Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

“What would be tops on a zebra’s list of things that cause stress? Well, a zebra certainly worries about physical stressors. A lion has just attacked you, you’ve succeeded in escaping, but the lion is still after you with lunch on its mind. Evolution has assured that zebras, like most animals including humans, respond very effectively to these types of emergencies.

Now draw up the list of things you find stressful. There probably isn’t much overlap with the zebra’s list. For the most part, the kinds of things we worry about are not physical, but mental-work deadlines, the performance of the stock you put in the portfolio last week, personal relationships. Humans deal largely with stressors that are psychological and social.

In his delightful book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, renowned brain researcher and stress expert Robert Sapolsky highlights a crucial point: the body’s physiological responses are well adapted for dealing with short-term physical threats. Those are the kinds of threats that we humans have faced for most of our existence. The problem is the psychological stress that we experience today triggers the same physiological responses. The source of our stress is different, but the reaction is the same. Psychological stress, if chronic, can lead to severe health and performance problems because it throws our bodies out of balance.’

What kinds of things do we do in response to stress? Sapolsky notes that our reactions are “generally short-sighted, inefficient, and penny-wise and dollar-foolish.” The body mobilizes to deal with the immediate threat. This stress response is effective in a crisis but can be very costly if you experience every day as an emergency.”

Source:  Michael J. Mauboussin. More More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (Updated and Expanded) (pp. 71-72). Kindle Edition.

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Fear, Love, and Inadequacy

Greetings from Israel!  I know it’s been a while since my last post, but just wanted to share something with everyone from what I’ve currently been reading.  A few of these quotes from Marianne Williamson, my sister from a different mister, have really struck me this week.  All of these are excellent, and I saved my favorite one for last in this entry. Hope everyone gets as much out of these as I did!

“Love is what we are born with, fear is what we learn.  The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.  Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth.  To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.  Our meaning does not lie in things.  Meaning lies in us.”

“Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called “all that could go wrong.”

We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.”

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.  We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, fabulous?’   Actually who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so others won’t feel insecure around us.  We are all meant to shine as children do.  We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us, it’s in every one of us.  And as we let our light shine we give others permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

–Marianne Williamson, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course on Miracles 

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Eleven Rings and a Chinese Parable

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Since my last post I’ve finished my graduate degree at University of Chicago, celebrated a very special 4 year anniversary and done a bit of traveling.  My family and girlfriend all came into Chicago for the graduation ceremony and we had a great time.   I just recently returned from a work trip to Vancouver, Canada, and I’m getting ready for an upcoming 3 week work trip to Israel.  2 weeks of work, and 1 week of vacation and sightseeing with my girlfriend.

Today I wanted to share one of the parables I read in Phil Jackson’s new book Eleven Rings.  This excellent book tells the story of the 11 championship rings Phil Jackson won while coach of the Chicago Bulls (he also won 2 as a player bringing his lifetime total to 13).  It contains many lessons in spirituality in leadership that I learned a great deal from.

The 1995-96 Bulls team is considered by many experts to be the best professional basketball team ever assembled.  When describing the 1995-1996 season Phil Jackson shares a parable about emperor Liu Bang, the first leader to consolidate China into a unified empire.  In the story, Liu Bang held a lavish banquet to celebrate his great victory and invited master Chen Chen, who had advised him during the campaign.  Chen Chen brought as his guests three of his disciples, who were perplexed by an enigma at the heart of the celebration.

When the master asked them to elaborate, they said that the emperor was sitting at the central table with his three heads of staff: Xiao He, who masterfully administered logistics; Han Xin, who led a brilliant military operation, winning every battle he fought; and Chang Yang, who was so gifted at diplomacy that he could get heads of state to surrender before the fighting began.  What the disciples had a hard time understanding was the man at the head of the table, the emperor himself.  “Liu Bang cannot claim noble birth,” they said, “and his knowledge of fighting, logistics, and diplomacy does not equal that of his heads of staff.  How is it then that he is emperor?”

The master smiled and asked them, “What determines the strength of a chariot’s wheel?”

“Is it not the sturdiness of the spokes?”  They replied.

“Then why is it that two wheels made of identical spokes differ in strength?”  asked the master.  “See beyond what is seen.  Never forget that a wheel is made not only of spokes, but also of the space between the spokes.  Sturdy spokes poorly placed make a weak wheel.  Whether their full potential is realized depends on the harmony between them.  The essence of wheel-making lies in the craftsman’s ability to conceive and create the space that holds and balances the spokes within the wheel.  Think now, who is the craftsman here?”

After a long silence, one of the disciples asked, “But master, how does a craftsman secure the harmony among the spokes?”

“Think of sunlight,” replied the master.  “The sun nurtures and vitalizes the trees and the flowers.  It does so by giving away its light.  But in the end, in which direction do they grow?  So it is with a master craftsman like Liu Bang.  After placing individuals in positions that fully realize their potential, he secures harmony among them by giving them all credit for their distinctive achievements.  And in the end, as the trees and flowers grow toward the sun, individuals grow toward Liu Bang with devotion.”

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The Rabbi who was Forbidden Entrance in the Life to Come; Monday Morning Parable

There was a Rabbi who was very righteous and noble, he loved his community and loved Torah.  Because of his humility and godliness people began to notice something about the Rabbi.  When he prayed, it seemed as though God answered his prayers instantly.  This went on over time until the Rabbi became an old man.  One day when the Rabbi was an old man he was walking through town and saw a woman crying.

Being a caring man, the Rabbi stopped and said, “Woman, why do you cry?”

She said, “Rabbi, my husband is a poor cobbler, no one has come to have their sandals repaired or to purchase sandals in a very long time.  It is Passover soon, and we have no money.  That’s not so bad for us, but we always invite the poor to come and we have nothing to offer them this year.  Would you pray for us?”

“Of course,” the Rabbi said.

The Rabbi went to the synagogue and began to implore God on behalf of this Godly woman who wanted to serve God by inviting the poor over on Passover.   On the way back the rabbi saw the woman dancing next to her house talking to a man who looked strangely familiar.

“Rabbi, Rabbi, guess what?”  The woman said.  “This man came looking for you, and when I told them that I knew you he gave me a bagful of coins, more than enough to invite all of the poor over and care for them.”

The man said to the Rabbi, “Do you remember me? Many years ago you prayed for me when I was very sick, and God healed me.  I’ve come to ask you to pray again.  My wife and I have been married for many years and have no children.  Would you pray for us that God would bless us with a child?”

The rabbi said, “I will pray and by this time next year you will have a son.”

There was a long silence, and then a voice from heaven said, “Rabbi, it was not my will for this couple to have children, but because you promised I will give them a son.  But because of this you will have no place in the life that is to come.”

There was a long silence and then the rabbi began to dance.

As he danced the woman said, “Rabbi why are you dancing, the voice just said you will have no place in the life to come.”

“You don’t understand,” the rabbi said with tears streaming down his face.  “My whole life I’ve loved the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my might (Deuteronomy 6:5) because I wanted to go to heaven.  Now I can love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my might just because he is God.”

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The Mysterious Nurse; What We Talk About When We Talk About God

I’m reading through Rob Bell’s new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God and absolutely loved this story so thought I would share it with everyone. 

“A few years ago I was speaking in that fine city (Boston), and afterward a woman told me about the time she had been in the hospital for ongoing cancer treatment, lying in bed thinking that she wasn’t going to make it.  She remembers being lower than she’d ever been before, filled with despair, wondering if she was going to die soon, when the night-shift nurse entered her room and began to lovingly care for her.  Throughout the night the nurse returned repeatedly, checking on her and calming her and reassuring her and speaking to her in a way that lifted her entire being and gave her hope.  In the morning, she woke up feeling like a different person.  She then asked the morning nurse for the name of the woman who had been caring for her, giving a detailed description. 

The nurse said that no one who fit that description worked on that floor of the hospital, not to mention the night before in this woman’s room.  What do you do with that story?” 

— Rob Bell, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, pg. 77-78.

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Top Ten Reasons Kids Leave the Church

I thought this article was very well written and extremely insightful:


Some notable excerpts:

“The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.  Half.  Let that sink in.  There’s no easy way to say this: The American Evangelical church has lost, is losing, and will almost certainly continue to lose our youth.  For all the talk of “our greatest resource”, “our treasure”, and the multi-million dollar Dave and Buster’s/Starbucks knockoffs we build and fill with black walls and wailing rock bands… the church has failed them.  Miserably.”

“In the “best life now”, “Every day a Friday” world of evangelicals, there’s little room for depression, or struggle, or doubt. Turn that frown upside down, or move along. Kids who are fed a steady diet of sermons aimed at removing anything (or anyone) who doesn’t pragmatically serve “God’s great plan for your life” has forced them to smile and, as the old song encouraged them be “hap-hap-happy all the time.”

“It’s not that our students “got smarter” when they left home, rather someone actually treated them as intelligent. Rather than dumbing down the message, the agnostics and atheists treat our youth as intelligent and challenge their intellect with “deep thoughts” of question and doubt. Many of these “doubts” have been answered, in great depth, over the centuries of our faith. However….you sent them out unarmed.”

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It Takes Courage…

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  — E.E. Cummings, Poet

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