Tomato Wisdom and Us

To know a tomato is a fruit is knowledge, to not put a tomato in a fruit salad is wisdom. tomato

I would like to use this a popular meme to highlight a source of mismanagement of our interactions with each other.

We need to distinguish between the three concepts: Information, knowledge and wisdom.

Information is random facts or figures. The world is full of it. We can search anything under the sun and we will find sites full of information.

Knowledge is when we assimilate the information into ourselves and know how it applies to us. We form opinions and assumptions by taking the information through the filtering process of our belief systems, mental models and prior knowledge.

Wisdom is when we use our knowledge appropriately. Our meme is a good example. That a tomato is a fruit is just information, the fact that I know I have tomatoes in the fridge is knowledge. Wisdom is when I put the tomato in a green salad and not a fruit salad.

Let us take this line of thought into our interpersonal interactions. I may know something about myself related to you. For example I tell you: “You look good in that jacket, it complements the color of your eyes”. When I share this with you, it is just information that you receive.

When you take this information and interpret it in the context of what to wear to the next party, it becomes knowledge. It becomes wisdom when you use this knowledge to impress your date at the restaurant.

Most interpersonal communication is just sharing information. “It will be cold today”, “Did you see the game last night?” It is only when we take the information and personalize it that it becomes knowledge. So be careful what information you make knowledge. We do not need to take every opinion of every individual personally. We can keep it in the safe zone of just information they are sharing. It is their opinion.

When we trust the source of the information, then we can personalize it. Personalized information becomes knowledge but also be wise in using it. Even from a trusted source, knowledge must be applied appropriately.

Sometimes you do not want to look lovely for a date, but professional to close a deal. You are in charge of using the knowledge you have. Be wise.

Sharing my info


Managing your Anger

Anger can be a gift

Master your anger

Anger or aggression is probably the most misunderstood emotion we humans have. And therefore in the biggest need to be managed. It can be a beautiful gift or an ugly curse.

In order for us to manage our anger effectively we need to keep two basic cornerstones of emotion in mind. One, emotion has a survival function and two; emotion is energy in our system.

Understanding anger through these two lenses will help us manage it. In my mental map of anger, the survival function of anger is to protect us from unfairness.

Unpacking this belief system that anger protects us, there are two important elements to keep in mind. The first is that our brain automatically moves away from any unfairness and move towards fairness and secondly; we are talking about perceived fairness or unfairness.

This perception is guided by our goals and desires. We may desire something and set a goal to have it. When we get it, we experience a positive reward. When something or someone prevents us from obtaining our desired goal, we easily experience this as unfair as we believe we have a right to our desired goal.

An important part of managing our anger is to educate our perception around our rights. We then need to align our desires and goals to this created standard.  This education needs to enable us to distinguish between real unfairness and imagined unfairness. Real unfairness normally has an objective standard to which it can be measured. Imagined unfairness normally is a creation of our selfish ego.

Just as important is to be very clear about what the obstacle really is. What often happens is that we have an obstacle in one part of our life, say for example at work, but we are angry with our spouse. Make sure you know the true source of your anger.

Thinking about anger as energy in our system, we know that energy cannot be destroyed. Therefore, when our perception of unfairness creates this emotional energy; we need to direct it appropriately.

How we choose to direct this energy determines whether we mastered our anger or whether it has enslaved us.

Left on its own, anger tends to be destructive. It wants to break through the obstacle on its way to the desired goal. Often this is exhibited in verbal of physical violence.

Anger is the deepest form of caringBut what most people do not realize is that like all emotions, anger also has a flip side. The opposite of destruction is creation. We have the ability to either break through the obstacle or build a bridge over it. The energy is in our system, we can decide in which way it will flow.

My invitation is to choose to let the gift of anger build a better world.


When managing this flow of energy, we can ask the question, what would the constructive way be to get to my goal? How can I get what I want and have a positive relationship?

Yes sometimes there is an obstacle that needs to be removed. Just remember demolishing is not the same as destruction. Use your energy wisely.

Still managing and on the way to mastering.


Power Struggle (Part 2)

Knowing that we are responsible for giving power to someone or something to be exercised over us, allows us to have a look at how we do it.

If we look under the surface we find a very interesting dynamic playing out. Power closely links to our perception of status. This is the brain’s default mechanism to place us in a pecking order once we engage in a social relationship.

If the brain perceives that our status is protected or enhanced it moves towards the person or situation that enhances our situation. Linking back to the relativeness of power that depends on the recognition of a quality, it is understandably that we give power to those who enhance our status.

When we perceive that our status is threatened or broken down, we immediately activate our defence mechanism. One of which is to engage in a power struggle.

The moment we engage in a struggle, the need to be in control moves to the foreground. This is a reactive or secondary need. The primary need is for certainty. Our brain does not like uncertainty and moves away from it.

As these two principles are major drivers in our interactions, we need to be aware of our belief systems, mind maps or mental maps regarding status and certainty.

Evaluating our mental map of status is an observation of our comparison ability. We inadvertently compare ourselves to others. It is normal. My question is “What are your measuring criteria?”

Do you compare using material possession or external physical looks? This is the same as trying to measure the ocean with a yardstick. Not very smart.

My suggestion is to measure yourself with yourself. When you are your own criteria, the criteria are: Do you live out your potential? Are you true to yourself? Have you lived today in such a way that you may die tonight and smile, knowing you gave it your all?

How will this measuring criteria influence the power you allocate to other people?

Our mental maps around certainty hinges around our perception of change. Change for most people implies uncertainty. We tend to feel comfortable if we know what is going to happen next and uncomfortable when we don’t.

Again this is normal. The problem comes when we get stuck in the need for certainty. For change is the only true certainty.

Sounds paradoxical? Well it is, and that is the beauty of it. It is in the tension between two seemingly total opposites that life happens. Life is never one dimensional. Change is constant. And we need to acknowledge this.

When we embrace change we also activate one of the brain’s pleasure centers. You know – that good feeling when you buy a new pair of shoes or when you smell that new car smell. Well that same center activates when we embrace change.

In our allocation of power, it would be to our advantage if we keep this tension between change and constant in mind. Is this person or thing I am giving power to, going to enhance certainty or change? Which is best for me now, change or more of the same?

I assume that when we become more aware of our own thinking in a power struggle, the struggle part dissolves and only the conscious exchange of power happens.



Inverted U

Performing under pressure has become a much needed skill. A skill that some of us have naturally and others need to learn.

Some of us seem to thrive under pressure. We like the adrenaline rush, the challenge of thinking on our feet and delegating the detail. Only to find ourselves crashing against a wall. Not the wall of the project that creates the pressure – which we are handling. The walls we often crash against are the personal, family, relationship walls.

Sound familiar?

There are a few theories that try to explain this interaction between performance and pressure.

The most common one is the Inverted-U Hypothesis. This theory states that performance increases as pressure or the challenge of a situation increases, up to a point. After that specific point, performance decrease as pressure increase. We fade away.

Another theory, the Catastrophic Theory, is similar to the Inverted –U Hypothesis; it only differs in that it states that some people’s performance does not decline gradually but catastrophically falls. They crash and burn.

A third theory that I think is relevant is the optimal zone theory. This simply states that each individual has a zone in which he/she functions optimally. Why these theories?

Simply to share a tool with which you can enhance your performance. Knowing yourself and the level of pressure under which you can function optimally is one of the keys to achieving flow. Being aware of warning signs will help to managing the pressure.

A myth of the self help, motivational world, is that our potential is unlimited. Because our ego wants to feel all-powerful, it easily grabs on to this myth and pushes us past our zone. Lettings us crash and burn or fade away.

The truth is, our potential is limited, but no one has ever truly reached that limit. It is far beyond the quasi-humble belief systems and mind maps we create to keep us in mediocrity. By acknowledging this and by accepting that we actually develop and grow our potential by creating boundaries for our self, we will be able function in flow much easier. Then we allow pressure to extract the gold in us. Then we use pressure as a servant to our own happiness.

Under pressure


Pay it Forward

Sitting at the bar of my favorite restaurant, a lady starts burning money. She literally took the note and put it to the candle flame.

Interesting reactions followed this act. Some said it was against the law, some complained that it could have bought a drink. But overall everybody showed their underlying attachment to money.

Funny thing money, in our society most of us perceive it as the sole means of surviving. Because of this perception we either have a fear or greed attachment to it. Both emotions are deeply rooted in a belief system of want or scarcity.

This map in our brain dictates that our survival is dependent on an external source. A source that is not under our control, so we either live in fear that we will die if the source dries up, or we want to ensure we have as much of it for ourselves before everything is taken.

This is rather crippling would you not agree?

In my mind the healthier and more natural belief system is to accept that there is enough of everything and acknowledging that I am part of the bigger picture. Therefore I have a contribution to make and therefore I may receive what I am in need of.

Let us take an economic lesson from nature. A tree takes freely from the ground what it needs – nourishment, stability etc. and it gives freely –shade, oxygen, fruit etc. This is the natural way of abundance.

Yes, sometimes there are droughts. The tree then takes less and gives less. Sometimes trees die. But even in their death they give. They become the compost for the next generation of trees.

So we see, even in scarcity, the principle of give and receive works. The key learning is that we must seek a win-win way if living.

What I found very interested is that the give and receive (win-win) is not necessarily linear. More often than not what you give comes back in an indirect way. Some people call this the principle of paying it forward.

My good friend Hennie taught me this principle. I am grateful for all the investments he made in my life and I recently started to pay these investments forward.

What a pleasant experience. The immediate ROI was an experience of psychological well-being. Experiencing a quality of life that money cannot buy. The longer term experience I have is that because one’s hand is open in the process of giving, it is also open to receive and be blessed.

Very important to keep in mind is that in between the giving and the receiving is a huge gap that must be filled with hard work (I know you did not think this process happens magically). Remember we are part of the bigger picture and we do have a contribution to make.

May I invite you to tell me about your giving and receiving? Tell me about your hard work and the well-being that you experience?

In Abundance


A mind full of pictures

I love photos. I take them myself. I admire them when they are taken by other people. Photos capture moments in time and the very best captures those moments that cannot be repeated.

Our mind also thinks in pictures. If I ask you to think about your mother, you immediately recall a mental picture of your mother. In the same way we have pictures or more accurately mental models of everything.

Mental models are frames of references about every topic we are aware of. We have mental models about love, life, people, work, you name it. It can be seen as to sum total of our assumptions about how life should be.

Neuro scientists refer to it as hardwiring of neurons, because of the natural process of the brain to create semi permanent connections around anything that has become an unconscious habit. We don’t consciously think about tying our shoes or brushing our teeth. We do it habitually. This natural process makes life easier. It frees up brain space and energy for other things.

I also like refer to these mental models as belief systems. What we belief about our self and our world. Belief systems are more complex than habits like brushing your teeth, but they are also hardwired neurological connections. A very complex interconnectedness of neurons. That is why they are referred to systems. Therefore we could also apply the rules of systems to our mental models.

One of these rules is that a system always tries to keep itself in equilibrium. So if you receive information that does not fit into the system of neurological connections you already have, the equilibrium is changed. It is a bit like having a black and white photo and suddenly a person in the photo has a bright red jacket on. It does not fit into the context. Our mind then does one of two things. It can disregard the information or it can find a way to fit it into the current system.

When the second option is executed, a whole new set of dynamics come into play. Dynamics I would love to explore with you in the next few posts.  First we need to have an understanding of the basic process of the pictures in our minds.

That is – we all have a complex interconnected belief system about our world and through these belief systems we interpreter the world as it happens. The question that arises is: Have we ever looked at the interpreter of our world?

Any good photographer would tell you that you need to know how your camera works, before you can constantly produce good photos. My invitation to you is: Will you join me in exploring the way we interpret our world?

With expectation