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Lifelong Learning: Changing My Brain

Hi!Andreas Engvig
This is Andreas, the Nor­we­gian MD/PhD in neu­ro­science can­di­date who worked as an intern at Sharp­Brains a few months ago. Now I’m back in chilly Oslo where I’ve just begun my PhD pro­gram on cog­ni­tive train­ing for patients with mem­ory problems.

Today I felt it was time to reflect upon my 3 month stay in San Fran­cisco ear­lier this year. It all started when in April when the Nor­we­gian school of entre­pre­neur­ship said: You’ve got a ticket to San Fran­cisco, now you got to find the per­fect start-up com­pany to work for.

Being inter­ested in brain train­ing, I googled Brain fit­ness San Fran­cisco and guess what I found? I got in touch with Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, the co-founder of SharpBrains.com and two months later I started work­ing with him and his team.

As a sci­en­tist, being placed in an excit­ing start-up com­pany in a novel mar­ket like brain fit­ness was a huge learn­ing expe­ri­ence that gave me hands-on knowl­edge of busi­ness and entre­pre­neur­ial cul­ture. Being a neu­ro­science stu­dent, I know that learn­ing phys­i­cally changes my brain, strength­en­ing it.

Here’s a list of some of the key things I’ve learned:

1) First of all, one of key rules for brain fit­ness is learn­ing. In Sharp­Brains I imme­di­ately got to expe­ri­ence what a great learn­ing cul­ture can be all about  from key insights in entre­pre­neur­ship to how to make cre­ative videos and writ­ing for the web. The urge for con­stant learn­ing is both fun and stim­u­lat­ing  and I appre­ci­ate Alvaro’s sug­ges­tion to write this post.

2) Sci­ence and busi­ness can learn from each other. Com­ing from an ana­lytic field of sci­ence I really enjoyed work­ing at the com­mer­cial counter-part for a while. Actu­ally I used the first weeks under­stand­ing who busi­ness peo­ple think dif­fer­ently from sci­en­tists. In the com­mer­cial world you have less time, often work­ing for shorter dead­lines, mean­ing you have to work more effi­ciently in a goal-oriented man­ner. I have applied much of what the world of busi­ness taught me to be a more effi­cient scientist.

3) The 80–20 rule as a rule to live by. The rule states that 80% of effects are usu­ally explained by 20% of causes. Did you know it’s an invalu­able con­cept in time man­age­ment? Here is twenty unique ways to apply it to your life also.

4) “Don’t boil the ocean. In gen­eral, when doing research for a project, try to find the key experts and reports that have eval­u­ated your area of inter­est. You don’t need to find out every aspect of a case to eval­u­ate or use it for your research. As my boss said it: - 100% per­fec­tion is the enemy of results and action.

5) “Inten­tion means noth­ing” says moti­va­tion guru Anthony Rob­bins. What mat­ters is the action. If you don’t try to imple­ment ideas, you will learn little.

6) A valu­able les­son in project man­age­ment: Always approach every project in a goal-oriented, hypoth­e­sis dri­ven way. Find and use an ini­tial hypoth­e­sis to start with and con­stantly try to seek infor­ma­tion that either sup­ports or fal­si­fies it.

7) Find your “unfair advan­tage” (as one of our Pro­fes­sors put it). A com­pany can out­ma­noeu­vre its com­pe­ti­tion by hav­ing a cer­tain sus­tain­able com­pet­i­tive advan­tage com­pared to its com­peti­tors. It can apply to all lev­els of a com­pany and its ser­vices from brand­ing to strate­gic partnerships.

8) Spread­ing the mes­sage that our brains have a life long poten­tial for change and that you can train your men­tal mus­cles sys­tem­at­i­cally in numer­ous ways. We exper­i­mented dif­fer­ent Inter­net media: from Youtube videos to writ­ing the world’s great­est brain fit­ness blog.

9) Build­ing the bridge between sci­ence and the peo­ple is impor­tant for help­ing thou­sands ben­e­fit from the recent find­ings about the brain’s life long poten­tial for change  called neu­ro­plas­tic­ity. In my opin­ion, Alvaro and the Sharp­brains team are doing a great job for that cause.

10) Start­ing up a com­pany is hard work. It demands per­sis­tence, dis­ci­pline and com­mit­ment over long peri­ods of time. But if you’re really pur­su­ing some­thing you are really pas­sion­ate about it’s all worth it.

Thank you, Alvaro and the Sharp­Brains team. It has been a great summer!

Happy Hol­i­days to everyone,

Andreas

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