THE SCIENCE OF AWESOME

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Knowing about myelin changes the way we see the world.

The Talent Code

In short, talent (and inherent awesomeness) is bogus and research into myelin (pronounced just like it reads) is proving that.

Myelin, insulation that wraps neural circuits, is showing us that when this grows (such as with practice), our skills grow as well. When it shrinks (such as with disease and age), however, we become less capable and our skills (or talent) are diminished.

Myelin is showing us that, in large part, what we want to achieve is NOT fixed and who want to become IS possible.

This is what it looks like:

  1. Every human movement, thought or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers.
  2. Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal, strength, and accuracy.
  3. The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

So the more we fire a circuit (say practice a cartwheel), the more myelin is created to make that movement smoother and natural.

This reaffirms something we already know: Practice makes us better.

Just practicing something, however, is not enough to become awesome at it.

It’s not about how many pitches we can throw, how many reps we can do, or how far we can run. We have to take into account the quality of our action as well.

Did you know every time we do a deadlift with horrific form, we are growing our myelin (to make that bad form more natural)? And every time we check facebook, we are growing our myelin (so that next time it will be easier to log on)?

We are training ourselves, both in good and bad action. Because of this, we have to be smart about how we grow our myelin.

IN STRENGTH

You want to become a strong mofo? When in doubt, practice the methods of olympic lifters and gymnasts. By this, I mean follow a high frequency program (every or every other day) of exercises that are quite heavy (70 – 90% of 1rm), high in sets ( 20 +), but low in reps (1-3).

This is how I managed a body weight military press, a #140 turkish get up, +25 consecutive pullups, and how I am currently training my handstands.

To ensure that the myelin growth is the growth you want, use a video and/or a coach for feedback.

IN THINKING

Love, gratitude, empathy, and other forms of positive thinking are a skill. And in today’s world, this is not a natural skill to have as it often goes against our “dog eat dog” capitalist attitude.

For this, surround yourself with positivity: Read books, watch documentaries, and listen to people as they share their own love and passion.

It’s contagious. :)

IN MENTAL PERFORMANCE

Are we really bad at math? Or have none of us really made an effort to become good at it?

I thought I was bad, that is, until I started doing math problems in my head (on long drives and just for fun). Now I am pretty damn good (…because of pretty damn good practice).

Challenge yourself in reading, writing, speaking, and arithmetic.

Our mind needs exercise too.

IN COMMUNICATION

How well we are able to sell ourselves (both as a human being and a business person) as well as our ideas will have a phenomenal impact on our life.

Whenever you hear someone say something such as “It’s political” you can guess that someone got passed up, didn’t win, or (insert whatever) because they were not able to sell themselves as effectively as the other person. Now obviously this “selling” can go beyond interpersonal matters ( like money or connections), but communicating still has a large say on it.

So learn how to communicate (understand our shared psychology and human nature) and apply ( talk 1 on 1, groups, different mediums, etc.).

To neglect either one could result in a failure to sell.

RECAP

  1. Nerve firings grow myelin => myelin controls impulse speed => impulse speed is skill
  2. We decide how good of form we are using and if this myelin growth is for our exercise habit or for smoking.
  3. We know how to do it. It’s on us now.

Struggle is not optional – it’s neurologically required. In order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit suboptimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to these mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit.

Note: All the science and the quotes are from chapter 2 of The Talent Code.