Archive for February, 2009

Opt In, Opt Out – Watching Culture from Inside Out

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

The Baby from a Red Bull and A White Cow - Mom Opt's In By Nature, Dad Opt's Out by Technology

The Baby from a Red Bull and A White Cow - Mom Opt's In By Nature, Dad Opt's Out by Technology

I’ve had a number of different experiences over the past week that really got me thinking about this whole “opt in, opt out” thing popularized by the internet. It started a week ago at a dinner hosted by the farm where we rent space for our bulls. I learned more than I ever thought I needed to know about bull genetics and how to create the “super” cow. The woman running the show was a genius and I give her very high marks for creating a highly entertaining and engaging event – especially based on her audience. An audience of family farmers working the land to provide a great quality free range beef product. I still have her interactive handout in my bag where she had us do a series of math exercises based on how many head of cattle we owned vs. what we sold and what that represented with respect to impact on our customers and the environment. I got this lady, I liked her style, but still I felt like an outsider at the event. I’m not a family farmer – I’m an investment farmer and I hire other folks to manage my herd. I play by their same rules with respect to taking care of my animals – maybe even spend a bit more money to insure a humane existence because that is who I am. But I’m not the one who tends my wonderful Belgium Blue herd day to day. I opted in to the event enough to go to one event, but it was not my world and it’s unlikely I’ll go to more.

The next day I flew to the East Coast – I had to meet with my sales and marketing team to discuss – what else, opt in, opt out issues. How do we do a better job having people opt into the company and create an environment of inclusion while maintaining an element of exclusiveness because we tend to create superstars. The folks who opt in to Cheetah Learning either are looking at ensuring they maintain their superstar status or are aspiring to get to the superstar status fast. This is both helping us and it’s hurting us as folks who just don’t feel like they are super stars or aspire to something less than being their best, opt out. People have told me they know right away if they “fit” into Cheetah. The ones that don’t – they opt out pretty fast.

The meeting was great – we all enjoy getting together. But being on the East Coast is a bit of a challenge. I’m much more at home in the wilds of Alaska. And I’m also much safer. Last year, within four hours of showing up at my east coast abode, there was a very large black bear right next to my mini-van. I have never seen a bear in my yard in Alaska. This year, I was rendered house bond with just two inches of snow. In Alaska, I have neighbors galore willing to offer a helping hand when you’re stranded. Here, good luck. My front wheel drive mini-van went into anaphylactic shock over the slick road and the ABS braking system had a seizure. I finally got it into the driveway just to have it skid into a snow bank and render itself done for the day. Everyone coming into for the meeting had to take cabs and walk the quarter mile in from the road. And I got to learn just why I stock up the pantry – when something you count on “opts out” and you aren’t in a culture of “opt in” you have to have back up plans.

My blog buddy, Kristen and I rented a car and drove to Philadelphia for a wedding. We weren’t exactly sure of the details of the wedding – we know the general vicinity and had our iphones. We were able to “opt in” to a fun journey because of new technology.

My cousin was marrying into a very large and extended Filipino family. And even though we knew nothing of their customs of culture, we felt very much included in the event. We were able to “opt in” at a level that was comfortable for us.

And then I have my “internet world” that I still exist in regardless of what is happening in my external world. I have scads of folks opting in to follow me on twitter (no idea why). I think I got on several people’s follow lists who generate tons of followers so their followers are now following me. And I have a growing list of acquaintances on Facebook and linked in. Linked in is purposeful. I am trying to create an opt in network of folks that my publicist can toss publicity opportunities. Facebook is another story – while I find myself happy to “friend” someone on facebook, it just seems that a requirement to actually meet them in person is a big requirement. I’m opting in and opting out simultaneously. When is a friend is a friend is a friend? Is it possible to have “friends” that are only “friends” on the internet? It is far easier to send sentimental missives and lets keep in touch stuff via face book than it is to actually set up a time to catch up with someone you knew years ago.

Opting in or opting out – I’m not even sure most of us our conscious of our opt in and opt out practices. I opt in when the commitment is commensurate with the activity. I tend to opt out if the commitment is far in excess of what I’m willing to make to participate. Keep it light and lively and give me an easy exit strategy, and I’m more than likely to opt in, and want to keep coming back. Make me buy into a lot of stuff that just isn’t me, and I’m heading for the hills fast.

How can a PMP Differentiate Themself In Today’s Economic Climate?

Friday, February 20th, 2009

by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

You Can't Just Wait for An Opportunity to Show Up, You Have to Go After Them.

You Can't Just Wait for An Opportunity to Show Up, You Have to Go After Them.

Bryne Edwards and I have been doing a live radio show these past two weeks explaining the concepts in a new Cheetah Learning course called Capitalize on the Recession. We promote the radio show on several social media forums so we get a random assortment of listeners. The questions we get vary based on what someone’s qualifications are. For people with the least amount of professional credentials, the predominant questions I get are about how to not be scared in today’s economic climate. This is interesting because the first module in the Capitalize on the Recession course is how to become and stay emotionally strong so that you have the presence of mind to see and find emerging opportunities for yourself and others. Interesting as I was wondering if that would even be valuable and waffled on if it should go in there. Because there is another cohort that listens in who doesn’t seem to have much fear about today’s current economic climate. And I know this cohort well.

That other cohort are Cheetah Alumni. And their questions are more about how to best position themselves as PMPs to capture emerging opportunities (a much stronger launching off base). Considering that there are 15 million people who call themselves project managers, and only 350,000 people who hold the PMP credential, this is a fairly simple undertaking. The demand for certified, qualified project managers still far outstrips the supply and with the government bailout package, the demand will only increase. The number 2 thing, yes number 2 thing a person can do to increase their chances of success in their career and increase their future career opportunities is to become PMP certified. But the number 1 thing a person can do if they want to really capitalize on emerging opportunities (and find a lot more of them) is to become certified as a PMP by taking Cheetah’s PMP Exam Prep course.

I’ve been to a lot of Project Management Institute meetings around the world. I meet people every month who are some of the best and most sought after project managers worldwide – they usually have their next three or four projects lined out for them and projects waiting in their que’s for them to manage. And what do they all have in common? They are alumni of Cheetah’s PMP programs. Now the question is – were they great project managers before they came to Cheetah or did going through Cheetah give them that extra edge that made them a great project manager? Was going through Cheetah just another right step they made in an already fantastically well managed career? Whatever the scenario, these folks stand head and shoulders above people who haven’t gone through Cheetah’s program. Are there good project managers who haven’t gone through cheetah learning? Of course. But at the last PMI National Congress, many of the top project managers getting recognized as some of the best PM’s in the world, were also, surprise surprise, Cheetah Alums.

We do a lot for our alumni to help them stay at the top of the pack. We offer a number of free follow on courses and other services for the people who become PMP’s through Cheetah Learning that help them position their career so they are continually in demand. We make our publicist available through the Cheetah Alumni group in Linked in to get more publicity for our alum’s PM capabilities. You see, over ten years ago, we realized that the good project managers continually manage themselves out of a job as when they complete a project, they need to find another one to manage. So learning how to stay continually employed is something good project managers needed to learn how to do long ago. This is why we are getting much different questions from the Cheetah alumni who listen into the Capitalize on the Recession radio show. You can hear the show live on Wednesdays at 1 PM ET and then recorded every other day at 1 PM on live streaming radio website that hosts the show ( I am so proud of our students and very excited that I can stay a part of their continuing success stories.

Capitalists Make Fantastic Philanthropists

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Andrew Carnegie - a Great Capitalist and a Great Philanthropist

Andrew Carnegie - a Great Capitalist and a Great Philanthropist

“Take away my people, but leave my factories, and soon grass will grow on the factory floors. Take away my factories, but leave my people, and soon we will have a new and better factory.”

Andrew Carnegie

I found this interesting article at on why intellectuals hate capitalism. Basically it is the “wordsmith” intellectuals as opposed to the “numbersmith” intellectuals who dislike capitalism. The basic theory – wordsmith intellectuals disdain capitalism because while they do well in school, their skills are not as valued in a capitalistic society as they are in school.

But lets look at how much capitalists have helped the very folks who disdain them. One of my favorite capitalists – Andrew Carnegie. His major philanthropic activities were building massive libraries around the United States, and funding schools and universities. The bastions of the wordsmith’s domain. Without this incredibly successful capitalist, the wordsmiths would have less access to one of the most important tools of their trade – the library.

Capitalist - Drive Innovation AND Philanthropy

Capitalism - The Great Frontier of Innovation

Just how does one become a very generous philanthropist? It does take time and intentions, but it also takes MONEY. And money is what capitalists obtain by creating value in society. So it seems extremely counter intuitive that wordsmith intellectuals would disdain the system that enabled them to become wordsmith intellectuals in the first place. This defies logic to me – but then I would be more on the side of the numbersmith intellectuals anyhow.

You don’t see people who run non-profits soliciting money for their efforts from folks who don’t make much money. You see them catering to the capitalists – the folks who have figured out how to create money. As Andrew Carnegie noted in the quote above, capitalists are going to capitalize on any situation. You can’t take away the spirit of a true capitalist no matter how hard you try. This is why I created a course to teach others how to capitalize on the recession. Just because the government and large companies (relatively socialistic organizations) want to put a sour face on changing economic conditions, doesn’t mean that needs to be the response of the capitalist.

The Role of Project Management in Clean Drinking Water

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Learn how to launch and implement your Clean Drinking Water Project at Cheetah Speed.

Learn how to launch and implement your Clean Drinking Water Project at Cheetah Speed.

In honor of today’s worldwide twestival on Clean Drinking Water, Cheetah Learning is dedicating this day to teach people how to use Cheetah Project Management to successfully launch Clean Drinking Water projects. Now in case you just think this is a problem “over there” – consider that according to the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card, the United States scored a “D-” in their infrastructure for delivering clean drinking water.

Besides just teaching people about doing project management on clean drinking water projects we are also donating 5% of everything we sell today using the promotion code Twestival to for clean drinking water projects.   You can help us participate by registering for any Cheetah Learning’s award winning project management courses using the promotion code Twestival (you also get 20% off Cheetah Learning’s great courses with this code).  * We raised $2300 for clean water so we are running this promotion for a week now.

So, how do you get started with a clean drinking water project? First you do a project agreement. In your project agreement you identify:

1. The Scope of Your Project. This includes the reason for doing your project.
2. The Major Deliverables of Your Project and When they Will be Complete
3. Your Communication Plan with your Project Participants.
4. The Risk Tolerance Of Your Overall Project
5. Your Project Constraints (Time, Schedule, Performance)
6. Who Needs to Be On Your Project Team

Next, depending on the size of your project, you’ll want to further flush out your project plan (no pun intended). You might want to create the following expanded plans:

1. Risk Management Plan
2. Change Management Plan
3. Quality Management Plan
4. Work Break Down Structure
5. Deliverable Dependency Schedule
6. Labor and Material Cost Estimates.
7. Communication Plan (that includes your escalation policies and how you will be reporting on project performance such as Schedule and Cost Performance Indices and Earned Value).

Then you can start on the execution phase of your project. Ensuring we all have Clean Drinking Water requires more than just having a twestival about it – it requires focused and well orchestrated ACTION. This is where the rubber meets the road. Developing well thought out project plans are the first step. Following through and executing the plan is crucial. While you’re executing the plan, you need to do Risk Management and make sure that your team has what they need to meet their project deliverables.

While you are executing your project plan, you dramatically increase the chances of success if you have a way to monitor and control your project. This is where Project Management Professionals (PMPs) come in especially handy to lead your projects. Taking the measurements on project performance – with key project performance indicators such as Schedule Performance Indicators (SPI) and Cost Performance Indicators (CPI) make sure the project stays on track and moving forward. What gets measured gets done. To improve the chance of project success, as part of becoming certified, PMPs learn how to make these measurements. The PMPs who go through Cheetah Learning get an added advantage as they learn how to get the project done fast. And we can’t dilly dally when it comes to completing Clean Drinking Water projects as this is a matter of significant importance to every living human on the planet.

The last stage of your well run Clean Drinking Water project is with correctly closing out the project. There are others around the world who can use what you have learned by doing your clean drinking water project so it’s a very good idea if you document and share your lessons learned. The more we share what we learn with each other, the smarter we all become. In the area of having clean drinking water, this is imperative. We all float or sink together here as Clean Drinking Water impacts all of us all over the world.

You can get a free Project Agreement at our Free PM Tools Downloads. You can learn how to quickly launch and implement your Clean Drinking Water Project by learning Cheetah Project Management. For today’s Twestival, you can register for any Cheetah Learning course and get a 20% discount – use the promotion code Twestival.

“Generation Y”- Yes, this is you!

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

by Kristen LaBrosse, CAPM

Hard at work..

Hard at work..

I recently sat down with an old boss from when I worked in the Small Business Development Center at my alma mater. I make a point to visit this particular person when I am in town to update him up on my life and career, and to get his helpful tips on my current projects. During our conversation, he brought up the term “Generation Y” numerous times. I finally asked him – “What is this Generations Y you speak of?” His Reply: “YOU!”

If you’re in your 20-somthings (or early 30’s as well if we are being picky) and are reading this article, let me inform you that you are one of 70 million to be considered “Gen Y” (most acceptably recognized as the generation born between 1978 and 2000).

I felt the need to do research on this Gen Y as I am inadvertently a part of said group. I found that there have been studies, research, test groups, polls, and a whole other slew of analysis on this specific generation. My Gen Y research resulted in some interesting findings.

First of all, some not-very-nice things are being said about this generation, including:
  • They are too demanding at work
  • They are a.k.a. “Generation Whine”
  • Distracted due to multitasking
  • Are lacking in their cultural contributions to society (music, movies, reality TV)
  • Have an over inflated sense of entitlement
  • iPods are surgically attached to their ears
  • In defense of Gen Y, there are reasonable explanations to some of these unsavory descriptions. For one, education costs have risen significantly in the past decade, making it harder to receive the same ROI as our older counterparts, thus leading Gen Y to expecting more from their employers to make up for this gap. Secondly, iPods come in so many fun and flattering colors these days, how can one help but to not have it surgically affixed?

    There are also reportedly nice things said about this generation as well, including:

  • They have financial smarts (37% start saving for retirement before 25)
  • Are flexible and ready for change
  • Are great at multitasking
  • Are comfortable with technology
  • Speak their mind
  • Are very entrepreneurial
  • Independent attitudes 
  • Value creativity and independence
  • Believe in their self worth.
  • There are many other characteristics used to describe Gen Y (negative or positive connotation implied at reader’s discretion), a selection of those are as follows:
  • Affinity for casual dress
  • Expect regular communication and feedback from their superiors
  • Are attracted to flexible work schedules and telecommuting
  • Work-life balance is a must
  • Less responsive to traditional command-and-control management style
  • Don’t know how to shut up
  • Affinity for email/phone communication over face-to face meetings.
  • Expect more benefits and perks than our older counterpart
  • Have aspirations of self employment (1.9% of workers under the age 25 are self-employed, while 5.3% between 25 and 34 are)
  • The overlying message in all research pertaining to Gen Y, whether shed in a positive light or not, was that this generations’ talents will be very important in today’s business climate.  (Who are afterall going to cover the rising social security costs of their aging parents.)

    My message to Gen Y: Keep coming to your place of work with your Independence, Tech-Savvy, Self Worth, Entrepreneurial Spirit, and iPod in hand – the US economy needs a healthy dose of Gen Y cocktail right about now.

    Thanks for reading,

    Kristen LaBrosse, CAPM

    The Role of the Public Library in Economic Vitality

    Saturday, February 7th, 2009

    Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

    This library in Haines, Alaska won the small town library of the year in 2005.   This library enables tourists and people investing in Haines to stay connected to their businesses down south (I know it helped me do just that).

    This library in Haines, Alaska won the small town library of the year in 2005. The library enables tourists and people investing in Haines to stay connected to their businesses down south (I know it helped me do just that).

    My sister-in-law has been working in the public library system for the past two decades. She was sharing with me how her town wanted to reduce the public library budget by 20%. This is a public facility that over 10% of the town’s citizens use every month. Public libraries are the hub of small business development in many areas. Most have internet access available free. Many employ reference librarians that are a fantastic resource for anyone starting or expanding a business. When I started my first business 22 years ago, it was a reference librarian who pointed me to the resources that helped me get the company going. Many have community rooms that people can use to teach classes and hold meetings. They also host their own training programs to teach people how to use the computer and do research Not adequately funding the public library really hurts an area’s ability to rebound in difficult economic times. Whereas, studies show that when state and local governments invest in libraries, it enhances the quality of life in communities and helps build a stronger state economy. During difficult economic times, libraries need to be open longer and offer more services, not fewer.

    Playing by the “new rules” – Capitalize on the Recession

    Friday, February 6th, 2009

    by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

    Old Rules - Don't Work Anymore

    Old Rules - You Can

    To Capitalize on the Recession You have To Create Value for Others by tne New Rules

    To Capitalize on the Recession You have To Create Value for Others by tne New Rules

    Where is the good news on the recession? Lets look two people doing well and what is it they are doing:

    My brother – he is a salesman for a technology company that sells products into a wide variety of technolgoy companies. He is one of their top performing sales guys because he knows how to use the products and he knows the customers. There is absolutely nothing slick about this guy – he is just a technogeek. But what is unique about him- he is quite willing to get on a plane and travel all over the country to teach his customers how to use the high end tech equipment they purchase. They let a couple of sales guys go who just weren’t performing as well as him – but he got their territory. Why is he doing well – he is creating a lot more value for his customers than other people who were doing the same job. This guy is steady eddy – his main commitment is to doing a good job for his customers. He hasn’t kept jumping jobs to go after more and more money. He became the best at what he does to create exceptional value for his customers.

    My friend Randy who is an Electrician. Randy is a poster child for “who moved my cheese.” Eighteen months ago when the higher paying lucrative commercial electrical work was decreasing, he started going after the longer duration, lower paying government contracts. Those contracts have expanded as his firm has completed their project work on time and in budget. His business is booming. I work with numerous contractors on my various building projects – most have really missed the concept of getting the job done for what you actually bid in the time you said you would. And they wonder why they can’t find work. The ones who deliver consistent exceptional value like Randy are busy.

    The new rules favor those who create value for others, FAST. Doing what you said you were going to do, at the price you said you were going to do it for, in the time you said it was going to take you – yes this is what people will still pay for these days. And guess what this is considered – doing good PROJECT MANAGEMENT.

    Here are two mind maps that show the old rules and the new rules. There are opportunities a plenty for people willing to create value for others, FAST. But you have to be prepared to play by a new set of rules. These rules are really not new for many of us though who refused to play by the old rules – I suspect those of us who have been playing by the new rules for years are the ones who are actually doing well in this recession. I did a podcast on this for Cheetah Learning’s February Know How Network Column called When Passion Meets Recession.

    Happy Ground Hog’s Day

    Monday, February 2nd, 2009

    by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

    Just because my birthday fell on Ground Hogs day, how did that mean I was destined to look like one?

    Just because my birthday fell on Ground Hog's day, am I destined to look like one? This gal is a bit cute though and she does look quite healthy, for a ground hog.

    Ground Hog’s day is a holiday near and dear to my heart as it is also my birthday.   I have been celebrating Ground Hog’s day now for 47 years.   Yes this means that I am a prime number this year.   And I am happy to report that no, I have not yet seen my shadow so spring is still just around the corner.   (I discovered long ago on Ground Hog’s day that it really paid to get up while it was still dark outside).   What else I am very happy to report on is that 47 is the new 29 and I feel and look quite a bit younger than my actual chronological age.   I still get mistaken for my oldest daughter’s sister rather than her Mom (that might be because she looks and acts a lot more mature for her age though rather than that I look so much younger).    

    So, where did this whole thing of celebrating a small rodent emerging from hibernation come about?   It’s an ancient tradition that marks the emerging spring.   As small rodents start to emerge from hibernation it means that spring is just around the corner.   This happens about mid-way between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.   The Germans brought this celebration to the United States when they emigrated and the Ground Hog was their animal of choice.   The Christian’s holiday of Candelmas (a celebration of light representing the purification of Mary 40 days after Jesus’ birth) was on February 2nd and they chose that day to celebrate Ground Hog’s day as well.   

    I celebrate this day as the emerging opportunities coming forth in another year of life for me.   And to help everyone celebrate emerging opportunities with me, we are doing a special buzz day at Cheetah Learning.   There are some great things in store for people this year who are prepared to go after opportunities.  If you are one to listen to (and believe) the media, on this day, it might seem like a better idea to just pull the covers up over your head and go back to sleep – to be scared like the ground hog and go back into your burrow to nestle in for six more weeks of winter.   But I believe that those who are prepared will be the lucky ones as luck is when preparation meets opportunity.   

    To be one of the lucky ones, look at the dynamic duo – that is diversify and differences.   What this means that to create more luck in your life – diversify how you can use your differences.  How can you make yourself different and stand out from the crowd?   Lets look at some stats:

    Here I am in reverant observance of Ground Hog's Day wearing my Birthday Tiara.  The sun is shining  - so it's six more weeks of winter.  BUT I get to fly out of here instead of taking the late night ferry - YEAH.

    Here I am in reverant observance of Ground Hog's Day wearing my Birthday Tiara. The sun is shining - so it's six more weeks of winter. BUT I get to fly out of here instead of taking the late night ferry - YEAH.

    • There are about 15 million people worldwide who call themselves Project Managers.
    • There are a little over 300,000 people who are Project Management Professional (PMP) certified.
    • The US Government is looking at creating stimulus packages to fix it’s ailing infrastructure issues.
    • To manage those projects, they do require people to be Project Management Professional certified.

    You can better position yourself to go after that emerging opportunity if you can diversify your skill set so you’re qualified to manage those project types, AND if you are PMP certified.  

    So here is what we’re doing at Cheetah Learning to help you learn how to diversify and leverage your differences to go after emerging opportunities:

    1. We have an online course called Project Portfolio Management – in this course you can learn how to select a diverse group of projects that can help you create a stable base of business to pursue.   By diversifying, you create more opportunities.  

    2. We love differences – as it is our differences that create the most value for each other.    We have two online courses where you can learn how to leverage your differences to create more value with and for others.   The first course is called Project Management Strength Builder and in this course, you learn how your differences lead to your strength as a project manager.  The second course, Cheetah Negotiations, you learn how to leverage yours and other people’s differences to create more value for all.   

    All three of these courses – Project Portfolio Management, PM Strength Builder, and Cheetah Negotiations, for today, we are offering 50% off to celebrate Ground Hog’s Day – use the promotion code groundhog09 when you register.

    Haven't see a ground hog yet today (too sunny) - but Mama moose and her baby were out and about.   First moose I've seen all winter.

    Haven't see a ground hog yet today (too sunny) - but Mama moose and her baby were out and about. First moose I've seen all winter.

    3. If you are not PMP certified, get the credential.   Cheetah Learning has a free download that tells you everything you need to know to earn the PMP certification and an award winning accelerated PMP exam prep class we have been doing for the past 8 years to get people to pass  the PMP exam, FAST (it’s really hard).  Because I’m celebrating my birthday, we set up a promotion code so you could get 20% off our the PMP course this week. Contact rita.soto@cheetahlearning to get more info..   

    I did a podcast as well to talk about the emerging opportunities and how to go after them with my cohort – Bryne Edwards.    You can listen to it by visiting the Cheetah Learning podcast page.

    And for those of you inclined to eat small rodents as they emerge from hibernation I have one question to ask?  Is it really worth it – they only weigh about 7 pounds and most of that is fur.

    Improve Mental Processing Abilities At Any Age

    Sunday, February 1st, 2009

    by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

    “>Your Brain On I CAN

    Your Brain On "I CAN"

    I love working with younger people because their brains work so fast and are so nimble.   My older brain sees patterns over years of seeing the same patterns – and the question I have is am I really seeing the patterns that exist, or am I seeing the patterns I think should exist because of years of neural network formation that is creating that observation?   By hanging out with young people – like my sidekick Kristen on this blog, I get to experience seeing new patterns of the world through their younger brains and younger eyes.   And I egotistically think they get the benefit of my wisdom garnered through more years of experience (this may or may not be true – my years of experience may also handicap me in some regards).  

    When I created Cheetah’s Accelerated Exam Prep system 9 years ago, I recognized that as we age, we can create new, enhanced abilities of mental processing, but it takes a focused and concentrated effort.   I get reminded of this daily by hanging out with the young adults in my life.   Here are some things you can do to improve your mental processing capabilities at any age:

    1. Feed and Care for Your Mind – this means the foods  AND the information you are ingesting.  For foods, moderation is the key.   Proteins and complex carbohydrates are the best.   Sugar and caffeine are the worst.   A little bit (very little bit) of caffeine can get the creative juices flowing, but the amount that most people consume these days will impact abilities of both short and long term retention.   Your brain needs a little bit of sugar for optimal functioning – but the type of sugar is key.  The sugars in complex carbohydrates and lower glycemic fruits and vegetables are the best.  With information, variety is the key.   If you get all your information from a few sources, you aren’t doing your brain any favors.  Get your information from a wide variety of sources and teach your brain to grasp the bias inherent in whoever is creating and delivering the information.   Become a detached observer of the information you are consuming.  If you find yourself getting emotionally involved in what you are hearing, reading, or seeing, you are reinforcing neural networks that will keep you stuck in conditioned responses to information.   You are literally creating physiological responses that over time become habits.   These habits can impact your decision making abilities as you age.   Remaining a non-reactive, detached observer that takes a more investigative view on what you’re reading,  hearing and seeing keeps those neural networks forming and performing instead of storming and norming.  

    2. Stay Curious – look at the world with beginners eyes.   Yes as you age, you may want to take the easy route and do things the way you have always done them.   When you get stuck into this type of patterned response, you tend to get the results that you have always achieved.   This works when the world keeps working the way it always has.   But one of the fun things about life on this planet, is just when we think we have everything figured out, all the rules change.   By staying curious, you get to try out new ways of reaching for your goals.   The benefit of doing this is that as you age, you actually develop skills and capabilities that you didn’t have when you were younger.  For example, if when you were younger math was a challenge, you might find it a lot easier to learn math when you’re older.   This leads to our next tip….

    3. Learn something new – like radically new.  If you were very bookish when you were younger, work on learning new sports.   The kinestetic kick will get your neural networks firing.   And you might be amazed at your uptake time.   If you struggled with math – try your hand at learning math.   You might be pleasantly surprised how easy it is with an older, more world seasoned mind.    Every year I work on learning a new type of technology, a new sport, a new game, a new skill that might have once even scared me.   

    4. Control your emotional states.   Numerous studies are showing that even mild depression can accelerated mental decline.   Excessive stress over time can lead to depression.   You don’t need to run off to your doctor for the latest prescription in anti-depressant drugs (if you do have a serious medical condition by all means see your doctor).   This is what you can do to stave off mild depression – daily exercise – at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day can keep the blues at bay.   If you find yourself getting down, get up and move.   The more you move, the more you’ll be on your groove.  Avoid alcohol, and refined sugar.  Yes they might make you feel good for a short period of time immediately after you ingest them, but they will cause a longer term crash.   Eat smaller more frequent meals of high protein, complex carbohydrates.  And evaluate your life philosophy – yes we do all get to pick our life philosophy.   The one that I like best is one that looks at all of life’s events as learning experiences that help me become better, stronger and happier.   If you get into a tiff with someone, forgive yourself and them fast,  make up and move on.   When you carry the emotional weight of anger and grudges towards others or past events, it’s harder to interact in the present for what is really there and create a more uplifting future for yourself. The more you can control and choose your emotional states, the more power you have to increase your mental processing capabilities.

    5. Give it a Rest – your brain needs time to rest and relax.   I learned a technique last year called “purple breaks.”  Joy Baldridge who’s dad started an accelerated reading company almost 50 years ago created this technique.   When your eyes are in complete darkness they release some type of chemical into your brain that gives it time to unwind.   What a purple break is, is a 10 to 20 minute break you take lying down with an eye mask covering your eyes.  Just let it go – if you get an idea that comes into your mind, watch as it comes and goes.   While relaxing, if you have a hard time letting ideas go, focus on your breathing for a short period of time.   Sometimes when I’m incredibly amped up, I’ll listen to an audio program of binaural beats that push my brain into a more relaxed brain state (you can get these at   Also, take time to get the optimal amount of sleep for you – this will vary with the season and with your age.   Be wary of folks who give you prescriptions for how many hours of sleep you need – get enough sleep for you – you know what this is.