List Syntropy – Count your strong moments

Happiness is filling your life with strong moments

Consider the following two laws of physics and math

  1. A closed system becomes more disordered over time (2nd law of thermodynamics)
  2. A system cannot demonstrate its own consistency (Gödel’s  2nd incompleteness theorem)

The fact that both of these laws are ‘2nd s’ reminds me of factory seconds. Those jeans with the funny stitching and lopsided pockets are a result of a system disordering over time and proof that the procedure to make those pants cannot be proven to be inextricably perfect.

Ignoring these natural laws can result in having a ‘factory seconds’ kind of day.

There is a cure; it involves measuring and analyzing your strong moments.

What is a strong moment you ask?

A strong moment is any experience that gives you an emotional high or a jolt of energy.

I decided to list my strong moments over the course of 6 months. Every few days I would send myself an email listing all of the strong moments I could think of. I predicted what kinds of strong moments I’d have.

My Prediction 

  • Hedonistic fun – 30%
  • Enjoyable interaction with 5 or 6 strong people – 30%
  • Flow experience – 30%
  • Unknown – 10%

The Results – based on a representative sample of 336 moments

  • Inspired and motivated by ideas – 40%
  • Enjoyable interaction with 25 strong people – 25%
  • Accomplishment euphoria – 25%
  • Fun – 10%

I found this to be an eye-opening experience, here’s what I learned.

  1. Reflective perspective is different than anticipatory – how you feel after something can be much better than how you feel going into it
  2. Smashing through a painful task makes you stronger
  3. Schedule time with strong people, don’t limit yourself to just a few
  4. You can have a strong moment with almost anyone
  5. Pondering strong moments has a positive effect on your physiology
  6. Patterns start to emerge, these patterns are your strength statements

Inject positivity in your mindspace so you can look at the right things the right way

Mastering yourself is true power – Lao Tzu

Turbo-charge your memory

Did you know there are only ten independent consonant sounds in the English alphabet?
See for yourself, say ‘tah’ out loud and then say ‘dah’. Notice the configuration of your mouth is identical in both cases.
We can leverage this quirk of the English language to create a powerful memory technique.
There are two parts to this technique, once you grasp them, the learning possibilities are limitless.
Part 1 – Associate a number to each consonant sound
1 – ‘t’ or ‘d’  – Hold up one finger, notice it looks like a t without the dash.
2 – ‘n’  – Hold up two fingers and then turn them upside down, looks like an ‘n’
3 – ‘m’  – Now hold down three fingers, looks like an ‘m’
4 – ‘r’  – Say the number four out loud and roll the ‘r’
5 – ‘L’  – Hold up your hand, notice the shape of your forefinger and thumb
6 – ‘sh’ or soft ‘g’ – Notice 6 looks like an upside down ‘g’.
7 – ‘k’ or hard ‘g’ – If you write the number 7 with a cross, it looks like a written ‘k’.
8 – ‘f’ or ‘v’ –  Handwritten small ‘f’ looks like a ‘figure 8’.
9 – ‘p’ or ‘b’ – 9 looks like a mirror image of a ‘p’.
0 – ‘zzzzzzero’ or ‘ssssss’.
Part 2 – Picture an object with each number
1 – ‘t’ or ‘d’ – tie  (a necktie)
2 – ‘n’ – noah (old man with a long white beard, over time you can just picture the white beard)
3 – ‘m’ – ma  (picture a mom)
4 – ‘r’ –  row  (oars representing rowing)
5 – ‘l’ – law  (picture a policeman’s hat)
6 – ‘sh’ or soft ‘g’ – shoe
7 – ‘k’ – key
8 – ‘f’ or ‘v’ – ivy 
9 – ‘p’ or ‘b’ – pie
0 – ‘z’ or ‘s’ – ice

You can use this list and create objects for numbers 10 to 99 as well. For example, the number 14 can be ‘tire’. Say you’re memorizing a list and the 14th object is ‘front closet’ just picture a tire in the front closet and you’re locked and loaded

Let’s bring this home with an example. Pretend you’re giving a talk on turbo-charging your memory and your speech is made up of 7 talk points.

1. Introduce yourself (Picture yourself wearing a funny looking tie)
2. Quirk of the english language (Picture William Shatner – Captain ‘Kirk’ is a reminder for ‘quirk’ – with a long white beard)
3. Ten independent consonant sounds (Picture your ma dancing on a sound speaker)
4. Technique has two parts to it (Picture ‘ying-yang’ symbol – represents two parts of a whole – rowing across the water)
5. Part 1 – Association (Picture a parent-teacher association meeting happening inside a gigantic policeman’s hat)
6. Part 2 – Object (Picture a lawyer in a courtroom standing up and saying, ‘I object’ and the judge has a huge shoe instead of a gavel)
7. Let’s bring this home with an example (Picture a huge key laying on the roof of a big home)

If you read this every day for a couple of weeks, not only will you be comfortable with the technique, but you’ll be able to explain it to others from memory. 

You may even start to believe you have tires in your front closet

Seven Bad Habits of Successful People?

As contrasted to Stephen Covey’s book – ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, do successful people do things that get in their own way at times? 

Marshall Goldsmith is an executive performance coach and he has written a book called ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’. 

He’s called in when a company is considering promoting someone to CEO or one of the ‘C’ level positions but for some reason they have a reservation. The executive seems to be ‘stuck’ in some form of bad behavior. 

What Marshall found is that successful people tend to think that their constructive behavior contributed to their success (a reasonable assumption), but they also make the mistake of thinking their destructive behavior also contributed to their success. They also tend to overlook the contribution dumb luck may have had. 

He names 20 bad habits in the book and says they seem to be rooted in 4 common urges. The urge to; win, ‘show what I know’, rationalize or disengage due to lack of personal gain. 

Seven Bad Habits

I’ve distilled these from the 20 Marshall outlines in his book. 

  1. L’il Ole Me – Rationalize that a negative attribute is a ‘virtue’
  2. The Punisher – Blame others including the messenger
  3. Interupty –  ‘listening’ is just an impatient pause for the other person to finish
  4. Possessed – acting out of anger or another negative emotion
  5. Clinger – going backwards to the past to explain why things are and can’t change
  6. Smarty  – have the last word or withhold useful information  
  7. Perfecto – don’t admit to mistakes or a willingness to learn & grow 

My smile – as I thought of others who display these habits – went to a frown – as I thought about the times I’ve demonstrated these same bad habits.

Fortunately for others, myself and maybe even you, there is a simple yet powerful cure.

The Cure

  1. Recognize ‘D=A’  – Identify which urge is at play (I call this ‘D=A’ because I’ve been told that when I’m Defensive, I tend to be an Ass)
  2. Pause
  3. Pick 1 of the following 3 options – Say Nothing or Thank-you or Sorry. 
  4. Make a weekly list of people you want to – 1. Thank 2. Apologize to and/or 3. Share information with.

If you don’t like this article, I won’t say anything (option 1).

If you do like it, I’d like to thank you (option 2).

I’d also like to say sorry –  just in case.

Self-esteem on one page – forging a strength by fire

My (then 15 year-old) daughter phoned me to get something off her chest.

I was busting at the seams to tell her what was wrong with the way she was looking at things and I was frustrated because she wasn’t letting me tell her how to fix her problem. The call ended with my daughter feeling hurt and my feeling annoyed. My annoyance transformed into guilt as I realized this was not who I wanted to be.

I love my daughter with every fiber of my being. I needed to dig deep and find a healthy way forward.

Then it came to me.

I was reading ‘Six Pillars of Self-Esteem’ (by Nathaniel Branden); I challenged myself to capture the essence of the book on one page. If I wasn’t able to do this, I had no right explaining the concept to my daughter.

I spent 4 hours the next morning and studied the book with such intensity that when I finished I had ‘version 0.1’ of the one-pager. Although I’ve refined the original over the years, I think 95% of the essence was captured that Sunday morning.

Six Pillars of Self-Esteem – one pager by Omer Aziz

Definition – Trust in my mind to apprehend and deal with reality appropriately & confidence in my right to happiness

The Six Pillars

  1. Living consciously – Expand my awareness – A curiosity and desire to continually seek out salient points
  2. Self-acceptance – I am compassionate to myself
  3. Self-responsibility – I am responsible for the fulfillment of my goals
  4. Self-Assertiveness – Honor my needs, wants and values and find appropriate forms of their expression
  5. Living purposefully – Formulate goals, identify actions, monitor behavior and pay attention to outcomes
  6. Personal integrity – When my ideals and practice match

Good habits

Catch and observe negative feelings and thoughts without acting

Count strong moments

Identify and derive salient points

Set clear, demanding goals and persevere

Course correct – monitor and adjust behavior

Bad habits

Belief that feeling is fact

Fear-driven actions

Avoid, ignore or deny relevant facts

Blame my low self-esteem on external factors

Powerless over emotional pain (fear, anxiety, depression, rage, etc)


Knowing others is intelligence;

Knowing yourself is true wisdom.

Mastering others is strength;

Mastering yourself is true power

– Lao Tzu

I learned that it was not my daughter’s self-esteem we needed to focus on, it was mine.

Physics and Positive Psychology

Maurice is one of the smartest most interesting people I’ve ever met. People have taken his courses on photonic propagation and come out feeling punch drunk.

I remember telling him once that I was going to be driving from Ottawa to New Brunswick and needed to wake up at 5am the day after I reached Fredericton. At 5 am (my time, not Ontario time) my cell phone rang. He’d gotten himself up and called me.

I told him I wanted to re-acquaint myself with the equations that describe a spring oscillating under a weight. He dropped by my office one day and derived the equations from scratch on my whiteboard. I remember he was tired that day and literally started to fall asleep standing up as he was writing the equations.

Our rapport created an unusual and powerful combination between Physics and Positive Psychology. I decided to leverage that combination one day be telling him about a concept called Flow.

Flow is a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in the research of peak of performance and one of the most cited authors in the field of positive psychology.

Csikszentmihalyi describes Flow as; a unified flow from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions and in which there is little distinction between self and environment, stimulus and response, past, present and future.

I described the defining characteristics of Flow.
Through that dialogue Maurice distilled them down to 7 simple statements, I love the way his mind works.

1. Goal is clear
(outcome is not vague, you’ll know if you achieved it or not, outcome is dichotomous)

2. Challenge is slightly stretch
(Challenge is slightly greater than or equal to your peak skill – calls for your best).

3. Presence of Feedback loop
(You know how you’re doing at all times, allows you to continually course correct.)

4. You are your talents
(Engaged in the exclusive use of your talents)

5. You are fully concentrated on salient factors.
(No distractions, no extraneous inputs, no compromise of performance due to fear or worry.)

6. Time has no meaning
(time either flies or stands still)

7. You approach the upper limit of intrinsic satisfaction.
(You love doing it for the sake of doing it).

This conversation has kept me interested and excited about this concept for over  ten years.

I learned from Maurice that maybe there isn’t a big difference between physics and positive psychology after all.