Successful Lifehacking Requires a Strong Foundation

I was recently at a Chair Massage conference in NYC.  I talked about being effective and efficient as a life hacker.

I sat waiting to get one of those on-site corporate chair massages from I got into a conversation with someone who asked me,

“How does one create wealth as a lifehacker?

How does one find the best approaches to greater efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity? The best lifehacks also create greater self-awareness.”  I responded “before anything else you need a strong foundation.


Let me explain:

In the early 1990s, I spent a winter in the Southern Catskill Mountains of New York State.  My family owned a small cabin and I had planned on going into seclusion and engaging in some ruthless introspection through the very cold, very snowy winter

The Catskills are well known in American culture, both as the setting for many 19th-century Hudson River School paintings and as the favored destination for urban vacationers from New York City in the mid-20th century. The region’s many large resorts gave countless young stand-up comedians an opportunity to hone their craft. As a college student, I would often run the spot light for the late show at Kutsher’s Country Club.

In addition, to all of this,  the Catskills have long been a haven for artists, musicians, and writers, especially in and around the town of Woodstock.

In the early 1950s – the 1970s many world champion boxers set up training camps in these resort hotels and many of these places became celebrity hangouts. By the 1990s most of the hotels had gone belly-up however a few remained. One was the Pines Hotel in South Fallsburg. There wasn’t much going on there since the hotel was on its last legs but I liked to use the Health Club and so I got myself a part-time job as a “Sports Massage Therapist”.

This happened just about the time Riddick Bowe and Rock Newman showed up. Riddick Lamont Bowe (born August 10, 1967) had won a silver medal in the super heavyweight division in boxing at the1988 Olympic Games. After turning professional, Bowe became a two-time world heavyweight champion, having first won the WBAWBC and IBF titles in 1992 to become the undisputed heavyweight champion.


Bowe became the first fighter to knock down and defeat Evander Holyfield when he claimed the undisputed world heavyweight title in 1992.

Rock Newman is a sort of  “RENAISSANCE MAN” who had been Captain of his Howard University Baseball team for 3 years, where he was selected as an All-American. After his graduation, he was enshrined into the Inaugural Class of the Sports Hall of Fame as one of the most outstanding athletes in Howard University history. Newman had done it all. He had been a very successful salesman, had been an award winning counselor and later became a top rated radio talk shows in the Washington DC metropolitan area where he interviewed people from all walks of life.

Rock had been involved in the careers of several champions, including guiding Riddick Bowe to the undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World. In November of 1992, Rock negotiated the largest compensation package for an athlete in sports history. Securing a deal with HBO/Time Warner and Caesars World that exceeded $100 million dollars in potential revenue for Bowe.

So here I was, living the monk’s life at an old dying Borsht Belt Hotel with the heavyweight champion of the world and his “handler.”

Each day I would go to training camp and watch Bowe spar with various partners, many of them highly ranked in the world of boxing. Newman was a very pleasant, very focused and extremely intense. I would watch how he directed and guided Bowe. He focused a lot on Bowe’s feet. This surprised me – I assumed that he would focus more on boxing techniques and defense.


Then I remembered something my friend Marty Kalminson once said to me when we were playing basketball in a 24-hour gym in Queens. “It’s all in the feet. As long as you are dribbling the ball the ball isn’t going anywhere that your feet aren’t going”. It made sense.


Years later, when I was deeply involved with the study of game based thinking and game theory I heard this again. I was reading about a television show “White Collar Brawlers.” On this show, a about the journey of life reflected through boxing,  two office adversaries push themselves to the limit, learning to the sweet sport from some of the sport’s most hardcore trainers, and then slugging it out in the ring in front of television cameras


On the show, one of the trainers James “Country” Thornwell talks about why he focuses on footwork when training boxers, “…when you build a house you build from the basement up. If a trainer doesn’t start you out by working your feet, get a different one. Everyone just wants to see the hands fly, but it’s more than that. Once you’re conditioned, then you’ll learn to jab.”


I thought about what he said here and applied it to my thoughts on why game based thinking is so essential to living an effective, efficient, productive and struggle free life.

““…when you build a house you build from the basement up. If your trainer doesn’t start you out by working your feet, get a different one. If you are not taught to think strategically even in the best of circumstances you are in big trouble. Strategic thinking is game based thinking. It integrates the logical, the rational and the intuitive. Everyone but a few smart thinkers want to get rich, have a beautiful mate,  get a nice car, get famous, and conquer the world but success is so much more than that. Even if one considers this “Stuff” a  sign of success it’s more than that.

Once you’ve learned about the game of life, the players, the game space, the rules, the penalties for cheating, who the cheaters are, how to influence them, how to define your skills and master them,  end game and such;  then you’ll master strategy  – then you’ll learn to jab.”







This was an extract from my notes on lifehacking. For a book on the subject I suggest:

“How to Hack Your Life Through Game Thinking” By Lewis Harrison. The book contains  over 400 high and low-fi hacks.



– Available as at:


The Softcover version is available at:

Learn more about all of Lewis Harrison’s educational materials at:


Lewis Harrison – The RealUGuru, is a writer, mentor, success and wealth coach, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem-solving, troubleshooting and strategizing based on game thinking, applied game theory and systematic thrift.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the “Life Hack Guru Radio Show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST  at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentations from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc….

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to read Lewis’ recently published business books contact him for personal coaching and mentoring. Learn more at:

You can find books on game theory, and business success here:

This course and all the offerings on  focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;


This blog is supported by a grant from Events Chair Massage ( This is a company offering Anti-Stress hacks.  This NYC Chair massage company offers Corporate chair massage to meeting planners, event planners, association meetings and trade shows. He also offers these stress management and onsite massage services in NYC at trade shows, and at the Javits Convention Center,  Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, Greensboro, Columbus Ohio and many other cities across the United States through


What is a Problem-REALLY?

 We often speak of problems but in reality there is no single definition of what a problem is. Our company solves some problems by using corporate chair massage to get rid of headaches and backaches.


Other  definitions of a problem  include:

  • Any situation which is unwelcome or harmful, and which needs to be dealt with and overcome.
  • An inquiry into some question to which the answer is not obvious.
  • Some process we have chosen to engage in that is difficult to achieve or accomplish and can be described in many different ways.

The most common words used to define a problem include; jig saw puzzle, trouble, worry, hiccup, setback, catch, predicament, stumbling block, plight, misfortune, mishap, misadventure, dilemma, quandary, headache, nightmare, snag, hitch, drawback, obstacle, hurdle, nuisance, bother, pest, irritant, thorn in one’s side/flesh, vexation, drag, pain, riddle, difficult and pain in the neck.

Many of the guests at our B & B and Retreat center are looking for skills to solve problems.   The   concept  of  “a problem”   can  be   observed  from a number of perspectives. On a basic level, we can categorize a problem by;



  • The type of problem it is;
  • The cause of the problem;
  • The level of difficulty required to solve the problem.

There is no one approach that is best for categorizing problems. Various problem-solving models will work best in specific situations even as many categorizing systems have been supplanted by other models or overlap with them. Nevertheless, the underlying principles remain valid – a problem is an unwelcome situation that needs to be dealt with and overcome. One thing is clear; we cannot allow a negative attitude, an attachment to short term gratification, resignation or disillusionment to interfere with the process of solving a problem.


One of my mentors often said, “To be disillusioned you must first have illusions”. Many problems arise because we project our own agendas onto the agendas of others with whom we feel a sense of rapport or connection. In the end, when we do this, we are often disappointed. Often it just a big puzzle.



Often what we perceive to be clarity of thought is nothing more than wishful thinking. In order to solve a problem with the least expenditure of energy, there are a number of things to keep in mind. To begin with it is essential that one recognize that without precision, focus and timing i.e. a system, one will struggle without reason. In addition, most systems have their own critical times and resonances. The key to effectiveness in solving problems is to work with the natural timing or rhythm of a system rather than in opposition to it.

One of the basic rules of physics is that it takes more force to apply the same pressure to a wide area than to a smaller specific point.  This applies to problem solving as well.


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Lewis Harrison – RealUGuru, is a writer, mentor, success and wealth coach, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem solving and strategizing  based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST  at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to read Lewis’ recently published business books.

You can find books on game theory and business success here:

This course and all the offerings on  focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;

Today’s stress management blog is supported by a grant from Events  Chair Massage – –  a company that offers Corporate Chair Massage and Stress Management Services to meeting planner, event planners, party planners and HR for Trade show booths throughout the United States. Also check out


Below is a chair massage demo that shows techniques our corporate chair massage therapists use to massage their clients’ upper back, shoulders, and neck — using elbows and forearms, with minimal use of the thumbs.

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How To Have a Happy Marriage

Humor can keep a marriage strong. In fact some problems, especially marriage problems get solved because we are will to accept the absurd as normal reality. This applies to game theory, life strategies and basic problem solving.

I accepted this as an epiphany of sorts during an argument my wife and I were having. Yup my wife and I had a bit of a tiff this week.  We were watching a movie about marriage and ruminating on why some couples stay together and others get divorced? Then we had a tiff about something.

Neither of us can remember what it was about but it was a tiff nonetheless. You see we are each from a different culture, religious background, racial heritage, and have differing and often oppositional tastes in almost every way.  To add to the differences I am 6’1” and she is 4’8” tall. I guess that the cause of the tiff is somehow tied to one of these differences… but I’m not sure.

Lilia and I never dated and she moved in with me the second time we met (I begged her to).  As I remember it the voices in my head said “Hey, Lewis, ask this woman that you don’t really know to move in with you” Of course I always do what the voices in my head tell me to do so I asked her, actually I begged her to stay. We got married in a year and many of our friends were convinced that we would be divorced in less than a year (sadly most of them are now divorced). We have spent well over a decade bickering about this or that. Our neighbors used to call us the “Bickerers”. (Oh they are now divorced as well).

I was single till I was forty seven and used to dazzle the ladies with my cooking skills. I only tell you this because Lilia doesn’t really like most of my cooking. I often create feasts for us and she send out for Chinese takeout.

Now all that being said we really do have something special. Trust and respect is at the top of the list and we’ve pretty much accepted what are often called by others as “irreconcilable differences”. Some say we have learned to compromise.  I’d rather call it drawing and seldom crossing a “line in the sand” that seems to be constantly moving. We often communicate effectively within an hour or two of any disagreement we may have. That might be the key to some sort of marital success.


I want to say that greatly respect the Pope and the Dalai Lama but have always wondered how easy it would to be the Pope or the Dalai Lama if they had to deal with the quirks of marriage.


So as I was saying Lilia and I had this tiff while we were watching a movie about marriage and we began ruminating on why some couples stay together and others get divorced?

This tiff and our discussion about it reminded me of a funny story I pulled out of  Woody Allen’s movie “Annie Hall” about marriage.

The male and female parts can be switched. It doesn’t  matter.


“A man goes to a psychiatrist and explains that his wife is insane.

“Maybe she is a bit eccentric” replies the psychiatrist. “You can learn to adjust to her behavior, after all marriage is compromise”.

“No” replies the man. “She is really crazy”

“What makes you so sure that she is crazy?” asks the psychiatrist

“She thinks she’s a chicken” Replies the man


“She thinks she’s a chicken”

“What makes you think, that she thinks she is a chicken?” Asks the Psychiatrist

“Well she acts like a chicken”!

“I don’t understand” Replies the psychiatrist

The man explains. “Every morning she wakes up and starts to make clucking noises. Then she bends over and starts to peck at the floor like she is eating seeds. Then she waves her arms up and down like a chicken does.”

“Wow” say the psychiatrist, “Your wife really does think she is a chicken”.

“That’s what I told you” replies the man.

“Why do you stay married to her”? Asked the psychiatrist

The man responded instantly, without any thought or sense of irony. “Because I need the eggs!”


Lewis Harrison is the founder and director of the Harrison Center for Personal Development. He is a radio talk show host, speaker, consultant, practical philosopher and Contemporary Spiritual Teacher. Lewis is a pioneer in the personal development movement The author of nine self help books on human potential he offers a monthly retreat/seminar “How to Solve Any Problem”.  He also and phone based coaching.   This blog is explored more fully through Lewis’ E-book “Everything You Need To Know About Staying Happily Married”. It is available for $7.00 and can be ordered directly from Lewis by calling him at 212-724-8782.

Listen to Lewis on the radio on his show “That Was Zen, This is Tao” Wednesday and Thursday 4-6 PM

Lewis speaks to companies and other organizations on stress management

Lewis also offers phone-based and on-line life coaching services and a monthly workshop/Retreat – a simple program for decision making based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”.

A Woody Allen Joke About Marriage


Game Theory based strategies deal not with mathematics  alone but with the idea that human often act irrationally

Thanksgiving is a time of family etc. My wife and I were watching  a movie about marriage and ruminating on why some couples stay together and others  get divorced?

Here is funny story, maybe a Zen Koan for you about marriage:


“A man goes to a psychiatrist and explains that his wife is insane.

“Maybe she is a bit eccentric” replies the psychiatrist. “You can learn to adjust to her behavior, after all marriage is compromise”.

“No” replies the man. “She is really crazy”

“What makes you so sure that she is crazy?” asks the psychiatrist

“She thinks she’s a chicken” Replies the man


“She thinks she’s a chicken”

“What makes you think, that she thinks she is a chicken?” Asks the Psychiatrist

“Well she acts like a chicken”!

“I don’t understand” Replies the psychiatrist

The man explains. “Every morning she wakes up and starts to make clucking noises. Then she bends over and starts to peck at the floor like she is eating seeds. Then she waves her arms up and down like a chicken does.”

“Wow” say the psychiatrist, “Your wife really does think she is a chicken”.

“That’s what I told you” replies the man.

“Why do you stay married to her”? Asked the psychiatrist

The man responded instantly, without any thought or sense of irony. “Because I need the eggs!”



Non-Verbal Communication

The focus of this blog is   To explore, and learn to apply wordless messages as a tool for the creation of love, wealth, freedom and greater influence.

Definition:  Nonverbal Communication – The process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages.

This is  extract of a class I taught on problem solving and the illusion of time.


STUDENT:  What is the history of nonverbal communication as an academic discipline?

LEWIS:  It is generally accepted that the first scientific study of nonverbal communication was The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), a book by Charles Darwin.  Darwin proposed that emotions could in fact be reliably communicated in facial expressions by these creatures.  For close to a hundred years, most researchers on nonverbal communication struggled with the idea that most definitions concerning this type of communication were based on arbitrary symbols.



STUDENT:  Why was this a problem?

LEWIS:  That would mean that the meaning of such symbols differed from culture to culture.



STUDENT:  How has this changed?

LEWIS:  Paul Ekman conducted influential studies in the 1960s that determined that expressions of fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy, sadness, and surprise are universal. With Ekman’s reach, it became clear that a large percentage of facial expressions are to some extent iconic, and thus universally understood.



STUDENT: I understand that human beings do not communicate by words alone.  Yet our bodies are regulated through the nervous system, and also by the sophistication of our communication skills.  Speak further about nonverbal communication skills from this perspective.

LEWIS:  Nonverbal communication can occur through any sensory channelsight, sound, smell, touch or taste, and transcend words.  Nonverbal communication may also include body language; posture, facial expression, voice tone, eye movements and eye contact, gestures, touch, (Haptic communication) and other subtle factors.  All these communication cues determine how we interact with other people.  In addition, our programming will determine the reality we choose to create and the boundaries we accept, either consciously or unconsciously.



STUDENT:  You mentioned other subtle factors of nonverbal communication.  What would be examples of this?

LEWIS:  People also use objects or artifacts to communicate nonverbally, including hairstyles, architecture, symbols, and clothing.  There are also many nonverbal elements within speech. This is commonly known as paralanguage, and may include elements such as pitch, voice quality, volume, rate, and speaking style, as well as prosodic features such as stress of voice, rhythm, and intonation.



STUDENT:  If  body language and posture are forms of nonverbal communication, where would dance fit into this conversation?

LEWIS:  Dance is definitively a form of nonverbal communication, and one of the most universally understood and expressed.



STUDENT:  How about writing, sign language, or painting?

LEWIS:  Yes these are considered verbal communication. All written texts have nonverbal elements, such as the physical layout of a page, handwriting style, and the spatial arrangement of words.  However, those elements of writing, or any other form of communication that do deal with words would be considered verbal communication.



STUDENT:  How about an art form such as painting?

LEWIS:  In painting there is the physical layout of a work, the painting style, the spatial arrangement of the elements in the work, and the tools used to create the work.



STUDENT:  There is so much here to learn.  Where can one begin?

LEWIS:  When studying nonverbal communication, it is usually easiest to explore and learn about face-to-face interaction.


STUDENT:  How would one do this?

LEWIS:  Nonverbal communication through face-to-face interaction is generally classified into three primary areas:

1. Environmental conditions where the communication takes place.

2. The physical characteristics of the communicators.

3. The behaviors of the communicators during interaction.



STUDENT:  Why these three?

LEWIS:  Because they utilize the primary elements in communication – neurology, understanding, and programming.



STUDENT:  This seems very complex and very systematic.

LEWIS:  It is very systematic, but this also makes it easier to understand.   Look, there are many different systems utilizing this triad of neurology, understanding, and programming. Among the most influential in my own studies and teachings are the writings of Milton Erickson, a pioneering psychiatrist in the field of trance work, hypnosis, and influence.  What made Dr. Erickson’s work unique was his mastery of rapport.  He developed the ability to enter the worldview of his patients, and from that vantage point, having established rapport, was able to make extremely effective interventions that influenced his patients to overcome many phobias and assorted life problems.  Most masters of influence now know that it is much easier to influence an individual or group if you can create rapport with them.  It is rapport that facilitates change through influence.



STUDENT:  What is the specific definition of rapport?

LEWIS:  Rapport is a harmonious communication or relationship between two or more living creatures.  Rapport is generally characterized by empathy, affinity, and mutual understanding.



STUDENT:  Are we always conscious that rapport is present?

LEWIS:  No.  Rapport is one of the most important features or characteristics of subconscious communication.  It is a commonality of perspective; being “in sync” with, or being “on the same wavelength” as the person with whom you are talking.



STUDENT:  Can one consciously build rapport with another?

LEWIS:  Yes.  There are a number of techniques that are supposed to be beneficial in building rapport such as matching your body language (i.e., posture, gesture, etc.); maintaining eye contact; and matching breathing rhythm.  Some of these techniques are explored in the Conversation on neuro-linguistic programming.



To explore these concepts in greater detail see the Conversation on Change, the Conversation on Understanding Systems of Greater Complexity, and the entry on Milton Erickson in the Level: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.

STUDENT:  Is whistling, grunting, or “scat” singing, as might be found in some forms of jazz, considered verbal communication?

LEWIS:  They might be in common language, but definitely not in specialized language. (See the Conversation on Specialized Language)  Among scholars and academics dealing with various forms of communication, the term “verbal” relates directly and specifically with spoken words. The vocal sounds you have spoken of in your question are nonverbal.



STUDENT:  I have heard it said that the eyes are the doorway to the soul.  Can you discuss eye gaze as a form of nonverbal communication?

LEWIS:  The study of the role of eyes in nonverbal communication is sometimes referred to as “oculesics.”  Eye contact can indicate interest, attention, and involvement.  Studies have found that people use their eyes to indicate their interest with more than the frequently recognized actions of winking, and slight movement of the eyebrows.  Eye contact is an event when two people look at each other’s eyes at the same time.  It is a form of nonverbal communication and has a large influence on social behavior.  Frequency and interpretation of eye contact vary between cultures and species.  Eye aversion is the avoidance of eye contact.  Eye contact and facial expressions provide important social and emotional information.  People, perhaps without consciously doing so, probe each other’s eyes and faces for positive or negative mood signs.

Gaze comprises the actions of looking while talking, looking while listening, amount of gaze and frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate.



STUDENT: Please discuss nonverbal cues of the voice.

LEWIS:  This is known as Paralanguage. (sometimes called vocalics)  It’s the study of  nonverbal cues of the voice.  Various acoustic properties of speech such as tone, pitch, and accent, collectively known as prosody, can all give off nonverbal cues.  Paralanguage may change the meaning of words.

The linguist George L. Trager developed a classification system which consists of the voice set, voice qualities, and vocalization.[11]

  • The voice set is the context in which the speaker is speaking. This can include the situation, gender, mood, age, and a person’s culture.
  • The voice qualities are volume, pitch, tempo, rhythm, articulation, resonance, nasality, and accent.  They give each individual a unique “voice print.”
  • Vocalization consists of three subsections; characterizers, qualifiers, and segregates. Characterizers are emotions expressed while speaking, such as laughing, crying, and yawning.  A voice qualifier is the style of delivering a message – for example, yelling “Hey stop that!”  as opposed to whispering, “Hey stop that.”  Vocal segregates such as “uh-huh” notify the speaker that the listener is listening.



STUDENT:  What are your closing thoughts on the concept of nonverbal communication?

LEWIS:  Communication, especially distinctions in how we hear or listen, has many subtle elements.  When we listen, (or speak) we naturally focus our conscious attention on words, rather than body language.  However, our subconscious absorbs and responds to both verbal and nonverbal signals.



STUDENT:  Can one easily distinguish positive forms of nonverbal communication from negative forms?

LEWIS:  Nonverbal forms of communication are not usually positive or negative in and of themselves; the perspective of the observer, the message being delivered, and the situation at hand will determine the appraisal.



STUDENT:  Is there still much research being conducted on nonverbal communication?

LEWIS:  Studies now range across a number of fields, including social psychology, linguistics, and semiotics.



STUDENT:  What are the specific characteristics that define a type of communication as nonverbal?

1. Nonverbal cues are culture bound.

2. Nonverbal messages primarily communicate attitudes and emotions.

3. Nonverbal cues substitute for, contradict, emphasize, or regulate verbal messages.

4. Nonverbal cues are continuous.

5. Nonverbal cues are more reliable.

6. Nonverbal cues are often ambiguous.



STUDENT: Speak about clothing as an element of nonverbal communication.

LEWIS:  There are many different levels of communication that are reflected from clothing, including cultural and social interests.  One of the most powerful forms of nonverbal communication related to clothing is a uniform.  All clothing has both a functional and a communicative purpose, but this is even more so with a uniform.  When a person is in uniform, they can identify gender, position, influence, rank and function.  All of these can be clarified even more if the uniform contains a badge and a social insignia.



STUDENT: Speak on bodily characteristics as an element of nonverbal communication.

LEWIS:  Elements such as physique, height, weight, skin, and hair can also convey nonverbal information.  There are certain bodily characteristics that change their meaning depending on the interaction and qualities of those involved in the communication.  These factors include skin color, ethnic background, national origin, gender, odors, and clothing.  Studies have shown that there is a correlation between how a person dresses and their interest in courtship.



STUDENT:  What is the connection between nonverbal communication and financial success?

LEWIS:  Nonverbal communication affects us on every level of living, including financial success.



STUDENT:  What are your final thoughts on this conversation on nonverbal communication?

LEWIS:  Nonverbal communication is often much more impactful than verbal communication.

The more one can understand body posture, the perception of time, and our relationship to space the more effective our communication will be.



STUDENT:  If a person has the use of language, why does nonverbal communication even exist?

LEWIS:  There are many theories on this point.  One theory states that spoken language is most effective as a tool for communicating information about events external to the speakers.  Nonverbal cues and codes are more effective for creating and maintaining interpersonal relationships.  This brings into play the concept of social intelligence.  In many situations, it is considered appropriate – more polite – to communicate attitudes towards others nonverbally, rather than verbally.


The Secrets of Initiation

This is derived from a class I taught on the role of initation in making effective strategic choices in life.

Lewis Harrison


The basics of this class was:  To explore how an individual is accepted by a group through a specific rite, ritual, or ceremony.

Definition:  Initiation – A formal rite of passage, often a ceremony, marking entrance or acceptance into adulthood or into a certain level or formal component within a group or society.

 Q & A

STUDENT: What is the source of the word initiation?

LEWIS: It comes from the Latin, initium: “a going in.”  It was originally used to describe “an entrance” or “beginning”.  The English verb “initiate” means to begin or start a particular event, happening, action, or circumstance.

STUDENT: What is the importance of the initiation process for the individual and for a group?

LEWIS: An initiation not only formally defines the agreement between the initiate and the group, but the initiation process may also signify that a transformation or “rebirth” has taken place.

STUDENT: Anyone can simply say that a person has had a transformation through some ritual or ceremony.  What makes an initiation anything more than a new myth or story without any real substance?

LEWIS: A shift actually takes place in the most authentic initiations.  There is a real process involved in an initiation with substance.  The shift is both in the perspective of the initiate and of how the group views the new initiate.  The simplest way to describe the shift is to say that the initiate has earned and has been given a new role within the group or society of which he may already a member.

Examples of transformational initiations that signify a transformation in which the initiate is “reborn” into a new role may include the Jewish bar or bat mitzvah, a college graduation ceremony, a Christian baptism or Confirmation (Christian sacrament), a ceremony within a martial arts school where a student earns a higher level belt, a mystic school where an initiate is given “secret” codes or information.  Other examples include a fraternal organization, a secret society, a religious order, and a recruit training for a military or Para-military organization, such as a militia or the Mafia.

STUDENT: Why do we need initiations at all?  We certainly could survive without them.

LEWIS: It may be that human beings are hard-wired to join groups, and groups are hardwired to create some initiation process.  It may be that in order to function effectively in life we need support systems and boundaries that help define our relationships to these support systems.  An initiation is a formal way of creating a relationship where those who are at a more evolved, transformed, or influential level in a group guide the initiate through a process of greater exposure of knowledge specific to the group.

STUDENT:  Are there any common elements that might be found in most initiation ceremonies?

LEWIS: In most initiations, the individual conducting the initiation (the initiator) possesses or is believed to possess a specific power or state of being and has the ability to transfer this power or state to the person being initiated.  As a student of Shamanism, I went through such an initiation process.  I was introduced to certain words and certain meditation practices which I was told would open the “Inner Door” to certain insight and mystic knowledge.

STUDENT: What type of knowledge or access to knowledge is imparted at an initiation ceremony?

LEWIS: It may be essential factual information, such as what a post-graduate student might receive from his or her noble prize winning professor.  It may include secret mantras or words as are given in mystic yoga initiations, secret hand-shakes used by street gangs, and specific revelation of private symbols or codes that might be used in a secret society, such as the Masons.  Some information is reserved for those at the higher level of understanding within a group, a bishop or cardinal in the Catholic Church, for instance.

STUDENT:  Where does the concept of initiation fit in the process of self-actualization, especially in the life of an extraordinary person?

LEWIS: Self-Actualization comes in many ways.  If one has belief in religion, spirituality, or esoteric philosophies, an initiation may cause a fundamental process of change within the person being initiated.  Self-Actualization almost always involves some type of personal transformation.  This is also the case in most initiation processes. What most initiations have in common is the concept of simultaneous death and rebirth.  Initiation is an end and a beginning.  One level of being drops away as another ascends.

STUDENT: What role is the initiate expected to play in an initiation?

LEWIS: The willingness to be initiated in thought word and deed.  In many groups it implies that the initiate agrees to certain requirements such as living a certain lifestyle, prayer, meditation, etc.

STUDENT: Are their many initiation processes that have no relationship to religion, secrecy, or spirituality?

LEWIS: Yes.  In fact, most initiation ceremonies are secular.  In many groups the use of the word “initiation” represents a brief familiarization with basic rules, guidelines, codes, and procedures of the group.  Some groups may charge a one-time initiation fee.  Unions, professional associations, and many clubs would fit into this category.  Generally, you might say that there is the form of a specific ritual and then there is the function or the value of the initiation to the group.

STUDENT: Are all initiations formal?

LEWIS: There are many initiations, symbols, and rituals that are tied to specific communities that are unspoken and yet would be defined as a rite of passage.  They are not true initiations in that nothing is asked of the initiate.  It is merely a joint event in the community that a person has participated in.  An example might be a sports coach winning his or her 1,000th game or a baseball player hitting his 100, 200, 300 or 400th home-run.  For some individuals an initiation of sorts has taken place when they have crossed the equator on board a naval ship or as passengers on board a cruise liner.  There are, literally, thousands of such initiation rites, some with long histories behind them and some newly created.

STUDENT: What is the most common initiation practice in the world?

LEWIS: Probably puberty rites.  These are sacred collective rituals whose function is to facilitate the transformation of an adolescent to an adult.  There are records of puberty rites going back to the dawn of human history.

STUDENT: What is the most common form of spiritual, if not religious, initiation?

LEWIS: In the last few decades there has been an increased interest in different “New Age” and Shamanic approaches to initiation.  Some are quite serious and profound while others are no more than exercises in spiritual materialism.  Authentic Shaman initiations are generally limited to those few who have a passion and a calling to do inner work that is not accessible to the rest of the community but may ultimately serve the community.

STUDENT: What other types of initiations are there?

LEWIS: Aside from formal initiation ceremonies, there are often unofficial initiations held or practiced within subcultures of the larger group.  Many aboriginal tribes use initiation to both reflect and define the tribal identity. Initiations can include many different practices including: circumcision of males, genital mutilation of females, sub-incision and scarification.  In these cultures initiation truly is a rite of passage in every sense of the word; preparing a young person to be a good husband or wife.

STUDENT: How large does a group need to be to have an initiation?

LEWIS: There is no standard for this.  Initiation, formal and non-formal, exists in sub-cultures within larger groups.  Such small communities exist within groups like the Green Beret’s, Navy Seals, and on board military vessels.  Members of these groups are often tightly knit communities that are so internalized that they function like families, even after the initiate has left the military.  These subgroups, like the larger groups they are part of, may have a hazing or a trial before a new member can be formally accepted.

STUDENT: How extreme or dangerous can an initiation ceremony become?

LEWIS: They can get pretty extreme.  Of course, much college fraternity hazing is designed to be humiliating and can be dangerous without any deeper meaning of transformation.  It’s just about “belonging to the group” and doing anything one can to be accepted.

STUDENT: How long does an initiation ceremony take?

LEWIS: There is no way to define this since some initiations go beyond a single ceremony.  My Shamanic Initiation extended over the course of two days.  My Bar Mitzvah took a few hours.  In some Aboriginal cultures initiations may take 3-4 months or even longer.

STUDENT: Is initiation really important in our modern society?

LEWIS: I would say more than ever and yet the more modern a society is, the less likely that initiation and rites of passage will be taken seriously regarding an individual’s growth and development.  The anthropologist Joseph Campbell discusses this in his PBS (Public Broadcasting System) interviews with Bill Moyers.  Without initiation and rites of passage society loses much of its reason for being; and that which was once held as sacred is lost.  In some tribes initiation is essential if a person is to be regarded as a full member of the tribe.  Otherwise, the individual may not be allowed to participate in core social rituals and ceremonies.

STUDENT: Is there a sacred element to the concept of initiation that is separate from religion or spirituality?

LEWIS: Yes.  If we are hard wired to create community and to form groups (see the Level:  Community) then we must also have a reason for doing so.  The group, as well, must have a reason for existing.  This reason is sacred in that without it the community would have no reason for existing (see A Conversation: “What is Sacred?”).  Thus, initiation becomes sacred because it reconnects us to who we are, who we are to become, and where we are in the community.  The initiation process also reconnects the community to its own history, origins, mythology, and culture.

STUDENT: What are the greatest benefits of a truly transformational initiation?

LEWIS: There are many and they may vary from culture to culture.  Here is a list of the most universal benefits of initiation:

  • Ritual death or “Dying while Living” enables one to live life more fully and guide a person to conquer the fear of real death.”
  • To reveal the deeper meaning of our existence.
  • To help a young person to accept accountability for his or her actions, and to hold them to a higher standard so they may be powerful and effective participants in the group.
  • To make them aware, on a transcendental level, of whom they truly are.
  • To ground them in “what is” so they might be fully open and available for “what might be”.

STUDENT: It seems as if initiations are merely events that people give meaning to – a sort of cultural meme?

LEWIS: This may be so in some groups but there are initiations that are structured to bring individuals into an authentic transformation. Many of these initiations can bring a person into an altered state of consciousness.

STUDENT: Can you give me an example of some physically extreme initiation?

LEWIS: Some Native American tribes practice a “Sun Dance” that requires intense mental and physical endurance.  You may research “Sun Dance” to learn more.

STUDENT: Is there some kind of initiation in your work as a mentor and coach?

LEWIS: No.  This work is not spiritual, religious, or group oriented in that sense.  However, initiation is an important part of any transformational process.

STUDENT: Can you speak about the idea of initiation and “Rites of Passage” and how they connect with the stories we create?

LEWIS: We all seek power in our lives.  A person in possession of real power knows that we are all limited or empowered not by our experiences alone but by the stories we create about these experiences.  We create different life stories for a variety of reasons, some within our control and others not.  We can exert power over others and be controlled by others’ powers because of many different factors, some under our control and others beyond our control.  These factors may include gender, religious beliefs, cultural background, age, or general life circumstances.  The popular motivational author and lecturer, Leo Buscaglia, defined six stages in a person’s development.  These stages are infancy, childhood adolescence, maturity, intimacy, and old age.  Different types of power will be important to an individual based on where they are developmentally.  The stories they create and the stories they will cherish from the past will often reflect the stage they are presently in.


Lewis Harrison, the author of this blog is a speaker, consultant, and Contemporary Spiritual Teacher. He is a  pioneer in the personal development movement  The author of nine  self help books on human potential he offers seminar, workshops, retreats and phone based coaching. He is creating a series of ebooks entitled “Ask Lewis…” which will be available on line

Lewis offers phone-based and on-line life coaching services and created the course on Life Strategies  –  a simple system for decision making based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash, the Nobel prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”.




Lewis hosts a weekly radio show “What Up” that explore game theory. The show broadcasts Wednesdays and Thursday on WIOX 91.3 FM  – 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM (EST).  The show is also available as an internet stream at the same time period at

What is Truth?

Lewis Harrison explores, “You Can’t Handle the Truth”

I awoke about 3:00 am this morning asking myself questions about truth and the distinction between what is truth or fiction? Sometimes this happens – I awake with just a few hours of sleep with some questions bouncing around my head. When this happens, going back to sleep or meditating is a lost cause. The only solution is to “dive” into the question. “is there a naked truth, an undisputed truth?”.

As I thought about the idea of truth that line from the play and movie “A Few Good Men” came I to my mind. The one where Jack Nicholson yells, “You can’t the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

Today Sunday, is a day when many of us express our faith either formally in some house of worship or in some personal way. The idea of faith which is a hope for the truth is closely tied to the idea that one can actually know what is true.


Here are some of my thoughts on this.

It seems that as knowledge and expertise increase, creativity and innovative thinking seem to drop off. There are many reason why this happens but one of the main ones is that once you systematize your world view and the patterns that form out of that a hidden type of arrogance forms where it is hard for a person to believe that they do not know as much about what they think they know and they think they do.

A belief that one knows what is true or “so” is likely to breed arrogance. After all once one achieves expertise in a particular subject, it’s is natural to imagine not knowing what you do. In time one develops a specialized language unique to this level of expertise including various catch phrases, cliché’s and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated. When it’s time to achieve a specific goal an expert is likely to achieve that goal the way it has always been done effectively. In a corporate environment this is often know as applying “best practices”. Unfortunately the down side of this way of thinking is that it stifles innovation and does not address the issue of new technologies and new ways of thinking

Any innovative thinker is cursed by their knowledge. On one level they can tap into wisdom and knowledge not available to most. On the other hand they can’t even conceive of what it might be like to be as ignorant as the mass of ordinary people.

How does one transcend this dilemma?

To begin with one must create a support system of experts from different disciplines. This can include individuals with highly creative and expansive minds who might even have done work in a related but different field, and who is not in a hierarchal or competitive environment of which you are a part.  You definitely do not want someone in this group who can gain or lose any benefit by agreeing or disagreeing with your ideas.

In this creative environment new types of “common language” that dissolve entrenched and ineffective specialized language will come into being. After all you can’t innovate in a group if everyone is speaking a different abstract language of specialization and expertise.  Part of this support system needs to be creative and artistic individuals whose only purpose is to keep these innovators track. This “outsider factor” forces the group of innovators to observe their reality from a new and different perspective. The result of this is new solutions to old problems and simple solutions to complex problems.

There are some very basic questions that will arise in any field of endeavor that will stump the experts.  Believing that you know the truth who worshipping your own expertise  is one of the great obstacles   to answering these questions

In my exploration of Applied Game Theory and in the Wisdom Path, my term for my daily spiritual practice, it is impossible to know any absolute truth intellectually.  This is not to say that there is no absolute truth, only that there is no way to come to it through a logical, deductive or inductive, left brain stream of thought. Among many great thinkers there is a trilemma (A difficult choice from three options, each of which is, or appears unacceptable or undesirable) .known as The Münchhausen trilemma (named after Baron Münchausen, a German Nobleman who told outrageous stories about his adventures including allegedly pulling himself and the horse on which he was sitting out of a swamp by his own hair).  Also known as Agrippa’s trilemma, this is a term used by philosophers and mathematicians to point out the purported impossibility of proving any truth even in the fields of logic and mathematics.

Imagine that a person states that something is “true”. I may then ask “How do you know that it’s true?” The person may then respond with some proof or evidence that it is in fact true.  Yet that same question can be asked of the fact or proof, and any subsequent proof. As I stated, the Münchhausen trilemma is that there are only three options when providing proof in this situation:.

  • Circular      Arguments – Here a theory and proof support each other (i.e. we repeat      ourselves at some point)
  • Regressive      Arguments – Here each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum ad (i.e.      we just keep giving proofs, presumably forever)
  • Axiomatic      Arguments – Here you must question even that which appears to be obvious,      self evident, unquestionable or based on accepted precepts (i.e. we reach      some bedrock assumption or certainty)

The first two methods of reasoning are essentially flawed. As for the third, many great thinkers going back to the great Taoist and Zen teachers as well as the Greek skeptics have recommended deep questioning of all accepted values. The trilemma, then, is the decision among the three equally unsatisfying options.

Looking at this idea metaphorically as presented by the ancient Greek philosopher Agrippa we must deal to with following obstacles to logical ideas about truth and what is true:

  1. Dissent – The      uncertainty of the rules of common life, and of the opinions of      philosophers.
  2. Progress as ad infinitum      – All proof requires some further proof, and so on to infinity.
  3. Relation – All      things are changed as their relations become changed, or, as we look upon      them from different points of view.
  4. Assumption – The      truth asserted is merely a hypothesis.
  5. Circularity      – The truth asserted involves a vicious circle. Here you would say      something is “so” and then make a justification for it. However even the      justification requires a justification or support.  Thus any proposition of any form       can be endlessly (infinitely) questioned, much like a child asking      “why?” over and over again.


If these ideas get your mental juices flowing you might want to explore the following thinkers and ideas:

*Plato’s Third Man Argument

* Tarski’s Undefinability Theorem

* Godel’s incompleteness theorem

* Any Zen koan





Lewis Harrison is a pioneering speaker, success coach and practical philosopher specializing in human potential and personal development.  He is the creator of the “Ask Lewis…” Series of ebooks.


He created the system known as Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory (LHAGT). This body of work is presented in  a 2,000 page manual offering  effective strategies for solving a multitude of basic and complex problems as well as exploring a wide range of disciplines.



He is the owner of  Events Chair Massage

Lewis conducts online training and coaching programs as well as residential retreats at the Harrison Center for Personal Development


His most recent book is “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times

Story Telling, Memes and Influence

Over time, any story or series of stories where true or not within a community may take on mythic proportions.  In the United States, where I was born and live the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, and  Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address  are examples.  Eventually, if a story is passed on enough times by enough people, it may take on a life of its own.  It may become a sacred story, a reality for us and our community with little connection to the historical events that were the source of the story. This sacred story, this myth, may actually reflect who we are in relation to our community and so reinforced it can how we see ourselves.


The most productive RTPs through history seem to be connected to the human evolution towards survival, reproduction, and personal and group efficiency and effectiveness.  This all happens on a backdrop of seasonal changes, the search for food sources, local geography, relations with perceived enemies, terrain, and so on. Regenerating Thought Programs (RTPs)  reflect these relationships. I a person doesn’t understand how this process works it is easy to become overwhelmed and depressed.


If you chose to live on the Wisdom Path while at the same time engaging the world you will consistently be dealing with the expansion of technology, internet based social networking, the reduction within the general population of critical thinking skills, access to web-based information, and an ever-increasing amount of data that will be thrown at You.  You will need to learn to deal with the breakdown in the traditional division between entertainment journalism, politics, influence peddling, spirituality and the politics of faith based organizations.  It is virtually impossible to address and integrate all of these factors in your life while discriminating and discerning between empowering thought patterns and Idea Viruses – negative RTPs. Clearly, technological innovations are a double-edged sword.  They can enhance our lives or displace and devalue human culture and human existence.


How can you know which RTPs are fact-based and which ones are simply rumors or disingenuous attempts to influence ones beliefs? This is no simple matter.  Our society today is so complex that concrete and simple things that seem to make sense are likely to out-compete a fact-based “truth” that may be less appealing.  What is one to do?




Lewis Harrison is an speaker, consultant, and Contemporary Spiritual Teacher. He is a  pioneer in the personal development movement  The author of nine  self help books on human potential he offers seminar, workshops, retreats and phone based coaching.

He is the author of the Comprehensive book Healing Depression naturally

He created the course on Life Strategies  – based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash the Nobel prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”. Lewis holds regular stress management,  and meditation retreats at his Spa in the Western Catskills. Learn more at

His company offers on-site chair massage through

Lewis hosts a weekly radio show “What Up” that explore game theory. The show broadcasts Wednesdays and Thursday on WIOX 91.3 FM  – 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM (EST).  The show is also available as an internet stream at the same time period at