Do you want more money, freedom, a new job, a new car, a home, or more stuff? I have come to realize that most people obsess over the same things: comfort and conveniences. We are exposed, on average, to 5,000 marketing messages per day! If we want more of anything, we must ignore these persistent and relentless distractions that seek our attention to get more of what they want from us. We must also learn to shut off our prehistoric brain that is hard-wired directly to our nervous and emotional centers. Wild animals have the natural instincts to eat, avoid being eaten, get all they can, and reproduce. Do they have the ability to set goals, control their urges, or manage their emotions? Of course not. You and I have the same primitive, fight-or-flight operating system running in the background at all times. To move away from seeking more and into delivering value, we must learn to use our reasoning brain (prefrontal cortex) instead of our prehistoric lizard brain. How can we do this?
First, accept that you have two operating systems continually battling to control your actions through your emotions.
The lizard brain will constantly and relentlessly pressure you to seek comfort and convenience. The rational brain will work together with the lizard brain to justify being lazy, greedy, and selfish. They are, for most of us, in continuous collusion. The beginning of increasing the value we deliver is understanding and accepting this battle within.
Second, always ask yourself why?
This is an effort to begin understanding your underlying motives. To begin taming the prehistoric brain, we must learn our motives and what we react to versus respond. The difference between reacting and responding is choice. Choosing a response often means that we have allowed the rational brain to consider the best options to ensure a desired outcome.
Third, think about your thinking.
What is the main driver for how you respond or react? Do you get defensive because you were ignored growing up and are emotionally insecure? This step is all about understanding and self-discovery. Often, our need for validation and significance is driven by our insecurities that trigger our response to every challenge that arises in our lives.
It is essential to conceptually understand that we have two operating systems running the show. Change is most effective when we know what we are changing. If we desire to make better choices, we must understand the rationalization of our decisions. In other words, we need to understand the motives and underlying emotions directing our decision. Like it or not, every decision we make is emotionally driven and intellectually rationalized.
Increase your value to the marketplace.
Let’s conceptualize our value as being a ladder. Each rung of the ladder represents an increase in our value to the marketplace. Remember that the market only rewards value (no points for showing up). It is possible to skip a rung, but the usual progression is one rung at a time. You know what is cool about the ladder? It never ends. There is no top and there is always another rung. The infinite ladder is so exciting because it means there is no limit to the value you can deliver. Another cool thing about the ladder is that each rung gets easier to reach the higher you go. The bottom of the ladder is the most difficult to climb. Why is that so? The gravity of being average. It is likely that you have spent the majority of your life in this extraordinary world being average. The pull toward average makes it very difficult to pull yourself up onto the next rung above average. Each rung requires a new level of mastery to reach.
Consider some of the most successful or impactful people in history, including Steve Jobs, John D. Rockefeller, Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King, Jr., and hundreds like them. Each of these people had tremendous success in their area of focus because they obsessed over the details, identified what mattered, and connected the dots to ensure the desired outcome.
Increase your capacity to deliver value.
How many decks of cards could you memorize in order? Dave Fanow had an average memory before he began to increase its capacity. Early in his life, Dave was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and dyslexia. His desire to overcome challenges motivated him to begin working on his memory. He now holds the Guinness World Record for most decks of cards memorized in a single sighting (59). How did he do it? He did it the same way that every person does it: practice. The way we increase our capacity is through consistent practice. Instead of just studying what it takes to improve his memory, Dave did the work by using his memory.
There are two types of learning: active and passive. Studying by listening or reading has only a 15% effectiveness rating when it comes to comprehension. In other words, we only retain 15% of what we put into our brains. Listening and reading are passive learning activities. Students that practice what they have learned retain up to 75% of what they have been taught. Wow! Increasing our capacity is only possible through consistent practice. The next level takes place when we can begin teaching others. When we teach others, we can retain 90% of the learning! Learn, apply, and teach. If you want to elevate the value you bring to the market or even just to your family, share what you are learning. Teaching is so effective because it requires a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Knowing “how” is one thing but explaining “why” is whole another level.
Cultivate your imagination and creativity.
Yes, it is possible to improve your imagination and creativity by practicing every day and giving yourself grace. The best strategy for cultivating creativity is intentionally taking the time to write, speak, think, paint, and improvise every single day. My writing began as an everyday journaling practice. Another strategy for cultivating your imagination and creativity is to study creative people. You will discover that there is no magic to creative genius because those that have it have likely been practicing it their entire lives. Trial and error hone our skills. The media would have us believe that the latest pop star was an overnight success or that the company that is changing how we do business came out of nowhere. Success in creative endeavors is never immediate. It took countless hours of effort to build the skill of creative genius. There are few exceptions to the rule. When you study how others succeeded in developing their abilities, you can begin to apply techniques they practiced to cultivate their imagination.
Achieving mastery is only possible when you decide to stop seeking comfort, convenience, and money; and start focusing on growing your capacity and ability to deliver value in the service of others.
Understand the battle that is continuously taking place in your mind. The higher self and primitive self are always at odds. Your role is to make it easier for the higher self to win more often. Grab the first rung on the ladder that is labeled the “rung of responsibility.” Nothing can happen until you grab that first rung. You will need to grow your ability to pay attention to detail and connect the dots between the details that will lead to the desired outcome. Delivering more value requires that we build our capacity through the use of active learning practices. Take it in and share it to grow your capacity in providing value as a subject matter expert. Lastly, expand your imagination and creativity by implementing a regular practice of thinking freely and building ideas. If you haven’t achieved a level of mastery in your craft, you don’t lack capacity. You might just be losing the battle with your primitive brain. Remember that the market only rewards value, so if you want more, you must increase the value you deliver to the world.