Read this: “Can you read this sentence?”
Now read this: Ecnetnes siht daer uoy nac?
That second sentence doesn’t make any sense, does it?
It because you suddenly lost your ability to read? Or is it your inability to see a pattern?
You see reading is a “talent”. It’s not an inborn talent. It’s an acquired talent. And so when you see words in a certain sequence and shapes, you’re able to read the sentence; memorise it; even pass it on without any loss of information. And yet the second sentence seemed to fox you.
How about if I told you the second sentence contained exactly the same number of words?
In fact it’s the same sentence written backwards. Can you read this sentence?
Ecnetnes siht daer uoy nac?
To read the sentence you had to chunk
Over time you’ve learned to chunk a bunch of things, and that’s what “talented” people do. They’re not necessarily smarter than you or me. They’re just chunking bigger sections and hence appear to be faster and smarter. So if you cook Indian food for instance, there are about five spices that go into anything. They are: turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and garam masala. Anyone who’s cooked Indian food for even short bursts knows these five spices as one unit. They don’t have to think about the spices individually. So that frees up their brain to add on other chunks.
What you see as talent, is just constant chunking.
This is why you can read a sentence like “Can you read this sentence?” in a second.
It’s because of an acquired talent.
That’s why you’re so quick.
And non-English speakers are so slow.
We all believe that most of us have in-born talents, right? So imagine you’re a dolphin and you learn to do what no dolphin has ever been seen doing before. No, not learn Photoshop—but do something just as cool: blow perfect circles of bubbles underwater.
So what makes this cool?
This blowing of bubbles isn’t some inherent skill that dolphins were born with. They learned this skill and mostly it’s just the dolphins at Sea World that seem to have acquired this ability. Acquired is an important word to note in the previous sentence. It’s mostly the females that seem to pick up the skill. And it’s not known to occur anywhere else. The dolphins merely learned from each other, and keep perfecting their skills. Just like any child would learn skills and then get better at it over the years.
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”.
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.
What’s talent got to do with insulation? (Photo Courtesy: Businessweek.com)
So are we born with talent? Or is there a code?
Of course there’s a code. And that code is embedded not in what you learn, but how that learning is insulated?
Think of it as a pipe filled with water. Which one will allow the water to get through faster? A pipe filled with holes? A pipe that allows leaks? Or the pipe that’s well insulated?: A pipe that allows almost no waste.
We’re talking about myelin. It’s an insulator for your learning. The more you learn, the more the myelin wraps insulation around that learning, so that you get faster, and faster, and faster. But not just faster, but every freakin’ pipe in your brain gets faster. Imagine having squillions of pipes pumping water—and with little or no waste.
This is what so-called “talented” people do. Their pipes have little or no waste.
They have developed thousands of pipes that pour thousands of gallons of water at a single moment. So when you look at headline and I look at a headline, we’re not looking with the same brain. I’m looking at the headline with thousands of gallons of water pouring into what I’m looking at. You on the other hand are just looking at a headline. Which is why I can tell you how what’s wrong with a headline a mile off. And you can’t.
It’s not because I was born with superpowers to read and de-construct headlines.
Rather it’s that I’ve learned. Just as you can learn.
And what’s more it’s teachable.
And you can do what every untalented person does: Make excuses.
Or you could start working on your myelin today.
Write. Edit. Write. Edit. Edit. Edit. Write.
Does this crazy self-editing sound familiar? If it doesn’t then you’re probably from Mars, because most of us without exception go through a self-edit phase when writing.
And it’s not only when writing that we self-edit
We self-edit when we’re walking. When you walk on gravel you walk differently than when you walk on stone.
We self-edit when we’re talking. We choose words and sentence structure, create different tones and sounds depending on who we’re speaking to, and depending on the language.
We self-edit for every darned thing, but there’s one major difference of course.
The self-correction doesn’t drive us bananas
Writing articles drives us crazy. We can’t seem to help the self-editing process. And the reason for that self-edit is the lack of competency.
Competency is a factor where you have adequate control over what you’re doing and are able to self-adjust quickly. The brain has reached a state of mind, where it has made enough mistakes so that it can now correct the mistakes and move on. Yes, it’s not about getting things right in your brain—it’s about getting things wrong. The brain has to make hundreds, even thousands of mistakes—and overcome those mistakes—to be able to reach a level of competency.
Once it reaches that level of competency it self-edits on the fly…
And the way to test this out for yourself is to get in front of a two-year old child. Get the child to walk on stone, and then on gravel. And they struggle, if not fall repeatedly. Get the child to say a sentence, and they struggle, while their brain edits and self-edits. And yes, you may say that the child’s brain is not fully developed, but quite the contrary is true. At the age of two, the child’s brain has more neural connections than at any point in their lives. As they grow older, they lose many of those neural connections, and so technically speaking at least, the child is in the best possible situation to learn—and learn quickly.
Yet they struggle
And that’s because the brain is trying to eliminate the mistakes. Once the brain makes enough mistakes—and corrects them—it now has a database of information that it can call upon at any time. Your brain has now reached its level of competency in that field, be it walking, talking or writing. Your brain is now able to self-edit on the fly.
And this is what great athletes do.
Great writers do.
Great singers do.
Great speakers do.
They are constantly self-editing, but they’ve reached such a high level of competency, that they’re now into the realm of ‘fluency.’
And that is when self-edit happens so quickly that we can’t see it.
It seems magical.
And when things seem magical, we allocate a word for it: We call it ‘talent.’
Talent, yeah right…
All it is, is a factor of self-editing. Over and over and over again.
Till your article writing looks like this:
Write. Write. Write. Edit. Write. Write. Write. Write. Edit.
P.S. I edited that article just twice after completing in one sweep. The total writing time for that article was less than 25 minutes from conception to final edit.
P.P.S. I started out writing less than 10 articles a year. I now write between 300-500 articles, write 2-3 books, create original content for websites, and have posted over 15,000 posts in forums in the last 5 years. If you told me that I was going to do any of this writing back in the year 2002, I’d have called you a dreamer. And yet, anyone can do it. Yes, anyone.