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Archive for the ‘Modeling’ Category

The Skills You Need to Succeed

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It’s been a while since anything at caught the attention of the NLPer in me. Don’t get me wrong — it’s always good — but this one is truly excellent:

Success, however it’s defined, takes action, and taking good and appropriate action takes skills. Some of these skills (not enough, though) are taught in school (not well enough, either), others are taught on the job, and still others we learn from general life experience.

Dustin goes on to elaborate on the following ten skills:

  1. Public Speaking
  2. Writing
  3. Self-Management
  4. Networking
  5. Critical Thinking
  6. Decision-Making
  7. Math
  8. Research
  9. Relaxation
  10. Basic Accounting

Now, those are all modelable and learnable skills. And each of us probably knows someone who can do each of them well!

Go read the full article at 10 Skills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything.

Written by Michael DeBusk

August 3rd, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Body position helps you remember

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Once again, we find Milton Erickson was ahead of his time:

A new study adds an unexpected method to the list of ways to spur memories about our past: body position. That’s right: just holding your body in the right position means you’ll have faster, more accurate access to certain memories. If you stand as if holding a golf club, you’re quicker to remember an event that happened while you were golfing than if you position your body in a non-golfing pose.

Cognitive Daily: Body position affects memory for events

Written by Michael DeBusk

June 6th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

How to Be a Rule-Breaker

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Dustin Wax over at has written another spot-on article, this time on the five rules for breaking the rules:

  • Break the rules as a last resort;
  • Rule-breaking gains its power from the strength of rules, not their weakness;
  • For every broken rule there are a dozen unbroken ones;
  • For every broken rule, there is a reason;and
  • Accept the consequences.

I must admit that I’ve followed these rules quite a bit in my life, and it’s worked consistently well for me.

How to Break All the Rules (

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 26th, 2008 at 2:51 pm

An interesting take on modeling

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Adrian at has Seven Useful Lessons You Can Learn from a Bad Boss:

Macho, insensitive bosses share certain characteristics. Their behavior is arrogant, quick-tempered and controlling. Their motives are typically selfish and manipulative. They show little concern for others and few signs of understanding why others don’t trust them. Most of all, they are quite unaware of their failings and the impact they have on their subordinates. No only do they see no need to change, they often make their high-handed behavior a source of pride.

That’s why you can trust them to be some of your best teachers about productivity and success.

Read the rest of the article at

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 23rd, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Business,Modeling

The difficulty with self-reporting

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The Freakonomics Blog pointed me today to an article in the BPS Research Digest about how psychologists study what we know about ourselves. It points out the problems with self-reporting:

Nevertheless, self-reports have their flaws. One problem is that self-reports are subject to social desirability concerns, making them vulnerable to misreporting. When people know that someone else is going to hear their response to a question, they may change their answer, even unknowingly. Another issue concerning self-reports is whether people are consciously aware of their self-perception and whether they are able to report it accurately.

Worth reading.

Written by Michael DeBusk

March 1st, 2008 at 12:55 am

Posted in Modeling,Psych

How Unix geeks get things done

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Productivity goddess Gina Trapani from Lifehacker has been studying the Unix Philosophy and applying it to personal productivity. I think it’s an unusual idea, especially considering that, as the old saying goes, “philosophy is to real life as masturbation is to sex.” If you’re familiar with Linux or Unix you know what I mean.

Let’s think of these points as applying to the practice of NLP, though, and see where it takes us:

  • Write simple parts connected by clean interfaces. (Rule of Modularity)
  • Clarity is better than cleverness. (Rule of Clarity)
  • Fold knowledge into data so program logic can be stupid and robust. (Rule of Representation)
  • When you must fail, fail noisily and as soon as possible. (Rule of Repair)
  • Programmer time is expensive; conserve it in preference to machine time. (Rule of Economy)
  • Prototype before polishing. Get it working before you optimize it. (Rule of Optimization)
  • Design for the future, because it will be here sooner than you think. (Rule of Extensibility)

What do you think?

Go read the full article: Applying Unix Philosophy to Personal Productivity

Written by Michael DeBusk

February 16th, 2008 at 10:17 pm

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

He said he was sorry

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I always want to know when a victim of assault and/or battery is in my Emergency Department. It’s not unheard-of for an assailant to come to a hospital to try to finish the job they started. One night, a nurse called me about a woman whose live-in boyfriend had tried to run her over with his car. He’d missed, but had caught her arm with a side mirror or something.

I went to her room to chat with her, mostly to find out how likely she thought it was that he’d show. I try my best to appear “soft on the outside, hard on the inside” with victims of domestic violence because I never know what sort of generalizations they’ve made about men. I want them to know that I’m no threat to them, but that if the guy shows up, I’ll definitely be a threat to him. I found out what I needed to know, but I didn’t leave. She had the look about her of someone who wanted to talk. So I let her.

Before I go any further, you should probably see something. I got the following image from a Web page of the State’s Attorney’s Office in Harford County, Maryland. It’s a decent visual representation of the pattern that couples follow when they do the domestic violence thing.

Cycle of Violence

Essentially, things get tense over a period of time, then he beats her up. After he beats her up, he starts to think about what might happen if someone finds out, so he treats her really nice for a while. Then the whole thing starts over.

Now, this definitely isn’t politically correct, but I’ve never been accused of such atrocities as political correctness, so here we go: much of the time, when someone is a victim of a crime, it’s likely that they have participated in some way in their own victimization. That is not to say that they wanted it or asked for it or that it’s their fault in any way; it’s only to say that something they did, whether or not they realized it, contributed in some way to the problem. Most people will correct those behaviors if someone cares enough to point out the problem to them, and we NLPers know that if we interrupt a pattern it’s far more likely that we’ll get a different result.

I’ve never known a woman to say, “I stay with him because he beats me.” (There may be such women but I’ve never met one.) Usually they tell me they’re staying because they “have to”. What I think is unfortunate is when a woman does get up the courage (and other resources) required to leave the bum and then goes and hooks up with another guy who treats her the same way. It’s a pattern, and one that cries out for interruption.

The lady to whom I was speaking told me what had happened that evening, and then she told me he said he was sorry and that she was going to go back.

My first reaction was visceral. I won’t tell you what I thought, because I want this to be a reasonably friendly blog, but I imagine you can guess. But then I thought, you know, she’s talking to me about it, so she probably wants feedback.

There are three things I’ve observed about women who are in this “battered” pattern:

  • They isolate each incident of battering within its own little time capsule, and therefore never notice the pattern;
  • They have two distinct aspects of their personality — we might call them “parts” if we were so inclined — and each of those “parts” deals with one of the spokes on the above-referenced image; and
  • They don’t have “boundaries”, i.e., they allow most anyone to treat them like a doormat.

So I said to her, “He said he was sorry.” I pointed to a spot in the air right in front of her.

“Yes”, she responded.

“I’m curious. Isn’t that what he said last time?” I pointed to a spot a little to my right, her left, of the spot I had just pointed to.

It took her a second or two, but she remembered. “Yeah.”

“What about the time before that?”

“Yeah, then too.”

“And the time before that?”

With each question I’m pointing to a little spot on a horizontal line in the air in front of me, farther and farther to her left. I didn’t have to ask very many times before her face got grim and her jaw set tight. I let it sink in for a couple of heartbeats, looked off to her left, and asked, “Just how long has this been going on?”

A little angrily, she said, “…A long time.” Then, after another pause, a little quieter: “Too long.”

“You know,” I said, “I’ve noticed something about women in that situation. I’ve noticed that they talk to themselves differently depending on how the guy is treating them.”

She looked at me quizzically.

“When he’s hurting them,”, I say, holding my left hand palm-up, “they’re saying to themselves, ‘If only I’d had dinner on the table on time’ or ‘If only I hadn’t spent money on that new pair of shoes’ or whatever.” She nodded in recognition. “And when he’s saying he’s sorry,” I continued, holding my right hand palm-up, “they’re saying to themselves, ‘Oh, he’s sorry, he bought me flowers, he really loves me, he’ll never do it again.'” She nodded again in recognition. “So over here (shaking my left hand) they’re blaming themselves, and over here (shaking my right hand) they’re blaming him.” Again she agreed.

Bringing my hands together, I said, “I have no idea why these two so rarely get together and talk this thing out.”

She got quiet, as you can well imagine, and very still. I waited until I saw some signs of remembering where she was, told her I’d be around if she needed anything, and took my leave.

A few months later, I saw her again. This time, she was visiting someone who was a patient. She had to remind me who she was because I didn’t recognize her. She looked really different. Happy. At peace. I asked her how things were going.

“Good,” she said. “Really, really good.”

“How’s the guy who tried to run you over?”

“I have no idea. I haven’t talked to him since that night.”

I had to smile. She looked so incredibly good when she said that.

“Are you with anyone now?” I asked.

“Yep!” A little perk in her tone and her facial expression.

“How does he treat you?”

“Good. Really, really good. Like a queen. I’ll never again be with a guy who hurts me.”

I couldn’t have felt better.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 18th, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Patients, Doctors, and the Power of a Camera

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Dr. Gretchen Berland, M.D., has been doing some marvelous research with disabled people. She mounts video cameras on their wheelchairs so as to get their own perspectives on their lives. From the New England Journal of Medicine:

Moments of extraordinary frustration were also recorded, a scene captured by [patient Vicki] Elman being a striking example. After 20 years of living with multiple sclerosis, Elman required a power wheelchair. One afternoon, her regular public-transportation service picked her up from an event, and during the ride home, her wheelchair stalled inside the van. Although it’s officially against the rules, most riders say that a driver will sometimes bring them into their homes. That day, however, Elman wasn’t so lucky. The driver parked her 10 ft from her front door, where she stayed and waited. But she had brought the video camera.

The first time I screened this tape, I was horrified. I watched Elman try to call for help on a cell phone that had no signal. I watched her wait for a car to drive by, hoping that someone would stop and help. I watched as the afternoon light faded in the background.

I wish the indignity Elman suffered that day was an isolated event, owing to one overworked bus driver. Yet the material she and Buckwalter recorded suggests otherwise. Their filmed interactions with the health care system, including telephone calls with insurance companies, visits with physicians, and exchanges with nursing aides, reveal a culture that can be both naively ignorant and, sometimes, dangerously neglectful.

Follow this link: Full article, video samples, and more information.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 11th, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Goodbye to David Grove, developer of Clean Language

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I just read on NLP Connections that David Grove died on January 8th. Judy Rees has more at the preceding link.

If you’re unfamiliar with David Grove’s work, you might go over to the Clean Language FAQ and learn more.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 10th, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Linguistic,Modeling