Happy Friendship Day!

This month February is bombarded with hearts and roses marketing for our loved ones.  In the spirt of this months’ theme, I’d like to declare a Happy Friendship Day. I am in the mood after finishing the book “The 8 Vital Friends” by Tom Roth.

Reviewing my network as described by the author, I am grateful and blessed to have someone or many someones in each categories that I have developed a close bond over time.  community-909149_1920

1. Builders.  They tend to be the motivator, the catalyst, the cheerleader. They are not competitive with you. They stay close to your and help you build your career development.  They pushes you to do more and be great. They have faith in you.

2. Champions.  They are kinda like the builders but they tend to your peers. They cheer for your and are your loyal friend. Count on them. Be their best advocate. When you succeed, they are happy. Say good things in your absence.  Tell your champion about your gratitude and they will be very happy that you acknowledge their loyalty and friendship.  When you make mistake, tell them and they will be nonjudgmental.

3. Collaborator. You are friends, belonging to the same group with common ground.  They have similar passions with you. They collaborate in action and share experience.  Brainstorm new ideas for discussion. Form a group that you enjoy. Share events and ideas. Think of them when the topics arises.

4. Companion. They are your first person you call. Take pride and sacrifice for you. A friendship for a lifetime.  Trust them with your life. Do something and no question asked.  Allow them to be in themselves. Be a good listener. Boost spirit by dignity and respect. Work through conflict.

5.  Connector.  Get to know and introduce you to others to get new people.  They are someone who introduce you to other and run a social life network.  Let friends know that they can use you as connector. Help them and reach out to them.

6. Energizer.  They are the booster who make any sour situation fun and happy. They are laughing and happy and have lots of energy.  They are cheerful.  They are always smiling, tell a joke, make you laugh, and have fun together.

7. Mind-openeder. They embrace new ideas. They challenge innovate idea and ask good questions, express new ideas, conversely.  Challaenge the conventional and status quo.  Mind opened to the challenge presented to you.

8.  Navigator, They are people you talk with when you are stuck. They talk with the pro and con about the situation and allow you to see the big overall picture.  They help you see positive while keeping you grounded.  Thye help your reach your goals. They are kinda like your mentors.

Thank you to my 8 vital friends. You have made me to whom I am today.    

Don’t let your inner critic get the best of you.

Acceptance is an art of living.  

When we look out the window, our view of the outside is really depended on where we are standing from. Have you tried looking through a window that was too high, too low, or simply too narrow and it was challenging? Did you give up or tried another way to see through?

When we become critical of others, it is really an alert to ourselves that we are reacting to something within ourselves.  The person, situation(s), or thing in the outside world triggering our inner critic to uprise is an innocent bystander.  It is simply that we are not seeing clearly because the lens (windows) through our eyes are cloudy and dirty.  

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A funny story that my friend shared with me, which highlights that our inner critic can sometimes get the best of us.

A woman looks outside her window and complains at the neighbor’s dirty clothes. She is outrage and tells her husband that she feels that she needs to tell the neighbor off, and tell her neighbor how to wash the clothes, and how her washing is way better.  Her husband sits there and listens to his wife.  The next day, the woman looks at the window and said with surprise that her neighbor clothes are finally clean and she smiles with gladness.  

She said to her husband, “look outside the window, you can see that her clothes are so clean!”

Her husband said “Yes, I know.”

“How do you know?” said the wife.

Her husband said, “OH this morning, I cleaned our windows.”

The moral of the story:

When we point our finger out to someone or something, remember, there are three fingers (and a thumb) pointing back at you.  We must also clean our windows, so we can view the outside world with clear visions. This way, our “stuff” would not cloud our judgment. When we are highly critical of others, we are really reflecting our weakness and criticism.  As the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.”  

If we learn to love all of us, accept all of us – the good, bad, and the ugly – as a whole, we would more willing to sprinkle some grace on others as they have undone to us.  

In the Palm of Your Hand, a Strategic RoadMap for Career Success.

The holidays are just around the corner and time for work, family, and self is of the essence. But how do you squeeze in the extra things to do (fun things) along with the ‘have to do’ on your list.  To my students, I share my five ‘S’ system to manage their time effectively, efficiently, and mindfully.

The five “S” to strategic planning can be applied for project management, goal setting for personal and professional, and for time management for new ideas.

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  1. Space
  2. System
  3. Schedule
  4. Support
  5. Self-Evaluation

1. Space refers to the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social space that you need to create, block off, and keep tight boundary.  Claim a physical space that is your for your study, for your meditation, and for your family/friends. A emotional and intellectual space is needed for yourself to grow independently.  A social space is where you can connect with others. When you have different spaces allotted for different purposes, it allows you to feel less guilty about declaring your personal space for clarity because you know you have space for the other things and people in your life.

2. System refers to finding a system that work for you based on your characteristics. Are you a morning person – then working out at the gym, doing your best writing, and/or working on the garden is your system. Or if your energy level is at its highest peak in the afternoon, reserve that precious time for your creativity muscle.  Find mentors to examine their system. For example, if you’re a writer, read a biography of your favorite author and analyze their writing process. Would it work for you? Modify the parts that makes sense to you.

3. Schedule refers to blocking out chunk of time to focus and drive through the resistance to focus. Minimize factors that get you to lag, delay, or be distracted.  A recommended schedule of time is to block 25 minutes to work, and then a 5 minute for a break, and the recycle the process again. Don’t forget to schedule time for fun, exercise, and meditation. Don’t think of these are ‘time-waster’. When you are unhealthy, unfit, and tired, you are wasting more time to regroup your mind and body to get things done effectively.  Schedule at least 7 hours of sleep, planned meals, and drink water throughout the day.

4. Support refers to your immediate cheerleaders to get your through the distraction toward your plan (i.e. your term paper, your project, or book).  For school, your study group may not be the same group of folks who you are skiing with. For writing your book, you may want to join a meet-up group in your local neighborhood who will hold your bottom to your seat and fingers glued to the keyboard to get you through the writing process.

5. Self-Evaluation refers to a periodic check-in with yourself. Reflect on your baseline, your timeline, your system, schedule, support, and space. Did you achieve what you wanted? What were the successful factors? Were there any barriers? If so, why?  When you are trying something new, give yourself time to learn and evolve with these tactics. Do a weekly check-in (i.e. Sunday night for an hour), or a monthly check-in (i.e. the 1st of every month).

Having the five “S” in my strategic roadmap allows me to lay out the time, space, and effort needed in achieving my goal. With this map, I can anticipate whether I have the time to say ‘yes’ to things to do (the have to and the fun things to do) or to say ‘no’ because according to my five “S”, I have neither the space, system, schedule, support, nor self-evaluation tool to assess it.

Don’t forget to enjoy the journey, the road bumps, and to roll down the window to enjoy the view toward your success.

 

 

Is your brain under attack from stress?

Your brain is under attack by your choices you made from what you eat, think and move.  Everything that you do in your life, from your sleep habits to your eating routine can either  stop or fast-forward this brain stress.  

When we under too much stress,  our brain cells are less efficient and effective, and over the life span, we contribute to our memory loss, inability to stay focused, difficulty to learn new skills, and brain fatigue

ache-19005_1920The same forces that are aging your body is affecting your brain too.  Stress, unhealthy food, and your environment can contribute 1) the generation free radicals in the brain, and 2) the decline in the ability of the brain cells to make energy.

The brain is the most metabolically active organ of the body and it uses 20% of your oxygen for your physical, mental, and emotional function.   Every time you stress, you create an excess of free radical that roaming around in the body to bind to healthy cells.  This process of oxidation damages the  the brain membrane, and thus, the brain becomes less efficient, produce less energy, and increase free radical production. You become fatigue, you can’t concentrated, and you become even more vulnerable to stress.

 

What you can do to win the stress attack?  

1.  Eat less trans-fatty acid (baked goods, processed food). Sluggish fat, sluggish brain.
2.  Consumer less artificial sweeteners and eat more fruits to feed your sweet tooth.
3.  Eat less meat and more veggie
4. Get more than 8 Horus of sleep
5.  Exercise regularly.
6. Get into a habit of drinking water throughout the day before you feel thristy.
7. Add play time to your work routine.

SMARTER Semester

block-1512119_1920How to Start and End each Semester SMARTER?  

With over ten years of teaching undergraduates, graduates, professional students, and myself,  I often see the same aspiration for a successful semester by turning homework on time, preparing for exams (weeks in advance), and making plans for the study group. Then, somehow, during the mid-semester, life happens, or one just realized that life has been happening.

In my course, Principles of Public Health Management, I teach students how to develop strategic SMART goals, which was developed by experts in business and management.

Make your goals:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timed. (SMART). 

Here is an example of a SMART goal:  This semester (realistic), I will study biology (specific) for 25 minutes (measurable) every day after class before lunch (attainable) for the next 15 weeks for Fall Semester (timed).

However, even with SMART goals, many failed to follow them, ignored them, and sometimes, just don’t like their SMART goals anymore. Why is that?

I’d like to add my own twist to it – how about making your goals SMART-ER, where ER refers to adding the “Enthusiasm and Reason (ER)” to your SMART goals. Without some enthusiasm, excitement, and energy to creating your goals, you’ll lose steam quickly in continuing your plan (when the going gets tough).  Without a reason, you won’t hold yourself (or others) accountable to achieving this goal.

Let’s revisit the same example:
This semester (realistic), I will study biology (specific) for 25 minutes (measurable) every day after class before lunch (attainable) for the next 15 weeks for Fall Semester (timed) because (reason) I love learning about the family history of my genetics (enthusiasm) so I can be better prepared about my health.

Begin and end this semester with SMARTER goals:

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timed, Enthusiasm, Reason. (SMARTER)! 

 

Manage Your Health, Manage Your worth.

In the US, about 60% of bankruptcy is related to some type of health issues – expensive medical care, long-term care, and medication.  More than $80,000,000,000 (that’s $80 billions) spend on medical cost due to inactivity (so start moving today!) and 75% of this amount (which is $61.5 billions) is spent on medical care on treating preventable condition (See CDC facts below). Think of what we can do with that money (better schools, better roads, housing … etc).

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Most of these issues are preventable. Here are the most leading causes of preventable health issues:

Based on the CDC, the top six health threats in the US: 

1. Heart disease

2. Cancer (lung, skin, prostate, and colon)

3. Automobile accidents

4. Chronic lower respiratory tract diseases

5. Stroke

6. Type II Diabetes

Change your lifestyle, change your health outcome.  Seven out of 10 causes of death can be reduced by positive change in exercise, diet, smoking and alcohol use.

Common Preventable Measures: don’t smoke, eat healthy diet, limit alcohol consumption, exercise regularly, healthy weight, manage stress, manage chronic conditions (blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes), healthy hygiene (washing hands and annual physical exam).

Most of these preventable measures are inexpensive activity to do so you can save $$$ down stream.  

 

Reorganize Your Brain for Healthy You

How to boost your brain power for a healthy, younger you?

Organize your life, reorganize your brain.  The brain continuously make new neural connection throughout your human life.  Your brain cells can regenerate itself, adjust to new situation (learning), or new environment. Your brain is like your own superhero – can only go to your rescue if the brain has fuel, nutrients, and the roadmap for a healthy you! This process is called ‘neuroplasticity.’

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Why is it important to keep our brain with energy? With the right food, healthy lifestyle choices, and attitude, you can increase neuroplasticity.  The brain continually adjusts and reorganizes, and this brain activity promotes brain reorganization.

Practice a particular movement over and over again to help the brain to form and strengthen connections for movement.  Timing is important. When an area of the brain does not practice movement, the surrounding area are starved for stimulation and thus, unable to connect, (even if the neutron cells are regenerated).

Five ways to boost brain power: 

  1. Focus on the new exercise. (Turning on Changes)
  2. Be engaged in practicing exercises. (Strengthen neural connection)
  3. Learning helps the brain to stable and reduce ‘noise (positive reinforcement)
  4. Repetition is key. Initial change is temporary (fast brain system 1 and slow brain system 2 negotiation)
  5. Brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal which will translate naturally to external performance.  (Fake it till you believe it)

Brain plasticity is two-way street: negative vs positive change have equal chances. 

Money Karma 50-30-20

 

One of the most common resolutions is “save money”, “learn to budget”, and “invest in retirement”.

There is more than hundreds of books on the topic of financial planning, excel spreadsheet, and different mobile apps that can help you budget, save, and invest.

We all know why it is important to budget, save, and invest in our retirement, but in the US, more than 50% of the American have less than $1000 in their emergency funds.  So, if we are one of the most educated countries in the world, how come we don’t know that $1000 is just not enough.  We should aim at incurring an emergency fund that is worth 9 months of monthly payments in case of medical care, layout, or anything that is consider ’emergency’. But going on vacation, buying gifts for holidays, and shopping for the 10th pair of shoes do not constitute as ’emergency’.

It is the mindset and the framing.  We all know that ‘what to do’, but we don’t now the ‘how to’.

I believe in the KISS Method (KISS stands for Keep it simple, stupid) BUT I am going to think positive and call my KISS method as Keep it simple and sane !

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It is based on Elizabeth Warren’s work  50/30/20 Rule.  

Where 50% of your monthly salary go to ‘MUST HAVE’ that are essential for your basic survival (rent/mortgage, food, transportation, basic clothing, reasonable living condition).

Where 30% goes toward your “WANTS” such as the entertainment, shopping, dining out, and your desire.

Where 20% goes toward your “SAVING” – where 10% goes to your emergency fund and 10% goes to your investment fund.

 

Here is my own twist to the 50-30-20 rule:

I believe we can reduce our ‘wants’ from 30% to 20% by being creative in how we use our money and see buy things we want.  To help growth our nest eggs, it is important to add more to your investment and emergency funds from 20% to 30%, especially for folks who are starting late in their investments.

As long as you remember to KISS your budgeting,  saving, and investing, you are on your way in bringing money karma toward yourself.  When you take care of your money, the universe will take care of you.  

 

Brain Booster Ideas

What are your resolutions?  I want to lose weight, save more money, and be happy.  All of these are great resolutions, but why is it that we can continue to wish for the same resolution at the strike of midnight on Dec 31st every year?

  • 50% Americans who begins an exercise program but quit with the first 6 months
  • 88% Americans who make a New Year’s Resolution.
  • 60% Resolutions are health related
  • 10% People who keep their resolutions

Where do you and your New Year’s Resolutions want to be in 6 months? 

Learning new habits and making changes are new processes that require your body be in tune with your brain.  Can we change our brain to accommodate these new changes in our body.

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Old Science

    • The structure of brain doesn’t change.
    • We are born with a set number of brain cells at birth.
    • Cells are lost over time when we age. Cells deleted due to stress, toxins, and risky behavior.

New Science

    • Brain is plastic and is always growing and evolving.
    • Brain changes based on what we think, feel, eat, act (not act such as meditate), and react.
    • Brain changes in function and structure where new synapses (new neural connections are formed and connected in different region of the brain)

Our brain can adapt and be flexible to new learning with a growth mindset.  We just a strategy and understand how our brain works, function (under normal and stressed condition), and how to boost brain boost to decrease neurological disorders development, reduce depression and loss of memory.

 

 

Social Return on Investment (SROI): The New Money Mindset in Public Health

Why is financial management important to everyone in your organization, in your personal and professional development?

In the field of public health, we not only work in solo of expertise, but also share our findings across different realms aiming to improve population health locally, domestically and internationally. To drive change and sustain change, financial management is an essential key to understand ‘whether program/policies/projects’ are worth investing in before we start discussing  on how to ‘finance them.’ In a tight economy with constraint resources, it is not uncommon that the stakeholder’s decision-making is influenced by finances (or the lack of finances).

However, using the ‘financing reason’ as the first financial management tool is not usually the most effective approach.  Instead, using the return on investment (ROI) as a financial management tool to assess whether or which project(s) are worth investing based on common metric that bring benefits and social value can help stir effort, time, and resources to support these programs, which is the new money mindset:  Social Return on Investment (SROI).  

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Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a framework for measuring and accounting value, rather than money. There are two types of SROI: (1) Evaluative, which is conducted retrospectively and based on actual outcomes that have already taken place, and (2) Forecast, which predicts how much social value will be created if the activities meet their intended outcomes.

Why Use SROI? Assessing the SROI prior to implementation of polices/programs/project, can help your organization improve services by:

  • facilitating strategic planning to maximize the social value an activity creates.
  • helping you target appropriate resources at managing unexpected outcomes.
  • identifying common ground between what an organization wants to achieve and what its stakeholders want to achieve, helping to maximize social value.

Instead of focusing on only the money (or the lack of money), assess the ‘benefits and social value’ in your decision-making. Will this make a difference? and to whom?