Friday, July 5, 2013

Inside Brains of Winners

Everyone knows a name dropper when they hear one. Buzz names like Gates, Jiwei, Jobs, Nooyi, Zuckerberg and Winfrey can give dramatic pause to a conversation and pique collegial interest. But their mere mention can also throw a name dropper under the credibility bus quicker than they can say “My cousin was college roommates with J.K. Rowling’s agent’s sister.”

If you’re in the know, you’ve already gathered that success is more about the brain than ever before. Cognitive neuroscience has revealed and continues to expose the incredible capacities of the human brain, particularly as they relate to success and optimization. When it comes to your professional reputation, having others chatting it up about your super successful brain should be the goal. Here are four brain strategies that people who consistently grasp success claim as their own—and you can, too.

First, develop an Opportunity Radar. An Opportunity Radar is a successful person’s ability to recognize non-traditional paths or circumstances leading to positive outcomes. How do you do that? Make sacrifices to be in the right place at the right time, don’t let your confidence rest only in your salary, don’t just think outside of the box—create your own boxes, some of which you may never use, but that’s OK. You can either stand around in long line to ride the success Ferris Wheel, or figure out how you can build your own thrilling ride by finding the right non-traditional opportunity. Of course, getting on that wild ride may take some nerve. Truly successful brains have risk management figured out to a degree as well. Read on.

You’ll need to calibrate your Optimal Risk Gauge. Successful people know when and how to take risk and they most likely learned much of what they know about risk by doing things the hard way. We’re not just talking entrepreneurial risk, but all kinds of risks: time, relationships, financial, creative. Research amply explains that too little or too much risk leads to dissatisfying failure, but a moderate level of risk appropriately challenges us so we remain motivated, confident, and leave plenty of room for gaining knowledge and insight while we avoid stagnation. That means you‘ll need to find comfort outside of your comfort zone, take inventory of your risk and avoidance patterns, and closely examine what you believe about yourself and your ability to rebound when a plan fails. Are you a renegade or an ostrich? What if you’re new at taking risks altogether? Don’t panic. If you’ve got room for professional growth, knowledge and skill, you’re still positioned well to reach success.

Your Talent Meter, the third factor, will help you unfold a critical part of your success story. You’ve got to have talent, regardless of how you get it. What is sadder than sad is someone believing they’re doing a particular task well and in reality, they aren’t even coming close to being competent (think “American Idol” audition reel here). Academia refers to this pitiful insight as the Dunning-Kruger effect, also known as the Double Whammy of Incompetence. Accomplished people have lively Talent Meters that are always assessing their knowledge and skills, informing them about their success potential from day to day. Knowing your strengths, but even more importantly knowing your weaknesses and not fearing them, is vital to your success. In business world circles, it can be a career-branding faux pas to affiliate with failure, lacking knowledge, or skill deficits. That said, those people who embrace success consistently have their Talent Meters turned on 24/7. They are constantly learning, gathering information, watching for mentors, practicing, reading and rereading, evaluating personal and professional insufficiencies, and fearlessly doing something about all of them when they turn up on the short end of the talent stick. Even better, successful brains will still have room left to spare once they are jammed with new information and skills.

Speaking of information, it’s common to hear the expression of being on “information overload.” To meet with success, your brain needs a Focus Laser, the fourth critical ingredient to a science-focused, success-attaining strategy recipe. A Focus Laser defines much of what your brain is about: attention, intention, motivation, distraction. Successful people are able to use their brains to lock onto a goal in the future and not let other factors distract them from it. Culturally, we could also say we are on “opportunity overload” and fear missing out on something that could possibly be life-changing, even if we don’t know what it is yet. The successful brain stays focused. That means saying no to oncoming opportunities unless they relate to the goal, reducing your commitment load at work and home when possible, learning a prioritization system based on your goal

and personal value systems (and use it), sticking relatively close to budgets, and throw multitasking out the window because your brain isn’t wired for it.

Research is handing over the owner’s manual to our brain at a robust pace, one section at a time. Let’s admit it, name droppers like to talk about their latest e-gadget, but they’ll be talking about your most efficient gadget once you start using it to its fullest. The best part? You already own it—your brain.

Dr. Jeff Brown is an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, and the co-author of “The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success.” His website

Source:Wall Street Journal
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