energy through calls and emails and then wants a free article or massive discount. We all know people like this, energy vampires who think of you as their own private bloodbank. In your personal life they are bad news. In your business life they are catastrophic.

Speaking personally, I know that I often do far more than is necessary for far less than I should. Equally I know that I can't apply the 80/20 principle too ruthlessly as I have too soft a heart (and yeah yeah, I know there is no sentiment in business, but a little doesn't hurt). So I will continue to help where I can and deliver more than expected. But I know I must also do some hard thinking and make sure that my skills and talents are used to their best advantage on the 20 percent of things that bring me the greatest personal and professional rewards.

Ghostwriting in Medical Literature – Senator Grassley Report

Following on from last year’s scandal about a major pharmaceutical company hiring ghostwriters to write review papers highlighting the benefits of certain drug therapies and downplaying the risks, a US senator has just published a minority staff report on medical ghostwriting.

Senator Charles E Grassley’s enquiries were initiated two years ago when he began looking into “industry practice to get articles published in major medical journals touting the benefits of a company’s product without public disclosure that the company initiated and paid for the development of the articles.”

The report, published on June 24, 2010, is a follow-on from this original enquiry, and stems from the lack of transparency apparent in the use of medical ghostwriters. The implications are obvious – if a well-known medical ‘name’ apparently writes a report, letter or article endorsing a particular product, this may then be a factor in persuading a physician to prescribe the drug.

Senator Grassley wrote to a number of medical schools and medical journals asking about their position on ghostwriting and this report relates the findings so far. The main findings were:

  • Although all medical schools either prohibit or do not condone medical ghostwriting, the report points out that the practice is hard to detect.
  • Despite attempts by medical journals to crack down on ghostwriting by introducing stringent authorship requirements, in practice “the prevalence of ghostwriting has not changed much in the past decade.
  • The involvement of pharmaceutical companies in medical publications “remains veiled or undisclosed.”
  • The National Institute of Health does not have any coherent joined up policy on disclosing the financing of ghostwritten articles by the pharmaceutical industry.

The report recommends that “in the interest of transparency and accountability, all parties who contribute substantively or financially to a publication should be acknowledged. Only then can readers understand the context of a study and be aware of any commercial interests that initiated and influenced the results or recommendations presented in the publication.”