Why Comfort Zones Are So Dangerous

All this study into psychology, and reflection on our lives, had to be good for something.  So today, things in the chemical kettle that’s my brain (bubble bubble and so on) combined to create a minor explosion.

I can’t wait until Friday before posting it.

(This vid is there to put you in the mood.  Burgled from Youtube.)


First a bit of background.

Subdivision of the human brain / psyche

Now, from what I’ve been gathering (collecting, as in), commonalities emerge between pop psychology, bio-psychology, and what is known today out of brain physiology.  Same concepts, different words.  Neurophysiology is actually confirming what people like Freud hypothesized.

1. The Croc Brain

There are various areas in our old thinker that have been identified to do specific things. Let’s start with the most primitive part.  I call it the “croc brain”; a lovely online mentor calls it the “critter brain” and a psychologist I heard recently calls it the “old brain”. It would map very nicely, in Freudian psychology, onto his concept of the “Id”.

The point is, it is located at the back, near the brain stem which is responsible for functions like breathing, heartbeat etc; near the cerebellum (the motor brain).  The “croc brain” is the oldest part of our brain (on an evolutionary scale) and it is responsible for our survival.

2. The Reactive Brain

Next in line is our experience of ourselves, and our day to day thoughts and choices.  While some of these generate in our pre-frontal cortex, most are really semi-automatic learnt actions and reactions.  We usually live our life through the lens of this day-to-day brain – lots of sensory input and processing, lots of humdrum. Habits etc.  Things we want. This part would coincide with Freud’s “Ego”.  It is certainly conscious; it can gossip about people or do its homework (or day-job… or in fact any routine… even complex routines like higher math, if that is what you do every day…)

3. The Creative Brain

Then there is the pre-frontal cortex; the “thinking brain”, the “ideas place”, the adventurous monkey that tries out new stuff.  The thing in us that gets bored.  It is the youngest part of our brain and among species, humans have a pretty large and intricate one.  (Horses have larger heads but most of that is sinus.)

Our creative brains would partially still tie in with Freud’s “Ego”, but where we start thinking of spiritual or creative things, it is closer to the “Superego”.

Now, contrary to what you may think, (potentially talking to my younger readers here), the “Superego” is not a super egotistical part of our psyche.  It is a transcendent, spiritual part of us that thinks thoughts that are e.g. beneficial to all humankind.  In spiritual systems, it sometimes is called the “Higher Self”. (That’s nicer than “superego”, don’t you think?)

So here is how they cooperate.

In an ideal environment (we are kids on a playground), the creative brain gets up to something; gets a cute idea (“let’s climb up this tree!”), and immediately, without any stops or pauses, starts implementing it.  The kid climbs up the tree; nothing happens; there’s a bit of excitement as the croc brain panics on the way down (the croc brain’s job is to panic), but the child makes it safely to the ground, and therefore the croc brain notes down:  “All good, we survived this just fine, we can keep on doing this.”

In a less ideal environment, a child goes into the water (under supervision of the swimming teacher that ought to have been locked up), trying to learn to swim.  And the teacher tries to cajole the child into putting its nose under water, and the child refuses, and the teacher pushes the child’s face into the water.

What happens?  The croc brain panics.  The child screams, inhales water; the teacher panics and lets go; the child scrambles out of the water and the croc brain vows never to set foot in a pool again!   The croc brain registers:  That way lies death.  We don’t go there.  It takes immense bravery for a child who has been damaged that way, to step out and learn to swim anyway.

And so we learn, all through childhood.  Behaviours that had no bad results, or not significantly bad results (such as, not bothering with homework and then pulling in one’s head while the teacher shouts) are registered as repeatable because they are survivable.  “Phew, that wasn’t so bad.  We survived.  Good.  Let’s do it again.”

Another thing the croc brain is concerned with, is to ensure maximum comfort against minimum effort.  (Was it “A Fistful of Dollars” where the spoiled rich young man waiting for his fortune comments to his father: “If work were so great, the rich would keep it to themselves”?)

But where’s the zinger-insight?

It is this.

Your croc brain, your Id, will rate everything “survivable” that didn’t cut too close to the abyss.  This includes having survived a parachute jump; or living through an armed robbery in which the criminals focused on the loot rather than on killing people.  It also includes close shaves you have while cycling, or (hope this is not you) texting while driving.

And the forsaken, blasted Id will stick these experiences, alongside more everyday stuff like your job, into a catch-all folder known as your Comfort Zone.  Under “not worth changing our routines over – tolerable unpleasantnesses”.

(Just to drive home this point, consider labour pain.  And yet, humanity survives and multiplies!)

Your Croc Brain and your Reactive Brain, your Id and your Ego, are conspiring to kill you!

And they are doing it via Comfort Zone.  Long-term, softly.

And worse:  They are doing it under pretext of keeping you alive!!

Now think of the last time you had a really good idea.

Something that was potentially going to make a lot of money, or be a lot of fun.

And your comfort zone, along with a whole lot of nay-sayers in your circles who were also only listening to their own comfort zones and projecting them onto you, pulled you back from it.

“Wow – I should really invite all the neighbours to a street party and get to know everyone.  Would be a lot of fun!  But… no…  * sigh *…  that would entail buying meat for the grill, and going out to invite everyone, and getting everyone to bring their own beer or wine, and…  oh, I think it would be awkward.  Nobody can throw out money on a party.  I certainly can’t.  Forget it.”

“I should really invest in a bit of cryptocurrency and see how that goes.  … but…  no… probably too risky…”  (and years later:  “Damn, if I’d invested in Bitcoin I’d be rich now!”)

Or, more tragically:  Having a bad habit (for instance, not eating healthily) over many years, but your Id and Ego will work together to keep you doing it, because you don’t feel bad right now, so… the effort of changing the habit is, in the calculations of Id, larger than the risk of keeping it the same.  This is why new habits are so hard to learn, and old ones so hard to get rid of.

You get it now?

Your Id and your Ego are your enemies in this.  Your Superego (your Higher Self) is your best friend and you shouldn’t listen to the others!

So the next time you get a business inspiration, or any inspiration for that matter…

Listen up!

Is it your Higher Self trying to rescue you?  Trying to break you out of your lethal comfort zone?  Act on it!  And if your Id panics and tries to persuade your Ego to stop you – go and read up on people who were successful doing what you are dreaming of doing.

Because, they survived!  In fact they thrived.  And, haha, with a JuJitsu trick, they turned the Id against itself and made the successful idea into a comfort habit!

So there, Id, take that!



Philosophy Phriday

Oops, nearly missed it:

One of the little life hacks I mentioned in the last Friday post (granted, 2 weeks back, mea maxima culpa, Om…) was frustration.

Frustration is a really neat life hack.  Wish I had figured this out years back.  Frustration is your sensor that tells you, “you’re rested, you’re energized, it’s time to get to work”.  If one is always surfing close to burn-out, one doesn’t get to feel frustration, only exhaustion.

When one starts out, frustration either teaches one to quit or to try again.  There are really only two types of person – the quitters and the rebooters.  If you quit, that’s really bad because you’ll have allowed your detractors to win – the people who said “you can’t do that” from the start.

Those Detractors

Let’s look at that more closely.  I used to have as my Skype status, “The one who says something can’t be done, should never interrupt the one doing it.”  You will get detractors for literally everything.  And they come from where you expect it least.  People who should be chomping at the bit with you in excitement about new ideas and projects.  Except that they don’t, because maybe in their minds, life is a competition and if you win at something (anything), somehow that takes away from their own shine.  Or maybe they are simply addicted to watching others fail at things and then crow, “I told you so”.  The compulsive know-it-all.

But, you have only ultimately failed when you give up trying.  So as you see, you can absolutely not afford to quit something you want to do.  You can only quit things you yourself have outgrown or put behind you.  For every idea you are trying out, there is someone out there who has already done it successfully.  It helps to look how they did it; that increases your chances of success.  I’m sure even Richard Branson had detractors.

What can one do about detractors?  Only a single thing:  Ignore them.  Shoosh them.  Unfollow their feed.  Mute them on your Twitter.  Protect yourself emotionally, because if you don’t, their criticism gets under your skin and starts eating you alive from the inside like maggots. And hollowed out, you won’t be much good.

So, Frustration.

Frustration comes in two shapes.  Frustration with other people, and frustration with your life.

The first one is tricky.  The best you can do is see it as a mirror, a reflection of what you want to eliminate from your life.  Let’s say, you’re frustrated with the misbehaving motorists in the traffic at 5pm, battling your way home.  What your frustration is really telling you is to make changes to your life so you can avoid the traffic.  This could mean negotiating with your boss that you come in earlier and leave correspondingly earlier, or later, depending.  Or, for instance, if a gossiping colleague frustrates you, you may decide to avoid her.  (Or him.  Men can gossip too.)  The details of how you solve it, are not the point.  The point is that you use the frustration as an indicator that something has to change.

Frustration with your life is easier to solve.  It’s simply a call to action.  Identify the one task that would make the biggest difference to your situation, then do that.  You will be amazed how good you feel if you do this consistently every time you get frustrated.

And again, if something you’re doing is frustrating you because it is not giving results, it is time to change the course of action.

That’s all my knee-deep philosophizing you’ll get today.  Really obvious stuff, actually.  Just, quite helpful to remember, I found.

Hey!! Upgrade to Wordpress!

Of Mountains & Printing Presses

Very cool!

You see, the whole idea of “blocks” (“divs” in coder speak) is that they “degrade gracefully” in older or smaller browsers (such as, your mobile phone).  Ingenious!   Why didn’t I think of this?

  Here I was, breaking my head over how to make P’kaboo, a neat website on a wide screen, nicer for mini screens such as mobiles.  I’ve already made it “squishable” – so you see a teeensy weensy little drop-down menu if you (with pixie fingertips) click on the microscopic little button saying “Submit manuscript” (if you could find the button in the first place, and read it).  But that was exactly the problem.  I didn’t really want the words to shrink to point-size 0.1.  I wanted them to stay legible and clickable (with a clumsy index finger on mobile phones, think Shrek), retain their functionality without the site losing its beauty.  (It has been complimented on its beauty, quite a bit.)

This sorts it!  How amazingly convenient!

Haha – and the feature is still in beta. Found the glitch.

Once you press “publish”, the wordpress text paragraphs stick seamlessly onto each other. I had to go into the html and manually insert line breaks. Okay, peeps, it’s a really nice idea but not yet fully matured. I’m sure they’ll fix this little glitch the second they see the first beta-tests. (That’s us, trying out the new editor.)


Ideas Friday: Some Resources

Seen on a T-shirt:

“AD/HD!!  Highway to…

Oh look, there goes a butterfly!”

I’ve come across an interesting piece of research recently, in my relentless hunt for FOCUS.

This research points out that we are hard-wired to be “distractible”.  Our brain responds to outside information coming in, by forcibly overriding whatever we are doing, and paying instant attention to the new information.

On a Caveman-Brain level this makes a lot of sense:  There’s no point in deeply focusing on crafting a bone flute if there’s a tiger creeping up on you.

My first violin teacher, during violin lessons when I was very young, taught me that focus is if the house can burn down around you and you don’t notice because you are practising.  It was an extreme image, but it did burn home the message.

So we are hard-wired to be instantly distractible. Here’s the complication.  If you have 1000 things to do and think of, how do you cope?

Over the past month or two I’ve learnt new tricks. I’ll bring them here as resources – maybe they’ll prove as useful to you as they do for me:

  • One of them is a little time tracking app, that I use to track down what I spend my time on.  It’s an eye-opener.
  • Another is of course the time-tested list.  A little notepad item on my desktop, listing tasks that have to happen today, and those that should ideally also happen today but can be delayed.
  • One of the best devices I use, is to spend the minimum required time on each task, and then move on That means, quit thinking about it.  This last trick is incredibly liberating.  If a task takes half an hour but you stew about it for five hours, it interferes with all subsequent or concurrent tasks.  So, do what is necessary (and if that includes thinking about it for half an hour before executing it, then focus on thinking about it and do nothing else while you think), and then free your mind.  I’ve won back already about 60% of the “RAM” space in my brain just doing that.
  • One last trick I’ve discovered:  Frustration.

You wouldn’t think of frustration as a resource, would you?  And yet it is.  It is action energy looped in on itself, all strangled up and spinning inside you because it needs to be LET OUT!  So the logical thing is to let it out!  Do the actions that will bring you closer to your results, until the frustration is dissipated.  Energy, according to popular physics, can never be lost, only transformed.

Peace of mind:

There’s one extra thing I do these days.  I meditate.  Even if it’s only for 3 minutes after waking up in the mornings; it makes a difference and sets the tone for the day.

So, hope these help!  🙂






Thinktank Friday? :)

Hi Peeps.  I know I had a Friday Fairytale thing running and it fell apart with the death of my soulmate.  It may come back but I’m actually not ready yet to retake writing.  (Many reasons, the most obvious being that so much of him is in those stories, and I have a commitment to complete the Solar Wind / Shooting Star saga before getting fully stuck into something else.)

So I thought, to start a new blog tradition for this site, why not discuss an idea every Friday?  Fridays are interesting, traditionally they were my homeschool holidays (we always finished all the work in the first 4 days of the week); they also have a special meaning to the Studio, I didn’t teach on Fridays because people missed their lessons too often – instead I made Saturdays a solid teaching day.  This split weekend has been working for us for years.

The idea I’d like to bring to the table today:

Privacy online, a data company’s interesting take on it – and my take on that  😀

My regular blogfriends know that debates are always welcomed here.  I’m inviting you to pepper this concept with everything that comes to mind.  It’s like an open discussion group.

But first:

Little P’kaboo Update:

After the beautiful love story “The Blue Between” is now in print in Durban, it is in the process of being processed to Amazon and Smashwords.  I would love to ask for a round of applause for our wonderful associate in SA, Les, who pulled off the entire paper publishing route of this book alone.  And how beautiful it is!  Annemarie Luck is a super writer, the story is one of those who sparkle their way into a heart.  Her cover artist did a fantastic job too, and between her and Les we now have this:

Blank bookcover with clipping path

Congratulations, Annemarie Luck, and well done TEAM!!

And now our Thinktank topic.

Privacy online

…sounds like a contradiction in terms.

Ten years back we all understood this.  “Online” is a public platform.  Privacy consisted of taking a pseudonym / pen name, and only saying online what you wouldn’t hesitate to say out loud to a crowd in a market square.

Like, for instance, “I’m an author and I’ve written a series that’s all about pirates in a futuristic setting.  Any takers?”  That’s perfectly good.  You wouldn’t dream of posting something like “my boss seduced his secretary last night”.   Of course not!

We were naturally suspicious of anyone who wanted to take our personal details.  What does some stranger want with my phone number?  Rob me or stalk me?

Ten years have gone and defenses have been dropped.  Facebook spread the vibe that “I have nothing to hide so I can post my entire private life on Facebook”, and “honest people don’t need to hide behind a ‘fake’ account or alias”.

Actually honest people do need to.  What are they hiding their data from?  Criminals.  I have to think of Kaa from the Jungle Book, singing “Trust in Me” to Mowgli, when Facebook calls on people to delete ‘fake’ accounts or insists on them using the name on their birth certificate.  By what right, anyway?  Who are they?  The law allows me to take as many pen and artist pseudonyms as I like; I could even legally change my name from what it was on my birth certificate.  These days, you can even sign contracts legally as an alias!  (https://www.quora.com/What-is-a-non-disclosure-agreement-Can-I-sign-one-with-a-pen-name-pseudonym-if-I-wish-to-protect-my-identity)

But fast-forward, and through countless channels all the data a thorough crook would need on you is all available online.  Remember that all data, all programming is really 0’s an 1’s on a very fundamental level; a criminal capable of machine code can override any program that exists, and break into the data servers of any company.  There is only one operating system that is resistant to that (literally, “unhackable”), but it is not commercially available.  So how to protect billions of people from the massive data heists and smaller hacking, stalking and targeting crimes?

GDPR is Europe’s way of trying to unscramble that egg.  The data are already online.  Everybody’s personal data.  Who put them there?  You did yourself!  So now we need laws. (Not that laws ever stopped real criminals.  They just keep the bored teenagers out.)

There’s a company that came up with a protective app, called “digi.me”.

Here is how they explain how they plan to protect you (even from themselves) :

It’s a cool vision.

Better even, that someone cares enough to write a whole program to try and protect people from data mining (by, ironically, data-mining first).

My 3pence worth (there was inflation) :

What if…

… someone wrote an option into that program, that wherever it finds the data online, it first pulls it to your personal computer (not “private cloud”, another oxymoron), and then permanently deletes it where it found it?

What if every private internet user, every person like you, or me, were to use this program do delete their entire internet history and personal data?

We’ve had a bit more than a decade (ok I know the internet has been around longer, but the social mass media only started up around then) to get used to what the internet does with our valuable data.  That a criminal can track my child to her school or home or friend via her own smartphone.  Wouldn’t it be a great idea for everyone to have a second shot, this time be judicious what to share, because we already know how deep the corruption can run?  What would happen to the internet if…?

People would actually deal with humans again instead of programs.  Corruption would become traceable again.  One could learn again who is trustworthy.  Old-fashioned concepts.  Worked for centuries.

And everybody’s private network of connections is everyone’s private network of connections.  Not everybody’s shared connections with everyone else.  Sharing is nice – if you are sharing your lunch with your friend.  Not if you’re sharing out your friend to advertising companies for eBay.  Without even knowing it or having any choice.

How would the internet have to adjust?  Who’s up for discussing this a little?  😉

Worth reposting: Windmills of the Mind

From an ooooold movie…



Dusty Springfield – The Windmills Of Your Mind Lyrics

Artist: Dusty Springfield

Album: Dusty In Memphis


Round like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel

Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that’s turnin’
Running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweepin’
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone

Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream

Like a clock whose hands are sweepin’
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly?
Was it something that you said?

Lovers walk along a shore
And leave their footprints in the sand
Is the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand?

Pictures hangin’ in a hallway
And the fragment of a song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong?

When you knew that it was over
You were suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of his hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel

As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/dusty-springfield/the-windmills-of-your-mind-lyrics/#WjVAc9DRtKyF6gSm.99

The Return of Immy

So I’m sitting in Cobh, the weather has finally turned “Irish” again (cool and cloudy).  I have been assured by people who have lived here all their lives, that the last summer Ireland had such fine weather, such a long uninterrupted dry and sunny streak, was in 1976.

But we love this weather.  Cool is energizing; if it starts drizzling, that puts us into a creative mood.  I’ve always loved writing when it is rainy, even as a teenager.

The bottomless sadness still strikes, at random, and often.  I do realize it will keep doing that, and I will stop blogging about it except on very rare occasions.  I will continue including Iain in the conversation, because he is here with us.

Remember Immy?

She was unavailable for the longest time on our site.

Originally a delightful series of stories by Leslie Hyla Winton Noble, illustrated by Amanda Fieldgate, and released in a very special multimedia pack – which frankly I thought was unabridged genius.

It came as 1) a CD with booklet insert; 2) the CD contained a Power-Point presentation where one could opt to have the booklet read to the child on audio only (with sound-effects and Peter-And-The-Wolf-style theme tunes, composed by the brilliant Les Noble); alternatively one could watch the entire 5-booklet series on Power-Point, soundtrack and all.

You begin to understand how special the Immy series is when you consider:

  1. Story.  A charming, child-focused set of stories about a feisty little girl who makes courageous decisions whenever she is face-to-face with bone-chilling danger.  Wow.
  2. Illustrations.  These are artworks by Amanda Fieldgate, on canvas.
  3. Music!  A whole, composed-through soundtrack of theme tunes interacting with each other.  If Les could have a tame orchestra at his fingertips, he would gladly have done the full symphonic orchestral performance.
  4. Power-point.  The concept of having an audiobook for young children, with page-through option or power-point option, is so complete!
  5. Lightweight, exquisite presentation – highly professional, as a glossy booklet insert into a CD.

Here is great news:

The Immy series will be available in an A5 print, standard children’s book; as a box set as well as a collective in a single volume.

The improvement of having hard-cover versions available, is simply an added delight.  The Immy series explores multimedia books on every level.  There are only one or two unexplored options left…

Am I looking forward to these hard-covers!


What else is new in P’kaboo:

  • We’ve placed Carmen Capuano’s “Split Decision” on Smashwords.
  • I’m gradually updating our website; however I haven’t yet started tackling the problem of making it compatible with smartphones.  It needs an entire redesign for the little hand-held machines.
  • In Durban, beautiful print runs are happening.  I’m watching this with high excitement.  Well done to Les!
  • We are putting the foundations in place for setting up shop here in Ireland. Hopefully, before the year is out, we will be trading.
  • There are some brand new books reaching completion; one brand new author to be launched.  Details will be released later.
  • We are step-wise catching up on our backlog from the coma of the past 18 months.  Without our team we would not have managed.

So, Go Team!!


Smashing developments with Split Decision

Split Decision goes on Smashwords

As part of our program towards convenience and ease of access, we now have a version of Split Decision available on Smashwords

Easy to download; beautifully clean ebook available in just about every imaginable format; and at only $4.95. For those of you who are really curious to peek into this fast-moving, emotion-packed book, there is a preview available.

Here is the link:


The Smashwords edition precedes a very exciting development – the launch of the first South African print of the book.
Go read and enjoy.