I’ve been depressed. You?

I’ve been depressed.

Telling you this will blow my chances of running for president, but what the hell: I have been clinically depressed for the last two years. It’s a form of going crazy. I lost interest in my work, stopped blogging and taking photos. I became a near-hermit. 

dogI want to share my experiences with you so that if the black dog visits you or one of your friends, you’ll recognize it for what it is and take appropriate action. No one deserves to go through life feeling shitty and that’s precisely what depression can do to you. Everything is gloomy. Nothing seems worthwhile. Yet this condition is treatable.

Before going on, let me explain that I am no longer depressed. Hallelujah! I have found my cure and have returned to my normal jovial set-point. Let’s grab a beer sometime.

How do you recognize depression? Lots of us are sad. Pollsters tell us more than half of all workers are disengaged. Many jobs are gone forever; PhDs are pouring the lattes at Starbucks. DoD is in an intractable war with Muslims. The maw between rich and poor widens daily. Technology has accelerated the business cycle into a frenzied pace few can maintain. There’s plenty of sadness to go around.

Depression is more than sadness, however. It doesn’t have a target. It’s irrational and self-destructive. When my last episode came on two years ago, I could sense pulling down the shades on optimism. I was slower, weaker, and lacked energy and the ability to focus. It was physical (the juices in my head) and mental (the belief-set that controls my interpretation of the world).

The acid test: Do you think of taking your life? If you think yes, go to the doctor. Get help. You’re depressed. Or maybe you have a suppressed anxiety disorder (I did.) These two often go hand in hand. Happily, both get better with the same treatment. You’ll recognize you’re getting better when suicide disappears as an option.

My neurologist will tell you that depression is a neurological condition. No amount of trying hard and talk therapy is going to change it, any more than they’ll heal broken bones. Here, take these blue pills and if that doesn’t work, we have some yellow ones. Of course, it makes sense to follow general principles of good health: get enough sleep and exercise.

My cognitive behavioral psychologist tells our therapy group that drugs are largely ineffective. This is psychological condition. Emotions are the products of thinking. Get your thinking straight and your feelings will follow. Let’s look at what’s really going on. Got that? Say it back to me.

Stanford’s David Burns is the author of Feeling Good and cognitive behavioral therapy’s leading advocate. Watch this video not only to understand Burns’ work but to cry your eyes out at the surprise ending.

A few months ago the cloud of doom lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer eternally bummed out. The depression was fading away. 

I dropped out of the therapy group which was beginning to wear on my nerves by this point anyway. Then the psychologist and I agreed I no longer needed his treatment.

My restoration to normalcy is the result of a lot of people, a lot of reading, and a lot of pushing the boulder up the hill. However, I attribute 95% of my change in mood to drugs.

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During an episode similar to this twenty years ago, Prozac did nothing for me but Zoloft restored me for years. Two years ago, I re-tried Zoloft but had grown immune to it.

The doctor and I dropped into a rhythm of taking a few weeks to build up to a proper dose of a drug, try it long enough to know it’s not working, then take a few more weeks to wean and clean out the system for the next round. Again and again and again.

In the last four years, I’ve been prescribed these drugs for depression and/or ADHD.

  • Wellbutrin
  • Straterra
  • Nuvigil
  • Zoloft
  • Effexor
  • Latuda
  • Abilify
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • Adderall
  • Provigil
  • Brintellix
  • Vibryd
  • L-Tyosin
  • Selegiline
  • Sertaline
  • Venlafxine

None of them did anything positive. Zilch! I was running low on hope after years of fruitless drug testing, but I remembered how Zoloft had once turned my life around.

“There’s one more drug to try,” said my neurologist. “It’s rarely used these days but it was actually the first anti-depressant. It can interact with your diet, for instance you can’t eat fermented foods. It’s called Monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAO-I.

Wikipedia reports:

Because of potentially lethal dietary and drug interactions, monoamine oxidase inhibitors have historically been reserved as a last line of treatment, used only when other classes of antidepressant drugs (for example selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants) have failed.[2] New research into MAOIs indicates that much of the concern over their dangerous dietary side effects stems from misconceptions and misinformation, and that despite proven effectiveness of this class of drugs, it is underutilized and misunderstood in the medical profession.[3] New research also questions the validity of the perceived severity of dietary reactions, which has historically been based on outdated research.[4]

The reason most of the restrictions on diet are bunk is that MAOIs can now be delivered with a patch, thus bypassing the liver. The current regulations were set for pills, not patches.

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Every evening I peel off the old patch, leaving a red mark behind for a day or two. I apply a new one to the other arm. Every morning I awake with a smile. This stuff works for me.

PatientsLikeMe has reports from people who have used these various drugs. What works wonders for one person sends the next screaming to the toilet.

My message for depression sufferers is to keep trying. The latest research recommends trying both drug and CBT treatment as well as community activity. See what works for you.

We who have wrestled the black dog seriously are sort of a secret society. Lots of people I’ve talked to begin with, “Yeah, when I was going through that….” All are open to helping one another. There’s camaraderie among people who have been there. Ask for advice. You’ll be surprised at how commonplace this is.

Enterprise Learning & Digital Transformation

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Enterprise Learning takes learning beyond the training department into the overall extended enterprise, the “Workscape.” It’s a breakout that’s happening throughout organizations as they embrace digital technology.

Enterprise Learning is the learning component of Digital Transformation, defined by Altimeter Group as:

The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.

Nine out of ten companies sampled by Altimeter are engaged in one or more digital transformation practices:

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These efforts are being championed by the Chief Marketing Officer, the CEO, and occasionally the CIO. The digital makeover has yet to reach HR. It’s time for that to change.

Erik Brynjolfsson, professor at MIT’s Center for eBusiness has identified seven practices of highly productive firms that have embraced digital transformation. They closely parallel the advice Internet Time Alliance gives to companies adopting an Enterprise Learning approach:

  • Converting traditional analog processes to digital processes.
  • Distributing decision rights and empowering line workers, through increased decentralization and delegation
  • Adopting a policy of free information access and communication
  • Offering strong performance-linked incentives
  • Maintaining corporate focus and communicating strategic goals
  • Recruiting and hiring top-quality employees and committing the necessary resources to the process.
  • Strong emphasis on the investment of “human capital”

L&D will do well to seek out and partner with those in their organization who champion digital transformation and are running active experiments. If the CEO and CMO are gung-ho, it may be beneficial to ride into the digital era on their coattails.

What do you think? Shouldn’t digital learning transformation, i.e. Enterprise Learning, ally with corporate digerati already implementing new initiatives?

 

Jon Kabat Zinn

I bailed out of the Wisdom 2.0 conference Main Stage events yesterday afternoon and missed the opportunity to see Jon Kabat Zinn, whom I only know from his books and tapes: Jon is a god. I revere him. He moves mountains. So I was elated to find this recording of his presentation this morning.

The Good: Jon takes us into meditation, overviews the global mindfulness phenomenon, gives a characteristic uplifting message and call to action, gets you in a mood to finally start meditating daily, challenges you to be present and know what you are doing. It’s enchanting.

The Bad:
It’s 41 minutes long. I am one of Jon’s true believers. I struggled to keep up with Jon’s mile-a-minute wisdom. You may want to sample. Cut him off every now and again for a breather. Here are my as of the moment notes. Good luck deciphering; think of it as meditation.
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Wisdom 2.0: Mindfulness and business

Wisdom 2.0 Conference, San Francisco, February 27 – March 1.w21

Billed as “the intersection of wisdom and technology,” the Wisdom 2.0 conference drew 2,500 people who spent $625 for two and a half days of secular Buddhism.

I am interested in the interaction of mindfulness and business. Mindfulness – the opposite of mindlessness – is a natural component of Working Smarterw2-2

I generally sit in the front row at conferences. You can see better and often get to schmooze with speakers. But this time I opted for…w2-11

…the bean bag chairs in front of the front row. I spent most of the main stage sessions on my back, Mac balanced on my knees.

w2-5When I got tired of the main sessions, I’d head to Inspiration Village.

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Part of the Village was set up as summer camp. Let’s play.

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In the hallway outside, four Tibetan monks made an elaborate sand mandala. w2-10

Jack Kornfeld seemed so authentic and emotion-laden, not what I expected from a meditation leader. “Quiet your mind.”

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Richard Davidson spoke on Well-being as a Skill. He reported on progress in neuroscience, a field that has come a long way in 20 years. What’s important?

  • neuroplasticity. need to intentionally cultivate it. take advantage to if.
  • genomics. epigenetics: how genes are expressed. can change this through experience. eights hours of practice is enough to change the brain. had thought brain was fixed.
  • bidirectional highway between mind and body. how alterations in the body will feedback back to the brain. data are clear. cultivating well being will change the brain in ways that change the body.
  • we come into the world with innate basic goodness. Animals demonstrate basic goodness as well.

Well being is a skill. You can get better at it.

47% go through life without thinking about what they’re doing.They report as unhappy.

Which kinds of people need which type of practice?

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Sherry Turkle, advocate of face-to-face communications, ironically the only person to use PowerPoint, had this unscientific view of artificial reality. The slide drew applause.

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Eileen Fisher advised us all to shut our eyes and take a deep breath. She rang finger cymbals to bring us back.16065114033_26cc9aa59b_z

Eileen has a daily practice. At age 64, she feels more energetic than twenty years ago. Her aim: to feel totally in my body.

Her employees take two days a year for spiritual retreats.

Blackrock, at $4.7 trillion and 12,000 employees, is the world’s largest asset manager. They’ve popularized meditation sessions 30 minutes, taking place in conference rooms around the world. Employees receive weekly emails with tips. Mindfulness is a topic at leadership off sites.

How do we bridge the gap between mindfulness and business?

Starbucks is the “perfect environment for exploring mindfulness.”

Their mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

(see mission statement)

100% said the campaign was very effective. Partners are hungry for mindfulness. Able to make it real, mesh authentically with others.

Barristas love it. It’s taking a life of its own. Bubbles up, organic.

16477779127_836797b6dc_zNeed a break? Visit the Meditation Studio.

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Flashing lights and booming noises didn’t help me meditate. For $249, you can try it for yourself.16498921319_1ce0164f4d_z

BuHaGirl, which appears to make yoga bangles, was a major sponsor and had an exotic tent set up in the Inspiration Village.16065117023_24fd67b993_z

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The Mandala nears completion.

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Googler Chang-Meng Tan

Born at Google and based on brain science, SIY uses the practices of mindfulness to train Emotional Intelligence skills, leading to resilience, positive mindset, and centered leadership. In the midst of complexity, it’s about finding the inner capacity to create, to thrive, to lead. And it’s surprisingly fun. Backed by some of the world’s leading experts in neuroscience and mindfulness, SIY is changing thousands of lives in over a dozen countries.

With that vision in mind, Meng connected with Daniel Goleman and Jon Kabat Zinn to develop a unique program for Google. He then assembled a team that included mindfulness teachers, business executives and scientists. The Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program was born and launched, refined and tested over four years at Google, where it is currently one of the most popular, impactful and highly rated programs focused on wellbeing and sustainable high-performance.
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Mindfulness in Business

“Once upon a time I was young….  I joined a startup called Google.”

Mindfulness day. Search Inside Yourself.

All leaders in the world are wise and compassionate, thus creating the conditions for world peace

Need to define wisdom + compassion.

Wisdom.

  • Clarity and insight to know what to do.
  • Calm mind. Leadership: the ability to think under fire.
  • Self-awareness. Seeing beyond self

Compassion.

  • Beautiful intentions (do no harm, ahimsa). Generosity.
  • Loving kindness. (The wish for others to be happy). Create inner joy. It’s born of kindness. 
  • Compassionate action.

All of these are born of mindfulness. Self as process.

Business at its best is about helping people.

The best leader makes the team shine. They practice wisdom, impersonate

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Video of the event is here.

Does mindfulness have a place in business? Not yet but it’s inevitable.

pendulumThe focus of business is shifting from Institutions to Individuals. Mindfulness helps individuals perform better — and be happier and more fulfilled.

Mindfulness shares many values with Working Smarter, digital transformation, social business, and Product Knowledge Mastery, for example openness, transparency, and self-determination.

Years ago, a professor named Herbert Benson wrote a book and a compelling article in Harvard Business Review on The Relaxation Response. He met with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Here’s the message: repeat a mantra; assume a passive attitude. A best seller in 1975, this Buddhism-without-the-Buddha book has faded from the scene but it leaves us a valuable lesson: putting the mantra in English makes the practice of meditation more acceptable to business people. (Benson’s medical school colleague had refused t meet with the maharishi.)

Mindfulness will go mainstream; it’s that essential a practice. I don’t think it’s going to win executive hearts and minds until we separate it from the Tibetan monks, BuDaGirl bracelets, and Patchouli oil.

Be a humanist

An intimate group of Fortune 50 CLOs invited me to talk with them about how to make the most of informal learning. Jane, Charles, Clark, Harold and I chatted at length. We came up with twenty-four suggestions which I’ll soon walk the CLOs through.

One piece of advice stood out for me as the crux of it all.

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That’s my personal view. I haven’t asked my The Internet Time Alliance buddies.

Working Smarter, January 2015

Top twenty posts on Working Smarter in January 2015.

Me and AT&T


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I’ve done this dance with the phone company too many times. We have history. My internet access, part of the AT&T Uverse bundle is spotty. A few weeks back, AT&T upgraded my service to Power (45Mbps) Internet. A technician installed a new modem/router to handle the increased bandwidth.

My net connection is unacceptable
Skype and Google+ and FaceTime start but soon crash; even audio-only fails to work. Sometimes I can’t even open my own sites, jaycross.com and internettime.com. Every now and then, gmail refuses to open or other sites come up with weird notices of time delays. It feels like somewhere along the line my connection is being throttled. I spent 90 minutes on the phone with Apple: they concluded that my Macs are functioning properly and that my wi-fi is working as it should. There seems to be some bottleneck between the router and the net. That part of the connection is the purview of AT&T.

Once bitten, twice shy
History tells me that I should expect to experience a lot of drama before I get the right prescription for a viable broadband connection.

pacbellI hope it’s not like a dozen years ago when I signed up for an early-adopter DSL connection. The AT&T data guys would come and mess with the box in the house and on the pole outside and get the net connection up. But the phone stopped working and the “Bellheads” would come by and curse the clueless data installers, and screw up the net connection. I endured this ping-pong of incompetence and perhaps sabotage for eighteen visits to my home and my inside wiring. I’ve seen the underbelly of AT&T.

sbcAt the time I reported on my struggle on this blog. People talk about “learning out loud.” Good concept. I believe in Living Out Loud. This is what customer service was like thirteen years ago.

My blog posts eventually got the attention of a SVP at AT&T and my problems were solved. He retired.

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I’ll keep track of my interactions with AT&T and others this time around, so bookmark this page if you want to see the follow-up.

Can you help me figure how to solve this? If you have advice, I will sincerely appreciate it.

I feel cut off from the world.

speedThis just in:

 

 

Chronology
Jan 19 – I called the technician, who’d kindly left me his business card. He said he’d look into it and get back to me. Jan 21 – I spoke with Thali in the Philippines. We changed the router channel to 10. I was able to Skype. However, just now my download speed is 6.56 and I can’t open several sites.

Ebbinghaus was a pessimist

ebbinghausMore than a hundred years ago, Hermann Ebbinghaus formulated the forgetting curve, which describes the relationship between memory and time. During a lecture, if your absorption rate is at 100 percent on day one, there is a 50-80 percent loss of learning from the second day onward, which is reduced to a retention rate of just 2-3 percent at the end of thirty days.

The forgetting curve is so unforgiving that if it applied to all learning, you’d question the value of investing time in learning at all. But Ebbinghaus’s findings don’t really apply to most learning situations.

Ebbinghaus measured the retention of random numbers. This is explicit knowledge. He learned by concentration, entirely on his own.

Ebbinghaus’s list of numbers to memorize don’t connect to anything else. Yet most learning is exactly that: connecting new concepts into existing frameworks.

Most learning comes from experience. I retain lessons learned in the company of doing things with others.

I wonder what the forgetting curve for tacit information looks like. I hope I can retain more than 3% of the lessons of experience I gain in concert with others.

Walking in nature once more

After brunch, I read part of Thoreau: Walk and Be More Present in Brain Pickings. This inspired me to get off my duff and take my first walk in nature this year. The heading of my chosen trail is a five-minute drive from my house.

This is Wildcat Canyon. My path is relatively flat; it runs along the western rim.

Wildcat Canyon is a protected regional park although cattle graze the slopes. I have a Boy Scout medal for walking along the bottom twenty years ago. It’s inspiring western scenery big enough to get lost in and it backs up to residences built right on the property line.

Back in history, the De Anza Party missed finding San Francisco Bay on their first expedition because they were walking in Wildcat Canyon. You can see the Bay from the end of the trail I’m walking. So near and yet so far.

Thank you, Henry David Thoreau for rekindling my walking spirit.