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Entrepreneurial Success Starts With Training Your Brain

Entrepreneurial Success Starts With Training Your Brain

Have you ever read about the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur and wondered if you really have it in you to be one? On a bad day, many of us fall prey to self-doubt. The good news is that even if we fall short of certain qualities, it’s not the end of the world! Science tells us that we have the ability to turn ourselves into the people we want to be thanks to the wonderful phenomenon called neuroplasticity!

In fact, our brains can be thought of as malleable plastic — they are constantly being changed by our day-to-day experiences. In scientific terms, neuroplasticity refers to the “rewiring” of the neurons that process and transmit information in the brain, and the alterations that occur at synapses (the gaps between neurons that allow for information to be transmitted between them).

When it comes to neuroplasticity, one of the key things to keep in mind is that neural pathways (paths that connect different areas of the brain and nervous system) can not only be created at will, but can also be eliminated. Every time we learn something new or have a novel idea, a new pathway is created. The more we use this pathway (through practice and repetition), the firmer and more ingrained it becomes; likewise, the less we use it, the weaker it becomes, until it is eventually forgotten.

Neuroplasticity is important because it shows:

1. It’s hard to change a mindset and its accompanying habits, but it’s possible: think of your brain as host to countless nerve battles. Studies have shown that it is actually more difficult to unlearn a bad habit than it is to learn a new one — this is called competitive plasticity. The more we repeat a bad habit, the more control it has over a brain map; so naturally, old bad habits have a competitive edge over our new ones; the important thing is to keep going — your new habits will eventually win the battles!

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2. You always have the power to change yourself: No matter how old you are, deliberate practice, as well as rest and maintenance, can result in successful neuroplasticity. So if you think you can’t change the way you think, you are the only one standing in your way.

Do successful entrepreneurs think differently?

So our brains can be trained, but is there one specific entrepreneurial mindset that we need to aim for in order to become successful? While there isn’t one specific key to success, studies have shown that successful entrepreneurs do tend to have some cognitive processes in common.

1. An ambidextrous mind

An ambidextrous mind is one that is able to strategically go back and forth between two problem-solving strategies:

1. exploration (this is a creative approach in which your mind explores innovative new solutions/alternatives to problems)

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2. exploitation (this is a more logical approach in which your mind uses existing information in the most efficient way possible).

Research conducted by a team of MIT researchers suggests that being a successful entrepreneur doesn’t simply mean having the ability to switch between strategies, but also knowing the most optimal time to do so — it’s all in the timing!

2. The ability to embrace change and challenges

The brain scans of 30 entrepreneurs were compared to those of 30 non-entrepreneurs while they carried out various activities. It was evident in the study that when it came to rapid problem-solving, timely risk assessment, embracing challenges and seizing opportunities, successful entrepreneurs could be counted on to come first in a series of tasks.

Both of the above two points rely heavily on a person’s mindset. Want to have the mindset of a successful entrepreneur? You’ve got to work for it!

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Become the architect of your brain

In order to build up our physical muscles, we train them through a variety of physical exercises — we shouldn’t treat the brain any differently! Training the brain with mental exercises will help your neurons to develop stronger connections, and will prepare your brain to accept new connections a lot easier. Below are three ways that you can get started on training your brain for success.

1. Brain training games

There are hundreds of different games available that allow you to work on important brain functions such as memory; you can improve your intelligence while actually having fun! Lumosity is one such tool that encompasses a variety of games and activities for different aims and objectives; Brain Metrix is another.

2. Awareness

You have around 60 000 thoughts bombarding your mind every day, and you need to be aware of the ones that limit you. You need to be aware of your thoughts, (which collectively means your mindset) and catch the ones that are not aligned with your goals and then, replace it with one that is. YES, you will need to do this over and over again, but eventually, the new will become the old.

3. Mindset reinforcing tools

Consistently reinforcing your desired behavior and beliefs is crucial if they’re ever to become second nature to you. Repeating the thoughts you want to have and using tools that allow for subliminal messages of your choice to appear on your computer screen, for example, will allow you to work on making the necessary changes to your subconscious mind (the power of which should not be underestimated).

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4. Rest and sleep

In his studies of neuroplasticity, Norman Doidge observed the “Monday effect.” He noticed that the plasticity mechanisms being used by the participants on Mondays versus Fridays were markedly different. While the changes on Friday had more to do with strengthening neuron pathways, the changes on Monday had more do with the formation of new ones that took longer to form, but were more permanent.

Put simply, having a well-rested brain won’t necessarily help you learn things quicker, but it will help you make more permanent changes! Getting enough sleep, meditating and not being too hard on yourself can make a huge difference.

When it comes to neuroplasticity, learning how to keep going is key. Find the right techniques for you, keep at them and you’re eventually going to see results — science is on your side!

Featured photo credit: http://getrefe.tumblr.com/ via 66.media.tumblr.com

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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