Is ChatGPT’s AI the Damnation of Imagination? Why I Want My Funk Uncut

Is ChatGPT’s AI the Damnation of Imagination? Why I Want My Funk Uncut

Last Thanksgiving’s launch of ChatGPT, an AI tool that writes like a human, prompted many on the web, especially those of us making our living crafting words, to wonder: Is this the end of human writing?

That’s pretty much how Sean Thomas sums it up in the Spectator: “We are screwed. By which I mean: we, the writers. We’re screwed. Writing is over. That’s it. It’s time to pack away your quill, your biro, and your shiny iPad: the computers will soon be here to do it better.”

I’ll admit I’m a little scared, or at the very least a bit nervous – not just for myself, but the whole human race. Because the real question that gnaws in the pits of our stomachs: Is this the end of human thinking, the end of imagination?

In November, OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company, released ChatGPT, a free tool that generates poetry, blogs, even screenplays and fantasy novels based on user prompts. And it’s impressively good, or at least good enough to not sound like a bot. 

Feeling nostalgic, I asked ChatGPT to write a poem about the Timex/Sinclair 1000, the first computer I had as a kid. It plugged into the TV and ran memory off the same tape deck we played Menudo cassettes. Check out the unedited results: 

 

A computer small and green and sleek,

The Timex/Sinclair 1000 unique,

With memory small, but truly chic,

It was a tech lover's dream come true peak.

 

It may not have been the best,

But it was ours and we were blessed,

To tinker and play,

With its simple yet elegant display.

 

Though it's gone now and out of date,

We'll remember it with fondness and no hate,

For the Timex/Sinclair 1000,

Will always hold a special place in our heart and head sum.

Aside from that last line (a special place in our heart and head sum???), the poem doesn’t read like a bot. It’s not exactly Robert Frost on ice, but it’s at least readable and passes somewhat for a human. 

Since its launch a few months ago, ChatGPT has gone lightning viral. In just five days, it landed 1 million registered users, making it the fastest-growing app ever, and is expected to cross 1 billion users by the end of the first quarter of 2023. 

In the last few months, ChatGPT has threatened everything from higher education to the film industry. With a couple of prompts, college students can churn out straight-A term papers in seconds. The thesis as we know may very well become obsolete like those Menudo cassettes. There’s talk of it someday replacing college professors, Wall Street day traders, and software engineers.

Some even propose it’s coming after our very thoughts. Our CEO Anthony Bear asked ChatGPT for original business ideas. It suggested:

 

  1. Personalized nutrition plan based on DNA analysis
  2. Bio-based and biodegradable materials for 3D printing
  3. Virtual interior design consultation services

 

Why bother thinking if a machine spits it faster?

 

 

Are We All Just Matrix Battery Fodder?

Are humans doomed to become nothing but cheese puff-consuming, video game-playing couch potatoes where the AI does all the heavy thinking for us? Or worse – embryonic battery pods, keeping the ChatGPT3000 Matrix always charged at 100%?

Does the human imagination have built-in planned obsolescence, doomed to be replaced by the gadgets we create?

That would be tragic because machines lack Soul, the Blues, the Give Up the Funk.

Hallam, the SEO company, ran a little experiment. They published essentially the same blog twice, one written by a bot, the other by a human, and tracked the results. The two blogs ended up running neck and neck, with the AI blog ultimately taking the lead with a slightly larger number of impressions and better SEO rankings.

But when a human reads both blogs, the AI blog lacks soul. You can taste the can in the SPAM. It doesn’t sound original, lacks imaginative spark, and feels a bit ripped off. Of course, that’s exactly what the AI is doing – ripping off the Internet and reflecting the mass of the web back at you.

ChatGPT is the beefcake in the back of the class, looking over your shoulder and copying every answer – but in AI’s case, it’s the entire Internet. 

Sure, AI scores well, technically. Search engines seem to like it, but what about the reader, the human in the face of the blog, the very soul you’re ultimately striving to connect to, resonate and influence with your content?

After all, that’s the whole goal of Google’s Helpful Content update last year: “to better reward content where visitors feel they've had a satisfying experience.” And I suspect the Google gods will eventually evolve to better recognize AI and penalize it appropriately. 

In his blog, Sean Thomas writes: 

“All writing is an algorithm. As in: all writing is ‘a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations’. The fundamental problem to be solved in writing is how to impart information in the form of words. Computers are good at algorithms. It’s their thing.”

And sure, writing at its base core is an algorithm, mainly because it’s a pain in the ass. You have to start somewhere to get the juices flowing. Otherwise, you’ll stare away all day at a blank screen and wonder when you’ll be replaced by an R2D2 with no personality. 

 

The Human Lightning Bolt 

But it’s that spark, that lightning bolt, that truly makes writing sizzle. The best writers are more like lightning rods – summoning an exterior universal consciousness that is almost infinite and divine. That’s true for the best poetry and novels, but it’s also true for journalism and marketing content, at least to some extent.

AI can’t do that. It just copies – washes, rinses, and repeats.

Twenty-two-year-old Princeton University Edward Tian spent his New Year’s writing a bot that can detect the presence of AI in writing. The tool, GPTZero, can identify the influence of a machine by measuring two things in a piece of writing: its perplexity and burstiness, in other words, the rhythm of the sentence structure. 

The best writing has a complex rhythm in its composition like Stuart Copeland of the Police. AI content tends to produce that synthesizer beat you rocked out to in the Walmart music aisle in the early ‘90s. 

At its heart and soul, writing is musical imagination. Do you really want it played by a machine, or do you want Funkadelic with the bass plugged into the Cosmos? Which content will resonate with your audience, not just rank on a metric, but truly influence the human potential – that heart-beating rhythm of imagination?

Tell stories that matter – not bullshit. That’s what keeps our culture thriving and alive, what keeps people thriving and alive. In the end, it’s human imagination – not canned SPAM – that makes the world a better place.

Plug in your brain, live it loud and keep the funk. That’s what will make life worth living in the land of machines. “Make my funk the P. Funk. I want my funk uncut.”

 

Listen to Bear's full interview with Chat GPT on our podcast, In the Chair with Bear.

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Martin Luther King’s Perennial Dreams: What’s Happened to Leadership?

Martin Luther King’s Perennial Dreams: What’s Happened to Leadership?

Waking up this morning over a steaming cup of coffee, a meme suggesting Trump crapped himself caught me off guard and immediately stole 20 minutes of my soul.

 I laughed, as anyone who still can should. And then I Googled “Trump poops pants in public” because, well, that’s the world we live in these days.

You can find an image of the 45th president, post golf swing, with an obvious brown stain down the back of his trousers. Turns out that image was Photoshopped. But it’s totally believable, considering the legal turd hurricane our former president increasingly finds himself in. No matter your take on MAGA, who wouldn’t mess themselves wearing those golf pants?

Maybe not the best way to begin the day that honors the legacy of MLK, I’ll admit. 

And then I thought: “What’s happened to our leaders?”

 

Elon Tweets, Phallic Space Ships, and the Bronterocs of Despair

 

If we’re honest with ourselves, we must sadly admit none of our leaders lately have made a historical impact anywhere close to the scale of Martin Luther King Jr.

Take even Obama. We got some inspiring speeches, some half-crap healthcare that I suppose is better than no healthcare at all, and sure, he looked good, even in a tan suit – but it was nothing like the Hope poster promised.

And Biden’s building highways and backing unions, which is great, but even on the best days, his presidency kinda tastes like flat Pepsi Zero that’s a little too warm. 

Yet the Baby Boomer generation grew up on Martin Luther King, both Kennedys, Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou – all while Wavy Gravy slopped buckets full of pancakes at Woodstock 

King was assassinated on the verge of launching a campaign to end poverty in America. Maya Angelou heard the tragic news on her 40th birthday, just as she was preparing to raise money for his Poor People’s March.

These days, we wake up to Elon Musk battling COVID scientists on Twitter and praising his Tesla self-driving pencil pushers when a nine-car pile-up on the Bay Bridge sends a two-year-old to the hospital over a software failure of the same self-driving technology. 

Even Black Lives Matter, a much-needed and inspiring movement, is mired in a disappointing financial scandal that makes you question the very motives of humanity.

Sadly, so many of our leaders today are greedy narcissists, launching themselves into the galaxy on billion-dollar phallic spaceships with the insane ambition of becoming bronteroc lunch like Meryl Streep.

 

The Hope and Sunrise of Next Generations

 

It’s enough to leave you bitter and fall into pits of hopeless despair. Sometimes I look at my beautiful daughter and wonder, what kind of world are we leaving them?

 

But today honors Martin Luther King’s birthday, a day better spent remembering his words: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

 

And then I think about Raymond Mohler, Jr., who launched the Little St. Nick Foundation when he was just five years old. He’s grown now into an altruistic young man, but his charity continues to provide over 300 inspirational gift bags to sick kids in the hospital every single day. The organization helps kids in crisis smile and remember the joys of childhood when they find themselves in a scary place such as a children’s hospital. 

 

As a father, I find incredible inspiration in the dad who had his son’s birthmark tattooed on his chest so the child could transform his feelings of embarrassment into a solidarity of empowerment.

 

Because our youth are our hope of the future. Say what you want about the Millennials, the Zoomers, and the Alphas, okay Boomer, but the ambitions of upcoming generations are actually pretty inspiring. 

 

Even the hearts of many young pro football players beat where it counts. When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field of an apparent heart attack this month, it was the players and their union who postponed the game out of respect and concern for their colleague. The NFL had insisted they play on. 

 

Hamlin’s heart may be tender, but it’s tender in the right place. Donations that poured in following the crisis raised over $8 million for children in need. Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation has partnered with The Giving Back Fund, a national charity umbrella organization, to handle the deluge of donations. You too can donate to it here.

 

No, you don’t see Hamlin going into space, but you do see him looking up with genuine empathy for others who struggle.

 

And he's just one example. Hamlin’s “opponent” – Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow – has raised over $1.3 million through the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund. Last October on Instagram, Burrow wrote this Mantra: “Everyone has a responsibility to do good.” 

 

Even before he went pro, in his speech accepting the Heisman Trophy, Burrow dedicated 31 seconds to some of the low-income friends he played and went to high school with in his poor Appalachian town of Athens, Ohio. That speech raised over a million dollars for the Athens Food Pantry, which had an annual budget of $70,000 to $100,000 before Joe’s speech went viral. You can donate to it here

 

Maybe MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign didn’t die in 1968. It’s alive and flourishing in the most unexpected places. Martin Luther King’s dreams were big but they’re steadily coming true. 

Perennial Responsibilities and the Mountaintop 

In the WiFi cafe where I write this, some hipster hero of a barista posted this sign in the bathroom: “You can do it. People overcome addiction every day.” The poster provides addiction support for the next desperate individual who uses that john to shoot up.

Those baristas may serve me up drip coffee and String Cheese calzones for a living, but they’ve got the golden hearts of professional football stars.

On the day of MLK’s assassination, a bomb threat specifically targeting King and his plane delayed his arrival in Memphis. That incident helped inspire his last prophetic speech:

“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the Mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the Mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The Promised Land belongs to our children and their grandchildren. King’s ideals and dreams are perennial, buried in this cold winter ground like tiger lilies. 

I look to my daughter, to all the Earth’s children, and I no longer “wallow in the valley of despair.” 

Please understand one day, through great work and effort to come, “all of God's children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

Because we all have “a responsibility to do good.” Let’s begin today and every day dedicated to that good, whether in the bathrooms of coffee shops, on the fields of the NFL, or in the living rooms where our children play.

True great leadership begins with each and every one of us. Go to the Mountain. 

Trust me – what you do is important, especially the little things, because hope is perennial. Even in the cold and dark of winter, its roots cannot die.

Happy birthday, MLK!



Little Saint Nick & the Healing Power of Giving

Little Saint Nick & the Healing Power of Giving

In our culture, we baby children and romanticize childhood. We often forget that kids can also inspire and do amazing things.

Such is the case with the Little Saint Nick Foundation, whose motto is “Kids inspiring and helping kids.”

The Little Saint Nick Foundation is a non-profit that strives to put smiles on kids in crisis through the compassionate help of other children. It helps to inspire and comfort children who find themselves in a scary situation such as a children’s hospital, where fear and anxiety are the norm. 

With the contributions of kids who are often of similar ages to the children they help, the foundation regularly provides simple, anti-anxiety gift bags that typically include a coloring book, crayons, a stuffed animal, a Pop It toy, and a hand-made get-well card made by a like-minded child. Thanks to these efforts, over 300 children receive gift bags and other gifts every single day. Their work provides inspiration for sick and struggling kids, a positive distraction for parents, and helps teach child volunteers valuable leadership skills that can change their lives and benefit communities. 

The Little Saint Nick Foundation empowers children to help other children, one smile at a time. They help make the trauma of a medical experience less scary and remind struggling children of the joys of childhood, especially during extremely trying times.

The Beginning of a Philanthropic Journey at 4 Years Old

It all began when Little Saint Nick Foundation Founder Raymond Mohler, Jr. suffered from a rare hip joint disease found mostly in young children. At the age of four, Ray experienced debilitating pain in his hips and couldn’t walk. 

But it was the boredom he found to be most excruciating. It’s tough on a four-year-old to spend all day in a hospital bed.

Fortunately, he was quickly discharged and able to recover at home, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the other children he met and played with during his medical experience. He asked his parents if they too got to go home. His father explained that many of these children could be in the hospital for days, months, or even years – their medical journeys sometimes continue throughout their lives.

That news shocked young Ray – he couldn’t believe other kids could spend years in a hospital bed recovering.

He asked how he could help. Born on Christmas Eve, Ray spent his fifth birthday giving away his birthday and Christmas gifts to other kids still in the hospital. He gave his toys away freely and started his journey in philanthropy at an age when many kids have trouble simply sharing their toys with other children.

“It was such a great feeling, and naturally I wanted to do more,” Ray said. “The following holiday season, I again gave my own gifts and got friends and family to donate. The next year, we contributed three times as many presents as the year before.”

With the help of his parents, who work in heating and cooling repair for a living, the Little Saint Nick Foundation was born. 

As Ray grew up, he kept at it. Throughout his childhood, he reached out for community donations and increased gift contributions to children, steadily expanding the foundation and helping more kids.

The Healing Inspiration of Kids Helping Other Kids

The Healing Inspiration of Kids Helping Other Kids

Fast-forward to 2016: The Little Saint Nick Foundation was featured in a Nickelodeon special highlighting 10 kids across the country doing important community work. Ray was preparing for college at the Univesity of Tampa when he received an email from Agha Haider, a 13-year-old in St. Louis who saw the special while binge-watching TV and recovering from a broken leg. Agha told Ray he wanted to do what Ray was doing in St. Louis and help put a smile on struggling kids’ lives.

Over several months of correspondence, the two decided to launch the Little Saint Nick’s Foundation in St. Louis. Humanity Media, who helped design and build the foundation’s website and ran a PR campaign, resulting in an article in the Huffington Post and an interview on Fox News, sent a film crew and documented the foundation's first toy giveaway in St. Louis

It was a profound emotional experience watching kids on ventilators, in wheelchairs, hooked to IVs, some with heads shaved from cancer treatments, light up with the visit from Little Saint Nick Foundation volunteers, many of whom were kids their own age.

That’s when the motto, “Kids inspiring and helping kids,” was born, with the help of Humanity Media’s creative consulting. Ray and our team realized the mission was more than just helping sick kids feel better, but teaching other children the value of community action and helping others just like them. 

Contagious Kindness and the Healing Inspiration of Giving

It was the focus on volunteers not only changing kids’ lives but profoundly impacting their own that proved to be a turning point for the foundation. Since we’ve gotten to know him from the time he was a child, Ray holds a pretty incredible space – he carries himself with such composure and kindness. He maintains an altruistic nature that is simply inspiring and contagious. And he’s helped countless child volunteers discover value and joy in the spirit of giving in a way that has profoundly impacted their lives.

With Humanity Media’s help, the Little Saint Nick Foundation has expanded from leveraging $100,000 in donations to a million dollars every year. 

Ray graduated from the University of Tampa in 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship. This past Christmas Eve, Ray turned 25 and has helped duplicate the foundation's work in cities across the U.S. His goal is to expand the program to all 50 states while still maintaining a local focus on local kids helping sick children in local hospitals. Though he’s taking the program nationally, it’s that local approach – kids helping their own communities – that continues to be the focus of the program.

Every $10 donated purchases another gift bag and helps another child. But kids can contribute to the program without spending a cent. The foundation offers a Get Well Card template kids can download, color, and contribute their own cards to inspire sick children with smiles. 

Donations to the Little Saint Nick Foundation can be made here. Anyone who wants to volunteer, no matter their age, can do so here.

Kids inspiring and helping other kids is a national movement. These children in sick wards have a profoundly meaningful experience because the gift is given by a kid like them. The experience changes not only their lives, but the lives of the volunteers themselves.

Giving is a gift. It heals all those it touches – both recipient and giver. 

As Luke 6, Verse 38 teaches: 

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Or as the Beatles sang on Abby Road: “So in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Kids understand this best – and we as adults have many lessons we can learn from them.

Give, inspire, and inspire to give. That’s the mission of the Little Saint Nick Foundation – one gift, one smile, and one heart at a time. Because when you open up, the love pours through and heals everyone involved, including ourselves. 

Giving is happiness – smile and experience the joy.

How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick and Manifest Your Dreams: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick and Manifest Your Dreams: A Step-by-Step Guide

Happy New Year! 

It’s a new beginning of inspiring energy. “New Year, New Me” is how we begin every January. 

Even if we inevitably fall back on some old habits, we create new ambitions – and they have the power to dramatically change our lives for the better.

As a kid, every birthday I had felt monumental. On my second birthday, I told my mom, “I’m two now, so I don’t need this,” and I gave her my pacifier. When I was three, it was the Superman cape I gave up. And every year since then, on my birthday, I make a big decision to change my life in one way or another, and I do it.

This year, I gave up my Peloton bike in exchange for an actual mountain bike and hit the California trails.

Have a nice life, Pandemic!

New Year’s is like the world’s birthday – it’s our opportunity to make a different and better world for ourselves, our teams, and our families. 

What are going to be your contributions – start working out, consume less, spend more time creating and less time binging? Now’s the perfect time for change. What will yours be?

But before you nose-dive into grandiose ambitions for this next year, I created a fast and simple 10-step plan to make the whole process of renewal more manageable. It’s a great place to start if you want to see actual results, change worlds, and maybe even move a few mountains. 

(As a global note, you can start by WRITING EVERYTHING DOWN. Writing is a great way to manifest your destiny into actual reality. Because if you don’t write it down, it’s probably just a pipe dream.)

What You Write is What You Invite

1.  Start by taking inventory of your life — the good, the bad, and the ugly. And be honest. First step: make a list of your accomplishments. Celebrate what you did well last year. Don’t be shy – your hard work manifested great things and should be celebrated. You deserve a champagne toast.  Yay for you!

 

2.  Next, make a list of the things that didn’t go so well. Life’s messy; success rarely flies like a crow. Where did you let yourself or others down? What could have gone better? How did bad habits block your dreams? Be honest – it’s all part of a healthy growth process.

 

3.  Take five minutes and write down everything you wish to happen this year. I mean this literally. Set a stopwatch like it’s a race. Treat it as a speed writing exercise and jot down as many things as you can in five minutes – anything you want to manifest this year. Go for quantity, not necessarily perfection. The idea is to give your dreams wings.

 

4.  Now take 15 minutes to read and reread your list. Circle your top five things you definitely want to create this year. Take a little time to ensure these five ambitions are specific and achievable. You have to believe your dreams are concrete and accomplishable. You’ll hold yourself accountable later – so be realistic while still harnessing the raw ambitions of your dreams.

 

5.  Give each of the five items a specific metric and time frame. These are aspirations you expect to accomplish by a specific date – not some pie-in-the-sky dreams. For example, "I will make $100,000 by September 1, 2023." Be specific and make it measurable. Your dreams need just a touch of realism to be actualized.

 

6.  Write all five goals in an “I already did it" format. In other words, instead of the example above, write “By September 1, 2023, I had already made $100,000 for this year.” 

Write your five concise goals on a small piece of paper and put it into your wallet, in an easily accessible place on your phone, someplace you can keep it handy and close to your heart. Every day, you will read these goals out loud, three times a day, like a mantra for success. 

(This is a strategy borrowed from Napolean Hill’s 1937 classic, “Think and Grow Rich,” which was inspired by a conversation the author had with Andrew Carnegie.)

 

7.  Next, you need to explore the “why” behind your goals and dreams. Write each of your five New Year’s goals on a separate piece of paper and list the reasons why you need to achieve each goal. 

Be very specific and allow yourself to get emotional. These goals are deeply personal – and you’re going to fight for them. Make the reason behind each goal compelling, meaningful, and necessary. Each goal is personal and comprises your identity. Who will you be when you’ve achieved your ambitions? What will you become, and how is each goal your gift to the world?

(This step is based on Tony Robbins Rapid Planning Method to actualize dreams and ambitions.)

 

8.  Then for each of the five goals, make a list of things you can do right away to begin achieving that goal. Each action needs to be simple and doable. For example, if you have a workout goal, your to-do list could be: buy running shoes, join a gym, get a gym bag and pack it, get a health app on your phone, hit the equipment. 

List all ACTIONS you can take today, tomorrow, this week, to progress toward your goal. Circle five doable actions to take and make sure you accomplish at least one every day. It can be small. Every journey is accomplished in simple steps, one after another. 

Because when you get down to it, true happiness comes from two simple actions:

  • Identify what you want. 
  • Take steps toward your dreams.

 

9.  Tell a few close friends and your family about your goals. Let them know your plans so they can support and encourage you and most importantly hold you accountable. Laying everything on the line and sharing it with the people you love can be a great strategy for goal manifestation.

 

10.  Every day, make sure to do two things:

  • Read your goals out loud to yourself in statements phrased as if the goals are already accomplished. 
  • Whether big or small, make at least one action toward your goals. It’s critical you accomplish at least one step forward each and every day.

 

Naturally, there will be struggles, successes, and failures, as there are in anything worth doing. But step by step, one foot in front of another, one hill after the other, you’ll get to where you need to be to actualize your dreams. You’ve got this. It’s not just the champagne talking. This is your year to become everything you want to be. 

Good luck!

Here's to Making 2023 Your Best Year Yet

How change really happens — at the most fundamental level

How change really happens — at the most fundamental level

It is a common story. You try to change your habits. You try to eat less or work out more or get up earlier and go to sleep earlier, and still the same patterns continue to emerge. The same destructive mindset continues to haunt you and sidetrack you away from your goals. The same ugly voice in your mind gets your attention, and, before you know it, you are sabotaging your own success again. 

Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. We make every effort to make real lasting change but at the end of all our efforts, we are like an elastic rubber band just coming back to our original shape all over again. How do I stretch myself out of this shape once and for all? How can I make a fundamental change in my life? Is it even possible?

According to Dr. Bruce Lipton the first seven years of your life create a sort of programming that you can only alter by chronic repetition or hypnotism (or , in my opinion, psychedelics but I will get into that later). In other words, he is saying that by the time you are seven years old, your financial, emotional, physical and spiritual success and/or failure in life is already determined. You are already shaped into the elastic band that you will always be and it is not easy to change that

This on its own feels really limiting. If this is just the way it is, then this is the way it is. I guess there is really no way to change without going to some extremes, or is there? Well let’s look at the two options. 

Two Options to Change Your Mind

First you could do some hypnotism. When you are in a hypnotic state, your subconscious mind is open to suggestions. Whether or not we realize it, the subconscious mind is the one that is guiding our decisions and, in those pivotal moments, shaping our destiny. So if we can simply convince the subconscious mind to believe, for example, that we are wealthy or that we are successful, creative, and free, then we will automatically push ourselves to that new destiny. Well, that seems super easy so why isn’t everyone lining up to get hypnotized. Well, it's probably because it is a bit more complicated than that. 

According to Kimberly Friedmutter, a celebrity Hypnotherapist, your subconscious mind knows more than you can ever dream. She even uses hypnotherapy to find lost items — I would be hypnotizing myself every day to find my phone in the morning. But seriously, with a bit of work and time, you can use hypnotherapy to change the fundamental story that has been holding you back. So let’s get out those old fashioned watches and get to it. The only drawback that I can see, is that once you are hypnotized, now you are able to be influenced by someone else’s emotions and issues, so you may just leave the hypnotists office with a whole host of other emotional and psychological problems that you didn’t enter with. In other words, I wouldn’t let just anyone talk to my subconscious mind. 

But you can always use the second method. And that does not require a hefty budget or a deep surrender to someone else's idea of what your perfect life should look like. This method may take a bit more time, but it will work and you will be 100% in control. This method is what I think of as learning the ABCs. 

When you are a kid and you learn the ABCs, you actually repeat it thousands of times. I know this because my 20 month old is already singing the ABCs (like 50 times a day). Luckily she is unbelievably cute because that level of repetition would be so annoying from anyone else. But right now, the ABCs to you are second nature. In fact you can imagine all the ABCs in perfect order almost immediately. That is the power of repetition. Do it everyday 50 times a day and eventually it becomes second nature. For a kid, it takes them about 3 or 4 years of this to learn the ABCs. But what are my ABCs?

The hardest part is actually figuring out what it is that you need to change. In Tibetan Buddhism, the word for demons is synonymous with the word for a thought form. Demons are actually just thoughts that you think so regularly that they become manifested. And these negative mind mantras (mantras are just a phrase that you repeat over and over) are the beginning of these demons. And, in order to harness the energy of these demons and get them to work for you, you need to alter the mantra. You cannot just stop the mantra altogether, you need to reverse it. 

In other words, if you always find yourself saying something like, “I don’t have time for that,” try changing that ever so slightly to, “I always have time to do the things I love to do.” Then you will start finding time for the things you love to do and not having time for the things you don’t love to do. Your life will in fact shape itself around your mantras. 

The key here is repetition and diligence. You have to learn how to catch yourself in your negative mantra and then shift it. Do this everyday for the next couple years and you will in fact make that fundamental shift. 

Our lives are really up to us. We just have to figure out how to reprogram ourselves to live the life that we really want. This is life hack 101. 

Your life will in fact shape itself around your mantras.

What is the Meaning of Integrity?

What is the Meaning of Integrity?

I know you have all heard it before. "That guy has absolutely no integrity," "that company has no integrity," or "I value my integrity the most." Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but most of you probably have no idea what integrity even is. It is like one of those ubiquitous label words that everyone uses but nobody knows what it means, like hipster or culture. To some it means honesty. "If you lie, then you have no integrity." To others, it means showing up on time. "If you make a plan, then have the integrity to keep it." And still, to others, it means having balls. "He didn't even have the integrity to fire me face to face."

So in my confused exhaustion and feeling somehow that my integrity has been slightly compromised in a recent incident, I decided to hunt for the meaning of the word. I started where everyone should start such a journey, the dictionary. in the city that's a right noun

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles is moral uprightness.

2. The state of being whole and undivided.

So, in order to define integrity we have to define moral "uprightness", which kind of reminds me of a tight-ass pastor who preaches the good word by light and beats the devil out of his daughter at night. Not the kind of integrity I was thinking of. Strike one.

I went to the second definition and therein found my key to clarity. The state of being whole. The state of being undivided. Ahh. To be whole, as in to be holy, as in to adhere to the word of God, as in to listen to one's own voice, as in to listen to one's own word, as into undivided that which is divided, as in to connect the heart with the mind, as in to listen to the heart, as in to be undivided in mind and spirit.

A building has integrity if it has a sound foundation. A relationship has integrity if it has honesty and transparency. A business has integrity if it is built upon the backs of those who listen deeply to their own heart, obey their own sense of what is right, and protect what they know needs to be protected.

Things to think about - Are you protecting your integrity? How do we do that in business culture? Why does it matter?

Everyone Needs Quality Photography

Everyone Needs Quality Photography

Since we have been expanding our reach into many more sectors of business and development, we have begun to notice the desperate need for great photographers and curators of photography. Even though there is now a crazy upsurge in the sheer number of websites selling stock photography, it seems that most of the clients we are working with these days have a natural aversion to stock photos. It is understandable. Stock photography does well to portray a clean and professional front face, but does little to reassure the consumer that you have anything to actually back it up. So, in light of this gaping hole and vital need with many of our clients, I have done my bit to research and develop some professional photographic techniques.

Ok, maybe I'm showing off a little, but so what. Why not let people know what is happening over here. Anyway, I am letting everyone know that we are indeed in the photography biz too now. So, if you are looking for anything from product shots to shots of your business or storefront to portraits or artsy photos, let us know and we can help you.

Here are a few shots I took on my global tour last month (actually at the zoo last week but it sounds better to say I work for national geographic or something). Anyway, if anyone wants to use any of these photos in their business ads or site, let me know. I am sure we can work something out. And let me know what you think in the comments.

Onward and Upward.

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The Road to Innovation Starts Here

The Road to Innovation Starts Here

Anyone who says innovation is dead is clearly not following what is happening in the world today. Not only is innovation alive, it is thriving, and apparently it is also well funded. The question is, in this fast paced world of technological leaps and bounds, how does the small business owner stay current? How do we find a corner in a competitive marketplace filled with cheaper and faster options? Ever since I was a child, I loved to solve problems, and it all started with games. The game I played with my dad? Triple digit multiplication tables in our heads while we sat on the porch in the summer sun. My mom and I used to play Games Magazine puzzles until we pulled our hair out. It was fun and it was challenging, but the challenge was the fun. These days, I can't even find a Games Magazine and calculators have pretty much made mental math obsolete. Why do I bring this up? Because, challenges are the seeds of innovations. Any business or product concept that solves a current problem is bound to be a good one. Just look at this indiegogo video from TechCrunch at this years CES 2105 only a week ago. These guys are making millions from simple ideas that solve little problems people didn't even realize they had.


So what is really happening here?

UBER is practically replacing regular taxi companies. AMAZON is killing local retail stores. NETFLIX and AMAZON produced TV shows that just last night won top prizes at this years Golden Globes!!! And just as many small business owners run away and are run out of business by these technological innovations, there are thousands more popping up every day seizing their slice of the pie with a new found innovation. So how can we keep up?

Innovation Starts NOW

We cannot force change and, at the same time, resistance to change is futile. The answers to these difficult questions are all reflected in nature. Whenever there is a need, an organism fills the need. Whenever there is an imbalance, something rushes to fill the void and create the balance. So here is your task.

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Take a moment today, and every day, and sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. As you exhale, feel yourself getting further and further away from all your daily chores and duties. Feel your business and life receding in the distance as if you are blasting off in a space ship leaving your house and your work and your life behind. As you turn around and look back at yourself now from the outside, notice what may be imbalanced and what may be lacking. Are you avoiding something that has been nagging you? Are you ignoring something that you know needs your attention? You life and your business is like a tiny ecosystem that is intrinsically connected to the larger ecosystems that create our economy. What is not flowing and how can you get it to flow again? Take a few minutes to face your challenges and see them as opportunities for innovation. Become the wide-eyed, curious and inspired child anxious to solve the problems and win the game, and innovation is born.

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Do not fool yourself into thinking that it is NOT possible or that you CANNOT be innovative. You are the seed of original thought. You can do it and you will! Just go out there and solve the problems that you face with a smile on your face. You will see! Right now, you are creating something truly magnificent.

6 New Year’s Resolutions for the Enlightened Entrepreneur

6 New Year’s Resolutions for the Enlightened Entrepreneur

business-guruIt is official now.  We are all online.  Even this remote Himilayan Monk climbed up to the highest rock so that he could get a good wifi signal.  And as we move forward into the age of technology, how can we maintain the wisdom of the sages?

Here are 6 possible New Year's Resolutions for the Enlightened Businesses of 2015.

1. Cultivate Presence at Work

I am a firm believer in the power of morning meditation.  This is especially true for entrepreneurs and small business owners as the demands of the day can often get overwhelming.  All it takes is fifteen minutes a day to sit in a comfortable location and breathe with your eyes closed.  I tend to use a Vipassana style meditation technique to observe things as they are, but any technique that helps you to get present for that moment will help.

Then throughout the day, use the simple breathing technique whenever you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed or anxious about a decision or a project.  One simple breath can really help to balance your energy and bring you back to your center.  Presence and Mindfulness not only help us stay healthy in a higher stress environment, but they also increase our productivity and effectiveness.

2. Learn to Say No

I have spent many years in service and dedicated to helping people around me.  One of the hardest things for me to learn how to do over the years was saying no.  Often times, I found myself agreeing to terms and conditions that I didn't feel 100% percent about or going the extra mile for a client when it felt a little bit out of balance.  The first time I denied a new client, I was amazed at the feeling of liberation that it gave me.  I realized that I did not have to say yes all the time and accept conditions that were not optimal.

The same can be said for all aspects of your work relationships.  Not every client, employee, partner or project is in alignment with you or your company.   Saying no is often the most loving and thoughtful thing that you can do.  Boundaries are healthy and necessary for maintaining a productive and comfortable workplace and life.

3. Stay Tuned In to your Passion

It's is always important to remember what it is that you are working for.  Is it some creative ambition, family, love, knowledge or service?  Why did you get involved in this in the first place?  Sometimes people confuse the idea of "Passion" with the idea of "Goals".  For example, if you find yourself saying, "My passion is to make alot of money,"  then you have probably lost touch with your true passion.

Finding and recalling your passion each day will help you to find inspiration which is a phenomenal motivator.  If you are feeling lethargic in the morning or have a hard time getting out of bed and getting to work, it may be because you are lacking the passion.  Those who are passionate and inspired about their lives and their work and their job will have more energy and more overall motivation.

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4. Create Collaborative Models

Nature is an incredible model for business that is often overlooked.  Ideas of Biomimicry and Economics of Nature have been around for a few decades and yet still people tend to forget their application to business.  In nature, many organisms live in what is called symbiotic harmony.  In fact, it is true that without a certain micro-organism that lives on our skin, we would get severe sunburn every time we walked out of the shadows.  These kind of organisms need us to survive just as we need them.

The same is true in Business, if you want to survive as a small business, look for ways that you can support the other small businesses in your community.  When an opportunity arrises for a trade or a collaboration, take it.  Cultivating these kinds of relationships create a lasting foundation for your business to prosper.  In any situation, there is always a win-win scenario that can truly benefit all parties involved.

5. Take the Time to Work on your Business

Working on your business and working in your business are two different things.  Most small businesses and entrepreneurs create a product or a service that comes very naturally for them.  Often times it is easier to get swept up in the day to day production of the company rather than looking at the larger picture.  As such, many times we because cogs in the machine that we created rather than the machinist.  The business machine that you built and are currently running is not just a series of brilliant cranks and levers and wheels.  To keep the machine running optimally, it is vital to fine tune the machine as a whole.

As Michael Gerber mentions in his Emyth books, a great resource for any entrepreneur, take the time to look at the larger picture of what you are creating.  How can you get more production for less money?  How can you optimize the lead generation process?  How can you create more swift invoicing processes and homogenize the communications within the company?  How can you make this business even more efficient?  This year, take the time each week, or even each day, to take a step back and look at what you are creating.  How can it be better?

 

6. Leave Room for Innovation

ideaIf it works, don't fix it.  Yeah that is true, but that can also be economic suicide in a marketplace driven by innovation and technology.  Many times, business owners find a certain groove in their day that works.  You might think to yourself, "This is just how I do it because that is how I do it, and I am not changing that!"  This kind of stubborn mentality can be very beneficial when you are starting off and everyone is trying to steer you in a thousand other directions, but once you do find your rhythm, it is vital to remain open to innovation.

There are tools being created every day that can speed up all the processes of your business.  We can help you with many technological innovations from social media integration and automatic emails to mobile apps and online software that makes you look really pro for less money.  We have seen things that work and things that don't, but we are always open to new suggestions and possibilities.  Innovation is really the cornerstone for creating enlightened businesses that will thrive into the next generation.

It's happening with everyone from the big business financiers to the monk with the mac book pro, so let's all help each other have the best year yet.

Setting up an imap email on your iPhone

Setting up an imap email on your iPhone

Here is a brief tutorial on how to use your new email address on your iPhone.

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Step 1

Find your way to your settings menu.
Hopefully you don't have more than 30,000 unread emails in your inbox already as I do ;-( ...

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Step 2

Look for your Mail settings menu.
So far so good.

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Step 3

Add a New Account.
Easy... Moving on now

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Step 4

Select "Other Account".
For iCould, Google, Microsoft exchange, Aol and Outlook emails the setup is way easier and probably does not need a tutorial as you will soon see.

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Step 5

You just want the first option here ... add a mail account.

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Step 6

Ok, now for the juicy stuff. The first field "Name" will be the name that people will see when they receive your email. The "Email" and "Password" are of course self-explanatory. The "Description" will be how the account shows up on your iPhone.
You can change all this later in the settings as well so don't worry if you don't know exactly what you want it to be yet.

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Step 7

You really want to select IMAP in this case to make sure that any activity on your phone will also appear on your computer and ipad etc.
The difference between IMAP and POP is essentially that for IMAP you will be moving files around on the server where as for POP you will just be pushing and pulling from the server. To understand this more completely read this link.

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Step 8

For hostname if your website is hosted with bluehost, you will find your box number in your bluehost cpanel settings. You can also use your domain as your server (i.e. mail.singingbear.net in this case) but it is best to use the box number to avoid any certificate issues. If you are using a different hosting platform, you can probably use something like mail.YOURDOMAIN.com. Check your host server for details.

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Step 9

After you his enter, it make take several minutes for your account to verify. The reason it takes so long is because the service is looking for the appropriate port for your incoming and outgoing servers. On mac mail and outlook you can define the specific port to speed up this process. Once it has been verified you should see a screen like this. At this point your mail is set up. Follow the next 5 steps to make sure that your phone is synced with your desktop, in other words when you delete a message on your phone you want it to get deleted on your desktop as well.

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Step 10

You have to go back to your mail settings page. You should now see your account on the list. Click on your new account name. In our case it was BEAR Music.

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Step 11

On this screen you want to click on your account name ... follow the red arrow.

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Step 12

This screen is a where you are able to change all sorts of settings for your new email on your iPhone. Scroll all the way down this screen to the last option where it says "Advanced" and click there.

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Step 13

Here you simply have to assign your Drafts to go to the drafts folder on your server (in stead of your phone) and the trash to go to the trash folder on your sever, etc. This way, the information will get filed away on your server and therefore all of these changes will be reflected on your desktop as well. I hope this helps you get set up. Leave any comments below if you get stuck and I will try to answer them. Thanks.

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Are You Offering Too Many Choices?

Are You Offering Too Many Choices?

I run into this kind of question every day in my profession. What exactly should I offer my clients or my customers? Although it might seem more intuitive to offer your customers a million options for your products and services, studies actually show that less choices equates to more overall sales. Sheena Iyengar in her TED talk below helps us to see that in a world inundated with hundreds of choices we all must make every day, people are simply less and less likely to take the time wading through options to find their golden ticket.

Sheena Iyengar, professor of business at Columbia, relates a study conducted by her team on the market impact of the overwhelming choice. She actually found that a tasting table of 6 flavors of jam will far outsell a table of 24 flavors. The bottom line is that by diluting your option menu with too much variety of items will only work to make the chooser more confused and less likely to buy. Have you ever been at one of those restaurants with a bible sized menu of unlimited options? It can actually create a wave of stress and anxiety just to seen all those options in one place.

Part of our job in providing specialty services or products is finding and offering only a handful of the best possible options. So, if you are wondering how to apply this to your business, just ask yourself, "What is my absolute best product or service?" In other words, if you were buying from yourself, what would you buy? Often times that is exactly the first and only thing you should offer your customers.

The Age of Responsive Technology

The Age of Responsive Technology

Things are moving way too fast in the technological world. Don't worry, everyone is overwhelmed. Even the biggest tech firms in the world are concerned that they might not be "with the times". What does it mean to be with the times ... to be RESPONSIVE! So, what is RESPONSIVE DESIGN?

We used to just say mobile friendly, and even as little as 5 years ago this seemed like a revolutionary concept. Actually it was in Finland in 1996 that the first ever mobile devices accessed a website and only in 1999 that it became commercially available in Japan. According to a 2013 report from Walker Sands, the percentage of website traffic coming from mobile devices jumped from 17.5% in Q3 2012 to 23.1% in Q4 2012. An early 2010 ITU (International Telecommunication Union) report said that with the current growth rates, web access by people on the go — via laptops and smart mobile devices – is likely to exceed web access from desktop computers within the next five years (Wikipedia).

So what does all this mean for us, the little guys in a big technological world? Its time to GET RESPONSIVE. That means, making your website easily accessible and navigable by any device. There are a number of new themes on WordPress that can help an entrepreneur on a budget accomplish this goal, but everything has is quirks and inconsistencies. Here is an example of a site that we recently developed for Joree Rosenblatt, a fantastic mindfulness education expert and up and coming author.

We developed her site from scratch as a child theme of the WordPress 2013 theme that comes installed with the new versions of WP. If you really dig through the css code of the Twenty-Thirteen Theme, you will see a whole section devoted to different media sizes. The code will look something like this @media (max-width:700px) { css code here }. We base our designs on iPads and iPhones, because that is what we have in the office. For us the media sizes are 768px or less for iPad and 359px or less for iPhone. With some simple tweeks, we were able to get the site to show up differently on all three devices as pictured above.

Another key to responsive design is steering away from Flash. At this point, Flash is rapidly declining and will soon be outdated since it is not available on most devices. Also, as you can see from the animation on Joree Rosenblatt's site, it is not necessary to use flash to arrive at the same results. However, doing something as elaborate as Jim Carrey's website in HTML5 is probably close to impossible (if you haven't checked out Jim Carrey's site before you have to do it but on a Computer Only). However, you can accomplish quite a bit of animation and interactivity with css, html5 and javascript - all legible by devices.

Things are moving fast, and it is very easy to get overwhelmed. The best we can do, sometimes, is respond to the the changes as they arise. If you are a small business owner or a blogger or just an individual on a budget, give us a call and we will make your designs responsive for a fraction of the cost of the other big firms. Call us today.