Cam Newton vs. Greg Dinkin: Teaching Poker and “It Depends” for the Queen City Shootout

October 7, 2011

(or) If You Would Automatically Bet on Cam, You’re Not Thinking Like a Poker Player

Teaching poker to sixty people in Charlotte, North Carolina, most of whom were novices, was quite a treat. The leadership and vision of Jennifer Basara made this event happen. As the creator of the Queen City Shootout, Jennifer works tirelessly to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Teaching poker to Mrs. North Carolina...tough job.

I started my talk by asking the group who they would bet on if I was racing quarterback phenom Cam Newton in the 100-yard dash. “Cam,” they all shouted. Right away I knew the group was thinking: what in the world has this got to do with poker?

I rattled off a bunch of scenarios for this race and then told them that the answer to this question is the same as the answer to every question in poker:

IT DEPENDS!

Poker is about thinking and decision-making and I wanted to get them using those muscles. “What if I started 80 yards ahead?” I asked. That took us to our first lesson in poker: start with good cards. If every hand is a race, the best thing you can do is start by leading. But if you don’t know what’s coming on the flop, how do you know if you’re leading? That line of thinking has led many Texas Hold’em players to say, “Any two will do.”

I agree that unless you’re clairvoyant, you don’t know what cards are coming—just like you don’t know what horse or runner is going to win the race. But when you have a head start—which in poker means starting with good cards—you give yourself an advantage. Any two won’t do. For beginners, a good rule of thumb is to have a pair or two face cards before investing any money in the pot. Does that mean to always have a pair or two face cards?

IT DEPENDS.

If you’re not leading or you’re not the fastest/best runner/player, you need a big incentive to chase. In other words, if you don’t have a great hand, you need to be getting the right odds to invest money. If you were getting 100 to 1 odds, you might bet on me to beat Cam. The return justifies the risk because there’s some chance he could trip or pull a hamstring. In poker, you can play 7-8 suited even if you know your opponent has a pair of aces if you stand to win $50 and it only costs $5 to play.

Just when these aspiring rounders seemed to be catching on, I threw them another curveball. “The players who win the most pots in poker lose the most money,” I said. Poker is about maximizing wins and minimizing losses. Those who win the most pots play the most hands and have no concern for minimizing losses—so they lose. Poker, unlike craps, blackjack or day-trading, is not a game of action. It’s a game of patience and the ability to fold hands and only play when you have an edge is paramount to success.

Then I hit them with an expert tip. When the flop comes, instead of watching the cards (they’re not going anywhere), watch the other players for their immediate reaction. If their first instinct is to look down at their chips, it probably means they have a good hand. Of course no poker lesson would be complete without Mike Caro’s first rule of tells: “strong is weak and weak is strong.” I explained that a player staring you down and trying to intimidate you is probably over-compensating for a weak hand and bluffing. The player looking away, acting “weak,” is likely trying to suck you in. Is that always the case?

IT DEPENDS.

We wrapped things up with a summary of what it will take to the win the Queen City Shootout and earn a seat at the main event of the World Series of Poker.

  1. Use an “It Depends” approach for every decision.
  2. Start the race with a lead. Be patient and only play good cards.
  3. Only chase if you are getting a big incentive.
  4. When the flop comes, “fit or fold.” Only continue playing if your cards connect with the community cards.
  5. Be tight and aggressive. When in doubt, pump it (raise) or dump it (fold).
  6. Understand position and play more aggressively when you are last to act.
  7. Walk in your opponents’ shoes and think about what they have.

These guidelines are only a start. Add the desire to continually learn and work on your game, and you may be on your way to becoming a poker champion. Are these seven bits of wisdom enough to make you the winner of this year’s Queen City Shootout?

IT DEPENDS.


Direct Path to Success with Mark England and me this week only

September 7, 2011

After rave reviews from our emotional detox workshop, Mark England has extended his L.A. trip and we’re excited to work with you.

Our intention is to quickly get to the heart of exactly what you want and use tools to clear anything that may be holding you back.
We’re offering a “Direct Path to Success” package that includes the following:
1. A 75-minute session with Greg and Mark to clarify your goals, see where you are now, identify your challenges and discuss strategies for taking you to the next level.
2. A 75-minute session with Mark to re-program your software and belief systems and unblock anything that isn’t serving you. I’ve done it myself many times and it’s very powerful and liberating.
3. A 75-minute session with Greg to create a specific plan that incorporates the tools and techniques that you have learned into a practice.
Mark’s typical rate for 1 session is $240.
We’re offering this to ONLY 5 students now for a total of $175. First come, first serve.
To take advantage of this while Mark is still here, you’ll need to schedule your first appointment by next Wednesday, 9/14, at the latest.
You can reach Greg at 917-653-3247 or gregdinkin@gmail.com with questions.
More info on who we are what we do:
Five years ago, stressed-out, out-of-shape and unbalanced New Yorker Greg Dinkin arrived on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand to detox. Working with Mark England changed his life and produced the following results:

•  Lost 100 pounds.
•  Re-programmed his belief systems to align with his dreams.
•  Transitioned him into a new career path.
•  Found balance and peace living in L.A.

Mark England and Greg Dinkin focus on working with you to:
•  FEEL AWESOME.
•  Develop tools to re-program your software.
•  Detox limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering ones.
•  Use conscious speech + powerful words that align with your goals and mission.

Topics include:
•  A 5-Step Model for Loving Life
•  Emotional Detox
•  Meridian Line Tapping
•  Language Modeling & Clarification
•  Creating Empowering Belief Systems

Bios:

Mark England has been exploring and applying methods, philosophies, and techniques for Mental Liberation and Emotional Detoxification for almost a decade. His style has been heavily influenced by EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programing), Family Constellations, The Work of Byron Katie, and The Jedi Mind Sciences of John Kehoe. Mark loves to dance, laugh, free dive, and go on amazing adventures with amazing people. He holds a Master Degree in International Education and was a Sports Teacher in a previous life.

Greg Dinkin is a TED speaker, a champion poker player, an author, a salesman, a literary agent, a yogi, an entrepreneur, and above all, a teacher driven by finding the best process for success. By walking in the shoes of others and understanding how they think and learn, Greg is effective at making people better: better at business, health, sales, strategy, and life. Greg has an MBA and is a certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. He is the author of The Finance Doctor, The Poker MBA (Random House), and he collaborated with gambling legend Amarillo Slim on his memoir (HarperCollins).


A Geographic Solution Leads to Dink’s Greatest Hits

July 27, 2011

(or) Could a Change in Scenery Transform me into Soundgarden Guitarist Kim Thayil?

Over the course of running a literary agency for seven years, I had two employees. Both of them wanted office space, but my business partner and I didn’t think it was worth the investment. We shared the same view: if we could build a business from scratch working out of our respective cluttered apartments, it was clearly about work ethic and not setting. Close some big deals and then we’ll talk about an office. We didn’t get the space and neither of those agents lasted more than eighteen months. Did I learn anything from this?

How interesting that I’m working on a book now that highlights my history of looking for geographic solutions to problems. The essence is that wherever I go, there I am, and that moving isn’t going to solve any problems. Yet here I am, having just moved, and I couldn’t feel better or more productive.

I rarely procrastinate, I can’t stand clutter, and I love to play guitar and sing along with friends. So how could I explain that I’ve put off compiling a song book–lugging around loose pieces of paper and not having a list of my songs–for more than two years? Because I didn’t have a proper desk? Because my front door led to a hallway rather than a patio? Sounds kind of lame and, in fact, these are the very type of excuses I would call out others for.

My friend Hajjar taught me that there is no such thing as an objective reality. Nothing is real or has significance without the stories we attach. I could have stayed in my old apartment and continued to believe that geography doesn’t solve problems. Or I could have created a new story that points to clarity of intention, patience, and knowing myself well enough to put myself in the best situation to be happy. I looked for a place for more than six months, knowing that I wanted the following:

-A detached house with no shared walls and private outdoor space.

-A garden, an aloe vera plant and a compost pile.

-A quiet, non-transient neighborhood that made me feel grounded.

-Lots of natural night and an open, uncluttered feel.

-A separate space/nook so my “office” was set off from my living space.

No damn microwave.

I found this special house in Santa Monica, with all those things and more, for the same price I was paying for my old apartment in Venice. I’ve been here ten days, and the book, with 115 songs, has been copied and bound. I’ve been writing up a storm and feeling fantastic. While I know that moving won’t “fix” anything and that, indeed, here I am, I am feeling that being in the right home can lead to serenity and productivity…and we’ll soon see what else.

I was at the gym yesterday reading an article about Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil in the L.A. Times that affirmed my new story. “Thayil was reportedly feeling uncomfortable in the recording studio’s sterile setting, and it showed in his playing. To better re-create the comfy living room where he worked out his band’s punishing, sludgy guitar riffs, he had his own couch moved into the studio’s live room. He nailed his riffs after that. What’s the lesson here…? Making art requires the right setting.”

Does that mean my new house could turn me into Thayil on guitar?

For those who have heard me play, please stop laughing out loud. But I do have a new story about the importance of living in the right home and may need plastic surgery to remove the smile from my face.

If you have a desire to learn guitar, keep in mind that I’ve put together this list over the past fifteen years of songs that are both easy to play on guitar and fun to sing along with. With much gratitude, I present “Dink’s Greatest Hits.”

It only took six years, but I finally see why my employees wanted an office. They understood well before I did the importance of the right setting. Thus, I’ll make the same offer to them that I’ll make to you: write your favorite sing-along song in the box below and I’ll email you the complete list of “Dink’s Greatest Hits.”


When Someone Doesn’t Get it, That Person May be You!

April 1, 2011

(or) A Good Pass Is One That’s Received, but Why Make the Pass?

“Dewd, you don’t get it! You don’t even have GPS! How can you not have an iPhone? How can you not see how awesome they are?”

I gave Rob the same look I always do. He’s a heck of a salesman, so he grew even more incredulous. “You have no idea how much it will change your life! Get out of the dark ages! You’re a smart guy; how are you not getting this?

The concept of “getting it” comes up a lot for me. I’m a huge believer in the power of awareness because, without it, we don’t know that we need to change. Some people need to be scared into awareness by hitting a bottom or suffering immense pain. I’ve always believed that we shouldn’t have to wait for something awful to happen to take stock of our lives (become aware), see where the issues are, and then devise a plan to fix them.

The two words in that last paragraph which have really made me think are “change” and “fix.” Does anyone really need to change or be fixed? Better question: do I need to change or be fixed? Who’s to say that I and everyone else can’t simply be as is, without being made aware of our flaws. And to even call them “flaws” doesn’t reflect that our greatest weaknesses are typically our greatest strengths.

I’ve lost a once beautiful head of hair agonizing over how to make people get it. Since my basketball coach taught me that a good pass is one that’s received, I take the time to walk in the shoes of the receiver so I can fine-tune my message so that it’s understood. I take this concept so far that my ego gets caught up in making sure the receiver gets the message, that failing to do so means that my pass/delivery was flawed. That’s when I go back to the drawing board and think, think, think on how I can better present the information. The typical result is the other person still doesn’t get it and I make myself crazy.

Consider Rob’s pain in my failing to receive the message about the benefits of an iPhone. If his ego were caught up in it, he could blame himself, which would be insane because I’ve already made up my mind. But let’s back up: do I really need to change or be fixed? As it is, I have some solid reasons for not having an iPhone: health (I wrote a column about the many perils of cell phones, plus Tim Ferriss just documented the impact on sperm count in his book The 4-Hour Body), cost (plus I avoid fixed costs with contracts as much as possible), environmental impact of more bandwidth, and my desire to be more present, among other reasons.

Rob shakes his head because my lack of awareness–and here’s the big point–according to his perception, makes my life worse. The reason he’s willing to let this go is that it doesn’t impact his life much. Albeit not as fast as most, I can still text. I’m generally on time and get where I need to go. And there’s the rub. The desire to change or fix others by bringing them awareness (or having an intervention or sending them to a therapist or recommending a diet) is often driven by our desire to have others behave in such a way that is more beneficial to us. Selfish bastards that we are.

I’m sure you could hardly finish that sentence without thinking of dozen examples that prove it wrong. I’m only telling Bill to stop drinking so much for his own good. I’m only telling Susie to read that book because I know it will change her life. I’m (and this is me talking) only telling anyone who will listen not to use a microwave or artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup (and the list goes on) because it will make them feel and look better.

Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Certainly if someone is hurting you physically or emotionally, you owe it to yourself to tell that person. People who love you often aren’t aware of what they’re doing and communicating gives them a chance to treat you the way you want to be treated. It’s usually a win-win.

I also still believe that in the right context, offering awareness for someone else’s benefit can be a beautiful gift. I know a guy who was smoking a cigarette on the beach and a stranger approached him and said, “So why are you trying to kill yourself?” This question was a catalyst to heighten his awareness, and he’s never smoked since. My brother told me that I say “I mean” too much when I speak and I’ve corrected this gaff and become a well-paid professional speaker. I read Dr. Mercola every week to become more aware, and it’s helped me improve my health and fitness. I’m still pro-awareness.

The difference is that now I stop to ask myself why I want to offer it. If it’s a gift to someone I love, I’ll offer it. But if it’s a request to change or fix something so that I benefit, I recognize that (through awareness!) and keep my mouth shut. Truth be told, I don’t think Rob gets how toxic and damaging iPhones (or any cell phone for that matter, especially if you want to have kids) are. I say this not to induce a debate on cell phones, but to point out that none of us really know what’s best for anyone else. Getting it could not be more subjective.

The next time you’re frustrated trying to make someone get it, ask yourself why it’s so important. Then ask yourself if anyone needs to be changed or fixed. Lastly, ask yourself who will benefit from getting it. Get my drift?

 


Don’t Choke: The Subconscious Doesn’t Register Negatives

February 15, 2011

(or) Gibran, Hurley and DeVito Share a Secret that Pujols, Gore and Jeter Never Learned

If a woman says to a man, “I love it when you put the seat down,” he’ll remember seat down and likely comply. If she tells him, “Don’t leave the seat up,” she might as well mail the check for couples therapy.

Words are powerful, which is why I choose the ones I use–both with others and to myself–so carefully. As a writer and a literary agent, I communicate with words in my books, articles, proposals, emails and even text messages without the benefit of non-verbal cues. In sensitive situations, I’ll send an email to my own account to see how it reads before sending it. If I’m working with an author to present a point to a publisher, I’ll send the email to the author first for feedback.

Fortunately I did just that for my friend and client, Hajjar Gibran, author of the The Return of the Prophet. His response to my email was, “I made a few minor changes and deleted the part about not wanting to sour our relationship, because the subconscious doesn’t register negatives. Like if I say: don’t think about Lao-tzu [his dog].”

Of course, all I could think about was Lao-tzu!

I started thinking about this concept and remembered that the oldest trick in the book in sports is right before a pressure-packed moment like a field goal, a free throw, or a clutch putt (think Danny Noonan in Caddyshack), you say to your opponent, “Don’t choke.”

What else could they possibly think about after you say that? You certainly wouldn’t say, “Don’t visualize the ball going in.” Along those lines, you hear coaches say things—precisely at the times they are trying to get their teams to focus—such as, “We can’t look ahead to the playoffs” or “It’s not going to do us any good to complain about the officials.” By giving attention to those ideas, isn’t that exactly what they are doing?

Think about what the effective coaches (like Hall of Fame high school basketball coach Bob Hurley) say. “Take one game at a time. Give 100 percent effort. Focus on this play.” The words don’t, not, and stop do not enter their consciousness so they’re not part of their dialogue. If they want their players in the now, why tell them not to be in the future?

When Al Gore was questioned by Congress about his financial interests in his environmental work, he got all riled up and declared: “If you think this is about GREED!” I may be misquoting him because the only word I remembered was greed. In the midst of his negotiations with the Yankees, I was shocked that Derek Jeter, perhaps the smartest personal brand manager going, made a similar denial about greed. Not to be outdone, Albert Pujols, in the midst of his contract negotiations with the St. Louis Cardinals, said of the fans: “If they want to call me greedy, they don’t know who I am.”

If I tell you, “I’m not saying you’re an idiot but…” it’s unlikely you’ll hear anything after the word idiot. In my last column about my disdain for plastic water bottles, I wrote a preamble that said: “It’s much more my style to highlight the positive and offer choices without pointing fingers.” You could be sure that I was going to be pointing figures. I put a lot of thought into that column, and even though I sandwiched my inciting rant between more loving words, my very intent was for the outrage to register. It’s like a lawyer who makes a comment, knowing that it will be stricken from the record. But once a thought enters the subconscious, there’s no striking it from the record.

Words lead to thoughts. Thoughts lead to feelings and ideas. And feelings and ideas lead to success or failure, suffering or bliss. Which one starts with the words you choose. There’s a massive difference between, “I’m not going to be miserable any longer,” and “I’m going to be happy.” There’s an even bigger difference when you say, “I am happy.” About six months ago, while struggling through an ab workout, I said to my friend, “I have a weak core.” But I immediately caught myself and said, “No. My core is getting stronger.” And in six months I’ve gone from 48 consecutive push-ups to 90.

Good teachers embed your subconscious with words that enable success. They offer wisdom on what to do—instead of what not to do. “Breathe. Focus. Visualize success.” In the film Swingers, Vince Vaughn’s character kept telling Jon Favreau’s character how “money” he was. “You’re like a big bear with fangs and claws,” he said. Imagine the impact he would have made if instead he had said, “You’re not a little wimp. You’re not a loser.”

Great teachers, like Hajjar, take it to the next level by showing us how to talk to ourselves. Since Vince Vaughn can’t be in your ear every moment, you have to tell yourself how money you are and consciously choose your internal dialogue. Before an important event, instead of re-assuring yourself that things will not go wrong, use words that will match the outcome you desire. “I’m going to nail it,” or “I’m so passionate they’ll be throwing money at me.” I’ll leave you with a personal favorite, one that my friends and I have been saying to each other since the film Twins came out in 1988, “Tonight is your night, bro.”

And the beat goes on…

1. The best example of this is Mother Teresa, who said: “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

3. In my screenwriting group, the guy who said, “I don’t mean to be defensive, but…” spent most of his time defending.

4. In the book I’m working on, I almost wrote, “needless to say,” but then realized if I was going to label it needless, I need not write it.

5.  I nearly wrote to a business contact, “I don’t want to quibble with you over a few dollars but…” Then I realized that by writing quibble, I was, indeed, quibbling. Instead, I wrote what I wanted, which was to continue building our relationship, and I got the perfect outcome.

6. I was doing hot yoga, and the teacher–an effort to keep us focused–said several times, “Forget about the person next to you.” Of course I wasn’t thinking about the person next to me–until he said that!


Latest Oxymoron: Selling Health and Bottled Water

February 7, 2011

(or) Quit f-cking selling plastic bottles if you’re in the health business

My friend Anna says that the only way we can help others transform is through love. She also says that the only way to meet unconsciousness is through consciousness. To “fight back” with similar unconsciousness only perpetuates the problem (Watch any political talk-show and you’ll understand what she means).

After writing an angry rant of a column about bottled water, I went to Bhakti Yoga Shala for an amazing kirtan event. I was thrilled to see that they offered free filtered water. The next day I went to Studio Surya Yoga for an inspiring flying yoga workshop, and the studio was selling eco-friendly water bottles and had just installed a water cooler.

It’s much more my style to highlight the positive and offer choices without pointing fingers. I found it interesting that the day I went negative, the universe went out of its way to show me that we see what we focus on—and that there are so many beautiful, conscious people in the world.

So that my outrage isn’t lost, and to remind myself of the columnist I don’t want to become, I’m going to leave the column as is. And not for nothing, if you’re drinking bottled water or practicing at a place that sells it, please be proactive, in a loving way, about offering solutions. Before I get to the rant, check out what Dr. Mercola says about water for both a scientific explanation as well as practical ideas on what to do.

It’s bad enough to see so many bottles of water at casinos and junk-food establishments, but last week I took a hot yoga class and noticed that just about all the students were drinking plastic bottles of Smart Water. It kills me to see places whose very offering is health, awareness and consciousness selling plastic bottles. It’s tough to blame someone for ignorance, but when you’re a leader, I expect more. Much more.

Water is a big revenue source. Before you accuse me of being an out-of-touch hippie, you should know that I founded a business long before I did my first downward dog. I’m not suggesting that yoga studios shouldn’t maximize revenue; just don’t tell me they have no choice but to sell plastic water.

The irony and hypocrisy of profiting from something so bad for the environment and our bodies at a place that promotes health and consciousness makes my blood boil. This means you, too, Whole Foods.

I just watched the documentary Tapped, and I can tell you that the picture is frightening. Americans consume 80 million bottles of water a day and pay a mark-up of 1,000 percent for tap water in a bottle that contains the highly toxic bisphenol A which pollutes our bodies just before the bottles pollute the ocean and the environment.

For starters, there are choices. As an individual, use a glass or stainless steel bottle and fill it up with your own filtered water. As a business, you have options that meet the needs of your customers and your bottom line. You can sell (or give away with promotions) stainless steel bottles with your studio’s logo. It’s both a revenue source and a branding tool. I’ve seen one studio with a water cooler where you can refill your water bottle for fifty cents. You stay hydrated, the studio makes money, and no plastic and waste are produced—sounds like a win-win to me.

When I finish a yoga class, I’m an easy sell. I want to be healthy and hydrated and I’m too exhausted and thirsty for money to be an issue. Why not sell glass bottles of coconut kefir (they go for $12 at Whole Foods so there’s got to be a huge profit in this) or Kombucha. Or how about raw chocolate? There’s also a great B12 supplement as well as an electrolyte water add-in that I buy from my friend Lucas Rockwood’s company Yoga Body Naturals. He’d be happy to sell you the products at wholesale and make you a distributor. As a last case resort, for those who don’t bring or buy a water bottle, you can sell water in petroleum-free, plant-based bottles.

If you call yourself a leader and/or go by the label politician, CEO, author, Whole Foods executive, health advocate, teacher, Mom, Dad, doctor or yoga studio owner, among others, it’s a sign of ignorance to be drinking—much less selling—water from a plastic bottle. Any joy I get from the Obamas planting an organic garden at the White House is erased when I see the President drink from a plastic bottle. He might as well smoke a cigarette (oops, bad example, though I can much more easily forgive the cigarettes).

Allow me to conclude making a request to both you and all yoga studio owners, by paraphrasing Quintin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction. Pretty please, with sugar on top, quit f-cking drinking and selling plastic bottles of water.

Follow-Up

Rather than hide behind my pen, with both love and consciousness, I approached the owners of the yoga studio that sells plastic water bottles. They explained that they don’t sell glass because they can’t want broken glass in the studio. That makes sense, but I still think there’s demand for glass bottles to drink after class. They do sell branded stainless steel bottles and are in the process of procuring a filtered water machine. They said they sell Smart Water because many students want a cold bottle and simply won’t buy the stainless steel bottle and fill up. As a business owner, I understand that you have to listen to your customers. At the same time, I’d love to see them take a leadership position and simply stop selling plastic. Sometimes necessity is the forbearer to consciousness and I’m sure their students will adapt.

For a bit of comic relief, check out Lewis Black’s hilarious stand-up bit on bottled water.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqXFrs6quvE


Getting Hacked and Feeling the Love!

January 29, 2011

(or) Don’t Fall for the Latest Internet Scam

“If you had any doubt how loved you are, you had a lot of people very concerned about you this morning,” my brother Andy said. Before I awoke Thursday morning, Andy was bombarded with emails and phone calls. Many were ready to send money. I got to hand it to the hackers—they picked the right guy! Most people didn’t find it the least bit out of character that I would make “a quick trip to the UK.”

The woman who had subletted my place in December sent me an email through airbnb.com.  “i just want to make sure if you are stuck in UK and need money immediately. I can only lend you 300 dollars, that’s the best i can do.”

Keep in mind I have never met this woman!  I’m both flattered by her heart and concerned for her naiveté, but certainly more the former.

My friend Jimbo was on his way to Western Union. He wrote:

Will keep trying to call, but don’t think I can from my phone.  np with helping out…just need to know what to do with it.

My friend JB wasn’t quite fooled, but his humor was much appreciated. He wrote:

Dink, I don’t think this is you.  This looks like one of those frauds. However, I’ll send the money if you can tell me: What’s a dangling participle, and why do I care?

I still feel violated, but I also feel blessed. I’ve also learned how addicted I am to my email account and facebook accounts (neither of which I can access—use ventureliterary@yahoo.com for now if you need to reach me), and I’m seeing if I can learn something from this. Be careful what I wish for when seeking attention! Last but not least, if you get an email like the one below, recognize that it’s a scam. If a friend is asking for money or help, be sure to call to confirm.

***

Apologies for having to reach out to you like this, but I made a quick trip to the UK and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and credit cards in it. The embassy has cooperated by issuing a temporary passport, I just have to pay for a ticket  and settle Hotel bills.
To be honest,i don’t have money with me,I’ve made contact with my bank but the best they could do was to send me a new card in the mail which will take 2-4 working days to arrive here.i was thinking of asking you to lend me some quick funds that i can give back as soon as i am out  of here,i  really need to make a last minute flight that leaves in a few hours. I can furnish you with info on how you will get me the money. You can reach me via hotel’s desk phone, the number is, +44 (0) 2920 454 090.

 


Yoga Teacher Going Postal!

January 12, 2011

(or) Before You Yell Hypocrite, Check the Projector

“That’s the thing about a human life—there’s no control group, no way to ever know how any of us would have turned out if any variables had been changed.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

No way. Couldn’t be her. I couldn’t see her face, but from the back, the short brunette had the identical haircut as Claire. She was clearly annoyed, as would be expected from a mere mortal as the line at the post office slowed to a crawl. It only got worse when one of the two tellers, expanding queue be damned, closed her window and headed for lunch.

How did I know the fidgeting, exasperated woman wasn’t my friend Claire? Because Claire is one of the most amazing yoga teachers on the planet. She not only speaks of gratitude, love and acceptance but she’s the living embodiment of it. Even when I don’t feel like doing yoga, I’ll often take her class just to get a dose of her inspiring vibe.

Finally, the brunette made it to the teller and as she headed to the door, I saw that it was, in fact, Claire. She gave me one of her delightful hugs and when I asked how she was doing, she said, “I need a yoga class after that line.”

This reminded me of another yoga teacher who I had breakfast with after one of her classes. When her order didn’t arrive, she not so delicately stormed to the kitchen and demanded to know what was taking so long. I told my friend James this story and he said, “Everyone has a yoga teacher story, most of them involve road rage.”

I find it interesting that if we see someone go ballistic after an anger management class, our natural reaction is, “Well it’s a good thing he’s in class.” But if we see a yoga teacher or a spiritual practitioner lose it, we’re inclined to cry “hypocrite!” What we fail to look at is how said teacher/practitioner would have acted without their practice. For all we know, without yoga, the irritated Claire might have been the batshitcrazy Claire. And rather than jonesing for a yoga class, she may have been jonesing for a shot of heroin.

So why is it so typical to judge spiritual teachers? For one, it’s a test. We want to know if what they’re teaching works and judging their behavior seems like the best way to do it. We also may do it to give ourselves an out. See; it obviously isn’t working for her, so why bother. And yet another reason is one that I’ve been focusing on a lot these days—we are simply projecting. When we ourselves act hypocritically, we tend to be quick to call others out for what we perceive as hypocrisy. Yet is it really hypocritical for a yoga teacher to be impatient? Is it hypocritical for a meditation teacher to smoke two packs a day? And is it hypocritical for a health writer/advocate like myself to occasionally eat ice cream right from the container at two in the morning?

I prefer to use another word that starts with an H: human.

I just returned from Koh Samui, my former home, where my friends are mostly yoga teacher and spiritual practitioners. They do incredible work at Spa Samui and have been instrumental in the healing and happiness of thousands of people, yet none of them would be accused of resembling the Dalai Lama (big hitter). To discount their imperfections as hypocrisy or as evidence that what they do isn’t effective would be short-sighted.  Had I done so, I would have missed out on some of the most transforming experiences of my life.

The first book I read on health was Andrew Weil’s 8 Weeks to Optimum Health in 1997. Twelve years later, he spoke at my school, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and I was surprised to see that he looked overweight. So does that mean I should stop eating organic produce, having news fasts, and taking steam baths because Weil, 67 at the time of his speech, didn’t look like Charles Atlas?

More important, is it absolutely true (who loves you Byron Katie?) to say these techniques are not working for Weil? How do I know if he practices what he preaches? What do I know about his genetic make-up or his lifestyle? And going back to Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote, how could I possibly know what he would look like if he didn’t employ these techniques?

Most of us teach what we need to learn. That’s why when I find myself quick to judge, I recognize it as a projection of my own self-judgment. At that point, I remind myself that imperfection makes us human and it’s my choice to love myself, and in turn love others, in spite of those imperfections. Even the painfully inefficient U.S. Postal Service, I choose to thank for inspiring this column. I love you too!

 

 

 


How My Funk Transformed Into Whistling Zip-a-dee-doo-dah

January 10, 2011

(or) Put on Your Lipstick and/or Your Jockstrap Every Day

I’m not sure if I’m in withdrawal from my trip to Thailand or if I’m suffering a bout of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but I’ve been in a funk lately. I know I’ve got it rough: it’s 56 and partly cloudy in L.A. while most of the country is in a blizzard and I want you to cry me a river. The thing about funks is that they work to sustain themselves. The more I’m down, the less I want to leave home. And even when I’m out, I’m not radiating the type of energy that’s going to attract the right people and opportunities into my life. Thus the funk takes on new life—if I allow it.

My friend Felicia learned from her mom that no matter what was going on, she should put on her lipstick every day. It was her ways of saying “fake it till you make it.” That is, show the world you are together (the lipstick being one easy polish) and the world will put you back together again. Since Felicia works from home like me, she has the opportunity to hide. But instead, no matter how she’s feeling, every day she puts on her lipstick and faces the world. Invariably, she hears a song at the coffee shop that makes her smile or strikes up a conversation that pumps new life into her. And even if nothing miraculous happens, she’s giving herself the opportunity to change her state.

In basketball, when you’re missing shot after shot, the lack of confidence often leads to more misses and then a reluctance to shoot. That’s why you often hear that a shooter has to keep shooting. Stop shooting and you’re even more stuck. The only way out of the rut is activity.

As it was, last night I made good on my pledge to get involved more with my community and went to a yoga class followed by a potluck. I ended up talking to the teacher and will be her guest at a screenwriter’s group tonight. I also replied to an email about another project and was rewarded with an invite to a party for the Auburn-Oregon game tonight. And here I am, life-long night owl, up at 7 a.m. and writing another column. Things didn’t just shift. No, it was my actions that have rendered my funk officially over.

And here’s where things get really strange. I went to a party on Labor Day in 2009 (nearly a year and a half ago) and met a woman at a party who was divine. She was the type of woman who instantly made me say, “I’d marry her today, no questions asked.” Turned out she was from England and had also done a fast at Spa Samui in Thailand (perhaps this explained her radiance). We chatted for a bit and got along well before she put a dagger in my heart when she mentioned her boyfriend. Anyway, I recall e-mailing her just to stay in touch and not hearing back. Then, five seconds ago (I swear—I could not make this up!), she friended me on LinkedIn. A coincidence? I’ve learned not to try to explain these things, but certainly an affirmation—and a funk-buster if there ever was one. Twenty-four hours ago I was glued to my couch; now I’m whistling zip-a-dee-doo-dah out of my asshole.

When things are going bad, inertia will set in and want to keep you in the house. It’s these times where only your resolve will get you out of the house. You don’t have to leave with the intention of setting the world on fire; you just have to go. As Woody Allen said, “showing up is 80 percent of life.”



Any Stuff You Don’t Need is a Burden

January 7, 2011

(or) The Bad Part about Being Rich is That It’s Expensive

Carolyn Burnham: This is a $4,000 sofa, upholstered in Italian silk. It is not just a couch.

Lester Burnham: [shouts] It’s just a couch. This isn’t life, it’s just stuff. And it’s become more important to you than living.

Annette Benning and Kevin Spacey in American Beauty

I detailed in my last column how I made $1100 by going to Thailand on vacation. The real hero in this story is stuff–my lack of attachment to it as well as the choices I make to maximize pleasure and flexibility.

Now that most airlines charge for luggage, we have a clearer view of the price on baggage. Travel heavy and you pay for it. Value your stuff too much and you pay for it as well. If I were about my TV getting stolen or my couch getting stained, I may not sublet. Yes, I enjoy my couch and TV but I know they’re easily replaceable and thus don’t fret about them.

Before I jump on my anti-stuff soapbox, I can see the value of it. It can make your house feel like a home. It provides comfort and memories. My guitar, bike, blender, pictures, bed sheets, savings account, and computer all make my life better. That’s why with stuff, like most things in life, it’s more about balance than elimination.

My friend Selah moved four times in the three years she lived in New York City. After the fourth move, she went through her closet and made a pile of all the clothes she hadn’t worn once in those three years. And guess what she discovered? A whole new wardrobe of nice clothes she didn’t even know she had buried amongst the stuff she didn’t need. In boxes, movers, and back pain, she paid for all those unwanted clothes. And when she gave them to charity, she gained a tax write-off, an organized closet, a new wardrobe, and the goodwill of helping others.

Let’s pretend you strike it rich and buy a $2 million house in California and a Maserati Quattroporte for $120,000. You’re looking at $25,000 a year in property taxes and $5,000 a year in car insurance. For a house like that, tack on a security system, a gardener, a cleaning service, and homeowner’s insurance. And for a car like that, you’ll want to get it detailed frequently not to mention the premium fuel (12 mpg) and over-priced upkeep. We’re talking 50 grand a year just to maintain your stuff (if you finance the car or pay for any of this with credit card debt, you get crushed even more).

Lest you think I’ve transformed into Dougy Downer and Matty Miser all in one, there’s a beautiful synergy in all this. Freedom is limiting fixed costs and pleasure is doing something different than the norm. Hedonic adaptation means we get used to things (for more on this, check out Dan Gilbert’s fantastic book, Stumbling on Happiness). After a few weeks, that new Maserati loses its luster and simply becomes your car. Same thing with your deluxe new kitchen. When you go easy on stuff, you not only gain freedom and feel less burdened by overhead, but perhaps as important, you get an extra dose of pleasure when you break from the norm and rent the luxury car and stay in the 5-star hotel.

You hear all the time about athletes (like Antoine Walker) and celebrities with earnings north of $100 million who are flat bloke. It’s no surprise when you see how expensive it is to be rich! So even if you make a bundle, think about limiting your overhead. Buying a little less house and having more money for an over-the-top vacation and/or frequent stay-cations will likely increase your pleasure and your financial flexibility. When I won my mini-lottery at the World Series of Poker, I didn’t buy anything. Tangible that is. What I bought was freedom and flexibility, and when I did splurge on a hotel, a restaurant, or a massage, it felt special because I was living in the same apartment and maintaining the same daily lifestyle.

That Maserati may be worth it to you. Just be sure to consider the cost to own as well as the cost to buy—not to mention if it will give you as much pleasure in a year as it gives you in the first week. Stuff has its perks, but the Peace Pilgrim had a good point: “Anything you don’t need is a burden.”