Why You Lose Focus—And How “Brain Maps” Play Their Role


I remember sitting in a queue at JFK airport in New York waiting to take off.
As I sat in the plane, I could see our plane stuck behind about six or eight other planes.
They were all waiting to take off. And as we waited the weather conditions changed, causing the planes to keep taxiing till they got the right runway for takeoff.

The control tower kept moving the planes to the best possible location—a runway where the weather wasn’t against us. This meant we spent well over 45 minutes on the ground going from runway to runway following that queue of planes. Then finally we took off. Once we got the right weather conditions, it was easy to take off and we had no problem all the way to sunny Barcelona.

But things aren’t looking so sunny for you, right now are they?
Suddenly you find you’re losing focus, and you’re not sure why.
Let’s just say you’re not a lazy person.
Let’s imagine you’re a reasonably hard worker and have not problem concentrating.
Yet suddenly things aren’t going your way. Suddenly, you’re struggling to focus. Should you fight through the problem? Or should you take a break?

I’ve stalled on many projects before, and part of the problem is chaos.
But part of the problem is just getting away and doing nothing. Right now it’s 3am. I’m sleeping well, but my wife Renuka isn’t. Ever since her father’s passing about a week ago, she’s not slept a single night well. That’s starting to exhaust her (and consequently me). The only way to fix the problem is to fight through it, or find another way out. I’ve tried to fight through it in the past, but it doesn’t work.

This is more psychological than anything else.
When something occurs on a frequent basis, the brain starts to create what is called a “brain map”. Think about it this way. Hold a cup. You’ll see that your thumb jumps out first, then your forefinger. The a millisecond later, the three fingers jump out. It all looks like one action, but in fact is about half a dozen or more actions in your brain.

If you do that often enough, the brain forms a map. If you try to reach for the cup with your middle finger first, it not only makes rude signs at you, but it’s also almost impossible to pick up the cup quickly.

This brain mapping is what we’d call a “habit” but in fact it’s quite temporary unless we make it permanent.
Again, “permanent” is just a throwaway word, because the brain is highly plastic. Anything learned can be unlearned. However in the short term the way “through” isn’t the way at all. The way out is to take a clean break. To go someplace where the “crazy brain map” is unable to function as it has been doing in the short term. When this happens, the newly formed habit gets “lazy” and of course a new brain map starts to take its place.

This is interesting, most interesting of all: The new brain map taking the old one’s place.
The brain loves to lose what it won’t use, and so as you step away from the behaviour that’s driving you crazy, you allow the brain to now take over that brain real estate with a sense of calm relaxation. And the behaviour that’s been agitating you slows down, then finally stops given adequate time.

Trying to fight through the system is never productive. You have to create a whole new brain map (this is akin to Albert Einstein’s quote: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”). So “getting away” is the best thing to do. It reorganises your brain, gives it time to relax and then allows you to come back re-energised.

Which brings us to the topic of getting away
Getting away could be a break away from home. Or away from work. But it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it’s not tiredness that’s wearing you down. What’s wearing you down is the lack of progress. In which case you need to look at the same problem from a different angle. e.g. Learning article writing is like learning a new, difficult language. Often it’s easy to get stalled in the process of writing. Taking a break under these circumstances rarely helps your brain. On the contrary it puts it under more pressure because once you get back you have to “catch up”. In this case the method of learning has to take a different approach.

You have to have put yourself, or be put in a learning environment where there’s little chance to get “crazy wind”. Where’s there’s as minimal frustration as possible.

Just like a plane taking off.

You can’t fight the weather. You can’t battle the winds. You have to find a different runway. A runway that will enable you to take off without too much drama. And head off to a whole new brain map: your “sunny Barcelona”.

Additional Resources
How To Bypass A Brain Virus

Why Concepts Fail (When They Should Be Working)

About six months ago, I downloaded an app that enabled me to relax. In a busy day, it puts you in a mild hypnotic state, and lets you rest for a while. Then twenty minutes later it gently wakes you up and you feel super refreshed. I tried this app and hey it worked when it came to the twenty minute nap. But when I tried it at night, it often left me restless.

The app had failed.

Or had it?
Did it fail because I wasn’t listening to the instructions and implementing them as I should? The instructions on the app clearly said I need to listen to the same audio for three weeks. Three whole weeks. Who can be bothered with doing something for three whole weeks? Well, there you go. You’ve set the seed for failuer.

Often it’s easy to go slightly around in circles if something doesn’t work well.
So it may well be easy to say that a book like The Brain Audit does work better for services, or better for products, or better for B to B (Biz to Biz) or B to C (Business to Customers). In fact, it doesn’t work better or worse for any group. It just works equally well for any group that will apply it well.

With Pazon.com (who sold ignitions–which are products by the way) they lost a chunk of money. Actually went and made a loss right after applying The Brain Audit. At this stage it’s easy to give up if you’re unsure about a concept. And they chose not to. They went from a 16,000 pound loss to 90,000 pound profit.

And as I said: It’s easy to just slot a concept, or give up on the concept, because hey we’ve got a business to run, and we’re not in the business of trying out every concept that comes our way.

So if you were to try many of the concepts we talk about e.g. Yes-yes, testimonial acquisition, strategic alliances etc. you’re more than likely to FAIL.
(Yes, that’s correct). You’d fail because any concept has a certain depth of implementation. As humans we see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear. And ignore the rest. Then of course, things fail.

I am headed to my watercolour class in 45 minutes. I will be shown a technique by master painter Ted Sherwen. I will of course implement it “exactly” as he says. And it will fail. I always get crappy results. Without exception. I have to come back and spend all week tweaking and testing (and failing) and then when I go back the next week, I’ve improved dramatically. The cause of failure is always the inability of our brains to understand, assimilate and then implement a concept. That’s why an ongoing testing needs to be done in real time—and not necessarily in practice.

I just launched the Article Writing Masterclass after much discussion with my wife, and also in conjunction with existing article writing clients.
And despite my best efforts the first round of the sales page came out looking good, but not as clearly as I thought. Back and forth changes ensued. We’ve even pulled down the page, and I have to work on it before we put up the page again. This is from someone who wrote the book on The Brain Audit and who can write a salesletter with little or no effort.

The point remains. You can’t learn or hope to succeed purely on the basis of taking a concept and hoping it will work. You have to put paint on paper.  You have to see how the brush reacts with the paper. You have to see how the paint runs. You have to understand the temperature around you and how it will affect your painting.

You can’t hope to succeed until you do this over and over again.
Yes, an outsider will help you find your glitches.
Yes a mentor will see beyond the average person.
But failure is inevitable.

True success does indeed come from minor (and sometimes) major failure.
The Brain Audit is such a device. It can work for any business (and I’ve seen it work for hundreds of businesses). But only if the business owner has the ability to put changes on paper. That paint must go onto paper. You must fail first, and hope that you fail rather spectacularly.

Then, you will have repeatable success. Otherwise, all you have is a fluke.

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