The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success
By: Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske, with Liz Neporent
In the creative collaboration between clinical psychologist Jeff Brown and cognitive neuroscientist Mark Fenske, the book The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success combines cutting-edge neuroscientific research with well-established cognitive-behavioural psychological strategies to reveal how highly successful brains function. The authors give practical guidance to enhance cognitive performance and to allow the reader to achieve unique, personal ideas of success.
The Winner’s Brain starts by taking the reader through an engaging tour of the history of neuroscience and a brief overview about what we currently know about the inner workings of the human brain. The authors then reveal the importance of neuroplasticity, which is defined in the book as the neurocircuitry changes that occur with every experience, and using this to take control of your brain “in order to position yourself to achieve your goals and dreams.” According to Fenkse, in a recent communication with the IMS Magazine, “The saying ‘old dogs can’t learn new tricks’ is obviously wrong.”
The Winner’s Brain outlines five “Brain Power Tools” that all Winning Brains have in common: the Opportunity Radar (knowing which opportunity will lead to success and which will not), the Optimal Risk Gauge (calibrating a risk threshold to decide whether or not a chance is worth taking), the Goal-Laser (intentionally and deliberately taking steps to accomplish important goals), the Effort Accelerator (keeping motivated), and the Talent Meter (knowing your strengths and weaknesses). All of these Brain Power Tools can be strengthened by strategies termed “Win Factors,” which include Self-Awareness, Motivation, Focus, Emotional Balance, Memory, Resilience, Adaptability, and Brain Care.
These tools and strategies are derived from highly complex concepts in neuroscience and cognitive-behavioural psychology that are not easily translated into a language accessible for individuals outside of these fields. However, Brown and Fenske, ably assisted by health-writer Liz Neporent, master this feat of knowledge translation with playful and clear writing that offers an adequate foundation in science (highlighting applicable pieces of information), step-by-step instructions on how to master change, and interviews conducted with individuals with a range of real-life success stories. Some inspirational stories of success include interviews from Trisha Meili (also known as the Central Park Jogger), Kerri Strug (gymnastics Olympian), Kevin Clash (Sesame Street’s ‘Elmo’), Andy (a London Black Cab driver), Camille McDonald (Bath & Body Works’ President of Brand Development), and one of Fenske’s most inspirational interviews, B.B. King (Blues guitar legend).
Fenske states that when he and his colleagues were writing the book, they wanted to include “real world examples of people and the science in action, exemplifying the science and research behind each [particular Win Factor].” Fenske went on to tell us about his interview with B.B. King, in which B.B. King “talked about humble beginnings, being very poor, and how being a black artist was full of challenges when he started out.” Fenske heard the “resilience and dedication of [B.B. King] pushing through time after time, and how he had the mental strategies at [the beginning of his career] that he still uses as a performing artist, such as practicing and constantly and continually working on himself and what he does.”
As this book is about translating the complex concept of neuroplasticity into easily accessible terms for many audiences, B.B. King’s interview, amongst many others, “illustrates how the brain is constantly changing and that each of us can be proactive by taking part in how our brain changes over the course of a lifetime.” Fenske reflected on what he has come to know about neuroscience and said, “This is a message of hope…We don’t just have to settle with what we are or what we can do at any point in time.”
The Winner’s Brain is a valuable combination of expertise of neuroscience and clinical practice. And Fenske added, “The book benefitted tremendously from interactions with students, which facilitated discussion and helped in brainstorming ways that [this knowledge] can be translated into a language that anyone can use.” Fenske cleverly pointed out that there are “more than just scientists who can use this new knowledge to increase their Brain Power in their day-to-day lives.”