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Ongoing Learning

Unleash Your Genius

Get the genius brain you’ve always wanted.

Tracy Lee Nicol

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What do you see when you look at the picture?

A duck? A rabbit? It’s an ambiguous image so you’ll first see one, then the other. Ambiguous images are the gateway to understanding how awesome your brain has the potential to be. That’s right, you can also be Einstein.

What the duck’s got to do with genius

Ambiguous images are caused by the multi-stable perceptual phenomenon — aka spontaneous subjective change. Why this is relevant is because nothing about the image changed between seeing a duck or a rabbit.

What changed was your mind/brain conversation in which your perception (the mind) altered neural pathways (the brain), making you see something different. Therein lies the key. How your mind relates to your brain has the potential to change your world.

A brief lesson in brains

When Einstein died, an autopsy revealed a plain old brain — no bigger, denser or different than anybody else’s. What made him remarkable was his adaptability and ability to relate to the world in an entirely different way.

Okay so I lied a little, they did find something different… his corpus callosum, the nerve superhighway connecting the two halves of the brain, was thicker which allowed for greater connectivity between creativity and logic. He had an extraordinary prefrontal cortex, the bit responsible for abstract thought, decision-making, correcting errors and assessing situations. He also had peculiarities in his parietal lobes (the mathematical bits) and no surprise there.

But before you think my argument’s invalid, Einstein’s brain anomalies aren’t isolated. ’The Knowledge‘ of London black cab drivers is a memorised detailed map of the sprawling, disorganised city.

Through training, their hippocampuses (the spatial intelligence part of the brain) actually grow larger than ordinary folk, proving that the brain you’re born with isn’t the one you’re stuck with. How you use it influences its structure due to the ability of the brain to remodel itself.

Related: How Lines Can Improve Your Mind

Plastic fantastic

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain, instructed by the demands of the mind, to remodel and remap itself. This isn’t just post injury, but all the time. That means your 100 billion nerve cells forming a trillion (perhaps even quadrillion) connections have the ability to re-route in response to the world around you and based on how you tell your brain to.

And here’s the key to turning your bog-standard brain into a super brain. The brain and mind work seamlessly together, but are separate things.

What makes you is not your brain, but the mind, something philosophers have been very busy arguing for centuries.

Deepak Chopra, co-author of Super Brain, offers this simple analogy to describe the mind and brain: “The brain doesn’t create a thought in the same way that a radio doesn’t create Mozart. The brain provides a physical structure for delivering thought, as a radio allows you to hear music.”

Though the mind and brain can work seamlessly together, there are times when one dominates the other, throwing things out of balance.

Brain games: What’s really in control?

Part of developing a super brain is understanding and being aware of the difference between the brain using you, or you using your brain. Here you’ll see two examples.

Brain using you

  • Phobias are negative outcomes imposed by a false reality. Heights and spiders are not automatically cause for panic, but a phobia is a conditioned response causing a cascade of chemicals in the brain that trigger a primal freak out. In today’s world, we don’t just fear spiders but also failure, humiliation, rejection, sickness etc.
  • It’s incorrect to believe the instinctual brain overrides the higher brain, blocking out all rational thought when we’re scared. If that were true we wouldn’t have any mountain climbers, Fear Factor, or desensitising therapy. The same brain that subjects you to fears is also able to conquer them.

You using brain

  • Your thoughts are able to affect your body: Excitement, fear and anger can increase your heartbeat. Happiness boosts your immune system.
  • Meditating monks use their minds to lower blood pressure and heart rate, regulate body temperature, and induce alpha-waves. The same monks are also able to reach a state of compassion because of the physical changes they induce in their prefrontal cortex.
  • So you’re not a monk. The mental demands your mind makes of your brain shape physical structure. It’s up to you whether you use this power for good or evil.

The more you master the process, the closer you get to developing a super brain. The first step is in creating awareness. Through awareness you’re able to make beneficial choices that will evolve your brain, create new neural pathways and unlock a second evolution that rests on personal choice rather than circumstance. It’s better than mind over matter. It’s mind into matter.

Your three-pound universe, in other words, doesn’t simply interpret the world, it creates it. So if you want to be Einstein, you’ve just got to start thinking like him — with adaptability and creativity.

The human brain can do far more than we ever thought and its limitations are imposed by us, not by its physical shortcomings, after all it’s continuously changing. The more you ask of your brain, the more it responds to you.

Here’s the catch though: It needs stimulation. Stimulation doesn’t mean you need to learn Mandarin. It can be as simple as intentionally doing old things in a new way like trying a new route to work; it’s not falling into the trap of ’being set in your ways.‘

Related: Ways for You to Improve Your IQ 

From baseline to super brain

Here’s the other catch. Your brain is a mass of neurons waiting to be conducted. To usher in your brain’s golden age you need to act as leader, inventor, teacher, student and user all at once. All these roles require just one thing: Attention. So how are you using your brain? Test yourself with these assumptions.

Table

So you fall victim to some standard thinking patterns that are hampering your super brain development. To unleash your inner genius you need to adjust how your mind relates to your brain. This isn’t brain magic, but straight forward retraining. Once the brain has been trained in something, be it good or bad habits, the response feels normal. It therefore takes attention and focus to retrain yourself.

Rebooting the brain

Like a physical workout builds muscle and flexibility, mental workouts focusing on awareness create new brain connections and strengthen existing ones. By choosing to be aware of the thoughts and feelings evoked in your brain and choosing to follow an upward learning curve no matter how old you are, you can fundamentally alter your brain’s performance and adaptability.

Keys to adaptability are:

  • Stop repeating what never worked in the first place
  • Step back from the problem, the answer never lies in the thick of it
  • When old stresses are triggered, walk away
  • Taking on more of the burden than you think you deserve
  • Stop attaching so much weight to being right.

You’ll become more adaptable when:

  • You can laugh at yourself
  • See that there is more to the situation than you realise
  • Other people aren’t antagonists just because they disagree with you
  • You’re able to negotiate, and compromise isn’t a negative word
  • You can hang loose in a state of relaxed alertness
  • You’re delighted by seeing things in a new way.

When you’re adaptable, you’re able to create new solutions. Saying “I need to think about this,” is a good first step, but you must allow yourself time to hang loose — which can be especially difficult in a crisis. Mounting anxiety fuels the lower brain, which amps up its emotional and instinctual reactions — neither of which are good for higher brain functionality and creative solutions.

Worried this won’t happen to you? First, stop worrying. Second, if you’ve had an out of the blue aha! moment in the past, you can trust that it will happen again. In your quietness, ask for an answer. Then back off and relax.

Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.

Company Posts

Rethinking Learning In The 21st Century

The changing world of work has disrupted the three elements of the traditional ‘career’: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Traditionally the concept of a ‘career’ was considered to include three elements:

  1. A career represented our expertise, our profession, and ultimately our identity.
  2. A career was something that built over time and endured. It gave us the opportunity to progress and advance.
  3. A career gave us financial and psychological rewards. It made life meaningful and paid us enough to live well.

The changing world of work has disrupted all three elements: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

A career can now be as long as 60 years; at the same time, due to rapid advancements in technology and the changes that bring about in the workplace, skill sets can become obsolete in as little as five years.

Increasingly, companies need to rethink the way in which careers are managed and learning opportunities are delivered, and many have already begun to overhaul their career models and L&D (Learning and Development) infrastructure in line with the digital age.

Related: Your Investment In Knowledge

Employees’ learning behaviour is also changing. In the past, employees were able to obtain the skills required for their career early on and as a once-off; now, the career itself is a journey of learning, up-skilling, re-skilling and continuous reinvention to remain relevant and to thrive in the changing world of work.

Older employees who studied at a time where most of one’s learning occurred prior to entering the workplace, find themselves working alongside millennials who place greater value on learning and progression rather than on earning potential as a first priority.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents surveyed in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey say their organisations are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression.

However, in today’s fast-paced business world, even if companies are restructuring L&D delivery, no one is going to make you engage in a strategy that is essential to your future success – continuous learning. You will have to take the initiative yourself.

Noted self-help expert W. Clement Stone, in his many writings on this topic, recommended that one spends anywhere from a half-hour to two hours a day in study and thinking time. This tireless dedication, combined with an insatiable curiosity, will equip you to excel in the future world of work. What’s more, learning new skills and knowledge can be fun!

The good news for both companies and for employees is that an explosion of high-quality content and digital delivery models offers employees ready access to continuous learning. The Wits DigitalCampus offers a range of accredited and fully online short courses to support your continuous learning.

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Company Posts

Your Investment In Knowledge

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Most people spend their lives collecting, spending, and worrying about money — so much so, in fact, that they say they “don’t have time” to learn something new.

However, some of smartest and busiest people in the world — Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates — all spend at least one hour a day on deliberate learning. They see what others don’t: That learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

One of the very benefits of ongoing technological advances is that it empowers an accelerated and personalised learning experience that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. Modern learning harnesses the speed, power and ubiquity of digital capability. Online platforms, software and mobile devices means that the traditional hurdles to learning — such as income, status and location — have just about disappeared. Knowledge can now be gained by anyone with the passion to pursue it and the commitment to stick with it.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

We are only at the tipping point of what future learning technology can deliver. Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform all aspects of human capital management, including learning. Technology-enabled learning will be immediate and directly relevant to the task, for example:

  • personally tailored learning content and experiences delivered to you as and when you want or need them
  • chatbots and virtual assistants can source and categorise the information that you need for optimal decision-making
  • augmented and virtual reality simulations can provide a multi-sensory experience to speed up and embed learning.

Additionally, social connectivity already enables user-generated content to outpace and outstrip what traditional education and learning institutions can deliver.

Knowledge may be the new money but, unlike money, you don’t lose it when you use knowledge or give it away. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. It’s fun to acquire and it makes your brain work better. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

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Entrepreneur Today

How Are South Africans Feeling About The Work Environment?

A new study reveals individual fear that their skills will outdate and a growing need for lifelong learning.

Andrew Johnston

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A research report by MasterStart has found that just 23.8% of working South Africans believe their current skills will keep them employed in ten years’ time. With the burgeoning Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerating the pace of change in the world of work, most South Africans are looking to ‘future-proof’ their careers. And for 95%, lifelong learning is the key to retaining relevancy.

Related: 15 Of The Best And Most Unusual Online Courses For Entrepreneurs

Based on a survey with a sample group of over 1000 people across varying demographics and industries, the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer uncovered that – while artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are on the radar – other factors are currently seen as more immediate factors impacting job retention.

Andrew Johnston, CEO of MasterStart says, “Our workforce is clearly concerned, but positively, our research revealed that people are aware that frequent upskilling and reskilling will aid them in remaining relevant and employable.

In a country where unemployment is an ongoing issue, it’s imperative that we empower people to future-proof their careers by making lifelong learning opportunities continuously accessible in order to bridge critical capability gaps and compete with global standards.”

Some pivotal findings in the report included:

  1. It’s tough out there: 80% of the sample believed the job market to be tougher now than it was ten years ago. People in media and marketing especially agreed with this (92.9%), along with those in the manufacturing (87.9%) and financial services (87%) industries.
  2. Why’s it perceived as so tough? Both macro and micro factors were listed, including the political and economic climate, increased competition, fewer employment opportunities and rapid change.
  3. Age and lack of skills are the biggest barriers: While age was referenced most frequently as a barrier to future employment – especially for those over 50 – in the 18-24 and 25-34 year old brackets, lack of skills was seen as the most prohibiting factor.
  4. People in IT and tech felt most secure about their skills: Collectively, just under half the sample felt they’d been held back by lack of skills. 30% of participants in IT and tech were completely confident their skills would survive the ten year test. Those in other industries were noticeably less secure.
  5. We’re not yet comfortable sharing our workloads with robots: Close to a quarter of respondents felt AI had already impacted their industry, but just under 20% said they were completely comfortable sharing their workload with robots or processes automated by AI. Surprisingly, 18-24 year-olds had the highest level of unease about this.

Lifelong learning is the best way to remain relevant

Whilst the Barometer found a workforce in a somewhat sombre mood, positively, people were putting plans in place to learn further to acquire the skills they need.

It was good to see that 80% of respondents were planning to study in the future, with self-enrichment being the primary motivator (66%), followed by the aspiration to get further and be promoted (54%) and the desire to keep abreast with industry-related changes (41%). 58% of people favoured online learning, and a number had already completed courses.

Johnston says, “This shows a workforce that’s committed to continuously learning the new hard and soft skills that’ll entrench the adaptability required to survive the breakneck pace of the workplace.”

Those that had already studied listed the ‘big gains’ as being:

  • Tangible results: like a salary increase, promotion, skills (to be more marketable), more experience and more opportunities.
  • Higher performance: like better knowledge, keeping up-to-date, better understanding of the way the workplace works, faster completion of tasks, and having to employ fewer people as they had the skills themselves.
  • Better motivation and soft skills: like being better at dealing with people, the ability to explain concepts to clients, and overall improved communication skills.

Johnston concludes, “Given the competitiveness of the market – which will only increase with the rise of automation – having a sought-after skillset is the best way to guarantee ongoing job retention.  This means using learning to get to grips with AI and RPA in order to build efficiencies and one’s overall value-add.”

He says we also need to consider providing alternate adult education programmes to give young people the best chance of gainful employment, “It’s important we make ongoing online learning materials easily accessible in ‘snackable’, bite-sized pieces to make learning easier.”

Lastly, he believes a lot of learning is up to corporates, “Providing ongoing executive-level education grooms great leaders and provides turn-key or customised solutions to bridge big capability gaps to foster greater efficiency, productivity and profitability. Our research shows that South Africans are hungry to learn – so companies that provide this opportunity will have a greater chance of talent retention, and attraction.”

To find out more, access the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer report here.

 Related: 6 Free Courses That Can Help You Become A Successful Entrepreneur

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