Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Macolm Gladwell (2019)

, 24 Dec 2019

Gladwell has the talent to speak of relevant issues that affect our modern society and still make the issue engaging and fascinating.

In Talking to Strangers Gladwell uses different study cases coming from the world of politics, espionage, business, court trials, rape, and murder, among others, to extract some common denominators that explain how and why we all relate to strangers the way we do, why we are so bad at talking at strangers, at detecting blatant lies, and seeing  what we really have in front of our us for what it is.

This is an enjoyable, fascinating and complex book waved like an Irish Jersey, using different wool threads and knitting techniques to produce an unique product. Said differently, this isn't a straightforward book. Sometimes, Gladwell seems to be talking about things that have nothing to do with the subject of the book; however, if you listen attentively, you'll realise that everything being said serves to make a point.  If you aren't able to follow a path through a forest to get to destination, this book it isn't for you; this is how the book feels, so the light isn't always there, the path might be obscure and meandering, but keep walking and you'll get there.

After finishing the book I found myself noticing some of the things he comments on the book while watching the news, or talking to my brother about his coworkers, for example. What Gladwell says is really applicable to our daily life and it allows us to see ourselves with a bit of more compassion. 

I love learning new things, and this book was packed with information I knew nothing about:
  • Default truth.
  • Transparency myth.
  • Facial Action Coding System (FADS).
  • Illusion of asymmetric insight. 
  • Kafka Scenario.
  • Myopia theory of alcohol.
  • Displacement theory.
  • And much more. 

SUMMARY OF THE BOOK

We are terrible at talking and making sense of strangers and detecting lies; even judges in court cannot escape this flaw. We all make the same assumptions about strangers, use stereotypes that are rarely true, and believe that the information we gather from a personal interaction is uniquely valuable and reliable, when, in fact, it is far from it.  This is so because our strategies in dealing with strangers are flawed by three evolutionary psychological and cultural constrictions:
1/ Truth Default Theory. We depart from the assumption that everyone we deal with is truthful. We believe something about someone not because we don't have doubts about them, but because we don't have enough doubts. DTT has evolutionary advantages as prevents us from living in paranoia and allows us to have meaningful encounters and relationships. DTT becomes a problem when we are forced to choose between two alternatives, one of them likely and the other impossible to imagine; DTT buys us in favour of the most likely interpretation.
2/ Transparency Myth. We believe that we can decipher a person's nature by looking at their facial expression and paying attention to their demeanor, as we are convinced that those are a window to their soul. In other words, we believe that their behaviour and intentions are an exact match. We can largely blame literature and movies for perpetuating this belief. It's an halo effect. Blind auditions and computer decisions are usually more accurate in deciphering strangers than people. Because we tend to judge people' honesty based on their demeanor, nervous and odd people who offer convoluted explanations aren't seen as believable, and we don't do well with mismatches and social misfits.
3/ Coupling. We aren't able to understand the importance of the context in which a stranger operates, since behaviors are linked to specific circumstances and conditions. For example, some behaviours are consciously coupled to a place or circumstance, like suicide or crime.


THE NOT SO GOOD
The introduction, where  Gladwell discuses the famous meeting between Hernan Cortes and Montezuma and their misunderstanding of each other's intentions. The episode per se is really enjoyable, but the problem was a linguistic problem, a problem of translation, not a problem of not knowing how to talk to strangers. It relates to language and communication, how language and translation work. How strangers work, not so much.

The chapter on alcohol consumption and rape. Granted, most of what Gladwell says about how alcohol affects one's brain, personality and behaviour is true. However, it adds little value to the core thread of the book, and any other example would have worked better. In addition, I find confronting some of the thing he says. I side more with the statement of the raped girl, who didn't blame the alcohol for her rape,  but culture or the way some men are educated. Why do some drunk guys rape drunk girls and not others? is a simple question that can serve to debunk his fixation on alcohol. I am not saying that being drunk doesn't contribute to the problem,  but women are raped every day in countries where alcohol is forbidden and not consumed, doesn't that say something about the intrinsic nature of the problem?

Although I found all the case studies fascinating, the conclusion we get after going through all of them is really simple -- We don't know much about strangers because we are psychologically and culturally wired to be like that, so the only thing we can do is not to apply stereotypes, act with caution and humility towards strangers. What is that supposed to mean? Are there some social, sociological or psychological strategies that we can implement to improve our approach to strangers? Some ways of communication that favor or are detrimental to dealing with strangers beyond what it is said in the book? Are there cultures where people react towards strangers in ways that are wiser and more insightful? I was left wanting a bit of more digging.
 
THE AUDIBLE EDITION
This audio book is a delight to listen to. This is one of those cases when the audio book is better than the written book, and that it's an achievement in itself. 

Gladwell, who also narrates the book, is a terrific storyteller. He knows how to use his voice to read in a way that seems natural, effortless and engaging. He's passionate about what he's talking about, so you can feel the excitement in his voice. He's not an actor or a presenter, so we shouldn't forget that.

Besides, the audio book includes Gladwell's snippets of his interviews with some of the subjects or researchers mentioned in the book. The audio book also reproduces some media and archival interviews, and includes reenactments of some private court proceedings using court transcripts. 
The book chapters are connected by a tribal song. which Gladwell heard and selected himself for the book. It seems irrelevant to the book, but it's quite the contrary.

Listening to this book was like listening to a documentary. It had that sort of freshness and cinematic quality. Delightful.

The Premonition Code: The Science of Precognition by Theresa Cheung & Julia Mossbridge (2018).

, 3 Dec 2019

The Premonition Code is a book that intends to explain precognition and promote controlled precognitive training called controlled precognition based on positive grounds and well-rounded ethics; the trainees are called Positive Precogs.

The book starts with an introduction to how the book came to be, the stories that inspired it, and the analysis of some scientific information that relates to precognition: the nature of time, causality law, retrocausality, causal loops, and multiple futures. The second part is actually where the training to develop or further your precognitive abilities and skills is discussed and explained in detail. Part three is mostly devoted to the FAQ and to speculation about what the future holds for precognitive people and precognition.

 

THE CORE OF THE BOOK

  • There is more to this life than meets the eye, precognition exists. The definition of precognition that the authors use is consistent with the many-futures theory.
  • There may be a spiritual dimension to precognition.
  • Most of the precognitive stories that people have, despite being real, they are not scientifically verifiable, or easily verifiable either. How do we know that someone has had a genuinely precognitive dream experience is nothing can know with 100% certainty at present.
  • There is a lot of disagreement about how the flow of time works and how or whether one thing causes another. 
  • The criteria necessary to validate that a precognition is genuine: 1/ Two or more correspondences between the precognition and the event. 2/ Less than two weeks delay between the precognition and the event). 3/ One could not have the way to predict the event using the conscious mind. 4/ You recorded the experience before the event happened.
  • The training to become what they call positive precogs, i.e. rained precognitive people who follow a code of contact and use their abilities for good purposes.  This code is based on:
    •  Following the R.E.A.C.H. principles: Respect for the unknown — Ethics in our use of precognition — Accuracy of our precognitive skills — Compassion for ourselves and others —Honesty in all our dealings. 
    • Adhering to the Positive Precog Time Worldview: 1/ Events in the future can influence events in the past and vice versa. 2/The future isn't fixed. 3/ No one has complete control of the future.
    • Daily practicing on controlled precognition, and record of dreams, premonition experiences, and strong impulses an insights related to future events. 
    • Following the six steps for controlled precognition: Step 1: Prepare physically, mentally and practically. Step 2: Reverse the polarity: write down an intention that supports you, and open yourself to receive. Step 3: Connect to the target: give your session a random 4 digit number, draw a squiggle, and set the intention of connecting with the target. Step 4: Learn and discern. Step 5: Disconnect from the target. Step 6: Experience the target.
    •  Following a professional code of ethics with clients.

CURIO

  • The frequency of precognition increases as the event being predicted nears. It’s really rare to have a precognitive dream that predicts an event as far as a year after the dream itself, although it happens.
  • Some personality traits are more conducive to performing well at precognition experiments in the lab. These are: Openness to experience, extroversion, belief in precognition, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness.  They are enhanced by meditation and affected by hormonal changes.   
  • Alpha and theta entrainment might help with controlled precognition.
  •  Pursuing controlled precognition in an environment that is not supportive can be destabilizing, and affect patients mentally, especially if they already have underlying psychological problems, or have a history of mental illness in their family.

I LIKED

> The authors are direct and honest about the subject, and show an unwavering enthusiasm about the benefits that training in controlled precognition can bring to one's life and the future of society. 
> The different approaches that both authors bring to precognition: science and spirit, academic and lay.
> The book is written in a very direct personal way, plain English, and is easy to understand by any lay person.
> I especially loved this statement by Dean Radin in the foreword:
"Some scientists today assert (with the same misplaced confidence displayed by Lord Kelvin) that now we understand just about everything there is to know about the physical world. They are sure they know what is and is not possible. To them, precognition is flatly impossible because today’s theories don’t allow for such nonsense. Some philosophers also believe that precognition is impossible because they think the idea of knowing the future is logically incoherent. What these scientists and scholars forget is that our theories about reality are always provisional. Our college textbooks are revised into new editions every couple of years because our understanding of reality is continually advancing." (p. 6).
> The precognitive and premonitory personal stories included in the book. I don't think there are too many!
> The controlled precognition system. It is really well explained and structured. Although they suggest the use of paper, I think it can be easily done on a tablet where you have stylus to draw.
> The presence of summary  boxes throughout the book. Also, the way the authors stop to summarize what has been said and what lies ahead. It's very didactic and helpful for the reader.
> Some of the scientific stuff related to precognition is not easy to process by lay readers. Mossbridge has really made an effort to explain those things as simple as possible, and present us with the complexity of issues that relate to precognition explained in a simple way.
> Their definition of precognition (a “memory” of the future) and the explanation on what's the difference between precognition and premonition.
> The reflections on the nature of time in chapter 2 are among my favorite thing in the book. I especially liked seeing how neither physicist, philosophers nor psychologists agree on the flow of time existence, and how little we know about this subject. I wonder if this is like the "flat earth" fallacy of our times.
> The way the authors question the law of causality using real precognitive dreams.
> The information about retrocausality.
> The code of ethics and REACH protocol that they want 'positive precogs' to follow.
> The use of proper academic notes, something especially important when some heavy scientific stuff is mentioned.
> The FAQ in part 3.
>  The controlled precognition troubleshooting guide. 
> Appendix A, which contains an example of controlled precognition, step by step. 
> Appendix B, contains a list of bibliography, websites and phone applications related to precognition. All up to date, hyperlinked and ready to use. Something that I never take for granted and that makes using any book a pleasure.
> Mentions to figures in the book are hyperlinked. Thank you. 

I DIDN'T LIKE.

> Use of the expression Higher Self to mean subconscious/the unconscious. It is confusing because HS  is commonly used in New Age books and has a standard and a status that might confuse readers.
> They call the training on precognition they promote "controlled precognition", but it is just a form of remote viewing. If they had made that clearer in the book description, I might have not purchased it. Whey? Because there are some very good books by the remote viewing masters themselves, and some of them have websites where to practice, as well.
> They speak of precognition as a gift. I think it is just an ability that one can develop, like playing an instrument, or playing sports. Of course, if you are at the top of your game in any activity you might really have a gift. Otherwise, I don't think so.
> I found difficult wrapping my head about causal loops. It might be just me, but it relates to precognition but it is not the same, but it might be  related... confusing.
> Some parts of the book are highly speculative and generic. This is especially the case when they describe how life will change if you practice controlled precognition, and the last words devoted to imagine how the future might be if controlled precognition was a mainstream activity.
>  Constant promotion of their website. Granted, they don't sell anything or charge you for joining their training program. However, it is a bit tiring, and at a certain point the reader feels that the book is just an accessory to the website.
> I don't like precognition being used or recommended to be used in anything related to the stock market. The stock market is highly unethical, so why would anyone with a good code of ethics have anything to do with a system that is populated by companies and corporations that contribute to global warming, war, poverty and destroy nations and  ruin complete families who have nothing to do with it?
> Despite the fact that they state that most spontaneous precognition arrives via dreams, there is little space devoted to discuss how premonitory dreams can come to be; leaving aside the specific dreams that they mention in the book, the information that they present on dreams is really basic.
>  One of the criteria mentioned for a genuine precognition to be valid is that there should be less than two weeks separation between the precognition and the event it referred to. My personal experience says that this is not always the case. Besides, I've read tons of books on dreams, and there are cases of premonition that take years to occur.

WHERE WAS THE EDITOR?

 I think the book needs of another reading by the editor. I found the following examples of bad edition, some of which might be just the result of the conversion of the book to electronic format. Others, no.
  • Bad bullet list —  the sentence "Wait, you might now ask – what exactly is a causal loop?" should go underneath the numbered list that summarizes what the authors had said before.  (p. 42).
  • Badly done bullet list — There is a list of the traits that 'positive precogs' tend to have, it is an example on how to make a list. The list start with three items bulleted, then comments on others, which are also part of the list but not bulleted. Homogenize please! (p. 83)
  • Not formal or really good English — "updates on what she’s found". (p. 87).
  • Badly written — "First, it’s because remote viewing an event not known until the future is not really what it sounds like – as if you see something far away in space" (p. 90).
  • Missing hyphen or space — "complex decisionmaking" (p. 93) or "anxietyproducing" (p. 162).
  • Repeated words — "can be experienced by by practicing" in (p. 123).
  • Footnotes seemed to have converted badly, and some numerical ones alternate with lettered ones.
  • Besides, some of the lettered notes are not hyperlinked (K and M especially) while others are. 

IN SHORT

Overall this is a good book, packed with information, which touches on subjects that go from the mundane to the highly scientific, from the personal to the transpersonal.

I was expecting something different from what I got, as their controlled precognition training is pretty much remote viewing revamped. However, I also think that they have a fresh new approach to it, and that their system is uncomplicated to put it into practice, although it needs of training and constant practice. 

For the rest, the book reads well, is very enjoyable, and it has a good mix of personal stories and complex scientific matters digested for the masses. However, I would have liked it more if it was written a bit less colloquially, it had been better edited, and had less references to their website. These ladies depart from ethical principles for the use and training on precognition, something that must be praised.

A very enjoyable reading and I learned a lot about things I knew nothing about.

The Premonition Code is such a great title!



This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See by Seth Godin (2018)

, 31 Mar 2019

This is the first book I read by Godin, and I've enjoyed it so much that I will certainly read more of his works in the future. In the past I read marketing books for pleasure, not to be 'manipulated' by advertisers, i.e. as a shield kind of thing.Cialdini's first book ('Influence') has always been a book of reference for me in that regard. However, I've always felt that it fell short for the needs of the modern contemporary Internet-dominated society and market.

This is Marketing fills the gap, adding elements that are relevant to the social, cultural and marketing reality of the 21st century; elements that I can use to think about selling my services without having to think about learning psychological tactics that are already well-known, have been used and overused for decades, and no longer work.

 

TARGET READER

Godin's book is a a book that gives you food-for-thought more than a book that provides you with a proper system to implement things. Godin himself states that this is not a step-by-step set of tactics but a compass and, to me, that's true. To me that's inspirational.

I see the book more targeted to lay people and small biz entrepreneurs than a book devoted to professional marketers, who might react with a 'what?!" to some of the points that Godin makes. 

 

GODIN'S CORE MARKETING PRINCIPLES

+ Marketing seeks more market share, more customers, and more work. 
+ Marketing is driven by better service, better community, and better outcomes.  
+ Marketing creates culture:  Status, affiliation, and people like us.  
+ Marketing is change: Change the culture, change your world. Marketers make change happen.  
+ Each of us is a marketer and has the ability to make more change than we can imagine. 
+ Our opportunity and our obligation is to do marketing that we’re proud of.

 

GREAT THINGS 

+ The thing I like the most about this book is Godin's clear understanding of contemporary group dynamics, conformity trends, cultural disruption, and cultural influence. Above all, what stands out to me is the author's emphasis on serving the client or customer, treating them with respect, and not selling yourself too short in the process.

+ Probably because I experience the over-dominance of Facebook and Google as something dangerous and even burdensome, I loved Godin's insistence on narrative instead of advertising, and on care as a way to obtain profit.

+ Godin debunks the fallacy of the efficiency of FB and Google paid adds in marketing small businesses. 

+ The book reads with gusto, and has a very simple language.

+ Some of the examples that Godin uses to exemplify his points are really good, too.

+ The explanation of why the same book gets both 1-star and 5-star reviews is really good.

+ The advice on how to treat loyal customers who ring a call center to complain.

+ The definition of goal, and how it differs from a strategy and a tactic. 

+ The difference between direct marketing and brand marketing, and why the latter is better for your biz. 

+ The selected readings list at the end of the book is really good. 

+ Godin's remarks on permission. 

MY FAVORITE NUGGETS

>  "Online advertising is also the most ignored advertising ever created. It’s not unusual to run an ad in front of a hundred thousand people and get not a single click. It’s not unusual for an entire ad campaign to start, run, and finish without making any impact on the culture. (p. 169). 
>  "If you’re buying direct marketing ads, measure everything. Compute how much it costs you to earn attention, to get a click, to turn that attention into an order. Direct marketing is action marketing, and if you’re not able to measure it, it doesn’t count." (p. 172).  
>  "The lifetime value of a new customer rarely exceeds the cost of running the ads necessary to get a new customer. People are so distrustful, and the web is so cluttered, that the ads rarely have enough power to pay for themselves."  (p. 210).
> "Lowering your price doesn’t make you more trusted. It does the opposite." (p. 185).

 WHERE TO START READING

~ The Simple Marketing Sheet at the end of the book, especially if you get to book to help you market something you want to sell.  

~ Chapter 23, as it summarizes the main points discussed in the book .

 

DOWNSIDES

 __ The core message is repeated over and over again, sometimes unnecessarily.

__ I would have loved that Godin provided a few more examples on certain points he makes to make his advice more precise and less generic. 

__ Some statements are a bit vague. An example: "And then, with this knowledge, overdo your brand marketing. Every slice of every interaction ought to reflect the whole. Every time we see any of you, we ought to be able to make a smart guess about all of you." (p. 175). 

__ The book reads like an upgraded collection of blog entries, which makes a great read, but lacks the patina of seriousness that makes things trustworthy for the newcomer. When you get a footnote system where you back what you say, the trust is immediately there; when you don't do that, I have the doubt whether some of the statements are hyperbolic or just a way of speaking. No doubt, Godin is  a powerful voice in the marketing world, but I have difficulties taking bombastic statements at face value, no matter how much I like the speaker.  

__ Godin defines marketing in p. 2 as "the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem". I consider that BS, sorry. I think marketing is the act of selling something to people who might need or not need it, might want it or not, especially the act of selling to people who would initially say no to something.

__ Godin repeats over and over that marketers create change. I think that's a bit of BS, too. The way I see it is, marketers sell change, and that's great in itself. People who really make change in the world, do so mostly outside the marketing world, sorry. The world of ideas, the word of science, the world of art, the world of technology. I see change coming from scientists, philosophers, artists, and innovators, not so much from marketers. Navel-looking hyperbolas work when giving a conference, in a book, not so much. 

MIND

Godin himself states that the book is based on a hundred-day seminar that involved both lessons and peer-to-peer coaching around shared work. (p.2), and that some bits of his blog are also incorporated (p. 259). 

BAD ENGLISH 

> “Treat the others the way you’d want to be treated.” (p. 234). 
> “Build a team with the capacity and the patience to do the work that needs doing.” (p. 235).


Creating the Impossible. A 90-Day Programme to get your dreams out of your head and into the world by Michael Neill (2015)

, 23 Feb 2019

Creating the Impossible is an easy-to-read soulful book, the main aim of which is to unleash your mojo to start up, follow through and finish any project, creative, business or personal. You can read this book just to get you motivated with your current project, to wisely choose one among your many projects, or even to think of a project that you haven't thought yet and create it from scratch.

The project or program is thirteen weeks long. The first week is devoted to the basic principles of creation, and the second week to help you choose the project you will be working on the remaining eleven weeks. Each week has an impossible challenge or exercise based on the principles of creation. Each chapter corresponds to a day, and each day/chapter starts with a quote and a brief essay that works as a catalyst to give you insight and get you out of your square thinking, to get inspired and take action; some days also have suggestions for different exercises or experiments. There is a day off a week just to breath, rest, refuel and look back at what you've done in the last seven days. The book can be used step by step or randomly, as a kind of biz oracle. 

THE CORE KEYS
> The ultimate formula for successful creation according to Michael Neill is:
+ Show up, i.e. be present with anything you do.
+ Begin moving in the direction you want to create what you want.
+ Things will show up as soon as you move, but things won't never show up if you don't move.
+ Respond to what it shows up: good things, bad things, new people, new side projects, new circumstances. The steps of the path will appear at the same time as you move.
+ Take a leap of faith in whatever you do.
+ Do this on a regular basis. If you do this, you will get there.
+ Our experience of life is created from inside the mind.
> The main rule for choosing a great project is asking yourself: Does the thought of it make me gasp, grin, or giggle?
> The main difficulty to carry out a project is not starting it, it is following it through to fruition as the space between the beginning and the end is a muddy land that you have to work through. And how do you do that? Just work on it, every day, consistently.
> Get out of your own way.
> Cultivate your 'inner knowing', commonly called 'intuition'.
> Have fun in whatever you do, so your project doesn't become a burden and you are fully engaged.
> Operate with an acceptance of failure. 

THE GOOD
> The book is really good at shifting your way of thinking to get you unstuck and away from your usual patterns of thought and behaviour that sabotage any project you might undertake. Neill makes you think about business, creativity and new projects from a different angle, i.e. think out of the box. Each chapter ends with a small feedback form in which you report to yourself what you did, how you did it, and in which way you showed up for your project; even if you don't fill it in, it allows you to be honest with yourself about whether you are doing much, enough or not enough to carry out your project.
> If you want a hand-on book, practical and guiding, this is exactly what you need. 
> The examples and stories that Neill uses to illustrate each entry's main point are interesting, right to the point and illustrative.
> Neill makes a brilliant distinction between effort and reward to get productivity: The ratio between your effort and the reward you get for that effort.If we get high levels of reward for each effort, we are highly productive; if we don’t, no matter how much time and energy we’re putting into the job, we aren’t. Yet typical productivity systems are based on the idea that there is always a 1:1 ratio between effort and reward, so essentially one unit of effort will bring one unit of reward. (p 31-2).
> Neill also makes a brilliant distinction between success and personal worth, or vice versa. Something that most people should remind themselves of on a daily basis:  It’s easier to just win a race than it is to win a race in order to prove you are the fastest animal in the world. We often believe that our value and worth in the world are dependent on our performance. In fact, our value and worth in the world are a given, and have nothing to do with what we do or don’t do with our life. No amount of success or failure will make us any more or less worthy of love and respect. (p. 138).
> Each chapter ends with a summary of the main points discussed in it, which makes it really handy for re-reading. 
> I started reading the book when I had already started my own project and, honestly, some of the things that Neill says resonated with me because I've  experienced them to be the case.
> Neil has an infectious way of writing and of believing that you can do anything, so that's always a great start! He's your biggest fan and cheerleader.
> Nelil's method, if meticulously followed, works. There are a few success stories in the book and among the reviewers that prove it. I think that there aren't more success stories because the two main difficulties entrepreneurs have to hurdle over are their own procrastination (something that only you can prevent from happening and this book doesn't dwell upon) and  being stuck in your mind, mindset, or blocking your creative ideas, and not knowing what to do, and this book will help you with that.
THE SO-SO
> Neil's main points are a rehash of things said by other creativity and business gurus. He relies a lot on Syd Banks, and some of the things he says are something you don't need to buy his book to learn. For example: Thoughts are things. Or also Start something, do something regularly, keep on keeping on regardless of what shows up, don't obsess about it, give it time to mature, and you will eventually get there. Anything that you didn't know already?
> Sometimes the advice is a bit to vague to be useful.
> There are too many quotes in the book.
> Each chapter finishes with an exercise for you to get your juices flowing, but some of them are a bit vague.
> You'll need a book on how to defeat procrastination because, if that is your problem, you won't find a solution here; at best, you will notice that you are procrastinating.
> Sorry, but synchronicity is not luck at all. If you want to talk about lucky coincidences that's fine, but don't call that synchronicity because it is not. 

EDITION
It would have been great having some cross references found in the Kindle format linked back and forward. E.g., I found a reference to page 35 in page 126 , but there was no hyperlink.

BONUS MINI-SEMINAR
One can access a seven-part free talk on the main ideas of the book given by Neil himself, by following the prompts in this book. I think if you got to see those seven videos, you'd realise that those are more than enough to get what Neil is saying in the book.

IN SHORT
A good encouraging book that will make you think about your project differently. You have certainly head many of the things said here elsewhere, some of them fall into the category of common sense, but Neil implements a method that will support your mental shift, win over your worst enemy -- you! and defeat your self-defeating ways of thinking, behaving and creating. Neill is your biggest supporter, and that's priceless.  


Cicada by Shaun Tan (2018)

, 21 Feb 2019

This is a short story about a cicada who works in a  human corporate building, and feels mistreated and unappreciated.

The way the story is painted and the main character are an example of Tan's artistic mastery.  I love the grey and green main tones of the story, the wondrous Etcher-like settings, and the awesome atmosphere, something that looks effortlessly easy because Tan is a genius at what he does.  The precision of his drawing pen and the artistry of his paintings are totally awesome, as well as his chiaroscuro work. The book has a cinematic feeling to me, too.

The story, though, is simplistic, which is understandable as the target readers are both children and adults.  As an adult who has read almost everything published by Tan, I feel that the story is a bit sketchy and might not resonate with everyone. That's my case. Yes, for sure I can get the story lesson. I'm sure that it will help children and adults see that one can always escape oppressive circumstances, people and settings and fly away, choose how one lives; however, the way the story is narrated feels a bit lacking to me. Put it differently, the book feels more like a sketch of a story to be further developed than a round story.

I love everything that Tan draws and paints, and buy almost everything he publishes, but the storytelling here feels a bit hurried up and not polished enough to me.


The Enlightened Sex Manual: Sexual Skills for the Superior Lover by David Deida (2007)

, 12 Jan 2019

If you have never read Deida, want to read one of his books and are undecided on which one to  choose, this is, to me, your book. Whether you read it or listen to it in Audible format, this is the clearer more practical Deida, still with all the points that make him one of the must-reads in couples relationships.

If you have read other books by Deida, you'll find that many of the things he  says here, no surprise, are a rehearse of what he said in Intimate Communion and It's a guy Thing or Instant Enlightenment :
>  The difference between love, fall in love and sexual polarity; 
> The differences between the ways the masculine and feminine energies manifest and relate.
> The core qualities of the masculine and the feminine. 
> What attracts to the masculine and the feminine.
> The three stages of being of the masculine and feminine and the three stages of relating.
However, he's more to the point and clearer here than in the other books I mention.  Deida also goes into a bit of more depth regarding sexuality and discusses:
> The six levels of sexuality.
> The darkest aspects of the masculine/feminine and sexuality. 
> Monogamy, polygamy and commitment.

This audible version has three sets of guided long exercises to do, one on your own and with your partner. The aim is to create an open circulating connection of the breath, the body, heart, the divine and energy, very Tantric in essence. They help to connect partners in very powerful ways, enhancing orgasm and heart connection. Copulating with the divine is an image that I won't be able to forget.

Two little thingies.:
> The first is that Deida uses the word primitive-civilised in ways that are outdated and not considered appropriate, as they are western-centric; really some primitive cultures are way more evolved than 'civilised' ones, in many things about being civilised aren't that evolved, are an involution.
> As I've commented in other books by Deida, his comments on women abused by domestic violence should be re-written so his message is expressed in a way that doesn't sound like it's the victim's fault. I get that this is not what Deida intends at all, but most women out there might feel uncomfortable, to say the least, at reading/hearing some of the connections about feminine energy and being abused that Deida makes.  

The audible edition of the book has a great sound quality, and it is wonderfully neat and well-structured. The book is narrated by Deida himself. Deida has a great diction and is a natural in the way he narrates the book, without the listener feeling that Deida is reading anything; he also has a wonderful voice, very masculine, velvety, and sensual, which might turn on some of the ladies and get an extra bonus.

The best thing I've read from Deida, still with his usual Tantric, sexy, spiritual, untamed no-BS approach to relating.

Instant Enlightenment: Fast, Deep and Sexy by David Deida (2007)

, 8 Jan 2019

The secret to gifting your life’s deepest purpose is to open through what you most resist, so your love’s mission can bless the world—untrapped by your accumulated history of memories. (p. 118).
Instant Enlightenment is a book of exercises that will surprise you, challenge you and provoke you. You can read the chapters in order or choose one at random;  read the book from beginning to end or do an exercise for some days and then retake it. The book is very experiential, not only because some exercises are involved, but because some of the exercises will make you experience concepts that are very difficult to describe or explain by writing. Some of the exercises are liberating and sexy, others are thought-provoking, others a retake on things you might have already heard, and others plain odd.

SO WHAT'S INSTANT ENLIGHTENMENT?
Deida doesn't offer a definition at the beginning but in different instances throughout the book. Deida uses the term instant enlightenment in a very spiritual way most of the times, but his enlightenment is that also that of the flesh. If we put together the mini-definitions of IE spread throughout the book we get that IE is total openness to experiences and people, no matter how good or bad they are, a total openness of the heart even when things go wrong and we are hurt. IE is the right-here-right now, being free of the past and the future. IE is love, the Universal type, pervading anything and everything. IE is responsibility, so love is also responsibility.  IE is "awareness ringing open as space, to love and feel all, every animal, plant, rainstorm, and idea.

I LOVED
I just love the way Deida makes us open our hearts and see things differently. Deida mixes exercises, ideas and advice that come from counseling, body heat telepathy, Jungian psychology Manifestation and Universal laws, meditation, visualization and Zen Buddhism backgrounds, but the result is a very organic unique coherent combo. My favorite chapters/experiential exercises are Oral, Swear, Hate, Masturbate, Speech, Romance, Radio, and Hero.

Like James Hollis, Deida reminds us that "You are a link in a chain of suffering that affords you the luxury of reading these words. It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility." (p. 162). I think that's always a good reminder of how fortunate we are having a normal life.
I HAD TROUBLE WITH
Deida tends to say beautiful things that touch one's heart, but he can be also very abstract and his advice impractical. I feel that he talks from his heart, from something he has experienced, but he's not always able to convey that in words, perhaps because that cannot be properly conveyed in words but has to be experienced. Some other things he says are difficult to do unless one is meditating and scanning our body in a meditative state. Some examples:
1/ So, instead of trying to view it, relax open as this ever-present background of feeling-openness. Take care not to seek blissfulness as an aspect of your true self. Who you truly are is an openness of love in which bliss may or may not be noticed. (p. 129).  
2/everything you do is love’s gift, unless you are unwilling to be lived by love’s force.  Do nothing, but if doing happens, do it as love’s most fully offered art (pp. 160-161). 
3/ Be utterly lazy, and then do whatever you find yourself doing, as an offering for others. For instance, if a blink happens, feel the blink as a work of art, offered outwardly for love’s sake. If others were to see you blink, they would feel, “Now, that is a beautiful blink.” (p. 160).

QUESTION
Deida states "So few people seem to have exhausted their desire for 'better' that very few models exist for a life lived from the perspective-free openness of being." (p. 209).
My question is isn't Instant Enlightenment a way of bettering?

I DIDN'T LIKE  
I couldn't connect with some of the exercises at all and with some of the statements made in them. Perhaps the chapter Nipples was my last favourite, because of some of the statements made in them. For example: 
1/ "Squeeze your own nipples until they almost hurt but are still tingling with pleasure. (…) Offer this feeling in your nipples to your ancestors, in gratitude for the suffering they experienced so you could be born and have your nipples squeezed to pleasure." (pp. 73-74). 
2/   Imagine that you were a great spiritual being, perhaps Jesus of Nazareth, or the Buddha from India, or Yeshe Tsogyal of Tibet, or Mother Teresa from Albania. Also imagine that your whole body is as sensitive as your nipples. (p. 75).

I don't want to think of my ancestors when I squeeze my nipples or of Mother Theresa when I feel my body in full-bloom pleasure to get enlightened, sorry. I know it makes sense in Deida's mind, but to me is a bit irreverent, even though I'm not a religious person; I think it might offend religious people. Personally, I thought that the exercises were good per se without the need to invoke the saints into the party. 
I WANTED MORE OF 
I wanted more sexy enlightenment, more taboos explored, and more couples enlightenment. I know, I sound so frivolous, but I guess expected this book to be more about sexy enlightenment than about instant enlightenment.
IN SHORT
A beautiful, albeit odd uneven book, that it is still enthralling to read, with a beautiful message of Universal love and openness of the heart. You can practice some of the exercises without a problem and get a lot of enlightened juice out them. Others are difficult to do, at least to me, unless you are into proper Buddhist/Zen meditation or  familiar with Tantric Yoga.

It's A Guy Thing: A Owner's Manual for Women: An Owners Manual for Women by David Deida (2010)

, 5 Jan 2019

As a couples counsellors, Deida's unique emphasis on sexual polarity, on understanding the different ways women and men, communicate, relate and are, and the different ways in which masculine and feminine energies manifest and interact,  explains why many of this books, this included, become a before-and-after book for many women, tired of the usual bluff they find in relationship and dating books. It's a Guy Thing is still relevant and useful for women, even though it was first published in 1997.

This is a Q&A sort of book on all things  men. Most of the questions are something that most women have asked themselves, or are still asking themselves, about the men in their life. If you have read something else by Deida, you will find here what you can find in other of his books, but with a few more practical tips on precise queries. If you haven't read any of Deida's books, you will still be surprised by his bold, unique and challenging voice; yet, I would recommend you by read Intimate Communion first, to best understand what Deida means by sexual polarity and Deida's tantric approach to relationships.

GREAT 
Deida makes great comments and gives great advice throughout the book, but one of the statements that I liked the most was this: "This inner child responds when our buttons, our childhood wounds, get pushed. Our feminine button gets pushed when we feel unloved; our masculine button gets pushed when we feel constrained and not free to do what we want. In response to feeling unloved or constrained, we act like little children. “If you don’t give me the love (or freedom) that I want, then I’m going to collapse or close down or leave you.” No man is capable of always giving you the love that you want. When your inner child doesn’t get its way it will want to run away, collapse or kick back. Intimacy, like parenthood, is a practice that requires giving love to your partner even while he is pushing your buttons or kicking your shins. Love begets love. Punishment and withdrawal without love do not provide the basis for trust and real growth in intimacy". (loc. 2333).
TO IMPROVE
The book reads at times as a transcription of a real Q&A due to the constant repetition of the same statement within a given question, which is something that easily happens while giving a talk, but something inexcusable in a book in which an editor has put some work. The book would have benefited of a bit of verbal weeding.

NOT NEW
Having John Gray's Men are from Mars and Women from Venus among my favourite books on relationships, I found that many of the things that Deida says in this book were basically a repetition
of what Dr Gray had written in 1992 (Deida's book was written in 1995).

MISSING
Deida's analysis would have benefited from Gary Chapman's points in The Five Languages of Love (1995). One of the most important things you can do to re-energise your relationship is learning to recognise the way your partner gives love and wants love to be given to him/her.  The 'languages of love' aren't based on polarity, doing-receiving-giving kinda stuff, but on the way individual personalities (not gender or sexual energies) feel loved and express their love.

DANGEROUS
Deida says, "Very frequently in abusive relationships, for instance, one partner will have difficulty leaving even though it’s in her best interest. She has become addicted to the relationship". (loc. 1990)

I think that this comment should be amended or eliminated. People working with domestic violence victims will tell you that addiction is not what keeps most women attached to the abuser. Moreover, the statement, unintentionally I believe, puts somewhat the blame on the victim.