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Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine

December 5, 2020

Chapter 1 – Positive Intelligence and PQ

Your mind is your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy. Positive Intelligence measures the relative strength of these two modes of your mind. High Positive Intelligence means your mind acts as your friend far more than as your enemy. Low Positive Intelligence is the reverse.


Chapter 2 – Three Strategies to Improve PQ

… The odds that significant improvements in either performance or happiness are sustained are only one in five.

Research on happiness confirms that people generally fall back to what social scientists call the “baseline happiness” level shortly after events or accomplishments that significantly raised their happiness.

Unless you tackle and weaken your own internal enemies – we’ll call them the Saboteurs – they will do their best to rob you of any improvements you make.

Positive Intelligence takes you to the frontlines of the unceasing battle raging in your mind. On one side of this battlefield are the invisible Saboteurs, who wreck any attempt at increasing either your happiness or your performance. On the other side is your Sage, who has access to your wisdom, insights, and often untapped mental powers. Your Saboteurs and your Sage are literally fueled by different regions of your physical brain and are strengthened when you activate those regions.

Saboteurs are a universal phenomenon. The question is not whether you have them, but which ones you have, and how strong they are. They are universal – spanning cultures, genders, and age groups – because they are connected to the functions of the brain that have focused on survival.

The Judge is the Master Saboteur, the one everyone suffers from. It compels you to constantly find faults with yourself, others, and your conditions and circumstances,

The Avoider focuses on the positive and the pleasant in an extreme way. It avoids difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts.

The Controller runs an anxiety-based need to take charge, control situations, and bends people’s actions to one’s own will.  It generates high anxiety and impatience when that is not possible.

The Hyper-Achiever makes you dependent on constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation. It keeps you focused mainly on external success rather than on internal criteria for happiness.

The Hyper-Rational involves an intense and exclusive focus on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It causes you to be impatient with people’s emotions and regards emotions as unworthy of much time or consideration.

The Hyper-Vigilant makes you feel intense and continuous anxiety about all the dangers surrounding you and what could go wrong. It is constantly vigilant and can never rest.

The Pleaser compels you to try and gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others constantly. It causes you to lose sight of your own needs and become resentful of others as a result.

The Restless is constantly in search of greater excitement in the next activity or through personal busyness. It doesn’t allow you to feel much peace or contentment with your current activity.

The Stickler is the need for perfection, order, and organization taken too far. It makes you and others around you anxious and uptight.

The Victim wants you to feel emotional and temperamental as a way of gaining attention and affection. It results in an extreme focus on internal feelings, particularly painful ones, and can often result in a martyr streak.

The Sage

If your Saboteurs represent your internal enemies, your Sage represents the deeper and wiser part of you. It is the part that can rise above the fray and resist getting carried away by the trauma and tension of the moment or falling victim to the lies of the Saboteurs. Its perspective on any challenge you are facing is that it is either already a gift and opportunity or could be actively turned into one

Your Sage’s five great powers are:

  • to explore with great curiosity and an open mind.
  • to empathize with yourself and others and bring compassion and understanding to any situation;
  • to innovate and create new perspectives and outside-the-box solutions;
  • to navigate and choose a path that best aligns with your deeper underlying values and mission; and
  • to activate and take decisive action without the distress, interference, or distractions of the Saboteurs.

The Saboteurs are primarily fueled by the regions of your brain that were initially focused on your physical or emotional survival.

The Sage is based on entirely different regions of the brain, which will call your PQ brain. The Saboteur-Sage brain link results in three separate but related strategies to increase your PQ: (1) weaken your Saboteurs; (2) strengthen your Sage; and (3) strengthen your PQ Brain muscles.

Weakening your Saboteurs involves identifying which thought and emotion patterns come from your Saboteurs and seeing clearly that they don’t serve you.

Strengthening your Sage involves shifting to the Sage perspective and accessing the five powers it uses to meet every challenge.

Strengthening your PQ Brain muscles involves understanding the differences between your PQ Brain and your Survivor Brain. You will see how your PQ Brain muscles have remained underdeveloped over the years while your Survivor Brain muscles have been on steroids.

David’s Story

…stress feeds and fuels Saboteurs.

Most feelings of stress, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, regret, and guilt are the direct results of judging yourself, others, situations, or outcomes.

…there was no redeeming value in his Judge repeatedly insisting on making him anxious at 3:00 a.m. when there was nothing he could do but toss and turn…This was also true of his pondering past mistakes. Going over a mistake once as an attempt to learn from it and not repeat it was helpful. But to be badgered multiple times was not useful.

Every time the Judge showed up, David would use it as a reminder to activate his PQ Brain muscles and make them stronger. This would only take 10 seconds and could be done while he was in a meeting, driving, or exercising.

Once David exposed the Judge as an enemy and began noticing and labeling his destructive thoughts, the Judge lost some of its credibility and power over David.


Chapter 3 – Self-Assessment of The Ten Saboteurs

Saboteur formation is a normal process, and the first stage in our mental development, when we develop survival strategies. The best parenting and upbringing cannot save us from this mental drama … The formation of the Saboteurs begins to make clear sense once you realize that the primary objective of the first 15 to 20 years of life is to survive long enough to pass on your genes.

The human brain is wired to pay close attention to our environment in our early years and adjust accordingly so we can bear the emotional strings we all encounter and make it into reproductive adulthood. Even if you didn’t have a difficult childhood, life still presented many challenges that your Saboteurs were initially developed to handle.

The Judge is the Universal Saboteur, the one we all have: a predisposition to exaggerating the negative and assuming the worst is actually good for survival.

Each person’s Judge develops its own particular characteristics in response to that individual’s specific needs for survival. We have a powerful psychological need for a mental construct that makes sense of our experience of life, and the Judge helps us fit all the pieces together.

The Judge uses at least one accomplished Saboteur to ensure your early physical and emotional survival.

While the Judge is the Master Saboteur and everyone, the accompanying Saboteur it teams up with is different from individual to individual.

Nature and nurture both play a part in determining which accomplished Saboteurs we develop.

Two dimensions of our personality in particular play a part- our motivations and our personal styles of handling challenges.

There are three primary motivations that underpin our emotional survival needs. Each person leans towards one of these three motivations:

  • Independence: a need for boundaries with others and maintaining independence from them;
  • Acceptance: I need to maintain a positive image in the eyes of others, to be accepted by them and gain their affection;
  • Security: I need to control life’s anxieties and push away or minimize them.


You exhibit one of three different styles in order to satisfy your primary need for independence, acceptance, or security; (1) assert: this is the most active and commanding of the three styles. You take action that demands the fulfillment of the primary need for independence, acceptance, or security; (2) earn: you work hard to earn fulfillment of your need for independence, acceptance, or security. This contrasts with the more demanding nature of the assert style; (3) avoid: you withdraw yourself or your attention from activities, thoughts, feelings, or other people in order to fulfill your need for independence, acceptance, or security.

Trauma or extreme distress, especially during our early years, can change the Saboteur development process, as can the Saboteurs our parents exhibit. Some children mimic their parents and grow similar Saboteurs, and some develop Saboteurs that are complementary to their parents.


STYLE Independence Acceptance Security
Assert Controller Hyper-Achiever Restless
Earn Stickler Pleaser Hyper-Vigilant
Avoid Avoider Victim Hyper-Rational


All you need to do is focus on your Judge and the top accomplished Saboteur. This focus will significantly activate and build up your PQ Brain muscles, depleting the oxygen supplies of all Saboteurs. In addition, since your Judge is your Master Saboteur and tends to trigger the others, it’s weakening impacts all of them.

Some people report that their top accomplished Saboteur is different at work and at home. If that holds true for you, it’s fine to make that distinction and identify a different Saboteur for each environment.


A Saboteur does its greatest damage if it convinces you that it’s your friend and you accept it into your trusted inner circle. Each Saboteur has some very reasonable – sounding justifications for its actions – it tells you how it is your friend and why it is good for you – but these justifications are nothing but well-masked lies.

The Sage offers a very different approach. First, it will empathize with you and reassure you that, even though you made a mistake, you are still a wonderful person. It tells you to have compassion for yourself- we are all fallible human beings, it tells you that everything, even your mistakes, can be turned into gifts and opportunities by the way you react to them…The Sage might then have you come up with creative solutions for how you would do better next time and prevent even bigger mistakes.

The Saboteurs push you into action and success through anger, regret, fear, guilt, anxiety, shame, obligation, etc. But the Sage pulls you into action through compassion, curiosity, creativity, the joy of self-expression, a desire to contribute and create meaning, and the excitement of action. Would you rather be pushed or pulled? Only the Sage lets you achieve success without sacrificing happiness and peace of mind.

The most effective strategy for weakening your Saboteurs is to simply observe and label your Saboteur thoughts or feelings every time you notice them.

Saboteurs do far greater damage when they do their work while hiding under the radar, for tending the area friend or that they are you. Observing and labeling them blows their cover and discredits their voice.

In this research I often encountered the risky practice of people saying, “I am X…” based on some kind of inevitably error-prone assessment or diagnostic test. The problem is that once you say, “I am X…,” you are declaring that you are one with X. You are boxing yourself into the narrow confines of that type, reinforcing the very lie of your Saboteurs… In the PQ practice, please make sure you insist on a separation. Thus, you are not a Controller; Your top Saboteur happens to be the Controller for now.


Chapter 4 – Judge, The Master Saboteur

The Judge accomplishes its staggering destructive sabotage by having us feel negative unhappy through constant fault-finding with (1) ourselves, (2) others, and (3) our circumstances. It does so under the pretense of being rational, reasonable, and trying to be helpful.

The first way the Judge sabotages us is by making us judge ourselves.

Our ways of dealing with our Judge induced insecurities are different …

The Judge’s most damaging lie is that we are not worthy of love or respect by just being who we are. Instead, it forces us to constantly perform for them; this forms the construct of “conditional love.”

While the Judge might push you into action through threats, fear, shame, or guilt, the Sage pulls you into action through anticipation of the joy of exploration and discovery; to the compelling and deeply seated human urge to find meaning in life and to matter; through the joy of creativity and possibilities; through the longing of the human heart to connect, care, and be cared for; through appreciation of the mystery of life; and through desire for clearheaded action toward desired outcomes.

Unless you develop mastery over your Judge, the ringleader of your Saboteurs, it gets to choose for you.

The second way that Judge sabotages us is by judging others.

The Judge causes trouble when it has you focused narrowly on a Saboteurs of the other. This focus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as your Judge triggers and reinforces the other person’s Saboteurs, which in turn becomes evidence for your Judge that it was right to begin with.

The third and final way the Judge sabotages us is by judging the circumstances and events in our lives and finding them lacking. This leads to one of the Judge’s biggest and most destructive lies: “you will be happy when… “

At the heart of the midlife crisis is the question, “Can anything really bring me the elusive peace and happiness I’ve been chasing all these years? The chase has, of course, been orchestrated by the Judge and its big lie: “you will be happy when…” …When you examine this line more closely you will see that there are actually two lies embedded within it. The first lie is that you can’t be happy with your current circumstances… The second lie is that “when” is a moving target rather than a promise to be kept.

… The when for peace and happiness is actually now, regardless of the circumstances of your work or personal life. Any other “when” is the lie of the Judge.  The Sage helps you feel peace and joy regardless of what’s going on in any area of your life, while the Saboteurs make you feel unfulfilled regardless of the circumstances.

Pay attention to the emotions involved. If you are calmly noticing what isn’t working or what has gone wrong in order to figure out how to move forward, you are discerning. If you are feeling upset, disappointed, anxious, or resentful, you are judging.


Chapter 5 – The Sage Perspective

All your distress in the forms of anxiety, disappointment, stress, anger, shame, guilt- all the unpleasant stuff that makes up your suffering – is generated by your own Saboteurs.

Your Sage has access to five great powers: Empathy, Exploration, Innovation, Navigation, and Decisive Action. With these powers, your Sage can meet all the challenges that you face in a way that will not only generate the best results but also lead to the highest level of personal satisfaction, peace of mind, and happiness along the way.

The Sage perspective is about accepting what is, rather than denying, rejecting, or resenting what is. The Sage perspective accepts every outcome and circumstance as a gift and opportunity.

Our Judge convinces us that we know what is good and bad in any given moment, but the truth is that we actually don’t… Our Judge’s perspective is narrowly focused-it has severe tunnel vision. It reacts to the immediate effect of something, ignoring the many longer-term possibilities of its impact that could easily be the opposite.

The Sage, however, is anything but passive. Its perspective is that everything is a gift and opportunity, but it doesn’t believe that as a matter of passive and blind faith. The Sage uses its five great powers to turn that perspective into reality and actively create a gift out of a bad situation. If action is required, the Sage is quite decisive and takes the necessary steps. It moves into action, however without any of the distress, interference, or distractions of the Judge for the other Saboteurs.

Sage perspective and the Judge perspective are both self-fulfilling prophecies.

From the Sage perspective, there is no such thing as a bad circumstance or outcome. Every outcome simply points to the first step toward the next positive outcome. The Sage moves you one positive step at a time, regardless of what life throws at you

I employ the three gifts technique: I asked people to come up with at least three scenarios where their supposedly bad situation could turn into a gift and opportunity. The time frame doesn’t matter.

You don’t always have to actively turn a bad situation into a gift. Your other option is to just let it go and put it behind you without any residue of unhappiness, regret, or distress. It is easy to do this once you really come to believe the Sage perspective that, if you wanted to, you could invest the time and energy to turn the situation into a gift.

… The only sane way to deal with the tragedy is to keep building up the Sage muscle. With increased strength, the Sage muscle can eventually regain control and work toward turning the tragedy into a positive force in the world.


Chapter 6 – The Five Sage Powers

Not every challenge will require all 5 powers, requiring them in any particular order.

Once you activate your Sage, you will know which power to use and when.

  • Empathize – empathizing is about feeling and showing appreciation, compassion, and forgiveness. Empathy has two targets: yourself and others.

Empathy recharges our batteries and renewed vitality that is drained by the Judge’s violence towards ourselves. It bandages the wounds of the warrior before sending him out for another fight. It is most useful when the recipient of the empathy – whether you or someone else – is feeling some emotional pain and difficulty.

Many of us grew up with our Judge telling us that empathizing with ourselves is counterproductive. You need to be tough on yourself, says the judge. But denying yourself empathy is not a sign of strength, as a Judge would have you believe. It’s setting yourself up for a constant beating.

Power Game: Visualize the Child … Visualize yourself as a child in a setting where your essence is shining through … Pick a vivid and detailed image that instantly triggers feelings of caring and empathy. Put the picture on your desk or your phone or computer so that you see it frequently. This image will be reminder that your true essence is worthy of unconditional caring and empathy when you’re feeling beaten down by your own Judge, or others, or the troubles of life.

  • Explore – The pure energy and emotion that Sage’s Explore Mode generates is based in curiosity, openness, wonder, and fascination with what is being explored.

Exploring is helpful when understanding a problem or situation more deeply could put you on a better path forward. The Sage’s question is what more can I discover?

One thing that brings in the Saboteur is that we don’t allow the Explorer mode to happen purely as a stand-alone step. We were often too busy trying to anticipate the next step, or maneuvering to win an argument, to let our Sage explore.

Power game: Fascinated Anthropologist- a fascinating anthropologist does not selectively filter information that fits his or her pre-existing judgments or desired outcome. The only goal is to discover things exactly as they are. For example, if you are in conflict with someone, could you even for three minutes let go of your own grievances and demands, and become fascinated instead with discovering why the other person is feeling exactly how he or she feels?

  • Innovate – While the Explorer mode is about discovering what is, the innovate power concerns inventing what isn’t. True innovation is about breaking out of the boxes, the assumptions, and the habits that hold us back, “which is a whole new way to do this?” is the operating question…

The power to innovate is needed when the old way of approaching a situation, where the more obvious ways of dealing with it, does not suffice.

When we try to have a purely left-brained and rational approach to innovation, we will only come up with various configurations of solutions that still operate within those limits. Without the Sage’s power of innovation, we stay in our box, merely changing our location within it… You need your PQ Brain and the Sage to escape from those limitations and engage in true outside-the-box innovation.

Power game: “Yes… And…” – to play “yes…and…” follow every new idea you have by saying, “Yes, what I love about the idea is… and…” With this approach, every idea is appreciated rather than judged before the next one is generated in reaction to it.

  • Navigate – The Sage’s power to navigate is about choosing between various paths and alternatives based on a consistent internal compass. The coordinates on this compass are your deeply held values or what gives your life a sense of meaning and purpose.

You should use your Sage’s power to navigate only when multiple paths are available, some of which may be more aligned than others with your sense of values, purpose, or meaning.

Our most deeply held values and the things that bring meaning and purpose to our lives do not lie in the rational mind, they live in our hearts.

For the Sage’s Navigation Power to have a meaningful impact, there needs to be a deeper, more visual connection with the coordinates of the compass. They need to arouse emotion and inspire.

Power game: Flash Forward – when faced with a fork in the road, imagine yourself at the end of your life looking back at the choices you are now facing. From that vantage point, what do you wish you had chosen at this juncture?

The team version of flash-forward is to imagine how you wish you had conducted yourselves as a group at this juncture at a point in the future when the team or organization no longer exists.

  • Activate – The Sage’s activate power moves you into pure action, where all your mental and emotional energies are laser-focused on action and not distracted by the Saboteurs.

The Sage’s power to activate when it is clear what course of action you want to take.

…The most urgent action can be taken by the quietest of minds, those that are free from the Saboteur interference and can concentrate on pure action. This is the opposite of the frantic energy that most people bring to urgent situations.

Every single Saboteur gets in the way of taking pure action.

Power game: Preempt the Saboteurs – put yourself in the shoes of your top Saboteurs and try to anticipate how they might try to sabotage your action. You anticipate the thoughts they would whisper or scream in your ears in the middle of the action and what lies they would use to justify those thoughts. Once you anticipate their sabotage, you’ll be able to intercept and let go of those thoughts easily when they arise in the middle of your action.


Empathize Strong feelings involved. Emotional reserves running low. Visualize the Child
Explore Need to discover more about what was going on before deciding or acting. Fascinated Anthropologist
Innovate The obvious or existing ideas don’t suffice. Need to think outside the box. “Yes…and…”
Navigate Need to find alignment with deeper values, purpose, or meaning. Flash Forward
Activate Need to take action without Saboteur interference. Preempt the Saboteur


Chapter 7 – PQ Brain Fitness Techniques

The Saboteurs are fueled by the parts of your brain that were initially focused on your physical and emotional survival, which we call your Survivor Brain. The Sage, on the other hand, is fueled by the areas of the brain we call your PQ Brain.

The Survivor Brain consists of the most primitive parts of the brain, the brain stem, and the limbic system, both of which are involved in initiating our response to danger. The Left Brain is the primary hemisphere involved in the survival functions.

In addition to narrowing the body’s focus, the fight-or-flight response also narrows the mind’s focus to anticipating and escaping danger, to the detriment of other functions. In particular, it activates the mind’s survivor agents, the Saboteurs.

Most people today live in relatively constant distress and anxiety. This is related to a low-grade but perpetual fight-or-flight response masterminded by the Judge in reaction to the challenges of life, both personal and professional.

The PQ Brain is part of the brain that gives the Sage its perspective and its five powers. It consists of three components: the middle prefrontal cortex (MPFC), the empathy circuitry, and the right brain.

The MPFC is a relatively small region of the brain that plays several critical PQ functions. These include observing yourself, pausing before action, soothing fear, staying centered in the middle of challenging situations, and gut wisdom.

“Empathy Circuitry” is my term for a few different areas of the brain that are together responsible for experiencing empathy for yourself and others. It also helps your brain tune into the emotions and energy of others.

The Right Brain deals with the big picture, imagery, nonverbal language, and the detection of invisible things such as energy and mood. It helps with our awareness of our physical sensations and emotions.

As children, the strengths of our Survivor Brain and our PQ Brain are far more balanced than they are when we get older. As we grow up, our Survivor Brain is continually exercised, rewarded, and strengthened, while the PQ Brain atrophies.

… how you feel depends on which region of your brain is active, rather than on your situation of circumstance. Happiness is an inside game, literally and neurochemically.

The goal, rather, is to move your Survivor Brain from the captain seat to the co-pilot seat, to have it demoted from running you to being run by you.

To develop your biceps, you could lift a dumbbell repeatedly. The PQ Brain equivalent of lifting a dumbbell is very simple: shift as much of your attention as you can to your body and any of your five senses for at least 10 seconds. This is a PQ Rep, just like the reps you do in a gym.

Many experts recommend taking at least 10,000 steps every day in order to remain physically healthy (this equates to walking approximately 5 miles). The PQ Brain equivalent is doing 100 PQ reps every day. In other words, shift as much of your attention as you can onto your body and any of your five senses for at least 10 seconds 100 times a day.

Here are other examples of how you can turn your common activities into opportunities to do PQ reps:

  • Daily routines – you can turn many of your current daily routines into PQ muscle builders. For example, next time you brush your teeth, see if you can become laser-focused on the physical sensation of brushing for a minimum of 10 seconds.
  • Physical exercise – you can also turn your current physical exercise routine in an opportunity to do many PQ reps. When you exercise zone in rather than zone out. Take a few minutes during your routine to pay close attention to one of your five senses.
  • Eating – the pleasure of eating can be significantly enhanced while also exercising your PQ brain. Next time you sit down for a meal, take at least one minute to become fully present and mindful of eating.
  • Listing to music – next time you are listening to a piece of music, zone in rather than zone out.
  • Playing sports – next time you play a sport, make a point of paying close attention to the sensations of your weight on your feet, the breeze on your face, your grip on the club or racket, or your foot against the ball.
  • Being with loved ones – next time you hug someone you love; can you be fully present for 10 seconds?

Promise yourself that every time you catch and label a Saboteur, you will get a PQ Rep in for 10 seconds.

… Your mind-chatter will not cease just because you command it to do so, but don’t get discouraged. You will find yourself drifting in and out of focusing on your physical sensations as you attempt your reps. This is perfectly normal. Over time, your mind-chatter will lose much of its intensity and volume, but it will never fully go away.

As your PQ Brain muscle gets stronger, you’ll be able to handle bigger problems in life without getting hijacked by your Saboteurs.

Life will always throw away the challenges at us. Lasting peace is ultimately about developing the PQ Brain muscles to a point where they are strong enough to handle any situation.  Once this level is reached, we can stay in Sage mode as we confront any challenge; We can feel peace, curiosity, joy, compassion, or any of the other Sage feelings rather than distress, disappointment, regret, anxiety, or anger.

Your Saboteurs will use every weapon in their arsenal to convince you to stop so they can retain their power. The first day you forget to do the practice, they beat you up and make you feel guilty, for prolonging your slump. The first time you use the PQ techniques and don’t feel immediate relief, they’ll tell you these techniques will never work.  The first day you are burdened with too many tasks, they’ll tell you that you are too busy for PQ, while tending to far less important tasks. Some Saboteurs might even trick you into making this practice stressful or burdensome, taking the practice so “seriously’ that you feel anxiety overdoing it right, counting just the right number of PQ reps, etc. They try to make the practice hard, so you quit.


Chapter 8 – PQ Score and PQ Vortex

A PQ of 75 means that your mind is acting as your friend 75% of the time as your enemy about 25% of the time.

… A key premise of Positive Intelligence is that all your negative, destructive, or wasteful feelings are generated by your Saboteurs, regardless of the circumstances. Every ounce of your energy wasted on anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, self-doubt, impatience, despair, regret, resentment, restlessness, guilt, or shame is a choice that was made by the Saboteurs in your mind. But every challenge can be met by the Sage, its perspective, and its five powers. The Sage’s perspective and powers generate only positive feelings.

If we define happiness by the percentage of time, we experience life’s positive and desirable feelings, your PQ score becomes your happiness score. By positive and desirable feelings, we mean all the feelings generated in the Sage Mode.  In the Sage’s Empathize Mode, these feelings would include compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. In the Explorer Mode, they would include curiosity, awe, and wonder. In Innovate Mode, you would feel the great joys of creativity. In Navigate Mode, you would feel grounded and centered in your deeper sense of values, meaning, and purpose. And in Activate Mode, you would feel the quiet power, resolve, and satisfaction of taking pure action without Saboteur drama and interference.

PQ determines how much of your actual potential is achieved, as described in the following formula: Achievement = Potential x PQ

Your potential is determined by many factors, including your cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, skills, knowledge, experience, network, and so forth.

The reason that PQ Vortex occurs in an individual’s brain is twofold. First, the way the human brain is wired causes the negative or positive modalities of the brain to spiral in on themselves. Second, as we’ve seen in previous chapters, both negative and positive brain modalities become self-fulfilling prophecies in the external world. They generate results that reinforce the initial negative or positive brain modality that produced them in the first place. This too reinforces the spiraling vortex.

The human brain is wired to perform two primary functions: survive and thrive. In survival mode, your survivor brain takes control, primarily looking for the negative and dangers to your physical and emotional survival.  In thrive mode, the PQ Brain looks for opportunities to grow, discover, explore, create, be in awe and appreciation, and reach its full potential.

There is an upper limit to observable PQ around the score of 90. My interpretation of this upper limit is that a minimal level of negativity is inevitable, and is actually helpful … If we use the physical body analogy, we would say that while we should aim to avoid pain, it is critical that our body is capable of feeling pain.

It is inevitable that you will feel anxiety, anger, shame, guilt, disappointment, and many other negative feelings at times. These feelings wake you up and tell you that you need to pay attention. The problem with the Saboteurs is that they want to keep you feeling that way. They want to keep your hand on the stove, to keep you feeling the anger, the guilt, the disappointment, and anxiety. Instead, we need to learn to shift to the Sage Mode soon after the pain gets our attention, shifting our feelings into positive territory.

The Two Channels of Communication:








What people say is a small part of what they’re actually communicating in any interaction.


Chapter 9 – Work and Life Applications

There are three key pillars required for sustainable personal and professional development: 1) Use a common operating system across multiple applications to ensure multiple payoffs and continuous practice. 2) Expose and weaken the Saboteurs, who would otherwise negate any attempts at change. 3) Build mental muscles, not just insight, requiring daily practice to build new neural pathways in the brain (new habits).

The Positive Intelligence operating system consists of three simple building blocks of weakening the Saboteurs, strengthening the Sage through its perspective and five powers, and building PQ Brain muscles. This operating system runs a variety of applications.

A team’s PQ is not necessarily the average PQ of the individuals on the team. A great leader can build a high PQ team made up of average PQ members. This means that the members of that team feel more positively while they are a team than outside the team. Conversely, you can have a low-PQ team made up of higher PQ individuals who just can’t help but be dragged down by the net-negative vortex of a team that brings out their Saboteurs.

Most traditional team-building retreats and activities create short-lived euphoria and positivity within a team that fizzles soon after the event. This is because these activities use artificial constructs designed to force people to act in positive ways and temporarily push aside their Saboteurs…If your Judge was holding your team member in contempt before they retreat, that contempt will likely come back in a different form soon after the retreat.

The sustainable way to build a high PQ team requires a twofold focus: (1) help the team members increase their individual PQs; (2) train the team to pay attention to the PQ channel during team interactions.

To help people focus on the PQ channel during team interactions, I sometimes ask people the following question: “ if an alien who didn’t understand our language witnessed this interaction between Kathy and Karl, would he rate it as a positive energy exchange, a negative energy exchange, or neutral?” The alien would have an easier time focusing on the invisible energy of the PQ channel because he would not be distracted by processing the facts and details communicated on the data channel.

On your next team-building retreat, set aside some time for discussion of the PQ concepts and have each person identify his or her own Saboteurs. Since no one individual is being singled out for the discussion of what is wrong with them, everyone participates in the PQ discussion fully.

Imagine the great impact of team members identifying how they tend to shoot themselves and the team in the foot. Imagine them doing this without shame, guilt, blame, or defensiveness. The power of the PQ conversations is that it moves everyone to a place of curiosity about how they can improve themselves rather than focusing on how someone else should change. This helps the team shift from a collective Survivor Brain to a collective PQ Brain…To sustain the momentum of the team’s increased PQ beyond the retreat, I ask teams to add a short PQ report to their weekly team meetings.

The PQ approach to work-life balance focuses not just on the quantity of time, but even more importantly, on the quality of time you spend on what is important to you.

Remember that the signals on the PQ Channel are more important to relationships than the signals on the Data Channel. Many of us are in the habit of saying “I love you” to our loved ones on the Data Channel when what we’re communicating on the PQ Channel is as loving and impactful as reading a list of groceries.

When your Sage is in control you don’t need a two-week vacation to feel recharged. Unless you have been working in a coal mine smashing up rocks, your exhaustion is not physical; It’s purely mental. And mental exhaustion is due to the Saboteurs. The Sage knows nothing about mental exhaustion.

Professor Clifford Nass – “Virtually all multitaskers think they are brilliant at multitasking. And one of the big discoveries is: you know what, you’re really lousy at it. It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking… They get distracted constantly. Their memory is very disorganized… We worry that it may be creating people who are unable to think well and clearly. “

If happiness and peace of mind for what you ultimately want for your children, the most important and lasting contribution would be to help them build the foundation that will make them happy: their PQ…With a strong  PQ Brain, they will be able to keep tapping into the great wisdom of their own Sage after they leave home…Life will do its thing and no amount of hyper-vigilant parenting on my part can protect them, with their Sage, however, they will be able to turn all these negative circumstances and their failings and mistakes into gifts and opportunities.

Once you teach your kid the basic framework of Sage versus Saboteur, you can then turn many of her daily challenges into a coaching opportunity to reinforce the concept. Rather than dictating to her that she should do A instead of B, you could ask her which voice in her head is voting for which choice.

Athletes who experience being in the zone have tapped into their PQ powers. They report suddenly experiencing deep calm and relaxation, a cessation of mind-chatter, and a laser focus on the ball and the basket or whatever the game requires.

Have you ever had the experience where the fog lifts and the answer to a complex problem suddenly pops into your mind? These are actually moments where your PQ brain finally breaks through your tangled-up rational mind and the noise of your mind-chatter to show you the way.

Many decisions we encounter are too complex to be reduced to the concrete and limited factors that the left brain’s serial process can handle. Whom you should you marry, whom you hire, what vision should you set for your team, what you’re calling is in life, what the next creative breakthrough could be – these are all complex problems that require your parallel PQ brain for optimal answers.

Your Rational Brain might make you smart, but your PQ Brain makes you wise. While your rational mind is only limited to information that you know and remember, the PQ Brain can access the much vaster library of anything you have ever experienced or learned, including things that you might not even be consciously aware of. When it pops up with an answer, it won’t be able to tell you how it arrived at the answer, since it used massive parallel processing and pattern matching. This is where the wisdom of your Sage lives. This is also where the “gut feeling” of intuition comes from.

There are two different approaches to bring purpose and meaning to your work or personal life.  One is to change how you do things by making sure you are in your PQ Brain as you do them. The second is to change what you do.

… People experience their work in one of three ways: as a job, as a career, or as a calling. More importantly, they found that how people experience work is more a matter of choice and perspective than of the job itself.

…you can help yourself, and others, imbue the same exact work with far greater meaning, without needing to change the work itself.

The Sage’s navigate power is particularly relevant to helping you answer what you should do differently in your current job or various roles. Play the flash-forward power game as often as you can to get guidance from your internal compass. For example, if you are a manager ask yourself, how would I wish I had performed this role at the end of my career, looking back?

Do a 15-minute PQ gym workout to fully energize your PQ Brain and then gently ask yourself the deeper question. Your Sage will give you the answer within a few attempts.

By now we have a different language to talk about difficult people: they are people who have particularly strong Saboteurs. How do you work and live more effectively with people like that? Positive Intelligence offers four key strategies to do so:

  • Stop fueling their Saboteurs – remember that Saboteurs in one person tend to trigger Saboteurs in the other… You need to break the cycle by preventing yourself from being hijacked by your own Saboteurs when you were in the other person’s presence.
  • Fuel their Sages – remember also that the Sage in one person tends to energize the Sage in the other. When in a difficult person’s presence, intensify your effort to get centered in your Sage.
  • Help them discover their Saboteurs – most people would react defensively if you told them that you thought they had the Judge, Victim, Avoider, or other Saboteur. They might, however, react more favorably if you share the benefits of discovering your own Saboteurs with them and interest them in the power of similar discoveries for themselves. When possible, share the PQ framework with people in a group rather than in a one-on-one setting.
  • Put boundaries around their Saboteurs – if the previous strategies are not possible, as a last resort you can at least limit the damage of a difficult person’s Saboteurs by setting some boundaries around them. Allow their Saboteurs to have their way within a narrowly defined boundary. You are in effect “throwing a bone” to their Saboteur to get its energy occupied and spent in a smaller domain.

Experts agree that the effect for a vast majority of people, overeating, has nothing to do with feeling hungry. The reasons are mostly psychological, not physical. We are bored or anxious or restless or unhappy, so we reach for food. The PQ Brain counters these dynamics in two ways. First, with your PQ Brain activated, you won’t feel bored or anxious or restless or unhappy. There will be no void to fill with food. Second, each bite you eat attentively will bring you a great deal more pleasure than ten such bites in your Survivor Brain mode, meaning that you need far less food to satisfy the same desire for pleasure.

All stress is Saboteur generated. Under the Sage’s influence, you focus on doing what needs to be done, but you don’t sweat the outcome. You know that whatever outcome you reach, you will be you will be able to turn it into a gift and opportunity.

The PQ Brain is incapable of feeling stress, just as a Survivor Brain is incapable of feeling peace.

Positive thinking techniques backfire if they were learned without tackling the underlying negativity of the Saboteurs.


Chapter 10 – Case Study: Leading Self and Team



Chapter 11 – Case Study: Deepening Relationships Through Conflict

There are essentially three main choices we have regarding conflict. We can avoid it and deny that it exists, which, of course, will cause it to fester over time and drive a wedge into the relationship. We can also confront it, with our Judge and other Saboteurs leading the fight. We may get our way or negotiate a grudging compromise, but it will probably be at the cost of the relationship. The third way, the Sage’s way, is to embrace conflict as a gift and harness its power to strengthen the relationship.

Saboteur Interference in relationships:

  • Your Judge causes you to make a whole lot of assumptions about the other person’s intentions.
  • The Controller tends to intimidate others in a conflict. A controller can make you confrontational and give you an in-your-face style that makes others uncomfortable.
  • The Stickler’s certainty about the right way is often not shared by others. If your Stickler is in control, you might come across as self-righteous, rigid, or overly perfectionistic.
  • The Avoider directs your attention away from the conflict. You hope the conflict goes away or convince yourself that it is unimportant.
  • The Hyper-Achiever can make you too goal-oriented, causing you to miss their relationship-building gift of the conflict.
  • The Pleaser prevents you from asking for what you really want or need and encourages you to accommodate the other person too much during any conversation about the conflict.
  • A strong Victim Saboteur causes you to take things too personally. You might spend too much time venting and dwelling on all the wrong that was done to you.
  • Similar to the Avoider, the Restless causes you to avoid dealing with the pain and drama of conflict. You might choose to shift your focus to more exciting and pleasant things and be hard to pin down on issues of conflict.
  • Your level of danger-awareness will likely be calibrated too extremely for most when your Hyper-Vigilant flexes its muscles. Forcing that same level of vigilance on others is unfair and places an onerous burden on them.
  • Conflict is really just about data logic which is what a Hyper-Rational would like. The logical way is not necessarily the only answer but the hyper-rational’s insistence that it is, might cause you to be perceived by others as cold, distant, or intellectually arrogant.

We are so busy telling the other person what we want them to hear that we usually listen very little. When we don’t feel heard, we are likely to repeat ourselves more loudly and from slightly different angles. Most people in conflict begin to sound like broken records to each other, constantly repeating themselves because they don’t feel heard. The chicken-and-egg problem of conflict is that until we feel heard, we are not willing to listen.


POSITION Position is a typical focus of conflict. Position generates its opposite opposition
ASSUMPTIONS Assumptions about the other’s intentions and needs are often wrong
ASPIRATION Aspirations are often at least partially hidden, to be discovered.


The problem with these positions is that they almost always create automatic opposition; for every position, there is an opposite one. Conflict lives at the Position Level and is rarely resolved there.

Positions are typically held and defended by Saboteurs, who by their very nature or not interested in resolution. Saboteurs are only interested in being right.

People’s positions are often fed by underlying Assumptions

Our Judges are much more certain about the other person’s true needs and intentions than our data and experience warrants.

The underlying Aspirations that feed our positions hold the key to harvesting the gift of conflict. While it is almost an automatic human response to another’s rigid position, we react quite differently to aspirations, which are very difficult to argue with…The aspiration is spoken by the Sage in one person and appreciated by the Sage in the other.

Someone has to take the initiative to push aside the Judge and come from the Sage, extending an inviting hand to help the other’s Sage emerge. Conflict is otherwise the Judge in one person screaming at the Controller in the other person, or the Victim complaining to the Avoider, etc. Saboteurs have no interest in resolution.

After years of conflict, people tend to be quite unwilling to let go of their Saboteur grievances and empathize with one another. This requires a significant shift to the PQ Brain…

Empathy should be decoupled from problem-solving or deciding on a solution; it is a critical stand-alone Sage power that makes people more willing to bring other Sage powers into their interactions, such as Innovation, Navigation, and Activation.

When conflict is approached at the Position Level, the top of the iceberg, there are only two ways out. Either one person loses and the other person wins, or both compromise and give up something important to them. Neither of these alternatives is appealing. The Sage approach is not about compromise. It is about going deeper in the pyramid to discover underlying needs and aspirations and then devising creative solutions that address those needs and aspirations in both individuals.

The steps to harness the gift of conflict in professional settings are identical to what we have explored so far, although the timing additional considerations are helpful:

  • PQ Brain Activation– I recommend a 5 to-15-minute PQ brain activation exercise to help quiet the Saboteur’s voices and give everyone greater access to their Sage’s wisdom before proceeding.
  • The 80/20 rule of conflict – as a rule of thumb, I tell people in a conflict to remember that they are at least 20% at fault. Encourage people to shift from trying to prove the other person’s 80% at fault to discovering the 20% they’re contributing.
  • Conflict as a gift – everyone should be encouraged to call out the elephants in the room and name them. They will be far more willing to do so if they see that conflicts can be turned into gifts.


 Chapter 12 – Case Study: Selling, Motivating, Persuading

Selling, persuading, and motivating are essentially the same at their core. If you are not a salesperson by title, think of “selling” your capabilities the next time you’re up for a promotion. Or “selling” an idea to your boss and how things could be done differently in your department. Or “motivating” a colleague to work on your project rather than another. Or “persuading” your spouse to let you be yourself rather than constantly trying to change you. Or “persuading” your teenage daughter to be more careful about her own physical safety after a night of partying. Each of these operates on the same principles.

The first PQ principle of selling is that the PQ Channel is more important to selling than the Data Channel…The PQ channel leads us as we make buying decisions, while the data channel follows to justify the choice and sustain the illusion of rationality and control.

The second PQ principle of selling is that the buyer is much more likely to say yes if her PQ Brain is activated … It is helpful to remember that the PQ Brain is wired to thrive, to say yes to opportunities and new ideas, to explore, to empathize and connect, and to expand. The Survivor Brain is wired to say no and preserve the status quo.

The third PQ principle of selling is that you need to shift yourself to the PQ Brain before you can get the buyer to shift to his or her PQ Brain … The other person’s brain tunes into your brain’s real frequency rather than the one you were trying to project. If you are in true Sage mode, feeling true acceptance and peace, curiosity, creativity, joy, and empathy, your state of mind will help shift the other person’s mind.

…researchers discovered that insincere positivity poses the same level of risk of coronary disease as the overt negativity of anger.

The point of accepting rejection as a gift was neither to invite more rejection or failure nor to disregard the important consequences of failure. The goal was to shorten the recovery time, to recover quickly from the Saboteurs that are activated by failure, and shift to the Sage so we could generate better results next time … One key difference between star salespeople and average ones is recovery time.

True empathy for someone else means that you place all of your attention on them. You put yourself in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. It’s so much easier to come up with ideas that address the client’s needs if you can experience the problem from his or her vantage point. This constitutes the heart of successful selling.

You are much more likely to sell an idea or product if you don’t feel attached to selling the idea. Of course, not being attached doesn’t mean not being enthusiastic or committed. You could be highly enthusiastic and committed to selling a product. But the moment you get emotionally attached to making the sale, you are no longer in true and pure Empathy, Exploration, or Innovation Mode with the client. Your anxiety-based emotional need has shifted you right back to the survivor brain.

“Are you willing to get fired or rejected by letting go of all your own needs to make a sale and focusing completely on the best solution for the client? Are you willing to embrace true innovation with your client even if it risks leading to a solution that might not include your product or service? Are you willing to buy into the paradox that you will sell a lot more if you let go of needing to make a sale?”


How a beginner/intermediate coach uses an hour:

Vision = 10% Plan = 40% Overcome Obstacles = 40% Next Steps = 10%


How an experienced coach uses an hour:

Vision = 50% Plan = 20% Overcome Obstacles = 20% Next Steps = 10%


A telltale sign that something is wrong is that the coach is working too hard. The work should flow and feel almost effortless. A coach working too hard often means that the client’s vision has not caught fire. The conversation has moved from vision to planning and obstacles to quickly, without the fuel that an ignited vision could have provided. Lacking that fuel, the coach has to keep pushing for the both of them.

You have to work too hard as a salesperson, coach, leader, spouse, or parent if you haven’t helped the vision on the other side catch fire before focusing on plans, tactics, and obstacles.

It is the job of the coach, salesperson, or leader to breathe life into the vision so that it catches fire and is felt deeply rather than remaining just a thought…One technique that works particularly well is to have a person speak about his or her vision in a story format in the present tense, with the vision already having been achieved.

Inquiries that help clients form such (vision)narratives include: “Let’s imagine that this vision has already been successfully manifested. What would feel different? What would change in your own life, or someone else’s? How would you feel about yourself, your role, your contribution, or your life? What would be different on a typical day? How would this vision impact how much time you get to spend with your daughter? How would that align with the kind of legacy you want to leave behind in this role? At the end of your life, looking back, what would still stand out as significant?… These are the kinds of questions that help our vision catch fire.

When a client gets a taste of the possibility of the vision, her body language will shift. There will be more leaning forward, a sparkle in the eyes, a lifting of mood and energy. If you asked her at this point what the obstacles are, she would list them without any sense of anxiety or heaviness, with the PQ Brain’s attitude that everything is possible, and that even obstacles can be turned to opportunities.

It is amazing what happens to people once they connect the dots between their jobs and their deeper sense of what makes life meaningful.

If the PQ Brain is energized in both the seller and the buyer, the Sage’s move to action is automatic. The close happens organically and naturally.


Chapter 13 – Conclusion: The Magnificent You!

Practice is the key to how much more your PQ will increase and how deep its impact will be. PQ practice doesn’t require spare time. As you observe and label Saboteurs, access your great Sage powers, and do energizing PQ reps, you will meet your challenges in ways that are both more effective and more fulfilling. Committing to the PQ practice doesn’t add a burden to your life. It reduces the burden that is already there.

Please don’t feel discouraged if you keep hearing your Saboteurs in your head. They will lose much of their volume and strength over time.