Archive for September, 2013

Make My Brain Better Project – Create Amazing

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

I’m taking a ten week long philosophy class about how our thoughts create our reality.  While I’ve lived by this premise for much of my life, it’s fascinating to do a directed study for ten weeks on this topic.   Almost 15 years ago I did something similar and it was an eye opening experience.   I wanted to stretch my mind and think about my current realities in more disciplined and organized ways.   What better way to do that then to take a course in a topic I only usually practice on my own.   One of the assignments the first week was to create a journal.   Since one purpose of the journal is to check in with yourself, I designed a create amazing check in radiator.

This is my Create Amazing weekly check in radiator.   If our thoughts create our reality why not create an AMAZING reality in all areas of life?

This is my Create Amazing weekly check in radiator. If our thoughts create our reality why not create an AMAZING reality in all areas of life?

8 minutes of yoga – who knew?

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

8 minutes of yoga for cool cats

8 minutes of yoga for cool cats

A little over 12 years ago I came up with an idea that people could pass a very difficult exam for project management certification with only four days of prep, and not the standard six months most people were spending.   The issue is even with the six months of prep, 40% of them would still fail.   I thought, well hmmm – if I can really do this in four days, I can also guarantee they will pass.   And to guarantee they pass, I need to make sure they have their brains in peak performing condition.   I had been practicing yoga for almost ten years by this point.   I knew if I had them do an easy series of yoga stretches and breathing exercises every 90 minutes, I would be able to help them keep their brains in peak performing condition.  (this was combined with a high protein complex carb diet and no caffeine or sugar to keep their brains in a state of relaxed focus and adequately fueled).   We even got a mention in a Hindu newspaper on how we use yoga to help people pass a tough exam.

Fast forward to ten years later (two years ago).   One of Cheetah’s young Agile Certified Project Managers (Anne Lindsley, CAPM, PMI-ACP) wanted to become a certified yoga instructor.   Hmmm – I thought – yes it would be very good to have our own corporate yogini on staff.   A year later, I asked her to create an 8 minute yoga flow video we could use in our online courses.  While we were making this video, she said – you know this would be a great way to bring yoga to the masses.   Heck, 50,000 Cheetah students have already used this 8 minutes of yoga technique to pass the PMP exam – others could use it too to reduce their stress levels, improve their focus, be more productive, and be healthier.  This was where YogaAnne‘s 8 minute yoga idea was born.   We spent a year creating fifty different 8 minute yoga videos for use at the office or at home.   They are rolling out their mobile app in a few weeks.   They discovered a great way to stream the videos so people can do them along with their qualified instructors right off their phones – anywhere they are.   I’m psyched for this app – I need creative inspiration, I love the serene locations where they are shot, and I love that I’m reminded to take a short break to do yoga so I can keep energized and relaxed in a healthy way.

Make My Brain Better – Gist Reasoning and Sniffing out a Scam

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

So I’m looking for ways to do “Gist Reasoning” training as they discussed in the Aging Brains research and I stumbled across this paper: Gist Reasoning in Adults with Traumatic Brain Injury.

Fascinating. Here is why they wanted to study Gist Reasoning in Adults with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“The effects of TBI on gist-reasoning abilities have not been studied in adult TBI populations. The gist-reasoning metric may help elucidate the disparity between regaining near normal general intellectual functioning yet persistent difficulties on functional tasks that necessitate higher-order reasoning skills (e.g., communicating coherent and well-formed messages ideas during a job interview without dwelling on extraneous and irrelevant details)”

I do have a tendency to go off on tangents – and in a huge way (i.e. writing about my brain on a foodie blog). I was once described as a balloon that you blow up, and then let it go before tying it off (it bounces all over the place). But it’s not just tangents in talking, it’s tangents in major lifestyle choices. I am an opportunist and everything I do is totally “defensible” and understandable to me, but I’m also like this dog that goes off after the next interesting squirrel. Could this be because of my TBI?

The question I still have – how do I get Gist Reasoning training? They did say in this study that they cannot improve memory and attention with Gist Reasoning training – but this is what the HBOT, Neurofeedback, and brain training games like Luminosity are for.

Maybe my “Gist Reasoning” is improving though as I am able to better discern when someone approaches me with an “offer” where they are stroking my ego but where they are trying to get me to make a huge marketing spend. We got a call last week from a group called 21st Century Business. They were supposedly a news show hosted by Donald Trump Jr and they were interested in having me on their show. As they put it in a conversation with my assistant yesterday, they were interviewing Project Management training companies to do a series on how businesses need Project Management. And I was under consideration for one of their businesses. Yes I was flattered.

Jody (my blogging side kick) asked a basic question – how did they get your name? And what has this producer done before? So I started to do a little digging. The company is out of Boca Raton, Florida. Hmmmmm – smells like a similar thing I did with Norman Schwartzkopf in 2007 in Boca Raton. This prestigious “interview” ended up costing me close to $40,000 (we had to do a retake). I watched some of the 21st Century Business “news clips” on You Tube. Their show supposedly runs on Fox News and the Bloomberg Channel. Interesting, the Schwartzkopf gig was on CNBC. Their news stories looked very similar to what they were doing on the Schwartzkopf show – almost identical. My assistant called back this morning to find out if their “interview” cost anything and then she was told, well yes, it cost $19000. Wow, high price to pay for that type of flattery. We took a pass.

Yes I learned a lot doing the Schwartzkopf interview – but it was because we had to do a retake and I hired a fantastic media coach, Joyce Newman (who had nothing to do with their show). This media coaching has come in handy for the more real interviews with the media. But overall was this high priced interview with a highly decorated Army general worth it? Not from a marketing return on investment perspective, it was not. For the lessons I learned because of hiring Joyce Newman, yes it was worth it.

Based on my retrospective of this situation, could my working memory be improving so I’m able to make better decisions? My rule of thumb is the less we spend on marketing the better our results. I’ve never had to pay for media when we have a compelling message and a good PR team. It just rubs me wrong to pay for media “interviews” – even if it’s with The “Don” Jr.


To find out more about Michelle’s incredible journey to make her brain better, visit The VacaGourmet

Make My Brain Better – Strategy-Based Cognitive Training Improves Aging Brains

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

I’ve been doing the brain training game Lumosity on my Iphone over the past two weeks. My Brain Performance Indicator has risen from about 40% to 80% since I started. What is even more important, I am getting their marketing emails. One Lumosity email referenced a press release issued by the Center for Brain Health at the University of Dallas . It highlights their research on how to improve the cognitive functioning of aging adults. Part of their research included what they called “Strategy-Based Cognitive Training” (which is not the same training done with Lumosity). Now granted I do think it’s impressive my brain performance indicator on the Lumosity system doubled over two weeks, but I don’t think it has activated my healing pre-frontal cortex or temporal lobes to that same level over these past two weeks.


I downloaded the research paper they had published in the Cerebral Cortex called “Neural Mechanisms of Brain Plasticity with Complex Cognitive Training in Healthy Seniors.” (Seeing this title, my first thought was thank god they had a marketing communication specialist writing their blog that became the basis of the press release Lumosity used). The “Strategy-Based Cognitive Training” they did is detailed in this paragraph from their research paper:

“Gist reasoning training is strategy-based rather than content specific and entails a systematic use of 3 cognitive processes including strategic attention, integrated reasoning, and innovation to process all types of data. The gist reasoning training involved topdown cognitive control of complex information that is maintained, manipulated and synthesized into abstracted meanings (Anand et al.2011). Cognitive control processes entailed in gist reasoning have been associated with frontal lobe networks and nodes within both the CEN and DMN (Nichelli et al. 1995; Chapman et al. 2005; Chen et al. 2006). Specifically, the program trained individuals to continually synthesize meanings and goals (i.e., gist reasoning) integral to information encountered in everyday life across a multitude of contents (e.g., medical information, investment information, movies, lectures, newspaper articles, travel highlights). Training also involved practice of innovative thinking by generating diverse interpretations as well as a wide variety of ways to approach or solve a task at hand, whether work or leisure related. Participants were taught to consolidate and incorporate the 3 cognitive processes as often as possible within the context of their own life activities and goals, whether during training, in real life, or in one’s own internal thought processes, to train a habit of thinking about information and tasks at hand. The training was delivered by a trained expert in small groups (n ≤ 5) of one 1-h session per week (hours = 12). Additionally, each participant worked individually at home without supervision for 2 additional 1-h sessions per week for 12 weeks (hours logged = 24). Record logs of time and assignment completion were kept for the individual work with feedback from trainers on performance.”

WOW that is a complicated. So what I got from this is – I need to:

1. Set goals and articulate why I’m setting that goal based on the meanings I’m making from various stimulus I’m reading, hearing, sensing or in some way recalling.

2. Develop innovative ways of interpreting information I encounter in my day to day life and become conscious of habituated interpretations and belief structures that may impact my in the moment interpretations. So when I am hearing new news, stop and make a conscious effort to check in with how I feel about it, why I feel that way, and different ways I could feel about the information.

3. Approach day in and day out tasks with creative approaches to achieve what I want to achieve and not keep doing things the same way I always have – and especially to not give up when I get frustrated.

I will be finding some resources trained in this “Gist Reasoning Training” as I’m sure there may be more to it than what I have outlined above. I’m excited there is actually a program I can follow that will improve my cognitive abilities once my brain is fully healed.


To find out more about Michelle’s incredible journey to make her brain better, visit The VacaGourmet

Pursuing Change

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

(an excerpt for Cheetah’s PMP Career Builder)


What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “change”? For many of us, words like “anxious”, “overwhelmed”, or “unknown” pop into our head. Sometimes change feels like we are heading into a storm of unknown risks and consequences.

To thrive as a PM executive, we must learn to not only embrace change, but to pursue it and learn to capitalize on it. Here are the top five strategies that you can use to help you to let go of your fears and pursue change with abandon:

  1. Love UncertaintiesI am a risk-taker, and some even consider me to be a daredevil (while driving around on my Harley, I sometimes feel like one).   And while I love uncertainty, I make sure I’m prepared for the risks that I may encounter. Life is filled with uncertainties. Time and time again, I discover, much to my delight, that the riskier the situation, the more uncertainties there are, and the greater the rewards.
  2. Accept your Internal Strength to Weather Change. One of the biggest reasons why people fear change is because they think, “Maybe I can’t handle this new situation.”  The reality is that human beings are pretty darn adaptable.   If you’ve ever jumped into a pool of really cold water, you probably felt a terrible shock at first. Then, as you swam around, the temperature began to feel invigorating and it turned into a great experience – one that proved your internal strength. The pool water did not change – you became accustomed to the temperature. Instead of resisting these types of experiences, try to find every “cold pool” (figuratively speaking) within your reach, and dive in.
  3. Tackle Tiny Fears. If you have a strong change-fear connection, here is an easy way to start to reprogram your mind for a different response pattern:  Each day, do something small that frightens you just a bit. By tackling these small fears, you will realize that the thought of the action itself is more fearful and stressful than the actual action.
  4. Communicate Through Change. We tend to fear what we don’t understand. If you are the one initiating a change, make sure to communicate the purpose of the change to all stakeholders, and get their buy-in.
  5. Stay Positive. When considering whether or not to pursue change and the subsequent unknown outcome, we are faced with a risk that this outcome might be bad. What we often overlook is that the outcome may very well be an improved condition over the previous state from before the change. Being positive will not only help ease your fears, but will also help a positive outcome actually occur as it will free you from “fear paralysis” and will help you to pursue positive change.

Project Management Executives – pursue change in your life today! Whether it is in your personal or professional realm, you can make great waves when you are one of the few people that not only accepts change, but proactively pursues change to create better outcomes for everyone.  “Business as usual” has never produced greatness. Push the boundaries of what is possible, and discover true greatness when you actively pursue change.

Stay tuned next week when will talk about a Senior Project Executive Certificate Program that will distinguish you from your peers.

Adopting a Consciousness Approach to Your Attachments

Monday, September 16th, 2013

(this an article excerpt from Cheetah’s Career Builder)

The ability to learn is demonstrated by the ability to change and/or adopt more successful behaviors.    Becoming detached to your behaviors and the way you do things the way you do can significantly help learning.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 1.33.25 PMThe five levels of attachments and how they shape your ability to respond, how you behave, the strategies you use to achieve what you desire in life, and the way you will react to life events.

I recently took a course called  Conscious Living by the Hendricks, and learned some fascinating things about how I identify with these persona characters I take on as “me” and then live in what the Hendricks call the fear trance between victim, villain and hero. What I know from my studies of attachment is the more I attach to an idea, or a position, the harder it is for me to remain flexible and open (the harder it is for me to “learn”.)  Ruiz’s attachment model, has “identity” as the third level in a five level of attachment. So this adds more depth to that one level of attachment – what identities am I attached to as my “identity” and how strongly am I willing to hold that attachment? I continue to play with a more creative and conscious approach to life by recognizing and playing with my persona’s as they appear.   This enables a more in the now, authentic response to each moment without the veil of this “identity.”   One of the identities I recently discovered was what I call my sugar loving YOLO (you only live once) persona.   This kept me stuck in behaviors that were no longer serving me.    Based on how I was attached to this identity, by dropping the attachment whenever I’d like, I can  live in a healthier persona for who I want to be right now. This means I don’t have to be stuck in old behavior patterns just because my sugar YOLO identity has to be shelved like my high school yearbook.   And I’m more open to learning new ways of being that help me more successfully navigate my world.

So how can you use this to improve your own learning.   Think about a situation where you behavior created a result you didn’t really enjoy.    Say you had an unfortunate encounter with a co-worker or a friend.   Think about how you responded – were you flexible and open or were you rigid in how you thought the situation should have played out?   If you were more rigid, you are more attached to the something about it.   How did you react?   Did you find your reaction predictable or did you react in a manner that surprised even you?   If your reaction was predictable for that situation, you are more attached to something about that situation.   What were your strategies for the situation – could you let it unfold in new and creative ways or did you want to try to control the outcome?   If you tried to control the outcome – you had a higher level of attachment to some persona you were playing in the situation.   Last – look at your own behavior.   Where you able to accept whatever the other person was doing or were you judging them?   Did you find yourself saying – hmmm I wonder what is going on for them or saying “WTF” – how dare they?   If you said the latter – you are more attached to some idea of what you thought was supposed to go down.   Study the image associated with this article and contemplate how you can be less attached to your ideas of how things are supposed to happen, who you are supposed to be, and you will find a whole new world of learning opening up for you.

Stay tuned next week when I will share my latest finding in my brain research in my quests to improve brains everywhere!

The “Make Your Brain Better” Project

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

(an article from Cheetah’s Career Builder)

At Cheetah Learning, we think about brains a lot. This is because we specialize in Accelerated Learning, and for anyone to be any good at learning something in an accelerated fashion, they need to have their brain in peak condition. This means that both the brain and the body need to be working together to create an environment that is susceptible to learning and able to assimilate and process informationFAST.

While I typically focus on other people’s brains and helping them achieve their goals fast by developing a peak performing mind, recently I have been focusing on my own brain, and doing much research on how I can improve the way I receive, process, and disseminate information. In this section of Cheetah’s Career Builder I will focus on sharing what I have learned from my extensive research.

Today I wanted to share what I have learned through reading the Buddha Brain book. This mind map is a good refresher of how you can use your mind to make your brain better. The key message of this book was that you should practice unlimited acceptance and kindness towards yourself to increases your happiness and increase your brain activity.


Being an extreme over achiever most of my life, I am my own worst critic, perhaps you are the same. In the Buddha Brain book, one technique is called “being on your own side.”

I am declaring September as “Be On My Own Side Month.” Making a conscious shift away from self-criticism is as easy as stopping myself as soon as I find myself falling into this all too familiar trap, and immediately finding something about myself to sincerely appreciate in the moment. Join me in my “Be On My Own Side Month” by being on YOUR side every day of September. What do you have to lose?

Stay tuned next week when I will share my latest finding in my brain research in my quests to improve brains everywhere!

Setting the Standards for Success

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

(A featured article from Cheetah’s PMP Career Builder. Click Here to see entire Newsletter)

Many people make the mistake of thinking that success is out of reach for them, either because it’s based on some magic mojo, or because they just aren’t as lucky as successful people. As an executive, you know that success relies on defining and following through on your standards for success. Let me share with you what has worked for me and how I applied these standards of success to create more successful people and projects.

Levels of Learning: Move from awareness to mastery

Your time is invaluable. You want to spend it where it matters most. That’s why when you learn, you want to make sure you move beyond the basics and transform your skills to mastery. This has been the driving principle behind our course development and delivery at Cheetah Learning, and it has been my personal mantra when I look at my own development.

Where success happens

If your learning stays at the awareness and knowledge levels, your career and your opportunities for success are limited. To help create successful people and projects, you need to increase each person’s potential and desire to achieve mastery within the skills that are aligned with your organizations strategic objective, and within their own inherent strengths. Success happens at the top of the pyramid with skill – the application of knowledge and mastery – the ability to consistently get results with your skills.

Use your time wisely

Another standard for success is making the best use of your time. When you learn, you want to make sure every moment counts. Accelerated learning is a proven way to teach people new skills because it:

· Improves your retention and your ability to apply the new knowledge.

· Helps you quickly use what you’ve learned.

· Benefits every project you tackle – personally and professionally.

In a world that is moving full speed ahead, why leave any learning experience to chance? Experience accelerated learning in any of our Cheetah courses, and see why it is one of our standards of success at Cheetah Learning.

Stay tuned next week when we will teach you how to communicate the value proposition of PM to fellow executives who may need a refresher!