Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why reinvent the wheel?

You've quoted from books, used song lyrics to express yourself, sent a picture that someone else took. Sometimes what you're trying to say has already been said. So why go through the hassle?

Happy holidays everyone!

(credit to the Huffington Post via Anthony King for the photo)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanks - my acknowledgement

Yesterday I sent my book to the printer.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who have helped me along the four-year journey of writing The Gift of Stress. I certainly couldn’t have completed this project without the tremendous support of my many friends and colleagues. In particular:

Janice Wright, who helped me get started. Al Desetta, who first put my scattered thoughts and words into one document. Scott Shane Holt and Lyndell Moore, who honed draft after draft. Fran Vogel, Saryn Goldberg and Shreedevi Thacker, who shared much appreciated direction and insight. Kate Addicott, my editor, who sat with me dozens of times and always had the right answer. David Edelstein, one of my oldest friends, who also edited and literally gave shape to the book. Dr. Gideon Orbach, DC, for helping me understand how stress affects the body. Alex Linsker and Michael Weitz, who have helped me be more like myself. Itay Blasenheim, who checks on everything I do. My brother, Ron, who gives the best yay and nay. And my parents,
to whom this book is dedicated, for being honest and enthusiastic.

I also recognize that I could not have learned as much as I have about who I am and what I do without all my workshop attendees, clients, mentors, trainees, coaches, and all the random people I interact with from day to day.

And a happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dealing with perfectionism

Most of the time I'm a big-picture kind of guy, but every once in a while I will get caught up in the minutiae of a project.

You may have heard of the line, "Don't let 'perfect' get in the way of 'good enough.'" I think that's very true, particularly for something subjective and/or evolving (like writing). At some point you have to say, "it's done."

I try to live a life of purpose with high standards. As a result I've put a lot of extra pressure on myself to ensure that I put out something as close to perfect as possible (or at least not inferior). This mindset has resulted in a lot of extra stress. Stress is helpful up to a point (see eustress), but after that it's unproductive (and it always takes a toll on the body).

Fortunately, back in seventh grade science class my friend, Eli, told me, "Zohar, you're perfect minus one."

It was a line he quickly forgot, but it's stuck with me ever since. I can't tell you how much pressure that "minus one" takes off. It gives me permission and acceptance. "Minus one" is really darn close - definitely enough to surpass the "good enough" threshold. And if that's the way I am when I act naturally, well then...

It means my reputation and past performance is solid enough with people who know me to give me the benefit of the doubt - where they expect good things and tolerate or overlook the minus ones.

What about those that don't yet know me? They'll come around. I didn't know the people I currently know until I met them.

I've found that most of the time people get caught up in perfection they've lost touch with (or never had a clear definition) of "good enough."

When in doubt ask for perspective, get some assistance, and reconsider if what's being attempting is worth doing at all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Moving on from judgment

I'm about to send my book, The Gift of Stress, to the printer.

Back in the days when I was a student I would get judged all the time... for my writing, tests, attendance, etc. Looking back, the nice thing about those days was that you'd get one grade, and then you'd move on.

When I'd perform improv I'd have the same feeling - it was one-and-out. My performance was a one-time thing and if you were in the audience you'd react to it in the moment and then it'd fade. Everyone would move on.

In 5th grade I made a stupid comment in class that a few people teased me about until sometime in high school when it faded. I think it helped that there was no written record. Even then we moved on.

It doesn't work that way for a book that you want a lot of people to read - one that you've billed as the culmination of four years of work. It's easier to write-off a bad appearance on Letterman than a book. People almost expect you to screw up on national television. But a book? You had all the time you wanted for it. In fact, since most books that are started aren't completed there's a higher expectation for it (after all, if it wasn't good you would have given up on it. Right?)

So each person reading it will judge the work. And it will continue to be judged pretty much forever. You can't un-write a book. And these days it's google-able forever.

The bad news is that I still want everyone to love it, or not disagree, or at least cut me some slack. The good news is, that I believe I'm about to share a quality product (and the semi-objective feedback I've gotten has been universally positive).

So what really matters in all this? How I'm feeling in the moment. Is it stress? Is it joy? Something else? Right now I want to feel excitement and joy. oooh, maybe even gliddy!

P.S. I didn't put so much effort into a book just to move on from it (at least that's my perspective right now). I can picture that in a decade or two I'll want people to move on from it and pay attention to my latest brilliant work.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Healing Power of Improv

I just came back from Portland, OR where I co-lead a workshop about health, laughter and stress with Sue Walden.

We discussed:
- The impact of laughter and stress on health
- The impact of laughter on the creative process
- Laughter Yoga exercises
- The Four Intensifiers/Diffusers of Stress
and gave a ton of resources.

You can find a pretty detailed write-up on the Applied Improvisation Network's site.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Going off the beaten path

I went mushroom hunting today for the first time. It was such an innocent thrill to traipse through the brush, over mossy logs, and discover hidden treasures - nature's on-going Easter Egg hunt.

One nagging thought kept gnawing at me. Most times I've gone hiking in the past have been in parks with signs telling me to stay on the trail. Unknown consequences loomed - a warning, a fine, expulsion. Well, that wasn't the case today, but letting go of those recurring thoughts took effort since I'd lived with them for so long. The easiest way was to recognize the pattern I had been tied to and consciously immerse myself in the new experience.

(I got so caught up that I forgot to take my camera out and photograph the hunt or the 3 pounds of chantrelles we picked - the photo in this post is from here.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Grinding out the stress

A NY Times article today discussed how there's been a 15% rise in sales of night guards for teeth - much of it due to increased levels of stress.

While using a guard is a good idea to calm your nerves and save your teeth in the short run, wouldn't you rather get rid of stress at it's root? (puns intended)

My book is coming next month - The Gift of Stress: How to Act on the Urgent Message That's Trying to Save Your Life

I recommend reviewing some of the past posts on sleep to deal with the advice mentioned in the final paragraph of the article:
“Good sleep hygiene goes a long way to keeping the mind relaxed and the jaws from starting to smack together,” said Dr. McCracken, who has studied the relation of sleep to teeth grinding. “We know that the stress center of the brain is directly next to the part of the brain that controls teeth grinding. We’re not sure how it relates to the disorder, but it’s intriguing. Lately, I even tell my patients, before they go to bed, not to watch the news.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cleaning up

Spring or in my case Summer cleaning has always brought its share of stress mostly due to a lot of uncertainty about what to do with a lot of papers and chotchkies that I’ve collected since my last overhaul.

While I’ve already done a lot of the basics to getting through a clean-up/re-organization of my office clutter, this time I’m approaching it with a different set of criteria:

Would I keep this if I were moving?

As a result, lots of papers that I’d organized, or would have filed away “just in case” were tossed into my recycling or to-be-shredded pile. While it was a little uncomfortable at first, I felt lighter by the end.

It changed the feel of my space up so much that clients and visitors mentioned how much better they felt just being in the space.

The next time you take a crack at your clutter, pretend that you’ll be lifting and hauling it around to your next home. Is it worth it now?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Now there's a guide to healthy eating in NYC

What you eat affects your body in many way - including your stress level. Now there's finally a guide to healthy restaurants in New York - Clean Plates NYC.

Starting with a guide to nutrition and continuing with 75 reviews of delicious restaurants and 7 chef interviews, this guide is a must-have for the health-consious metropolitan. (They even created a mobile phone app for it)

I'm delighted to be able to offer my readership and site visitors a 10% discount!
Enter the code: StopStressingOut at checkout and you'll get 10% off your purchase.

NY Daily News: "Food critic Alex Van Buren and nutritional consultant Jared Koch got together and researched more than 300 restaurants, dinng at more than 125 so they could provide accurate, on the money advice. Besides the listings, there’s a great guide of tips for eating healthier"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

For the manager of a solid company whose staff insists the sky is falling

Talk to them individually to get confirmation on what they each think is happening or will happen to the company. This will also provide an opportunity to find out if there's one particular person stirring the negativity pot, or if something non-work related is affecting their mood at the office.

Try to help with the non-work related issues privately.

Then bring the group together and have the luncheon where you list, in a very caring tone, the concerns they've brought up. Ask if there's anything else, and then address each point. You should include anecdotes for times you've dealt with similar issues, openly talk about the financial situation (if relevant), and set your direction for the future (including what role they'll each be playing in that direction).

Then go bowling afterwards - who doesn't love bowling?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Bernie Madoff Couldn’t Steal From My Friend

Everyone's been affected by the recession. My friend, Matt, just happened to be affected by the now most famous of frauds, Bernie Madoff. There's a few interesting things about Matt though - he's got a great attitude, is resourceful, and is a very talented speaker who can share his story like no other.

Below is a video of a speech he gave recently. It touches on the themes of things I strongly believe in - stress is a reaction, you can choose your own reactions, leverage your community to bring yourself greater happiness, Antarctica is a cool place (pardon the pun).

A quick intro by Matt:

"I want to preface this by saying that if this is the first you are hearing that Geneen and I were long-time investors with Bernie Madoff and got financially whacked when he turned out to be a fraud--- I want you to know that we’re doing okay. More than okay, actually--- we’ve both been in a fabulously creative period this past few months since the Madoff debacle. Enjoy the video (no, really, it has some good laughs in it!) and please pass the link on to anyone you know who might find it valuable.
Much love,


(in case you can't see the video - see it directly on YouTube)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Free Intro to Stress Reduction workshop on Saturday, 2/21

Wish you had more control over stress?

Come to the FREE Intro to Stress Release workshop I'm running for the community this Saturday, 2/21 @ 3pm.

In only 90 minutes you'll have tools to understand, control, and release your biggest, most overwhelming stress.

Some guarantees*:

  • You'll gain new insights to your life
  • You'll relax
  • You'll laugh
I only do these freebies once a year, so take advantage.

The JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Ave. @ 76th St

Subway: 1/2/3 to 72nd St.

More info about JCC's R&R can be found here:


*or your money back!

Monday, February 16, 2009

What should you do with your life?

Tired of wondering what you should do with your life?
Start with the question, "What do I want to be good at?" (grammar be damned)

See where your thoughts flow from there.

What directions come up? What possibilities? What stories? What experiences? What friends? What heroes?

Pick one or two things. It doesn't have to be irrefutably "right" and lead to a perfect life. It just has to be worth the next step - a book, lecture, class, internship, job, trip, whatever.

Chances are you'll enjoy that journey and people you meet along the way more than if you had done nothing (again).