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Amy Cuddy graduated from a high school in rural Pennsylvania, where only a third of the students graduate. She went on to Harvard, and today is a renowned social psychologist. She is, by most definitions, a big success. Known as a preeminent expert
in the study of body language, her TED Talk from 2012 is the second-most watched ever.

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Her story should be a relief to parents who worry about living in an area with “good
schools.”  Of course, Amy undoubtedly worked hard, and was a good student. Certainly she had ambitions. 

Did her good posture help too?

Sounds preposterous, until you hear Amy Cuddy talk about personal power and the effect
that “power posing” and body language overall can have on how others see you, and how you see yourself.

Good posture may very well be one of her secret weapons. Her presentation at SAP’s Palo Alto office June 11th, in
TED Talk style, was a real eye opener to how the brain reacts to the body.
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My GPO Marketing friends Ursula Ringham and Liz Martin striking a pose with Amy Cuddy.

It’s especially helpful if your mother, like mine, was constantly telling you to sit up straight.
“Why does it matter?” I’d say to myself. Now I know:

How you carry yourself has an effect on how others perceive you. But just as important: Your posture can change you feel – happy or depressed; powerFUL or powerLESS. When you feel powerless in a high-stakes situation, you aren’t present. You’re distracted. Less effective.

Try this: Sit in your seat with your shoulders rounded, on your next conference call. Feeling confident? Doubtful. Instead try this test: stand like Wonder Woman for a minute. I did it, just for fun. Powered up? YES! I felt ready to host a last-minute slumber party of 12-year olds, no problem!

Posture, even when you are eyes are closed, counts too according to research Cuddy discussed.
Consider the fetal position vs. sleeping on your back like a starfish. Which
sleeper is less anxious the next day? (Hint: it’s not the one curled up in a
ball).

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Above: When your team wins, how do you feel? Most people raise their arms in the air.
The crowd showed off their winning poses at Cuddy’s talk in Palo Alto, June 11.

Below: Me and my fellow classmates at the Executive Presence workshop showing off our power poses
with instructor Roz Usheroff (front row, far left.)

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Three more things I learned:

  • Great leaders have high testosterone and low cortisol levels. We like to follow them
    because they see a challenge or battle as “fun.”
  • Doctors who give great non-verbal cues are sued less and have better patient outcomes.
  • Spending time on your cell phone can actually make you less assertive. (watch the replay to find out why!)

If you missed Amy’s presentation definitely catch the replay. Afterwards I bet you’ll want to
sit up straight, pose like Superman, perform like Mick Jagger, or steeple your
fingers like Angela Merkel.

As for the kids, perhaps we shouldn’t worry so much about where they go to school. Cuddy didn’t
attend the best high school. Have the kids practice their power pose, and stand
tall. It may help them be better abstract thinkers, do better on math tests, and embrace their own power within

to find success, no matter where they go to school.

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