Episdoe #117: Jim Kwik: The Boy with the Broken Brain; Becoming Limitless & A Top CEO Brain Coach
My guest today is brain and memory coach Jim Kwik. As someone who suffered a head injury early in his life and had a difficult time reading, learning and remembering, Jim is on a mission to “leave no brain behind.” Known as “the boy with the broken brain” Jim had to develop a system in college that changed the trajectory of his life.
He has spent almost 30 decades helping top CEOs and actors develop practices and actions to learn and remember more. His first book that encompasses all of his findings is out now called LIMITLESS. So many incredible tips and tricks for our day to day learning or for students navigating tests and note taking. I would also encourage you to go to Jim’s site for tons of free talks on how to read faster and remember more. Enjoy.
Listen to the episode here:
- The Boy With The Broken Brain [00:02:53]
- Coachability and Desire [00:27:46]
- Technology Villains [00:37:02]
- Five Pillars [00:54:27]
- Mindset and Motivation[01:01:00]
- C is for Choice [01:17:28]
- What’s Your Dominant Question? [01:22:01]
- Creating a New BS (Belief-System) [01:29:19]
- Learning How To Learn [01:42:16]
- Six Thinking Hats [01:57:42]
Jim Kwik: The Boy with the Broken Brain; Becoming Limitless & A Top CEO Brain Coach
My guest is Jim Kwik and he has a book called Limitless. I know I would like to be limitless. Some of you know Jim as a brain and memory coach but I can say it’s so much more. It’s interesting because he’s organized in his communication, in the way he puts out information. When I went to do my research for this, I realized that this book that he has, Limitless, is his first book. It’s a bit like an active workbook. There are summaries at the end. There’s also the audiobook, which I did both. At the end of the audiobook, there are chats. They also will give you online resources.
You think a guy like this breezed through it the whole time but he had an accident when he was young and hurt his head and hurt his ability to learn. In an effort to protect him one day when some kids were giving him a hard time in school, the teacher said to them, “No. He’s the boy with the broken brain.” Jim figured out a way and felt it important to share everything he learned, which is a lot, with everyone to make it easier and better for them.
I always feel honored to get the chance to spend even a window of time with people. I felt so fortunate that Jim came to my house and spent that time with me because you’d also realize he’s an introvert. His mission is greater than even his somewhat slight discomfort with being around tons of people. I hope you enjoy the show.
Jim Kwik, thank you for coming to my house.
I’m so glad to be here.
It’s a treat.
I’ve been looking forward to this so much. Thank you.
I was telling you I read and listened to your book, Limitless. I want to start there. How is this your first book? We know you look and you think, “I must be missing it.” You have so much content, you’ve been gathering content, you’ve been teaching, you’ve been doing this for so long.
Thanks. 2022 is my 30th year of doing this. I started when I was 18. It is my first book. I put this one off. Nobody knows this. People know this, I’m introverted, almost painfully shy. My inspiration was my desperation to do what I do and I want to help people. I’m also torn because I don’t want to be known for it.
When you say that, do you want the information to lead?
I want to help people. I feel a moral responsibility to do so because I don’t want people to suffer and struggle the way I did growing up. If someone else would do it and do it well, I would rather support that person. I was in a car accident a few years back and I almost died. It puts things into perspective and makes me think about legacy. My mind doesn’t usually go there. I’ve had this offer for this book for years on my desk and I signed it that week. Fundamentally, I’m a teacher and books changed my life. It was incongruent not having my own book knowing how much books have helped me, so I waited.
I thought, “I’ll look at some of the past books as well so I’m up to speed,” and understood that it was the first. I want to make a quick note at the top that if you decide to get the audiobook, there are resources that you can download. You do these chats at the end of each of the chapters that you like in the audio. I’m only differentiating. They’re different and the same. That’s what is so great. I did both in a matter of ten days and it was great. I want to remind people if they get the book, it’s in there but also that you have the chats at the end of each chapter in the audiobook. I want to differentiate that and dive right in.
It’s important for people to understand you do have a backstory. You’ve said this a lot, the boy with a broken brain. It’s funny, every therapist I’ve ever gone to, meaning physical therapist or someone who has healed from a certain trauma, usually, they were in a situation of sorts and something helped them and they go, “Okay.” They understand it on a much deeper level. I was an average student. It’d be one thing if I come in and I go, “I figured out some ways,” but the way you came into this is different, which was, in a way, coming from behind.
Sometimes when people see me on stages or YouTube do this memory stuff, memorize people’s names or numbers, or do random things that people challenge me with, I always tell people I don’t do it to impress them, I do it more to express to them what’s possible. The truth is, we all could do things like that. We just weren’t taught. Some people reading might think, “There’s no way.” That’s one of the limits that we have learned over time.
School is a great place to learn what to learn. They teach you math, history, science, and Spanish, but there weren’t a lot of classes on how to learn those subjects. With my brain injury, when I was only 5 years old, I had issues with learning. I couldn’t focus, I got easily distracted, I couldn’t retain things. Teachers and adults would say things over and over again and I would pretend to understand.
We’ll get into all the ways that we learn, whether it’s through hearing, seeing, moving, or touching. You went to look out a window and a kid knocked you off a chair and you banged your head. This is dangerous for any young person who labeled you and said, “He’s the boy with the broken brain.” Now you’ve bought into this label. That’s an important thing for all of us, whether it’s to ourselves or our children. Be careful labeling people because they’ll buy into it.
Adults have to be careful with their external words because they often become a child’s internal words, their conversation. I didn’t have this idea that I was limited or broken. It was a blank slate but then I had that and that label became my limit.
I was wondering though, through that process, were there other ways that information went in more naturally for you? Was it hard?
It was hard. There are no areas. Maybe a little bit with math was not as difficult as the other subjects.
You were big into superheroes and things like that. If you saw a movie, would you remember the dialogue?
Yes. It took me an extra few years to learn how to read. That was stressful when you’re 5, 6, 7, 8. They passed around the book and that book would get closer. That’s where a lot of fear of public speaking came from. It was learned that we had so much anxiety around performing to our peers and in front of other people. It was difficult, but I taught myself how to read by reading comic books when my parents thought I was sleeping underneath the covers with a flashlight.
Something about that story, the illustration is good versus evil, hope, and help, and one person could make a difference and bring the words to life. That’s where I first started to understand. I didn’t learn these skills until I was about 18 years old. I realized that it’s not how smart we are as much as it is how are we smart. It’s not how smart your kids are, it’s how are they smart. Because everybody has a preferred way of understanding, thinking, and remembering.
Many CEOs are dyslexic because they’re problem solvers and they move around things. It’s so interesting how we expect kids to fit into a system. Especially young boys that have a lot of energy, maybe it’s like, “Give them nails and wood and say, ‘Let’s build something.’” Within that, we can learn and we can read the directions. I understand that, but there are only so many resources.
As a parent, be careful not to get scared and not to be weird if they call you in and be like, “Little Johnny’s having a hard time.” It’s like, “How do we help him?” My husband left school in eleventh grade because he was bored. He’s bright but he had a thing where he was told early, “You’re not good at reading,” yet he remembers everything he does read. It’s an important period with labels, whatever they are.
[bctt tweet=”Our mission is no brain left behind.”]
I have three daughters and we always joke, “You never talk about bodies. You don’t talk about weight.” You compliment them and uplift them, but you’re not like, “You’re looking slender.” You don’t talk about any of that stuff. I had one daughter that went through a rough patch. We went and got help. They started giving her all these labels, like, “You’re this and you’re that. You have codependent issues and you have this.” I remember thinking, “We have to be careful of this.” It’s common because you know how the mind wants to organize and wants to identify, “What is this? Who are you?” All of that.
Those labels could come from people who are well-intentioned, too. To get clarification, that teacher was protecting me because I was being teased by the other kids. I was slow and I wasn’t going to understand the lessons. The teacher was pointing out that I was different but all I remembered was that I was broken and then I started to think that way. When I didn’t do well on tests, which was all the time, I would say, “Because I’m broken.” I wasn’t picked for sports and I would say, “Because I’m the broken one.”
The labels are coming from the external world. People need to be sensitive and aware of the labels that they put on themselves. They could be coming from somebody else, but sometimes our self-talk is not the most empowering. When you have this thought, “I’m not enough,” or, “Why can’t I do this?” We’re always shrinking down. We have to be careful because our mind is always eavesdropping on that self-talk.
It’s that whole imposter syndrome. If you want to do something, why do you think you should do it? You’re then up there doing it. You’ll go as far as have a career in it and be standing up there and being like, “Why am I up here?” It’s fascinating. There’s also something to being honest with yourself about feeling that way. When you have those moments and you go, “I feel vulnerable today,” or, “I’m feeling unsure,” there’s power in that, too. Knowing that that’s part of it.
This is all connected. There are so many things connected to our biology that they don’t teach us that serve us, like, “Be alert. Be unsure.” You want to keep learning and growing. You shouldn’t be like, “I’ve got this. I’ve arrived.” How do we not have it paralyze us or we don’t reach our potential or things like that? You said that your superpower when you were younger was that you’re good at being invisible. You were observing because you probably wanted to be left alone.
After a certain amount of time, you realize that you don’t have a lot of the answers like the other kids and you don’t want to be embarrassed each time you get called on. I would figure out little ways of hiding. I would sit in the back or sit behind a tall kid and shrink down because I don’t have the answers and I don’t want the spotlight. I didn’t want to be seen or heard. Maybe deep down, I probably did want to be seen and probably rarely wanted to be heard. I’m self-conscious and have a lot of self-esteem issues and doubts. That was the place.
I would work hard to do a book report but if a teacher asks me to present it, I would lie and tell them I didn’t do it. I would take a zero and throw it out on the way out of class. I would get so sick and I would go to the nurse. Do you know when you are so nervous if there was a test or something like that? I would live in the nurse’s office because I would be paralyzed.
That’s a lot of years to go through that. You’ve made it to university and you’re at a crossroads. It’s not going great. A friend invites you to their house and there’s something that happened there with your friend’s dad that seems like it changed the trajectory. I could be wrong. I could be putting too much weight on it, but it felt like it was pivotal.
It was significant looking back. I thought being a freshman in university meant I could make a fresh start. I took all these classes, I rolled, and I wanted to make my parents proud, show the world, prove to myself I could do this. I did worse. It was so much more difficult because you’re spending more time on your own and not getting the help of the teachers as much. I didn’t have a lot of financial resources. I thought I should quit. Why waste the money and the time to be there? That’s a big decision.
I’m the oldest of three kids and I wanted to be a good role model so I had that pressure. A friend asked me, “Before you make this big decision, why don’t you get some perspective? I’m going home this weekend. Why don’t you come with me?” I always thought that when you change the place that you’re in or you change the people you’re spending time with, it gives you a new point of view, maybe a fresh perspective.
I got to spend some time hanging out with his father. He’s walking around his property, well off, on the water there. He asked me an innocent question, but it was the worst question you could ask me. He asked me, “How’s school?” I’m reserved. I started bawling in front of this stranger because I was holding all of this emotion in. I told him about my broken brain and how I can’t do well in this. I’m fighting for all my limitations. I can’t afford school and I don’t have to tell my family. He’s like, “Why are you in school? What do you want to be, do, have, share, create?” I didn’t have an answer. I’m like, “You just go to school because that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
He’s like, “You start probing deeper.” I go to answer him and he says, “Stop.” He pulls out a little journal, tears a couple of sheets, and makes me write them down. I’ve since found out that writing things down is the first step to creating something. It’s like you have something invisible in your mind and with a simple act of handwriting something on a piece of paper, it becomes visible. Something outside of you becomes physical. I made this bucket list and when I’m done, I started folding the sheets to put in my pocket. He reaches out and he grabs it right out of my hand. Now I’m freaking out.
Did you go for it? Did you write the real things down?
Yeah. I was so emotional at that moment. It was raw and it was real for me. He starts reading it and I’m freaking out because no matter age and stage, I don’t think a lot of us like the feeling of being judged or being evaluated, other people’s opinions, and their expectations. I don’t know how much time went by. He looks up and says, “Jim, you are this close to everything on this list.” He spreads his index finger a foot apart and I’m thinking, “Are you kidding me? Give me ten lifetimes, I’m not going to crack that list.”
He’s a smart man. He takes his fingers and he puts them to the side of my head, meaning what’s inside in between my brain is the real bridge or the key or the door. He takes me into his home, into a room I’ve never seen before, wall-to-wall, ceiling to floor, covered in books. It’s like a library in somebody’s house. I’ve never read a book. I’m a poor reader. I’m phobic of books. They are intimidating.
They’re like snakes for someone scared of snakes. He starts grabbing these snakes off the shelf and handing them to me. I started looking at these titles. There are these biographies of some incredible men and women throughout history and some early personal growth books like Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, these classics.
He says, “Jim, can you read one book a week?” I was like, “Are you kidding?” I will go back to my story. When people come to me at events, they’re like, “I have a horrible memory,” or “I’m too old,” or, “I’m not smart enough.” I always say, “Stop. If you fight for your limitations, you get to keep them.” We’re always fighting and arguing for what we can’t do. I’m arguing for my limitations, like, “I have all these midterms and I have all these schoolwork.” When I say schoolwork, he flips. He’s like, “Jim, don’t let school get in the way of your education.” I didn’t realize it was a Mark Twain quote. I was like, “That’s insightful.”
It’s even in the Bible.
I was like, “I can’t promise to do this. If I tell you I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, but I can’t do it.” Smart man, he reaches into his pocket and he takes out my list of goals and dreams, my bucket list. He starts reading every single one of them line by line out loud. It’s something about hearing your goals that you maybe haven’t even shared with anybody or maybe even with yourself in another person’s voice and canted out into the world, in the universe. Hearing it messes with my mind and my spirit. It’s something fierce.
Honestly, a lot of things on that list were things I wanted to do for my folks, things that they could never afford. They had immigrated here and didn’t speak the language, lived in the back of the laundromat that they worked out, those kinds of things they’d never do for themselves even if they had the money. With that leverage, that motivation, that purpose, I say, “I want to do this. I’m going to read one book a week.”
Fast Forward, I’m back in my dorm room. I’m sitting at my desk and I have a pile of books that have to be read for midterms, a pile of books I promised to read. I couldn’t get through pile A so what do I do? I don’t have time. I don’t eat, I don’t sleep, I don’t exercise, I don’t spend time with people. I live in the library and it’s not healthy. It’s certainly not sustainable. After weeks of doing that, I end up passing out at sheer exhaustion one night and I fell down a flight of stairs. I hit my head again.
I had three traumatic brain injuries before the age of 12. I wasn’t supervised because my parents had so many jobs. I woke up in the hospital. I lost all this weight. I was down to 117 pounds. I was wasting away. I was hooked on all these IVs. I was malnourished and dehydrated. I thought I died. Part of me wished I did because I felt like I was taking up space. I thought there had to be a better way.
When I had that thought, the nurse came in with a mug of tea and on it was a picture of Albert Einstein, a genius, the opposite of what I thought I was. It had this quote, “The same level of thinking that has created your problem won’t solve your problem.” Think about it, we all have problems, but the same level of thinking that created it won’t solve it. I was like, “What’s my problem? I’m a slow learner. How do I think differently about it? Maybe I can learn how to learn better.” I was like, “How do I learn how to learn? School.”
I asked the nurse to bring me a course bulletin for next semester’s classes. I kept on going through it, in all classes on what to learn and not one class on how to learn those things. No class on focus or on study skills, on reading better, or memory. I always thought it should have been the fourth R in school, reading, writing, arithmetic. Spelling wasn’t one of them but remembering. He said learning is remembering.
I set all that aside, my schoolwork, and I started studying these books that I was given and also books on learning, adult learning theory, multiple intelligence theory, ancient mnemonics, what did ancient civilizations do before there were printing presses, how do they pass on information. I started learning these interesting tools, techniques, and theories.
About two months into it, a light switch flipped on in my mind. It’s like going from zero to hero. I started to understand things better. I started to have better focus. I started to get better grades. I started to have greater confidence. As my school life improved, my life started to improve. I couldn’t help but help other people. I made it my mission. I’ve been doing it every single day since.
When someone reads your book, there’s something interesting because you’ve systematized it for people and you’ve made it achievable. What’s interesting is if someone thinks that there’s a way, sometimes it takes the outside world saying to us, “This is possible. Let me give you some ideas.” All of a sudden, we engage in a different way.
For example, you talk about focus. The fact that someone thinks there’s a real purpose, a real step-by-step directive on this, they’ll lean into it a little more and they’ll focus on it a little more. You talk about self-confidence. To do anything, there has to be a belief. You say in the Audible that this is the start. The fact that someone has gotten the book is already a step to it.
What comes along with that is like, “I’m not sure how to get there but at this moment, I believe that maybe I can do it. I’m willing to pay more attention to see if I can.” There’s an interesting duality that goes on with something like this from someone like you who has put it together because you’ve put it together. We’re going to go through the chapters.
Can I ask if you went through a journey like that with competing? Did you have doubts? Did you have a coach or mentor that believes in you more than you believe in yourself?
I fell into playing volleyball. I was never groomed to be a champion. Champion is a broad definition. I know a lot of people that have won a lot but there are champions. Let’s say I wasn’t groomed to be a winner in sports. I’m big, athletic enough, and coachable. If you say to me, “Why were you able to…” I’m highly coachable. I could take words and put them into physical action and the real desire to try.
I was tortured probably my entire professional career. There are a lot of athletes that go through this where you feel unsure a lot of the time. You go back to formulas like you’ve created in your book, “What do I need to do? Let me simplify it. What do I need to focus on? The first thing that I need to focus on is if I’m receiving the serve, I need to take care of the ball and I need to pass it. Nothing else will happen.”
You learn how to get yourself to do first things first, “If I’m serving, what do I need to do? Where am I trying to serve? I need to do that. I need to focus on that.” There were times I had coaches that looked at me in a way that said to me they believed in me. They’re seeing something in me I don’t know about myself. I’m going to trust them more than I’m going to indulge myself in my feelings.
Possible doubts and insecurities.
Tons and tons. It’s like, “I’m faking it out here. I’m in the way.” There are all kinds of things. Being around more experienced players, it got weirder when I got good and I had way less experience from everybody. That was confusing.
How do you reconcile that?
I don’t know that I did. I just knew that I was given a gift, meaning the chance, not the talent. The talent, you understood. I was a hard worker. It was still even the chance that I was like, “You’ve got to honor the chance and whatever gift there is. You’re going to have to deal with yourself somehow in that.” It keeps you human and in touch with how you can be successful. Do good and feel uncomfortable and unsure the whole time, and if you can get a healthy relationship with that.
It pushes you. Think about it. I’m sitting across from you and you have your book. You have over 30 years of experience. You’ve taught well-known people, be it in business or entertainment. What’s keeping you even getting better is the fact that you’re not comfortable. You haven’t arrived. You didn’t arrive here. You’re like, “I’m here. I’ll show up. I’ll do my best.” It’s harder but it keeps you paying attention.
There are two things that I want to emphasize that you mentioned. This road, as we transform, we develop and we go after our goals. You mentioned that you’re coachable and you had a desire. Those are two things that I find when I work with students or clients, it doesn’t matter their age or stage in life, if they have those two things, those are the two things you can’t give somebody.
I was teachable and I was motivated. I had the desire to make things better. Many times, people want to change somebody. If they’re not willing to learn something new or if they’re not motivated and they don’t have the drive, or they have the drive and they’re close-minded, that doesn’t help either. Those are the two elements you can’t necessarily train. That phrase, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” rings true.
I’m always fascinated by why people aren’t open-minded. I say that even to myself. I’m old enough now to have certain beliefs that have been shown to be true but they change and it changes. It’s an interesting thing where you go, “What is that?” There’s a real fear not only of change but of success. As much as we don’t want to be failures and we have a fear of that, putting yourself out there and saying you want to go for something or the possibility that this could make you more successful. This is an interesting thing because I don’t know if this is serving the emotion of, “I don’t deserve this.” I’ve gone through that a million times. I’ve finally scratched it up to grace and said, “I don’t deserve anything. I have grace so I’m going to honor the grace by doing the best I can.”
You combine grit with grace.
The three Gs for all successful people is grit, gratitude, and growth mindset.
Everything in life grows or it doesn’t. Everything else has to give and contribute back. The last part would be grit, your ability to persevere. Gratitude gives you a lot of grace also. Being appreciative, whether it’s the challenges or the celebrations that we have. We don’t have to wait for a grateful life to feel grateful. We could start feeling grateful and because of it, we’ll have a greater life.
I want to start to break down Limitless. I was excited because there’s a lot that you go over and there’s a lot to learn. I do want to ask you something about your parents. They come over and they work hard. You have a mishap. It’s not going as planned. You also come from a highly disciplined, work hard, get it done, don’t complain culture. How did your parents show up? They were probably fearful for you. How was it for you? There’s a lesson there. Your parents believed in you or something was shown.
I mentioned this in the acknowledgments. Anything that’s ever been good that’s come out of me, I lift up to my parents. Anything that has fallen short, that’s all on me. I do feel that way. Everybody has different stories. My dad came here from Asia when he was 13. He had lost both of his parents. They had challenges feeding him and keeping him so he came here to live with his aunt, who I knew as my only grandmother. I didn’t speak the language. It’s not a matter of resources.
Like many examples, we didn’t have the education, the connections, the money. My aunt’s brother played tennis. He was in the US Nationals and taught my dad how to play tennis at that age. Because of it, he was able to go to college and meet my mom. I’m grateful for that. They’ve always worked hard. My dad would be gone before I woke up and come back when I was going to sleep.
My mom worked in retail in Bloomingdale’s. She was a server at an Italian restaurant. They had many different jobs because they would do what they needed to do. My great aunt who raised me had passed from Alzheimer’s when I was young. That puts me on a trajectory when someone you love and spend the most time with starts losing her memory. It’s like therapy.
When you’re going through it and having all this doubt, is it the way that your mom looks at you like, “I love you and you’re going to figure it out.”
They did that. I got goosebumps. I call them truthbumps. From my dad, I learned the power of discipline and hard work, sacrificing for the people that you love. I would be working at an early age. I would do all the lawn work because I was the oldest of the children. I’d be mowing lawns as soon as I could push them. I got a paper out three years earlier than I was legally allowed to.
It was called out where you lived.
The Sunday paper had its toll and I wasn’t a big kid. Even when I was mowing the lawn, I would skip certain parts, not do the hedges or use the weed whacker behind a sign or whatever. I was like, “Nobody could see that.” My dad would emphasize doing it because I could see it. There was a quality and a commitment to that. For my mom, I learned unconditional love. Even to this day, in terms of my values, when you ask somebody what’s most important to you in life or your career, for me it’s love, growth, contribution, and adventure but love is always top.
Both my parents lost their parents at an early age. The family became important. You can see how your life conditions shape your values. We had a tight family and we still do. That’s a real blessing. I feel like I’m winning the lottery on that. They’re not the wealthiest or the smartest or the most spiritual and they don’t do yoga and drink green juice, kombucha, and meditate, but they’re good people. They worked hard. They’re kind. They do not harm. They teach us to do what we say we’re going to do. Those are powerful influences. They’re my original superheroes.
Almost 30 years of work and you found a way to compartmentalize where you talk about mindset, method, and innovation. My hope is to go through this and be as clear as I can be. I want people to get this book because it also is a resource you have. There are tools within it. You have a review at the end of each chapter. There’s real learning going on and you did it in an organized way.
It’s like an owner’s manual for our mind. We upgrade our technologies all the time, our phones, our computers, or our apps. When’s the last time we took the time to upgrade our most important technology, which is the human brain? Every page has these little quick start things that you could do. It’s like a little workbook. In the audiobook, after I read each chapter, I had a conversation with a friend in terms of some of the things. There’s a lot of extra insights in there as well.
If something happened to me, God forbid, like this accident, I wanted there to be something physical that people could go to and see all this stuff that they don’t want to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars I did on my education in learning these things. They don’t have to spend three decades doing it. I did the work for them. They’re willing to put exactly what we talked about. They’re a little bit coachable, they have some desire, and they can do extraordinary things.
Speaking of technology, there are four villains in the digital space where it’s the distraction of it and constant bombardment of it. You were even saying dementia.
[bctt tweet=”The questions we ask direct our focus and the focus determines our reality. “]
There are forces out there driven by technology that compromise our peace of mind, our productivity, our performance. It’s not caused by technology but technology certainly has amplified some of it. I pointed it out because the work is timely because of these forces but it’s also timeless because those four horsemen of the mental apocalypse are going to get more intense. The first one is Digital Deluge, which is a term I coined talking about information overload. Nowadays, how many emails do we get? How many messages do we get? How many books, news, and things to keep up with are there? It feels like we’re drowning in information.
I read something that you said, one download in a day.
I did a program at Google. They know a lot about knowledge and information. When I was there, I heard this quote from the chairman that said, “The amount of information that’s been created from the dawn of humanity since human beings walked the planet till the year 2003…” Which was only a couple of decades ago. That amount of information is now created every two days, every 48 hours.
Think about social media, blogs, and podcasts, there’s so much information out there. It’s like taking a sip of water out of a firehose. It’s a real health concern for individuals, teams, and organizations. Information fatigue syndrome is the medical term and its symptoms are higher blood pressure, compression of leisure time, and more sleeplessness. Everyone can say, “Yes, that’s me.” Part of it is we’re overwhelmed with the amount of information that’s there. That’s why in the book and the methodology, we teach speed reading and advanced study skills to help you catch up, keep up, and get ahead.
The second supervillain is Digital Distraction. Digital Distraction is how do you maintain your concentration in a world full of rings, pings, dings, app notifications, social media alerts, likes, shares, and comments? We’re being driven to distraction. If anyone who’s reading has ever read a page in a book and forgot what they read or they get somebody whose name and they forget it because their mind can’t concentrate. That’s why a big chapter in the book is Unfocused. That’s another superpower.
Huxley was talking about that in 1984, we were going to be told what to do and suppressed and disciplined. He was like, “No. The demise of us is going to be by giving us all that we want. Our natural inclination to want the ease of entertainment and all these things that we’re going to have such an abundance of is what’s going to get us.”
It’s hard. It’s that proverb where it says that easy times lead to hard times because sometimes when we get lazy, then we don’t create the things that we need to do. It’s a challenge because it’s such a paradox now where there’s so much going on in the world and so many shiny objects that are fighting for our attention. People don’t realize that focus is a skill like memory is a skill. If you go to a child and say focus or concentrate, that’s like going to a child and saying, “Play the ukulele,” and they’ve never taken a class or training on how to play that instrument. We’ve never taken a class on how to focus or concentrate. In a world that’s constantly leading us to distraction, it can be hard.
The third one is Digital Dementia. This is a term also in healthcare that says that the high reliance that we have with technology that so many of us are using like our technology as an external memory drive. We don’t have to develop the memory ourselves. This is where doctors and researchers are saying that some of our memory is declining because of the digital world we live in. Our phones keep our calendars, keep our schedules, keep some phone numbers. How many phone numbers did you know growing up?
How many phone numbers do you know now?
Probably twenty. That’s about it.
They’re probably ones that I knew or that haven’t changed.
With many people, there’s somebody in their life, a spouse, a child, that they call or text all the time but if they didn’t have it in their phone, they wouldn’t remember it. Their phone lost battery or they lost their phone.
I think about that a lot.
That’s Digital Dementia. We rely too much on technology. If somebody uses the elevator to go up three floors instead of walking it, their body is not getting the exercise. If they use a lift to go six blocks to the post office or the bank when they could have walked it, they’re not getting the physical activity and the fitness. Your brain is the same thing, use it or lose it. If I keep my arm in a sling for a year, it wouldn’t grow stronger, it wouldn’t even stay the same. It would atrophy and be weaker and that’s Digital Dementia. That’s why the largest chapter in the whole book is on memory.
You said extra hard drive or muscle. You’re like, “It’s a muscle.” I deal with everyone with a lot of details. There have been days where I feel like my head’s setting up like concrete. It’s hands-on. I’m not farming it out. I’m not delegating it to the internet. It’s like dealing with schedules and inputting all these things. It’s different kinds of learning or information.
Sometimes, too much during a day, the way we’re trying to keep up in certain ways is harmful to our brain. When we’re talking about sitting down, reading a book, listening to music, different types of learning, that regenerate and invigorate your mind. Sometimes getting slammed all day long with details and checkmarks. It’s detrimental to your brain.
Anecdotally, people experience that and they could feel a little bit of burnout or exhaustion from too much stimulus. I’m pro-technology. I don’t want to memorize 500 phone numbers but my thing is it should be concerning that we’ve lost the ability to remember one phone number or a PIN number or a past code.
How do you make it a tool? Because everyone goes, “It’s a tool.”
Technology is a tool for us to use, but if the technology is using us, then we become the tool. For me, it’s finding harmony between the two. Everybody has to make their own decision like they do with what they eat and how much they move, exercise, and prioritize their sleep. For me, technology is a wonderful way to make your life more convenient but I don’t want it to cripple me in the process where I’m too dependent on it.
You see these movies that talk about the future. You see those individuals that are healthy or well and they’re behind a screen. Some of these cartoons and movies project where we’re living in this world. Technology allows this to happen. It allows us to connect with so many people around the world. In Limitless, there’s a quote that gets highlighted a lot from a French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. He says, “Life is the C between B and D. B is birth, D is death, C is choice.
Every day we make the choice of how much time we’re going to spend on our phone, how much time we’re going to spend reading or with loved ones, or at work and exercising. Good, bad, or indifferent, there are choices. I would say how I reconcile it is like I use technology or our car to do certain things, but I also make sure I get my fitness in.
Are you a scheduler person or are you case by case like, “Today is going to be a heavy technology day.” “This week has been crazy so I’m going to balance it out and lighten up next week.” Do you monitor it that way?
Part of it is time management, but also part of it is priority management. I have this phrase, “The most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing.” That’s what my goal is. Stephen Covey talks about first things first. Where I don’t spend a lot of time on technology as an example for me personally is in the morning and at night. Those are my bookends. It’s not because I’m enlightened but technology sometimes stresses me out.
When I look at my phone, I look at how many emails are there or text messages or social media things and I don’t want to see that first thing in the morning. I want to get my mind right. I want to think about my priorities. I want to think about where I’m going and be creative. I don’t need the input of distraction. I also noticed in the last hour of the day, technology revs me up and stresses me out. Especially when we look at social media and what’s going on in the world and the news, it doesn’t put me in a nice parasympathetic rest and digest place.
I’ll go on a digital detox like some people who will go on a fast or they’ll go to juicing and not give themselves certain foods or stop alcohol or sugar for a certain amount of time. I’ll do that with technology. Technology is great. We have courses, podcasts, and videos. On Sundays, I look at my usage of certain things. It’s not something I do. I’m not so regimented with the schedule but sometimes having constraints on things makes you more limitless.
It’s desirable. You’re saying, “I’m not supposed to do that,” versus, “I’m going to check in with myself.” I always say that about food for people. I go, “Don’t go on diets. Don’t say you can’t. You can eat whatever you want. It’s not only that you choose not to but also, is this going to serve me?” Sometimes when I go to eat something, is this serving me and who I am trying to be, who I’m trying to become in my life?
I feel this way sometimes about the algorithm. I’m hoping teenagers get defiant against it. You say to them, “You shouldn’t,” but what about, “It’s controlling you and what you’re thinking and what you’re looking at.” Wouldn’t it be beautiful if they had this defiance about, “I’m going to take some space, ask what I want and how am I going to use this.”
This technology is new. We’re at the beginning of it. 2007 or 2008 is social media. I understand this is uncomfortable. I joke that, especially with my youngest daughter, I feel like she is the experiment. It’s sad. I’m always like, “Are we going to have to deal with the hard wiring of her brain the rest of our lives?” You’re biting your lip because you know it’s true. I feel like my older two somehow got out of the envelope. They have different personalities.
Brody, my youngest daughter, she’s in that group there, the experiment, the TikToking and all that. I’m like, “It’ll be interesting if they can have conversations longer than fifteen seconds.” We talked about focus, concentration, and things like that, but it’s more about, is this serving me? You can do whatever you want. That’s so important to take away the can’t, shouldn’t, and constraints.
We have agency. We have more power than we realize. I love this defiance idea.
Can you get a punk rock? We need a cool 20-year-old who sets it up more about, “You have the choice. You’ve got to take that power and make that question.” Right now, they look at it like they’re doing it but it’s also getting done to you. Where you’re traveling is not only decided by you.
That takes us to the fourth and final supervillain that we talked about. I quite turned it to this Digital Deduction so we can stick with all the Ds. Digital Deduction is exactly that. We can hardly make simple decisions ourselves with that agency because we’re relying on technology to do that thinking for us with algorithms.
Whatever we engage with the most on, for example, social media, we get more of. If you look at politics, you look at anything, anything that could be polarized, whatever we’re engaging with, they give you more of that point of view. They’re seeing children, for the first time, this generation not having as many capabilities in the area of logic, rational thinking, and critical thinking because their devices are feeding them.
We have algorithms that tell us what we should be eating because of what we’ve been doing in the past, or what we should be watching. If you like this, you’ll like this, which is convenient. I love this idea, especially with this younger generation that purely is growing upon this technology. Like social dilemma, did you see that?
If they embody that, then they realize that there are billions of dollars behind these platforms, and they hire the most amazing, high-level scientists to keep you on that platform.
You’re supposed to be a punk rock when you’re a teenager. You’re supposed to bump up against the system and not go into this trance. That’s the only thing. We see some of it but it’d be cool if they all of a sudden woke up and were like, “We’re supposed to break away. Look at these old farts making these programs to lock us in like we’re in Vegas. What are we doing?”
I had an experience with my youngest daughter. She’s a bright kid and she also is not overly empathetic. In some ways, technology is not great for her. I have light conversations with her because I also know she’s a person that needs to occur to her. I have other kids where I can say, “This makes someone feel good,” and they go, “Oh.” I always say, “If you’re polite to people, your life will be better.” I could say it to another kid and that makes them feel good. I’m similar to her so I understand.
People say something about humility and I go, “No, I’m not humble. I know the laws of the universe. I don’t need to learn that lesson. I don’t need to get slapped on the head. I get it.” We were talking and she read a paper in school. They took an excerpt from a book that was all the things that we had been talking about over the years, about technology being tough on them. She goes, “Come in my room.” I help her with her homework sometimes. She doesn’t need it but it’s like an act that she’s like, “You can help me.” I go in there and I read this article and then we’re going to do ideology around the article.
She goes, “Interesting article.” I was like, “Yeah, it was.” I didn’t say anything because I thought the worst thing I could do is say to her, “This is all the stuff I’ve been talking about.” I said, “I appreciate you sharing this article with me.” My whole thing is I’m hoping it becomes her idea and not me going, “You see, I told you.” I’m praying that she goes, “Wait a second…” I want to get into the book. I’m going to re-emphasize that there’s so much in here. You talked about the five pillars, focus, studying, memory. When people hear speed reading, I’m saying it but that’s not how you’re presenting it in the book.
Speed is one thing, but it’s also smart reading. Even if you’re not reading something faster, you understand it better. Our ability to read on a regular basis is a good add to our success. Most of us haven’t been trained or taken a class on reading since we were 6 or 7 years old. The difficulty in demand has increased a lot but how we read it is probably the same. That’s why we’re stressed or overloaded and we can’t keep up or we read something and forget what we just read. Our mind wanders. A lot of people skip right to that chapter to learn those skills, and then they read the book from there.
The other things are important and critical thinking. You can know all this stuff and do all this but if you can’t take a moment and mull it over.
That’s an important skill to have. It’s the most underrated chapter in the book. With the four supervillains, if you have a Digital Deluge overload, and then two superpowers to battle that villain is speed reading and study skills, then you have Digital Deduction, which is the superpower of focus, we do a chapter on focus. Then Digital Dementia, we have a chapter on memory to overcome that.
The Digital Deduction, we’re not thinking for ourselves, then we have a chapter on critical thinking, problem-solving, how to be more creative, the things that are going to be so valuable for all of us this time. A lot of jobs are going to artificial intelligence and are being automated, but things that aren’t going to be are the things that are truly limitless like our ability to solve problems, our creativity, our imagination. We give frameworks and tools to be able to make good decisions, to be able to think critically, and not just accept what’s fed to us or marketing and media.
That’s everything. It brings richness to your life when you can sit down and go, “What do I think I am seeing?” Taking that space. For my husband and me, school was something to get through. I went to college because I had to play volleyball. That’s why I went to college. I would have never gone to college otherwise. Laird tucked out after eleventh grade and went to work.
I always tell the girls, “Common sense. If you could think about things and solve problems and have strayed Cs, I’d take that all day long than straight A’s. You can’t tie your shoelace and figure out how to park the car in a space.” These kinds of things. You talked about how to read and remember. The important thing for me in this was we concentrated on these nuggets, 10 to 40 minutes. It’s like exercise, “I’ve got to go train for two hours.” No, you don’t. You have to be consistent and you have to be strategic.
Nobody goes to the gym for eight hours, and then they don’t work out the rest of the year. You’re not fit for the rest of your life.
When you’re saying, “Read more,” you’re not saying, “Go sit down and read the whole book in one sitting.”
We find a sweet spot. The research suggests about 25 to 30 minutes is an opportune amount of time to work and to study. They call it the Pomodoro Technique where after about 30 minutes, maybe the length of a sitcom or Netflix, then our attention or concentration tends to wane and we get easily distracted. The Pomodoro Technique says to work for 25 to 30 minutes and then take a five-minute break, not a 30-minute break, to refresh and reset, and then come back and do something.
During these brain breaks, I always recommend three things. Especially if you’re on Zoom all the time or you’re working remotely or you’re learning remotely, give your eyes a rest because your visual health is also leading to some of your mental health. Your visual focus leads to your mental focus. Get off the computer, and then move. As your body moves, your brain grooves. When we move, we create a brain-derived neurotrophic factor, the fancy term is BDNF. It’s like fertilizer for our brain.
That’s why when you listen to an audiobook or a podcast and you’re doing something rhythmic, you’re going for a walk or jog, you’re rowing or you’re on a cycle or elliptical, then you’re going to retain and understand it better. Use that time to hydrate. Keeping hydrated will boost reaction time and you’re thinking speed upwards of 30%. Most people are so dehydrated. Your brain is 75% water as the rest of your body. We want to make sure we hydrate, so use your breaks to do that and refill your water.
The third thing is breathing, getting fresh air. Your brain is only 2% of your body mass, but it requires 20% of the nutrients and oxygen. A lot of times, people are tired when they’re studying or reading or working because of their posture. Sometimes they’re slumped down. The lower 1/3 of our lungs absorbs 2/3 of the oxygen. We’re not getting enough oxygen and we get tired and sedated. Go out there and do some breathing, some Wim Hof breathing, some fire breathing, or some box breathing.
I was talking to Dr. Goodenowe. He wrote a book on Alzheimer’s. He talked about how the brain shrinks from the inside but maintaining brain mass is important. One of the things we hear is, “Be hydrated.” You’re talking about energy, focus, and all these things, but also it goes to physical. Flexibility is increased by about 30% by being hydrated. Sometimes when we feel stiff and groggy, physically, it’s the same thing with the brain. Sometimes the brain has the same feelings as the body. It just doesn’t let us know quite the same.
The primary reason we have a brain is to control our movement. We need to be able to move more. It’s not just about doing CrossFit 2 or 3 times a week or Pilates. It’s about moving throughout the day.
I want to tie in your mindset part because it starts there, talking about your what.
When I wrote the book originally, it was all methodology. Things like how to read faster, how to focus better, how to get through your emails, how to remember names or numbers, how to give a speech without notes, and those kinds of things. Before I hit send to my publisher, I asked myself a simple question, “Will everybody who reads this book get profound results?” My honest answer was no. People know what to do but they don’t do it. We all know what we should do, but common sense is not common practice.
[bctt tweet=”The human brain doesn’t learn best through consumption. The human brain learns better through creation and co-creation and creativity.”]
I realized that there are two elements besides methodology that need to be present. I call it The Limitless Model, three circles that intersect. The first one is your mindset. Your mindset is the set of assumptions and attitudes you have about something. The attitudes and assumptions about the world. Your attitudes and assumptions about school. Your attitudes and assumptions about people or attitudes and assumptions about money. That’s going to affect your results, your attitudes, and assumptions mostly about yourself.
What you believe is possible could be in there, what you believe you’re capable of. You might believe it’s possible for somebody but you might not believe you’re capable of it, what you believe you deserve. We had this conversation about somebody who learned a great method on how to be healthy, but if they don’t feel like they deserve it or they’re capable of it, they’re still going to be stuck in a box. People who learned a great method on how to remember names, but their mindset is, “I’m not smart enough,” or, “I’m too old.”
Your brain is like a supercomputer and your self-talk is a program that will run. If you tell yourself, “I’m not good at remembering people’s names,” you will not remember the name of the next person you meet because you program your supercomputer not to. If people truly understood how powerful their mind is, they wouldn’t say or think something they didn’t want to be true. That’s not to say you have one negative thought and ruined your life any more than one chunk of food.
The consistency of it plays a big part. All behaviors are belief-driven. If you want to create a result, you have to know that behavior. In order to know that behavior, you need a belief that allows that to happen. Henry Ford said, “If you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re right.” That’s the mindset part. In that section, we talked about unraveling the seven lies to learning. LIE for me is an acronym that stands for Limited Idea Entertained.
Many times, we tell ourselves lies, or we grow up and we pick up these lies, like, “Genius is born.” It’s either you’re born with this or you’re not born with it. In the book, I talk about dispelling those lies and then saying that that’s BS. Those are belief systems, BS, that genius is built, that genius leaves clues. When people are able to do something extraordinary, they’re doing something. There’s a method behind what looks like magic. There’s a lie that says knowledge is power. It’s something we grew up with saying and hearing.
The truth is if you believe knowledge is not true because of its potential power, the truth is all the books or audiobooks or podcasts or conferences or lectures, none of it works unless we work and we apply. Knowledge times action equals an immense amount of power. There’s a belief saying that intelligence is fixed. If somebody believes that intelligence is fixed, then they’re not going to do anything about it. That’s why I commend you, even with your daughters saying, “You’re beautiful,” or, “You’re this.” That’s also saying, “You’re just smart,” or, “This person is a genius.”
According to fixed mindset versus growth mindset, what research shows is if you constantly praise someone for this innate quality of being a genius or being beautiful, when they don’t achieve something, then they have nowhere to go, yeah. You either are a genius or you’re not. As opposed to praising the discipline, the effort, the action, the perseverance because when you praise that, then you’ll get more of that. They realize if there’s a gap between where they are or where they want to be, then they could work harder.
Wasn’t there a story about people that took tests and when they were in a test, the people who understood about the work would keep grinding it out to try to figure out what the answer versus the person who was told how smart they were thought, “I don’t know it.”
They give up.
They don’t know what to do.
The people who are praised and reinforced for doing the effort are going to stick longer with something to be able to solve it as opposed to somebody who’s praised for being smart and when they can’t do it, they give up because they either have it or don’t. All these lies add up in our space. We go through that. Maybe some people have a limitless mindset. They believe it’s possible, they’re capable, they deserve it.
I always envy those people.
That was not me. Where does that come from? My mindset was, “I’m broken. I can’t do this. I’m not smart enough.” It doesn’t matter if you learn the method. You might not use the method because you don’t feel like it’s going to make a difference. It’s fixed like your shoe size. The other thing is somebody having a limitless mindset and even having the great methods for something, not just learning but methods for investing, methods for having a good family connection or health and wellness.
They can last a second, which is the final M, your motivation. Some people are stuck in a box because they’re not motivated to get out of that box. Limitless is not about being perfect. On the other hand, limitless is about advancing, progressing beyond where we are or what we think is possible. For me, I have a simple formula for motivation.
If you self-sabotage, you take one step forward and two steps back, that’s usually a mindset issue. You don’t think you deserve it or are capable of it or it’s possible so you go backward. If you procrastinate, that’s a motivation issue if you put things off. I’ve learned that even when I was going to turn in this book, I have to address mindset and motivation first. Once those are addressed, then we could teach them the methodology, the processes.
Going back to the motivation, here’s the formula for limitless motivation for anybody. If you want to motivate yourself, your spouse, your kids, somebody to buy, somebody on your team to move forward, the formula is P times E times S3. It’s simple. If I don’t feel motivated at any given time or I have trouble getting somebody engaged and driven, first I’ll say is their P, which is purpose. Let’s say we’re doing a thought experiment, we want somebody to work out, we want to build this ultimate human being that never misses a day of exercise. The P is, do they have a purpose for exercising?
Some people know intellectually why they should exercise but they still don’t. We all know we should do certain things, we should move, exercise, eat good food, read every day or meditate, but we don’t do it because we don’t feel it. It stays in your head. It’s not getting to your heart. It has to go from your head to your heart and your hands. You can call it H cube. That’s a success. You have a thought in your head, a goal in your head, a vision.
If you’re not acting with your hands and you’re procrastinating, check in with the second H, which is our heart. We’re not logical. We are biological. Think about dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, we are this feeling chemical soup. We don’t do things unless we feel it. This one gentleman was unhealthy most of the time I’ve known him. I see him on the street and he looks incredible. I can’t even recognize him. He looks years younger. I was like, “What happened?” This gentleman is the same guy who wouldn’t change his lifestyle. We tried to intervene and tell him what to do. He’s still into it. He had a heart attack, a big bypass surgery, and still went back to his old living.
He tells me what happened and that he came home for a business trip and his daughter was crying hysterically. He found out that his daughter had a dream that he died and it changed him. It went from his head, intellectually, “I should work out.” He started listening to his heart. That was a purpose. The first thing is to feel the purpose. If you don’t have a reason, you won’t get the result. Even having a purpose for remembering people’s names. Most people don’t remember names because they’re not asking themselves, “Why should I do that?” Maybe it’s to show the person respect, get a referral, make a friend, and practice these things they learned on this podcast. If you can’t come up with a reason, you won’t.
You could have a lot of purposes and still not follow through with that workout or reading an hour a day or whatever because you need E, which is energy. If somebody has a newborn child and they haven’t slept in three nights, they’re probably not going to be motivated to work out. If somebody wants to read an hour a day because they know leaders are readers and they don’t, maybe they’re in a food coma because they lack energy, they eat a lot of junk food. In the book, we talk about ten keys for having unlimited limitless brain energy, stress management, how to optimize your sleep, the best brain foods, and so on.
Finally, if you have P and E, you have purpose and energy, the third key for motivation is S3. It stands for Small Simple Steps. This is one of the things where sometimes people are motivated because they’re intimidated or they’re confused or maybe this goal is too big. They want 100,000 followers on social media. They want to make $1 billion. They want to find true love and live happily ever. These are way too big. It’s small simple steps.
Instead of working out maybe an hour a day is too big for someone who’s never done that, put on your running shoes. Maybe reading an hour a day is too much, the next possible step is opening up the book, reading one word, reading one line. Start somewhere anywhere. Maybe you can’t get your kids to clean their room, maybe it’s putting one sock in the hamper. If they can’t floss their teeth, floss one tooth. Nobody stops there.
The idea here is, little by little, a little becomes a lot. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s way too hard. Break things down into small simple steps. The question you ask to get to your small simple step, I ask this every day especially when I need to motivate myself, “What is the tiniest action I could take right now that will give me progress towards this goal where I can’t fail? What’s the tiniest thing I could do?” That’s my formula for more motivation. Once we put that in the book, all of the sudden, we had many more people completing the book. Not everybody does what you do and get the book and audiobook. Do you prefer reading or do you prefer audio listening?
It depends. With something like this, it’s interesting because I enjoy listening to it. When books can have a workbook element to them, I like to read them because it feels like you’re participating with it and interacting with it. Based on my reality and lifestyle, an audiobook. I can cook dinner. I can drive to go get somebody. Is that cheating? Are we not learning as much because we’re not following along with our eyes and all these things?
I’ll tell you what the research suggests. I love listening to audio. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks also. When people are tested for comprehension and retention, audiobook versus reading a physical book, they find that reading gives you better comprehension and retention. One of the big reasons is when people are listening to something, they’re usually doing something else.
They’re a little bit distracted or multitasking. They’re driving or they’re working out. Because their focus is not all on listening, that would lead to less comprehension and retention. I love audiobooks. What’s interesting is that some people listen to audiobooks or podcasts at higher speeds. Sometimes they do it at one point. It saves time. Interestingly, we can understand it that fast.
You can do it progressively. With certain books or people, I can’t listen to them quicker. Your reading pace, you can listen to it quite quickly. You have a nice, smooth, and constant cadence. You can go almost past 1.5 with you. You can go almost to two.
Speed reading for me is not about frantic fast. It’s about going as fast as you can understand something to save you time. There are some things I don’t want to speed read. Especially, there are certain works that I want to enjoy the nuance of it. There are certain things I want to read and get the information out and extract. One of the reasons people limit their reading speed is something called subvocalization. I’m talking to the person reading this right now. Subvocalization is when you’re reading something, you hear that inner voice inside your head reading along with you. Hopefully, it’s your own voice. It’s not somebody else’s voice inside your head.
The reason why it limits our reading speed is that if you have to say all the words to understand them, you can only read as fast as you could speak. That means your reading speed is limited to your talking speed but not your thinking speed. That’s why we can listen to something at 1.5 or 2X because we can understand that fast but we can’t speak that fast. The question becomes, do you need to say all these words to understand them? The honest answer is no.
You don’t say punctuation marks. You don’t say question mark, comma, semicolon, but you understand what it means. There’s a symbol. Words are symbols. It’s like when you’re driving, you see a stop sign, you don’t say to yourself, “Stop.” 95% of all words we read are like that stop sign. We don’t have to pronounce them, especially words like and, there, because, if, that, because we’ve seen them so much.
Your peripheral opens up too as you get going. You encourage people, in the beginning, to use their fingers to stay along.
We teach many different methodologies to be able to have a better focus, to be able to reduce subvocalization, and also increase your peripheral vision to be able to see more. A lot of times, we could see the words to our left and our right. They call it fixations. Let’s say they are ten words in a line, a fixation is an eye stop. For most untrained readers, their eyes will stop ten times to go across those ten words in a line.
That’s like being on the road and stopping 1, 2, 3, and it slows down the process. As opposed to somebody who increases their peripheral vision and they could see maybe 3 or 4 words, then they only have to make 2 or 3 stops. It’s much more efficient. We could all do that but we’re not trained to see groups of words.
It’s like a child learning how to read. At first, they don’t see the word, they see the letters. Like how we don’t see the letters and we see the word, a quick reader sees groups of words like you would see a full word or a child would see letters. They could be seeing 3 or 4 words in a line and be much more efficient. I put on my Instagram a link, people can go to my Linktree. They could take a free one-hour masterclass on speed reading and get some other free downloads as a thank you for reading.
Your question is the answer. This is one for you.
If somebody wants to have a better focus, they want to improve what they retain. If they want to remember names better, we have to be conscious of the questions that we’re asking ourselves. We have about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts on an estimate a day, each of us. Many of those thoughts are stressful. The problem is when people want change and they want to change their life, career, health, or relationships, 95% of those thoughts are the same thoughts we had yesterday and the day before that. We wonder why we can’t change because our thoughts are the same.
There’s a sequence. We have a thought and that leads to action. You have action and it leads to an experience. You have an experience and it leads to feelings. Those feelings cultivate more of those thoughts. Somebody can have a thought like, “No one likes me.” Their action is if they’re at an event, “I’m going to sit in the corner by myself.” Their experience is loneliness. They’re feeling alone. That feeling will lead to more lonely thoughts and then it feeds each other.
Going back to life is the C between B and D. B is birth, D is death, C is choice. We have choices on what to think. We have choices on what to do. We have choices on what experience means. Two people can have the same experience but the meaning is completely different. We have choices always on how we want to feel. Sometimes people give out their agency or give their sovereignty, “It’s a bad weather, I should feel bad.” That’s subtle.
Even with raising kids, if you say something completely benign, you say something like, “It’s raining outside. It’s too bad.” You teach the kids that we should feel bad because it’s raining. It’s subtle but it’s training all of us to be able to say, “We don’t wear a thermometer, not a thermostat.” I use this metaphor. A thermometer reacts to the environment. Human beings react to the economy. Sometimes we react to how people treat us. We react to politics. A thermostat doesn’t react. It gauges the environment and knows what’s going on. It sets a temperature and then the environment reacts to it.
Going into the questions is the answer, many of those 60,000 thoughts come in the form of questions. You have a part of your brain called the reticular activating system, RAS for short. Our brain is primarily a deletion device. It’s trying to keep information out. At any given time, there are a billion different things we could pay attention to. We will go insane if we let everything in. It primarily filters information out, most of it. What it lets in are the things that keep us safe, the things that are tied to our emotions, and the things we ask questions about. The reason why it’s important to ask important questions is the information is out there.
For example, in the story I talked about in the book, my sister years ago would send me emails and postcards of a specific pug dog, a certain breed of dog. I was like, “They’re interesting looking.” My question was, “Why is she sending me these pug dogs?” I realized, “Her birthday is coming up.” She’s a great marketer, seeding her gift. The funny thing happened. I started seeing these dogs everywhere.
I would go to Erewhon and I’d be online and the person in front of me is holding a pug dog cashing out. I would be running in my neighborhood and somebody is walking six pug dogs. My question for everyone reading is, did the pug dog magically appear in my neighborhood? No. They were always there but they were part of the billion stimuli I was filtering out. I only let it in because I was asking questions about these dogs. The answers are always there.
Most people don’t have questions about what they’re reading. If you have questions and all of a sudden you’re reading, you’re like, “There’s a pug dog.” Even simple standardized tests, the basics for SAT prep is to read the questions first. Don’t read three pages of reading comprehension and then look at the ten questions and say, “That’s what they wanted me to know. Look at the questions first, prime your brain, and then you read and they’re like, “There’s one of the answers. There’s the answer. Questions are the answer.
That’s a great example of sometimes being like, “What am I looking for?”
“What am I not seeing?” The questions we ask direct our focus and the focus determines our reality. I’m curious if people screenshot this episode and tag us both in it. I’m curious to know what everyone’s dominant question is. Here’s a big takeaway out of the book. Out of all these questions that we ask all day, there’s one question we ask more than any other. A lot of times, we’re not even conscious when we ask it. This question is directing our life every single day.
For example, I have a friend and we found out that her dominant question that she asked all the time is, “How do I get people to like me?” No one who’s reading knows what this person looks like, their ethnicity, where they live, what they do for a job. You probably know a lot about her personality or life. If somebody is obsessed and asks herself 100 or 200 times a day, “How do I get people to like me?” What’s her personality like? That person is a people pleaser. Her personality changes depending on who she’s spending time with. She’s a martyr. People take advantage of her. She’s a sycophant.
You know all these different things. You know only one question she asked herself. My question for all of your readers is, what do you think your dominant question is? What’s the question that you’re asking all the time consciously or unconsciously that’s directing your life? I was with Will Smith for the launch of his book. I help actors speed read scripts, memorize the lines, be focused when they need to perform. His dominant question is, “How do I make this moment even more magical?”
That’s why he’s Will Smith.
Let me paint this picture. He’s filming at night, 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM in Toronto, and it’s the dead of winter. We’re outside shooting. His family is there from West Philly. We all know this story. We’re freezing outside. Everyone thinks it’s glamorous.
It is brutal. They’re paid because they got to wait around. That’s the worst.
[bctt tweet=”Your reading speed is limited to your talking speed but not your thinking speed.”]
Everyone’s hurrying up and Will is waiting. It’s cold and we’re shivering. During the break, he makes hot chocolate for us even when there’s a whole crew that would do that. He starts bringing us blankets. He starts cracking jokes. He starts telling stories. I realized when I’m watching this, I’m like, “He’s living his dominant question, ‘How do I make this moment even more magical?’” Ask and you shall receive. What do you think?
Do I have questions that I ask?
Yeah. It doesn’t have to be your most dominant. Maybe that’s 1, 2, or 3 questions that we ask.
For me, because I saw myself as broken, my question became, “How do I become invisible?” I started getting all these answers because I didn’t want to be called on. Later on, I started changing my question to, “How do I fix this?” I then started getting answers. I then said, “How do I make this better?” Every time I am anywhere, I always want to ask, “How do I make my relationship better? How do I make my health better? How do I make my learning better?” I started getting, “There’s the answer. There’s a pug dog.” There are a lot of different questions. These questions came through our life. Some people are like, “My dominant question is, why am I not enough?” If your question is, why am I not enough? You can imagine some people is. They’re getting answers, “It’s because of this.” That’s not useful at all.
When you said that, I was like, “I wonder what my question is?” There are two and one of them is, what’s the point? That’s terrible.
There are huge upsides in that too.
When I get into them, I’m like, “What are we doing here? What’s the point?” Sometimes you talk a lot about having a child’s mindset, openness, and playfulness. I have to watch that. You have to let things happen and see and be curious. I am curious. Sometimes I get curious and then I’m also like, “What’s the point?”
The other thing is, what’s the right way? I didn’t grow up with a lot of structure and parenting. I have an innate interest in trying to do the right thing for whatever reason. Also, it’s because I’m scared to break the universal rules. I’m smart enough to know. I don’t want to mess with that. It’s always like, “What is the right way? What’s the point?” That’s sexy, isn’t it?
There’s an upside too because it helps you to be able to filter things and save time. Even when you’re asking yourself, “What’s the right way?” It helps you to find the right way. Every question probably has a downside. Also, the presupposition is there’s only one right way. It could also blind us. My question for everybody is, what do you think is your dominant question? I would love for people to post a screenshot of this, tag us both, and post what they think their dominant question is so we could see it. I’ll repost some of my favorites. I’ll gift a copy of the book to somebody for being more engaged and playing along.
My other question for people is, with the people in your life like your husband or your children, what do you think their dominant question is? That would explain a lot of their behavior. It’s a fun thing to do and talk about it. There doesn’t have to be a process for finding your dominant question. Some people do it by journaling. Some people do it by meditation. Some people realize that when they’re stressed, where does their mind go? They’re paying attention to that voice inside. Usually, it comes out sometimes when under stress and you need to be able to be like, “I’m stressed. How do I get people to like me?”
It’s a default and to see if you can rejigger the default. Sometimes when somebody gives you a strategy, when you can’t do it naturally, you have a strategy to fall back on. You can even maybe do a question that you have ready, that might serve you, “How does it serve me?” When we talk about energy for the brain, you get into food and exercise. You do have something called Killing ANTs. I want to bring up the ants being Automatic Negative Thoughts. You cover the gambit.
The thing for me is there is a spirituality to this book. Even though there’s a lot of information and it’s laid out and spelled out, there’s something spiritual because it’s you checking in with you. You do this quite a bit in here. A lot of what you talk about is your belief system. Creating a new belief is an undertaking. How will we direct someone into saying, “Let’s create new BS.”
We could choose our belief systems. Even changing a belief is hard as a belief. We could be in this whole paradox. The term Killing ANTs, I borrowed it from a friend of mine, Dr. Daniel Amen. He’s a brain doctor who wrote Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, which is great. We know that the thoughts that we have affect how we feel. If I think all the time that I’m not enough, I’m not smart enough, or nobody likes me, it’s going to affect my behavior and everything else. How do you turn those negative ideas into something more positive?
We have a fifteen-minute show called Kwik Brain. In one of them, I was like, “It’s magic. What’s the phrase that you use when you do magic? It’s abracadabra. Everyone, remember ABRA.” When you have a negative thought or you even maybe some negativity in your body, maybe you have some angst. The A is you acknowledge it. Here’s the thing, a lot of people try to fight negative thoughts or fight negative feelings. What you resist sometimes persists, it fights back. If I try not to think of a big, pink giraffe, I’m going to think about it more. I try not to think negatively. Sometimes It’ll be more negative.
In ABRA, the A stands for acknowledging the pain, the angst, or the thought. The B is you breathe. Breathing is a wonderful way to bridge the conscious and the unconscious. Breathing is something we do unconsciously all the time and yet we have conscious control over it. That’s why with all of the ancient wisdom, a lot of it has to do with the power of breath, meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong. What I would say is breathe into that thought. Wherever you visualize that thought is or maybe some pain in your body, discover your body, breathe into it. You acknowledge it’s there and breathe into it.
The R in ABRA is to release. I want everyone, as they’re breathing in that part of their body or breathing that thought, you can inhale gratitude, you can exhale limitations or that negative thought. Visualization helps you to be able to see it and do it. That’s the release. The last A in ABRA, once you released, is align. Align more back to your true nature. Align more to your personal truth, which is usually the opposite of what that negative thought was. That’s one simple thing. In there, we have a way of adding doubt to a limiting belief. Maybe you doubt your beliefs. Instead of believing, you’re believing your doubts. It’s a process. The first step is self-awareness, know that you’re having those thoughts.
We have this person that dreams about who we are in our life. Sometimes we don’t think we should have the audacity. That’s why I’m always impressed when I meet people who are like, “I’m going to do I’m doing that.” I’m like, “That’s amazing.” They’re having ease with that. Sometimes you get into it. I don’t want to say it’s covering or overcompensating something else but I am amazed when people have it and be like, “I want to do that. I can do that. I’m going to go out there. I don’t even know how but I’ll give it a try.” You’re like, “That’s amazing.”
Do you have a mindfulness practice? Have you experimented with meditation?
More with breathing. I use breathing techniques in quiet time. For example, there’ll be people who do meditation. I will do breathing patterns. It isn’t always for counts but it’ll be longer inhales or exhales or things like that. I will do that for a set period of time. I’ve even learned active meditation because life gets busy. If I’m driving the car, I don’t have anything on. I’m scanning myself, my feelings, all of the dynamics. How am I feeling in my personal relationship? Am I checking how my kids are doing? It’s a scan of my life. I do that more often than anything else.
I call that active meditation where it’s like, “I have a few minutes. Let me check in.” Even if it’s like, “Do I have something unsaid to somebody? Do I need to have an uncomfortable conversation be it personally or professionally? Do I need to apologize to somebody?” Sometimes apologies don’t have to be big things. It’s like, “We talked on the phone earlier. I was acting in a weird way. I was distracted. Sorry about that.” It’s trying to stay on top of it. When things pop up, they’re clear because I’m trying to keep everything swept. When something arises, you’re like, “I got to take care of that.” I use that time more often. I use breathing.
In our house, we have businesses around breathing. It’s pretty funny. Breathing is the essence of life. One thing I love about breathing too is we can run or move at one pace and make our breath at a different pace. We’re the only animal that can do that. If a horse runs and then they pick up the pace, their breath picks up. It’s the same with a dog. We’re the only ones who can move our feet faster and slow our breath down if we wanted to. It’s an interesting tool because it’s free and you can do it anywhere. It’s important.
The breath is part of our autonomic nervous system. It’s something that we do unconsciously but we have conscious control over it. That’s amazing. I didn’t know that about the animals. Also, it’s interesting how you can bring mindfulness into daily activities. Eating could be a meditation. Most people, when they’re eating, it’s not just what you eat but it’s also how we’re doing it.
If they’re on their phone or doing other things, they’re not even present. They’re maybe not even tasting the food. Children are like this when they’re on their iPads and they’re glued to it. They’re not in the presence. It’s been shown that even if you have a cell phone and its face down at a dinner table, people still have some anxiety. Unconsciously, they need to grab it or check in on it.
You can bring mindfulness into brushing your teeth or driving and bringing presence into it. That’ll help you. Even remembering someone’s name, if we were mindful and present. Most people are not though. They’re thinking about, “How am I going to respond? Who else is in the room that’s important?” They’re not even present with somebody.
There’s another reason meditation is great. Going back to ANTs. I don’t meditate for enlightenment. Personally, that’s not a big drive for me. I do it because it’s an exercise for me to focus. Invariably, my mind will go somewhere and then I’ll bring it back to my breath or I’ll bring it back to a mantra. I’m flexing those focus muscles. We don’t meditate to control our thoughts. That’s what our heart does, our heart’s function is it beats. Our mind thinks. You can’t stop your thinking any more you could stop your heart from beating. I meditate not so much so I can control my thoughts.
I meditate so my thoughts don’t control me. You realize that when you’re doing this, these thoughts come like clouds and they pass by. We don’t have to be everything we think or believe everything we think. We’re separate from those thoughts. That helps you give some perspective to changing those negative limiting beliefs.
It’s interesting when you can have those moments of real honesty with yourself. What is liberating is when you can look at what you think is the worst thing about yourself or those feelings and be like, “Yes.” You almost allow it to start floating through the clouds. We get better at that. We don’t let the clouds land. We go, “This too is part of the experience. I don’t have to be defined by this. That’s okay That I felt that way.”
I love the process that you have. Many people want everything to be perfect. Learning and life are messy.
Life is a crap show.
Thinking is good but sometimes we fall into this overthinking and wanting everything to be perfect. It stops the progress before it even starts.
For me, I’m in pursuit. I want to learn. I want to be good at things. Simultaneously, I also know that everything I’ve ever learned was out of all the hard stuff and that the juicy stuff is in the messy, unknown, uncomfortable. I don’t want to invite that stuff into my life but I don’t want to push it away either. It’s getting a better relationship with it or managing it better or not beating myself up in the interim. I don’t know how we’ve gotten to a place in the world where it’s about this perfect veneer. The most badass people I know completely got their eyes locked in on the mess too, for real.
You do talk about habit loops, which I appreciate. I appreciated the Fogg behavioral model, want, innate, and now. Talking about this, I’m going to give people an overview of some other things. You do know Steven Kotler. You mentioned him. Steven told me a great story once. He interviewed Laird years ago and he said that Laird said, “The thing about flow is it is and you are and that’s that.” Steven was like, “I don’t know what this guy’s talking about.” What he found out later that I thought was interesting is that everything changes in life. Everything is changing, except the flow is always the same. I was like, “That makes sense.” He’s a dog person.
He’s got a whole sanctuary of dogs. Years ago, we did a brain-power conference, an annual one. I would encourage everybody to find out more about flow. We’ve interviewed him numerous times on our podcast. Flow is simply described as where you feel your best and you perform your best. It’s where you lose your sense of self and things are effortless. Also, you lose your sense of time. You don’t know how much time went by because you’re part of the experience.
It’s important though, these flow states. It’s like that zone where your level of challenge is matched almost by your level of capability, those two things. If you have too much challenge and too little capability, you’re overloaded and stressed. If you have too little challenge and too much capability, you’re bored. You’re not accessing the flow state. It’s a mix of challenge and stretching yourself with the right skillset.
I could be wrong but reading deeply into something at times, you go off into a place that is different but it feels sometimes similar to flow. I don’t know if it’s a journey because you leave the I more. You go into the information. You become a part of it. For me, with reading, that’s something I enjoy.
It could be therapeutic and healing. Steven talks about how he was going through some major health issues. Also, surfing.
It’s all-consuming, that’s the other thing. Studying, a few habits and techniques, you talk a lot about that. I appreciated one thing. This is for students, especially. When you’re note-taking, do that with real purpose. Don’t be like, “I’m taking notes. I’m highlighting everything.”
Studying techniques is important. A lot of people have to do that for school. A lot of people have to do it for their job and their careers.
How about lawyers? They blow up my mind.
Technical information or medicine, every field has information. That’s the thing, everybody who’s reading, for the most part, is paid for their mind power. It’s no longer brute strength but it’s our brain strength and getting your mind right and to be able to be an expert in our field. The more you can learn them, the more you can earn nowadays but it requires studying and practice. I would say a couple of quick tips.
We talked about the 25-minutes, studying in those intervals, taking a five-minute brain break. Certain music could enhance the study experience. We like to experiment with certain classical music that puts you into an alpha state, a brainwave state, which is that state of relaxed awareness where information could be encoded and stored a lot easier, specifically from the Baroque era like Handel and Vivaldi.
For some people, music is like a diet. For some people, kale is great but some people cannot digest kale. We’re all bio individuals. Some people like music in the background but for a lot of people, it’s distracting. It’s finding what works for you. Another thing you could do is take notes. I recommend handwriting notes over digital note-taking. Digital is great. You’re amazing. I’m impressed by your level of preparation.
When people do interviews with laptops, my head is exploding. I’m like, “How do they do that? It looks so organized.”
It’s wonderful that you have this and you also get to it but you learn so much in the process.
This isn’t about you or even the audience. I’m trying to get smarter. Now I have a reason.
I would selfishly do that also. I also have a podcast. I’m like, “I could do this and interview some amazing people and learn all the time and help other people also.” Digital note-taking is great for storage and sharing. With tests for comprehension and retention, handwriting notes do better. I would recommend a whole-brain note-taking technique.
It’s simple. You can even re-read this episode and start with this. Put a line right down the page. On the left side, capture. On the right side, create. The capture and create method. Meaning the left side is the logical left brain. Your note-taking. These are the different things that you’ve learned here. On the right side, you’re note-making. You’re creating. You’re writing your impressions of what you’re capturing.
Here are three questions to add to your dominant question. These questions are like a menu that you could call on. One is, how can I use this? That’s a wonderful way to take knowledge and turn it into real power. How can I use this when I’m learning? The second question is, why must I use this? Going back into getting your heart and purpose, because you don’t have a reason, you won’t get that result or that reward. The third question is, when will I use this?
One of the most powerful studying tools or productivity tools we have is our calendar. We put things in there, PTA meetings, investor meetings, or client meetings. When are we scheduling our implementation? When are we scheduling our own growth? If you don’t schedule your workout or your meditation, it’s probably not going to happen or it’ll come last. Part of self-care is realizing when you say yes to somebody or something and you’re not saying no to yourself. That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself before you can help somebody else.
The final thing, the fun thing that we had in that chapter and so many different study tips is the sense of smell. Here’s the thing, your olfactory sense, your sense of smell is the closest link to your memory. Maybe because you need to be able to smell something to know that food was rotten or there’s poison or something like that. How many people have a smell, a fragrance, or food that could take you back to when you’re a kid?
They’ve done studies where they’ll submerge people in a pool and they’ll give them a list of words to memorize. They’ll be going to have breathing apparatus. They’ll take them outside the pool and test them and see how many they remembered and then submerge them back underwater to see how many they’ll remember. In which environment do you think they remembered more when they were tested?
[bctt tweet=”I always thought that when you change the place that you’re in or you change the people you’re spending time with, it gives you a new point of view, maybe a fresh perspective.”]
I’m going to say under the water. I don’t know if it’s the stress of being under and they think, “If I get this, I can get out of here.” I’m not sure.
The researchers concluded that it was underwater. It was because you linked the environment to the information. The context got linked to the content. It’s interesting because what we realize with studying is if you study in the room you’re going to be testing in, you’re going to do better. Unconsciously, you’re going to associate all that environment to the information without trying. If you’re an actor standing on set or stage, if you’re preparing a TED Talk, rehearsing in that location, unconsciously, you link the memories to the lighting, the woodwork, and everything else. Most people can do that, to study where they need to perform.
My suggestion is to use that powerful sense of smell. What if you put on cologne, perfume, essential oil, or a lip balm that has this unique smell and when you need to perform it, you wear that same scent? That helps you to bring back a lot of those memories. The book, Limitless, is full of those little brain cracks. These little tips add up to a big advantage. They’re simple to be able to employ.
They are simple but you made them very simple. We won’t get into it but Be SUAVE and all these things with remembering names, you’ve made a lot of information easy to put into play.
That’s my goal. My goal is to fill in the education gaps that we had in going through school and to teach them this thing called meta-learning. We heard a lot about meta. Meta-learning is learning how to learn. Metacognition is thinking about our own thinking. Metamorphosis is the process of this transformation. My goal is to be able to do that. Growing up with a brain that was below what people call normal and then eventually going somewhere else is to be able to build a brighter world one brain at a time. That’s the mission.
Going back to Be SUAVE , people are like, “What’s that?” If people go to my Linktree, there are three videos. We pull people on stage and I’ll show you how to remember their name using that technique. The S in there stands for saying the name. That U is using it in a conversation and not abusing it. The A is asking about a name, which is great to do when the name is a little different than the name you’ve heard before. What’s the origin? How do you spell it? What does it mean?
The V is a process I teach in there on how to visualize a person’s name so it sticks. The E is ending with the person’s name. We could walk into a room and meet twenty strangers and leave saying goodbye to all twenty by their name. They’re all going to remember you. It’s one of the most important business etiquettes in networking skills there is.
How are you going to show somebody you’re going to care for their future, their health, their finances, their family, or whatever it is you offer them if you don’t care enough to remember their name? You can go to someone and say, “Justine, it’s nice to meet you.” It’s more endearing. What’s the message we send to somebody when we forget their name?
You’re not worth remembering.
It doesn’t matter what you say after that.
Do you ever have people that you can never remember their names because you don’t have chemistry with them? I don’t waste time having negative thoughts about people I’m not interested in. What’s the point? Sometimes if I meet people and I don’t have chemistry, which is my philosophical way of saying, “I don’t jive with them,” I probably don’t like them, I can never remember their name because I’m putting it out. I’m like, “That’s negative. Get that out.”
I would agree with that. A lot of us have to have that algorithm in our minds also as well.
Have you ever learned somebody’s name the wrong way? For some reason, you thought Rob was Bob and then you can never get it right that he’s Rob. You’re like, “Bob.” It’s like, “No, it’s Rob.” You’re like, “Fifteen years of that.”
The art of forgetting is a different strategy.
I have that in speed and I’m a girl, which is unusual. Laird’s always like, “Women never forget.” It’s like, “Get me the head on the platter.” “You can have the kingdom.” “No, I want the head on the platter.” He’s like, “Women never forget.” I’m like, “We do.” We’re moving on. It’s better. Everything’s changing.
I have a couple more questions about education. You talked about meta-learning and the fact that learning is not passive. At least at the university level, is there a shift? Do we think this is going to happen? It’s a little harder in unified school districts to have a lot of change. It seems a little harder, at least in the public school arena. Do we think universities might be changing it up? Do we know?
This is a big conversation.
Computers and jobs are changing and all this stuff.
We live in an age of autonomous electric cars. Spaceships are headed to Mars. Often, our vehicle choice when it comes to education is more of a horse and buggy. It’s not a slight against teachers. I have the highest respect for teachers and educators. My mother became a school teacher. She started in special ed and did many decades until she retired. Teachers are the most compassionate, caring, capable individuals. They’re not compensated as maybe they should be. It’s a system issue like a lot of systems. It’s not a political system or financial. There are a lot of systems that need to upgrade and need disruption.
With education, a lot of people asked me, “Why are you in school?” They thought this was the way so you can get a good job and go through this process. The truth is a lot of people who graduate from school don’t go into the field that they had originally studied in. They’re not guaranteed a job. They’re in a lot of debt, which could take them decades to be able to get out of with student loans and so on. I want my medical doctor or lawyer to go to school and get that education.
My thing with school in all grades, take it from elementary to graduate to all the way through, social-emotional learning is missing in our school system. Learning how to learn is the most important because if you learn how to do those five superpowers, focus, study, read better, and remember things, think critically, then you could apply that towards everything. Everything gets easier. Money management, martial arts, music, marketing, every subject gets a whole lot easier if you can do those things. I would like to see that upgrade in terms of curriculum.
I would also say that this generation is growing up with swipes, digital, texting, and everything. Video games are going a million miles an hour. I don’t think being sit down and being lectured to is the best way to learn because they get bored. They’re used to so much stimulus growing up in this digital age. Teaching real-world skills would have been useful back in school. It would be useful to learn about taxes. That would have been useful for me back in school. There’s no quadratic equation season but they’re certainly tax season. That would have been a lot more useful for a lot of us like financial literacy.
Relevance is one of the things that’s key when we’re learning. Some students, whatever age, don’t learn well because they don’t see how they’re going to apply it to the world. It’s some form of apprenticeship or experiential learning where it’s not being lectured to. The human brain doesn’t learn best through consumption. The human brain learns better through creation, co-creation, and creativity.
You talk about teaching too. You bring this up in another way, which is a form of creation. When you’ve learned something, you have to explain it like you did when you were in college. You taught this idea of some of the stuff that you came upon to those 110 people the first time. It’s to teach it because then you remember it better.
It’s something called the Explanation Effect. If somebody were to re-read this conversation and they had to give a TEDx Talk or they had to teach their children it, they would learn it better. They would focus better. They would take more notes. They would ask more questions on social media. They would own it. When you have to explain it to somebody else, you get to learn it better. That can be done in a classroom where students are teaching other students also.
This is a deep conversation. My thing is integrating even new technologies in the classroom. There’s so much technology that’s there for entertainment purposes but what if you could gamify a classroom? Also, people are respecting their learning styles. You mentioned that some people are dyslexic, people have ADD or ADHD. With the people who go through my courses, we have students in every country, 195 nations. We have a strength-based approach. Some of the most incredible people that I know have dyslexia.
The people I know that are dyslexic, the way that they view the world is unique to them. There’s something.
They can produce unique results because of it. If people went online and googled famous dyslexic people, you’ll see some amazing people and what they’ve accomplished in every field, science, and fashion.
It’s not like, “One group gets over here.” You’re talking about it across the board.
Even when we were talking about learning styles, you mentioned Laird, some people learn through physicality. You mentioned boys specifically. At least when I was growing up, those are the ones that were punished. How do you punish them? You take away their ability to go outside and do recess and use that excess energy and everything. They make them sit.
They make them nuttier.
Some people we know learn better through physicality, through getting their hands dirty and involved.
I want to start to wrap it up. Maybe we can run through it because I love this concept of hats.
This one got a lot of shares on Kindle and social media. In each of the chapters on superpowers, focus, study, memory, speed reading, one of the chapters is on critical thinking, our ability to think well and clear and solve problems and make good decisions. Our life is the total of all the decisions we’ve made up to this point. Who are we going to marry? What are we going to eat? Where are we going to live? What are we going to do for a career? All those things add up. How do people make those decisions? How do people solve problems?
In the book, I introduced a framework from Edward de Bono and it’s called Six Thinking Hats. This is a great framework to solve problems, to make better decisions. I want everyone who’s reading to think about a decision or dilemma you have. Everybody, think of something. You don’t have to share it on social. Something that you’ve been putting off that’s important. It doesn’t have to be a big life decision but something that’s there. We can make this practical.
I want you to imagine in front of you six hats, six different colors. I’ll explain what the colors are. The idea here is, a lot of times, we can make a good decision or solve a problem because we’re always wearing the same metaphorical hat. You’ll see what I mean when I tell you what each of these colors means. This gives you permission to see something from a new point of view and make a clear decision or solve a problem from another perspective.
I want you to imagine the first hat as the white hat. I want everyone to reach out in front of you, grab the white hat, and put it on. With the white hat, when you’re looking at this decision and the situation, you have to look at it logically. This white hat stands for information. It stands for data. Since I’m the memory expert, I’ll give you a little mnemonic to remember everything. White like a scientist’s lab coat. When you put on the white hat, it’s like wearing a lab coat and you go into logic, facts, data. You look at this decision and have all the facts through that lens.
I have some emotional friends and they need the white hat.
That’s the point of this, many people lean towards one hat and they can never see it from another point of view. When you do this exercise and you play and use your imagination, you give yourself permission, “It’s not me thinking this. This is the hat.” Take off the white hat and grab the emotional hat, the red hat. Now you’re feeling this situation. What emotions come out with both the situation and also the potential solutions? How do you feel about this? With the red hat, you’re not looking at it logically at all. You’re looking like your friends too, these specific friends, emotionally. How do you feel? The memory tip is it’s red like the human heart, emotions.
Take off the red hat. We’re doing this to fast forward. We got much more detail in the book. I want everyone to grab the yellow hat. When you put on the yellow hat, it’s like sunshine, it’s optimism. What are all the benefits, all the upside? A lot of people only see things from that point of view. They invest in something, “Look at all the money I can make doing this investment.” They never see the risk. This yellow hat, you look at everything upside, everything’s positive.
Take off the yellow hat. Everyone, grab the black hat. You put on the black hat. The yellow was like the sun, optimistic and shiny. The black hat is the critic. What could go wrong here? Some people live with the black hat on. Everything is wrong. You can only see the wrong. There are certain benefits of having that. I get this question a lot. People see photos of me with Oprah or Elon or these individuals. We bonded over books. Leaders are readers.
Even if you look at Richard Branson, people see he’s adventurous. He looks at the risk when he looks at his companies and investments. That’s the black hat. That’s the critic. If you’re looking at the business plan, that’s the yellow upside, all the money that you’re going to make when this gets acquired or whatever. You’re looking at the critic, what are all the things that could go wrong here? What are the threats and weaknesses? That’s the black hat.
Finally, after you’re done, you put that down, and then you only have two more hats. You put on the green hat. The black hat is the judge’s robe. That’s where you’re judging everything. The green hat is like green grass and that’s a new possibility. This is your creativity hat. For most people, maybe their decision is whether or not to go to school or to start this job. A green hat would be like, “Maybe there’s a third possibility. Maybe I could start my own business or something else.” It’s entertaining new creativity.
Finally, take the green hat off. That’s green growing plants. Put on the last half, which is the blue hat. The blue hat, I always put last. The blue hat is like the sky, it manages everything else. The blue hat listens to all the answers that the five other hats came up with and then makes the decision. The great thing about this technique is you can use it for decision-making and problem-solving.
You can use this even as team activities or with your family. You could sit around the dining room table and say, “Everyone, grab a hat.” This is the vacation that we want to do. I have all the kids, one has a yellow hat, a white hat, a red hat. You switch hats. Maybe everyone puts on the red hat together. You can do this with teams also as well for creativity and thought experiments. It gives you permission. That’s the whole thing, to be somebody else when you put this hat on.
In a way, you had to learn that because you’re oftentimes working in a place that’s opposite and counter to who you are at your core.
We were talking about that before we started recording.
You’re an introvert. We’re saying, “Get up on stage and talk to everybody. Teach us.” You’re sitting here talking to me about all this. It is also one of the other hats to share and to help other people, make their lives better, give them tools because you’ve experienced that. When you’re up there and you are in that moment, which also is against certain natural traits of yours, are you exactly where you’re supposed to be? When you’re there, are you like, “Yes, I’m uncomfortable and this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
Yes. It’s hard for me to go do these videos and podcasts than to go onstage. I do it because I feel like I have a moral responsibility to do so. Shame on me if somebody’s suffering and struggling in these areas and I don’t do something to support them. When I do step on stage, I light up a different part of me that’s not always throughout my day. It’s completely fulfilling. I’m growing. I’m giving. I’m in the flow state. I feel purpose. I don’t want to live in that place all the time.
I was having a conversation with Susan Cain and Simon Sinek. Susan Cain wrote a great book on introverts called Quiet. Many people know Simon Sinek from Start with Why. They both have huge TED Talks. They were describing an introvert as somebody who wakes up every morning and they have five gold coins and these are energy coins. Every single time they interact with somebody, they give up one of their coins to that person. Eventually, they’re out of coins and they have to go home and replenish and recover.
An extrovert is someone different. An extrovert wakes up and they have no gold coins. They have to go out and be around people and that’s how they get charged and they get coins. An introvert and extrovert are more about how you recover and how you gain energy. I expend a lot of energy on stage and then afterward, talking to everybody. I then need some time to replenish and recover.
Jim, I enjoyed both books. If you’re going to take 30 years to write the first one, I should do it twice. I want to encourage people to read Limitless. You can find it on audio or online. You can get it where books are found. Can you remind people of all the places? You have so much content and so many free lectures. We talked about the speed reading course that’s free. Remind people of all the places they can connect with you.
Thank you for having me. I lost time when we were having this conversation. I didn’t realize how much went by. We’re all on the journey to realize and reveal our fullest potential. We’re on this quest to be able to do that, to discover and develop our superpowers and our purpose. Our mind is one of the starting points. People grossly underestimate what it’s capable of. If people want to find out more about what they could do and unlock more of their superpowers to have greater confidence and focus and abilities, the best place to go to is my Linktree.
95% of everything out there that we put out is free. That link is on my Instagram, @JimKwik. That’s my last name, my father’s name, my grandfather’s name. I didn’t change it. People think, “That’s a great acting name or stage name.” I had to be a runner back in school. I got a lot of speeding tickets. I can’t talk my way out of a ticket when it says Kwik right on my driver’s license. You can go to my Linktree. The link is on Instagram.
We have a one-hour masterclass on speed reading and smart reading, three free videos on how to remember speeches without notes, the ten keys I have for brain-power, and also how to remember names and faces for free. There are also links there to our YouTube and our podcasts. If people want to go deeper into the book, it’s LimitlessBook.com.
We donate 100% of the proceeds to charity. We’ve donated hundreds and thousands of dollars to Alzheimer’s research for women in memory of my grandmother. We build schools everywhere from Guatemala to Kenya to Ghana. We fully built the schools, teachers, health care, clean water that keeps girls and boys from going to school. Our mission is no brain left behind. If you want to join us on this mission, please share this episode with people.
We’re talking about mindset, motivation, and methods. Most people are downgrading their dreams because of the situation of the environment and everything going on with the world. Now’s not the time to shrink. I know what shrinking is like. I spent most of my time as a student doing that. Now’s the time to be able to step up. Don’t downgrade your dreams. Upgrade your mindset and your motivation. Upgrade the methods we’re using to be able to meet our destiny.
I feel strongly that life is like an egg. If an egg is broken by an outside force, what happens? Life ends. If an egg is broken by an inside force, life is hatched, it begins. Great things begin on the inside. If people are still reading this, they have greatness inside of them. Now is the time to let it out. Many times, we dim our light because it’s shining in somebody else’s eyes because we don’t want to make them feel bad or something. Now’s the time to be an example for them. You inspire people with your grid and your grace. Let’s do this. Let’s be limitless.
Learn, earn, and return. I appreciate that. I appreciate your time. You gave me two of your gold coins. Thank you for that.
My treasure chest is filled. Thank you so much, Gabby.
I appreciate it.
Thanks so much for reading. If you’d like, rate, subscribe, and leave us a review. All of my music was graciously done by Frank Zummo and Tom Thacker. If you want to see some of the behind-the-scenes action, follow me, @GabbyReece. Remember, don’t miss new episodes every Monday.
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About Jim Kwik
For the past three decades, Jim taught his learning techniques to students from universities such as NYU, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and Singularity, as well as executives and employees from companies such as Nike, GE, Zappos, SpaceX, and Virgin to get the most out of work and life.
Jim was once known as the “boy with the broken brain.”
A childhood head injury at age five left him struggling in school. For a while, he even believed he could never be as good as other kids when it came to learning.
Jim loved superheroes as a kid – and comic books saved him when conventional education couldn’t. Comic books taught Jim how to read…and they also kept his dreams alive that one day he, too, would find his inner superpower.