This blog post is based on John Medina’s book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. I loved this book, it’s a thought-provoking read. It teaches you about your brain in a way that’s actionable and easily remembered. At the end of every chapter he sums up what the important parts of the chapter were. Kind of like a coles notes of his own book. Atta boy John, good on you.
1. Exercise helps you think better.
You know that feeling you get after the gym of pure bliss? Yeah, me neither. But it is a widely known fact that exercise helps your mind think better. The release of endorphins clears the mind for new and creative thoughts.
2. Your brain is like any other muscle in your body, you can grow it.
You’re born with an intellect, some type of intelligence that varies among people. But what you do with that intelligence is up to you. You can become an expert in anything, just abide by Malcolm Gladwell’s Ten Thousand Hour Rule from the book Outliers.
It’s simple, whatever you want to be particularly remarkable at in the future, do lots of in the present. Here’s a visualization of the Ten Thousand hour rule. There’s also a great Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy on confidence and what human’s are capable of.
3. If you want to get something done, create focus.
Creating moments of flow in your day is very important if you want to become an expert. A fascinating study in Germany revealed that expert violinists didn’t practice more than their amateur counterparts, they practiced better. The experts focused more and maximized their time with the violin. The amateurs practiced the same amount but is wasn’t nearly as focused or beneficial.
Turn your e-mail notifications off on your phone. If it’s an emergency they will call you. An e-mail is never an emergency, check your e-mail on your time.
4. People don’t pay attention to boring things.
If you want people to remember your customer service, your sales training, your marketing, your class room, you as a person. You can’t be boring. If you want a lesson to resonate with an audience you must present it in a way that grabs the attention of your audience. Otherwise you’re just making noise.
5. Your introduction is often the most important part of your pitch
If you want to grab your audiences attention, start off strong. Our brains are wired to put a lot of weight on introductions. If you really want people to remember what you’re talking about you must make it compelling, it’s too easy for our brains to ignore information.
6. If you want to remember something repeat it
If you really want to remember something, repeat again and again. If you wan to study better, Harvard psychology professor Dan Schacter says: “If you have only one week to study for a final, and only 10 times when you can hit the subject, it is better to space out the 10 repetitions during the week than to squeeze them all together.”
If you want to remember a book better, write a blog post about said book.
7. Sleep well, think well.
You must ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Julien Smith would agree, he put a great post together on how to get smarter. Immediately when you lose sleep it hurts your attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity. You can’t afford to be sleep deprived, your body and mind count on it. And yes, afternoon naps aren’t a bad thing, they actually seem to be very beneficial for most people.
8. Being happy or sad affects the way your immune system works
Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. This has been a common conclusion of many research papers. “Under chronic stress, adrenaline creates scars in your blood vessels that can cause a heart attack or stroke, and cortisol damages the cells of the hippocampus, crippling your ability to learn and remember.” When we’re stressed (students included) we don’t learn the same, our minds don’t work the same and our immune system is taxed.
Happy people don’t get sick. Everybody knows that, right?
9. We learn best when we engage several of the senses.
When learning something new, the more senses involved the better the chance of success.
But overall, vision is the most powerful of all the senses.
10. Men and women’s brains are different genetically.
Think all men are simple? Or that most women are complex? You’re right, kinda.
Biologically, our brains are wired differently. Take this into account when dealing with people at work and in other activities. “Men and women respond differently to acute stress: Women activate the left hemisphere’s amygdala and remember the emotional details. Men use the right amygdala and get the gist.”
It’s not that men are trying to make it simple, it’s because that’s the only way our brains work.
11. At our core, humans are all curious.
I thought this was a beautifully written paragraph near the end of the book:
The greatest Brain Rule of all is something I cannot prove or characterize, but I believe in it with all my heart. As my son was trying to tell me, it is the importance of curiosity. For his sake and ours, I wish classrooms and businesses were designed with the brain in mind. If we started over, curiosity would be the most vital part of both demolition crew and reconstruction crew. As I hope to have related here, I am very much in favor of both.
Medina is talking about how we don’t think about what a child is curious about in a classroom or ask an employee what they’re curious about at work. Never underestimate the power of curiosity. We can learn well into our later years. If