Have you ever thought ‘why can’t I do this? it’s so simple!’ or when someone points out a simple better approach to a problem ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ or wonder why some days you can bust the problem of the day but others you are stymied by three simple problems? Well in this book David Rock explains the answers to those questions and much more.
No he doesn’t tell you how to think. Instead he takes the latest neurological understanding of how our brains operate and puts it in every day terms. He makes so we understand what the limitations and the strengths. He then takes normal every day situations and applies what science has learned. There are two takes to each scene. The first is how I’d do it if I were in that situation. No, Rock didn’t interview me but instead took the typical approach of an adult to real world situations. Then he explains what the brain was doing and why we think it works that way. Finally he redoes the scene taking the new information into account.
I was amazed at what I learned. First off just what a power (glucose) monster the brain is! Really, all these years when I’ve complained of mental fatigue I was right. Next how to approach layered problems by grouping things before approaching them. Prefrontal cortex is where we do our fresh thinking. It’s the most powerful part of the brain, the most energy hungry, and surprisingly the most limited. It’s a serial processor. He illustrates it well in the start of this talk from 2009.
Actually that talk is just a glimpse into what the book is about. I found the book more entertaining and of course more informative. No disrespect to his talk, it’s great but there is much more room in the book to go into more detail. Oh and the applying things to everyday life helped me immensely.
I always wondered how things became easier as we did them. No I get that practice makes perfect but how does it make perfect. Why is it the first time I drive to a job getting there consumes me but three months down the road I can listen to a book on tape and get there just fine without thinking about it. Or when I learn a new crochet stitch – I’m consumed in getting it right, reciting the steps as I do them but a week later I’m doing it while watching TV and chatting with Mike. What happened? Well, the short answer is the activity moved from the prefontal cortex to deeper regions of the brain that don’t require so much of the body or myself to run.
There’s a lot of information in this book. I’ve already started using some of the tips and mastering them. I know that if I read it or listen to it again (I got the audiobook version now too) I’ll pick up new steps to try. It’s the kind of book that you process in layers, and now I know why startling new things are like that.
I heartily recommend it to everyone who has a brain and wants to use it. Until next time!