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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

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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

eating-healthy-food

“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

turning-phone-off

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.”

For more information go to: winningwayz.co.za and forbrain.co.za.

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

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Self Development

Why Your Professional Persona Matters

You don’t have to become a different person to succeed in business.

Timothy Sykes

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For superheroes, getting into professional mode is as easy as slapping on some spandex, a mask and a cape. For the everyday entrepreneur, however, the proper work mindset is less about attire and more about adopting a professional persona.

Your professional persona is your personal branding in the workplace. It refers to the way that you conduct yourself publicly in a business setting, and the image you project to coworkers and colleagues. Far from contrived or inauthentic, it’s simply the polished-up way that you present yourself professionally.

How do I develop a professional persona?

It’s actually extremely easy to develop a professional persona. All you have to decide is who you want to be in the workplace, and then take efforts with your attitude, dress, and conduct to become that version of yourself. Action follows intention, and over time, you’ll find that adopting your professional persona feels as natural as putting on your coat before leaving the house.

Now that you understand what a professional persona is, let’s talk about why you should work on cultivating one and what you stand to gain.

Create a self fulfilling prophecy

Success is typically hard-earned and slow in the making. However, if you take the time to develop a professional persona, it can help bring success sooner. If you conduct yourself casually and informally in the workplace, you’re less likely to be taken seriously and might spend far longer in the career trenches.

But if you make a concerted effort to conduct yourself with the professionalism of a manager or CEO, you’ll make yourself a more desirable candidate for advancement. Since you’ve already demonstrated the appropriate attitude for higher level positions, you’re more likely to be thought of when opportunities arise.

Related: 25 Bad Words That Make Other People Feel Inferior

Focus on what’s important

When you establish a professional persona, you put yourself in the right state of mind for work. This can help you attain your career goals.

Say, for instance, that one of your big career goals is to become a leading authority in your field so that you can become the next TED Talk celebrity. With this specific goal in mind, you can tailor your professional persona so that it can help advance you toward this goal. For instance, you might begin speaking at local networking events or starting a topical podcast. Doing things like this will help you establish a professional persona of being an expert in your niche.

Make yourself indispensable

One of the best ways to create job security is to make yourself indispensable in your position. A professional persona can help by letting you establish recognisable and dependable hallmarks in your working style.

For instance, perhaps part of your persona is that you are the person who always meets his or her deadlines on time. In time, this will become part of your professional identity and will be part of how people see you in your office or field. When others know and trust that they can depend on you, you’ll make yourself indispensable. Over time, this can have a powerful and positive effect on your career.

Be taken more seriously

A casual attitude is fine when you’re hanging out with friends. But in a professional setting, it may be holding you back. When you present yourself with a more polished professional persona in work settings, you’ll be taken more seriously. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at work, of course. But it does mean that you should conduct yourself with an air of professionalism and should never engage in bad habits like gossip or use language that might come back to haunt you later.

Remember: You get what you give. When you act respectfully in the workplace, you’re more likely to be treated with the same respect.

You’ll get more followers

More and more, entrepreneurs are using social media to attain a higher professional status or to attract more business.

When you take the time to develop a professional persona, you adopt a personal style, a way of articulating, and potentially even an aesthetic. These things add up to more clear and compelling personal/professional branding. This can help you maintain a consistency on social media platforms that makes your posts recognisable. Over time, this can lead to additional followers, which can mean more opportunities for selling, career advancement, and more.

Develop a thicker skin

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t take things personally in the professional sphere. But anyone who has ever experienced rejection or criticism in their career knows that this is much easier said than done.

Your professional persona can help give you some personal armour. When you have a professional persona, it can be easier to separate your personal life from your work to a greater degree. No, this doesn’t mean that you won’t feel any pain when things go wrong, but it will allow you to compartmentalise in a positive way, so that an issue at work doesn’t impact your personal life quite as much.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

6 Steps To Cultivate A Success Mindset

What does a winning mindset mean to you? It’s what has separated the likes of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt and Floyd Mayweather from fellow professional athletes. Adopting a similar approach could help you achieve massive success in 2019 and beyond.

ACCA

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A winning mindset is the trait that allows you to persist even when defeat looks like the most probable outcome. People with a winning mindset are much clearer about the process to attain their goals. They are not afraid of failure as long as they believe that they’re doing the right thing. That’s the difference between winners and losers.

1. Persist and understand that you must put in the work before you see results

The most successful people embody the principle of a winning mindset, because very few people in the world, be it in sports or business, can succeed without having to overcome obstacles. It’s seldom that talent is all one needs to succeed in any endeavour, otherwise most people would be successful.

A good way to understand this principle is to observe professional athletes before and during tournaments. Anybody competing in professional sports, such as the Olympics, has the talent but not all professional athletes are winners. A number of their memorable victories were achieved when they came from behind, when it looked like they were losing.

2. Press the reset button for the new year

The new year is notorious for long lists of resolutions that are not honoured and ultimately remain wishes. That said, the dawn of a new year tends to bring with it positive energy and a commitment to do things differently.

Entrepreneurs need to approach the New Year with a simple goal to do better than the prior year in whatever endeavour they are undertaking. It is important to build on current success or failure, and then commit to go one up. That way, the goal won’t seem unattainable.

Related: Many SMEs Start With Great Plans But Fail To Take The Big Leap

3. Take small incremental steps

The first step is to be clear about the goal and to write it down where you can see it every day. The second thing is to map the process of how you will get there, broken into small steps. From there onwards, focus on the process and not the goal as this allows one to achieve small but important victories. This needs to be backed up by an appropriate support system, associating with like-minded people.

4. Don’t stop upskilling yourself

Success in business is about creating shared value and solving real-world challenges that customers grapple with. Skills are therefore necessary to achieve success, so upskilling oneself is never a bad investment. It’s good to know something about everything, but ultimately one needs to know everything about something.

Some skills will be brought in through hiring staff, others through outsourcing and in some cases through strategic alliances.

5. Remember that no goal is static

One of the most important things to always remember is the goal, and that the goal is dynamic; it will have to be adjusted along the way. Business leaders can therefore celebrate the small victories fully aware that there is more work to be done. Achieving temporary success is easy, especially with all the tenders around, but building a sustainable business and staying on top requires persistence and hard work.

Related: Organisational Design Disruptions Do Not Occur In A Vacuum: Future Business Models

6. Your top tool is in your head

It’s all in the mind, backed by passion and a strong desire to succeed. If anything, business leaders need to train themselves to be uncomfortable with the status quo, not to get too comfortable with the present.


Why Not Consider The Acca Qualification For 2019?

ACCA professionals are more than accountants. They think holistically, consider challenges in the context of business and have strong strategic and leadership skills. Visit www.accaglobal.com for more information.

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Self Development

Taking Care Of Mental Health Is Powerful, Not Weak

Charlamagne Tha God talks success, anxiety and mental health.

Lewis Howes

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It’s time to open up. No matter what you’re dealing with, you’re not alone.

There is nothing shameful about having anxiety. Think about this acronym for FEAR – you either Fear Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The more you confront the things in your past you don’t want to do with, the more you’ll be able to move forward. So, are you going to run from your fear, or face it?

On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk about anxiety and PTSD with a man who has become an unofficial mental health advocate: Charlamagne Tha God.

New York Times bestselling author Charlamagne Tha God is best known for being co-host of the nationally syndicated hip-hop iHeartRadio program “The Breakfast Club.” He is also a social media influencer; an executive producer with his own production company, CThaGod World; and co-host of the popular podcast Brilliant Idiots.

Charlamagne says that refining his life’s mission and examining his past helped him take control of his anxiety.

Don’t allow anxiety or depression to cause you to keep suffering. Learn about Charlamagne Tha God’s mental health struggles and what he did to restart his life on Episode 721.

Related: The Business Of Anxiety In Business: Giving Heroes Permission To Feel Vulnerable

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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