The Invasion of the Digital Babysitter

The Invasion of the Digital Babysitter

It Was a Dark and Stormy Digital Babysitter Night

Two rainy nights ago, I was treated to an interesting “incident” at a fancy restaurant in town. Even on a rainy Friday night diners entered the restaurant in droves. Inside the restaurant, I was seated adjacent to a family of four and a digital babysitter. Not one, but two digital babysitters.


A bespectacled man in his mid-thirties sat next to a boy of 10. Seated opposite the boy was her sister. Next to her, sat their mother, stoically dissecting a dead animal on her plate. 


For a packed restaurant on a rainy Friday night, this table is extremely quiet. Man in glasses had no expression on his face as he stared at the screen of his mobile phone. The kids had their eyes trained on their digital babysitter Ipads. Both Ipads were tuned to the same cartoon clip on a Youtube channel.


The kids’ eyes gazed intensely at the screens while mechanically shoved food into their mouths. This went on for the entire evening. The only sounds coming from this table was the abrupt laughter of the boy. Not unlike a mental patient on a psychotic break, the boy became hysterical each time the character on screen jab at his nemesis with a sharp object.


The Rise of the Digital Babysitter.

I observed that 80% of the children in the room has a tablet. Meanwhile, the grown-ups go about their food and social chatter. This may seem trivial to most onlookers but for social scientists, this is a field day.


According to a 2011 survey by marketing research firm Nielsen, 55% of parents use tablets to keep children quiet while they are driving. 41% of parents admit that they let their kids play with tablet PCs at restaurants.


A child’s continual exposure to the digital screen may result in health, mobility and psychological issues. Prolonged screen exposure may lead to poor social skills, depression and the inability to empathize later in life.


Psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman states that children in the UK will have accumulated an entire year’s worth of screen time by age 7.


He suggests that prolonged screen time will affect the production of dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for reward-driven learning. This can lead to reductions in attention span and the ability to pay attention.




Professor Lynne Murray, a developmental psychopathology expert, advocates zero screen time for children under the age of three. Although digital contents may be attention grabbing they are not appropriate for a child’s cognitive processes.



Is there a Question in Our Digital Babysitter Future?

English film critic and television presenter, Claudia Winkleman (ironically, she does not own a TV) criticized parents who spend their time on the internet or watching TV instead of talking with their children.


She warned that this obsession with technology is detrimental to their children:

“The children of the future will be in therapy going, ‘I never talked to my mum and dad as they were always online’ ”.


If this digital nanny trend continues, my work as a therapist will soon involve a new generation of clients with “digital gadget-related” issues. The UK Daily Mail had already cited Nomophobia as the biggest phobia in the world right now. Check out what this irrational fear is all about on The Phobia List


In a time where digital device is a norm and privacy a thing of the past, do ponder upon the impacts of the digital media on the next generation. Just imagine a toddler navigating an Ipad deftly with her fingers while her parents enjoys dinner with a sigh of relief.


Thank God for technology. Or not?

The Day Kobe Bryant Walked Away From The Game

The Day Kobe Bryant Walked Away From The Game

Two decades ago, the world witnessed a scrawny kid from Lower Merion High School, Philadelphia said in a cocky tone, “I’ve decided to skip college and take my talent to the NBA”. That high school kid, Kobe Bryant, is now 37 years of age and about to play his final game. 


Kobe Bryant, number 24, aka The Black Mamba, this is a tribute to you on your final game.


Because you have decided to call it a day.  To ride off into the sunset. And begin a new life sans basketball.



Kobe Bryant – One Last Time On the Court

13.04.16 @ The Staples Center, Los Angeles.


The very last time we are bedazzled by your on-court brilliance.  


The world salutes you and wishes you well.


Today, you will play your final game.


After this glorious day, the world probably will no longer be able to watch your wizardry on the parquet floor.


What remains forever are memories of your brilliance and greatness . . .



A Letter to Kobe Bryant: From a Legend to a Legend

And who better to pen a heartfelt farewell than our revered Hall of Famer Magic Johnson . . . 


Dear Kobe,

For 20 years, I’ve watched you dominate the game of basketball. From the Great Western Forum to the world famous Staples Center, you have dedicated your life to becoming one of the greatest players this game has ever seen. Through your commitment to success, outstanding work ethic, and winning attitude, each year you perfected your abilities beyond expectation.


You are an example to your teammates and fans all over the world through your extraordinary achievements on the court and extensive philanthropic efforts off the court. As a 5-time NBA champion, 18-time NBA All-Star, NBA MVP and 2-time Finals MVP, you led your team by example and showed them how to achieve greatness. As a 15-time member of the All-NBA Teams, and a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Teams you continued to over-deliver, but it didn’t stop there. You earned the 2nd greatest scoring performance in the NBA with 81 points in a single game and became 3rd on the NBA All-Time scoring list, forever etching your name in NBA History.


Every night you played, I couldn’t wait to watch knowing that I would witness an unbelievable shot or move that I had never seen on the court. I marveled at the skills and loved the energy you brought to the game wearing that purple and gold uniform. You never disappointed the city, Laker fans, and basketball fans worldwide. All you cared about was winning games and championships and that’s why so many people love you.


You will join a legendary list of Laker greats and Hall of Famers. Their jerseys hang proudly from the rafters in Staples Center and soon yours will shine next to them; from Gail Goodrich, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy and Shaquille O’Neal.


Very few people have changed the game of basketball but you will be recognized as one of them alongside my “Dream Team” teammates, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.


I’ve enjoyed every minute of your career. Thanks for all the fantastic memories. There will never be another Kobe Bryant!



Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises



Epilogue: A Storybook Ending

It was a storybook ending indeed.


In a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz, this is Kobe Bryant’s final stat line:

42 minutes played, shot 22-50 from the field, shot 6-21 from 3-point range, made 10-12 free throws, pulled down 4 rebounds, tallied 4 assists, had 1 steal and 1 block.


He had 60 points. That sums up his 1,346th regular season game. And Kobe Bryant rides off into the sunset with 33,643 career points. A fitting way to close out his storied 20-season NBA career.


Thank you for the memories, Kobe Bean Bryant. Happy retirement. We are going to miss you.

The Presence of Mind: Lessons from the Exploding Kitchen

The Presence of Mind: Lessons from the Exploding Kitchen

Yesterday, I botch my cooking and burned the kitchen down.


Well, I did botch my cooking but the kitchen didn’t burn down. I only wished it did because botch cooking is something I cannot accept. It only means one thing for me.  


I didn’t have the presence of mind. The absence of a presence of mind can literally burn the kitchen down. Like the recent kitchen explosion caused by a waitress who was paying more attention to her phone than her surroundings.    



What is Presence of Mind?

The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of the presence of mind is:

“Self-control so maintained in an emergency or in an embarrassing situation that one can say or do the right thing”  


Which aptly described the action of the careless woman in the youtube video.  


Presence of mind means you are able to focus your attention on your inner thoughts and simultaneously let go of past or future worries.    



What is the Deal with The Presence of Mind?

So what’s the deal with the presence of mind that I am spending a whole blog post ranting and raving about?  


Because, as you can see in the youtube video, it could cost you your life. If you are a samurai in feudal Japan and you have no presence of mind, you may very well end up being cut into two by your opponent.  


It happened to me on numerous occasions during kendo (Japanese fencing) practice where a split second distraction resulted in the bamboo sword of my opponent landing hard on my head. Ouch! Just for trying to recall if I had wind up my car window in the parking lot (or not).  


The existence of digital gadgets, social media and internet 24/7 is making it increasingly difficult to cultivate the presence of mind. Seems like everyone who is hooked on a smartphone is now suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).      




How Does One Attain Presence of Mind?

The following story serves as a good example of the presence of mind in our day to day living:  


One day, the master was watching a practice session in the courtyard. One of his younger student caught his attention. He observed that the presence of the other students was interfering with the young student’s attempts to perfect his technique.


Sensing the young student’s frustration, the master went up to the young man and tapped him on his shoulder.


“What’s the problem?” he inquired.


“I don’t know”, said the youth, with an exasperated look.


“No matter how much I try, I am unable to execute the moves properly”.


“Before you can master the technique, you must understand what harmony means. Come with me, I will explain”, replied the master.


The teacher led his student into the woods until they came upon a stream. The master stood silently on the bank for several moments. Then he spoke.


“Look at the stream,” he said. “There are rocks in its way. Does it slam into them out of frustration? It simply flows over and around them and moves on! Be like the water and you will know what harmony is.”


The young man took the master’s advice to heart. Soon, he was barely noticing the other students around him. Nothing could come in his way of executing the most perfect moves.


Get into the habit of focusing your attention on your inner thoughts and let go of your present worries.


Practice this daily.  


I had to throw away what I cooked because while cooking my thoughts were elsewhere. At that moment I wasn’t being in the moment. I was NOT present and thus my cooking was ruined.  


If I were a samurai in feudal Japan, That would mean I would have died a thousand deaths . . .

The Zen of No Mind (or How to Live Happily in the Present)

The Zen of No Mind (or How to Live Happily in the Present)

I once blew an all expense paid for overseas vacation. Because while physically on vacation, I was worried about my work and a thousand other things. My mind was jammed. Back then, I knew nothing about the Zen of No Mind.


Do you live in the present or ruminate about what’s past?  


How often are you in a state of stillness and calm?


Or are you often in a state of worrying about the future?



The Zen of No Mind

Are often overwhelmed by errant thoughts? You will find that instead of undertaking thoughts in awareness you let those errant thoughts control you. Do you think about that dream vacation while at work? And when you finally on your dream vacation, you begin to fret about the documents piling up in your “IN” tray.  


You may find yourself stuck too deep in the rat race to have time to audit your thoughts. Most of the time, it is your wandering minds that distract you, create worries and put you into numerous sticky situations. All these incessant chatter inside your mind are known as monkey chatter.  


An effective way for you to get rid of all the monkey chatter from your mind is the practice of Mushin no shin [無心の心]. Zen Practitioners call it “mind without mind”. I call it The Zen of No Mind.  



The State of No Mind

You can make the choice of not being stuck and overwhelmed and you can increase your effectiveness in your daily life by practicing the Zen of No Mind. It is also the key to personal growth, health and your ability to relate well with others and your environment.  


When you are in the state of no mind, you are not fixated on one thought or emotion. You are in a state of mind where you “think without thinking”. The practice of no mind means developing flow, keeping the mind serene, blocking out distractions.


You can compare your state of no mind to a pond which merely reflects its environment and the trees around it. When your mind is presented with a distraction, it is similar to the distortion of the pond’s reflections by waves and ripples.


When your mind is free from conscious thought, judgments, ideas, negative emotions (anger and fear or ego) and concerns of past or the future, that is the moment where you attain the state of no mind. In this instance, your mind exists purely “in the moment”. And you experience a state of mental clarity, awareness and enhanced perception.



So, How Do You Achieve the State of No Mind?

Martial artists are the most fervent practitioners of Mushin no shin. Martial artists practice moves until it can be performed without thinking. This is the state of no mind.


Your thinking inhibits action. When you concentrate on the here and the now, concentrate with an empty mind rather than thinking about here and now. Do not let the words “no mind” confuse you. It does not mean empty mind like an empty shell. It means letting go of your fears, worries, and distractions. Let your mind be fully present, aware and free.


A good way of practicing no mind is being in a relaxed meditative state while doing mundane daily activities like washing dishes, mowing the lawn or doing the laundry. Physical and mental tasks will seem like a breeze. Your mind becomes intuitive and reacts naturally to whatever comes along instead of thinking of what is happening next.


Takuan Sōhō, a priest in feudal Japan who applied Zen principles to swordsmanship wrote:


Takuan Soho


In my practice of no mind, I always keep in my mind what my sensei had taught me about sparring with an opponent during Kendo practices: go into combat with the mindset that you are already dead.


Within the Way of the Warrior tradition of ancient Japanese is the mindset that a samurai warrior must always be prepared to die. This is a samurai’s best chance of attaining Mushin no shin, for his life depends on it.


Embrace the Zen of No Mind and live happily ever after. In the present moment . . .

The 0.1 Second that Determines Your First Impression and Likeability

The 0.1 Second that Determines Your First Impression and Likeability

It only takes 0.1 seconds to create a first impression.


That’s right. 0.1 seconds


That means making the first impression is almost instantaneous.


Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. Oftentimes non-verbal communication (body language, speech pattern, facial gestures and physical appearance) hits the subconscious mind faster in a subtle, unintentional and unconscious mannerAccording to Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, people respond to faces faster than the formation of rational thought.



There’s No Second Chance at Making a Great First Impression

In my previous post I briefly mentioned that our brains run on auto pilot when it pertains to making judgments. This is more apparent when we meet someone for the first time. In fact, your first impression leaves a deep imprint on the people you met for the first time. On subsequent meetings, it is often used as a yardstick for all future communications.


Hence, the (lasting) first impression you want to portray will have to be intentional and on purpose. You need to put your act together real fast. Judgments based on facial appearance play a powerful role in how we treat others, and how we get treated.


Intentionally create the desired effects of unintentional signals entering the subconscious minds of the people you are about to meet. The way you project your body language and physical appearance determine how you will be perceived by every person who meets you.  


There’s no second chance when it comes to making a great first impression.    



Make Every First Impression Count 

“We judge books by their covers, and we can’t help but do it. As soon as one sees another person, an impression is formed. This happens so quickly — just a small fraction of a second — that what we see can sometimes dominate what we know” said Nicholas Rule (Ph.D.) of the University of Toronto.


Since you can’t avoid being perceived, the next best thing is to be perceived in a positive manner. Here are some steps you can take to help you get hired for a job, have a successful first date and make lots of friends at social settings:


1  Pay extra detail to your appearance
How you look should not matter as much as your personality. Unfortunately appearance matters. Especially when it comes to making a first impression.

Thus, to be appropriately dressed according to the occasion is important. If you have doubts about dress codes, remember that being overdressed is better than being underdressed.

Check for clothing stains, chipped nails, excessively oily hair and any form of ‘unkemptness’. When you take pride in your appearance, it gives the impression that you value yourself and have confidence.


2  Pay attention to your non-verbal communication
Your body language communicates volumes about you without you being aware of it. Harvard Business School Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that by you changing your body positions, you can change how others perceive you.

According to Amy, who had studied first impressions for more than 15 years, first impressions are formed based on two key criteria – warmth and competence.

To establish that you are a warm and trustworthy person – have an open and approachable posture, establish pleasant eye contact and exude a genuine smile. And refrain from bone-crushing handshakes.


3  Be mindful of your thoughts
Be aware of the first impression you want to create. Your thought must be aligned with your actions and intentions. When you are congruent, your internal feelings and thoughts are in harmony with your actual experience of the world around you.

If you have critical and judgmental thoughts, your goal of being perceived as warm and approachable will fail because you are incongruent and conflicted.


4  Focus on others
Pay more attention to the person you are communicating with and place less focus on yourself. Ask genuine questions and be sincere about being interested in them. He or she will sense your sincerity and genuine interest in them.



Why First Impressions Matter

Impressions other people make of us are based on mental representations. These are mental imagery which may involve hearing, sight, taste or smell. Within a fraction of a second of an initial meeting, their brain starts to search for hints (physical appearance, speech pattern, non-verbal cues) to form an impression.


First impressions are crucial because they tend to be long lasting and indelible. You will not get a second chance to create the first impression.


First impressions are created in 0.1 seconds. That’s LESS than a split second.


Make it count.

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