My new book - You Don't Need Medicine to get Healthy is now available on Amazon for Kindle. - You can get it here.
70% of chronic illness is driven by how we live: by what we eat, by how we use our bodies and by our social world. In writing this book I have gone to all the experts in all of these fields and I have synthesised their knowledge into one practical manual for living.
We are designed to live out a healthy, active and participatory life. Provided we live close to our own design. In the book I show you why this statement is true.
The book is a personal manual for taking practical charge. You can go as far as you wish but there are simple steps that any of us can start with. I, an old fart, have managed to go a long way and I am sure you can too.
I wanted to show you more though than a diet or an activity plan. I have done my best to bring all the factors for our health into view so that you can see how they all help each other. I have also gone deeply into the science here, so that you can see why this book is not just another self help book.
I wanted to help you take control at a time when medicine has not been successful at preventing you from becoming ill and at a time when the safety net is being reduced as we all age.
I wanted to help us all reduce the immense direct and indirect costs of being ill. In Canada, the average man is disabled by chronic illness by 65 and lives another 10 years. Think of what this means to you as his family? In America health care costs are beyond the reach of any family and a bad diagnosis is often a step to bankruptcy.
Our health is truly in our own hands. When we can accept this, then we change the world that we live in today. This is the greatest step for true freedom that any of us can take today. This is how each of us become the core of any resilient community.
I hope you enjoy the book and I hope that it will help you.
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The wonderful Hugh McLeod does it again and shows one side of the story that many people will respond to because it's true. It is easier to work at an office than to work at home with the kids close by.
MM's desire is to get her staff to work better together. She fears that when so many are not face to face, that they cannot. I think that she is partly right here but also wrong.
In this post I am not going to knock her. I deeply sympathazie. I am going to offer an exciting work out for her real problem. And a workout for any who wish to have a successful workforce in the future.
We do need lots of time face to face to get really close. But the office culture does not accomplish this - as it is today.
At the office you are encouraged to leave every part of you outside that is not part of the task at hand. You are mainly in your cubicle with your head down and your earphones on. You attend endless pointless meetings that are all about control and status - not yours. You are stressed by the gap that opens up between this world and your other life. The Cable guy is a reality. Your kids in daycare are a reality. Your commute is a reality. The fact that you have to have a more expensive house, is a reality. The fact that you have to dress for work and eat outside for work is a reality.
You are not fully present at the office.
Nor do you know your colleagues that well. You don't share their lives. You have few opportunities to hang out. Most people eat at their desk alone and spend less than 20 minutes doing this. You may be in teams. But you were ordered to be in this team. You owe nothing to the others in the team. It is like softball at kindergarten. You don't know your boss either - who spends so much of her time reminding you that she is your boss. You often know more than she does too!
How the office is set up as a culture - as factory with you doing piece work with a foreman - is not the setting for collaboration.
But, because most organizations spend no time, thought or effort on culture, working at home can be no better.
Most people who work at home have had no experience in not being a supervised factory worker. This all starts at school where the teacher sets the schedule and the work. If you have worked in an office, you have been cultured to work like this too. I am sure that MM is correct in her observation that many of her home workers are not very productive.
But this is not their fault. It is the culture.
Real freelancers are measured and valued by results. They are hired to pull something off. How they do it, is their business not the client's. But home workers in a traditional organization are measured on how much effort they put in, in time and in the how. They are in effect still in a factory culture.
The issue for Yahoo and others is not who works at home or not but culture. That is the CEO's job.
You cannot have collaboration or innovation from domesticated pets. They have to act out because they have been made into small children.
They also hang out all the time with each other. They know everything about each other.
Real Freelancers do this too. They hire each other for gigs. They hang out on Twitter and Facebook with each other all day and night. They visit each other. They fly across the world to spend days, night, weeks and even months with each other. They don't do 9 - 5 and run.
If they get no work, they starve. If they do bad work, they starve.
The alpha in a project is the one who got the gig. Or the one who knows the most for that gig. There is a hierarchy but it is a real one. There is one at the bottom too. And he or she is there to learn. In time they grow to be core members or leaders in their own gigs.
The pack goes hunting. The gig is the prize. The pack feeds on the gig.
The pack get gigs because they do a good job. They give the client the result that the client wants They are not hired to spend time or to fit into a work protocol. They are hired to get hard things done in a set time.
So if I was MM I would do this.
I would start to move Yahoo's culture in this direction. I would set up an inner core that had responsibility for key results and fucntions. Some I would keep inside traditionally - you don't outsource your core processing etc. But all other work I would shift to networks. At the core of each would be a set of Facilitators. They would surround themselves with circles of packs of freelancers. There would be a gradient. The inner circle would get work most of the time. As the rings moved out to the periphery, less. But the core would keep a close eye on the edge for that will be where the novel will emerge.
The packs/teams would self organize. Yahoo would not set them up. They would hire on the basis of the task and the capability. It would be up to the team leader to hire the team. She would pay them from the contract.
Yahoo would set up the world's best closed social network so all can be in constant ouch with each other. Skype have open screens in all their offices. A person in Redmond can look up and talk to a co worker in Estonia as if she was next to him. The entire network would be able to talk to each other and help with problems. The full power of the full crowd would be available.
Periodically Yahoo would organize and pay for face to face events that would last for several days and nights where many teams would get together and hang out. Just as tribes used to do. These would mainly be powows where partying and doing fun things with each other would be central. Alcohol, dancing and food would be vital. People will get layed.
The point is to build real relationships in face time to lubricate the virtual.
The cost of this would be payed from the fact that Yahoo's office costs would be cut by millions. So would their salary and benefit costs.
But they also would set up a Yahoo Freelancer health insurance plan that would give their freelancers access to a group. They do as much to empower the group as possible.
Yahoo then will have to do that most vital of things. Yahoo have to know what it is that they want to do. Process no longer needs to be measured. Results have to be measured.With an online workforce this is easy to do.
The core inner circle skill will be facilitation and project scoping. The core executive skill will be in keeping ther network healthy and in noticing important movement that will show them where to focus on next. They will have to be skilled Hackers!
Now Yahoo have a Darwinian ecology of a workforce. Talent rises to the top naturally. Good new teams enter naturally. Now Yahoo can hire from a pool of 7 billion people. This would be exciting and worthy of a turn around.
So why not? What do you have to lose?
PS In my old life I was SVP HR for a company with 45,000 employees whwre my focus was culture and for the last 20 years have been writing about the network - my book You Don't Need a Job: The Rise of the Network is here.
You have a traditional organization. Can you change to become a network and so survive the revolution? I think in most cases the answer is no. But with the right leadership - FROM THE TOP - you can do it. This post is about the context of one organization that had had the right leadership and has made this transition.
It is The Nine Network for Public Media in St Louis - Formerly KETC Channel Nine.
TV as we know it is the typical traditional organization. You watch what we think is good when we choose and all you do is watch. Appointment media like that is dying. But The Nine Network of Public Media in St Louis is no longer that kind of station. Yes they still do TV but the choice is massive and you can watch it all on your terms and you can also participate. But this is still nothing.
The Nine Network is much more than a TV station that has taken advantage of the digital realm. It is doing more.
First of all it is becoming the local community convenor to deal with important local issues. It started by helping people tell their own stories such as what they did in the war. The breakthrough project was when Nine took on ther Mortgage Crisis at the outset. It called the meeting of all who could help and created the space to help the community help itself. This was so successful that CPB funded a national program where stations, radio and TV, in the worst hit parts of America became the local facilitator of the community. Now Nine is involved in Education and Healthcare. Many other stations see this role as Connector as their future too. Here is Ideastream in Cleveland - another leader.
Secondly it is putting the public into Public TV. It has a school that teaches the public how to tell stories on video.
Thirdly it is connected to the St Louis Public Radio station. St Louis Public Radio. The two stations are physically linked in adajacent buildings and are building a Commons between them to enhance their role as Connectors of the Community.
Fourthly, 9 hosts the local online newspaper - The Beacon - that is full of journalists who could no longer work for a paper!
These local relationships are not one organization but are a real network. They are separate but together. They share resources. They look after each other.
So what was the context for this change? First of all there was the leadership issue. Jack Galamiche at then KETC was a man who saw what had to be done. Tim Eby, who had been chair of NPR, was the new leader at St Louis Public radio. He had sponosored the project that had all the stations in the NPR system look into the digital future. It is my experience that without the right kind of leadership at the top, traditional organizations have no chance.
The second was having the right kind of context. What would success look like? What could be the goal and so what then was the work to get there.
This was the context that we worked from. I think that any traditional organization can look at these slides and find a goal and so a path for themselves - provided that the leader wanted to do this AND could bring their board along too.
You will see that at the heart of this work is a shift in culture. There is no harder work. You will also see how, if you can agree to make this shift, how you then schedule work to help you make the transition. For we cannot change our culture by an act of will. We can only acquire new habits. We have to work our way into the new.
This is what happens as you learned to speak. You copied sounds. You heard patterns. You started to make connections. When you had made enough connections - you could speak in complex terms. This is fractal design that applies to all living systems. It will apply to human networks. How we set up the environment to achieve this transition will be the new organizational skill
So if you cannot get a job or you have lost one or you fear that you will lose one: what is your future?
I think it is this. The new economy that is emerging out of the ashes of the Job is a return to the Artisan with a difference. This time the Artisan is embedded in a network that leverages the value.
The new economy will not use the rules of the old but the rules of the network. It will not all be about programmers. But about "Makers" and a lot of what will be made will be food. For a new food system will replace the factory food system too. Here is why I think this to be true
In my book, You Don't Need a Job - I explore this is detail. Here is how I see this new world. It is already here - if you look carefully.
Online Global Connecting Trust Platforms
In 1910, Henry Ford opened a new factory at Highland Park. Here were found all the rules that were to make mass production possible in one place. If you had visited Highland Park in 1912, you would have seen the future in working form.
'Highland Parks' exist today. The new Highland Parks are the online connecting trust platforms. They enable global free scaling. If we look at them carefully, we can see the future.
You can easily see this kind of global online connecting trust platform in the craft sector. Community sites like Etsy and Ravelry are enabling millions of people in the craft and knitting worlds to make a living. Who would have thought that a young mother in a rural village in the UK could make a living selling knitting patterns and wool, but many do now.
Trust is built into these systems, they are not mere shopfronts. They enable the old village market, with all its social aspects, to exist globally. These systems enable the Artisan or Pioneer to link up with the Pragmatic and Nurturing archetypes in a systemic way.
Let’s see how they work in more detail.
The Human “Network Effect”: Mutual Benefit, More Trust and Freedom
Connecting trust platforms are emerging all over the place that give us all the benefit of the network effect. In a true network, all the members get more value as the network grows. While there are transactions, the big payoff is more trust. While each member has to fit into the protocols, the result is more personal freedom.
Lets’s start with growing mutual benefit for all. For instance, many people are putting their apartments up for rent on connecting trust platforms like Airbnb. This way you can get some additional income for your place and I can also find a good place to stay when I travel. I rent an Airbnb place 100 yards from where my son lives in Montreal when I visit him at a third of the cost of a cheap hotel room. The apartment is a real home. The owner has a name and cares what happens. She wins and I win. She reduces the costs of her home, I reduce the costs of my travel and I get to see my grandson more because it costs less and is more convenient. How can a budget hotel compete with this?
It’s all About Trust.
As each of us uses Airbnb, the trust grows. It grows locally between renters and owners who meet each other and get to know each other and it grows system wide. As behaving well becomes the new norm, it enters the social immune system of all parties. It is in everyone’s interest to deal with free riders. As trust grows in total, so does the scaling of the system. It is a positive cycle.
Airbnb makes its money by taxing the total system. The more the system grows, the better all do. So every member including the host is aligned.
The Human Network Effect: The Tighter the Protocols, the More Freedom
The high status in the ‘New World’ will be those who are free of ownership. This brings more personal freedom, for in reality, many of the chains we wear come from our attachment to things and to stuff.
Owning things is a legacy of the ancient age, when your clothes, your horse, and your castle proclaimed your status. What we missed is that the more debt we have and the more we are encumbered by our possessions, the more a slave we become. And by slave I mean a person who has little or no control in their lives. A person who has to fit into the old system.
What Could be More Symbolic of this Attachment than Our Cars?
What we have missed is that we don’t really need a car, we really need the service of a car. The car is perhaps the most important status symbol of the industrial world. In Toronto, it costs $9,000 a year, fully depreciated, to own a car. It costs, on average, another $4,000 to park it. You have to earn $22,000 gross for the privilege. There is, however, a network alternative that is growing in power. Car sharing in Toronto can be for an hour, a week or more.; it is priced by time. You can car share like this.
The Human Network Effect: More Innovation
When you participate in a connecting trust platform you will also get progressively smarter. Remember that optimal learning comes from high trust environments that allow for many patterns or experiences to emerge.
While the old industrial model fights for more copyright, the human network offers most ideas for free using the open source model. What this means in practice is that new technology is available to the individual at a very low cost. We all share in the human network effect again.
The best open source systems are rooted in connecting trust platforms that facilitate sharing and that create the network effect for members. Such platforms also create better quality products and services. Open source is a Darwinian process where the good replaces the less good and where thousands work at this process of improvement.
Wordpress is a great example of such a connecting trust platform. The 3D printing world is coalescing around connecting trust platforms. Wikipedia is a connecting trust platform, as are MOOCs. (MOOC’s or Massive Online Open Courses are exploding as universities attempt to find an online alternative to the classroom).
The human network world will be a place where ideas grow more quickly, better and cheaper than in the old machine world. The old will hang onto their desire to control and, in doing so, become progressively more stupid and thus more vulnerable.
The Human Network Effect: It Will Cost Almost Nothing to Operate an Enterprise
You will have access to connecting trust platforms of tools that will enable you to compete directly with large corporations.
Back in 1880, we all owned our own tools. With the advent of industrialization and the mass market, however, tools got bigger and became too costly for the individual. Now technology is making most tools affordable for the individual again. In film, any person can afford an editing suite that only ten years ago would have been the preserve of a studio. Coming soon with 3D printing, it will be possible even to custom make manufactured goods as well. I see the day when even cars are made locally using open source designs and 3D printing.
These tools become even more empowering when they are connected to a platform. Between 40 percent and 60 percent of the costs of most organization are overhead. The most affected are companies with 20 to 50 employees. Most of the costs of running a business can simply go away if you choose to use these new work platforms.
Ideally, your organization should have no central office or offices. With the “Cloud” and the many tools that are supported in the cloud, all your core support processes can be virtual. We are moving quickly from a design where each of us keep our data and our applications locally. With the Cloud, all data and all applications can be shared beyond the node. Soon our local devices will pull down only what we need when we need it. The costs of having great tools and of massive amounts of storage are dropping to close to zero.
This trend for more network value is also true for staffing. Here is a link to the hiring page for Automattic, the organization that runs WordPress. See how they fit this new world and how different it is from an old organization.
In such a world, most of the meetings fade away, as the work is fully open and transparent. People can comment as things come up and much of the friction goes away.
Ideally your organization should only have a tiny core that is fully employed. In reality, all business has its ups and downs and a large, fixed overhead takes away your freedom and pushes you off mission.
Skilled workers can have more than one employer and are therefore safer too.
Employers can hire from the global pool and thus have access to the best people. Workers can choose to live where they want and have the best living choices. We are seeing the beginning of a move away from high cost large cities as a result.
We will no longer have to base a company in a big city, it can be anywhere. As a result the costs of a big city life can be reduced.
I will cover this in much more detail in You Don’t Need an Office.
The Human Network Effect: You Will Need the Banks Much Less
We are seeing a return to the classic rules of credit, where investors have a real connection and a stake in the deal. Connecting trust platforms extend the reach and make this kind of deal easy.
Much of the power of banks, and most of their costs to us, will go away in the network world.
For here the core of the idea of capital will not be financial capital, but social capital. The more trust you have, the bigger the network you have and thus the more you will be financed directly by your customers and other members who share your network.
We see the early evidence of this in the new financing connected trust platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. (My Dummies guide here)
The best deals here are where the borrower has a name and a cause and a product or a service that fits the needs of the members. The borrower, in effect, pre-sells to the market who are tied to her directly.
We see this in the new local food system, where farmers sell direct early in the season to buyers who will take delivery at harvest. This is called community supported agriculture.
We see this in community equity financings where the regulations confine the deal to parties who live in the same place.
Again, these systems are all based on finding trust again.
I will cover this section in more detail in You Don’t Need a Banker.
The Human Network Effect: Will Lower the Costs of Education and Health
Today, higher education and healthcare are the two most expensive services that we buy. Most of these costs will go away. You will also get better outcomes.
The cost of secondary education has grown faster than any other part of life. It has grown even faster, and by more, than healthcare. Student debt is now a bigger weight on the young than the mortgage bubble was on their parents.
Few things keep aspiring young people more in thrall than the burden of university. Few services have declined as much in quality than the learning experience provided by universities.
All this is changing.
In the next 10 years, educating yourself will become a new norm for many people. In education, we see the Khan Academy emerging as paradigm changing force. Many of the leading universities are putting their courses online.
Soon we will see even the ‘course’, with one teacher, shift to a tutorial model where the expert and the students engage in a conversation. This is a model where all learn from the emergent properties of conversation and where it will be our reputation that emerges as our credential.
The academic credential is like the job, an artifact of the industrial system. It is a convenient symbol of attainment.
Already, in the software world, employers hire on reputation. If you live in the Drupal world, you know the social hierarchy. You know who the players are. You know who is good or not. New entrants have to prove themselves in this ecology. As more of us live and work in networks, our reputation will become more important than any CV. It will be when others who are trusted say that you can do the work that you will get the work.
Learning will return to being a personal activity. The long death of machine education will open up a huge opportunity for those that really do want to teach and learn. Reputation and real knowledge will replace the credential. Connecting trust platforms for learning will emerge as they are for business.
It’s the same in health.
Many of us live in big cities because that is where the healthcare services are concentrated. Many of us pay enormous sums to access healthcare. This burden will go away.
A new, networked community health model is emerging where we help each other eat and live in a more healthy way. Much of this is connected to the new food system.
It will be the advent of the right kind of connecting trust platforms that will tip this idea into the new health reality.
I will cover these two areas in much more detail when I release You Don’t Need Medicine to Be Healthy in March and You Don't Need a School to Get an Education in the summer of 2013.
You are spending your precious weekend on a retreat to discvover your organization's values? You are spending the day meeting about a new product. Your team is meeting to bond. Oh the horror! Most of my memories of such meetings are nightmares. Over cheerful and manipulative facilitators. The demand for action now! The knowledge that the important issues have not been spoken of. The feeling that I have been herded into a decision that was set before the meeting began. The Posing! The Boredom!
When I read Johnnie Moore and Viv McWaters new book on Facilitation, I wished that I could go back in time and share this gem with my then bosses. They might have been able to set more realistic expectations. I wish that we could have selected the facilitators because we knew what was in this book and so avoided the worst of them. I wish I had known this too, so I would not have been such a fool as well.
The book is short, succinct, easy to follow and personal. It is the summation of many years of master work.
Don't have another wasted meeting - get your copy here.
Traditional organizations are Reductionist by culture. They need to have cause and effect lined up. They need to feel that effort on its own will deliver a result. They are obsessed with focus and efficiency.
So how then can they use Big Data and Social Media effectively to discover things that are real but are not obvious? How can tech firms sell Big Data Solutions and Enterprise Social Media and expect a reductive culture to use this technology well?
The Cynefin framework has five domains. The first four domains are:
Traditional organizations, by their culture, can only work in the Simple and the Complicated quadrants of life.
The value of Big Data is to discover "Emergent" and to test Novel properties. To see things that cannot be seen as an act of deliberate study. The Value of Enterprise Social Media is also to reveal Emergence and to test Novel properties from the crowd of employees and all those that touch the enterprise.
People embedded in the reductionist mindset cannot do this. And if they could, the culture of the organization will force them to be more deliberate and so miss the emergent. They are not allowed to play either and so cannot test the novel.
Image Source Peter Fryer
How do you get around this culrtural blindness? I think that a good start is to have a Hacker Department. Euan Semple was at one time, Hacker in Chief for the BBC. Peter Rukavina has just been appointed Hacker in Residence for UPEI.
What happens is that this can start a viral infection in the culture. So long as Euan was at the BBC, with no real power, he could and did make a massive impact. Since he has left, the BBC is reverting. Look at Andy Carvin at NPR! Andy's influence has been huge and mainly because his bosses let him get on with stuff. Who would know what his work on Twitter in the Arab Spring would lead to?
A tiny Trojan Mouse, such as Andy Carvin at NPR, Euan Semple or Peter Rukavina, can make a huge difference and move the entire organization. Tiny new things that contain the seeds of change.
If I was a CEO and wanted to create value from Big Data or from Social Media, I would set up a small office that reported to me and look for my own hacker in residence to be the agent and chief hacker. I would let them have a lot of space and time to discover things and I would give them access to everyone and to everything.
If I was the CEO of a big data firm or a firm that offered Enterprise Social Media, I would have a stable of such hackers and I would lend them out on yearly terms to my clients.
I would do this because I know that a reductionist eye cannot see emergence or play enough to see novelty. I would do this because the new competitive issue is not efficiency but in seeing the emergent and discovering the truly novel.
We see this in science. Most of science today is confined by a redutionist approach. All of this will be over turned in the next decade by other scientists who can cope with working in the Complex and the Chaotic sectors.
So even if you as the CEO may be stuck there too, you can at least use logic to know that having a Euan, and Andy or a Peter will be good for you.
Here are more of my working notes for part of my new book: You Don't Need Medicine - To Be Healthy.
The central thesis of the book is that our health is directly connected to the environment. That is why you and I can make the changes that we need to be healthy.
This post is a sketch for the chapter in the book that will be about our social world. My notes on the choices that we face for Diet are here. My notes for the ideal environment that we need for our Body are here. My notes on all the science that supports this thesis are here.
The Mind Our Blessing and Our Curse
We have seen that our our stomach and our body need a certain environment to keep us healthy. Now we come to the most mysterious part of the chronic health equation. Our minds are the third element. Oue mind too reacts to its environment and then drives good or poor health.
For instance, if you work at the bottom rung of a bureaucracy, you are four times more likely to die of heart disease than the leader. If you retire at 65 as a man from a bureaucracy where all your status came from your job, you will be lucky to live another 5 years. If you live in a country with a wide range between the rich and the poor and you are poor, you will have much worse health than a person in another country living the same life as you but with a smaller income gap.
Status and control are the core issues for how our social environment affects human health. How this works is all about our being first of all a primate and secondly about being human and so being self aware.
All animals have a stress response. If you are a Zebra and you are being chased by a lion, you would go into full stress response. Every part of your body will shut down to ensure that you can run for your life. Your body is flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone, to do this. It's a huge bet: but this full on focus on running only lasts only for minutes. You are then dead or safe. If the lions are not hunting, you are calm. As a zebra, the stress response is only a good thing.
But for primates, like baboons or humans, it's different. All primates rely on the troop, band or tribe. There can be no life alone outside it. So, while we still go into high stress when we face a leopard, we also worry all the time about our social status. When there are changes at the top, everyone gets anxious because of the social uncertainty. Being low in status means that all those above us can take out their problems on us. Lower ranked members can stress all the time because they have no control over how they will be treated.
To combat the effect of the social stress, primates groom each other. Even the lowest member of the troop is included. No one is isolated. All primates need to groom to stay healthy. We have to live in a close knit small community where we have our place. We all need to be touched or have relationships that offer the equivalent. This is why prolonged isolation can be so terrible for humans or why babies, that are not touched a lot, develop so poorly or even die. This is why not having caring people in our lives is so damaging.
Because humans are conscious we have yet another layer of stress. We can imagine time and intangible events. So we can stress about global warming, world peace or gun control. We can worry about things that happened in the past. We can worry about the weather or a dress. We can worry about our old age. We can worry about things that we can have absolutely no control over.
Our human mind takes the primate problem of stress to a new level. For we have made culture itself our main evolutionary strategy. Culture, or the dominant social environment, is how weak hairless apes have adapted to the world and have become the dominant species.
The human mind literally creates the world we live in.
It takes in all the data and creates neural patterns in the brain that define us. Repeated thoughts and repeated reactions literally carve pathways in our neurons. For instance, if you were blindfolded at birth for 3 years and then the blindfold was taken off, you would be blind and never be able to see. What will have happened is that the pathway in the brain for sight would never have developed. Once it missed the window, the pathway will be lost forever.
This biomechanical brain body function applies to all animals. What is different for us is that the same neuron wiring process is also set up, or changed, by how we think and by how our emotions work. How we react to our social environment creates our ego and constructs the reality that each of us live in.
So is there an ideal social environment for humans to develop to their full and healthy potential? Yes, of course there is and it is the same environment that has set us up to thrive when we eat and when we use our bodies.
Our Ideal Social Environment
We lived for millions of years as wandering Hunter Gatherers. Just as this experience has shaped our diet and our body, it has also shaped our social needs.
We are designed to live in a very small, close knit and interdependent unit of people. This unit is both where we have our home and also where we work. Our children are raised collectively in it. We grow old in it. It looks after us and we look after it. We rise or fall according to how this unit fares. We are both the unit and also individuals.
Being hunter gatherers, we have very few possessions and so cannot know the idea of property. We cannot imagine owning any thing or anyone. We don't own another adult and we don't own a child. We don't have a plan for another person. Not being owned by anyone, we have a low need to please anyone. Controlling others or being controlled by others is inconceivable. We are part of the group but we are only reponsible for ourselves.
We live in very small communities. Most human tribes were less than 35. Our social complexity is low. We spend our entire lives living, loving and working in this small social world. We know where we stand and we know where others stand. Relationships are predictable. Our place in this community is directly related to what we do and to what kind of person we are.
Our status is controlled by our own actions.
At the core of this social environment is the socio economic culture. How we get our food drives every part of it. Not only does Hunter Gathering mean that we are mobile and cannot own property, it is also a very efficient way of getting the food that we need. It only consumes about 30% of the day on average. It gives us the time to have the right relationships.
Time is in abundance. Time is key for the development of the children. Time is key for all development.With time, there is time to develop naturally. Nothing is forced.
The children are also not tied to only two or one adults but to all the adults in the tribe. Girls, teens and grannies all look after the needs of all the young. Young girls and boys learn directly from all the adults about how to behave and how to work. Mothers are supported by the whole tribe. Men transform boys into men and model what it is to be a man. The elders hold the wisdom and the stories.
All have the time.
At the centre of this unit is each individual. As an infant and as a child, this individual has been raised in the ideal social setting. It does indeed take a village to raise a child. The child has constraints but also great freedom to explore the world and herself. Nature plays a large role in this. There is time to connect to nature and to ourselves as well. We draw comfort from nature. All make their living from nature. People understand it at a level of detail that we cannot know now. Nature has its own time and shows us again that development cannot be forced. All things grow on their own timetable.
Nature sets the course.
As we observe nature's rythms, we also start to see that our death is not a final stop but a step in the great cycle of nature. Humans are the only species that we know of that knows of its own death. But with our place in nature secure by living in it, this fear is lessened. We can grow old gracefully. We can embrace our time here and our time to leave. We need no faith to know that all is a cycle. Death in this context is only part of a continuum.
This then is the social environment that humans have been shaped by millions of years to do best in.
This is a social design that has high meaning, high control, has high intimacy, high trust and lots of time. All of this in the setting of nature herself, our guide and home.
But we don't live like this any more.
Our Current Social Environment and Why it Makes us Ill
50% of us now live in large cities surrounded by millions of strangers. We have to ignore other people to cope with this. People have to ignore us. We have to live in isolation. There can be very little intimacy or trust in such a setting.
Many of us also work in large bureaucracies where all is utility. We are told to leave our true selves at home. We work with strangers. We compete with our colleagues. There is no close and interdependent community. We work not for the group and so ourselves but for THE MAN. We are all expendable. We do not share in the rewards or in the plans. The modern workplace has no meaning, no intimacy. It has no trust. It is low control by design.
The home and the workplace are also physically separate. So the demands of working and raising children are in perpetual conflict. Work and Life cannot be resolved.
At the core of all of this is the socio economic system of consumerism. This has made the accumulation of things and of money the purpose of life. We hope that a thing will add to our status. But we find that things offer only fleeting glimpses of status. For, our status in this system is granted to us by others. We are born into it or not. We go to the right school or not. We get the right job or not. We lose our job or not. Because status is granted by forces outside of our control, we worry about it all the time. Our status is never secure. Money as a purpose is not enough.
Obsessed with owning things, we seek to own people as well. We own our spouses and our children. We own our employees. We see them as reflections of ourseves just as we see our cars. We have plans for them. We need to control them. We seek control where it cannot be found. And they all have plans for us too. We all judge and blame the other for our own feelings and lives.
We are helpless and so have little control in the essential parts of our lives. For most of us have no real skills at all. Many of us can do almost nothing in a practical sense to look after ourselves. Few can cook anymore. Few can make or fix anything. The mass production world has deskilled us.
We depend on uncontollable forces to feed us, pay us, heat us and give us shelter. If anything was to go wrong with these external forces, we would not know what to do. At a deep level we know this and this sense of having no control eats away at us.
In this context, we struggle to raise our young.
The demands of the modern culture and the modern workplace are destroying the viability of the family as the place where we raise the next generation. The hours at work take time and energy away from our core relationships. Many now look at their spouse in the same utilitarian perspective that they have learned at work. Consequently, many of us live alone or raise children alone. Many parents are isolated and live lives of desparation. Mothers and children no longer have the tribal support they need. Our children can so easly get lost.
As do we all when we get old. The elderly are lost too. Old age is to be feared for it is to be alone and worthless. The old have no place anymore but live too long.
Most people are cut off from the natural world. Who ses the night sky anymore? Who feels the seasons. We have no guide for life and how to live it. So, death becomes a terrible thing. Many of us try and distract ourselves from it. We try and look young. We behave badly. We deny death.
By accident, we have created a culture that is utterly alien to human life. A huge gap has opened up between the social environment that we were designed to thrive in and the one that we live in today. No wonder there is an epidemic of chronic disease.
So the question of our time is "Can we get back to a social world that is good for us?"
I think we can. For the issue is not to change the world, which is impossible, but to change ourselves.
How to recreate the social world that we need
We can find a real tribe with all the meaning and support and status that comes from that. We can live in a small place. We can use the hunter gatherer economy and lifestyle and so find time and stop obessing about things. We can unattach from the need to control and to be controlled. We can find nature. We can find ourselves. We can become free from fear of death.
It is a matter of choices. Here is my story as a guide for how I was able to return to a life that is very close to that of a Hunter Gatherer.
Lose the Job, Find Yourself and Find a Tribe
In my own case the key to gaining control of my life was to give up on having a job. In my book, You Don't Need a Job, I do my best to show you why you will be better off financially outside the job world. In this book, I will show you why you will be healthier without one.
I did not start with a plan. My new life began with my being miserable and not knowing why. This was of course a very stressful and unhealthy time for me.
Like many people, I went into a career because it pleased my parents and I could made a lot of money. I was good at this chosen profession of Banking. But as the years went on, this work satisfied me less and less. It seemed that I was playing monopoly. I was also trapped by the money. Only crime paid as well!
My devotion to this career also affected my family. I had been proud that I was a good provider, but my wife and kids wanted something else. They wanted me. They wanted my full attention. And this I could not give them. For this kind of a job took all of me and maybe more. I became a ghost of a man. Unable to give my attention to those that I loved.
This was a miserable time for me. All I knew was that my life did not work anymore. I had no idea what to do. But then, by coincidence, I had dinner with an old friend who knew exactly what was going on. She told me that I had to get out of this life and that the clue to my future would be in finding out what truly made me happy and making this my goal. She told me to keep my eyes out for the right people who could help me.
So, with no more plan than that, I left the restaurant even more scared than when I had arrived.
Not a week had gone by when the Chairman called me told that he was tied up and could not see his next visitor, Dr Fraser Mustard, who was a bit weird. As the weirdest man in the bank, Al thought I might fill in well for him and could I come over. It was one of those moments. I found the man. In finding him, I was also able to remember what I really liked to do.
I loved working on big academic problems. I loved the research. I loved how patterns would emerge. I loved to wake up in the middle of the night and find that my sleeping mind had solved a problem. I loved the interplay with others who shared a common problem. I loved the hours and how I used lots of free time to cook a problem. I loved the setting and the feeling that it was all up to me. For at Oxford, you are treated as an adult and left to your own devices. No one tells you what to do or how to think. You are expected to do the work yourself.
I wanted to take the way I worked at Oxford and make this work my life.
Fraser lived for big problems. At the time he was working on the Determinants of Health, and on the power of the Early Years to determine our development. I was responsible at the time for the health of the bank's employees and their families. He exposed me to ideas and people that I could never have found on my own. I have been working on these ideas ever since.
I became intoxicated. It was like having an affair. I would spend hours every week outside of the bank working on his problems. I had never worked like this before. I had always been in the job hierarchy. In the job world, each party reacts to power. In a network each person reacts to the humanity of the other person! This was utterly new to me. This new way of working for peers and for the sake of finding answers to shared problems helped me lose a lot of my corporate armour.
Fraser himself was the epicentre of a great network of people working on big problems. Getting his trust and respect was very hard. But if you had his trust, then you too could join. This is what happened to me. When the day came when the Bank and I parted company at last, I had a network and was able to reject the job as an alternative.
I tell you this story because while it is mine, it has an aspect that I think is universal.
In the myth of the Hero's Journey, the starting point is disease. 'Dis ease'. There is a time of pain and problems that seem insoluable for they have no known cause. The job brings this today. You might not have one and think that you need one. You might have one and think it is wrong for you. You may have one and fear that you might lose it. Your job may conflict with your family. It may conflict with the real you. There may be people at your job who make you feel ill. Your job may have mad rules. You job may be about nothing that you value. Jobs steal time from us.
The job world is the source of most of the stress and so disease that we endure today. The job splits us into conflicted parts. When we don't have the job, we start to come together again and become the person we are inside.
Get Time Back
Once you start to earn a living for yourself, you will discover that you have control over the most precious resource that you have. Time is all there is. Once I was making a living, I had control over my time. This is where the major rewards of being a modern HG shine through. For the job robs us of control of time. With no control over time, we are always in conflict and so stressed.
But it took me time to get used to having control over my time. At first I felt guilty. How could I go shopping midweek? How could I take a long lunch? How could I go away? I had been wired to be busy and to be at the beck and call of others. I think this all starts with the school bell. Like Pavlov's dogs, we are obessed with other people's schedules for us. It took me several years to accept that I was now in charge of my schedule.
There are other important changes to time that take place as a result of working in a tribal setting.
I found that my pace of work on my own, without all the distractions of all the meetings and all the bullshit at work, was much faster than my clients expected. They were all so busy doing nothing substantive that they could not keep up with me. I found that I had the time to allow my work to evolve. I no longer had to push mechanically at work. I could allow it to happen. I can have an off day and not be able to work and be relaxed that the job would still get done. I can get stuck, as I have with this book at times, and take a week off, and find that when I return the problem has been solved. I can sleep on a problem. I can play with data. I can be a hacker in my work. I can fit my work to nature's schedule and not to the clock.
Imagine how much less stressful this is? Imagine how much more satisfying this approach to work is?
Because I am so much more productive than those who have jobs, I also have lots of time in my life for the unexpected. The car can break down. I can react to a call to help with my grand children. There is no conflict. I can fit it all in.
There is time to do great work and also be fully present with my family. What more can you ask? Most of the conflict and stress that was central to the job and family has gone away.
With time, you can invest in relationships
In my job life, I issued orders or took them. There was not much time for anything else. The task ruled. Working like this all day for decades, affected how I was outside of work too.
I lost the ability to listen to other people and to feel empathy. As I lost this for others, I lost it for myself too.
Primates have to groom and to be groomed to keep healthy. We have to invest time in our important relationships. As humans, we groom by hearing the other out. We groom by listening and by being heard. As a man and as a husband, it took me years to work out that my wife did not want my advice. She wanted to be heard. It took me longer to know that I too needed to be heard. There is nothing more comforting than to be heard. There is no greatere social gift than to listen.
But in the job world there is no time for this. No time at work or at home. So with no one to hear us, our stress builds and builds. Working for myself changed this. I now had time. I could be open enough to hear. I had the time to pay attention to a few friends.
Finding your voice
In the job world, I spoke in that "Corporate" voice. I spoke memos and jargon. I was clipped. I seemed sure. I was always on the parade ground. But that is not a voice that friends or lovers use. They use an intimate voice. They speak from the heart. I had lost all of that. I had no clue how to speak from the heart.
It was blogging that helped me find my authentic voice again. It was blogging that helped my find others whose voice attracted me. At first I wrote more memos. But over time, I started to be personal. The more personal I was, the more I connected with a few people who I had grown to like for the same reasons.
Now 11 years later, I cannot speak corporate anymore. Not just in my writing but in my actual voice. I have retrained my voice to be me and not some role I played in my job. I could never have done this while still in a job. For what employer can allow an employee to speak her mind or worse, her heart?
In the job world we speak from a limited script. We lose our power because we don't use our own voice. We instead try and be clever rather than be true. Listen to Martin Luther King vesus any politician you can think of and you can hear the difference in a second.
When we speak our truth, we attract people to ourselves legitimately. We don't have to be in conflict with who we are. There is no stress and there is much power. We can be ourselves. We can strengthen our relationships with our tribe and so get more of what we need from our tribe.
Live in a small community, lose your armour and slow down the pace of time
As I became better at earning a living as a result of knowing my passion, being more human and having a good virtual tribe, I took the next step. I left the big city and moved to a tiny physical community.
With the web, with a passion, real skills and a real tribe, it is much easier to make a living than ever before. You don't have to live in a big city to have opportunity. Again, much more on this in You Don't Need a Job.
Remember, at the core of our evolved social design, we do best in a small social setting. It's all about identity. As much as we like our anonymity in the big city, our deeper self craves the reality of being known. We bask in being able to go into the store and be recognized. We like to be waved at by people in cars. We enjoy naturally stopping in the street for a chat. We are being groomed and we are grooming.
After a few years of living on Prince Edward Island, population 140,000 people, I lost my social armour. I recall visiting my son in Toronto after a few years in this small place, and I could not help myself from saying good morning to people in the street. "Dad! We are in Toronto now!" he said embarassed.
Living in a small place melts the armour that we need to cope with life in a major city. Once the armour comes off in the street, it comes off at home too. I can see now that 'Armoured Robert' came home everynight. I had played that part so well and for so long that he became me. Now vulnerable Rob lives in all the parts of my life.
There is another time element in living in a small place too. This time the issue is pace.
As much as we think we love the pace of the big city, once you have decompressed and adjusted to the pace of the small, you will love the way that time stretches in a small community. The smaller the community, the slower the pace. The slower the pace, the fewer the expectations on time. The fewer the expectations, the less stress.
I have learned that time is not a matter of measured minutes, hours, days, months or years. Time is in fact a very elastic concept and is felt rather than measured by the clock. In the job world, the clock rules. I was always out of time. In the tribal and rural world, I always have time.
Stop being possessed by possessions and so by money
Living in a small place also enabled me to cut my ongoing costs a great deal. Remember, Hunter Gatherers have few possessions. In the modern world, we all try and increase our stuff and so need more money. In the HG world, I try all the time to reduce my need for stuff and my structural costs.
This means that I need less to work and earn a living and more and more I can be free. For again, the HG lifestyle means that you only have to work for about 30% of the time. I go into great detail on this point in You Don't Need a Job.
On Prince Edward Island, housing costs are a fraction of the big city. It is a lot less stressful to need less money to pay for things that to strive to have more. In my job life I needed to earn at least $300,000 a year to break even. Today I live well on $30,000. In You Don't Need a Job, I explore how to see the costs of a job and how I made this shift to needing so much less.
Money can be a huge stressor. To make this stress go away is not to choose poverty but to choose simplicity. It is to make structural changes in how you live so that you don't spend too much on housing, transport, heat and food. It is to find ways of exchanging time for money. For if you do this right, you will have lots more time. When I had a job I had a time deficit, so I paid cash for everything. With time, I need much less cash. With time I can cook real food and even grow it. With time, I can heat with wood. This also gets me active and outdoors and makes my diet healthy. It's a positive cycle.
Having time is I think the new status too. I used to have lots of things, smart cars, smart houses, smart clothes. It looked as if I was succssful. It appeared that I had high status. But I was one pay cheque away from trouble. I was as much a slave as most people.
Status and control are the main social drivers of our health. With control over my time and high freedom, I have real status and control. I have met most of my health needs in the social sphere. No one can take this away from me. I am in charge of my place in society as a HG would be.
But there remains another layer of challenge to get free from. We have to get free from the shackles of our family experience and we have to get free from our fear of death. This is the really hard work and I was not ready to start this until I had got a lot of what I have just talked about well under way.
Escape from the shadows of your nuclear family
Our reality is created by how we react to our home culture before we are 3. Our brain is wired for life then. This experience can make us stronger or weaker as we age. We sometimes need to take stock and make a correction.
This is a huge and a sensitive subject. Here is a link to the science.
How we are raised affects the trajectory for how we develop over our life. It affects how we learn or not. It affects how we behave or not. It affects our health. It affects our emotional development too. Will we grow up as a real adult or remain stuck at some earlier point? Will we keep playing out our own family drama and story in the other parts of our life? Much is determined by what we experienced before we are 3. Many issues that we not resolved then, play out in our adult lives.
The modern workplace is full of people playing out these family dramas. Mine was, the Missing Father and so I looked for "fathers" who would finally accept me. Outside of work I played out the Missing Mother and looked for "mothers" who would love me. All of this was of course very bad for me and for all I chose to play these games with.
Many of us, whose development has been stunted by a dysfunctional home, stay an infant or a child. Many who have been bullied, bully. Many who have not been loved enough, love too much.
As I got to be more me, the demons of my childhood that had lurked in the background, moved into the foreground. This was a terrible time for me. When I had been so busy, and so shut down, I had been able to surpress this awareness. It seemed to me that my new freedom had come with a curse.
I did seek professional help. This can help. But I found a better way. I found a way that I could put my demons aside for myself. I could rewire my brain. This process is called neuroplasicity. Though I did not know this at the time.
In the HG world, we all know everything about our ancestors. In the modern world, we often know nothing. My starting position was that my parents were uncaring infantile people. That I had been dealt a bad hand by them and that they were not good people. As these feelings surged up, I became very angry with them. I judged them cruelly.
This was very stressful. Again, I was stuck. I knew that this was very bad for me. I could not change what had happened, so what was I to do? I had to find out why they had behaved the way that they had. I had to find out why.
As I began to learn about their lives, I began to have compassion for them and then shame at how cruel I had been. I saw how they had suffered. I started to understand. I looked at myself and found no parental paragon either. Who was I to judge? I started to change my story from "Poor Me" to "What Can I do Now?" I started to rewire my brain. I created new thought habits.
After a few years I stopped feeling bad at all. I had rewired my brain. I had new tapes that were better and productive. I could love my parents again. There was in the end nothing to forgive. All this corrosive again, fear and pain fell away. And with that, all the related stress.
I had thought that I was a grown up adult in my 40's. I was not. I was still playing out my childhood losses. My observation is that most of us are. The nuclear family is too fragile a child raising unit. Most of us have less than ideal social settings for this critical part of life. Most of us are raised as children by grown ups who are in many ways still children themselves. The job world places them in an impossible conflict.
It is now time to start to rethink the family again.
Work to create a real tribe
I am reaching the time of my life when productive work is less of an option. In the HG world, 62 year old men did not go hunting. They advised the hunters. They told stories. They adjudicated disputes. They looked after the young. 60 year old women also made the same kind of shift away from the primary economic work.
In my 40's I sought a work tribe. I now seek the larger and more complete tribe. I seek the ideal which is a unit that provides both the economics AND the full social setting for all ages. I now seek a place in such a tribe that is mainly a nurturing role.
In my 60's, my tribe is evolving. Before, it was mainly about making a living. It could be virtual. It is now evolving onto a close group of people, some of who are related, who are starting to look after each other in practical sense. It is more a close physical tribe.
And we we do this, we extend this care to our adult children who themseves are struggling with small ones and to each other. I don't know how this will work out. But I know this, if I get to 80, there will be no seniors homes. I had better be healthy and I had better have a network or I am in big trouble.
As I look ahead, I see that all the institutions that we take for granted can fail. I don't trust that the food system will feed me. I don't trust that energy will be easy and cheap. I don't trust that the education or health system will be there. I don't trust that pensions or investments will be there. I don't trust that the government will be there. I don't trust that even money will exist. I certainly don't trust that the weather will be the same.
I cannot control any of this. I can only get ready myself and help my tribe get ready. I see the great work of our time as this project. Getting ready to be more resilient so that we have half a chance to cope with the vast changes that seem inevitable.
For surely it was the Tribe that enabled humans to cope with all changes for millions of years. It is the ideal social container for challenging times. It enables each of us to have some control in a world where there is none. The wonder of this project is that there are millions of people out there who are also involved. We can all help each other. We can be supported by each other. What a feeling of community!
But there is one further step. One thing is certain. That you and I will die. I think that the final stage in our development as a human is to learn to accept death itself. For death is the last great stressor. For if we deny it, we are in conflict with our deep truth.
Get a dog, get outside and stop worrying about death
We are the only species to have self knowledge about death. This is a terrible burden to carry. In the modern world we don't. Most don't think about death consciously. Most deny it. We try and be eternally young. We worship youth. People hope that there will be a god to save them. But the truth of our death eats away at us, if we deny it.
If we deny our own death, we prevent oursleves from truly enjoying life.
I was as frightened as anyone can be. But I am not scared of death anymore. As a result, I am at peace. Peace that I have never felt before. So how did this happen? It mainly happened as a result of me spending a lot of time in nature. Living in a rural setting is a start. It happened because I had the time to be open.
I also have a very good spiritaul and nature advisor. I have a dog. Every day, rain or shine, snow or sleet, clear or windy I walk the dog. We take the same routes. Each day, we see the differences as the cycle of life plays out. We see the first wormcast that heralds spring. We see the last leaf fall. We see how the leaves change colour and how the wild flowers rotate. We see dead animals. We see birds nesting and chicks fledging. We see how everthing has a cycle.
The dog takes me there. She opens my eyes to the detail of all this life and all this death that surrounds us all.
My dogs also show me how to enjoy life. The dog is excited by just waking up in the morning. The dog loves every meal as if it might be her last. Dogs love to love me and they love to be loved. They embody love. They love me as I am. They want to be close to me all the time.
And their short lives show me that I cannot avoid my own end. In 12 years Jay goes though all the stages of a life. The bounding puppy, the mad teen, the stud, the calm older male, the gentle soul and then only the memory.
Knowing how precious every day alive is, I too now get up in the morning glad to be alive. I too eat every meal with gratitude. I welcome people into my life. If I had a tail, I would wag it.
The greatest irony has been that allowing myself to be certain of my death has made my life so much better. After all, what can happen to me: I am going to die anyway? I used to worry about all sorts of things. But now that I know that I will die, and that this is OK, all my projects and hopes have a perspective. Now I can live for the moment.
I could never have got to this place without having taken all the other steps first. I write this aged 62. I cannot know how I will develop further. I only know that giving up the job, and the culture attached to the job, has set me free to get back to the life that all humans are designed to live.
We can go home
I don't live in a cave and wear skins and hunt mammoths but I hope that I have been able to show you that I have made a lot of progress in living like a hunter gatherer in today's world. We can eat like one. We can use our bodies like one and we can live in the same kind of social environment as one. We can have a spiritual life of a Hunter Gatherer. We can do all of this and still be in the modern world.
It's a matter of choices and design.
The big choice is to leave the world of the Job. For it is the Job that forces us into eating poorly. It is the Job that sits us down all day. It is the Job that takes us away from our ideal social setting. It is the Job world that is at the cause of all our chronic illness.
500 years ago, pilgrims came to America to enable them to escape the prevailing culture of the old world. I think that we too are pilgrims. We too have to escape todays prevailing culture. There is no new land but there is a new world. It is in our mind. When enough of us go there, we will change the larger culture.
But for now, each of us can do this. We need to wait for no one. It is in our control and the path is known.
....... we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the heropath. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the centre of our existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world."
Joseph Campbell, Hero of a Thousand Faces
As you can see, this is a very complex subject. I can only offer you a survy here. Here is a link to a companion website that I have set up up where you can see a lot more. On the site, you will find a mass of articles, videos and posts that take you much deeper.
Here is an introduction to the best scientists in this field. You will find more of their work on the site as well.
Our Social Environment - Dr Sir Michael Marmot
Do you work at the bottom of a hierarchy? Then you will get ill and die 4 times earlier than those at the top. Married to your work as a man? Retirement will kill you in 5 years. Are you at the lower end of the vast income inequality in the US and the UK? You will get ill.
How much control and Status we have in life directly affects our health. Medicine and access to healthcare has nothing to do with these differences in health outcomes.
Dr Sir Michael Marmot is the world's leading authority on how human social environments affect our health. Cubicle land and factory work is lethal. Large differences in national income is lethal. Inequality is lethal.
His research on the Brtish Civil Service is a landmark piece of work that sheds light on how this works.
Our Social Environment - Professor Robert Sapolsky
So how does this process work? All primates get stressed by social issues. Zebras only worry at the moment when they are being chased by the lion. Baboons worry all the time about their place in the troop. Humans worry even more. Our consciousness can be a curse. We can worry oursleves about the mortgage or global warming too.
Sapolsky is the leading scientist studying the primate and human stress mechanism.
Sapolsky is a brilliant scientist and a remarkable explainer. His lectures online are very accessible and offer massive insights as to why we, as the most social of all animals, have to pay attention to our social environment and do all we can to make it less stressful.
Social Environment Early Childhood - Dr J Doug Willms
The single most important social factor on our health over a lifetime is the social environment that we had from 0 - 3. When I say 0, I mean from the moment of conception. Children's world view, and so their stress reaction to life is set by 3. This setting drives the development trajectory for life.
Professor Doug Willms is the authority on the link between family culture and long term development outcomes for children.
So how we parent is key. If we are too top down, use power all the time, don't touch enough, speak to but not converse with - all signs of a stressed person - then we set up poor conditions. If we allow everything, let the child run her life, don't stand firm on important issues, are distant - then this too has poor outcomes. The worst being when each parent has one of these two styles.
The best outcomes are from parents who stand firm on important things but allow a lot of room for all others. Who have lots of conversation with their infants. Who touch their kids a lot and who are affectionate with each other.
This style of parenting is not tied into any one income level. So many of us have been captured by our own stress response to the corporate world. It leads me to believe that earning our living in a different way will help.
Social Environment Parenting - The Late Jean Liedloff
Just as Michael Rose goes back in time to show us a lifestyle that is suited to how we evolve, so the late Jena Liedloff does this in how best to parent. Her work is the manual of our evolution and is very accessible and pragmatic
Social Environment - PTSD - DR Jonathan Shay
PTSD is a massive issue in the west today after more than a decade of warfare. Here again people have been shaped by their environment. So is the cause of PTSD the trauma of seeing or doing bad things?
Shay has discovered that this is too simple a perspective. The deeper cause of PTSD, and all illness caused by trauma, is Betrayal. This is why incest is such a terrible act as it involves the worst betrayal of all.
PTSD is driven by bad leadership. A military that has leaders who care not for their men but for their careers. A political class that goes to war and exploits the patriotism of their young men for a game and not a real cause. A system that rotates men too often and breaks their attachments.
This betrayal was seen everywhere in Vietnam. All that was wrong in Viertnam has taken place again in Iraq and in Afghanistan. As those involved learn that they were betrayed, their feelings will deepen. The PTSD epidemic will grow.
Shay also has done the work to find a way for these men to come home. And it is not drugs or experts. It is in helping people help each other. It is in helping them find a tribe again. Medicine and conventional therapy does not work. Only the tribe can offer the trust required to quiet the demons.
Changing Deep Beliefs - Alan Deutschman
How do we change our wiring? If we have depression, PTSD, had a shitty childhood, have addictions? There is no pill. There is no smart man in a white coat. But there is a proven social process and journalist Alan Deutschman has made a lifetime study about what this is.
His work, Sapolsky's, Mate's, Frankl's and Shay's all intersect and support each other. Alan offers a special clarity and great case studies.
Changing Deep Beliefs - Neuroplasticity - Dr Norman Doidge
And so what is this kind of change that Alan reviews so clearly? ? We have to rewire our brain - literally. Our beliefs, or our automatic responses to an event, have been hard wired in our brain by repetition. The more times we go to THAT place, the faster we go there. It is like a river cutting a chasm.
Doidge and Sapolsky have unravelled how this mechanism works and are using the understanding of the plasticity of the brain to change the wiring.
Dr Norman Doidge has had great success in helping people rewire. Even people with schizophrenia.
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