“Part of my evolution as an entrepreneur has been to realise the importance of not losing focus. I have a list of 13 key things that I’m focusing on this year. Every day I look at that list and remind myself that these are the most important things for 2017. Everything, unless it’s an urgent operational issue, must link back to one of the 13 things on my list, or I don’t do it. That’s how you push the needle.” — Jonathan Liebmann, founder, Propertuity, which has a property portfolio in excess of R1 billion.
What’s the secret to success? Some would argue that insanely successful people possess traits like having a vision, showing gratitude, being honest, learning from failure and having a high emotional intelligence.
While these traits definitely play a role, the real secret to success comes down to science, particularly advancements in neuroscience, and how you can condition your brain to achieve your dreams and goals.
The neuroscience of success can get complicated, but it’s really about how your brain functions in three different areas: Reticular activating system (RAS), the release of dopamine and your memory. If you’re not a science person, I’ll try to make this all as painless as possible.
The Reticular Activating System
Located at the base of the brain where it connects with the spinal cord, there’s one of most important parts of the brain: The reticular activating system.
RAS influences cognition and is basically a filter for the roughly eight million bits of information (subconsciously) flowing through our brain. In other words, it eliminates the white noise. When a message gets past the RAS filter it enters the cerebrum and is then converted into conscious thoughts, emotions or both.
As Ruben Gonzalez, author of The Courage to Succeed, explains, “Even though the cerebrum is the centre of thought, it will not respond to a message unless the RAS allows it. The RAS is like Google. There are millions of websites out there, but you filter out the ones you are not interested in simply by typing a keyword.”
So, what messages get through? Pretty much just the ones that are currently important to you. For example, if you’re focused on preparing for a speaking engagement, your RAS is going to filter in the thoughts that are going to make your presentation a success, such as the tools and resources you’ll need to deliver a memorable speech.
As Gonzalez adds, “This means the more you keep your goals ‘top of mind,’ the more your subconscious mind will work to reach them. That’s why writing your goals down every day, visualising your intended outcome and regularly saying affirmations is so important. Doing those things truly does help you to focus your subconscious mind on what’s important to you.”
Dopamine feedback loops
While RAS can help you focus on your desired outcome, the release of dopamine is what makes success feel good.
Mark Lukens, founding partner of Method3, wrote, “When we succeed at something, our brains release chemical rewards; the most important of which is the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical best known for the role it plays in addiction and drug use.”
Dopamine, despite this negative association, “is a natural part of how our brains function, producing the sensation of pleasure whenever you taste coffee or chocolate, or when you achieve a big win.”
Thus, it makes sense that “dopamine is strongly connected to motivation, driving us to repeat the behaviours that create that rush, even when we aren’t experiencing it.” The dopamine response is short-term but since our brains remember how awesome it was before, we strive to seek it out over and over again.
That’s when dopamine loops enter the picture. After you’ve experienced repeated success, your pleasure reduces.
“This can drive us to seek out ever-greater thrills,” adds Lukens. It’s why video game players are constantly engaged, it’s the reason why you check your phone every minute after updating your Facebook status, and it’s what motivates us to accomplish more.
For instance, if your goal was to acquire three new clients within two weeks, your next goal would be to acquire six new clients in one week. Everything else is the same, except the more challenging, and rewarding task of doubling your clients. As an added perk, this helps you weed out the work and goals that aren’t motivating you or your team.
Neuroscientists who have studied the way the brain retrieves memories can also determine success.
Think about that for a second. That time you went mountain biking and had a nasty spill? That was a bad experience that might discourage you from mountain biking again, at least for the foreseeable future. The same is true of business failure. You are more hesitant about taking that risk again.
Scientists have found that we can edit those bad memories to remove the negative associations. In fact, this memory therapy is used to treat PTSD sufferers. You can also edit good memories to propel you towards success.
To weaken bad memories, bring that memory back and then let it get smaller and dimmer, like you’re watching a small black-and-white TV fade out. Then insert new details that scramble the memory. For instance, think about the time you bombed during an investor pitch. Now imagine that your audience was dressed in something that made you laugh. Do that five or ten times and that memory will make you chuckle.
To strengthen memories, recall the good memories as bright and loud as possible, like watching a movie in an IMAX theatre. Keep reminding yourself how that experience made you feel. Use that to motivate you.
Related: The 5 Secrets Of Business Success
Hacks to rewire your brain for success
You can rewire your brain to become more successful. In fact, according to neuroscientist Michael Merzenich, it takes just 30 hours of training based on specific neuroscience techniques to improve your memory and cognition, speech patterns and reading comprehension.
I know. That may sound like a lot. But, that’s just an hour a day for a month to achieve life-long success. I think that’s totally worth it. And, most of this training involves simple daily tasks.
Implement these eight simple hacks to achieve life-long success.
1. Exercise and meditation
Exercising releases endorphins, which can help with problem solving and boost creativity. Meditation can help you achieve inner calm and break down any mental barriers or limitations.
2. Consume a diet rich in omega-3s and healthy fats
These can help keep dopamine levels in your brain active, as well as increase cerebral circulation.
3. Precision affirmations
“We’ve all heard of affirmations: Repeating positive statements to ourselves in order to believe them,” writes John Assaraf, the CEO of NeuroGym.
“While that may sound good in theory, there is often a severe lack of specificity that can hinder results.” Instead, “make a clear, definitive statement about yourself as if it is already true, your subconscious mind takes over and will act in accordance with that belief.” This “will imprint these beliefs into new neural pathways.”
4. Say your ‘Chief Aim’ every morning and evening
Based on Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, “A definite ‘Chief Aim’ is a specific, clearly-defined statement of purpose,” writes Dr. Julie Connor. “It has the power to guide your subconscious mind. It transforms your attitude from pessimism into positive expectation.” Write down your own ‘Chief Aim’ and say it out loud every morning and evening. When I started my invoice company, I started every day by saying that I would become the best at this. Not quite there but getting there.
5. Get plenty of sleep
Get between 6,5 and eight hours of quality sleep every night so that you’re more attentive and focused.
6. 15 minutes a day
Carve out 15 minutes of your day to learn something new or master a skill you already have. It will have a positive impact on your brain.
7. Remove yourself from negative and stressful environments
According to Robert Sapolsky, a neuroendocrinology professor at Stanford University, “Stress can not only be stopped, but reversed once the source, psychological or physical, is removed or sufficiently reduced.” In other words, the physical environment around us plays a very important role in the health of our brains.
“Visualisation is a powerful tool to retrain your subconscious mind, because it allows you to feel and experience a situation that hasn’t happened yet — as if it were real,” writes Assaraf. In short, “If you are able to genuinely ‘see’ yourself as financially successful in your mind, your subconscious will process that as reality.”
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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