The Power of Habit Summary

Everyone has big dreams, but they think that they have to do huge things to accomplish those dreams. They get so overwhelmed by their own aspirations that they get analysis paralysis and are sluggish to accomplish anything, much less the big things they had planned. They forget that everything great is accomplished through consistent daily effort. In other words, greatness is a habit.

In the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells us, “is that your habits are what you choose them to be.”

Everyone has habits, whether they know it or not. It’s simply the way the brain works. When you learn how your brain creates habits, you can figure out how to hack the brain and start replacing bad habits and building good ones.

Here’s a quick overview–every habit is centered around 3 things:

🔹a cue,

🔹a routine, and

🔹a reward.

Maybe you’d like to create a better morning routine. A lot of people wake up, hit snooze a few times, pick up their phones and catch up on news, social media, etc., and then get ready for work. The reward is more sleep, a comfortable morning, a slow start to the day.

But a comfortable morning is not a productive morning. So, if you can recognize the cue, you can alter the behavior, and change the reward. Lazy mornings usually happen because people keep their phone next to their bed and use it as their alarm. When you wake up, your phone is already in your hand, so of course you’re going to start your day by checking everything on it.

But if you change the cue by putting your phone across the room, you have to get up to turn off the alarm. When you’re standing there, you’re much less likely to spend much time on your phone. With the cue changed, it’s easier to change the routine to something like reading or exercise. As a result you’ll be rewarded with a healthier body, a sharper mind, and an all-around better day.

These rewards will cement the new behavior and over time you’ll have a much stronger daily performance that is grounded in strong habits.

When you know how the brain works, you can recognize the cues and rewards that you’ve been giving it and change them to eliminate unhealthy habits and build stronger ones. Over time, these habits will make you stronger, wealthier, and wiser.

Jack Dennis

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

HEB FOOD DRUGS

Americans Seek More Wellness Opportunities as Pandemic Eases

For those who go beyond corporate news propaganda and pay close attention, the pandemic continues to teach many of us critical lessons.

One of the most valuable knowledge gains is realizing most of the media is corrupt and dishonest. Chances are, all of us have fallen guilty to seeing a new claim and not doing our own research to confirm if what they presented is true.

This article goes beyond the political, Big Pharma, Big Tech and Academia mistruths and indoctrination to zero in on our health, wellness and nutrition.

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From the moment consumers experienced the toilet paper shortages of 2020 to the most recent supply chain scarcities on store shelves (along with lockdowns, business closings, controversial vaccine and mask mandates), the one thing most people concentrated on improving was their health.

We personally made several significant changes. We moved from an urban area to a less expensive home far out in the Texas Hill Country, built contingencies for essentials (water, power, communication…), started a food garden, increased our exercise, and enhanced our nutrition/supplement intake.

A heightened—and understandable—focus on health, natural and wellness products by consumers is increasing. Today, “natural and wellness” products make up a $187 billion market that is growing at 12.5%. 

In fact, natural and wellness products are leading growth across consumer products in 2021.

As conventional positioned products grew 6.3% over 52 weeks in American grocery stores, specialty and wellness positioned products grew 14.1% and natural-positioned products grew 9.8%.  

Lessons Learned

Remember what we learned about the dishonesty in news media, Big Tech, Big Pharma and Academia. The same strategies can be used in other media. Be cautious of convincing advertisements alerting us to the latest foods that will help us live longer and be healthier that are plastered on billboards, appearing across our TV screens, and in-between our favorite songs on the radio.

“Pomegranates cheat death.”
“Dark chocolate lowers cholesterol.”
“Almonds boost your memory.”

If we are seeing these claims everywhere, they must be true, right? Think about the disinformation the CDC, FDA, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times dish out.

We count on nutrition science to help us make smart food choices, but when food companies paid for that research, can we trust the findings?

Beware Misleading News & Ads

In her latest book, Unsavory Truth, Marion Nestle exposes the unspoken agenda between nutrition researchers and the funding they receive from the food industry.

As Nestle so bluntly states in her books opening, “Unsavory Truth is about how food, beverage, and supplement companies fund nutrition researchers and practitioners and their professional associations, with the ultimate goal of promoting sales.”

When the experts of these scientific studies are merging with the marketing experts who emulate the results to the public, we get the uninformed and misled consumers we have today. Nestle remarks that this happens in all parts of the marketing industry, going back as far as the 1950’s tobacco campaigns. Even though industry executives were well aware of the connection to lung cancer, campaigns were still released casting doubt that cigarettes were harmful.

Current decisions we are making because of news media, government mandates and paid talking heads can be massively dangerous. Much propaganda and advertising is resulting in numerous public health issues, environmental concerns, and food insecurity.

Nestle states that, “Everyone eats. Food matters. All of us need and deserve sound nutrition advice aimed at promoting public health – not corporate commercial interests.”

It’s important to note that Nestle does make the distinction that “not all industry backed-research is biased” but, we must be cautious. Ultimately, Nestle is encouraging shoppers to vote with their fork and look at the contact information on food labels and have open conversations with the companies that make the food you’re consuming. Write letters, send emails, pick up the phone and ask to speak with someone. If we don’t do it, who will?

Like most health advocates, Marion Nestle concludes her book with recommendations for her readers to pursue. She motivates consumers to “eat your veggies, choose relatively unprocessed foods, keep junk foods to a minimum, and watch excessive calories.”

Future Survival

To survive and thrive this political and lifestyle turmoil, the wise will consider how wellness impacts our future. We really do have more choices and it’s smart to acknowledge opportunities.

One tactic to deal with product shortages is to consider alternatives and expand the breadth of products for our lifestyles. 

The move toward online shopping in all its forms accelerated last year. For instance, most of our supplements and health regime such as Green Pasture Products are conveniently acquired by mail. The book we are reading now, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, is very informative. Shoppers have more options. We can get our groceries delivered at home, put in the car curbside, or packed up for in-store pickup. That’s here to stay and shoppers aren’t going to accept a retail experience where these perks are taken away.  

Natural product shoppers now rely on internet ordering at nearly twice the rate of all customers and spend less at the biggest conventional outlets. That matters because it means that natural shoppers are tech-friendly, eager for convenience, and committed to spending their dollars at outlets that deliver a specialized experience they’re not getting at the Wal-Mart type big box stores.

Products with wellness attributes are performing in sales stronger than ever. Even keto branded products were up 31% over pre-2020 sales.

We are not taking it for granted that pre-pandemic times will be the future. Personally, for the most part we ignored lockdown restrictions and other government mandates. We traveled, ate in opened restaurants, turned off news, and improved our lifestyle.

During the pandemic, like so many others we have talked to, we rediscovered the joy of cooking at home–including the convenience and health benefits.

Many signs point to a different kind of workday for many office workers, which means more remote working and at-home meals. The economic situation for many workers has not fully recovered, and at-home dining is an affordable option. 

Our suggestion moving forward is to build out long-term strategies but don’t forget to identify immediate opportunities as well. As we look ahead, keep these ideas in mind: 

  • Educate ourselves about nutrient dense and functional foods 
  • Adopt maintainable diet and lifestyles 
  • Evaluate broader ideas and alternatives as we personalize efforts fight back and survive the turmoil.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Unearth the Mysteries of Those Who Lie Beneath the Oldest Graveyards in the Lone Star State

Texas, the second largest state, both in land mass and population, has more than 50,000 cemeteries, graveyards, and burial grounds. As the final resting places of those whose earthly journey has ended, they are also repositories of valuable cultural history. The pioneer cemeteries—those from the 19th century—provide a wealth of information on the people who settled Texas during its years as a Republic (1836-1845), and after it became the 28th state in 1845. In What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards, author Cynthia Leal Massey exhumes the stories of these pioneers, revealing the intriguing truth behind the earliest graveyards in the Lone Star State, including some of its most ancient. This guide also provides descriptions of headstone features and symbols, and demystifies the burial traditions of early Texas pioneers and settlers.

More titles by Cynthia Leal Massey.

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Chilling New Information in the Frightening True Story of ‘Unholy Matrimony” Murder Revealed

Puppies in the doctor’s back yard gave San Antonio police detective Walter Dennis a firm suspicion that the St. Bernards were more than just mere coincidence.

After he knocked on the front door of Dr. Charles James Guilliam’s house, a woman with long, straight blond hair opened it. It was a cool Sunday afternoon, February 17, 1974, when Dennis introduced himself and the other suited gentleman standing with him on the porch of the Tuxford Street residence in northeast San Antonio.

“…and this is detective John Dillmann from the New Orleans Police Department,” Dennis began. The lady shook their hands and identified herself as Dr. Guilliam’s wife, Katherine. “We are here to speak with your husband.”

“I’m sorry, but he is out of town on business and can’t be reached by phone right now,” the twenty-something-year-old woman reacted. The detectives verified with her that Dr. Guilliam was a consulting psychologist currently working on a project in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

“We are also attempting to locate a Mr. Claudius Giesick,” Dennis requested. “Do you know Claudius Giesick?”

“Yes, I believe he is a business associate of my husband,” she responded.

“How about Sam Corey,” the other detective asked. “Do you know a Sam Corey?”

Katherine’s faced twitched. Dennis could hear the puppies barking outside and noticed she had difficulty focusing on the enquiry. She asked detective Dillmann to repeat the name.

Sam Corey

“You know–Sam Corey,” Detective Dennis replied for the New Orleans investigator. “The big, heavy man. He ran for Mayor of San Antonio and owns the Tokyo Massage Parlor here.”

“Oh yes,” Katherine swiftly remembered. “Jim has gone to his parlor for a massage a few times.”

When asked, she had no photos of her husband she could provide the detectives and asserted that her spouse would have to be the one to answer these questions about him. Dennis gave her his business card and asked her to have Dr. Guilliam call him as quickly as possible.

“Look in the back yard,” Dennis whispered to Dillmann as they walked back to the police car. Dillmann said yes, he had noticed the puppies too when they started barking during their questioning of Katherine.

As Dennis drove back to police headquarters, the two officers compared notes. Dennis had received a call from Giesick on Friday after telling the police operator he needed to speak to a detective. He told Dennis a strange account of how he had spent the last two years in virtual hiding because he was in extreme danger from a criminal named Zent.

Unholy Matrimony book (John Dillman)

Giesick said that his bride, Patricia, had been killed by an oncoming car while they were enjoying their honeymoon in New Orleans the previous month. He wanted to let the detective know that the New Orleans police may be notifying them. Should New Orleans make any inquiries into this death, Giesick was requesting that the SAPD tell them he had to disappear because he was their police informer against this violent gangster, Zent.

Detective magazine account of the Unholy Matrimony case (W. Dennis)

Dennis, suspicious of this bizarre request, went to a nearby office to run a computer check on Giesick’s background. When he discovered there was a warrant out for passing hot checks, Dennis instantly arrested him. Dennis then contacted New Orleans and reached Dillmann, who flew into San Antonio Sunday morning. By then, Giesick had been released. Someone posted a bail bond on his behalf. Dennis discovered that someone was Sam Corey.

When Dennis picked up Dillmann at the International Airport Sunday morning, he had already arranged for a 10 a.m. meeting with Corey at the police station downtown. They took a formal statement in which the more than 300 pound Corey wrote that he “emphatically and positively” did not know Patricia. He did not know if Giesick has worked in any massage parlor. He claimed to hear of her death some days later from the bride’s mother who called him from New Jersey. Corey admitted he knew Giesick and had actually met him in Richardson, near Dallas, since the death.

If Corey had known that Dillmann was working on this case for a couple of weeks, he may have been more truthful. The New Orleans detective, by this time, knew that pretty, strawberry blond 24-year-old Patricia Ann Albanowski had been employed in a massage parlor and had been heavily pursued by Giesick.

Two different insurance agency investigators had concerns. Giesick purchased insurance policies totaling over $300,000 on the day of their wedding, prior to embarking on their honeymoon flight to New Orleans.

Patricia’s mother said that in a New Orleans hotel room, the night of her death, her daughter called very worried. Her new husband had left to take their rental car back for some kind of repairs.

Patricia told her mom that Giesick was a psychologist, but didn’t have an office. He often had to go undercover and disappear because he had helped the federal government arrest a major gold smuggling organization. The government was so concerned about his safety and reprisals from this smuggling gang, they had provided Giesick with a new identity. The name he said the Feds gave him was Charles James Guilliam.

Unholy Matrimony movie starring Patrick Duffy and Charles Durning

When the detectives called Patricia’s mother to confirm information, they learned more startling clues. Patricia, or Trish, as her family called her, commented that Giesick said had been married twice before. His first wife, a former Miss Texas, was killed in a hit-and-run accident along with their only child. His second marriage ended in divorce.

But what she revealed next alarmed both men to the core. On January 2, 1974, Claudius Giesick and Patricia Albanowski were married. Their pastor’s name? Sam Corey.

Before they left for their New Orleans honeymoon trip on January 13, Giesick presented his wife with a wedding present: a St. Bernard puppy.

The detectives soon uncovered information to prove Sam Corey, in a scheme to save on taxes and protect his massage parlors from police troubles, became an ordained minister with the Calvary Grace Christian Church of Faith. He filed a request with Bexar County to change the name of his business from Tokyo House of Massage to Tokyo House Massage Temple.

They also learned that Corey had provided money to Giesick to deposit into his Harlandale State Bank account in San Antonio. The money was used to buy several insurance policies, pay some rent and a few bills after he had performed the marriage ceremony.

As the investigation progressed, it was revealed that Corey was in New Orleans on the night Patricia was hit by a car. The rental car Corey used was checked for evidence which exposed and matched Patricia’s hair. In his formal confession, in order to cut a deal for a lighter sentence, Giesick implicated Corey as the driver of the car that killed Patricia on January 16, 1974.

Giesick had asked his wife to go for a walk that foggy and chilling night. He wanted to show her a family of ducks near the romantic water at a bridge up the street from their hotel. On cue, he noted Corey was waiting nearby in the rental car.

“I tripped her into the road, and he came by and hit her. It was him. He was driving the car and I did see him.”

Giesick (center)

“I waited about four or five seconds to give him enough time to get started,” Giesick confirmed with no remorse. “I tripped her into the road, and he came by and hit her. It was him. He was driving the car and I did see him. Seconds later the police were there because a guy came by and called the police. Then Mr. Corey came by in the Monte Carlo, just drove by.”

Giesick confessed that his new wife, at the moment of impact, was on the road “on her hands trying to get back up again, but she was facing up. As she was trying to get up, she had sandals on and she was slipping. She couldn’t get up…There was a double thud. It very distinctly hit her twice.”

Several days later Giesick and Corey flew to Trenton, New Jersey for Patricia’s funeral. Corey “was wearing Catholic-priest clothes and was paid by the Albanowski family as a priest; he accepted several donations…for prayers for Patricia.”

On February 22, Dennis and other San Antonio police arrested Giesick for bigamy. It was confirmed that Giesick had been married four times. A one year marriage ending in divorce, a California marriage annulled after three days, to his existing wife Katherine in 1969, and illegally to Patricia.

Eventually Sam Corey was sentenced to death which was later reduced to life in prison. He died at Angola State Prison in Louisiana. Giesick received a 21 year prison sentence, but was released in 1986 at age 54. By 2000, he was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison for submitting false auto theft reports in an attempt to collect insurance funds.

Years later, when asked what he remembered most about the case Dennis, a then retired detective, had two answers.

Patrick Duffy played detective in Unholy Matrimony

“Well, of course I remember the book by Dillmann and the 1987 TV movie, ‘Unholy Matrimony’ with Patrick Duffy of the Dallas television show starring in it,” Dennis offered. “But the most disturbing thing that sticks in my mind was going back to Giesick’s house on Tuxford to talk with his wife again during the investigation. This time I brought a patrolman with me that actually knew the couple for a few years, hoping she would trust him enough, maybe we could get better information from her.”

The blond hair lady at the door with the St. Bernard puppies was Katherine Kiser Giesick, the real wife of Claudius Giesick, aka Jim Guilliam. They had been married since September 1969. She recognized the friend, the police officer with Dennis, immediately.

During their conversation, the young policeman revealed that her husband had called him to ask if he would say they had been divorced for a couple of years.

“She was puzzled by this, we could tell,” Dennis remarked. “It was obvious we hit a nerve and she acted like she was both hurt and confused.”

“I will never forget the look on her face when we told her about Patricia (Albanowski)—her death and the insurance,” Dennis shook his head. “She started crying in disbelief.”

“It was a life insurance policy he had recently, and unexpectedly, took out on her life and the family.”

“We thought she was crying because of the news we just told her,” Dennis continued. “But she got up and went to a drawer in the kitchen area and brought back a file—a paper.”

“It still brings me chills to think how evil Giesick and Corey were when I saw what the paper was,” Dennis revealed. “It was a life insurance policy he had recently, and unexpectedly, took out on her life and the family.”

During the April 1975 trial, court evidence showed that when the FBI analyzed the pieces of human hair taken from underneath Corey’s New Orleans rental car and from the exhumed body of the bride, “all 15 characteristics were matched perfectly.”

The District Attorney showed how Giesick, all through his adult life was a “con man who made his living off ripping off insurance” companies. “Claudius Giesick literally lied his way through life. He posed as a psychologist. Dr. Jim Gillium and even collected fees.”

“Claudius Giesick told friends he had a plan by which he could hook Sam Corey on a murder charge in New Orleans.” Testimony and evidence also showed how he attempted to get two women to take out insurance policies on their husbands and have them murdered.

Katherine and Claudius Giesick’s divorce was final on Oct. 19, 1976. They both remarried. He lived in Louisiana for a while, but moved back to San Antonio in 2006. If alive in 2022, Giesick would be 75.

Personal Note

My father was Detective Walter Dennis. As a teen, Dad would often take me to the scenes of crimes and investigations he was currently, or previously, worked on. I became the youngest licensed private investigator in Texas at age 18 and oversaw investigations, missing persons, and personal security protection services for over seven years.

My father, Detective Walter Dennis, giving a briefing at the San Antonio Police Dept.

Years later, after my father passed away, I heard Giesick served his term in prison but was incarcerated again in 2000 for insurance fraud. I tracked him down when he was age 70. Giesick was living in a rundown one bedroom apartment just southwest of downtown San Antonio. He was sitting on a lawn chair with a cheap bottle of wine in his hand.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

RFK, Jr. Bluntly Calls Out Fauci and Billionaire ‘Robber Barons’

In a quick excerpt from his book, The Real Anthony Fauci, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. directly hits the nail on the head with ‘Deadly and Destructive Lockdowns Enriched the Global Predators.’

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Here are Kennedy’s own words:

“Anthony Fauci’s unprecedented quarantine of the healthy would kill far more people than COVID, obliterate the global economy, plunge millions into poverty and bankruptcy, and grievously wound constitutional democracy globally…”

“…Dr. Fauci’s business closures pulverized America’s middle class and engineered the largest upward transfer of wealth in human history. In 2020, workers lost $3.7 trillion while billionaires gained $3.9 trillion. Some 493 individuals became new billionaires, and an additional 8 million Americans dropped below the poverty line.”

The Robber Barons

“The biggest winners were the robber barons—the very companies that were cheerleading Dr. Fauci’s lockdown and censoring his critics: Big Technology, Big Data, Big Telecom, Big Finance, Big Media behemoths.”

“Microsoft Teams users averaged more than 75 million active users, compared to 20 million users in November 2019, and the company’s stock value skyrocketed.”

🔹”Larry Ellison’s company, Oracle, which partnered with the CIA to build new cloud services, won the contract to process all CDC vaccination data. Ellison’s wealth increased by $34 billion in 2020;”

🔹”Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth grew by $35 billion;”

🔹”Google’s Sergey Brin by $41 billion;”

🔹”Jeff Bezos by $86 billion;”

🔹”Bill Gates by $22 billion and…”

🔹”Michael Bloomberg by nearly $7 billion.”

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Books to Help You Cultivate Positive Thinking

By Anna Charles

Positive thinking is one of the most beneficial habits a person can adopt.

The Mayo Clinic explains that it is an effective form of stress management and can improve general health. It can also increase lifespan, lessen depression and stress, and help build better resistance against diseases.

In trying times, you should try to see things in an optimistic manner. Positive thinking isn’t about disregarding struggles; it’s about trying to look at a situation with a less abrasive perspective. This will help you live a happier and more fulfilling life. If you want to learn how to think more positively, there are many resources, like books, which can help you. Here are a few that will surely guide you to see things with a better mindset:

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

First on this list is a book by Mark Manson.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is all about learning to accept the circumstances you encounter and taking things in stride. Problems are inevitable but instead of feeling negatively towards them, learn to let go and not take them too seriously.

Iconic singer Freddie Mercury has said “I’ve lived a full life and if I’m dead tomorrow, I don’t give a damn,” which is the mindset Manson wanted to impart in his book. Knowing yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses can help you understand which challenges you can overcome and how. This will help you find constant and genuine happiness. It will also aid you in how to think more positively and productively.

Don’t Overthink It

Thinking and reflecting aren’t necessarily bad things, but when you tend to overdo it, it can lead to more stress and anxiety.

Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel aims to teach readers to stop overthinking on a daily basis. Overthinking can oftentimes feel like a pattern that is difficult to break and one that we have no control over.

But Bogel explains that negative thoughts can be changed to positive ones, even when you’re overthinking, using the many actionable strategies she lists in her book. Included inside is a framework that readers can use in discerning both small and big decisions. Simply following it can bring more peace, joy, and love into your life. This will not only guide you to breaking the habit of negative thinking but it will also help you find energy for things that really matter to you.

Happiness Becomes You

Tina Turner is a legendary name in the music industry. In her book Happiness Becomes You, she lays down the knowledge she has amassed throughout her life and career that helped her think positively. She tackles the many hardships she has encountered in hopes of giving people motivation to keep going.

Turner also taps into her Buddhist faith as it has kept her grounded for decades. She talks about how she turned her dreams into a reality and how to make the impossible happen. It details the many adversities that the singer was able to overcome before she found the success she has today. This book radiates nothing but positivity, and those who read it will learn a thing or two about how a good mentality can be a great help to achieving their goals.

Deep Kindness

One of the major aspects of positive thinking is learning to be less harsh on yourself and others.

Deep Kindness by Houston Kraft highlights the many ways readers can practice imparting goodwill. The book also explains how these principles can help you get ahead in life.

Kraft gives many exercises and prompts to help readers develop their sense of kindness and why it is important in today’s world. Not only will it help create a positive environment, but it will also help build a positive mentality by helping readers live a better and more fulfilling life. Through constant practice, you will find yourself acting more kindly towards yourself and those around you, making your mindset more optimistic overall.

Learning how to lessen negative thoughts can be difficult, but positive thinking is something many people need. Through learning to accept life’s challenges, spending more time on things you love, and being kinder to yourself, positive thinking can become second nature.

Guest Post written by Anna Charles for cleverjourneys.com

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

The Most Fundamental Lesson Good Writers and Bloggers Must Know

It was fun interviewing and meeting performers (Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Clint Eastwood, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Loggins, Jim Messina, and Jackson Browne, to name a few).

In journalism school at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State) University, I started out as University Star Fine Arts Assistant Editor my sophomore year.

Especially rewarding were lessons I took away from writing reviews of concerts, theatrical performing arts, books and art. Committed to learning all I could to hone writing skills, I paid particular attention to Journalism and English professors who endured my thirst for knowledge in and out of class.

One of the more prominent lessons was the “Three Act Narrative.” Today, we have the Internet, but I wouldn’t trade the value of learning from brilliant teachers and good ol’ trial and error.

In screenplay writing, I’ve learned movie plots go by a formula called “The Hero’s Journey.” However, in practically every story you’ve ever read or seen has more in common than you think.

What if I said that a bloodcurdling horror movie with zombies and a Shakespeare play has the same building blocks? Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? But it won’t be once you understand what narrative structure is.

Plot vs Narrative

You may have heard of the word plot and the word narrative, but they are not one and the same.

🔹‘Plot’ refers to the summation of events in any given story.

🔹 ‘Narrative’ refers to the way the plot is structured and presented to the reader.

Detective novels involve the investigation recounting what actually happened in the mystery. While the plot would involve these details regardless of where they appear in the text, the narrative offers the reader clues along the way and saves the big reveal for the end.

By cursory glance, the structure may seem inconsequential. But in truth, the narrative is what makes every story satisfying.

As readers, we love to piece together the details of any story ourselves before its revealed at the end. We also love when the writer peppers foreshadowing throughout the novel, as it makes the ending that much more satisfying. Even twist endings make sense in some way. But why is that?

This is because of a concept most writers use called the three-act structure. The concept is simple; your story can be divided into three, clearly defined or not, acts, each serving a different purpose. At its simplest, a story must have a beginning, middle and end. But how the writer structures these three has a large impact on how the story itself is read.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

Act I: The first act has all to do with the setup. Also known as the expository act, this part of the story establishes everything we, the reader, need to know.

Where is this story set? If it’s not a real-world setting, what are the rules by which the universe operates? Who is our main character? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? What is the main conflict our hero must overcome? These are all questions the first act must answer.

The first act also features an ‘inciting incident’ that sets the story in motion and slowly builds towards a major plot point.

Act II: The second act starts right after the first major ‘incident’ in a novel. In The Wizard of Oz, this would be when Dorothy reaches Munchin Land for example, and the first major plot point was Glenna the Good Witch telling her to “follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

The second act’s role is to build towards the big climax by adding additional details that will become relevant later and include a second major plot point. Some novels may even feature a ‘midpoint’ – this is where the protagonist is at their lowest or the farthest from achieving their goals.

Act III: The third act packs the biggest punch of all – the climax. But before the climax, there must be something called a pre-climax. This is the part where the protagonist is working towards the climax in which they face their primary conflict head-on.

In The Wizard of Oz, this would be the lessons learned along the way with Scarecrow, Tinman and the Cowardly Lion to be overcomed before Dorothy confronts the Great and Powerful Wizard.

The third act is usually the shortest act in any novel because it moves so fast. Following the climax, the novel quickly offers a resolution that wraps everything up.

Freytag’s Pyramid

The 19th-century German writer Gustav Freytag adapted the three-act structure into what is now known as Freytag’s pyramid.

According to Freytag:

🔹‘Rising action’ is where the stakes are continuously raised and the key to building a satisfying climax.

🔹‘Falling action’ is when the big conflict is conquered and the story either winds down for a resolution or resets for a sequel, as is the case with most children’s books.

The name ‘three act structure’ comes from the fact that most dramas, especially dramas in ancient Greece as well as most of Shakespeare’s play years later, followed the three-act structure almost religiously.

Aristotle, in his seminal work ‘poetics’, where he explains the mechanics of what makes a good story, explains the important way to keep a story moving is its “cause and effect beats”. Every scene in a story must feed into the scene that happens next and not seem like standalone episodes.

The three-act structure is especially important in cinema, which must fit a remarkable amount of plot points, rising action and character growth into two hours or so.

Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay writers rely on the three-act structure to help them pace their movie in a way that keeps the audience engaged as well. The three-act structure really took off in the film industry after Syd Field’s pioneering book ‘Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. This book has served as a reference for some giants in the industry like James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood and in writing their own movies too.

The three-act structure has become so prevalent that it has also influenced the way TV shows are written. You may have noticed that when your favorite television show ends on a cliffhanger, the next season quickly resolves the cliffhanger so it can move on to building up the story again.

A narrative that is just as intense throughout the story with no build rarely has a satisfying ending. So what these TV show creators are doing is something like a soft reset. They are slowly building conflict again so that the season finale can be the most exciting point in the season.

Once you realize the basics of the three-act structure, it’s not that hard to spot. Whether it’s in books, movies, or TV shows, the three-act structure is everywhere.

A common topic of discussion in our family after watching a movie or seeing a play include questions like Where did the writers go wrong? Was there not enough exposition? Was there too much exposition? Did they drag out the middle?

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

What Lies Beneath…Lessons From Noted Author

“I knew that the pandemic we were facing was not unprecedented.”

“The last few months of my work on What Lies Beneath, Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards were during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic,” wrote noted Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey. As I was completing the book, I became very cognizant of how history repeats itself.”

Cynthia Leal Massey

“A few hundred years before Christ was born, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon observed, ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.'”

“All the talk of ‘unprecedented times’ solidified my belief in the importance of the knowledge of history,” Massey, a resident of Helotes, northwest of San Antonio, continued.          

“Steeped in the 19th century, writing about cemeteries, memorials, and the people interred—basically writing about death—I knew that the pandemic we were facing was not unprecedented. In fact, epidemics, pandemics, and plagues have occurred with deadly frequency over the centuries and so have various forms of “shutdowns,” and even resistance to such measures.”

“In the 19th century, long-standing diseases such as smallpox (see what instigated the Laredo Smallpox Riot mentioned in this book), typhus, and yellow fever turned into epidemics several times over the course of the century.”

“Cholera spread worldwide in six pandemics in the 19th century. There was even a bubonic plague pandemic that originated in China, spreading worldwide in the 1890s.”

“Scientific advances in the medical field and the recognition of the importance of sanitation made such pandemics rarer and less lethal in subsequent centuries,” Massey noted.

“Many of the cemeteries included tell the stories of individuals, some known and many unknown, who succumbed to epidemics (diseases that affect a large number of people within a region) and pandemics (diseases that spread over multiple countries or continents). In fact, the mortality rate was so high during the 19th century that there was an entire industry of funerary rites and customs developed to help the bereaved.”

“The sentiments engraved on many tombstones give expression to the anguish suffered when a loved one died,” she said.

Massey “was born and raised in Texas, and so was steeped in Texas history from an early age. Nonetheless, many of the individuals covered in this book were new to me. Even those I knew of were illuminated in ways that made them more real and impressive. How they were memorialized in death also tells a story.”

“An example is General Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, who today is iconic in Texas history. Years after he died, a magnificent memorial by renowned Italian-American sculptor Pompeo Coppini was commissioned for his gravesite, but at the time of his death, he was vilified because he refused to support the Confederacy. Few people, except close family members and friends, attended his funeral in Huntsville.”

“While the gravesites of children, many marked by intricately carved babies and toddlers reclining on small pillow beds, were poignant, the graves with markers for “Unknown” or “Known Only to God” were also moving.”

“Several sections at the Fort Parker Memorial Park Cemetery have rows of such markers—small square concrete tombstones inscribed with the word, UNKNOWN—a sobering reminder of our fate in years to come.”

“…. Cemeteries are important repositories of our history and humanity. While the memorials, statues, and monuments to the luminaries of Texas history are breathtaking, the graves, both marked and unmarked, of ordinary individuals are also worthy of reverence and remembrance.”

Cynthia Leal Massey

Helotes, Texas

Excerpt from Author’s Note of What Lies Beneath, Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards By Cynthia Leal Massey

For more information, see below.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards

Our beautiful visit with a long-time-ago friend brought charming remembrances, intriguing history and a fascinating new book.

Dodie and I recently had lunch with Cynthia Leal Massey to catch up and discuss her new book, What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards, being released today (August 1, 2021).

Our lunch was at the regionally renown El Chapparal Mexican Restaurant within the nearby hills of Helotes. A growing town in the northwest San Antonio metropolitan area, the city is known for Floore Country Store (Willie, Waylon and other legends have–and continue to perform–at this famous Hill Country dance hall.

Many of our trips into the Alamo City include a stop off at Old Town Helotes (antiques, quaint shops and plenty of charm are worthy) so Dodie can buy a bag of her favorite, Helotes Blend at the Texas Grounds Coffee shop.

Cindy is a popular figure in the area, a local historian, journalist and 14-year city council member. Her research has prompted the official designation of U.S. Historical Marker status at sites and buildings in the area.

This lunch was special for us, not only due to Cindy being a sponsor of CleverJourneys, but because she and Dodie had not seen each other in over 40 years.

Cindy and Dodie were in Student Council together back in their senior class days at McCollum High School in south San Antonio. Cindy and I also worked on the Chanter, our school’s newspaper staff (I was in the class ahead of them).

Dodie on the left. Cynthia on the right. 1973

We agreed the three of us shared commonality traits of being studious, spirited, dependable and “absolutely brilliant.” LOL.

None of us really hung around in a particular clique. “We were all over the place,” noted Dodie. “Sports, clubs, assorted activities and involvement.”

I recall Cindy being contemplative, industrious and thoughtful. She remembered me always “having a camera in your hand everywhere you went.”

Fortunately, Dodie knows that even though I may not be typing, “he’s always writing in his head. Always.”

“As the old saying goes,” Cindy laughed. “Writers write.”

It was enjoyable being around a fellow writer for a couple of hours.

I sensed the familiar enthusiasm and excitement as Cindy told us about her current novel in progress. It’s based on a true story, tentatively titled “Fowl Water,” a literary mystery about the 1958  murder of a South Texas turkey breeder.

My father, a homicide detective for the San Antonio Police Department, considered the events surrounding the crime quite legendary.

I’m looking forward to reading it as I’m more than halfway into her fascinating “Death of a Texas Ranger” chronicle of murder and vegence in the Texas frontier. It’s especially intriguing because we live in the area where much of the events occurred.

So what is Cindy’s new book about? Here is Amazon’s description:

Unearth the Mysteries of Those Who Lie Beneath the Oldest Graveyards in the Lone Star State

Texas, the second largest state, both in land mass and population, has more than 50,000 cemeteries, graveyards, and burial grounds. As the final resting places of those whose earthly journey has ended, they are also repositories of valuable cultural history.

The pioneer cemeteries—those from the 19th century—provide a wealth of information on the people who settled Texas during its years as a Republic (1836-1845), and after it became the 28th state in 1845.

In What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards, author Cynthia Leal Massey exhumes the stories of these pioneers, revealing the intriguing truth behind the earliest graveyards in the Lone Star State, including some of its most ancient.

This guide also provides descriptions of headstone features and symbols, and demystifies the burial traditions of early Texas pioneers and settlers.

About the Author

Cynthia Leal Massey combines her background in journalism and love of history to write award-winning historical fiction and nonfiction.

A former corporate editor, college instructor, and magazine editor, she has published hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles and several books.

She is a recipient of a Will Rogers Silver Medallion Award for Western Nonfiction and a San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award for her book “Death of a Texas Ranger: A True Story of Murder and Vengeance on the Texas Frontier.”

She was a winner of the Lone Star Award for Magazine Journalism given by the Houston Press Club for “Is UT Holding Our History Hostage?” published in Scene in SA magazine. One judge wrote: “In her exhaustive look at the unique battle over the Bexar Archives, writer Cynthia Leal Massey manages to make history come alive, filled with dark plots and do-gooders of yesteryear, and allusions to cattle rustling and murder and more.”

The article was also a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters O. Henry Award for Best Work of Magazine Journalism.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry called her novel, ” The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas,” a vivid picture of the Rio Grande Valley as it was fifty years ago [and] a very good read.”

Born and raised on the south side of San Antonio, Texas, Massey has resided in Helotes, twenty miles northwest of the Alamo City, since 1994. A full-time writer, she is a past president of Women Writing the West.

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Superhuman by Habit, Book Summary–JackNotes

JackNotes summarizes books, classes, speeches & knowledge.

Notes from Superhuman by Habit, Tynan

Health Habits

Eating Healthy Food

  • Replace bad food – refined sugars and grain – with new foods
  • Eat more foods that you like, even if they’re not the healthiest. Replacing French fries with plain kale will be tough, but replacing them with baked sweet potatoes is pretty easy
  • When you enter the maintenance phase, allow yourself to eat unhealthy food under certain circumstances. For example: “100% healthy eating while at home, eat whatever is convenient while traveling.”
  • Plan every one of your meals in advance. Have a default meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for which you always have ingredients on hand

Good Sleep

  • Buy a sleep mask and earplugs
  • Rather than regulate your wake up time, regulate your bedtime
  • Go to sleep nine hours before your alarm time. If you find that you are consistently sleeping until the alarm goes off, move your bedtime back even further
  • Set a strict screens-off time one or two hours prior to your bedtime
  • Record how much sleep you get every day

Meditation

  • Just sit for five minutes in a quiet space, close your eyes, and focus on your breath
  • When you notice that your mind starts thinking about something else, refocus on your breath
  • The loading period for meditating is approximately two months

Working Out

  • Work out three days a week, doing three exercises each day
  • Don’t jump from plan to plan, without giving any one the time it needs to get results
JackNotes

JackNotes: Atomic Habits

Self improvement and how-to motivation by James Clear.

Executive Summary

The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1% improvement, but a thousand of them. It’s a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system.

Awareness comes before desire.

A craving is created when you assign meaning to a cue. It can only occur after you have noticed an opportunity.

It is the idea of pleasure that we chase. Desire is pursued. Pleasure ensues from action.

With a big enough why you can overcome any how. If your motivation and desire are great enough, you’ll take action even when it is quite difficult. Great craving can power great action – even when friction is high.

Being motivated and curious counts for more than being smart because it leads to action. To do anything, you must first cultivate a desire for it.

Appealing to emotion is typically more powerful than appealing to reason. Our thoughts and actions are rooted in what we find attractive and not necessarily in what is logical.

Suffering drives progress. The source of all suffering is the desire for a change in state. This is also the source of all progress. The desire to change your state is what powers you to take action.

Your actions reveal your true motivations.

Our expectations determine our satisfaction. If the gap between expectations and outcomes is positive (surprise and delight), then we are more likely to repeat a behavior in the future. If the mismatch is negative (disappointment and frustration), then we are less likely to do so.

Feelings come both before and after the behavior. The craving (a feeling) motivates you to act. The reward teaches you to repeat the action in the future:

Cue > Craving (Feeling) > Response > Reward (Feeling)

How we feel influences how we act, and how we act influences how we feel. Desire initiates. Pleasure sustains. Wanting and liking are the two drivers of behavior. If it’s not desirable, you have no reason to do it. Desire and craving are what initiate a behavior. But if it’s not enjoyable, you have no reason to repeat it.

Pleasure and satisfaction are what sustain a behavior. Feeling motivated gets you to act. Feeling successful gets you to repeat.

How to Create a Good Habit

The 1st Law: Make It Obvious

  • Fill out the Habits Scorecard. Write down your current habits to become aware of them
  • Use implementation intentions: “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]”
  • Use habit stacking: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]”
  • Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive

  • Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do
  • Join a culture where your desired behavior is normal
  • Create a motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy

  • Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits
  • Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier
  • Master the decisive moment. Optimize the small choices that deliver outsized impact
  • Use the Two-Minute Rule. Downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less
  • Automate your habits. Invest in technology and one-time purchases that lock in future behavior

The 4th Law: Make It Satisfying

  • Use reinforcement. Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit
  • Make “doing nothing” enjoyable. When avoiding a bad habit, design a way to see the benefits
  • Use a habit tracker. Keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain”
  • Never miss twice. When you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately

How to Break a Bad Habit

Inversion of the 1st Law: Make It Invisible

  • Reduce exposure. Remove the cues of your bad habits from your environment

Inversion of the 2nd Law: Make It Unattractive

  • Reframe your mindset. Highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habits

Inversion of the 3rd Law: Make It Difficult

  • Increase friction. Increase the number of steps between you and your bad habits
  • Use a commitment device. Restrict your future choices to the ones that benefit you

Inversion of the 4th Law: Make It Unsatisfying

  • Get an accountability partner. Ask someone to watch your behavior.
  • Create a habit contract. Make the costs of your bad habits public and painful

The Three Layers of Behavior Change:

  1. Outcomes: changing your results, e.g. losing weight. Most of the goals you set are at this level
  2. Process: changing your habits and systems, e.g. developing a meditation practice. Most of the habits you build live at this level
  3. Identity: changing your beliefs, e.g. your worldview or self-image. Most of the beliefs, assumptions, and biases you hold are associated with this level

The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.

Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop of four steps:

  1. Cue: what triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. The bit of information that predicts a reward
  2. Craving: the motivational force behind every habit. You don’t crave the habit itself, but the change in state it delivers (e.g. you do not crave smoking a cigarette, you crave the feeling of relief it provides)
  3. Response: the actual habit you perform, as a thought or action. Whether a response occurs depends on how motivated you are and the amount of friction associated with the behavior
  4. Reward: the end goal of every habit. We chase rewards because they satisfy our cravings and teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future

If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit. Without the first three steps, a behavior will not occur. Without all four, a behavior will not be repeated.

The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits:

  1. Cue: make it obvious
  2. Craving: make it attractive
  3. Response: make it easy
  4. Reward: make it satisfying

We can invert these laws to learn how to break a bad habit:

  1. Cue: make it invisible
  2. Craving: make it unattractive
  3. Response: make it difficult
  4. Reward: make it unsatisfying
  • Practice guitar more frequently? Place it in the middle of the living room
  • Drink more water? Fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them around the house
  • “If I see stairs, I will take them instead of the elevator.”
  • “When I serve myself, I will always put veggies on my plate first.”
  • Can’t get any work done? Leave your phone in another room for a few hours
  • Watch too much television? Move the TV out of the bedroom
  • Only listen to podcasts you love while exercising
  • Only watch your favorite show while ironing 
  • Exercise. Exercise can be associated with a challenging task that drains energy and wears you down. You can view it as a way to develop skills and strength. Instead of “I need to go run in the morning,” say “It’s time to build endurance and get fast”
  • Finance. Saving money is often associated with sacrifice. You can associate it with freedom as living below your current means increases your future means
  • Motion: outlining twenty ideas for articles. Action: sitting down and writing an article
  • Motion: search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic. Action: eat a healthy meal
  • Want to exercise? Set out your workout clothes, shoes, gym bag, and water bottle ahead of time
  • Want to improve your diet? Chop up a ton of fruits and vegetables and pack them in containers so you have easy access to healthy snacks

Find gateway habits that lead to your desired outcome by mapping your goals on a scale from “very easy” to “very hard.”

For example:

  • Running a marathon – very hard
  • Running a 5K – hard
  • Walking ten thousand steps – moderately difficult
  • Walking ten minutes – easy
  • Putting on your running shoes – very easy

Your goal might be to run a marathon, but your gateway habit is to put on your running shoes. 

The point is to master the habit of showing up. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist. Make it easy to start and the rest will follow.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: “What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”

The Goldilocks Rule: “Humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.”

Executive Summary: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

JackNotes Executive Summary: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray, Ph.D

It is important to remember that men and women have reciprocally different natures. Men and women need to appreciate these differences, and cease expecting each other to act and feel the way they do.

Chapter 2: Mr Fix-It and the Home Improvement Committee

Men love to have their abilities recognized and appreciated, and hate to have them scorned or ignored; women love to have their feelings recognized and appreciated, and hate to have them scorned or ignored. Men don’t rate feelings highly as in their view they can result in hotly impassioned, wildly unstable behavior; women don’t rate abilities highly as in their view they can result in coldly dispassionate, aggressively competitive behavior.

Men like to work on their own, and exercise their abilities by solving problems quickly and singlehandedly; women like to co-operate, and exercise their feelings through interactive communication with one another. Men value solutions, and view unsolicited assistance as undermining their effort to solve problems alone; women value assistance, and view unsolicited solutions as undermining their effort to proceed interactively. Men desire that their solutions will be appreciated; women desire that their assistance will be appreciated.

Chapter 3: Men Go to Their Caves and Women Talk

When faced with tough problems, men become non-communicative so they can work out how best to help themselves, while women become communicative so that others can work out how best to help them. Men like to demonstrate their abilities by being allowed to solve problems without interference; women like to demonstrate their feelings by being allowed to relate problems without interference.

When men do communicate, they like to get to the point, and generally only want to listen if they feel the conversation has a point; women enjoy talking for its own sake, and are happy to listen unconditionally.

Chapter 4: How to Motivate the Opposite Sex

A man’s instinct is to look after himself, even if it means sacrificing others; a woman’s instinct is to look after others, even if it means sacrificing herself. In a relationship, a man has to learn how to care for his partner rather than sacrificing her needs in favor of his own, and a woman has to learn how to be cared for by her partner rather than sacrificing her own needs in favor of his, so that the needs of both are met. If they do this successfully, both win, unlike their instinctive behaviors where one person gains from another’s loss. This has to be worked at, because if either partner feels their efforts towards the relationship are not being successful in pleasing their partner, they may feel hurt and decide to revert to their instinctive behavior. Unfortunately this then causes the other partner to do the same, and the relationship unravels inexorably.

In a relationship, a man needs to feel that his attentions are needed, and a woman needs to feel that her needs are attended. To achieve this, a man has to express his desire to fulfil her needs and her worthiness to receive his care, and a woman has to express her desire for his care and his worthiness to fulfil her needs. Both must remember to appreciate, accept, and forgive the other, and avoid blaming them when they fail.

Chapter 5: Speaking Different Languages

Men talk in very literal terms for the purpose of relaying information; women employ artistic license and dramatic vocabulary to fully express and relate their feelings.

Men like to sort their thoughts out before communicating them, and have the tendency to become distant and non-communicative as they ponder their concerns. At this time, a woman needs reassurance that her partner still rates her as worthy of being taken care of. Women like to sort their thoughts out in the process of communicating them, and have the tendency to pour forth a litany of general grievances as they relate their concerns. At this time, a man needs reassurance that his partner still rates him as worthy of taking care of things. Both must try to avoid feeling personally to blame when their partners are dealing with problems.

When a man is troubled, he does not want his partner to express concern for him, but loves to be told that the problem is easily within his abilities to rectify because of the implicit vote of confidence in his abilities. When a woman is troubled, she loves her partner to express concern for her, but does not want to be told that the problem is a simple one to solve because of the implicit dismissal of her concerns about the issue. A solution should be sought once her feelings have been fully listened to: too quick a solution justifies his abilities but devalues her concerns, too enduring a problem justifies her concerns but devalues his abilities.

Men feel validated and gratified when they are left to sort things out by themselves, and feel undermined by being offered sympathy or unsolicited assistance. Women feel validated and gratified by being offered sympathy or unsolicited assistance, and feel undermined when they are left to sort things out by themselves.

To accommodate their partners’ responses, each should make small changes to their behaviors and communication towards the other, but without compromising their own true natures.

Chapter 6: Men Are Like Rubber Bands

Men periodically bolt for cover when they suddenly fear that their self-sufficiency is becoming threatened. At these times they may become utterly unapproachable, demanding the right to be left on their own and to be allowed not to express their feelings, but if given support by being afforded space for a little while, they will soon feel better and spring back into their usual loving selves once again. It can be hard for women to handle the suddenness and speed with which men bolt for cover, and then subsequently spring back.

At times when men retreat into themselves, they can assist their partners not to be overly concerned or take it personally by providing some brief reassurance that they will return in due course. Women should resist the temptation to try to drag their partners back prematurely or criticize them over this natural behavior.

Chapter 7: Women Are Like Waves

Women periodically sink into a depression when they feel it is time for emotional cleansing and resolution. At these times they may become utterly negative in their outlook, dwelling on every problem which troubles them, including long-standing ones which will generally have been raised and addressed before, and if they cannot find any real issues to concentrate on, then they will find some random other things to worry about.

They suspend their normal giving natures, demanding the right to express their feelings and not to be left on their own, and if supported and allowed enough time to express and release their negative feelings, they will begin to feel happier again and return to their usual loving selves. The slowness in which they sink into depression and subsequently recover may be hard for men to handle.

At times when women sink into themselves, they can assist their partners not to be overly concerned or take it personally by providing some brief reassurance that it is not their partners’ fault. Men should resist the temptation to try to lift their partners back up prematurely or criticize them over this natural behavior.

Men demand the right to be free from time to time; women demand the right to be heard from time to time. When a man feels free he finds it easier to support a woman’s need to be heard; when a woman feels heard she finds it easier to support a man’s need to be free.

If a man’s periodic need to be free coincides with a woman’s periodic need to be heard, the best solution is for the woman to make do with being heard by her friends instead.

Chapter 8: Discovering Our Different Emotional Needs

Men and women need to remember that the emotional needs of the opposite sex are not the same as their own. Providing our partners with the wrong type of emotional needs will not be greatly appreciated.

Deep inside every man is a knight in shining armor seeking a damsel in distress who will love him, and shower him with trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement. Deep inside every woman is a damsel in distress seeking a knight in shining armor who will love her, and shower her with caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance. Men must listen attentively to women to understand their needs, avoiding getting angry or defensive; women must have faith in men’s abilities and best efforts to fulfill their needs, avoiding trying to change or control them.

Chapter 9: How To Avoid Arguments

Communication between relationship partners should be loving and respectful; verbal attacks by contrast are highly destructive. It is often not so much what is said that causes the damage, but the tone of voice and body language which accompanies it.

Arguments thrive on men failing to pay sufficient attention to women’s feelings, and women being critically disapproving of men. Either one may be the initial trigger, because a man’s inattentiveness can cause a woman to get upset and express disapproval, and a woman’s disapproval can cause a man to get defensive and stop listening to how she is feeling.

When men make mistakes they become frustrated and angry, and are best left alone until they calm down. Men consider apologies to be admissions of guilt; women view apologies as expressions of compassion. This difference of perception is why men are generally much less willing to apologize than women.

When engaged in an argument, men use strong and aggressive words to ensure that they win the argument, and women are frequently forced to back down in the face of a totally determined and implacable opponent. Men then feel that they have won the argument, but it is a hollow victory as their partners have not changed their views, but merely buried them in order to avoid an ever-escalating conflict. Sometimes people prefer to evade arguments instead of engaging in them. Men tend to do so by withdrawing inside themselves and refusing to talk; women often just pretend that the disagreement has been forgotten. The resultant peace is a cold one, because the issues continue festering unresolved.

To stop communication degenerating into arguments, men should strive to listen without getting defensive, and women should try to express their feelings without criticizing their partners.

Chapter 10: Scoring Points with the Opposite Sex

Men feel loved if their efforts at giving are appreciated; women feel loved according to what they receive. For women, loving someone means knowing and attending to their needs without waiting to be asked, and so a loved person should never have to ask for anything as their needs ought to be anticipated ahead of time. So women give unconditionally, and proactively seek ways to help others, whereas men only give when they feel that their efforts will be fairly appreciated and rewarded, and often will not know how or what to give without being specifically asked. Men often quickly suspend giving when feeling pleased about having done something; women may only suspend giving when feeling displeased with their partners for doing nothing.

Men value results; for women it’s the thought that counts. Consequently, men value big things much more than do women, who feel more appreciated by receiving lots of little gifts instead. A woman may consider a bunch of flowers to be just as good a proof of love as an entire month of hard work towards paying the bills.

If men and women do not take account of these different perspectives, they may fail to give their partners what they actually want. When this occurs, the man will frequently suspend giving as he feels he is not receiving enough reward back for what he has given, but the woman will continue to give unconditionally even though she feels she is giving more and has started to feel unloved, unappreciated and resentful.

Men should try to identify various little ways to give to their partners without waiting to be asked first, and should avoid the mistake of assuming their partners to be happy giving and not asking for anything back. Women should be careful not to give a false impression to their partners of being happy when they are not, and if they begin to feel resentful they should gently reduce their giving, learn to ask for things back, and be sure to keep expressing lots of appreciation of their partners’ efforts so as to encourage them to give more. Men should try to listen lovingly and respectfully to women’s feelings, women should try to express their feelings in a loving and respectful manner. If men give, and women appreciate, both end up feeling happy.

Chapter 11: How to Communicate Difficult Feelings

Unresolved negative feelings can cause us to act in ways we really don’t want to, or become manifest in all kinds of compulsive or addictive behaviors. Avoiding our negative feelings doesn’t make them go away, but compassionately embracing them can heal them and enable us to start loving again. By acting as loving parents to our own inner child, we finally allow our repressed feelings to be fully expressed and released.

To ease the pain and win love, men often obsessively seek success, and women obsessively seek perfection. Men may use anger, ego, or oblivion (such as burying themselves in their work) to avoid vulnerable feelings of pain or fear; women may lapse into depression or confusion to avoid having aggressive feelings of anger.

Constructive communication is a learned skill, and many of us must first unlearn the paradigm of negative communication and repression of feelings which we experienced during childhood. Communication works best if it presents the full picture, so that the root of the problem is revealed rather than just the symptoms.

Writing our feelings down is excellent for expressing our negative emotions (anger, pain, fear, and regret) in a controlled manner, rather than letting them explode at our partners in the heat of the moment. Having done so, we can get back in touch with our loving feelings, and are then in a much better state to explain to our partners what we are feeling, and what they can do to help us feel better. It is important to communicate such feelings in a loving atmosphere because we may need to feel securely loved while communicating such intimate and revealing feelings, and our partners may need the same if some of those feelings will be painful to hear, or could be taken personally. At times it is worth discussing them with friends or counselors first.

Chapter 12: How to Ask for Support and Get It

Men love to do things which are appreciated, and hate to do things which are demanded. Criticizing him or giving excessive instructions will make him feel more like a slave than a loved and trusted partner.

Men love to prove their worth through the things they do, but they generally wait to be asked, and take a long time to learn to offer their services unsolicited. Women should therefore control their expectations of men being able to anticipate their needs, ask for help without making it sound like a demand because they resent the need to do so, and appreciate the help they receive even though it needed to be requested first.

Women should avoid requesting help from a man in a way which either doesn’t sound like a clear request, or carries implicit criticism that he should have already done it. Questions which begin with the words ‘Could you’ or ‘Can you’ are often interpreted by men as questioning their abilities, and they therefore respond more positively to the same questions if they begin instead with ‘Would you’ or ‘Will you’. The difference may seem tiny, but it can feel as different as the man saying ‘No I can’t’ or ‘No I won’t’ in response to the request.

It is best to allow a man the freedom to do things in a way and at a time that works for him. If a man is busy doing something and a woman needs his help on something else, she should feel free to ask him for help, but be prepared for him to request to defer it or even to refuse it; if requests always require positive answers, they are really demands, and men will sense the difference. If a man grumbles about a request then he is actually considering it, and the best approach is to simply wait for him to come to a decision without saying anything further, and aim to accept the outcome graciously.

Chapter 13: Keeping the Magic of Love Alive

In relationships, unresolved negative feelings can pop up without warning, and we suddenly become upset, or sensitive, or distant. When this happens to our partners we should encourage them to work through it, accepting that it may take some time and that they may need support from outside as well as from ourselves, and do our best to control any impatience or resentments we may feel towards them during these times.

Love inevitably changes over time: the pristine bliss we feel when we first fall in love doesn’t last forever, and over time our personal faults and negative baggage inevitably become exposed. But if we stick tight through the ups and downs of life and each other, then our initial bliss gradually changes into a mature form of love which can become stronger and fuller with every passing year.

The Millionaire Next Door-Jack Notes

The Millionaire Next Door (by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko) is different. It is built on years of research, on a body of statistics and case studies. It doesn’t make hollow promises. Instead, it profiles people who have already become millionaires. This is a subtle but important difference.

Summary

The general premise of The Millionaire Next Door is that the pop culture concept of a millionaire is quite false and that most actual millionaires live a very simple lifestyle.

The authors, Stanley and Danko, did extensive profiling of people whose net worth defined them as millionaires along with those whose salaries and age defined them as likely millionaires and, using this data, created a detailed profile of who exactly a typical millionaire is.

From there, extensive interviews with these “typical” millionaires created a much more detailed picture of what it actually means to be a millionaire in today’s society.

Many people who earn high incomes are not rich, the authors warn. Most people with high incomes fail to accumulate any lasting wealth. They live hyperconsumer lifestyles, spending their money as fast as they earn it.

In order to accumulate wealth, in order to become rich, one must not only earn a lot (play “good offense”, according to Stanley and Danko), but also develop frugal habits (play “good defense”).

Most books focus on only one side of the wealth equation: spending less or earning more.

It’s refreshing to read a book that makes it clear that both are required to succeed.

Frugal wealthy breaking even (spartan) Spender breaking even (lavish) broke High-income spenders live in a house of cards. Sure they have the money now to fund their hyperconsumer lifestyle, but what happens when that money goes away?

It’s also difficult for low-income frugal folks to acquire wealth. They need to learn to play financial “offense”. But those with low incomes who spend are in the biggest trouble of all.

The wealthy, on the other hand, generally have a high income and a frugal mindset. They share other characteristics as well.

  • 80% of America’s millionaires are first-generation rich. This is contrary to those who would have you believe that wealth is usually inherited.
  • 20% of millionaires are retired
  • 50% of millionaires own a business

The authors write, “In the course of our investigations, we discovered seven common denominators among those who successfully build wealth.” Those characteristics are:

  • They live well below their means. In general, millionaires are frugal. Not only do they self-identify as frugal, they actually live the life. They take extraordinary steps to save money. They don’t live lavish lifestyles. They’re willing to pay for quality, but not for image.

  • They allocate their time, energy, and money efficiently, in ways conducive to building wealth. Millionaires budget. They also plan their investments. They begin earning and investing early in life. The authors note that “there is an inverse relationship between the time spent purchasing luxury items such as cars and clothes and the time spent planning one’s financial future”. In other words, the more time someone spends buying things that look good, the less time they spend on personal finance.

  • They believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status. Usually millionaires don’t have fancy cars. They drive mundane domestic models, and they keep them for years.

  • Their parents did not provide economic outpatient care. That is, most millionaires were not financially supported by their parents. The authors’ research indicates that “the more dollars adult children receive [from their parents], the fewer they accumulate, while those who are given fewer dollars accumulate more”.

  • Their adult children are economically self-sufficient. This chapter is fascinating. The authors clearly believe that giving money to adult children damages their ability to succeed.

  • They are proficient in targeting market opportunities. “Very often those who supply the affluent become wealthy themselves.” The authors discuss how one of the best ways to make money is to sell products or services to those who already have money. They list a number of occupations they feel have long-term potential in this area.

  • They chose the right occupation. “Self-employed people are four times more likely to be millionaires than those who work for others.” There is no magic list of businesses from which wealth is derived — people can be successful with any type of business. In fact, most millionaire business owners make their money in “dull-normal” industries. They build cabinets. They sell shoes. They’re dentists. They own bowling alleys. They make boxes. There’s no magic bullet.

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