2017 Q2 - The Body Keeps The Score, Grinding It Out, The Power of Full Engagement

The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk

If you are in any way on the front lines of medicine or healthcare - in direct contact with the public - then this masterpiece is a must-read for you. Any and every healthcare practitioner would benefit their patients immensely by considering the implications and consequences expounded in this very accessible book. If you have any curiosity about understanding yourself a bit better, or if you are working through prior traumatic events, then this book is also for you. Van Der Kolk’s book provides the reader with a deep introduction into the concept of psychopathalogical traumas and their consequences on the individual and the world around you. Ever wonder why someone is always such a jerk or a bully? This book might tell you why s/he is that way.

A few of the recurring threads are the importance of self-knowledge and self-awareness, sense of safety, the impact of trauma on the perception and experience of time (“contamination by the past”), as well as the blatant denial of psychology on the health & wellness of the individual and society at large.

Bessel mentions 2 types of self-awareness:

  1. Moment-to-moment self-awareness “based primarily on physical sensations”. This gives one a sense of “being grounded” and requires a sense of safety and confidence.

  2. Another that “keeps track of the self across time” - a “system rooted in language”... “our autobiographical self, creates connections among experiences and assembles them into a coherent story.”

A sense of safety in one of the more repetitive themes throughout the book. The basic concept is that an individual stuck in a cycle of fear, threat, or sense of danger, does not develop a solid base/foundation on which to build confidence, live in the present, and exercise imaginations of positive possibilities. A sense of safety provides him/her with a solid foundation that s/he can rely on, an anchor in case of storm that allows for the development of confidence and constructive experiences.

According to the book, traumatized individuals are, in a sense, trapped in time. They are trapped in the past - scenes and experiences of the traumatizing events are on constant replay resulting immune and nervous systems existing in a state of continual high alert sensitivity. (For all you PT’s - this parallels with the current concepts of chronic pain.) Stuck in the past, these individuals are left with the unfortunate circumstance of living in a state of constant fear, unable to experience the present, and deprived of the imagination to expect a better future.

Finally, Bessel also laces a recent history of psychology with emphasis placed on the general disregard of the impact of psychology on one’s health and wellness, divergence of chemical and electrical theories of the brain, the positive role and negative impacts of pharmacology on the individual as well as its drowning influence on non-pharmacological approaches of psychological therapies.

Buy the book. Reading it is a seamless exercise in building empathy, as well as developing a better understanding of the humanity around you. Very Highly Recommended.


Grinding It Out by Ray Kroc

There once was a guy who sold Multimixers - mixing machines to make milkshakes. He was a prolific salesman who sold multimixers across the country. Then he received news about incredible milkshakes made by one restaurant in California. His curiosity was tickled and drove him to visit the restaurant. It was owned by 2 brothers who established a fantastic business selling burgers for 15 cents each. They also sold fries and milkshakes. In fact, they purchased 8 multimixers and pumped out an impressive volume of milkshakes. Ray Kroc tried persuading them to build more locations so that he could sell them more multimixers, but they weren't buying it... "besides who would build them for us?" "What about me?". This is the one-sided inside story of how Ray Kroc turned McDonalds into what it is today!

Some of my favorite quotes:

I never considered my dreams wasted energy; they were invariably linked to some sort of action.

Work is the meat in the hamburger of life.

I would do well if I could overcome the inertia of tradition.

I was an overnight success all right, but thirty years is a long, long night.

If you plan on starting or growing your existing business, then this is an excellent primer on the mind of a founder.


The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

This is one of those books that are usually read quickly before dismissal on counts of non-relatability and a corny collection of cliches. Standard baby thrown out with the bathwater. Let's break it down:

First, the bathwater. The book seems geared toward the "corporate athlete" who is struggling to perform at his peak. Most of the readers don't fit this demographic. In addition, some of the information provided is outdated; specifically the advice on nutrition. As is often the case, any move away from the Standard American Diet (ironic acronym: SAD) is a step in a healthier direction simply because it is the SAD. It doesn't mean that the recommended diet is necessarily healthy in the long run, it's simply better than the alternative - SAD. The cliches are obvious and tired... but they also happened to contain some smart advice. Let's move onto the good stuff.

Second, the baby. I've always believed that Time is one of our most precious resources, but when it comes to performance - for major events and daily life - "energy, not time, is our most precious resource". Here are the Four Principles for living "a productive, fully engaged life":

1. Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

2. Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.

3. To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.

4. Positive energy rituals - highly specific routines for managing energy - are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

This is one of those books that will be recycled and re-packaged into new books by new authors. The authors have done an excellent job of distilling what it takes to live a fully engaged life. Much of their recommendations and advice are timeless and worth re-reading

Finally, there are some incredible podcasts out there. This one featuring Naval Ravikant is especially excellent. It’s 2 hours of entertainingly funny and provocative explorations of reading, happiness, decision making, habits, honesty and more. Keep pen & paper handy, because you’ll probably end up taking notes.

Jason Boddu