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 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.
“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: 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.”
3 Wonderfully Uncommon Reasons To Form Better Habits
As we race away into 2018, consider these very personal and fundamental bonuses to making and sticking to your resolutions.
Eat healthier. Exercise more. Be more productive. Read faster. Be friendlier. Sleep better.
Welcome to the New Year, a time when people set resolutions to form better habits and lead better lives.
Understandably, a lot of the articles, videos and other resources about starting off the New Year focus on which habits are best and the steps you need to take to achieve them. They outline the goals, plans and actions we need to make our resolutions a reality.
If you’re looking for 10 tips on how to lose 100 pounds in 90 days, then this article isn’t for you. Instead, why not consider some of the underlying and lesser-talked about benefits of kicking bad habits and forming better ones this year.
1. Challenging your norms
Why is it that you sneak sweets and junk food so often? How come you’re always so tired in the morning? Why can’t you get your butt to the gym?
If your answer for poor habits is “That’s just the way I am/the way things are” then you’re probably underestimating yourself. Stop. Think about your actions and why you’ve taken them perpetually over time. You might learn a lot.
Take personal finance advisor and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi for example. When he stopped to analyse himself and why he wasn’t going to the gym, he realised something simple that he’d never considered previously: His closet was in a different room, separate from his bedroom. Instead of getting up in the cold to put on clothes, it was easier to just stay in bed.
“Once I realised this, I folded my clothes and shoes the night before. When I woke up the next morning, I would roll over and see my gym clothes sitting on the floor. The result? My gym attendance soared by over 300%.”
Forming a new habit is your chance to examine your life — or at least one important aspect of it — and figure out why you’ve been making the decisions that lead to the habits you want or need to change.
2. Taking control
We don’t have to be the sum of randomised actions and results, based simply on moral and civil codes. It’s up to each one of us individually to take control of our actions and maximise the results.
It’s the same in business. There’s nothing you do without careful research and consideration in order to maximise productivity, profits, etc.
You’re your own boss. You control your thoughts and actions; these things aren’t up to chance. Having the ability to make significant changes to your life is empowering, so long as you seize the opportunity.
Take control. Be the entrepreneur of yourself, 100 percent.
3. Achieving clearer self-awareness
Some people say it takes only 21 days to form a new habit. Others say that just isn’t true. However long it takes, habit formation is a personal journey; one that requires desire, motivation, dedication, perseverance and change.
Habit formation takes you out of your comfort zone, to a place of self-discovery. If you’re getting into shape, how far can you push yourself physically? If you’re trying to eat better, how much temptation can you withstand?
Figure out what was required to succeed or why it was that you failed. Either way, you can obtain a clearer sense of your personal limits and, hopefully, how to achieve your goals — and sustain them — within your constraints.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” Not only to the world, but to yourself as well.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Build A Disruptive Attitude
What does it mean to navigate a disruptive world and succeed in a market – place that is changing faster than it’s ever changed before?
What do you need to know to be a success? What resources and support do you need? How do you need to feel and think to be a success in a disrupted world?
According to Malcolm Gladwell, who spoke at the 2017 BCX Disrupt Summit, you need three key things to succeed in a disrupted world: Resources, knowledge and the right attitude.
The First step towards innovation and disruption is your mind. Your attitude.
For Gladwell, Malcolm McLean is the single biggest disruptor of the 20th century, in that he implemented containerised shipping. Without this fundamental shift in the way we ship cargo, the modern, connected world as we know it today would not exist.
Crucially, McLean did not invent containerised shipping, but no one had been able to make it work before a trucker from Ohio came along, and got irritated by how long he had to wait at the docks to offload his cargo (roughly 24 hours).
But McLean had an idea and he presented it at a conference of maritime shippers in Amsterdam. They laughed him off the stage. Normally, when we are treated with this type of derision, we get discouraged and give up. McLean didn’t do that. He possessed a fundamental trait that all entrepreneurs need: He didn’t require the approval of others to do what he believed was right. Entrepreneurs are open, creative, and see solutions to problems that others don’t; they are also — crucially — highly conscientious, which means they follow through on an idea in a detailed, disciplined way.
This is rare. You get creative people, and conscientious people, but it’s not easy to find both traits in the same person. Add to that the third trait of disagreeableness, in that they do not have to follow established norms, and you have a real game-changer.
McLean didn’t look at the problem as a shipper did. He came from an entirely new angle, and not only found a way to make containerised shipping possible, but affordable too.
Ikea is a similar example. In a nutshell, Ikea is furniture shipped flat from Poland. Ingvar Kamprad pursued outsourcing on an aggressive level, had an extraordinary amount of creativity in solving problems, and was very conscientious. Consider how difficult it would have been to build a world-class manufacturing plant in Poland in 1961. The country was a post-WW2 mess, in the grip of Soviet Russia, known for shoddy workmanship and actively hostile to free enterprise.
And then Kamprad waltzed in from Sweden and pulled off the impossible because of his single-minded grit and attention to detail. He is the epitome of conscientiousness and obsessiveness.
Now consider Steve Jobs.
By the 1970s, Xerox was the most important tech company in the world. They were the richest, most innovative and profitable company, and they invested in a state-of-the-art R&D centre and filled it with 100 of the most brilliant computer scientists from around the world, and told them to be brilliant.
And they were. As per Xerox’s request, they reinvented the office. They invented the laser printer, the world’s first word processing programme, interfaces — and the list continues.
And then a 23-year-old Steve Jobs visited the centre. At that stage, his company was making traditional kit computers out of a garage. He was blown away by what he saw at Xerox Park and all the incredible things they were doing — particularly when he was shown the mouse and interface the Xerox team had developed for personal computers. He immediately saw how icons and a mouse changed everything. This was the future of computing.
Leading the charge
Here’s why Apple is the world’s biggest tech company four decades later, and Xerox is not: While the Xerox team understood they had changed computing forever, there was no urgency to be the first to market.
Jobs left that day, immediately told his team to stop what they were doing, because it would soon be obsolete anyway, and started working on a new product based on what Xerox had developed.
His team told him he was nuts — they’d spent millions on what they were doing. Jobs said it didn’t matter. It was obsolete. He didn’t have more resources. He didn’t have smarter guys. He didn’t even have a wiser and better vision.
But he was in a hurry. And he was able to execute on his vision.
If you can get your mindset right, you can gather the resources and knowledge that you need to be successful. Learn as much as you can. Be open to new ideas. And if something is soon going to be obsolete, walk away. Find the next big thing. Because you’re either being disrupted, or you’re the disruptor. Which would you like to be?
Time Is The Ultimate Success, Not Money
Don’t use your time to make more money, use your money to make more time.
Why do we work so much? I know the answer is “money,” but why? Yes, we need to cover our cost of living – your true basics like food, clothes and shelter. But after that, what are we working for?
The short answer is luxury. We want to get our hands on some luxury.
For some, that’s cars, watches, boats and all of the other flashy things we see scrolling through Instagram. For others, it’s art or travel. Everyone has their own definition of luxury.
But that shouldn’t be the reason for our lifetime of toil. It should be for time. You see, time is the true measure of success – the real currency of an entrepreneur.
We work our lives away to buy objects of luxury instead of enjoying the luxury of our time on earth. We should be yearning for free time to do what we want, not what we must. We should want time to do the things we like, not the things we dislike. Forget the desk job. Forget cleaning the house. Forget mowing the lawn or cooking dinner. If you don’t like it, the luxury of having extra money should eliminate it from your life.
This isn’t a rant promoting unadulterated laziness. I’m a firm believer in work, especially deep work in your creative pursuits and hard labour in your physical pursuits. I’m also a firm believer in not doing what you hate.
For my own creative enjoyment, I enjoy writing – both words and code. That’s my deep work, and no matter how much money I have, I’ll never outsource that. In the physical world, I enjoy lifting weights, fighting and doing yard work. Those are things that I won’t be cutting down anytime soon. Since I enjoy those things, my time isn’t better spent eliminating them from my life. But certain aspects of them can certainly go.
I love weight training, but I hate planning my workouts. It takes me too long to figure it all out. Thankfully, that’s a problem that money solved in my life. I have an amazing trainer who sets it all up for me, giving me my time back. I love writing, but I hate publishing my work. Thankfully, you can hire a content manager (or team) to handle that. Prime examples of money buying my ultimate luxury – time. Time that can be better spent doing things that either make me more money, which I can use to unlock more free time, or that I enjoy, like reading or hanging out on a beach with my family.
Maybe I want to tighten up my Jiu Jitsu game. Maybe I want to create a cool bonsai tree. Maybe I want to learn to play chess or learn a some new tech that could advance me in the professional world. Maybe I just want to sit on my ass and read or play a video game or watch some mindless tv for an hour every now and again. These are things that we work for.
Freedom versus the slavery of materialism
Only after you’ve unlocked your free time is it even worth pursuing the material. Fancy cars aren’t my style, so why would I waste money that could be used unlocking my freedom, on a cool car? Unless you truly enjoy driving cars (which I do,) washing cars (which I don’t,) fixing cars (meh) and everything else that comes along with it, you’re spending your time to make money to buy something you don’t truly love. That’s backwards.
Love to travel, but only get one week long vacation a year? Go somewhere for a month or two. When you’re not working a full-time job, you’ll have the time to explore new ways of making a living if you want more months like that.
Do you really love exotic cars and want a Ferrari, but you’re just settling on the Mercedes? Take that money, buy some more time, and spend it building a business that makes you the money instead of your boss. Instead of that Benz, put that money into buying more time. That’s now what defines you as successful.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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