Saturday, May 15, 2021

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles: A Comparison (Monday Musings 80)

ADDENDUM 5/15/21
After extensively puzzling with all three companies, Artifact, Liberty and Wentworth, I found Artifact to be, hands-down, the most fun of the three. Liberty and Wentworth are of excellent quality as described below, but don't have the unique surprises and rather odd shapes/whimsy pieces of those from Artifact. Liberty and Wentworth puzzles are a bit humdrum in comparison.

One of my friend's Artifact puzzle was missing a piece, and he wrote to the owner of Artifact who looked at the puzzle again, and was dissatisfied with it as she felt that the image was "overcleaned"... instead of just sending him the missing piece, she sent him an entirely new puzzle!

Creatively as well as in customer service, Artifacts is hands down the winner!

I've decided to write as many posts as possible, and titling it Monday Musings from now on, to ensure that I don't "fall behind" lol.

As another hobby to consider (to give your eyes much needed rest from all the blue light of video games) is jigsaw puzzles. I got into puzzles once again as my friend introduced me to the Wentworth wooden puzzles. I was so impressed with these puzzles because of the quality and the satisfying tactile feel when you put the pieces together, that I wanted to order some myself.

Upon visiting Wentworth's online site, my heart sank as the puzzles were rather pricey, though at $50 for a 250-piece puzzle, the cost/time is actually reasonable, as long as you do the puzzle a couple of times. Since I'm very slow, it takes about 2 hours, so if you do the puzzle 2 or 3 times, it's cheaper than going to the movies. So I thought of getting one, but then the shipping charges were astronomical, since it's shipping from the UK. However, I found out later that Wentworth often has free shipping to US! But not realizing that at the time, I decided to see if there are US manufacturers which will have lower shipping costs.

Therefore, I did more research and stumbled upon the ridiculous Stave puzzles (Barbara Bush-endorsed) at average price of $1000 (perhaps even $2000 as some are $15K), so this brand will not be reviewed. I then fell upon the much more affordable and reasonable Architect and Liberty puzzles.

I find that they are all equal to each other, so the puzzle manufacturer that is best for you is based really on your preferences and what you're looking for. I'll outline the differences between the three, in alphabetical order.

Artifact puzzles is the most creative of not just the pictures offered, but the many interesting puzzle shapes. I don't find the tired, drab images of known paintings, and boring, uninspired nature scenes, as compelling as the fantastical pictures including monsters, cartoon characters, and so forth that Artifact offers.

Although Artifact pieces are the most loose fitting of the three, the irregularly irregular pieces are significantly more bizarre and odd than the other brands, and therefore quite compelling. It's interesting to see how these weird pieces fit together, often leading to a lot of "Ah ha" moments. They're coming out with the new Ecru line which offers tighter fitting pieces with no glare design, but it's more costly of course. Further, the designs aren't as whimsical or fantastic as their regular line, so I have a feeling that I'd prefer the regular over the upcoming Ecru. Picture for me tends to be most important.

Artifact's Mechanical Griffin
Artifact tends to have the most whimsy pieces out of the three, meaning pieces that are shaped thematically. So a cat puzzle will have cat-shaped pieces.

The image quality on Artifact and Wentworth is better than Liberty in the sense that the images seem like it's actually painted on the wooden pieces. One of the Liberty puzzle pieces had a small peel, that can be glued, so I don't find this a deal breaker.

If interested in Artifact, I would recommend the Griffin that comes with a clever surprise (spoilers avoided here). 

All the Artifact puzzles I own are so completely different from each other (I have 4!). Other customers also noticed that any time you get a puzzle from Artifact, it's a whole new experience.

As for the Liberty Puzzle, it has the same thickness as Artifact (6.35 mm), but the fit of the pieces are tighter, so in that sense the pieces are better quality than Artifact's regular line, only marred by the fact that a piece may (or may not) have some peeling (it seems like this would be a rare occurrence), unlike Artifact and Wentworth. 

Liberty does have a lot of whimsy pieces, not as much as the Artifact, but more so than the
Liberty's and Wentworth's An Exuberant Success
Wentworth. The pieces are more redundant than Artifact, tending to be more regularly irregular, rather than the irregularly irregular shapes of Artifact.

The Wentworth is made of considerably thinner wood than Artifact and Liberty, less than half the thickness (3 mm versus 6.35 mm). The thicker wood feels more luxurious, but because the Wentworth pieces are thinner, it's the best fitting of the three. The sensation of putting the pieces together in a satisfying click, so it  has the most pleasant sensory experience out of all three. There are whimsy pieces, but nowhere near as much as Artifact and Liberty, and more regular-shaped pieces than even the Liberty.

Wentworth includes a rather lovely felt bag to hold the pieces within its sturdy box. Sadly, Artifact and Liberty don't.

If you prefer unique pictures, and thicker, peculiar, odd and whimsical pieces, I'd recommend Artifact. If you prefer an equally thick cut with better fit, and you don't mind more regularly irregular shaped pieces, than I'd chose Artifact's Ecru line or Liberty. Finally, if you want that tactile, satisfying click feel with nice bag, and don't mind less creative shapes, then Wentworth is the puzzle for you.

With these criteria in mind, Artifact is by far my favorite of the three due to the creativity aspects, leading to unique experiences that you can't get anywhere.

If none of these issues matter to you, I'd recommend ordering the designs that you find the most pleasing, because you can't go wrong with any of these puzzle manufacturers. They all cost around the same price, and Wentworth frequently has sales where shipping is free to the US.

For all three manufacturers, prices are cheaper ordering online at their websites:

Artifact Puzzles
Liberty Puzzles
Wentworth Puzzles

The How of Happiness Review

Friday, January 15, 2021

Demon's Souls Remake: Attractive Female Sliders

Happy New Year! I've fallen in love with Demon's Souls all over again, and excited about the much improved character customization sliders. I fell upon this YouTube video (YouTuber JeeNiNeMedia) as a base, to come up with the character sliders. Sadly, I couldn't find attractive male sliders.

This is how she will look like in the character creation menu, using the below sliders:

This is how she looks in game:

I was quite surprised that she looks better in-game than in the character menu! I agree with the YouTuber, JeeNiNeMedia, that the ponytail looks the best in-game. If you want to create her looks these are the sliders:


Base Tone 3rd diamond (using R1 to scroll over), first box

Age 20

Weight 0


Top face is 5

Bottom face is 2

Width 0.1

Height 1.00

Depth –0.10



Your choice of color (I chose default)

Ridge 0.10

Height –1.00


10 then First choice

Main Color is your choice (I chose dark blue) and Secondary Color (I chose Burgundy)

Glow 0.10

Spacing 0.60

Height 1.00

Depth 0.60



Angle –0.10

Height –0.40

Depth 0.90



Width 0.50

Height –0.80

Depth 1.00

Bridge 0.10



Width –0.5

Height 0.20

Depth 0.70

Teeth 1


Cleft Chin 0.00

Width –0.90

Height –0.50

Depth –0.20

Cheekbones –0.40



Your choice of color (I chose default)

Facial hair default (first boxes x 3)


Paint & Tattoo 16

Scars & Blemishes 15

You can save this to your profile. If you don't like the looks of your character, you can go to the Nexus statue (main floor all the way to the other end of Stockpile Thomas) for 25,000 souls to open up various options, including Fractured World mode. I believe the first choice is free (?) and then 18,000 to change your appearance thereafter.

Review of The How of Happiness

Moving With Ease And Without Pain, Part 2 of 3

The Bullet Proof Project discussed here (Part 1) improved my pain and ease of movement by 80%. (Part 3 is forthcoming.)

Therefore, I then fell upon Your Body's Brilliant Design (YBBD) by Karen M. Gabler, which is about fascial release. 

I'm not sure if it's really releasing fascia (i.e. connective tissue can be very hard and can only be "released" surgically), but the point is, doing these exercises does something to your body that prevents and reduces pain. Who cares what the theory and mechanisms are, this program simply works.

These exercises are not only "easy" (i.e. no cardio straining), but they feel so good, especially the one where you let your body fall to roll toward one side, that I had no pain (just some tightness) after 2 hours of walking. The great thing about this book is you can do this on the floor, and she even recommends spending 6 weeks on the floor before you progress to the rollers.

Even though the author mentions you should spend six weeks with floor work, it got boring for me, and so I jumped to the half-foam roller, and that was challenging! I stuck with it, because challenges are more fun and interesting. Therefore, if you can do these exercises in good form well before 6 weeks, then progress immediately to the half-foam roller, and then to the full roller.

Fortunately, she tells you what brand foam rollers work the best, and they're cost-effective.

Just doing the YBBD floor work, my pain has improved immensely, and I look forward to doing these exercises because they feel so good. The previous book I looked into, Dynamic Aging exercises by Katy Bowman, can be helpful, but it's just not as fun nor feel as good as YBBD. Because I'm consistent with YBBD, it appears to be a better choice for me.

I actually look forward to YBBD because that falling to your side, and the hip and arm fan exercises feel so good, especially on the half-foam roller.

In conclusion, if you suffer from pain due to poor posture and sedentary lifestyle, and you're sick and tired of feeling weak, I feel that these two books can relieve a lot of your pain and give you functional strength, if you're consistent.

Review of Neff's Self-Compassion

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Should You Get A PS5 or an XBox Series X? An Unbiased Guide.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was able to place an order for the Playstation 5 (to be delivered Dec 3), which got me to thinking, once supplies are replenished, what system should you get? I enjoyed my Playstation 4 more than my Xbox One, but I'll try to be as unbiased as possible.

In this post, I aim to break down the decision from the most important factor to the least. 

Question 1: Are your friends on Xbox or Playstation? Technical details don't matter, it's your friends that count. If most of your friends are on one platform, that is the console you should get. End here.

Question 2: What games do you like? If you're interested in playing ALL generation of games and you like FPS (First Person Shooters), and Bethesda games (Microsoft now owns Bethesda) then Xbox Series X is the clear winner. Its ability to play ALL released XBox games is impressive.

Further, XBox has a much more impressive GamePass online subscription service that lets you play all of their newly released titles Day 1.

If you prefer the PS4 and PS5 exclusives, and more niche JRPGs (sadly they tend to be exclusive to either Playstation or Nintendo), then PS5 is for you. 

Question 3If you're into the best performing console, it's too early in the generation cycle to tell. The good news is that both are about equal. Despite Xbox having more "power", some games actually ran better on PS5, others on XBox (ray tracing), depending on the settings you use. Therefore, you don't have to worry about choosing based on performance.

Question 4: Controllers aren't an issue, unless you REALLY need the haptic feedback of the PS5 controllers, then clearly PS5 is the better choice.

However, the Xbox controllers are way more ergo-dynamic, based on 10 million dollar investment in research, which showed. When you're a rabid gamer like me, you need the most comfortable controller.

The good news is that if you still want to stick with the PS5, there are cross controller support, such as Xim and Iogear Keymander 2, but only for the PS4 games using PS4 controller, both are working on PS5 games. I ended up getting a Keymander 2 as my Xim 4 died, and I misplaced the newest Xim Apex and they sold out.

Indeed, even with haptic feedback that allows for more immersion, I'm still going to use the XBox Elite Controller, comfort and those amazing paddles win over haptic feedback for me.

I hope this helps with your decision! Which console will you be getting, or will you get both?

I'm still working on the Moving With Ease and Without Pain, Part 2. Sorry for being away so long!

Review of The How of Happiness

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Moving With Ease And Without Pain, Part 1 of 3

Recently in the past month or so, I became much more serious about finding ways to get rid of my pain, which is due to poor posture. In the past, I never had any pain getting up after sitting for hours and hours straight. I can sit 8 hours plus from work, and certainly longer as a couch potato, without experiencing any pain when I get up.

In other situations, where I'm standing or walking for as short as 30 minutes or less, I start to have the typical back pain, which is quite bothersome, but I was used to it as this has been a longstanding problem since childhood.

However, this time it was different. I noticed that I'd have considerable pain and stiffness, especially in the lower back and groin area, after sitting for just an hour, which is a stark change. This concerned me, because I never had any issues with sitting before.

Further, I started to become more active due to the motto, "sitting is the new smoking", and just standing for 5 minutes caused rather bad back and leg pain.

Additionally, I was disgruntled about how, despite doing weight training, it was still difficult for me to push open heavy doors and carrying groceries around. I haphazardly tried weight body training as discussed here in my review of Your Body Is Your Barbell, but no real progress since I couldn't do even the simplest moves in the book, so I sadly gave up.

Indeed, a lot of the functional strength and bodyweight books are too difficult even at the easiest level, that there's no way I can make progress.

After doing research, I stumbled upon Tim Anderson's The Becoming Bulletproof Project, especially as the book got insanely great reviews on Amazon, and most if not all were hyperbolic! I decided to try it out, especially as it's free for Kindle members (there is a free trial available). I was very impressed with the book, so I purchased a copy.

Just doing the two things he mentioned - keep tongue at roof of mouth, and diaphragmatic breathing, improved my energy levels. When I started doing the reset exercises (these are gentle warm-up exercises before the training), my pain significantly improved.

The book is delightfully short and concise, as Mr. Anderson did a great job explaining exactly why the reset exercises help with pain and improve mobility. He also explains why you'll feel bulletproof when you succeed in these difficult tasks. For this review, discussing these reasons are beyond the scope, but he does a great job explaining and encouraging you, that you get hyped.

The sample beginner exercises are quite "harsh" as they seem to be more anaerobic (heart rate gets up to 110 at the most per polar heart rate monitor), but we need to do this for 10 minutes straight! Note he does give progressions, so if you can't do, for example, leopard crawls, start with baby crawling and build up.

I recall that we can only be in anaerobic mode for around 2 minutes before you go into aerobic states, but by then, you'd be gasping for breath. In other words, I feel that if I can do the beginner exercises with ease, I'd be a complete badass, and indeed bulletproof for me. I appreciate Mr. Anderson discussing how your idea of bulletproof is based on what you feel, not per cultural and societal expectations. The intermediate/advanced seemed extreme to me, but definitely something exciting to aspire to!

He doesn't shame you at all if you're satisfied, like me, just to have no pain, improve mobility, and able to carry groceries and push doors with ease, even if you never progress to intermediate!

Further, all the exercises listed in his beginner exercises template, can be done at home. For the battling ropes, since fitness centers are closed due to Covid-19, I substituted ropes with the transferring water exercise instead. I wrote to Mr. Anderson, and he told me you can use large beach towels instead, but at that time, I found the transferring water exercise more intriguing.

Due to the challenge aspect, the exercises are actually fun. There was one day when I bolted out of bed, excited to see if I can improve my time with the leopard crawl.

I noticed I'm very consistent with exercise if it's fun and there's a goal to reach. Certainly, one of the most fun exercises is the leopard crawl which is exactly like baby crawling, except knees off floor.

For me, the exercises were quite hard, especially going at it for 10 minutes, up to 20 minutes with rest. I felt like quitting. For the climbing mountain routine, I had to substitute real pushups for wall pushups, but nevertheless, I was able to do all the routines in his Set A beginner sample, with modifications.

I didn't want to quit though, and sleeping on it, I recall the challenge of the Jacob's Ladder (Exhibit A). At first, I can only do
Exhibit A: Jacob's Ladder
less than 4 minutes, but I added 15 to 30 seconds per day (more if possible), and eventually reached 20 minutes straight before the quarantine! So I thought, apply this same method to the leopard crawl and only focus on this as I tend to be a single-minded person.

I believe anyone, after being able to do the baby crawl with good form and ease, can do 1 second of the leopard crawl, and then just add another second the next day, and build up. Who cares if you take one year, because you made it and you can achieve longer times!

For now, Day 1 of Leopard Crawl, I lasted for 1 minute 30 seconds. By adding 15 seconds every day, I can get to 10 minutes eventually! Mr. Anderson was absolutely right, if you can do this for 10 minutes straight, you can easily do well over 30 minutes. As of this writing, at day 14, I'm already at 6 minutes, and I skipped several days. Hence I can see myself getting to 10 minutes and beyond very soon.

In fact, I know I can do it! This is the exact experience I had with the Jacob's Ladder - when I got to 10 minutes, I was able to add full minutes, getting to 20 minutes very quickly! Indeed, the slowest growth was going from a few minutes to 10 minutes, which took well over a month.

Mr. Anderson is very inspirational as he has a "you can do it attitude", because the reality is, you CAN do it! Just start at very small increments and you can easily get to 10 minutes, I can see your being able to do 1 hour if pressed!

I have no doubt that a 60-year old gentleman was telling the truth about how he was able to do 45 minutes, and I know in my gut that he's telling the truth, and I feel he can do more than that if he wanted to. If you get to 10 minutes, you can do way more.

The leopard crawl appears to be for cardio conditioning. For the functional strength of this program, and this is truly functional, some of the other exercises include walking with arms swinging, carrying backpack of 30 pounds (women, more for men) for 10 minutes straight, resting if you have to, but making sure you do the work for 10 total minutes.

Suitcase carries is another exercise. Indeed, these are the exercises we do daily! I may even add going up and down stairs once I get better.

For the first week when I followed the program to the letter, lifting gallons of jugs was actually easy and they felt light! I was impressed, as before, I strained carrying gallon jugs. I strained even when I was at the "height" of my health when I was doing multiple sets of dumbbell exercises, with repetitions of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6 to failure.

Inspired by improvement in pain and getting functionally stronger that was quite noticeable, I resumed my goals of walking 10K steps daily. Before, I couldn't bear the pain with less than 30 minutes of walking 2 miles per hour, even while playing video games to take my mind off the pain.

However now, I only have some back and leg pain after 2 to 3 hours walking at 2 mph! Doing the bulletproof reset does help ease the pain considerably (perhaps around 75% improvement) but not quite at 100% pain-free. 75% is incredible! It felt so empowering that I can walk for such long periods of time without pain (until the very end).

In the upcoming posts, I'll discuss the two other methods I used, where I was able to eradicate pain, these exercises being fun and not something you skip because they're too boring.

In conclusion, Tim Anderson's book is incredible - if you're cleared by your doctor, and you're suffering from pain and feeling weak such that you struggle with carrying groceries, this book is for you.

Why not give the book a try? Subscribe to Amazon's free trial and check out the book for yourself! If you find it works, then it's definitely worth getting a hard copy for easier reference.

Review of Neff's Self-Compassion

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Why Self-Compassion?

I’ve read so many self-help books, and upon reviewing the most helpful ones, I keep saying, “that’s another way of saying to have self-compassion”. The concept that ties all the ideas in these self-help books boils down to self-compassion.

I also recommend The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for a roadmap on how to organize your life in a practical manner, as a very effective and powerful way of doing your to-do lists, and so forth. I summarized the book here in two parts, this is the first part.

But it's really self-compassion that can motivate you to be effective in the first place, and to really stick to your goals! I wasn't able to follow any sort of positive habits for long when I read The 7 Habits in college, because of being easily demoralized.

Therefore, in this post, we’ll explain why self-compassion is such a powerful concept. Practicing self-compassion is personal and isn’t applied in a “cookie-cutter” way. In fact, having self-compassion is extremely challenging and difficult, as you have to find out what works for you.

In this past post, I superficially touched upon a self-compassion exercise, so in this post, we’ll explain why self-compassion is key, by summarizing Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself  by Kristen Neff, Ph.D., who is the foremost authority on the subject.

In the horrible Harry Harlow experiments, he nevertheless proved that love and connection are more basic than food and water. The poor baby monkeys were taken away from their mothers, and had to choose between the fake cloth mom with no food/water, and the fake wire mom with food/water.

Harlow himself thought that the babies would stick with the wire mom the whole time because of the food and water, but found out the exact opposite. The babies clung to the cloth mom and when hungry, run toward the food/water, and then immediately run back to the cloth mom.

What this experiment proved is that the basic need of all humans is love and connection, more so than even food and water. When you don’t have love and connection with others, it can lead to depression, anxiety and even suicide.

This sense of belonging is primary and deep, even in the most “macho” rituals, American football. By being a diehard fan of one team, you embrace other fellow fans. You see strangers hugging each other, sharing food and beer in these “tail-gate” parties. There’s a huge sense of connection if you ever participated in one of these parties.

Having self-compassion sounds soft and fluffy, but in reality, it can be very tough and painful at times, as we will see down the road.

PROBLEM ONE: Comparing ourselves to others leads to disconnection and suffering

At least in the Western world, we live in an extremely competitive society where we must excel, and it’s not “good enough” to be average, you have to be above average.

This is so illogical, because we can’t be above average in all things, and there are always going to be people who are more beautiful, smarter, more successful than us.

Sadly, by comparing ourselves to others and being competitive in wanting to be above-average, people tend to look down upon others to feel better about themselves.

We may get a rush from having higher self-esteem when we mistakenly feel that we are more “successful” than another person.

However, if we meet someone who is more “successful” than us, then our self-esteem plummets, and we feel like crap.

Therefore, comparing ourselves to others leads to this emotional see-saw. If we find we’re better, we get elated, if we don’t measure up, we get depressed.  Even worse, when we protect our self-image to avoid feeling bad about ourselves, we don’t acknowledge our faults, rather blaming the other person, even though “it takes two to tango”.

This leads to ongoing conflicts, which causes disconnection from your loved ones. Further, by not seeing our flaws, that leads to stagnation and lack of growth, because how can you improve if you don’t acknowledge your faults?

The solution to prevent these comparisons is self-compassion. Stop judging and evaluating ourselves altogether! Don’t label ourselves as “good” or “bad” but rather accept ourselves openly, and treat ourselves with kindness like a best friend.

Does this work? Yes! By having self-compassion you accept yourself because you’re like everybody else! Everyone has flaws, we’re no different. By accepting ourselves for who we are, then we can accept others as well, and there’s no reason to compare.

When you love and truly accept yourself, you’re not going to look down on those who are less fortunate. Likewise, you’re not going to have that sinking feeling that you’re not doing enough when you see others drive fancy cars.

Caveat: There are many people who are rather harsh with themselves, but would never be that way with others. However, by being nasty to yourself, you’re not going to feel good about yourself.

Why not pursue Win/Win where you’re compassionate towards yourself and others?

I notice that I tend to feel sour when someone I dislike becomes more successful (comparing), and I get down on myself for not being that successful. Then I feel bad that I can’t forgive the person and let go. It’s an absolutely awful feeling, it doesn’t do me any good, and certainly not to the more successful person. I really hate that pinched soul feeling.

Next, I continue to feel bad about myself for not being charitable, and this spirals downward to being angry with myself, “why can’t I just forgive!”.

However, when I have self-compassion and realize that forgiveness is something I struggle greatly with, and indeed a lot of people have the same issues, I can be more patient with myself and move toward being less judgmental.

Allowing yourself to be kind to yourself humanizes you (as you suffer just like everyone), as well as humanizing others because you understand deep down that they’re going through same and/or different struggles as well.

In other words, as part of humanity, you are a worthy person, just like everyone else. When you see yourself as different than others, that again leads to feeling disconnected and not belonging to humanity.

Indeed, dehumanizing others leads to disconnection, which has led to unspeakable crimes against humanity. By seeing “non-Aryan” groups as other and less than human, it was easy for an entire nation to exterminate and torture people “because they’re not like us”.

PROBLEM 2: Feeling lonely and isolated

We looked at the first part of self-compassion which is self-kindness: gentle understanding of ourselves, rather than being critical and judgmental.

The second part of compassion we briefly touched upon. Why should we be kind to ourselves? Because we’re all part of humanity. As we’re kind to others, then it makes logical sense to be kind to ourselves.

The concept here is “we’re all in this together”. We recognize this common human experience of suffering, acknowledging the interconnected nature of our lives (Harry Harlow experiment), indeed life itself.

Therefore, compassion is relational. By seeing people as part of humanity, rather than “other” as the Nazis did, we feel connected.

As explained above, our deepest need is to belong, but when you compare yourself to others, this disconnect leads to loneliness. The KKK feel superior to others because they’re white, and the “other” is not. The same can be said of Men, Women, Democrats, Republicans, Americans, Russians, Christians, Muslims, and the list goes on. We’re part of this group, therefore, we’re superior to this other group. Fanatical group identity is dangerous as it leads to disconnection and even genocide. 

However, if you refuse to hold this view and have compassion toward yourself and others, regardless of group affiliation, you have connection. Instead of seeing differences, you reframe and see how we’re so similar to one another. We all want love and connection; that’s our similarity.

So when our sense of self-worth and belonging is grounded in simply being human, we can’t be rejected or cast out by others. It makes no sense to say that you’re rejected by humanity, because you’re human.

Remember your shared humanity. That can help you to have compassion for who you are. It helps to have others be kind toward you, but they can’t be there with you 24/7. However, you can be with yourself 24/7, so you might as well be kind to yourself using the “best friend” approach discussed in this post.

PROBLEM 3: Suffering

This is the hard part of self-compassion. Self-kindness and common humanity we discussed above. The third and last step is mindfulness.

You must be aware of your suffering, but in a balanced way, where you neither diminish, or make it out to be worse than it is. I tend to make a mountain out of an ant-hill.

Therefore, in this third part of self-compassion, you need to be mindful - clear seeing and nonjudgmental acceptance of what’s occurring in the present moment.

You’re facing up to reality, neither underestimating or over-exaggerating things. First step is to recognize when you’re suffering instead of suppressing it, because you can’t heal what you can’t feel. Be aware of your pain. By stuffing and ignoring pain, it can explode.

A good analogy of awareness is thus: Awareness is the blue sky. Your feelings and thoughts are the birds flapping around. Identify with the sky, instead of the birds. If you remain in awareness (i.e. sky) and not react to the thoughts and feelings (birds), you can be calm and centered as the sky doesn’t shift and change in a feckless manner.

You can’t change your thoughts and feelings very well, but you can change your reactions to them. There are many meditation techniques, but the key here is to hold and be aware of the pain, and don’t numb it.

Indeed, people who suffer from PTSD tend to numb their emotions, as a very understandable mechanism to avoid feeling the immense pain of trauma.

But by having this numbing of emotions, they can’t feel the positive emotions of joy, creativity, love. When you numb, you numb all emotions. Often, people who suffer from PTSD say that they’re living zombies and they don’t know how to have fun anymore.

The hard work in PTSD involves working through the painful memories in a safe, secure environment. The acknowledgment, and being one with the pain, is the really difficult part of self-compassion.

One example that makes us all feel bad about ourselves is when we hear a baby crying which irritates us, but we judge ourselves for having these thoughts, “what a horrible person I am for having that thought, it’s only a baby, a nicer person would feel sympathy rather than being triggered”.

However, if you have self-compassion, you stop the judgment. You become aware (sky) of the irritation (birds) you’re having, you acknowledge the negative thought, while recognizing that surely a lot of people would feel the same way, and the thought will eventually pass!

A silly example is when I went to a party. I tend to need at least 5 large glasses of wine and/or beer to feel socially comfortable. The extremely uncomfortable feeling of being socially awkward has been too hard for me to deal with.

However, at a recent party, I decided not to drink - this wasn’t too daring, because there were only 3 people at the party that I don’t know that well. I decided to practice self-compassion, since I just completed reading the book.I decided to be one with being socially awkward.

What helped me was chanting exactly how I felt, “socially awkward, socially awkward, socially awkward”. However, after 1 hour (I’m “slow to warm up”), I stopped feeling awkward, and I ended up enjoying being in the moment and having meaningful connections.

I’m not sure if this strategy would work if I’m in a party with people I barely know, but this is a small step to being aware.

Dr. Neff recommends that when you feel suffering, to have a mantra, in your words, along this line:

This is a moment of suffering
Suffering is part of life
May I be kind to myself in this moment
May I give myself the compassion I need

I kind of like Brene Brown, Ph.D. (author of Daring Greatly) mantra where one of her interviewees, when in pain would simply say, “pain, pain pain”. Or you can say “ouch, ouch, ouch”, to acknowledge the pain, as well as the rest of the mantra as suffering being part of humanity, and to give yourself kindness and compassion. It’s best if it’s in your own words.

On a positive note, when you have awareness, you’re going to have awareness of positive emotions too! In this situation, you can hold it in loving awareness and really make that feeling bloom! You can experience love and joy with more awareness and rejoice in it - it actually overflowed to my coworkers and strangers!

Using the three part component of self-compassion as a way toward love and connection, it helps you to deal with pain and suffering.

I then chuckled at Dr. Neff’s stages of self-compassion, because I went through the same thing. Initially, as I had self-compassion, I had this outpouring of love toward my coworkers, and work was light - I actually made some rather creative suggestions which surprised even me. I was enamored with self-compassion.

However, I then saw the hard work of self-compassion. It doesn’t take the pain away at all, rather it helps you to be more resilient and deal with pain in a more effective way.

Instead of numbing or burying your feelings, which will pop up again, as survivors of trauma would all attest, in the form of disturbing intrusions, horrific nightmares and flashbacks, rather self-compassion holds you in awareness.

With self-compassion, you gain the resilience to work on painful emotions, feelings and thoughts head on. While having compassion for yourself that you’re suffering like the rest of the world, and being aware of the pain, you can wait for the pain to pass. You can weather these negative emotions. This leads to emotional resilience, and with practice, you become better and better at it.

PROBLEM 4: Being successful

If you think about it, if you see someone more successful than you, and he brags to you about all the things he bought, where you “only” have a run of the mill sedan, it’ll be hard to be friends with him.

Therefore, what if you’re highly successful, does this mean you’ll be disconnected from others? If you have self-compassion, no! As part of humanity (principle 2 of self-compassion), you’ll have shared joy.

You are concerned for your own well-being as well as others, so you want both to succeed! By recognizing our inherent connectedness, Dr. Neff writes, “When we’re part of a larger whole, we can feel glad that ‘one of us’ has something to celebrate”.

You celebrate with exuberance in the success of others with self-compassion. In fact, with self-compassion, you can genuinely feel that way, instead of grudgingly when you see your friends being more successful than you.

Instead, armed with self-compassion, you become aware of other people’s positive traits and fully appreciate them, not taking them for granted. You rejoice in yourself, just as you rejoice in others.

PROBLEM 5: I’m not going to be successful if I have self-compassion

The opposite is true. So many psychological studies have shown that intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic motivation.

If you’re stuck in the self-esteem, need to prove myself trap, you’re doing things to be successful, to look smart, athletic so that you can be admired, which strokes your ego. This is extrinsic motivation.

Let’s say the activity is very grueling, streaming as a career. With extrinsic motivation, your self-esteem increases when your viewer numbers go up, and then it crashes when your number goes down.

I know this very well. In the early stages of streaming, I actually got depressed when my viewer number went from 10 to 9, WTF!

But you still stream for those numbers because when you grow, your self-esteem does as well, and I did get emotional high’s when I got an average of 20 in one month - it’s like a drug!

However, during summer, when many are off on vacation, your numbers tend to be lower for the next 3 months. Since you’re streaming for self-esteem and those numbers, you may be demoralized and then give up.

Further, by wanting to be successful so you can prove yourself as the “better” streamer (stroking your ego), you’re afraid to take creative risks, make mistakes, for fear of losing viewers. You then look “wooden” which is the death-knell in entertainment. You keep to a regular script which can get stale, also another way to make yourself bored and not wanting to stream anymore.

However, if you have self-compassion, which leads to awareness of what you truly want in life, you decide to stream because you love the process as well as your viewers.

You enjoy the connection and the challenge of negotiating chat and gameplay, and finding new creative angles to be entertaining.

This is intrinsic motivation, you’re doing something because you want to do it. You don’t care if you fail and your numbers drop like flies, because your self-esteem isn’t harmed in any way, because you have self-compassion.

If you do something "dumb" while streaming, you’ll be able to do your “ouch” mantra, hold the embarrassment, and move on, with emotional resilience. You can take enormous risks (historically leading to major advancements in technology and innovation) because you simply don’t care about social rejection or judgment, or low viewer numbers. You are authentic and free.

If you’re stuck on an issue with streaming, you’re not afraid to ask for help for “fear of looking stupid”. In other words, you’re not controlled by societal pressures when you have self-compassion.

You do your own thing with utmost courage, authenticity, honesty and integrity, screw the rules! Contrary to what people think, self-compassion isn’t “wimpy”, but bad-ass! What's more bad-ass than being true to yourself and a "rebel".

At any rate, it appears that those who do something they absolutely love tend to be more successful than someone who’s doing it to prove themselves.

When you love something, you never get tired of doing it, to the point where you may have to work on self-care issues such as eating regular meals and getting enough sleep (I’m thinking specifically video gaming).

When you’re doing something to prove things, you’re going to be demoralized when there’s a glitch, a temporary obstacle, and failure, and you may quit altogether.

The person who’s spending and practicing that many hours because of the enjoyment will tend to be better at the activity than someone who quits in fits and starts due to obstacles in the way.

I wanted to outline the three components of self-compassion here, and present the major arguments for self-compassion.

There are many exercises in the book that I won’t outline here, so if you feel that the concept of self-compassion makes sense and can make a difference in your life, I highly recommend Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

I found the concept of self-compassion jump started me on being way more pro-active in self-care and fulfilling my specific goals. Perhaps borrow the book from the library or look through the book at the bookstore. Do the exercises that resonate with you. Above all have self-compassion!

Note: I have been including the How of Happiness link in the bottom of all my posts, but I found Dr. Neff's Self-Compassion equally important, so I'll be alternating posts with these books.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Part II Summary

We covered the Private Victories (Habits 1 through 3) in the last post, so we'll carry on to Habits 4 through 7. I found Habit 5 the most powerful of these, but the most challenging habit to master, so we'll spend the most time on Habit 5.


In general, the best approach is Win/Win as it seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. It sees life as cooperative, not competitive. Whole books are dedicated on how to achieve Win/Win in actionable steps, demonstrating the powerful impact of this book.

However, Covey takes a more fundamental approach, so you can apply it to all areas instead of a formulaic, simplistic way. He notes that character is the foundation of Win/Win, and we need three character traits to achieve this.

Trait One: Integrity. You need Habits 1 to 3 to develop and maintain integrity. When we identify our values and what we want, we can go for the Win. You can’t go for the Win if you don’t know what your goals and principles are, because what are you fighting for in the first place?

Trait Two: Maturity. This is the balance between courage and consideration. You need to be very courageous because you must show your vulnerability as you discuss your needs and wants openly and honestly. This must be balanced with consideration of the other person’s needs and wants. Maturity validates BOTH you and the other person as important. This also boils down in self-compassion principles where you honor yourself as much as others.

Trait Three: Abundance Mentality. Covey was the one who coined the term Abundance Mentality, as well as Scarcity Mentality.  The concept of Abundance has also led to tons of books written on the subject.

When you have Abundance Mentality, you recognize that there’s enough in the world for both parties to succeed. Your success does not have to take away from another’s success.

With an Abundance Mentality, you realize that there is plenty out there to go around so you can share prestige, recognition, profits, decision-making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity leading to Synergy (Habit 6).

Again, self-compassion allows you to have Abundance where you rejoice in your successes, and you equally rejoice in others’ successes, even if they have more success than you. This feels infinitely better than having that pinched feeling of jealousy and envy toward your friends.

With Abundance, you come from a position of open-mindedness and whole-heartedness - you can achieve more together in a connected, holistic manner. Two heads are better than one.

Whereas, Scarcity Mentality is where you feel that you have to destroy the other person to succeed, otherwise that person will take your spot. You refuse to help others who are struggling in your field, for fear they will take over your resources and eclipse you. You may profit from Scarcity Mentality, and indeed, malignant Narcissists can be highly successful with this approach (even at the level of CEO), but this position is soul-crushing.

By attacking the other person and refusing to share, you become disconnected from others. Disconnect leads to despair, depression, anxiety and even suicide. Realize that connection is an even more basic need than food and water per the Harry Harlow experiments (baby monkeys prefer cloth mothers with no food to wire mothers with food).

Win/Win example:

I saw a father who was too strict with his daughter, Jane (for anonymous purposes) because his wife was killed when Jane was only 3 years old. Therefore, he doesn’t want any harm to go her way like his wife. Jane is obviously suffocated as she wants to go out with her friends on weekends, but she can only socialize with her friends in school.

It was obvious that they both love each other, even though they fight constantly about this issue.

We problem-solved and sought a Win/Win. I mentioned to Jane if she’s okay with her father taking her friends to the mall (many teenagers would rather drop dead), and she was absolutely delighted, much to my surprise.

I discussed with the father, and his face also lit up. He said he would be very happy to drive Jane and her friends to the mall, movies. This was an obvious solution, but the father was so trapped in his fear that he couldn’t think of alternatives, and clung to a Win/Lose situation (he wins by over-protection, and daughter loses).

Breakdown: The father is happy because he can “insure” his daughter’s safety, and Jane is thrilled to go out with her friends.

Application Suggestions: 
  • Think about an upcoming interaction where you have to reach an agreement. Commit to a balance between courage and consideration. 
  • Make a list of obstacles that keep you from applying the Win/Win paradigm more frequently. Determine what can you change about yourself to eliminate the obstacles.
  • With your most important relationship, think of a perpetual disagreement you have. Try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes, and figure out what that person sees as the solution. Write down what you see as a solution. Approach and work this out to a point of mutual beneficial agreement.

We will spend more time on this habit since Empathic listening is so difficult to do. Carl Rogers expounded on Empathic listening, and Covey did a superb job conveying the elements.

Empathic listening is exceedingly difficult, and I’ve committed all the non-empathic listening “sins” frequently, so do not judge yourself if you do all the "wrong things".

Covey starts out with seeing an Optometrist due to vision complaint. The Optometrist listens to your complaint, then takes off her glasses and hands them to you.

“Put these on,” she says. “I’ve worn this pair of glasses for 10 years now, and they’ve really helped me. I have an extra pair at home, so you can wear these”.

You put on the glasses, and it makes your vision even worse! When you tell her it’s gotten worse, she retorts, “You’re so ungrateful, after all I did to help you”.

You would never see this doctor again, as she clearly doesn’t understand your problem, barely listening to you, and then giving you advice that doesn’t fit who you are or your situation!

We all do this, often well-intentioned, because we want to help our friends, and we think giving advice, telling them what worked for us when we encountered this situation, but has no bearing on what his specific problem is, as everyone and every situation is different.

We also tend to listen to reply, because we think this will make us look clever and witty, when in reality, no one cares! When your friend is hurting, being there, listening empathically is the approach, not trying to one-up her.

Empathic listening is the opposite. You remove yourself from the equation, and understand what the person is not only saying from his viewpoint, but also understanding the emotional nuance of what he’s going through, without judging (you’re neither agreeing or disagreeing), giving advice, or putting your 2 cents in.

You are focused on him and doing your best to see what he’s going through. You are diagnosing the problem, and once you have all the facts and they feel understood, they’ll be more receptive to problem-solving. Your advice will also fit the issue at hand, as opposed to being the wrong prescription.

Step one: Remove yourself from the equation. Do not inject your autobiography when listening. These things are:

Evaluate: To agree or disagree. Does it make sense if the optometrist says, no I don’t agree that this lens is worse than this? You’re wrong (even though this is YOUR eyesight). WTF, how can she say she’s right, she doesn’t have your exact eyesight.

Probing: asking questions from our own frame of reference, for your own benefit, not for theirs. “Have you really tried your best?” Advise: You give counsel from your own experience, but you are you, not the person you’re talking to! “I’ve been through the same thing myself, so this is what you need to do”, but maybe not for someone else!

Interpreting: Figuring people out to explain why they’re doing something, based on our own motives, feelings and behaviors. Everyone’s unique, you can’t make assumptions like this. “What you’re trying to do here is this” when in fact, that’s not the case.

Advising: Telling them what to do from your own point of view, not taking into account their unique concerns and issues. "What has always worked for me in these circumstances is..." Yes, that worked for you, but not for me!

Instead, Empathic listening requires this step-by-step approach:

Level 1: Mimic content. You just spit out what the person says. At least you’re paying attention, but it’s very limited and stilted:

          “I hate school, Mom!”
          “You hate school”

Level 2: Rephrase the content. This is a bit better as you don’t sound like a parrot:

          “I hate school, Mom!”
          “You don’t want to go to school anymore”

Level 3: Now that you know the content, you reflect the feeling only. Here you accurately sense his frustration, but you focused more on the feeling, not so much the content:

          “I hate school, Mom!”
          “You’re feeling really frustrated!”

Level 4: This is the highest stage of Empathic listening. You use all three levels simultaneously. You digest the content, rephrase it to show you understand, and reflect the feeling:

          “I hate school, Mom!”
          “You’re feeling really frustrated about school!”

In level 4, you got the feeling and content down all at once. As you listen authentically to understand, by rephrasing content and reflecting feeling, the person feels that you’re on the same wave-length and creating a safe, nonjudgmental space.

They will feel more open to discussing how they truly feel. To get a sense of why empathic listening works, please refer to the 25th anniversary edition, pages 259 to 260 (what not to do), and pages 260 to 261 (empathic listening).

Once the person feels understood, you can then problem-solve with all the facts and feelings in a much more effective way.

If the above skill-set sounds hard, that’s because it is. When I was in college and volunteering for crisis center, we underwent a very vigorous program on empathic, nonjudgmental listening.

Sadly, there are no classes that I’ve seen outside of volunteering, but you can always improve. Work on level 1 and get that down to perfection (i.e. you’re actually paying attention with no electronic devices and other distractions). When you’re able to 100% focus on the content, then work on level 2, and so on.

We can’t be perfect listeners, but as long as people see you making the effort, doing your best not to interrupt, allowing them to talk freely without judgment, reflecting on their feelings, that can go a long way in your relationships.


Once you have a good grasp of habits 1 through 5, you can now synergize, which occurs between two or more persons. Example is two separate plants, by themselves, they can only grow so much, but when they're planted together, they grow even more since two plants close by can enrich the soil more.

Whole books are written on synergy, as results can multiply in a "whole is more than the sum of its parts" kind of way.

Here's a typical example of synergy. One person is very creative and brilliant but so disorganized that nothing gets done. He meets potential girlfriend in class who's extremely organized and can streamline things.

She was struck by the genius fragments of sentences and poems he wrote, and then collates them in perfection, taking a couple of days. He is struck by what she put together because that's exactly what he meant, he just couldn't organize it.

They publish the book and becomes a national bestseller. This is a parody of the typical Covey example when you do something using the habit, and you end up being a billionaire, Kappa (gamer emoticon for sarcasm).

In other words, you respect other people's differences and talents (i.e. one is very creative, the other is strategic, the other is good at actualizing) and come up with something greater than you could've accomplished on your own.

In this step, it's crucial to recognize how there are different ways of looking at things, there's no one right way, so each will be open to using these different perspectives and skills, to synergize.

For instance, in this famous picture, some will see an old woman, others a

young woman, but both perspectives are right. However, when you put both perspectives together, we get a fuller truth, that this picture is BOTH an old and young woman.


You've arrived and "mastered" all 6 habits, but don't rest on your laurels. In this habit, you must preserve and enhance the greatest asset, you! Build on what you have to improve.

Physical: exercise, sleep, nutrition, stress management

Social/emotional: Service, empathy, synergy, intrinsic security

Spiritual: value clarification & commitment, study and meditation

Mental: reading, visualizing, planning and writing

These habits are difficult to follow, so you need good sleep and nutrition to even have the energy to carry them out!

It's also good to review if you're following your values, by taking a breather and re-evaluate - it's so easy to get stuck in the details, that you forget the big picture.

Conclusion: It's no wonder that Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People continues to this day. I appreciate how you must hone in on exactly what you want in life because it's important to have a map, otherwise you'll get lost. By cutting out the crap and meaningless things (i.e. keeping up with the Joneses), you can cut to the chase and be more effective in actualizing your goals, and having deep, meaningful relationships.

The How of Happiness Review

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