Monday, 18 February 2019

Self-actualized means fulfilling one's true potential

Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Barnard College, Columbia University, has revived Maslow's actualised personality. To be self-actualised means fulfilling one's true potential and becoming one's authentic self. In these "times of increasing divides, selfish concerns, and individualistic pursuits of power, he hopes that rediscovering the principles of self-actualisation may be just the tonic that the modern world is crying out for.”
"To this end, he’s used modern statistical methods to create a test of self-actualisation: the 10 characteristics exhibited by self-actualised people." Why only 10 characteristics when Maslow had 17? Using statistical methods, he found that seven of them were redundant or irrelevant and didn't correlate with the others.
"Next, he reworded some of Maslow’s original language and labelling to compile a modern 30-item questionnaire featuring 3 items tapping each of these 10 remaining characteristics: Continued freshness of appreciation; Acceptance; Authenticity; Equanimity; Purpose; Efficient perception of reality; Humanitarianism; Peak Experiences; Good moral intuition; and Creative Spirit."
He gave the test to 500 people and found that it correlated with the main 5 personality traits (higher extraversion, agreeableness, emotional stability, openness and conscientiousness) and self-determination theory ("people with more characteristics of self-actualisation also tended to score higher on curiosity, life-satisfaction, self-acceptance, personal growth and autonomy"). Kaufman writes: "Taken together, this total pattern of data supports Maslow’s contention that self-actualised individuals are more motivated by growth and exploration than by fulfilling deficiencies in basic needs.” 
Contrary to what Maslow believed, Kaufman found that self-actualisation was unrelated to age, gender, and education. However, over 3000 people have now taken the test online and there is a "small, but statistically significant association between older age and having more characteristics of self-actualisation."
Self-actualisation characteristics can be developed deliberately. “A good way to start with that is by first identifying where you stand on those characteristics and assessing your weakest links. Capitalize on your highest characteristics but also don’t forget to intentionally be mindful about what might be blocking your self-actualisation. … Identify your patterns and make a concerted effort to change."
Warmly to you,


Irena O’Brien, PhD, 
Neuroscience: Un-complicated

Founder and Director
The Neuroscience School

Tuesday, 7 August 2018


You hear it all the time— “Give it your all!”  “Go for the gold.”  “Second place is for losers.”  “You’ve got to be a 110% person.”  Even book titles argue for this.  For example, in spite of some statements to the contrary within the books, Anthony Robbins’ books “Unlimited Power,” and “Awaken the Giant Within.”  Tony actually tempers this emphasis in the second book as he there argues that when exercising, doing 70% of your best is actually more optimal.

To get through some of the mythology of “Giving it your all” or your best, let’s begin with the most obvious non-sense— the statistic itself.  Statistically it is impossible to give 110 percent of effort.  At the very most, could you actually even give 100 percent?  This may surprise you, but the answer is “No!”  And why not?  Because it is impossible to “give 100% to any one thing.”  After all you also at the same time have to maintain your body, your health, your consciousness, etc.  That will take up some percentage of “your all.”  So when a person speaks about giving more than 100, that person is using extreme language to make an point.  Understanding it in that way makes it poetic, and it is understandable only metaphorically.  To even think for a moment that the person is being literal is a great way to create stress and overwhelm.

The problem with “giving it your all” is that if you did— you would become a highly out-of-balanced person.  And that is definitely not good!  Once you exhaust your all, and there is nothing left to give— you will not be in a very good place physically, mentally, emotionally, or in any other way.  You will certainly not be resourceful.  Being in a state of exhaustion, you be in a state of deficiency and we know that deficiency does not bring the best out in people.  People in deficiency feel threaten and needy which is why they then become desperate.  Think of a person deficient of air under the water.  Think of someone deficit of food, water, sleep, etc.

Hidden behind these ideas of “giving it your all” is the cognitive distortion of all-or-nothing thinking and over-generalization.  And thinking in those ways then leads to the toxic state that we call “perfectionism.”  Now who would be attracted to this?  Who would be seduced by this?  Ah, Type-A personalities!  First-borns.  High achievers.  Those richly rewarded for pushing themselves.  Also those with meta-programs of optimism, or “aggressive” stress response.

“Giving it your all” seduces these people and makes sense to them because it doesn’t sound extreme.  It sounds reasonable.  It sound like an obvious way to live your life.  But as a person becomes unbalanced by “giving 100 percent,” and then needing days (or even weeks) of recovery, they are building an on–and–then–off motivation pattern.  And, when they begin suffering from a manic–depressive oscillation, they try to “solve” things by pushing themselves further and harder.  And if they hear anyone say nearly anything that sounds like a new solution, they jump on that bandwagon — Yes, I need some time management skills.  Yes, I need another adrenalin jump by attending “Date with Destiny” again.   Yes I need X or Y of some new age or alternative medicine.

The real solution?  Ecology.  This is one reason that we in Neuro-Semantics use the ecology questions to run a “quality check” on our activities, our beliefs, decisions, etc.
∙          Does this enhance your life and bring out a healthy balance?
∙          Does it empower you as a person?
∙          Does this reflect your highest spiritual path?
∙          Would you want this for your loved ones?
∙          Would this ruin anything in your life— finances, relationship, health, etc.?

In NLP and Neuro-Semantics we also speak a lot about resources.  We ask if you have certain resources — capacities, beliefs, decisions, understandings, etc.  And while some of these resources are “unlimited” in that they can be constantly replenishing, some resources have numerous limitations— constraints. 

For those that are replenishable— we do have to take time and effort to replenish them.  Take inspiration for example.  Here is an abundance, not-scarce, and unlimited resource.  But you could run out of inspiration.  It happens.  The solution is to constantly keep renewing yourself in the ideas and experiences that put fresh inspiration into you.  This means that while it is potentially an unlimited resources, it is not automatic.  It’s like working out at the gym.  You can’t stay there 8 or 12 hours a day.  You have to go home and rest, you have to get good sleep.  Otherwise, if you “give it your all” and fail to calibrate to your body, you can severely damage yourself.

Other resources require that we understand their constraints.  I may be able to access my courage, but if I don’t know the constraints of when and where and with whom I express my courage, I could be taking risks that endanger limb and life.  So with acceptance, and appreciation, and learning, and many other personal resource states— going at something 100% can be very destructive.

If you are one of those “giving it your all,” “going 110 percent,” and never giving yourself a break persons— take a breath, slowdown, enjoy the moment, come into sensory awareness, reflect on what’s really important.  It will enable you to be more resourceful at being the best you.

More about myths and cognitive distortions, fallacies and biases?  Get the new book, Executive Thinking (2018).  Now available on

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D., Executive Director 
P.O. Box 8
Clifton, CO. 81520 USA                             
               1 970-523-7877 
                    Dr. Hall's email: 
    ISNS new logo

Dr. L. Michael Hall writes a post on "Neurons" each Monday.  For a free subscription, sign up on   On that website you can click on Meta-Coaching for detailed information and training schedule.   To find a Meta-Coach see   For Neuro-Semantic Publications --- clink Products, there is also a catalog of books that you can download.   

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From: L. Michael Hall
2018 Morpheus # 25
June 6, 2018
While I wrote this article as one in
the series of Decision Making on
Neurons, I thought I should send it
to Meta-Coaches ... so next time you
coach decision— this one is for you.


In Meta-Coaching we use the Axes of Change as our first and primary model for enabling people to make intelligent, robust, and ecological decisions.  Specifically, we use the second axis, The Decision Axis which is based on the meta-program of reflective— active.  To that end, we invite a client to reflect on the pros and cons of a choice.  What are the advantages if you make that choice?  What are the disadvantages?  Typically this leads to a whole list of reasons why a choice would be beneficial and reasons why a person has to be cautious because it wll have another set of things that will cost the person.

This pro-and-con orientation in decision-making is what we all use.  To a great extent it is how we naturally and inevitably think.  That is, we default to thinking in terms of choices and contrasts, values and dis-values, this or that.  Simultaneously, we also think in terms of the reasons why I am for or against something.  For this reason, it makeptos perfect sense to start by asking for the advantages and disadvantages.  But the Pro/Con list is just the beginning.  There’s much more to do if you are to generate great decisions and especially if you want to create highly intelligent or smart decisions.

What potential problems could there be here?  Ah, yes, human reasoning!  And why?  Because when we reason— even if you have been highly trained in effective, clear, rational, systemic reasoning—you still are liable to the cognitive biases and also to the cognitive distortions and fallacies.  If you are not aware of that, check out the newest book from Neuro-Semantics, Executive Thinking: Activating Your Highest Executive Thinking Potentials (2018).

A Well-Formed Decision
NLP introduced the idea of a well-formed outcome some 40 years ago, and from that I developed a Neuro-Semantic Precision Template and from that created a well-formed problem, a well-formed solution, a well-formed innovation (all are now in the book, Creative Solutions, 2017) as well as other well-formed patterns.  So how about a Well-Formed Decision?  Doesn’t that make sense if we want to make great and intelligent decisions?  Given that, here is a list of questions— questions within certain categories — that enable a person to construct a well-formed decision.

The Well-Formed Decision Questions
The Subject of the Decision: First identify the subject of the decision.
              1) What is the decision you want or need to make?  What are your choices?
              2) What will the decision look like or sound like?  When you make it, you will say what?
              3) Why is it important to make this decision?  (Repeat several times with each answer.)
The Contextual Situation of the Decision: Decisions, like every other experience occurs in some context.  Identify the specific context for the decision under consideration.
              4) When do you need to make the decision?  What time factors are involved?
5) In what area of life is this decision relevant? (Where) How does it (or could it) influence other areas of your life?
              6) Is anyone else involved in making the decision?  Are you the sole decider? (Who)

The Required Actions of the Decision: As an experience, you have to do something to make a decision, identify these actions even if they are the micro-actions of thinking and feeling.
7) What do you need to know to make the decision?  What information do you need to gather and from who or where?  How much information do you need?  What else do you need to do to make or take the decision?

The Inner Power (Capacity) for Making the Decision: Given that action is required for a decision, then inner ability is also required.
8) Is the information available now?  How much information is currently available?  If you don’t know, what probably would you estimate?  Is that information within your control to access?  If not, then who has access to it?
              9) Do you have the capacity to get the required information?  To process it?
10) Have you ever made a similar decision in the past?  What did you do that enabled your decision-making?

The Planning Process of Decision-Making: With big decisions and decisions that will forge a new or long-term direction for life, you will probably want to plan it in order to manage it over time.  Identify how you will do this.
11) How do you plan to gather the information and order it so you can make a decision?  If others are involved in the planning, information-gathering, or deciding, what is your plan for integrating them into the process?
12) What cognitive biases, distortions, and fallacies may be in the information you gather?  Do you know how to question, check, and clean out the biases, distortions, and fallacies?  Do you What feedback will you want and/or need to stay on plan?

The Supportive Resources for Deciding: As an experience, it can be supplied with sufficient resources or it can lack them.  Identify the resources that you want to round-out your deciding.have someone on the team who can do that?
13) How will you monitor a long-term decision that requires ongoing observation and action?  
14) Is there anything that can or will stop or interfere with you getting the information, formulating it, and making a decision from it?  What potential risks are there?  What risk management skills do you need?  How much risk is there involved?  What contingency plans have you set up?
15) What resources do you need so that you can do this effectively and intelligently?  What external resources?  What internal resources?
16) How will you test the final decision to make sure it is ecological for you?  How will you determine if it will create any long-term unintended consequences?

Concluding and Deciding: How will you bring closure to the process of decision?

17) How will you know when you are ready to make a decision?  When you make the decision, what will be the convincer for you?  In what representational system?
18) What will be the evidence that you have made a decision and ready to move forward?  Will it be written, stated aloud, confirmed with someone else, or what?

Want more?  Check out the books—
Coaching Change: The Axes of Change (2004/ 2015)
              Creative Solutions: Creativity and Innovation (2017)
Executive Thinking: Activating Your Highest Executive Thinking Potentials (2018).

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D., Executive Director 
P.O. Box 8
Clifton, CO. 81520 USA                             
               1 970-523-7877 
                    Dr. Hall's email: 
    ISNS new logo

Dr. L. Michael Hall writes a post on "Neurons" each Monday.  For a free subscription, sign up on   On that website you can click on Meta-Coaching for detailed information and training schedule.   To find a Meta-Coach see   For Neuro-Semantic Publications --- click Products, there is also a catalog of books that you can download.   

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Sunday, 29 July 2018

From: "Michael Hall" <>
To: <>
Subject: [Neurons] 2018 Neurons #30     NON-THREATENING COLLABORATION
Message-ID: <02b201d41d10$0d456180$27d02480$@net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

From: L. Michael Hall

2018 Neurons #30

July 16, 2018



Here's a fact that I simple did not considered when I co-wrote the book,
Collaborative Leadership with Ian McDermott.  I did not even think that for
most people, and especially most leaders, that collaboration could be
threatening.  That idea just never crossed my mind.  Being focused on all of
the positive benefits of collaboration and being the natural collaborator,
the idea that collaboration could be threatening just did not come up.  Nor
did it come up in the literature or in our modeling.

It was only recently when I was talking with some leaders did I became aware
of this.  That's when it suddenly dawned on me, "They find collaboration
threatening!"  Afterwards I decided to test the hypothesis by asking various
people: "What do you think.  Do you find the idea of collaborating with
others threatening?"  The response was immediate, "Oh yes, of course."  I
think that what amazed me even more than their answer was that the two
persons I was talking with said it so matter-of-factly.  They said it with a
tone of incredulity, "How could you even ask such a question, of course
there are threats to collaborating!"

At that point I needed more information.  So trying to show no shock or
surprise, I calmly asked, "What would you say are the threatening elements
to collaboration?"  "Lots of things," one of them said.  Then over the next
twenty minutes, both of them detailed many of their fears:

Loss of status, loss of control, loss of reputation, loss my
distinctiveness, the risk of taking a chance on the other person not coming
through on his responsibilities, the risk of failure, the risk of being
judged on the basis of the other's incompetence.  The list went on and on
from there.

Eventually I got it.  That's when I also connected it to a point that we
made in the book, namely, To collaborate, you have to get your ego out of
the way.  The "ego" in the sense of our pride in ourselves, wanting things
our way, and even demanding that we maintain complete control of a project-
the ego in that sense can and does absolutely prevent good healthy
collaboration.  That's why people who have not completed the human
development tasks, and are still immature and still overly focused on
themselves, are not truly able to enter into a collaborative partnership.

>From the Neuro-Semantic perspective, this is the place where we distinguish
self-esteem from self-confidence.  Your confidence in what you do is about
your actions, behaviors, and performance.  It is not about your value as a
person.  It is not about you having worth.  It is about skills and
competence.  It is the person who confuses his sense of value and worth with
what he does who gets his "ego" in the way.  It is that confusion that
causes him to be afraid - afraid that he will lose his value, his position,
his esteem, etc.

Significantly, when you separate who you are as a person, your being from
your doing, then there's no threat in collaborating with others.  You are
not living in a zero-sum game world where the other's "value" takes anything
away from you.  In fact, healthy collaborating results in the very opposite.
With your person and being a given and unconditional- you are free to
collaborate and every success of your partners adds to you and enriches you.

Unlike competition, collaboration does not involve pitting one person
against another.  Instead in collaboration you add your uniqueness to the
others.  In doing so, everyone is enriched. Everyone wins.  It is in this
way that collaboration, as a win-win arrangement, supports everyone as a
partner in the enterprise.

Is collaboration threatening?  Is it dangerous?  Yes to the insecure, the
distrusting, and to the overly-competitive.  Can that threat be ameliorated?
Yes.  How?  By becoming secure in yourself with unconditional self-esteem
and by completing your developmental tasks.  Do that and you will be
increasingly able to collaborate in healthy and productive ways.


For the book--- The Collaborative Leader --- click

For Executive Thinking ---

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D., Executive Director


P.O. Box 8

Clifton, CO. 81520 USA                            

               1 970-523-7877

                    Dr. Hall's email:
From: "Michael Hall" <>
To: <>
Subject: [Neurons] 2018 Neurons #29 CRITICAL THINKING --- RED TEAMING
Message-ID: <0f2501d4172a$9f7e0b10$de7a2130$@net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

From: L. Michael Hall

2018 Neurons #29

July 9, 2018




It took a lot, but it finally happened.  It took the Twin Towers of the
World Trade Center in New York City to be attacked by terrorists and to
fall.  Immediately those in the intelligence community identified a key
problem-there was a breakdown in communications.  The information about the
attack was there, but the critical thinking about it was missing.  People
were not collaborating or communicating effectively.  It also took a
disappointing failure in Iraq after freeing Iraq from a dictatorship.  In
both cases (and many others), it was as if someone had not thought things
through before engaging in a war.

With all of that the U.S. military finally decided to install critical
thinking as an intricate part of its planning processes.  To do that it set
up what they called "red teams" who were commissioned with the task of
playing devil's advocate and looking for how the plan could go wrong or be
defeated.  They called the process red teaming.  At least some in the
government were beginning to intelligently use failure.

"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more
intelligently." (Henry Ford)

I didn't know about this until I read it in Bryce Hoffman's book that he
wrote last year- Red Teaming: How Your Business Can Conquer the Competition
by Challenging Everything.   Here is how he defined the process of "red

Red teaming challenges your plans and the assumptions upon which they are
based.  Red teaming makes critical and contrarian thinking part of your
company's planning process.  Red teams are established to challenge aspects
of an enterprise's plans, programs, and assumptions.

Red teaming is critical thinking.   It is getting an organization, or even
more challenging, a bureaucracy, to question itself- to question its plans,
strategies, and processes.  It is establishing within an organization the
ability to honestly look at itself, encourage bad news, reward "speaking
unpleasant truths to power," etc.  All this is especially hard given that
any and every bureaucracy by its very nature encourages compliance, rewards
conformity, punishes whistle blowers, keeps status levels separate, and
suffers from several biases (e.g., not-invented-here bias, status quo bias,

As a form of critical thinking, that is the design of red teaming?  It is to
overcome the limitations of human decision making.  And that's because we
are all "unduly influenced by a dizzying array of cognitive biases and
logical fallacies that skew our decision making and lead us in unintended
directions without us even being away of it." (p. 51).  Hoffman sorts it out
and puts it in three phrases:

              1) Use analytical tools to question arguments and assumptions.

2) Use imaginative techniques to figure out what could go wrong or right.

3) Use contrarian thinking to challenge the plan and force considering other

Now Hoffman was the first and only civilian to ever be allowed to attend the
Red Teaming Training on the military grounds of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
He knew some people and got some strings pulled which enabled him to be
invited to the training.  This was in part due to his previous book,
American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company.  He
noted that many had adopted the book as a manual for a new model of
leadersip- "a forward-looking, data-drive approach to management that
Mulally had used to save not only Ford but also Boeing." (p. 4).

Critical thinking is tough enough for a single person.  We have so many
psychological mechanisms to protect us from it (e.g., rationalization,
cognitive distortions, cognitive biases, etc.)!   It is even more
challenging when a group or team takes it on.  But it is next to impossible
for a large organization and especially a bureaucracy.  There are so many
group dynamics and political dynamics that go against questioning the
organization and "speaking truth to power."  So to solve that problem,
Hoffman says,

"Red teaming is most effective when the red team has permission to question
the unquestionable, think the unthinkable, and challenge everything."

That's because you are bringing in critical thinking to challenge the status
quo, to raise self-awareness of one's own biases and limitations and to
become intellectually honest (p. 107).  You are also bringing in critical
thinking to identify, flush-out, and challenge your assumptions.  That's
sure to stir up controversy and induce people with vested interests into
states of insecurity.  Doing this further means looking at the way you state
problems, solutions, resolutions, decisions, etc.  Why?  Because how you
frame these things determines the alternatives you consider and the way you
evaluation them (p. 125).

Critical thinking in this "red teaming" format means making sure that you
frame problems and solutions correctly.  The US Army teaches red teamers
start by examining the issue under review from a variety of different
angeles.   Turning a problem on its head can also yield valuable insights
and new perspectives.  This is what we do in NLP via using multiple
perspectives and that's due to the flexibility premise that we operate from-
the person with the most flexibility in a system will have the most

For more, order Executive Thinking: Activating Your Highest Executive
Thinking Potentials (2018).
From: L. Michael Hall
2015 Meta-Coach Reflections – #46
Nov. 18, 2015


When you ask a client what he wants and he says, “Confidence,” you are in the presence of a situation that could be the trickiest coaching conversation of all.  So, a warning—Beware!  Your next words will be critical if you are to avoid getting trapped in a dead-end exchange that will go nowhere.  You’ve probably fallen into this trap.  Most of us have.  You may get trapped in it during your next coaching conversation.  Many who read this article will.  The distinctions that follow are subtle and therefore require careful reading and implementation.  So, if you’re ready, here we go.

It all begins with what sounds like a perfectly reasonable desired outcome.  “I want to have more confidence.”  That’s what they say.  Yet is that always helpful?  Think about it.  It all depends, doesn’t it?  Further the request for more confidence can mean so many things to different clients.  So you have to ask what your client is really asking for.  So inquire before you jump into coaching to it.  Ask the clarity check question.  Don’t assume that you know what the person means.  So what are the range of things that confidence could mean to different clients?

1) “Confidence” as assurance of being able to do something.  The person wants to be sure that she can actually do something.  In other words, “confidence” to her is equal to “being sure.”  The person is saying, “I will only feel confident when I have a guarantee that I will succeed in what I want to do.  If I don’t feel sure, if I feel any slight twinges of doubt or frustration, then I’m not ‘confident.’” Now the more risk-averse a person is, then the more that person will be questioning his ability, doubting his skills, and not sure.  Then, with being unsure, the person feels the lack of confidence.  The focus for this person is on the feeling not being sure rather than on developing the competence for being able to do the skill.

Confidence literally refers to your faith (fideo) in or with (con) yourself.  It speaks about your faith that you can do something.  That’s why confidence requires evidence that you have done it and that means it is a thing of history— you have in the past demonstrated several or many times that you can do something.  Now you can trust yourself.  That evidence convinces you that you can do it, that you are competent in that skill.  So confidence is based on competence.  No competence—no confidence.  Confidence without competence is a false and delusional trust in yourself.  We call people who are confident when they can’t demonstrate competence, fools.

Given that, do you really want to help someone who wants to feel confidence to feel it if they are incompetent?  Isn’t that undermining their skill development?  If they feel confident, then why would they devote the energy and effort to learning or practicing?

2) “Confidence” as comfortable in learning and doing.  Others will use the word “confidence” to essentially mean “comfort.”  In other words, “confidence” is equal to a feeling, to feeling comfort, at ease, no stress, no strain, no discomfort, etc.   For this person, any discomfort equates with the lack of confidence.  She can therefore loss “confidence” very quickly whenever there are any feelings of discomfort.  This will be true for almost everything new, different, and challenging.  Yet because in taking on new things, we are inevitably required to get out of our “comfort zone,” all new learning and practicing will be uncomfortable, even unpleasant, disturbing, etc.  If this automatically equates to not having confidence, then all new learnings and challenges equates with the lack of confidence.

3) “Confidence” as self-efficacy for future unknown challenges.  Yet another uses the word “confidence” as a synonym for “trust in myself to be able to handle some future challenge.”  This person is “confident” if he knows that he can trust himself to figure something out, handle any challenge that arise, and use his wits and relationship skills to create solutions.  This is what the person means by the word “confidence.”

Actually, he is using “confidence” for a different concept, for self-efficacy, which refers to a future event.  Most people develop this after numerous experiences of becoming competent in something.  They then learn something about their learning experiences — “It’s just a matter of learning, practice, and eventually I will get it.”  The more times they walk the pathway from incompetence to competence, the more likely they can jump a logical level and conclude, “I have done this many times; this is just another instance of moving from incompetence to competence.  I know I will eventually get it.”

4) “Confidence” as a sense of self-value and worth.  Others confuse self-esteem with self-confidence, so when they ask for confidence, they want to have a strong sense of personal value in some context.  Yet because they frame their personal value and worth as conditional, then whenever they engage in something new, something thewy are not all that competent and skilled at, they then question their self-esteem and feel that their sense of self is fragile or shaking in a given role or activity.  Now they want “confidence.”  They want self-assurance that they are worthwhile.

The bottom line is that you just never know how a person is using a word.   This is especially true when they say that “I want to more confidence.”  So check it out.  Find out what they are really talking about— assurance, comfort, trust in self, esteem of self.  You’ll be glad you did; and they will be even more glad.

Meta-Coaching News
            This week --- ACMC in Hong Kong.
            Revisit as part of your ongoing professional development
            Contact: Mandy Chai

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
               Neuro-Semantics Executive Director 
               Neuro-Semantics International
P.O. Box 8
Clifton, CO. 81520 USA                             
               1 970-523-7877 
                    Dr. Hall's email: 
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Neurons:  Get your free subscription to the weekly International \Post on Neuro-Semantics by Dr. L. Michael Hall. Subscribe at:

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Friday, 24 June 2016



Imagine what life would be like and the possibilities if you were a young
black boy, born in Texas at the turn of the 20th century, in the year 1900.
How meaningful and productive do you think your life would have been?

That's when Wilk Peters was born.  He was born to a share-cropper in a part
of Texas where the nights were rules by racial threat and the days were
spent fighting off poverty by working the cotton fields.  So by eight he was
walking behind a plow mule.  Now would you think that this is the place or
context of the best conditions for self-actualization?  Would you guess it
to be a place of dreams?

Yet young Wilk caught a dream, and early.  At 8 years old he happened to
meet the only one educated man in his humble experience, an awesome figure
in a tall black hat- the doctor.  But even better, when he mentioned it to
his dad, John Peters, his dad knew how to nourish the beginning of
aspirations in his young son.  He encouraged him.  He validated knowledge
and expertise and that he could become whatever he wanted to become.

And so the dream began.  And as it began to grow, it put a passion in Wilk.
It plants within him a fire for learning, for discovering the world, and for
questioning.  It put in him a hatred against ignorance and that became the
emergent talent, skill, and competency of his life.

But there was a problem.  And that problem was his immediate environment and
the family situation.  Specifically, by 13 his dad took ill in an accident
and died so young Wilk had to step up to be "the man" in the family and talk
care of the family.  So he dropped out of school (fifth grade) and stayed
home to tend the farm in his dad's place.  And so it went, adult
responsibilities and no more school.  How would he ever become a doctor?
How would he ever pursue knowledge?

But by 18 his mother remarried and so left for another town, and that left
Wilk alone for the first time in his life.  Without education or skills, he
took a job at a local lumbermill and that's where he began to hear the other
young men dreaming of getting an education.  In fact, he had heard that some
had actually gone to Tyler Texas and enrolled in college.

That sparked something in young Peters.  It had a dramatic impact!  Many
decades later, Jon Franklin wrote about how this affected Wilks.

"If they could go, so could he!  The gossamer fantasy instantly solidified
in his mind, from possibilities to dream to goal to necessity."

Of course, this was his self-actualizing vision at that time.  Yet up
against that were many things ready to throw cold water on this dream.
First, the men he talked to who had gone to college, went and had failed.
They dropped out.  Some mismanaged their money.  Some couldn't cut the
grades.  Some just lost their dream.  Some failed to apply themselves.  Some
were put off by the racism of the day.  Then there was the belief that was
circulating in the intellectual atmosphere at that time. 

"It was said that an illiterate, once he became an adult, was done for.  The
mind was set, firm, impossible to teach."

Talk about interferences to the self-actualization process of unleashing
one's potentials!  And, while Wilk was filled with cold terror, he refused
to believe it.  He absolutely refused to believe it.  Ah, the creative and
positive role of stubbornness!  He told himself that if he ever got the
chance, he would not drop out.  "If I get the chance."

Then he did something to begin to make his dreams real in his life.  Looking
around him and seeing the machinery at the sawmill, the first automobiles,
the goods at the company store, it struck him that somebody had to know
something.  That's when he made a decision.  He would be one of those
people!  And with that he moved to a choice point of his life.

"The resolution made, his ignorance became suddenly intolerable, and he
couldn't wait.  He borrowed some primers and when he wasn't working, he
reviewed arithmetic and grammar ... when he found it incomprehensible, he
still refused to put it down."  (Jon Franklin)

And so the plan began.  He began saving for school.  Each payday he would
save a little for his education; the rest going to his mother and family and
some for his modest requirements.  A year passed, then two, then three and
all the while he was reading.  Learning.

"The more he learned, the more voracious his appetite for knowledge became.
Slowly the puzzle of mathematics yielded to his stubborn attack, and he was
captivated by the sweet logic of it.  As he learned, the idea of learning
itself broadened."  (Franklin)

With his eyes opened to learning, he one day saw an opportunity.  A notice
on a church bullet board said that the president of Texas College was coming
to give a lecture.  So 23 years of age with only a 5th grade education, he
showed up with the money he had saved in hand and asked if he was too old.
The president didn't have the heart to tell him otherwise, and simply said,
"Nothing was impossible."  That was all Wilk needed to hear.

In the fall of the year he showed up to enter college.  The admissions
officials gave him a job shoveling coal and allowed him to attend 6th grade.
So sitting with his knees jammed under a tiny table, he wrestled with long
division and if there was laughing and jokes, he didn't notice.  "He viewed
his place in class as opportunity, not insult."  How about that?  Talk about
having owned his powers to create meaning and to exercise that power!  Talk
about someone letting a vision direct his responses rather than taking his
cues from the environment.

The school administrators thought that the embarrassment of being with
little kids, of having to work at hard menial labor to put himself through
school would be enough to quench his dream.  It wasn't.  The next year he
was back and that's when he discovered Shakespear; and Shakespear spoke to
him.  "To be or not to be: that is the question."  He memorized the words as
he shoveled coal.  That was also the year he discovered the library- a
sacred place of unimaginable riches. And the books began to change him.  His
learnings began making him a different man.  And he became a dreamer and in
beating back ignorance, he was slowly turning his dream into reality.  And
as he has respected knowledge, now he was coming to respect himself.

Fast forward several years, and when Wilk was 28 he graduated from high
school.  And Franklin wrote that with that, all of his fears of failure
vanished.  Now he was ready for college.  Now he would be a "college man."
But in the second year, 1929, the stock market crashed.  That meant even
fewer menial jobs.  Yet as always, he persisted.  Waiting tables in the
student cafeteria, he did so until he graduated in 1931.  During that time
he become fascinated by languages and so started learning German, then
Spanish while teaching math.  Talk about an emergent passion taking a long
time to arise in one.

When there was no work even with a college degree in mathematics, he
volunteered at the college library.  In it was in that context that the head
librarian began noticing the reverence with which he handled each volume.
That's when she asked a question that plant yet another vision within him.
"Why not become a librarian?"  The rest of the story is that Wilk Peters
applied for a scholarship to the Hampton Institute's College of Library
Science in Virginia.

Then, over the ensuing years he began traveling in his summers to see the
world.  A teacher most of the year, he spent 3 months each summer as a
student, studying Spanish at the University of Barcelona, art and French in
Paris, and his travels took him to Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal, Norway,
England, Ireland, and so on.  "His profession was perfectly matched to his
dream of learning." As a professor and lecturer, he lived his life traveling
the world, searching for knowledge, and constantly beating back ignorance.
He traveled to bring knowledge back to black universities around the world.
And, in the end he discovered that the world wasn't a stage at all as per
Spakespear, but a campus.  And that was the dream that caught his fancy in
the first place, a dream that unleashed a ferocity of learning and turned
him into a life-long learner.


In 1983 Jon Franklin wrote The Ballad of Old Man Peters which was published
it in the Evening Sun (Baltimore) and later in Reader's Digest (Jan. 1984).

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

               Neuro-Semantics Executive Director

               Neuro-Semantics International