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Your Brain in Numbers


Your Brain in Numbers

You've probably heard by now that your brain is the most formidable organ ever to have existed.

The kid on Jerry Maguire taught you that the human head weighth three poundth

But did you know that a Japanese super computer - the fourth largest in the world - tried to simulate one second of 1 % of a human brain's capability - and that took 40 minutes? (1) 

So what are some other numbers to describe your brain? 

Apparently, Intel is working on a computer with similar processing power as the brain. Look out for a notice ca. 2018. 

For another great article on how alcohol doesn't actually kill brain cells (except if you drink it in quantities or concentrations that would actually kill the whole you), read this

Image by Gerry Shaw, Creative Commons License





Step 10 - All feelings are good and useful

We're all on our respective journeys, and we choose the energy we bring to the world. Sadness, fear, disgust, and anger have their place and time and can be effective teachers. It's your decision if you want to perpetuate and feed them with more of your conscious energy, or if you decide to focus on more positive vibrations. "There's no cognition without affect."

As you go into the weekend, I invite you to spend another 18 minutes or so and view Antonio Damasio's talk on consciousness.

Peace and love,



Should you leave your comfortable job?


Should you leave your comfortable job?

I was delighted to receive an email this week from someone who's wondering whether to leave his comfortable job for one more thrilling and fulfilling. He already read the article about this opportunity for change I wrote back in 2007, and here are 3 more tips to help you decide:

Not many people change just for the fun of it, especially if there's no apparent or urgent need. You've probably heard one or more of these arguments to count yourself lucky and stay where you are:

  • you have a job
  • you're earning money
  • it took you a while to get where you are now
  • you HAVE a JOB!

There's no urgency to find a job when you already have one. There's no need to change jobs if the one you have pays well and serves your current purposes. Why would you throw out all the effort you put in to train for what you're doing now? And let's not forget there's a lot of fear and uncertainty about quitting "in these unstable economic times".

So what are you supposed to tell that little voice that nags louder every day, "is this really it?"

It might get worse before it gets better

All those years ago, I left my cushy job for another one. The commute was nicer, the pay was better, the work was more interesting - easy decision to make. Except the boss and I didn't get along and I was back on the streets within 6 months.

There are no guarantees. Even if the new opportunity looks lovely, feels fantastic, smells divine, and sounds superb, you may still hate it. Or it may hate you.

You can prepare for this eventuality in a variety of ways. Research the company thoroughly, insist on speaking with supervisors, peers, and customers alike, or spend some time as an "intern" to shadow what a week on the team would look like before you make a commitment.

Get support

After I was let go, I took four whole weeks off to participate in a coaching program. That was the first time I ever seriously took the time to stop and think - what is it that I actually want to do with my life? What am I good at? And what is it that I actually enjoy doing? Believe me - sometimes those two things are NOT the same! Having a coach to ask the uncomfortable questions and confront me with my limiting self-talk was priceless.

You can start by reading books on career management like What Color Is Your Parachute (affiliate link), interviewing people who have the job you think you'd like to have to see if it's all it's cracked up to be, or hiring a coach. Shameless plug for your consideration: I use Type knowledge in my coaching, which means it's all tailored to my client's personality style. :-)

Remember you have options

I'm a big fan of only leaving a job when I know the next thing is lined up, but sometimes it's hard to get there. If you're scared about the economy, scared you won't find another thing half as decent as what you have now, scared you'll lose money, scared the colleagues will hate you - then wait. A scared brain doesn't think straight. A scared brain is in survival mode, not open to properly evaluating all the available alternatives out there.

Big decisions like jobs are worth sleeping over and researching properly, and no employer is going to expect you sign the dotted line right after your interview. Take the time you need to come to the decision from a place of certainty.

So - should you leave your comfy job?

You'll know it's time when the only thing worse than leaving would be to stay.


Image by Nate Shivar, flickr, Creative Commons license


Why you shouldn't use your brain if you don't have to


Why you shouldn't use your brain if you don't have to

I went to a chapter meeting of the local ICF group on Friday. While it wasn't all of the networking opportunity I had hoped for, I learned a lot of interesting stuff about the brain and how its functions affect effective coaching relationships as well as life in general. Our attention is limited.

What this means for coaching clients is that it is truly helpful to focus, and preferably on one goal at a time. What this means for the coach is to provide an environment where the client is able and encouraged to stay on course.

Our working memory is a DUMIR.

Watch a couple of House episodes and you'll hear the term, prefrontal cortex. That's the executive decision maker of our brain, a.k.a. working memory. Ever walked into a room and forgot what you got in there for? Ever knew a word / name / thing, but couldn't for the life of you remember what it was? That's the prefrontal cortex being overloaded. It takes care of

  • Deciding
  • Understanding
  • Memorization
  • Inhibiting (that's when the hippocampus wants to send the message of why you walked in the room, but can't find space to unload that information), and
  • Remembering.

While it takes up only 4 or so % of our brain, it zaps over 20 % of the available energy doing one thing at a time, so you want to make sure it only uses the energy for what it's there for, DUMIR. This also means:

Stop trying to multi task.

Your working memory decision maker likes to do things sequentially, one after the other. You may be able to quickly zoom from one thing to another, but chances are you'll burn out quicker than if you paid close attention to one thing, see it through, and then begin the next. Charlie Gilkey actually talked about some of that in a recent tele-class he gave with Pam Slim. Those two are quite awesome resources for creative entrepreneurs, but you probably knew that. Anyway, they were also debunking the multi-tasking myth by saying you may be doing two things at the same time, like listening to an audio-book while exercising, but only because you're not using the same type of psychological energy. Better to find out what your natural preferred rhythm is, and scheduling tasks accordingly. You feel inspired in the morning, go write in the morning. If you don't, don't force yourself, do it in the afternoon.

The last thing you want to know about your prefrontal cortex, or working memory, is that it's fussy. In fact, Tony called it "Goldilocks," which I thought was hilarious. Everything has to be just so, serial/sequential, and if it doesn't get the information or work orders the way it likes them, it'll go on strike and stop working. Anything that's too complicated, your brain will resist and say "nah, not gonna do it." This is when your eyes glaze over and you stop focusing your attention.

Summing up and circling back to the title of this post, then, don't make your prefrontal cortex work unless it's for the functions it's meant to perform. In other words, as you're trying to prepare for a meeting and run into a colleague in the hallway who asks you to send him some documents, don't try to remember that. Ask him or her to send you a reminder email. And the A+ coaching question Tony gave us in the room: If you truly respected your attention as a limited resource, what might you do differently?

Post your comments below!

Til next week, have a good one.

All information in this post, unless otherwise noted, is based on the presentation given to the ICF NT Chapter by Tony Pottle.

Image by Fredrik Rubensson, flickr, Creative Commons License



Neuroscience of Personality

neurscience of personality book cover
neurscience of personality book cover

Dario Nardi, Ph.D., is an author and award-winning UCLA professor. Since 2005, he has been strapping EEG caps on his willing students to study real-time brain activity. He discovered that people of different personality type  use their brains in fundamentally different ways.

Sharing Dario's findings in presentations and workshops allows me to bring color to the grey matter in everyone of us. Literally. Participants will color in a map of the various brain regions as they self-select which skills and abilities they most resonate with.

The lessons of leadership, coaching, and creative flow will stay with you and help you work more effectively with those whose brains are, simply put, wired differently.

Want to see for yourself? Fill out the NeuroPQ inventory here:

Fill in your name, choose "Doris Fuellgrabe" as your facilitator, and answer 56 questions. You will be asked to provide demographic information for statistical analysis and administration purposes.

If you'd like to bring a Neuroscience of Personality presentation to your organization or community:

E-mail me


Positive Thinking


Positive Thinking

This is a speech I gave at my last Toastmasters meeting that was very well received (a tad longer than other articles I've written, but presenting it only took 5 minutes 30 secs). Remember Toastmasters International is an organization that helps everyone improve their presentation and public speaking skills in a fun and relaxed environment. If you have a talk or presentation coming up that you'd like to prepare for, check out a meeting near you!

Positive thinking is one surefire way to happiness. Are you happy?

There’s a saying that loosely translated from German goes like this:

Mind your thoughts, as they become words. Mind your words, as they become actions. Mind your actions, as they become habits. Mind your habits, as they become your character. Mind your character as it becomes your destiny.

I’m not sure who came up with it, but they had a point. And you’ll notice that they explained a causal relationship between your thoughts and your destiny and thus your level of happiness.

Let me give you a quick overview of what’s ahead. I’ll start by quoting a philosopher and taking his message one step further. Then, I want to share a little information on three points: one, your brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t. Two: you can control the messages that you send it, and three: I’ll share some tips on how to make those messages more positive.

Renee Descartes, the famous French Philosopher coined the phrase, “I think, therefore I am.” At a time where other philosophers were questioning everything, “is this really a table?”, “will the sun rise again tomorrow?”, “what is real?”, Descartes took apart his house of beliefs brick by brick and came to the conclusion that the mere fact that he was thinking about thinking meant that he must, indeed, exist.

This is where I (and many others before me) go a step further and say “we exist the way we do, meaning: our lives are what they are, because of what we think”.

Thinking occurs in your brain, and your brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t.

Who here has ever had a dream that seemed very real, or woke up screaming or sweating from a horrific nightmare? Because your brain cannot differentiate between what’s real and what isn’t, it sent the message to your adrenal glands to pour out the hormone and prepare you for fight or flight even though there was no real threat present. (Your brain also doesn’t register the word “no”, e.g. if I tell you now NOT to think of a red balloon, what do you think of? ...which is why it's so important to make your goals out as positively worded statements, but that's another story.)

While you’re sleeping, your subconscious is in charge, but while you’re awake, you can directly influence what messages you send to your brain, so you better make them positive. Actually, let me precede the following example with this little nugget: your brain also likes things to be true and make sense.

So, if you bump your leg on the coffee table and tell yourself “I'm such a clutz!”, your brain will go looking for ways to make that statement make sense. That means it’ll remember past instances where you’ve fallen down or bumped your leg or dropped something, and in future it’ll apply the same label, and the more evidence it can come up with, the more it becomes true that you really are a clutz. That is the self-fulfilling prophecy everybody's talking about. The alternative here is to turn that negative thought around and look at the event through a different lens, a less judgmental one. For example, you could recognize that the coffee table wasn’t in its usual position because you had cleaned and moved it earlier, or that you were preoccupied with thinking about the speech you have to give at the next Toastmasters meeting and hence weren’t paying attention to where you were going. That makes you many things - a dedicated toastmaster, a clean housekeeper, but not a clutz.

Now, how can you improve the level of your positive thoughts? With these following tips:

Be nice to yourself. What does your inner voice usually say? How do you talk to yourself? Are your thoughts helpful and supportive? Or - the test of all tests - would you speak to your best friend the way that you speak to yourself?

Furthermore, try and notice when you’re not being nice and simply stop those negative thoughts, and turn them around into something positive, like with the housekeeping or dedicated Toastmaster mentioned earlier. As with speech-making, continued practice will make perfect, so give yourself some time and patience. Last but not least, focus on the positive things that are already in your life. Every evening write down, relive or simply remember in all its glorious detail at least three things that went well that day, that you were proud of, that made you happy. This exercise will put you in a positive state of mind, and once you’re in a positive state of mind, you know your brain will do the rest and find more positive things to make sense of and perpetuate that positive and happy state you’re in.

At the end of the day, your thoughts are your business, I just wanted to make sure you're aware that every single one of your thoughts contributes to you shaping your own destiny, and that you can take control and decide what you are prepared to do for your own happiness, whichever form that may take, by being nice to yourself, turning bad thoughts around and focusing on positive things.

Til next time, good thoughts!

Image by Li-Ji, Flickr, Creative Commons License.