Category: Growth

Don’t believe the fallacy that where you’re at right now is at the end of your capacity. If you never walk through the fire, you’ll never find out what you have in you.

Put high value on growth and you’ll be able to build bridges you never thought possible!

December 3, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

Build healthy brain tracks and be smart like a fox!

Well if we’re arguing that it is indeed possible to learn positivity in a way that helps you focus on the good things in life more and more by default, there must be some hard logic behind that claim. Incidentally, there is! 
Understanding how learning takes place in the brain physiologically enables us to better grasp the power of automations. Are you ready?
Learning is defined as relatively permanent change in behavior which is caused by a change in the physical brain. Each action requires complex brain activity, and most of the time a single function requires teamwork from multiple parts of the brain.
Neurons are the “chatty” brain cells that form chains by passing information to one another through their synapses. Through repetition each function creates a specific chain of neurons. The information is then fired rapidly through the chain every time you perform the learned function.
When learning to drive, each small maneuver takes conscious effort: pressing down the clutch, shifting gears, using turn signals, turning the wheel - each of these details takes energy and care. In the beginning it's very slow and intricate, but under the hood of your mind complex neural pathways are being formed. In his course Valiant Man, Dr. Allan Meyer helpfully describes the pathways as brain tracks.1 Consistent quality firing of these tracks (repetition) strengthens them increasing the speed at which information is being transferred.
It takes time and practice, but after a while driving becomes so automatic that we’re able to have conversations, sing and do all kinds of other things we shouldn’t even be doing while driving! Like a path that’s formed by people consistently walking along a line of grass, the brain tracks we use become more and more solid, decreasing the amount of focus needed while increasing our efficiency and performance in relation to the track-specific task. Less energy, more efficiency! Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it, but the fact of the matter is that this tool is freely available to us.
When it comes to building healthy brain tracks, I’d like to stress the importance of small daily decisions. Don’t be a passive goat and fall victim to your current automations - be smart like a fox and create new ones!
Growing is not just about learning new things: sometimes it’s just a matter of shifting focus towards the things that build rather than destroy.
1. Meyer, Allan, Dr. Valiant Man. 2nd ed. Chirnside Park: Careforce Lifekeys, 2009.
November 20, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

Manual or automatic? Through consistent decision we can create powerful automations - habits!

For a little child, being absolutely awestruck takes very little effort. With everything being new and astonishing, a healthy child is excitedly exploring the different avenues of life from inspiration to inspiration. Finding all the new wonderful things life has to offer creates a positive cycle for a child: the thrill and sheer wonder of the world around her fills her with energy enabling her to expand her borders; when she does, the cycle is ready to repeat itself. Again she’s filled with energy, and uses that energy to once again embark on a journey of expanding her world. The transmission seems to be on automatic! 
Falling when learning to walk? Not a problem.
Food all over her face, the table and the floor even? It’s as if it didn’t happen!
It’s almost scary how good a child’s attitude can be when it comes to taking new ground. Closely observing and enjoying the most mundane phenomena, they’re natural explorers and scientists!
Years pass by, and the result of this cycle is astonishing. Given a protected environment the child undergoes a transformation increasing her capacity so much that it can be hard for the parents to grasp. Slowly, almost candidly, a stage is reached when the growing person has seen enough to no longer be phased by the structures and phenomena around her. The effortless amazement and the refreshment of it all slowly fades as the bar keeps getting higher and higher.
This is when an ‘automatic’ starts becoming a ‘manual'. This is when a child bridges over to adulthood. It sounds classic doesn’t it: gone are the golden days of childhood, enter grayscale adulthood. 
Throughout our lives we find that many chapters can start with an ease and excitement, but suffer a decline later on. What started as an exciting opportunity can turn into a burden - we have a tendency to forget and to lose our focus. What if it didn’t have to go that way after all?
Similarly, the infatuation experienced during the first years of a relationship is made so effortless through the chemical cyclone that occurs in our brains. In this case the euphoria caused by chemicals such as norepinephrine enables us to feel the beautiful feelings of love, which makes us more inclined to act and behave accordingly. Soon, within a couple of years, the lovers will see a decline in the infatuation due to their brain chemistry changing back to normal. Again, reality hits hard, yet the story doesn’t quite end there.
Gary Chapman introduced a powerful thought in his book The five love languages.1 He ingeniously writes how there will be a day when the automatic, chemically induced feelings fade, but that is not the end. Rather, he goes as far as saying that that’s when ‘real love’ begins!
What is this real love? It’s the power of decision.
The nature of our human life is to eventually grow out of the season of 'easy amazement’. However, with the correct tools we’re able to develop what would otherwise be a passing season into a lifestyle. Now we may never escape the hardships of life, but we have control over what our points of focus are. 
The key to harnessing and maturing the uncontrollable amazement we once used to have is to develop an attitude of effort and gratitude. In the same way a car with manual transmission needs a hand to switch gears, so does a life of wonder require conscious effort. However, do it enough and changing gears becomes almost like an automation. Heck - many (like myself) even prefer manual!
When you gently direct your mind to focus on the good things in your life - even ones that seem like a given to you such as a roof over your head or food on your table - you’re retraining your mind to eventually default to that attitude of wonder you experienced as a child. Through the power of consistent conscious decision we are able to shift what has become manual to automatic once more. 
In order to get a deeper understanding of how consistent decision-making creates automations (habits), we need to look at how learning takes place in the brain. Keep in tune as next week we’ll take a peek inside of the mind!
1. Chapman, Gary, Dr. The five love languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate. Chicago: Northfield Pub, 1995.
November 3, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

You show me your friends, you show me your future.

Life has a tendency of trying to tell you who you are. If you haven't done the necessary mileage to purposefully seek out who you are, the world has no problem in persuading you. Unfortunately, forming your self-image by only listening to outside sources is like legitimizing a system that renders you passive.
Getting your course right towards living an active life with a purpose requires brainwork to determine who you want to be and what direction you want to start heading. This may sound like a vague idea when starting from zero, or after deciding to start over, but let’s begin breaking down some of the practical thinking steps you can take to kick-start the journey of becoming who you want to be.

I feel like friendship, as common of a word as it is, needs to be re-examined.
The reason for this is that many people - myself included - live a big slice of their lives not understanding the meaning of true friendship. I always knew that friendship was important, but to be completely honest, I didn’t understand its deeper dimension until I was met face to face with a different culture.
See, without giving friendship any further thought, it can easily be limited to something we desire only to escape loneliness or to have fun. That was my model until I met people who believed friendship to be more than that. People who saw potential in me and, regardless of my boundaries and fences, believed in me relentlessly.
Love, in this framework, has three essential ingredients: it has to be unconditional, it needs to include comfort, and it has to involve friendship. A friendship deeper than just the cosmetics holds within it shared experiences, joy, grief, encouragement, empathy and devotion. It is the bridge on which counsel can travel without fear of collapse. This is why we’re usually more inclined to listen to those who we know are for us; the relationship is what carries the information over safely.
Friendship, at its best, is seeing the gold in someone, and doing the forward-oriented journey together with them through the good and the bad. It’s more than just avoiding loneliness: it’s the hearth of growth, accountability and mutual belief in each other’s dreams.
There’s no escaping the fact that we are shaped by our surroundings. The people around us influence our thinking, our opinions and our wellbeing - to the point where we might feel like a victim and a sum of all the input we receive from the world. Through this lens, we can understand the importance of good people around us. The good news is, you get to decide who you surround yourself with.
Zig Ziglar, an influential author, salesman and public speaker wrote ‘I believe success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination’.1 Often times behind many of these ordinary people are supportive friends and family as well.
The thought of having to change the environment you’re in or possibly ending friendships sounds very drastic, but you can apply the principle of investment: you get to decide the amount of time you invest in people. Your dreams, some of which are yet to even be realized, are way too valuable to compromise with toxic company.
In order for you to plant a seed and grow it into full maturity, you need to understand what kind of a plant it is and what kind of an environment supports the growth of this specific plant. Similarly, the direction you want to head towards needs to be coupled with an environment that supports its growth. Do you feel inspired and ready to take on the world after spending time with your inner circle, or do you feel tired, weighed down and negative? This can be a great indicator of whether or not your environment is nourishing.
Now there are settings where you can’t help who you spend your time around, such as school or the workplace, but even there we get to determine the amount of weight we place on the prevailing attitudes and opinions.
The way you can do this is by creating an anchor point. The anchor point defines your standard of good influence. This point of reference should be a good community of friends and family - people who encourage you, inspire you and help keep your life aligned with the direction you want to go. When you have your solid community that has your back, you’re better able to stand strong in who you are in places where people aren’t as supportive.
A hospital is a place where patients are kept safe from the outside world for the period they are most vulnerable. The patients that are nurtured to health are then released to the world, ready to take on its dangers and imperfections. A loving community is a similar place of healing and restoration. I encourage you to think about your situation and the community of friends and family you’re around. Do they carry the morals and goodwill you want to surround yourself with?
The only time to look down on someone is when you’re reaching down to help them up. Coffees can be had even with people who you don’t particularly like, but the truest of friendships are the ones in which you walk the journey together in a forward-moving direction, becoming better and better with each passing day.
Now you might understand all of the above, but you’re missing the answer to the most important part: how can I get such friendships?! The question is way too difficult for me to answer simply, but I’ll leave you with a thought that’s helped me along the way.
 'If you go out looking for friends, you're going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you'll find them everywhere.'
1. Ziglar, Zig. Steps to the Top. Gretna: Pelican Pub., 1985
October 26, 2016 Oliver Briny 1 comment

Pygmalion in the classroom has graduated. No longer is he shackled by people's expectations.

Life has a tendency of trying to tell you who you are. If you haven't done the necessary mileage to purposefully seek out who you are, the world has no problem in persuading you. Unfortunately, forming your self-image by only listening to outside sources is like legitimizing a system that renders you passive.
Getting your course right towards living an active life with a purpose requires brainwork to determine who you want to be and what direction you want to start heading. This may sound like a vague idea when starting from zero, or after deciding to start over, but let’s begin breaking down some of the practical thinking steps you can take to kick-start the journey of becoming who you want to be.


I remember speaking to a dear friend who told me how he grew up with siblings who were very skilled verbally and academically.


Seeing the way their surroundings (friends and family) labeled the siblings as very smart and gifted, my friend, who was the youngest of the three, unknowingly formed a label of his own. Thinking that all the 'smart cards’ had been dealt, he started to identify with sports, which was something that came naturally to him. 


Years later he moved to study abroad and was planted into an environment where no one had any preconceived notions of what kind of a person he was. He quickly learned that he had an inclination towards learning new things, and a thirst for academical knowledge and concepts. Others quickly identified him as smart and wise, which was confirmed by multiple strength tests later on. ‘I wish I knew earlier!’, he said to me.


Sadly, many people never do…


During my studies in psychology I came across the observer-expectancy-, or the Pygmalion effect.


In a study conducted by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, teachers in a single California elementary school were told that some of their students could be expected to be ‘intellectual bloomers’ that specific year. The bloomers’ names were given to the teachers, but what the teachers didn’t know was that these students were randomly picked, and formed about 20% of the student body in that school. In other words the prediction that was given to the teachers about the bloomers was completely made up!


At the end of the study the whole student body was tested, and the researchers found that the results of the bloomers, especially that of the first and second graders, showed statistically significant gains. This confirmed the researchers' hypothesis that through the expectations of others, reality can be positively or negatively changed.1


In the same way, most of us have experienced labels that have formed through the expectations of others. Many are still affected by labels that are put on them in their respective communities. These labels give us a direction that may be based on falsehood or other people’s desires for us, and aren’t quite the optimal choice for our lives. The innate gifting that you have is, in a way, a direction that has been written on you since the very beginning of your life.


Have you ever tried to move the steering wheel of a stationary car? It’s quite heavy to turn, but if you get the car going, even if in the wrong direction initially, changing the direction to where you want to go becomes so much easier. The moral of the analogy is to always have a direction instead of being complacent - no matter what season you’re in. If you decide on a direction and start moving, you’re better able to align your life to the path you actually want to take.


There’s so much more to us than we usually allow ourselves to explore. Sometimes it’s a restrictive community such as a family or a group of friends, others live inside a culture that doesn’t allow for big differences. I believe you are so much more than a person forced to fit into other people’s expectations.


Take some time and write down some thoughts on what gifts, talents and passions you have - move away if you have to - and set a direction for your life accordingly. What do you want to see a change in? What void do you see in the world that you want to fill?


I encourage you to take responsibility for your life, decide on a direction and begin the journey of becoming the person you want to become! 


It's time for Pygmalion to graduate...



1. Rosenthal, Robert; Jacobson, Lenore. Pygmalion in the classroom (Expanded ed.). New York: Irvington, 1992.
October 18, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

Your gifting is valuable to the world.

Life has a tendency of trying to tell you who you are. If you haven't done the necessary mileage to purposefully seek out who you are, the world has no problem in persuading you. Unfortunately, forming your self-image by only listening to outside sources is like legitimizing a system that renders you passive.
Getting your course right towards living an active life with a purpose requires brainwork to determine who you want to be and what direction you want to start heading. This may sound like a vague idea when starting from zero, or after deciding to start over, but let’s begin breaking down some of the practical thinking steps you can take to kick-start the journey of becoming who you want to be.

Many cultures tell us to beware arrogance to a point where we ultimately start undermining our gifts and talents in order to appear meek and humble. Living in Australia for some of the most formative years of my life, I quickly learned about a phenomenon called the Tall poppy syndrome. It’s a way of describing a culture in which people have a tendency to push down others who appear to be incredibly gifted, successful or show formidable potential. Various Asian cultures have a saying that describes this phenomenon: 'The nail that stands out gets hammered down’. The resentment and criticism generally stems from their own turmoil, hurt or decisions (or lack thereof) that have led to complacent, passive lives.
Although I agree that pride and arrogance are not healthy qualities, there needs to be a separation between negative pride (arrogance) and positive pride (confidence).
Pride in its negative sense, arrogance, always has to do with comparison: you take pride in your own abilities in comparison to other people. The dark side of the coin is that you yourself get stuck in the same comparison game as the people who try to restrict others with gifts and potential. Here the purpose of your gift is limited to giving one a sense of superiority.
Healthy pride or confidence, however, has to do with understanding the revelatory concept that your gifts and talents never said anything about you in the first place! No matter your religion or outlook on life, we can all agree that we never had any say in what innate gifting we get to have. Some of us are naturally gifted in sports, some are great in expressing themselves, others excel in scientific studies and research. All of it is important, unique and necessary. Here you sincerely believe that your gift can make a positive change in someone’s life.
Of course innate gifting has to be coupled with discipline and hard work, but when you realize that a gift you’ve received doesn’t really say anything about you in the first place, you’re freed of the thought of hiding it, or having to worry about other people judging you. If you were to be judged because of a gift you've been given, you would just wipe the dust off your shoulders and remember that their judgement makes no sense, and ultimately, has no power over your life. When this principle sinks in, you’ll be able to confidently cherish your gifts and talents, as you would any other physical gift someone gave you.
Whatever your gifting is, know that it is of high importance and has the potential of being a big contributor in the lives of people around you - even in the lives of those who weren’t able to believe in you.
October 14, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

What is it that defines you? What is the foundation for your identity? Here are some building blocks for you.

On what kind of foundation do you build your identity? What kind of building blocks do we have when building an identity anyway? These questions we often hear simply chase after what it is that defines you.
Our circumstances in life are frail. In an instant what seemed like a solid establishment can go down; we could lose our job, go through an accident or stand helplessly by as a misfortune falls upon a person dear to us. Often times we latch our identity on what we do, where we live, or what we own. What is it that defines you when the establishments you thought were unshakeable break, and life doesn’t go as planned?
Have you ever seen people who never seemed very special, but who turned out to be very influential voices respected in their fields and communities? I sure have, and throughout my life I’ve wondered what the secret ingredient to their success is. An artist who composes the most heart-touchingly sweet melodies finds success in seeing how his music touches and brings joy to others who partake in his creations. It’s the contribution to the world he rejoices in. To him, fame doesn’t necessarily have any part in it. 
Believe it or not, work can have the ability to improve one’s health and overall well-being. Make your work purposeful by making your purpose your work! Success, in its truest form, comes from the core of one’s being. It’s always a byproduct, never the focus. If the artist of the example is something only when he’s on a stage playing his music, you change his title, and you change him. However, if what he does is the fruit and an extension of who he is, he - his identity - won’t be changed by a change of circumstance. 
'We cannot make the wind blow,
but we can adjust our sails in obedience to the laws of the wind,
and they immediately give us their power to go where we will.'1
1. Johnston, Howard Agnew. Studies in God’s Methods of Training Workers. New York: Internal Committee of Young Men’s Christian Associations, 1900.
October 14, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

knowledge and wisdom

I love science.


It’s based on calculative observation. Logic is a necessary part of the process because of its transparent nature: it is tested through conversation, application and time. Yet, according to science alone, life has no purpose apart from passing on our genetic information. When studying happiness however, we find that it comes from a life lived with purpose. I’m proposing that the purpose of life always has to do with others: a fulfilling life is one that is bigger than oneself.


So why do we need wisdom?


A wise man or woman understands that all of life is connected. He is aware of the cause-and-effect relationship between what he chooses today and what he experiences tomorrow, what he chooses during one season of life and what he experiences in a future season - for better or worse. Wisdom, in many situations, is more appreciated than any other material gift. It has the power to drastically change a life.


Knowledge and wisdom are two distinct entities but they bear a similarity in that where knowledge should be interwoven with logic, so should wisdom be. Wisdom, by definition, has to do with soundness of actions and decisions; if your experience of wisdom has to do with weird abstract or even contradicting phrases or sayings, remember that taught wisdom should be logical and insightful - it should make sense!


We live in a world of rapid technological advancement. Today, we have access to more knowledge than ever before. In order to embrace new knowledge and navigate a life constructed of countless decisions (or lack thereof), wisdom is an indispensable compass.


You’ve found a blog for Thinkers - a warm welcome to you! My wish is that you find the content helpful.