Give More: Lagniappe

The Big New Idea for Retail, Service and Hospitality: Lagniappe.

A ‘word worth travelling for’ is something I have always enjoyed. Mark Twain writes about just such a word, ‘lagniappe’ in a chapter on New Orleans in Life on the Mississippi (1883). It’s origin is probably Spanish. It’s meaning is special and for companies striving to make a difference – or merely to survive – its value is enormous. As Mark Twain explained,

It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen’ … something thrown in, gratis, for good measure.

In other words, lagniappe (pronounced “LAN– yap”) is about making an extra effort … about going the extra mile … about doing something extra special. It is a gift. It is a courtesy. It is a way to stand out in a positive way. For companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Zales, Starbucks and Sodexho … it is a way of life.Successful companies know how to run successful businesses. They know how to win over and keep customers. They know how to hire and inspire their workforces. They know the importance of giving MORE THAN. They know lagniappe.

We can learn from this well travelled word in retail, service and hospitality. Lagniappe then is a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase. It is the basis of the Gift Encomy and comes from our long history in tribes. For over 99% of the history of mankind we’ve lived in small tribes. These tribes consisted of between 10 to 50 individuals that lived by hunting and gathering. Existing through a concept called by anthropologists as a gift economy. Each member provided for others and status was achieved through the concept of gifting. Cooperation was the route to success as a whole.

Status was not a consequence of how much you had, but rather how much you gave away. Giving for the benefit of others with no expectation of immediate return. Trade existed, but only with outside groups. This trading was inherently competitive and thus only done with strangers.

Today we are firmly entrenched in an exchange based economy. With the adoption of money, almost everything is now traded freely. Trading involves trying to get the best deal, typically at the expense of others. The basis of exchange is inherently antagonistic with the aim of giving less and getting more. The market economy is a zero sum game. You give me A and I give you B. Transactions strive to be equal, leaving no additional place left to go in the relationship. So how can you “wow” consumers with lagniappe? Consider these ideas:

  • Greet consumers enthusiastically at the door – You had me at hello – is a famous line from the movie Jerry Maguire. Rather than saying next or wave the person forward, start your welcoming process by opening the door for them.
  • Metro bank in the UK give dog biscuits to their customers (those with dogs rather, than just feeding the queues).
  • Providing cold bottled water on a hot summer day—It’s simple but it works.
  • Walking a consumer to their car with an umbrella on a rainy day—No one likes getting wet when they are running their banking errands. Go that extra mile on rainy days.
  • Writing on lovely note paper (in ink) a thank you note after the transaction to thank them for their business. Follow-up is they key to success in any business.
  • Or Just Pick Up The Phone and leave a message; It takes all of 20 seconds to leave a thank you voice mail yet that message can brighten someone’s day.

As a business why would you want to incorporate lagniappe into your marketing mix? I believe there are at least 3 distinct reasons and corresponding benefits of giving more to exceed expectations (in service, retail and hospitality).

  • Better Positioning– stand out from your competition. If everyone is providing x, the fact that you provide x + y (gift) differentiates your offering. Less than 30% of consumers buy on price. You want to tap into the 70+% who are looking for value and a strong customer experience. Business Benefit: Differentiation
  • Increased Loyalty– giving the little extra (gift) enhances the customer experience. It creates a bond between the business and the customer. The benefit of that bond include increased loyalty and ultimately patronage as a form of repayment. Business Benefit: Retention
  • Increased Reciprocity– Part of giving extra is to create goodwill (inequality).  That inequality is repaid by positive word of mouth or word of mouse. The best form of marketing is via positive word of mouth.  By giving a signature extra (gift) you provide something for your customers to talk, tweet, blog, or Facebook about. Business Benefit: Referrals

The gift or little extra is about the respect for the relationship.  It becomes a beacon, a sign that shows you care. It’s a physical sign of goodwill and customer appreciation. Let’s be honest. Most people see retail or service as boring.

Spice it up with a little lagniappe.

 Be Amazing Every Day

Stop doing work you hate. No More Excuses.

Stop doing work you hate. No More Excuses.

So let’s talk about why you keep doing work you hate. Maybe you know the terrifying statistic that over 80% of people don’t enjoy their work and nearly 75% don’t know their passion. These two numbers kill me and maybe they are killing you. We have all had jobs we hated. It’s a rite of passage, and not just for creatives. But you have a secret weapon. Your skills can get you out of this situation. But, and here’s the bad news, it won’t just ‘happen’ – you have to make it happen. You have to take control of your situation and do something productive with it.

You see it’s both scary and crazy to think that so many people are willing continue to act in a way that doesn’t make them happy. Trust me, by now I feel like I’ve seen it all…yet I continue to be surprised.

In the past 3 years I have trained hundred of clients and business to be amazing every day. That alone leaves me in awe. It has and is been massively successful and I love doing it – I am truly passionate about changing lives. I am confident enough to have doubled my charges since January, reject clients (or put them on waiting list) and I am pretty much fully booked.

On top of that, since I started doing this amazing work, I’ve had the chance to literally hear from hundreds and hundreds of people – many of them in terrible pain due to the work they keep doing that they can’t stand. Thankfully for them and many others, who used to hate their work, but have since successfully made the transition to something better. Doing what they are passionate about, every day. T It moves mountains, smashes barriers and I apply it to myself, every day.

The odd thing is I don’t have to try to find new clients – they find me.

So why don’t more people (including you) do something about their situation? The fascinating thing is most people have the same beliefs, reasons and ‘stories’. They all seem to act and repeat the same drama. I’ve heard every reason under the sun for why their situation is different. Why they are unable to break the chains and do something that actually excites them. I have made a list and the vast majority come back to the same few reasons.

As I share these reasons, you may see how similar these things are that are holding you back. After all, the first step is identifying the problem. The next step is doing something about it. Believe me, I know making the transition can be unbelievably challenging. There are examples everywhere of people in worse situations than you, who still manage to find their way. I know because I hear about them all the time and I have collected a list. Do any of these ‘reasons’  sound familiar ? I have not edited them – indeed I use them for all my new clients as a check list:

  1. Help me Tim, I don’t really know I’m passionate about – what is my why?
  2. I don’t really know how to make money from my passion – can I make money from it?
  3. The people around me will think I’m crazy. My friends, family and colleagues tell me all the time it won’t work.
  4. I don’t have anyone to go to for advice, support or encouragement. It is impossible to do this by myself.
  5. Work is just a part of life. It’s not something meant to be enjoyed. I am doing my best.
  6. It’s not possible to do what you love and make a living from it. That is just a dream.
  7. I can’t find the courage or energy to start. It is easier to keep on keeping on.
  8. What if I fail? I don’t want to be seen as a failure.
  9. Nobody around me enjoys their job. It is a fact of life.
  10. I have a family, mortgage and obligations to be responsible for – I am responsible for others.
  11. My passion is not the kind of thing you can make money from; it’s just a hobby and that is not a job.
  12. I’m not qualified enough. There are plenty of experts in my field with more experience than me. What do I know?
  13. Between my current job, my family, trying to stay healthy and all the other things I have to do, I don’t have any time to work on my passion. It is all too much to even think about.
  14. I can’t find a job that allows me to leverage my natural strengths. Anyway what strengths do I have?
  15. It’s too risky. In this economy I need to keep any job security I can find. It is just easier not to rock the boat.
  16. I have too many passions and interests. There’s no way I could choose just one. And if I did, what if I realize it’s the wrong choice in six or 12 months?
  17. I can’t find the initiative, the energy and purpose. Please help me.
  18. I have a terrible time following through – I am so not a completer finisher.
  19. I’ve never heard of someone who’s been able to make a living off my specific passion – it cant work.
  20. There’s too much competition and I am a small fish.
  21. I’m too old and waited too long. I wish I had thought about this 10 years ago. It is too late to change.
  22. I spent years studying something in university that I can’t stand doing now. But it would be way too much of a waste to switch. I am committed to something I hate.
  23. I have to be really savvy with the Internet and I don’t know a lot of the modern tools and technology.
  24. I’m not creative enough and not sure I am any good.
  25. Finding and keeping a job is hard enough, let alone finding one I love doing – so why bother?

So I’ll ask you again – do any of these sound familiar?

Take another minute and look back through them. Mark the ones you know you’ve played in your head over and over.

The big question is why do you believe these to be true?

This is crucial: every one of the above ‘reasons’ is nothing more than an excuse.

All are these excuses are based on false assumptions. I have tested them and proven them wrong over and over again. I am proud to have done that. Who told you that you can’t? The right stories are everywhere if you want to see them. The inches you need are all round you. Start by reading my Be Amazing Every Day Card and see what jumps out for you.

I invite you to think about the following –

  1. What were the words that jumped out for you from the BAED card?
  2. What is your why? If you don’t know read The Hardest Question.
  3. Identify your real values and learn what you’re good at and don’t ever take a step back.
  4. Be prepared to get lost in your passion and work harder than you have ever done.
  5. Every day, without fail go further.
  6. Discipline wins.
  7. There are no easy ways but there are right ways.
  8. Start believing in your self – totally and utterly.
  9. Lower the hurdle – Make a list of the things that actually make you happy (and the things most people assume will) – you’ll find you probably don’t need as much money or as many things as you think.
  10. Help someone with something – and start to charge them for it – we will use this a template.
  11. Doing Work You Love Is The Right Thing. Always.
  12. If you do that, you can start to move mountains.

It was hearing these excuses (and many more), played on endless repeat from readers, friends, clients and nearly every person I seemed to meet, that finally caused me to create the life you deserve – to be amazing everyday, right now. You actually desperately need a roadmap and the tools to take you from a list of reason you shouldn’t, to every reason why you MUST (why you absolutely must) – and the step-by-step process to go with it.

That’s why I have spent hundreds of hours (a lifetime to be an overnight success – one drop of wisdom) by compiling / reading / researching and applying. I could not be happier – right here, right now. No regrets about the past, no fears of the future. Totally and utterly present. I chop wood. I fetch water. Simple. And I know I am only just getting started.

Excuses are not fact. They are not set in stone. They’re anything but. They are a figment of your imagination. Just thoughts – nothing more. But they are the most dangerous thoughts in the world. Believing them can kill a dream in a heartbeat. But disproving them is what changes the world. Living a life of purpose and passion (BAED) is just that – a way of life. Those who wake up excited aren’t just the lucky ones, they condition themselves to experience and deserve it.

So I’ll ask you one last time…which of these excuses have you been telling yourself?

Let’s see if we can do something about it. You and I both know you can do better. So would do you need to do now?

  • Read this again.
  • Make notes.
  • Ask questions.
  • Stop making excuses.

I won’t or can’t tell you the answers as it where it will end up – but I do know it all starts with a decision. I or any great coach, can only help you get the success you deserve when you decide that is what you want. No more excuses.

Brain Impulse Buying

If you’re reading this thinking that you aren’t susceptible to impulse buying, think again. In truth, we aren’t always rational thinkers when we buy things (online or in store). The fact of the matter is that your unconscious mind is often driving your behaviour as a consumer. It is under the influence of our basic evolutionary drives and the clever tactics of retailers. It is so easy to feel compelled to buy something that you may regret or justify later with some retro-fitted reasoning.

So what’s going on inside your head and what can you do to make fewer purchases that will turn out to be wasteful? Impulse buying can be defined as, a stimulus-controlled, spontaneous buying behaviour that is accompanied by strong positive emotions and low cognitive control. Bit of a mouthful, so to quote Lindsay Lohan, My mum says, ‘Go with your first instinct,’ but this can lead to impulse buying!

Research shows that a huge amount of our decision making is actually based on subtle subconscious factors. These tend to be accentuated when we are not focussing or distracted (sometimes deliberately). Indeed it appears that a wandering mind can not only lead to accidents and lost productivity but to powerful impulse buying. Yet the brain is the most complex organ in the Universe. It produces our every thought, action, memory, feeling and experience of the world. New research is indicating that focus is a crucial mindful choice and ideas of control (in retail) may be an illusion. Indeed real-time brain monitoring can be used to help people regain focus and might lead consumers to be more selective buyers as a result.

In the animal kingdom, humans are known for our big brains. This jelly-like mass of tissue, weighing in at around 1.4 kilograms, contains a staggering one hundred billion nerve cells, or neurons. The pattern and strength of the neural connections is constantly changing and no two brains are alike. Yet it’s structure determines how memories are stored, habits learned and personalities shaped, by reinforcing certain patterns of brain activity, and losing others. Researchers have uncovered genetic variations that help determine the size of key brain regions. These variants may represent the genetic essence of humanity and choice. Maybe.

This supposed free choice is deeply influence by some simple external factors. Most shopping is far too dull and time consuming to carry out with conscious attention. Imagine if every item you bought was cross-referenced with every other product available in the market; you would need to look at price, product composition, reviews and maybe even the quality of customer service supporting it. Even if you could find all the information in comparable formats it would take hours to buy one item. So instead we use heuristics [unconsciously held rules and short cuts] that help us make quick decisions that we’ve learned generally work out well.

However, these shortcuts when combined with loss of concentration and focus may lead to the idea of how we make poor decisions to buy. Neuroscientists at Princeton University monitored the brain activity of students who were asked to perform a repetitive task that required close attention. The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, show that people can learn to stop their minds from wandering if they are made aware it is happening. This means if we (as consumers) can use real time brain activity as a basis of feedback (the app must be round the corner) we might be able to train our brains to be more sensitive to when their attention is starting to wane and gain real focus.

Another article in ‘Science Daily’ looks at the research on how what’s going on inside our head affects our senses. Children from more challenging economic communities think coins are larger than they are, and hungry people think pictures of food are brighter. (Science Daily, 3 March 2012). They found that when words were flashed very fast on a screen (too fast to read, but slow enough to imprint on the brain), hungry people saw the food related words as brighter and were better at identifying the food-related words when shown on a list after they were flashed. This research indicates is that our perceptions increase toward items that our body wants or needs. Our illusion of control and that idea we have a choice in buying is being further challenged.These exciting pieces of research indicate that we can all become neurosales savvy (whether to sell or to buy sensibly). The secret is by asking 2 questions:

  • How do we get more focus?
  • What we are really lacking, or hungry for, in our day to day lives?

It all start by telling a good story. By turning percentages and figures into a good tale capture and keeps your customers’ attention. Statistics are great but you need people to pay attention to your numbers to help drive sales. Our brains are wired to process stories in a more engaged way. Brain scan work shows that when people read a story with a lot of action elements, their brains actually mimic the motions.

Another area some retailers have learned to focus on is that we’re very susceptible to the loss aversion switch. Loss aversion, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, describes our innate concern to avoid feeling bad in the future. Normally this would affect our purchase decisions by causing us to prevaricate over a purchase: “Might I feel bad if I buy this and don’t have the money for something else?” But add in a discount that we’re told or we assume won’t last forever and our unconscious focus switches to the fear we’ll miss out on the deal. Retailers take advantage of this by packaging up products as bulk buys, or they include ‘free’ extras. We get the impression that it must be good value, and we go with this feeling rather than researching any further.

Our heuristic susceptibility to value and apparent discounts isn’t just down to the loss aversion switch; many of us have an innate desire to save. Retailers and manufacturers play on this by telling us how much money we could save by buying and using their product. Perhaps thousands of years ago, knowing that it was important to store up food and wood for the winter would be the difference between life and death. These days most of us no longer need to worry about our day-to-day survival, but the evolutionary drive remains. In short, we find it hard to resist the idea that we’ll be saving money or time.

Though we have already discovered an enormous amount about the brain, huge and crucial mysteries remain. One of the most important is how does the brain produces our conscious experiences? The vast majority of the brain’s activity is subconscious. But our conscious thoughts, sensations and perceptions, what define us as humans, cannot yet be explained in terms of brain activities.

Objectivity is an elusive virtue in buying.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Samsung, Big Data & Dumb Heuristics

Gerd Gigerenzer is a strong advocate of the idea that simple heuristics can make us smart. Yet heuristic might be the root cause of our deep fear of big data, big brother and our data being misused. Imagine you’re a turkey at Christmas. Every day you are approached by a man with a bucket of corn who feeds you. What kind of mental model of what happens when he appears, do you think you will build up? Gigerenzer is the Director of the Max Plank Institute for Human Development and might use this story to demonstrate how high tech firms approach big data to predict the future from past decisions. These organisation make predictions based on the past that are only ever correct by chance and we believe them in order to absolve ourselves of responsibility for when things go wrong. According to many it’s a waste of time, money and talent. Because systems will always go wrong. Because, of course, Christmas always comes.

In psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules which people often use to form judgments and make decisions. They are mental shortcuts that usually involve focusing on one aspect of a complex problem and ignoring others. This occurs when you talk with groups about Big Data. People’s gut reactions (heuristics) to things tell them that information about themselves or their loved ones, collected and disseminated, is bound to be used for evil rather than good. But how valid are their concerns about big data and this digital collection of our thoughts? Collecting information on us might fuel the fear of big data. Or as in this brilliant tweet, suggesting Samsung SmartTV instruction manual is taken from George Orwell’s 1984.

The Samsung revelation on Monday 19th February 2015 in the Daily Telegraph,

‘Samsung SmartTV customers warned personal conversations may be recorded. Voice recognition software could transmit ‘personal or sensitive’ information Families are being warned that modern televisions are recording their conversations and could transmit the messages to “third parties”. Many of the latest sets have microphones so viewers can change channel, turn on a DVD or browse the internet by speaking at the screen or remote.But the small print of the privacy policies for these so-called Smart TVs contain warnings that general conversations are also being recorded.Television companies advise users who are concerned to avoid discussing “personal” matters in their livings rooms.The practice, which emerged on internet forums yesterday, led customers on social media to draw comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984. It is unclear whether the information is used for marketing purposes or held on computer that could be hacked by criminals.’

Count on the great Isaac Asimov to have presaged it, much like he did online education, the fate of space exploration and even the rise of Smart TVs. In his legendary Foundation trilogy, Asimov conceives his hero, Hari Seldon, as a masterful mathematician who can predict the future through complex mathematical equations rooted in aggregate measurements about the state of society at any given point in time. Like Seldon, who can’t anticipate what any individual person will do but can foreshadow larger cultural outcomes, big data is the real-life equivalent of Asimov’s idea, which he termed psychohistory, an invaluable tool for big-picture insight into our collective future.
But here comes the irrational fear again. The human brain comprises two distinct parts (if not 3): the old simple brain in the back, which produces impulses and instincts that help us to survive, and the new brain in the front of the head, which we use to control those impulses.The problem is that, sometimes, the two conflict. For example, we might crave fast food even while knowing it’s bad for us. Or we might feel fear when standing on top of the Shard even though we know we’re not going to fall. New research challenged the idea that human beings are rational actors, but provided a theory of information processing to explain how people make estimates or choices.

Heuristics mean we (traditionally) don’t need complex models of the world to make good decisions. These rules work well under most circumstances, but they can lead to systematic deviations from logic, probability or rational choice theory. The resulting errors are called cognitive biases and many different types have been documented. Heuristics usually govern automatic, intuitive judgments but can also be used as deliberate mental strategies when working from limited information.

No matter how much I know about heuristics and concentrate on avoiding the sunk cost fallacy, I still naturally gravitate towards it. The term sunk cost refers to any cost (not just monetary, but also time and effort) that has been paid already and cannot be recovered. So, a payment of time or money that’s gone forever. The reason we can’t ignore the cost, even though it’s already been paid, is that we wired to feel loss far more strongly than gain. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains this in his book, Thinking Fast and SlowOrganisms that placed more urgency on avoiding threats than they did on maximising opportunities were more likely to pass on their genes. So, over time, the prospect of losses has become a more powerful motivator on your behaviour than the promise of gains

The sunk cost fallacy plays on this tendency of ours to emphasise loss over gain. A brilliant 1985 (nearly 1984) research study by Hal Arkes and Catherine Blumer is a great example of how it works. They asked subjects to assume they had spent £1000 on a ticket for a ski trip in the Switzerland, but soon after found a better ski trip in France for £500 and bought a ticket for this trip too. They then asked the people in the study to imagine they learned the two trips overlapped and the tickets couldn’t be refunded or resold. Which one do you think they chose, the £1000 good vacation, or the £500 great one?

  • Over half of the people in the study went with the more expensive trip. It may not have promised to be as fun, but the loss seemed greater.

The sunk cost fallacy leads us to miss or ignore the logical facts presented to us, and instead make irrational decisions based on our emotions (see the news and big data fears) without even realising we’re doing so. The fallacy prevents you from realising the best choice is to do whatever promises the better experience in the future, not which negates the feeling of loss in the past.

Could it be that our fear of Big Data emanates from this short cutting old brain structure? What exactly are we really afraid of? If big data can help us overcome these heuristic brain errors, it holds the promise of righting the balance of quality over quantity in our culture of information overabundance, helping us to extract meaning from (digital) matter. Just as the old brain interprets images in art and film as being real (this is why we feel afraid when watching horror movies) perhaps it conflates our hypothetical big data fears with reality.

Our best bet is to try to separate the current facts we have from anything that happened in the past. In a society that tweets more words every hour than all of the surviving ancient Greek texts combined, we certainly could use that.

Samsung can only hope we can separate the two very quickly.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Silence Your Brain!

Peter was after a talking parrot, so he went to the local pet shop in the hope of securing such a find. He was in luck. The shop assistant assured her that the parrot would learn and repeat any word or phrase it heard. Peter was delighted. However, a week later, the parrot still hadn’t spoken a word. Peter returned to the shop to complain, however, it appeared that the assistant was accurate in what he had said and refused a refund. Why didn’t the parrot talk? [answer at the end, but remember the parrot repeats every single word it hears].

Shut up! Like the mute button on the TV remote control, our brains filter out unwanted noise so we can focus on what we’re listening to. Most of us will be familiar with the experience of silently talking to ourselves in our head. That inner monologue usually conducted in silence. Self doubts, insecurities and a general soundtrack or commentary to life.

Have you ever been at the supermarket and realise that you’ve forgotten to pick up something you needed. You might say (outloud), ‘saugages!’ or whatever your temperoary lapse of recall was. Or maybe you have got an important meeting with your boss later in the day, and you’re simulating, (silently in your head) how you think the conversation might go, possibly hearing both your own voice and your boss’s voice responding. This is the phenomenon that psychologists call inner speech, and they’ve been trying to study it pretty much since the dawn of psychology as a scientific discipline.

Our Brain’s have a built in filter for unwanted noise. When it comes to following our own speech, a new brain study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that instead of one homogenous mute button, we have a network of volume settings that can selectively silence and amplify the sounds we make and hear. They discovered that neurones in one part of the patients’ hearing mechanism were dimmed when they talked, while neurones in other parts lit up. Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, offer clues about how we hear ourselves above the noise of our surroundings and monitor what we say. Previous studies have shown a selective auditory system in monkeys that can amplify their self-produced mating, food and danger alert calls, but until this latest study, it was not clear how the human auditory system is wired.

With this in mind it might make more sense when we need to really listen to something that is important. Say you have to listen to fill a prescription or enter data that is potentially life threatening if you get it wrong. When we want to listen carefully to someone, the first thing we do is stop talking. The second more surprising thing we do is stop moving altogether. This strategy helps us hear better by preventing unwanted sounds generated by our own movements.

This interplay between movement and hearing also has a counterpart deep in the brain. Indeed, indirect evidence has long suggested that the brain’s motor cortex, which controls movement, somehow influences the auditory cortex, which gives rise to our conscious perception of sound. A new study, in Nature, combines cutting-edge methods in electrophysiology, optogenetics and behavioural analysis to reveal exactly how the motor cortex, seemingly in anticipation of movement, can tweak the volume control in the auditory cortex. The findings contribute to the basic knowledge of how communication between the brain’s motor and auditory cortexes might affect hearing during speech or musical performance.

And the parrot? The parrot was deaf. Therefore it couldn’t repeat a single word it had heard – as it had heard no words at all.

Be Amazing Every Day

Wrong-Brained

Sometimes I just want to give up. I really don’t know why I bother with my epic quest for truth, science and reason.

You are such a right-brain thinker’, she yelled.

I probably should not have said she was so wrong. Maybe I should not have added that she was being a ‘meme sustaining poptart psychologist’ and ‘both neuro-scientifically and anatomically inaccurate’. Like the time she came in when I was watching the cricket and said, “It’s over” and I replied, “No, 3 balls left”.

Despite what you may have been told, you are not left-brained or right-brained. From books to television programs, you may have heard the phrase mentioned numerous times or perhaps you’ve even taken an online test to determine which type best describes you. From self-help and business success books to job applications and smartphone apps, the theory that the different halves of the human brain govern different skills and personality traits is a popular one.

According to this (wrong) theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance, each side of the brain controls different types of thinking. Additionally, people are said to prefer one type of thinking over the other. For example, a person who is labelled left-brained is often said to be more logical, analytical, and objective, while a person whom is labelled right-braine is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective. So what exactly did this theory suggest?

The Right Brain Nonsense: According to the left-brain, right-brain dominance failed theory, the right side of the brain is best at expressive and creative tasks. Some of the abilities that are popularly associated with the right side of the brain include:

  • Recognising faces
  • Expressing emotions
  • Music
  • Reading emotions
  • Colour
  • Images
  • Intuition
  • Creativity

The Left Brain Nonsense: The left-side of the brain is (not) considered to be adept at tasks that involve logic, language and analytical thinking. The left-brain is often described as being better at:

  • Language
  • Logic
  • Critical thinking
  • Numbers
  • Reasoning

Too bad it’s not true. Short of having undergone a hemispherectomy (removal of a cerebral hemisphere), no one is a left-brain only or right-brain only person.In pop psychology, the theory is based on what is known as the lateralisation of brain function. So does one side of the brain really control specific functions? Are people either left-brained or right-brained? Like many popular psychology myths, this one grew out of observations about the human brain that were then dramatically distorted and exaggerated.

To try and put this to bed forever, a new two-year study published in the journal Plos One, University of Utah neuroscientists scanned the brains of more than 1,000 people, ages 7 to 29, while they were lying quietly or reading, measuring their functional lateralisation – the specific mental processes taking place on each side of the brain. They broke the brain into 7,000 regions, and while they did uncover patterns for why a brain connection might be strongly left or right-lateralised, they found no evidence that the study participants had a stronger left or right-sided brain network. Jeff Anderson, the study’s lead author and a professor of neuroradiology at the University of Utah says:

It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain, language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right.

But the brain isn’t as clear-cut as the myth makes it out to be. For example, the right hemisphere is involved in processing some aspects of language, such as intonation and emphasis. Where has this come form because I am pretty sure you will have heard it? Experts suggest the myth dates back to the 1800s, when scientists discovered that an injury to one side of the brain caused a loss of specific abilities. The concept gained ground in the 1960s based on Nobel-prize-winning split-brain work by neuropsychologists Robert Sperry, and Michael Gazzaniga. The researchers conducted studies with patients who had undergone surgery to cut the corpus callosum – the band of neural fibres that connect the hemispheres – as a last-resort treatment for epilepsy.

They discovered that when the two sides of the brain weren’t able to communicate with each other, they responded differently to stimuli, indicating that the hemispheres have different functions.Both of these bodies of research tout findings related to function; it was popular psychology enthusiasts who undoubtedly took this work a step further and pegged personality types to brain hemispheres.

Brain function lateralisation is evident in the phenomena of right- or left-handedness and of right or left ear preference, but a person’s preferred hand is not a clear indication of the location of brain function. Although 95% of right-handed people have left-hemisphere dominance for language, 18.8% of left-handed people have right-hemisphere dominance for language function. Additionally, 19.8% of the left-handed have bilateral language functions. Even within various language functions (e.g., semantics, syntax, prosody), degree (and even hemisphere) of dominance may differ.

Additionally, although some functions are lateralised, these are only a tendency. The trend across many individuals may also vary significantly as to how any specific function is implemented. The areas of exploration of this causal or effectual difference of a particular brain function include its gross anatomy, dendritic structure, and neurotransmitter distribution. The structural and chemical variance of a particular brain function, between the two hemispheres of one brain or between the same hemisphere of two different brains, is still being studied.

Researchers have demonstrated that right-brain/left-brain theory is a myth, yet its popularity persists. Unfortunately many people are likely unaware that the theory is outdated. Today, students might continue to learn about the theory as a point of historical interest – to understand how our ideas about how the brain works have evolved and changed over time as researchers have learned more about how the brain operates. The important thing to remember if you take one of the many left brain/right brain quizzes that you will likely encounter online is that they are entirely for fun and you shouldn’t place much stock in your results. According to Anderson:

The neuroscience community has never accepted the idea of ‘left-dominant’ or ‘right-dominant’ personality types. Lesion studies don’t support it, and the truth is that it would be highly inefficient for one half of the brain to consistently be more active than the other.

We love simple solutions (see also 21 days to break a habit) Human society is built around categories, classifications and generalizations, and there’s something seductively simple about labeling yourself and others as either a logical left-brainer or a free-spirited right brainer. The problems start, however, when the left-brained/right-brained myth becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What research has yet to refute is the fact that the brain is remarkably malleable, even into late adulthood.

It has an amazing ability to reorganise itself by forming new connections between brain cells, allowing us to continually learn new things and modify our behavior. Let’s not underestimate our potential by allowing a simplistic myth to obscure the complexity of how our brains really work.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Nielsen, J. A., Zielinski, B. A., Ferguson, M. A., Lainhart, J. E., & Anderson, J. S. (2013). An evaluation of the left-brain vs. right brain hypothesis with resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging.

Rogers, M. (2013).Researchers debunk myth of “right brain” and “left-brain” personality traits. University of Utah, Office of Public Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0071275

For Every Promise, There is Price to Pay.

 

Your clever brain knows when you are going to break a promise long before you are even willing to admit it to yourself. So be careful what you promise people. We make commitments to others and ourselves all the time. We have our personal and our organisations promises to observe. You are not just obliging yourself to keep your promises; other people will hold you to account for them as well. The big question is whether we keep them or break them? There is some new neuroscience research that indicates that there is a pattern, and your brain knows in advance that you will break your promise.

study by Dutch Researcher Manuela Vieth, investigated how the behaviour of other people and one’s own behaviour influences future behaviour. If other people say they trust you, you actually become more trustworthy. If you believe you are trustworthy, you oblige yourself to keep your promises.Just so we are clear, a promise is: a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified; or a legally binding declaration that gives the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act.

When we don’t keep a promise to someone, it communicates to that person that we don’t value him or her. I see it all the time in work and networking situation. They have in fact chosen to place something else ahead of our commitment. Even when we break small promises, others learn that they cannot count on us. This will result (almost always) in an erosion of trust in our relationships (business or personal). More importantly, we are telling ourselves that we don’t value our own word. Researchers in Switzerland discovered that they could predict who would break a promise based on the brain’s reaction during the basic three-stage model of promise making.

  • Stage 1: The Promise

Let’s use a classic example found everyday in the office. You perhaps have told your coworkers that you would absolutely, definitely, help them finish a project. At this initial stage, you haven’t fully decided whether or not you are going to keep or break the promise to your coworkers. Your brain, however, has already registered an emotional conflict because it knows that you don’t really intend on keeping that promise. Because of this, the brain will activate your negative emotional processing centres.

  • Stage 2: Anticipation Phase

Now that you’ve told your coworkers of your promise, you have to wait and see whether or not they will trust you to keep that promise. The anticipation of their response causes you increased stress and cortisol, which of course your brain will register. Your brain is already preparing you for possible negative outcomes and future consequences.

  • Stage 3 Decision Phase

Now you’ve decided to break your promise to your coworkers because you are too busy (or insert any number of excuses). The decision to break a promise promotes a reaction in your brain similar to that of a lie or deception. You will probably feel some guilt and fear over how breaking this promise will affect you. To combat these feelings your brain will remind you of the motivation for breaking the promise by activating your reward-based decision making part of the brain.

It is so easy today with the battleground of social media at our fingertips for someone in the world to rubbish your service or product. Your brand promise can counter any negativity by telling potential clients what your brand stands for and why they should choose you. It is vital you make your personal or business brand consistent, from products and services, strategy and execution, consistency needs to reach all corners of the business. If you are not consistent you will lose credibility, you will look confused and vague to your clients and the impression you will leave them with is that you haven’t been in business very long.

The promises of yesterday are the taxes of today.

-William Lyon MacKenzie

It has never been clearer that we need to embed your brand promise throughout the whole of your organisation. It doesn’t matter whether the promises are personal, or if you are a solopreneur, or an SME: you need to be feel that it is part of everything you deliver and not just a statement that appears on your website.So here is my quick methodology and protocol for what you (or your business) need to do:

1. Make Small Promises You Can Keep: be realistic in your daily commitment. Start small and create a private victory. You can build on this with other small promises and enlarge your victory until you establish healthy habits for your life. Make a promise and keep it.People often dismiss small promises as unimportant, but that is just not true. You don’t call back when you say you will, you don’t repay a loan that’s outstanding, or maybe it just doesn’t seem important to keep a confidence. If you fail to take the minor promises seriously, you destroy trust and damage your reputation. Failing to keep these small promises gives the appearance of being disorganized and irresponsible. You make the other person feel dismissed and unimportant. Conversely, you can build trust by demonstrating that you keep your word even on seemingly inconsequential things.

2. Make it Your Number #1 Priority: don’t let anything get in the way. Following through on a difficult promise not only gives you satisfaction, but also raises the level of respect you receive from others. If you truly want to be successful in life, have better relationships, and advance your career or business, hold promises as sacred agreements, don’t miss deadlines, and make a practice to follow through on your commitments. Don’t make excuses (see Rule 5).

3. Surprise Them and Yourself: make a promise your customers aren’t expecting. Speed and delivery are probably a given for all express transportation companies. Why should your customers work with you rather than someone else? When you are clear about them, wrap your brand promise around these key benefits. Make your brand promises short, simple and direct

4. Write Down Your Promise: keep it somewhere visible at home and at work. Make your promise clear and make them concrete. Make sure that are certain that you will be able to do something before you commit to it. Then be clear on the expectation, action, or result that is agreed to. Then set a firm deadline. Firm promises that are set in stone are more likely to be kept. Never make a promise that you are not sure you can keep.

Every promise fulfilled will help you to associate your name with positivity and trust. Making promises you can keep is instrumental to helping you build and maintain any relationship in life. So, right now make that promise to yourself.

For Every Promise, There is Price to Pay.

Be Amazing Every Day.

A Passion For Customer Service Excellence

A had a meeting last night with the smartest guy in the room. It was a big room too, at the Hoxton Holborn. Boy he knows his stuff. He asked whether I was superman. He could not comprehened someone (me) writing 132 articles in 180 days (let alone reading them) as well as training every day, inspiring thousands of clients, running a business, training 4 restaurants, 2 Hotels and coaching lots of people.The answer is of course no, I am not Clark Kent. I am just living the be amazing every day programme. So my connection (call him Mr T), whom I have the total respect for, asked me to write about something in today’s article.

What is customer service excellence? 

Actually it is is a brilliant, highly complex and difficult question. Except it is very simple. Customer service is just a day in, day out ongoing, never ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate, type of activity. Watch this first: 3.14 seconds of Tom Peters A Passion For Customers:

 

 

Now think about the last hotel you booked in and had poor service:

Customer service excellence has always been and will always be one of the critical competitive advantages for any business. Richard Whiteley In his popular book, The Customer Driven Company, (1991) emphasises the theme saturation with the voice of the customer as the key to ensuring excellent customer service and consequently a successful and profitable business. Failure to listen and respond to the voice of the customer causes stress, anger and frustration for millions of customers and the ultimate failure of those businesses that are not happily and intimately connected with their customers.

So Mr.T, here are my Seven Excellent Customer Service Commandments

1. Under promise, carefully understate and over deliver. Exceed customer needs and expectations. If customer satisfaction has one sure thing, it’s about exceeding expectations and how well it works. People like to be pleasantly surprised, within limits. Build relationships with your customers. In a highly competitive service environment, meeting customer expectations may not be enough. Successful companies strive to not just meet, but to exceed customer needs and expectations. Nothing impresses a customer more than an employee who goes, “above and beyond the call of duty” to ensure total customer satisfaction. Today, customers expect something more than this traditional customer service. They not only expect, they demand exceptional customer service. They are particularly pleased when businesses exceed their expectations, show that they care about them personally, and employees work swiftly and effectively on their behalf.

2. Ask the right questions.Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. Never stop learning about your customers. This means really listening. Often, the only thing a customer wants is to feel understood. Learning how to listen effectively is not a widely held skill. However, it can be taught, and listening training is a common feature of many customer service courses. Know your customers so that needs can be anticipated. This best practice requires that owners and employees constantly ask questions, collect, analyze and use data. Feedback from the customer is a source of constant business renewal and adjustment. As the business environment changes and as customer needs shift, continuous feedback allows a business to adjust and change accordingly. The critical question is, “What do my customers need, and how can I best provide it?”The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers. ~ Shiv Singh

3. Maintain happy employees. Remembering that happy employees make happy customers is a critical bit of advice for every chief executive. Happy employees mean happy customers. In most businesses, especially service oriented businesses, the employees’ attitudes and behaviours determine the quality of customer service. Herb Kelleher, former Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Airlines, argues,

Put employees first and customers second.

At first this may seem contrary to the notion of having a company that is customer focused. But, if we adhere to the notion of a happy employee makes a happy customer, then this makes sense. Southwest Airlines has been successful in a very competitive business (see / read again my blog on 10x companies by Collins on Great by Choice) Southwest has instilled a spirit of entrepreneurship in all its employees. The philosophy is that Southwest Airlines is in the people business and it just happens to run an airline. Companies that consider they are in the people business are companies that provide excellent customer service. Tom Peters, (1999), says that we should make work fun. In a company that makes work fun, employees look forward to their job where they are valued and appreciated.

4. Create and use service standardsYour customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. ~ Damon Richards. Successful companies that provide excellent customer service clearly define the service standards that are essential for business success. Service standards serve two purposes. First, they are a powerful force for shaping the image that your customers have of you. Secondly, they are a great tool for measuring how well each employee in your business meets the levels of service, which are essential for your business success. Service standards should be measurable because you can manage and train for things that of excellence in customer service.

5. Have a written plan for ensuring excellence in customer service.

This one, Mr T I am always amazed by – organisations that don’t have a plan. A written plan helps to ensure a total organisational culture you can measure. Especially critical is developing a mission and visionary plan that stresses the importance of customer service. The mission statement for the customer-oriented company clearly puts the customer in the spotlight. If a company cannot clearly identify the customer within its mission, the mission statement does not contribute toward the goal of customer service. The visionary plan should be developed among all employees with leadership from the owner or chief executive officer (CEO). It should have a limited number of goals that powerfully speak to the direction of the business and its emphasis on customer service. It’s recommended that not more than five to seven goals be developed. Customer service may be incorporated into one of the major goals or it may be inherent but clearly recognisable in all the goals. Having a plan in writing and frequently making reference to the plan is a way to put customer service in the forefront of a company’s business plan. This written plan should be based on customer input. The customer should be involved in the development of the plan, and it should be continuously updated and adjusted, as customer needs and expectations change in the changing environment.

6. Smash the barriers to excellence and adopt Excellence, always.

Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get. ~ Nelson Boswell. 

It seems to be the natural tendency for organisations and businesses to develop a bureaucracy over time. The longer a business has been in existence, the more rules, policies, and regulations it seems to have in the rulebook. Frequently, these rules, regulations and policies are barriers to customer service excellence. Employees must be freed of the shackles of too many rules, too many regulations, too much paperwork, and overly restricted communication channels. Only then, will employees be free to truly focus on the customer and provide excellent customer service. The employees themselves are the best data source for identifying and eliminating these barriers, but the customers too can be an excellent source of this critical information.

7. Offer your customers options. If you can’t satisfy your customers needs and expectations, the next best thing is to offer options for other sources of service, even if it is a competitor. This shows the customer that you truly care about them and not just in selling your service. Good customer service is made, not born. Most companies find that employees require training to provide good customer service. Some of the areas in which employees often get help from customer service training include:

Then and only then can you walk the talk at the top. It is critical that the owner or chief executive officer of the business demonstrates a genuine concern and desire to provide excellent customer service. Tom Peter’s called it MBWA (managing by walking around). Nice.

So, Mr T, my 7 rules for Customer Excellence can be found in companies that exemplify a decision to do only excellent work.These practices are not just something the company does, these practices are the company. Every employee in the company must understand and carry out these practices on a daily basis. Hiring people with the right attitudes and keeping them constantly trained, rewarded and recognized for demonstrating the best of these twelve practices is the way that companies achieve success. It is essential that the top person in the organisation, CEO or owner also demonstrate these practices; not just among external customers, but among those internal customers, especially employees.

Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves. – Steve Jobs

I am no Superman Mr T. I amazing, every single day.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Amazing Brain and Eye Fixation

Amazing Brain and Eye Fixation

But first look into my eyes. Deep into my eyes.

You can’t for very long. Not because I am particularly ugly (I am average apparently) but because your eyes are in fact always moving in a fast tremor, dancing around in little micro saccades. Saccades are quick, simultaneous movements of both eyes in the same direction. Initiated by the frontal eye fields or sub-cortically by the superior colliculus, saccades serve as a mechanism for fixation, rapid eye movement, and the fast phase of optokinetic nystagmus. Sorry back to the fun…

Try this little experiment on someone in the office or home. Tell them to look into your eyes and say they can’t stop looking. Then ask them what they had for lunch three days ago and chances are they won’t be able to answer. It’s very hard to remember something without moving your eyes.

We are as humans are extremely visual creatures. Many of us are guilty of taking some of the most wondrous and spectacular things about how our bodies work for granted. Ben Franklin once remarked how people marvel at beautiful vistas, but forget about the miracle of the human body. For example, how often do you consider the sheer number of individual cells working in unison to sustain life inside your body? It is hard to grasp just how small the atoms that make up your body are until you take a look at the massive number of them.

An adult male (me) is made up of around 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms. Maybe a few more for me after the skiing and eating last week. The retina in the back of your eyes are made up of at least 120 million cells that are extremely sensitive to light. Of those cells, between 6 and 7 million of them are colour sensitive cones, and details of the world surrounding you in HD. The other more than 110 million cells are called rods, which help you to see better in the dark and distinguish between black and white. So surprisingly, less than a tenth of your visual receptors actually detect colour or indeed see much beyond the latest 4K Ultra High Definition screens.

  • Here is a fact for your (unlimited) hard drive memory to encode ( i.e. remember then recall): on average, you blink around 17 times per minute, 28,800 times per day, and 5.2 million times per year. The old saying, in a blink of an eyecame about because the muscle which allows you to blink is the fastest muscle in the body. A blink typically lasts 100-150 milliseconds, and this action plays a vital role in keeping your eyes moist and debris-free.

Now this is truly amazing: your eyes are unbelievably sensitive, able to detect just a few photons of light. A photon is the smallest elementary particle, the smallest quantum of light and indeed of all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is the force carrier for the electromagnetic force, even when static via virtual photons.

To demonstrate this amazing fact, if you take a look on a very clear night at the constellation of Andromeda, a little fuzzy patch of light is just visible with the naked eye. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy and remains one of the 88 modern constellations. Located north of the celestial equator, it is named for Andromeda, daughter of Cassiopeia, who was chained to a rock to be eaten by the sea monster Cetus. Nice. Now if your eyes are good enough and you can make out that tiny blob, you are seeing as far as is humanly possible without technology.

Andromeda is the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way. But near is a relative term in intergalactic space, the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light years away. When the photons of light that hit your eye began their journey, there were no human beings on earth and we were yet to evolve. You are seeing an almost inconceivable distance and looking back in time through 2.5 million years. Tell your friends how good your eyes (well rods) are and spread that fact around from me!

The picture of the world we see (or think we see) as I have already mentioned in previous articles, is in fact an artificial construct. Our brains don’t produce an image the way a GO-Pro camera works. Instead, the brain constructs a model of the world from the information provided by modules that measure light and shade, edges, curvature and so on. This makes it simple for the brain to paint out the blind spot, the area of your retina where the optic nerve joins, which has no sensors. It also compensates for the rapid jerky movements of our eyes called saccades, giving a false picture of steady vision.

But the downside of this process is that it makes our eyes easy to fool. TV, films and optical illusions work by misleading the brain about what the eye is seeing. This is also why the moon appears much larger than it is and seems to vary in size. To look at something seems a simple act; just hold your eyes steadily on the target.This is called fixation.Although we spend about 80 % of our time in fixation, less is known about this important skill than different types of eye movements. You are about to fixate on a problem. However, fixation presents a real paradox.

If you look at something without ever moving your eyes and retina, the target fades away. You can see this with Troxler’s effect. Make sure the circle above is 4 inches (you can’t do this on a phone very well I have tried) or more in diameter. Then, stare steadily at the centre dot and, with time, the peripheral grey circle should fade away, then return, only to fade again. Your visual system, indeed our sensory systems in general, do not like sameness; they get bored (sort of). They respond only when something changes, so, as you stare at the central dot without intentionally moving your eyes, the large circle fails to keep activating your low resolution peripheral visual system. The circle disappears, but you see it again when you make a subtle eye movement, thus changing the visual stimuli that move across your retinal cells.

You eyes are always moving.

My favourite op art pieces, like Enigma (above) by Isia Leviant or The Fall by Bridget Riley (below) may have their bizarre effects in large part because of these subtle fixational eye movements. When you look at Enigma for several seconds to a minute, you may start to see a streaming movement in the coloured circles. Your eyes are flicking around and these movements are very subtle, small jerks (microsaccades) that cover less than 2 degrees of visual space, slow drifts, and high frequency tremor. Microsaccades brought the grey circle back after it disappeared in Troxler’s illusion.

A relatively recent study has shown that this effect is a result of your own micro saccades. Fixational eye movements may also be involved in the undulations and shimmering you see in The Fall. The repeating nature of these lines in the painting may create, via subtle eye movements, illusions of motion. These illusions excite the motion sensitive areas of your brain which may, in turn, stimulate even more eye movements so that the illusions build over time. People who experience eyestrain when reading experience more of these illusions than people who read comfortably. Which mY explain the head aches if you stare at a flickering screen for too long.

So my gift to you today was,

  • Art, Science, Cosmology, Space, Troxler, Ben Franklin, The Fall, Constellations, Greek Mythology, Ptolemy, Physiology, Anatomy, Physics, History, Movement, The Matrix, Hypnosis, Photons, Evolution, Neuroscience, 3 New Facts, 2 Strange Illusions, some Chemistry and a little Humour, all in one blink of a blog.

Oh and one more brain secret for you: by whispering something to someone almost guarantees that they’ll whisper back. Try whispering Be Amazing Every Day and ‘this was the best blog you have read’ and see what happens. If you enjoyed it, click like and share it with the world. I thank you in advance and be amazing and kind on those eyes.

The 3 Most Powerful Brain Words

Fah Fah Fah.

Yes these 3 simple words (or sounds) are, in fact, amazing. I know that might be a stretch and maybe a bit difficult to absorb at first; but please bear with me. It is not just that I have been away, (although I have just had a brilliant short break, skiing the powder in the French Alps); or that I have been eating some amazing Michelin Star food (at the very brilliant Ferme de Montagne, in Les Gets, France); or even talking to some super bright people about the meaning of life. Oh no.

Nor have I gone completely off the rails (I hope not), not even with the ‘dread’ of a return to work (because I really love my work). However, on arrival back in the UK today, I immediately wanted to go back skiing again. Greedy maybe, but you know that our eyes are often described as bigger than our stomachs; the same may be true of the need for better (and more frequent) hospitality trips, extreme pleasure experiences, conversation and great company. You see we are so completely dependent on our 27 + senses, every moment of the day, that we totally forget how poor and easily mistaken they can be. Yes, read this if you have any remaining thoughts of there being 5 senses.

Our multiple senses aren’t just giving a flawed view of what’s going on in the world; they’re affected by what’s going on elsewhere, by your pre-programming and by complex sensory interactions. Your reality is in fact cobbled together from a bunch of different parts of your brain working in conjunction. It’s a bit like a crazy ski lift queue (or line in the US) full of insane snowboarders, from different countries, all going in different directions: trust me, that is pretty messy. In fact, I am sure your brain does it’s best to convince you that it is working just fine, despite the reality of it being a messy, chaotic place.

Let’s take food as an example of the chaos and confusion that exists in your brain. Many people have experienced the following parental statement: You can’t leave the dinner table until you finish your food (or think of the starving children and other versions exist). That common parental mantra turns out to have left a mark.You may know that if you are offered varying amounts of food on a plate, you will end up eating more if there’s more food on the plate. This can happen regardless of how hungry you are. We eat more ice cream if we use a larger spoon than if we use a smaller spoon. According to new research, adults from many different cultures around the world typically finish almost all of the food that’s on their plates. It may make you a member of of the Clean Plate Club – you eat pretty much everything you put on your plate. The new Cornell University study shows that the average adult eats 92% of whatever he or she puts on his/her plate. Brian Wansink Ph.D., author of the forthcoming book, Slim by Design, says, If you put it on your plate, it’s going into your stomach.

Wansink and co-author Katherine Abowd Johnson analyzed 1179 diners and concluded that we’re a Clean Plate Planet. Although diners were analysed in 7 developed countries, the US, Canada, France, Taiwan, Korea, Finland, and the Netherlands, the results were nearly identical. If we serve it, we’ll eat it regardless of gender or nationality.

A further study finds that hungry people see food-related words more clearly than people who’ve just eaten. The study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that this change in vision happens at the earliest, perceptual stages, before higher parts of the brain have a chance to change the messages coming from the eyes. The research found that when words were flashed very fast on a screen (too fast to read, but slow enough to imprint on the brain), Hungry people saw the food-related words as brighter and were better at identifying [the] food-related words when shown on a list after they were flashed.

Not convinced? Ok, so here comes the most amazing demonstration of how to confused your brain becomes by just 2 of those 27 senses.

Your Eyes Can Make You Hear Different Words.

When you hear someone talk, the whole process is normally pretty straight forward and I am sure you are pretty confident you won’t be fooled.The sound comes out of the other person’s mouth, it travels into your ears and you just heard what they said….this must be so, because you experience it every day. If your hearing works fine, what could possibly go wrong?

The very short answer is your eyes are playing a deep and powerful trick on you. You see, vision is the most dominant sense in humans, and that means that what your eyes are seeing will sometimes override what your ears are hearing. So let me prove it in this extraordinary clip from a brilliant documentary on BBC2 called Horizon: Is Seeing Believing?

You will see (and hear) a guy saying bah bah bah over and over. Afterward, he changes his tune to fah fah fah … or so your eyes would have you believe. In reality, the audio never changed, only the picture did. That is, the voice is still saying bah, but since it’s now dubbed over a picture of the same guy pronouncing fah, your brain actually changes what you’re hearing so that it doesn’t conflict with what you’re seeing. If you close your eyes or look away, fah automatically goes back to being bah. This illusion is called the McGurk effect, and even knowing know full well what’s going on, you can’t get your ears to hear the correct sound. The McGurk effect tends to be minimised when you’re interacting with familiar faces, but it gets worse if you’re dealing with strangers. Things like the way the person is dressed or even what they’re carrying can influence the words you think you hear them say.

So all this research indicates that our perceptions increase toward items that our body wants or needs. But how does this relate to hospitality and my need for another holiday?

Well the simple answer is, it is very complex.

What really motivates people to want to travel, go to a posh restaurants or spend more money on goods and services is driven by internal (old) programmes, powerful external stimuli and by conflicting patterns and hierarchies within the brain.

So if ‘food hunger’ enhances our senses toward food, what does our selection of attractions tell us about what we are lacking, or hungry for, in our day to day lives? Because that is what is guiding our attention to travel magazine, TV shows and advertisements. While I was bashing the new powder snow, what were the things that motivated me to eat at the best restaurant? Why did I seek fine minds to discuss neuroscience with? What do these and many other choices that we make, say about our motivations and needs? What further adds to the improbably hard equation to solve, is why are these so different from one person to the next?

These are the kinds of questions that are getting me (and others) excited. By seeking new clues and answers from a variety of fields we might get closer to the secret of human decision making. If we can understand this powerful mechanism then the following 3 words make perfect sense,

Bah Bah Bah

Be Amazing Every Day.