Flaneur Pocket Guide Advert 630

So, I accidentally wrote a new book – “A Pocket Guide For The Flaneur of Life”.

As you may be aware, alongside the NLP training and coaching that I do, I also focus on mindfulness and, with nearly 20 years experience in meditation, I am an advocate and activist for the “Slow Movement”.

I have been working on an update to my Mindfulness Meditation Guide and Business Guide for for NLPers when inspiration struck and I wrote this book instead!

What Is A Flaneur of Life?

Flaneur is a French term from 19th century Paris that describe the act of strolling. A Flaneur was a lady or gentlemen who took to casually strolling the streets of the city, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street. They would walk for the sake of walking, enjoying the journey.

A “Flaneur of Life” recognises that life is journey and would rather take a more casual approach, than rushing around and getting all flustered. They appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

In this little pocket guide you will get little gems of wisdom to help you slow your life down and turn it into a stroll rather than a sprint.

It includes ways that you can become:

  • Calm and collected.
  • Mindful and aware.
  • Able to chat to anyone about anything.
  • Unburdened (with thoughts, actions and possession!).
  • Unhurried and unflustered.
  • Well dressed (not fashionable, but stylish).
  • Able to carry yourself with grace and elegance.
  • With slow deliberate movements.
  • Unflustered and unhurried.

Get it now in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon:

UK here

US here

Can You Help Me?

Do you have a blog, website or podcast or just like writing reviews? I would be more than happy to email you a PDF review copy, do an interview or guest post/article, please contact me here to discuss it more.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

the truth about sea monsters

If three sailors returned from a trip claiming to have seen a sea monster, we would find it hard to believe without any additional evidence (and even that would be scrutinised). But if the same three men claimed to have seen someone kill a man, it would be enough to send someone to prison for a very long time (or even sentence them to death).

What makes one seem more truthful (and therefore require less evidence to convince us) than the other? Do we have different levels of “truth”? Where some “truths” need more evidence than others?

Richard Wiseman, the well known Parapsychologist and Skeptic seems to think so, here is what he has said about ESP (specifically remote viewing):

“I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but it begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do.”

This is frankly absurd. What he is saying is that to prove ESP is true we need more evidence than, say, proving we have a cure for cancer? Wiseman defends that statement by saying:

“…they [evidence for ESP] do meet the usual standards for a normal claim, but are not convincing enough for an extraordinary claim.”

So, some truths are “ordinary” and some truths “extraordinary”? What’s the difference? How do we decide (and, more importantly, who gets to decide)? What he is saying is if the claim seems extraordinary to him (it is outside of his experience of reality) then he demands more evidence than if it seems ordinary (within his experience of reality).

Surely there is one truth?

The odd thing is there isn’t. Or if there is, we could probably never find it. Just think about it for a second. 500 years ago it was perfectly acceptable to believe in Angels, in fact you may even have been burnt at the stake if you said you didn’t. Nowadays, we tend to scoff at people who make claims that they have seen an Angel. We look back and laugh at the naivety of the people in those times. But, if history teaches us anything, it is that everything we know is probably wrong and people in 500 years time will probably look back and laugh at how naive they think we were. Or as Einstein put it “Truth is a product of time”.

How do our ideas about what is true change over time? I have I have already written in detail here about how George Polya attempted to discover how we create our understanding of the truth (our beliefs), but it seems our perception is inherently bias towards re-enforcing what we think we already know.

This phenomena is known as “confirmation bias” and is best summed up by Orff’s Law that “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves”. Or, our perception system will generalise, distort and delete all sensory evidence we receive to fit in with what we “know” already.

Why do we do this? Why are we biased to confirm what we already think we know? It seems that our perception is based on “best guess” pattern matching. If you see a chair, you know it is a chair because your brain runs a check against it’s stored patterns that have been labelled “chair”, but because chairs come in all different shapes and sizes we have to be flexible with our patterns, hence the “best guess” (which leads us directly to seeing shapes in clouds, etc).

So, if our perception is constantly running a check against what we already know, what happens if we have no internal representation yet? The experience is completely new? Well this will tend to get straight into our internal representation of the world (our “map”) without being “transformed” to fit our map. And then we will use that data to compare all similar future experiences. So, when people say “first impressions count” it is true.

Here are a couple of simple thought experiments:

1. Next time you find yourself making a claim to knowledge, ask yourself how you know that. You will often find that the evidence you have is relatively scant, and much of it will be, in fact, information you have been told by someone you trust (which takes us to a totally different topic of how we decide who to trust….), rather than your own personal experience.

2. Next time you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with something, ask yourself what references, experiences, and “data” you are using to create that comparison. Again, you may find much of what you are using is spurious to say the least.

[PS, it may seem as if I am “picking on” Dr Wiseman. I would like to make it clear that I am not, he is an intelligent and experienced person and I respect his views immensely (even if I may disagree with some at times), I am just using his quote as an example. Besides, I am sure, being a successful and intelligent man, he doesn’t really care what I have to say!]

Richard Feynman Guess

I was introduced to Richard Feynman by my friend and frequent collaborator Mark. Richard Feynman was a physicist and one of the finest minds that ever existed, he taught me so much about critical thinking. He is probably only secondary to Gregory Bateson in that respect.

Here’s what he had to say about developing a new law:

“Now I’m going to discuss how we would look for a new law. In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it (audience laughter), no, don’t laugh, that’s the truth. Then we compute the consequences of the guess, to see what, if this is right, if this law we guess is right, to see what it would imply and then we compare the computation results to nature or we say compare to experiment or experience, compare it directly with observations to see if it works.

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s WRONG. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are who made the guess, or what his name is… If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

If you want to read more about Richard Feynman I highly recommend the following 2 books:

Much like the first step in our perception of reality (and therefore what reality it is to us) is based on a best guess.
We most commonly experience this “best guessing” when we see faces or shapes in clouds. It is so common, it even has a name; Pareidolia. We also see patterns in random data (Apophenia. To learn more about this, I highly recommend Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Taleb), mis-recalling events (Confabulation)  and hearing different words in song lyrics (a Mondegreen).

But it also occurs when we are decided (often unconsciously) how to act and behaviour. We make a best guess based on prior experiences, observing and mimicking other people, imagination and so on. Sometimes this guess works, sometimes it doesn’t, but what we rarely do is actually test it. We just repeat it over and over again. It is important to start testing these behavioural “guesses” consciously, to compare to experimental or experiential results and check we are doing the right thing. If we are not, we need to develop behaviour flexibility to do something else (and then test that!). Our behaviour needs to be more like how Richard Feynman describes the a development of a new law, a constant process of guessing, testing and adjusting.

I wrote some time ago about how Aristotelian logic castes a long shadow of our language and therefore the way we define “reality”. Modern thinking and scientific discovery (in particular Quantum Physics) has demonstrated the limitations of Aristotle’s model of reality, yet it is so ingrained in our thinking that we still cling to this outmoded way of describing the world.

This isn’t just a problem with philosophy or science, but the way we describe our reality has a very real effect on our mental health and ability to communicate and interact with the world.

If you are convinced that something “is” something and you keep finding evidence to the contrary, or the world (and people) refuse to act in the way prescribed by your world view, you are going to get frustrated, confused, stressed out and it will have an adverse effect on your mental well being.

Alfred Korzybski first recognised the limitation of Aristotelian logic and developed General Semantics to attempt to combat the rigid limitations of the model. This, like any new and controversial idea was ridiculed and largely ignored, but slowly modern linguists, scientists and psychologists are starting to recognise that Korzybski’s mode of communicating and thinking seems more useful than the fixed model put forward by Aristotle.

Enter e-Prime

e-Prime was developed by David Borland, a longtime student of Alfred Korzybski as an attempt to remove Aristotle’s influence over our thinking and communication. It attempts to remove all forms of the verb “to be”, including, but not limited to; be, being, is, isn’t, are, aren’t, was, wasn’t, were and weren’t.

So, for example instead of a statement such as “The film Argo is a good film”, you would say something like “The film Argo seems a good film to me”, or “I enjoyed the film Argo”.

I am using e-Prime more and more to communicate in everyday conversation, I also (you may have noticed) do my best to write these blog entries in e-Prime (although, sometimes, for the sake of flow, I will use an “is”, as you may have noticed above!).

In particular, I find e-Prime a very useful way to communicate during trainings. I am not saying how things “are”, but how things seem to be from inside the model of NLP (and my interpretation of that model). Unfortunately just because I communicate in e-Prime doesn’t mean people hear in e-Prime! People are so used to thinking and communicating with the “to be” verb, that they will take my statements of how of things seem to me and convert them to an “is” statement in their mind. So it is not an infallible way of removing confusion and disagreement.

Practice restating “to be” statements into more sensory specific statements and so how that effects the way you think about the subject.

Aristotle casts a long shadow over Western thought.

Much of our thought processes, logic and language structure are directly influenced by Aristotle’s “Law’s of Thought”. These involved three basic premises:

1. A is A

This is known as the “Premise of Identity”. For example an apple is an apple, it is not a pear or a banana.

2. anything is either A or not A

This is the “Premise of the Excluded Middle”. An apple is either an apple or not an apple.

3. something cannot be both A and not A

The “Premise of None Contradiction”. An apple cannot be an apple and not an apple.

This seems to make sense, doesn’t it? It may work OK when we are talking about  simple objects, such as apples, but once we get to something more complex, like value judgements, ideas and concepts it can start to limit our thinking and flexibility.

Using Aristotle’s “Laws of Thought”, things are either good or bad, right or wrong, your fault or not your fault. There is no “maybe” or more complex possibilities.

To demonstrate the limitations of Aristotle’s Laws of Thought, do these two thought experiments:

1. five alternative explanations

Next time you hear a “fact” quickly think of five counter theories about how it could work (it doesn’t matter if they seem silly, it is getting into the habit of challenging your habitual thinking!).

2. empty your pockets

Take everything you have in your pockets right now, five or so things would be useful and split them into the following categories:

  • Shiny and not shiny
  • Blue and not blue
  • Hard and soft

Notice how you make the decision to place an item in one group or the other. Notice how the process of deciding what object fits into each group is largely arbitrary and the decision is based on some prejudice or or process that has very little evidence to support it. How much of something needs to be shiny for it to go in the shiny pile? 51% of it? How do you know it is more shiny than not shiny?

As far as we know, we are the only creatures that use words to understand and explain the world around us.

That means how we use and structure our language and communication (to ourselves and other people) effects the way we create our own reality.

Because we think in words, we often don’t explore the words we use and how that effects us. We become so absorbed in the content we pay little attention to the structure of our thoughts.

One of the most powerful ways to change the way we feel, act and interact with the world  is to improve our knowledge and grasp of linguistics.

Happiness (at least partly) is dependant on grammar!

We think in words.

If don’t use those words correctly we will struggle to think “usefully”.

We do not think “usefully” (or “rightly” as the Buddhists put it) we will find it difficult to make useful observations and decisions.

We cannot make useful decisions we shall, basically, make a mess of things.

If we make a mess of things we will be unhappy.

In this episode, I share an exercise I learned from Aleister Crowley via Robert Anton Wilson. It will help you recognise all the random chance, coincidences and synchronicities that have got you where you are today. This will hopefully help undo unuseful or limiting beliefs and behaviours.

I have been into comic books long before they became fashionable, back when you still called them comics, not graphic novels and most people had never heard of Alan Moore, or Neil Gaiman and accused you of being childish if they saw what you were reading.

So it is probably no surprise that the one person who has been the biggest influence on the way I think is a comic book author.

No, not Alan Moore, I think he is terribly over rated (other than “V for Vendetta“, which was brilliant)

It is Grant Morrison, especially his magnum opus “The Invisibles“, that book changed my life. To me The Invisibles is as powerful, and culturally important as James Joyce’s Ulysses.

The Invisibles blew me away. When I started reading it I had no idea what it was about, but it seemed to include everything that I was interested in and was mirroring my own journey at the time.

Whenever I start thinking life is dull and I should be “normal” I re-read the Invisibles, just to remind me to lighten up and that there is much more to what is going on than we can ever understand or imagine.

His teachings are not as obvious or easy to get as Robert Anton Wilson or Richard Bandler as he doesn’t write books on the subject (apart from his “Pop Magick!” essay in “Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult), he writes comic books that include his idea’s, beliefs and techniques. You have to do a lot of reading between the lines, you have to do a lot of work and research yourself, he doesn’t give it away easily!

What he truly excels at is to remind us that our understanding of the world is just our “map”, not “the territory”. He makes us very aware that our reality, to a rather large extent, is what we believe it is. He understands that everything we think we know about reality is just a metaphor (as he explains in the introduction to “The Filth“).

talking with gods


Now there is a brand new documentary from Patrick Meaney at Respect Films: “Geant Morrison: Talking With Gods“. I have watched it three times in the last three days and each time I get something new from it. It is fascinating look at the man behind the myth and why he is so revered in the geekosphere. If you are Grant Morrison fan, it is a must watch. If you are new to him, this may be the best place to start.

Matt

hack – verb. (Computers) to devise or modify (a computer program), usually skilfully.”

neuro-linguistic hacker – noun. (Psychology) a person capable of reprogramming [their own and] other peoples minds with verbal streams of data [specific patterns of language and behaviour]…” (Neil Stephenson – Snow Crash).

Inspired by Neil Stephenson’s book Snow Crash, I have recently started describing myself as a Neuro-Linguistic Hacker rather than a Neuro-Linguistic Programmer.

what’s the difference between a neuro-linguistic programming and neuro-linguistic hacking?

Richard Bandler (the co-creator of NLP) explains that NLP was specifically developed to study (model) the strategies (programmes) of others to help people learn new ways of doing things (re-programme ourselves). So for example, when Bandler was looking at ways to “cure” phobias, he found people who had cured their own phobias, learnt how they did it and then taught that to people with phobias. The result become formalised as the “Fast Phobia Cure”.

Neuro Linguistic Hackers uses the principles of NLP to “hack” their own brains, but rather than using someone else programmes, they create our own.

Neuro Linguistic Hackers are also adept at implanting a “thought virus” into the minds of other people.

Whereas NLP is remedial in nature (problem solving), NLH is generative (creating new, more effective ways of thinking, acting and communicating).

But NLH is more than that. Ideologically, NLH takes NLP back to its roots of exploration, fun and creativity, escaping from the overly formulaic and restrictive nature of the what NLP has become. It is a reaction to the attempts to overly mollycoddle and tie NLP into a formal framework, strangling it of it’s innovation and resourcefulness.

To learn more about Neuro Linguistic Hacking, how it can help you and how you can become a Neuro Linguistic Hacker please go to www.neurolinguistichacking.co.uk

Matt

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2 – William Shakespeare.

Being a bit of James Bond fan (show me a man who isn’t!), I was having a quick look on the internet the other day for news on the new Bond movie and came across this article.

Although it is a bit tongue in cheek, it got me thinking…

You see, it is not what we do that makes us happy, it is the way we perceive what we do. The difference between someone who is depressed and someone who is happy is rarely their lifestyle, it is the way think about their life.

In a very real sense we create our reality from the inside out and recreate that reality from moment to moment, we can choose to make it dull and boring or we can make it interesting.

Not by what we do, but by how we describe what we do to ourselves and other people. It is not about lying or making stuff up, or creating some fantasy life (that is rather dangerous and should really be avoiding, at best you will become cocky and over confidence, at worse you will become delusional!), it is about being creative with the way you describe what you are up to. To quote the article “Paying your credit card bills? No, you are engaged in some financial matters”, or however you want to describe it.

Start with defining yourself. I knew someone once who described himself as an “unpublished sci fi author”, he worked in a call centre and wrote science fiction in his spare time. Would he ever get published? Who knows, but it made him happy.

Then move on to creatively describing your day-to-day activity. Imagine you are a hero in your favourite authors novel, how would they describe what they are doing?

We all live a story. We, in a sense, fictionalise our lives. We understand the world through metaphor, so get creative with your descriptive process and see how it changes the way you feel!

Matt