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Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Let your brain do it

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I’ll never forget the first time my hands played the guitar without me.

I had put strings on my dad’s guitar a couple of days before and was tuning it again. It’s one of those guitars that a musician is lucky to find: a truly cheap-ass machine-built job that sounds and plays like one that costs ten or twenty times as much. So I tuned it and was noodling around on it and I sort of zoned out on some Delta-style twelve-bar blues, and all of a sudden I heard music I’d never heard before. I actually looked around to see who else was there. I was alone. And when I tried to duplicate what I’d just done, I couldn’t.

When I was first learning, I never had the problem so many guitarists have with synchronizing my hands. Somehow, I happened upon it, and I don’t know how. So when a friend of mine said he was fed up with the choppy sound of his playing and asked me how I got my hands to work together, I couldn’t tell him. But I started searching.

I found in some magazine an article written by a guitar instructor, and he talked about his own teacher’s method of helping his students coordinate their right and left hands. He said it can’t be done.

That kind of surprised me because I was doing it. But then he explained why he said it couldn’t be done. He said that the signals from the left hand travel to the brain and are processed there, then the brain sends signals to the right hand, and the right hand sends back signals which are then processed and sent to the left hand, and so on. Even though the distance is short and the processing is extremely rapid, there’s still enough of a delay to cause mis-coordination. There is absolutely, positively no way to coordinate one hand with the other.

I was beginning to think that I couldn’t play after all, when the author started writing about the following idea:

“The desire for the note.”

We don’t play music with out hands; we play with our brains. Feel the desire for the note and the brain will process it perfectly.

It made such an impact on me that I’ve tried to apply it to the rest of my life, too. And when I explained it to my friend, his playing got better. Still not as good as mine was, but better. 😉

(I finally figured out the blues riff that my brain gave me, but it took a long time. It involved combining open strings with up-the-neck closed strings; flatpickers call it “floating” but I was playing fingerstyle. I’d never learned to do it and had no idea people played that way.)

Written by Michael DeBusk

February 13th, 2008 at 11:33 am

Want to learn faster and better? Tell yourself stories.

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We learned in our Practitioner and Master Practitioner training that metaphor is a powerful way to teach stuff. Did we get, though, that it’s a powerful tool for learning? It should go without saying, I suppose, but I didn’t really think about it until I read an article by Scott Young at

The storyteller’s art of metaphor is crucial in holistic learning. Remembering mathematical concepts is easier when you have metaphors that relate them to real life events, not just symbols and equations. Becoming a storyteller with your subjects and using powerful metaphors can make even the driest subject stick.

It’s a simple and straightforward idea: if you want to learn something, structure the lesson as if you’re teaching it to yourself using metaphor. While I’m slapping myself on the forehead, you can go over to and read What Storytellers Can Teach You About How to Learn Faster. The tips on how to create a compelling metaphor are alone worth the time and effort.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 7th, 2008 at 2:32 am

Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains

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Alvaro Fernandez at the Huffington Post writes about the Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains:

  1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”
  2. Take care of your nutrition
  3. Remember that the brain is part of the body
  4. Practice positive, future-oriented thoughts
  5. Thrive on Learning and Mental Challenges
  6. Aim high
  7. Explore and travel
  8. Don’t Outsource Your Brain
  9. Develop and maintain stimulating friendships
  10. Laugh. Often.

Also visit SharpBrains for more information.

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 24th, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Keys to Programming

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My old friend Chad Amberg is an interesting guy. Definitely not the type to march in time with the popular crowd, but not at all “weird” either. I think he’d make a great NLPer. I should mention it to him.

Chad is a computer guru. Mostly Windows, poor guy, but he can do pretty much anything that needs doing on pretty much any system you’re likely to be running. He’s the one who got me turned on to OS/2 back in the mid-1990s. Definitely old-skewl. Especially when it comes to programming.

We NLPers tend to spend a lot of time on the “N” and the “L” but not so much on the finer points of the “P”. Remember that Richard Bandler was learning computer science when he began poking around in subjective human experience, and that one of Jonathan Altfeld’s more popular courses, Knowledge Engineering, is pulled directly from Jonathan’s experience and training in the modeling of human decision structures using the Lisp programming language.

I know that when I learned the basics of programming in Rexx, it helped me to think much more clearly about structure. (I wouldn’t recommend Rexx right now, though, even though it’s excellent; I think Python is much more useful for the majority. If I had it to do over again, I’d have started with Python.) Learning to write a simple structured program, even in a scripting language like Rexx or Python, is a tremendous gift you can give to yourself.

Chad wrote a short article today on what he believes are the Keys to Programming. It’s brief, high-level, good advice with no language-specific ideas… more like “how to think like a programmer” than “how to write a program”. He references an essay by Paul Graham titled, “How to Hold a Program in Your Head”, which is what we’re interested in doing, yes?

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 19th, 2007 at 8:35 pm

Even a Stone Can Be a Teacher

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BoingBoing has a great little story on how a kid saved his sister and himself from a moose attack using skills he picked up from a game:

In the article he describes how he first yelled at the moose, distracting it so his sister got away, then when he got attacked and the animal stood over him he feigned death. “Just like you learn at level 30 in World of Warcraft.”

What a great example of learning through metaphor.

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 11th, 2007 at 12:37 am

Caricatures are more easily recognized

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In a recent BoingBoing post referring to a study of computer-altered celebrity photographs done at the University of Central Lancashire, it was pointed out that we tend to recognize a person from caricature twice as easily as from a photograph.

I wonder how this could be useful in, say, state elicitation, memory recovery, and changework.

Link to article in The Guardian

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 5th, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Secrets That Most People Don’t Know About NLP

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Nick Kemp tells me he’s Jamie Smart has set up a new NLP resources site:

“You’re About To Discover Secrets That Most People including most NLP Practitioners Don’t Know About NLP” –

Looks to me like tons of free stuff and some purchasable stuff as well.

Written by Michael DeBusk

November 27th, 2007 at 4:34 am

A Zen Lesson

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An acolyte asked his master, “Master, what must I learn to become enlightened?”

His master asked in return, “Look around you; what do you see?”

“All around me is the orderliness of the monastery. We eat at certain times, we meditate at certain times and in certain ways, we do the work required when it is time and in the required ways. All is order here.”

The master said, “The first lesson you must learn is that order is an illusion. To look closely and see order is merely your perception. When you step back and look at the larger picture, you will see all is chaos.”

The student went away and meditated on this. The following day, he returned to his master and told him that he saw all truly was chaos.

“The next lesson, then,” the master said, “is that chaos is an illusion. From your new perspective, indeed it seems that there is no governing principle, but when you step back and look at the bigger picture, you will see patterns… that there really is order.”

The student went away and meditated on this as well. The next week, he returned to his master and told him that he saw all truly was in order after all.

“Excellent!” the old master said, and smiled. “Now, the next lesson you must learn is that order is an illusion…”

Written by Michael DeBusk

November 18th, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Cool! A “Netflix” for us autodidacts!

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Did you know about SmartFlix? If you did, why didn’t you tell me?

SmartFlix is a service that rents DVDs – just like your corner video store – but we rent the kind of videos that you can’t find on every street corner. Videos on running lathes, making glass beads, welding steel, oil painting, building guitars… cool videos!

Most of the videos are ten bucks for a week’s rental, and sets are discounted. What are you waiting for?! 🙂

Written by Michael DeBusk

November 8th, 2007 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Learning

You’ve Been Punked… By Your Brain!

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I may seem to be leaning a lot on lately. I don’t mean to. It’s just that there’s a really good reason why they’re one of the top blogs on Internet. Anyway…

In Your Brain is Not Your Friend and its followup, Three More Reasons Why Your Brain is Not Your Friend, author Dustin Wax describes how easily fooled our brains are, and how seemingly determined they are to stay that way:

Whether because of the brain’s internal structure or the way social and cultural pressures cause our minds to develop and function, in the end the result is the same: minds that are not only easily deceived and frequently deceptive in their own right, but when caught out, refuse to accept and address their errors. If you have a mind — or even half a mind — you might be best off losing it entirely.

It’s long been my opinion that the greatest driving force of a human being is not the desire for survival, but the desire to be right. (People will die for their beliefs, but they rarely believe they are going to die. Or something like that.) Mr. Wax’s articles reinforce my opinion, so I’ll agree with him… thus perpetuating the cycle.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 30th, 2007 at 1:10 am

Posted in Articles,Learning,Neuro