Summit Palm Desert: Idea Highlights and Commentary
A few weeks ago I attended Summit in Palm Desert for an experience of food, ideas, music, wellness and new insights. Here is a small selection of the ideas that lingered with me after. Some ideas I’m simmering on, some I’m saving for some thought exercises and more headspace, others I look forward to returning to. These are some of the goodies I took note of and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
On Courage & Intentionality from Poo-Pourri
I unexpectedly found myself in a mindfulness session by the founder of Poo-Pourri — Suzy Batiz. Her story is one of resilience, perseverance and success. She explained that she was twice bankrupt and had 18 failed businesses before she hit big with bathroom air freshener Poo-Pourri. She said two things that I really liked:
“Your life expands or shrinks depending on the courage you have.”
When she said this I smiled because I thought of (1) all the times I did things that required courage (living in foreign countries, learning new languages, taking a leap of romantic faith, being challenged at something new, and letting go of what is comfortable professionally and personally to experience something new and grow); and (2) all the times I hope to have courage throughout the rest of my life to go after what feels right for me.
Which leads me to the second thing that I took note of in her talk and it was about “resonance” she talked about it from a sound vibration wave perspective to show that dissonant sound waves produce a cacophony of clashing sounds. While resonant vibrating waves produce sounds that are in sync and pleasant to listen to. She asked the audience to reflect on situations or people whose interactions felt very “dissonant” and those where everything just felt right “resonant”. She shared her example of how she trusts herself and her feelings and if it doesn’t feel “resonant” then she doesn’t pursue it. She used this analogy with decisions we make in our lives around the people we spend time with, the jobs, workplaces, cities etc and she encouraged everyone to
“Curate your life to live in resonance.”
Wise words that linger. The question I left with was “How can we improve our lives to live more in resonance with the person we are?” I think it is good to do a periodic check in with ourselves if we are living in alignment with our values, beliefs and the person we are and are trying to become. Which leads me to George Mumford.
Carving the Masterpiece that is Ourself
It was so lovely to listen to George Mumford who is a mindfulness performance coach and leading expert in sports psychology and performance whose coached professional athletes such as Michael Jordan, Kobi Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. With his calming presence he started his talk explaining how we are all masterpieces waiting to be uncovered and made an analogy of how the famous marble masterpieces all started as a block and were slowly chipped at to create the masterpiece. He explained that we need to see ourselves as a masterpiece in the making and our growth as chipping at the refined version of our masterpiece selves and masterpiece lives. The tool he said we need to do that, is to be self-aware and to be able to self-observe. As a huge advocate of self-knowledge and self-awareness he couldn’t have said words that resonated more with me.
He dropped so many deep thoughts which I am slowly going through like one would savor a piece of dessert or save it for later. I felt like I had too many of the best sweets in one plate and it was hard for me properly give the savoring attention each one deserved. Luckily, I took notes! Here are some of those thoughts to savor:
· “The only time is now. The only thing you can be is yourself. And the only thing you need is love.”
· “If I can only be myself, then my job is to do that and be good at it.” Simple yet very profound.
· He shared the three As to sharpen the tool of self-awareness and self observation: Awareness. Acceptance. Action.
· He talked about the importance of mindsets and how “We become what we think about.” Something I very much agree with and think we need to be intentional about the information we consume and how we talk to ourselves in our head. He quoted Ghandi: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Mumford used this to explain that this is also how we become the person we aspire to be. This made me reflect on the person I am working towards, the mindsets I cultivate and the information I consume which shape my thoughts, and my actions — and in turn my habits. Sometimes it could be just as simple as reading a lot about the direction you want to take your life into and your mind will start walking you into that direction.
· He shared the FEAR acronym and he said that when you feel fear instead question if it is: False Evidence Appearing Real. That is a great mental tool to keep in mind.
· “We need to slow down to experience things.”
· “Being vulnerable is a powerful way to be.”
· “If we don’t resolve conflict then there is a lack of commitment.” I thought this was particularly sharp.
· “Focus on what you want instead of what you are not getting.” I thought this was an effective way to not let the mind stray away from one’s goals. Keep your eye on the ball so to speak, but for our goals.
He was so personable and approachable and genuinely interested in speaking with others and to hear their stories. If you are looking for an inspiring speaker who can help with the mindset of your team or organization, reach out to him, he’s great. How lucky for all those who have had him as a coach.
The Science of Happiness explained by the Happiness Professor Laurie Santos
What a treat it was to listen to Yale Happiness Professor Dr. Laurie Santos who made the happiness course that went viral. She impressively covered her entire semester’s worth of the Science of Well Being course in her presentation. What a rush!
She started with a dire observation that college students today are very depressed, and stressed, and suicidal. It wasn’t lost on me when she followed that with “and they are the next generation entering the workforce.” This is something I believe every organization needs to think about as well as local, state and federal government entities. The prosperity of a nation is derived from the prosperity of its people. We all have a role to play, and we can play a role. I shared this with my organization’s HR team and I’m thinking of what can be done to support this next generation in the workplace. (I’d love to hear your thoughts.).
Dr. Santos explained that contrary to “Money brings happiness” à it is actually happiness that will bring more money because happiness helps us have good problem-solving skills and helps us feel better and make better choices. This complements well what Batiz said about living in resonance. Dr. Santos said that happy people volunteer more of their time, feel the need to connect with others, make time for gratitude and that happy people tend to notice all the positive things.
Some science happiness facts she shared were: 30 minutes of cardio has the same effect as an anti-depressant pill! That sleep has been proven to be an important variable for mood. And that suppressing emotion causes cardiac stress! Another powerful reason to work on better understanding our emotions and working through them.
Luckily, she provided a way to process negative emotion through Tara Brach’s RAIN Technique. RAIN stands for: Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture.
RAIN is a self-compassion technique that can reduce burnout.
She shared the highlights from Catherine Price’s book “The Power of Fun” and how fun (unsurprisingly) contributes to happiness. In case you were wondering, there are three parts to fun:
2. Flow: in the moment presence
3. Playfulness: no reward, just for the fun of it.
And to help bring more fun in one’s life she recommended doing a “Fun Audit” to learn about what fun is for you so you can get more of it — also you actually learn how much (or little) fun you are having. The “Fun Audit” involves: listing three times in your life that you would describe as fun. (Who/What/Where/When). Identify Fun factors. Add more of them into your life!
Dr. Santos ended on some very contemporary time related stressors that adversely affect our happiness. It is always helpful to have names for situations, problems or feelings because then we can better label them. She talked about “Time Affluence” which is a subjective sense that we have free time. The opposite of time affluence is “Time Famine” which is psychologically bad for you, and has as much of a hit on one’s wellbeing as losing one’s job! And “Time Confetti” which is the tiny pieces of time in between the many things we do in our day. She explained how making a time confetti list can make the most of these moments. Behavioral scientist Ashley Whillans expands on this in her Harvard Business Review article “Time Confetti and the Broken Promise of Leisure”. These are some thoughts I plan to dig into more and try out the “confetti time” to-do list.
Tips for Healthy Aging and Longevity from Dr. Mark Hyman
One of the mindsets I cultivate is a longevity mindset — which is a mindset that sees a long life as normal and attainable and as such this mindset changes how one perceives their professional, personal and physical capacity. This leads to healthy aging practices such as feeling more motivated to exercise, sleep well and eat well because there is a desire to be living to one’s fullest late in life.
I’ve been a follower of physician Dr. Mark Hyman, and was very excited to hear him speak about his forthcoming book “Young Forever” which is all about his research and findings on healthy aging and longevity. He came on stage enthusiastic and throughout his presentation I found him to be the speaker who exhibited the most physical energy on stage. At 63 he continues to pursue sports, travel the world, try new things and just started a new company called Function Health — he has also publicly shared that he has recently found love. He is one of my healthy aging role models and when I turn 63, I aim to continue to try new things and connect with others and perhaps start a company!
As soon as he came on stage, he asked the audience who would want to live to 120. Perhaps a quarter to a third of the audience raised their hand. He then said (paraphrasing) — what if I told you, you could reach 120 go to the beach in the morning and make love in the evening — would you want to live to 120?
I am reminded by a Brené Brown podcast episode where guests Robert Kegan & Lisa Lahey spoke on anxiety and explained that “It is not change that causes anxiety; it is the feeling that we are without defenses in the presence of what we see as danger that causes anxiety.”
Many feel they are without defenses for a longer life. Dr. Hyman proceeded to give a break down on the hallmarks of aging and tips on living a healthy aging lifestyle. One of the first things he addressed was the big question holding back research in the field of longevity à Is aging a disease? The idea behind it is that aging causes a lot of illness and so something should be done to address the route cause which is ageing itself. Research in this field involves lifestyle changes as well as bioinformatics interventions like cellular reprograming among others. According to Ray Kurzweil we will reach Longevity Escape Velocity sometime in the 2030s. Longevity Escape Velocity is when we will have the medical advancements to extend our lives and then every few years that innovation will continue to improve which will continue to extend our health span and our life span. For those new to the term health span, it is the number of years you live in health — versus — life span which is the number of years you live. If there a difference between those years — it is the disease span. (Ex: if you live with good health up to 80 and then live in poor health for five years and then die at 85 then your health span is 80 years, your life span is 85 years and disease span is 5 years.)
There are many spaces of consensus among scientists, doctors and researchers in the longevity space, namely that one’s health is a result of a combination of: genetics, lifestyle, environment and luck. Dr. Hyman used the exposome (what you are exposed to), the epigenome (changes to the DNA from lifestyle) and socionome (socionomics) to explain this.
Food is one of his favorite topics and he explained that food is like code and information that we give to our body. Seeing food that way is quite revolutionary. If we looked at unhealthy food and asked ourselves if this was the information we wanted to give our body, we may well start to change our food habits. This is part of a much bigger movement of seeing our body like a machine. As diagnostics and wearables improve our understanding of our body, we are more able to direct change in our bodies.
He talked about all the latest on cold plunges, sauna, hypobaric chamber, stem cell therapy, parabiosis, psychedelics, hormone optimization therapy and many others — he has tried most things and was candid about the many supplements he takes. He did make clear that he wasn’t taking metformin and didn’t see it as part of a longevity protocol but was keeping an open mind and waiting on the TAME trial to conclude.
In the end he said that “Personalization is key” and that our food, lifestyle, environment and culture have an impact on our personal preference and that we all need to find our fit.
The Power of Immersive Storytelling by Dr. Nonny de la Peña
Award winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and entrepreneur Dr. Nonny de la Peña gave an incredible tour de force presentation on the movement of Virtual Reality (VR) storytelling. She has used VR journalism to tell stories about solitary confinement in prisons, health inequalities in Los Angeles among other topics — you can watch a compilation of her work here.
She explained that VR storytelling is “embodied digital rhetoric” and it is simultaneously cinematic and kinematic and that because of haptics they become stories that we can even feel physically. She explained that the technology to make VR stories has dramatically reduced in cost and is far more accessible than it was before. She said that we now have Lidar in our pocket and software that can help put it together. She has leveraged her own company Emblematic Group to be part of this movement in making VR storytelling more accessible and created Reach.Love which is “the first web platform for creating, remixing and sharing volumetric VR using real people and places.” I have signed up to try it out and see how I could use this tool as another means of expressing and sharing information.
She ended with a call for “more storytellers” and encouraged the audience to try Reach.Love and to check out the work she is doing at Arizona State University and her masters on Narrative and Emerging Media. There are a lot of changes happening in how we interact with digital media and even our experience with the internet. I look forward to trying this out for myself and seeing how I can use this medium as another way to share information and stories.
The Biological Glory of Neuro-Aesthetics explained by Ivy Ross and Susan Magsamen
Having lived in many cities and different countries, I’ve always been a huge believer in how our aesthetical environment impacts how we feel and experience that environment. I felt vindicated when I read Pauline Brown’s Aesthetic Intelligence which is about the “ability to understand, interpret, and articulate feelings that are elicited by a particular object or experience” and how brands can leverage this to create experiences for their customers. Years later I discover the neuroaesthetics term and Google’s Head of Design for Hardware products Ivy Ross and Susan Magsamen doing groundbreaking research at the Johns Hopkins International Mind + Art Lab who are both working in the field of neuroaesthetics.
Neuroaesthetics, a recently coined term, is the scientific study of the neural consequences of contemplating a creative work of art, such as the involvement of the prefrontal cortex (in thinking) and limbic systems (for emotions).
The main thesis of their presentation which captured some of their forthcoming book “Your Brain on Art: How the arts transform us” was that “we are standing on the verge of a cultural shift in which the arts can deliver potent, accessible, proven health and well-being solutions to billions of people.” They opened with what encompasses the arts and that is a lot from music to poetry to crafts. Here is a picture from the slide they shared about this:
They shared the Space for Being exhibition in Milan’s Design Week that they worked on together which demonstrated the impact design has on our biology. “When you have a heightened aesthetic experience, like a piece of music, a sunrise, things that really elevate your everyday experiences, they change you. They change your biology. Your mood. Your emotion.”
It turns out that every time we learn we are sculpting new pathways in our brain. And we are what we experience and so sensorial stimulation, or lack thereof it, can affect the brain and its size. They explained and reiterated that we are embodied beings and that we are not thinking beings that feel, but feeling beings that think. They found in their research that nature is the most neuroaesthetic place and has a huge effect on the parasympathetic nervous system and lowers cortisol. They shared a term for those who lack nature in their lives à “nature deficit disorder”. I would argue that a lot of the world’s population living in urban environments experiences this disorder.
Trauma is a word that we are starting to see more and more mainstream and I was happy to see it come up in the context of neuroaesthetics. They explained that if we hold trauma and pain in our bodies we can become ill and that the visual arts can help us process complex emotions through the act of putting words to feelings which helps reduce the cognitive load of the emotions. They gave an example of research using visual poetry, how doodling helps activate the prefrontal cortex and stay more focused and retain knowledge better. How singing and humming activates the vagus nerve. They also shared positive research results around how dancing reduces stress, increases happy hormones and neural connections, while improving sleep and mood — and! and dancing also helps with Parkinson’s symptoms! They found that rich immersive stories with Virtual Reality can help solve intractable emotional problems and that there are non-drug treatments for ADHD that involve neuroaesthetics.
Something that really blew my mind was the idea that Ivy Ross shared around our bodies’ frequency. They explained that sound is one of the most effective things to alleviate stress is sound. And that sound vibration has the capacity to return the body to its calm state. They explained that emotions are energy in motion and each has its own frequency. The mind-blowing part is that Ross explained that in the future, just as we take vitamin supplements we will have a frequency which will be like a vitamin supplement that matches our body. There are many things we can anticipate in our future, flying cars, space travel and brain computer interface (those things are all here just not yet a part of our daily life), but I didn’t expect that our future will also see us having precision songs that match our body’s unique musical frequency to give us the vitamins we need. I look forward to reading their book and finding out more about the latest science of neuroeasthetics.
In the meantime, they recommended checking out the Neuro Arts Movement website which has the latest in Arts and Wellness à https://neuroartsblueprint.org
Jim Kwik Explains how to Optimize our Command and Control: The Brain
I was fortunate enough to attend two sessions led by brain expert Jim Kwik. He was an incredibly candid speaker sharing his personal challenges as a child with what his teacher inappropriately labeled a “broken brain”. He had learning challenges and overcame them, not through the encouragement of his teachers who didn’t believe in him but because he believed in himself and he wanted his life to be different. He shared so many valuable thoughts and tips, here are some:
· Head → to Heart → to Hands. Part of happiness and fulfillment is to get to know yourself, and have the curiosity to know yourself, and then have the courage to be yourself.
· *Your Focus* We have 60,000 thoughts a day. 90% of those thoughts are the same thoughts we had yesterday. A dominant question is a question you ask yourself more than any other question consistently. That becomes your focus. He also added that dominant questions are what drive us. This resonated with me as I have a few dominant questions that drive my focus and it was nice to become cognizant of them in this context. Great thought exercise.
· “We have a to do list, but not a to be list.” Another amazing thought exercise. What would your “to be” list look like? To be healthy? To be fit? To be a good friend? To be knowledgeable on X topic? To be fluent on Y language? He explained that changing behavior is easy, keeping that change requires consistency.
· On the importance of questions: “What you let in is what you have questions about. Questions help with learning.”
· All learning is state dependent so when you are going to learn something make sure you are in the right state to take in that new information.
· Fun fact: Hydration boosts 30% utilization of the brain! So stay hydrated!
He offered 10 things to upgrade our brain:
1. Neuro Nutrition. Our brain is 2% of our body mass but consumes 20% of our calories. Have a good brain diet. Kwik provided his top brain foods to include blueberries, olive oil, dark chocolate, salmon, broccoli and others.
2. Kill ANTs. ANT stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts. He explained that if you fight for your limitations you get to keep them. And how the words we use shape the way we think. For example saying: I get to do something. Or I haven’t done something yet.
3. Exercise. “As your body moves your brain grooves.” He said that when we move we create Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors (BDNF) which he explained is “fertilizer for the brain”. The advice he gave was to take a break every 30–40minutes and to breathe.
4. Brain Supplements. Omega 3, DHA, Vitamin A, Vitamin B
5. Have a positive peer group. Who you spend time with is who you become.
In this part he shared the WATCH acronym which stands for Words Actions Thoughts Character Habits. He said that self care is also being your own advocate and cheerleader and putting borders around your self care. #SelfLove
6. A clean environment is good for the brain. He recommended organizing one’s computer screen, desk and workspace. He added “How you do anything is how you do everything. Integrity is measured between someone’s lips and their life. Practice what you post.”
7. Sleep is very important for the brain. It’s when the brain gets cleaned up and consolidates memory. Sleep triggers for the nervous system are the temperature getting colder and the light getting darker. He recommended having an alarm to go to sleep and see natural light first thing in the morning.
8. Protect your brain — physically. Use helmets, EMF protectors etc
9. Your brain is like a muscle. Use it or lose it. Be a life long learner. Reading to your mind is what is exercise for the body.
10. Manage stress. It’s about doing less of the things that don’t matter. Prioritize. Actively work on stress management techniques.
“The most important thing is to keep the most important thing, the most important thing.”
Kwik had a lot of great tips, some of which I think we all knew — like the one about sleeping or managing stress. Some ideas I would separate from the others:
— The value of gratitude. He said “What if the only things you had tomorrow were the things you were grateful for today?” other great thought exercise.
— An important reminder à “You are constantly training your mind. Whatever you engage with you get more of.”
These are just some of the many speakers in the line up at Summit Palm Desert. I hope these ideas I took away with were of value to you and that it helps you on your journey.
In the end, we don’t get ideas in a bubble, it is the exchanging of ideas that spurs new ideas, innovation and insight. I look forward to your thoughts! Feel free to comment below or reach out to me on social media!
Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos is a multi-disciplinary professional whose expertise lies at the intersection of strategy, security and emerging technologies. Dr. Kostopoulos brings a systems thinking approach to her work, examining technology opportunities and risks in the context of global macro trends, geopolitics, international economics, climatic factors and demographic change.
Passionate about spreading awareness on emerging technologies, Dr. Kostopoulos makes art about technology and has a multilingual, reflective game on emerging technologies called Sapien2.0, which explores the human and machine relationship.
She also has a fashion label Empowering Workwear by Lydia that she uses to make art installations that you wear with story telling fashion. Her debut product is the #Fortune500Shirt — watch the trailer for it here.