Direct Your Mind: What Needs To Be Done Next?

This question will help you stay productive, especially in a distracting environment or if you feel upset (read more about asking yourself a question). It is good all by itself, but I often add a little statement to the front of it when I use it myself. I say: That’s not worth the attention; what am I doing next? 

In your life, you know some people irritate you, some kinds of circumstances annoy you, and there are things that make you angry. When something bothers you, you have a choice: You can do something about it or leave it behind you. This question is for the things you aren’t willing to do anything about (or can’t do anything about).

There’s no sense in even thinking about something if you can’t do anything about it or aren’t willing to do anything about it. That’s easy enough to say, but the problem is, of course, that our minds tend to stick on things like that, don’t they? If something seems unjust or wrong, it’s hard to get it out of your mind. Negative feelings compel your attention. The feelings arrest your attention, and generate thoughts that arrest your attention too, even when you’ve already decided not to do anything about it.

It takes a firm act of will to unstick your mind and go on about your life, but it’s an extremely useful ability to have. Get in the habit of not ever dwelling on something you can’t do anything about. Train yourself to redirect your mind to something productive. How? By asking yourself the question: “What needs to be done next?” Or, “That’s not worth the attention; what am I doing next?”

Attention is your main resource. It’s really all you have that’s worth anything. So when your attention is consumed by useless thoughts or feelings or actions, you’re throwing pieces of your life down the drain, and there are so many good things you could be doing with your attention.

There are more things, subjects, people of a positive nature than you could ever put your attention on. Why waste it on something negative unless you want to, or unless it serves you?

Say there are ten billion potential objects of attention available in the world at any one time. But you are limited. You have only so much time. You can pay attention to only so many things at once. For the sake of argument, let’s say you have only a hundred available units of attention at any given moment. There are ten billion objects available, but you can only partake of a hundred. Why take fifty or even ten of your hundred units and waste them on something unproductively negative?

What would you think about someone who had a hundred dollars and spent ten dollars buying something she didn’t want, even though there were at least a million dollars worth of things she really did want? You would think she was foolishly wasting her money, right?

You can put a stop to the waste of your attention. Say to yourself: “That’s not worth the attention; what am I doing next?” Use the question to plug the leaks in your bucket.

Your mind is attracted to certain things, compelled by certain feelings, some of which are negative and harmful. And your mind doesn’t change direction easily. The machinery of your mind, if we can call it that, is stubborn. But you don’t have to put up with it. Start saying to yourself today, “That’s not worth the attention; what am I doing next?” and don’t stop until a new habit is formed.

Start with little things, and when the big things come along, you’ll have the resources to deal with them. As William James wrote:

So with the man who has daily inured himself to habits of concentrated attention, energetic volition, and self-denial in unnecessary things. He will stand like a tower when everything rocks around him, and when his softer fellow mortals are winnowed like chaff in the blast.

Use this question and use it often and you will have power and self-control far beyond your peers. But here let me issue the following clarification: This statement-plus-question (that’s not worth the attention; what am I doing next?) shouldn’t be applied to certain things.

If you have a drinking problem, for example, and it’s destroying your health and your relationships and your financial future, you can do something about it, so this statement-plus-question is not applicable.

If you are experiencing grief because a loved one just died, your grief is worth your attention. It is healthy to grieve and unhealthy to suppress it. And there is something you can do about it. You can’t bring your loved-one back, but you can talk to someone about it. You can write about your pain in a journal. People who do these things after a big loss are healthier in the long run than people who don’t.

Dale Larson, PhD, and his research team at Santa Clara University surveyed close to 300 people about events in their lives they considered shameful or painful, and also about how much of these things they kept to themselves or shared with other people.

The researchers then looked at the volunteers’ records of mental and physical health problems. Of course, those who experienced severely stressful things like losing a parent as a child or rape, experienced more health problems, but the problems were significantly reduced in those who had talked about it than those who kept it a secret.

And in general, those who tended to keep painful or shameful experiences to themselves suffered more headaches, fatigue, and indigestion than those who had a tendency to confide things with a trusted friend.

James Pennebaker, PhD, who has done a tremendous amount of research on this subject, says, “not discussing or confiding [a traumatic] event with another may be more damaging than having experienced the event per se.”

Apparently, holding things in is a kind of psychological “work” and it’s a strain on your system to do it.

I should point out that it doesn’t work to share your pain with just anybody and everybody. If you’re going to talk, talk to a trusted friend, someone you know won’t share it with anyone else and who will not criticize you or make fun of you, but will listen. Or, as Pennebaker has found, it even works to write it in a journal.

This statement-plus-question (that’s not worth the attention; what am I doing next?) is to use for the annoyances and frustrations of daily life, including the people in your life who like to mess with your head or who seem to deliberately try to make you unhappy.

Did you think you were the only one? Think again, my friend. We all have people in our lives who seem to act like friends, but bring us down in one way or another.

The author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott was once given this friendly advice: Find work as a seamstress or servant.

You’ve probably heard of Vince Lombardi. He’s one of the most famous football coaches in the history of the sport. An expert once said of him, “He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation.”

In 1933 Fred Astaire had his first screen test. The testing director summarized Astaire like this: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.”

The better you are, the more you accomplish, the more people will try to bring you down. That’s just the way it is and there’s nothing you can do to change that reality. You can, however, respond to it any way you choose.

I want you to remember something: Life is only so long, and then it’s over. Don’t waste precious moments. Don’t throw away your attention.

I know a woman who brings up bad news every time you talk to her. She reads the newspaper, and whenever there’s something particularly tragic or terrible, it obviously sticks in her mind, as it would most normal people. I don’t read newspapers for that very reason: I don’t want things like that stuck in my mind. There’s nothing I can do about a car accident that happened yesterday.

This woman brings up bad news, and doesn’t just mention it, but goes into graphic detail, and she’s skilled enough to give you a sharp, full-color image of the tragedy in all its vivid sadness.

When she talks to me, she gives me things that compete with other thoughts, images, ideas. There’s a limit to how many thoughts I can hold. The same goes for you. Our capacity for attention is limited. Even if we’re much better than average, we can only hold so many thoughts at once. So in this sense, thoughts are in competition for our attention.

Graphic, compelling, tragic thoughts compete very effectively because strong emotions demand attention. I used to listen to this woman, but then I realized something important: When she shared her news, it served her goals, but not mine.

Now as soon as the headline comes out of her mouth, I change the subject. I don’t let her fill me in on the graphic details. Luckily, I don’t have to talk to her much. But it’s an example of how some things that compel your attention very strongly don’t necessarily help you. Giving them your attention may serve someone else, but it only poured your precious moments down the drain.

The same holds true when the thought has not been put there by someone else. The human mind is incredibly full. Your mind can wander far and wide, and sometimes it stumbles upon a worry or fear, and even though it may be an emotionally gripping thought, that doesn’t mean it has to be thought through, figured out, or solved.

When something is emotionally commanding, it often feels as if the thought is clamoring very loudly for your attention, like a baby crying or loud moans of pain from someone nearby, but the feeling may have nothing to do with the worthiness of the thought itself.

After I decided to write books for a living, I was often haunted by the worry: “What if I never make it? What if nobody wants to buy my books? What if I try and try and I go broke and wind up a penniless street person and die of cold in some gutter as an old man?”

Somewhere along the way, probably in a fit of despair, I created that vivid mental image and it was compelling for emotional reasons. But it was a stupid thing to think. Yes, the book business is not as “secure” as some other fields, but I had made up my mind to do it, so this kind of worrying was not doing me any good.

This statement-plus-question (that’s not worth the attention; what am I doing next?) put my mind on a new track. When I get that image now of being a penniless street person lying in a gutter, this statement-plus-question is fast on its heels, and it happens so quickly now, the image has begun to motivate me and increase my determination.


Because of the question: “What am I doing next?” Because of the haunting image, what I want to do next is work on becoming successful in the book business! I want to make sure I don’t goof off. It motivates me to burn the midnight oil. As soon as my thoughts turn to what I need to do, I am off and running and forget about the worries. I’m too busy making it happen to worry about whether it’s going to happen or not.

This is totally different from what used to happen. The image used to bring me down. The image was compelling because it was me in the image, and I was afraid of it. It was like a leach, sucking my lifeblood (my attention) and contributing nothing to me. It was a parasitic thought.

And what is the best thing to do with a parasite? Kill it. If you had a tick or a leach or an intestinal worm, you wouldn’t hesitate to cut its life short. Mercy or compassion for a parasite would be stupid. It’s leaching off of you. It is taking your life, your energy, your attention, and only taking. Giving you nothing.

When you have a thought in that category, show no mercy, show no coddling, and do not play around: Cut it off without delay.

And the way to cut off a thought, the way to kill it, is to replace it with a better one. The mind won’t remain empty for long. You can’t just stop thinking something. You have to have something better to think instead. It is counterproductive to try not to think something.

Two researchers from the University of Virginia — Daniel Wegner and Daniel Gold — told 110 female and male subjects to think about a past lover who they still desired. Then they were given eight minutes. Half of them were told to continue to think about the lover. The other half were told to suppress thoughts of their previous lover — to not think of them at all for the eight minutes.

Then the researchers hooked everyone up to a device that measures emotional reactions. It measured how much sweat they produced on the surface of their fingers, and the subjects were told to think about their former sweethearts again. Those who had spent eight minutes trying to get their old flames out of their minds had a much stronger emotional reaction.

One of the researchers, Daniel M. Wegner, PhD, is somewhat famous in psychology circles for his many experiments showing what happens when you suppress a thought: It makes the thought more intense and obsessional. Some of his earlier experiments went like this: He put people in a room with a tape recorder and told them to speak aloud whatever was on their minds, except for one thing — under no circumstances were they to think about a white bear.

The tape recorded their ongoing thoughts, which included something about a white bear, on average, about once a minute. There are billions of things to think about, but their minds kept coming back to the one thought they were trying not to think. They tried as many mental tricks as they could come up with, but the thought of a white bear kept coming back to them.

When you say to yourself, “That’s not worth the attention; what am I doing next?” you are putting your mind on something else instead of trying not to think something. And it works.

Do this often enough, and even a thought that used to haunt you often could begin to remind you to think the new thought. After awhile, your mind will start to streamline the process and skip right over the old thought, and at that point you’ve effectively choked off its lifeblood (the attention it was draining from your life). It only lives by your attention, and when it no longer gets any attention, it is dead.

And when it is dead, you have just gained more life.

The question, “What needs to be done next?” is also good on its own. It gets your mind thinking productively, no matter what’s happening. It can help you pull yourself out of a bad mood. It can help you get back on track. Try it today.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Live! Death Approaches - Season 3, Episode 15 of the Adam Bomb Podcast

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How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English): 
Antivirus For Your Mind: 
Principles For Personal Growth: 
Cultivating Fire: 
Direct Your Mind: 
Self-Help Stuff That Works: 
Fill Your Tank With Freedom: 
Self-Reliance, Translated: 
What Difference Does It Make: 

The Oil Monopoly Causes Mental Illness

I was talking with the director of a large mental health hospital during the financial crisis of 2007-2009. When I talked to him, they had just finished building a new wing of the hospital, and he said they'd been extremely busy since the Great Recession began. He told me something I've never heard before — recessions always initiate a steep rise in mental health problems.

I must have looked surprised. He explained, "Well, people lose their jobs, which causes stress, and sometimes they lose their houses too. Under the strain, couples get divorced. Depression and anxiety increase. Anger and frustration rear their ugly heads. Sometimes people deal with it by drinking too much or taking drugs, and that causes even more problems. Sometimes the stress can trigger the onset of latent problems like psychosis and schizophrenia."

All of this got me to thinking. Since every time oil prices have spiked since WWII, we've had a recession in the United States, and since recessions cause more peoples' lives to fall apart, and since we could prevent rising oil prices from causing recessions if we had sufficient fuel competition, then it is not unreasonable to assert the following:

Oil's monopoly on transportation fuel
causes mental illness.

Or at least the oil monopoly plays a causative role in triggering a greater number of mental health problems than would otherwise have occurred.

So we can chalk this up as yet another good reason to stop the insanity of perpetuating a one-fuel economy. In addition to increasing our national security and boosting our economy, fuel competition can help keep our citizens mentally healthy. In addition to curtailing the money going to prop up dangerous women-oppressing regimes, lowering the amount of lobbying and influence the oil industry enjoys, helping to solve our garbage and landfill problem, helping people in developing nations rise out of poverty, and reducing the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases sent into the atmosphere, into the ocean, and into the ground, fuel competition can also literally make the world a saner place.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Rising Oil Prices Cause Recessions — ALL of Them

Perk Earl wrote: "Economist James Hamilton has shown that 10 out of the last 11 US recessions were associated with oil price spikes." Read more about that here.

Higher gas prices are not just irritating. They affect the economy rather broadly, as the following excerpt from the book, Fill Your Tank With Freedom makes clear:

There is an insidious side-effect of rising gasoline prices. As people spend more money on gas, they spend less money on other things, and that causes the loss of jobs. “Since consumer spending is the main driver of the U.S. economy,” says Mark Cooper, Research Director of the Consumer Federation of America, “when speculators, oil companies and OPEC rob consumers of that much spending power, the inevitable result is a dramatic reduction of economic activity and employment.”

In Cooper’s study of the effect of oil prices on jobs, he discovered that every time oil prices have spiked since World War II, we’ve had a recession in America. In his study, he showed that because oil was about $30 a barrel higher than “costs or historic trends justify,” (from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011) gas prices rose by a dollar a gallon in one year, which drained about 200 billion dollars from the economy. This is about two percent of consumer spending. That doesn’t seem like much, but two percent less spending (200 billion dollars) created the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Another way to look at it is that because most of our cars are not capable of burning anything but gasoline, we imported about $500 billion dollars per year of oil, sending that money out of the country. That would have paid five million workers $100,000 a year! But the money leaving our country just leaves — doing nothing for us. If the same money was paid to workers here, it would have a huge ripple effect in our economy because that money would then be used to buy other goods and services in America.

Saudi Influence on the U.S. Government

Saudi oil billionaires have hired American law firms and lobbying organizations to promote their agenda within the U.S. political system. They keep these powerful groups on their full-time payroll. The Saudis alone have 100 lobbyists in Washington (the NRA, considered one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington D.C., has 28 lobbyists). According to, the total number of lobbyists reported for the year 2012 who were working for the oil and gas industry is 736! But let’s just focus on the Saudis for now.

They not only have 100 lobbyists who spend their time persuading our politicians to adopt their point of view, but the Saudis influence individual politicians directly through the incentive of money, and it’s all perfectly legal.

In chapter three of Robert Zubrin’s book, Energy Victory, he details the amazing system of Saudi oil-money payoffs to American politicians. I’ll give you a few highlights here.

Many of the ways money directly influences politicians are officially declared as such. But there are “innumerable other influentials who accept well-paid consultancies from the Saudis and who chose not to make the connection public,” wrote Zubrin. “One of these appears to be former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who had to resign from his position as head of the September 11 investigative commission when he was asked to disclose his client list.”

He wasn’t the only one. Senator George Mitchell, former Senate majority leader, had to quit his position as vice chair for the same reason.

Another way Saudis influence American politicians is by spending big money for weapons made by American companies. The Saudis have spent about 100 billion dollars on sophisticated weapons they have not used (because Saudi Arabia is protected by the United States military). Their purchases give them influence — what the defense contractors’ say to politicians can be manipulated by the Saudis.

And since big defense contracts create lots of jobs, the Saudi influence spreads to the politicians in whose districts those jobs will be created.

Another way to legally give money to influential American politicians is through making a politician a board member of a corporation, and generously paying them for their “service.”

Here’s how it works: Saudi funds are used to create a business partnership. An important political figure is then invited to sit on the board. The business then pays the politician a fantastic sum for basically doing nothing. For example, according to the New York Times, former secretary of state James Baker has received 180 million dollars for his board membership in the Carlyle Group, an investment firm funded largely by Saudis.

This is not an isolated case. Far from it. According to former CIA counterterrorism case officer Robert Baer, author of Sleeping With the Devil, “…almost every Washington figure worth mentioning has served on the board of at least one company that did a deal with Saudi Arabia.”

Another legal way money is transferred to politicians is to invite influential people onto the board of a corporation and give them stock options in the company. The politician serves on the board for short time, and then cashes out the stock options, often reaping huge profits.

The above is an excerpt from the book, Fill Your Tank With Freedom.

With Fuel Competition, You Would Save a Lot of Money

How much would the average American family save if the Open Fuel Standard bill passes into law? Kelly Cook, the National Field Director for ACT! for America, has done the following calculations:

The price of gasoline and diesel has dropped 40 to 50 cents since those figures were used from the $4.00 level.

I’ve just used the following math, which is pretty indisputable and it would be instructive to your readers to follow the math...their potential savings.

The auto experts I’ve been seeing all seem to come in around the 12,000 to 15,000 average miles per year per car and/or pickup in the U.S. I’m sure this could be narrowed down with a little research.

Average family owns: 2.28 cars or pickups (source). The ratio nationwide is 55% cars and 45% pickups (source).

Average fuel mileage nationwide for cars is: 24.6 mpg.

Average fuel mileage nationwide for pickups is: 16 mpg.

Weight the number slightly to the favor of the cars since they have 55% of the total and I come up with an average of 22 mpg for cars and pickups.

13,500 miles per year average divided by 22 mpg =  614 gallons per year per vehicle.

Multiply 614 X 2.28 cars per family = Average U.S. family burns 1,400 gallons per year for all the family vehicles.

Current national average of gasoline / diesel (weighted towards gasoline) = $3.60.

Current price of natural gas refined methanol per gallon is $1.30.  (Raw cost = 30 to 40 cents + profit and taxes).

Plus add in the 60% range of methanol to gasoline = $1.83 equivalent range adjusted price to gasoline.

$3.60 minus $1.83 = $1.77 savings per gallon.

$1.77 X 1,400 gallons per year per family = $2,478 annual savings.

If the price were still at $4 for gasoline, the annual saving would be:

$4.00 minus $1.83 = 2.17 per gallon.

$2.17 x 1,400 gallons = $3,038.00 annual savings per year per family.

So we can reasonably say that the average family could save between $2500 and $3000 per year for their average 2.28 vehicles depending on how “generous” OPEC is at any given time.

Although the math is flawless here, it might not work out exactly like this. It might be not quite as good. It might be significantly better. As Mr. Cook says, "At best, this is a moving target because everything about the variables of my calculation are moving targets. Nothing is static – the price of oil, the price of methanol, MPG of cars and trucks, average cars per family — nothing."

But it's a very good rough estimate, and would create more discretionary income for us all, and that's always good for the economy. Two of the things Mr. Cook didn't try to factor in could also be significant: The continually rising cost of oil, and the petroleum costs on just about every other commodity. It is almost certain that oil prices will continue to rise in the foreseeable future. And since almost every product has been shipped, the rising cost of oil raises the price of everything else.

Each of us could have more money in our pockets every year. Let's pass the Open Fuel Standard and make it happen.

What Myth Do You Live By? - Season 3, Episode 14 of the Adam Bomb Podcast

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How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English): 
Antivirus For Your Mind: 
Principles For Personal Growth: 
Cultivating Fire: 
Direct Your Mind: 
Self-Help Stuff That Works: 
Fill Your Tank With Freedom: 
Self-Reliance, Translated: 
What Difference Does It Make: 

Why Support an Open Fuel Standard?

1. Saves money. An open fuel standard would bring down gas prices at the pump. The main reason gas is so expensive is that OPEC has no competition, so it can (and does) deliberately lower its production to raise the price of oil, and we have no choice but to pay it. OPEC knows this, and takes advantage of its leverage. Fuel choice at the pump will be the end of this long-running and destructive monopoly.

2. Healthier. The fumes from burning alcohol are less toxic than the fumes from burning gasoline — considerably less toxic to humans and other living things.

3. Better economy. Better economy. An open fuel standard will generate jobs in the United States. Americans will build fuel-processing plants, new fuel stations, we’ll grow the raw materials to make methanol from biomass, grow crops to make ethanol, discover new sources, invent new alternative fuels, and come up with new ways to make fuel from waste products. American ingenuity will have a field day. A lot of money goes to fuel for transportation. With an open fuel standard, much more of this money will circulate in the American economy rather than being sent overseas. In addition, becoming less dependent on oil will prevent recessions.

4. Safer. Alcohol is less flammable than gasoline, and therefore less dangerous and less likely to explode. One of the things that makes gasoline dangerous is that its vapors sink to the ground where they can ignite. Alcohol vapors evaporate and dissipate. Alcohol burns cooler than gasoline, too, which also makes it less dangerous. That's why the United States Auto Club banned gasoline from their races.

5. Less carbon impact. Alcohol fuels put less carbon into the air. To drill for oil, you're taking carbon out from underneath the surface of the earth and burning it, adding carbon to the air that wasn't already there. But ethanol and methanol can be made from plant material. So the plant pulls carbon out of the air, and when it is burned as fuel, it returns the same carbon back into the air.

6. Inexpensive. Manufacturing a car with flex-fuel capability adds very little to the price of a car. It is a relatively small tweak, usually adding around one hundred dollars to the production cost of a new car. In Brazil, this cost is absorbed by the car companies and doesn’t raise the price of the car. That will probably be the case in the U.S. too.

7. Budget friendly. It doesn't cost the federal government any money. It doesn't involve any subsidies.

8. Environmentally friendly. An "alcohol spill" would not be a disaster like an oil spill. Alcohol dissolves in water and is readily consumed by bacteria. Within a few days of an Exxon-sized ethanol or methanol spill, the ocean would be back to normal.

9. National security. Fuel competition at the pump will reduce the amount of money going to regimes hostile to America (and hostile to their own populations). These regimes are dangerous. The world would be better off if those governments didn't have so much wealth to use to harm or repress others.

10. Freedom. With an open fuel standard, every alternative fuel could compete against gasoline, thereby allowing consumer choice. Cars could be flex fuel, electric, hydrogen, natural gas, biodiesel, or anything except monopoly-perpetuating gasoline-only cars.

An open fuel standard would bring an end to oil’s long-running harmful monopoly of transportation fuel, and would usher in a new era of economic vitality and energy independence in America.

11. Good for everyone. It will have a positive global impact, for two reasons: First, because the U.S. buys so many cars, when foreign car makers switch to making flex fuel cars, those same cars will be sold in other parts of the world, spreading fuel choice everywhere (and reducing pollution, reducing environmental damage from oil spills, and reducing carbon in the air everywhere, too).

And second, methanol from biomass will probably become the preferred fuel (it's very cheap, high octane, and can be made from almost anything, including municipal waste). And developing countries — especially those in tropical regions, where plants grow abundantly — will have money-making opportunities to cultivate plants to use for biomass, creating a market for their products, which will raise their income.

For all these reasons, an open fuel standard is worthy of our support.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Fuel Competition Within a Car is Far Better Than Competition Between Cars

As soon as possible, we need to break oil’s monopoly on transportation. The fastest, least expensive, most immediately effective way to strip petroleum of its strategic status is with flex fuel cars — by making the cars themselves a platform upon which fuels can compete.

Even though we have CNG cars (compressed natural gas) and electric cars and others, that is not good enough — fuels are still not really competing. Not many of us can afford to have four or five cars (each powered a different way) so we could choose on any given day how we will power our day’s commute. When people have few choices at the pump, the logical course of action is to buy a car that runs on the most available fuel, which is why most people are still buying petroleum-only cars.

When you arrive at the pump to fill your tank on any given day, if your car is capable of burning multiple fuels, those fuels are in immediate competition for your dollar. That kind of competition will drive fuel prices down. If your vehicle can only be powered by one fuel, those multiple fuels are not really competing with each other for your business. The car manufacturers are competing, but not the fuel.

In other words, the competition needs to happen within each vehicle (not between vehicles) or it’s not true fuel competition.

To bring about fuel competition as quickly as possible, we should all stop burning petroleum fuels and spend as much of our transportation money as we can on anything but oil. Right now, ethanol is the most available alternative, so we can start there. It might be easier than you think. Ethanol can be the thin edge of a big wedge with which we can open the fuel market. 

And we should pass the Open Fuel Standard to speed up the process of making this a flex fuel nation. It will change the world.

Make Your Own Fuel

You can make your own ethanol at home, and it's legal. You simply need to get a "small fuel producer" permit from the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. 

Permits are free, and entitle you to make up to 10,000 gallons of ethanol fuel at home for personal use per year. For more information, check out Journey to Forever.

You can make your own still or buy one. Here are a few places online that sell already-made stills:

Pessimism Is Bad For Your Immune System

The human immune system is incredibly complex. As living organisms, we are constantly bombarded by invading viruses, fungus, and bacteria and it is a constant battle with first, second and third lines of defense against invaders. 

We have immunoglobulin A, for example, in our saliva, to help kill invaders as they enter our mouths. We have many different immunoglobulins in our lungs, our intestines, our tears, etc. — in our points of vulnerability — the places where an invader can invade. At those points, we have immune defenses, guard posts, forts, standing guards. 

Our lives are at stake and the immune system that has evolved is amazing. The benefit of an advance in immune system technology all along our billions of years of evolution were enormous: The ultimate benefit — life or death.

We have T-cells that circulate in the blood and when they recognize an invader they have fought before, the measles or a flu virus for example, they reproduce the antibody for that invader and overwhelm it to kill it off.

When a virus invades your body, it's always a race between your T-cells and the invader. Whichever one can multiply fastest wins. You are invaded fairly often, but if your T-cells reproduce faster than the invader, you never even know the war went on. You won. You didn't get sick. But if your T-cells are sluggish, if they don't reproduce fast enough, the invaders multiply too quickly and overwhelm your defenses, and then backup defenses take over: Fever, excess mucous, whatever tools your immune system can muster to destroy the invader and prevent your own death.

Another battalion in your immune system is natural killer cells (NK cells). They cruise through your blood looking for anything foreign, like cancer cells, and kill it off. Your NK cells are more effective under certain conditions than others.

In one study, the researchers measured the level of pessimism, cynicism and defeatism (the deadly triad) in a group of elderly people and also once a year took blood samples to check the activity level of their immune system. The immune system was less vigorous and less effective in those with the highest measure of the deadly triad. Pessimism is bad for your immune system. Pessimism weakens your defenses against disease.

In another study, researchers looked at what might happen if people learned to think less pessimistically. They divided cancer patients into two groups. Both groups received standard medical care, and one group also received training in thinking less pessimistically once a week for twelve weeks, and also learned some relaxation techniques.

Taking blood samples, the researchers measured the NK cell activity. It was dramatically higher in the people trained to think differently.

In a study I mentioned in my book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, people were tested for their level of pessimism, cynicism, and defeatism. Then they were given some health-related information to study on health topics (like cancer, for example). Here's an interesting finding that really ought to be obvious: The most pessimistic spent less time studying the information and remembered less of it. It ought to be obvious but it was surprising to me when I first read about it, and it's surprising to a lot of people (especially pessimists).

But if you think about it, the outcome of the study makes perfect sense. Pessimism of course makes you less inclined to believe you can do anything to successfully change the course of events. And if you assume you can't do anything about preventing cancer, for example, you're not going to be very motivated to learn anything about it, are you? By assuming you're helpless, you become more of a victim.

What I like about this study is it counters what seems to be a common belief negative people have about optimists. They believe it is a form of sticking your head in the sand and ignoring reality. How else, the pessimists ask, could you avoid being pessimistic, cynical and defeatist? But this study shows that it is actually the people infected with the lamprey of the mind who are avoiding reality. People who haven't had their strength drained by the lamprey know that their own actions have an impact on the world. They know they aren't helpless. They know they have an influence on the outcome of events, so they are more open to information that can help them influence those events.

Because they get more information and they don't make themselves feel defeated, optimistic people are more likely to take action like eating better, exercising, getting checkups at the doctor. A pessimist is less inclined to take those kinds of actions because they feel it won't make much difference. And their lack of positive action makes them statistically more likely to die prematurely.

An optimist (and here I'm using the word in the scientific sense, which really has nothing to do with looking on the bright side or saying nice things to yourself; read more about scientific optimism) might say, "I can quit smoking." And if they try once and fail, they wouldn't give up. They aren't defeated so easily. They'll try again.

A pessimist would be less likely to try in the first place because they explain events in more defeatist ways. "I can't help it. Nicotine has me completely addicted." But if they try anyway but fail, their explanation will not motivate them to try again: "I guess I just can't do it." They are more likely to accept their fate and die prematurely.

In a study of cancer patients, those who thought most pessimistically had the highest death rates, even though they weren't any more diseased when the study began.

Here's another interesting study. Researchers from California and Finland teamed up to ask 2400 men how much they agreed with these two statements:

1. The future seems to me to be hopeless, and I can't believe that things are changing for the better.

2. I feel that it is impossible to reach the goals I would like to strive for.

Clearly this simple questionnaire measures how thoroughly the lamprey has done its work.

Six years later, the ones who answered with pessimism, cynicism and defeatism were two to three times more likely to have heart attacks, develop cancer, or die of any cause.

Researchers are amazingly creative. Some people collect stamps. I collect studies. I love the way researchers go about discovering how things work. Here's another good one. Researchers in Texas tested 2300 people over the age of 65 for the following:

        1. Hopefulness about the future.
        2. How much they enjoyed life.
        3. Self-worth.
        4. Their average walking speed.
        5. Their happiness level at the time.

Two years later, the researchers followed up on these people. Using these measurements of emotional health, they found that the least pessimistic participants were:

    1. Half as likely to have trouble with their daily activities.
    2. Were twice as likely to be alive.
    3. Had faster average walking speeds.

And these results were independent of their sex, weight, education level, or how much they drank or smoked.

In a Carnegie Mellon University study, researchers gave a cold virus using a nasal spray to 400 volunteers. They found that the most stressed out were twice as likely to catch the cold. Pessimistic, cynical, defeated ways of thinking make mildly stressful situation into more intensely stressful events, and as their actions ensue from their thoughts, they make things get even more stressful (by snapping at people, for example, causing people to snap back). The stress and the cortisol it produces then impairs the immune system.

Another great study was done by the Mayo Clinic. This one followed 800 people for 35 years. Every ten point difference in their level of pessimism increased their chances of dying from any cause 19 percent.

cortisol: the stress hormone

When you undergo stress, your body responds by pumping cortisol into your blood stream. Scientists all over the world have shown how cortisol influences the immune system, sometimes quite directly. For example, college students volunteered to have their mouths injured once during their summer vacation, and once again three days before the first test of a new semester. Cortisol levels are lower during summer vacation and higher right before exams.

The wound given in the mouth was very exact and measured carefully. Then the researchers measured a wound-healing substance in the blood and measured how long it took the wounds to heal. The ability to heal a wound is another of the immune system's line of defense.

During vacation, the wounds healed, on average, in eight days. During the exams, the wounds took eleven days. During the exams, the amount of the wound-healing substance in the blood dropped a whopping 68%.

Psychological stress is one of the side-effects of pessimism. And stress alters the level of certain hormones, like cortisol. These changes in hormones then alter the synthesis of other compounds. For example, cytokines are a compound that help regulate the immune system. When stress levels go up, it changes the level of cytokines.

This kind of roundabout causal chain explains some of the many different influences pessimism, cynicism and defeatism have on the immune system. For example, when people are given a vaccination for Hepatitis B or the flu, their immune system responds. Researchers have found that stress suppresses T-cell activity and measurably lowers antibody levels.

It's a common observation of doctors that people don't recover from surgery as well if they are very anxious and depressed before the surgery, but researchers have only recently begun to find out how this could be possible. Like the study above, another experiment deliberately injured volunteers and then carefully measured the immune response to see if the more stressed volunteers' immune response differed from the less stressed ones. It did.

The researchers created minor blisters on the volunteers' forearms and then removed the top skin layer of the blisters, sterilized it and covered it with plastic. They then tested the fluid in the blisters five hours later and then 24 hours later.

They were looking for two specific cytokines and the number of cells called neutrophils (a key cell your body uses to repair an injury).

The number of neutrophils was no different in stressed and unstressed people. But the number of cytokines was significantly lower in stressed people. They tested the volunteers' stress level by measuring the cortisol in their saliva. There was a strong correlation: The higher the cortisol level, the lower the cytokine level. Stress directly suppressed their immune response.

And thinking pessimistically, cynically, and defeatedly increases your stress level.

Researchers at the University of Texas Cancer Center discovered that stress hormones like norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline) blocked the ability of macrophages to kill tumor cells. Macrophages are one type of white blood cell that surrounds and destroys invaders.

Here again, we see a chain reaction: An event happens and you interpret it. If the lamprey has a hold of your mind, the event causes stress hormones to be released into your blood stream. The stress hormones then weaken and hobble your immune system, making you more vulnerable to any number of health problems.

Feelings of confidence can influence your immune system. UCLA researchers tested the immune systems of a group of first-year law students at the beginning of a semester. By mid-term, those who thought pessimistically about their chances of succeeding had weaker immune systems by mid-term. Those who weren't under the influence of pessimism still had strong immune systems by mid-term.

If you know anything about evolution, you have probably had the thought, "Wouldn't our immune systems have evolved to kick into high gear during stress rather than slowing down?" But the body is making a trade-off. Stress hormones activate your body to deal with an immediate, physical threat. Stress hormones release blood sugar and rush it to your muscles. They speed up the heart and breathing rate, etc. When a virus enters your system, however, it doesn't upset you. No adrenaline is poured into your blood stream. You don't even know it happened until later. It is an altogether different kind of threat, and we have evolved an altogether different system to deal with it.

A stress response is an evolved response designed to be brief and infrequent. During a stress reaction, your immune system is temporarily hampered, but for a good cause: You moved quickly up a tree and evaded the pride of lions. Given the world we now live in, which is much different than the environment our bodies evolved to handle, pessimism, cynicism, and defeatism can produce more frequent stress reactions that last longer, which puts our immune systems are in danger.


As if this wasn't enough, it gets worse. Pessimism influences the way you speak, and the way you speak influences the way you argue with your spouse, and the way you argue determines how stressful those arguments will be.

Negative speech patterns obviously express negative thought patterns. And when you argue with your spouse using "negative fighting behaviors" as the researchers call them, it causes extra stress for your spouse. And the stress you cause your spouse impairs your spouse's immune system. But your negative fighting behaviors also impair your own immune responses.

Negative fighting behaviors stem from negative thinking patterns. Pessimism, cynicism, and defeatism are expressed in arguments in the form of name calling (labeling your spouse with a negative label), being sarcastic, finger-pointing, and withdrawing in hopeless exasperation (giving up, feeling helpless and defeated).

These negative fighting behaviors have been studied and they do indeed result in impaired immune functioning. They also increase the chance that the marriage will end in divorce, and divorce itself usually has an enormously negative impact on the immune system.

The average married couple has a serious argument about once a month, with small quarrels in between. Studies show if a couple never disagrees, if they avoid conflict, they will have less intimacy and problems are more likely to go unsolved. That's pretty obvious.

But if they disagree badly — if they think pessimistically, if they are cynical, if they get defeated easily by setbacks — they are more likely to divorce, and, more to the point for this section, it will be bad for their immune systems.

Howard Markman of the University of Denver, an expert on marital discord, has tried to figure out what the financial costs of marital fighting is. He estimates that Americans lose almost three billion dollars a year in diminished productivity. That's not even counting the damage to doors and frying pans.

Conflicts between husbands and wives lead to more illnesses and sick days. And even when they go to work, an argument with a spouse is likely to impair their performance at least a little.

Ohio State University researchers coaxed married couples to spend a half hour arguing about whatever topic got them the most angry at each other. The researchers looked at their fighting behaviors and measured their immune systems.

The researchers labeled behaviors like accepting responsibility, finding points of agreement, and suggesting compromises as "positive fighting behaviors." They labeled behaviors like criticism, blaming, sarcasm, disapproval, dismissal, and withdrawal as "negative fighting behaviors."

The couples' immune functions were tested before and after the half-hour argument. Everyone's immune function was weakened at least slightly from the argument. But the immune function was significantly weaker in those who used the most negative fighting behaviors.

So this is another angle on the same point: Pessimism is bad for your immune system. The researchers also found that the negative fighters had more antibodies for the Epstein-Barr virus, a virus that most of us keep in check fairly easily. The presence of more antibodies means that their immune systems were not just impaired from the immediate stress, but that their immune systems were not as effective in general. The way they fight is only an easily-seen display of the way they think, and the way they think is constantly disabling their immune system.

This information only scratches the surface. The studies go on and on. New ones are continually coming out. You can use this summary, however, to give you ammunition when you influence your loved ones to destroy the lampreys in their own minds. This information gives us a strong motivation to do something about it. It is not merely "nice" to feel more positive — it is imperative if we want to live a healthy life.

And hopefully it motivates you to root out and destroy the last remnants of pessimistic thinking lurking in your own mind. And to protect yourself from further infection from the pessimism that is constantly trying to worm its way into your mind. Here is where to start: Undemoralize Yourself.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Episode 30, How Long Can Someone Fast Before They Die?

This is a short excerpt of a much longer podcast (called What's So Great About Fasting?). This excerpt looks at some of the recorded extremes of fasting duration.

Click on the link below to listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Periods of Hunger Stimulate Your Brain to Create New Brain Cells

Read more about this startling finding:

Four Powerful Industries That Will Make Less Money When Fasting Becomes Popular

The medical industry.
The pharmaceutical industry.
The health insurance industry.
Food companies.

And if you live longer, which is a real possibility if you fast regularly, the government (and therefore the taxpayers) will have to spend more money for Social Security and Medicare.

To Stop Road Rage We Need a New Gesture

Most face-to-face encounters we have with strangers are very polite. But when two people encounter each other in their cars, you get road rage. Why is this? A few months ago, I was watching the excellent program called The Human Face and the host, John Cleese, suggested it was because in cars we can't see each others' facial expressions. If we saw each others' faces, would it stop road rage? 

Since we can't see our faces, the solution to road rage seems obvious: Someone needs to invent a new gesture. It would be so useful, its meaning would quickly spread and it would very quickly be universally known and used, stopping a great deal of road rage in the world. Specifically, we need a hand gesture that means, "Oops! I'm sorry." 

We already have a hand gesture that means, "You did a bad thing and I don't like it!" It is universally known. I thought at first I could just look it up in my Dictionary of Sign Language, but the sign for "I'm sorry" is making a circle over your chest with a fist. That won't work. You can't signal someone in a car behind you using that sign. You can't stick your hand out the window to make the gesture. I thought of using the peace sign (two fingers in the air) but through the back of a car window it might easily be mistaken for giving someone the finger, and that won't help. And even if it is correctly seen, it might easily be misinterpreted to mean, "Calm down," or "You're making a big deal out of nothing," which could actually cause road rage rather than stop it. 

Right now, the best most people can do is to wave at someone, but it is an ambiguous message. It helps in some circumstances and with some people, but it is not clear what you mean when you wave your hand.

I'm calling on all you inventive people, or anyone who knows other forms of sign language. Let's put an end to road rage, or at least greatly reduce it. What we need is a gesture that can be made with one hand stuck out the window, and is easily distinguishable from the birdie, so it cannot possibly be mistaken for it. If you have an idea, or if you come up with one, send us a photo or video of it, and we'll post it here. 

Think about what a difference it would make to you if you saw someone do something that could easily be construed as hostile or incredibly stupid but then they signaled you that they know they just made a mistake and they are sorry about it. Or think about what a relief it would be to have made a mistake yourself while driving, and to be able to communicate to the car behind you that you know you made a mistake and you're sorry about it. 

We really need to gestures. One that means thank you and one that means I'm sorry.

This simple thing could really make a big difference on the road. Think about it and then post your ideas on the comments here. Or just launch the campaign on your own and let me know about it and I'll help you promote it.

The Problem Isn't So Much Overeating, But Underfasting


Most Americans Are In Favor of Fuel Competition

A thousand adult Americans were asked, "Do you favor or oppose requiring automobile manufacturers to build cars that will run on fuel sources other than oil, such as electricity, natural gas and bio-fuels?" An overwhelming 76 percent of people were in favor of it.

That's what the Open Fuel Standard would do: Require automobiles to make fuel competition possible. But the bill goes one step further. In addition to cars running on fuel sources other than oil, it requires car makers to build cars to run on other fuel sources in addition to gasoline. Luckily, the tweak required to turn a gas-only car into a GEM vehicle (that can burn gasoline, ethanol and methanol in any proportion) is miniscule.

But that one small change ushers in an entirely new economic era for the United States.

Episode 31, Why You're Less Hungry Fasting Than Dieting

This is a short excerpt from a much longer podcast (What's So Great About Fasting?). This one touches on the counterintuitive biological reasons many people find fasting to be significantly easier than dieting.

Click on the link below to listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Pleasures of Fasting

There are a few unpleasant things about fasting. But it is also true some things about it are quite pleasant:

  • A feeling of peace. Your body wants to stop wasting energy, so "nervous energy" stops. When you are at rest, you are very calmly still. Sleep is very peaceful and restful too.
  • You have lots of time. Because you're not interrupting yourself to eat, it feels like you have a few more hours in your day.
  • You don't have to wash dishes. Or cook.
  • You save money because you're not buying food.
  • You look better quickly because you're losing weight.
  • Your mood is more stable. No food coma. 
  • Mentally, you know you're doing something very positive for your body.
  • If you stretch or do yoga, it feels especially good to do when you're fasting.

All these things are a positive pleasure derived from fasting. And let it be noted that when you're eating, it is not all pleasurable. Don't you sometimes feel unpleasantly full? Sometimes for hours? Contrast that with only fleeting, occasional feelings of hunger. As far as uncomfortable minutes spent, fasting feels better than feeling full.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

The Open Fuel Standard is a Legitimate Exception to the No-Mandates Principle

It is wise to resist mandates as a general rule. As much as possible, we should avoid allowing the government to interfere with private enterprise. And the Open Fuel Standard is a mandate. It requires automakers to manufacture and warrant their vehicles to burn not just gasoline, but methanol and ethanol as well. It might seem reasonable to categorically reject the bill because it's a government mandate.

On the other hand, one of the most legitimate uses of government power is breaking up monopolies. And oil is definitely monopolizing the transportation fuel market. And because it is, our national security and economic viability are suffering. But oil's monopoly can be broken and fuel competition can commence with the passing of the OFS bill — a simple bill only six pages long that costs taxpayers nothing and creates no subsidies, but a bill with enormous repercussions. The purpose of the bill is to break the monopoly.

Monopolies inhibit free markets, and in this case, the monopoly is preventing competition with the most strategically important commodity on earth: Transportation fuel.

So in spite of the fact that the bill is a mandate, it should be done. Constituents (you and me) simply need to make it clear to our Members of Congress that the Open Fuel Standard is a mandate that should be passed. The repugnance many of us feel to mandates in general should not blind us to the need for this exception.

"The intellectual inflexibility displayed in the defense of the sacred principle of no-mandates," write Anne Korin and Gal Luft in their book, Petropoly, "is leading the United States to economic suicide. There is no gentler way of saying it: members of Congress — many of whom voted for mandates from digital television to rear end cameras in cars — who oppose measures that open the fuel market to competition are aiding and abetting OPEC and others who benefit from the single-fuel system. In the end, it is they who stand between the perpetuation of a restrictive, monopolistic and economically ruinous fuel system and a free and competitive fuel market which could provide us true and lasting energy security."

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

End Political Contributions - Episode 35, Season 1

A lot of political problems in the U.S. can be traced to a single source: That politicians are legally allowed to accept money for their campaigns, and then they owe those contributors a favor. But this problem can be solved, and there are already effective organizations working on solving it. This episode explains the ideas behind the movement.

Click on the link below to listen on your favorite podcast platform: