5 Benefits of Meditation for Entrepreneurs

I think many would agree that the workplace is one of the more stressful environments we find ourselves in on a day-to-day basis. Take that stress experienced by millions everyday and add it to the complications faced when you’re an entrepreneur trying to run that business, and it is easy to see how you can quickly start to suffer the negative consequences. Entrepreneurs are the brains behind and the faces of their companies. They are in charge of most, if not all, business decisions and it’s easy to see how this can become overwhelming and stressful.

That’s where meditation comes in to play. Meditation can help you center yourself, calm nerves, and reduce stress in your daily life. In addition to that, there are some other amazing benefits that can directly benefit you as an entrepreneur not just from a personal standpoint, but also the growth of your business and happiness of your employees.

  1. Meditation improves cognitive processes: Entrepreneurs find themselves faced with dozens of critical decisions every day. Meditation clears the mind and supports an overall sense of clarity that allows quick processing of multiple pieces of information, which is essential in business.
  2. Meditation improves restful sleep and energy levels: Elevated cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress, can sap an entrepreneur’s energy and prohibit restful, restorative sleep after a long day building a business. Meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels resulting in less stress and more successful recharge from deep, restful sleep.
  3. Meditation teaches you to maintain a positive mindset: Emotions can run high in business, especially when you are the one in charge! Meditation helps master one’s emotions and keep a positive outlook even when faced with setbacks or difficult decisions. This positivity will show in all aspects of an entrepreneur’s day and supports confidence, good decision-making, and meaningful communication with team members and potential clients.
  4. Meditation fosters discipline: The only prerequisite for meditation to work for anyone is as simple as taking the time to meditate regularly! Regular meditation supports a disciplined mind, which is critical for an entrepreneur’s success. A disciplined mind is going to tackle tasks more efficiently and make better use of time, which is an entrepreneur’s most valuable resource.
  5. Meditation supports healthy reactions to challenges: Emotions can run high when you are responsible for the success or failure of your business ventures. This can lead to less than desirable reactions to challenges or speed bumps along the way. Meditation is the deliberate control over your thoughts and emotions, which lends itself perfectly when faced with adversity. Your mind will be clear and allow you to quickly overcome any unforeseen obstacles that are bound to spring up.

Suffice it to say, meditation is a potent tool at an entrepreneur’s disposal and should be incorporated into everyone’s company mission. It requires little time, and the benefits stretch far beyond what I listed above. The positive mindset, clarity, and emotional control gained through meditation are sure to give you an edge in what is arguably one of the most competitive arenas out there.

Do you have any favorite meditation practices that you implement in your entrepreneurial lives? I’d love to hear about how meditation has helped you, so make sure you let me know in the comments below or on my social channels.

Mood: The Ultimate Productivity Hack

In mid-1997, I found myself nearly naked treading water in the San Diego Bay somewhere around 2am. I wasn’t alone, though. Around me were about 60 of my closest buddies, also treading water, complete with their shivering limbs and chattering teeth. We were the young men of BUD/S Class 214, doing our best to get through the 6-month ordeal of Navy SEAL training. We couldn’t think that far ahead though, as we were just doing our best not to quit on this most agonizing of nights of our 6-day “hell week”.

This, you see, was the dreaded “steel pier” night of hell week. We all knew this was the night when most guys quit and the instructors pulled out all the cards to make life miserable for us. We’d already been fully awake since Sunday morning, some three days earlier. The class morale was at it’s lowest too. Instructor G. had been for hours yelling on the megaphone: “In the water, out of the water. Pain for you, fun for me!” And I do mean hours. I have no idea how he kept it up.

Incredibly, between Instructor G.’s banter and other instructors holding out hot cocoa and blankets for the “next guy to quit”, it was doing the job. It worked so well that in the last couple of hours we’d lost about 15-20 guys! To top it all off, our class senior enlisted leader (LPO) just quit. This is the most seasoned guy in the class and he was in charge of keeping tabs on everyone and taking care of the men. This was a very hard kick in the teeth of our class morale.

As was the practice, the instructors got together to figure out who is next in the chain of command and generally mess with the class morale even more before they announced the next senior enlisted leader. That’s when they turned and looked at me…

“Get out of the water, Kelley! Line up your men and get a muster! No, not your boat crew! The whole #@$% class! You’re the LPO, now son! Hurrrrrrry up!”

Ugh, talk about a paradigm shift. Up till now I’d been the class cadence caller but otherwise kept my mouth shut. You don’t want any extra attention going through BUD/S. Now I was in charge of a class of severely demoralized classmates, totally exhausted, and just trying to figure out how many were left.

“Sixty-seven, Instructor S!” was my attempt.

“Hell no, son, you’re down to sixty-two!” said the instructor. “Now get your sorry butts back in the water!”

Getting back in that water was the low point for the class. Really low. We could feel it. There was going to be a mass quitting real soon. That’s when I made a choice. Knowing I had only one powerful tool at my disposal, I decided to change the mood.

“Was one dark and stormy night. When your boy is called to fight…” I started singing. It’s an old “frogman” song that gets the blood going.

“Shut up, Kelley!” yelled the instructors. They knew what I was doing.“Better pray hard as you can…” others started joining in.

“He’ll come marching home again”, the class was getting louder.

Then it all came together. The tide shifted. The bonds of individuality lifted and we jointly donned the bonds of Brotherhood. While treading water and shivering in the bay at “o’dark thirty”.

“Woah-u oooh, o-u oh! Woah-u ooh, o-u oh!” The whole class was signing the chorus. Talk about a mood change…

Moods are one of those funny things that are discussed in psychology, philosophy, productivity, and bio/mind hackers among other disciplines. Have you ever stopped to thing about them? Let’s name some first:

Passion, Resignation, Wonder, Skeptical

Patient, Impatient, Generous, Cynical

Flexible, Rigid, Resolute, Panicky

Appreciative, Small-minded, Grateful, Opportunistic

Seductive, Closed, Cooperative, Petty

Becoming Arrogant, Happy, Sad

Loving, Fearful

Let’s play a game. Pick just one of the moods above and just think on it for a little bit. Where do you feel it? What does it cause to you want to do? What do you sense? Who do you think of?

According to most psychology definitions, moods are a longer term, more subdued emotion that can be assessed and categorized in a subjective way. Emotions, on the other hand, are an acute reaction to stimuli that may lead to mental, physical and sometimes bio-chemical triggering. Most professionals agree that emotions are shorter-term triggers that may often influence moods and vice versa. Outside stimuli, for example, could cause a biological reaction to our emotion and steering of our moods. Duh.

Let’s use a super simple example of complementing your wife on her figure or dress before going out to dinner. Not expecting one, she immediately feels “valued” which may lead to her being in a happy, or grateful or even seductive mood the rest of the evening. We can go many different ways with this but I just want to go through the biological process of stimuli–> emotion–> mood. This is the basic cause and effect sequence though there are many variations!

Can you control the stimuli? Of course. We learn that in bachelorhood 101, right? Candles? Check. Music? Check. And on it goes. Does it work? Yep. Then why do we forget to use it if this is the known sequence and it works on every human? I’m specifically not talking about with others either. I’m talking about you!

Warning. Paradigm shift ahead:

Moods can be created and produced in order to affect a desired outcome. Even though moods can and do happen (like burps), the more powerful way to think of them is as a tool that helps achieve objectives. We do not have to be held hostage by random moods, even if the cause is chemical. We can choose to alter the mood according to what is most needed at this time. This is mastery-level stuff though, and yet, there are plenty of masters.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a New York entrepreneur who has mastered social media, but has inadvertently become a master or producing a mood of dissatisfaction with laziness and one of incredible ambition. He does this with language, both written and spoken, through his social media channels and books. He continuously pushes specific words like hustle, among the backdrop of the busy NYC streets, at all hours, every day! Every component of his life, language and message are used to build a mood of highly driven ambition! It’s no accident.

There are definitely Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) components to crafting a mood. NLP components are often specific language that triggers these effective moods for you. They are usually short-term tactics, but if it is in support of ultimate objectives that are truly derived from the heart, they can work very well. If I, as an introvert, wanted to be outgoing at a very important dinner party, then I could use every tool to create that mood. I would tell myself “Everyone at this party is already my best friend”. I use specific questions to start a discussion “What are you most excited about these days?” I could wear clothing that starts a conversation. If my real objective were to have deep and impactful conversations with as many people as I could, then I would use every tool to the max. In strategy this is called “massing resources” to a single objective. It works well in warfare and when accomplishing any objective.

Moods also just happen. Sometimes for no reason that you can think of. Ask yourself if that’s the right one for today. There’s nothing wrong with giving in to melancholy on a lazy Sunday afternoon, if that’s appropriate. Yet for most of our week, that is not the most appropriate mood. Have you seen the mood chart that asks how are you feeling today? I used to have one in my office that was a little different. It listed POWERFUL moods that I could CHOOSE from. I thought about the next meeting and purposefully set the mood (both internally and externally) to produce the result that I needed most. Take the challenge, become a mood master, first for yourself and then for others. See for yourself how simple cause and effect really work!

The 5 Elements of Capability

What does it really take to be able to accomplish something? What if you want to be competitive at the same thing?

First a word about what would allow me to write on a subject like this. Just a few short years ago, I was a Navy SEAL sniper spending my days in Iraq hunting people. Sounds harsh, huh? I would like you to think about it from a competitive standpoint though. My team and I had to build skills and capability to be able to “compete” on the battlefield. We had to do it before deploying and we had to build those skills BETTER than anyone we thought we might fight against.

Since that time, I’ve built several businesses helping people build skills and capability in different domains and my philosophical bent has allowed me to explore, test, and confirm what I’ve observed to be what I now call the “Five Elements of Capability”. As in any theory of observable fact, I put forth the theory to be tested, confirmed, disproved, and/or used if it will make your life better. For me, I use it in all my competitive learning events and practices.

Let’s first define capability: The simplest definition in Webster’s is power or ability. I’ll take it a bit further and say the power and ability must exist at the time needed to take care of a situation or concern. (Hint: Not after the situation is gone.) For an example, let’s say I got a flat tire along the highway and need to get to work (the “situation”). If I have a good spare, knowledge to change the tire, skill to manipulate the equipment, and commitment to get it done, I will say I have the capability to take care of the situation. Getting a good spare 3 days later didn’t help me in this situation. It had to all exist for me when I need it.

Simple so far, right? Let’s say now that I’m in a pit crew at NASCAR and every second counts for my driver to win the race. This is a competitive situation and different from the one above (even though I’m changing tires in both). Now, I still need all the elements stated, but since I have to be better than others, I also need coaches and teachers to help me learn, and serious practice to become more competitive. So lets hold onto the two distinctions of capability and competitive capability while we look at the five elements in detail.

Commitment

A commitment to take care of the situation or concern must exist first. Most of the time, pain or displeasure is the trigger for this type of commitment. In that way, pain can be a good thing. Either way, the commitment must exist before the situation presents itself and you must be clear about all the other elements needed to take care of it. There is a level of seriousness when commitments are made since there are costs associated with them. If I commit to learn how to change a tire, that means there is another 30 minutes that I’m not resting my bones (or whatever). Many people do not know how to make commitments because we see broken promises all the time. They are everywhere. To build a strong commitment, it takes practice. Try one today. Commit to do something by the end of the day and do it. See what happens in your head and what it takes to get there. I will say it is not easy.

Knowledge

This is the trickiest element by far. All of the other elements flow into this one and knowledge supports all of the other elements. Let’s go through it. Knowledge is the mental capacity to know what the problem is, the commitment needed to take care of it, the equipment needed, how do use it, and if it’s a competitive situation, it all needs to be better than anyone else trying to do it. That means you need to know what others are doing and what their standards are. That’s a lot, huh? Let’s go back to my sniper days. As a sniper, I had to know how to shoot my rifle well. That means I had to know in what situations I would find myself to use my gear and knowledge. I had to learn from very, very good teachers how to do it. (This is a key point!) I had to learn about the equipment and how to manipulate it (see practice below). I also had to know my competition and how we would compete. This, by the way, had life and death consequences. Then I had to put it all together to build my knowledge. Somehow, that knowledge kept leaking out of my head and my body (why couldn’t I pull the trigger the same every time?). I suppose that happens to us all. The point is that acquiring this knowledge is a never-ending process if you want to maintain competitiveness! Hmm, sounds like a big commitment, huh?

Equipment

You must have the right equipment at the right time to be able to use it. This takes knowledge of what the right gear is and the situation you might find yourself in. Then you have to buy it, maintain it, and prepare the gear to be used. This part isn’t really rocket science, but how many of you have a multi-tool on your body, backpack, or car everyday? Do you have a jack in your car? Are you sure? If you have a gun in your home, do you have ammo? Do you have a safe to keep the gun in and the kids out? Cleaning materials? Accessories for it? The big issue with equipment is that people don’t put enough thought into it or don’t have enough knowledge to buy the right gear and accessories.

Coaches

Really, why would I need a coach or a teacher? Can’t I learn from a book or the internet? In a way those things are “teachers” but then the question becomes, how competitive do you want to be? Are you in business? You better know that business is competitive as hell! What other areas are you competing? Coaches provide feedback on your commitments, knowledge, equipment and practice so you can keep getting better at a skill. They keep you from making deadly or costly mistakes. Coaches and teacher need to be accomplished though. I wouldn’t want a person who has never built a successful business coaching me on building a successful business. It’s amazing when you look around how many of us are “sold” on non-qualified coaches and teachers. Seek out the best!

Practice

Like I said earlier, knowledge and skill “leaks” out of us every day. We are not robots and when we acquire skill it has a shelf life, usually measured in day and weeks. When we make our commitment to building a skill, we decide if that skill will be competitive or not, which leads to how we will practice. How often do you need to practice changing a tire? Maybe once every couple of years. How about Fire Drills? Twice a year? How about a sales presentation? Every week? What about shooting your handgun? This is a tricky one. In what situation would you find yourself needing to pull a trigger? I would say it would be life and death and the consequences very serious. No matter who you are, I would say that you should practice COMPETITIVELY for situations like this. Coaches and all.

How do you practice? With the purpose of building skill every single time. In order to get faster, more efficient, and better than any competitor. One skill at a time and then put them all together. Get feedback and compare yourself against your past work and other’s doing the same thing. Coaches can really help with practice.

That’s it. The Five Elements of Capability (in brief). This is meant an an executive summary and a template. Obviously much more detail and grounding lie below my assertions above, but this is enough to help you think though any skill-building exercise. If it’s training for a triathlon, business or warfare, these elements must exist for building any kind of capability. Try it on for size, skill-building is a skill, after all.

Is Ambition Enough?

What’s the difference between drive, ambition and motivation; and why it matters.

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

–Rudyard Kipling

Why?

What is it that “drives” us to do anything? Why do you work? Why do you eat Oreos? Why do you start businesses? Why do you buy a lottery ticket? The answers to these questions may seem self-evident, but in fact, are actually quite complex. For they come into existence from within that same complex organism that can destroy this earth.

It’s been my life study for some odd reason, which requires analysis itself (I’ll save that for my journal). I’ve always wanted to know why. Economics, philosophy, religion, psychology have all been my friends on this strange journey of… why?

Surprisingly, biology has recently arrived in my den of contemplation with a beaker full of coffee to teach me some more answers to all my whys. It seems as if the old Zen master was right when he said that the world was within us. I just didn’t think so much of it had to do with our… bodies.

Yet, to convey my insights, my lessons, I know that words are necessary. Accurate words. Meaningful words. Words understood by you, the reader. And then the insight fairy has to tap your understanding to transform it into knowledge, or if it all lines up just right, into Wisdom. Words suck. It just doesn’t happen that way. There are breakdowns in transference. Always.

So, by God, let’s play with some words and figure out why you do what you do, you know, like launch a Facebook Ads campaign, or drink scotch. One thing is sure, we all do a lot of weird things, or so my dog’s face tells me sometimes.

I had a business mentor once teach me that being “driven” is not a choice and therefore undesirable. He said that instead, we can choose to be “ambitious”. For ambition is a desire for success, merged with cognitive action (thought) and physical action to produce desired outcomes.

“Well said!” said I. I liked that definition, accepted it as my truth for years and went on to do pretty well in the entrepreneurial spheres for a while. Ambition works as a paradigm, a framework, a mindset in this world of striving. It also takes an incredible amount of willpower, and the self-discipline of a celibate monk in Las Vegas. That doesn’t mean its not possible, but there is a reason the top 10% of US society make $400k or more annually, and the rest do not. What is it really that separate the top 10% from the other 90%? Lack of ambition? Lack of knowledge? Lack of opportunity? The wrong kind of genes?

So, as an entrepreneur, I hung out with other entrepreneurs. I did the masterminds, the strategy programs, and even got an M.B.A. As a questioner and an observer, I noticed a few things that shook my foundations of ambition. My primary observation was that everyone in business had ambition. Sure, there were lots of variations of it. Some were full of knowledge, some full of experience. Others had neither but whatever they touched turned to gold! It was the weirdest thing to be friends with so many business owners and still not figure out why some crushed it and others floundered. Yet, they all had an ambition to be successful. Again, why the difference in outcomes?

Enter biology. “No way!” says my learned mind. We all have the same biology, right? Mostly? It turns out that indeed, all of these biological systems that are encased in that hairy skin wrapper called our body make us “do”. Chemicals cause. Electrical sparks entice. Neural pathways note, and ponder. Innervations interpret. You get the literal idea; our bodies make us think and act.

Yet there is one piece of this biological soup that is the “master” causer, if that’s a word; it’s our genes! Really. Try this. “Why” are you right (or left) handed? You chose it? Nope. Maybe, but if you did choose, you overrode your genetic instructions. Now for the kicker. Would you believe that two (that we know of) little genes are suspected of being the key causes of what you call “drive”?

Let’s linguistically clarify that term, drive. Just like my business mentor used to say, drive is not a choice. I just never really thought about that. Where he was wrong, though, was that it was not “desired”. (Well, technically he is correct, but that’s another article.) For those of us who want to start their own business, create new value in the marketplace, innovate, create, produce art, or break records we all want this so-called drive. Drive in pseudo-psychological terms is simply a strong dissatisfaction in either the present or construed future; such that is causes us to DO something about it. The dissatisfaction may be reality-based or fantasy-based, but it’s real to your body. The body’s desire to MOVE is real. Drive exits in our bodies, either in our minds, nervous systems or our physical bodies but often it’s all three!

Recent genetic research leads us suspect that the two guilty parties of our drive come from the DrD2 and the DrD4–7r allele genes. Allele is a fancy scientific term for mutation. “I knew it! We’re all X-men!” you say. Well kind of. Wolverine? No. Doctor Xavier? Maybe. Some of us humans have done some amazing things. We will do more amazing things once we really learn to use the gifts those two genes give us.

There is also a very interesting correlation in the preceding paragraphs too. Remember the top 10% of income earners in the US? It turns out that only about 10–15% of the US population have either of these genetic alleles; these so-called “drive genes”. “Fascinating”, as Spock would say. Ready for the really interesting adjunct to this info? Those two genes, the DrD2 and the DrD4–7 alleles are what doctors, researchers and psychologists attribute Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADD/ADHD) symptoms to.

Funny how that works out. A little too much like the X-men narrative in my book. Mutants are untrusted, unloved, and scary to the rest of the population in the movies. So is Elon Musk. Richard Branson. Thomas Edison (or he was). So was Steve Jobs. The point is that those of us with these genetic traits are dissatisfied with what is, or will be, and we work like crazy to change it! Unfortunately, the other 90% of the population without these traits aren’t too fond of so much rapid change, so there exists an inherent battle between these two forces. Thom Hartmann (@Thom_Hartmann), in his book The Edison Gene, calls these two groups in this conflict Hunters and Farmers. Take a guess whom is whom.

So for thousands of years these “hunters”, often talked about by anthropologists as hunter/gatherers, spent all their time living by their wits, in tune with nature and were part of a supporting tribe. Back then, the “drive” genes used to be dominant! Until the agricultural revolution, that is. This then led to a decline in the hunter genetic pool while the farmers increased in population percentage. That’s the short version.The amazing book Sapiens elaborates on the impact of the agricultural revolution, showing how the world has changed and our genes are slow to keep up!

Nowadays, those “driven” genes are expressed in modern-day hunters, like entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, salespeople, athletes, warriors, and international businesspeople. Farmers still manage the world while hunters push the limits, due to their drive. Add to it a dose of ambition, which indicates self-disciplined thought and action, and you have the top 5% of wealth producers in the world. Crazy, because of some genes…

What about motivation? Can’t anyone just get motivated and learn to crush it? That’s what “motivational speakers” do, right? It’s well known that motivation is simply a state of mind based on visualization or neuro-linguistic programming (which are fancy words for narrative brainwashing), and we also know that states of mind don’t last. There is a disconnect somewhere. If your genes don’t make you discontented at the deepest level, do you think changing a temporary state of mind will be enough for you to live and die at the altar of your startup 18 hours a day? For years? In my book, motivation is what you need to storm a beach, not conduct a war!

If you are truly considering the “hunter’s life”, by starting your own business, for example, then take a look at your history. Have you always been that “hunter”? If so, then it’s just a case of coupling the right knowledge with a healthy dose of ambition (including the requisite self-discipline), and get motivated to start. If you’re not one of those hunters, wait until the hunter builds it, then step in and manage it for us, so we can move on to the next adventure!

The Struggle

“Resistance is futile.” –The Borg

That’s what they want you to believe, don’t they? Just shut up, sit down and be assimilated. And no, I’m not talking about the Borg. Have you ever felt that way? I do, most days actually. Every stinking thing I think I want (or need) to do has numerous forces arrayed against that very idea. Standby if you actually begin acting upon it too.

Maybe it has to do with something my 10 year old was telling me about, it went “…every object at rest wants to stay at rest…” I admit, I can sympathize, empathize and generally concur with that fundamental law. Often.

Yet, we rest every night. We take breaks. What exactly is it that gets us moving again? Better yet, what keeps us moving, (towards a goal for example) when we start facing these obstacles in our way?

It’s something deep down, for me anyways, that sometimes shows up as boredom, sometimes fear, and sometimes a genuine excitement and wonder of the process. (By the way, this is not some scientific, psychological treatise of the nature of resistance, but instead a practicing observer’s introspective view).

That drive, that incredible drive the gets me moving in the first place, that tells me that status quo is not OK, is what I’ve come to call “dissatisfaction”. For me that dissatisfaction comes quite naturally: the DrD4 “wandering” gene allele to be exact. You see, I have a simple genetic twist that makes me think that the grass is always greener on other side of the fence (or world), and so I wander. A lot.

The point is that we all have some drive in this life. The real question is what is it that drives you? Why do you lift weights? Eat Oreos? Start businesses? Be careful, you and I can’t blush quickly over such a question. It’s why my business partner sees so many people as a psychotherapist. Drive is always there; the fuel for the drive is what makes people so different. But alas, the deep-dive of drive is for another article. This one is about resistance, which once you think about it, is the “anti-drive” force acting upon you. Now things get interesting!

Resistance is everywhere, when we get out of bed, when we breathe, exercise is based upon resistance, and how about when you ask your teenager to clean his room? Have you ever tried to start a daily practice like meditating every day? How about staying on task while writing an article? Or paper? Or homework? Yes, resistance is everywhere.

If we look at the practice of lifting weights, we learn a lot about the nature of resistance. We use it to stress and break down out muscles, so that they can re-build back up even stronger. Why? Of course some do it to look good, some to be stronger and others for functional strength. One thing we do know about strength through resistance is that it protects us from injury, or pain, or even death.

So as I look at the long list of emails in my inbox, what is it that causes me to bolt out of the chair and eat another Oreo, play with the dog, or generally organize my pens in order of color? Resistance. The kind that resides inside of me, not outside of me, like that kettlebell by my desk. This internal resistance that is so common with people with high drive, creates an interesting phenomenon for observers like me.

My first assessment is that we are normally unaware of such resistance within us. Why would we ever want to self-sabotage ourselves and resist doing what we know we should, or even want to do? My business partner Doug, would go on at length about our comfort zones and what they mean to us, but I want to get to the point: Resistance is your friend. That’s it. It makes you stronger. It is there already, so use it. Lean into it. Be curious about it. Ask it questions, and get to know it well.

I’m learning that internal resistance never goes away, nor do you want it to. You will always want that Oreo, or do something you shouldn’t, or not do your taxes when you know you need to. Take the challenge. Laugh at it. Then crush that bad decision waiting to manifest with a good decision, or at least a neutral decision. The first step in taking charge of what you manifest in life is know that the resistance is always there, if only to make you stronger.

I’ve also learned that there are generally two ways to deal with that internal resistance. Either overpower it as it is, or to let it melt away on it’s own. We are so used to overpowering it that our willpower gets exhausted and we give in somewhere else. Try instead to be curious about it, ask where it’s coming from, laugh about it and then the overcoming is much easier! It works for me.

One last lesson that has been especially hard for me is to only make small changes and keep them. As someone with high drive, I want to conquer whatever my goal is and I tend to make huge changes that invariably never stick. Small changes over a 21-30 day period is what we need to keep real changes and make habits stick. Your friend resistance will constantly be there to spur you on and keep you strong.

Why Your ADD/ADHD May Be a Gift and Not a Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that approximately 5% of American children have ADD/ADHD, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than double that number and say the reality is about 11%.

But what if, for a select number of these individuals, there is something else there? What if there is something beyond the diagnosis?

In Doug Brackmann and Randy Kelley’s new book, Driven: Understanding and Harnessing the Genetic Gifts Shared by Entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, Pro Athletes… and Maybe You! the two authors delve into how specific genetic traits are often categorized as a disorder but may be biological hardwiring that, if given the right environment, can set one up for immense success.

In a world where more and more children are being coined with a “disorder,” this genetic variance may be anything but. Have you ever wondered how some people are able to become CEOs, pro athletes, and incredibly successful people? How their brain works and why everyone that puts in the effort can’t just rise to the top? Brackmann and Kelley explore the concept of “Highly Driven” individuals— those who are the entrepreneurs, inventors, elite athletes, and big thinkers. Those who, though only 10% of the population, make up most of the world’s wealth. However, Brackmann, a PhD Psychologist, and Kelley, a former Navy SEAL sniper and martial artist, have been working with Highly Driven individuals for years and have seen incredible results from working with honing these skills that are biologically present in only a few.

Driven: Understanding and Harnessing the Genetic Gifts Shared by Entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, Pro Athletes… and Maybe You! explains that the research done on patients with ADD/ADHD simply tells differences between groups with and without ADD/ADHD rather than why there are differences or any evolutionary benefits for these differences. Because of this, it is easy to differentiate people with ADD/ADHD and characterize it as a defect. However, there are actually benefits to these traits and many of them are considered maladaptive, meaning they are beneficial to survive in a dangerous world.

In their book, Brackmann and Kelley explain that the difference that some people are experiencing, that everyone tells them is bad, is actually good. That they possess an evolutionary advantage that challenges survival. An advantage that can result in a remarkable set of gifts and talents that, if understood and nurtured, can result in the most successful and creative individuals— the Highly Driven.

Driven explores psychotherapist and entrepreneur Thom Hartmann’s theory for understanding ADD/ADHD and his book The Edison Gene. While Harmann’s theory was initially met with skepticism from drug companies, scientists, and mental health professionals, he has since received an apology from the psychiatric community for their initial reaction to his model. A global study compared genes across the human species and compared the genomes of traditional hunting culture and traditional farming tribes. The study found 23 statistically significant differences in the DNA between the two groups. Historically, the hunter’s skills were paramount for survival. When the agricultural revolution came about, society shifted towards a much safer world, where food was far more predictable and the hunter’s skills and abilities were not as crucial anymore. While for the most part humans adapted to their new environment and evolutionary change occurred, for some, it did not.

The book goes on further to explain the difference between the Driven brain’s use of the frontal lobe and how that affects their abilities. Non Driven people have frontal lobe dominance, whereas the Driven brain have hypo-frontality, with an underactive frontal lobe but greater occipital dominance. This means that the Driven use the occipital lobe more to navigate the world, depending mainly on visual stimuli to make sense of the world around them. As Brackmann and Kelley state in Driven, the Highly Driven, “see first, and think second.” While split second decisions used to be necessary to survival in the pre-agrarian times of the predator vs. its prey, this dominance of the occipital lobe opens up the frontal lobe in the Driven so that they have the ability to consider multiple variables simultaneously.

Imagine a computer, able to simultaneously run multiple browser tabs and applications. While one program is running in the background, you are still able to focus on another, neither ceasing their work. The Driven are able to see connections between multiple concepts and come up with innovative solutions to problems and see how something could work in ways that others cannot. This example is a gift that the Driven possess that is often associated with ADD/ADHD and is thought of negatively. However, neither is wrong and the differences between different types of people are good; they are what make us who we are. But in a world where individuals who possess these rare and wonderful skills are often looked down upon, it is crucial to properly understand the wiring of the Driven and why these skills are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, what makes the Driven unique, what is often thought of as a disorder, is what also enables them to change the world.

But what causes these changes? Why can some people be satisfied with a typical nine to five job while others cannot seem to stay focused long enough? Why for some, does a normal job sound like their version of hell? Why have some people held on to these traits that are needed to survive in a much more dangerous world while others have adjusted to our newer, safer environment.

Brackmann and Kelley found that neurobiological research shows that the Driven differ genetically in the way their reward systems function. A genetic mutation possessed by the Driven changes the number of receptors on D2/D4 receptor sites and the way that dopamine is transported between the cells to the reward centers in the brain. This change impacts the feeling of being rewards in the Driven and leads to deficiencies in feeling rewarded. This results in the Driven constantly seeking dopamine and searching to activate the reward system.

“If we believe that the dopamine we crave will eventually come, we may drive ourselves into the ground trying for it, persevering well beyond what any normal person would tolerate.” – Driven: Understanding and Harnessing the Genetic Gifts Shared by Entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, Pro Athletes… and Maybe You!

The Driven constantly seek success that entices them with promises of fulfillment, and the Driven never quit. This quest is both a strength and a downfall, a way of working hard towards success but a way that may ultimately leave us drained and feeling unsatisfied.

While there are many aspects that Brackmann and Kelley have discovered regarding the Highly Driven, remember that each topic is important to understand properly in order to fully unlock the potential of the Driven brain. As we dive into these topics further in the future, I encourage you to all read through the upcoming novel Driven: Understanding the Mastery of the Genetic Gifts Shared by Entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, Pro Athletes… and Maybe You and ask yourselves if you may indeed be one of the few— a Highly Driven person.