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Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business by Mark Robichaux

  1. Malone is considered the grandfather of the cable industry but many also saw him as a rapacious, Machiavellian bully. He skated close to securities laws violations and extracted a price for the progress he offered, much like industrial powers Andrew Carnegie or JP Morgan before him. He had the power to decide which cable networks survived, he defied regulators, and he crushed competitors. And all of this he did brazenly.
Key Takeaways
  1. Instead of taking a cushy job, Malone chose hardship and a pay cut to join TCI, an obscure company that had lurched from crisis to crisis for the preceding 20 years. Bob Magness, a former cottonseed salesman and cattle rancher used a wobbly foundation of brinkmanship, bald faced gambles, and abundant debt to build TCI into the fourth largest cable provider in the US. Malone had picked TCI because Magness, fatigued and running out of luck, was ready to relinquish power and let a new man run the entire show – and because, if Malone could make it work, he might become extremely wealthy. TCI, which had become a publicly owned company in 1970, might be a diamond in the rough. “I can’t pay you very much, but you’ve got a great future here if you can create it,” Magness told Malone. Malone was more of a treasurer than the president his first few years at TCI – fending off lenders, raising money, talking to analysts, and more.
  2. Malone started at TCI and helped make it a powerhouse through acquisitions and financial engineering. The structures of the dals were exotic, and his financial alchemy often befuddled Wall St. and investors. The flurry of complex mergers, acquisitions, stock dividends and spin-offs clouded the picture of the company’s true performance, which was phenomenal by one measure that counts in almost all business: shareholder value. A single share of TCI, purchased at the 1974 low of 75 cents was worth $4,184 by the end of 1997 – a 5578 fold increase. His shareholders got very rich alongside Malone. For Malone, it was a noble, if not moral achievement, the fruit of his enormous capacity to deduce and strategize
  3. Magness was a master at reading people – he got Malone on board by playing to his desire for control over his future and freedom to lead. His wife was also an astute business partner, cotton raiser and learned to listen rather than talk – reading what a person wanted in every negotiation
  4. Learned of cable antenna TV (CATV) and started it in Memphis, Texas. If pulled off, he would be able to charge his neighbors a monthly fee for the television service – which he would get free of charge, basically pirating the programming from the TV stations themselves without paying a cent. He directed the construction, climbing the poles himself to string wire, while Betsy deciphered the finances and took service calls at the kitchen table. He invested everything he had, and still he had to go into debt. He sold this operation a few years later at a handsome profit. Tax laws made it attractive to reinvest as cable operators could gradually write off the cost of their systems over a number of years, allowing them to reduce the leftover profits they reported as earnings and thereby sheltering a healthy cash flow from taxation. And once they had written off most of the value of a cable system’s assets, they could sell it to a new owner, who could begin the tax-eluding depreciation cycle all over again.
    1. Don’t need to be a genius if you can see and place yourself ahead of a wave
  5. Magness never wrote a memo but the headquarters in Bozeman were Spartan and this frugality never left Magness or Malone. By the mid-1960s, Bob Magness had realized the potential of community antenna to fill a vast need; he likened cable to the oil rush days in his native Oklahoma and Texas. It was genius, really, to anyone who took the time to figure it out. Cable TV systems generated bundles of cash from installation charges and monthly service fees. Most of the money was plowed back into the companies, with hardly anything going to pay dividends to shareholders. This high cash flow could service an immense amount of debt, which was used to buy more systems. The companies paid hardly any taxes because of the high depreciation on the equipment – the average cable system enjoyed a profit margin of 57%, far better than most businesses. Because of this structure, and the tax incentives, TCI had to keep expanding, no matter what, buying up new cable companies to start the write-off process anew and build cash flows. To fund TCI’s expansion, Malone courted companies with capital to invest and an abiding interest in cable – but no expertise. Malone used different classes of shares with differing voting rights. A standing joke around TCI was that if TCI ever did report a large profit, Malone would fire the accountants. Malone had to “teach” the street what was really important – there is a big difference between creating wealth and reporting income. A focus on cash flow rather than reported income was hard for most to accept and was controversial for decades but those who invested alongside Malone would come to benefit greatly. He always pushed a long-term mindset and time horizon.
  6. The next step from owning cable that delivered the programming, was to own a piece of the cable channels themselves, thereby sharing in a whole extra upside. This way, TCI could own both the pipe and the water flowing through it. Vertical integrating of companies would become an awesomely powerful and controversial tool in building TCI. TCI came to own parts of BET, MTV, the Discovery Channel, and many more
  7. Malone was able to be patient when things got too expensive, building up cash reserves, making smaller acquisitions, and waiting for prices to normalize after the buying frenzy dried up.
  8. Malone’s father was gone a lot, had very high expectations for John and John wanted to prove himself and gain his acceptance. He did this in school (especially math), through track and field, and other entrepreneurial adventures. His father always recommended “guessing at the answers” before he saw them. Guess before you figure them out helped him develop an intuition and make split second decisions and was an important weapon of his – allowing him to “see” the answers before others did.
  9. Malone worked for Bell Labs out of school and focused on economic modeling and proposed that AT&T to shift its debt-to-equity ratio, taking on more debt and buying back its own stock in the market
  10. When Malone moved to McKinsey, he started by interviewing everyone from the senior ranks to the new hires. What works? What doesn’t? How would you fix it? Over time, Malone found that if he interviewed 30 people or so and listened intently, themes would emerge. The best ideas were sometimes hidden, or they were lost on senior executives. By laying the patterns bare, studying in detail the disparate parts – not unlike disassembling a radio – he learned how big corporations don’t work. It was not rocket science, Malone realized, you simply take the best ideas from anyone who has them, polish tem, and serve them up to the chairperson. His mind was like a spread of glue – it held fast any concept or pattern it encountered.
  11. Main rule he ruled at McKinsey: listen intently
  12. Always ask the question, “if not..?”
  13. Loyalty is more important than anything else
  14. Malone’s strategy was simple: get bigger
  15. Malone, like Magness, didn’t believe in memos. No paper passed from his desk to his underlings. No executive sought to curry favor or engage in the sort of Kremlinesque politics that caused ulcers in so many midlevel executives. Communication was direct, effective, and efficient. Every Monday morning, Malone sat with his closest executives at a broad round table, to figure out a way to squeeze more out of TCIs growing cable kingdom.
  16. The TCI men were cable cowboys. Though the term was repeated in derision by the bankers and politicians who coined it, the TCI team wore the nickname like a badge
  17. Malone liked to use naval metaphors, such as bulkheads, to describe the setup. Large ships are designed to withstand battle damage because they have watertight bulkheads, separate and self-contained compartments that can be sealed off to prevent an injured vessel from capsizing. You can take a torpedo in any one part and still stay afloat. With each new system he bought the debt was secured by a TCI subsidiary, not by the parent company. So, if the cable system defaulted on a loan, only one subsidiary would be threatened. Another way Malone eased risk was to spread it out among an ever-broadening array of partners, thereby protecting TCI and enhancing its influence in the industry at the same time. Aside from the cable systems that were wholly owned by TCI, the company was a minority partners in more than 35 cable companies, all of which got the same price breaks in programming that TCI got – which amounted to as much as a 30% discount.
  18. Importance of courage
    1. In the early days, TCI was struggling financially and Malone met with the main lenders to ask them to bring down the interest rates because of the healthy cash flows. They countered instead by proposing to raise the rates and Malone told them they could have the keys and raise if the interest rates if they thought they could run the company better than he. They backed down and gave TCI some room to breathe
    2. Malone avoided acquiring at sky high prices during bubbles but once it burst, scooped in with a vengeance. Malone relished the role of bargain hunter amid the spoils of bad deals made by his competitors. Was able to wait without tiring of waiting
    3. Later on, Malone and Magness cut several deals that allowed executives to own cable systems privately, then eventually turn them over to TCI. For Malone, it was a way not only of compensating his top employees as the values grew but, more importantly, to teach them. “Guys will understand a cable system a hell of a lot better if they have skin in the game.” Critics may have judged the deal as enriching insiders, but Malone paid little attention. Malone’s attitude was: you don’t like the way we reward management? Don’t buy the stock
    4. By 1986, TCI was beginning to run the way Malone had wanted it to run – highly decentralized. He had cut the company into 6 separate operating divisions, each nearly autonomous, with its own accounting and engineering departments. When you’ve got it running right, when you’ve got it decentralized, when you’ve got it structured properly, it’s like flying the most powerful fighter jet in the world
    5. One of the hallmarks of Malone’s management style was to leave the founder in charge. If you buy a property and find a manager motivated by ownership in the company, keep him or her in power and trust him or her implicitly
    6. Forget about earnings: what you really want is appreciating assets. You want to own as much of that asset as you can; then you want to finance it as efficiently as possible. And above all else, make sure that the deals you do avoid as much in taxes as legally possible. And then some.
    7. Never sacrifice convictions  at whims of others, no matter what the price
    8. Instead of high salaries, paid in equity which helped align incentives
    9. The idea, Malone liked to think, was to collaborate with your enemies – especially your enemies – to avoid the large and costly fight of real competition. It’s like mutually assured destruction: both sides could really hurt the other if they did something really stupid. We have to treat each other with civility to avoid all-out nuclear war.
  19. Redstone’s motto: content is king
  20. Tough times in the industry created incredibly tight bonds among the people at TCI
  21. Cable franchise essentially a legal right to a local monopoly
  22. The Cable Communications Act of 1984, the first national legislation establishing government authority over cable TV, ushered in a new era of growth, opening up financial markets, programming ideas, and billions of dollars in untapped revenue to cable. The law also kept the giant phone companies at bay, forbidding them from owning cable systems in their service areas. Incredible bidding wars ensued between cable operators and telcos. While cable had a fatter pipe, phone companies could offer cable firms badly needed capital and world-class expertise in switched, two-way communications. The first big move by a Bell came just two weeks after Malone made his 500-channel pledge. Both cable and telcos wanted to deploy similar technology but over separate sets of wires: cable companies over their thick coaxial cable lines and telcos over their twisted-pair copper networks. Coaxial cables offered orders of magnitude more data to be sent than the high speed lines of phone companies.
  23. “Malone is the kind of guy you want to run through walls for”
  24. “I’d gladly give my life to save his” – Ted Turner
  25. Used scale, penetration to get discounts and ownership of channels. The more horses Malone bet on, the likelier his chances of winning – BET, MTV, QVC, CVN. By 1988, TCI generated $850m in cash. Though it had no earnings, it had more cash flow than ABC, CBS, and NBC combined.
  26. Malone’s incredible commitment and focus had a massive strain on his family life. He also made enemies because he was seen as a bully, as taking a disproportionate share of the wealth he created, was unrepentant and unabashed about his and TCI’s clout
  27. Set up Liberty to prevent regulation, anti-trust, but also to make him very rich as he had 20% ownership. Used tracking stocks often – an interest in the earnings of the company but don’t own the underlying assets.
  28. After the 1992 regulation, Malone came up with the “500 channel” vision and interactive TV
  29. Maine and his boat were Malone’s retreat. Escape is necessary. Getting away gives you a new perspective and makes you more human. When you’re running a large corporation, you’re not able to show your human side all that much. It’s just not productive.
  30. Don’t chase too many rabbits simultaneously – know your main goals and focus on them intently until you reach them or find a more important goal to focus on
  31. Malone believes his greatest weakness was allowing his loyalty to get ahead of performance.
  32. One of the TCI insider’s favorite analogies for TCI’s problems was that TCI was a gas station company acting like a pipeline company. Pipelines deliver fuel in bulk. But gas stations sell it to retail customers, a far more service-oriented business. Customer service would win the day, and no one could argue that TCI didn’t need to pay more attention to its customers. Running a pipeline business is a pretty easy business – you just turn on a pump. Running gas stations is a really hard business. Hindrey wanted to put marketing and purchasing decisions back in the hands of local operators. You market from the bottom up, and not from the top down. What works in Bozeman doesn’t work in Birmingham. He also demanded to see copies of customer complaints for weeks at a time
  33. In June 1997, Bill Gates became cable’s savior in one simple, decisive move: he had shocked Wall St. by having Microsoft invest $1b in cash in Comcast at the behest of Brian Roberts. Until then, cable had been left for dead; the reregulation effort had crimped cash flow, the industry faced huge investment to go fully interactive, and cable stocks were near all-time lows. Suddenly everyone wanted to know the answer to the question: just what does Bill Gates know that we don’t? Gates had bought on the cheap and though he would be involved in the coming years, Malone and others were careful not to let Microsoft get too ingrained by having their software become the default on cable top boxes.
  34. Malone had a “3-D chess” type of mind – truly has the hologram in the head
  35. If you can get scale economics, you can get the costs down. If you get the costs down, you get the scale economics. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you get the scale economics you can develop applications that are really important to a lot of people. If you can get applications that are important to people, you get people to buy the boxes, and you’ll get more scale economics
  36. Malone almost always reached out directly to deal. He would pick up the phone and reach out to the other side and look for the common ground where he could put together a mutually agreeable deal – win/win
  37. Malone Family Foundation – to promote the secondary and liberal arts education of the most able young men and women of our society and train such individuals as future leaders of society; acquire and preserve land and open space, preserving forever Nature’s natural and pristine beauty
  38. Malone was a man who was fiercely proud of what he had accomplished. A man who believed that wealth creation was a noble, moral achievement and believed the definition was not freedom from obligation, but freedom to choose which of those obligations to take on, which roles to play in business and in life.
  39. TCI made wealth not by pretending to be the best cable operator but through investments and complex financial engineering.
  40. Once TCI was sold to AT&T, Malone wanted to created separate stocks for the stable, dividend paying business and the more growth-oriented businesses. He wanted, as Jack Welch had done at GE, to create autonomous units with a total delegation of operational parameters within budgeting controls. If you do these things, you’ll have a great company and you will maximize shareholder value. Malone had pulled off one of the largest sales in the history of telecommunications and the IRS had to treat it as a tax-free stock merger. Basically, Malone had exchanged his personals take of $1.7b in TCI and Liberty for $2.4b in AT&T and Liberty stock. Malone always paid as little in taxes and as late as possible. It is my job to save as much of shareholder’s money as I can
  41. Later, Malone got into raising cattle. He loved the inherent efficiencies in hybrid vigor, the known improvements in growth or yield in one generation of hybrids over their parents. The idea is to have a 1,000 pound cow producing a 550 pound calf at weaning. She is more efficient. The smaller the cow, the less grass she eats. If you get a 2,000 pound cow producing a 300 pound weaning calf, you are doing it the wrong way. He also bought a ton of land and the basic idea was to own land in pretty places that haven’t been ruined yet and to not develop it. The elements of success in cable could also be applied to buying land: scale, timing, and efficiency. Almost all of the land and ranch purchases by Malone had a single element in common: conservation easements, which allow landowners to take charitable tax deductions if they opt to never develop a property.
What I got out of it
  1. The innovation, courage, focus, and hard work Malone exhibits in building up his empire was fun to read about. How he was able to stay ahead of the game, know what the important things were and focus heavily on those, and waiting for the right time to pounce are all admirable. His hard-nosed, no bs fashion earned him many enemies and run-ins with government regulation

Tiger Woods by Armen Keteyian, Jeff Benedict

  1. A deep look into Tiger’s history, family, career and lifestyle, helping us understand how someone can become so dominant in their sport and some of the costs it takes to get there
Key Takeaways
  1. Tiger’s parents guarded him fiercely when he was young. Tiger spent more time alone practicing or watching TV than playing with others. Family and golf was everything. He was always painfully shy, very secretive and protective of his privacy but his whole demeanor and confidence changed when he got a club in his hands
  2. Tiger’s nickname came from one of Earl’s friends in the army
  3. Tiger values privacy and loyalty more than anything
  4. Tiger’s father had abused and cheated on his wife. Tiger’s mom was strict and threatened to beat him if he ever hurt her reputation as a mother. She told him to go for the throat in competition or else people will come back and “beat his ass”. It was education before play and was told to always respect his elders
  5. Earl was married with three children when he went on tour in Thailand and met Koditta. After Tiger, Koditta could not have any other kids and committed herself fully to teaching and caring for her son. By then Tiger was 2, he was already practicing at least 2 hours per day. He was on talk shows and did interviews since this tender age. Earl helped his son get every advantage a country club kid gets and more – private lessons, custom made clubs, sports psychologists without having to pay for it because of Tiger’s skill. Earl even used psychological warfare training he learned in the military on Tiger to prepare him for anything he might face on the course
  6. Tiger had arguably the best amateur career in history and became a pro after his sophomore year at Stanford when he won his third US Open amateur championship. His start as a pro was no different, winning 2 if his first 7 tournaments
  7. Tiger was thrust on the national stage at such a young age but still had to mature and learn a lot emotionally. While Tiger found more balance after his first couple years on the tour, it shows how athletic success often overshadows character flaws
  8. What drives tiger? Never being satisfied. This brings restlessness and total perfection. He wanted total control over every area of his life
  9. Tiger had just won the Masters but wasn’t satisfied. He saw videos of his swing and wanted to completely revamp it. It would take him nearly two years to master the new swing and win again. Nobody else has taken a step down from the top to fix their swing in what would be best for the long term like Tiger did in this situation. He lost some length but gained a lot more control and repeatability.
  10. Nobody had his ability to execute difficult shots and to deal with he mental side of the game like he did
  11. Tiger developed a love for the ocean and scuba diving and learned how to control his breathing and heart rate through stressful dives which translated to his golf game
  12. When Tiger got famous he got even meaner. Power corrupts. He started spending a lot of time in Vegas and with Charles Barkley and Michel Jordan. Jordan, maybe the only other athlete who could compare to Tiger’s dominance and fame, exerted a lot of influence over the younger Tiger. Tiger was gambling more, became rude with the press and became more entitled and a bigger jerk
  13. Tiger hit a drought from 2002-2004 and fired most of his crew who had been with him for years. Hank Haney was his new coach and Elin was now in his life
  14. His emotional detachment was part of his formula for success.  No matter how well he played, there was always better. Tiger was able to compartmentalize life like nobody else and somehow managed to play his best golf while the rest of his life was falling apart. He needed adrenaline and an outlet and found this through golf, navy seals training and women
  15. An affair was covered up in 2007 but in 2009 the story finally broke and all of Tiger’s infidelities became world known. Tiger stepped away from golf for nearly 2 years got treatment for sex addiction and to try to repair things with his wife but eventually she determined that she wanted a divorce
  16. Today, Tiger is back on tour but not nearly the force he once was. He is also in chronic pain as he has worn out his back and his knees. Although he hasn’t been able to reach the same level as before, this process humanized him and allowed him to enjoy the game and relate to fans like never before
What I got out of it
  1. Had heard about Tiger’s dedication to golf before but this book made me appreciate it at an even deeper level. He was raised to be the best ever and was wholly consumed. It helped him reach his goal but it also distorted his personality and sense of reality. Book ends on a positive note with Tiger becoming more human and relatable after the scandal, although he may never reach his dominant self again due to age, injury, and maybe a change of mindset/priorities

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

  1. This book is about what goes on in a doctor’s mind as he or she treats a patient. Knowing this and what is the most effective language to use, patients can truly become a partner of their doctor, arriving at faster and more accurate diagnoses
Key Takeaways
  1. William Osler is the father of patient centered medicine – being the first to understand and preach the importance of bedside manners
  2. How a doctor asks and responds to questions is key to making a patient feel safe and allowing them the space to open up and engage
  3. It is very important to keep a log of your mistakes and to revisit them often, keeping them top of mind and hopefully learning from that mistake so a similar one doesn’t happen again
  4. Heuristics are necessary but we must know which shortcuts we are using and how we are feeling so that we don’t develop blind spots or let our biases become too strong
  5. Most medical errors are not technical but errors in thinking, often stemming from a lack of awareness about how one feels
  6. Humans tend to overweight things which agree with and fulfill their current beliefs and desires
  7. The secret for caring for the patient is to care about the patient. This sounds silly and redundant but it is harder than it sounds because if you care too much it can impair your judgement but if you care too little you miss out on one of the most important aspects of being a healer
  8. If in a situation where you are very close to your doctor, worth saying how much you appreciate their level of care but also reassure hem that you want the honest truth and to do what’s best, even if it’s hard
  9. In an unusual situation, never accept “we see this sometimes.” Keep digging and asking questions
  10. Also ask, “What other body parts could be causing my symptoms?
  11. There will always be incomplete evidence but keep questioning doctors and their diagnoses, avoiding “diagnosis momentum” where things go unquestioned even if the situation is very unsure
  12. You need to know not only what people know but how they know it
  13. One size fits all scenarios rarely are the answer. Each person’s body and context need to be adjusted to
  14. Make sure incentives are aligned. Prescription drugs, surgeries and other expensive therapies are often pushed on customers even when not needed or appropriate. Ask how time tested the procedure it is, how common it is, if it’s standard, etc.
  15. Doctors have to figure out the right path as best as possible and then find ways to get the patient to agree with that decision. You can not force or coerce patients to do something they’re uncomfortable with just because you think it’s the right way
  16. Often the doctor is more important than the hospital
  17. Is there anything that doesn’t fit?
  18. Is it possible I have more than one problem?
  19. Great doctors will think of lateral networks and non-medical reasons why treatments may be failing
  20. Today’s structure forces many doctors to try to get through as many patients as possible in a day but good thinking takes time. Find a doctor who will give you the time you need
  21. At the end of the day, medicine has to be a blend of science and soul
What I got out of it
  1. A good read into understanding a doctors world, their training, thought processes, common errors and how to best communicate in order to reach the best path to wellness

The Way of Zen by Alan Watts

  1. Alan Watts introduces Zen Buddhism to a western audience by discussing zen’s history, the principles and practices, za-zen meditations, koans, and how to incorporate into your life
Key Takeaways
  1. The western mind attaches the idea of “self” more closely to what he or she has done or was than who they currently are
  2. Must learn how to combine peripheral with linear thinking. The hunch with rationality, trusting our gut and the feel of the situation as much as what we rationally know about it
  3. The minute nirvana becomes a desire, it becomes Sankara (suffering). Real nirvana cannot be conceived.
  4. One has to know in one’s bones that there is nothing to be grasped. There is no way to enlightenment that requires any force. Must surrender completely
  5. Everything is relative, non dual. Things can only exist in relation to others. Only when we begin classifying things does duality arise
  6. All beings are endowed with a Buddha nature. We simply forget it. There is nothing to achieve, we just need to go back to our original state. To seek Buddhahood is to deny you already have it
  7. The contemplation and distinction between right and wrong is a common sickness of the mind
What I got out of it
  1. A thorough and informative history of zen and a good overview of the main themes, terms, and characters

The Farmer From Merna: A Biography of George J. Mecherle and a History of the State Farm Insurance Companies of Bloomington, Illinois by Karl Schriftgeisser


  1. The life of George Mecherle and his founding of State Farm Insurance

Key Takeaways

  1. Mecherle’s ancestors were German farmers and immigrated to America, eventually settling down in Bloomington, IN. The rule of George’s household was integrity. It was their duty to become trusted members of the community. George showed early signs of being sharp, independent, a leader, a potential baseball star, a “doer” in whatever he was responsible for
  2. George was not content to do things one way just because that was the way his father, or anybody else, did them. He was always studying and reading about what the other fellows had done
  3. Left a couple jobs just because he didn’t like how his bosses ran the business. He wanted to use skills, his farmer mindset, and his connections to form a statewide auto insurance to the farmers of the state of Illinois, at rates which they could afford. He worked tirelessly to bring his farmers the lowest rates that could possibly be justified. George became so obsessed with his idea that he eventually became a “pest”, wanting to discuss all aspects of insurance with anybody that would hear him out.
  4. There were three provisions that were fundamental foundation-stones of State Farm which were diametrically opposed to the standard methods of automobile insurance: the clauses setting up the membership fee, the premium deposit, and the six-month term of insurance. The membership fee exempted people from further membership fees for similar vehicles. The premium deposit got the customers to lower their risk profile as they had some skin in the game. The six-month term of insurance allowed State Farm to adjust rates as needed, this allowed them to be more adaptive than other insurance companies who only adjusted annually
  5. Insurance was the third largest industry in the US in 1921
  6. He had, and this was what counted most of all, the faith and encouragement of his wife
  7. Mecherle had the ingenious idea of installing a theft and movable object collision clause which said that the policyholder would pay for anything less than $10 and State Farm would pay for anything above $10. It was his theory that if a farmer had to pay for minor repairs he would be more careful with his automobile. It also would save the company from a flood of petty claims each time a member scraped a fender or dented a mudguard
  8. From the very beginning, the agency force was the heart of the company. People who are “more than order takers, for the selling of our insurance requires a man of ability to create a demand, sell the insurance, take the application, and complete the whole deal in one call if he hopes to make a success of this business. These men seem to be a rare article.”
  9. In the early days, George sent out a list of 14 questions which helped him determine pretty accurately how the idea was being received around the state
    1. Don’t you think our proposition the best insurance plan for farmers that you have seen?
    2. What did your board of directors think of it?
    3. Would you like to save your friends and the members of your Farm Mutual Ins. Co. some money?
    4. Would you like to make some money for yourself
    5. Are your Farm Mutual members satisfied with Old Line or Reciprocal rates and their method of settling claims?
    6. Would you endorse our proposition if you found, after a thorough investigation, that it was worth of your endorsement?
    7. Will you write to Mr. SB Mason for his opinion of our proposition?
    8. Will you write for information concerning us?
    9. Will you write to Prairie Farm about our proposition?
    10. Did you see our advertisement in the April 29th issue of the Prairie Farm?
    11. How does the fact that Mr. JW Coale wrote 32 applications in two and one half days appeal to you?
    12. How much time could you devote to selling our insurance?
    13. If you had the time to devote to our proposition, could you do as well or better than Mr. Coale?
    14. How soon would you like to have our Special man spend a few days with you to explain the plan to your neighbors?
  10. Great companies always look different
    1. “During the years of its growth to the commanding position of the largest automobile insurance company in the US, the secret of State Farm’s success was a continual source of puzzlement to the insurance fraternity. The incontrovertible figures of its annual statements proved that it was a financial success, and the findings of the examiners for the insurance departments of the various states in which it was licensed to operate revealed no flaws in its method of doing business. But questions were forever being asked. What was the secret formula that allowed this company, almost alone of all automobile insurance companies, to undersell the market and still show such amazingly large figures on the right side of the ledgers? How did it actually work? One obvious answer to the first question was the organizational genius of the “super-salesman” who was at the head of all its operations. In George Mecherle, who had come to the business at a time in life when most men have long since reached the peak of their ability, State Farm owned a chief executive of exceptional talents. He had been at the forefront of every progressive move the company had made, and as the years went by he had chosen those capable associates who had worked so well under his all-seeing direction. Especially in the early years was it true in his case, as Emerson said in a rather larger conception that, “an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” But there was really more to it than that. There was, for one thing, the philosophy underlying the institution that was his lengthened shadow. State Farm was different than anything that had preceded it but, paradoxically, there was little that was original in its plan.”
    2. No companies previously had attempted to establish a basis for selective risks, based on geography, age, etc. By taking this information into account, State Farm was able to operate for nearly 40% less than its stock competitors. They charged its members every six-months which was easier for most people at that time to financially handle than the lump sum annual payment other companies required. They also required a smaller unearned premium reserve. And an inadequate, or excessive rate, could be corrected at the end of six months rather than waiting until the end of the year.
    3. Another feature that contributed to operational economy was the issuing of policies by the home office rather than by the agent in the field. Relieved of this clerical work, or of the expensive necessity of hiring someone to do the work for him, the agent could concentrate on selling. Since his income depended on sales, he could afford to work for less than the agent who had to keep an office force.
    4. State Farm policies, once written, were not rewritten and replaced each policy term. This greatly saved expense, work, and time. The same policy remained outstanding until the policyholder bought a new car – and, in those days of agricultural uncertainty, the farmer did not turn in his old Ford or Chevrolet for a new car each year, by any means – or made a major move or change of coverage. This feature was borrowed from the standard practice of life and accident companies; but it had never previously been tried out in automobile insurance companies before
    5. Also borrowed – this time from mail order houses – was another feature, one never before used in automobile insurance but one that had been found efficient in the operation of many accident and health and several life companies. This was the system of billing and collecting renewal premiums by the home office, or by branch offices after they were established. This relieved the agent of the task of collecting renewals, and thus obviated the necessity of compensating him for such collections. This, of course, resulted in a material saving in expense for State Farm, which was passed on to the policyholders. Agents were, however, paid fees and expenses for adjusting losses. This, at first, was on a per diem and mileage basis, but later was changed to a percentage of the premiums, largely for ease of administration.
    6. All premiums had to be paid in cash in advance, avoiding the expenses of establishing a credit system
    7. The most novel feature of the State Farm plan was the lifetime membership fee system. Any person who joined State Farm did so for life, or at least for as long a part of his life as he remained a “good risk.” His membership did not cease even if he should allow a policy to lapse for some time. State Farm’s advantage was that it charged the member the cost of solicitation and the sale of the insurance policy only once. Since State Farm renewal policies contained no provision for new business costs, this factor alone provided a large part of the price advantage which State Farm enjoyed over its competitors. This membership fee, it is interesting to note, was not a premium. It was, instead, an admission and inspection fee. It was not returnable. For this reason, no unearned premium reserve was set up on it. This allowed the company to not be burdened with reserves, typically a big issue for new businesses. But, in this case, new business was paid for by the new clients. The phenomenal growth rate of State Farm could not have been realized without this innovation, and yet the very plan that made this growth possible also provided a price advantage to create this growth
    8. The 80-20 plan was adopted from other insurance companies, where the policyholder assumes 20% of the risk and the insurance company 80%. The sound psychology of this lay in the fact that it gave the policyholder an interest in keeping his losses to a minimum
    9. Mecherle devised a system of classing all automobiles by list price into seven classes, from A to G, rather than having hundreds of different rates for each car. This system was easy to understand and to apply. In the first agent’s manual – a masterpiece of simplicity there was an uncomplicated formula by which anyone could readily determine the amount of insurance that could be written on any car, whether new or old.
    10. Another saving for the policyholder came about through lower average losses resulting from the careful selection of business. The restriction of those eligible to membership in State Farm, and such clauses as the drunken driver clause, not only appealed to farmers, with their more rigid code of morals, but also saved the company money.
    11. There existed no contractual obligation on the part of the company to pay any dividend to the policyholder at the end of the term. This system had the merit of favoring the continuing policyholders and discouraging lapses, much after the system of surrender charges generally in use in life insurance companies
    12. All of these economies, acting together, enabled State Farm to do business in the early days for nearly 40% less than the stock companies!
  11. Created an internal publication to get new policies and any other information across to the nation-wide network of agents and offices. It was directed mostly to the agents and sent them the company message, the news of what the various state agencies were doing, the pertinent facts, figures, and news of the entire organization. It was also a medium for the expression of George Mecherle’s messages – his inspiring talks.
  12. The goal had always been to build an honest insurance company, one focused on service and square dealing, giving to each member equal and just consideration; and to build the organization grounded on the principles of true equality and right-dealing as between men
  13. Even through the Great Depression State Farm continued to grow, thriving in tough times. “We have truly learned that what we really keep is what we give and that the returns are immediate. Therefore, under this new philosophy, the standard of success will eventually be the measure of service given.
  14. The service fee bonus gave each agent an opportunity to participate in that underwriting profit in his respective state in an amount not exceeding 25% of his annual service fee compensation, provided his own business was also profitable. It not only augmented the agents’ income but also provided an incentive for each agent to use care in the selection of drivers to be insured and to render efficient claim service. In placing a bonus fee along with the service fee it makes every agent careful of his record; if an agent secures unprofitable business it puts him on the spot as far as the rest of the agents in that state are concerned
  15. Mecherle was adept at picking high level employees. He demanded and got the same loyalty to the company which he himself gave. He established an esprit de corps that was remarkable and that left its imprint on the organization long after it had grown beyond his wildest imaginings. Most of the roots of the company came back to loyalty – loyalty to State Farm and loyalty to the “Chief”. In the eyes of most people the man and the institution were inseparable
  16. The paternalism of George Mecherle evolved into a scientifically controlled welfare program that approached its human problems on five fronts: physical welfare; financial welfare; morale of the workers; training and education of those who chose to make State Farm a career; other problems not connected with the others
  17. State Farm was the height of enlightened industrialism. The steadiness of employment, the lack of “unrest” among the employees, is traceable in good measure to this system. In a larger city, with more diversified amusements and cultural interests, it might not be as necessary to all concerned as it is in the flat prairie city of Bloomington where, without this self-interested setup, boredom could well result
  18. If needed to shrink, they would wait for employees to retire and then not replace them. “We have a responsibility to our present force. We wouldn’t do anything that would break that loyalty. The big factor in productivity is morale.
    1. Left a red rose on the desk of all employees on their birthdays
    2. Handed out pins denoting length of service in ceremonious presentations. Today, there are also cash bonuses for five-year periods, ranging from five to thirty years’ service
    3. Held “Coke parties” on each floor whenever an employee passes a ten-year service milestone, and all employees who have been with the company for fifteen or more years are honored annually at a special dinner party
  19. “As we have become more independent, we are becoming more conservatively minded. This – I am satisfied – is natural, and comes from maturity. It should be our greatest desire to build for permanency on a sound business policy rather than to attempt too great a volume from this time on.”
    1. Permanency through honesty 
  20. “Our plan is very simple when boiled down to its essence. It will consist primarily in establishing a contact and working agreement between local banks and our agents, so that the bank will finance the purchase of automobiles for deserving policyholders and will accept our policy, with proper safeguards on the loan. Such a plan, when carried to its utmost possibilities, will open the door to a vast new field of business, in view of the fact that two out of three sales of new and used cars are one deferred payment basis. Furthermore, we will be able to retain many policies which we are now losing when the policyholder trades in his old car one new one and finances the deal.
  21. As State Farm was not a factory, they could not be “converted” during WWII. Others said that they should focus on other lines but Mecherle turned a deaf ear. State Farm might lose as much as half its business, he stated firmly, but it would come out of the war as clean as a hound’s tooth and without resorting to diversification. This long-term mindset would pay off only years later when massive pent up demand for new cars, repairs, insurance, and more would be let loose once the war was over
  22. One of the keys to the growth was the fact that since establishment, State Farm paid losses promptly and satisfactorily. In the long run, Mecherle felt, this may have been the greatest factor – this and the confidence of the agency force in the company management
  23. When George was beginning to step away from the business he asked, “The only thing I insist upon is that you do not depart from the membership plan, the continuous policy, the six-month’s premium, and the happiness of our agency force. Those are fundamental. Beyond them there are no restrictions. So, go to it.” He would step away from the business, allowing the new generation to lead but still kept every detail of the business at his fingertips. He kept the facts and figures of State Farm up to the very last minute in his worn loose-leaf books. He knew what was going on in every department. In spite of the growth of State Farm, he still kept his interest in the individual welfare of the staff, and knew the names and personal histories of an incredibly large number of them.
  24. The secret to his success – “A man has to live and sleep with his business if he wants to make a go of it. You have to take it home with you at night, so you can lie there in the darkness and figure out what you can do to improve it. In fact, you have to become sort of a ‘nut’ about it, so that you become so enthused that you will bore your friends talking about it. You have to become a one-man crusade.”
  25. Good character above all else
  26. “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” – Emerson
  27. The greatest troubles we have are what we bring on ourselves
  28. Remember this: every man who accomplishes anything worthwhile in this life will leave behind him many temples still unfinished when he departs this life
  29. From his associates on every level he demanded three things: willingness to work hard, faith in the organization, loyalty to the “spirit” of State Farm. Few were those who did not give him all three in good measure. In return he gave to his associates what he demanded from them. He was no swivel-chair commander, but the hardest worker of them all. His faith in the high purposes of State Farm as an organization dedicated to the service of its members was all-absorbing. And his loyalty to the men and women who were loyal to him and his ideals was legendary
  30. “Things do not happen – they are brought about by careful planning, diligence, application, and direction. The tiny seed planted in the year 1922, which has been nurtured by the sunlight of agency devotion and sustained by the life-giving waters of policyholder persistency, has grown in root and branch – spreading a mantle of service and protection throughout the nation – until today the ripened fruit of its many branches is falling as a benediction into the lives, homes, and hearts of our people.”

What I got out of it

  1. Slow book at times but learned a lot about the George Mecherle and the “honest-first” business he created. There are timeless business and overall life principles that we could all learn from and incorporate into our jobs and lives

No Way to Run a Railroad: The Untold Story of the Penn Central Crisis by Stephen Salsbury

  1. Behind the scenes look at what really happened in the collapse of one of America’s largest business failures, the bankruptcy of Penn Central in 1970. Because railroads are America’s oldest large scale business, organizations observing what has happened to them has great value in understanding fundamental issues facing American businesses in the 1980s.
Key Takeaways
  1. David Bevan, CFO, warned the chief executives of the merging companies, the Pennsylvania and the New York Central, of many of the troubles which eventually came to fruition. The leaders did not fully appreciate the terrible result from the inadequately planned merger and huge capital expenditures involved
  2. This greatest bankruptcy in world history, one that lead to government entrance into what had previously been a privately owned industry, illustrates ills to which very large corporations are sometimes prone: ineffective top managers, unchecked by knowledgeable representatives of stockholders on the Board of Directors; lack of proper information through accounting of what was going on in the operations; government interference with corporate efforts to find new avenues to profit; and over optimism regarding future expenses in relation to sales
  3. Railroads in the early to mid 1900s had become slow, bureaucratic, and became less profitable because of it. Some suggested that new technology and business practices were the way to go but others saw mergers as the solution to all problems. However, they did not associate mergers with any managerial reforms
  4. Reasons for failure: managerial structure and practices were backward when compared to other large American enterprises; no planning before the merger at crucial operating or managerial levels; it failed operationally; top management rejected advanced planning and modern concepts of business management (budgeting and forward financial planning); diversification did not cause the bankruptcy
  5. Railroads were innovative and revolutionary when they first began, from finance and cost accounting methods, to trade unions, to creating legal corporate entities, to new managerial styles, but they began to ossify in the mid 1900s. Because the capital requirements were so large they cannot be financed as the textile industry had been, by single individuals or small group, and needed investment bankers, stock exchanges and even a financial press. They fostered all these things
  6. One of the mistakes made by the Penn Central top management, which escalated operational confusion, was the failure to decide whether to operate the consolidated railroad on a centralized or decentralized basis
  7. Due to monopoly concerns, railroads were often hindered from investing or helping build other transportation industries. The Pennsylvania was instrumental in founding the predecessor of TWA but was not allowed to move much further than that.
  8. Bevan, Saunders and Perlman were not able to work together effectively although they had great pedigrees and track records. The differing opinions on innovation versus lowering capital expenditures were too great and none realized how small their margin for error truly was. The current management was reluctant to change their managerial and financial/accounting practices and the only thing more painful than changing is the pain that comes from not changing
  9. Railroads most efficient at moving bulky, low value commodities great distances and worst in light weight, high value products. The expansion of trucks and roads ate away at the transportation of high value products from rails
  10. Railroad’s meager earnings and high operating costs meant the stock market weren’t a great option so if they wanted money, they had to sell bonds or issue equipment trusts. Their debt grew to all time highs and low operating profits made paying them off increasingly difficult and any long term planning or investing very hard to do. Bevan had a very tough time in reducing the Pennsylvania’s debts and updating its accounting and managerial practices
  11. After the collapse, Bevan was made the scapegoat and his ties with an investment fund he founded with others called Penphil and his association with Executive Jet Aviation were studied but in the end he was not deemed to have done any wrong
What I got out of it
  1. The Penn Central was the largest business failure in the US up to that time. In retrospect, it is clear that it had very poor returns relative to the industry and coupled with inadequate cash and large debt loads, it’s bankruptcy should not have been a total surprise. Different approaches to management (centralized vs decentralized), top officials leaving, government favoring other modes of transportation, accounting and data processing taken from Bevan and given to Perlman, breakdown of reliable information about the general state of the railroad, there was no margin for error and Saunders (the CEO) never appreciated that fact fully, all contributed to its downfall

Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon by Joe Dispenza

  1. “This book will show you how to accept your future dream as your current reality and to do so in a way that your body believes is happening “now.” You can discover how to set into motion a cascade of emotional and physiological processes that reflect your new reality. The neurons in your brain, the sensory neurites in your heart, and the chemistry in your body all harmonize to mirror the new thinking, and the quantum possibilities of life are rearranged to replace the unwanted circumstances of your past with the new circumstances that you’ve accepted as the present. The hope is that this book provides a roadmap for how to achieve some of these transcendental experiences yourself.”
Key Takeaways
  1. We are not linear beings living linear lives but dimensional beings living dimensional lives
  2. It takes a clear intent (coherent brain) and an elevated emotion (a coherent heart (to begin to change a persons biology from living in the last to living in the future. That combination of mind and body – of thoughts and feelings – also seems to influence matter. And that’s how you create reality
  3. All frequencies carry information, including the electromagnetism our bodies give off
  4. There are several energy centers within the body with their own chemistries, hormones, and brains and can be influenced to be more balanced and integrated. Learning how to shift from outer to inner focus (beta to alpha waves) is key to being able to program the autonomic nervous system
  5. The more you understand the science and reasoning behind these meditations and practices, the easier you’ll be able to accept and give into them
  6. There is a future you – a you who already exists in the eternal present moment – who is actually calling himself to the more familiar you who is reading this book. And that future you is more loving, more evolved, more conscious, more present, more kind, more exuberant, more mindful, more willful, more connected, more supernatural, and more whole. That is who is waiting for you to change your energy to match his or her energy on a daily basis so you can find that future you – who actually exists in the eternal now. And the only way you can create a new life, heal your body, or change your predictable future is to get beyond yourself. It takes practice to live in the present moment rather than the predictable future or familiar past
  7. The quantum world, the fifth dimension, is not available through normal senses but only when we’re totally present can we transcend and reach this space where all potential futures are available to you. The quantum of unified field is an invisible field of energy and information – or you could say a field of intelligence or consciousness – that exists beyond space and time. Nothing physical or material exists there. It’s beyond anything you can perceive with your senses. This unified field of energy and information is what governs all the laws of nature. Dispenza thinks of the quantum field as energy which is self-organizing intelligence. The quantum field is filled with infinite amounts of energy vibrating beyond the physical world of matter and beyond our senses – invisible waves of energy available for us to use in creation
  8. The brain thinks but the heart knows. The heart is the center of oneness, wholeness and unity consciousness
  9. Physiologically, stress is akin to fighting for survival. No organism can live in this space for extended periods of time but in today’s world, many humans are at a low level of stress at all times. All energy is sent to deal with external threats and there is nothing left for internal growth and repair, compromising the immune system. But, with proper focus, meditation and breathing techniques, you can teach your brain and body what your ideal future state will feel like ahead of the actual experience. Your brain and body does not know the difference between the real event and the one you imagine and emotionally embrace. You can pull your present self into the future by having this intention crystal clear in your mind and body
  10. Emotions are the chemical consequences (or feedback) of past experiences. The stronger the emotional quotient from any event – good or bad – the stronger the change in our internal chemistry. An experience becomes imprinted on the neural circuitry, and the emotion is then stored in the body – and that’s how our past becomes our biology
  11. It is difficult and takes time but have to completely surrender, get out of the way and let go of wanting any specific outcome and simply open up to possibility
  12. First have to master the concept of the present moment: the eternal now. Have to transcend the physical world and your identity and even time itself in order to turn possibility into reality. You have to get out of your own way, transcend the memory of yourself as an identity and allow something greater than you, something mystical, to take over.
  13. Mind is the brain in action. Your brain is a product of the past; a living record of everything you have learned and experienced up to the present
  14. Becoming aware of your thoughts is so important because thoughts influence feelings which influence behavior which influence life in a virtuous or negative cycle
  15. Changing up your routine and trying new things forces you to be more present and aware because you have to be in the moment and can’t go on autopilot. If not in the present moment, you’re probably in a program (habit). There is no room for the unknown in a predictable life. The unknown is unfamiliar, uncertain – but it’s also exciting because it occurs in ways you cannot expect or anticipate
    1. Something I need to incorporate more of: getting out of habits and routines (even though I feel they’re positive) to allow more space for the unknown and spontaneous to enter my life. Need energy to create an unknown experience in a new timeline if want to change something
  16. Think of emotion as energy in motion, they are the chemical residues of experiences. Brain creates electrical charges through neurons and when these thoughts create chemical neurons that result in an emotion, those feelings create a magnetic charge. These merge to create an electromagnetic field equal to your state of being. Only way to change our lives is to change our energy – to change the electromagnetic field we are constantly broadcasting. In other words, to change our state of being, we have to change how we think and how we feel. What you put your attention on and mentally rehearse over and over again not only becomes who you are from a biological perspective, it also determines your future. An internal focus rather than external (inside body rather than imagining seeing self as though in a movie) had much more profound effects in muscle growth visualizing practices. Shows the power thought alone can have on the body. You have to think greater than how you feel to make any real, lasting changes
    1. Honor this by taking an internal view and comparing self to previous self rather than others
  17. Now know that it’s not the gene that creates disease but both the external and internal environments that program our genes to create the disease.
  18. Experiences enrich the brain. Possessions fracture it’s energy, focus and attention. When outer world objects such as people, problems, social media, etc. take so much of your attention and energy, there is little left for you to put on your inner world of thoughts and feelings. What you own eventually comes to own you – becoming a victim of your life rather than the creator of your life. Too many outside distractions gets your brain to fire out of order and to work inefficiently and out of sync. When your brain is incoherent, you get incoherent. How much of your energy is taken up by possessions, fear, greed, envy, etc. that could otherwise be put to creating a new destiny? This is a shift from somebody to no body, from something to no thing, from being somewhere to being no where, from being in linear time to being in no time. The different compartments that were once subdivided now start to unify and move toward a coherent, whole-brain state – where your brain can synchronize, organize and integrate. The brain then can slow down and connect with our autonomic nervous system, healing the body as our consciousness merges with its consciousness.
  19. Goal of meditation is to create a reality from a world beyond your senses that’s defined not by your body as the mind but by you as the mind. So as you become aware of the program, you keep settling your body down into the present moment. The body wants to return to the familiar past because it wants to engage in a predictable future, but you keep settling it back down. Each time you overcome those automatic thoughts and habits, your will becomes greater than your program, you are reconditioning your body to a new mind. The hardest part of every war is the last battle. Push through this final stage to reach the unknown where all possibilities await
  20. Just like an electron appears when we observe it but when we don’t it is a wave (possibility), focusing on our life gets you the known and by getting past this,being in the eternal present, and focusing on the unknown, turns your life into possibility. The longer you can linger in that field of infinite possibilities, without putting your attention on your body, on things, or on people, places, and time, the longer you invest your energy into the unknown, the more you are going to create a new experience or new possibilities in your life. It’s the law. Need clear intention and elevated emotion – creating an electromagnetic signature that is equal to your state of being. You will literally tune in to the energy of a new future and the unified field will help endorse your creation
  21. Paradox: The unknown has never let me down. Difficult, but surrender to it
  22. These meditations will help you get in syntropy (opposite of entropy) by being aware and able to tune into higher energy frequencies
  23. Meditate by using both convergent (narrow) focus and divergent (open, broad) focus by putting awareness to different parts of the body as well as the space surrounding the body, bringing you into coherence. Focusing on no thing, focusing on information rather than matter, allows your brain waves to slow down and move from beta to alpha – sensing and feeling rather than thinking. This allows you to move into the seat of your body’s operating system, the ANS, and work in a more holistic fashion
  24. Energy centers have their own biological make up, glands, hormones, chemicals and individual mini brains. They help us in different ways and bringing attention to them brings energy to them – ka, pituitary, pineal, thyroid, heart, adrenal, digestive and pancreatic, sexual (chakras). Getting that circuit flowing the way it was designed to is the whole point of doing the Blessing of the Energy Centers meditation – we bless each of these centers so we can get stuck energy flowing again. When our consciousness is not evolving, neither is our energy
  25. Coherence is an orderly expression of frequency
  26. The viral electromagnetic field of light we emit is who we really are. When we are stressed, our body consumer too much energy from this light field and our body can’t grow and repair. This leads to disease or imbalance. Can repair this through a more balanced lifestyle
  27. Energy Centers meditation
    1. Focus on each of the seven chakras and then the space around the chakras, while in a state of elevated emotion such as love or joy or gratitude
    2. Start at first center (perineum), focus on it and then the space around it and bless it for the greatest good. Do this for all 7 centers and once get to the eighth (above head) bless it with gratitude. Raise the frequency on every step and then lie down for 15 minutes to let your body integrate it all
  28. The breath is a way to pull the mind out of the body. You will be using your body as an instrument of consciousness to ascend your energy – turning those survival emotions into creative emotions. As you free your body from the chains of the past and liberate this energy, you have available energy to do the uncommon – to achieve the supernatural. By unlocking the energy locked in the first three centers and shifting them up the body, you will regain the natural, healthy electromagnetic state you need to be in to live optimally
  29. Breath work: flex perineum, lower and upper abs, breathe through the nose and feel the energy running up your spine to your brain. Follow the breath up to the top of your head, hold your breathe for 10 seconds while keeping your muscles flexed, increasing the pressure inside your spinal cord and column. Exhale and relax your muscles. Do this for 3-10 breaths. This accelerates the upward movement of the cerebrospinal fluid, creating inductance and building up your electromagnetic field, unlocking huge amounts of ‘survival’ energy into divine or creative energy. This is not a passive process and takes huge amounts of will and intention and it is key to consistently feel elevated emotions, greater than what you and your body are used to feeling. The body will slowly catch on and catch up.
  30. By getting our heart into coherence, we can access our heart’s intelligence and intuition which has many emotional and physiological benefits. Coherence begins with the steady, coherent drumbeat if the heart through cultivating, practicing and sustaining elevated emotions such as gratitude, inspiration, appreciation and more. The heart center is the union of our lower three animal centers and our upper three divine centers. Heart coherence helps with brain coherence and homeostasis, all necessary to function optimally
  31. Heart is an auto rhythmic organ, the heartbeat is self initiated from within rather than from the brain. Gives out multiples more electromagnetism than the brain and more information passes from heart to brain than from brain to heart
  32. Heart rate variability measured environmental and physiological challenges as reflected by the variation of the heart’s beat to beat intervals. It measures the flexibility of our heart and nervous system which reflects our health and fitness as well as how well we are balancing our mental and emotional lives. Having a moderate level of variability is healthy and indicative of an ability to adapt and deal with challenges
  33. The chemicals released which lead to feelings and emotions last for about 90-120 seconds. Anything after that is self-induced and perpetuated
  34. Coherent heart can amplify the energy of the brain by 50-300x. By focusing on our heart and emotions, the hearts beating serves as an amplifier, increasing the synchronization between the heart and brain and creates coherence not only in the physical organs but also in the electromagnetic field surrounding our body. Very clear connection between the quality of our heart’s rhythm and our overall health
  35. We are only suggestible to the thoughts that equal our emotional state
  36. Heart lock in meditation – breathe through your heart center and chest for about ten minutes. Once you couple that with elevated emotions, send it beyond your body and marry it with your intention. This will help your heart go into a coherent state
  37. Uses kaleidoscopes to induce trance and open up people to be suggestible to mystical state. Plays these videos before the mind movies for this reason
  38. Mind movies (words, phrases, images, videos, songs of the future you want) help set clear intentions of the future you want to create, program unconscious and conscious mind into that new future, changing brain and body biologically to look like future has already happened, and paid with music to recondition body and mind to remember new future. watch first thing in morning or before bed as you’re most open at these times. This helps make your future as real and three dimensional as possible. By bringing in every sense, we make it real even before it actually happens. Recommends doing the kaleidoscope and mind movies together for about a month and to have several (wellness, health, work…)
  39. The standing and walking meditations are meant to keep your intention and energy up throughout the day
  40. Day to day life is Newtonian and thought of in terms of space-time where space is infinite but in the quantum world it is time-space and time is infinite. We travel through this world in terms of space as there is no future and no past
  41. The more whole you feel the less lack you experience, and therefore the less you want. How can you want, or live in lack, when you feel whole? If there is less lack, there is less of the need to create from duality, polarity, and separation. How can you want when you’re whole? When you create from wholeness you feel like you already have it. There is no longer wanting, trying, wishing, forcing, predicting, fighting, or hoping – after all, hope is a beggar. When you create from a state of wholeness, there are only knowing and observing. This is the key to manifesting reality: being connected, not separate
  42. Simply by placing your attention on the unified field – as you become of aware of it, notice it, experience it, feel it, interact with it, and stay present with that moment after moment – it shows up and unfolds in your reality on a daily basis. How does it show up and unfold? As unknowns: serendipities, synchronicities, opportunities, coincidences, being in the right place at the right time, and moments filled with awe
  43. The discipline is to:
    1. Allow your consciousness to merge with a greater consciousness
    2. Surrender deeper into intelligent love
    3. Trust in the unknown
    4. Continuously surrender some aspect of the limited self to join the greater self
    5. Lose yourself in nothing to become everything
    6. Relax into an infinite deep-sea of coherent energy
    7. Keep unfolding deeper and deeper into oneness
    8. Continuously let go of control
    9. Feel greater and greater degrees of wholeness
    10. As a consciousness, moment by moment become aware, pay attention to, experience, be present with, and feel more and more of this unified field all around you – without returning your awareness back to three dimensional reality
  44. Melatonin is thought to be very important for these transcendental experiences and production of melatonin is highest between 1-4am and is why this is the best time to have transcendental moments through meditation
  45. The pineal gland can tune into the electromagnetic field and convert and descramble this information into something meaningful. There are 4 steps needed to activate the gland: exert internal pressure on it to create electrical impulses and then an electromagnetic field through the flex breathing discussed earlier; the increased speed of the cerebrospinal fluid gets the gland to release some powerful melatonin; this aroused your mind and relaxes your body and allows you to pick up on signals from the unified field
  46. What we are training for is greater levels of wholeness, oneness, love, and higher consciousness. An elevation in consciousness is accompanied with an elevation in awareness and perception, raising and heightening your senses
  47. True leadership never needs confirmation from others. It just requires a clear vision and a change in energy – that is, a new state of being – that is sustained long enough and executed with a strong enough will that it causes others to raise their own energy and become inspired to do the same. Once they do raise themselves from their own limited state of being to a new energy, they see the same future that their leader sees. There is power in numbers.
  48. When someone is truly engaged in change, they are less likely to talk about it and more prone to demonstrate it. They are working on living it.
What I got out of it
  1. Have to change your energy before you change anything in your life, have to live today as if that future state you want has already happened, several different times of meditation and breathing techniques (energy centers meditation), importance of brain/heart coherence, need clear intention and elevated emotion – creating an electromagnetic signature that is equal to your state of being. You will literally tune in to the energy of a new future and the unified field will help endorse your creation, key to manifesting your reality is to be connected and not separate, elevation of consciousness is accompanied with an elevation in awareness and perception, where you put your awareness is where you put your energy

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

  1. “Since Darwin’s day, we’ve been told that sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species. Mainstream science, as well as religious and cultural institutions, has maintained that men and women evolved in families in which a man’s possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman’s fertility and fidelity. But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married, and divorce rates keep climbing as adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages…Ryan and Jetha’s central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners…The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.”
Key Takeaways
  1. The denial or ignorance of our true sexual nature is leaving millions of relationships in tatters as people don’t see themselves and their partners for what they truly are – descendants of hyper sexual primates
  2. Pornography makes more money than CBS and NBC combined and more money is spent at strip clubs than at jazz, comedy, Broadway and similar concerts combined
  3. The discrepancy between what we are told to feel sexually and what we actually feel may be one of the greatest causes of misery in today’s world
  4. Our ancestors probably lived in tight social groups where they shared almost everything, including sexual partners. Sharing of everything was simply the most effective way to minimize risk. This trend began to slowly change during the agricultural revolution. What we often assume is a product of our modern society, may have its roots much further back than we think. Agriculture, more than perhaps anything else ever has or will, fundamentally changed how humans thought, interacted, lived, worshiped, and more.
  5. Culture is so deeply ingrained and feels so natural to us that it is very hard to distinguish what is cultural vs human. What doesn’t feel right isn’t always wrong
  6. Changing food supplies, population densities, socio-economic opportunities, and more leads to all hell breaking loose in captive primate populations, just as it would in humans
  7. Because of our social tendencies, solitary confinement is the greatest torture there is
  8. One doesn’t need threats of death to follow one’s nature
  9. There are dozens of examples throughout the world of different familial and sexual relations – whole society takes care of kids and thinks of them as their own
  10. Humans, by far, spend the most time thinking about and engaging in sex. We are one of the few species in the world which have sex for fun and when the woman can’t bear children
  11. When looked at our biological ancestry, the standard Western narrative of monogamy and limited female sexual appetite seems terribly wrong
  12. The only way to live longer reliably is to sleep more and eat less
  13. A ton of discussion about how our foraging ancestors had a better lifestyle than many currently think and better than most people even have today in our modern, consumer, stressful, dense culture.
  14. Similar male to female size, size of male testes, general anatomy and more all point to a polygamous past
  15. Female copulatory vocalization (moans) are thought to have evolved in our polygamous past to let other males know that they may have a chance to get lucky
  16. There is research indicating that there is an inverse correlation in societies between sex and violence. Maybe this is part of why Britain was so eager for war
  17. One theory for men’s infidelity and constant search for novelty is as a means to decrease incest. By always wanting something new, they went seeking for new mates in different tribes and areas. While monogamy is the predominant relationship dynamic, there is so much infidelity and failed marriages that the authors think there might be a better way (having casual sexual relations in the side) but stress that each person must figure out what makes the most sense for them
  18. Higher levels of sex is correlated with lower levels of disease
  19. By making talking about sex taboo, Western societies distort how big of a deal sex is. It is essential but we need not take it so seriously. The sexual culture may be moving towards a more casual hooking up culture like that of our ancestors and may lead to less pathological issues
  20. One of the first examples of polyamorous relationships in modern Western culture was in Air Force pilots. So many of them were killed in battle that this may have been a way of ensuring that the pilot’s wife and kids would have someone else looking after them in case they were killed in battle
What I got out of it
  1. Don’t agree with a lot of the author’s conclusions but they do a thorough job of starting from an evolutionary, biological, social perspective and building up from there

Solve for Happiness: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat

  1. Mo Gawdat uses his engineering and mathematics background to study happiness and make it replicable and scalable
Key Takeaways
  1. Happiness = perception – expectations (of situations, people, work, etc…)
    1. Shows that it is our perception and not the actual event that makes us happy. Changing our thoughts can make us happy
  2. Happiness is never reached but is a continuous process that never ends. It is reached internally and is actually our default state
  3. When you know what you are looking for, the quest becomes easy
  4. Success doesn’t elan to happiness but happiness contributes to success
  5. Think of things which make you happy and create a happiness list. Consult and add to this list as often as you like and do these things often. Can also create a pictures folder on your phone to consult at any time
  6. People tend to be happy when life seems to be going their way and unhappy when reality doesn’t match their hopes or expectations
  7. True happiness comes when you are in perfect harmony with life and have the proper expectations. At this point, all thought and mental chatter is made irrelevant as you know bumps will come in life and you deal with them with equanimity as they are expected
  8. What matters is not how much you know but how accurate what you know is
  9. Understand you control nothing but your attitude, actions, and reactions
  10. The true joy lies in giving it. The more you give the more you get and the more it will be attracted to you. Love everything and everyone. Love yourself. Be kind and spread your gifts selflessly and without expectation of getting anything in return
  11. Forgiving is the ultimate form of giving
  12. 6 – 7 -5
    1. 6 illusions
      1. Thought – you are not your thoughts and it is important to detach self and happiness from thoughts. Reduce this voice, this mental chatter.
      2. Self – You are neither your inner voice, body, emotions, achievements, or possessions. You are simply the observer
      3. Knowledge
      4. Time – Don’t be a slave to time. Always be in the present, it is the only thing that exists, don’t think too much about the past or future
      5. Control – don’t try to control things but find things which feel effortless to you – this is what is right for you. Effort needed to live our life grows exponentially which is why it is so important to simplify and surrender. Life can be easy but we make it difficult. Search for the path of least resistance
      6. Fear – The damage you do thinking about your fear is almost always worse than simply facing it. Thinking through both the worst and best case and are helpful exercises to help you get over your fear
    2. 7 blindspots
      1. Filters
      2. Assumptions
      3. Memories
      4. Labels
      5. Emotions
      6. Exaggerating
      7. Predictions
    3. 5 ultimate truths
      1. Choose to believe in the side that make you happy
      2. Now is the only thing that’s real – brings awareness by reducing doing and mental chatter
      3. Grand design
      4. Nothing is random
      5. Life generally follows patterns, laws, rules, or science
What I got out of it
  1. Happiness = perception – expectations and therefore it is our perception and not the actual event that makes us happy, create a happiness and picture folder list, happiness comes down to expectations

Impro: Improvisation and the Theater by Keith Johnstone

  1. “This is, in a nutshell, the Johnstone doctrine: you are not imaginatively impotent until you are dead; you are only frozen up. Switch off the no-saying intellect and welcome the unconscious as a friend: it will lead you to places you never dreamed of, and produce results more ‘original’ than anything you could achieve by aiming at originality.” Many of these answers extend theater to transacting in everyday life.
Key Takeaways
  1. 4 main sections: status, spontaneity, narrative skills, masks & trance
  2. Banished aimless discussion, all classes focused on enactment
  3. Where no technical vocabulary exists, develop your own simple name to describe the previously indescribable
  4. His analysis is not concerned with results but how to unlock the imagination
  5. At 9, Johnstone began reversing every statement to see if the opposite was true
  6. Spontaneity is suppressed in normal education but one of Johnstone’s mail goals was to develop it
  7. Don’t try to enforce your own perception of reality on others
  8. If you’ve been bottom of the class for years it gives you a different perspective: I was friends with boys who were failures, and nothing would induce me to write them off as ‘useless’ or ‘ineducable.’ My ‘failure’ was a survival tactic, and without it I would probably never have worked my way out of the trap that my education had set for me. I would have ended up with a lot more of my consciousness blocked off from me than now.
  9. I was successful previously because I didn’t exercise my taste. I would first read plays as quickly as possible, and categorize them as pseudo-Pinter, fake-Osborne, phoney-Beckett, and so on. Any play that seemed to come from the author’s own experience I’d then read attentively, and either leave it in Devine’s office, or if I didn’t like it, give it to someone else to read. As 99% of the plays submitted were just cribs from other people, the job was easy. I had experienced that there’d be a very gentle gradation from awful to excellent, and that I’d be involved in a lot of heart-searching. Almost all were total failures – they couldn’t have been put on in the village hall for the author’s friends. It wasn’t a matter of lack of talent, but of miseducation. The authors of the pseudo-plays assumed that writing should be based on other writing, not on life. My play had been influenced by Beckett, but at least the content had been mine. The more I understood how things ought to be done, the more boring my productions were.
  10. I began to think of children not as immature adults, but of adults as atrophied children. But when I say this to educationalists, they became angry.
  11. Drama is about relationships, not about characters
  12. When you are nowhere physically, you are everywhere spiritually
  13. In improv, it’s weird waking up knowing there’s nothing you can do to ensure success
  14. The actors don’t seem to be able to see or hear properly any more – they feel so wretched that scene after scene is about vomiting. Even if the audience are pleased by the novelty, you feel you’re swindling them. After a while a pattern is established in which each performance gets better and better until the audience is like a great beast rolling over to let you tickle it. Then hubris gets you, you lose your humility, you expect to be loved, and you turn into Sisyphus. All comedians know these feelings.
  15. As I came to understand the techniques that release creativity in the improviser, so I began to apply them to my own work. What really got me started again was an advert for a play of mine in the paper, a play called The Martian. I had never written such a play, so I phoned up Bryan King, who directed the theater. ‘We’ve been trying to find you,’ he said. ‘We need a play for next week, does the title The Martian suit you? I wrote the play, and it was well received. Since then I’ve deliberately put myself in this position. I get myself engaged by a company and write the plays as I’m rehearsing the actors.
  16. I didn’t learn how to direct again until I left the Royal Court Theater and was invited to Victoria. I directed the Wakefield Mystery Cycle there, and I was so far away from anyone whose criticism I cared about that I felt free to do exactly what I felt like. Suddenly I was spontaneous again; and since then, I’ve always directed plays as if I was totally ignorant about directing; I simply approach each problem on a basis of common sense and try to find the most obvious solutions possible. Nowadays everything is very easy to me
    1. Effortless Mastery…
  17. On Teaching
    1. My feeling is that a good teacher can get results using any method, and that a bad teacher can wreck any method.
    2. When teaching is done correctly, the pressure to get things right comes from the children, not the teacher. You have to force the children out of the classroom to take breaks. “When I hear that children only have an attention span often minutes, or whatever, I’m amazed. Ten minutes is the attention span of bored children, which is what they usually are in school – hence the misbehavior.
    3. There seems no doubt that a group can make or break its members, and that it’s more powerful than the individuals in it. A great group can propel its members forward so that they achieve amazing things. Many teachers don’t seem to think that manipulating a group is their responsibility at all. If they’re working with a destructive, bored group, they just blame the students for being ‘dull’, or uninterested. It’s essential for the teacher to blame himself in the group aren’t in a good state. The first thing I do when I meet a group of new students is to sit on the floor. I play low status, and I’ll explain that if the students fail they’re to blame me. Then they laugh, and relax, and I explain that really it’s obvious that they should blame me, since I’m supposed to be the expert; and if I give them the wrong material, they’ll fail; and if I give them the right material, then they’ll succeed. I play low status physically but my actual status is going up, since only a very confident and experienced person would put the blame for failure on himself. At this point they almost certainly start sliding their chairs, because they don’t want to be higher than me. I have already changed the group profoundly, because failure is suddenly not so frightening any more. They’ll want to test me, of course; but I really will apologize to them when they fail, and ask them to be patient with me, and explain that I’m not perfect. My methods are very effective, and other things being equal, most students will succeed, but they won’t be trying to win anymore. The normal teacher-student relationship is dissolved…In exchange for accepting the blame for failure, I ask the students to set themselves up in such a way that they’ll learn as quickly as possible. I’m teaching spontaneity, and therefore I tell them that they mustn’t try to control the future, or to ‘win’; and that they’re to have an empty head and just watch. When it’s their turn to take part they’re to come out and just do what they’re asked to, and see what happens. It’s this decision not to try and control the future which allows the students to be spontaneous.
    4. Intelligence is overrated – focus more on actions than thoughts
    5. Many kids learn best and look most intelligence when not being asked to learn
    6. When I was teaching young children, I trained myself to share my eye contact among the group. I find this crucial in establishing a ‘fair’ relationship with them. I’ve seen many teachers who concentrate their eye contact on only a few students, and this does affect the feeling in a group. Certain students are disciples, but others feel separated, or experience themselves as less interesting, or as ‘failures.’ I’ve also trained myself to make positive comments and to be as direct as possible. I say ‘Good’ instead of ‘That’s enough.’ I’ve actually heard teachers say, ‘Well, let’s see who fails at this one’, when introducing an exercise. Some teachers get reassurance when their students fail. We must have all encountered the teacher who gives a self-satisfied smile when a student makes a mistake. Such an attitude is not conductive to a good, warm feeling in the group
    7. If I’m playing with my 3 year old, and I smack him, he looks at me for signals that will turn the sensation into either warmth or pain. A very gentle smack that he perceives as ‘serious’ will have him howling in agony. A hard ‘play’ slap may make him laugh. When I want to work and he wants me to continue playing he will give very strong ‘I am playing’ signals in an attempt to pull me back into his game. All people relate to each other in this way but most teachers are afraid to give ‘I am playing’ signals to their students. If they would, their work would become a constant pleasure
    8. I have a simple way of telling if people are visualizers. I ask them to describe the furniture in a room they’re familiar with. Visualizers move their eyes as if ‘seeing’ each object as they name it. Conceptualizers look in one direction as if reading off a list. Galton investigated mental imagery at the beginning of the century, and found that the more educated the person, the more likely he was to say that mental imagery was unimportant, or even that it didn’t exist. An exercise: fix your eyes on some object, and attend to something at the periphery of your vision. You can see what you’re attending to, but actually your mind is assembling the object from relatively little information. Now look directly, and observe the difference. This is one way of tricking the mind out of its habitual dulling of the world.
    9. Relaxation is incompatible with anxiety; and by maintaining the relaxed state, and presenting images that gradually neared the center of the phobia, the state of alarm was soon dissipated – in most cases
    10. If we were all terrified of open spaces, then we would hardly recognize this as a phobia to be cured; but it could be cured. My view that we have a universal phobia of being looked at on a stage, and that this responds very well to ‘progressive desensitization’ of the type that Wolpe advocates. Many teachers seem to me to be trying to get their students to conceal fear, which always leave some traces – a heaviness, an extra tension, a lack of spontaneity. I try to dissipate the fear by a method analogous to Wolpe’s, but which I really got from Anthony Stirling. The one finding of Wolpe which I immediately incorporated into my work was the discovery that if the healing process is interrupted by a recurrence of the total fear – maybe a patient being treated for a phobia of birds suddenly finds himself surrounded by fluttering pigeons – then the treatment has to be started again at the bottom of the hierarchy. I therefore constantly return to the very first stages of the work to try to pull in those students who remain in a terrified state, and who therefore make hardly any progress. Instead of seeing people as untalented, we can see them as phobic, and this completely changes the teacher’s relationship with them
    11. Many students will begin an improvisation, or a scene, in a rather feeble way. It’s as if they’re ill, and lacking in vitality. They’ve learned to play for sympathy. However easy the problem, they’ll use the same old trick of looking inadequate. This ploy is supposed to make all onlookers have sympathy with them if they ‘fail’ and it’s expected to bring greater rewards if they ‘win.’ Actually, this down-in-the-mouth attitude almost guarantees failure, and makes everyone fed up with them. No one has sympathy with an adult who takes such an attitude, but when they were children it probably worked. As adults they’re still doing it. Once they’ve laughed at themselves and understood how unproductive such an attitude is, students who look ‘ill’ suddenly look ‘healthy.’ The attitude of the group may instantly change. Another common ploy is to anticipate the problem, and to try and prepare solutions in advance. Almost all students do this – probably it started when they were learning to read. You anticipate which paragraph will be yours, and start trying to decipher it. This has two great disadvantages: it stops you learning from the attempts of your classmates; and very likely you’ll have calculated wrongly, and will be asked to read one of the adjacent paragraphs, throwing you into total panic
  18. Status
    1. By focusing his students on trying to “get their status just a little above or below your partner’s”, he transformed their performance as it seemed authentic. They instinctively knew what this meant. Every inflection and movement implies a status, and that no action is due to chance, or really “motiveless.” Normally we are forbidden to see status transactions except when there’s a conflict. In reality, status transactions continue all the time. You really have to ‘see’ your partner in order to exactly relate your behavior to theirs
    2. Low status: twitching, unnecessary movements, blushing at the slightest annoyance
    3. Those who can raise and lower their status seamlessly and at will are the masters at social communication and rapport.
    4. Status is a confusing term unless it’s understood as something one does. You may be low in social status, but play high, and vice versa. Should really talk about dominance and submission but this would create resistance.
    5. There is no way to be neutral. Even if you try, the messages are modified by the receivers
    6. In formal group photographs it’s normal to see people guarding their status. You get quite different effects when people don’t know they’re being photographed
    7. See-saw Principle
      1. People surround themselves with lower status people to raise themselves
      2. People really want to be told things to our discredit in such a way that they don’t have to feel sympathy.
      3. Low-status people save up little tit-bits involving their own discomfiture with which to amuse and placate other people.
      4. If I’m trying to lower my end of the see-saw, and my mind blocks, I can always switch to raising the other end. That is, I can achieve a similar effect by saying “I smell beautiful” as “you stink.”
      5. Most comedy works on the see-saw principle. A comedian is someone paid to lower his own or other people’s status. Want others to be low status but we also don’t want to feel sympathy for them. Slaves are always supposed to sing at their work
      6. Tragedy also works on the see-saw principle: its subject is the ousting of a high-status animal from the pack. When a very high-status person is wiped out, everyone feels pleasure as they experience the feeling of moving up a step. The high-status person must never look as if he could accept a position lower in the pecking order. He has to be ejected from it
    8. Observing postures is one of the best ways to determine status in an interaction
    9. Social animals have inbuilt rules which prevent them from killing each other for food, mates, and so on. Such animals confront each other, and sometimes fight, until a hierarchy is established, after which there is no fighting unless an attempt is being made to change the ‘pecking order.’ This system is found in animals as diverse as human beings, chicken, and woodlice. I’ve known about this ever since I was given a book about social dominance in kittiwake colonies, yet I hadn’t immediately thought of applying this information to action training. This is because normal people are inhabited from seeing that no action, sound or movement is innocent of purpose. Many psychologists have noted how uncannily perceptive some schizophrenics are. I think that their madness must have opened their eyes to things that ‘normal’ people are trained to ignore
    10. In animals, the pattern of eye contacts often establish dominance. A stare is often interpreted as an aggressive act – hence the dangers of looking at gorillas through binoculars. Visitors to zoos feel dominant when they can out stare the animals. I suggest you try the opposite with zoo animals: break eye contact and then glance back for a moment. Polar bears may suddenly see you as “food.” Owls cheer up perceptibly
    11. There is some research which reveals that breaking eye contact can in fact be a sign of high status but I see it as high status as long as you don’t immediately glance back for a fraction of a second. Status is established not by staring but by the reaction to staring
    12. The short ‘er’ is an invitation for people to interrupt you; the long ‘er’ says “don’t interrupt me, even though I haven’t thought what to say yet.”
    13. Keeping your head still whenever you speak greatly changes the way people perceive you. Officers are trained not to move the head while issuing commands. Moving smoothly is high-status and moving jerkily is low-status.
    14. Hands on your face is low and hands away from your face when speaking is high.
    15. Toes pointing inward is low status
    16. Sitting back and spreading oneself to take up space is high status
    17. The body automatically takes over when you act in a high-status way. If you speak with your head still, then you’ll do many other high-status things quite automatically – speak in complete sentences, hold eye contact, move smoothly, occupy more space
    18. My belief is that people have a preferred status; that they like to be low, or high, and that they try to maneuver themselves into the preferred positions. It’s very likely that you will increasingly be conditioned into playing a status that you’ve found an effective defense. You become a status specialist, very good at playing one status, but not very happy or competent at playing the other.
    19. When you slow your movements down, you go up in status
    20. Things said are far less important than status played
    21. Status can be played to anything, status as well as people
    22. Space
      1. Space is so key to status because status is basically territorial. Space is very difficult to talk about but easy to demonstrate.
      2. In my view it’s only when the actor’s movements are related to the space he’s in, and to the other actors, that the audience feel ‘at one’ with the play. The very best actors pump space out and suck it in, or at least that’s what it feels like. Just as the earth is surrounded by an atmosphere, the living human being is surrounded by a magnetic aura which makes contact with the external objects without any concrete contact with the human body. This aura, or atmosphere, varies in depth according to the vitality of human beings. Man must first of all be aware of this boundless contact with things. There is no insulting layer of air between the man and the outside world. Any man who moves about causes ripples in the ambient world in the same way a fish does when it moves in the water.
      3. High-status player will allow their space to flow into other people. Low-status players will avoid letting their space flow into other people
      4. There is an instinctual fear crouch animals take to protect their soft under-belly’s. The opposite is the ‘cherub posture’, which opens all the planes of the body: the head turns and tilts to offer the neck, the shoulders turn the other way to expose the chest, the spine arches lightly backwards and twists so that the pelvis is in opposition to the shoulders exposing the underbelly – and so on. The opening of the body planes is a sign of vulnerability and tenderness, and has a powerful effect on the onlooker
      5. The corners of couches are usually high-status and high-status ‘winners’ are allowed to take them
      6. Approach distances are related to space. If I approach someone on open moorland I have to raise an arm and shout ‘excuse me’ as soon as I’m within shouting distance. In a crowded street I can actually brush against people without having to interact
      7. Johstone’s Law – a master-servant scene is one in which both parties act as if all the space belonged to the master. A servant’s primary function is to elevate the status of the master
    23. 10 Golden Rules for people who are number ones
      1. You must clearly display the trappings, postures, and gestures of dominance
      2. In moments of active rivalry you must threaten your subordinates aggressively
      3. In moments of physical challenge you (or your delegates) must be able to forcibly overpower your subordinates
      4. If a challenge involves brain rather than brawn you must be able to outwit your subordinates
      5. You must suppress squabbles that break out between your subordinates
      6. You must reward your immediate subordinates by permitting them to enjoy the benefits of their high ranks
      7. You must protect the weaker members of the group from undue persecution
      8. You must make decisions concerning the social activities of the group
      9. You must reassure your extreme subordinates from time to time
      10. You must take the initiative in repelling threats or attacks arising from outside the group
    24. It is the lack of ‘pecking order’ that make most crowd scenes look unconvincing – the spaces between all the people are phoney.
    25. Once you understand that every sound and posture implies a status, then you perceive the world quite differently, and the change is probably permanent. In my view, really accomplished actors, directors, and playwrights are people with an intuitive understanding of the status transactions that govern human relationships. This ability to perceive the underlying motives of casual behavior can also be taught.
    26. A great play is one which ingeniously displays and reverses the status between the characters.
    27. Pauses are part of the pattern of dominance and submission
    28. I don’t myself see that an educated man in this culture necessarily has to understand the second law of thermodynamics, but he certainly should understand that we are pecking-order animals and that this affects the tiniest details of our behavior
  19. Spontaneity
    1. You have to be a very stubborn person to remain an artist in this culture. It’s easy to play the role of ‘artist’, but actually to create something means going against one’s education.
    2. We have an idea that art is self-expression – which historically is weird. An artist used to be seen as a medium through which something else operated. He was a servant of God. Maybe a mask-maker would have fasted and prayed for a week before he had a vision of the Mask he was to carve, because no one wanted to see his Mask, they wanted to see the God’s. It’s no wonder that the talent of our children die the moment we expect them to become adult. Once we believe that art is self-expression, then the individual can be criticized not only for his skill or lack of skill, but simply for being what he is
    3. Schiller wrote of a ‘watcher at the gates of the mind’, who examines ideas too closely. He said that in the case of the creative mind ‘the intellect has withdrawn its watcher from the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it review and inspect the multitude.’ He said that uncreative people are ‘ashamed of the momentary passing madness which is found in all real creators…regarded in isolation, an idea may be quite insignificant, and venturesome in the extreme, but it may acquire importance from an idea that follows it; perhaps in collation with other ideas which seem equally absurd, it may be capable of furnishing a very serviceable link.’
    4. I now feel that imagining should be as effortless as perceiving
    5. People may seem uncreative, but they’ll be extremely ingenious at rationalizing the things they do. You can see this in people who obey post-hypnotic suggestions, while managing to explain the behavior ordered by the hypnotist as being of their own volition
    6. The truth is that the best ideas are often psychotic, obscene and unoriginal. The teachers, who are so sure of the rules, don’t produce anything themselves at all. My thought is that sanity is actually a pretense, a way we learn to behave. We keep this pretense up because we don’t want to be rejected by other people – and being classified insane is to be shut out of the group in a very complete way. Most people I meet are secretly convinced that they’re a little crazier than the average person. People understand the energy necessary to maintain their own shields, but not the energy expended by other people. They understand that their own sanity is a performance, but when confronted by other people they confused the person with the role. Sanity has nothing directly to do with the way you think. It’s a matter of presenting yourself as safe. Little old men wander around London hallucinating visibly, but no one gets upset. The same behavior in a younger, more vigorous person would get him shut away. A Canadian study on attitudes on mental illness concluded that it was when someone’s behavior was perceived as ‘unpredictable’ that the community rejected them
    7. When I explain that sanity is a matter of interaction, rather than of one’s mental processes, students are often hysterical with laughter. They agree that for years they have been suppressing all sorts of thinking because they classified it as insane
    8. We all know instinctively what ‘mad’ thought is: mad thoughts are those which other people find unacceptable, and train us not to talk about, but which we go to the theater to see expressed
    9. Most people’s idea of what is or isn’t obscene varies. In some cultures certain times are set aside when the normal values are reversed – the ‘Lord of Misrule’, Zuni clowning, many carnivals – and something similar happens even in this culture, or so I’m told, at office parties for example. People’s tolerance of obscenity varies according to the group they’re with, or the particular circumstances. People can laugh at jokes told at a party that they wouldn’t find funny on a more formal occasion. It seems unfortunate to me that the classroom is often considered a formal area in this sense
    10. Many students block their imaginations because they’re afraid of being unoriginal. They believe they know exactly what originality is, just as critics are always sure they can recognize things that are avant-garde. But the real avant-garde aren’t imitating what other people are doing, or what they did forty years ago; they’re solving the problems that need solving, like how to get a popular theater with some worth-while content, and they may not look avant-garde at all. The improviser has to realize that the more obvious he is, the more original he appears. I constantly point out how much the audience likes someone who is direct, and how they always laugh with pleasure at a really ‘obvious’ idea. Ordinary people asked to improvise will search for some ‘original’ idea because they want to be thought clever.
    11. People trying to be original always arrive at the same boring old answers. Ask people to give you an original idea and see the chaos it throws them into. If they said the first thing that came into their head, there’d be no problem. An artist who is inspired is being obvious. He’s not making any decisions, he’s not weighing one idea against another. He’s accepting his first thoughts. How else could Dostoyevsky have dictated one novel in the morning and one in the afternoon for three weeks in order to fulfill his contracts? If you consider the volume of work produced by Bach then you get some idea of his fluency (and we’ve lost half of it), yet a lot of his time was spent rehearsing, and teaching Latin to the choir boys. According to Louis Schlosser, Beethoven said, “You ask me where I get my ideas? That I can’t say with any certainty. They come unbidden, directly, I could grasp them with my hands.” Mozart said of his ideas, “Whence and how they come, I know not; nor can I force them. Those that please me I retain in the memory, and I am accustomed as I have been told, to hum them.” Later in the same letter he says, “Why my productions take from my hand that particular form and style that makes them Mozartish, and different from the works of other composers, is probably owing to the same cause which renders my nose so large or so aquiline, or in short, makes it Mozart’s, and different from those of other people. For I really do not study or aim at originality.” Suppose Mozart had tried to be original? It would have been like a man at the North Pole trying to walk north, and this is true of all the rest of us. Striving after originality takes you far away from your true self, and makes your work mediocre.
    12. There are people who prefer to say “yes”, and there are people who prefer to say “no”. Those who say “yes” are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say “no” are rewarded by the safety they attain. There are far more “no” sayers around than “yes” sayers, but you can train one type to behave like the other
    13. Blocking is a form of aggression. I say this because if I set up a scene in which two students are to say “I love you” to each other, they almost always accept each other’s ideas. Many students do their first interesting, unforced improvisations during “I love you” scenes. The motto of scared improvisers is “when in doubt, say “no.” We use this in life as a way of blocking action
    14. If you’ll stop reading for a moment and think of something you wouldn’t want to happen to you, or to someone you love, then you’ll have thought of something worth staging or filming. We don’t want to walk into a restaurant and be hit in the face by a custard pie, and we don’t want to suddenly glimpse Grannie’s wheelchair racing towards the edge of the cliff, but we’ll pay money to attend enactments of such events. In life, most of us are highly skilled at suppressing action
    15. Good improvisers seem telepathic; everything looks prearranged. This is because they accept all offers made – which is something no ‘normal’ person would do. Also they may accept offers which weren’t really intended. I tell my actors never to think up an offer, but instead to assume that one has already been made…This attitude makes for something really amazing in the theater. The actor who will accept anything that happens seems supernatural; it’s the most marvelous thing about improvisation: you are suddenly in contact with people who are unbounded, whose imagination seems to function without limit. By analyzing everything into blocks and acceptances, the students get insight into the forces that shape the scenes, and they understand why certain people seem difficult to work with. These ‘offer-block-accept’ games have a use quite apart from actor training. People with dull lives often think that their lives are dull by chance. In reality everyone chooses more or less what kind of events will happen to them by their conscious patterns of blocking and yielding. A student objected to this view by saying, “But you don’t choose your life. Sometimes you are at the mercy of people who push you around.” I said, “Do you avoid such people?” She said, “Oh! I see what you mean.”
    16. The stages I try to take students through involve the realization that 1) we struggle against our imaginations, especially when we try to be imaginative; 2) that we are not responsible for the content of our imaginations; and 3) that we are not, as we are taught to think, our “personalities”, but that the imagination is our true self
  20. Narrative Skills
    1. Content lies in the structure, in what happens, not in what the characters say. Even at the level of geometrical signs, “meaning” is ambiguous. A cross, a circle, and a swastika contain a “content” quite apart from those which we assign to them. My design was that content should be ignored. This wasn’t a conclusion I wished to reach, because it contradicted my political thinking. I hadn’t realized that every play makes a political statement, and that the artist only needs to worry about content if he’s trying to fake up a personality he doesn’t actually have, or to express views he really isn’t in accord with. If you want your play to be religious, then be religious. An artist has to accept what his imagination gives him, or screw up his talent. Once you decide to ignore content it becomes possible to understand exactly what a narrative is, because you can concentrate on structure.
    2. We used to play this game at parties, and people who claim to be unimaginative would think up the most astounding stories, so long as they remained convinced that they weren’t responsible for them
    3. The improviser has to be like a man walking backwards. He sees where he has been, but he pays no attention to the future. His story can take him anywhere, but he must still “balance “it, and give it shape, by remembering incidents that have been shelved and reincorporating them. Very often an audience will applaud when earlier material is brought back into the story. They couldn’t tell you why they applaud, but the reincorporation does give them pleasure. Sometimes they even cheer! They admire the improviser’s grasp, since he not only generates new material, but remembers and makes use of earlier events that the audience itself may have temporarily forgotten.
    4. A knowledge of this game is very useful to a writer. First of all it encourages you to write whatever you feel like; it also means that you look back when you get stuck, instead of searching forwards. You look for things you’ve shelved and then reinclude them. If I want people to free-associate, then I have to create an environment in which they aren’t going to be punished, or in any way held responsible for the things their imagination gives them. I devise techniques for taking the responsibility away from the personality. Some of these games are very enjoyable and others, at first encounter, are rather frightening; people who play them alter their view of themselves. I protect the students, encourage them and reassure them that they’ll come to no harm, and then coax them or trick them into letting the imagination off its leash. One way to bypass the censor who holds our spontaneity in check is to distract him, or overload him. I might ask someone to write out a paragraph on paper (without premeditation) while counting backwards aloud from a hundred. The trick is to keep your attention equally divided, rather than switching quickly from hand to hand. Also you shouldn’t decide what to draw; just sit down with a blank mind and draw as quickly as possible. This regresses your mind to about five years of age. Curiously, each hand seems to draw with the same level of skill
    5. The brain constructs the universe for us, so how is it possible to be “stuck” for an idea? The student hesitates not because he doesn’t have an idea, but to conceal the inappropriate ones that arrive uninvited.
    6. An improviser can study status transactions, and advancing, and “reincorporating”, and can learn to free-associate, and to generate narrative spontaneously, and yet still find it difficult to compose stories. This is really for aesthetic reasons, or conceptual reasons. He shouldn’t really think of making up stories, but of interrupting routines…Many students dry up at the moment they realize that the routine they’re describing is nearing its completion. They absolutely understand that a routine needs to be broken, or they wouldn’t feel so unimaginative. Their problem is that they haven’t realized what’s wrong consciously. Once they understand the concept of “interrupting routines”, then they aren’t stuck for ideas anymore.
    7. I began this essay by saying that an improviser shouldn’t be concerned with content, because the content arrives automatically. This is true, and also not true. The best improvisers do, at some level, know what their work is about. They may have trouble expressing it to you, but they do understand the implications of what they are doing; and so do the audience. You have to trick students into believing that content isn’t important and that it looks after itself, or they never get anywhere. It’s the same kind of trick you use when you tell them that they are not their imaginations, that their imaginations have nothing to do with them, and that they’re in no way responsible for what their “mind” gives them. In the end they learn how to abandon control while at the same time they exercise control. They begin to understand that everything is just a shell. You have to misdirect people to absolve them of responsibility. Then, much later, they become strong enough to resume the responsibility themselves. By that time they have a more truthful concept of what they are.
  21. Masks & Trance
    1. The reason why one automatically talks and writes of Masks with a capital ‘M’ is that one really feels that the genuine Mask actor is inhabited by a spirit. Non-sense perhaps, but that’s what the experience is like, and has always been like. To understand the Mask it’s also necessary to understand the nature of trance itself.
    2. A Mask is a device for driving the personality out of the body and allowing a spirit to take possession of it. A very beautiful Mask may be completely dead, while a piece of old sacking with a mouth and eye-holes torn in it may have tremendous vitality. In its original culture nothing had more power than the Mask. It was used as an oracle, a judge, an arbitrator. Some were so sacred that any outsider who caught a glimpse of them was executed. They cured diseases, they made women sterile. Some tribes were so scared of their power that they carved the eye-holes so that the wearers could only see the ground. Some Masks were led on chains to keep them from attacking the onlookers. One African Mask had a staff, the touch of which was believed to cause leprosy. In some cultures dead people were reincarnated as Masks – the back of the skull is sliced off, a stick rammed in from ear to ear, and someone dances, gripping the stick with his teeth. It’s difficult to imagine the intensity of that experience. Masks are surrounded by rituals that reinforce their power. A Tibetan Mask was taken out of its shrine once a year and set up overnight in a locked chapel. Two novice monks sat all night chanting prayers to prevent the spirit of the Mask from breaking loose. For miles around the villagers barred their doors at sunset and no one ventured out. Next day the Mask was lowered over the head of the dancer who was to incarnate the spirit at the center of a great ceremony. What must it feel like to be the dancer, when the terrifying face becomes his own? We don’t know much about Masks in this culture, partly because the church sees the Mask as pagan, and tries to suppress it wherever it has the power (the Vatican has a museum full of Masks confiscated from the ‘natives’), but also because this culture is usually hostile to trance states. We distrust spontaneity, and try to replace it by reason: the Mask was driven out of theater in the same way that improvisation was driven out of music. Shakers have stopped shaking. Quakers don’t quake anymore. Hypnotized people used to stagger about, and tremble. Victorian mediums used to rampage about the room. Education itself might be seen as primarily an anti-trance activity. The church struggled against the Mask for centuries, but what can’t be done by force is eventually done by the all-pervading influence of Western education. The US Army burned the voodoo temples in Haiti and the priests were sentenced to hard labor with little effect, but voodoo is now being suppressed in a more subtle way. The ceremonies are faked for tourists. The genuine ceremonies now last for a much shorter time. I see the Mask as something that is continually flaring up in this culture, only to be almost immediately snuffed out. No sooner have I established a tradition of Mask work somewhere than the students start getting taught the ‘correct’ movements, just as they learn a phoney ‘Commedia dell’Arte’ technique. The manipulated Mask is hardly worth having, and is easy to drive out of the theater. The Mask begins as a sacred object, and then becomes secular and is used in festivals and in theater. Finally it is remembered only in the feeble imitations of Masks sold in the tourist shops. The Mask dies when it is entirely subjected to the will of the performer.
    3. The truth is that we learn to hold characteristic expressions as a way of maintaining our personalities, and we’re far more influenced by faces than we realize. Adults lose this vision in which the face is the person, but after their first Mask class students are amazed by passersby in the street – suddenly they see ‘evil’ people, and ‘innocent’ people, and people holding their faces in Masks of pain, or grief, or pride, or whatever. Our faces get ‘fixed’ with age as the muscles shorten, but even in very young people you can see that a decision has been taken to appear tough, or stupid, or defiant. (Why should anyone wish to look stupid? Because then your teachers expect less of you.) Sometimes in acting class a student will break out of his habitual facial expression and you won’t know who he is until you look at his clothes. I’ve seen this transformation several times, and each time the student is flooded with great joy and exhilaration
    4. It’s not surprising then to find that Masks produce changes in the personality, or that the first sight of oneself wearing a Mask and reflected in a mirror should be so disturbing. A bad Mask will produce little effect, but a good Mask will give you the feeling that you know all about the creature in the mirror. You feel that the Mask is about to take over. It is at this moment of crisis that the Mask teacher will urge you to continue. In most social situations you are expected to maintain a consistent personality. In a Mask class you are encouraged to let go, and allow yourself to become possessed.
    5. Many actors report ‘split’ states of consciousness, or amnesias; they speak of their body acting automatically, or as being inhabited by the character they are playing.
    6. Normally we only know of our trance states by the time jumps. When an improviser feels that two hours have passed in twenty minutes, we’re entitled to ask where was he for the missing hour and forty minutes
    7. In ‘normal consciousness’ I am aware of myself as ‘thinking verbally’. In sports which leave no time for verbalization, trance states are common. If you think: ‘The ball’s coming at that angle but it’s spinning so that I’ll anticipate the direction of the bounce by…’ you miss! You don’t know you’re in a trance state because whenever you check up, there you are, playing table tennis, but you may have been in just as deep a trance as the bobsleigh rider who didn’t know he’d lost a thumb until he shook hands
    8. I see the ‘personality’ as a public-relations department for the real mind, which remains unknown. My personality always seems to be functioning, at some level, in terms of what other people think. If I am alone in a room and someone knocks on the door, then I ‘come back to myself’.
    9. When you’re worried about what other people might think, personality is always present. In life-or-death situations, something else takes over. In extremity the body takes over for us, pushing the personality aside as an unnecessary encumbrance
    10. Meditators use stillness as a means of inducing trance. So do present-day hypnotists. The subject doesn’t have to be told to be still, he knows intuitively not to assert control of his body by picking his nose or tapping his feet. When you are ‘absorbed’ you no longer control the musculature. You can drive for miles, or play a movement from a sonata while your personality pays no attention at all. Nor is your performance necessarily worse. When a hypnotist takes over the function normally exercised by the personality, there’s no need to leave the trance. Mask teachers, priests in possession cults, and hypnotists all play high status in voice and movement. A high-status person whom you accept as dominant can easily propel you into unusual states of being
    11. Many ways of entering trance involve interfering with verbalization. Repetitive singing or chanting are effective, or holding the mind on to single words; such techniques are often thought of as ‘Oriental’, but they’re universal. One dramatic way of entering trance is by ‘trumping’. This was used in a West Indian play at the Royal Court, with the unwanted result that actors kept going into real trance, and not just acting it. It works partly by the ‘crowd-effect’, everyone repeating the same action and sound, but also by over oxygenating the blood. It looks like a ‘forward-moving two-step stomp’. ‘With the step forward the body is bent forwards from the waist so sharply as to seem propelled by force. At the same time the breath is exhaled, or inhaled, with great effort and sound. The forcefulness of the action gives justification to the term ‘laboring’…When the spirit possession does take place…an individual’s legs may seem riveted to the ground…or he may be thrown to the ground.’ Crowds are trance-inducing because the anonymity imposed by the crowd absolves you of the need to maintain your identity.
    12. The type of trance I am concerned with in this essay is the ‘controlled trance’, in which permission to remain ‘entranced’ is given by other people, either by an individual or a group. Such trances may be rare, or may pass unrecognized in this culture, but we should consider them as a normal part of human behavior. Researchers who have studied possession cults report that it is better adjusted citizens who are most likely to become possessed. Many people regard ‘trance’ as a sign of madness, just as they presume that ‘madmen’ must be easy to hypnotize. The truth is that if madmen were capable of being under ‘social control’ they would never have revealed the behavior that categorized them as insane. It’s a tautology to say that normal people are the most suggestible, since it’s because they’re the most suggestible that they’re the most normal
    13. Once one person is possessed, others usually follow almost immediately. In a beginners’ Mask class there is usually a ‘dead’ twenty minutes before the first Mask appears – if you’re lucky. My method is to ‘seed’ the class with a fully developed Mask. The presence of a ‘possessed’ Mask allows students to ‘let go’, and alarms and reassures at the same time. The same phenomenon is reported in possession cults; and it’s easier to hypnotize someone who has just seen it done to someone else. The problem is not one of getting the students to experience the ‘presence’ of another personality – almost everyone gets a strong kick from their reflection – the difficulty lies in stopping the student from making the change ‘himself.’ There’s no reason for the student to start ‘thinking’ when he already ‘knows’ intuitively exactly what sort of creature he is.
    14. In normal life the personality conceals or checks impulses. Mask characters work on the opposite principle: they are childlike, impulsive, and open; their machinations are completely transparent to the audience, although not necessarily to each other. If you look at, say, the adults on a bus, you can see that they work to express a ‘deadness.’
    15. Mask work is particularly suitable for ‘tough’ adolescents who may normally think of drama as sissy. It appeals to them because it feels dangerous. I’ve seen excellent, and very sensitive Mask work by rather violent teenagers. Personally I think Mask work is something almost anyone can learn to enjoy. It’s very refreshing to be able to shed the personality thrust on you by the other people. ‘It’s like you get the freedom to explore all the personalities that any human being may develop into – all the shapes and feelings that could have been Ingrid but aren’t. Some Masks don’t trigger any response…maybe these are spirits outside of Ingrid’s repertoire, that is any one person may have a limited number of possibilities when he develops his personality
    16. The greater the emotion expressed on the face the greater the change in behavior and the easier it is to improvise.
    17. The place of the personality in a particular part of the body is cultural. Most Europeans place themselves in the head, because they have been taught that they are the brain. In reality of course the brain can’t feel the concave of the skull, and if we believed with Lucretius that the brain was an organ for cooling the blood, we would place ourselves somewhere else. The Greeks and Romans were in the chest, the Japanese a hand’s breath below the navel, Witla Indians in the whole body, and even outside it. We only imagine ourselves as ‘somewhere.’ Meditation teachers in the East have asked their students to practice placing the mind in different parts of the body, or in the Universe, as a way of inducing trance. Some suggest inventing imaginary bodies and operating them from imaginary centers. Your whole being, psychologically and physically, will be changed – I would not hesitate to say even possessed – by the character…your reasoning mind, however skillful it may be, is apt to leave you cold and passive, whereas the imaginary body has the power to appeal directly to your will and feelings. You will notice that the center is able to draw and concentrate your whole being into one spot from which your activity emanates and radiates. Try a few experiments for a while. Put a soft, warm, not too small center in the region of your abdomen and you may experience a psychology that is self-satisfied, earthy, a bit heavy and even humorous. Place a tiny, hard center on the tip of your nose and you will become curious, inquisitive, prying, and even meddlesome. Imagine a big, heavy, dull and sloppy center placed outside the seat of your pants and you have a cowardly, not too honest, droll character. A center located a few feet outside your eyes or forehead may invoke the sensation of a sharp, penetrating, even sagacious mind. A warm, hot and even fiery center situated without your heart may awaken in you heroic, loving and courageous feelings. You can also imagine a movable center. Let it sway slowly before your forehead and circle your head from time to time, and you will sense the psychology of a bewildered person; or let it circle irregularly around your whole body, in varying tempos, now going up and now sinking down, and the effect will no doubt be one of intoxication.
    18. Trance states are likely whenever you abandon control of the musculature. Many people can get an incredible ‘high’ from being moved about while they remain relaxed. Pass them round a circle, lift them, and (especially) roll them about on a soft surface. For some people it’s very liberating, but the movers have to be skilled
    19. One of the strangest paradoxes about the Mask is that the actor who is magnificent wearing it may be colorless and unconvincing when he isn’t. This is something obvious to everyone, including the actor himself. In the Mask events really happen. The wearers experience everything with great vividness. Without the Mask they perpetually judge themselves. In time the Mask abilities spill over into the acting, but it’s a very gradual process.
    20. Critics raved about Greta Garbo’s face: her face, early called the face of the century, had an extraordinary plasticity, a mirrorlike quality; people could see in it their own conflicts and desires. People who worked with her said that her face didn’t change. The muscles in her face would not move, and yet her eyes would express exactly what she needed. The eyes told it all. What Garbo had was a body that transmitted and received. It was her spine that should have been raved about: every vertebra alive and separated so that feelings flowed in and out from the center. She responded simultaneously with emotion and warmth, and what she felt, the audience felt, yet the information transmitted by the body was perceived as emanating from the face.
    21. What happens to the actor who puts on a mask? He is cut off from the outer world. The night he deliberately enters allows him first to reject everything that hampered him. Then, by an effort of concentration, to reach a void, a state of un-being. From this moment forwards, he will be able to come back to life and to behave in a new and truly dramatic way.
    22. Closing your eyes and ‘looking’ into the darkness of the eyelids is a common trance-inducing technique.
    23. Something happens to people in moments of great seriousness. When Annigoni was painting the Queen, she told him that usually she feels like an ordinary woman, but that when she wears the robes of state she ‘becomes the Queen’. We all know how a wreath should be placed on a memorial during a great ceremony: we may have to be told where to stand, and when to move forward, but the way we move and hold our bodies is instinctive. We know we mustn’t do anything trivial or repetitive. Our movements will be as simple as possible. Our bodies will be straight. We won’t hurry. There will be a smoothness about us. The people you see standing around after mine disasters, or similar tragedies, have a stillness and simplicity of movement. They rise in status. They are straighter, they don’t make nervous little movements – not when the shock is on them – and I would guess that they hold eye contacts for longer than normal.
    24. It’s amazing how few people can stand really still; yet nothing is more powerful than absolute stillness on stage.
    25. When actors insist on ‘thinking’ about the Mask, I tell them to ‘attend’ to it instead. I say, ‘Imagine you’re in a great forest and you hear a sound you can’t identify quite close to you. Is it a bear? Is it dangerous? The mind goes empty as you stay motionless waiting for the sound to be repeated. This mindless listening is like attending to a Mask’. This usually works. If you attend to a Mask you’ll see it start to change – probably because your eyes are getting tired. Don’t stop these changes. The edges crawl about, it may suddenly seem like a real face in your hands. Fine, don’t lose the sensation, put the Mask on gently and hold the image in your mind. If you lose it, take the Mask off.
    26. People seem to be afraid of three things: 1) that the students will be violent; 2) that the students will go ‘mad’; 3) that the students will refuse to remove the Mask when instructed (a combination of the first two)
    27. When you give the student permission to explore the material he very soon uncovers layers of unsuspected gentleness and tenderness. It is no longer sexual feelings and violence that are deeply repressed in this culture now, whatever it may have been like in fin-de-siècle Vienna. We repress our benevolence and tenderness
      1. Even more important and a way to separate self today because of this lack of empathy, benevolence, tenderness.
    28. The facial expression as a whole – independent of the individual parts – has to be carefully observed. We know the depressed face of the melancholic patient. It is peculiar how the expression of flaccidity can be associated with a severe chronic tension of the musculature. There are people with an always artificially beaming face; there are ‘stiff’ and ‘sagging’ cheeks. Usually, the patients are able to find the corresponding expression themselves, if the attitude is repeatedly pointed out and described to them, or shown to them by imitating it. One patient with ‘stiff’ cheeks said: “My cheeks are as if heavy with tears.” Suppressed crying easily leads to a masklike stiffness of the facial musculature. At an early age, children develop a fear of “faces” which they used to delight in making; they are afraid because they are told that if they make a face it’ll stay that way, and because the very impulses they express in their grimaces are impulses for which they are likely to be reprimanded or punished. Thus they check these impulses and hold their faces “rigidly under control.”
What I got out of it
  1. Less movement indicates higher-status (especially of head, amazing how few can be totally still), there is no action that is done which doesn’t indicate/raise/lower status and by focusing on this actors can let their instincts take over, those who can raise and lower their status seamlessly and at will are the masters at social communication and rapport, observing postures is one of the best ways to determine status in an interaction, status is established not by staring but by the reaction to staring, the body automatically takes over when you act in a high-status way, if you speak with your head still, then you’ll do many other high-status things quite automatically – speak in complete sentences, hold eye contact, move smoothly, occupy more space, slow down, things said are far less important than status played, the incredible connection between Masks and trance and how deep a part of our culture trance states have been until recently, good teacher can propel any group (play low status by sitting on floor but have status go up by taking responsibility for their success or failure, share eye contact amongst the group), free up imagination by telling students they are not responsible for what comes out, “I don’t myself see that an educated man in this culture necessarily has to understand the second law of thermodynamics, but he certainly should understand that we are pecking-order animals and that this affects the tiniest details of our behavior.” Striving after originality takes you far away from your true self, and makes your work mediocre.