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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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3 Responses

  1. Soheil Dabestani says:

    Tror att du och jag mÃ¥ste ta ett snack i dagar­na som kom­mer Andreas. Har en del intres­sant infor­ma­tion och behöver lite feed­back pÃ¥ nÃ¥gra tankar. Ring eller maila mig! //Soheil

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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