Tag Archives: Happiness

10% Happier – Book Review

This is my book review on 10% Happier by Dan Harris.   The subtitle is “How I Tamed the Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress, without Losing my Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.”
10% Happier

Before I start, I am empathetic to Dan Harris’ journey to find “more” happiness (at least 10% more).   After leaving the Air Force, I lost clear purpose and struggled (struggle) with happiness.   Since, I realigned “integrity” in my life,  wonderful things have happened.  Purpose has morphed from serving my country to serving others in Leadership.   But leadership is elusive and complicated (actually, the  paradox is that I make it elusive and complicated).

In reading, I found it interesting that my journey has mirrored his, coming in either direct or indirect contact with many of the same cast of characters.   His journey began as an assignment by Peter Jennings to report on US spirituality, which guided him toward many different religious leaders, in which he found meditation in Buddism.  My journey was to find a way to teach happiness (as an outcome of leadership) and make better leaders.   Both of these paths lead to mediation as a tool to teach us to respond vs react to difficult situations that arise in our humanity while becoming more compassionate, focused (mindful), and “consciously” aware of what “is”; and additionally, a path to be closer to God.

Quotable Quotes:

(Harris p19) – “When you are cut off from your emotions, they manifest in your body”

(Harris p88) – “Therapy often leads to understanding without relief”

(Harris p89) – “We suffer because we cling to things that don’t last…nothing lasts, including us…the true route to happiness is the visceral understanding of impermanence.”

(Harris p90) – “let go and drop your attachments [which is key] to recognize the wisdom of insecurity.

(Harris p91) – “churning of the ego … monkey mind”

(Harris p112) – RAIN = Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification

(Harris p115) – respond rather than simply react

(Harris p135) – Metta – May you be happy, May you be safe and protected from harm, May you be healthy and strong, May you live with ease.

(Harris p145) – “Is this useful” a response to our need to look forward or backward in our lives based on reflection or planning.   When looking forward or backward no longer is useful, let it go.

(Harris p172) – Janice Marturano brought mediation to General Mills with the purpose of making you a better leader

(Harris p201) – “Praise Allah, but still tie your camel to the post”

(Harris p207) – “Striving is fine as long as it’s tempered by the realization that, in an entropic universe, the final outcome is out of your control.  If you don’t wast your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus more effectively on the ones you can” – let go of attachment to outcomes, not meaning you shouldn’t strive to succeed, just accept it might not turn out exactly as you want.

(Harris p210) – “There is no point in being unhappy about the things you can’t change, and there is no point in being unhappy about the things you can.”

(Harris p212) – litmus test of activity – “What Matters Most”

Finally, I caveat that I am a Christian and have found meditation extremely helpful in my own life.     I believe it creates a connection to calmness, and opens my mind in awareness and creativity, whatever that means.    One step further might be to say, prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening.

As a side note, as I coached another man, meditation is a great place to “fail” and practice “failing” and then accepting failure and setting it aside (I fail at not letting my mind wander, I fail at not scratching my nose, I fail at posture, I fail when I hear the dog barking next door, etc).    I don’t like failing.    However, failing is also another entry point toward creativity, pivots, and alignment.

I have been engaged in various neurologic studies and brain training which proves the incredible medical benefits of meditation.   And although I have been confronted by members of my religious community concerned about my spirituality and the perceived conflict of Eastern Religion and Christianity, I am undeterred.   Simply put, Philippians 4:8 & Joshua 1:8 (and many of the Psalms) imply that God wants us to meditate, reflect, contemplate, and focus on his Word, day and night.   Another comment below noted Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days to… pray & meditate.

Blessings – Pierre


I stink at vacations.  I can’t sit still.   I can’t relax.   Frankly, there is very little room for “ease” in my life.   It is an area I really need to work on, just ask my wife, my ex, my parents, my children, whomever.   If you want to go on vacation with me, be prepared to be busy, and be busy for busy sake.  Even when I go to a museum or on a tour.   I’ve got to do and learn everything, I don’t want to waste what might be my last chance to learn something unique… even if I forget much of what I saw the next week when I’m busy being busy about something else.
Interestingly, last January I had my brain mapped and then in May I did some brain training.  This was done by a company called Senselabs, who currently optimizes the brain performance of olympic and professional athletes by helping them get into and maintain a “flow state” while performing.
Proudly, while reviewing my results, the neurologist noted that I was one of ten “athletes” out of a thousand that had not made a mistake while scoring, i.e. I pushed the button when I should have and didn’t when I shouldn’t have.   I mumbled something about the years of training as a fighter pilot, yada, yada, yada.   Then he said “that isn’t necessarily good…”    Whoa….. What?
He said it was obvious that I came from a job that making mistakes was highly devalued… yea, you know dying, get shot down, and all that!
He then noted that my responses were slower than average, and many athletes (and creative professionals) need to accept making mistakes in the process of rapid improvement and their responses were therefore MUCH faster than mine.
Then we broke out my brain map.  “Look here, you have world class focus, but over here, you have very little ability to relax between actions.  You are VERY intense.  Therefore, your  reaction speed and stress recovery are low”  “If we would build a brain training program for you, we would need to teach your brain how to slow down, relax, even for micro-seconds between tasks.”   He pretty much defined my world, stupid brain map!
So, recently, I attended a presentation by a Berkeley PhD (Christine Carter) who studies happiness and children.    I’ll get into her insights in another blog, but one of the three critical aspects of the happiness “sweet spot” is around “ease.”   The other two are “grit” and “connection.”
So my dilemma is living a life of “dis-ease”.    Meaning I have a problem finding ease in my life.     Many chronic disease are long-term stress responses which create long-term inflammatory conditions caused by disease, like heart disease, cancer, alcoholism, etc…   When we continue to abuse our bodies with stress, we risk long term stress responses.   Providing “ease” (to our bodies, our brain, our heart, etc) is really really important to our health AND happiness.
OK, yes I’m hypocritically writing this while sitting at the pool on vacation.   So, to take my words to heart, I’m now putting down he computer and I’m going to do my best to “ease” into “EASE”…  My wish for you is to find those moments of ease in your lives even if it is in those micro-moments between activities.
Blessings – Pierre

The Four Agreements – By Don Miguel Ruiz

Occasionally, as part of my syllabus development and blog creation, I plan on  reviewing leadership oriented books, this one leaning toward personal leadership.

The first book is The Four Agreements – by Don Miguel Ruiz.

This was the first book I was asked to read by a leadership coach at Northwestern.  This book has remarkable traction in the spiritual and personal development communities.   Some religious communities have expressed concern because of Ruiz’ connection with “Toltec Wisdom” and “New Age” bent.    However, it is obvious from this, and his other books, that Ruiz has a deep catholic heritage which sets context and depth to the book.

Finally, I love the book because … it reminds me that “it is all about me.”   Meaning, most of the junk that hits me in my life is caused by my own doing.   I unconsciously manipulate the stories that are fragments of my true life.   I make people wrong based on the shadows that plague me.    I judge and make assumptions about what people say or do strictly based on my on personal experience.    Can you imagine a life where you see what is happening for its truth, and not the story we create or impose upon it.

Here is a summary of the Four Agreements:

Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Impeccable means “without sin” and a sin is something you do or believe that goes against yourself.   It means not speaking against yourself, to yourself or to others.    It means not rejecting yourself. To be impeccable means to take responsibility for yourself, to not participate in “the blame game.”

 Regarding the word, the rules of “action-reaction” apply.   What you put out energetically will return to you.   Proper use of the word creates proper use of energy, putting out love and gratitude perpetuates the same. The converse is also true. 

Impeccability starts at home. Be impeccable with yourself and that will reflect in your life and your relationships with others. This agreement can help change thousands of other agreements, especially ones that create fear instead of love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own issues.   When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

We take things personally when we agree with what others have said.   If we didn’t agree, the things that others say would not affect us emotionally.   If we did not care about what others think about us, their words or behavior could not affect us.

   Even if someone yells at you, gossips about you, harms you or yours, it still is not about you! Their actions and words are based on what they believe in their personal dream. 

  Our personal “Book of Law” and belief system makes us feel safe.   When people have beliefs that are different from our own, we get scared, defend ourselves, and impose our point of view on others.    If someone gets angry with us it is because our belief system is challenging their belief system and they get scared.    They need to defend their point of view.   Why become angry, create conflict, and expend energy arguing when you are aware of this?

Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling. We believe we know their point of view, their dream. We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel. 

We make the assumption that everybody judges us, abuses us, victimizes us, and blames us the way we do ourselves. As a result we reject ourselves before others have the chance to reject us. When we think this way, it becomes difficult to be ourselves in the world.

Take action and be clear to others about what you want or do not want; do not gossip and make assumptions about things others tell you. Respect other points of view and avoid arguing just to be right. Respect yourself and be honest with yourself. Stop expecting the people around you to know what is in your head.

Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Doing your best means enjoying the action without expecting a reward. The pleasure comes from doing what you like in life and having fun, not from how much you get paid. Enjoy the path traveled and the destination will take care of itself.

Living in the moment and releasing the past helps us to do the best we can in the moment. It allows us to be fully alive right now, enjoying what is present, not worrying about the past or the future.

Have patience with yourself. Take action. Practice forgiveness. If you do your best always, transformation will happen as a matter of course.