Archive for May, 2011

Trouble finding the right career? Answer this question.

May 31st, 2011 Kevin No comments

If you or someone you know is in a career changing mood, ask him or her to answer this question:

Imagine all technology is gone and thankfully, the essentials like hunting and child raising are met– for what reasons do you sense, and do the people you live with know, you are very important to have around and they are really appreciative you are there with them too?

It’s a question many people answer right away and some take more time to process it before answering.

What comes up for people is often their core essence– a calling to what they are here to do.

When the answers arrive, I see lots of smiles, cheeks high with relief, as an audible sigh escapes and a calm knowing happens. Those feelings really help a person seeking a new career set his or her compass straight.

Good luck helping folks find their true passion and vocation with this question.

Kevin Leahy, founder

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Categories: Questioning Tags:

The Back 98™: The Amygdala and Our Threat Response

May 24th, 2011 Kevin No comments

The Back 98 refers to the nonconscious functions of our brains. This is the fourth post in a series that proposes that we can learn how to use our brains more consciously if it makes sense to do that.

Jump to the “Here’s the deal” section below if you’re in a hurry.

Executive summary: the amygdala and a few other key brain areas handle how we nonconsciously act when we feel threatened. We have the right to know how to manage the amygdala better so we can consciously handle situations in which our senses trigger a threat to our safety, status, connectedness, mastery, autonomy, and more. Practice the steps below to integrate your brain function better. The steps offered will help you keep threats in perspective. That way, you or those you coach through the steps will perform better at work. You will also keep your cool more often wherever you find yourself.

You mention the “amygdala,” what’s that?

The amygdala is a functioning group of brain cells; there are two on each side of the brain. They make fast assessments about threats that can quickly make us act out an automatic flight, fight, or freeze response.

Does the amygdala always make the right call, i.e., that we are truly being threatened?

Of course not! The amygdala errs often and frequently considers the threat to be very serious. It’s only when we consider a threat consciously that we can properly assess if it is a threat and if so, how serious.

And what do you mean by “threat response,” what’s that?

“Threat response” refers to what we do about the events that cause us to feel threatened. For example, someone holds a weapon and points it at us. It could be a toy or it could be real. What happens next?

Are you saying the amygdala decides for us if the weapon is real or not?

In conjunction with other brain parts, it sure can. In other words, if we are not conscious about a potential threat that gets triggered for some reason, our nonconscious brain will decide for us what to do next.

This post is about how I can consciously manage my threat response if I choose?


For what reasons do you mention the amygdala, is it related to our threat responses?

Yes. This post will help you handle potential threats you face consciously, or, help you coach others through the potential threats they face. Knowing about the amygdala is key to managing threats.

If I read this post I’ll be able to help people manage potential threats better?


But I have to know about the amygdala to do that?

Yes. It helps to know what the amygdala does, how it does it and what we can do about it.

Anything else?

There are lots of other things aside from the amygdala involved. That said, the amygdala is very influential to other brain areas and it’s easy for us to focus on it to improve how we handle potential threats.

So what do I need to know to manage my amygdala better?

HERE’S THE DEAL– follow these steps to manage your amygdala and control your threat response:

First: practice “sensing” your amygdala. Research shows that we can use our mind to “fire up” specific areas in our brains. Each amygdala resides behind the eyes and in from the ears. Find it and fire it up.

NOTE: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And if you don’t know it, you can’t measure it. Point: get to know your amygdala, what it does, and where it resides. Then, manage it to handle threats better.

Second: pay attention to triggers that let you know a potential threat is happening (threat to security, status, expertise, connection with others, etc.). Because there are so many, mostly, just know your buttons.

NOTE: biology provides a short time frame to consciously assess threats before we nonconsciously act on them. So if you are not good at noticing triggers, explore author David Rock’s SCARF model, it will help.

Third: after sensing a threat immediately direct all the mental energy you can away from the amygdala and toward the front parts of your brain. At the same time, try to keep the neuronal pathways connected.

NOTE: our frontal cortex assesses experiences and memories to understand the current situation. When stressed, blood, glucose and O2 drains from this area unless we actively think to keep it there.

Fourth: use the front of your brain to assess the severity of the threat. Compare facts and feelings as you reduce automatic judgements and value assessments. Be open, curious, and seek sense. Collect more data.

NOTE: this step benefits from awareness of self-assessment literature. Conduct self talk here, use reappraisal techniques, re-frame facts to reduce stress, etc. Be proactive against your default thinking.

Fifth: inform each amgydala of your findings. Be generous here because your amygdala is a Doubting Thomas and is not going to change its position absent proof. Share your reasoning with it.

NOTE: the amygdala is very influential. Its “brain friends” include the anterior cingulate cortex and the hypothalamus. This gang can hijack your conscious intentions if you do not communicate well with it.

Sixth: allow mental energy, blood, oxygen and glucose to flow from the amygdala to the front brain and back. Integrating and connecting these brain areas is key. A balanced brain will mean a better outcome.

NOTE: an integrated brain is the goal. Integrate your brain and feel more balanced, more centered, and more even-tempered. This happens because you are willing to consciously balance your mental energy.

Seventh: check in and see how your body is handling things, what you are saying, and how you are behaving. As needed, recalibrate, focus and ensure that you address all feedback coming from your body.

NOTE: with practice this last step becomes easier. Early on conscious effort to catch threats after a trigger happens and before the amygdala gang hijacks your ability to control things can be tough. Keep practicing.

That’s it, those are the steps that will help you get a handle on your threat responses and keep your cool.

Isn’t this a little much, moving mental energy from one brain area to another?

Try it. You have the right to spend less time knowing “the what” of this and focus instead on”the how,” just do it! Experience how it works for you and know this: it will help a great deal as you practice it over time.

What about coaching others through these steps?

Coaching becomes easier when you have experienced it for yourself. Then you will be able to help direct the other person through the steps and work on any blocks they experience. Good luck.

Anything else?

I am happy to share more and address your questions over email:

That’s it?

With practice and through coaching others, you should see a drop in false positives (threats that cause lots of concern but end up being low or no threats at all). Know it, manage it, and avoid the amygdala hijack!

Thank you for reading along,

Kevin Leahy, Founder

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Categories: Brain power Tags:

Talk tool: set the frame of reference in a conversation

May 23rd, 2011 Kevin No comments

What’s a frame of reference?

It is a phrase that refers to what each person thinks or feels in a given moment. In other words, what is on the person’s mind is the reference being framed by him or her. People don’t always share the same frame!

Is it important to share the same frame of reference?

Yes, if you want to make common sense. Frames of reference guide conversations. Skilled communicators help frame references so each person gets “on the same page;” so each person shares the same reference.

What’s this post about?

This post claims that when we know what the frame of reference is and ask our questions or offer our answers with it in mind, then our talks fit in that frame better and we understand each other better too.

For example, it’s important for questioners to pay attention to frames of reference?

Yes. It’s essential.


Because all answers link in some way to frames of reference; when they are different, the answers can get confusing real quick. That’s because they often end up being answers to difference frames of reference.

How do you know that?

Experience and observation. People say things either with forethought or no thought; either way, what they say comes through in part from a stream of consciousness sponsored by the frame of reference.


So when asking questions do your colleagues a favor and make sure that you place the notion of the question in the right context, in other words, in the right frame of reference, so they can answer it well.

And if I don’t do that, then what?

Then there is a strong chance you will hear something that matches the frame of reference they had in their mind prior to your question, or, matches the frame that gets triggered by your question that is not the frame you had in mind when you asked the question in the first place.

So the point of this post is to pay attention to the frame of reference?


And we should aim our questions and answers to match it?


Anything else?

No. You’ll do great by attending to the frame of reference. Make sure you share the same one as your conversation partner and ask questions, form answers, and make statements with that frame in mind.

Good luck!

Kevin Leahy, Founder

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Categories: People, Thoughts Tags:

Brain juggling: a way to get better sleep without the sheep!

May 19th, 2011 Kevin No comments

Having trouble going to sleep; worse, getting to sleep fine and waking up way too early?

When you are awake enough to know it try this exercise out of the brain juggling play book:

The “Just Visiting” brain juggle

First: visualize the outer part of your brain (called the cortex, meaning “bark” or “husk” in Latin)

Second: analogize that the front left, front right, back right, and back left areas of the cortex are like great friends who want you to visit with them some, being neighborly and all

Third: go visiting! With your mind full of conscious intent, concentrate on “being” with each one of those areas for a spell and feel free to start with the section you are most inclined toward first

Fourth: after you have visited that area long enough, move on to the next area (I go from front right, to back right, to back left, and then finish the loop in the front left)

Fifth: keep up the loop again and again and I am pretty certain that after a bunch of trips around, you will be exhausted and begging for some rest, which is exactly the whole point of the exercise

Good luck! Go get some better sleep without the sheep!

Happy to tell you why it works, just email me here:

Thank you,

Kevin Leahy, founder

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Categories: Brain power Tags:

A rather big question that can replace, “Hey, how are you?”

May 18th, 2011 Kevin No comments

Here’s a rather big question that arose yesterday during a discussion about critical life skills:

What are the three things we can practice every day, day in and day out, that will forever change the way we live in ways that are far better than right now for us?

Imagine if the spirit of this rather big question replaced the common greeting: “Hey, how are you?

For example, imagine if we greeted each other with: “How’s your big three coming along?”

Here’s a follow up question:

Are we acting on our answer right now and planning to do so later on today and tomorrow?

Here’s the last question:

Do we speak or act in ways that share the answer we came up with at work or elsewhere?

Here’s the gist of what I’ve heard so far:

1) love something far bigger than yourself (this can relate to quality of life issues);

2) love yourself (this can relate to learning and growing);

3) Share your love with everyone you can, including the whole world if that works for you
(this can relate to contribution and relatedness with others).

If you would like please share your answers with me here:

Thank you!

Kevin Leahy
Categories: Questioning, Thoughts Tags:

The affect of body language on leadership

May 6th, 2011 Kevin No comments

Does the use of some body language make me appear more like a leader?

Of course. Studies suggest the non-verbal cues you use now will work fine over time. However, first impressions are different. Below I list some non-verbal cues that will help you “appear more of a leader.”

Where’s this information coming from?

Among other things, this wonderful article I found, url provided. It summarizes key findings from other articles and shows which non-verbal cues impact the perceptions people have of who is more like a leader:

Long article! Can you summarize its findings?


Perceptions of leadership and actual leadership are different (I know, a bit of a big, “Duh.”)

First impressions matter so using body language that “shows” people you are a leader can help… a lot.

The non-verbal cues that make people appear more like a leader are not always obvious.

Example: people who talk loudly, and more often, are perceived to have more leadership potential. Yikes.

Practicing the gestures, tones, and other cues of leadership will make you appear more of a leader.

Bill Clinton used this strategy. He attained a high level of leadership. Try it out.

In any case, knowing what non-verbal message you are sending is critical for successful leadership.

Leaders must communicate their vision precisely; non-verbal cues will make or break how people hear it.

What are the specifics non-verbal cues that make me appear more of a leader?

Here are my top five nonverbal cues for appearing more like a leader:

1. Speaking

Perceptions of leadership favor individuals who take more than the fair share of speaking time and do so with a higher volume as they vary speed, tone and pitch while offering a (mostly) relaxed voice.

2. Pausing (e.g., having the appearance of careful listening)

Quiet leadership works. Pausing in reflection demonstrates purposeful thinking and feeling. It also gives leaders time to get their responses strait, slows down the rhythm, and directs where the spot light falls.

3. Gazing

You can tell who’s in charge by watching who gazes at whom and for how long. Perceptions of leadership favor longer direct gazes by them and fewer gazes at others as they listen. Folks gaze more at leaders.

4. Gesturing (with upright posture)

Too complex to cover it all, mostly, be open and expansive with your posture as you use clear hand movements, purposeful nodding, directed leans, conscious facial expressions and timely lowered brow.

5.  Interrupting (think of its more generous cousin, redirecting)

Interrupters regain the spot light, control the talk and impress people with a willingness to take charge. Interrupting lands in my top five list with caution! Be careful out there, no one likes to be interrupted!

Is that it?

Well, there are many more nuances of each of the cues above and far more that could make the list depending on purpose and intent. This is a good starter list that you can add to over time.

And if I consciously use these non-verbal cues more I will appear more of a leader?

Absolutely. Work on these and you will increase your ability to monitor your verbal and non-verbal messages. Do that and people’s perception of your leadership will soar. I promise.


Well, how will you know until you try? Remember, gestures and mannerisms that are new to you at first will become second nature after you practice them enough. Good luck!

Let me know how it goes:

Thank you,

Kevin Leahy

Categories: People, Thoughts Tags: