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An old man walking along a beach at dawn noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up with the youth he asked what he was doing. “The starfish will die if they are still on the beach when the sun roasts them with its mid-morning heat,” came the answer. “But the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish,” countered the old man. “How can your effort make any difference?” The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and threw it safely in the waves. “It makes a difference to this one,” he said.

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How realistic is your goal

How do you eat an elephant?
one piece at a time

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Word Salad

Too often psychotherapists try to deal with their patients by using their doctoral degree language, trying to explain the ego, superego, and the id, conscious and unconscious, and the patient doesn’t know whether you’re talking about corn, potatoes or hash. Therefore, you try to use the language of the patient. Now a patient had been at Worcester for nine years. The patient had been brought in by the police with no identification marks on his clothing, we could get no information from him at all, we didn’t know where he was from. There was no evidence he lived in Worcester. He might have been a transient. And for the nine years he was on the ward we’d be social and say “good morning”. He replied with word salad, “bucket of lard, didn’t pay up, sand on the beach” things like that . . . just irrelevant words all mixed up . . . didn’t make any sense at all. And when I came there I was intrigued with that patient, intrigued by him. I endeavored many times to elicit his name, and all I ever got was a continuous outpouring of word salad. So I sent my secretary out and told her, “Take down his word salad and transcribe it for me.” I went through that word salad and then I prepared a word salad similar to his but not precisely the same. And one morning at eight o’clock I said, “good morning” and he replied with a big paragraph of word salad to which I responded with a big paragraph of word salad. He responded and we “wordsaladed” each other for a couple of hours. Finally he said, “Why don’t you talk sense Dr. Erickson?” I said, “I’d be glad to, what is your name?” He told me. “Where are you from?” and I started taking a good history and all of a sudden he began his word salad again. So I responded in word salad. By the end of the day I had a complete history and medical examination—a very good account of him. And thereafter if I wanted to talk to him and he replied with word salad so did I. Well, he soon dropped his word salad. And within a year he was able to be released from the hospital and get a job. Now I certainly didn’t do any therapy. I just met him at his own level.

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NLP Research Links

Research Databases and Websites

  • NLP Research Database 
  • Inspiritive (seems to be not updated after 2006)
  • A University of Surrey NLP Research database
  • The Wikipedia page on NLP. I talked to a guy involved with Wikipedia and he mentioned that this page is the site of lots of conflict. I also talked to Steve Andreas, one of the most respected figures in NLP. Steve tried many times to create a more balanced page, but seems to have given up now. It’s a pity because Wikipedia is the first page that many people see when they search for NLP.

Some useful books

Links are to Amazon

  • Bolstad, R. (2002). Resolve. Crown House Pub.
Other Stories

Walking the Dog

A woman was flying from Seattle to San Francisco.
Unexpectedly, the plane was diverted to Sacramento along the way. 

The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft the plane would re-board in 50 minutes.. 

Everybody got off the plane except one lady who was blind. 

A man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her guide dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her throughout the entire flight.
He could also tell she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her, and calling her by name, said, “Kathy, we are in Sacramento for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?” 

The blind lady said,
“No thanks, but maybe Buddy would like to stretch his legs.”
All the people in the gate area came to a complete stand still when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog for the blind!
Even worse, the pilot was wearing sunglasses !

People scattered.
They not only tried to change planes,
But they were trying to change airlines!

True story….. 
Have a great day and remember…..

Things aren’t always quite as they appear!

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Blind Men and an Elephant

A Jain version of the story says that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.
A king explains to them:
“All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.”[1]

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Article on Language Patterns for Teachers

Sarah and I just had an article published in HLT (Humanizing Language Teaching). It’s titled “Language Patterns and Embedded Suggestions for Motivating Learners.”
You can access the article freely at:
About 8 years ago, I started to deliberately incorporate NLP language patterns into my EFL patterns, and it has made a radical difference in levels of student motivation. Over the last few years, we have introduced some of these ideas at language teaching conferences around Japan including JALT, PanSig, and ETJ. This current article is a pretty straightforward use of the Milton Model – a standard NLP model based on the language patterns of Milton Erickson.
We are also involved in several research studies to provide more quantitative evidence to support the use of these language patterns. One of these focuses on reading speed. Over the last year, I have been running an experiment with two classes based on systematic measurement of their reading speed. One class is the control group, and I try to avoid using NLP patterns and stick to ‘traditional’ pedagogy (that is surprisingly difficult when you are very familiar with NLP) and the other class gets heavy use of the patterns. Although the full results won’t be available until February, it is already clear that there is an enormous quantitative difference between the two groups as compared to the original baseline reading speeds. We’ll be sharing the results as they become available.
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Recent Modelling Projects

Who are your role models?

In the run-up to the Modelling Success workshop on December 15-16, I’ve been polishing my own modelling skills in a series of interesting modelling projects. I’ve given a few details below about two of these projects and plan to be adding more information on the site about these and other modelling projects over the next few months.
A Successful Language School Owner
How does a school owner attract clients or new students? Because of the increasingly difficult job market, more and more foreigners that I know in Japan are deciding to set up their own language schools and finding that attracting private students is not as easy as it might appear. When I modelled a successful language school owner recently, his core beliefs included the willingness to keep standing out from the competition, to be willing to experiment, and to learn from feedback–perhaps not surprising, these are beliefs that would support almost any business in today’s rapidly changing marketplace.
It is so easy to fall into habits or to fail to re-examine our habits and working patterns. NLP is all about creating richer maps of the world, and to do that we need to keep the presupposition in mind that “there is no failure, only feedback.” Like the school owner, we can all benefit greatly by experimenting, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and enriching our maps of the world in the process.
By modelling the skills of a successful school owner or any other role-model who has a skill that we admire, we can take a short-cut in this process by learning from other people’s experience and mistakes. We can then take on the useful aspects of their map of the world into our own map.
People naturally model the people (or dogs!) around them

A Highly Effective Communicator
Some people are just simply better communicators than others – naturally … or is it natural? Is it something that we can learn? In NLP, we believe that skills such as communication can be learned and that modelling is a rapid way to achieve this.
Of course, modelling also happens naturally. People take on the accents, speaking styles, and communication styles of their parents, peers, and of the society around them. Clearly, some cultures promote different kinds of communication and this is a big influence on any particular person’s communication style because a person will naturally model the prevalent communication style.
For example, in Japan communication is often carried out rather indirectly, and one of the classic distinctions in Japanese communication is between tatemae and honne. Tatemae is the external mask that is worn whereas honne represents the true feelings or beliefs. In some countries, to hold differences between tatemae and honne might be considered to be a lack of sincerity. In Japan, while this could sometimes be true, it is more common that politeness and group harmony trumps ‘sincerity’. Indeed, in many circumstances, stating what you truly believe would be considered to be quite rude, poor communication, and even demonstrate a lack of ‘sincerity’. Japanese people (and foreigners who have lived a long time in Japan) naturally take on this communication style. ‘Sincerity’ can be a culturally-dependent word, but for most individuals in any particular culture, their map of the world does not allow for other interpretations of such a word. This can lead to inter-cultural misunderstandings.
In modelling an excellent communicator recently, a core belief that emerged from his map of the world was the need for constant calibration. By calibration, he means constantly noticing the response of the other person or people involved in the communication (both verbal and non-verbal responses), and then adjusting his own words and body language as appropriate. In NLP, this useful belief is encapsulated in the presupposition that “the meaning of your communication is the response that you get to it.” While we cannot directly change another person’s response, we can tailor our own communication to help achieve the response that we want. Through deliberately modelling a range of good communicators, we can learn to develop flexibility in our own communication so that we can communicate with any person in exactly the most appropriate way, not simply the ‘natural’ way that we have learned.
By deliberately taking control of our own patterns through modelling (rather than simply accepting the maps that we have ‘naturally’ or accidentally acquired), we can learn to better appreciate other people’s maps of the world and also to continually develop our own rich maps of mind which can support a rich tapestry of communication and life.
Creating rich tapestries of communication and life


For the recent modelling projects, I have been using a variety of NLP tools including the Experiential Matrix, a model developed by David Gordon. In the Modelling Success workshop on December 15-16, you can learn to use these modelling tools to identify and take on the skills of people that you admire.
©Copyright 2012 by Dr. Brian Cullen

Other Stories

The Sailor and the Old man

Many years ago there was a sailor who had traveled to many different countries around the world. He had been to many places and seen many different sights. One day as he was sailing across the seas he came upon an island and decided to rest there for a while. He moored his boat on the shore and began to look around. All around the island was a beautiful white beach and behind the beach was dense tropical jungle. All was quiet until… He thought he could hear a faint noise in the distance and tilted his head to listen. He sensed it came from within the jungle and walked closer. Sure enough, once again he heard this faint noise in the background. He started to hack his way through the foliage in order to make a pathway. The more he moved inland the louder the noise became. He continued to cut his way through until eventually he reached a clearing and there in the middle of the clearing he saw an old man sitting crosslegged on the ground. The old man had his eyes closed and was chanting “Mo, Mo, Mo” in long, soft tones. The sailor stood and watched and listened. “Mo, Mo, Mo,” continued the old man. Eventually the sailor approached the old man and tapped him on the shoulder. The old man turned slowly around and smiled. “Excuse me,” said the sailor, “I think you have made a mistake. I think you should be saying ‘Om, Om, Om.’” “Oh,” said the old man, smiling. “Thank you so much,” and began to chant, “Om, Om, Om.” The sailor felt pleased with himself and made his way back to his boat. He began to sail away, and when he had sailed for a while he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around, surprised to see the old man, who said, “Forgive me for interrupting your journey. Could you please remind me what the chant should be?” The sailor, in a state of shock, said, “Om, Om, Om.” “Thank you so much,” said the old man and walked back across the water to the island.

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The Unbeliever

Ali, the prophet’s cousin, son in law, and the bravest of all Muslim’s had caught an evil unbeliever and enemy of the faithful. He drew his scimitar and was about to chop off the infidel’s head when the evil one spat in the face of the most just of all. Ali paused and placed his scimitar back into his scabbard and left. The infidel ran after him and asked, “You were about to kill me and I spat in you face and you left. How come?” Ali replied, “When I drew my scimitar I was going to execute you for your crimes against Islam and all the Moslems you have murdered. When you span in my face, I became angry. If I had killed you I would have murdered you for the sake of my ego.” The former infidel fell upon the ground upon hearing this and accepted God and Islam. He was now a totally changed man and became a great Muslim saint.