Quotes That Support the Need for Brain Training

February 15th, 2013 Kevin No comments

Here are a few favorite quotes from authors and researchers whose work supports the need for brain training. I open with a joke that involves, of course, talking lab rats.

Two Rats Walk Into A Lab

Two rats walk into a lab and one says to the other: “You know, I’ve got that guy wearing the white coat over there really well trained.” His buddy, amused, asks: “Oh yeah, how’s that?” The first says to his mate: “Watch this. Every time I push this buzzer here, [a brief pause occurs] … here he comes with my snack, just like that! Life is so simple.”

If Only Life Were So Simple

Everyone who’s struggled with weight gain, depressive thoughts, or unexplainable behavior like emotional outbursts, in other words most of us, knows life is not simple.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Life experiences train our brains a certain way and after a while, that training sticks. After that it can be very hard to change. But one day, something can happen that will change your brain for the better and help you guide it to where you want to go. Scientists like those quoted below are beginning to share the problem of our brains on autopilot and hint at some solutions. And so, we don’t have to be pushing buttons or getting our buttons pushed: we can choose another way. Specifically, we can get the treats we want in life when we take more control over how our brains work.

In that spirit, here are some quotes that support the need for brain training. Enjoy!

The Quotes

Control Matters

Everything we experience – joy or pain, interest or boredom – is represented in the mind as information. If we are able to control this information, we can decide what our lives will be like. — M. Csikzsentmihalyi, Flow, p. 6

Choice Of What We Control Matters Most

S. Covey referring to Victor Frankl, “Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.” — S. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 69

We Do Not Control Most Of What We Do

The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control. … Our brains run mostly on autopilot, and the conscious mind has little access to the giant and mysterious factory that runs below it. — D. Egilman, Incognito, p. 4-5

The brain, like the rest of our bodies, acts on its own before we become consciously aware of its actions. “Free will” may involve more of a veto power prior to action/inaction than the other way around. — M. Gazzaniga, The Ethical Brain, p. 93

Others See Our Lack Of Control Before We Do

As Donald Hebb… pointed out, outside observers are often more accurate in characterizing emotional feelings than the experiencing subject. … Hebb noted that when observers agree and the subject disagrees about an emotional state, the conclusion of the observers is often a more reliable predictor of future behavior. — J. LeDoux, Synaptic Self, p. 202

And We Tend To Overrate And Overestimate Our Abilities

In social psychology experiments, people consistently overrate their own skill, honesty, generosity, and autonomy. They overestimate their contribution to a joint effort, chalk up their successes to skill and their failures to luck, and always feel that the other side has gotten the better deal in a compromise. — S. Pinker, The Blank Slate, p. 265

Control Increases When We Learn To Take Charge Of What We Focus Upon

Remember that it’s an attention economy in the brain: where we put our focus determines the wiring that we create. — D. Rock, Quiet Leadership, p. 127

Mindful Intention Requires A Lot Of Energy

An easy way to stress people out is to make them do too much at once. Planning, decision-making, and other aspects of mental life suffer when the executive [brain] is overloaded. — J. LeDoux, Synaptic Self, p. 179

Threats Can Ruin Everything

When we encounter a threat, we tend to be so focused on our own anxiety that we’re not good for much else. Everything except our own needs goes out the window: someone in emotional distress is not likely to care about, or even notice, the needs of anyone else. — S. Begley, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, p. 193

Paying Attention Triggers Lots Of Related Networks

Even when we “merely” think about an object, we tend to reconstruct memories not just of a shape or color but also of the perceptual engagement the object required and of the accompanying emotional reactions, regardless of how slight. — A. Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens, p. 148

Memory Is Selective And Reconstructive

[Memory is] a reconstruction of facts and experiences on the basis of the way they were stored, not as they actually occurred. And it is a reconstruction by a brain that is different from the one that formed the memory. — J. LeDoux, Synaptic Self, p. 97

Control Requires Us To Shift Energy From One Area In The Brain To Another

[Work in LeDoux's lab] suggests that the prefrontal cortex and amygdala are reciprocally related. That is, in order for the amygdala to respond to fear reactions, the prefrontal region has to be shut down. By the same logic, when the prefrontal region is active, the amygdala would be inhibited, making it harder to express fear. — J. LeDoux, Synaptic Self, p. 217

Creating New Habits Can Enhance Our Control Over Our Life Goals

To improve people’s performance help find new ways to approach situations that leave existing habits and brain wiring where they are. Allow for the development and hard-wiring of new habits. — After D. Rock, in his book, Quiet Leadership

We Take Control Of Our Brains By Rephrasing, Redirecting, and Refocusing

To help people find solutions, help them rephrase what they desire rather than what they do not want, help redirect their attention from the past to the future, and discuss what is present rather than what is absent. — After B. O’Hanlon, Do One Thing Different

Wrapping Things Up

In multiple locations elsewhere in this blog, I support the work of these scientists by proposing practical solutions. The number one theme? Get involved. Get involved with how your brain works and try news things out. Wish to stop the inside chatter? Try calculating some simple math equations. Want to get to sleep, visualize all the animals in the zoo, favorite ones first. Have a sincere desire to stop feeling sad or angry about someone? Offer an imaginary loving hug to him or her with muscles of your arms, chest and face flexing in your mind’s eye. These and more brain-focused tactics can become the tools of the trade for you as you embark upon a journey to get along better with and guide your brain to a happy and successful future.


Kevin Leahy,

Brain Trainer, Knowledge Advocate, LLC, Austin, TX

Categories: Brain power, People Tags:

Communicating with the Social Brain in Mind

December 7th, 2012 Kevin No comments

What’s this post about?

Two things: (1) communicating with others with (2) the social brain in mind.

Isn’t the social brain the whole brain?

The social brain is mostly the whole brain. That being said, there are specific areas that are more closely associated with being social; we are very social creatures.

Such as?

We have things called mirror neurons. Where they occur tends to become hotspots in the brain for connecting what is going on with others, whether it be their actions or, as we are finding out, their emotions and intentions as well.

Any other areas?

Researchers have located parts of the brain devoted to something they call “theory of mind.” They use this term to refer to what happens when we are thinking and feeling about what others must be thinking and feeling. The areas involved in doing this are part of the social brain too.

Any other areas?

Yes. Parts of our brains form something researchers call the “default mode network,” where self-focused ruminations, day dreams, and things like that occur; some parts here overlap with the mirror systems and the theory of mind network as well.

Your point is that these areas combine to form the social brain?

Yes: these are hot spots that fire up when we are being social.

So how does communicating with these parts in mind fit in?

We call on these areas and networks when we try and figure out our own actions as well as the actions of others. Understanding what you and others are thinking and feeling becomes critical during conversations; the more we know of ourselves and others during the conversation, the better we will do, all things being equal.

Seems pretty straight forward?

Well. Not so fast. The social brain areas also hold the biases we have in life about ourselves and others. We have so many, I have dubbed us “homo biased sapiens.

Homo biased sapiens, that’s not nice!

Well, when we accept our biased nature as given we take the first step toward communicating better with others. These biases include things like hindsight bias (I knew that was going to happen), self-serving bias (I believe this because it serves me best), and consistency bias (what happened before is likely to happen again). There are many many more, researchers have identified more than 30.

Are you saying biases gets in the way of communicating well with others?

Absolutely. A big part of why we fail to communicate well with others has to do with our inability to deal with our own biases, or, the biases of those with whom we talk.

Do you teach what to do about these biases?

Yes. Right now I offer an informal class at University of Texas, Austin, on this topic.

Well, what do you teach?

I suggest that we can rely more on our inhibitory network as a conversation unfolds to help us stay in the most open-minded and understanding state of mind possible.

Well, that’s no help… first, what is the inhibitory network?

The inhibitory network helps us inhibit our automatic actions. It includes the areas in the frontmost part of our brains (the lower, middle, and upper to the sides parts).

Second… how do I activate it?

You activate these areas when you do things like reconsider, reappraise, and relabel what is happening during your talks. Take time, reflect, get more energy up front!

So if I step away from automatic assumptions, I use the front of my brain?

As a general rule, that is true. Spotting new perspectives happens best up front.

Please summarize this post for me?

Sure. We communicate better with each other when: (1) we understand how the social brain works; (2) accept that it comes equipped with lots of biases; and (3) use our inhibitory network in the frontmost part of our brains to make sure we see other perspectives and understand more broadly what’s being said and why as we talk.

That’s good to know; got any more advice on how to do that?

Embrace wonder. Seek sense before you try to make sense. Allow for a delay from the time you hear something until the time you assess its meaning. Ask questions when you do not understand something, or, when something hits you the wrong way. Remain open-minded by realizing you might be using a bias of your own in the talk.

Okay, thanks.

You are welcome. Good luck!

Kevin Leahy

Knowledge Advocate and Brain Trainer

Austin, Texas

Categories: Brain power Tags:

Upcoming Course on the Social Brain and Communication

November 17th, 2012 Kevin No comments

Does being more socially active improve my brain?

Absolutely. Being social increases your cognitive reserve so things like memory and the ability to process concepts will decline more slowly. Being social builds brain mass.

Do you have research that proves being social helps my brain as I age?

This article, titled “Late-Life Social Activity and Cognitive Decline in Old Age,” summarizes research to conclude: “…more socially active older adults experience less cognitive decline in old age.”

Article link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3206295/

If I maintain social contacts and socialize more often that helps my brain?

You bet.

You are offering a course on the social brain and communication?

Yes, through UT Austin’s Informal Classes program. I raise awareness about areas of the brain associated with social interactions and offer communication tactics to help you navigate your social interactions better.

Do you have a link for the course?

Here is the link for the course: http://cie.austin.utexas.edu/informalclasses/index.php/Communicating_with_Others_with_Your_and_Their_Brains_in_Mind/?num=IC13089

What will I learn about communicating with the social brain in mind?

We consider the following:

1) Being social reduces cognitive decline as we age

2) Some researchers have modified Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to place social needs at the base

3) Being social is critical for finding meaning and relevance in most of our lives

4) Social skills and large social networks depend on deep meaningful conversation

5) Deep meaningful communication requires intention, wonder, and good questions

6) Specific regions in the brain like the insula and temporoparietal junction are key to socializing well

7) When we use those regions skillfully the brain functions at its best

8) Evidence suggests that our ancestors succeeded because they were highly social

9) Our genes and environment wire our brains to require high quality social contact and we do poorly without it

10) Why people say what they say becomes more clear as we learn about the social brain

11) Knowing the social brain clues us in on why we or they say one thing and do another

12) We learn about “cognitive biases,” which are brain patterns with deep social roots

13) We learn communication techniques for dealing with these cognitive baises

14) Knowing how biases work reduces their force so we can connect with others and strengthen our bonds

Can you summarize the benefits of taking a class on the social brain?

We are social creatures. We rely on a vast brain network to socialize at our best. The communication piece is the key to this course’s value: when you know how the social brain works and how to accommodate it best using smart conversation abilities, you increase the depth, value, and amount of your social connections. Communicating with the social brain in mind increases your own personal meaning and also raises your relevance in the communities within which you work and live.

Thank you for the information.

You are welcome. I look forward to sharing this material with you.

Kevin Leahy

Founder and brain trainer, Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Categories: Brain power Tags:

Next Mind Athlete™ Session: October 16, 2012

September 18th, 2012 Kevin No comments

What is this post about?

This post announces the next Mind Athlete™ Program session. It will take place on October 16, 2012 and introduces you to ways to help train your brain to work better. Mind Athletes learn to listen deeply to their brains.

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Why should I attend the session?

You will learn tactics that improve how your brain works. With a better working brain, you will get better results at work and home, and get them with less hassle or heartache.

What specific benefits will I get?

* Reduced fear responses by learning how to move energy from the fear network to the reframe and reconsider networks in the brain

* Get along with coworkers better because you will understand the root cause of why they say things they don’t mean, do things they’ll regret, and blame others for their actions

* Reduce anger with the lift of an eyebrow; get better sleep with simple math equations; reduce tension with imaginary dance steps; increase trust by using the brain networks that allow for rapport and trust

* Get a handle on complusions and urges and reduce them by communicating with your nonconscious brain to reduce their default occurrences over time and with practice

* Achieve results like obtaining a better career, increasing a loving relationship, and thinning a waste line by leveraging your memories of the future (the brain treats imagination similar to reality)

* Make the right decisions by learning how to verify your instincts and improve your rational thinking processes

In short, achieve better results in life by learning to use solution-focused approaches to leverage opportunities and solve thorny problems. Keep your stresses in perspective by using failure as a feedback tool instead of a defeat signal. Help your brain key in on results rather than consequences.

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How long is the program?

The next session starts Tuesday, October 16 and meets October 23, October 30, and November 6 as well. In the end you create a plan that makes your brain work better.

What time do you meet?

We begin at 6 pm and end by 8 pm. The total time: eight hours over a one month period.


Bee Cave Road, between Mopac and 360 in Austin, Texas. Sorry, no live streaming yet.

Do you have any testimonials?

Yes. Here is a flier that offers some for you:       Mind Athlete 10-16-12 Flier

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What are people saying about the program?

They find brain exercises calm them, allow for more focus and more clarity, and they say that brain training increases their capacity to get things done. They like knowing more about how their brains work and they begin to understand that they can control how their brains use energy to get what they want out of life. They enjoy the relationships they form with their fellow athletes. Many choose to continue more advanced brain training sessions after this introduction. They learn that brain training is fun, challenging, and exciting. And it can absolutely be life changing as well.

Where can I sign up?

Hurry: early bird pricing won’t last! Contact the program director to secure your seat:


Tell him Kevin Leahy sent you!


Kevin Leahy

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Austin, Texas

Categories: Brain power Tags:

Where can I find a brain trainer?

June 24th, 2012 Kevin No comments

What’s this post about?

Brain training.

Where can I find a good brain trainer?

In the mirror.


You are a brain trainer and so are teachers, moms, dads, managers, and best friends.

What on earth do you mean?

Any one who influences you enough to cause a change in you has changed your brain. Since you (the conscious you) influence your brain daily, you are a brain trainer.

You mean changing my brain is the same thing as training my brain?

Could be; training implies purpose. A lot of brain changes just happen. It is better in my opinion to be in charge of those changes. That way, you are training your brain instead of your brain training you.

What do you mean about the brain being separate from me; I am my brain!

Well then stop eating those donuts! Start being nicer to that friend or spouse! Go ahead and finish that nagging project today! Avoid the seventh beer!

If there is a delay after I make up my mind, you mean it’s my brain’s fault?

In a way, yes. The brain works mostly on past patterns. Mindful decisions take time to sink in. That’s why practice, repetition, and persistence pay off in the brain change game.

What about when I make up my mind and then do something else?

Hard, right? We are great at making up our minds. Sadly, at times we come to find out that our brains decided to do something else.

You have an example?

Sure: My wife wants to see Cher in the movie Moonstruck. To please her, I say, “Sure, I’ll go,” and my body, in full cellular mutiny, slumps down and caves in. She says, “You don’t really want to do.” I say, “I said I’d go.” This is an example of me making up my mind and my brain and body not following along. Did they not hear me? Oy.

So anyway, are you a brain trainer?


How do you describe what you do?

I help train clients’ brains so they become more successful in life.

Train their brains for what?

With better brains they perform better in business and elsewhere.

Are there other reasons people seek you out to train their brains?


Such as?

Some of my clients want to handle urges better, avoid confrontations that are unsolvable, and reduce the emotional drag that can ruin their relationships.

Training the brain does all that?

Yes. The brain is amazing. For instance, if you believe a sugar pill will cure your ills your chance of recovery goes way up. Brain training can increase your belief powers.

How can anyone be a brain trainer if they don’t know about the brain?

That is a downside of being a brain trainer. It makes sense that as a part of the responsibility to train brains, it is real important to know about them.

So moms and dads should know how their kids’ brains develop?

I think that is an excellent idea.

Leaders and managers should know how employee brains work?

You bet.

My friends, do they need to know about the brain?

If they advise you, yes, because their advice relates to behaviors. Knowing about the brain wiring that generates behaviors will put their advice on more solid ground.

Are teachers brain trainers?

Yes, they are some of the most important brain trainers in the world.

Should teachers know how the brains of their students work?

That makes a ton of sense to me.

Can you summarize this post?

We are all brain trainers, of our own brains if nothing else. If you are a teacher, mom, dad, boss, manager, or leader, you are a brain trainer. And, you will serve your students, kids, or employees better when you know how their brains really work. Psychology is a great start, add to it advances in linguistics and communications science, sociology, anthropology, management science, and neuroscience. Knowing how the brains of your people work is a great first step to helping them train their brains to work better, smarter, and with more trust, love, and responsibility.

Anything else?

You can learn more about brain training here:


Thank you and have a wonderful day!

Kevin Leahy, Founder

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Austin, Texas

Categories: Brain power Tags:

Advice when you move to a new job

June 22nd, 2012 Kevin No comments

Coaching is a wonderful profession because our clients become friends.

Here is the advice I offer my friend on the way to a new job, in a new city. The person has been on the job a few days with mounting stress, concerns for not getting things right, and an awareness that failure is an option– preferably, an avoidable one! I have changed information to share this advice with a wider audience.


Homework: please get out a dictionary, read the definition of “perspective,” and then write out five examples of how it can happen more at your office. I sense, I feel, and yearn to hear more about different perspectives in the current situation and the experiences you are facing.


You have lots of love. In this instance, work love is different than romantic love. It means connecting, building rapport, earning trust, and being fair with coworkers and your boss despite the conditions. Love is really important for you in that office since the way you describe things so far, there may be a shortage of it; in other words, love may be a scarce/hidden/fleeting commodity. Your arrival means they just struck a rich vein. Spread the wealth, spread your love.

Let whatever happens be okay

That office has survived a long time without you. There is solace in that thought. You are there now and things will still work out. Remember, Rome did not get built in a 2 hour span, nor did it fall down that fast. As we discussed, since you are perfect for this job, the things that are happening sound just about right!

Your job description and its possible shift

It is unusual that the job description you were hired for shifts in the first week, usually the honeymoon period is at least two weeks these days. Oy. You told me they hired you for your experience in the job you had before graduate school. Focus in on that. By your description of the first few days, they may be expanding your role. If that is true go ahead and discuss the parameters of the change. You deserve to know what’s going on.


From the sound of things happening in your first week on the job, you deserve to get your bearing. By this I mean check in with your toes and the balls of your feet. There is sound and solid ground in the new city you find yourself in, this I know. FEEL it. Smell the air, be in the moment. Love your job. Love your city. Good.

True or false narratives

You are a professional who offers clearly defined services. Other titles, with other service parameters including tattle tale or spy (your words not mine) seem far away from what your profession does. Feel free to drop any unhelpful narratives.

Being too nice

You mentioned a tendency to apologize for not understanding some of the new things you are learning right away. Instead of apologizing, take a long extended breath. Then review what happened and after that, thank your coworkers for their understanding of the newness of your work. Make your desire to succeed with them and for them clear to them.


Success comes in so many colors. Each minute you are there in that office is success. Smell it. Taste it. Feel it. Success demands errorless learning. You are learning the ropes: it turns out some of them are slippery; some feel rough; and a few are quite frayed by your description of things. Success for your coworkers means that you help them. So go ahead and help them. All of them. That delivers group success. The few that cannot or will not be helped, give them up to a higher power. Help the ones that can handle help and be fair to everyone else.


Surely with that large an office you will find allies. You deserve them. So cultivate them. Friends come in many forms. Be slow, invite in relationship, and help them help you help them. Allies matter.

The First 90 Days

I attach a review of an excellent book for your situation called “The First 90 Days.” Go ahead and read it. Then apply what resonates with you.


I’ll summarize my advice with two words: PERSPECTIVE and BEARING. Get some! [They are like milk, and different]. You are perfect for this job and your new city is the exact right place for you to be in right now! Maybe this advice can help you along your journey in a new job, a new city, and give you new hope.

Peace, bearing, and perspective to you,

Kevin Leahy

Austin, Texas


Categories: Consulting, Thoughts Tags:

You can change people if they are willing and you are able

June 14th, 2012 Kevin No comments

What’s this post about?

Changing people.

You can’t do that!

If you are right then parents, teachers, trainers, managers, and leaders are out of luck. It means no one ever changed you and you never changed anyone (for better or worse).

You can’t change anyone, they have to change themselves; it’s the norm, okay?

It is a social norm, true. I believe the statement is incorrect. You and I can change people. The norm requires that we spend significant energy convincing others that we were not directly responsible. Instead we must talk about our indirect efforts. If you believe the norm then I bet instead of changing anyone, your role is to hint, suggest, influence, help, try, or maybe-sort-of-kind-of get involved, right?

You make it sound like I don’t care; what’s that about?

Of course you care when you do those things, and these words distance you from the impact you make and the cause you bring about.

I don’t want to come across as arrogant or controlling, do you?

The norm “you can’t change people” can, when we are not mindful, confuse our desire to change others (hopefully for the better) with arrogance or control issues. True, some manipulate and abuse power when they change others. There are also good people, my mother is a great example, who changed people for the better and on purpose. The norm “you can’t change anyone” takes ownership away from my mother’s changes. The norm keeps her at a distance from the changes she made from love and for my better. I am glad my mother changed me.

Your mom didn’t change you, you changed you!

You still believe you can’t change anyone?


Are you someone?


Are you anyone?

I see where you are going but it’s not the same…

If you can’t change anyone and you are someone then you can’t change yourself.

I see your point, and the norm also includes “but yourself” or “they have to change themselves,” right?

These lines are the distant second ideas of the norm; they are afterthoughts.

Are you saying because you can’t change anyone you can’t change yourself?

The social norm “you can’t change anyone” makes it harder to change yourself. We believe these norms and they guide how we behave in our culture; often it’s unconscious guidance.


You can change people if they are willing and you are able.

That’s seems to place the emphasis on willingness and ability, right?


Then we can change ourselves if we are willing and able too, right?


Then we can take responsibility and ownership for changing others?

Yes; and it goes both ways: (1) changes for the better; and (2) changes for the worse too. We have the right to take ownership for both directions of change we cause.

Can you summarize this post?

I ask that you reconsider the notion that “you can’t change anyone.” I know you can. I bet you have. And, I hope you backed your efforts to change others with ownership, ability, and the true desire that the change you make offers a positive and lasting difference. You can say, “You can change anyone if he or she is willing and you are able.” Then you own the effort, you welcome the change, and you place the emphasis on willingness and ability instead of on a lack of agency and a purposeful distance from the decision to change.

So have you changed anyone?

Sure. I know we all have. This is the beauty of being us. We are very social creatures and I believe in my heart we influence and change those we love daily.

Well… I’ll think about it.

Good luck!

Kevin Leahy

Austin, Texas

Email your thoughts: Change@KnowledgeAdvocate.com

Categories: Brain power Tags:

Consciousness is a “duty cycle”

May 27th, 2012 Kevin No comments

What is this post about?

Here I suggest using the term “duty cycle” to replace the word consciousness. When people are “mindful” and “present,” their duty cycles are on. When not, the cycle is off.

What does “duty cycle” mean?

Duty cycle is an engineering term that identifies how long a product like a cell phone or computer will be on during a particular cycle, for example, five hours in a day.

What’s wrong with using the word mindfulness?

Nothing, except when you try to understand what it means. More familiar is “attention span,” although it is not sufficient. Intent, focus, and bandwidth can be in there too.

Say some more?

Well, as a kid my mother would say, “Kevin! Pay attention.” Problem: I had no idea how to do that well. Intent was scarce, focus non-existent, and bandwidth questionable. Doh.

Are you challenging your mother’s desire for you to pay more attention?

No. I get that she wanted me to be fully conscious. Instead, I wandered off absent-minded and got into lots of trouble. Knowing consciousness is a duty cycle would have helped me.

You wanted mom to say, “Kevin, turn on your duty cycle,” right?

Sure. If she taught me what duty cycle meant I could have broken down my efforts, kind of like starting in one corner to clean a dirty room, I could check in with bandwidth, then attention, etc.

And the higher the duty cycle number, the more fully conscious we become?

You got it.

Did Buddha have a really high duty cycle that was on all the time?

I have no clue.

Mindfulness requires intent and focus (i.e., attention span plus bandwidth)?

Yes. The more of each of those we have, the more fully conscious and mindful we become.

How is duty cycle like mindfulness?

First, consider this formula:

Mindfulness = intent x focus (attention span x bandwidth).

Now consider the same formula with a slight difference:

Duty cycle = intent x focus (attention span x bandwidth).

It turns out it is easier for us to consider consciousness as an engineering term that we can break down into several parts, instead of calling it mindfulness, which sounds like a spiritual term that causes confusion the same way the terms faith and belief can be confusing.

Can you tell us what each of the components of your formula mean?

Sure. Intent refers to your conscious intent, attention span is the amount of time you can hold on to your attention, and bandwidth is how much you can take in at any one instant.

Can you give us an example?

Say you have intent to listen to a child talking. The problem is you are absolutely fatigued so your attention span is non-existent. That means your duty cycle is going to be 0 because when attention span is 0, any intent you have, no matter how high, gets cancelled out by your lack of attention (any number of intent x 0 = 0).

Will you show me it as a formula again?


Duty cycle = 100 [intent] x focus (0 [attention span] x 7 [bandwidth]) = 0.

I made intent = 100, which means I am 100% intending to talk to the child. I use bandwidth = 7 because that is about as high as we go mostly (seven bits of information in one instant kept in short term memory). The trouble is, if my attention span = 0 then my duty cycle = 0, despite a great bandwidth and intent. That kid can talk all he wants, I simply will not be able to connect with him.

Remind me why I should use the term “duty cycle” instead of “mindfulness?”

Engineers use the term to measure when a thing needs to be on or off. I find the term more precise then the concept of mindfulness when I need to consider if someone is “fully present.” Since it is an engineering term it makes sense to break it down into the component parts of consciousness.

Is there a reason we should purposefully turn off the duty cycle at times?

Absolutely. Having our duty cycles on all the time wears us out. Consciousness is resource intensive (e.g., uses more glucose) and redirects how our brain communicates with itself in a way that can cause the brain to explain, “Hey, I don’t like this effort all that much!” This is precisely why will power is fleeting: it takes lots of energy to summon our will power and the brain usually tries to conserve as much of energy as possible.

And your point?

So, sometimes what our brains want and what the conscious “we” want conflict with one another. Reducing that conflict is a good idea. One way to do that is to learn how to turn off our duty cycles on purpose. Doing that can be a wonderful trick for calming down, relaxing, and rejuvenating. Although I strongly suggest doing something other than TV.

What’s wrong with TV?

Watching TV increases the risk of cognitive impairment. Perhaps brains find TV too convenient, as the TV appears to reduce brain function when it is on.

What good is knowing the parts of the duty cycle formula, like bandwidth?

You can work on the parts you know are keeping you from being fully conscious, if that’s important to you. Bandwidth issues tend to be a short term memory problem, which you can improve with practice. Same with attention span and intent. All of the elements can be worked on, email me for more on that:


Knowing consciousness is a duty cycle can help us understand how we can be more fully conscious and present in the moment?

You bet. Good luck using the concept of “duty cycle” to increase your attention and focus.


Kevin Leahy

Austin, Texas


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Neuro-selling: What’s Going On Inside The Buyer’s Brain?

May 14th, 2012 Kevin No comments

Is it really all about the reptile brain?

You may have heard that buying decisions are driven by our “reptile brains.” While this idea is not completely accurate it is a helpful way to think about the brain, particularly the nonconscious parts. Have you heard of neuromarketing? Spell check no longer marks it in error. Not so neuroselling… here it comes.

Top 10 List of Neuroselling Tactics and Strategies

1. The buyer’s brain leans either toward your sale or away from it during every single split second.

Brains scan environments for threats about every 1/5 of a second. Because selling can be threatening it pays to work hard and create positive conditions. That way the buyer will lean toward your product or service instead of away from it. “Great sales people are always on” because it only takes 1/5 of a second to blow the deal.

So what? Stay on. Your sales cycle is every 1/5 of a second, your goal is to get the buyer’s brain to lean towards your offer, and your risk is that you trigger a threat response. Reduce your threatening behavior by seeking permission, building rapport and trust, expressing solutions, and remaining patient, among other things.

2. The wiring of the buyer’s brain and not the consciousness of his or her mind drive motivations.

Nothing new here. Brains wire to seek gain and avoid pain. That happens in the context of the need for mastery, affiliation, autonomy, and purpose. Fringe motivations include control, power, and risk-taking. Because brains bias toward avoiding pain, pain-focused needs are more common than gain-focused ones. Sell to them.

So what? Get to know the buyer’s motivations. Does he or she light up at the idea of reducing pain? Or tell more stories about gain? Depending on what motivates him or her, help him or her feel the pain or gain and connect your product and service with ridding the pain or increasing the gain as they think of those sensations.

3. Emotions are the building blocks of the buyer’s motivations.

The conscious mind rarely knows the origin of its own motivations. This is particularly true with urges and impulse buys. Many people buy based on an emotional response that flies under the radar of conscious thought, at the subconscious level. This is why feelings can often power decisions that leave rational thought in the dust.

So what? Trigger emotional responses as you sell your product or service. Make those responses align with the buyer’s motivations. Be careful not to trigger the wrong emotion because that will cause the buyer to lean away from, and not toward, your product or service. Watch the buyer’s face and tone to pick up the emotional cues.

4. The brain hates to process too much, too soon.

You know that saying, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach?” Well, the mind’s appetite for information is bigger than the brain’s ability to handle all of it. Researchers used to think we could handle up to seven things at once in short term memory. They’ve revised the number down to three or four at most (and one is a contender).

So what? Connect what’s in the buyer’s brain to what you offer. Avoid numbers, abstract concepts, or time-related issues with choices. Give the brain what it wants now, in simple terms, using a clear call to action. Offer metaphors to frame your product or service and if the buyer has a favorite metaphor or two, use them.

5. Help guide the buyer’s attention.

The brain leans in or out in part to avoid attending to unnecessary things. Attention is a critically precious commodity today and it turns out we do not multi-task, we time share. This means when the buyer is not paying attention, he or she is not following your sales process.

So what? Make sure you have the buyer’s eyes and ears. The dead giveaway for where attention lands is where the buyer focuses his or her eyes and ears. Use movements that keep eyes on target, and make sounds that help ears stay where they belong too. Choose places with less distraction and offer relevant information only.

6. Connect your product or service to the buyer’s past associations.

The brain pays most attention to the past. It leans toward or away from things based on how it calculates what happened in the past. That’s why most people reject new things until they can assess them from a familiar perspective. This is also why most folks need to experience things seven times or so before they finally “get it.”

So what? Make what you sell appear familiar. Analogies help, for example, use words including “like,” “similar,” and “same” that help compare your product or service with things the buyer already understands.

7. Connect the buyer’s need for instant gratification with your product or service.

The urge to take a pill before building a skill is the reason instant gratification is king. Some people will remove pounds surgically before working them off with sweat equity. The majority of the brain’s functions serve the interests of “now” instead of hoping for mid term or long terms gains. Connect now; sell more.

So what? Make success clear with stories, customer testimonials, and a proven track record. Frame and orient the buyer’s mind so that your product fits the buyer’s current and pressing needs. Help the buyer imagine himself or herself with your product or service in hand, already receiving its benefits.

8. Primacy (first) and recency (last) make a huge difference.

“First impressions count.” You bet, particularly with the brain. It tires and bores easily and is designed to conclude the buyer is fine and needs nothing that you offer. How we begin and end anything alters everything.

So what? Anchor the most important part of your sale first (use a story, metaphor, or sensory explanation). Orient and frame the buyer’s brain quickly. Repeat your message with a call to action at the end. Use the buyer’s own metaphors and language to remind him or her of the opportunity you offer to him or her.

9. Make it visual.

The buyer’s brain processes images faster than written or verbal messages. It also has a more expansive network of visual associations than other sensory associations and tends to categorize and separate out visual cues far more rapidly than other sensory messages like sound, taste, touch, or smell (bad smells aside).

So what? Look good, first of all. Second, draw what success looks like when the buyer uses your product or service. Make the drawing literally with pen and paper. Or, explain it visually in a way that the buyer can see with his or her mind’s eye. Let your buyer see the benefit you offer to get him or her much closer to closing the deal.

10. During the close compare prices and establish value.

The brain experiences “pain” when prices seem unfair. For the brain, price fairness depends on, and really demands, a comparison. For example, instead of offering one set price, frame the price in ways that help the buyer understand the price’s fairness as well as its value. Never offer your price without a context for it.

So what? Offer the price of your product or service compared to a normal price, or to a discount for some reason, or explain how the price is 10% below market. Help the buyer clarify the relative price and emphasize its value. This means you may bundle things together, offer things in increments, or offer payment plans.

Summary: reduce threats as you frame the buyer’s instant success.

Brains avoid harm at all costs. As a matter of fact, social and mental harm fires up the same regions in our brains as physical pain does. Instead of harm, offer success and know that the brain wants success now! If you threaten the buyer the chance of blowing your sale goes way up. Instead, build a protective feeling with rapport and trust. Use affirmative, positive, and protective stories, metaphors, and words that encourage positive familiarity with your service or product. Choose to mirror the customers words, movements, emotions and sensory experiences to help build rapport. Gain trust by reducing threats as you show how your product or service meets the buyer’s needs, solves his or her problems, and ramps up his or her opportunities.

Do these things and watch your close rates skyrocket. Remember, it’s all about emotional ties, the buyer’s ability to pay, and his or her willingness to do so. These things are qualifications that the buyer’s brain is ready, willing, and able. Now, go forth and win over not just their hearts and minds, but also and most importantly, win over their brains.

I wish you the best of luck.


Kevin Leahy


Austin, Texas

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10 Practical Ways to Control Your Brain on Purpose

May 9th, 2012 Kevin No comments

Did my brain just happen to me?

Did your brain just happen to you? Have you ever wondered, “Did my brain just happen to me?” My friend Christine just shared that wonderful sentiment with me today. As in, where did my brain come from, anyway? Have you ever wondered what relationship you have with your brain? Did your brain just happen to you or by any chance did you happen to it?

Looking for the top ten list of things to do to control your brain?

Skip to the bottom of the blog. Otherwise, enjoy some stories first.

My Roman chariot

I used to drive around Los Angeles in a vintage 1993 Toyota Tercel I named Agnes. When I did so I felt special. The reason? Simple: I paid no attention to the sport cars around me and instead I compared my ride to the best ancient chariot Rome had ever seen. I was the top dog gladiator with my shiny, brand-spanking new Fire Engine Red, hot Toyota Tercel (my friends would later call it a “Turdcell,” and never mind them).

Mindset is everything

I now know why that little trick of thinking about ancient Roman chariots helped me. My brain let me feel better by using that perspective. We can do other tricks with our brains too. For example, my friend Rich was the best dater I knew in high school. Most of us were still malformed kids, pimples and all, and he was no different. Yet he had a miraculous way with “the ladies.” He was so composed, so sure and confident of himself, he bordered on “cocksure” (look, it’s in the dictionary, although more funny in context).

How does he do it?

“What’s with you and the ladies,” my friend Eric asked Rich one day. “How’s it possible you do so well getting all those dates?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Rich replies nonchalantly. “They are all lesbians.”


Did he just say, “They are all lesbians?”

What we pay attention to matters

You bet, he told my friend. His tactic: reduce all self-inflicted pressure of “scoring” with the ladies by approaching them as if they were not interested in him one little bit. This placed him at complete ease with himself and them.

What does all this have to do with controlling my brain on purpose?

I simply wanted to feel at peace in one of the showiest car cities in the world and Rich wanted to date pretty women. Control over our brains with these tricks helped us avoid low self esteem (me) or the anxiety of getting shot down by a disinterested woman (Rich).

These tricks let us resource our brains on purpose

Now that I have studied how our brains work, I know why the tricks we used to deal with potential envy or heightened anxiety worked. The tricks helped us to resource our brains differently then they would by themselves. In other words, we resourced our brains with our minds, on purpose, to help avoid negative outcomes and achieve positive ones instead.

Ten practical ways to control your brain on purpose

Here is a list of brain resourcing tactics you might recommend to some folks. These are things you can do to take control over from the “brain that just happened to me.” Good luck trying them out.


Kevin Leahy

Austin, Texas


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10 Things You Can Do To Control Your Brain With Your Mind


When you ruminate on negative thoughts, remember instead to calculate math equations.

You take away energy from some of your language centers when you do math and stop self-talk in its tracks.


When feelings happen, remember to name them.

Labeling our feelings as emotions directly dampens their impact and allows time to reflect and reappraise.


When you are driving and someone invades your space, remember to lift your eyebrows up.

You cannot stay angry with your eyebrows up since that gesture resources different areas than anger.


When you are feeling anxious, remember to lean forward to move mental energy into the front brain.

Moving energy from the middle brain to the front brain reduces your brain’s ability to generate anxiety.


When you need to focus, remember to lock your vision and hearing on the same target.

Attention and focus follow what we see and hear so directing both on purpose keeps us on point.


When alarmed, remember to exhale for as long as you can and do that a few times.

When we practice long, purposeful exhales, it helps us activate our calming parasympathetic system.


When you need to recenter, remember to tap your tongue 10-20 times at the spot above your front teeth.

Tapping your alveolar ridge helps refocus you and may also release thymosin, a helpful immune response hormone.


When you need perspective quickly, remember to purposefully look from side to side for 30 seconds.

Focusing from side to side likely stimulates both sides of our brains, which helps memory and gains perspective.


To remember a person’s name, remember to create a network of information connected to that name.

Our memory systems work best when we can store information as a series of connections or associations.


To stop self-focused thoughts, remember to imagine playing your favorite sport for a minute or two.

Imagining physical activity moves energy from self-oriented regions to the motor and sensory regions.

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