Saturday, November 30, 2013

Green Living


 -- Quote of the Day -- 




“The exciting thing is that in this new and renewed interest in the environment and all things eco-friendly is that there are a lot of business opportunities out there. …I think that what is different about this new interest is that you can make money and make a difference – and that is a good thing; for this to really to take root it has to make not just environmental sense but business sense. I think these things are growing – it is a new day and a pretty exciting new day.”


Today’s quote originates from the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio episode that aired back on Nov 14… titled: Best of CD #54


 (*Click on the title to access the full discussion)




-- Promo -- 

As I mentioned a few days ago, I'll be periodically giving out more information about my books over the next week or two... The next book I would like to highlight is the second in the 2-book series: Trash Talk - It's Easy To Be Green


 Introducing
'Trash Talk'-Book Two
It's Easy to be Green!




As the sequel to Trash Talk - Book One, this second book in the series offers more ways to live life with a smaller ecological footprint. Trash Talk - Book Two is split into three parts: Living Consciously – Gardening and Composting – Energy and Water. It goes beyond recycling and reusing and looks at other green activities that individuals can easily employ at home, in their office or condo that will save money and help create a more sustainable, conscious, green community.

 
Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!

Friday, November 29, 2013

World of Writing, interview




-- Quote of the Day --

May your inkless pen never run dry.”

~ Lane Hermann


-- World of Writing -- 

 Author Lane Hermann enjoys writing about the Test Space Shuttles, although he writes across many genres ranging from non-fiction, to fiction, science fiction, to live shows. He is dedicated to educating others about the unknown and the search to exploring the new possibilities of what can be. He finds inspiration all around him and uses it to help others see things in new ways, to overcome challenges that only seem impossible. Find his first book Enterprise Everything to Know at: https://www.createspace.com/4436848  Lane has a second book coming out in 2014, and can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/enterprise.testshuttles

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: An Artist. I knew early on, almost instinctively that art was a bigger world than just looking at a painting. Whether it is music, sculpture, writing, or anything else you create. When you can express a feeling through creativity you will, in turn, influence a new feeling in someone else, even if it was not what you were saying. You have inspired. You have created art.

Q: What makes a good story?
A: The key to any good story is something that people can connect with. Flow is important to story line too, beginning, middle, and end. That is just the mechanics of writing. If you cannot get your readers to connect to what you are writing about then you will fail to attract or retain the reader’s attention. This is with all forms of writing, from a simple magazine article to the big report you just threw on the boss’s desk.

Q: What makes you write in certain genres?
A: Like most, I draw ideas from all my life experiences and expand on the many possibilities and potential forks in the roads. I am a successfully diverse person who can grasp most things quickly. This allows me to work in many different fields and broadens my understanding in a vast array of subjects to potentially achieve inspirations from.

Q: Do you insert your own characteristics in your writing?
A: Facts are my subjects and goals. Facts are mechanical. Getting to the facts is explanation filler and is a means to connect me with the reader. But the reader wants a sense of relationship to the author or subject. If you have no emotional connection to the characters you write about, then the reader will seldom feel a connection to your work.

Q: What business challenges have you faced as a writer?
A: My biggest challenge has been working with the people who want to control what others eventually see. People request my work and samples of my writing. Unfortunately, my experience has been that they place their own name on it, cutting me out of my work and then refusing to properly compensate me in the process. I feel that the simple act of letting the artist be an artist is too often forgotten in today’s corporate money machines.

Q: Who are your favorite artists?
A: I have had working careers in entertainment and with the department of defense. I naturally gravitate to these types of subjects and authors. Jim Morisson, W.E.B. Griffin, Dale Brown (not to be confused with Dan Brown), Pink Floyd, and Queensryche - just to name a few out of many. Some may find my mention of music strange. Music can tell a story as well as poetry. Pink Floyd, and Queensryche tell a story over a series of songs connected in their albums. -“Rock Operas” if you will. If it is strong poetry you are looking for, than look no further than The Moody Blues.



Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!
 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Marketing Advice



-- Brummet's In the Media -- 

Join me while I drop into the Book Marketing in 5 radio show today ( Nov 28 ) for a discussion with the host Eunice Nisbett about book promotion activities.
The show airs live at 11 AM Pacific / 12 noon Mountain / 2 PM Eastern

If you cannot make the live broadcast, you can always drop by at your convenience later on to access the archived audio. 

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/savvybestsellers/2013/11/28/taking-a-multi-faceted-approach-to-book-marketing-with-lillian-brummet



-- Promo -- 

As I mentioned a few days ago, I'll be periodically giving out more information about my books over the next week or two... Since I am talking about book promotion today (above) I've decided to let you know about our Purple Snowflake Marketing - How To Make Your Book Stand Out In A Crowd


Introducing 'Purple Snowflake Marketing'









Make your book stand out in the crowd! Getting your book into the hands of paying readers is the most important goal of a writer and with the tools offered in this book the sales of your book will increase dramatically!



For the average author the marketing and promotion of their own book is a mystery in itself, and outsourcing these activities can quickly erode their budget. This book has all the tools and tips for developing that marketing plan, and turn your writing into a professional career.



Purple Snowflake Marketing offers a realistic guide to what authors can expect to face and how to employ research and preparation to make a memorable first impression. As you put together a marketing plan, you will be able to proceed with the confidence of a seasoned writer. This book is packed with value, with over 1000 resources along with stats and inspiring quotes to assist you in developing that unique marketing plan for each book you write.


Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Product Review




All Season Indoor Compost

I was thrilled to hear from Kara Fillion of Uncommon Goods - an online retailer that endeavors to feature unique designs and handcrafted products to a broad audience, while raising funds for a variety of charities through the Better to Give charitable program. This unique program allows their customers to choose a charity at checkout for the company to make a $1 donation to. In just 12 years UncommonGoods.com has raised over $300,000 for several charities including RAINN (an anti-sexual violence organization with programs to prevent violence and help survivors in the healing journey), American Forests (works to protect and restore forests across the globe), Women For Women Int. (offers tools and resources for survivors of war ravaged areas to overcome the challenges and reach for self-sufficiency) and City Harvest (a wonderful anti-hunger organization that reduces food waste and decreases hunger issues).

I’ve had the honor of networking with and taking on a couple review projects with this company, starting with the one published on Nov 9th, and the one that I am publishing today: All Season Indoor Composter  (retails at 52.33 for full kit, additional bags of the Bokashi mix retail for 13.08 US) http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/kitchen-composter





This compost system works well for indoor environments enabling people in apartments or condos, those who don’t have yards or those who cannot get out to their yards easily. The system is based on a bokashi product, which basically infuses the organic matter with probiotics that start a fermentation process.  Here’s a brief quote from a radio interview we did with an expert on this topic:



“Bokashi is a Japanese word that means fermented food – it allows food waste to be fermented for about 2 weeks and then once it is introduced to soil it is then turned into humus (loamy soil) in about 2 weeks. …It is a 2-stage system – the first stage is in a bucket – where we fill the container with layers of kitchen waste and bokashi. The food looks virtually the same, it has some white mold on it possibly but it is softer – once you bury it in the soil or compost in about 10-14 days all the vegetable matter has broken down, bones and egg shells can take a month or two to break down. …The 1st stage is kind of like making sauerkraut, in effect pickling the waste and also adds microbes and the probiotics that break it down into healthy soil. …Raccoons and rats will not be interested in it, however dogs will know there are bones out there and chickens will be interested in the bokashi compost as well, but once it is buried there won’t be any interest in the area for them. …In traditional composting all that is really happening to the bones is that they are heated up, but in bokashi – bones are actually very porous and so the microbes are able to work from the inside out. …After about 2 weeks in the soil, if you pick one up, you can see that they are beginning to disintegrate. You don’t want the bucket getting too wet but you can add something dry (peat moss, paper towels, shredded bill receipts, shredded cardboard, tissue paper) to help deal with too much moisture.”

~ Todd Veri – of http://mycrobz.com





As most of my loyal blog readers and radio show listeners are already aware – I’ve a huge passion for composting organics. Composts reduce organics going to the landfill – where they create methane among other gases, mix with other toxic substances and create a destructive leachate as well. Methane, by the way, is 22 times more damaging to the environment then carbon dioxide. We can also reduce how much waste we put on the curb by at least 30% (depending on our cooking habits).

What I like most about this product is that the container itself is made of recycled plastic (70% post-consumer; 10% recycled plastics), and it is small enough to go into a closet, pantry cupboard or under the sink. You can put any kind of organic waste in there including meat and cheese and bones. The system works with beneficial probiotic microbes which when added to your garden, lawn or landscaping areas it will create a more viable biodynamic conditions in the soil. You can also use the liquid ‘tea’ for houseplants, lawns, garden plants, landscaping plants, trees, etc. – dilute:  1 tbsp. per gallon (mix = 90% water 10% liquid) as a fertilizer. Or pour the tea down the drains – it will help clean them and will benefit a septic system as well. This indoor composter system will break down organics 3 to 4 times faster than outdoor composts – without the turning and managing of a compost pile. It doesn’t use heat in the composting process and doesn’t release polluting gases.

A lot of people have asked me about dealing with their pet waste; I feel that having a separate bokashi bucket for dog and cat waste and burying this in the landscaping where you are not harvesting from is the answer – even for urban dwellers.

You’ll probably want to use 2 or more buckets – it will depend on how much organic waste you generate. The key is to fill the bucket and leave the ingredients alone for 1 week or preferably 2 weeks without adding new layers – prior to burying in the soil or compost outside.

Another interesting aspect of this system is that you can revitalize spent potting soil annually, saving quite a lot of money there as well. In the late fall layer 5 gallons of spent soil with 5 gallons of bokashi compost, being sure that the first and last layer is of spent soil. Cover the tote container or bin you are using for this and it will be perfect for using again in the spring.

The bucket comes with a plastic screen that keeps particles from sitting in the liquid reservoir. Liquids will drain into the reservoir for later disposal (this is the “tea” mentioned about earlier). Chop large scraps into smaller pieces, add scraps in layers up to 3” then add a handful of bokashi. You can use a long handled dishwasher safe spoon to mix the ingredients together if you like. (The dishwasher will sterilize the spoon when you are done mixing the layers together.) Even though the bucket has a tight fitting flexible lid, the instructions recommend that users also cover the organics inside with a paper plate or a piece of cardboard (i.e. a square cut from pizza box).

When I opened the 2.2 lb. bag of bokashi that came with the starter kit the odor was pleasant, similar to molasses - so I was not surprised when I read the list of ingredients: wheat bran, rice bran, water, sugarcane blackstrap molasses, mineral rock salt, probiotics and fine wood shavings. I’m thinking that even though I have an outdoor 3-bin compost system, having the bokashi unit will enable me to manage the bin system less often. I can use my favorite stainless steel kitchen compost bucket because it is easier to open, and then when it is ¾ full, dump the contents into the bokashi bucket along with a dose of the bokashi mix, and seal it up tight. Once the bokashi bucket is ¾ full I can then take it out to the compost pile  - which so far seems like I would have to do only once every 2 weeks or perhaps every 3 weeks depending on how much cooking I am doing.

The tap did have a minor drip issue – it wasn’t noticeable but when I looked the next day there was a spot on the floor about the size of a quarter. So I’ve placed an empty clean cream cheese plastic tub container there instead. It fits perfectly there and is handy for draining the plastic bucket. I found that I needed to drain it daily or at least every 2 days though; I suppose my organics from the kitchen are little on the moist side. Some online videos recommend placing an inch or two of peat moss or shredded dry matter in the bottom of the empty bucket to help absorb some of the nutrient rich liquids – and so did Todd (see quote above). I took advantage of this knowledge and have plans of trying shredded paper towels (used), shredded receipts, peat, and shredded pizza boxes to help absorb the liquid my kit produces. It will be interesting to see which absorbent material works best.

When I place the bucket’s contents in the compost bin all I have to do is cover it with a layer of soil along with a handful or two of leaves or grass clippings, depending on what I have on hand. And as such this will increase the outdoor compost bin decomposition as well. I look forward to what this will do for the garden soil next year, when I add the compost dressing again.

It is important to remember that the longer your bucket has to ferment the faster it will break down when you put it in the soil/compost. Before burying – make sure you drain off any excess tea so you don’t get splashed or anything.

If you leave for even a few weeks, the contents in your sealed bucket will be really broken down and you’ll have more liquid in the bottom then usual, and it will probably have a sour smell when you open the lid (like sauerkraut). You might see some white mold form if the contents are left for 2 weeks or longer to ferment prior to burying. This is considered normal.

The UncommonGoods.com page for this product offers some links leading to more information on the bokashi system (http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/kitchen-composter) and the manufacturers www.scdprobiotics.com offer more information and videos on how to use this compost method. You might also want to use the key words “bokashi compost” on the YouTube.com site, where there are dozens of videos to increase your knowledge on this topic.





Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

writing, interviews


 -- Quote of the Day -- 


 “Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonlier struggle. To some a blessing. To others a curse. It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.”


~ Lou Dorfsman

-- Conscious Discussions Talk Radio --



* Airs live @ 10-11 AM (Pacifc)  - Chat room open for live listeners - all episodes are archived indefinitely within moments after they air live, and are available for you to listen to later on at any time of day.
Sign up via itunes for the Conscious Discussions Radio show: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id262138144    


Best of Conscious Discussions #55:
The first guest will be: Joan Gelfand is our featured guest of the day - Her work has been published in over 50 national and regional publications. She currently works as an arts administrator, organizing panels and readings at colleges and writer’s conferences around the Bay Area of California (USA). She has authored 2 published books of poetry.  ...Our second guest will be: Michael Lee West has written numerous popular books; she is also the manager of the outrageously popular blog known as "Gotham”. Today we delve into her experiences in the world of writing, which she shares so candidly and with humor.



 Access the live (10-11 AM Pacific) or archived episode:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/consciousdiscussions/2013/11/26/best-of-cosncious-discussions-55


Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Green your life

For the next week or so I'm going to periodically let you know a little more about our books. You'll find links to the books on the left-hand side bar of this blog... or visit http://brummet.ca/store.html

Let's start with the first book in the 2-book series: Trash Talk - It's Easy To Be Green:

Introducing
'Trash Talk'-Book One
It's Easy to be Green!



 
Trash Talk - Book One is the first installment in a 2-part series. This book inspires the reader through education about recycling, offering tips on rethinking, refusing, reducing, reusing and recycling "waste" issues. Readers will feel empowered to do the right thing, knowing they are having a measurable impact – and they’ll save money at the same time! This book will have you re-thinking about the value of waste, seeing instead as a resource that creates jobs and stimulates the economy. You'll re-consider the power that you have as one person to make a difference in creating a more sustainable, greener community.



Imagine if you could see all the trash you generated in your whole lifetime trailing behind you like a human jet stream of filth: the baby food containers, diapers, packaging, food waste, bottles, cans - all of it. Then imagine the smell from all the organic food waste you generated your entire life. It would be overwhelming to say the least. Now imagine that all this waste can create jobs and stimulate the economy while improving air quality and the overall health of the environment. We all have an impact on the environment – it is up to us to decide what that impact will be.  


Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

communication skills


 -- Quote of the Day -- 


“Strength does not come from physical capacity. 
It comes from an indomitable will.”

~ Mohandas Gandhi


 -- Announcement -- 
 
Apologies, we were unable to run the radio show today... the next live radio episode will be Tuesday Nov 26.



Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!
 

 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Product Review


-- Vital Formulas --



Vital Formulas LLC has the motto: “Daily essentials for your wellbeing”. Their primary product is the Balanced Trio that includes 3 bottles: 90 capsules of morning, 90 tablets of evening and 90 tablets of midday supplements. We originally touched base with Natalia Lukina, founder of http://vital-formulas.com, to set up this review project back on Oct 18th and we received a shipping confirmation the same day – products are sent via USPS First Class Mail International. The package arrived on Oct 25, which is impressive as it only took 7 days from original contact to receipt of the goods. Natalia is well educated with degrees in drug development and biology, and has many years working in the field.



The morning capsules help you start off your day with special additions such as vitamin c and bio-flavonoids fruit extracts from pomegranate, hawthorn and bilberry, herbs like turmeric and cinnamon, and some trace minerals. The mid-day tablets help you sustain energy by including coQ10, DHA, EPA, carotenoids. To help you have a relaxing evening and proper sleep they’ve included calcium and magnesium, vitamin D3 and a blend of B vitamins and herbs (lemon balm, chamomile and hops) for the evening tablets.  





These special patent-pending supplements do not contain wheat, dairy, gluten, egg, corn or peanuts or any tree nuts, artificial colors or flavors – so they are safe for people with allergies and sensitivities. Vital Formula supplements are made in the US and the bottles I received had an 8-month shelf life.



I was surprised to see that the directions suggest taking 3 tablets of each supplement per day! Upon investigation I found answers to why we need to take so many: "Taking Balanced Trio is equivalent to taking 5 separate supplements: daily multivitamin, fish oil, CoQ10, antioxidant formula and Cal/Mag supplement." Additionally: "One-a-day multivitamins ...often contain inorganic forms of minerals which are cheaper and less bulky than organic forms."

The company specializes in creating formulas that provide optimum nutrients for different times of the day and make a point of educating their customers about nutrient combinations, how the bio-availability (the ability of your body to absorb) the nutrients are either hindered or assisted by combination with other nutrients. In other words the body does not effectively utilize some vitamins or minerals unless they are combined with specific vitamins or minerals. For instance you might already be aware that the body needs magnesium in order to process calcium. Similarly in some cases specific combinations could inhibit the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients.



The package included 2 plastic bottles (morning and evening capsules), and the mid-day’s glass bottle – which is amber in color in order to keep the oils fresh. They were all sealed with a minimum of plastic but the seal was not perforated and therefore I found it difficult to remove cleanly so I had to employ my handy retractable razor knife. An additional seal under the cap that didn’t peel off easily, I had to cut it out from the plastic bottles with a knife - however this seal did peel away nicely from the glass bottle.







You can see by the image here the size and shape of the different pills; I included both a nickel and a quarter to give you some perspective of the differing sizes. The mid-day had a very faint aroma that reminded me of carrots and salmon. The evening had a barely detectable odor of lemon balm (one of my favorite herbs for winter tea and iced tea in the summer), and there was no detectable scent at all for the morning supplement.



While the text on the company’s website is a little on the small side, there is a lot of information to glean from. For instance there is a wonderful resource section on their site where you can learn easily digestible information about vitamins, minerals, nutrients, interactions, and other relevant links.



I’ve included a link here below to an interview we had on our radio show re: the mineral magnesium that you might want to check out:



Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!






Friday, November 22, 2013

World of Writing, Interview



World of Writing

*Shout out to Monique Muhlenkamp of New World Library who put us intouch with today’s featured author.
Journalist and writer Jules Evans (http://philosophyforlife.org) is policy director at the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. He helps run the London Philosophy Club, the biggest philosophy club in the world, with over 3,000 members, and is one of ten BBC Next Generation Thinkers for 2013. He is the author of: Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations.

Q: What’s your book about?

A: It’s about how people are rediscovering ancient philosophy today, and putting it to use in their lives. People are realizing that philosophy for the ancient Greeks and Romans was not some abstract theoretical exercise, but a very practical and accessible form of therapy for the emotions. Cicero, the Roman politician and philosopher, said: “There is a medical art for the soul, and its name is philosophy.” Socrates said that all he taught his students was how to take care of their souls - which is the origin of the word ‘psychotherapy’, which literally means ‘care of the soul’.

The book has 12 chapters, each introducing a different philosopher who teaches us an art or skill we can use in our lives. And each chapter has three or four stories of people I met and interviewed, who say that ancient philosophy transformed their lives. Over five years, I met astronauts, former gangsters, therapists, magicians, marines, and convicts. Their stories are extraordinary, and together they add up to a body of practical evidence that philosophy is much more powerful than we sometimes think of it. It can really save lives - as it helped save my own life.

Q: So what can we learn from ancient philosophy?

A: A lot. The main thing it took is the cognitive theory of the emotions - the idea that our emotions are tied to our thoughts, beliefs, judgments and values. Hamlet said ‘There’s naught but thinking makes it so’, and that’s true when it comes to our feelings, which are really a type of thinking. Our emotions contain judgments about the world, such as ‘that person was rude to me, and they shouldn’t have been, how unfair’. When we realize that our emotions arise from our perspective on the world, it gives us the ability to modulate and transform our emotions. We can choose to see the world differently. We could say to ourselves: “Was that person definitely being rude to me? And if they were, so what? Do I definitely need to get annoyed by that? 

The problem is that our way of seeing the world is often unconscious, habitual and ingrained. We’ve been telling ourselves a certain story for so long - perhaps our whole life -  that we’ve forgotten it’s just a version of reality. We’re convinced it’s the truth. The risk of not examining our life-philosophy is that, if it’s wrong or unwise or toxic, it will make us suffer, and it may make the people around us suffer too. This is why philosophy is not some abstract academic exercise - there’s really nothing more important you could do, for yourself and the people round you, than to think occasionally about the beliefs and values by which you live.

The first step in philosophical therapy is using ‘the Socratic method’ - which basically means asking yourself questions, to get yourself to think about your instinctive, habitual interpretations and to see if they’re accurate or wise. That’s what a cognitive therapist will do, if you go to see one. They will basically ‘play Socrates’, asking you questions and engaging you in a dialogue to get you to think about your unconscious way of seeing things.

Q: Do we really have control over how we see the world?

A: This is a controversial question. It appears genetics play a big role in our temperament and personality. However, the success rate of CBT and other behavior-changing therapies like Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we can alter even very deep-seated habits of thinking and behavior, like depression, anxiety and alcoholism. In my own case, for example, I will probably always be prone to moments of anxiety or melancholy, but I no longer get full-blown panic attacks or long periods of deep depression, so I have learnt to manage my personality to try and get the most from life (and I’m still learning).

The Roman philosopher Epictetus suggested we control very little in this life. We don’t have complete control over other people, over the weather, the economy, our bodies, our reputations, and we’re all ultimately going to die. The only thing we do have control over, according to Epictetus, is our own beliefs - if we choose to exercise this control. The problem is, we often try to exert complete control over something external, like our body or our career, and then we feel helpless, insecure and angry when things turn out different to how we wanted. Or we fail to take responsibility for our own thoughts, using something external as an alibi (‘I’m justified in having a drink because I had such a terrible day’). We need to accept what we don’t control, while taking responsibility for what we do control.

Q: What did the ancient philosophers say about habits?

A: The ancients understood that it’s not sufficient to have a golden insight into the right way to live - because we’re very forgetful creatures, who ‘sleepwalk through life’ as Socrates put it. We’re usually on auto-pilot, just following habits. So if our philosophy is really going to change us, we have to make it habitual and second nature. That’s why the Greek word ‘ethics’ comes from ‘ethos’, which means habits. We are what we repeatedly do, so character is not an act so much as a habit.

The good news is our habits are changeable. ‘There is nothing so malleable as the human psyche’, said Epictetus. Each day, we can choose to strengthen a habit, or weaken it. And, over time, this will change our character and how we naturally respond to things. Neuroscientists call this malleability of the mind ‘neuroplasticity’.


Q: What is the role of community in the philosophical life?

A: That’s a good question. The Greeks understood that the best way to change yourself is to do it with other people. It’s like paddling a boat through a rapids - it helps if other people are paddling in the same direction. We’re very social creatures, and we tend to imitate the habits of the people round us, so we need to be careful who we surround ourselves with. That’s why Aristotle wrote two books on friendship, and suggested that the most important choice a philosopher can make is who their friends are.


Q: Some governments are now trying to help their citizens become happier, and to measure ‘national happiness’. What do you think of that?

A: Yes, I call it ‘the politics of well-being’. It’s a return to Aristotle’s idea that the aim of governments should be to enhance the flourishing of their citizens. It’s become sort of a new mission statement for many politicians and policy-makers, like the economist Jeffrey Sachs for example. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, has suggested governments should use their budgets to spread the science of happiness to their citizens, like the Medici used their money to spread Platonic philosophy to Florentines. And the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, also suggested that well being should be the central focus of public policy. So it’s a growing movement.

There are some aspects of the politics of well being that I really applaud. In the UK, the government has committed to training 6,000 new therapists in CBT, to provide free CBT on the NHS, and over a million people have accessed the new service since it was launched in 2008. I think that’s fantastic - the state providing free talking therapy, though obviously private-sector therapists have not welcomed all this competition.

I also like the idea of trying to teach people how to take care of themselves and their emotions, in schools, universities, the work-place, retirement homes and so on. There are some simple techniques that everyone can learn, that make a big difference. We need to be careful, however, when we start trying to claim we know exactly what ‘well-being’ or ‘flourishing’ is, that we have discovered the scientific formula for it, and all people need to do is follow our advice. It’s also dangerous when we claim we can measure precisely how much well being a person has. You can measure how happy they feel at the moment, but you can’t measure how ‘good’ a person’s life is scientifically.


Find Dave and Lillian Brummet, excerpts from their books, their radio program, blog, and more at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!