Be Not Afraid

Dr. Keith Ablow

Be Not Afraid

April 5, 2022

We are afraid of too much.  One of the things we fear is our own pain—so much of it rooted in early chapters of our life stories.  So we run from it.  And in running away, we experience anxiety.  We trip.  We fall.  We become despondent.  All those emotions make us panic more, so we lurch left and right, seeking goals that are not true to us, saying things that are not true to us, forming relationships that are not true to us.  If only we were to stop running and retrace our steps, with an open heart and mind, we would find out why we are fleeing from ourSELVES.  And learning about those early wounds would free us from guilt, from anger and from fear.  We would become the people we were meant to be from all time.  I discussed these themes—and more—with a brilliant interviewer, John Warren.  I hope you enjoy his podcast.

Dr. Keith Ablow

“Interesting” Can Be Your Go-To Word During Tough Times

Dr. Keith Ablow

“Interesting” Can Be Your Go-To Word During Tough Times

April 1, 2022

When clouds gather and life seems uncertain, there are lots of words that might come to mind, including, “Oh, no,” or “Oh, my God,” or “This can’t be happening.”  Left to its own devices, the mind wanders and can settle on alarmist language that creates more negative energy—in the form of anxiety, for instance—that adds to the unwelcome events that are unfolding.

I’d like to arm you with a more useful word—interestingInteresting is an ideal word with which to greet a lot of the trouble that appears at your door or in your mail or at meetings of your company or anywhere else, for that matter.  

Why?  Well, for one thing, interesting primes the mind to analyze, rather than panic.  

Think, for instance, that you are told that your competitor has filed suit against your company alleging patent infringement.  If you have the word interesting ready to deploy, you might begin thinking about what the claims actually are, might remind yourself that lots of frivolous lawsuits get filed, might wonder whether a countersuit could actually advance your company’s prospects.  You might also open your mind to wonder whether your competitor has become desperate to find a way to stay afloat or whether there’s an opportunity in all of the seeming conflict to actually end up joining forces with the plaintiff to address the market for the products you both sell.

Interesting is the antidote to becoming paralyzed by fear.  It is part of the diagnostician’s demeanor—preparing to get to the bottom of things, which requires engaging with them, not running from them.  

Interesting not only prepares the mind to analyze and explore, it messages the warrior inside you that you have time to think through options.  You aren’t going to be chased into a corner.  You aren’t going to give up your right to rational thought.  Invoking interesting at the leading edge of a fight should make your opponent run for the hills.  You’re strategizing, not scared.  

Interesting also is inherently suited to the twists and turns of life.  It is, indeed, sad when a relationship of many years ends (and feeling the sadness is important), but it is also interesting.  Interesting brings you into the community of Man.  It’s a nod to the human condition.  Yes, it is disappointing when someone doesn’t stand with you in times of trouble, but it is also interestingInteresting unlocks the pondering mind:  Was my friend who failed to stand by me always relying on me to be the strong one?  Do I always choose friends who look to me for strength?  How rare is it, really, for people to take big risks for other people?  Who else in my life has come through for me, and who hasn’t.

Moreover, interesting, is a great word for leaders.  When you let it take the helm, it tells the whole team that you are engaged in a problem, but unbowed by it.  You’re thinking, not panicking.  And they needn’t, either.

Interesting.  It’s a pretty good word to have up your sleeve in this interesting world, during these interesting times.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Marshall McLuhan Predicted World War III 

Dr. Keith Ablow

Marshall McLuhan Predicted World War III 

March 30, 2022

The late philosopher Marshall McLuhan was famous for saying “The medium is the message,” meaning that the technology used to convey ideas is more important, from a cultural standpoint, than the ideas themselves. 

McLuhan used a lightbulb as an example of how the medium of technology could message a whole culture or even a whole species.  A lightbulb doesn’t have content like a newspaper does.  But the fact that it can illuminate dwellings and factories at night shifted the work and social habits of untold millions of people.  It caused a massive shift in the way we conducted ourselves as human beings.

In his groundbreaking book Understanding Media, McLuhan separated media into either “hot” or “cold.”  He saw film shown in theatres, for instance, as a hot medium, calling for little audience participation, since the experience is so enveloping—with high intensity images, a captivating soundtrack, little light and few distractions.

Television, he argued, was a disruptive “cold” medium that required human beings to unconsciously assemble the myriad pixels that comprise a television image, thus compelling them to join themselves to the technology.  Moreover, lots might be happening while a television was broadcasting programs into a home, requiring the viewer to work to focus on the relatively small screen. 

Cold media, McLuhan explained, were the ones that risked human beings becoming addicted to them and feeling absorbed and homogenized by them.  He theorized that the species would fight back against this absorption and homogenization by becoming more tribal — asserting their national and geopolitical identities through conflict with one another. The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States may, in fact, have been partly fueled by the threat that television would dissolve everyone, and all identities, into it.

McLuhan, who died in 1980, had no idea that new technologies, like the internet and its children, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google, would represent an exponential, existential threat of the same kind. Writers for the Washington Post, the New York Times and other publications are only now addressing the problem I identified several years ago: that these new technologies don’t really reinforce individuality and self-expression and identity; they threaten to obliterate it instead.

How? Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google and others seek to monopolize information dissemination and product marketing. They do so by absorbing consumers’ likes, dislikes and patterns of behavior into their sites and hardware, forcing interactions with them by spitting back marketing and social networking prompts and algorithms that trigger more searches, more buying, more socializing and more fingerprinting of the consumers’ inclinations and intentions. Once the consumers are known sufficiently, it could be argued that their psychological DNA “exists” inside the technologies behind such sites and products. The consumers are owned and operated, to an extent, by the media and technology they are using to learn, shop and socialize.

They are “connecting” to the amoeba of a technological society and disconnecting from themselves.

Just as lots of people consciously enjoy using heroin, people may consciously enjoy being depersonalized by technology. But human beings have a safety valve inside their psyches to prevent complete destruction of their free will. This unconscious reflex reasserts their identities, often — as McLuhan observed and predicted — through heightened tribal conflict.

McLuhan no doubt would have assigned the rancor between right-wing Americans and left-wing Americans, the divide between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, the rise of ISIS and of MeToo (equally dangerous, by the way), the feverish tension between the U.S. and North Korea and, yes, the rising tensions between Nato and Russia to the impact of the internet and its offspring.  And it isn’t too much to think that he might well have been correct.

Our species, save for some pockets of resistance like the Amish, has rushed headfirst into our new technologies. But our souls won’t rush into that dark night without a fight. Lots of fights. Maybe even nuclear war. Literally.                    

Dr. Keith Ablow

Then, This Completely Amazing Thing Happened . . .

Dr. Keith Ablow

Then, This Completely Amazing Thing Happened . . .

March 28, 2022

How many stories have we all told that include the line, “Then, this completely amazing thing happened.”  There are variations, of course:  “Then, you won’t believe what happened;” or “Then, everything changed, out of the blue.”

Life surprises us—often with a great turn of events.  We couldn’t see it coming, yet it must have been woven into the narrative that was unfolding before it, or it would never come to pass.

“I figured we were looking at another disappointing year of revenue, but, then, everything changed out of the blue.”

“I had just pretty much concluded I would be alone for the rest of my life when . . . this completely amazing thing happened.” 

I could never have predicted what happened next.”

Yet, no matter how many time life surprises us with relief or success, we still seem amazed the next time it does.  Maybe it would be wise, then, to keep our eyes open for turnaround moments, at every moment—especially the dark ones.

I am not arguing for pie-in-the-sky thinking or putting on rose-colored glasses.  Seeing things for what they are is crucial.  But, one of the ways things are is unpredictable.  And one of the unpredictable elements of any story is that unexpected great turn of events.  So, shouldn’t we be alert for that kind of event unfolding?  Shouldn’t we even expect it to unfold?  

I believe we should.  I believe that expecting a sudden, positive turn of events amidst adversity allows us to detect hints of such a turn of events sooner and take advantage of them more readily.  It also may be that expecting “better” somehow helps manifest it—if through no other means than allowing you to project confidence when you might, otherwise, not.  

Then, this completely amazing thing happened,” is a close cousin of, “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.”  But it takes things one step further.  It not only argues that we should allow for positive events, but also that we should look for them.

Finally, there’s a kind of reverse engineering that I sometimes advise.  Think to yourself, “If something were to occur to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, in this situation, what would it be?”  Then, go down the path of searching for that very event—a new investor for your startup, a new medicine for your health problem, a new defender and friend when the chips are down. 

True, the most amazing things happen when least expected, but that’s only because our faith falters.  If you can maintain faith, even in dark hours, the light may well burn brightly—and, sooner, rather than later.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Respecting the Fine Line Between Creativity and Fiction

Dr. Keith Ablow

Respecting the Fine Line Between Creativity and Fiction

March 23, 2022

Fiction is the domain of novels and screenplays, but it has a way of slipping into other creative pursuits, like planning entrepreneurial endeavors and evaluating our businesses, as well as planning and evaluating our lives.

The reason for this potential slippage — which can cause us to put less than solidly-factual and rational foundations under what we build — is probably partly neurological. We human beings are moved by the energy that fiction can kindle. Creative, but reality-based imagination probably requires the activation of nerve centers in the brain that flirt with those that generate pure make-believe.

Remember back to when we were kids and used to play at being princes and princesses? We didn’t need lots of rehearsals to “memorize our lines.” We came up with them on the fly. It was easy to slip the bindings of our life stories and playact with abandon. That’s a strength we have as human beings — and it is a potential weakness.

In the realm of creating fiction we are free to take big leaps toward our dreams and to imagine meeting our goals without the intrusion of realities that would slow us down or weigh us down. There is a dashed line that connects the notion of raising large sums of capital for a limited idea and morphing into a superhero and winning the day, against all the odds. Our minds are capable of suspending disbelief and being recruited into illusions that make us feel magical.

In the realm of imagination that serves the creation of non-fiction — like a real business or real preparation for a career — there are realities that must be respected. There are hurdles that — properly — weigh down those huge leaps we can take toward imagining the fulfillment of our dreams. There are troubling details that make us check our compelling ideas to make sure they are worthy ideas.

This is why working on oneSELF is so important to the creation of an inspiring non-fiction project, of any kind. Because the creator must be as expansive in his or her thinking as possible, yet as invulnerable as possible to slipping into fantasy. We can never get lost in a “role” and lose ourSELVES. True and strong foundations must be built, even for very moving projects. And here’s the key: If the creator has developed a habit of avoiding the painful paragraphs or pages or chapters in his or her own life story then he or she will be more prone to avoiding the painful, often solvable problems with whatever they plan.

The strongest leaders of creative projects have powerful imaginations, yet remain grounded. They aren’t people who have been trained to avoid the tough realities of their own narratives or the non-fiction versions of their projects. They aren’t seeking to escape reality; they are seeking to improve it.

To solve problems, they must be seen. That’s why the imaginative, non-fiction thinker and doer in business (or in any endeavor) is a transformational thinker, not a Transformer of the fictional, superhero variety.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Leading With Light

Dr. Keith Ablow

Leading With Light

March 17, 2022

There is one truth about leadership that will never fail those who understand it and adhere to it.  Leaders who see light, even amidst what might seem like complete darkness, will always be those who inspire others and who reach higher goals.

Any amount of competition, any market forces, any geopolitical realities, any set of hurdles in a family, any health challenges are best approached with rock-solid conviction that events will, ultimately, unfold for the better.  The universe is neither random nor vengeful.  What is unfolding before you is an opportunity, but you must choose to see it as such.

Is this true when an onslaught of negative factors coalesces to challenge the future of a business?  It certainly is, as long as the leader of that business interprets those factors as purifying and strengthening himself or herself, his or her team and the intentions of both. 

In order to maintain this ability to see light in nearly complete darkness, one must believe, deep in one’s heart, that the light is, in fact, there—obscured, but present.  And one must be willing to tolerate pain on the way to revealing and accessing that reservoir of power.  Steeling oneself for a journey through darkness is always wise. 

The great leader is convinced not only that gifts are wrapped in challenges, not only that getting to the gifts may require sacrifice, but also that he or she is the one destined to be confronting those very challenges at the very time they appear.  This does away—properly—with the natural anxiety that significant challenges provoke.  A sense of manifest destiny is the soul’s answer to what may, otherwise, be perceived as Shakespeare’s slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Communicating this sense of manifest destiny to others is key to the ability to lead.  It should become contagious, in order to sweep through the shadows.  It is a remarkable quality of the human mind that its energy can be kindled by the mental energy of another. 

Dr. Keith Ablow

Why Volodymyr Zelenskyy May Be Eternal

Dr. Keith Ablow

Why Volodymyr Zelenskyy May Be Eternal

March 14, 2022

I think in narrative form.  I have a sixth sense for how stories develop—what propels them forward, which paragraphs or pages contribute to the authentic spine of the story and which  paragraphs or pages miss the mark and do no service to the whole.  That’s the reason for any value I bring to helping people reclaim their true selves, any facility I have writing novels and any foresight I lend to thinking through business plans.  These seemingly different efforts are really one: seeing a story for what it is and what it can be.

Now, onto Volodymyr Zelenskyy.  I believe we are watching the rise of a transformational figure in world history.  The way I see it, the evidence is so overwhelming that to not note it would be a form of denying it.  

First of all, Zelenskky is leading a David versus Goliath battle.  The forces of Ukraine were predicted to fall weeks ago, in the face of overwhelming Russian military might.  But they haven’t.  And that is due, in no small part, to the way that Zelenskyy has galvanized Ukranian resistance with his determination, defiance and political acumen.  His grace under pressure is, in fact, almost inexplicable.  He refused to take America up on an invitation to be evacuated from Ukraine with his family, reportedly saying, “The fight is here.  I need ammunition, not a ride.”  He has said he is afraid of nothing.  He has remained in Kyiv, in his office and on the streets, rallying Ukranians and appealing to the hearts and minds of human beings all over the world—for humanity and justice.

No doubt many of you reading this piece sense where I am going with it.  And I am aware that part of me is resisting where the sentences are leading me.  So, I will pose my thoughts as questions:  How does one know when a man rises beyond what can be explained and begins working miracles?  How would one know if a man’s very existence were miraculous?  Is such an assessment made during his life or only after his death? 

I ask these questions because I am also a student of synchronicity.  I don’t think events unfold in a random way and I don’t like to ignore what others might say are “coincidences.”  Here are a few:  A Jewish leader named Zelenskyy is displaying what some would call miraculous courage in Ukraine.  It is in the book of Zechariah, written some 500 years before the birth of Christ, that prophesies about the Messiah, who will usher in a realignment of nations and ensuing world peace, are presented.  The tanks sent to oppose Zelenskky were emblazoned with the letter “Z” by Vladimir Putin’s regime.  What were they sent to destroy?  A man?  A movement?  A messiah?

I present these facts and themes so that others, more steeped than I in biblical prophesies can  wrestle with them, or quickly dispense with them.  

There, I wrote it.  I nearly didn’t.  But, I felt compelled to.

Dr. Keith Ablow 

“You” Want to Stop Smoking? Which Part of You?

Dr. Keith Ablow

“You” Want to Stop Smoking? Which Part of You?

March 9, 2022

First of all, it’s best to admit that not all of you wants to stop smoking.  Otherwise, you already would have.  Part of you certainly does—the wise part that knows that taking the risk of dying from lung cancer is no way to behave.  But another part of you isn’t going along with that reasoning.  And that part of you seems to be in control.  

This way of thinking about an addiction or habit—any addiction or habit—is far more powerful than assigning responsibility to your DNA.  Whether or not you enjoy tobacco or nicotine more than others do is really irrelevant, after all.  Whether or not some part of your brain tends to have more activity in it when performing repetitive actions like smoking doesn’t really matter.  Because I promise you there is no DNA sequence that makes quitting cigarettes impossible.  Hence, you are the thing in your way.  But not all of you.

Again, it’s best to admit that you aren’t of one mind, at all.  Part of you wants to quit.  Part of you wants to smoke.  It feels good, or it relieves stress, or whatever.  So, the key is to appoint the sensible supervisor inside you as “in charge.”  You’re going to have to take control of the rogue, slowly suicidal or hedonistic-tobacco-puffing you.

I’ve made this point before, but I will, again, here:  You should talk to yourSELF.  Give your Supervisor Self a voice.  Maybe he or she tells your Smoking Self, “Look, I know you want to go buy cigarettes.  I get it.  You’re anxious.  You can even tell me what’s making you anxious or how it feels.  But we aren’t buying cigarettes, period.  It isn’t happening.  We’re not going to be one of those people who quits after a heart attack or a lung tumor.  So, start talking.  I’ll listen.  But I won’t buy us cigarettes.”

Sounds crazy, right.  Well, it isn’t.  Because you have a Benedict Arnold inside you, obviously, and ignoring that fact might well cost you your life.  So, you had better take control.  And if the tone that I have suggested with the Smoking Self sounds a lot like talking to a child, there may be a reason for that.  Cigarettes are a lot like pacifiers.  Cigarettes are a lot like nursing.  Cigarettes are a way to self-soothe, maybe because you never were soothed by those around you.  

Forget all that Freudian stuff, though.  Grow up.  Just take control of the spoiled brat who wants to suck down some smoke.  Get mad at him, if you have to.  Don’t be afraid to use a few obscenities.  “Fuck you, if you think you’re going to kill us.”  Hey, listen:  Your life is at stake.  It isn’t time for pleasantries.

Many, many of us have self-destructive patterns.  And it isn’t a great idea to think of them as “tendencies,” either.  They aren’t.  They’re more fully formed than that.  They’re much more like walled off, separate, self-destructive components of ourselves (plural, intended) that need to be understood, but also aggressively contained.  Your smoking self is Vladimir Putin, burning your good self down.

By the way, the same is true for the parts of us that are trying to kill us by overeating or by drinking too much alcohol or by gambling away our hard-earned money.

Is it painful to take control away from those parts of ourselves?  You bet it is.  Will it make us more powerful?  No question at all.

Dr. Keith Ablow


Dr. Keith Ablow


February 27, 2022

For today and likely many days to come, Ukraine has become honorary Pain-2-Power world headquarters and a global classroom on how to find strength and dignity amidst extreme adversity.  For anyone who has had to fight a bigger kid, struggle for light under the towering shadows of depression or fight despite the seductive Sirens of fear, Ukraine will feel like familiar ground to you.  For anyone who has yet to confront such adversity, Ukraine will fortify you with lessons for the future, if you listen to her and watch her and are willing to learn from her.

Ukraine, of course, has been invaded by Russia, a country whose columns of tanks, missiles, naval destroyers and bombers should not only have paralyzed her roads and bridges and communications and banking systems, but also drained her of pride and determination and the ability to resist surrender.  After all, when armored vehicles take over your highways and explosions light the sky up with fire and leave buildings as heaps of rubble, the desire for self-preservation can eclipse one’s deepest sense of self.

Not so in Ukraine.  And that is why, regardless of the geopolitical factors that resulted in Russia invading Ukraine, regardless of whether wisdom argues against rash decisions that could spark a World War, the people of Ukraine are not different than the patriots who defended America from England during the Revolutionary War or those who have defended Israel from destruction by its neighbors, again and again and again.  That is why the people of Ukraine are no different than families all over the world who rise up to fight in the face of poverty or illness or hunger or neglect or loss or authoritarian governments (including, at this moment in history, our own).  That is why the people of Ukraine are already providing every one of us with stories that can help us stay strong, no matter what we have to confront in our own lives.  And for all these reasons, that is why every one of us is, today, a citizen of Kyiv.

One need look no further than the Ukranian border guards on Snake Island, twelve miles out in the Black Sea.  A Russian invader radioed them, “This is Russian military warship. I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”  To which a border guard, after consulting with another guard radioed back, “Russian Warship, go fuck yourselves!”  All 13 guards were killed.  But here I am writing about them, and you reading about them, more than 5,000 miles away.  So, who really won?  The Ukranian border guards did.  No contest.

Or how about the elderly Ukrainian woman who was videotaped walking up to Russian soldiers in uniform, armed with guns, and engaging them in this conversation?

Woman:  Who are you?

Soldier: We have exercises here.  Please go this way.

Woman: What kind of exercises?  Are you Russian?

Soldier: Yes.

Woman: So, what the fuck are you doing here?

Soldier:  Right now, our discussion will lead to nothing.

Woman:  You’re occupants.  You’re fascists!  What the fuck are you doing on our land with all these guns?  Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here [dead].

How wrong could that Russian soldier have been?  Here we are, 5,000 miles away, with me writing about that discussion that he was so sure would lead to nothing.  Here you are, reading about it.

By the way, sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine.  And, now, Ukraine has become honorary world headquarters of and a global classroom on self-esteem, national pride, chutzpah, nerve and how to miraculously turn darkness into light, and despair into hope for all mankind.  This is alchemy for the human soul, for all of us to watch.

If I were Vladimir Putin right now, I would wonder whether I want blood on my hands from a man like Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Jewish President of Ukraine, who remains in Kyiv at this very moment, utterly defiant, despite likely being targeted for death.  Because that would mean that Putin, forever more, would be the living symbol of how a dead man can turn out to be more powerful than an entire Russian army.  Just watch.  Just wait.  And learn everything you can.

Miracles are about to unfold in Ukraine.  You see, God, Himself, is a citizen of Kyiv.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Who Have You Left Behind?

Dr. Keith Ablow

Who Have You Left Behind?

February 22, 2022

So many of us have people in our lives who, for one reason or another, we have “left behind.”  Some of these are people we valued, but with whom we simply lost touch, as we moved forward with our busy lives.  Some we had conflicts with, and “let things go,” even though they were people we fundamentally felt a significant bond with.  Whoever that might be for you, it may be well worth your time and effort to reach back out to see if the relationship is worth rekindling.

There are more ways to this this than ever, of course.  Facebook, Instagram and other social networking sites have many downsides, but one of their benefits is the ability to search for people you may have attended grade school with, worked with, lived next door to or been connected to via any number of other scenarios.  So why not reach back today and contact one or two of them to see what touching base might bring?

I say this, in part, because connections between people are anything but random.  They are always meaningful and, therefore, potentially valuable.  Yet, we often walk on from these connections without much thought and without taking the time to remember and honor them.

If you think of one or two such connections right now, those thoughts won’t be random, either.  Whoever comes to mind as you’re reading this blog are people who have been pretty close to the front of your mind, all along, anyhow.  After all, it didn’t take more than my brief prompting to trigger you to now be thinking of those individuals.

See, I believe that the seeds two people plant when they connect—even many years ago—can have been growing all along without either of the people watering them.  Seen this way, reaching out is like harvesting potentially good and powerful energy.

Might you learn that there is not much to be resurrected between you and the other individual?  Sure.  But the effort is so minimal that that wouldn’t be so much of a disappointment, anyhow.  If nothing else, you’ll be touching base with pages of your life story that are part of past chapters.  In reopening those chapters, you may well be rewarded with memories, emotions and even parts of yourself that you haven’t visited for a very long time.

I have been speaking mostly of acquaintances or close, but long-almost-forgotten friends.  But it is also true that some of us have moved on from very substantial relationships out of very hard feelings or dramatic disappointments.  The passage of time can—not always, but sometimes—heal those feelings and disappointments.  Who knows what new and positive energy might be created by touching base with a former friend you jettisoned for good reason?  Who knows what bonds might be rebuilt?  Who knows what happy ending might be salvaged from the unfinished stories you partly wrote with imperfect characters?

Try it today.  Email, text, message or call someone you’ve lost touch with, but remember as a significant person in your existence.  You’re not committing to anything other than a new paragraph of your story together.  But it could become a whole page, or even a new chapter.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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