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Self Development

How To Fine-Tune Your Brain

Your brain’s not a muscle, but it does need exercise. Want to be more creative, productive and efficient? The secret lies in taking good care of your brain and developing it as much as possible. Here’s how.

GG van Rooyen




Let’s take a moment to appreciate what an incredible organ the brain is. The average brain has 85 billion neurons, each of which boasts 10 000 nerve-ending connections. So that means there are more than a trillion connections in the average brain.

It’s also estimated that a brain can store around one million gigabytes of data, and that messages travel through nerve endings at around 430 km/h.

The brain is an incredibly complex thing. We’ve figured out a lot as a species, but the nature of consciousness still escapes us. Despite all the technology available to us, there’s an awful lot about the brain that we haven’t figured out yet.

What we do know now, however, is that you’re not simply ‘stuck’ with the brain you were born with. Brain plasticity (also known as neuroplasticity) is a term that has been coined to describe the way in which a brain remains malleable (or plastic) throughout its life.

A brain can — and does — change. And, depending on how you treat it, that change can be for the better, or for the worse.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Why Multi–Tasking Can Damage Your Brain (And Your Career)

“We don’t often stop to consider the fact that absolutely everything we achieve is down purely to our brains. Things that we tend to prize as entrepreneurs — creativity, productivity, quick thinking — all come down to effective use of the brain,” says James Thorburn, founder of Winning Wayz. “And the good news is, our brain is trainable. We can improve the way we think.”

Feed your brain good things


“About 2% of your total weight can be attributed to your brain, yet it consumes 20% to 30% of the energy you put into your body through food,” says Thorburn.

“So around 30% of what you eat goes towards fuelling your brain. If you want it to be efficient, you need to feed it well. Don’t skip meals and don’t eat junk food.”

Sugar is poison for your brain, alcohol as well. “You don’t need to cut out sugar, fat and alcohol completely, but try to limit your intake. I try to stick to a vegetarian diet a couple of days a week. Even red meat should be consumed in moderation,” says Thorburn.

Thorburn also recommends drinking loads of water and keeping your weight down. “Interestingly, there is a direct link between body weight and brain activity. Obesity is not good for brain activity. If you look at the brain scan of an obese person, you’ll find that there’s less activity than on that of a person who is trim. But that said, dieting and being too skinny isn’t good either. Your brain needs food,” says Thorburn.

Get more sleep

We don’t sleep enough. A hundred years ago, people were averaging nine hours of sleep a night. Today, most people are lucky if they get six or seven — and entrepreneurs tend to sleep even less.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: You’ll Market Better and Be More Persuasive Knowing These 10 Brain Facts

“Our brains need rest. If you don’t sleep enough, your brain won’t perform optimally. Not only will you make worse decisions, but your memory will also suffer, you’ll feel increased anxiety and you won’t be as productive as usual,” says Thorburn.

Switch off your gadgets


A big reason we’re not sleeping as well as we used to, is the fact that we drag laptops and tablets into bed with us.

“Entrepreneurs love gadgets and technology, and I don’t believe technology is a bad thing, but we do need to pay attention to how we use technology. We need to step away from it at times. My bedroom is a ‘tech-free’ zone, and I also make it a rule to never try and use two pieces of technology at the same time. I don’t fiddle with my phone in front of the television and I don’t use my tablet in conjunction with my laptop,” says Thorburn.

According to Thorburn, the ability to multi-task is a myth. “If you’ve got five windows open on your computer screen, you’re not making optimal decisions,” says Thorburn.

“Multi-tasking isn’t possible on a purely physical level. We can’t focus on two things at once. What your brain is actually doing is continually switching between tasks, which uses a lot of energy. This is not conducive to gaining a deep understanding of something or making informed decisions.”

Meditate and exercise

“Meditation is a great tool for improving brain performance and, in fact, neuroscience is now allowing us to see how it affects the brain in positive ways,” says Thorburn. “It stimulates the frontal cortex and allows us to think more clearly.”

Meditation also encourages deep breathing, which is good for the brain. “Neurons cannot fire without oxygen. Try to practise deep breathing every day. I practise something called Sudarshan Kriya Breathing, and it’s amazing how it detoxes the body and clears the head.”

Similarly, exercise is a great way to get the blood flowing. “You don’t need to exercise for hours on end, but 20 minutes of exercise every day is very good for the brain,” says Thorburn.

Learn to juggle

Juggling is a great way to train your brain because it engages multiple senses and different parts of the brain, but you can pursue any sport or hobby that encourages the brain to do some ‘heavy lifting’.

Learning to play an instrument is another great way of exercising the brain. You need only think of how tricky it can be to strum a guitar with one hand and hold a chord with the other to realise how it exercises the mind.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: 4 Tips to Wire Your Brain for Entrepreneurial Wisdom

You can even play video games. “Video games can actually be great for the brain,” says Thorburn. “The problem is that they are so easy to become addicted to. But if you can limit yourself to 20 or 30 minutes a day, video games can be a good thing.”

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GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.


Self Development

Better Thinking For A Better World

How to think more critically and strategically in a world filled with complexity and rapid change.

Erik Kruger




We take the act of thinking for granted. It is often seen as a skill one is born with and not one that should be cultivated over time.

As the world becomes more complex and more busy, strategic and critical thinking becomes more valuable. Strategic thinking points to the ability to decide how and when to deploy resources to achieve a certain end state.

Below are four areas of focus that will improve your strategic thinking:

1. Making Time For Reflection

Life is busy. Juggling work, friends and family, and the recurring notifications from your phone has become quite a feat. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to create space for reflection.

Related: One-Year Milestone: Smart Thinking That Will Ensure Your Start-Up Makes It Past The First Year

Time spent in solitude allows you to reflect and connect the dots. It temporarily takes you out of a world in which you must be reactive to survive and keep up.

My suggestion is to create a SOS (space of solitude) for at least 30 minutes every day. In this time, reflect on what has been working and what has not been working. Meditate on your goals for the future and plan for the actions that will help you get there.

2. Asking Better Questions

Many of us fall into the trap of sequential problem solving. This happens when leaders or organisations simply move from one challenge to the next and the only question they ask is “how do we overcome this challenge?”.

What about the questions like “how did we arrive here?” or “what assumptions are we making here?” or “what does better look like?”

I am not trying to give you a template of questions to ask. Merely prodding you to go beyond challenging the problem but to also challenge the thinking about the problem.

As we deepen our questions, we elevate our thinking.

Do not simply ask more questions. Ask better questions.

3. Seek More Input

Teams are great and often underutilized. How can you use your team’s knowledge, experience, and opinions in a more constructive way?

Well, how about allowing them sufficient time for reflection in solitude but also as a group. How about prompting them to look for the patterns in their environment? How about, as a leader, asking them questions that allow them to really stretch their cognitive abilities?

Even better, empower them to ask those questions themselves.

Related: Disruptive Thinking: A Winning Edge

4. Thinking rules

We often make the same mistakes over and over. Not because we have not learned the lesson but because the context changes. Or excitement gets the better of us.

During your reflection time (hopefully you have noticed the importance of this by now) you can reflect on your past decisions and figure out how you could have made better decision.

Once you have done this start jotting down a few personal rules that will help guide your decision making in the future. A personal guideline I established was that I will wait 24 hours before making any big purchase. Gadgets and golf gear often get the best of me. But simple rules like these help to guide my decision making and prevents me from making mistakes irrespective of context or emotional state.

What is next?

Starting today schedule a daily SOS. Yes, schedule it. Do not leave it to chance.

Think of it as training for your brain. A space where you get to think. Free of distraction and noise. You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from these sessions and how your productivity and effectiveness soars.

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Self Development

Flourishing Through Failure And Finding Fortune

What we mean by business failure is not the entire business failing due to running out of money or not meeting the target for the year.

Tasmin Copley




Is there a way to flourish through failure when it comes to business operations? Is it something that should be encouraged or stand as grounds for dismissal? Or is all of this just nonsense in a world attempting to pursue perfection?

Let’s talk about failure

What we mean by business failure is not the entire business failing due to running out of money or not meeting the target for the year. We’re looking into the business, into those that make it run – its people.

People are imperfect and make mistakes all the time. But rather than brushing something off as a fail or mistake does no justice when it comes to learning from it. And there are different definitions and degrees of failure based on department and responsibility. But when you mess up and fail, you affect more than just your individual performance.

Related: Smart Money For Small Businesses

Here’s why it can be good for business

As frustrating as it is to have to “clean up” after an employee messes up, failure can actually be good for business.

  • Fewer mistakes: Failing means you can learn from it and be less susceptible to failure in that area again in the future. When you fail, you become a lot more aware of your actions than before and critically analyse before you act for fear of messing up again.
  • Relatability: This will never be a perfect world and businesses and people that don’t mess up are an intimidating and alien concept to the rest of us. If the incident affects the entire business, then use that material to tell your “success from failure” story and show everyone that you’re human and that it is possible to come back from it. Failure makes you relatable in the eyes of the public.
  • Humility: In the same breath, you (as a business) learn to be humble in the times you do succeed, as those moments can be fleeting.
  • Focus: Failure brings a newfound focus and determination to work harder and be better. It’s a shock to the system where you’re forced to bounce-back or continue to fail and jeopardise your position in the business.
  • Innovation: And, finally, failure can be good for business when it encourages innovation. You need to innovate and find a way to sort out the problem that’s been created in a way that will also discourage it from happening again.

Finding fortune in failure

The abovementioned benefits, if you will, of failure are in themselves favoured fortune found in failing. But there are things such as intelligent failures, trial and error, and inspiration that are the true game changers when it comes to failing.

Intelligent failure is defined by Sim Sitkin as: “Learning, maximised and accelerated through the act of trial, error and communicating stories.”

These failures are, almost, planned specifically to generate a profitable and successful outcome. At a risk, of course, because you never actually know what the outcome is. Having a business strategy and plan, created with so much detail, gets put to the test where a trial and error system is used to determine what works, what needs to be tweaked, and what needs to be completely discarded and redesigned.

With intelligent failure, it’s what you make of it and where your motivation to fail is to progress. Unlike preventable and unavoidable failures.

Moving forward

But, in the moment, it’s always a bit harder to see the end of a failure’s repercussions. You do need to find a way to move forward though, once you’ve learned a lesson, there’s no point in wasting time dwelling on it. You need to keep moving forward.

Related: Failure Is Not An Option – Or Is It? Your How To On How To

Do what you need to do to better yourself and avoid similar situations in the future. One way to do that is to keep learning and adapting with that knowledge. Invest your time in sales, human resources, management or marketing courses. Whatever it takes to better your skills and encourage your mind to think more strategically and carefully when it comes to doing the job.

Get it into your head now that you will never be able to please everyone. And if you can do your job, own up to your errors, but a the same time provide your solutions, you will remain valuable to the business.

Staying motivated

In order to move forward, you need to find your motivation and keep it going after you fail. And the way you do this is through support.

Every business operates as a team and you don’t have to be in it alone.

Take more calculated risks and try new things to challenge yourself to do better and find innovative solutions. This will keep you focused and motivated to keep pushing through previous disappointments as it will be a new and fun way of doing your job.

Magnify your goals, literally, on the wall or on your desktop. Keep reminding yourself what you’re striving for and understand that even when you do fail, that the goal has yet to be achieved and is still possible if you just put your mind to it.

At the end of the day, failure is whatever you make of it. You can choose to let it discourage you or you can manipulate it to help you grow and make you more resilient. Failure is an opportunity to do better next time and all successful business people fail, they just know how to deal with it.

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Self Development

Want To Feel Empowered? Check Out These 17 Quotes From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

To achieve success, you must constantly feel empowered.



Mark Cuban

Feel empowered with these 17 quotes from famous leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world

Coco Chanel

With entrepreneurship comes its own set of trials and tribulations. Whether it’s bouncing back from failure or dealing with difficult investors, every stage of the entrepreneurial journey has its challenges. And to be successful, having the endurance to push through the tough times is necessary. Often, feeling empowered and being inspired will help get you there.

Empowerment is a necessity when it comes to building confidence, moving towards your goal and not listening to any discouraging words from others. And while empowerment can come from a variety of places, it has to start from within. As Coco Chanel once said, “My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

“The cynics may be the loudest voices – but I promise you, they will accomplish the least.” – Barack Obama

Related: 9 Warren Buffett Quotes That Will Teach You More Than Just Investing

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

“I’m not the bravest or smartest person, but I’m courageous enough to dream big, challenge myself and take bold risks.” – Richard Branson

Larry Page

Larry Page

Larry Page

“It seems like the world is crumbling out there, but it is actually a great time in your life to get a little crazy, follow your curiosity and be ambitious about it.” – Larry Page

Related: 49 Inspirational Quotes And Mantras To Help You Overcome The Stress Of Running A Business

Coco Chanel

Coco CHanel

Coco Chanel

“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.” – Coco Chanel

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama

“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” – Michelle Obama

Related: 10 Leadership Quotes From The World’s Most Influential Leaders

Thomas Edison


Thomas Edison

“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

“You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Related: 10 Motivational Quotes from Facebook Genius Mark Zuckerberg

J.K Rowling


J.K Rowling

“As is a tale, so is life: Not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.” – J.K Rowling

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban

“Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them.” – Mark Cuban

Jeff Bezos


Jeff Bezos

“In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.” – Jeff Bezos

Related: 25 Quotes to Inspire Your Entrepreneurial Journey

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart

“Sometimes, I shake if I have to do something that I’ve never done before – maybe not noticeably, but inside. But I’ll do it because I know it’s not an insurmountable task.” – Martha Stewart

Steven Spielberg


What you need to look at with empowerment

“In your defining moments, do not let your morals be swayed by convenience or expediency. Sticking to your character requires a lot of courage.” – Steven Spielberg

Related: 50 Inspirational Quotes To Help You Achieve Your Goals

Warren Buffett


Warren Buffett

“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more proactive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” – Warren Buffett

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

Albert Einstein


Albert Einstein

“The value of achievement lies in the achieving.” – Albert Einstein

Related: 10 Great Quotes On The Power Of Goals

Barbara Corcoran


Barbara Corcoran

“It’s your game; make up your own rules.” – Barbara Corcoran

This article was originally posted here on

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