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Ideas for people pursuing an empowered life,




Where Innovation Comes From

Do you know about the house gecko? This tiny lizard is a familiar site, often seen clinging to walls or ceilings of homes in tropical climes. It does its homeowner a great service by ridding the house of insects like flies, ants, mosquitoes and roaches. Happy moms see it as a fantastic alternative to toxic pesticides.

Soon we'll all owe a debt of thanks to the gecko, as new science is being learned from it. Medical research found how to regenerate limbs from that esteemed creature. The leaf-tailed gecko nonchalantly leaves his tail section in a predator's mouth and runs off, knowing it'll grow another soon enough. Recent science discovered how geckos manipulate DNA to grow a whole new limb and it's now searching to find how that applies to humans.

Another puzzle - this one studied since Aristotle's time - was recently solved. How does a gecko walk vertically and upside-down on smooth surfaces - like glass and stainless steel? Well botanists and physicists at UCLA discovered it has millions of tiny hairs on its feet that cling to a molecule's « van der Walls force ». Each tiny hair is split into 1000 tips that are so small they can only be seen with an electron microscope. The design of each tip is such that it grasps the invisible « force » by hooking into a space that's about 8000th of a second wide. Its foot fibers reach down into solid matter and then pull free at a 30°angle to vertical entry, and geckos walk along like unzipping velcro.

Chemists fabricated an innovative version of synthetic gecko hair and tried it on highly polished semiconductor material. Reaching the « van der Walls force », their new fiber stuck to both super-smooth silicon and gallium-arsenic based surfaces - just like gecko feet. The National Academy of Science suggests this will revolutionize computer chips, and therefore most everything else. It'll also mean major innovations in the textile industry.

Amazed at these kinds of Research and Development "breakthroughs", I was surprised to learn that very few innovations start out that way. Also, a tiny fraction of ideas follow a wave of invention - like computers and peripheries. Only 1/5th of our innovation comes as one of those mystic "light bulb" moments we have - and each of those has a common source. But get this - a whopping great percentage of innovative ideas come from people tinkering and improving something already in their daily life. Here's what the data shows:

  • Research and development : 4%
  • Innovation linked to a wave of invention : 5%
  • Had a "light bulb" moment : 20%, but of those
    • 2% actualized a family idea
    • 4% had studied another industry
    • 6% had personal need
    • 8% transformed a hobby
  • Improved something already existing : 71%

Take a look around. Anything need improving in your life? Tell you what - if you suppress the tendency to go yuck next time you see a creepy-crawly thing, remember what we owe the little gecko lizard and you can wonder about what innovative breakthrough that creepy-crawly might bring.



Leaders tell stories. How do stories relate to leadership? Author Hilary McLellan says there are many ways: "Stories, including narratives, myths, and fables, constitute a uniquely powerful currency in human relationships. Stories speak to both parts of the human mind - its reason and emotion. Stories provide a tool for articulating and focusing vision. Stories provide a medium of communication, both internally within an organization and externally to customers, potential customers, business partners, business rivals, investors, and others. "

« Narrative thinking » helps you decide what kind of story you'll tell? Check out the details by clicking here.



Take a look at our brochure page to read about 4 great learning adventures: A 7-day "Lessons from the jungle..." tour for executives, professionals and managers, a 14-day "Way of the Jaguar-kings tour for people interested in self- empowerment. Then there's our 14 day student tour on "entrepreneurial spirit" and a weeklong team building experience. Check them all out by clicking here



Halloween later this month is not the reason I'm devoting this section to « theobroma », the elixir of the Gods, AKA cacao... chocolate. It's my most favorite indulgence - the darker the better - and I can't thank the Mesoamericans enough for cultivating it. Ancient Olmec rulers drank chocolate mixed with cayenne pepper in a stimulating, frothy potion. The sweet stuff we know today was invented by Europeans and commemorated by the Swiss on a web site at http://www.chocolat.ch/chossuissepion.htm

Visit Hershey Pennsylvania, a whole town built around chocolate making. Your tour begins at http://www.hershey.com/tour/index.shtml Did you know that in 1930, there were 40,000 kinds of chocolate in the USA or that theobromines are used to cure high blood pressure and to dilute the arteries? A miracle food I tell you - what other proof do you need? Check out the trivia at http://joelglenbrenner.com/trivia.html.

Want to cook with it? There are great recipes at http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/search.asp and try the ones from one of the world's best candy makers at http://www.godiva.com/recipes/default.asp.

But if all that chocolate and sugar keeps you awake at night, get advice from the National Sleep Foundation at http://sleepfoundation.org.



"Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." Miles Davis

"It is not fit that every man should travel; it makes a wise man better, and a fool worse." Owen Feltham

"We must believe in luck for how else can we explain the success of those we don't like?" Jean Cocteau,

"Men are so constituted that everybody undertakes what he sees another successful in, whether he has aptitude for it or not." Goethe

"It is an immutable Law of Nature that bad follows good, that decline must follow any rise. To feel that we can rest on our achievements is a dangerous fallacy." Yi King,

"The worst part of having success is to try finding someone who is happy for you." Bette Middler



Everyday, a lovely old lady sits in a park, downtown, feeding the squirrels. She stands out because she always wears an extravagant hat but she seems so content, so at peace with herself, that one day a much younger woman went to her and struck up a conversation.

Towards the end of a very pleasant chat, the young lady asked the much older woman: "If you had one piece of advice to give me about being so happy, so at peace with life, what would it be?"

The old woman turned quite serious for a moment, then reached out, took the younger person's hand in her own and deadpanned: "My dear, dear girl, you must get yourself some big hats... like mine."

Incredulous, the lass replied: "But how could a hat possibly help me?"

And the old woman answered: "I remember being three years old. I remember that I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a beautiful princess! Then at age 6 I looked and saw myself as Sleeping Beauty, waiting for her prince. At 11, I saw the rough 'n tumble boy I wanted to be then, but I also looked to see a wannabe cheerleader. I was 15 when I saw myself as tall, pretty and the world's best tennis player - on some days... and nothing but extra fat, pimples and flaws the rest of the time.

At 20, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw too much fat, too pale skin, too tall with hair too curly and I spent hours and hours trying to fix everything. At age 30, I saw fat, pale skin and curly hair but with a new family, I didn't have time to fix anything. At 40 I stared in the mirror and saw pale skin with curly hair - but still, I was proud. I was always well groomed and - I'd tell myself - all I really needed was a week at a spa... to be 'hot'.

At age 50 I looked in the mirror and asserted 'I am woman, hear me roar!' With a minimum of touch up, I was out the door doing whatever I wanted to, whenever and wherever I wanted. At 60, I'd look in the mirror and think all the people who couldn't see themselves anymore... or who didn't want to, and I reminded myself that it was time for me to go out and conquer the world.

At 70 I looked at myself in the mirror and saw wisdom, laughter and the ability to make good choices. I learned that to really enjoy life, I must be concerned about others. When I turned 80 I decided it didn't matter how I looked, what mattered was what I did and how I felt.

This morning, I glanced in the mirror to put on this big old purple hat and I was out the door in a second, feeling like I wanted to have fun in the world, like I wanted to meet you. And you know what dear, for a fact I should have gotten big hats to cover up the daily flaws a whole lot sooner."

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