Fear is the Root of Your Problems

Have you considered the relationship between procrastination and fear lately?

These days, I’ve been giving “fear” a fair amount of thought. This post is the first that comes to mind from some of my recent writings.

Today I was introduced to Leo Babauta, who writes a great blog called Zen Habits. Click on Leo’s name above, you’ll see he does some other cool stuff too.

The title of this post comes directly from his post, Fear is the Root of Your Problems because I’m not sure it can be said any better.

I linked to Leo based on a conversation that started with the relationship between fear and procrastination. Though this is a connection I’ve made before.

The connection I hadn’t made before, and my larger takeaway from Leo’s post, is that fear isn’t something to be conquered, but to realize that it’s something within us.

In other words, it’s something for us to recognize, understand, and accept about ourselves.

The next time fear arises inside of you, what will you feel, think, do?

Instead of the need to go battle against your fear, what if you joined forces with your “enemy”?

Or what if you let your fear fuel you?

Instead of a need to conquer, how about you chose to coexist, even allow the fear to fuel you?

Where might this take you? Your work? Your relationships with others? And your relationship with yourself?

Leo’s got some terrific suggestions in his post that are worth a gander.

—–

This evening at dinner I was chatting with a friend about her friend who is going through a challenging time. Family member with cancer. Job down the tubes. No relationship in sight.

All complaining, all the time. No sunshine in sight. And my friend wasn’t exactly sure what she could do for her.

I wondered was causing her to feel and act this way? What was this friend of my friend most fearful of?

I shared with my friend my new learning about fear and my intention to write about it tonight.

She immediately mentioned the way Elizabeth Gilbert talks about fear as something you invite to come along on your journey, but don’t give voting rights to for any decision.

What a beautiful thought. Do you need to read that again?

My friend described her personal fears as this wounded part that needed extra care and attention.

I thought back to this friend of my friend who seems to be having a rough go at it.

It seemed like she was trying to convince my friend – and likely others – that she wasn’t going to make it.

But why?

Why does she prefer the status quo when the power is within her to change?

And if she’s having trouble, help is at her side. What keeps holding her back from moving beyond the pain and the fear?

No matter who we are or however well-adapted or well-equipped to deal with any and everything life throws at us, it seems to me that fear will never really leave us and will always be a part of us.

It’s like a person – one who is a mainstay in our lives. They may come and go, but they are always there. Maybe we like to interact with them, maybe not. But either way, we must. They are a part of our lives.

But how would you choose to interact with them?

And how do you choose to interact with your fear?

Do you try to conquer?

Do you just take away its voting rights?

Or maybe there’s another way?

What role does fear play in the story of your life?

Why choose fear when you can choose love?

No matter where you are or with whom you’re with.

How might a different way of interacting with fear influence your work? Your relationships with others? And your relationship with yourself?

You Are Welcome Here

During a recent talk I heard someone say:

“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

Simple. Warm. Inviting. Inclusive. Open-minded. Accepting.

Sounds like the way I wish others could always treat me.

Sounds like the way I wish I could always treat others.

How would our lives change if we accepted this and made an effort to welcome all those we meet with the same warmth in our time with them – be it a split second, a lifetime, or some amount of time in between?

When You Aspire

Today I got to thinking about what it means to aspire.

I think of aspiration as something that supports you to get from A to B when the pathway isn’t so clear.

While aspiration may exist thanks to inspiration, it also may exist because you were encouraged and/or supported to reach, to grow, to be better than you are, perhaps even better than you had imagined before.

Aspiration encourages and empowers you to feel that possibility is within your grasp.

It may not show you the route, but it does show you that such a route exists.

That you can find it, if you so desire.

And that possibility can be your reality, if you so choose.

5 Minutes

I recently heard a story about a woman whose son recently had passed away while serving overseas.

She was asked, given an opportunity to re-experience 5 minutes with him, what 5 minutes would she choose?

With 30 years of history to draw from, choosing those 5 minutes would not be an easy task.

She decided on this one time as a little boy when her son came running in from outside. He had been hurt. He was crying.

He rushed to her and hugged her.

It was one of the few moments that stick out in her mind when her son truly needed her.

Wow.

This is one of those stories that surprise you when the message hits you.

I couldn’t help but think how beautiful this image was in my head.

And how, at some level, we all have this fundamental need to be needed.

But what about you?

Given the chance to re-experience 5 minutes with someone special to you – what would you choose?

What if you had the chance to repeat any 5 minutes from your life?

I Never Thought a Dog Would…

My Dog Bro Oliver Hangin

I didn’t grow up with a dog. Pets were not a big part of the ecosystem in which I was raised.

When the idea was suggested that a dog would be coming to live with us last summer, and that we would be taking care of it for 3 months, I wasn’t exactly, um, well, thrilled… is the word, I think.

It was presented to me as something to discuss. But it was never to be a discussion. It was a unilateral decision. Minds were made, and plans soon followed. It didn’t exactly feel so good.

I arrived home a couple days later after a month on the road to meet my new housemate. His name, Oliver.

He was white, fluffy, and though he had just arrived hours earlier, Oliver seemed to have already made himself right at home.

[If you’re up with dog lingo, we’re pretty sure he’s a mini poodle meets bichon frise mix.]

My Dog Bro Oliver First Meeting

[And by the way, this shot is from the first day Oliver and I met and is the very first picture I took of him. Sometimes there’s value in going back and starting again from the beginning. It’s there where you can find things you might not expect, which you won’t find anywhere else.]

In the days between the gauntlet being laid down and my arrival back home, the narrative in my head went a little bit like this, “I’m not a dog person. I’ve never been a dog person. I’m not in favor of this arrangement. Why does my opinion not matter?”

And then, I decided to change my tune.

I love a special lady. She loves dogs. I’ve never had a dog before. Maybe I can love dogs too. What would happen if I turned my frown upside down, threw myself into the world of being a dog daddy, and chose to love him from the start?

And you know what? I made the change and did just that.

It’s amazing what you can do when you choose to change your attitude.

And you know what? The experience was incredible.

I grew to love the little guy. Oliver and I became bros. In fact, we had a surprising number of similarities, so much so that I feel like we have the same spirit, just different bodies.

We love people. We love to hang out. We both like to work from home. We find ways to easily amuse ourselves. We enjoy going running in the morning. We eat when we need to. We like to try new things. Explore new places. Bark infrequently – usually when we don’t get the chance or enough time to meet new people. And we both have a soft spot for the lady of the house.

My Dog Bro Oliver and Salimander

[Here’s a nice shot of Oliver amusing himself, playing catch with himself with his little friend the once-upon-a-time-was-stuffed salamander.]

Now, a common question I would get after sharing my story about Oliver:

“Wow, so are you a dog person now?”

My standard answer: I’m an Oliver person, though I’m not sure if I’m a dog person.

But here’s the thing. I might be a dog person. What if I am and never gave myself the chance when it mattered?

These days I’m much closer to knowing the answer because I said yes to a relationship with Oliver.

Yes to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.

Yes to doing something I would not have done on my own, but am now so grateful to have had someone give me that initial push.

How do we know if something won’t work out if we’re not even willing to give it a go?

Oliver’s stay with us was 3 months, 90 days. Not short, but also not that long. And a lot can change in that amount of time. A lot did change.

With all the goodness he brought, it’s equally important to note that Oliver’s presence in our lives was not without its challenges.

Which got me to thinking, and what I realized about Oliver, about dogs, and about myself is that it’s not that I’m not a dog person, it’s that I’m an extreme people person.

Actually, some of my biggest fears came to light while living with Oliver.

There were a healthy amount of extra logistics involved, especially when headed anywhere away from New Haven, or the house, for more than a certain number of hours. He took up a fair amount of time that could have been focused elsewhere. At times we made choices that favored Oliver over people. And that, especially, was very hard for me.

However, there were some incredible benefits to having Oliver around.

First and foremost, we should start with the fact that I love him. I can’t help myself. And he loves me.

There is something about the love that a guy like Oliver can give that is so innocent and much less complicated than the love we sometimes exchange as humans.

What’s not to love about someone who is always happy to see you when you come home?

And that’s the biggest lesson Oliver taught me about being in a relationship.

There will always be tough times. There will always be logistics to work out. And life will not be perfect.

But with all the things we fight against on the outside, if we can come home at the end of the day and show unbridled love to the person that matters the most to us in the world, then we are going to completely change how they feel in that moment.

All of a sudden that day might just get a little better. For them. For you. Or me. For us.

Oliver changed my life.

Never could I have imagined that I would say this about a dog.

Never would I have thought I would be bros with a poodle.

Or even know that a bichon frise is a dog and not a type of cheese.

Or talk to a grandmother in the bus station on the day before Christmas about her third and fourth “grandchildren.” i.e. two dogs. Bentley is a Morkie (a maltese + yorkie aka yorkshire terrier) and Bailey is a Cavachon (half king charles terrier spaniel, half bichon frise).

But now when I see dogs, I see unconditional love. I see a relationship between two beings that matters and makes them both so happy. And what could be wrong with two beings choosing love, care, compassion, mutual interest and affection, … over the alternatives?

A dog is not what I wanted. It was not my ideal outcome.

But I had a choice to proactively participate. And I’m so glad that I did. And it became an ideal outcome.

Because, ultimately, Oliver pushed me out of my comfort zone, he got me thinking about someone other than myself, and he helped me on the road to be a better man.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my relationship with Oliver. A lot can change in 90 days. Sometimes, even more than you think.

Beyond just thinking about Oliver and his needs, it got me thinking about why someone special in my life would have such a love for dogs and animals in general.

Seeing how she would light up around Oliver. Seeing how much pleasure she took in taking care of him. It reminded me how wonderful she is at taking care of those she loves. How she’s such a great daughter and sister and aunt. Friend and colleague and boss. And teacher and mentor to her students. It also made me feel how wonderful she would be as a mother.

If you talk to a lot of pet owners or lovers, most of them have had a pet growing up. I’d be very curious to know how many who do not grow up with pets have pets as adults. My non-conclusive research to-date indicates few. It’s easy to be disinterested, and to say no, in these situations.

Besides, most of the time we say no to lots of things we don’t have experience with much more than we say yes, particularly when there is work involved.

But through this experience I was opened me up to this other side of myself. A side that loves animals too. All that work? It sure was worth it.

Though, along with that work, introspection and reflection helped me to realize how important it is to find the right balance with my human relationship needs too. But I believe that middle road is easily found, especially since now we know the why behind those feelings.

When it comes to the stuff that’s hard – the stuff that we’re afraid of, or perhaps just a bit concerned about – fear or concerns don’t mean, “No”, even though that’s often the first thing that comes out of our mouths.

Instead of an obstacle, we can look to these feelings and actions as more information. And given more information we have a better idea on how to work out any issues. Again, because we know the why. And that why helps us to make it happen.

When is your next chance to stay open-minded to something you think you’re so uncertain about?

Oliver was a catalyst for quite a bit of new thinking for me. He helped me to see a different side of others, as well as myself.

Who or what might be your Oliver?

And when it comes, will you not only open up your mind and say yes, but will you also open up your heart and share your love?

My Dog Bro Oliver and Me

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The photo immediately above is my favorite picture of Oliver and me. Ollie was never all that patient when it came to looking at the camera. Photo credit to a very talented photographer (AH).

The photo at the very top is a popular break time position for the little guy. As usual, he’s giving and sharing the love from a cozy and comfortable curled up position on the couch.

And when I was looking to find the spellings for all these dog breeds I have heard of, but never seen in writing, I came across this interesting article on the next generation “perfect” dog.

60

60

60 is a significant number in time.

For one there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. These are the basic building blocks for the cycles by which we live our lives.

Moving beyond the basics, 60 years is a significant milestone in China.

Some might say once you’ve hit 60, you’ve done it all. You’ve spun around the zodiac wheel five full times, matching your zodiac animal with each of the terrestrial elements – earth, wood, fire, metal, and water.

In other words, it is both the end to a full cycle and the beginning to the next.

Cycles are about rhythm. Writing too.

It takes discipline and patience to write everyday.

Since I started writing in this Finding My Voice Here (FMVH) format, I haven’t been disciplined or patient.

And today is the day to make a change.

I’d like to say I will write everyday for the whole year. But I haven’t had great success with goals like this in the past.

“You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

This line attributed to everyone’s old friend Albert Einstein is one of those quotes that gets regularly tossed around. Perhaps for good reason.

It’s time to adopt a new mindset and new strategy on a project I’ve struggled with since coming back to America in May 2013.

But today is a new day.

And the future is not yesterday, last week, last month, or last year.

I have a choice and will have that choice to write, everyday. I can’t wait to see where I get to after my 60 day cycle.

For me, it will be a significant milestone.

Over the last year I experimented a couple times with 21-day exercises.

The first time in the Spring I failed. The second one in November I succeeded.

Discipline is what that took. A clear ranking of priorities. And more time than I expected.

But isn’t that true of anything worth doing?

Seth Godin sings this tune of daily habits and discipline – showing up day after day, working on something that matters, and shipping it! – almost to the point of being a broken record.

But the thing is, no matter how (or how often) he brings it up in conversation, it is never any less true.

Besides, have all of us followed through on making that concentrated day-in-day-out effort on our work we say matters?

Perhaps it’s worth playing on repeat then, just like the song you may be obsessed with in this moment.

What have you been waiting to do that you could start on today?

Here’s to the start of a new cycle – for you, for me, for us.

See you tomorrow.

—–

Today’s photo came attached to a blog post about what it means to be 60.

I’m always amazed to find out where the images I like take me.

Lessons about life, love, and loss from the lips of an angel is not what I was expecting with a sign that looks like it could belong on the side of a road.

But, the result – a few life learnings that might just be worth a gander.

Managing Measurement – Just a Numbers Game?

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You’ve heard people tell you this before – you may have even told yourself this before: you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

So what’s so different about this mantra today over any other day?

Nick Ganju, that’s what’s different.

Over the past few months I’ve developed a taste for the podcast world. And while I still need to write about the podcast that has made me into a semi-rabid fan of the medium (thank you Alex Blumberg, Startup Podcast, Matt Lieber, and Gimlet Media!), I have my buddy Hsu to thank for introducing me to Tim Ferriss‘s experimental podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, at a time where there were a few episodes out there with things that I needed to hear.

This morning I listened to two excellent inbetweenisodes and then happened upon the Nick Ganju conversation.

I’ve been intimidated by math, numbers, stats, etc. for as long as I can remember. Unlike Tim, while I had some a great teacher in 10th grade (and beyond), I just always had a tough time getting my head around that stuff. And I completely gave it up when I got to college.

These days, even though I’ve come to be a believer in data-driven approaches to decision-making, that doesn’t mean I’ve always been equipped to determine what should be measured on the way to reaching goals and supporting dreams to come true.

Because if there’s one thing that should accompany the mantra, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”, its that, “Not all data is created equal.”

These are the kind of things I appreciate talking through with others. It’s not only for the purpose of bouncing ideas and getting to a better place as a team, but also to move beyond my own numerical insecurities. Sometimes we all just need a little hand-holding.

Although there are many great things within this conversation including a note on the probability of one sharing a birthday with another (if interested in this, see below), it was two lines that encouraged me to immediately write this reflection.

“The big secret of mathematicians is that everyone started from 1 + 1 = 2 and built their way up. Each step is not a big step once you understand the previous step.”

How often do we make things much more complicated than they need to be?

How often do we take steps without truly understanding the previous step?

And how often do we measure things that actually don’t matter in the context of what we’re looking or aiming for?

Let’s go a bit further on this.

You’ve heard of SMART goals, yes? Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely goals.

But do we take the time to make projected assumptions based on specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely criteria? (Or should I have asked if we make any type of project assumption?)

Do we follow-up to compare assumptions with the actual results? When and if we do, do we explore how they compare and seek to understand why we’ve arrived at the results we have today?

For all the time we put into the things we believe matter, why do so many of us not put in the due diligence and/or the right structure for a more appropriate framework by which we can judge whether we succeeded or not?

“Lose weight” vs. “Lose 10 pounds in 100 days” is a very simple version of this. We have these “goals” without anything to hold us accountable – be it to ourselves or others.

But generally speaking, in business and in life, many of us just decide on “goals” (myself included). We haven’t done the underlying math. Or really enough structured thinking about it.

It’s great to have goal, but then you need a plan to execute. And the follow-up, the accountability piece, might be just as important than the original goal.

Besides, how do we know if we get there / don’t get there? How do we choose if it’s a good idea to keep going or stop?

So I’m a perfect example of someone who has fallen into this lack of specificity and due diligence in setting goals.

Actually, it’s only been recently that I’ve finally felt the confidence to even set and articulate these goals to myself.

It got me to thinking, how can we articulate out-loud and to others if we can’t even tell ourselves?

Even more dangerous, what happens when what we tell ourselves is not honest?

Though this is tricky.

Because even when we think we’re being honest with ourselves, sometimes, we’ve elected to not do the due diligence in thinking about what really matters.

Do we know what motivates us to do what we do, on the road to going where we want to be?

One last quote from Nick, “The mark of intelligence is to learn from your mistakes and change your attitude about things.”

I thought I was quite good at this before. But maybe that was my problem.

At my most unsuccessful, it was usually because I knew the problem and solution rather than seeing myself as part of the problem and the solution.

I recognized a need for a change in my attitude on certain things. This has taken space. This has taken time set aside for active thought and reflection.

Only by taking a step or two (or three or more) back have I been able to move forward with a renewed sense of confidence.

You know what it was, I was afraid of “the wrong answer” before. Of “making a mistake.” While this wasn’t with everything, it was with the biggest most important things in my life.

Intelligence for me started to become less about knowing the answer and more about finding the answer with the people interested in the same or similar questions.

Besides, if I believed there was only one answer or way of doing things, then I’d just be deceiving myself.

How about you, what mistakes have you learned from lately?

And beyond just knowing these mistakes, did you give yourself the space to reflect and allow for your attitude to change?

—–

Hear more from Nick and Tim’s conversation here.

—–

Happy-Birthday

Interested in the birthday vignette mentioned above? You came to the right place.

At around 21:00 minutes Tim brings up the birthday problem / paradox as a part of their discussion of probability.

When there are 367 people in a group there is 100% probability that 2 people will have the same birthday. Easy, right?

More surprising, though, might be that in a group of  23 people there is actually a 50% probability.

Nick pointed out that it’s not that one of those 23 people could walk around and ask the other 22 if they have the same birthday and likely find a match, it’s that any two of those 23 people could have the same birthday.

What happens when data is presented a bit differently? And how do we start to see the world, the issues around us, and ourselves differently?

—–

Today’s images –

Numbers – from designer and animator giada_ghw, which I found on the Continuous Business Planning site. giada_ghw has some other fun cartoons on there, as well.

Happy Birthday – from the Soylet blog of all places. Posted by user gambit.

Google image searches sometimes take me to the most unexpected places.

Honest Liars and the Psychology of Self-Deception

We all know that honesty is the best policy. So when was the last time you were honest with yourself?

It’s a rare moment when I don’t feel like talking or engaging with anyone or anything.

Today was a bit too full-on. I came home thinking I was ready to call it a day.

And so, I thought I’d watch a short video as I headed towards dreamland.

Best mistake I made this week.

Honest Liars – the psychology of self-deception a TEDxUNLV talk by Dr. Cortney S. Warren was 13 minutes well spent, that really got me thinking for the better part of an hour.

Dr. Warren flawlessly delivers content that is not so easy to hear.

And if we’re willing to engage with what she has to say, rather than assume she’s talking about people other than ourselves, there are some powerful messages to consider and grapple with.

I might go back to list all the great lines at some point down the road, but in the interim, here are two good ones:

“Not changing when confronted with the truth is a choice.”

“When we admit who we really are, we have the opportunity to change.”

Don’t wait another moment. Watch this yourself.

And then, if time allows, I’d take a spin through Dr. Warren’s website choosehonesty.com.

Change the Conversation

UConn and St. Joe’s was the first game I saw this March Madness. It was love at first sight.

In my first March Madness since college, I’ve loved the games, I’ve loved the commercials, I’ve loved the commentary. But the very best? The seasoned teams, the ones with seniors who have stayed the course. And the marination of anticipation over the years – of playing through March and being the only team to finish the season with a win.

As the Wisconsin/Kentucky game got going on Saturday night, my Dad and I got into a conversation about one and done. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a phrase that has become connected to John Calipari and the University of Kentucky program, a team that starts five talented Freshman. One and done refers to those student-athletes who come to school for a year before they choose to leave school in favor of the NBA. Calipari will have had 20 such players on his team in the five years by the close of this year’s NBA draft (he has 17 to date).

Both of us were rooting for Wisconsin, a team with some season. But when I Google’ed one and done, I came across this article that is very much worth a read.

As a college basketball fan, I don’t want to see great players leave so quickly. Heck, in my college basketball watching heyday, I didn’t want to see the seniors go. But why is the choice for college basketball players, whether they stay or they go, come under more scrutiny than anyone else with a chance, a choice to pursue an opportunity that might change their life and the lives of their families?

As much as I wish my writing tonight was all about UConn and how great Kevin Ollie is as a coach, I really like what Coach Calipari has done as a leader – and how he’s attempting to change a conversation.

One a done leaves a bad taste in peoples mouth. But succeed and proceed, not only does it have a nice ring, it gets closer to the core of what’s behind these shortened sojourns at the college level for these ball players.

The article paints Calipari as a great recruiter, a great coach, and a great teacher. I agree with the idea that to proceed one must succeed. To continue on to the next level, one must have achieved.

But the part I love even more is that Calipari’s players support the idea that he makes no promises to them. That his attitude and coaching style invites them to grow up – and they have the choice to step up to that challenge.

Basketball, in some ways is just a game. But in other ways it’s a platform for learning transformative lessons. Of dedication and hard work. Focus and concentration. Sharing and teamwork. Looking out for others. And more.

Who are we to judge when someone has learned the lesson? And whether or not they should have the opportunity to pursue a dream to ‘play’ at the next level?

In an age where we say yes to kid entrepreneurs, how are these basketball players any different?

Coach Calipari, I’m not rooting for your team tonight, but I do have a little extra respect and appreciation for your craft and your coaching style. Thank you for helping me to think a little bit differently about this conversation.

Bran(d)ing Food

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It took me awhile to get into cereal, as a kid. It just didn’t excite me. And we had plenty of bread products around. Also, oatmeal.

When I finally came around, one of the great bonuses, I thought, were the health benefits. And it only got better when I started sampling – and more regularly consuming – these cereals that I thought were meant for grandparents. Fiber One was one of those cereals. And I put cereals like this in the same category as prunes – great for you and great to ensure your system runs smoothly on all cylinders.

I find marketing and branding infinitely interesting. What do you choose to – or not to – share about what you have and what it does? What do people choose to – or not to – listen to and what do they choose to care about, reflected through the decisions they make with their actions, their time, and their currency of choice?

Every situation is a bit different. Different people have different perceptions, which are influenced by a whole host of things that ultimately boils down to what they have experienced and what people tell them.

This morning I was looking at a box of Fiber One, and read what you see in the photo above, “With Whole Grain First Ingredient.” My first thought: what a funny thing to put on a box.

As I thought back to my experience as a cereal consumer, a consumer of information about cereal and of food in general, and my interest in marketing and communications, the next logical place to go? The ingredients.

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And there it was, Whole Grain Wheat (first ingredient). Then, Corn Bran, Modified Wheat Starch, Xanthan Gum, Color Added, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Baking Soda, Aspartame, and then a whole slew of vitamins and minerals.

I could not have told you (before I looked each of them up), what most of these ingredients are or mean. And now that I do, they are fillers, but mostly harmless.

To contrast, while snooping around a farmer’s market the other day in New Haven, I came across an interesting breakfast product: quinoa oatmeal strawberry cereal [made by Garden Fresh Baby in Westport, CT]. An appropriately named product in that what’s-in-the-name is the same as what’s-in-the-package.

What does the marketing, communications, and branding of food look like in the future? Will whole food products have names that are greater than the sum of their parts? Or do people just need a reminder of what’s inside straight away once they are in the space of certain brands they trust?

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—–

Addendum: Admittedly, I have never done much reading into various ingredients in processed foods. Here are several articles I found of interest for corn bran, modified food starch, xanthan gum, and aspartame. The article on aspartame is particularly good food for thought given how studied and talked about this food sweetener has been over the years.