Sim Campbell, used the power of consistency to become a new person.
There’s a reason why you can’t stick to a diet.
There’s a reason why you can’t “get math”.
There’s a reason why you can’t “talk to girls” (or guys).
There’s a reason why you can’t stop procrastinating.
There’s a reason why you can’t stop smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol.
There’s a reason why you can’t do what you know needs to be done.
There’s a reason why the person you are right now and the person you want to become is separated by a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon.
It’s not because of your willpower (though initially it may be).
And it’s not because you’re lazy or inadequate.
You want to know the real reason?
It’s because you literally don’t have the right circuitry.
Here’s what this breaks down to:
Your brain is the most advanced supercomputer on the planet or the known universe.
In fact, it was the model for the original computer prototype.
Your brain is compiled of 100 billion neurons all in an interlinked network, with the ability to send a signal from one end of the chain to the other in less than a second.
Your brain is then connected to your nervous system, which is over 90,000 miles long, all wrapped up in a tiny package called “you”.
Your brain is very adaptable to change, this is called “neuroplasticity”. It’s how you heal from traumatic accidents, internalize new information, and develop new patterns, new ways of doing things.
Neuroplasticity happens every time you come into contact with something new. Your brain reacts to the stimulus and reconfigures itself to adapt to the stimulus, even slightly. Most of the time, this is going on in the background of your awareness.
Example: as a teenager, driving was foreign to you. Now? You probably drift off into autopilot mode when you drive. Why? Because your brain has created a certain pathway, a certain circuitry to the skill of “driving”.
What does this mean for you?
This means you can mold and shape yourself into who you want to be (with few limitations).
What’s the main barrier to this?
Conservation of energy. Your brain is the largest consumer of energy and calories in your body. It uses that to upkeep the brain and recycle nerve cells.
Creating new cells and neural pathways is a very excruciating process that takes a ton of energy. Your brain would rather stick to old pathways to be more energy efficient. We know these as “habits”.
In fact, it coats those old pathways in a substance called “myelin”, which makes those pathways easier to access and faster to fire nerve signals with each use. Imagine if you seran-wrapped a piece of food, placed it in the microwave and set it for high heat. What would happen? The seran wrap would literally melt into the food. That’s what’s happening when you use a pathway for an extended period of time and it gets coated in myelin.
The myelination process is very active in adolescence/young adulthood, because it’s preparing the brain for adulthood. This process then starts to slowly taper off (though it still is active).
This is the reason for all those “child prodigies” who seem to be blessed with “natural talent”. They are “heavily myelinated”.
This is why a lot of the habits we develop in our teenage years tend to stick around (for better or for worse), because the brain is just spewing connections left and right. Again, myelination.
This is why learning new skills and material is difficult and mentally taxing; generally it seems to be “easier” to learn stuff at a younger age.
This is why you feel that you can’t quit doing a counterproductive activity.
This is why most people bring their past into the future and as a result live a repetitive and monotonous existence.
How do we build new brain circuitry? Deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is the act of consciously focusing on an area of potential improvement and giving it 100% concentration.
Focus is what signals the brain to create new neural pathways and speed up the myelination process.
By focusing on a specific action and repeating it over and over, you are telling your brain that you need it to act in a certain way for certain situations.
The brain will then adapt to that situation and make it easier and easier to perform the next time. Your body will also adapt to the stimulus.
This is why “perfect practice makes perfect”.
This is in contrast to the way many people practice any activity: distracted and half-hearted.
If you want to get better at concentration, you sit down and concentrate for as long as you can on a single subject.
If you want to get better at piano, focus on playing piano intently with no distractions.
A small caveat, though: deliberate practice is not fun. If you’re doing it right, it should feel like a rock is sitting on your head.
You are literally changing the physical makeup of your brain every time you engage in deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is designed to take you to the very brink of your mental limits and expand them.
Personally, there have been times where I literally wept due to the extension of my mental capacities in a certain area.
This is the performance secret of superstar athletes, top performers at work, and anyone else who has achieved a high degree of skill and/or excellence at something.
How do you start? Pick a task like learning a new skill (coding, playing guitar, socializing with people) and give it 100% concentration. It will feel awkward, it will feel painful at first - but it’s worth it.
After a while, you will see that what was once impossible is now an ordinary thing. It’s like going to the gym. No one presses 315 on their first try.
Once your benchmark is surpassed, you must constantly challenge yourself and keep pushing for the next level if you want to keep performing at a high(er) level.
This is also the way you get rid of addictions too. You practice living without the substance or activity until your brain adapts to life without it. Addictions are hardwired into the brain via the same process of myelination.
It takes time. It takes time for your brain and body to adapt to your “new normal”. This is part of the reason why addicts go through a period of “withdrawal”. It’s the brain’s last ditch effort to not have to create a new pathway.
This is also not easy. If it were, we’d all be free from our vices and living our best lives. But if you look around, you can see that clearly isn’t the case.
Deliberate practice is the best life hack that you can do. Best of all, it compounds.
After 10 years of committing to a lifestyle of deliberate practice, you will be absolutely amazed at what your life will look like.
And trust me, you will never want to go back to your “standard protocol”.
109.5k Views · View Upvoters · View Sharers · Answer requested by Arjun Neupane
Rana Ashish upvoted this
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Aug 8 · 14 upvotes including Sim Campbell
Very interesting answer, and I agree completely! Sounds very similar to the concept of “habit gravity and escape velocity” a concept from Eben Pagan. Wondering if you’ve heard of this concept?
Sun · 1 upvote
I have not. Eben Pagan is a smart man so I’m not surprised he’s thought of these ideas.
Mon · 2 upvotes
Very thankful to you for this answer. Just want to know what you mean by “Personally, there have been times where I literally wept due to the extension of my mental capacities in a certain area.”
Could you please elaborate, I really wanna know. I know it would be personal to you so I won't mind the high level of abstraction… :-)