Join me on a trip to London, Paris, and Rome

Experience the joy of travel

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list. Susan Sontag

According to travel guru Rick Steves, 80 percent of Americans do not hold a passport. That’s sad, because international travel provides some of life’s greatest experiences. And, travel is more affordable and convenient than ever before.

Please join me on an historic visit to the three greatest cities in the world—London, Paris, and Rome. (As an added bonus, we’ll also visit Florence, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Gibraltar; Toulon, France; and Lisbon, Portugal.) We’ll spend 16 wonderful days together October 18-November 2, 2018.

It’s been said that one of the joys of traveling is not only where you go but who you go with and who you meet along the way. This tour group will be limited to 40 interesting ladies and gentlemen who travel well—friends of mine who enjoy exploring great places.

In the past ten years I’ve led groups of friends on annual trips to Paris, London, the Mediterranean, Baltic States, Russia, and North Africa. We’ve never had a malfunction or bad experience; just memorable, life-enhancing moments. I think often of these international experiences:

• Picnicking on cheese and wine on a Swiss hillside

• Gaining access to a special room full of famous paintings at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia

• Watching a snake charmer lure a snake out of its basket in Marrakesh, Morocco

• Sharing a meal with friends in Palermo

• Touring a spice market in New Delhi

Travel takes time and money, but it’s worth the investment. You’ll be stretched and challenged, and you’ll learn more about the world in which you live and the life you live in the world. I hope you’ll consider joining me.

Here’s more information about the trip Tale of Three Cities.

Question: Interested in going on the trip? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The placebo effect

A placebo, most often used in drug studies, is used in clinical trials to test the effectiveness of treatments. For instance, people in one group get the drug being tested, while the control group receive a fake drug, or placebo, that they think is the real thing. This way, the researchers can measure if the drug truly works by comparing how both groups react. If they both have the same reaction — improvement or not — the drug is deemed ineffective. [Harvard Health Publications, May, 2017]

A familiar example is putting a Band-Aid on a child. It can make the child feel better though there is no medical reason it should. Patients suffering from depression have reported that they feel better after taking a new anti-depressant though all they ingested was an inert substance.

This is well-known information.

But here’s some recent information that takes this conversation to a new level.

A recent study conducted by the Harvard Medical School suggests that deception may not be necessary for the placebo effect to occur; a placebo may work its magic even when people know they are taking a pill filled with nothing but a saline solution.

For instance, a writer went to see his physician because he was having panic attacks which then caused writer’s block. The doctor gave him a bottle of pills marked “placebo” and even told the patient that the pills contained no drugs, but to take two pills when he started feeling anxious. It worked.

What are we to make of this? Are we humans inordinately and pathetically subject to our psyche? Is it manipulative to offer humans a placebo type solution?

It is a deep subject for my shallow mind, but here are my thoughts.

Perhaps you can give yourself a placebo by engaging in known and verified self-help methods. Eat right, exercise, meditate, spend quality time with healthy people, pray—these actions will help you mentally, emotionally and physically, perhaps even beyond their obvious and true benefit.

When others are hurting or distressed, offer emotional support and physical companionship. Play the part of the “Band-Aid.” Or, give them a multivitamin and tell them it’s a rare drug recently approved by the FDA (just kidding).

Readers, I could use your help on this topic. What do you think?

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Perception vs reality

Plus - 12 best books I read last year - book 3 of 12

Be careful how you interpret the world, it is like that.
Eric Heller

Perception is reality.

I have always resisted this thought, though I believe it is true, though it is not.

Reality is immutable so our perception of it should be immaterial. (Thinking that an apple is an orange doesn’t change the molecular structure of the apple.) And yet, each of us comprehends and interprets reality through our personal, unique lenses. We often mistake our perception for reality.

Sometimes, we may see a small and accurate facet of reality but it is incomplete, which leads to correct but limited perceptions. [The Blind Men and the Elephant parable illustrates this conundrum.]

How can we negotiate this tenacious fallacy?

1. As you relate to other people, constantly remind yourself of how pervasive the perception vs reality challenge is, and try to manage it.

Anticipate how things may be perceived by others and try to present them clearly so that reality has a chance to prevail. Try to understand how people are perceiving things so that you can correct misconceptions.

2. Don’t let your perceptions define your reality.

Douglas Adams reminds us that “Everything you see or hear or experience is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” Continually scrutinize your thoughts and convictions in order to verify their veracity. Pursue truth; avoid and forsake a mere perception of the truth. As Daniel Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

3. Leaders, this topic underscores how challenging it is to communicate well.

When communicating to your stake holders, always assume that you are not as good at communicating as you think you are.

Tom Peters writes, “The biggest problem with leadership communication is the illusion that it has occurred. A 2002 survey of 1,104 business professionals showed that while 86% of their leaders feel that they are great communicators, only 17% believe their leaders are, indeed, effective communicators.”

Good communication will help align perception with truth.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

12 best books I read last year – book 3 of 12

In The Kingdom of Ice – The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette – Hampton Sides

In 1879 a ship set sail from San Francisco. Her crew hoped to be the first humans to reach the North Pole. This story is a testimony to the incredible perseverance embedded in the human psyche. Click here for more information from Amazon.

It’s never too late to chart a new course

One of the most encouraging things about life is that at any time we can decide to change and chart a new course. Life is like a book with many chapters; as the author, you can start a new chapter at anytime.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how deeply embedded you are in your current modus operandi. You can always choose a new direction. Where you’ve been need not determine where you go.

Sometimes in life we slowly and unwittingly drift into an undesirable place, or sometimes life changes around us and we don’t adjust to it. We find ourselves severely out of sync. Often our poor choices place us in jeopardy.

Regardless of why we’re displaced or out of kilter, we can remedy the situation. Making major changes is hard, but doable. It takes courage and grit.

  • Terminate an abusive relationship.
  • Start a new career.
  • Stop a bad habit or start a good one.
  • Decide to be more positive, or punctual, or kind.
  • Pray more.

You’ll probably need help; it’s difficult to negotiate major changes on your own. But you must initiate the new direction and be the driving force behind it. No one else is responsible for your turnaround, but many will assist.

When you’re ready to move to a better place and future, think carefully about, and take, that first step. Think about where you want to go and then take a baby-step forward, then another, and another. The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step, so the first step is very important – both for direction and momentum.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is today. A year from now you’ll wish you had started today. Start today.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.