Category Archives: Positive Thinking

The Permission to be Human

Positive psychology has been dubbed as the ‘science of happiness’ so it is always easy to be mistaken that people who spread, teach and work on Positive Psychology must be someone who is outgoing, extroverted and happy at all times. In other words, they’re the kind of people who were having some kind of constant high. They are the ones who were excluded from being sad or experiencing painful emotions.

To be honest, that is not the case.

There were two kinds of people who don’t experience painful emotions like disappointment, anger, envy or sadness. First, the psychopaths. The second group of people is dead!

So, if you’re experiencing these painful emotions, it is actually a good sign which means that you’re not a psychopath and you’re ALIVE!

And yet, in our culture today we think that ‘there must be something wrong with me’ when in fact there is something wrong with us if we don’t experience these emotions at times.

The problem is that we don’t give ourselves the permission to be HUMAN. When we don’t allow ourselves to experience the full myriad of human emotions, we’re preventing ourselves from also experiencing the positive emotions.

All emotions flow through the same emotional pipeline and when we block the flow of one set of emotions we’re inadvertently also blocking the other sets. When we block the painful emotions, they are simply intensifying.

As children, we give ourselves the permission to be human but then we get to a certain page when the facade kicks in when we say, “I can’t show these emotions” like it is something bad. We ignore it, we suppress it and we pay a price.

If we watched babies, or saw youtube videos on babies, we could see that most of them can cry out loud at one point but then joyously laugh in a flip of a moment. These are the obvious example of someone who gives himself the ‘permission to be human’.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not that we have to act like them but the important thing is that we need a place in our lives for ‘unconditional acceptance‘. A place where we give ourselves the permission to be human. A place where we can unconditionally treat our humanly emotions.

There is a paradox at play here. The paradox is that when we suppress these painful emotions, they intensified, they become stronger and they are often preventing us from experiencing positive emotions. When we give ourselves the freedom to experience the full range of human emotions, we’re being fully human.

Painful emotion is as much part of human nature as the law of gravity is part of physical nature. Yet, we accept the latter and reject the former and we pay a very high price for it.

‘Permission to be human’ and ‘unconditional acceptance’ is not about ‘passive resignation’. It is not like when you say, “Okay, so I’m jealous or anxious and there’s nothing I can or want to do about it.” Rather, it is about ‘active acceptance’. Accepting the painful emotion and then choosing the most appropriate course of action.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling envy but there may be something wrong with the behavior following on that envy. There’s nothing wrong with feeling fear, nothing cowardly about it. In fact, courage is not about not having fear. Courage is about having fear and then going ahead anyway.

When we suppress these emotions, they control us. If we don’t accept that sometimes we get angry or envious, we’ll begin to see anger and envy all around even though it is not there.

And here is the question that we need to ask ourselves, “Do we give ourselves and others – our family, spouse, friends and colleagues – the permission to be human?

This is the foundation, the most important pillar of a happy, fulfilling life.

~ Tal

Marva Collins – Teaching the ‘Unteachable’

Marva Collins was born in Alabama in the 1930s. Her father was African American and her mother was Native American. She was born at a time in a place where there was a great deal of discrimination.

Fortunately, for Marva, her father really believed in her and said to her from a very young age, “Marva, you can make something of your life. You can become a secretary.” Now the reason why he said secretary is because that was where the glass ceiling, or rather concrete ceiling exists for a person of her ethnic background, a person of her gender. Marva Collins worked hard, she was smart, she succeeded, she made it, and she became a secretary.

After few years of working as a secretary, doing well, she decided this was not for her and what her calling in life. Her real passion was in teaching.

She wanted to be a school teacher.

She went to night school. A few years later, she got her teaching certificate, got married and with her husband moved to Chicago. There she joined the public school system in inner city, Chicago.

The reality that she found, that she encountered there was a reality of much crime, much drugs and more than anything, hopelessness. The hope of the teachers was to keep the students in school for as long as possible. Why? So that they don’t join the street gangs at the age of 12; so that they are protected from the drugs and crime.

“How can we keep the students in school for as long as possible?” asked the teachers.

Marva Collins walks into this reality and says, “Things are going to be differrent.”

She teaches first graders to fourth graders. On the first day of class, she says to her students, “We are going to do a lot of believing in ourselves.” And she repeats this message over and over and over again, like a broken record throughout the semester, and year, and years.

“I believe in you. You can do well. You can succeed. Take responsibility for your life. Stop blaming. Stop blaming the government. Stop blaming your teachers. Stop blaming your parents. It is up to you to succeed.” And she continues with this message over and over and over again. Having really high expectations of her students, looking at what they’re good at, their strength and cultivating those.

Miracles begin to happen. These students, considered by many of the teachers to be ‘unteachable’. These ‘unteachable’ ones by the time that they are in fourth grade are reading Euripides, Emerson and Shakespeare. These ‘unteachable’ ones at the age of 10 are doing high school mathematics.

Now rumor begins to spread about Marva Collins, because how can she keep these students in class for so long, when all the other students are just trying to get out of school? She must be using force.

And Marva Collins has enough of these rumors, leave the public school system, opens up her own school in her own kitchen with 4 students and initially, two of them her own kids.

Gradually, more and more students join the Marva Collins school, Westside preparatory. All the students that intially joined the school are public school dropouts. Marva Collins is the last resort before the street.

And the miracles continue.

Gradually more and more students come in. She has to move out of her home. They wretchedly rent a small shack in Chicago place, freezing in winter, scorching hot in summer. And yet the students are driven by their passion.

And they continue. Miracles continue to happen to them.

Every one of Marva Collins’ students graduates from elementary school. Everyone goes to high school and graduates from high school. Every one of her students ends up in college and graduates from college. Yes, those ‘unteachable’ ones.

Marva Collins lives in a dire poverty for decades, somehow making ends meet. After all, most of her students can’t pay. But somehow, months to months, she makes it.

1979, it changes overnight. A producer, from the television CBS program ’60 Minutes’ finds out about Marva Collins and creates a 15 minutes segment on her. Overnight she become famous.

November 1980, new President elect Ronald Reagan calls up Marva Collins offers her to be his Secretary of Education. Guess her father was right. Marva Collins turns his offers down and says, “I love to teach too much. My place is in the classroom.” Eight years later almost to the day, new President elect George Bush Sr. calls Marva Collins once again, offering her to be his Secretary of Education. Once again, “I love to teach too much. My place is in the classroom.”

In 1995, a wealthy philanthropist donates tens of millions of dollars to Marva Collins. Now there are Marva Collins schools all over the States where thousands of students learn, where hundreds of teachers from all over the world come and see the miracle of Marva Collins.

Today there are Marva Collins graduates who are politicians, business people, lawyers, doctors, and more than anything, teachers. Because they know what their teacher has done for them.

Here’s an excerpt of how she do the “We are going to do a lot of believing in ourselves.”

Here is her book. For those who are interested in teaching and there’s one book you want to read, it’s this. For those who are interested in leadership and there’s one book you want to read, it’s this. For those who are interested in the future of becoming parents and there’s one book you want to read, it’s this. For the rest of you, if there’s one book you want to read, it’s this.

And The Marva Collins Story

~ Tal

Sacrifice in Chess

In chess, a sacrifice is a move giving up a piece in the hopes of gaining tactical or positional compensation in other forms. A sacrifice could also be a deliberate exchange of a chess piece of higher value for an opponent’s piece of lower value.

Any chess except the king can be sacrificed. Because players usually try to hold onto their own pieces, offering a sacrifice can come as an unpleasant surprise to one’s opponent, putting him off balance and causing much precious time to be wasted trying to calculate whether the sacrifice is sound or not and whether to accept it. Sacrificing one’s queen (the most valuable piece), or a string of pieces, adds to the surprise, and such games can be awarded brilliancy prizes.


In Abrahamic traditions, sacrifice is an act of giving up worldly possessions to serve a better purpose to God. Just as chess, God is seen as the King, which is the most important figure. The whole purpose of playing chess is to keep the king alive while attack to kill the king of the opponent.

In relationships, sacrifice can be seen as acts of giving up some characters or possessions by one party or both. This is done to serve the higher purpose, to make the relationship works.

In professional settings, sacrifice can be seen as an act of giving up some things to require a better set of skills, good connections or great opportunities. The purpose is to get into better career advancement.

In chess, Abrahamic traditions, relationships and professional settings, the act of sacrificing revolves around the thoughts of keeping the higher purpose or the important thing works.

However, in chess, while the right kind of sacrifice might lead to better tactical positions, the wrong kind of sacrifice may be fatal. Thus, this calls for chess players to know the art of sacrifice in order to implement the sacrifice strategy in their playing. If they didn’t have the natural talent, that must be required from lessons through knowledge and training.

These show the importance of purpose. Outlined them clear, make them your fundamental ideas, just then you can trust your intuitions.

Outside and Inside the Box

“Think outside the box!”

In recent years, the catchphrase above had become a holy mantra for creative thinking, most likely to be used by management consultants and executive coaches in the business environment.

It means approaching problems in new innovative ways. It means conceptualizing problems differently. It means understanding your position in relation to any particular situation in a way you had never thought of before.

The world had shown an obvious success of the outer part of it. Apple, for example, decided not to pay for any advertising during a brief period after the first iPhone was introduced in January 2007 and when it went on sale later in the year. They used a ‘non-marketing marketing’ strategy to create some hype stories.

However, let’s look at the other part of the spectrum…

“Think inside the box!”

This catchphrase was not the popular ones.

It means approaching problems in known ways. It means conceptualizing a structure for multi problem-solving. It means understanding your position in relation to any particular situation in the way you had tackled them before. (Read something similar to this paragraph before?)

Apple’s story, again, they still use the same strategy for iPhone 5.

“Think inside and outside the box! If the situation requires you to think on the surface of the box, think on the surface of the box!”

It matters less for the approach that we use. What matters most is what we try to achieve and why we want to achieve it.

That makes better sense.

Asking the RIGHT Question

If you go to see a therapist or psychologist, what will be the first question he/she will ask?

“What is wrong with you?”


Or if you and your spouse go to see a couple’s counselor, what would you guess to be the first question he/she would ask?

“What is wrong with your relationship?”

Am I having the second right? Right?

Or if you invite consultants to your company (like scenes in House of Lies), what would you suggest to be their ice-breaking question?

“What is your organization’s weaknesses? What do we need to fix?”

Another deja vu?

Those questions above are important questions. You need to know what is wrong so that you can fix them to make them right.

But what if we tweak those questions a little bit. Instead of asking “what is wrong?”, we ask “what is right?”.

“What are the things that going so well in your life?”


“What is going well in your relationship?”


“What are your strengths? Tell me about success stories that we can build on.”

Questions are powerful tools. They can ignite hope and lead to new insights. They can also destroy hope and keep us stuck in bad assumptions.

Whatever the question, the answers reinforce the assumption.

If you ask the WRONG questions, you’ll provide an excuse for why you are not getting the results you want.

If you ask the RIGHT questions, they empower and create new possibilities, they lead to action and they will produce results.

Because it is easier to think “outside the box” and approach problems with a fresh perspective.

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