Over the past 20 years, we’ve learned more about the brain than in the entire course of human history. Researchers are on a quest to find out how can we translate brain science into practical strategies for increasing individual and organisational effectiveness – and along with that, more details about the relationship between neuroscience and entrepreneurship.
Research has shown that entrepreneurs’ brains are wired differently than non-entrepreneurs in that they tend to be quicker to respond to problems and less inhibited. Founders embrace a problem or opportunity – fast – and then become more thoughtful about the implications after the fact.
Other studies found that when entrepreneurs performed explorative tasks, they used both the left and right sides of their pre-frontal cortex as opposed to managers who tend to use primarily the left side. The pre-frontal cortex is associated with a person’s executive functions. The right half is associated with expressive and creative abilities; the left side, with complex cognitive behaviour, decision making and problem solving.
Explorative tasks involve looking for new ways of achieving a goal rather than focusing on current practices. This type of decision making – which relies on innovation and experimentation – is often exhibited in entrepreneurs. By using both sides of their pre-frontal cortex, entrepreneurs tend to use all of their executive functions whereas managers tend to be more focused on critical thinking.
While it’s unclear how much of one’s brain is wired for entrepreneurship at birth, we know that both nature and nurture matter. Our brains are soft assembled, and neuro-plasticity allows us to use our mind to improve our brain’s functions. Below are four capabilities which can help wire your brain for entrepreneurial wisdom.
1. Dynamic attention
Learning to focus your attention like a flashlight – with differing degrees of intensity, direction and scope is critical for entrepreneurial success. Starting your own business requires an enormous amount of discipline and focus as well as the ability to take a broader view of the entrepreneurial landscape. The flashlight metaphor is apt because forgetting to recharge your attention batteries with good nutrition and sleep can lead to weaker performance and poor decision making.
- Take time each day to cultivate the kind of healthy mind-wandering that fosters insight and novel solutions to strategic problems
- Protect your time by creating a technology-free zone at work and at home
2. Whole-person capacity
Bringing all of your internal resources to your entrepreneurial venture is critical to increasing performance, resilience and innovation. Developing the grit and agility necessary to weather challenge is essential to being a successful entrepreneur. This includes learning the power of regulating and leveraging emotions; understanding that reason and intuition are the twin engines of decision making; listening to your physical signaling system to increase energy and insight; and staying connected to the power of your purpose and passion.
- Reflect on the meaning and purpose behind your work
- Pay attention to what builds and drains your physical energy throughout the day
- Embrace the day’s honest mistakes with good humour and self compassion
- Check in with your gut and your analytic reasoning when making decisions
- Value your emotions as useful information.
3. Strategic clarity
Being an entrepreneur requires the ability to step back, challenge your own biases and change your course of action based on what circumstances dictate. This form of mental agility is compromised by our brain’s natural default to the beliefs and assumptions, often unconscious, that drive much of our behaviour. We have hundreds of biases that automatically influence our decision making.
Even our beliefs about learning impact our success. Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford teach about the importance of a growth mindset how individuals who believe they have unlimited capacity to learn throughout their lifetime outperform those who believe that intelligence is fixed.
Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn how to mitigate biases by rewiring neural patterns that lead to automatic responses. They can also learn how to reduce automatic behaviours that derail effectiveness and manage the inner voice that blocks healthy risk-taking and growth.
- Cultivate a network of trusted advisors who have very different points of view from your own
- Develop the habit of exploring and writing about situations from multiple perspectives
- Know your own default patterns of behaviour (hint: start with your strengths – they can also become your weaknesses) and develop an internal alarm bell that alerts you to stop, review and reset before taking action
4. Authentic collaboration
Learning how to plug into the power of the social brain for more effective collaborations at all levels is critical for entrepreneurs. Our brains are social organs – we develop better brain functioning and increase neuro-plasticity in healthy relationships. As human beings, our primary and most important context are the relationships that we experience.
Learning how to foster greater accountability without triggering a threat response and building compassion and empathy to increase healthy risk-taking is critical for entrepreneurs.
- Create a strong sense of “we” with rituals and rewards that support collaboration
- Embed the norm of constructive dissent by encouraging others to challenge your thinking and being open to disagreements
- Reinforce the value of experimentation and risk taking by rewarding those who “fail fast” and are open to learning from their mistakes
- Acknowledge that those who work with you are human and that their lives outside of work may call for a compassionate response from leaders and from co-workers.
Developing and connecting different parts of our brain (neural integration) increases wisdom, helps us manage uncertainty and complexity and improves the quality of our relationships and increases our well being.
The reality is that less than one percent of leaders are optimising their brain-mind connection for extraordinary performance and agile decision making. Fortunately, many of these capabilities, which are critical for developing a risk-oriented, entrepreneurial mindset, can be learned and mastered.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Listening To These 8 Audiobooks On Success Is A Better Use Of Your Long Commute
Commuting is mostly just unpaid work, unless you make an effort to learn something along the way.
Commutes are getting longer, and in some cities they’re up to two hours each way. I have a friend in Los Angeles who does this. He passes the time with audiobooks. Now that’s still a lot of time to be stuck in transit, but he doesn’t view it that way. He says it allows him plenty of time to feed his personal and professional goals.
I’ve spent years listening to literature in the car while commuting, but somewhere along the line I switched over to books on business and personal improvement. I mostly gravitated toward amazing people who built their success from scratch and who experienced tremendous hardship. It stands to reason that if you’re dealing with hardships like a long commute, it’s important to hear motivational words that can help you transcend the difficulties.
Here are eight audiobooks that will help grow your success, both personal and professional, on your next commute:
3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018
Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.
Goal setting as a concept makes perfect sense. At the most basic level you decide on the destination and then plot the way to get there. But as with many things, we like to overcomplicate that which should be simple.
Before you know it, you end up with 2 big goals in 15 different areas of your life and 100 micro goals that will help you reach your 30 big goals.
Complicating something simple. Some of the biggest obstacles to people in reaching their goals are:
- The overestimate the effort it will take to achieve those goals
- They want to go from 0-100km/h in the blink of an eye
- Life is dynamic and static goals often do not make sense
- They get so entrenched in the day to day running of things that goals get pushed aside.
What if instead of goals, we just focused on giving our best every day?
Of course, you still want to have an indication of where you are going.
But, if you are giving your 100% every day then you can forego the micro goals for a better way of calibrating your compass… using questions.
Related: Goal Setting Guide
I suggest you ask yourself these three questions regularly:
1. What does better look like?
The question at the heart of development and incremental improvement. This question allows you some creative space in which you can imagine a better future.
- What does better health look like?
- What does a better business look like?
- What does better customer service look like?
- What does better leadership look like?
By reflecting on this question, you materialise the gap between where you are and where you could be. Now, the only thing that is left is to align your daily actions with the better future you imagined.
2. What can I control?
Borrowed from Stoicism this question highlights the power of decision in your life. Epictetus said we should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”
Once you ask this of yourself regularly you will feel more in control of your life and more in control of your business.
Because your focus is solely on the things that you can influence. It restores the belief that you can actually impact the world around you in a meaningful way.
3. Was I impeccable with my actions today?
One inherent flaw with goal setting is that the goal setter often feels judged. As if we need more of that. In addition to the constant negative self-talk we have to endure we now have an additional source of judgement – whether we reached our goals or not.
As we discovered in question #2 We cannot control everything. Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.
So, instead of judging yourself, commit to giving your best every single day.
What I love most about these questions is that they provide a built-in layer of accountability. Use them every day.
To Be Successful Stay Far Away From These 7 Types of Toxic People
You need a network of talented people, not toxic personalities who undermine you.
Surrounding yourself with prospective mentors is an excellent way to build lifelong success. When Steve Jobs founded Apple, he learned from colleagues like Steve Wozniak about what it took to build computer hardware. And he learned from early investors like Mike Markkula about what it took to build a successful company and market a product. Now imagine if Jobs had surrounded himself with toxic personalities instead. It is likely that he would not have been able to create a company that is on course to be valued at $1 trillion.
If you interact with people who demonstrate questionable behaviour, you’re more likely to model that behaviour yourself or to become stressed as a result. At the very least, you will be missing out on the opportunity to network with more successful and inspiring individuals.
This article will review seven personality types that should be eliminated from your life in order to build your most successful self. Once these people are gone, you can work on building a network of people who influence you positively.
According to a report by NPR, micromanagement is one of the biggest factors associated with employee dissatisfaction, lowered motivation and lack of professional creativity. To be successful, you must learn to solve problems independently. Micromanaging can make it difficult to develop these skills.
Related: Keep An Eye Out For Toxic Employees
2. Short-term thinkers
If you surround yourself with short-term thinkers, it will be difficult to know if an idea is destined for long-term success. Those who are narrow-minded may be more likely to dismiss one of your ideas because it will take time to develop into a meaningful success.
Take the creation of Airbnb as an example. The company was founded in 2008. At the time the “sharing economy” did not exist, and hotel chains like Starwood and Hilton dominated the lodging market. A short-term thinker would have criticised an idea like Airbnb.
In order for the company to be successful, Airbnb would need to change people’s attitudes and expectations about travel. They would need to encourage people to be comfortable staying with strangers, and they would need to find ways to mitigate possible liability should something tragic happen during a customer’s stay.
Well-respected venture capitalists decided to pass on Airbnb because of these short-term concerns. The Airbnb founders were only able to find success once they connected with people who were comfortable thinking long term.
Pessimism is not always a bad trait; at times it can help entrepreneurs to recognize certain pitfalls that might otherwise be overlooked. However, a steady diet of pessimism is toxic when it comes to taking big professional risks.
As David Armor, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, says, “An entrepreneur starting up a company, for example, might drive himself to work 18-hour days for months and even years because he optimistically believes that there will be a big payoff for him at the end.” Conversely, a pessimistic attitude would make it difficult to tolerate such a prolonged stressful situation.
For those interested in taking on stressful professional situations, pessimistic people should be avoided in most cases.
4. Selfish people
Relationships that contribute to success are mutually beneficial. This dynamic cannot exist when dealing with selfish people. As a result, it is best to eliminate selfish people from your life in order to make room for more giving relationships.
A recent study found that a job applicant who is referred by an existing employee is 15 times more likely to be hired than someone who applies via a job board. If you befriend a selfish person, you probably can’t rely on them to introduce you to new career opportunities. However, forming connections with someone who is altruistic could give you a professional leg up.
5. Risk-averse personalities
Business success is about making informed decisions by weighing risks and rewards. If you are surrounded by people who over-index on possible risks while ignoring the possible rewards, it will be challenging to identify good business opportunities.
Take Amazon as an example. In 2014 Amazon launched a smartphone called the Fire Phone. In the end, the phone was not successful. Following the unsuccessful launch of the Fire Phone, risk-averse people might have avoided developing another piece of computer hardware.
But instead, Amazon correctly assessed the opportunity for an in-home smart speaker, and launched the Amazon Echo just one year later. Today, Echo has 75 percent of the smart-speaker market in the United States.
6. Unmotivated individuals
People who lack motivation or work ethic set a bad example for those interested in working diligently to become a professional success. There is no worse colleague than someone who simply does the bare minimum to get by.
Rather than associate yourself with people who cut corners or avoid hard work, try to surround yourself with people who are motivated to succeed. Collaborating with people who have a healthy drive for success can instill an extra dose of motivation in you.
Financial responsibility is a critically important quality to develop if you want to become successful. Warren Buffet is perhaps the supreme example of a financially responsible and successful person.
Buffet is the third wealthiest person in the world, worth nearly $80 billion. But despite his professional success, Buffet does not spend his money on flashy cars or large homes. In fact, Buffet still lives in the modest home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he purchased in 1958.
Those who associate with spendthrifts may be more motivated to make irresponsible financial decisions in order to fit in. At the very least, it will be harder to associate with people who make good financial choices, as these personalities are frequently diametrically opposed.
Business is all about who you know. From landing a new job to launching a new company, your network will enable or prevent future professional success. When developing a network of talented people, it is best to avoid toxic personalities who could set a bad example or demotivate you.
Be sure to avoid people who are micromanagers and short-term thinkers, as they can make it difficult to think autonomously. Risk-averse individuals or pessimists may cause you to think twice about great business ideas, and spendthrifts or selfish people may hamper your ability to grow. Last but not least, stay away from unmotivated individuals, as your success is dependent on your willingness to work diligently in order to succeed.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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