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Unlocking The Potential Of The Human Brain

Every week I meet exceptional executives, leaders who know how to leverage technology to deliver exceptional results for their companies and customers. They succeed by figuring out how to make technology work for everyone in their organizations, especially for their customers. They appear focused, motivated and effective.

Lately, in contrast, I find myself in a Covid haze. And I’m not alone. My colleagues and friends share stories of how easily they are distracted, the difficulties of staying focused, their impatience, unexplained anxiety and even sleep deprivation. The global health crisis, economic uncertainty and climate events — not to mention your kids going to school in your living room — are all taking their toll. Generally speaking, everyone is working longer and just not getting as much done.

How To Stay Productive Under Quarantine

In a matter of days, the majority of us had our workday completely turned upside down. If you’ve never worked from home, suddenly you are. If you do work from home, you may now have a full household due to school closures or a partner now working from home as well.

It can be jarring, but it’s time to reframe and refocus.

I reached out to three very successful entrepreneurs to ask how we all might stay productive under quarantine despite the chaos that is surrounding us. Here are their expert tips.

We Were All Born With A Supercomputer In Our Heads — Here’s How To Fully Utilize It

We’ve all been there – you’re at a conference shaking hands and swapping business cards, meeting other professionals in your field. Everything is going great until you go to say goodbye to your new friends… and you can’t remember anyone’s name. If there’s one thing that can kill a burgeoning relationship (or even a deal) in an instant, it’s calling someone by the wrong name or forgetting their name altogether.

Jim Kwik, founder of Kwik Learning and host of the Kwik Brain podcast, has made a career out of helping people avoid this embarrassing moment. After a traumatic brain injury at age of five left him struggling to keep up with his classmates, Kwik spent many years trying and failing to improve the performance of his “slow brain.”

Right as he was about to drop out of college, his life turned around after reading a quote from Albert Einstein on the back of a coffee mug: “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

In that moment, Kwik realized he had to make his slow brain work faster. That was the spark that ignited his passion for helping people speed up their brains, which has become imperative in a society where information moves at light speed.

“There’s so much information coming from every direction with podcasts, websites, emails and more,” Kwik said. “What you’ll see is someone buy a self-help book that just sits on their shelf. It ends up being a shelf-help and not a self-help book.”

We feel like our brains are to blame when we forget names or lose interest in a book. It’s our poor retention or lacking attention span, we’ll say. According to Kwik, the problem is that we weren’t taught how to best utilize the amazing supercomputer between our ears. We believe the lie we’re fed in school that things like our intelligence, potential, learning, and memory are fixed like our shoe size. Recent research has proven that we’re grossly underestimating our mental capabilities.

But if you want to improve, you must do the work. That’s where Kwik can help.

“I’m like a personal trainer for your brain,” he said. “I want to make your brain faster, smarter, more focused, agile, youthful and energized so that you can read faster, remember more and learn any subject or skill faster. I want to make you a mental superhero. No matter your age, background, career or level of education, everyone has this untapped genius inside of them waiting to be unleashed.”

Reading faster can increase your comprehension

The secret to improving your reading comprehension is to increase your reading speed. While this might sound counterintuitive, consider this example from Kwik. If you’re driving slowly in your neighborhood, you’re might not be focused on the act of driving. You could be drinking coffee, talking on the phone, eating or daydreaming.

Now what happens to your focus if you’re racing somewhere in a car? Rather than being distracted, you’re focused entirely on what’s in front of you. That’s why reading speed is key to comprehension – the faster you read, the more focused you are.

“Your brain is a super computer that you starve when you feed it one word at a time,” Kwik said. “If you don’t give your brain the stimulus it needs, it seeks entertainment elsewhere in the form of distraction, mind wandering or falling asleep.”

A hurdle to speed reading is subvocalization, which is saying the words aloud in your head as you read. Subvocalization is a problem because it means you can only read as fast as you can speak. Speed readers are only limited by how fast they can think.

Kwik Learning offers courses that help readers reduce their level of subvocalization and unlock their full reading potential. When that happens, their comprehension soars.

“To remember more of what you read, challenge yourself to read faster,” Kwik said. “Speed equals focus. Focus equals comprehension, which leads to retention.”

The three-step process to remembering names

When it comes to remembering names, Kwik tells people to keep M-O-M in mind. (I’m sure our moms would approve!) The first M stands for “motivation.”

When you’re at a conference swapping business cards, your motivation might be lacking to remember someone’s name. But what about if someone handed you a briefcase filled with $1 million and said the money was yours if you remembered the name of the next stranger you met? You’d become an instant memory expert.

“This has nothing to do with your potential or capabilities,” Kwik said. “It’s about whether you’re motivated to remember. When you want to remember, start with a reason.”

The O in M-O-M stands for “observation.” Again, your retention is not to blame when you forget someone’s name. It’s about your attention. The best way to pay attention is to listen. As Kwik points out, if you rearrange the letters in listen, you get another word that offers a clue to how you should be when listening to someone: “silent.”

The final M is “mechanics.” These are the tools, tips and strategies Kwik and others teach to improve your focus or help you learn how to do something. Motivation and observation come first because half your success comes down to psychology.

Keep M-O-M in mind next time you’re at a conference and swap those business cards with confidence. You might not get a briefcase filled with $1 million, but you’ll leave a lasting impression on your new friends when you call them by name.

Dealing With The Effects Of Digital Dementia

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets come with a wide variety of features and benefits. The consistent use—and dependence—on those mobile devices may also come with some negative consequences, though. Reliance on devices can lead to issues with memory and cognitive skills dubbed “digital dementia”.

When I was younger—in the dark ages before the internet and smartphones—I knew every phone number relevant to me by heart. In fact, I can still tell you right now off the top of my head what my home phone number was 30 years ago when I was in high school. I knew the birth dates and wedding anniversaries of every member of my family—including aunts, uncles and cousins—by heart. I knew how to get from Point A to Point B, and what day and time my favorite shows were on TV.

I knew these things because there wasn’t really any option. I mean, I could have written it all down in a journal or day planner and carried that around everywhere, but for all practical purposes my own brain was all I had to rely on for information like this.

Learning To Learn Faster: The One Superpower Everyone Needs

The Superpower

I have a new book coming out early next year, The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance. As the title suggests, my subject matter is the outer limits of human potential and the question of what might actually be possible for our species.

During the course of writing this book, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of amazing people interested in this very same question. This is a story about one of them, a really nice guy named Jim Kwik. It’s also a story about learning and education, innovation and entrepreneurship, and, well, superheroes. Actually, mostly, it’s a story about superheroes.

Of course, since I’m telling you this is a story about superheroes, I now have to satisfy two additional requirements. There has to be a superpower; there has to be an origin story. Let’s take them one at a time.