Sunday, February 26, 2017

Kiyoshi Shimada: The Essence of Buddha by Ryuho Okawa of Happy Science

Kiyoshi "Keith" Shimada talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about Master Ryuho Okawa’s book, The Essence of Buddha: The Path to Enlightenment.

“You are using only ten percent of your total energy.” ~Kiyoshi "Keith" Shimada 

Keith has been involved with the Happy Science movement since 2003, and is presently involved with its North American operations. Happy Science itself, which was founded in 1986, originated in Japan but now has a presence in over a hundred countries around the world, and Master Ryuho Okawa, its founder, has published over two thousand books and has given two thousand five hundred lectures to date, based on teachings from such figures as Jesus, Moses as well as other teachers.

The Essence of Buddha is essentially a guidebook on Buddhism, not only giving an introduction to Buddhism but also covers various topics related to Buddhism. The individual who is presently known as the Buddha was born Siddharta Gautama, originally from a place in what is present-day Nepal some 2,600 years ago. He traveled to present-day India where he made his teachings well-known after forty years of travel, and his teachings then spread throughout the world. Although there are presently two different forms of Buddhism - Mahayana Buddhism, which is practiced in Japan, China and Korea, and which has reincarnation as one of its tenets; and Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced in Sri Lanka, Thailand and India, whose followers follow exactly what the Buddha taught, and which doesn’t have reincarnation as one of its tenets - there are also various sects within these two branches.

One of the concepts covered is the Eightfold Path, which consists of:

  • Right view - how one sees things
  • Right thoughts - what one thinks
  • Right speech - what one says
  • Right action - what one does
  • Right livelihood - what kind of work one does
  • Right effort - how much effort one makes
  • Right mindfulness - what one thinks inside, as well as how one lives one’s life
  • Right concentration - this is essentially about meditation.

Keith pointed out that the Eightfold Path is related more about focus on thoughts, and that meditation is a key aspect of enabling one to live one’s life. During meditation, one must reflect on what one did and thought on things done in the past to guide oneself back to that right path, and Keith points out that one doesn’t have to be a monk to do so, as five to fifteen minutes of reflection are sufficient for the average person.

Enlightenment, according to Keith, is based on one’s purpose in one’s life. The belief is that people reincarnate and, when they return to the earth, they choose where and when to be born and who their parents will be as well as what their gender and their occupation will be. A goal is set for that person, and overcoming the hardships experienced during one’s life gives one wisdom, which is what enlightenment is all about. Keith points out that the specifics of enlightenment differ from person to person, but that the effects are the same, giving the analogy of climbing a mountain: there are many paths to the summit, but the end objective, the summit, will be the same, regardless of path taken and the challenges encountered.

The Six Parameters are focused on the actions one takes during one’s life, and these are:

  • Perfection of offering - does one love people, through one’s actions? Did you do something to help another?
  • Perfection of observing the precepts - being strict / disciplined on oneself; did you do what you said you would do today?
  • Perfection of perseverance - be mindful of time; don’t rush
  • Perfection of effort - is the effort one makes everyday correct or not?
  • Perfection of meditation - did one meditate?
  • Perfection of wisdom - essentially enlightenment

Keith also mentioned some other tenets of Buddhism - causality and the void - which weren’t covered in the interview, but which are covered in The Essence of Buddha, along with others.

Keith remarked that people don’t use ninety percent of their energy, which is wasted, and that applying the tenets of Buddhism can enable one to access this unused ninety percent of energy, enabling one to improve oneself, expand one’s influence and empower others.

Purchase from Amazon: The Essence of Buddha: The Path to Enlightenment by Master Ryuho Okawa.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

John Agostinelli Explains the American Real Estate Ponzi Scheme

John Agostinelli talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book with Chris Michaud, Easy Money and the American Real Estate Ponzi Scheme: From Your Pocket to Theirs, the Insiders' View of the Great Housing Recession, and How It's Happening Again.

“Just because a lender tells you, you can qualify up to a certain maximum doesn’t mean you should spend the maximum.” ~John Agostinelli

John and Chris have a combined total of some five decades’ worth of experience in the real estate industry, with John starting off in the banking industry then becoming a speculative homes seller, and when the market began declining in 2005 he began soliciting banks for an increasing foreclosure inventory, selling lots of foreclosed properties. It was then that he noticed the disconnect between what the media was reporting about the 2008 real estate bubble collapse and what the reasons were, based on John being an insider and as a man in the field, and this was the main reason for his writing Easy Money with Chris, to reveal the real reasons to the public. Chris, for his part, was the president-elect of the Maine Association of Realtors as well as owned several offices and a real estate broker in three states.

Easy Money talks about the true factors behind the 2008 real estate bubble, such as poor government housing policy, the Community Reinvestment Act and the Federal Reserve rate manipulation, among others, as well about the factors that helped cause it which still exist today, such as lax underwriting standards. The “artificiality” of the ease with which individuals can get houses is what is referred to as the "Ponzi" scheme in the title.

John noted that real estate operates in cycles of around eighteen years, and what made the 2008 crisis was that the amplitude was a lot greater than it had been in the past, resulting in a high peak that was beyond what would have been typical and a corresponding deeper trough, while the market is presently on the rise, to peak at 2020. Real estate prices are market-driven and follow the rules of basic supply-and-demand economics, with the increases to the peaks “feeding themselves.” That said, John points out that he talks about the market on a national basis, that the actual position of the market on the cycle can differ from place to place and that even a lot of people in the industry aren’t aware of these cycles.

John and Chris hope to educate homebuyers with the book, and where individuals are concerned, John noted that some people, when they realize they are in mortgage debt to an amount greater than that which their property is worth, no longer pay off their mortgages, which increases the number of defaults. He also noted that, if government figures are believed, real estate appreciation is just 0.3% greater than that of the inflation rate, and that government housing policy is a great driver for the exaggeration of peaks and troughs. John also remarked that, the more money that is put down on a mortgage, the less likely that person is to default, and that he and his fellow brokers are concerned about the 57% allowable debt-to-income ratios of would-be homeowners, the requirement of 3.5% down payment and those with credit scores as low as 580 to apply to buy houses, as individuals with these characteristics are unlikely to be able to afford a house.

To individuals, John advises becoming knowledgeable about real estate and the issues around it. Both John and Chris advise their clients to shoot for a maximum of 80% of what the banks say one can afford, to allow for a cushion if such things as emergencies, such as a reduction in work hours or some sort of immediate repair, come up. John also advises that people don’t “keep up with the Joneses” unless they can well and truly afford it, and in John’s opinion people get something that they can’t really afford because of the present mentality of “everyone deserves a trophy.”

Purchase from Amazon: Easy Money and the American Real Estate Ponzi Scheme: From Your Pocket to Theirs, the Insiders' View of the Great Housing Recession, and How It's Happening Again by John Agostinelli and Chris Michaud

Monday, February 13, 2017

Royston Guest on Building and Growing a Business

Royston Guest talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, Built to Grow: How to Deliver Accelerated, Sustained and Profitable Business Growth.

“There are no crowds lining the extra mile.” ~Royston Guest 

Royston left school at the age of sixteen to get into an apprenticeship program that led him to leading a construction project at the age of nineteen, and in addition to all the skills he learned, Royston also got into visioning and planning for the future. He was then involved in several projects in the United States before getting involved in mergers and acquisitions in the United Kingdom, which was where he came from. It was when he received a check for USD 100,000 that he got the idea to use the money to create a consultancy niche business that would enable others to grow their businesses, and it was from there that Pti Worldwide was created. Pti helps grow businesses as well as does people development in the form of leadership training and sales transformation.

Built to Grow uses a model developed by Royston and Pti to grow businesses, and while some research and development is done where developing the model is concerned, the model was also developed through real-world, practical trial and error, which makes the model a very practical one from the standpoint of business building. This thus makes the book a valuable read for business owners as well as those who run businesses, as the model within works in the real world, regardless of business, in addition to being an all-encompassing methodology that covers all of the facets of running a business that will endure. Royston wrote it after being told several times to write a book that would encompass all of the practical ideas and methodologies he and his company created, and after realizing that he and Pti Worldwide could only reach so many people directly, hence the book’s being designed to reach far more people throughout the world.

Royston’s passion is helping businesses grow, and one of the things that enable a business to do that is relevance and how well customers feel they have been treated by the business. Roy then gave an example of a well-known fast food company’s evolution to fulfil the needs of their customers to stay relevant in the market, as well as a well-known toy company’s continued relevance over generations.

Royston notes that the main challenge faced by businesses are their acquisition, maximization, and retention (AMR) strategies, where acquisition refers to getting new customers, maximization refers to making the most of their existing customers and retention refers to minimizing the number of customers who end their relationship with the company - analogous to the front door, the building that the company is in, and the back door, respectively. Royston notes that most companies don’t realize these three parts of customer relationship and don’t create strategies around these, and this is where they run into trouble where expansion is concerned. Roy gave the analogy of a supermarket as an example of a company implementing these strategies where they are concerned.

To those who are somewhat struggling with their business, Royston recommends that they get back to the basics of the why, the compelling reason, behind the creation of their business in the first place, as everything else would fall in from there. Royston also points out that it is the people who go the extra mile, business wise, who drive the global economy, and remarks that it is his honor to help these people succeed.

Royston has a Facebook group, as well as a LinkedIn group, under his name, and in these groups, he gives out a lot of information on the various aspects of running and growing a business, including real-world case studies, to those who sign up for these.

Purchase from Amazon: Built to Grow: How to Deliver Accelerated, Sustained and Profitable Business Growth by Royston Guest

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bill Schutt on the Nature of Cannibalism

Bill Schutt talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History.

“When people hear that I've written books on vampirism and cannibalism, nobody's really very surprised.” ~Bill Schutt

Bill grew up in New York and had always been interested in “animals, movies and the macabre,” and admits that he had every kind of pet imaginable while he was a child. He became a biologist, researching several different species of animals and, in particular, studied the three species of vampire bats. He got his post doctorate degree from the American Museum of Natural History and has been a college professor for some time. He admits that when it comes to his subjects, “the stranger, the better.”

Bill noted that Cannibalism is a follow-up to his earlier book, Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood Feeding Creatures, and just as with Dark Banquet, Cannibalism seeks to demystify and de-sensationalize a topic that a lot of people find at least questionable, covering the totality of animal cannibalism as well as taking an objective viewpoint of human cannibalism. He was surprised to find that cannibalism was widespread and served functions other than purely survival in the animal world, and that cannibalism in human cultures likewise had reasons other than survival.

Bill wrote the book, Cannibalism to be accessible to the average person, injecting humor and making it as entertaining as possible, as most studies on cannibalism are either academic or sensationalized, and notes that the serious study of cannibalism only began in the 1980s.

In the natural world, cannibalism is found in every major animal group, which was different from the scientific “party line” and is more widespread amongst invertebrates than amongst vertebrates. Bill does admit that cannibalism reduces one’s own gene pool and can result in the spread of pathogens that have adapted to take advantage of cannibalism, but notes that there are some advantages that outweigh these concerns. Codfish, for example, eat their own eggs, as there are millions of these, as nourishment, and some fish eggs will actually never hatch (trophic eggs), as they are intended to become food for the newly-hatched hatchlings in the group they were laid in, which would give them a huge survival advantage. Sand tiger sharks produce one young in each of their ovaries which consume the eggs in that ovary as well as their smaller siblings, so that, when they come out, they are already well-nourished, practiced killers - a huge advantage for a predatory species. The females of some species of amphibians, caecilians, have skin that are consumed by their larvae, which thus gives nourishment to their young so they could have a better chance at survival, and male lions, when they take over a pride, kill and eat the cubs left over from the previous male so they could mate with the females, who will come into heat faster, and thus pass on his own genes.

Bill noted that, in Europe, the Greeks were the first to make cannibalism a taboo, but that several human cultures around the world have no such taboos. Despite cannibalism being a taboo in Europe, due to Greek thought, cannibalism was commonplace there, as human body parts were consumed for medicinal reasons. Ritual cannibalism, of which funeral cannibalism is a part of, is more widespread, and Bill notes that, since culture is king, people learn through tradition to practice cannibalism, as well as that, when Westerners first encountered cultures that practiced ritual cannibalism, the members of those cultures were just as horrified to learn that Westerners buried their dead as the members of those cultures “simply” ate their dead. Bill also remarked that a researcher, Dr. Simon Underdown, believes that cannibalism may have helped reduce Neanderthal population due to a disease similar to the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which, in humans, could be caused by cannibalism, specifically the consumption of human brain material.

Bill has also written fiction, having brought out his first novel, Hell’s Gate, in June, 2016, and a second one, The Himalayan Codex, due out in June, 2017, and both feature his love of history and zoology. He notes that people should not just swallow the sensational aspects of cannibalism, noting, as an example, that polar bears have been cannibalizing their own cubs for thousands of years, rather than doing so only because climate change is impacting their species.

Purchase from Amazon: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

Steven Campbell on Making Your Mind Magnificent to Transform Your Life

Steven Campbell talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, Making Your Mind Magnificent.

“While you’re talking to yourself, your brain is believing everything you tell it, without question.” ~Steven Campbell 

Steven started his career working in hospitals for twenty years, which gave him a good background in physiology, which he was taught in. He then got his Master’s degree in Information Systems and then began teaching computer courses. He has had a lifelong fascination with the brain, and over the years, he has taught students how to learn and how to study, including all that he learned about the brain in these courses. It was after he had retired from the academe that he began spreading the word about all that he had learned about learning and the brain, and he wrote the book in response to people asking him to write a book about the subject matter that he was speaking on, which was so powerful that psychologists attend his seminar, despite the fact that Steven doesn’t have a degree in psychology.

Steven noted that we human beings talk to ourselves thousands of times faster than normal verbal conversation, and that our self-talk comes in the form of images and feelings, rather than words. The brain, for its part, accepts without question that which it has been told, which means that, if it is told that it cannot do something, it will do its job and make sure that the person to whom it is a part of cannot do that thing. On the other hand, if the brain has been told that it can do something, it will likewise do its job and make sure that the person to whom it is a part of can do that thing, and will find ways of getting that thing done. Steven notes that the brain doesn’t care if what was told it is true, and refers to Phantoms in the Brain by Sandra Blakeslee and V.S. Ramachandran, which deals, in part, with the phenomenon of people still feeling limbs that have been amputated.

Steven remarked that psychology began with Freudianism, where it was believed that unresolved childhood conflicts were the source of one’s present-day behavior, after which behaviorism was initiated by Dr. B. F. Skinner, who theorized that one behaves the way one does because of cause and effect. This was then followed by theories that behavior is determined by one’s genes, and then by one’s environment (culture and the like). Steven notes that all of this stems from Dr. Albert Ellis’s book, A Guide to Rational Living, which was a cornerstone in cognitive psychology, which theorizes essentially that we are what we say to ourselves, and effectively says that all of the psychological theories previously brought up were all true. This is because everything one does today is primarily based on what one says to himself today, or what one is believing today, rather than due to cultural conditioning or events previously experienced in one’s life, which was a radical idea when it first came out in the 1960s. Dr. Ellis also theorized that how one feels about oneself doesn’t come from one’s past - from how one was raised, for example - but from one’s own beliefs about what has happened to oneself, and that these beliefs can be changed, with the feelings that will follow. This is based on neuroplasticity, which is a term coined by Dr. Eric Kandel in his book, In Search of Memory.

Steven is, himself, a living lesson of the subject of his book, as he told himself for over 40 years, that he was terrible at mathematics, but he was forced to become good at math when he was assigned to become a math teacher. He became so good at it, particularly since he had applied what he knew about how the brain learned, that students began to favor his subject over those taught by other professors, and it was then that he began believing that he was good at math - a message that his brain took in, locked on and then operated accordingly. Steven points out that the brain doesn’t care if what is told it is true or not, and that one can change one’s life by changing what one tells one’s brain, and what one believes in, right now.

Steven notes that the brain, when people sleep, creates the connections amongst all of the things it has learned and recorded throughout the day, organizing and making sense out of all of the things learned. Based on the latest studies, the brain has a hundred billion neurons, each of which are connected to an average of ten thousand neurons. The brain thus has a pattern based on a hundred billion to the ten thousandth power [(100,000,000,000)^(10,000)], which is an enormous number and means that the brain is virtually unlimited in what it can learn. The primary element that thus holds people back from learning is the self-talk that people engage in, and the reason this is only coming up now is because it’s only now that the technology is available where we can see the brain actually operating.

Where physical statistics are concerned, Steven points out that the brain takes up only 2% of a person’s body weight but consumes 20% of a person’s energy, 20% of the air a person takes in, 25% of a person’s blood flow, 30% of the water a person takes in and 40% of the nutrients a person consumes.

In addition to presenting himself as a case study, Steven also mentioned an example of a dyslexic, troubled man who turned his life around after attending one of his seminars and was greatly impacted by the message of his talk. He also mentioned an example of a student who limited herself in math because of her own self-talk. Steven pointed out that one’s old life ended one second ago, and that one’s new life began one second ago.

Steven has a regular radio show on KOWS.FM 107.3, which starts at 9am Pacific time, every Wednesday morning.

Purchase from Amazon: Making Your Mind Magnificent by Steven Campbell