Why Don’t You Listen to Me!

Have you ever been having an important conversation, in which the other person is telling you something you need to know, and while you know you should give your full attention to what’s being said, you just can’t stop thinking about that annoying sound of static coming from a nearby radio? Or you can’t stop watching the other person shaking their knee? Or you feel compelled to answer every phone call that comes in to your cell?

Everyone’s attention has been drawn away from important exchanges now and then – but not everyone realizes how detrimental this is to effective communication. Too often, people simply allow the distraction to persist, and lose out on valuable information. Therefore, you must eliminate noise and distractions in order to be an effective listener and communicator. These barriers may be in the environment, like noises in the room, other people talking, poor acoustics, bad odors, extreme temperatures, an uncomfortable chair, or visual distractions. Or they could be physical disruptions such as telephone calls or visitors.

Another kind of barrier is something distracting about the speaker. Maybe he or she dresses oddly, shows poor grooming, and has disturbing mannerisms, confusing facial expressions, or body language. Or perhaps he or she has a thick accent or an unappealing presentation style.

Yet another barrier has to do with you, the listener, and can be either physical or psychological. Maybe it’s close to lunch or quitting time, and you’re preoccupied with how you feel. You’re hungry or tired, or angry, or maybe have a cold or a toothache. If so, you’re not going to be listening fully.

Another physical barrier could be your proximity to the speaker. If he or she’s either too close or too far away from you, you may feel uncomfortable and have a hard time concentrating.

A another sort of internal barrier is psychological. Perhaps you’re closed-minded to new ideas or resistant to information that runs contrary to your beliefs and values. Or maybe you’re bored, or daydreaming, or jumping to conclusions.

There are five basic reasons we fail to listen well. First, listening takes effort. As I said, it’s more than just keeping quiet. It means really concentrating on the other person. An active listener registers increased blood pressure, a higher pulse rate, and more perspiration. Because it takes so much effort, a lot of people just don’t listen.

Second, there’s now enormous competition for our attention from radio, TV, movies, computers, books and magazines, and much more. With all these incoming stimuli, we’ve learned to screen out information we deem irrelevant. Unfortunately, we also screen out things that are important.

The third reason why we don’t listen well is that we think we already know what someone is going to say. We assume that we have a full understanding right from the start, so we jump in and interrupt. We don’t take the time required to hear people out.

The fourth reason has to do with the speed gap – the difference between how fast we talk and how fast we listen. The average person speaks at about 135 to 175 words a minute, but comprehends at 400 to 500 words a minute. For the person who’s not listening well, that’s plenty of time to jump to conclusions, daydream, plan a reply, or mentally argue with the speaker. At least that’s how poor listeners spend the time.

And the fifth reason we don’t listen well is because we don’t know how. We do more listening than speaking, reading, or writing. But I bet you’ve never had a course in listening, have you?

Be Street Smart Every Day

Because street smarts are so important to every part of your life, here is a quick review of the
major elements that go into street smarts. Print this list out and keep it with
you, for a regular reminder to be street smart every day.

I. Heightened Awareness

A. Trust your intuition

B. Develop perceptiveness and ability to anticipate

C. Size up people quickly and accurately

D. See the big picture

II. Confidence

A. Fake it till you make it

B. Use chutzpah when necessary

C. Believe in yourself – Be confident

III. Healthy Skepticism

A. Don’t believe everything you see and hear

B. Be hard to take advantage of

C. Use your “mental categories” and generalizations to keep you on

D. Give people the time and rope to either hang themselves or prove their

IV. Resourcefulness

A. Think quickly on your feet

B. Be persistent

C. Be prepared

D. Be flexible

E. Change your surroundings or adapt

F. Surround yourself with experts & contacts

V. Risk-taking

A. Be willing to take risks

B. Minimize the possible down side

C. Cut your losses and get out if you’re wrong

D. Learn by your mistakes

APPLYING Spiritual Genius

Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King were both spiritual giants. While
it may seem difficult to see yourself in those terms, there is a lot to be
learned from them – a lot that can be applied in your own life.

Spirituality is looking beyond the material dimension of your life and
discovering something that’s intangible but very important. I want to emphasize
the importance of at least connecting with the spiritual power in yourself –
especially because, in the world we live in, that isn’t something that will
happen by itself. There’s a reason why you’re here, and you have a spiritual
purpose you need to accomplish – one of your life’s most important tasks is
finding out what that is.

For Martin Luther King, it was trying to live up to his own standards as leader
of the Civil Rights Movement, even while wondering whether he was capable of
it. With this in mind, what are the spiritual goals you can set for your own
life? What do you want to accomplish at the level of your soul?

Are You Eating All Your Marshmallows?


A fascinating study was conducted at the University of Stamford some years ago. Four-year-old children were placed in a room, one by one, and a marshmallow was placed in front of them. Each child was told that if they didn’t eat the marshmallow in fifteen minutes, they would get two; but if they ate the marshmallow in front of them, they wouldn’t get another one. Two out of three kids ate the marshmallow. Fifteen years later, there was a follow-up to the study and what was found was incredible. Every child that participated in the study and hadn’t eaten the marshmallow was successful and many of the children who had eaten the marshmallow were not doing well at all. Some had dropped out of school, others were not making good grades, and others still were very much in debt.

The conclusion of the study was that people who are able to delay gratification have a much better chance of being successful in life.

There are marshmallow eaters and marshmallow resisters in our society, but the eaters outnumber the resisters three to one.

This principle is perhaps the only success principle that can be applied by anyone. Even if you don’t apply any other principles, financially at least, you will be successful.

Martin Luther King Jr. – Spiritual Genius

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountain top, I won’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long time. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as people will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve heard the stirring speech Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the night before he died. Comparing himself to Moses in the Bible, King felt he would be denied entrance to the world of racial harmony and social justice that he had devoted his life to creating. But though he wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land, he didn’t express any bitterness about that fact – and I don’t believe he felt any.

I believe Martin Luther King, Jr. really did feel unworthy to take part in the completion of his dream. For many years, he had taken upon himself an almost impossible role. He was the leader of one of history’s great transformations – following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi in India and laying the foundation for Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Yet he was not a perfect human being. He was not morally impeccable. He knew he was not at the top of the spiritual ladder. Yet he accepted the challenge of striving to be what people needed, though he knew that wasn’t always who he was.

During the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a target for enemies both inside and outside the US government. He was threatened by racist enemies ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to radical African American organizations – and he was the subject of an unrelenting surveillance effort by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. He was accused of Communist sympathies, financial improprieties and personal misconduct. At the same time, he subjected himself to even more intense scrutiny. Was he really worthy of leading a massive movement for social change? Was he the perfect symbol that such a movement demanded? Was he someone who could survive under the microscope he was put under by the world and by himself as well?

The answers that King gave to those questions may not always have been in the affirmative, though he never shirked the leadership role he had taken upon himself. But there was a degree of inner tension – a pulling in two directions of the spiritual ladder – that led him to believe he would suffer a martyr’s death – and perhaps to accept that destiny as well. As he said, “Certainly I don’t want to die. But if anyone has to die, let it be me.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. As a child he loved both reading and public speaking and he enjoyed watching his minister father deliver weekly sermons. When he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta at the age of 16, King was considering a career in medicine, law, or teaching and he majored in sociology. But in his junior year, he decided he would enter the ministry like his father. On the subject of education, he once wrote, “Its function is teaching us to think intensively and critically. But education that stops at that point may prove a great menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but deprived of morality.”

After graduating from Morehouse College in 1948, King entered a theological seminary. While there, he attended a lecture on the Indian pacifist leader Mahatma Gandhi. That lecture set the direction of King’s life. “The message was so profound and electrifying,” he said, “that I immediately left the meeting and bought a half dozen books on Gandhi.”

King graduated from the seminary and entered Boston University as a doctoral student. He received his degree in 1955, and then became pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama. There he joined the supporters of Rosa Parks, a black woman who had been arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person.

On January 14, 1957, King’s home and his church in Montgomery were bombed during a campaign of violence against black activists. After this bombing, King began to sense that he might someday have to die for the cause he had chosen. Like anyone else, there were times when he found this very difficult to accept – but he also worried about what he regarded as inadequacy for the destiny that God had given him.

Though he himself was a nonviolent person, King was surrounded by violence and by allies who preached violence on his part. In Harlem, he was stabbed while autographing copies of his book, Stride Toward Freedom. He was frequently jailed, but he regarded this as a way of expressing his willingness to suffer and sacrifice for the common good. “Nonviolence may mean going to jail,” he said. “If such is the case, the resister must be willing to fill the jail houses of the South. It may even mean physical death. But if physical death is the price a man must pay to free his children and his white brethren from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing could be more important.”

King’s life was filled with confrontations. He was always ready to rush to a city or a scene where he could help demonstrate the power of nonviolence. He was the most watched civil rights leader of the time and the one from whom the most was expected. Again and again, he used stirring oratory to insist on nonviolence, “If you don’t go,” he said of one proposed march, “don’t hinder me! We will march nonviolently. We shall force this nation, this city, this world, to face its own conscience. We will make the God of love in the white man triumph over the Satan of segregation that is in him. The struggle is not between black and white, but between good and evil.”

Gradually his language began to grow more visionary. At the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963, he spoke the words for which he is best remembered, “….I have a dream that my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character…. Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest recipient ever. In the next few years, he led marches and protests all across the country, from Selma, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois. His efforts were not always successful and at times even his closest friends began to feel that King was becoming so visionary as to be ineffective. His wife, Coretta Scott King, once said, “My husband was what psychologists call a guilt-ridden man. He was so conscious of his awesome responsibilities that he literally set himself the task of never making an error in the affairs of the Movement.” In the spring of 1968, King was in Memphis to support a strike by garbage workers. He had once said, “If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony outside his motel room.

But while King was assassinated, his movement lives on; its resonance hasn’t lost its meaning. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s genius transcends his lifetime to continue to affect his movement decades later.

How People Learn

“The longest journey on earth begins with a single step.”

Can you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? Before you learned how, you were in theIgnorancestage. You didn’t know how to drive the car and you didn’t even know why you didn’t know how to drive it.

When you first went out with an instructor to learn how to drive, you arrived at the Phase 2:Awareness. You still couldn’t drive, but because of your new awareness of the automobile and its parts, you were consciously aware of why you couldn’t drive. You may have felt overwhelmed by the tasks before you, but when these tasks were broken down one by one, they weren’t so awesome after all. They became attainable. Step by step, familiarity replaced fear.

With some additional practice and guidance, you were able to become competent in driving the car through recognition of what you had to do. However, you had to be consciously aware of what you were doing with all of the mechanical aspects of the car as well as with your body. You had to be consciously aware of turning on your blinker signals well before you executed a turn. You had to remember to monitor the traffic behind you in your rearview mirror. You kept both hands on the wheel and noted your car’s position relative to the centerline road divider. You were consciously aware of all of these things as you competently drove. This third phase is the hardest stage – the one in which your people may want to give up. This is thePracticestage. People tend to feel uncomfortable when they goof, but this is an integral part of Phase 3. Human beings experience stress when they implement new behaviors, especially when they perform them imperfectly.

In Phase 3, you must realize that you’ll want to revert to the older, more comfortable behaviors, even if those behaviors are less productive. At this phase, you must realize it’s alright to make mistakes. In fact, it’s necessary so you can improve through practice, practice and more practice.

Returning to the car example, think of the last time that you drove. Were you consciously aware of all of the actions that I just mentioned above? Of course not! Most of us, after driving awhile, progress to a level ofHabitual Performance. This is the level where we can do something well and don’t even have to think about the steps. They come “naturally” because they’ve been so well-practiced that they’ve shifted to automatic pilot. This final stage, Phase 4, is when practice results in assimilation and habitual performance; where your productivity increases beyond its previous level and reaches a new and higher plateau.

This four-phase model for success can help you break out of the rut most of us dig for ourselves. By experiencing success and encouragement at each level, change can be exciting instead of intimidating. The bottom line is this: skills and attitudes will both improve by taking one step at a time.

Competition With Others

You might be tempted to say, “What’s wrong with a little
competition?” Nothing’s wrong with it. It’s healthy. It’s when your need
to compete and be superior to someone else gets in the way of the best possible
outcome for both of you. That’s when competition becomes a liability. I’m
talking about the kind of person who always needs to be “one up” on
other people.

People who live their life in competition with everyone – and we all know
people like that – might get admired for their achievements, but they don’t get
the freely given attention and support of others. People who exude the message:
“I’m smarter, or prettier, or richer, or more committed than you are”
don’t garner people’s trust. That’s because the message is clearly about
“Me first.”

A willingness to be flexible means that occasionally you’re not number one. You
may need to take a backseat to a colleague who’s trying something innovative.
It may mean that you’ll need to compromise in a negotiation. Maybe the fact
that you’re the best salesperson of the month every month prevents other people
from even trying.

Does your level of competitiveness get in the way of relationships? If you play
a one-on-one sport such as tennis or racquetball, do you always play to beat
the other person? If you play board games or video games with your children, is
it more important to win than to have fun?

On the one hand, it seems as though we’re being pushed to be more competitive.
Many of us work for companies that are in fierce marketing battles with global
competitors. There are fewer tax dollars to go around; fewer jobs in many
industries. Yet, the paradox is the solutions we’re finding to those problems
involve not more competition, but more collaboration.

I just have one tip for you if you have a streak of competitiveness that gets
in the way of your relationships – stop seeing the other person as an opponent.
Reframe the relationship as a mentoring one, as a friendship, as a chance to do
something together that neither of you could do alone. Look directly into that
person’s eyes and see a fellow human being who doesn’t want to be beaten or
made into a loser any more than you do. People who are always out to win may
collect a lot of marbles, but they lose a lot of friends. And I’d trade a bag
of marbles for a good friend any day.

Jack LaLanne — Physical Genius

When we think of genius, for the most part we think in terms of mental
or intellectual power. We think of brilliant human beings. We think of mathematicians
or inventors or writers. Painters and sculptors may be in a slightly different
category — a little more physical and intuitive — but even here, we still
don’t think of artistic gifts as a physical skill. It’s the quality of the mind
and heart that manifests as paint on canvas.

In light of this, let’s look at physical genius — the genius that expresses
itself through physical action, whether it’s running or swimming or hitting a
ball or, perhaps, even hitting another person. By the time we’re done, I think
you’ll have an appreciation of what physical genius really is — how you can
connect with it in your own life — and how the person I’ve chosen as our model
in this session can help you do that.

He once did 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes — an average of 44 pushups every 60

He towed 70 boats at once, carrying 70 people each from the Queen’s Way Bridge
in Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary ocean liner, which was anchored a mile
and a half away — and he was handcuffed and shackled while he did it. This was
to celebrate his 70th birthday.

He also has made the supposedly impossible swim from Alcatraz Island to
Fisherman’s Wharf, in San Francisco. He not only made it, but once again he was
handcuffed and shackled when he did it. Just to make it more interesting, he
was towing a 1,000-pound boat.

Jack LaLanne did not start out as a genius of physical fitness. Into his
teenage years, he was a sugar addict and junk food junkie. In an interview, he
explained what this meant. “It made me weak and it made me mean,” he
said. “It also made me sick. I was nearsighted, and I had terrible skin

He was 15 years old when he attended a talk by a nutritionist in his hometown
of Oakland, California. This was a turning point in his life — and at that
moment, he decided to totally recreate himself. He began lifting weights at the
local YMCA, and he made changes in what he ate and drank. He also read
everything he could find on anatomy, nutrition, and health. Very quickly, Jack
developed the lean, muscular body of an athlete — and a thorough knowledge of
physical fitness to go with it. But rather than keep all this to himself, he
was determined to share it with the world. He began to develop approaches to
physical fitness and nutrition that were both highly effective and
scientifically sound. Many, if not most, of the exercise devices in today’s
health clubs were first thought of by Jack LaLanne. As he said, there are 640
muscles in the human body, and he wanted to have a specific exercise for each
of them. So he invented the tools that could do that.

Since then, Jack LaLanne has done many amazing things. But none of them are
more amazing than the way he invented an entire industry. In 1936, he opened
the nation’s first health and fitness center, on the third floor of an office
building in Oakland. He was 21 years old — and he knew more about the workings
of the human body than most doctors. Even so, many people viewed him with
suspicion. Weightlifting, for example, which LaLanne has always advocated, was
believed to cause heart attacks. Incredible as it seems, even coaches
discouraged weight training by athletes, which was supposed to make them
“muscle bound.”

Over the years, LaLanne’s message began to be heard. In the 1950s he began to appear
on television as an advocate and motivator for fitness and health. The message
was simple but compelling: Everyone should engage in physical exercise every
day — and everyone can do that, including the elderly and the infirm. Even in
2004, approaching his ninth decade, LaLanne practices what he preaches. He took
up golf at the age of 50, and shot his age four times when he was 73 and five
times when he was 74. He still describes his daily workout as the top priority
in his life, and he’s still coming up with new ideas and exercise programs.

When an interviewer asked about the differences between today and when he was
first starting out, LaLanne replied, “It’s gratifying to see that
everything I was preaching and advocating 50 years ago is being accepted. Back
then I was a crackpot. Today I am an authority. And believe me, I can’t die. It
would ruin my image!”

If this has sounded a bit like an infomercial for Jack LaLanne, don’t let that
distract you from the facts of what LaLanne accomplished. He wanted to bring
knowledge and experience of physical fitness to everybody — and he did it.
Today there are many others in the field that he pioneered, but Jack La Lane
was one of the very first. And his message was simple: you can become healthier
and stronger, starting right now, no matter how unlikely that may seem. Just as
importantly, he himself exemplified exactly what that meant.

In this sense, Jack LaLanne models what I mean by physical genius better than
many professional athletes and Olympians. The fact is I could train as long and
hard as I want, and I’ll never play in the NFL or run in the Olympics. But I
can do what Jack LaLanne teaches. I can exercise every day and pay attention to
what I eat and drink. You can do this also. And when you do, the genius who is
your model — whether you realize it or not — is none other than Jack LaLanne.