Filtering by Category: Wellness

What are You Breaking Through?

That's the questions to delegates at the 2015 TEDMED event. Thanks to the Fellowship with the Bush Foundation I am able to attend this premier gathering. TED talks are now iconic for the sharing of ideas and inspiration. TEDMED takes that speaking and event formula and applies it to health and medicine.

In just a single day, I've met and listened to some of the most brilliant innovators in health and science. As a historian of sorts, the closest comparison to what TEDMED is might be the famed academies or lectures in England in the 1800s -- minus the formal wear and with the inclusion of women and minorities.

Two incredible examples.... 

With U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy at TEDMED, November 20, 2015, Palm Springs, CA.

With U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy at TEDMED, November 20, 2015, Palm Springs, CA.

One of the speakers, Sam Sternberg, is with CRISPR and innovating CRISPR Cas9, a gene splicing and editing technology. Yes, it is possible to cut bad or defective genes with better or repaired gene sequences. This is not science fiction. And to hear first hand the discovery, development, evolution, and application of what was once science fiction is mind-blowing.

You'd likely think that someone like Dr. Sternberg is unreachable, but the wonderful thing about the TEDMED experience is accessibility to the speakers; which takes me to the second example.

The U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, gave an impassioned talk about the important role happiness plays in our health. I'm going to write separately on this topic. Following General Murthy's talk, I had the chance to spend five minutes talking to him and his chief of staff about addiction and the work of Face It TOGETHER. He was deeply interested. His office is preparing a report on the state of addiction and addiction care in the U.S. That brief interaction will hopefully lead to a follow-up conversation with General Murthy's office and input into his report.

This is the TEDMED experience. Brilliant and impassioned people from all over the world have convened to learn about breakthroughs in health and medicine and to share their breakthroughs, both big and small. 

We advance as a people and a civilization because of curiosity and drive toward something better. How are you breaking through in our home, your life, your community, or your work? What barriers are standing in the way from a life and a world that you want to live and you want to leave for your children?

The inspiration at TEDMED is that you do not need to be the inventor of gene editing technology, but simply be a compassionate and curious human being.

Which Wolf are You Feeding?

Recently, I was introduced to a parable that was new to me. It's the parable of two wolves and it goes like this:

An old grandfather told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment. The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and bravery.”

The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

My introduction to this parable was somewhat happenstance. I follow Simon Sinek on Twitter (author of "Start with Why"). He tweeted an interview he did with a podcast called "The One You Feed". I needed something to listen to for a three hour drive and queued it up on the iPhone.

Instantly, the parable and the premise of the podcast resonated with me. I was so struck by the parable and how I had applied a form of the parable to my life over the last decade, that I completely reworked a speech I was to give at the end of my three hour drive at a drug court graduation.

The parable of the wolves worked wonderfully for the drug court speech. Here were a number of individuals, some graduating the program and others at some other stage, but all faced with the great weight of the court as they work through significant life changes.

We can easily commit ourselves to the doom of failure, especially in a criminal justice like situation, if our focus is not on feeding the good wolf. The given is that life with the restrictions and requirements of a drug court are tough, but the alternative is worse, right?

That's quite the tricky question, actually. For some, time in jail or prison is relatively easy compared to having to face real life.

Even for the average person out there, the tendency may be to go through life choosing the path of least resistance. This person makes safe choices in life, which over time, equate to a steady, but anemic feeding of the good wolf. Thus, this person may never quite reach their full potential.

My philosophy over the last 10 years has been see the path of least resistance but not to take that as the given path. Many told me not to go back to college just six months after getting out of jail and being very early in my addiction recovery and new life. I listened to their advice, but was not satisfied with such a safe option. Sure, I might limit or eliminate the danger that could trigger a relapse, but frankly, relapse was no longer a fear for me. For years of fighting addiction and cycling through periods of treatment and recovery, everyone put the fear of God in my mind that a single relapse was the end of the world and the the only way to win was to fear alcohol and everything associated with alcohol.

That fear was feeding my bad wolf. 

When I started college, I immediately began counseling sessions at the student counseling center.  Through that consistent counseling, I learned and improved upon an ability to identify positive and negative energy, people, places, and things. With practice, I got real good an assessing situations and people and running them through a personal cost-benefit analysis. If the scales tipped in favor of being a positive impact on my life as I was constantly defining it, then I would further explore the situation or relationship. If not, I graciously found ways to reject negative.

This was me starving my bad wolf and feeding my good wolf.

It worked. 

My life dramatically improved. I accomplished goals many didn't think were possible. I took risks, but not without intentionality and thought.

This process continues to this day. I just have another way of viewing it.