Chapter 1:Brain Science Matters
Welcome to excerpts from my book. It includes all information apart from the 'expert interviews' featured.
"Knowledge is power. It offers you the freedom of making conscious choices...
This is 100% true when it comes to creating a different mindset, breaking an unbreakable habit, replacing a blind spot with a new powerful behaviour or creating a new reality for oneself. This chapter whilst does not bore you with deep neuroscience it offers you a robust scientific guide throw light on some well known facts about our brain and its operating model. Powerful information that will prove very valuable when it comes to redefining your future, or building a winning mindset for yourself and your team. How you can influence people and circumstances around you. But more of that later, right now lets get closer to the brain and warm up with foundational principles.
When I moved from New Delhi to London in 2005 I was often using the black London cabs. In conversations I learnt London cabbies learnt close to 320 different routes through 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks, and were expected to recall various permutations and combinations for them to pass the Knowledge of London exam. This seemed like a real mind - twister to get a cab license! Then I learnt something that was even more noteworthy. A study of London cab drivers has shown that the posterior part of their hippocampus – a part of the brain responsible for memory, especially spatial memory – was enlarged.
In the same lines, when Albert Einstein’s brain was examined, it was discovered that the area devoted to his left finger had expanded, forming a giant fold in his cerebral cortex known as the Omega sign (because it is shaped like the Greek letter). This large knob-shaped fold in the right hemisphere indicated enlarged motor representation for the left hand. This is an unusual feature that is seen in experienced right-handed violinists. Einstein was one.
Our brains keep changing even into adulthood. This is great news. So while it is true that the major tectonic shifts and patterns are formed when we are young, and especially in our teens, with experience the brain creates new patterns long into adulthoods evidenced in structural changes of the brain. If anyone wishes to transform any aspect of their life no matter what stage or phase they are in their life, and no matter what limiting circumstances life has dealt out to them in the past they can do it with practice. If anyone wish to learn a new ability or create a skills or change their belief system to create a new reality they can, albeit it may take some practice.
It’s like learning a new dance step or a new yoga posture, or pronouncing words in a new language for the first time. It feels clumsy as our mind and body grapples with the awkwardness of something new. I remember when I started learning yoga: my body would protest with every new posture and stretch. Some movements and stretches were impossible as certain muscles had never been used or hardly so. It was a real challenge. I remember my yoga teacher, who you will hear from later in this handbook, said to me: ‘It’s like when a child is learning to walk. The action that we can do without thinking in due course of time seems clumsy and difficult to begin with.’ And, of course, with regular practice, my muscles relaxed deeper into the stretch and soon I was able to do a bend which had seemed impossible at first. This is an important analogy to remember as you make some choices when you read this books on experimenting with any new pattern or behaviour in your life, or for that matter, when you think about creating new thinking patterns or what we call initiating neuroplasticity.
But before we get to that ability of the brain, let me suggest to you another strategy you may wish to consider in your journey of mastering the art of brilliance; pace yourself. We know we live in a fast-changing world, and everyone is in a rush to get things done, to achieve the next milestone, to get that next acquisition. Each year seems to go by faster. It's insane. With the ever accelerating pace of digital transformation and competition, a culture of instant gratification has set into our lives. In some cases, we want results as of yesterday. I state this not to critique it, but to highlight that such an environment carries a subliminal message that things need to happen quick and fast.
To make the perfect cake requires allowing the right amount of time for preparation and baking. To get things right usually takes time. The journey to become a visionary involves many paradigm shifts. You should take as much time as you need in this journey to become a powerful visionary. It might take a few months, or it might take a few years. The key is to find your own pace, especially as you imbibe and integrate some of the learnings from this handbook in order to make a lasting change. As many master coaches say, ‘Take your time and don’t rush, even if the goal does seem to take longer to achieve. The journey is more important than the destination, even if it can be tough work!’ In fact, I would go so far as to say this: there is no goal as such when you think about Brilliance.
Brilliance is not a destination. It is a ‘state of being’ in a lifelong journey. In this In this journey you will become aware of how to shift your energy levels and harness your unending source of energy. Your journey will have many moments when you are the creator, the participant and the spectator of the circumstances in your life or work. By thriving rather than striving, you will exceed your personal benchmarks and goals. You will discover a way of living that can lead you to untold joys and riches. You will excel in everything you do, and you will be appreciated for the excellence you bring to everything you do. You will have become an anticipatory Visionary at work, at play, and at home.
But how does one achieve this?
To be such a master visionary you require an honest review and alignment of your ‘inner and outer worlds’r. In most leadership development programmes and self development efforts, we typically pay a lot of attention to the ‘outer world’ or the skills required to be an outstanding performer: how to manage our time, how to manage conflict, how to delegate, plan, strategise, how to be a better manager, etc. This is good. However, we miss out on something which is equally if not more important: how to fine-tune our ‘inner world’ or our mental capacities to do much more. It is essential for leaders to consciously work on raising capabilities (skills) and capacities (energy) and align the two.
With dissonance between the inner and outer worlds of oneself; people start showing signs of cracks as time passes by. Typical pain points or symptoms of this dissonance range in spectrum from stress, fatigue, burnout, exhaustion, low bandwidth, lack of new ideas, boredom, to the more ‘I am stuck’ or ‘What’s next’ restlessness. If the conflicting challenges within one’s inner world and low capacity (or energy) are not addressed, then the cracks widen, often resulting in serious health issues, debilitating burnout, or apathy. It is the reason a lot of leaders who are performing very well soon find out they are no longer the fastest and the best and seem to be losing ground to the next generation or new ways of thinking. It is reason they refuse to change as they find they are unable to and struggle to see the new paradigms.
On the other side, the good news is that when our ‘capacity levels’ are high, our capabilities can then constantly upgraded as we have the fuel to flex, learn, adapt, evolve, be resilient and see beyond the current paradigms. It’s like the engine of a car. Well oiled and in good condition and the car will become better with use and perform at optimum capacity for a long time. Or, it’s like the age-old axiom: ‘Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.’ Once you learn how to tap into that source of bottomless energy inside you, you are fuelled up for a lifetime to be brilliant.
This brings me to another amazing characteristic of the brain which when applied consciously will come to your aid in your journey for building capacity. It is the critical piece of the puzzle and my third suggestion: be curious, with no judgement. The biggest deterrent to Brilliance is judgement; the biggest enabler is curiosity. This is one arrow that you must keep in your quiver all the time, since it will directly impact the degree of enjoyment and pace of your journey. Let me explain with an analogy. If I perform a mental ju-jitsu move in response to every point I do not agree with, then I am blocking acceptance, or missing the point since I am in a combative mental state. If I was to instead move from a place of resistance to a place of curiosity as a response, then I am proactively signalling my brain to explore new choices presented by the different point of view in a more relaxed manner. If I take one step further and explore an opposing viewpoint without judging it as ‘this is not right’, then the exploration is richer and the choice more diverse.
You will have the opportunity to practise this as you read this handbook. Each time your mind rejects an idea, or you find yourself mentally resisting a concept, or you struggle with a new behaviour, be curious. Maybe ask yourself: What aspects of this topic or principle can I accept and what new choices are available to me with this knowledge? Or, what would change in my leadership style if this aspect was true? Or, why is this proving to be difficult – is it that I need more time or is it something else? Treat this handbook as an inquiry and practice ground for becoming a better you. It could well be the reason why you picked it up.
Curiosity also plays a great enabler for the brain to experience neuroplasticity. It is one of the best ways to constantly engage the pre-frontal cortex that ensures our responses are far from being limbic. And to learn how to operate in a world that is unpredictable and disruptive we need to be aware of how the brains of most people has a limbic response to change and how we can help ourselves and others to create new brain responses by changing the way we think. Before we get to the thinking part lets break down a bit more how the brain functions as the more aware we are about how the brain functions the easier it is to create a mindset that can create extraordinary realities. Here are some excerpts for a chat with my dear friend and neuroscience coach..."
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