Jan 06,No 1, Sec 1
Jan 06, No 1, Sec 2
Feb 06, No 1, Sec 1
Feb 06, No 1, Sec 2
Mar 06, N0 1, Sec 1
Mar 06, No 1, Sec 2
May 06, No 1, Sec 1
May 06, No 1, Sec 2
July 06, No 1, Sec 1
July 06, No 1, Sec 2
Sep 06, No 1, Sec 1
Sep, 06, No 1, Sec 2
Oct 06, No 1, Sec 1
Oct 06, No 1, Sec 2
Nov, No 1, Sec 1
Nov 06, No 1, Sec 2
Dec 06, No 1, Sec 1
Dec 06, No 1, Sec 2

The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

DEC 2006, No. I, Sec. II

Main Essay:

GLIDE-ing into Performance Excellence:  Part II

Key Tools, Techniques and Tips – “Loving to Learn”


So how do you embark on an expert learning path and sustain your sense of purpose and passion?   How can the practice blood, sweat, tears and joy provide both a physical and psychological challenge and help evolve your whole self?  How do you channel mind-body performance energy through focus and flow?  Actually, let’s go beyond focus and flow build on the previous outline letter “G – Goal-Setting.  Consider these “Key Tools, Techniques and Tips for GLIDE-ing into Performance Excellence”:


2a.  Loving to Learn.  In the context of expert performance, what does it mean to “love to learn”?   But first, what is the value of learning, especially for adults?  Whether playfully exhilarating or a daunting process of trial and error, learning enables you to gain new data, ideas and perspectives, freshly stimulated senses and an expanded sensibility.  Outcomes include a diversified and more adaptive skill repertoire and a more tolerant, discriminating and broader outlook on life.  And post-childhood learning should especially heighten self-awareness.  As renowned 20th century English author, John Fowles, noted in his philosophical treatise, The Aristos, “Adulthood is not an age, but a state of knowledge of self.”


With this as a base, “loving to learn” becomes an evolutionary process that challenges you to filter and design experience through varied mind-body senses or “multiple intelligences.” (Author and Harvard psychologist, Dr. Howard Gardner, posits a model of seven intelligences – analytic, linguistic, intrapersonal and interpersonal, kinetic, musical and artistic.  For each person, intellectual strength varies across these different intelligences.  Rarely is one person gifted in all seven domains.)  Expert learning is connected to your intelligences, talents, aptitudes and attitudes, to your need to succeed and to an ability to persevere.  High performance learning also often involves a conscious and unconscious drive to discover, understand and express in various manifestations your biochemical, emotional and spiritual essence or inner nature.


With expertise the objective, consider these seven components of high performance learning:

a) Broadens One’s Imaginative Explorations, Mental Manipulations and Conceptual Frameworks.  As noted above, expert learning goes beyond the mere gathering of facts.  “Loving to learn” may excite and challenge you to connect an array of data (often seemingly disconnected) both imaginatively and systemically.  The process involves the ability to explore and manipulate ideas and elements, emotions and operations in order to forge new and unexpected, if not edgy, combinations and integrations.  Recognizing analogous properties between things first thought dissimilar or contradictory is often a key cognitive outcome when immersed in a field of study.  As noted author and humorist, Mark Twain, observed, “Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation.”


As an example of such surprising conception, consider my “psychohumorist” ™ musings, specifically lines from my signature “Shrink Rap” ™, “Song of Safe Stress” ™ (sung in costume – Blues Brothers hat, black sunglasses and black tambourine.  These trademarked terms, perhaps, capturing Twain’s paradoxical sensibility):


The boss makes demands, yet gives little control

So you prey on chocolate, and wish life were dull.

But office desk’s a mess, often skipping meals

Inside your car looks like a pocket book on wheels.


The latter analogy always elicits knowing laughter.


Another perceptive observation that underscores the importance of transforming an actual or mental “image” through imagination comes from the Nobel prize-winning scientist, Albert Szent-Gyorgi:  “Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.”  And sometimes you can design a new way of seeing and thinking by coming up with a fresh conceptual-structural paradigm.  For example, unexpected integration can be found in my Four Faces of Anger Model.   First I generate paradoxical pairings related to anger expression – “Constructive-Destructive” and “Purposeful-Spontaneous.”  Then the unexpected step is relating these pairing through a 2 x 2 matrix.  Now each box provides a face or a familiar conceptual handle.  The model: 1) challenges the notion of anger as a unidemensional, “all negative” construct and 2) facilitates a richer understanding of this double-edged concept.  (Email for my article on the model.)

Four Faces of Anger Matrix












There must be a willingness to work through “Picasso’s Pain”:  Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.  Traditional mindsets and old habits may need to be discarded or significantly modified to build up a new, more diversified and integrated learning framework.  Achievement through suffering, persevering despite self-doubt and uncertainty – grappling with that “dark night of the soul” – is often the path of the hero and the expert performer.


b) Embraces Humility and Pursues the Heroic.  While being exploratory and inventive are necessary conditions for “loving to learn,” they are not sufficient.  Learning requires both confidence and humility:  life lessons can be discovered by engaging people and situations most down to earth (including “down and dirty”) not just in lofty think tanks and ivory towers.  By definition the pursuit of excellence means exploring outside one’s comfort zone.  Invariably, a genuine learning process will serve up humbling moments upon discovering that your assumptions, beliefs and truths do in fact need to be questioned and updated, if not discredited and discarded.


c) Shows a Willingness to Question, Let Go and Be Open.  Actually, humility requires a capacity for intellectual and emotional vulnerability.  That is, you must be open to new ways of seeing and thinking, a willingness to question if not “let go” of conceptual and operational tactics if not strategic foundations.  And this requires real ego strength, a capacity to grapple with head and heart discomfort and pain.  We can see this insight in it’s opposite:  the seemingly self-assured dogmatist who knows the “one truth,” who sees life through “black vs. white” or “all vs. none” filters.  Ah, it’s so much easier to point a finger than look in the mirror.  For example, this individual may cling to religious or political texts for “the answer” or for “timeless wisdom” thus saving him or herself the trouble of having to acknowledge personal bias, discordant ideas, dysfunctional behavior and the effects of change or chaos – whether biochemical, ecological, economic and/or socio-cultural.  Grappling with a subject area’s basic complexity is a necessary condition for loving to learn for performance excellence.


d) Resists Being Overloaded and Over Learned.   Of course, unless a true Renaissance man or woman, you likely will have to choose selectively your “loving to learn” arenas.  In fact, a common challenge is resisting outside attempts to push you into learning areas that are not meaningful or relevant to your realm of passion and performance.  As many creativity researchers have noted, pursue what you love.  Don’t play another’s game or be constricted by another’s rules; develop a unique game along with your own performance process and procedures. 


Conversely, with the sensory bombardment, rapid pace and time pressures of modern life, one can understand, especially when under stress, the desire to “dumb down” the learning or decision-making process.  Opting for short cuts or simply following in previously established performance tracks is tempting.  Actually, today’s distracting and draining reality only affirms the criticality of evolving your own “loving to learn” boundaries.  Still, those boundaries might need to be fluid; one doesn’t learn and perform in a vacuum.  Perhaps “learning to love” for experts involves an uncommon mix of: 1) being enlightened by pioneer learning tracks, that is, not having to reinvent the wheel and 2) having the capacity for reworking that proverbial wheel, maybe even cultivating ideas for revolutionizing it.  Or perhaps blazing new paths with whatever wheels you possess.


e) Achieves Understanding and Paradoxical Wisdom.  In addition, when you can both expand your horizons and deepen your humility, when you can learn to blend facts and feelings, to integrate conscious ideas and unconscious impressions, to see the obscure and the obvious, to embrace both striving towards and “letting go,” to interrelate harmoniously the confusing and the seemingly contradictory, then your learning begins to reward you with a breadth and depth of understanding.


To bring to life this process, let me highlight three interrelated polarities that facilitate the capacity for differentiation, discrimination and integration, i.e., cognitive keys for expert learning and performance – “Figure-Ground,” “Content-Context” and “Parts-Whole.”  These conceptual tools will enhance your capacity to compare and contrast overt data and ideas as well as to peer into the shadows.  These perceptual filters are also prismatic allowing you to see shades of color and to generate possibilities that go way beyond black or white.


And what enables you to develop and differentiate ideas and imaginatively apply such conceptual tools?  The “loving to learn” process, of course.  You build these tools over “trial and error” time and experience by pulling together unrelated instances of behavior and seemingly fragmented data into cognitive schemas or mental frameworks.  (Of course, sometimes these schemas should be called “screamers” as they seemingly crystallize spontaneously in a sudden “Aha!”  In reality, you have been consciously and unconsciously building to your magical moment.)  These schemas or frameworks enable you to see patterns, make finer distinctions and subtle comparisons; they encourage having a broader and fresher perspective that allows you to generate unusual combinations or to see otherwise unnoticed connections.  You are now bringing uncommon perception, maybe even “expertise” to the problem solving or performance challenge at hand.  These tools will help you become more discriminating in your thinking and behaving, strengthening your emotional intelligence and your aptitude for a high performance learning process.  You are embarking on the hard-earned paths of innovation and wisdom.


1) Figure-Ground.  This pairing challenges the perceiver to appreciate the significance of the dominant stimulus, social agent or event in a situation as well as the background or behind the scenes factors and forces, often biochemical and social-psychological, environmental or cultural, that contribute to overt or covert motivational conditions and subsequent behaviors.  Consider this example of the importance of background.  The reduction of major and minor crime in NYC in the ‘80s was found to correlate with not turning an eye to petty street crime or public harassment (e.g., aggressive panhandling), cleaning up subway graffiti, stopping people from jumping over subway turnstiles, etc.  In other words, a background environment that smells of disorder and a lack of a supervising authority is an invitation for socially disruptive and unlawful behavior.  Locking up hardened criminals did not have the same impact on crime statistics as a general policy of low tolerance for petty crime or for behavior that was socially disruptive.


2) Content-Context.  This pairing distinguishes specific information from how the information is presented or how it is packaged.  Placing content in context often means considering a time perspective or whether the messenger affects the meaning as well as the objectivity or bias of the message?  Do you think a person’s political persuasion influences his or her trust in a particular media news source?  Is Fox really “Fair and Balanced”?  Does the NY Times print “All the News that’s Fit to Print”?


Or, in similar fashion to figure-ground, is one instance compelling or do we view an action or incident in a broader schema, for example, recognizing the impact of previous history or of the organizational (or disorganizational) context in order to make more valid assessments.  A tragic example of judging content out of context is blaming the anarchy and killing in Iraq simply on bloodthirsty religious fanatics without considering the aftermath of the U.S. invasion.  There are consequences when an invader has insufficient troops to do nation building.  And the destabilizing effect is heightened when you dismantle a country’s mechanisms of social control – the Iraqi army and police.  The result:  short-term looting and rioting and now a sustained state of chaos, killing and civil war. 


Another way of conceiving the distinction is by pairing substance (content) and style (context).  As a speaker, I definitely want to project substance and style.  And when I place my stress content into an interactive learning format so that there’s a contextual shift from the “Stress Doc” as solo performer and subject area expert to my being an orchestra leader (whose expertise now helps bring out other’s best music) then amazing performance synergy can happen between leader and audience and/or among audience members.  (See two examples below of organizational and team synergy.)


3) Parts-Whole.  This pairing recognizes: a) the complex interplay or relations among the parts and b) the connections of the various parts to the whole.  For example, a system like a basketball team tends to be successful when it has diversely talented players, that have been cross-trained, that communicate quickly and effectively with one another and that provide back up for teammates when a play breaks down.  When this happens there’s synergy, that is, the whole (or performance of the team) is greater than the sum of its individual players (or parts).  Conversely, there can also be negative synergy, for example, when dysfunctional relating between parents adversely impacts the esteem and confidence of children.  Then again, how often has family neurosis helped spur a drive to succeed or to prove others wrong?  So talent may need obstacles for heightened goal-related challenges and motivation in order to realize it’s full learning and performing potential.  Clearly, it’s a complex relationship.


And returning to the organizational system, sometimes a small change among the parts or a significant change involving just one part can dramatically impact the whole. (In similar fashion, new information or a change of conception or perception can influence or disrupt the traditional or accepted “content and context” or “figure and ground” gestalt).  Of course, this may not be all bad, especially when stability in a system equates with monotony, mismanagement and mediocre performance.  Actually, when a system – conceptual or actual – is primed by uncertainty and conflict there is heightened potential for imaginative problem solving, growth and transformation.  As John Dewey, 19th century American philosopher and “Father of Public Education,” observed:  “Conflict is the gadfly of thought.  It stirs us to observation and memory.  It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity.  It instigates to invention and sets us at noting and contriving.  Conflict is the sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.”


Way Beyond the Box


To illustrate these three pairings – “Figure-Ground,” “Content-Context” and “Parts-Whole” and the creative potential in organizational conflict, consider this case vignette.  An analysis of the paradoxical potentialities will follow.  About fifteen years ago, I was consulting with a federal court that was automating their record keeping process.  Management had not solicited much input from employees directly impacted by the technical changes, especially involving a key administrative form.  The employees were not just anxious about learning new skillsets and grappling with an uncertain future but were also angry for being bypassed in the decision-making and implementation process.  In the employees’ minds their professional status and experience were being ignored or discounted.  And not surprisingly, there was passive group resistance to the change. 


Memos and motivational exhortations were having minimal effect when an epiphany for me began percolating.  In a meeting with top management I noted that we missed the boat on the front end, but I believed we could get back on course.  However, we had to stop simply defining employee behavior as resistance to change.  We needed to appreciate and truly understand their sense of loss of control and even a loss of identity.  We needed to grasp the reality that a new learning curve often generates anxiety and, perhaps, a diminished sense of self-confidence and competence.  Once I recognized their state of grief, achieving a starting point was possible:   "Let's have a forms funeral."  (Going way beyond the box…obviously now I was thinking “out of the coffin!”)  Suddenly, we had a forum for acknowledging common reality and for sharing emotional intensity.  This proved a lot more creative than a gripe session.  We gave employees a public forum for: a) mourning the loss of the old data processing system, b) expressing frustration with management's unilateral decision-making and c) articulating concerns about the upcoming changes.  This group grieving enabled folks to gradually and more objectively recognize the limitations of the old and the productive potential of the new.  Now all levels in the organization acknowledged that the whole workplace community had to be part of the problem and part of the solution.


Initial common ground was forged when a symbolic funeral was able to be both an arena for reaching closure and a forum for giving and accepting critical feedback.  Shifting the conceptual focus and playing field from employee resistance to mandated top-down memos to the need for bottom-up expression of grief and appropriate articulation of grievances laid the groundwork for management-employee consensus.  And by thinking and acting out of a reframed coffin context, a more cohesive and responsive Organizational Phoenix rose from the administrative ashes of unilateral decision-making.


Let’s analyze this organizational change experience from the three previously noted paired concepts:

1) Figure-Ground.  Management’s self-serving bias was to focus solely on the “figure” of problematic employee behavior – griping about change, challenging orders, reverting to old procedures, resisting the new form, etc.  Management did not really perceive the one-dimensional, top down operational and motivational “ground” fertilizing and fueling this behavior.  They were succumbing to a bias in attribution, that is, making “personal or dispositional attributions,” e.g., “employee negativism,” to explain employee behavior while minimizing “situational or environmental “ background factors contributing to the standoff.


2) Content-Context.  Behavior adorned with “negative” labels often quickly becomes diagnostically compelling “content” and screens out other relevant, that is, non-personal, sources of data.  By equating anger and fear as self-serving resistance, management itself was resisting placing the group’s behavior in a more emotionally intelligent and sensitive context.  There was little appreciation of how the one-sided decision-making process diminished a sense of professional autonomy and respect as well as a sense of “we’re all in this change boat together.” 


There is another context for examining this system’s individual and group behavior – the social psychology lens of “psychological reactance.”  This concept states that when believing an actual or symbolic freedom or personal domain of control is threatened an individual will attempt to restore directly or indirectly his or her entitled freedom or domain.  (Reactance occurs unless the individual has been repeatedly thwarted or punished for attempting to restore some freedom or control; then “learned helplessness” may become the default mode.)  And psychological restoration may manifest in positive action or take the form of overt or passive compensation or defiance.  Clearly, some contextual filters are subtle and may require specialized (that is, professional rather than lay) knowledge.  Consider this final example of therapeutic-contextual oversight, one of loss and grief.  Management did not sufficiently understand the breadth and in-depth consequences of major change.  Change that impacts daily procedure, that challenges a sense of the familiar as well as a sense of competence, that questions your ability to depend on authority, or stirs doubt and uncertainty about future security and trends often evokes palpable feelings of loss – loss of control, including emotional control, loss of face, questions about your future role and identity and your future possibility.  In other words, there can be a profound sense of diminishment if not death, no matter if only symbolic.  And when confronted with such ground-shaking contextual change, not surprisingly, many are thrown into a state of grief.


3) Parts-Whole.  Finally, by creating a safe environment that encouraged employees to speak up and to channel anger and anxiety into constructive feedback the contentious “parties” could begin to bridge the divide.  Having an opportunity to purposefully, playfully and psychologically “react” helped clear the air and reduced the size of the role-status barriers.  (There was the proverbial opportunity to speak “truth to power.”  And the absurd context, i.e., the “Forms Funeral” helped limit employee “good vs. evil” self-righteousness.)  Sometimes a superficially structured, disorganized or dysfunctional system must sharply split into divisive parts. 


And a 19th century German philosopher outlined such a disintegration and higher order integration process.  Consider this “parts-whole” concept from a Hegelian context: (1) one part or “thesis” (i.e., management’s top down perspective) (2) triggers an “antithesis” (the employee’s grief and anger-laden counter-part) and (3) often under the guidance of an outside catalyst, the subsequent tension creates the opportunity for a higher level and imaginatively broader problem solving resolution (an “out of the coffin” group catharsis) or “synthesis.”   The parts are now willing to explore an uncommon process for reconciling oppositional tension and differences, i.e., to forge an unexpected partnership.  The sides now can come together as a more cohesive “whole” with a greater capacity for exploring novel integration, unexpected consensus and a more open and cohesive community.  Often an organism must divide and differentiate to subsequently integrate and thrive.


Finally, the importance of grappling with polarities, like “figure-ground,” “content-context” and “parts-whole” when pursuing “higher order” excellence, for me is captured by the provocative words of acclaimed novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald:  “The test of a first rate intellect is the capacity to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.  For example, one should see things as helpless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”  Clearly complex learning can be elusive, arduous and frustrating.  And with an elongated learning curve you likely will require a rejuvenating pit stop.  Which is why, especially when the goal is expert individual and/or organizational performance, another paradoxical perspective may be needed.  Ponder the Stress Doc’s “TLC” reformulation:  “Tender Loving Criticism” and “Tough Loving Care.”


f) Generates Self-Awareness, Incubation and Illumination – for Individuals and Groups.  At first, meaningful start-up learning often adds less to one’s conceptual network and skill repertoire and more to a realization of: 1) existing strengths and 2) your psychological, physical and performance fears and vulnerabilities or gaps in your conceptual framework, skill level, performance or problem solving experience and resources.  And awareness of the discrepancy between the ideal and real is not always crystal clear, especially if frustration, self-consciousness, righteous rage (often of the smoldering variety) or diminished self-worth is clouding your diagnostic assessment.  However, start-up angst (or actually being stuck in the problem solving muck at anytime in this humbling process) may be a blessing if one can:  1) weather the emotional brain storm, 2) reach out for coaching or group support, 3) stay the self-education, trial and error course and ultimately, 4) deviate from the tried and true (and sometimes tried and tiring) path.


Loving to learn often means a willingness to hit that learning wall, to stop trying to will power a solution.  You must be capable of experiencing and sustaining what psychiatrist Richard Rabkin has called, “thrustration.”  I have defined “thrustration” as being torn between frustration and thrusting ahead with direct action as you haven’t quite put together the problem-solving pieces of the puzzle.  Now the challenge is giving your subconscious mind free range.  Stop the logical efforts and let this psychological tension turn on your right hemispheric brainpower, an informational wellspring that is more emotional and visual and less analytical and verbal.  Let the energy and pressure build, culminating in a psychic volcano ready to spew sensitive and evocative images and visual metaphors.


How can you specifically invite your creative muse to gradually summon its soulful streams and sounds and integrative symbols?  After considerable preparation and trial and error rumination and angst, followed by letting go “thrustration”…go for a walk, dig in the garden, plant new seeds, and rest, recreate and refresh your psyche; even sleep on the problem.  In other words, take an “incubation vacation” to hatch a new perspective.  You will be cultivating that potentially creative pause, laying the figure-ground work for that possible “Aha” moment.  You are discovering the Stress Doc maxim:  The pass often lies in the impasse!  Now your so-called “minor” right hemisphere may percolate, relate and blend impressions and ideas into: 1) novel conceptual connections and perceptual comparisons, 2) a broad or holistic vision that reveals in-depth patterns, for example, connecting past-present-future themes, that is, “past as prologue,” and 3) visual analogies or ”out of the box” methods of assessment and problem solving intervention.  (An example of imaginative conceptual comparisons and therapeutic intervention through the use of visual symbols follows immediately.)


Illustrating Team “Thrustration” to Illumination


The abovementioned  “Forms Funeral” vignette highlighted how conflict between groups could be transcended through “out of the box/coffin” scheming.  Now let’s examine how learning/performing and incubation can also be illustrated through the workings of a group.  To clarify this visual if not visionary process and perspective, here is an analogy produced by “on the edge” participants during a “Safe Stress” program.  NASA and Lockheed Martin supervisors and managers in small teams were presented with the following task:  to first discuss and then draw a picture that captures the sources of stress and conflict in their daily work lives.  Considering the real possibility of significant project downsizing, tension in the auditorium was high with all the concomitant feelings of helplessness, anger and uncertainty.  And not surprisingly, a number of participants were quickly confused by and uncomfortable with the task of somehow translating personal stress issues into powerful group images despite my providing an image-template from a previous program.  (Might tension be thrustration-like?)  And having just ten minutes for discussion and ten minutes for drawing only adds to the performance pressure.


And while a number of individuals get stressed initially, all parties usually discover the liberating power of team support and synergy:  “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  Participants are often surprised when common sharing and group strategizing quickly helps overcome individual skepticism and resistance.  All it takes is one person to throw out a start-up or clarifying visual concept, and suddenly everyone gets it.  Tension and potential energy can be quickly channeled into imaginative problem solving.  Drawn out perfection is not necessary to produce a classic image:  a devil-like creature with pointy ears and a menacing tail, brandishing a whip and trident driving a herd of sheep on a high plateau.  And the sheep, alas, have no choice but to leap off the cliff’s edge.  With the sheep in various stages of flight and free fall, the eye looks down only to discover that the safety net below is quite small and shredded.  Clearly, this group had palpable and looming concerns regarding downsizing, “rightsizing” (or my preference, “frightsizing”). The real beauty of this exercise, though, is that despite individual and group angst (actually, maybe also because of the same) the team generated great collaborative energy and hearty laughter throughout the exercise.  At minimum, these colleagues better realized they were not alone.  (And researchers have revised the old saw:  “Misery doesn’t just like company, it actually prefers miserable company!” ;-)


New saying notwithstanding, even more desirable is when visual analogy often allows us to exaggerate if not lampoon situational or systemic conditions and to expose human self-deception, greed, pomposity or arrogance.  (Think political cartoons or the above “Forms Funeral” vignette.)  And especially effective is when we can laugh at our own flaws or foibles.  Now a scary reality is transformed into a less daunting absurdity.  When you can place those stressful slings or arrows into a bigger and shared perspective or into a light-hearted if not enlightened visual analogy, you can step back, even for just a brief moment, and not take so personally or to heart each potential threat or attack.  A situation may be serious but you don’t have to succumb to defensiveness, paralysis or self-righteous solemnity.  As the 20th century comedic genius, Charlie Chaplin, noted, “A paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it is precisely the tragic which arouses the funny.  We have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face of natural forces and in order not to go crazy.”  Humor and laughter allows you to sustain a mentally and emotionally challenging process and to invigorate that “loving to learn” dynamic.


g) Builds Competence and Self-Esteem, Intrinsic Motivation and Joy.  Finally, “loving to learn” is not just a means to an expertise endpoint, but an ability to value your newly expanded repertoire and to take pride in your sustained effort.  Achieving excellence is an ongoing process, so again, a double-edged mindset is critical:  you must be able to take pleasure in short-term goal accomplishment while still feeling unfinished if not frustrated (and “thrustrated”) by long term “path of mastery” work to be done.  Perhaps a capacity to feel victorious momentarily in a learning battle, to bathe in an oasis of joy that heals wounds and rejuvenates energy, psyche and spirit, is vital for sustaining that ongoing pursuit.  (And you don’t always have to bathe alone.  Know when to come up for air and get the aforementioned “TLC” – “Tender Loving Criticism” and “Tough Loving Care.”)


Also know that a hard fought trial and error engagement that places you on a new learning plane often produces a biochemical and psychological high that is never completely lost, no matter how short-lived “the calm before the (next learning) “sturm und drang.”  In fact, as acclaimed psychologist and author, Kay Redfield Jamison, noted in her book Exuberance:  A Passion for Life, these moments of triumph can be addictive.  You long for and work hard for that next psychic uplift and chemical energy burst.


Motivation also has a rational side:  You have survived before; you just may be able to do it again.  The learning glow and flow never completely dies out but becomes an underground memory and mind-body light source that can keep hope alive.  Clearly, this is especially vital when grappling with “dark night of the soul” learning trials.  Remember, in the pursuit of excellence, when the goal seems elusive and you are exploring uncharted waters and inventing or forever reworking structures and strategies as you go along, “Many battles are fought and lost before a major undertaking is won.”




“Key Tools, Techniques and Tips for GLIDE-ing into Performance Excellence” focused on the first half of the second letter (“L”) of the GLIDE acronym – “Loving to Learn.”  (The next segment is “Learning to Love.”)  Seven components of high performance learning were posited:

a) Broadens One’s Imaginative Explorations, Mental Manipulations and Conceptual Frameworks

b) Embraces Humility and Pursues the Heroic

c) Shows a Willingness to Question, Let Go and Be Open

d) Resists Being Overloaded and Over Learned

e) Achieves Understanding and Paradoxical Wisdom (including “Figure-Ground,” “Content-Context” and “Parts-Whole”)

f) Generates Self-Awareness, Incubation and Illumination – for Individuals and Groups

g) Builds Competence and Self-Esteem, Intrinsic Motivation and Joy


Surely these are concepts, tools and skills to help you become more expert learners while also enhancing your ability to…Practice Safe Stress.

Readers' Submissions

Subject: Insults with Class!!!!!

From:  MDodick

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” — Winston Churchill

“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.” — Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” — Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” — William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” — Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” — Moses Hadas

“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.” — Abraham Lincoln

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” — Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” — Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play, bring a friend… if you have one.” — George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.” — Winston Churchill, in reply

Subject: Quotes

From:  PCorell@HOPSTEINER.com

Sometimes, when I look at my children, I say to myself ~~"Lillian, you should have remained a virgin."
-- Lillian Carter (mother of Jimmy Carter)

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: "No good in a bed, but fine against a wall."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Last week, I stated this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement.
-- Mark Twain

The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.
-- George Burns

Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.
-- Victor Borge

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
-- Mark Twain

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher..
-- Socrates

I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.
-- Groucho Marx

My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe.
-- Jimmy Durante

I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back.
-- Zsa Zsa Gabor

Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.
-- Alex Levine

My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying.
-- Rodney Dangerfield

Money can't buy you happiness...but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.
-- Spike Milligan

I am opposed to millionaires... but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.
-- Mark Twain

Until I was thirteen, I thought my name was SHUT UP.
-- Joe Namath

I don't feel old. I don't feel anything until noon .
Then it's time for my nap.
-- Bob Hope

I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.
-- W.C. Fields

We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress.
-- Will Rogers

Don't worry about avoiding temptation. . as you grow older, it will avoid you
-- Winston Churchill

Maybe it's true that life begins at fifty ... but everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out.
-- Phyllis Diller

By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he's too old to go anywhere.
-- Billy Crystal

Sung to the tune of "A Few of My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music

A Few Of My Favorite Things:  The Version for Seniors

From:  Anonymous

Maalox and nosedrops and needles for knittin',
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittin's,
Bundles of magazines tied up with string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs, cataracts, hearing aids, glasses,
Polident, Fixodent, false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak, When the bones creak, When the knees go bad,
Then I remember my favorite things, And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets, and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food nor food cook'd with onions,
Bathrobes and heat pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of m favorite things.

Back pains, confused brains, and no fear of sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache, when the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Then I remember the great life I've had and then I don't feel soooooo baaaaaad.

Subj:  Politically Correct Stamps

From:  MDodick

A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Chanukah cards. She says to the clerk, "May I have 50 Chanukah stamps?"

The clerk says, "What denomination?"

"Oh my God," the woman says, "has it come to this?

Give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform."


2006 Maryland ASTD Conference
[Closing Keynote for 100]

December 18, 2006

Dear Mark -

Thank you so much for helping make the 2006 Maryland ASTD Conference a success.  Many of the attendees commented that it was the best conference they had attended. 

I could see how much the participants enjoyed your presentation.  The room brimmed with great energy and enthusiasm.  Each group's team drawing was quite original and it appears a great time was had by all.

I would be pleased to provide a recommendation if needed.  It has been pleasure working with you and I hope we have an opportunity to collaborate in the future.


Ginny Goble
2006 Maryland ASTD Conference


Baltimore Bereavement Care Network

November 21, 2006

Way to go Mark.  Thank you again for "riding to the rescue" of our humble little Bvmt. Care Ntwk.  ALL the comments I heard after our meeting were very positive.  It was my second time and I enjoyed it as much as the first.  You know your stuff and have a gift for putting the message across.


Fred Schneider
Supervisor of Bereavement Services
St. Agnes Hospice
(410) 368-2840

Heads Up:
Partial list of programs in December.  (Testimonials on request.)
1.  Booz Allen Hamilton; 2-hour Holiday Stress program
2.  McDonough Bolyard Peck (Engineering Firm); 1-hour Stress and Team Building program


1. Consultation-Counseling-Coaching Service from the Stress Doc ™

Expansion of Service:  In-Office, Phone or Online

The Doc's areas of expertise as a consultant, counselor and speaker include:

+ Stress and Burnout and Rebuilding the Fire
+ Anger Management and Managing Difficult People
+ Growing from Loss, Grief and Depression
+ Couple Counseling and Family Issues
+ Career/Life/Relationship Transition
+ Conflict Resolution and Team Building
+ Executive and Management Coaching
+ Organizational Downsizing and Change
+ Time Management and Personal Organization
+ Motivation and High Performance/Anxiety Issues

Flexibility in length and availability for coaching-consultation sessions; day and evening times.  Fee to be determined during the first contact/consultation.  The first phone or online contact/consultation (up to 15 minutes) is free.

For more information, call 301-946-0865 or email stressdoc@aol.com.

Organizational Clients have included:

Corporations: Dupont Corporation, SAP--Human Capital Forum/ASUGS, Celebrity Cruise Lines, America Online, Kelley School of Business/Indiana University, Day and Zimmerman, Tellabs, Computer Sciences Corporation, SkyLink: The Airline Ticket Center, Biography Magazine, US Pharmacopeia, Skadden Arps (Intl law Firm), Patton Boggs (Intl Law Firm), LTS, Blackbaud, Georgetown University, Shrader Funeral Home

Associations/Conferences: CONEXPO-CON/AGG--2005, Intl. Personnel Management Assn. (IPMA)--2005, Human Resources Association--Natl. Capital Area, Society of Human Resource Management, National Society of Professional Engineers, Business Owners and Managers Assn Intl, Airplane Owners and Pilots Association, Association of Legal Administrators, National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors, American College of Physicians, National Wildlife Federation, Defense Research Institute, American Industrial Hygiene Association

Government Agencies:  Australian Embassy, Centers for Disease Control, Health & Human Services--Div. of Acquisition Management, DOD/Population Health and Health Promotion, Department of Justice, National Institutes of Health, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (including National Weather Service), Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Reserch Lab, Naval Sea Systems Command, Department of Commerce, US Postal Service, Fairfax County Govt., Suffolk, VA

2.  Stress Doc Books:

Pay by Pay Pal from website - www.stressdoc.com or

Make check to:  Mark Gorkin
Send to:

9629 Elrod Road
Kensington, MD  20895

a) Really Hot:  The Paperback Version of Practice Safe Stress:

Practicing Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, & Depression; Stress Doc Enterprises

Published:  2004; Pages:  372

Price:  $20 + $5.00 priority shipping in US; $7 for shipping in Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined

E-book Price:  $15

Practice Safe Stress tackles the "Toxic-Traumatic Trio" -- stress, burnout, and depression.  Learn practical and playful, inspiring and insightful strategies for transforming these toxins into life-affirming energy, creative focus, and goal-achievement.  Bringing a personal, professional, and organizational perspective, the book is alive with imaginative language and memorable "how to" ideas for:

§ Understanding the "Four Stages of Burnout," the "Erosive Spiral"
§ Rebuilding your fire and developing "Natural SPEED"
§ Achieving liberation through "Emancipation Procrastination"
§ Reducing conflict as a healing or motivational "psychohumorist" ™

There are satirical essays on "lean-and-MEAN" managers and on mismanaged downsizings.  Learn to "laugh in the face of layoffs" and ponder the possibility of "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity."  The Stress Doc also shares his his own trials, errors, and triumphs in battling the "Toxic Trio."

Safe Stress provides many discrete "Top Ten" lists and "strategic tips" essays useful as educational/informational handouts.  To quote the Internet Newsroom:  Your Guide to the World of Electronic Factgathering:  "The most outstanding feature…is his 'psychohumor' essays.  Always witty, thought-provoking, and helpful."  With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun health and wellness guide, you'll return often to Practice Safe Stress.

b) The Four Faces of Anger:  Model and Method
Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior

The "Four Faces of Anger" presents an elegantly simple yet intellectually powerful model that will challenge your beliefs about anger -- both regarding its range of emotion and its potential for positive communication.  The book is a dynamic blend of popular psychohumor articles, essays, case examples and short vignettes, as well as Stress Doc Q & As and even "Shrink Rap" ™ lyrics.  You will gain ideas and tools, skills and techniques for personal control, playful intervention and conflict mastery.  Learn to:

Ø Identify self-defeating styles of anger and violence-prone personalities
Ø Transform hostility and rage into assertion and passion
Ø Confront directly or disarm outrageously critics and (passive) aggressors
Ø Bust the guilt not burst a gut
Ø Prevent emails from becoming e-missiles

And finally, his years as a multimedia psychotherapist and as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service yield a survival and spiritual mantra at the heart of the "Four Faces of Anger":

Seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor…May the Farce Be With You!

Published:  2004; Pages:  116  [Book size:  9"x12"]

Paperback:  Price:  $20 + $5.00 priority shipping in US; $7 for shipping in Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined

E-Book:  $15

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, is a psychotherapist and "Motivational Humorist" whose Interactive Keynotes and Kickoffs draw wide and "amazing" acclaim - from Fortune 100s and Federal Agencies to around the world with Celebrity Cruise Lines.   An OD/Team Building Consultant, Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and of The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior.  Also, the Doc is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat."  See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR).  Finally, Mark is an advisor to The Bright Side ™ -- www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award winning mental health resource.  Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com.  For more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs, call or email the "Stress Doc":  301-946-0865 or stressdoc@aol.com .  And to view web video highlights of a Stress Doc Keynote, go to http://www.stressdoc.com/media_downloads.htm .

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2006

Shrink Rap Productions