Blog #3 Exercise Your Brain

Exercise your Brain

Exercising your brain has been a tough one for me to learn because I feel like I spent a lot of time resisting learning in general.  I was a very active kid growing up, so my fondest memories are of playing sports and doing stupid activities with my friends as a youngster.  I did not enjoy reading or going to school I felt those things were something that I had to get through so I never enjoyed what I was learning.  When learning got difficult, I would get frustrated and lose my temper instead of “buckling down” and find ways to solve a math problem or learn the principles of writing, things I still struggle with today because I spent so much of my youth resisting.  When I did not do my homework assignments, I got punished with more time sitting around trying to do my assignments instead of being engaged in what I was learning. By this standard, I was considered a below average student with Attention Deficit Disorder because I could not stay engaged with the material or more specifically the dull nature in which they presented the materials.  In gym class, we learned basic gymnastics and tumbling maneuvers that allowed us to get up and move while we practiced things we couldn’t do. On the soccer field, we did drills that put us into situations, and we had to learn the appropriate action, think quickly, and analyze even faster. In this environment I was above average, maybe even a little special or at least that is what I told myself, no one outworked my brain or my decision-making process.  Why did no one tell me this is exactly what learning is??? Here is a problem or an idea these are the possible situations. Go! I spent so much time thinking that school was stupid I can’t wait to get out of this stupid classroom and solve real problems like how can we use our trampoline to bounce people off the roof? What kind of materials will we need to make a go-kart that can be pulled by a bike? How are we going to make a sweet video with my dad's camcorder about a Commando warrior who takes down a drug-dealing monkey (true story)?  I never made the connection between school and the real world so maybe in that sense I was below average, slow, I resisted school as something to get through so that I could do other things when school was over. I was one of those kids that said “when am I ever going to use math, English, etc. in the real world,” and I believed it was a waste of time so I didn’t waste much time learning it in the classroom.  

Fast forward to the second semester of my freshman year of college, at this point life started to get a little harsh. The first semester I received a 1.7 GPA the highest of all my friends at the time but still not very good so needless to say I was on academic probation.  This effort was not acceptable; my mother informed me that I was sent to college to learn and if this is what I continued to produce I would not be in school for very long. Things changed that semester, I went to class regularly, I read the materials, participated in class and when I didn’t understand something I looked it up, or I read it again and again until I could comprehend the material.  In a time before the internet was so accessible as it is today and well before search engines like Google. I carried around a thesaurus/dictionary everywhere a little embarrassed but I had to figure things out, or I would be done with college and thrown into the real world which for me that meant failure. My mom always told me I would do some extraordinary things with my life because I was her baby boy and I worked very hard to prove her right.  That second semester I got a 3.2 GPA and never in my seven years of college did I get anything lower. The thing I learned the most was not how to study as much as it was how to relate school to the real world. That year I took Philosophy, Psychology, Anthropology, History, and English I think there might have been a general education class for freshman in there as well but it was not easy by any means and I was able to relate and apply everything I was learning to my life as a 19 year old kid.  I think it was at this point where I started to realize that I did not have everything figured out something I think I recognize a little more with each passing year. I am so glad for that because it means there is always something else to learn when as a teenager up to that point I think I spent a lot of time thinking I had figured things out. Yeah! I was that dumb at one point.  

How do we exercise our brains in a way that doesn’t seem like work? Most people will tell you why they don’t do things that will stimulate their mind rather than focusing on how your brain takes in information like I said I wanted to move to learn so naturally sports were a safe place for me to exercise my mind and my body.  I was forced to get better at reading, writing, and public speaking because of my college experience and to quote our first task (Challenge yourself. Leave your comfort zone) I was uncomfortable every time I went to class, but I got better at exercising my brain. Anxiety, fear, shame, and embarrassment happened less and less while learning and enjoying the subjects became engaging, exciting, and fun! Once I started experiencing different ways of learning the process did not get more comfortable by any means, but I did gain a sense that I was on the right path.  

A few years ago I discovered two things that have increased my consumption of educational materials mainly because they are convenient and the content is super specific to the things that I am interested in learning.  When I became a small business owner a friend of mine gave me a book to read, and I read it reluctantly, but it marks a point in my life where I realized that I had a weakness. (Task #2) I didn’t know anything about business.  It was around this time two habits formed that I continue today and have helped me tremendously in the direction of my life and my business. On a daily basis, I listen to podcasts or listen to books, and this allows me to be consumed by the material and write freely in my notes about the topics I am learning.  Reading in college would put me to sleep sometimes, and most of the time I had to read over and over again the process took a very long time. The reason I enjoy listening is that I can stay engaged with the material and be energized by its content as well as feel free to take notes. Before, I would always have an extra notebook with me, and I still underlined and wrote things in the margins even when the books weren't mine so I would have to have the book and my notes available and they were always unorganized.  If you had told me at 19 that I would enjoy reading and consuming materials on business, I would have laughed in your face. Remember, we are all stupid kids at some point in our lives just trying to relate learning to the things that you enjoy, and you might surprise yourself with how little you know and how wonderful that can feel. The third of five tasks we seek to complete on a daily basis to G.B.E.D. is to exercise our brains. Turn off the music in your car or pick up a book, magazine, or watch an educational documentary whatever floats your boat and try to be inspired by the things you don't know and be motivated to learn something new every day.  

Brian WalshComment