Life offers lots of opportunities. In fact, opportunities are always there, and will always be there. What we often lack is the necessary knowledge (the understanding) and skills needed for moving forward and achieving our goals. We all wish to reach our potential; we all possess this inner desire to reach for the top positions in every domain. When we fail to do so, we suppress our inner desire and deceive ourselves with feelings of being content with what we have. We abandon our aims and goals. We do this because we lack the understanding and skills needed to bring about a change.
We are born with a huge potential at our disposal – a powerful force – and an instinct and enough knowledge which propel us to seek knowledge. A new born baby’s brain is hungry for knowledge and seeks information. Babies “show stunning sensitivity to the human face within an hour of birth”, writes Henry Plotkin in Necessary knowledge (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2007). Plotkin’s book is a well researched academic book that looks at the nature-nurture debate and discusses what knowledge we are born with and what knowledge we acquire after birth. Knowledge and skills undoubtedly determine our future, our well-being and who we are. Our inbuilt mechanism for seeking understanding is paramount for the health of the brain, as an inactive brain degenerates and becomes prone to mental disease.
We have an obligation to gain the necessary skills and understanding, as without them we are doomed and in peril, risking mental illness. Darold Treffert, a prominent American psychiatrist (www.daroldtreffert.com), agreed during our recent conversation over the phone that my thesis was correct and that there is a correlation between degenerative diseases of the brain and brain activity. Treffert accepted that brain activity can slow down the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. However, I am beginning to think in the direction that degenerative diseases may actually be caused by inactivity of the brain.
By brain activity, I do not mean routine-like ordinary activity, what I mean is a challenging activity, a seriously challenging activity that involves creativity. Creativity is the direct opposite of dogma. We have to let go of our dogmatic beliefs and ideas if we are to embrace creativity, if we are to exercise therapy. Our therapy lies in challenging and creative activities. Creativity saves the brain from degenerating and indeed it is the challenging and creative activity that restores the mind and the brain. It is no doubt the best exercise for the brain.
The brain’s health and our well-being depend on our ability to become who we are – our true self – and only then we are able to cultivate and exploit our full potential. To achieve this goal, we must endeavour to possess the skills and understanding that we lack. Once we have achieved these much-needed skills and understanding, we become powerful – powerful enough to express our ideas. The real power of the brain lies in its ability to be able to express itself. That is the key skill which, once achieved, alleviates the constraints and emancipates the mind. This is what allows the proliferation of creativity and creative ideas. This is why dogma is so dangerous for the health of the brain.
What I find most amusing at times is our attempt to hide our shortcomings, and our tendency to resist a challenging activity such as learning new skills. I am not talking about the ordinary folks who obviously lack the necessary skills, but individuals in high positions who are highly paid for their skills, the skills which they do not possess. Barbara Minto is a consultant and the author of a book titled The Pyramid Principle: Present Your Thinking So Clearly That the Ideas Jump Off the Page and into the Reader's Mind (PRENTICE HALL, imprint of PEARSON EDUCATION, 2002, UK). She actually teaches writing skills such as “how to structure your ideas” to the highly paid staff at big corporations, namely the CEOs. After reading the book (I was sent the review copy by the publisher), I was left wondering whether creativity can actually be taught.
Regardless, Barbara Minto does an excellent job in the book of trying to teach the readers how to bring logic and structure into their writings and presentations. She argues that “the mind automatically sorts information into distinctive pyramidal groupings in order to comprehend it”. And that “a grouping of ideas is easier to understand if presented as a pyramid under a summary thought”. I publish below a page from the text showing the pyramid:
The thought of Barbara Minto teaching these courses to the elite business leadership brings me the shivers (and giggles). I mean no disrespect to Barbara Minto or her book. What scares me, however, is the brainpower or the lack of it among the so-called leadership, the business elite. Like I said above, the real power lies in knowledge, understanding, and skill. If you lack the skill to express your ideas, or even structure your thoughts and ideas, then there is a big problem. Looking at the current economic situation, for example, we can say there is definitely a big problem.