Saturday, December 11, 2010

Top 8 Ways to Determine if You are a Scrooge

I've had changes in my personal life this year and, if I wanted, I could figure out a way to be the ultimate Scrooge. But my Smart Zone thinking allows me to see that I'm so delightfully happy and that life is full of opportunities everywhere. I've weathered this year and it's ending with a lot to look forward to in 2011. One of my children just got accepted into an incredible school for children with learning differences. My three boys and I have adjusted to living in our home with just the four of us. My professional projects, media and clinical practice are going well. I'm surrounded by the support of valuable family and friends.

Stay in the Smart Zone this month by not being a Scrooge.

The Top 8 Ways to Determine if You are a Scrooge:

  1. You count calories or Weight Watchers points out loud while eating holiday snacks. It's good to watch your caloric intake this time of year. If you watched my How to Avoid the Holiday Blues TV segment on FOX 4 recently you saw me say that nutrition experts believe that holiday depression can be caused by the high sugar and fatty foods we eat around the holidays. But, if you see me eating a Santa cookie please let me eat it in peace.

  2. You complain about the company Christmas party. If you are one of the lucky people whose company is throwing a holiday party then be grateful for their generosity.

  3. You feel so overwhelmed with everything you have to get done that you are angry at people who seem to be taking it in stride. This is the worst kind of Scrooge because anger like this is internalized and causes you to continue to focus on yourself. This inward focus can easily lead to depression.

  4. You slack off at your job because the end of the year is near. After all, other people are on vacation so why should you have to work? This is the best time to get things done because there will be less interruptions. Use this time to be more productive.

  5. You talk about how you don't have much money for Christmas presents in front of people you will be buying for. This is especially Scrooge-worthy when done in front of your kids. If a child is old enough, he/she will feel guilty for the gifts his parents give him. If you want to know how to talk to your kids about gift-giving when you are tight on cash, read my blog post "How to Talk to Your Kids about Gift Giving in this Tough Economy."

  6. You haven't participated in any holiday volunteer activities or donated to any charities. Many of you already know the Smart Zone secret which is to take the focus off yourself. In the Smart Zone Survey many of you took last month you finished this statement, "The greatest joy in my life is _____." The response "Volunteering and helping others" was in the top 10 responses. I have a fellow red headed friend I adore and hang out with often. She has a habit of paying the tab for another table in a restaurant. She recently did that for our elementary school's counselor and her family when she saw them eating out last week. It gives her such a sense of satisfaction to be a "secret Santa" for people she appreciates and for total strangers. She's one of my closest friends because of her big heart and for other reasons too (our boys look alike and are best buddies).

  7. If you buy house cleaning items like a vacuum cleaner, a mop or a toilet plunger for Christmas gifts - you might be a Scrooge. This is a little tongue-in-cheek but I know many of you can relate to this one. Even though I might need a new garden hose or screens for two of my back windows, something that is more personalized that shows you know someone's taste and interests is more personal and celebrates your relationship this time of year.

  8. You are reading this list and thinking, "What's wrong with that?!" Need I say more?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't Let November become "Low-Vember" - How to Avoid the Holiday Blues

When I was growing up in Clearwater, Florida I had this vision of how Thanksgiving should be: A happy family sitting around the table for a big lunch and then heading to the beach with siblings and cousins in the afternoon while the guys stayed home to watch Gator football. We all have a story in our head of how life is supposed to be and when that story doesn't occur it causes sadness and depression. (Kind of like the recently fired Dallas Cowboys football coach, Wade Phillips, may feel this Thanksgiving).

Surprisingly, 2/3 of us will experience depression around Thanksgiving and the holidays. That's a lot of bummed out people! I talked about this subject recently on the FOX 4 Good Day TV show.

For those of you who recently completed the survey in my last electronic newsletter you answered the question, "My constant worry is ____." Your top answers were:

#1: Finances, having enough money, being able to retire
#2: Kids
#3: Nothing (These people are definitely in the Smart Zone!)
#4: Health
#5: Career/Job

If you haven't taken the survey yet, we would love for your answers to be included. Please click here to take it. It only takes 3 minutes and it's critical research for my next book.

These worries become more magnified as we enter the holiday season. We can all feel blue but the symptoms of depression that require professional intervention include:
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
  • In the extreme: thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts. Click here for a list of suicide facts.
Experiencing one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you are clinically depressed. Rather, it's a combination of these symptoms that warrants professional attention. Use these Smart Moves to stay in the Smart Zone and stay out of Low-Vember:

  • Scale back. On the survey you took a few weeks ago many of you reported your constant worry is "getting everything done." We can all relate to this, especially now. Scale back the holiday decorating. Ask holiday guests to bring a dish so you aren't cooking it all. Use instant mashed potatoes (I like them better anyway).
  • Do not be alone. I know many people enjoy alone time but if you are prone to holiday depression you should spend time with other people during this time. Volunteering is a great way to spend time with others. This is a season where many people are in need and helping others will cheer you up.
  • Realize that being edgy is a sign of depression. Agitation and irritability are signs of depression. If you feel edgy take conscious steps to minimize your stress.
  • Stay away from alcohol. This time of year it can be free flowing. Alcohol is a depressant. You may feel good for a little while but alcohol will leave you feeling tired and bummed out.
  • Take care of yourself. If you are healthy and feel good it makes the holidays better for everyone. Exercise, even if it's just walking the dogs, is one of the best mood boosters.
  • Watch what you eat. I hate this one but nutritional experts believe that depression is caused by the excessive sugar and fatty foods consumed over the holidays. I'm going to have to really work on this one. My friends are all great cooks.
  • Music can affect your mood. Use it to soothe your feelings and emotions. Steer clear of the sound track from Titanic and stick with uplifting music. I feel cheered up when listening to 80's music because it reminds me of high school and a care free time in my life. I'm starting to list my favorites on iTunes. Watch for my list in my next newsletter. What are your favorites? I'd love to know! Email me and let me know.
Even though my Thanksgiving doesn't look like my childhood vision I've found new ways over the years to spend time with good friends and family. And I still watch Gator football! Just for fun, watch this hilarious family gathering on Modern Family that didn't go as planned.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Need Your Help

This blog post is a plea for help.

I am in the process of writing my third book and can really use your input for my research. Would you please take 3 minutes to complete this survey?

It's confidential and I promise to share the results with you. Thank you so much! Please click "Take this Survey" to begin.

Thanks again!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Guess Who I Saw in the Houston Airport?

Just last week a few of us in the office were talking about what celebrity we would love to meet. I was a "doofus" because I couldn't think of anyone that would be "the" person I would want to run into. I drew a blank and had nothing to offer. I wasn't sure what it meant and I thought nothing more of it.

So last week I was changing planes in the Houston airport on my way back from Beaumont and I'm just sitting there having lunch waiting to board my plane. I like to people watch to pass the time. Then "he" walked in. He's the person I now know is the one celebrity I'd want to meet. And I left the Smart Zone momentarily!

Here's a hint about who it was...

He was sitting by himself less than 10 feet away and he knew I knew who he was. People who know me know that I love the show Survivor. And within my arm's reach was Jeff Probst, the host of Survivor.

He smiled at me and I couldn't feel my feet. I texted my Director of Patient Services, Tari, and I told her he was right there and I was trying to rack up the nerve to walk over. My kids would just die hearing that I met him. That I was sitting next with him at lunch and that we had conversation. They would just die!

"Go over to him!" and "You will regret it if you don't" Tari texted back. What was stopping me? I was so chicken. "What is the problem?" I asked myself. "I spoke to a room full of people last night and I was just on television this morning and I didn't freak out over that at all. What is my problem?"

I tell people to do hard stuff every day. I say to do what others are unwilling to do. By doing that you build skills for when the really really hard stuff happens.

It has been a hard year this last year with a lot of change for me and a lot of exciting business successes. My kids are growing up and I don't want to miss any of that as I juggle the responsibilities I have professionally and personally. I do hard stuff every day and I find out what I'm made of. I practice what I preach so "Get over there Susan!" So what was my problem? What was stopping me from just walking over there and telling him that I know he values his privacy and I'd like to get a picture if I could. I'd be brief even though I would act like a stalker and stutter and probably accidentally spit when I talked.

I chickened out. I choked. The mental theater in my head stopped me from walking over there. My flight was going to leave and I had to make a move or miss it. I missed it. I regret it. I'm a doofus. I do the hard stuff like I tell others to do but I wasn't ready for this.

So Jeff Probst from Survivor. ....Next time. I'll be ready.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How Not to be a Yuckaholic!

Okay. I admit it! I left the Smart Zone recently when I just lost it with the phone company. I was featured in a story on the 10:00 pm news in Dallas about the AD/HD test I offer in my clinical practice. The day after I was on TV the phone lines in my office went down for 24 hours. People who saw the news story were calling my office to set up an appointment and all they were getting was a fast busy signal! Those of you who own businesses know how upset I was. It was so bad that I was acting like a Yuckaholic! A Yuckaholic is what we call someone who is stuck in their Yuck and out of the Smart Zone.

Here's a quick question to find out if you might be a Yuckaholic.

If someone gives you a nasty hand gesture in traffic do you think:
a) "People are so rude!"
b) "That person must be having a bad day."

If you guessed "a" then you might be a Yuckaholic. Author Daniel Goleman calls it the "yuck factor." This is the part of your day when your productivity plummets. You start agonizing over the next sales call, an upcoming meeting or a task you need to complete. Procrastination sets in. This hits me when I have reports to complete and when I get home and don't feel like cooking dinner. Just for fun, watch this video of something that can turn you into a Yuckaholic.

Yuckaholics give up control of their day and allow the "yucky" task to take over. You can become a Yuckaholic if you spend more time complaining about the yucky task than actually doing it.

People in the Smart Zone know how to avoid becoming a Yuckaholic. Check out these characteristics of someone in the Smart Zone in charge of their Yuck:

  • They are persistent in achieving goals in spite of obstacles and setbacks.
  • They feel that they can control situations rather than situations controlling them.
  • They are more popular and approachable.
  • They are more hopeful for success in daily work.
  • They have a minimized fear of failure.
  • They are good role models and set an optimistic tone in the workplace and at home.
  • They live longer, healthier lives.
  • They smile all day and dance around in a cute leotard. (Only kidding, just wanted to make sure you were paying attention).
According to Martin E.P. Seligman's book, Learned Optimism, if you are in one of these fields then an optimistic lifestyle is a must:
  • Sales
  • Brokering
  • Public Relations
  • Speaking and Acting
  • Fundraising
  • Creative Jobs
  • Highly Competitive Jobs
  • High-Burnout Jobs

There is an argument to be made that Yuckaholics have their place in corporate America. Research supports the fact that pessimists have a more accurate take on some situations than optimists because optimists believe they have more control over things than they actually do. If you are an Accountant, Safety Engineer, Contract Negotiator or Technical Writer it actually helps to be a little pessimistic.

However, optimism is simply more useful in relationships and life in general. One example of what causes many people to become Yuckaholics is meeting with a difficult manager/client/employee. Here are 4 Smart Moves for decreasing your chances of being a Yuckaholic and being more optimistic in that kind of situation:

  • Argue with yourself. Before every "yuck factor" in your day there is a way to fight it with an attitude you can change or a skill you can acquire. Take control of the situation by arguing that you are in control of the "yuck."

  • Could you be imagining things? It is your belief about your manager that matters more than the actual meeting itself. The best way to dispute a negative belief is to prove that it is false. Take a quick reality check. Does your manager really want to yell at you? Does he really dislike you?

  • Consider other causes. Most events in the world have more than one cause. Yuckaholics narrow in on one bad cause. In this case: "I don't like to meet with my manager because my manager hates me." Optimists realize there are other causes like, "this organization puts too much stress on people in management" or "I really know what I'm talking about and my manager isn't as involved in the daily operations and so he doesn't have all of the information."

  • Accept the truth. So what if you are right? Your manager does hate your guts. Is it the end of the world? Just because a meeting doesn't go well doesn't mean life is over. See it as an opportunity to shine by improving next time. Employees who overcome a setback show their value even more to their managers and grow personally from the experience.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Bullyproof Your Children

A few months ago I blogged about Workplace Bullying and shared tips for how to address bullying on the job.  With local schools starting back up last week, FOX 4 asked me to do a segment on what to do if your child is being bullied. Click here to watch the segment.

The 3 main points I want to stress are:

  1. If your child is being bullied it's not his fault. Don’t say, “What did you do to aggravate the other child?”
  2. 88% of teens are silent witnesses of bullying and don’t stand up for their friends who are being bullied. Teach your children that as bystanders they play a critical role in stopping the bully's behavior. The child being bullied is not likely to tell someone because he is embarrassed or afraid of retaliation.
  3. Teach your kids the difference between "tattling" and "reporting." Many times parents or teachers may say, “Don’t be a tattle-tale. If so-in-so is being bullied then he should tell me.” When you tattle on someone you are trying to get someone IN TROUBLE. When you report something you are trying to get someone OUT OF TROUBLE.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

5 Ways to Solve Problems at Work

Someone stole my cab! Here's the story: A few weeks ago I was in San Antonio speaking at a dinner meeting and was booked for a FOX TV segment the following morning early at 7:00 am. Not only was it morning rush hour but it was raining and I planned on taking a cab. I called for a taxi from my hotel room and when I got down to the hotel lobby someone rushed past me and stole my cab! Okay so I freaked out a bit (or like I tell you, I had an "exaggerated response"). I called another cab and luckily got a driver who took me the back roads to the TV station.

In our personal lives we are often used to solving problems on our own - or we can solve them easily with an informal network. But at work, problem solving often requires collaboration. A Japanese proverb states, "None of us are as smart as all of us." People in the Smart Zone embrace the fact that a work team has the capability to solve problems and be as smart as all of us.

Problems in the work place come in all shapes and sizes. There is no magic formula for solving every problem we encounter. Adapting our problem solving process to fit the problem at hand requires both cognitive and emotional skills. Here are 5 tips for problem solving in the Smart Zone:
  1. A Point on Perception. Is there really a problem and if so, is it solvable? For example, if your problem is that the sky is blue, then you will need to rethink the problem. Jochen Zeitz who is CEO of the shoemaker Puma says, "Design usually starts with 'There is no way' and then we say, 'Okay, how can we make this work?'"

  2. Define the Problem in a One-Sentence Statement. This sounds easy but is really quite difficult. By having a well-defined problem it makes the solved state more measurable. Charles Kettering, co-holder of more than 140 patents and inventor of such things as the spark plug, leaded gasoline and Freon for refrigerators and air conditioners, once said, "A problem well stated is a problem half solved."

  3. Focus on the Solved State. Ask yourself and your team these questions:
    a. How will we know when the problem has been solved?
    b. What does the solved state look and feel like?
    c. What is tangible evidence that the problem is solved?
    Click here for an article I wrote recently about problem solving between a staff and board of directors.

  4. Use a System That Works for Your Group. There are several problem solving techniques such as brainstorming, root cause analysis, the drill down technique, etc. The appreciation technique is a powerful way to extract the maximum amount of information from a fact. First you start with a fact and then ask the question, "So what?"

    Example: Our warehouse does not have the required part in stock.
    So what?
    The part will need to be ordered from a vendor.
    So what?
    It will take more time to get the needed part.
    So what?
    Our customer will need to be notified of the delay.

    In the future, we need a process for the warehouse to order parts in advance so parts will not be out of stock when needed.

    While the same conclusion still could have been determined without a formal technique it still provides a framework for extracting information quickly and reliably.

  5. Develop an Accountability Plan. Many problem solving sessions end when the solution is determined. But wait! Next, assign specific action items to people with a time frame for completion. Design a way to hold those responsible for the solution accountable for the results.

Just for fun, watch this video from the show Modern Family on how Cameron and Mitchell collaborated on solving a problem. Modern Family makes me laugh and I thought you just might too.

Bye way, I'd love for you to join my Facebook Fan Page or follow me on Twitter!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How Not to be a Drama Queen or King

Every office usually has one: a Drama Queen or King. He or she can get everyone stirred up at the simplest of events and is successful at creating drama. In my private practice we call this "Mental Theater." Some people confuse Drama Queens/Kings with Gossips but they aren't the same. (Click here to read my recent quotes in CNN Living about gossiping on the job).

For example, have you ever been in a fight with your spouse and he/she doesn't know it? Or have you ever felt convinced your boss doesn't like you even though there is no concrete evidence? This is mental theater. It's when we create drama in our heads so that it seems an event actually happened. Here are examples of destructive forms of mental theater:

  • In a work environment, a manager may perceive that his boss is upset with him because he doesn't make eye contact with him while they are talking. So the manager proceeds to relate to his boss as if there really is a disagreement.
  • An assistant may believe that a co-worker who is whispering is talking about her behind her back. The assistant then becomes hostile as if there has been a breach of trust.
  • A husband may believe that his wife is having an affair because she is too friendly with the attractive gentleman next door. He then begins to treat her as if she's been unfaithful.

When we only have part of the story, we tend to fill in other parts. It's like putting a puzzle together and when you get stumped you pick up the box to see the picture so you can figure out where the pieces go. But what if you only have half the picture? It's like having half the story.

Ask yourself these 4 questions to work in the Smart Zone and course correct negative drama that can get out of hand.

  1. Is my thinking based on fact?

  2. Does my thinking help me achieve my goal?

  3. Does my thinking help me feel the way I want to feel?

  4. How can I change my mental theater to create a win-win situation?

When I asked my Facebook friends how not to be a Drama Queen or King, Deidra Roe said, "if you truly want to be heard, then stop throwing a temper tantrum and be a civilized, calm adult because no one hears a word you say when you are screaming and ranting."

Keep in mind that YOU are in charge of your own mental theater. When you have only part of a story resist the urge to fill in the blanks. Or use mental theater to your advantage by visualizing your success and filling in the blanks with a positive outcome. Chapter 8 of my book, Working in the Smart Zone, expands on this topic if you would like to learn more.

If you'd like to hear me discuss staying in the Smart Zone and mental theater, listen to the podcast where I was interviewed by Jason Hartman on his Creating Wealth Show.

Speaking of drama, my last electronic newsletter called "Are You Worried about Things You Can't Control?" had a technical glitch in the code and wasn't readable for many of you. Thanks to those of you who notified me! If you'd like to read it I've posted it to my blog.

Bye way, I'd love for you to "like" my Facebook Fan Page or follow me on Twitter!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Are You Worried about Things You Can't Control?

I recently took an informal survey on my Facebook Page and asked what one thing causes my friends the most stress. Guess what the most the most common response was? "Things I can't control."

As I am still recovering from gall bladder surgery and trying to get back to a regular schedule, I'm reminded of what I can't control. A gall bladder attack and subsequent surgery to remove it a few days later was not on my agenda for the month. Worrying about my situation wouldn't have done me any good - but I still managed to worry about all the appointments I would need to reschedule and how I would juggle with kids while I was recovering.

The Swedish proverb is true that worry gives a small thing a big shadow. If you saw me on FOX 4 Good Day last year then you heard me say that "worry is the misuse of imagination." Click here to watch my interview on FOX.

Anxiety is a significant problem for 13% of adults in any given year. Most people tend to act fine, even though they don't "feel" fine, contributing even more to feelings of worry.

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. 40% of people report worrying more now than they did 5 years ago. Most of the time it is for general life events like a final exam (click here for our tips on handling test anxiety), finances after losing a job, a job interview or a teenage child who is 10 minutes late past curfew. When unrealistic, persistent anxiety is a part of everyday life, then it is possible that generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may be present. GAD affects 3-4% of the population and can be treated with psychotherapy.

Use these Smart Moves to handle things you can't control:

  • Know the difference between good and bad worry. If you live in a high crime area it's good to worry about being out alone at night. Living in fear that someone with a rare disease will breathe or cough in your face is an unrealistic worry.
  • Focus on what you can control like how many times you smile today, how honest you are, the amount of effort you put into your work, how well you listen, etc. This is an interesting list of 50 things you can control right now. Remember this the next time you are at the airport and your flight is delayed! You can control how you react to this situation.
  • Avoid what-iffing about situations. Stay in the here-and-now.
    Ask yourself, "Is there evidence that I need to worry?" Ask yourself: "Am I trying to control things out of my control?" "On my deathbed will I be glad I worried about this?" "Will this matter to me next year, next month or next week?"

  • Use worry to your advantage. If you've been goofing off and not preparing well for an upcoming project then worry can help you spring into action. But don't let worry be a substitute for taking action.
  • Seek treatment from a professional. Treatment doesn't always mean medication is necessary. If there are significant physiological symptoms and impairment in daily functioning, medication prescribed by a physician with specialized knowledge in the treatment of anxiety can give greater relief quicker than when medication is not used. More importantly, medication can provide the kind of relief and stabilize the anxiety so other forms of treatment are effective long-term. Click here to read my blog post on how to find a good psychologist or psychiatrist and also my handout on how to find a therapist outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Most anxiety is obsessive and repetitive. Telling someone not to worry further encourages that person to keep the worry to him or herself. It's important to learn how to extinguish the anxiety so daily satisfaction can be increased and you can stay in the Smart Zone.

By the way, I'd love for you to join my Facebook Fan Page or follow me on Twitter!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who is Holding You Accountable?

Sometimes I get frustrated with my friend Julie. She makes it look so easy to have so much stamina. She is always finding ways that we can work more efficiently, get our exercise in each day, and have cherished valuable time with our kids. She has backed off me a bit as I recover from gall bladder surgery last week. But I know just as soon as I am able she will show up on my door step for us to walk the dogs just like always.

We all need people to hold us accountable. Sales goals, budgets, contracts and deadlines are just like my friend Julie (and my gall bladder) - they hold us accountable for promises we've made. People in the Smart Zone create accountability by inspiring others to accept responsibility for their actions.

Accountability is really a call from your conscience. It's the voice that tells you to do the best you can and to hold others responsible for being their best selves. People lacking accountability are those who are "along for the ride" floating through life, blaming others for their failures and lacking integrity in relationships.

To stay in the Smart Zone remain accountable to yourself first and use the following Smart Moves to create accountability:

  • Don't confuse obedience with accountability. When people obey they are merely doing work to avoid getting punished - possibly at the expense of other people, morale or customer goodwill. Just doing what you are told is not accountability. You must take ownership of your successes and failures to be accountable.
  • Discomfort and remorse are important teachers. When someone fails to perform don't minimize the remorse they feel for messing up. Let them experience the emotions so you don't take away their learning. But remember that people don't learn when they feel threatened - so tread lightly.
  • Lead by example. I am guilty of telling my staff to keep our administrative area clutter free and then letting my desk pile up with stuff. If I want my staff to be more accountable, I must be more accountable.
  • "Deadlines make people do dumb things," says ├╝ber-blogger Seth Godin. Deadlines are made to hold people accountable but many people spend more time explaining why they missed a deadline. With 2 weeks to meet a deadline some people only care about the last 15 minutes.
  • Accountability and responsibility are first cousins. Make and keep your promises. If you find yourself getting off track stop and check yourself. Be honest with yourself and be honest enough to hold others on your team to their personal best.
  • Find an accountability partner. This must NOT be a person that you live with, sleep with or have given birth to. Use your own self awareness to admit weak areas in your life that an accountability partner can help with. Click here to watch my explanation of self awareness.

Accountability comes from within and helps you catch problems early on so that you can take ownership of responding to them. Stop yourself the next time you have the urge to say, "That's not MY job." Hold yourself and others accountable so that everyone will perform at their personal best and work in the Smart Zone.

By the way, click on this questionnaire to see if you have gall bladder symptoms. I certainly could have benefitted from this information before spending a night in the ER last week. I'm pretty tough and have been told I have a high tolerance for pain. Well, gall bladder pain is like no other. Talk about accountability!

I'd love for you to join my Facebook Fan Page or follow me on Twitter!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How to Empty Your Bucket & Handle Stress

I actually felt sorry for the person in the waiting room with me at the Veterinarian's office last week. She was so impatient and I could tell her blood was boiling. The Vet was behind in his schedule and there were a lot of people and their pets piling up in the waiting room. She kept sighing loudly for all of us to hear, mumbling under her breath and getting impatient with her dog. She was causing a small spectacle and the psychologist in me wanted to talk her through it. I know even our Golden Retriever Sophie could feel that this lady was a bit uptight. She may have been having pre-summer burnout which I talked about in this FOX 4 TV segment last week. Click here to watch it.

We all have days when our tolerance level is lower and we feel stress sooner. For this woman, it wasn't about the Vet being slow or the waiting room being too full. It was about the other stressors in her life. She was having what I call an "exaggerated response" to waiting for her turn.

I believe everyone has a bucket inside of them. When something causes stress, frustrates you, makes you angry or requires a lot of attention and energy the bucket starts to fill. When your bucket fills completely you will have an exaggerated response causing you to overreact to the simplest of stressors. Some people call it "wigging out," "losing it," and "going postal." You may be getting a 10 minute oil change and it takes longer than 10 minutes and you "lose it" when normally this delay wouldn't be a big deal. Click here to watch my video explanation of your bucket.

A few things that tend to fill my bucket are: new technology in my business (I recently converted to a Mac), packing for a vacation with my 3 boys and folding laundry.

Things that can fill your bucket are:

Ways to empty your bucket are:
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercise
  • Spending quality time with friends
  • Spending quality time with family
  • Church involvement
  • Volunteering in the community
  • Hobbies
  • Reading
  • Staying organized
  • Meditation
Be careful not to choose ways to empty your bucket with activities that cause it to fill back up and cause even more stress. Sarah Ferguson just attempted to empty her bucket in a way that caused it to refill. Some poor choices for emptying your bucket are:
  • Marital affair
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Substance abuse (illegal and prescription)
  • Smoking
  • Gambling
  • Gossip
  • Overeating
  • Antisocial activities like stealing, lying, behaving impulsively
  • Withdrawing from social activities and groups
  • Borrowing money and not repaying it

To stay in the Smart Zone, anticipate what will fill your bucket so you can get ahead of it. I build in training time when I add new technology to my business to help minimize my stress. When traveling I build in an extra day to pack to avoid being up until 2:00 a.m. the night before. And when you feel an exaggerated response coming on instead of saying, "I'm so stressed out. I can't handle this," say, "I need to find a way to empty my bucket." I know that everyone in your life, including your pets, will appreciate it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What Not to Put in an Email or Social Media

I email A LOT and so I realize how easy it is to put things in writing that you should really say in person. A few weeks ago I blogged about how Facebook can make you sick and how it's important to communicate face-to-face with people.

Recently a reporter from the Los Angeles Times interviewed me about sharing bad news electronically. Specifically news about one's health. Many of you may be familiar with Caring Bridge which is a free blog service offered to people facing serious illness. It allows families to share health updates and needs with people authorized to receive the updates. I recently followed one of my friends through her Cancer treatments by reading her Caring Bridge updates.

Proceed with caution when communicating certain information using online forums and email. Use these Smart Moves when emailing, Facebooking, Twittering or blogging to keep you in the Smart Zone:

  • You can't hear your tone of voice in an email. I've received emails where I thought the person was mad at me to later find out that wasn't the case at all. Words are only 7% of communication with your voice inflection and body language making up the remaining 93%. Keep in mind that emails can be misinterpreted because words are only a small part of communication.
  • You can't take back what you put in writing. Once it hits Facebook or Twitter it becomes part of a permanent history. Unless you are tech savvy and know how to retract an email, which normally doesn't work, once you send one it's a done deal. Better yet, avoid the "Reply All" option. I've heard tons of "Reply All" horror stories.
  • "I could get into trouble by telling you this," is one of the 10 things you should never say in an email according to Roger Matus' Death by Email blog. Click here for the 10 Things Never to Put in an Email.
  • Use airport caution. Anything you could get into trouble saying at the airport - like "I feel like blowing this place up" - you shouldn't say via online forums. Any teasing that could be interpreted as potential terrorism should be off limits.
  • TMI "Too Much Information." Emails or Facebook updates like, "I've been throwing up all night" or "I'm worried about so-in-so's marriage" fall into this category. Also, be weary of emailing about other people's health. Information about another person's medical issues, medication and treatments should be confidential. You can share medical information about yourself but it's inappropriate to share it about others.
  • Condolences should be communicated by phone, handwritten note or in person.
  • Resist the urge to be cyberdaring. Most people are cyberdaring. Haven't we all emailed a message that we would be too timid to say in person? With social media and emails we become reckless with our comments. I've even witnessed couples having arguments through their Facebook comments. And I've worked with people who have been fired for information they sent by email.

Remember that your relationships, personal and professional, are worth the little extra it would take to personally communicate. That will keep you in the Smart Zone.

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Workplace Bullying: What You Need to Know

    Even as a psychologist who has heard it all in 20 years practicing, there are times when I hear things that really, really bother me. If you live in the Dallas area you may have heard the tragic story of 9 year old Montana Lance who committed suicide at his elementary school in January as a result of bullying. Last week I was invited to the FOX 4 TV Studios to be the online chat expert for viewers regarding this incident. (Click here to watch). Viewers were able to chat live with me online after watching a segment with Montana's parents who are taking a stand to raise awareness and promote Anti-Bullying day.

    When we hear of bullying we tend to think of children at school. But it's no less common in the workplace and a topic worthy of much more discussion. A recent study reported 1 in 6 U.S. employees have experienced workplace bullying. Understand the signs and symptoms of workplace bullying to keep your organization in the Smart Zone.

    Workplace bullying is defined as repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or group of employees) which is intended to intimidate and create a risk to the health and safety of the employee(s).

    Factors that increase the risk of bullying are:

    • Significant organizational change
    • Worker characteristics such as generational/life stage differences
    • Staff shortages
    • Role ambiguity
    • High rate of work intensity

    I bet several of these risk factors sound familiar - especially in today's work environment. Bullies do not run good organizations. Workplace bullying leads to high staff turnover and sick leave and low morale and productivity. A bullied environment keeps employees from doing their best work and breaks down trust within the organization. Just for fun, watch this clip in The Devil Wears Prada to see a bully in action.

    Here are 2 informative articles from BNET regarding workplace bullying:

    Nipping Workplace Bullying in the Bud

    Understanding the Characteristics of Workplace Bullying

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Stress and Taxes: How to Make April 15th Less Stressful

    I recently finished my 2009 taxes and celebrated with friends by going to the Taylor Swift concert in Dallas. I know I'm not the typical demographic she appeals to - believe me, there were plenty of screaming teens there to remind me. But it was fun to blow off some steam and laugh with friends after finishing my taxes. Whew!

    The American Psychological Association reports that 75% of Americans cite money as a significant point of stress. Tax time increases our focus on money and consequently, increases our stress. If your family has experienced unemployment recently then you are experiencing even more stress. Click here to read what I have to say about your spouse losing a job in eFinancialCareers.

    To stay in the Smart Zone this tax season use these 9 Smart Moves to avoid stress and sustain your sanity during tax time.

    1. Don't avoid it. Paying your taxes isn't something most people enjoy - but let's face it - it's unavoidable. Avoiding it and procrastinating will only magnify your stress and cost you more in the long run with penalties.
    2. Avoid the "money fight" with your spouse. In many relationships there is a "saver" and a "spender." For couples who fight over money tax time raises the importance of money and fights can escalate. Money fights may really be rooted in the fight for power. In the long term, it's important to determine the true source of your money fights - you may need the help of a financial counselor or therapist. A job loss can make things worse (click here to watch my TV appearance on FOX where I discuss this).
    3. Don't take it out on your accountant or the UPS guy. Have you ever seen someone losing it because the UPS guy didn't bring what they were expecting? Your body doesn't know the difference between work stress, home stress and personal stress. When we have too much stress our hormones kick in causing a small hassle to suddenly become huge - and we have an "exaggerated response" (which some call "freaking out, going ballistic, losing it"). Your tax responsibility is not your accountant's fault - he/she is only the messenger. Learn to recognize when your stress level is getting high and eliminate it by reading a book, exercising, surfing the internet, getting organized or eating lunch with a friend.
    4. Use this time to commit to keeping better financial records. I tell people that the way we think affects the way we act affects the way we feel. You can think yourself into feeling defeated. So choose instead to think yourself into moving forward, managing your money and keeping good records in the future. Don't wait until you feel a certain way to act a certain way. Make it happen now.
    5. Keep it simple. Take baby steps. If your tax situation is complicated break it down into small steps and do a little each night or over a few weeks. Don't cram it all into 2 days.
    6. Have some fun. Put on some relaxing music, sit outside or light some candles. You don't have to be holed up in a dungeon with a scowl on your face to do your taxes. However, I would recommend waiting on a glass of wine until after you've finished.
    7. Expect things to work out well. Did you know that worrying about failing increases the likelihood of failure? Worrying about making a mistake or not doing your taxes correctly will only make things worse.
    8. Reward yourself when the taxes are complete. Go out to eat, see a funny movie, get ice cream or take a long walk with the dog. Take a break from email, news coverage and gossip to put yourself in a positive mood and to feel like you are moving forward with an optimistic attitude.
    9. Hire a pro. If your tax situation is complicated by all means hire someone to help you. This will cost you less in the long run and minimize your stress.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Could You Have ADHD?

    What do Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, John Lennon and Elvis Presley have in common? They all had ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). I believe ADHD in adults, who don't manage it well, affects our work environment and keeps people out of the Smart Zone.

    I am really excited about an innovative test we have available in my office. Recently, my office became the only psychological practice in Texas to offer an objective computer test for ADHD for children, adolescents and adults. Click here to watch a news segment Channel 33 filmed about it in my office here in Plano.

    Developed by physicians at Harvard, the Quotient/ADHD™ System is the first test to objectively measure all 3 core symptoms of ADHD. The test takes 15 minutes for kids under 13 or 20 minutes for adolescents and adults. Click here to watch the footage about the test on FOX News Channel.

    Approximately 5% of the adult population is estimated to have ADHD. It wasn't long ago that ADHD was seen as a childhood disorder where symptoms were thought to disappear with the onset of puberty. Clear scientific evidence shows that ADHD continues into adulthood. While most adults were diagnosed as children, there are many adults who are undiagnosed.

    Symptoms of ADHD that you probably already know are:
    • Difficulty concentrating and paying attention to details.
    • Trouble sitting still for long periods of time.
    • Short fuse.
    • Putting things off.
    • Tardiness.
    • Forgetfulness in daily activities.
    • Getting criticized for interrupting people.
    • Being disorganized and having a messy car, home or office.
    • Starting projects without thinking through the steps.
    • Failing to finish tasks.
    • Click here for a longer checklist.

    Adults with ADHD are more likely to:
    • Buy on impulse and have trouble saving money.
    • Receive speeding tickets.
    • Be involved in car crashes where they are at fault.
    • Smoke and/or use drugs.
    • Exhibit road rage and aggressive driving when angered.
    • Get fired or quit a job out of boredom.
    • Be disciplined on the job by a manager or supervisor.
    • Have higher marital dissatisfaction although not a higher divorce rate.
    Let me clear up a few misconceptions about ADHD:

    • ADHD does exist and is not a conspiracy by scientists to medicate people. It is a real medical condition that is biologically based.
    • ADHD is not simply a lack of willpower.
    • Bad parenting does not cause ADHD. However, studies show a genetic predisposition for ADHD within families.
    • Adults with ADHD are not stupid or lazy. Recent studies reveal that people with ADHD actually tend to have above average intelligence but it does not show because of the ADHD.
    • ADHD can be treated without medication. New research indicates that you can improve brain functioning with direct, deliberate practice. This is called neuroplasticity. Relaxation, concentration and other self management exercises can improve the ability to sustain attention in some people.
    • Before starting any medication you should be properly diagnosed. Anxiety, depression or learning disabilities can be disguised as ADHD.

    To stay in the Smart Zone learn more about ADHD. If you think you might have it, get tested by a qualified professional. It could help you refocus your career and personal life. Click here to read my quotes in a article where I talk about refocusing your career.

    All assessments for ADHD should be comprehensive and also assess for emotional factors and the influence of present stressors. Your quality of life, your effectiveness at work and home, and your relationships can benefit from knowing if you truly have the disorder.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Can Facebook Make You Sick?

    A controversial study from the Institute of Biology recently reported that social networking sites such as Facebook could raise your risk of cancer, strokes, heart disease and dementia. The reason: "Increased isolation could alter the way genes work and upset immune responses, hormone levels and the function of arteries and impair mental performance." In other words, not being around other people is bad for your health.

    Watch my appearance on FOX 4 Good Day last week where I discuss this issue.

    The research went on to say that face-to-face conversations have decreased steadily since 1987 and that there is a difference between "real presence" and virtual presence. The study even identified "socially regulated genes" that affect our immune system.

    Last year I blogged about how Facebook helps you stay in the Smart Zone. And I still believe it does. I've embraced blogging, Twitter (sort of), YouTube, Facebook and of course, email. Plus, I'm lost without my iPhone.

    Just to prove I'm not "down" on Facebook, there are studies that show it increases productivity at work. An Australian study found surfing the internet for fun during office hours actually increased employees productivity. The study from the University of Melbourne says "workplace internet leisure browsing, or WILB, helped to sharpen workers' concentration." It goes on to say that people need to zone out for a bit to rest their mind so they can have a higher concentration level.

    But communicating with someone on Facebook does not replace human contact. When you minimize or eliminate contact with people you increase your chances of social isolation, loneliness, a negative outlook and ill health. This is true even for introverted people.

    Use these Smart Moves so that Facebook doesn't make you sick:

    • Call someone out of the blue. Not by poking them on Facebook or sending them an email. Pick up the phone and call someone - voice to voice.

    • Resist the urge to answer your cell phone when you are at lunch with a coworker. The only time I interrupt a conversation to answer my cell phone is if I see the school nurse calling. A fast way to lose connection with someone is to interrupt the conversation with a call from someone else.

    • Words are a tiny part of communication. Experts say that 7% of human communication comes from words, while 38% is from a person's tone of the voice and 55% comes from body language. Without face-to-face interaction you are only using 7% of your capacity to communicate.

    • Find ways to connect. Find a reason to say thank you, offer sympathy to a bereaved friend, give a birthday wish or congratulate someone. St. Patrick's Day is coming up - use this as your excuse to call someone!

    • Acknowledge people by speaking to them when they enter your presence. My Director of Client Relations, Zan Jones, is a stickler about this. It could be because she has had a career in sales and management and knows the importance of relationships. Zan says that she never passes by someone in the hallway without acknowledging them in some way - usually with a smile and a "Hi." Don't miss a day telling your coworkers, "Good morning."

    • Serve with someone. One of my favorite ways to connect with people is to volunteer for a project or cause. Volunteer to serve on the board of a nonprofit agency or on a church committee, answer the phones at the hospital or work at the concession stand during your kid's sporting events. By serving in the community you create a personal win-win.

    Even the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, understands the importance of spending personal time with other people. In the March issue of Fast Company, he reveals that during what Facebook called its "Christmas break" he and several Facebook employees went to India for the week long family celebration and wedding of 2 Facebook staffers. Now that's a Smart Move!

    By the way, I'd love for you to join my Facebook Fan Page or follow me on Twitter!

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    What Not to Say at Work

    Have you ever watched the TV show, "What Not to Wear?" Many times I laugh out loud at what people wear. It's the same about what not to say at work.

    To stay in the Smart Zone, here are 6 things not to say while at work:
    1. "I'm bored." The definition of the Smart Zone is that it is where you work to the best of your ability emotionally, behaviorally and intellectually. It is your responsibility to find something to do while you are working on someone else's dime. When I had my first job in high school working for a movie theater my mother told me, "If you have nothing to do, then wipe counters and straighten up the shelves. Don't stand around being bored - find something to do." Take "feeling bored" as the opportunity to learn something new or help someone else with their job.

    2. "Why were you late to our meeting?" When you ask a "why" question you force the person to focus on the problem by giving you excuses as to why they were late. People in the Smart Zone are solution-oriented. To focus on the solution ask, "how" and "what" questions. In this case, "How can you make sure you will be on time to our next meeting?" Or, "What can you do so that you will not be late again." By being solution-oriented you help the other person solve their own problem. Watch my YouTube clip on this topic.

    3. "I can't help you." This is almost as bad as saying, "That's not my job." People in the Smart Zone are can-do people. Instead of answering a co-worker's question with "I can't help you" say, "What I CAN do tech support and find the answer for you."

    4. "That's not my fault." In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey states that accountability is one of the 13 Behaviors that significantly earn trust. Make and keep your promises. Even if it really isn't your fault don't waste time figuring out who to blame. Focus on solving the problem. Click here for a funny example of Jerry Seinfeld holding someone accountable for a promise.

    5. "Those jeans make you look fat." Duh, I know you wouldn't say this. But haven't we all had to work with a Simon Cowell type? This is a person who gives harsh and unnecessary criticism for the sake of being confrontational. Or possibly for the attention they receive for their audacious statements. People in the Smart Zone are likable and know that crass statements make you unlikable. Click here to read my book synopsis on Why Doesn't Anybody Like Me?

    6. "Don't tell anyone." One thing I know for sure is that people will tell secrets. It's human nature. Having secrets at work can cause people to become paranoid and create what I call mental theater. Have you ever thought 2 co-workers were talking about you and so you acted differently around them? Click here to read my blog post on mental theater.

    Post comments and tell me other things you should not say at work. I'd love to hear them. And don't worry, I won't ask you how much you weigh!

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Book Review & Summary: The Speed of Trust, Reviewed by Zan Jones

    A few years ago Susan picked up a book at the airport called The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey. She was so impressed with the content that she got involved with the CoveyLink organization to learn more about how to help organizations build High Trust environments while helping keep them in the Smart Zone.

    Susan also asked all of her staff to read the book knowing it would benefit her two companies as well as the people we serve. In the last several years Susan has referred to this book many times in her clinical practice and in her speaking engagements. It had such a profound impact on her that she revamped the Smart Zone model to include Trust as a basis to support staying in the Smart Zone. Because we refer to it on a regular basis we are providing a book summary below.

    Covey proves that Trust is not just a social virtue. It is also a measurable economic driver that impacts performance. In other words, Trust will make you money. Not being trusted will cost you money.

    Here is the simple formula he uses:

    When Trust goes up, speed will go up and costs will go down.
    Trust (UP) = Speed (UP) Costs (DOWN)

    When Trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up.
    Trust (DOWN) = Speed (DOWN) Costs (UP)

    For example, before 9/11 we could arrive at the airport 30 minutes before take off and breeze through security. But now, since Trust has gone down, we have to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before take off and pay a 9/11 security tax on every ticket. Covey also points out the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that was implemented in the Low Trust wake of scandals like Enron and WorldCom. In other words, Trust has gone down, speed has gone down and cost has gone up.

    Covey cleverly defines what he calls the Trust Tax which is the cost of Low Trust and the Trust Dividend which is a quantifiable reward of High Trust.

    High Trust Tax work environments experience:
    • Unhappy employees and stakeholders

    • Micromanagement and bureaucracy

    • CYA behavior and hidden agendas

    • Redundant hierarchy

    While High Trust Dividend organizations enjoy:
    • Good communication

    • Few office politics

    • Effective collaboration and execution

    • Positive partnering

    • Strong engagement and innovation

    Covey also proves his hypothesis that, "Nothing is as fast as the Speed of Trust," using his 5 Waves of Trust model.

    The 5 Waves of Trust are:
    1. Self Trust.
      Self Trust pertains to confidence we have in ourselves, how we walk our talk and keep commitments. Here he outlines the 4 Cores of Credibility which are: one's integrity, intent, capabilities and accomplished results. Covey tells a hilarious story of how his dad accidentally left his mother out on the freeway in the middle of the night!

    2. Relationship Trust.
      This Wave provides guidance on how to interact with others in a way that increases Trust and avoid interacting in a way that destroys it. It's all about consistent behavior. Covey outlines the 13 Behaviors that are common to High Trust people.

    3. Organizational Trust.
      Covey describes Low Trust organizations as being redundant, political, and disengaged with high turnover. High Trust organizations outperform Low Trust organizations by 3 times and have high stakeholder and customer value, accelerated growth, enhanced innovation and loyalty. My favorite example is of the retailer Nordstrom's one rule employee handbook, in an age of hundred page policy manuals, which simply states, "Use good judgment at all times."”

    4. Market Trust.
      Here, Covey quotes Oprah Winfrey, "In the end, all you have is your reputation."” My favorite quote, however, is Warren Buffet's words, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it."”

    5. Societal Trust.
      A French proverb states, "Fish discover water last." For fish, water surrounds them and they are so immersed in it that they don't recognize its existence until it becomes polluted. People, in a way, discover Trust last. In society, we depend on Trust and take it for granted until it becomes polluted or destroyed.

    Covey brings it all together by showing how to extend "Smart Trust." His Smart Trust matrix includes 4 zones: Blind Trust, Distrust, No Trust and Smart Trust. Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires Trust. Many trusted managers who are competent and credible never make it to leaders because they don't know how to extend "Smart Trust." They may know how to be trusted but not how to extend Trust to others. In order for a leader to inspire Trust he/she must empower individuals to give it their all and create a High Trust environment where everyone works effectively with others.

    In the words of Stephen M.R. Covey, "Nothing is as fast as the Speed of Trust!"”

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Book Review: SuperFreakonomics, Reviewed by Zan Jones

    January is a busy month for Susan in her clinical practice. That might surprise you because you might think it is December. Her practice is really busy in January because so many people have family issues, marital issues, and difficulties with their expectations soon after the holidays. That is why I asked to step in for Susan and review a book we both have been reading.

    SuperFreakonomics, by the economist Steven Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner, was even more enjoyable than their first book, Freakonomics. SuperFreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything. I think this book will entertain you and make you feel smarter for reading it.

    The book begins with an interesting perspective on drunk driving. While all of us would campaign that drunk driving is bad, most of us can't answer the question: "Why do so many people get behind the wheel after drinking?" It could be because drunk drivers rarely get caught - 1 arrest for every 27,000 miles driven while drunk. But, on a per mile basis it is 8 times more dangerous to walk drunk than to drive drunk. (One caveat: a drunk walker isn't likely to hurt anyone else.) Conclusion: friends shouldn't let friends walk drunk.

    I counted over 100 intriguing questions and answers in the book. Listed below are my 5 favorites:

    1. How is a Street Prostitute like a Department Store Santa? The answer: both take advantage of short-term job opportunities brought on by holiday spikes in demand. The authors go on to discuss how the annual wages for a prostitute have gone down from $80,000 a century ago to about $16,000 today. Why? Lack of demand. Not for sex but for prostitutes. Women's lib and casual sex are to blame. The prostitute explanation was interesting. And even though I am a little prude, I still enjoyed it.

    2. What is the worst month to have a baby? If you know someone in Michigan who is having a baby this year you should hope it's not born in May. If so, the baby is roughly 20% more likely to have visual, hearing or learning disabilities as an adult. Same issue if you live in southeastern Uganda. Why? The simple reason is: Ramadan. Parts of Michigan have a substantial Muslim population as does southeastern Uganda. Islam calls for a daytime fast from food and drink for the entire month of Ramadan. Most Muslim women participate even while pregnant. The effects are strongest when fasting coincides with the first month of pregnancy.

    3. Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance? Surprisingly, "terrorists" tend to come from well educated, middle-class or high income families. By examining the banking history of terrorists after September 11, certain "terrorist" behaviors were identified. Would-be terrorists are more likely to: own a mobile phone, be a student and rent, rather own, a home. Would-be terrorists are least likely to: have a savings account, withdraw money from an ATM on a Friday afternoon and buy life insurance. So if a budding terrorist wants to cover his tracks, he should go to the bank and change his name to something un-Muslim and buy life insurance.

    4. Why did 38 people sit by and watch an innocent woman be murdered? Social psychology students have all heard this story. In March 1964, on a cold, damp night, a 28-year old woman named Kitty Genovese was attacked, chased, stabbed in her back, raped, stabbed again and left to die. The murder took 35 minutes and of the 38 people who saw it not one person called the police. The incident inspired research on what is now called "bystander apathy." To find out how this event ties in with the John F. Kennedy assassination, the ACLU, TV and the Andy Griffith Show you'll have to read the book.

    5. According to the government, who visits retirement homes? Data from a U.S. government study shows that an elderly parent in a retirement home is more likely to be visited by his grown children if they are expecting a sizable inheritance. My argument is that the children of wealthy families are simply more caring of their parents. However, the data show no increase in retirement home visits if a wealthy family has only one grown child; there has to be a least two. This suggests that the visits increase because of competition between siblings for the inheritance. I'm glad I have 2 kids!

    If you'd like to find out the best time of day to visit the ER, ways to postpone death, solutions for global warming, how well car seats work and if a sex-change can boost your salary then pick up a copy of SuperFreakonomics.