What We Do

The Firefly Group helps people use everyday situations for learning and connecting to the Big Picture. After working with Firefly, you will be energized with specific action steps to achieve your goals.

We do this through training of trainers, leadership development, performance improvement training, strategic planning, writing training manuals, and clarification of organizational mission and vision. Our methods are engaging, thought-filled, and results-oriented.

If this sounds like a good direction for your organization, let's talk about how we might collaborate! Please give me a call (802.257.7247) or send an . - Brian

Your ETR (Estimated Time to Read): 15 minutes
Your ETII (Estimated Time to Implement Ideas):
5 weeks

Read my book
Say It Quick!

There is Still Time to Register for the NASAGA Conference at a Special 10% Discount!

Plan to join me at the fabulous North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) Conference coming up in Sarasota, FL, October 23-26: Play by Design, A Bridge to Learning.

Not only will we celebrate the bridge between play and learning, but also the years that NASAGA has spanned - fifty-one! Some of the first NASAGANS who invented games for teaching back in the 60's will be there, along with our newest members who design and use digital and other contemporary games for their teaching. We'll be running some of the classic simulation games, BaFABaFA and StarPower and honoring Garry Shirts, their designer. We'll have sessions on Alternative Reality Games (ARG), digital design, card games, photo jolts, junkyard games, and much much more. We'll be making a site visit to the Mote Marine Lab to experience their immersive, interactive games for teaching science. And we're offering a GEOPubCrawl on Friday night to experience delightful downtown Sarasota and its plethora of food and drink establishments.

This conference will truly be a bridge between then and now, classical and contemporary, digital and traditional, not only in theory, but also represented by the people themselves who design and use all types of games for learning.

Readers of the Firefly News Flash can receive a 10% discount off the price of the conference or both the conference and preconference. When you register, use the code FAN to receive your discount.

October 2013

Say It Quick
a thoughtful message in exactly 99 words

bits of serendipity to inspire and motivate
fuel for your own continuous learning
tips and tricks you can try today
Confidence Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow

Question Your Perception

Find Your Blind Spot


Say It Quick

Learn about the interaction between the conscious and unconscious functions of your brain and what it means for your interpersonal effectiveness beginning with this 99-Word Story.

With sweaty palms, I sat fretting in a side room. Interviewing for my first job after college, I had just met with a committee of twelve to answer their questions. Now I awaited the "verdict." Would they give me the job? And worse, if I got it, could I do it? I wasn't sure!

Then I relaxed: If they could determine from a resume and an interview that I was the right person, then I, who knew myself so much better, could probably pull it off.

Trust the mirror people hold up for you. I got the job!



By Leonard Mlodinow

I consider myself to be a productive adult who functions reasonably well in most situations. I am able to handle stress, think on my feet, and even respond to a crisis effectively. But in his book, Subliminal, Leonard Mlodinow maintains that, even on my best days, what I do is actually controlled by my subconscious. In other words, most of what I do is out of my control and below my awareness.

Of course, it's the same for you too!

Mlodinow's book describes the role our subconscious has not only in regulating thousands of bodily functions from digestion to blood circulation but also in perception, decision-making, feelings, and self-image. Your subconscious mind consumes more energy and occupies more cerebral real estate than your conscious mind. It's the unconscious that has the bigger effect on our behavior. In Subliminal, Mlodinow explains that our unconscious performs some vital survival functions. It acts as a filter eliminating unnecessary sensory input and preventing overload. It refines the data we collect from our senses and sends a polished signal to our consciousness. It makes a preliminary assessment of new information by associating it with things we already know. It warns us of danger and gives us confidence and courage to try new things.

But the real fascination of Mlodinow's book is the variety of ways our subliminal mind "sanitizes" the data it passes along to our conscious mind. We all have gaps in perception as a result of our anatomy. For example, everyone has an area of their field of vision that they cannot see. It occurs at the point where the optic nerve attaches to the retina. You can't "see" this blind spot because your unconscious mind activates your eye muscles to make many micro shifts each second. The resulting images are stitched together so that your conscious mind perceives a complete picture.

Similar imperfections occur in the way we perceive sound, taste, touch, and smell. Our unconscious mind is constantly cleaning up our sensory data so that our conscious mind can interpret it.

But this subliminal data shaping is subject to manipulation. In one study, people were asked to taste different wines. In blind tests, they rated the two samples as tasting the same. However, when people were told one wine cost $90 a bottle and the other $10, they consistently preferred the more expensive wine. What people didn't know was that all the wine they tasted came from the same $90 bottle! Because they expected a pricy wine to taste better, it did. What's more, when people knew the price, an fMRI scan of their brain activity showed increased activity in the pleasure center of the brain. Knowing the price of the wine changed how people perceived its taste.

Mlodinow describes how, in a similar fashion, our unconscious mind revises our memories, generates our feelings, dictates our reactions to others, and constructs our own self-image. After reading Subliminal, you'll gain a new appreciation for the working of your own mind - even if you are never consciously aware of what it is really doing.

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow, Pantheon Books, New York, 2012, ISBN 978-0-307-37821-7



Question Your Perception
Perhaps you've seen the bumper sticker, "Question Authority." After reading Mlodinow's book, Subliminal, "Question Your Perception" seems more apt.

Our subconscious is working constantly to protect us and make interpretation easier for our conscious mind. Since we never have all the data, our brain simply fills in the holes with what will be most convincing. We fake it - and end up with a manufactured reality that we swear is true.

Subliminal describes how false memories can be generated and why eye witnesses are unreliable. It explains why you and your partner might disagree about the story of your first date. And it makes clear why it's often so difficult to explain our feelings.

In one study, researchers wanted to learn about the role of subconscious thinking in the hiring process. They asked people to review resumes from a woman and a man for chief of police, a stereotypically male position. The subjects considered two resumes. One showed the male candidate as being streetwise while the other showed the female candidate as being politically savvy. Most subjects chose the male candidate because, they explained, street experience is important for a police chief. When the resumes were switched making the female streetwise and the male politically savvy, the subjects still preferred the man because, "a police chief needs to be effective in a political environment." These people did not believe their preconceptions or stereotypes about male and female roles had influenced their decision. Yet in actuality, their conscious mind had created a socially acceptable explanation to justify what their subconscious mind wanted them to choose.

Insights like these about how we think lead us to question our own perceptions, evaluations, and judgments about others. This study shows that even when we know about the subliminal influences on our thinking, we may be unable to overrule them. At the very least, we can begin to understand that another person's perspective may be just as valid as our own.

This ability to create our reality is not all bad. Because of our subliminal mental processes, most people rate themselves above average along many dimensions such as intelligence. Clearly we cannot all be above average! But there are survival advantages to being confident and self-assured.

In the 99-Word Story, twelve interviewers were debating their perceptions of me. I was worried and I manufacture a story that fit what my "above average" subconscious needed in order to survive.

You can trust the mirror of perception but keep in mind that it's flawed in ways you may never know.



Find Your Blind Spot
Everyone has a blind spot in their vision but don't be surprised if you've never noticed yours. Your subconscious is protecting you from the jarring sensation of imperfect eyesight. (When my college psychology professor mentioned that we all have a blind spot, I vocally insisted that, in my case, he was wrong! Perhaps my conscious mind was protecting me as well!)

Many people live a lifetime and never know about this quirk of their anatomy. However, you can "see" your blind spot with this experiment. Close your right eye and look at the number 1 in the figure below. Slowly move closer or further away from the computer screen until the asterisk on the left in your peripheral vision disappears. When it does, you've found it!

To judge its size, keep looking at the number 1 and move forward or back until the asterisk reappears. You can also gradually move your gaze to the left one number at a time. You will probably see the asterisk once you get between numbers 3 and 5 on the continuum.

Turn this curious phenomenon into a learning opportunity by showing it to your team members then follow up with a discussion centered on these questions:

If you share this activity with your colleagues, please let others know how it went and what you discovered. Send an email to .


If you like what you have read in this issue, I would like to bring the same innovation, creativity, and playfulness to your next meeting or learning event.

Whether you need a keynote speaker, or help with strategic planning, performance improvement, or training facilitators and trainers in your organization, I look forward to your call (802.257.7247) or .

-- Brian

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