Unseen Loss of Self-Appreciation: Loneliness in my research is directly related to causing individuals to slip into a spiral, one that is often unseen. A feeling people describe as being numb to the experience of life. People who are lonely can also be surrounded by people, making it a difficult condition to detect and resolve until it is too late. Perceived success matters not; consider some iconic individuals such as Anthony Bourdain, Heath Ledger, or Robin Williams.
As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Dr. J. Paul Rand MBA, CPCN. Dr Rand, is the owner of RSolutions located at The-Orchard.org — an organically different applied think-tank in Seattle, Washington. Rand contributes research and organizational perspectives through the Business Journal Leadership Trust available in 43 cities monthly. He is regularly featured in this outlet, but has appeared in NBC, CBS, Forbes, Huffington Post. As a cultural performance research psychologist, he is dedicated to putting the human back into the digital era with his work.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Rand! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?
Much of my career has been focused on organizational development (OD) working with 85% of the personnel departments based on Seattle, Washington. It is here that my corporate consulting and research takes a turn from all things corporate in the “City of Companies” (Seattle) to understanding the lived experience using a very unique, organically-dynamic method of human performance and cultural research! Aside from educational and organizational consulting, though, amidst the downtown Seattle rain, beyond the glass towers of Amazon, the Boeing plants and airplane fuselages, and well below the iconic Space Needle, exists a small, quiet, grove: The-Orchard.
The programs I have designed takes a deep dive into the cultivation of the inner character by understanding, discovering, and creating a personal framework that empower individuals to distill confident clarity in their lives by seeking to live, learn, and lead a significant life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
After losing several friends in the War on Terror, I started conducting research on site at The-Orchard in 2007 motivated by a desire to help while returning to school to earn a PhD in psychology (featured in a variety of outlets including this one recently).
In 2014 I was endorsed by the VA/Dept of Defense leader overseeing the traumatic brain injury services stating my program did more in three months than their programs could in three years (really it was to cooperation of both, I believe). This led to me being interviewed by a major media outlet for my outreach programs incubated in my think-tank dedicated to helping veterans to “get right, find right, and be dynamic” through recreational therapy solutions (which inspired a scene in the movie American Sniper).
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
I am actively still making mistakes to stay in a mode of relentless pursuit of excellence like it is my day-one at work: a well proven value of Amazon and their record breaking hypergrowth this past decade.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am very excited to take your audience on a journey in this conversation. Did you know, in fact, that loneliness is something Forbes Health leaders and Dr Oz recently described as the most pressing issue in our country?
Motivated by a desire to leverage my awarded, endorsed, and cited research method to addressing challenges faced by parents, youths, and educators around this subject, I accidentally made an organically dynamic discovery, a really interesting journey… one that links a 4000 year old secret… ironically living a lonely life… which I am excited to share with the audience later in our discussion.
Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?
Absolutely. My focus on dynamic-success as a performance psychologist is outlined in a publication The-Orchard featured with references and citations in Forbes, Huffington Post, NBC, CBS, and even resulted in me being asked to make policy proposals to the White House, Dept of Labor, Department of Education, and other federal agencies this past year.
I have been awarded by several professional associations annually for over 12 years for my OD work in corporations. I am considered nationally by members of congress, Big-4 consulting firms, and the White House as a leading SME in humanistic culture research related to dynamic-success psychology, a method of applied (action) research focused on real life solutions and not just lab or statistical studies.
This in addition to the recognition by the Traumatic Brain Injury center serving combat veterans for outcomes achieved by participants I worked with at The-Orchard.org
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?
Recently, this topic came up when I was presenting my book DadJob live on 5th Ave Forbes (with my 13 year old, and the importance of dynamic-success psychology research I have conducted to helping resolve the crisis).
You know, some 250 or 300 years ago, an Irish ballad was written about the Rowan Berry Tree, a name not commonly known to most. Maybe you might recognize its culturally common name: the Tree of Life?
This poem laments the long-lost friend of humanity. The poem depicts the tree’s long-life journey in solitude. Historically, the Tree of Life, specifically Rowan, is said to represent man’s struggle to overcome the environment against all odds and conditions. Once revered so strongly that it was a capital offence to cut the tree in some cultures; sadly, this tree has been all but forgotten by humanity.
Most people unaware that the Tree of Life is anything more than an iconic symbol of cultures and beliefs from a bygone era. Believe it or not, the Tree of Life (the Rowan) is a real tree, but it is on the verge of going extinct. I think that in many ways the ballad mirrors the experience shared by many people now feeling lost in the digital era causing harm by:
- Unseen Loss of Self-Appreciation: Loneliness in my research is directly related to causing individuals to slip into a spiral, one that is often unseen. A feeling people describe as being numb to the experience of life. People who are lonely can also be surrounded by people, making it a difficult condition to detect and resolve until it is too late. Perceived success matters not; consider some iconic individuals such as Anthony Bourdain, Heath Ledger, or Robin Williams.
- Overburden Poor Choice Responses: In my cultural research with veterans and other at-risk populations, as well as with executives and organizational leaders, I find that being lonely increases stress causing people to seek unhealthy outlets such as over eating, stagnation in daily routine, drugs, suicide ideation, risky behavior, and self-defeating thoughts that repress their self-appreciation, increasing physical ailments.
- Physical Ailments/Reduced Well-Being: new research is emerging that many diseases are directly related to one common denominator: inflammation. High rates of stress, negative thinking patterns, emotional frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression are all linked to increased inflammation throughout the body. Depressive thoughts can lead to increased food consumption; this causes reduce movement; reduced movement increases poor physical digestion which new studies link directly to neurological responses that causes inflammation. Inflammation can lead to more chronic and serious health conditions. In turn, these ailments directly diminish our long-term well-being measurements. A vicious cycle.
- Being alone, isolated or being amidst a crowded stadium but still feeling completely disconnected from humanity is the common definition of human loneliness. And, just as the nearly forgotten rowanberry, the fruit of the Tree of Life, has been alone forgotten after years of appreciation and reverence, it is going extinct. Likewise, the loneliness epidemic is taking a toll on humanity and harming our mental, emotional, physical, and health and essence.
Later in this dialogue, I will share some profound connections between humanity and the Rowan that really emphasize a profound thought: What does it mean for humanity if we literally allow the Tree of Life go extinct, despite over 4000 years of cultural heritage and lore from around the world revering it for its perceived connection to humanity?
On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?
We are the only species with one unique brain neuron, something I will get into a bit later, separating our minds from all other mammals. Yet, as a society we are allowing the digital era to define us; to prohibit our ability to unlock our organically-dynamic abilities; to go beyond the digital content, to connect with people in real, right, and profound ways; to put the human back into our hearts, minds, body and essence. Why?
- Too Fast: We are moving too fast and lost value of the “Speed of patience” to put dynamic quality into our interactions and lives. More and frequent and constant exposure is actually linked to reduction in teen pregnancies since the 1990s, but massive increases in school violence, rates of anxiety, suicide ideation, drug addiction, and more. I explore the impact on families and community in my publication Dad-Job with fathers who have lost children, victims of school shootings, and others directly impacted because of the way loneliness is making a nasty impact on our communities. Why?
- Too much: Too much digital content, too much faster speeds, too much food we do not need, too much reliance on medications, too much manufactured drama and hype, too much negativity, too much meaningless content, too much traffic, too much noise! Consider one of the fastest growing internet rages (I won’t even honor it by giving you the name) providing mindless, short clip videos with absolutely no point. Too much! Why?
- Too Distracted: Our attention span is being reduced to such low levels due to over consumption; so much so that less than 7 people out of 10 who start will complete this interview to the finish. (that’s ok, I will take my time in appreciation for those seeking something real, right, and dynamically different seeking quality over quantity). The fact is, we have reduced our attention span for entertainment purposes (based on reading character novels of length) by over 30% in the past five years; for intellectual content the reduction of attention is so striking you would not believe them. Why?
Much like the Rowan Tree (Tree of Life) ballad lamented about humanity loosing value of its once revered relationship with the Tree of Life; in a way, the technology era is doing the same to humanity.
The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.
We are often distracted by the lure of a digital realm that consumes us with massive data (that can be counted) despite so little of it actually providing quality, intentional, and real significance in our life:
1.Valueless-Content Overload: we are bombarded by content, but often not empowered to go beyond content to apply, engage, and develop real, right, and positive outcomes by applying our knowledge. As the world moves so rapidly, it becomes difficult to keep up. We become overwhelmed by everything others do, causing us to retreat in taking even the most minor of actions to live a dynamic life learning, serving, and creating a better tomorrow. We become isolated amid the vast digital data. Consumed and overwhelmed, eventually, we give up. So, we let go of learning, and start to feel numb and alone.
The Rowan tree mentioned earlier is known to grow high atop mountains, surrounded by rocks, and unhealthy soil, struggling against the conditions to grow tall, strong and abundant; a fight the tree is now losing. Are we doing the same amid the content-overload
2. Unhealthy Technology Relationship: speed of information: not everyone is a friend, and not everyone’s life can be measured by social media fads, likes, and shares. Technology has gone from a tool, to a crutch, to what some people believe is literally an extension of themselves.
Currently, teens feel more despair than ever; facing more difficulties that most rather ignore; distracted into running faster and faster in life trying to keep up with the multitude of drama, meaningless content, and shallow conversation of the digital era. They are feeling alone while missing out a dynamic and real-life journey right in front of them, lost while consuming everything in that little digital box they see as a necessity of their existence. Basic motor functions are on the decline as children are not even taught to use a pen in many schools anymore. We are creating a generation I call, “tap… tap.. create.” Expectations with no significance to the work required to achieve success.
The problem? What happens when the technology you tap no longer works, where will humanity be then? Or worse, when technology no longer has a need for us?
3. Positively-Negative Phenomenon: loneliness, in my research has been directly related to the scam of “sharing a sad story of success.” People are being contrived into spending money, investing time, promises of sharing revealing, deep seeded life stories (some real, others fantasized) in hopes of making it big. Becoming wealthy. Gaining more through internet opportunity than through real, authentic, positivity discovered outcomes that impact the lives of those right around people through development of the inner character, real relationships, and quality engagement. When internet influences and those contriving “look at me success” stories are honest with themselves, they feel something is missing in the virtual hype. An organic spirit that’s overwhelmingly negative.
Your life is more significant than a digital e-commerce gimmick, stop marketing your life and focus on cultivating the significant you.
Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.
I have a motto from The-Orchard.org: Inspira Disciplina Ducatus, Latin is great because it has such depth of meaning, much like the organically-dynamic person each of us can be in life.
In short, this motto means successfully discovering your organically-dynamic essence, a process and a journey in one focus to:
LIVE: living, intentionally valued experiences. One of the most popular programs at The-Orchard.org has been taking a technology time-out: discover interesting, fun, and excitingly organic contributions you have to offer others close to you. Value real, right, and quality experience.
LEARN: Learning is the capacity to shape the future, the power of knowledge. Learning is the capacity to cultivate our experience including altering positive, stronger, and healthier brain functions that are not only good for each person but are interconnected among all of humanity. Believe it or not, but there is a recent discovery about the Tree of Life, the 4000-year-old cultural lore, and modern neuroscience that just might change everything you think you know, and I will share that next.
LEAD: Everything starts when you lead to discover something profound in life. Learning is constant; Engage with interesting people and activities; Align your strengths to be dynamic, no matter how small your real efforts may be; Define a brighter tomorrow with real intent and not virtual hype. (LEAD). Start by doing something dynamic daily, no matter how small: get up, brush your teeth, make your bed, go for a walk, smile or wave at everyone who passes by. Just start doing something different to break a mode of feeling alone that is real and not digitally focused.
BE REAL AND SEEK RIGHT: We can only learn to be a friend, by finding interesting, real, and right experiences that we become excited to bring a friend with to enjoy with us. And this is very important in the face of the loneliness epidemic. This starts by learning to recreation through recreation.
Cultivate your Inner-Character: visit The-Orchard.org or participate in a program at your home to discover your organically dynamic self. I outline this process not only in my publication The Orchard: creating healthy habits with technology, but also in several interviews featured in this outlet (google Dr J Paul Rand you will get access to those articles)
This framework is based off award-winning research and endorsements myself and my team earned in our work guiding veterans in their effort to combat PTSD. If they can overcome such trials, we can all overcome loneliness.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Thank you for believing in me like that… Let me share the movement, or the project, I referenced earlier. It directly relates to the loneliness epidemic and might bring to life the concept of dynamic-success psychology by living, learning, leading and seeking to cultivate a culture of leadership in our work at The-Orchard.org to life for your audience.
I will connect this organically-different research and discovery to the framework I suggested, so whether someone feels lonely or knows someone struggling, maybe this creative experience will provide help? I hope your audience will share this and encourage others to put the human back into the digital era by taking time to read, learn, engage and discover something profound, if not by this movement then by a small and dynamic effort of their own design that is real, right, and intentional in combating loneliness.
Earlier, if you recall, I mentioned that had completely overlooked a fascinating discovery at The-Orchard.org. Recall the poem I referenced, as I mentioned earlier, your audience might be more familiar with the culturally iconic name: The Tree of Life?
While working on site with veterans in their effort to define success and overcome the trials of their war-time experience — depicted in loneliness, stress, anxiety, and other conditions — little did I know we had an entire grove of 4000-year-old iconic Rowan tree overlooking our efforts!
This grove of Rowans is the largest and suspected only grove of these trees in the lower 48 states. Growing organically on their own and infused by fresh sea-salt air in the Seattle rain, but otherwise alone and forgotten. Despite the fact that the property is heritage property, we really have no understanding of why they are growing because it’s not a native tree in this area. And they have been there for at least 135 years according to my teams biologist.
Sadly, this tree is going extinct. Ponder these questions:
- What does it mean for humanity if we let a tree honored by over 4000 years of cultures across the word as the Tree of Life to go extinct?
- What does modern science teach us to explain why there was such a strong reverence for this tree to be defined the as the Tree of Life?
- And what might this suggest about the current loneliness epidemic for humans giving the dynamic history we have shared with this tree?
We achieved dynamic-success outcomes, recognized by the VA, Department of Defense, and others, working with veterans; but, with The-Orchard.org being in Seattle, and millions feeling alone across the world, my team and I sought a way to create organic impact by leveraging the digital era for positive outcomes. How can we unlock the spirit of a nearly extinct icon that once was central to the faiths of so many cultures? And with those questions in mind, we started a journey to discover the answers …
For those feeling alone, do not hesitate to reach out… And for those who know someone feeling alone invite them to learn the full story of this remarkable tree, lead toward a deeper real friendship by discussing it with them, and discover how together we can reverse the loneliness epidemic.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Clint Eastwood. As a young academic with a recently published dissertation, he honored my work in American Sniper and I would like a chance to shake his hand and say thank you in person.
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Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!