TWO HITORICAL FIRSTS IN ONE MONTH

Man’s first footprint on the Moon

 I have been around for a while and have a mountain of good things to talk about. Fifty years ago, when I was a vibrant teenager; full of hope and dreams, two unforgettable firsts happened in one month! They left me mesmerized in the wonder of God’s creation. Unexpected as they were, I had no words in either my indigenous language or English language to describe them. Looking back now, the two events left me filled with respect and admiration for humankind and they boosted my energy and hope that I could in my small way achieve what I wanted in life for my own good and for the good of others.

The year was 1969 in the month of July. The first once-in- a- lifetime event happened on the 20th July, when the Eagle Module of NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the Moon! The historic moment was being watched live by over 660 million people. 

Six hours and thirty nine minutes after landing, 38-year old Neil Armstrong(1930-2012) climbed down the ladder of Eagle to walk on the Moon. Nineteen minutes later, he was followed  by Buzz Aldrin while astronaut Michael Collins piloted the Command Module Columbia above them. Armstrong and Aldrin were the first men to set foot on the Moon! I remember it vividly as if it happened only recently and thanks to the Internet; from the Archives Teaching Resource, I have been able to fill in almost all the missing pieces and enjoy the event much more. It was perfect timing for me; I was on holiday at home so my parents and siblings were that evening glued on the black and white television set. We were all seated on the edges of the chairs watching the spectacle unravel as if all our lives depended on it! An awkward silence followed but then as if on cue, we all stood up, cheered and ulululated.

I remember Neil Armstrong’s famous words as he took the first step on the dusty Moon surface: “ This is one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind.’’

Closing my eyes, I can see both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in their white, multi-layered, flexible spacesuits, space goggles and a backpack containing each one’s life support system. They had gone on to plant the American flag in the surface.

President Richard Nixon ‘s message to them said it all: “ Because of what you have done, the heavens have become part of man’s world.’’

Now I know and understand that for centuries, man had wanted to step on the moon. The Moon race was in earnest by 1957. The unmanned Luna 2 mission of the Soviet Union was the first unmanned spacecraft to reach the Moon’s surface successfully on September 13, 1959. The Soviet Union launched the unmanned Luna 15 on 13 July, 1969 to land on the Moon’s surface and collect the lunar rock and dust. It crash landed on it on the 21st July just a few hours after Armstrong , Aldrin and Collins had landed on the Moon but before their lift off from it.

The Americans had beaten the Russians to the finishing line of the lunar race. It was never really the end but it was the starting line for the second phase of the study and exploration of the Moon.

The three American astronauts in NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft had set off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on the 16th July with one mission: to land safely on the Moon. It took them three days to enter the Lunar Orbit. The Mission was under control of a team of NASA engineers at the Space Centre in Houston, Texas.  Making the historic landing  on 20th July at 9:32 am. EDT, turned the three men into America’s most famous astronauts during NASA’s golden era.

In not more than eight minutes, they collected the first geological samples from the Moon surface- rocks and the fine granular lunar dust. Some samples were collected thirteen centimeters below the Moon surface. Since then more Apollo missions have brought back lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles and dust from the Moon. The Moon rock is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Scientist claim that every sample brought back from the moon has been contaminated by the Earth’s air and humidity. Strictly adhering to the principle of Astronautical hygiene, Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s spacesuits had to be vacuum-cleaned and the inside of the lunar Module, to ensure that lunar dust and particles were not transferred to the Columbia Command Module, destined to return them to planet Earth. The Columbia Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on the 24th July 1969.

 The astronauts had spent eight days in space. They were immediately quarantined in the Mobile Quarantine Facility for twenty one days! This was a safety precaution to ensure that planet Earth was not contaminated by lunar germs in case the two astronauts had picked any from the Moon’s surface. NASA considered this as a better-safe-than- sorry operation.

It was indeed a giant step in Air and space exploration and technology!

 Between that Moon landing of July 1969 and 1972, NASA sent five other Apollo Missions to the moon and each planted an American flag at the landing site.The last American Astronauts walked on the Moon surface in December 1972 under the Apollo17 Mission.

Other countries like Japan, China, Israel and India  joined the space exploration activities. Only the United States of America, the Soviet Union and China (December 2013) have succeeded in landing safely on the Moon. China with its great power status  wants to claim its position  as a world power off planet Earth.

India wants to test and prove its advances in science and space technology. On the 22nd July 2019, India’s  ISRO launched in 1969, sent off a spacecraft scheduled to land on the Moon’s south pole by the end of August 2019. It is possible that deposits of water-ice could be hidden at this pole.

South Africa’s study and exploration and utilization of space for peaceful uses began in the 1950s. It launched its national space agency in 2010.

The celebration of the 50 years since man first walked on the Moon has opened a new lunar race for exploration and inspired a whole new generation of astronauts. The Vice President of USA, Mike Pence assured Americans that America was returning to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis Project. America would be sending men back to the Moon by 2024, four years earlier than NASA had targeted.

Indeed, the Moon has become a focus of exploration once again.

For the developing countries like mine, it is a matter of national priorities; our governments have the great task of lifting their people out of poverty, creating economic opportunities, technological empowerment and improve the quality of life for all.

Both the developed countries and the developing ones have the collective responsibility of  improving  Planet earth: the environment itself , the people and animals and plants. The effects of increasing global temperatures affect all of us and so are the effects of pollution and violence. Food insecurity, unemployment especially of the youth, lack of education and government corruption affect our security and well-being.

Now that the Moon race has been set in motion once again, I hope that the Moon and the planets will be harnessed under the Utilitarian ethical principle: with the greatest amount of good for the greatest number and at the same time be protected for the future generations too.

QUESTION:

Where were you when Neil Armstrong first stepped out onto the Moon?

The second historical first of the same month and year will be covered in Part11.

SMILE AND LAUGHTER

The Smiling Emoji

My last post on this blog was about communication, the bedrock of all human relationships and a necessity for survival. Reading around this subject led me into the physical, mental and social benefits of laughter.

We all know that smiling is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it is contagious. Many times, we have been advised to love simply, laugh often and love deeply. The cliché of “laughter is the best medicine”, could be said to be as old as civilization. I was even reluctant to include it in this post but then I remembered one proverb in King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs: Proverb 17 verse 22 : “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.”

A genuine smile is a facial expression conveying one’s deep feelings. The smile is expressed more with the mouth other than the eyes. The Americans are good at displaying their emotions and to them the smile expresses happiness and respect. The Japanese are not very open with their emotions so in a smile, they focus more on the look in the eyes other than the mouth. The Germans do not show their emotions often so they smile less often. In my country, Uganda, a smile expresses warmth and in my local area, the central region, we can laugh out loud with family and friends until we cry. The over 600 years old royal dynasty of Buganda in Uganda, has always had singers, drummers and comedians at the royal court to entertain people and make them laugh. World-wide, a good belly laugh makes each one of us feel good.

Since 1995, the unfatiguable Dr. Madan  Kataria of Mumbai, India, a country where people laugh until they hurt, has been advocating for laughing for health and happiness. He has become the world’s Laughter Yoga Teacher. He is the founder of the laughter Yoga Clubs in over sixty countries. He arranged for the first World Laughter Day in 1998 to increase awareness about laughter and its health benefits. Since then, the first Sunday in May, people gather in public places just to share laughter.

 Dr. Kataria is popularly known as the “Guru of Giggling”. As a medical doctor, he explains that a good belly laugh expels air from the lungs allowing them to take in more fresh air. The oxygen in the fresh air is made available to the cells in the body to convert biochemical energy from nutrients: sugar, amino acids, fatty acids .This energy is then used by the cells to run the essential cellular activities or processes.

Studies have proved how laughter improves our health and happiness.

  • It improves cardiac health by increasing the blood flow to the heart, lowers the Blood pressure and this reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
  • It reduces the stress hormone levels thus reducing anxiety and stress on the body. Stress and anxiety have adverse effects on the body.
  • It tones the abdominal muscles that are used in a loud laugh.
  • It boosts the body’s immune system. The T-cells, the specialized cells of the immune system are activated by laughter. This improves the body’s resistance to disease and cancer.
  • It triggers the release of the endorphin hormones one of the “feel good/happy chemicals” from the brain. Endorphins improve one’s mood; adding joy and zest to life.

Endorphins are natural pain killers that temporarily relieve chronic pain, leaving you feel better.

The relief of physical tension and stress which leaves your muscles relaxed, goes on for up to 45 minutes after.

Human beings are programmed to be social creatures and laughter has been proved to have some social benefits.

Laughter connects us to other people- it attracts other people to us.

It helps to diffuse difficult situations.

It promotes group bonding.

In intimate relationships, sharing laughter strengthens the relationship and keeps it fresh and lasting.

Over the years, I have learned not to take life so seriously. I laugh at myself and at life itself.

 I make a conscious effort to laugh several times during the day. After a long day I put up my feet and watch Just for Laughs: Gags or a good comedy on the television and by the time it ends, I am enjoying a happy high.

I intentionally spend time with fun-filled, playful people like children and old friends. With such people, I find myself more relaxed, more positive and joyful.

I never forget to find my inner child- I claim the spontaneity and the ability to laugh at ordinary things.

I spend 10-15 minutes in a day, doing something that I love and that makes me laugh; like reading a funny story.

Sometimes I just decide to do something silly like making funny facial expressions in a mirror or mimicking funny voices in my past. In such situations, I focus on having fun.

And in a group I allow myself to be drawn to where the laughter is.

Sometimes all I need to do to make myself laugh is to remember a few funny experiences in my life.

Strangely, as I enjoy a happy high, I find myself admitting that Laughter is the best medicine. It is also free, can be self-administered safely and can also save you time and money at the doctor’s. It adds years to one’s life.

QUOTE:

“Trouble knocked at the door, but hearing laughter, hurried away.” – Benjamin Franklin

Simply find opportunities to have a hearty laugh every day.

QUESTION:

How often do you give yourself permission to play for fun and to laugh out loud every day?

GIVING YOUR BEST

The photograph is from Unsplash.com
The onetime Professor and head of the Blue Firm left the ladder leaning against a solid wall for others to climb up.

   Last Sunday , I was among the group of medical doctors who were given the privilege to  join Mr. George Kamya, an Emeritus Professor of Surgery of Makerere University College of Health Sciences ,celebrate his 94 th birthday at his home in Kololo, Kampala.

I had not seen him for more than twenty years but I was amazed at how robust he was. He was full of life , very alert and relaxed. All you needed was to introduce yourself to him and then he would say a word or two indicating that he had recognized and remembered you. Apart from losing the use of his legs, I would say that he has changed very little in the time I have been away. He felt comfortable with his wife of many years seated beside him. It was a real celebration of his long, rich life. A worship service followed by a few speeches and the traditional African lunch of plantains, millet, rice ,chapatti, sweet potatoes, sweet plantains, yams served with beef and chicken stews, groundnut sauce, a variety of local vegetables and a variety of fresh fruits like pineapples, water melon and mangoes.

The ambient atmosphere reminded me of my teachers, mentors and sponsors .

My favourite author, Kahlil Gibran(1883-1931) , the  Lebanese- American artist, poet and philosopher said: “You give but little when you you give of your posessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

This nonagenarian has lived a professional and exemplary ethical life:  many years ago, he had mastered the art of balancing family responsibility and serving his country as a surgeon. He gave a part of himself to all of us who passed through his hands as undergraduates and post graduates. He was a pillar of strength, support and discipline. He intentionally picked those with great potential and encouraged them  and showed them how to become  noble surgeons. He invested in them and they responded because they wanted to be like him and  to make a difference in their communities.

  Among the crop was my late husband, the first Ugandan woman surgeon, Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe. She later went on to become Uganda’s first woman Vice President( 1994-2003). For over fifty years, he left fingerprints on those he worked with and indelible footprints where he passed for others to follow and create their own stories.

  The Association of Surgeons of Uganda is a vibrant one where women are visible as general surgeons , neurosurgeons, urologists, plastic surgeons and pediatric surgeons. Its members are also active members of  COSECSA- the College of Surgeons of East and Central and Southern Africa.

Jim Rohn (1930-2009) an American entrepreneur and author said: ” All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”

And Shannon L. Alder , an inspirational author said: “ Carve your names on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”

Most of us remember how he created his own brand, success and managed and protected it on what came to be known as his ward up to today: ward 2A, the Blue firm ,of the New Mulago Teaching Hospital .

He always acted with honour and truthfulness and his patients always came first. He paid strict attention to detail and time. He was positive, had strong self-esteem, was patient with himself and others  and kept learning. He stood up for his values and spoke against unethical behavior. He lived his values in relationships with  the co-workers and patients. He created his life out of the truth of his soul and what he was taught by his parents, teachers and life itself.

He helped to create a culture of teamwork, inclusiveness and reward and recognition for great performance. Each member felt a sense of belonging to something bigger than herself/himself, worked with integrity and was empowered to explore. Things ran like clock –work whether the seniors were present or not. Responsibility and accountability were their badges of honour.

He retired officially in 2000 but those he mentored have been able to lead and carry on his work with enthusiasm.

Over the years, as I interacted with him, I came to respect and admire him for his wealth of knowledge, skills, experiences and his passion to share it with the young generation but more for his humility and easy demeanor. No task was either too big or too small for him to perform. He performed them all with a smile.

The psychologists always help us to understand why human beings think, feel and behave as they do .As soon as this seasoned surgeon came to know who he truly was, he became secure in it to become a professional of the world while at the same time opening himself up to learn from others. He knew who he was and appreciated that he was a human being who had strengths and flaws. He learned to tolerate others , lifted the weak up while pushing the strong ones  higher up the ladder of success. He left the ladder leaning against a solid wall for others to climb up as he did.

I pray he lives for more years to take the credit for all those whom he has created through mentoring, sponsoring along with his own family. His legacy lives on through them.

 All in all, I was glad I had been part of the celebration of  a man who did the best he could with what he had  and became all that he could be. Amazingly, he never stopped at creating himself, he helped others create themselves too. As they say, what you gladly give away comes back to you multiplied many times over.

Writing this post has challenged me whether I know for sure that each day I live, I am writing my own legacy and on how I have been able to empower others to succeed.

QUESTION:

After creating your own life , how have you facilitated the young generation to create their own lives too?

THE POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE

This photograph is from Unsplash.com

Each one of us is born as an individual and dies as an individual. In between these two stages, one has to live effectively and leave the world a better place than he/she found it. None of us can produce her/his best work alone; you need others to teach you, mentor you, and sponsor you and friends to encourage you. Many old age adages, proverbs and quotations attest to this. Among them are:

Two heads are better than one.

Iron sharpens iron.

None of us is as smart as all of us. By Kenwood Blanchard

John Donne’s poem: No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main………………

One local proverb loosely translated says: You need a functional set of teeth to chew the meat.

Former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan: Yes we can.

Even the members of a cabinet in a democratic country bear collective responsibility for decisions made in the cabinet.

In this Digital era, where the internet has become an integral part of our lives, one needs to check out and belong to at least two groups of like-minded people working towards a common goal. You may call it a Tribe or a Community but your combined efforts motivate and energise  your Community to participate fully and create change in Society.

Henry Ford once said,“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.”

My late father always advised me to belong to something bigger than myself if I were to realize my full potential. It was not until many years later that I understood what he had meant: It all had to do with synergy-The creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Now it is absolutely clear to me after reading Ash Hoehn’s They told me there is no “I” in the Team .

He says that when he became the team the team became him. The team absorbs “I”………

When the “I” is absorbed then he becomes part of something much more powerful.

 This also reminded me that in any chain link fencing, I can be as strong as the strongest and as weak as the weakest.

In a Kindergarten, children are taught to hold hands and stick together in preparation for how they will later live their lives.

In the wild, a pack of the African Wild dogs also known as the Cape dogs, are the best examples of team work or joint efforts.  A pack of twenty of them or more lives together, hunts together, eats together. They are very good communicators and among the most efficient hunters.Little wonder then that they always flourish wherever they are.

I have been around for a while and the best example of team work that comes to my mind is the organization of the Cooperative movement in my home country, Uganda.By the late 60’s this movement was at its peak and most farmers belonged to a cooperative society in their district. They grew cash crops like coffee and bought it, sold it together and bargained together with the government of the day for best price possible.

These farmers grew very rich; sent their children to the best schools in the country and some of them to universities abroad, built modern homes and bought lorries to transport the coffee and personal family cars. Farmers have never been that rich.It was all the result of the power of collective action. Later, during the 1979 Liberation War, the Wakombozi of the Tanzanian Defence Forces mistook many of those big houses for government offices where soldiers of the then Uganda Army (enemy of the people) could be hiding. Many such houses were bombed for this reason.

Who can forget the thousands of women textile workers of the Russian Empire who organized marches that ended in the overthrow of the Tsar in March 1917? They spearheaded the 1917 Revolution!

And in today’s well connected world, the youths of France organized through the Social Media, developed increased political interest. They engaged in the general election of May 2017 and ended up changing the political landscape. Later in June, the youths of Britain actively participated in the general election causing a huge upset in the results.

In December 2018, the military government of Sudan cut subsidies on basic goods like bread and fuel. The Middle-class professionals – doctors, health workers and lawyers, got together under their umbrella organisation, The Sudanese Professional Association(SPA) and organized demonstrations that culminated in the overthrow of President Omar al- Bashir on the 11th April 2019.Since then, they are struggling to work  towards forming a civilian –led transition government.

 It won’t be surprising to us if similar events occurred in other countries.

Today, worldwide, we have many challenges like extreme climatic changes, deforestation, youth unemployment and Substance Abuse, the best way we can develop locally appropriate solutions which we can own is by working together like the Cape wild dogs.

The Kenyans have a proverb that says: Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.

Working together, we can help to build and improve our communities.

QUESTION:

Are you a member of any like-minded group of people striving to give back to the community and aiming at leaving the community better than they found it?



THE POWER OF A CONVERSATION

The photo is from Unsplash


The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines a conversation as an oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions and ideas between two or more people. When nothing is discussed, it is simple talk.

When you hold a conversation with someone, you express your thoughts, ideas and beliefs about the matter at hand. This demonstrates the power of the mind over us. This is why we are most times warned  about being  careful   of what we think. What we think determines our actions and shapes our lives.

Mahatma Gandhi ( 1869-1948),  an Indian activist, lawyer ,and politician expressed it eloquently in this quote;

“Your beliefs become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.

Man is a social animal that craves for acceptance, affirmation, and approval to thrive. If he has to be accepted or approved , he has to communicate with other human beings and form relationships. Life is essentially  about relationships, a relationship with your God, with yourself,  with your family and friends and other people.

Communication by the spoken words, conversation or discussion is the bedrock of all our relationships. A simple conversation requires two people who talk and listen to one another. As each one communicates, he/she puts her/his needs, wants and desires across. Each one has different communication needs and style but how the two communicate to each other determines whether the relationship lives or dies. The communication has to be open and honest to benefit the two people concerned.

Without effective communication, unwanted problems arise and small ones grow bigger. When you talk about something honestly and effectively, most times you find a solution to the problem. Open and honest communication builds trust and respect.

My grandmother used to warn me during my teenage years that what I did not talk about had the power to  enslaves me. Not talking about a problem hurts me and will also hurt the relationship. It takes two to tango so the two people in the relationship contribute to its health or misery.

 You talk about the good, the bad and the weaknesses with the aim of making the relationship better for the two of you.

The other most important element of a good conversation is listening to one another. Talking and listening are two sides of the same coin. It is essential if the two people or more are to communicate effectively and understand one another. Everyone wants to be listened to, to hear her side of story.

One local proverb loosely translated says: You cannot pass judgment in an argument involving your son and daughter-in-law until you have listened to the daughter-in-law’s story.

  For doctors, psychotherapists, teachers, lawyers, journalists, listening is considered as a professional discipline. Not only do you listen to understand but you also listen to figure out what important narrative elements are being left out.

The psychologist Theodor Reik ( 1888- 1965) one of Freud’s first student in Vienna, Austria,  coined the phrase: Listening with a third ear. What he meant was that in a conversation you listen to hear and understand and then go beyond this to decipher the deeper emotional meaning being conveyed by the speaker. Listening by the third ear helps to detect unstated needs in a relationship that may have to be addressed. It helps the listener to think deeper and then give a useful response. It also teaches the listener to listen to her/his inner feelings thus awakening a deep understanding of things. Doing this consistently, makes you a better listener.I for one sometimes find myself closing  off in a conversation and then I remember  the first two lines

 of Max Ehrmann ‘s prose poem of the early 1920s entitled,  “Desiderata”- Things desired.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible , without surrender, be on

on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,

even to the dull and ignorant, they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,  they…………………………………………………….

These lines help me to collect my thoughts, refocus on what is being said and be considerate.

I have trained myself to listen to others as we talk and many times it has helped me understand clearly the issues at hand and the speaker. Understanding one another helps to change our attitude, to forgive one another and to love and trust one another better. Being considerate to one another and loving and trusting one another never allows us to hurt each other but instead we protect one another. Nobody wants problems.

We are all human therefore not perfect. Perfection is for God only. Effective communication has saved marriages, stopped unnecessary wars, brought factions back to the centre, and tamed difficult situations.

This is the power of a conversation.

Clay Shirky said, “When we change the way we communicate, we change society.”

QUESTION:

How easy is it for you to talk and listen to others?


THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING LATELY


I have been an avid reader as far as I can remember and then six years ago I recognized that I had potential for a writer. Reading books made me a citizen of the world long before Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn invented the global free Internet. Reading nourishes my soul and helps me to develop into a better person. In my attempt to become a remarkable writer, I have found myself focusing more on writing other than reading. It is not lost on me that all good writers are avid readers. A writer has to read, read and write to stay well informed, be relevant and remain useful to herself and to her readers. The writer’s creative works are works in progress. I write short stories, fiction novels and posts for my personal blog mainly to express what is beautiful and significant in my life.

As I read and write, I strive to find the truth, seek more knowledge, let go of illusions and false hopes. The more I read and write, the better I become as a writer. I am proud to admit that reading and writing are in my DNA. Whenever I take long to read a book, I feel as if there is something as essential as a Vitamin missing and I start craving for it.
This is what I have been reading lately:

  1. BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah. This is the autobiography of Trevor Noah, the South African comedian who moved to USA in 2011 and has been hosting The Daily Show on the American network Comedy Central since September 2015.The book is a in itself a comedy.
    It is an interesting read in that it tells you what it was like to be born in Apartheid South Africa and grow up in the post-Apartheid Republic. His existence as a mixed race child was a crime since he was born to a white Swiss-German father and a Xhosa mother. He neither fitted in his grandparent’s family in Soweto nor in the school in the white suburbs of north Johannesburg that he attended.

For anyone who has never understood what Apartheid stood for, you will see it face to face and even taste it. You will also understand how the hopes and dreams that the Black Africans expected to follow in the new democratic South Africa after April 1994 were shattered. The majority of Africans in Johannesburg and elsewhere still live in abject poverty and this drives the crime and violence in the country. However, there is an oasis of “ les nouveaux riches “, the affluent blacks, right in Johannesburg itself.

I take off my hat to Trevor’s mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo,for fighting against all the odds stacked against her to give her son quality education and being his solid pillar of strength. It is because of her determination, insight and love that Trevor is the host of a popular television show in USA. Every child needs a ‘ mother Nombuyiselo” to break the vicious cycle of poverty.

2.LIFE CODE by Dr. Phil McGraw- The New Rules For Winning In The Real World.
Many of us remember this psychologist on Oprah Winfrey’s Talk Show but later he went on to host his own Show: Dr. Phil Show. In Life Code, Dr.Phil is coaching you and your children on how to survive and thrive around the negative people , he calls BAITERs. These are Backstabbers, Abusers, Imposters, Takers, Exploiters, Reckless operating in the new digital technology –driven world. Much of the conventional wisdom of the last generation is no longer applicable in this fast moving world. We all have to learn fast and move fast so as to win and even keep what we have worked hard for.

In this competitive world, we are surrounded by many bad people who are only interested in self-preservation. My greatest pick from this book is that everything in life is a negotiation and therefore I have to master the art of negotiation to thrive in the real world. I first read this book in 2016 and have endeavored to read it many times over. Since then, I have had to encourage myself to learn how to haggle, bargain and to become tough and smart.

Learning to negotiate for my best interests protects me from becoming a victim in this radically changed world. I cannot afford to be soft in a tough world. He helped me understand that I have to negotiate every day of my life so I have to stand for myself and that negotiation is not about cheating but about give-and-take. I can win when I start off by knowing what I want for myself and then what the other on wants. He has succeeded in instilling it in me that Life changes every day, demanding renegotiation in many situations.

I would recommend the young and the old to read this book many times over as you run the marathon of life while focused on getting to the end.

3.CHERIE BLAIR. Speaking for Myself. This is the autobiography of Mrs. Blair, the wife of Tony Blair, a former Prime Minister of Britain( 1997-2007 ).She rises from a childhood in working –class Liverpool, where she was abandoned by her father, to become a barrister, a mother of four and a supporter of many charities. She becomes a positive role model for many women.

By the time her husband becomes Prime Minister, she is a successful barrister in her own right, speaking for the voiceless majority. Many career women would relate to her as she juggles motherhood, a career and supporting her husband to govern.

The establishment had never had to work with a prime minister’s wife who had her own career. This created a difficult relationship between her and the media. I loved it whenever she put her foot down when she felt that she was doing the right thing for herself and her family. Over time, it dawned on her that she was not going to be Super Woman- doing everything. She chose to focus on her most important roles of being a wife, mother and the most solid pillar of support for her husband. Her religion and sense of humour saw her through many dicey situations.

Many times, her opinion or advice were disregarded just because she was a woman. She gave herself permission not to remain anonymous like the majority of wives of the civil servants in UK. She created a role for herself and made herself useful by getting involved in the work of many charities like Breast Cancer Care and Nazareth Home, an HIV/AIDS orphanage in South Africa. She was part of the team for the Olympic bid for London in 2012. She exploited her position and influence to make a difference to many lives.
She organized the wives of the former British Prime ministers to write their experiences in Number 10 Downing Street. Later,these memoirs were compiled and published as The Goldfish Bowl book.

I saluted her for acknowledging that her success with her multiple roles in Number 10 Downing Street, was the collective effort of her hands-on husband and father, her mother, those who ran the place and her law practice. As an advocate who speaks out for others to improve, influence and stir people into action, she continues to be a good role model for girls and women alike.

QUESTIONS
Which books have you been reading lately? How have they influenced your life?

The Brain Function: Use It Or Lose It

This is a sequel to my last post entitled: Use It Or Lose It. Brain function is one of those things that deteriorate as one grows old. Watching my octogenarian mother struggle to play with the Rubik cube box , requiring skill and determination, made me think more about the age-related deterioration of brain function.

One renown expert , Dr. Michael Merzenich Ph.D. of Scientific Learning Corporation in Oakland , California has made numerous studies in brain function. He tells us that this age-related functional decline can be reversed or be slowed down by engaging into mentally demanding activities. The mentally demanding activities include reading, solving hard crossword puzzles and playing brain games. They stimulate and challenge the brain unlike the simple mundane ones like walking to the neighbour’s or performing any task routinely.

He also informs us that by the age of 40, most of us are largely using the abilities we acquired early in life. We could be said to be operating in ‘automated pilot’ mode. We are doing things without being consciously engaged in what we are doing. As a result, gradually the brain function begins to slowly deteriorate. We become slow in action and slow in making decisions.

He reassures that we can reverse this functional decline by appropriate stimulation of the brain with new challenges. He therefore recommends that each one of us should engage in new learning all our lives by picking new hobbies or learning new skills altogether. After the age of fifty, it is essential that we maintain and improve brain function simply by keeping it mentally active. An active brain is a healthy brain. We do not have to wait to grow old to start playing the recommended mentally demanding activities; the earlier we start the better.
Proverbs 19 verse 27 warns us that : If you stop learning, you will forget what you already know.

I for one have started seeing the changes in bits and pieces: how fast I remember names, how fast I make decisions but have found the following activities extremely useful:
• Reading- I have been a voracious reader since the age of six. I read for fun then read for knowledge.
As a medical doctor I read a lot to acquire new knowledge, to remember what I already know but in my leisure time I read for fun. The Internet has increased access to reading materials to many of us.

I also make time to read my Bible every morning.
I can say that this is the best time to be an avid reader. Reading helps me to concentrate, and engages my brain fully as I follow the characters through the story. It also improves my fluency in the language.

• Writing- I would have cheated the literary world if I just read others’ books or blogs all this long.
I had to contribute to something which has given me so much joy and knowledge. I have published two fiction novels, several short stories and I am working on several of them at the moment. I have been running a personal blog since October 2016. I wanted to share my wealth of experiences and impact other people’s lives for the better.

I always research what I write about so this opens me up for more reading and acquisition of knowledge. I have made lifelong learning a priority.Posting articles regularly on my personal blog teaches me the discipline of remaining consistent.
As I write, I am fully engaged and my mind is taken off everyday worries. I am alone with myself so it helps me to decompress and unwind too.

• Crossword Puzzles- I usually solve the crossword puzzles in the daily newspapers that I read and those in the magazines I buy regularly. I have been doing this for a long time but while researching about crosswords I noted with great interest that the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World newspaper in December 1913!

As I try to solve the puzzle, I am fully engaged and focused on what I am doing. The hardest puzzles are the most engaging and challenging. Completing such a crossword puzzle gives me a sense of satisfaction. The feeling causes the brain to release the ‘feel good factor’ known as Dopamine , in several areas in the brain. It is the Dopamine which makes us happy and motivated as we go through life. Small jobs and achievements throughout the week naturally keep up my Dopamine levels. Low levels of Dopamine are associated with feelings of apathy, depression and low energy.

Of late I am trying to solve the number game called SUDOKU. It is hard but it exercises my brain immensely and has improved my memory and my number skills.

Dr. Merzenich‘s team of top scientists has developed some brain games to improve the brain function. You can look them up at BrainHQ. Playing them regularly sharpens the brain and as a result you think faster, focus better and remember more. Who would not want to remember more? I am at the beginner’s level but just like any learned skill, the more you practice, the better you become.

Next time I have a full house, I will dust off Chess , the board game. It is an engaging game that demands total concentration and intense focus. It tests your memory too.
Mark Twain said: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.’’
And Thomas Fuller said: “We all forget, more than we remember.”

QUESTIONS:
How fast are you at making decisions or remembering things?

Has this post fired you up to pick some mentally challenging games like Chess?