Learning How to Learn

June 27, 2014 in Learning About Learning

I feel that I have only recently learned how to learn. Throughout my life, I have actively sought out opportunities to learn, attending training and reading constantly, but in retrospect, for a very long time, I wasn’t very good at it.  I wasted a lot of time and effort and didn’t capitalize on the time I was spending trying to better myself.  What changed is that I realized that there are two components that you need to consider when learning something, being able to access information and being able to apply that information to the situation you find yourself in. When you understand these two concepts, they will accelerate the pace of your learning.  When I say that you can learn more quickly, I’m not offering a “get rich quick” scheme, or a way to lose 80 pounds in less than a month, but a way to think about how to learn in a deliberate manner so that you can get build off of the topics you have learned in the past.

Missed Opportunities

In order to provide a little bit of context, let me explain why I think I wasted time spent trying to develop myself. At the beginning of my military career, my learning was simply disorganized. Entering the military meant that everything was new to me.  I didn’t grow up learning about machine gun employment or how to lead a platoon attack, so I had to immerse myself if I was going to succeed. I became an “active reader,” I would highlight sections of a book and jot notes in the margins. I would take a ton of notes during classes, debriefs and after action reviews, to capture whatever the mentor I was with had to offer. And then, with all of those notes, I never did a thing.  With the pace of training, I wouldn’t have time to go back and review lessons learned from Tom Clancy’s Battle Ready,and check to see what I had highlighted. During the times where I probably needed that information, I was likely already in the field where I wasn’t carrying a library of military history books with me. The notes that I did take were spread throughout multiple notebooks; so trying to go back and find the right page from the right notebook would have been improbable. Even though I had “learned” something, it didn’t mean that I had the ability to recall or locate that piece of information when I needed it, making it unusable to me.

The notes that I did have were also of limited application because they were grouped by event, not by function. If the training evolution was centered around conducting a platoon attack on a fortified position, the after action review (AAR) would cover topics from each phase of the attack. There could be guidance on mission planning, reconnaissance, leadership, tactics, combined arms use, troop employment and whatever other thoughts came to the trainer who was conducting the debrief.  So if I wanted to improve on one element, let’s say how I planned an attack, I would have to go back through multiple notebooks and scan through multiple events to see everything about the topic. If I later read a book about attack planning, those notes wouldn’t be located with my notes from the AAR, further limiting by ability to systematically expand my understanding on a topic. I might remember that I “learned” something about planning an attack, but without an effective way to recall and find that information, I couldn’t build off of it.

Because I didn’t know how to effectively learn, Continue reading »

Establishing A Baseline Is Structured Learning

October 24, 2013 in Learning About Learning

“Today, I hope to be as mediocre and average as possible!”

– Said no one ever who made a difference

To me, a baseline isn’t just the starting point for recognizing threats. It is also a way to structure my personal learning by seeking to identify the “why” and “how” behind all of the things that I observe each day. Establishing the baseline jump-starts the process of understanding what I am looking at so that I can begin to look for elements of behavior that I have not seen or observed before.  This process is how I structure my learning so that I can be continuously building and expanding my file folders needed to make recognition primed decision making a reality.

Whenever I go into an area, I always start by going through the baselining process used in the practice videos to quickly establish the patterns that are present (see how we establish a baseline for a McDonald’s.) Once I have completed this process and am reasonably certain that there isn’t anyone who requires some additional attention or observation, I transition my search to begin finding new elements of the baseline that I might have otherwise missed.  This information often comes to me from the visual observation of certain behaviors that lead me to contact a person, but I was reminded a few weeks ago why it is so important to consciously consider the information that all of my senses are gathering when establishing the norm for the area. I was walking through an airport terminal on the way to a class and noticed a very strong smell of kettle corn coming from a store and I realized that my behavior had responded to the unanticipated smell. My walking slowed as I passed the store, my interest shifted from being directly in front of me to the source of the smell and I wouldn’t be surprised if the expression of disgust was on my face as it is not a smell that I enjoy.  Observation and behavioral analysis is a game of understanding cause and effect, so as soon as I realized that my behavior changed, I decided to stop and watch to see how the smell of kettle corn affected the other people walking past. Here are some of the observations I made: Continue reading »

Updated Cluster Cards and Observable Cues

July 3, 2013 in Learning About Learning

We have updated our resources that you can use to observe behavior in our practice videos and while out in public.  The new documents have all the clusters for assessing individual behavior, the different group relationships, assessing geographic areas, identifying leaders, people familiar or unfamiliar with their surroundings and the collective mood of everyone present.

We have three options for you to access these:

1. From our library, you can download the “Cluster Cards” which have all of the indicators in a format that prints these observations into a 5×4 inch card, which fits perfectly in the back pockets of your pants or in a cargo pocket while in the field.

2. From our library, you can download the “Behavioral Observations and Cues” document that has these same indicators on full sheets of paper, making desktop viewing easier. It is printed in a larger font, so if you are doing most of your practice at your computer, this is likely the better option.

3. ON YOUR PHONE. iPhone users can open www.cp-journal.com/observations in safari, and using the arrow button on the bottom of the screen, can choose the “Add to Home Screen”option which puts an “app” that sends you directly to the page on your phone’s homescreen. The page is set up so you can quickly find the information you need to make an observation or assessment by expanding on only the section that is important to you.

The Need For Deliberate Practice – Your Daily Free Throws

June 3, 2013 in Learning About Learning

In the Marines, I learned about a program referred to as Small Unit Decision Making (SUDM).  The goal of the program is to improve the intuitive decision making ability of unit leaders who are operating in an increasingly decentralized manner.  In plain English, it means to develop the ability to assess, decide and act in the constantly changing situations experienced overseas. I’m a big supporter of the program because instead of teaching a Marine “what to think,” the goal is to teach them “how to think.” This problem solving ability in dynamic environments is not unique to the Marine Corps, but applies to all fields.

Of the five core competencies outlined in the SUDM program (sense-making, attention control, adaptability, problem solving, and meta-cognition), the first two are significant benefits of using a behavioral analysis approach to security operations.  Mastering these two competencies can truly empower the “guy on the ground” to make informed and accurate decisions amongst the inherent uncertainty that exists.  The first competency, attention control, is the ability to maintain focused attention and awareness on a chosen target.  In The CP Journal, we refer to these targets as the anomaly.  These are the criminals, insurgents, terrorists, key leaders and persons of interest we are looking for.  These are the people we want to observe and take action on, whether that is to conduct additional surveillance, collect information from, or detain.  Targets of our attentions need to be the people who stand out from the crowd.

Being an anomaly is a relative term.  If you are going to “stand out,” you have to stand out from something.  That something is the baseline – the norm for your area and the people within it. Establishing the baseline is the sense-making component of the SUDM approach that behavioral analysis plays a significant role in supporting.   This is the ability to estimate and understand the situation in any given environment. Sense-making is only possible when a person is able to recognize the patterns and routines that make up the area so that you can recognize any shifts or changes.

The benefit of developing your ability in these two SUDM competencies is easily understandable. The more quickly a person can understand their surroundings and identify those who require further attention results in a much more effective operator. It isn’t the need to develop these two skills is not what I am trying to convince you of, but how to go about attaining the requisite skills.

Recognition Primed Decision Making

To develop the ability to quickly make decisions amongst uncertainty and changes, we turn to decision-making expert Dr. Gary Klein for a way forward.  In his book Sources of Power – How People Make Decision he discusses how people approach a situation as being familiar and typical or one that requires further investigation.  The greater the familiarity with the situation in front of you compared to experiences you have already gained, the faster the speed at which decisions can be made.  What is significant about this, is that assessing a situation as being “familiar” doesn’t mean that a person has been in that exact experience before.   The scenario only has to be prototypical of other experiences that you have had.  Diagnosing a situation as typical allows a person to quickly understand what the goals should be for dealing with the problem, what cues are important and what cues are not important, predict what is expected to occur next and develop courses of action that are likely to succeed.  That makes the goal of training to enhance our intuitive Recognition Primed Decision Making (RPD) process the accumulation of more meaningful experiences that allow us to find commonalities across scenarios.

This is why we recommend that you practice observing behaviors with videos.  Practice the process of establishing a baseline for different areas (making sense of your surroundings) by looking for videos where you can observe a new setting and constantly improving the intuitive ability of a person to assess the behavioral baseline.  The goal is to make these experiences meaningful to you and your job.  You can use videos that analyze the body language from a Presidential Debate or other public figures to highlight a specific observation that tiy want to make, but to increase the chances that you apply that observation in a different setting; you need to provide those lessons in the context of realistic environment.

Taking the Best From Blue’s Clues

The Nickelodeon children’s TV show Blue’s Clues has developed a great model for learning.  What they found is that the first time a person is exposed to something complex, they pick up on only a small percentage of the information available.  If a person is exposed to the exact same situation a second time, the quantity of the collected information increases, and continues to rise with each subsequent exposure.  Repetition is the key to learning.  By watching a video clip numerous times over the course of a week (not cramming it into a single sitting) and establishing a baseline using different elements of behavior each day, the number of observations a person can make will rise.  This will help you create familiarity with the observations and in the process of developing a deep true understanding of the area you are observing.

While we can’t recreate every situation that a person might experience overseas, we can build the file folders and experience in related settings.  The first video training segment comes from a mall food court.  While a Marine on patrol in Helmand Province won’t be operating in a food court, the assessments and patterns could be very similar to the behavior seen in a busy market.  By systematically going through the different areas we will show, we can expand the database of experiences a Marine, police officer, and security guard need to quickly identify the patterns of the areas they are in.  This is what will allow you to quickly shift from establishing a baseline to identifying the criminals and insurgents hiding amongst the crowd.

Deliberate Practice and Focused Feedback – Closing The Learning Loop

Each day of the week should have new observations for you to focus on.  Make classifications about the area and then back up those assessments using specifics from each of the domains.  Don’t short change this part of the process or rely on simply “thinking” about it, but actually write it down.  To get the most amount of benefit from this type of practice, you have to become an active participant in the learning process. This will also help you remember what you observed on the following day when you compare your notes with my assessment of the scenario.  While my observations are certainly not the final answer and you may make observations that I miss, having the point of comparison should assist your growth.

Spending 5-10 minutes going through this process each day is the dedication required to become a professional and build stronger mental models.  Michael Jordan shot free throws every day. Payton Manning rehearses the routes that his wide receivers run.  Boxers and MMA fighters practice their jab.  They do it because that’s what it takes to win, even if it is something they have already learned how to do.  Developing the ability to identify an enemy hiding in plain sight requires the same dedication.

Want to see other books that we have read and recommend? Take a look at our complete reading list for our other suggestions.

Being Faster Than Your Enemy

May 16, 2013 in Learning About Learning

In security, the goal is for the good guys to be faster than the bad guys in every way.  That is how we prevent violence and crime from happening, by making observations, making decisions and taking action faster than the criminal can.  This concept of operational speed is often summed up with the guidance to execute the OODA loop more quickly than the insurgents, terrorists and criminals we are hunting.  I’ve found that, while this advice to be faster has become fairly common, the understanding of how to actually speed up the OODA loop is not as well understood.

Being able to complete all four steps in the “Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act” cycle before the enemy can complete those same steps is easier said than done.  We want to reach the act stage before the criminal does so that we can have the upper hand and force our enemy to begin reacting to us. Every time we do this, we cause the criminal to reset his planning cycle and go back to step one.  While the action is the ultimate goal, it isn’t something that we can just jump to without first going through the entire process.

If we spend too long trying to become 100% certain that we have oriented on specific people, we can’t begin deciding which action to take.  If we don’t know what to look for or what makes someone a threat other than visually seeing a weapon, we will never proceed past step one.  To make decisions and take action more quickly, we have to become better at the orient step of the OODA loop.  Observation and orientation, in simple terms, allow for the ability to transition from looking at the crowd as a whole to being able to focus on a specific person or group of people.

Because speed is a relative term (how fast good guys can do this compared to bad guys) we have to reflect on the fact that the enemy has a much easier job at orienting on us because we constantly stand out from the crowd.  Marines, Soldiers and police officers are wearing a uniform, which makes it easy for the enemy to figure out exactly who and where we are.  Executive protection teams have to defend well-known public figures, making it easy to identify them. A criminal does not have to strain himself to identify the corporate security officers who not only has to wear a uniform but are also standing at the building entrance near what is a clearly marked security desk.  The enemy can orient on us with much less effort, providing him with opportunities to take the initiative and develop detailed plans of attack.

This issue of the CP Journal is focused on how to negate the enemy’s inherent advantage and how we can use behavior to execute this OODA loop process more quickly than the criminal can.  The four categories of observable behavior (looking at individuals, groups, the environment, and the collective) are situational and can’t all be observed all of the time.  Which domains are going to provide you with the highest quality of information is going to depend on what information you are trying to collect.  The articles inside this issue highlight these skills and observations in situations that you are likely to find yourself in.

As you read the articles in this issue, keep the OODA loop in mind and the perspective of steps that you can take to make decisions more quickly than our enemy can and maintain control of the fight.  As military, law enforcement, and security professionals, we often spend our time training and practicing the skills needed during the action phase of the OODA loop and gloss over the crucial observation skills that allow us to take action on our terms.

However, without informed observations and intelligent analysis, decisions can’t be made and action can’t be taken to defeat the criminal, insurgent and terrorist networks.  The difference between making observed arrests and waiting for dispatch to let you know where a crime occurred comes down to your ability to orient on specific people after recognizing the often subtle cues that attract your attention.  This ability is what will allow you to shift from scanning the crowd to analyzing a specific person.  For those looking to excel in their chosen profession, that is where speed comes from.

Thanks for reading and welcome to the CP Journal.

.Patrick Van Horne


This Article Has Become Part Of An E-Book, You Can Download It Here


May 16, 2013 in Learning About Learning

The Impact Of Disillusionment

“ Once he thought he had concluded that it would be better to get killed directly and end his troubles. Regarding death thus out of the corner of his eye, he conceived it to be nothing but rest. His mind was undergoing a subtle change. It took moments for it to cast off its battleful ways and resume its accustomed course of thought. Gradually his brain emerged from the clogged clouds, and at last he was enabled to more closely comprehend himself and circumstance”

– Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane, in his novel, the Red Badge of Courage, shows Henry Fleming, the protagonist, suffering the effects of stress and burnout. Henry finds himself reflecting on whether it would be better to be dead than carry on for another day. Henry has surrendered his identity to the war and decides that death is preferable to the daily turmoil he faces. This situation may sound eerily familiar to those serving in the armed forces or public protection. Several have faced this dilemma. Their days are fraught with intense pressure and personal risk. This leaves them drained at the end of the day and often leaves them debating whether they can continue.  Those individuals employed in security, law enforcement, or military positions, observe the most perverse and evil parts of the human psyche. They are constantly bombarded by images of cruelty, conflict, and death. Yet during this despondency and conflict they are supposed to remain unperturbed and make sure they do not “Dishonor the Uniform.” The sheer energy it takes to stay calm and in control in the face of such behavior is a major drain on their psychological and physical resources. The need for effective mental conditioning training in the military and in public safety has never been greater than at this time.

Many enter the security professions because they are enticed by the prospect of protecting and helping others. During their initial training a symbiotic identity emerges between their personal and professional life. These individuals accept the hazards of the profession because of the personal rewards it affords them. The work becomes interesting, personally rewarding and professionally satisfying. However, over time, the luster fades and the individual undergoes a metamorphosis. This metamorphosis results in burnout.  Burnout is a psychological term that refers to the long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Often the first sign one will notice is that they have great difficulty in calming down once they are home. Activities that once provided enjoyment are now replaced with passive activities such as watching TV or listening to music. When questioned about the job, a simple, “It was fine,” becomes the answer, instead of a detailed summary of the day. This person is demonstrating a biologically encapsulated coping mechanism to protect them from their daily environment.

Offered a glimpse into the most inhumane levels of humanity, military and public safety employees keep a vigilant eye on personal fallout. This self-monitoring is done to protect family and friends from their professional life. Rules and Standard Operating Procedures along with strong peer support regulate conduct during the working hours. All day long one must suppress their statements and discipline their actions. Once home, when they come through the door, this pressure is dumped on those around them. Fearful that families will suffer the emotional fallout that they themselves are experiencing, they choose to withdraw from their once safe environment.

Coworkers and individuals must become attuned to certain behaviors that indicate an increased level of stress leading to burnout. The signs of burnout, according to the American Psychological Association, include:  sleep disruption, excuse making, agitation or argumentative behavior, and increasingly hazardous behavior.[1]  Maintaining effective and honest communication with your coworker is paramount. Even if you know the person is tactically proficient, their presence of mind has placed them in a “clog of clouds,” as Stephen Crane states in the Red Badge of Courage. In a security situation, this could result in death or dismemberment for either you or them.

The factors that contribute to burnout are numerous. There are the power struggles that go on behind the scenes at work such as conflict with peers and supervisors. Disillusionment with the organization swamps the good intentions that once dedicated employees brought to the organization.  Another factor is the feeling of impotence. Once they wished to save the world, now they just want get through the day. Work has become routine and predictable with little stimulation and no visible impact on the criminal situation. Another factor leading to burnout is the required administrative tasks. Report writing, training and planning are viewed as interruptions to doing one’s “real work.” These administrative duties, often completed after working hours, prohibit the individual from having a life outside of the work environment.

The impact of burnout is not only detrimental to the individual, but also to those around them. Burnout strikes at the professional identity of the military or public safety personnel, which results in loss of innocence and compassion. The individual suffering from burnout may have an identity crisis as they try to reconcile their current state with past performance. They may see themselves as not up to the demands of the job and impotent. The impact of viewing oneself as impotent could result in hazardous behaviors. First the individual takes short cuts, because in their mind, they have seen this situation before and know how it will end. This results in them not being mentally prepared to address an unforeseen situation. An example of this would be a corrections officer stabbed serving an inmate a meal. On the other end of the spectrum, the individual may become reckless and unnecessarily take risk. An example of this could be not calling for back up or support because you want to push the envelope for the thrill.

The employing agency will also be impacted by burnout. As the individual’s behavior deteriorates, they become a civil or criminal liability to the parent organization. The battle for hearts and minds is one fight military or public safety agencies can lose in a minute and take years to regain that credibility.

Burnout Treatment

There are many ways to counteract the angst of burnout and manage the transformations that are part of the burnout faced by military and public safety personnel.  Lt. Colonel Grossman, in On Killing espoused the need to address and recognize when a person is denying their emotions.[2]  If you are frustrated, angry or depressed, admit it to yourself and those around you. This does not make you weak. This self-disclosure provides a needed catharsis.  Another way to control for burnout is to get some sleep. Psychologist F.C. Bartlett found that there is no general condition which is more likely to produce nervous or mental disorders than a state of prolonged fatigue. The need for military and public safety employees to constantly remain in a state of arousal of “fight or flight” drains them of needed energy reserves. These reserves can only be replenished with adequate rest and proper nutrition. Exercise is another proven method to elevate burnout. When selecting an exercise, select one that is not career-related. For example, there is a direct transference of skills between engaging in mixed martial arts or weight lifting to your professional career. However these activities do not allow your mind to escape your work environment. Instead try Yoga, bike riding, or rowing, as this will allow your mind to take a break from the rigors of the day. When confronting burnout look for a small victory each day. This victory is whatever objective you set for yourself that day.

[1] Bailey, D.S. (2006). Burnout harms workers’ physical health through many pathways. 37(6), 11. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun06/burnout.aspx

[2] Grossman, D. (1996). On Killing. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

This Article Has Become Part Of An E-Book, You Can Download It Here

4 Reasons Why Southwest Airlines Would Excel At Behavioral Analysis

March 11, 2013 in Learning About Learning

Last week a friend asked me what type of company my ideal client would be.  I was thrown off momentarily while I considered the question and realized that the best classes I’ve taught are to people who are open to learning and pre-disposed to being great at reading human behavior.  After a minute I gave him my answer – I would love to teach the employees at Southwest Airlines (LUV).  Here’s why:

1. Outgoing: Southwest’s gate and flight attendants, are outgoing.  They can start a conversation with anyone who gets near the gate to board a Southwest flight.  The people who are successful in using the skills taught in a behavioral analysis program are the ones who can Continue reading »

Priming Your Brain – A Guide To Learning

January 31, 2013 in Learning About Learning

A short while ago, I realized that I am fortunate enough to work in a profession where intelligent, successful people surround me.  These people, the athletes and members of my gym, come from a wide assortment of economical, social, and educational backgrounds.  Professions in my gym range from doctors, lawyers, life coaches, real estate agents, and Marine Corps Officers.  While these members are diverse in many aspects of life, they share a communal respect for health and fitness. As a gym owner, I am naturally going to be surrounded by people who understand the value of fitness.  What I’ve found, though, is that even with such diversity, there is a common thread of overall intelligence and success.

One might argue that successful people will find ways to spend their money, and joining a gym is one way to do it.  Others might argue that these people are successful because they understand that mental health is directly related to physical health.  Regardless of what brought these people into our gym, their prior successes and intelligence, we see a positive trend in the perception of mental capacity.   We have members reporting feeling better during work and school.

What the members are describing is an increased cognitive function that directly correlates to physical exercise.  I would like to explore further how fitness can affect cognitive processes.

The Brain Connections

Every function of the body relies on an intricate communication network that starts in the brain.  Every piece of information you receive through your senses is relayed to your brain for analyzing, processing, and synthesizing.  Inside the depths of human brain, we have a network of cells that communicate electronically.  This communication system is how one part of our brain communicates with another and how information is transmitted to the body.  The cells that communicate with each other are called neurons.

A neuron is a cell designed to transmit information from one cell to another.  A neural network looks like the roots of a tree, however, a closer examination reveals that each neuron is separate from the others.  A neuron will send messages through an axon, or a long stem that extends from the cell body.  The message will travel through space called a synapse, and reach another neuron.  A neuron has a receptive area called a dendrite.  The information that is passed from neuron to neuron is called a neural transmitter.

When you learn something new you have to create a new connection between two neurons.  Early on, this connection is weak and fragile, and can be broken, causing you to forget whatever you just learned, but the more times you perform an action, the more you strengthen that connection, and the easier it becomes.  What is surprising though, is that mixing exercise in with your learning can dramatically improve the strength of this connection and how likely you are to recall that new piece of information later on.

Exercise – The Science Behind The Application

It has been shown that rats can increase the number of synapses (the connections between neurons in their brain) after completing acrobatic training.  When I say acrobatic training, I am talking about more than the hamster wheel of pain.  I’m talking about a complex assortment of obstacles requiring the rats to create ways to overcome obstacles.    This means that as we age we can improve the number of connections between cells by learning new movements.

Find an exercise program that teaches you new and complex movement. Develop skills in Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, or acrobatics.  Learn and develop new skills, such as rock climbing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or boxing.  The more coordinated activity involved, the more you will benefit from the affects of motor learning and the brain.

It has also been shown that physical activity in rats increased the density of blood vessels in the brain.   This means there were a greater number of nutrients supplied from the blood to the brain.  This is an unexpected, yet beneficial side effect of acrobatic feats – increased blood flow to the brain – that helps learning (developing those neural connections) that isn’t possible when trying to learn when you’ve been sitting at a desk for long periods of time.

Research also shows that exercise can help induce neurogenesis, or the formation of new nerve cells, in the hippocampus.  The hippocampus is the area brain where memories are stored.  This cell creation is due to the production of substances released during exercise called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF assists in the growth of new neurons and preventing older connections from dying off.      Our brains are plastic, which means they have the ability to change depending on use.  This neuroplasticity of our brains is referred to as “use it or lose it”.   The brain will prune away unused or weak connections.  As we age, skills we do not practice as often can be lost.

Controlling How You Learn

If you are new to training, to reap the benefits of aerobic activity, start by walking daily.  As you feel comfortable, increase the distances and the intensity.  The goal is to get your heart rate up and keep moving at least three to four times a week for 20-30 minutes at a time.  Most law enforcement, security, first responder and military jobs demand long periods of inactivity followed by periods of intense engagement.  Train this way.  Your workouts should be brief, yet intense.  If you want to engage the aerobic metabolic pathway, try interval work.  That means short periods of intense work followed by rest.  Repeat several times.

However, to truly maximize your physical and mental potential, you may want to find the minimal effective dose for exercise.  That means to find a program that will give you the aerobic benefits and motor learning benefits at the same time.  Incorporate a strength-training program for the increased benefits of metabolic and muscle development.  Incorporate functional movements that require coordination, learning, and mastery.

In Conclusion

It is clear that exercise, specifically aerobic exercise and the learning of new motor-developing tasks can increase your cognitive functions.  I don’t know if this explains why there is such a large population of successful, driven and intelligent people that frequent my facility, but it helps.

In our gym we do all of the steps I talked about above.  We are a CrossFit affiliate in Carlsbad, CA.  The athletes in our gym work on a strength-based lift, then focus on a technique-based movement and hit a short-duration high intensity workout, which is usually followed by a cool-down or a static strength building gymnastic movement.  Our goal is simple, and physical in general, to build a well-rounded athlete.  Building the smarter athlete is a beneficial side effect.

Article References:

Acheson A, Conover JC, et. al. (March 1995). A BDNF autocrine loop in adult sensory neurons prevents cell death. Nature 374 (6521): 450–3.  Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v374/n6521/abs/374450a0.html

American Physiological Society (2011, April 12). Moderate exercise dramatically improves brain blood flow in elderly women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/04/110412131921.htm

Black, J, Isaacs, K, et. al., (1990, July) Learning causes synaptogenesis, whereas motor activity causes angiogenesis in cerebellar cortex of adult rats.  Proc. Nati. Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 87, pp. 5568-5572, July 1990 Neurobiology.  Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/87/14/5568.full.pdf

Hubel, D. H., & Wiesel, T. N. (1965). Binocular interaction in striate cortex of kittens reared with artificial squint. Journal of Neurophysiology, 28, 1041–1059.

Raichlen, D and Polk, J (2012, Nov 21) Linking brains and brawn: exercise and the evolution of human neurobiology. Proc R Soc B. Retrieved from http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1750/20122250.long

This article has become part of an e-book that can be downloaded here

The Impact of Visual Training on Military Skills

January 30, 2013 in Learning About Learning

When it comes to designing a training program for military personnel, instructors are faced with several challenges. First, unlike athletes there is no off-season, most units are either preparing for deployment, deployed, or refitting from deployment. Secondly, training facilities vary from location to location and often focus on a single task. These tasks may include muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, field craft or marksmanship. Each of the above contribute to the success of an operation, however there is one area of training that is deficient. This deficiency is visual training; visual ability plays a larger role in achieving optimum performance than most military personnel realize. The goal of integrating visual training into an already packed curriculum is not to dilute it but to improve tactical performance.

The American Optometric Association defines visual training as a structured program of visual activities prescribed to improve visual performance.  Visual training has been thriving in the arena of sports medicine for years. Athletic trainers have employed visual training to improve an athlete’s ability to better anticipate the actions or reactions of their opponent (Hugemann, Strauss and Canal-Bruland 2006).  Instructors cannot lose sight of this skill set in training of members of the armed forces. Like athletes military personnel operate in a dynamic environment and need the ability to clearly see objects while them and or the object is moving. Continue reading »

Download The Cluster Cards

December 5, 2012 in Learning About Learning

If you want to take the posts that break down the body language clusters with you on the go so you can practice your observations in real life situations, now you can.  You can now download our “Cluster Cards” to print, laminate and take with you.

Being able to quickly and accurately read an individual’s behavior is the foundation of any behavioral approach to threat recognition and predictive profiling.  Master the basics!

Get access to our available downloads in our Library.

The Development Pipeline

November 19, 2012 in Learning About Learning

Whether your goal is to use behavioral analysis to improve your business or ensure your security, dedicating time to further your ability is the only way to enhance your skill-set

The articles in this list are chosen to provide you an overview of the courses we offer and the key points of each individual domain.  This will provide the context that will help you dive into the information that we will provide in the other posts on the site.

Continue reading »

The Power of Empowerment and Developing Understanding

October 8, 2012 in Learning About Learning

I can’t get the video to embed properly, but the segment starts at 1:21:12 where Neil deGrasse Tyson describes why people seek understanding.

“There are two things people like.  They like it when they understand something that they previously thought they couldn’t understand.  It’s a sense of empowerment.  By either the spoken or written word, so if you get better at writing with the intent of empowering a person’s ability to think, then people will come back to you to write some more. Whether or not you think you can become great at something, you can always become better at it.”

The point? Influence comes from communication.

The goal? Develop understanding in others so they can take control.

I’m Not An Expert And I Don’t Want To Be

August 30, 2012 in Assessing Individuals, Learning About Learning

Exactly one year before the workplace violence-related shooting last week outside of the Empire State building, I posted my second article on this site.  It was titled, “Am I an Expert Yet” and it was written with the goal of instilling confidence in students to use and apply the profiling skills they were learning in class.  My intent was for students to take proactive steps towards identifying and taking action on the anomalies they observed and not be passive bystanders.  But after watching the media call on countless self-proclaimed “experts” to comment on the events that took place before and after the shooting, I can’t help but be frustrated.

Experts Know Capabilities and Limitations.

I don’t think there are very many people who are body language experts.  Continue reading »

Pamela Meyer – TED Talk About Finding The Truth

July 3, 2012 in Assessing Individuals, Learning About Learning


We don’t spend a great deal of time on the site focusing on Deception Detection, but it is a skill that should be considered for every interaction that you have, especially in your professional (security) related conversations. Bad information leads to bad decisions and learning to spot the cues that the person you are talking to might be hiding something can be the difference between succeeding or failing in your task.  Watch the video and see why Pamela Meyer is on our recommended reading list.

If you are interested in her great book, Lie Spotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, you can pick it up from Amazon here.

Want to see other books that we have read and recommend? Take a look at our complete reading list for our other suggestions.

Your Brain and Exercise

March 14, 2012 in Learning About Learning

In this video, Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert discusses his belief about how the brain has evolved.  He says, “We have a brain for one reason, and one reason only and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements.”  This may give us an insight into the connection of how our limbic brain controls our involuntary actions, which gives us the ability to create a “Combat Profile.”  If this is the case, can we increase our brain’s ability through the use of complex motor functions?  Research shows the answer is a resounding, YES. Continue reading »