“The most important factor in any success equation is not the method but the person who uses it.” In Brainblocks: Overcoming the 7 Hidden Barriers to Success, neuropsychologist and entrepreneur Theo Tsaousides presents us not with another set of steps to reach our goals, but rather an understanding of why we might be undermining our own success. His book is as much a treatise against self-sabotage as it is a toolkit for how to defend against it.
Brainblocks, Tsaousides writes, “are the habits of feeling, thinking, and doing created by our brains that block our pursuit of success.” And although we can’t hope to completely eradicate these habits, we can find ways to better manage them.
In each chapter, Tsaousides offers a “confessional” — a section with his and other people’s stories — as well as ways to “spot the brainblock” in our own lives, a list of the deleterious side effects it may be having on us, and a plan to “smash the brainblock.” In many cases, he intersperses the text with quick exercises that are as powerful as they are easy to use. Tsaousides writes with the wisdom that comes from his many years of clinical practice, and he engages the reader in a relatable tone.
“Self-doubt,” Tsaousides writes, “is the most fundamental brainblock because it stops you from getting started.” We get stuck in a comfort zone where, although we’re able to avoid fear and criticism, we have little impact. In overcoming self-doubt, Tsaousides encourages us to challenge what we fear: “Tackle what you don’t know and do it over and over and over again,” he suggests.
What about procrastination? In a clever metaphor, Tsaousides describes it as the tide that slowly wears away the rocks on the shore until they collapse. “Every time you procrastinate,” he explains, “your goals become eroded, until one day they crumble before they ever had a chance to materialize.” He provides tips, including learning to prioritize, being clear about your options, and resetting the emotional temperature.
He also dedicates sections to impatience, multitasking, rigidity, perfectionism, and negativity. The book encourages flexible and creative thinking, and becoming more comfortable with change.
When it comes to perfectionism, Tsaousidese writes, we must separate the good aspects of it from the bad. We must learn to distinguish between what he calls “prevention goals” and “promotion goals” and to stop running away from perceived negative outcomes.
And in the case of multitasking — something many of us believe will help us go go go — Tsaousides writes that a mind trying to do many things at once is far less effective than we might think. Attention, he writes, is like a flashlight in a dark room that can only be shined fully in one direction. We must be selective about where we choose to shine it, he explains, if we want to do something — and do it well.
Tsaousides’s message is simple: We are all wired for success. And that’s a message more people should hear.
Brainblocks: Overcoming the 7 Hidden Barriers to Success
Prentice Hall Press, August 2015
Paperback, 272 pages