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YOUR BRAIN FOCUSES, ELIMINATING DISTRACTIONS

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What a question I just posed, many of you might be wondering! Who in this world wouldn’t want to succeed? True, we all want to succeed, and most of us want to succeed big time too. But then, that is only a desire really for most people, and for some other slightly more disciplined souls it is a good intention. That brings us to, yes, that most notorious adage about good intentions. In case any of you forgot it, here it is - “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” After nurturing more than a casual interest in peak performance psychology and neuroscience for decades, I can tell you one thing for sure - the person who coined it was a genius. So good intentions too are not enough. That is why new year resolutions have become a big joke these days. New bookings surge for gyms and slimming centers in December & January, and most of those new admissions are lost by February. Does it take so much gumption to stick with a basic year-long gym plan? Not at all. But the fact of the matter is that most people lack even that gumption, that discipline in life. On the other end of the spectrum we see those invincible souls, leaders like Mukesh Ambani, who in his late 60s, is planning a mega foray into financial services, through an ambitious hive-off of Jio Financial Services, and by thinking out-of-box to take on deeply entrenched players like SBI, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Bajaj Finance etc. To observe an even more recent example, and an international example for that, just watch Satya Nadella. At 56 years, the Microsoft CEO is literally at the top of the world, having led the company successfully against all strategic incursions to its turf by the likes of Google, Apple & Amazon. Yet, over the past few days, this India-born engineer and management wizard proved to the world that his appetite to expand the Microsoft empire is unparalleled and that he has that strategic mastery and speed to rise much above what competitors can come up with.  In the recent crisis at OpenAI, he first stunned the world by taking in OpenAI’s ousted CEO Sam Altman & Chairman Greg Brockman within hours, and followed it up with an even more stunning offer to take in all of their 700+ employees, who are among the highest paid scientists in the world. Thus he strategically squeezed OpenAI to reverse their decision, and take back Sam Altman and Greg Brockman into their former roles, and in doing so, not only secured Microsoft’s $13 billion investments in the AI pioneer, but ensured that Microsoft will benefit most from how this cutting-edge group of researchers develop AI in the future. Is there any ease in what Nadella achieved during the past few days? Not by a long shot. Does it have any precedent in either Microsoft or any other firm? Again, no. So it was clearly the most unfamiliar territory even for him, under the glaring spotlight of the media and the tech world, and it was also the most deadline-bound stuff to execute, yet he does it coolly and prevails over the others! Same goes with Mukesh Ambani’s foray into financial services. Anybody would be daunted at the prospect of entering such a tightly regulated field, dominated by huge banks and NBFCs with decades of expertise in delivering all kinds of financial services. Yet, he does that coolly after months and months of meticulous preparations and deliberations. What does Satya Nadella lack in life to behave in such a driven fashion? What does Mukesh Ambani lack in life to act this intensely? Well, if you ask them about it, they might answer like these, at least in their own minds: Nadella would say - “We lack absolute leadership in AI and I want it for Microsoft.” And Ambani might say - “We lack presence in financial services and I want it for Jio.” This is the kind of ‘want’ I was asking you about in the beginning, whether you have it or not in your life, in your own career, in your own objectives. It goes beyond mere desires or even good intentions, and is one of the ultimate drivers of success in at least our planet.You might think it is just a case of a person with superior willpower prevailing over the rest. No, not at all. Willpower or determination or the resulting persistence helps for sure, but the factor that almost magically achieves superlative results is the sheer quality or depth of your ‘want’.I am sure this is getting to be pretty intriguing for you. For sure, it is. When I first encountered my brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) in action, it was quite intriguing for me too. If you want to read about it, I invite you to get a copy of my biohacking book, ‘The Making of a Superhuman’. (link here)The RAS region is a small pencil-shaped region of the brain just above the brainstem, and it acts as a gateway of information to the brain. RAS decides what gets inside your brain, and also what is not allowed inside your brain from moment to moment. If not for RAS, the brain will suffocate with terabytes of input each second, and fail to do what is needed at the moment. I will try to explain the action of RAS with an example.Suppose you are going for a long drive alone and it is a picturesque route. You want to enjoy the drive by seeing all the beautiful landscapes on either side, and also switch on your favorite music. But suddenly you realize you are running extremely low on fuel, and ask the dashboard voice assistant to help navigate the car to a nearby fuel station. To your dismay, it says to “continue on this route for 18 kms to reach the next fuel station.” 18 kms! Will the fuel last that much? You are a changed human now. You no longer hear the blaring music. Your eyes stop recording the beautiful sceneries unfolding with each curve of the road. Instead, they are scanning for a signboard for a fuel pump after each curve. You know it is 18 kms away, but what if Google Maps missed one nearer? If you can find it, you would be much safer then. That is your brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) at work. For the next few kilometers, it virtually shuts down the music and the scenery, and takes in data of only probable signboards of fuel pumps. Why? Because, you have decided that you really want fuel. There is no other way that you can continue the journey. Even worse, you run the risk of getting stranded on the highway with no nearby access to fuel. You want fuel now like Satya Nadella wants AI leadership or Mukesh Ambani wants financial services. Your brain shuts down everything else like the scenery and music you were enjoying just minutes before, and finetunes itself to find the nearest fuel station. But you can’t find any, and now, the real RAS magic begins. You pull to a rare traffic stop on the highway, where it crosses another smaller highway. And you who notice nothing but luxury cars usually, can’t help noticing a fuel tanker which has stopped alongside your car in the same direction. And you who have never ever spoken to a stranger in traffic before, let alone a truck driver, lean outside of your window and shouts to him, “Brother, is there a fuel station nearby?” And pat comes the reply, so typical of friendly truck drivers, whenever someone values their knowledge, “Not on this route, brother. But take a left here, and there is one fuel station within just one kilometer. I am going there with fuel, so you can follow me. Later, you can take the next right from there, and you can rejoin this route.”  The power of networking? Or the power of your RAS? You outsmarted Google Maps because you really wanted fuel. Satya Nadella outsmarted other tech majors to win control over OpenAI, because he really wants AI leadership. And Mukesh Ambani will in all likelihood carve out a space for Jio Financial Services in the banking sector because he really wants it! It is your RAS that shut down your music and your scenery, and helped you scan for pumps, and when it didn’t succeed, helped you find a creative alternative like noticing a fuel tanker, and asking its driver for a nearby fuel station! And it is Satya Nadella’s RAS that made him creatively network within hours with several leaders in and out of Microsoft and OpenAI, to come out with this winning deal for both companies that nobody else thought was possible! By now, I am sure that you realize what I am driving at. Yes, your ‘want’ matters. It is up to you whether what you really want is limited to emergency situations like finding the nearest fuel pump or to life transforming changes like getting up daily before the world, or going for a morning run, or naturally selecting only healthy foods in a restaurant menu, or organizing yourself better than your peers to achieve your goals. Now I want to help you out with some powerful biohacks to get your RAS up and running in prime shape. Apart from its role as the primary gatekeeper of the brain, RAS has an important role in the sleeping mechanism by controlling the waking up, staying awake and staying asleep cycles.  This relationship of RAS with sleep is bidirectional, which means that getting a good night’s sleep is of prime importance in keeping your RAS healthy. If you have trouble sleeping, you can try natural relaxants like Vieroots Relax (link here) that works by its relaxing and sleep inducing Ayurvedic herbs that are safe and non-habit forming unlike sleeping pills.           Secondly, since RAS is intimately connected with the bidirectional control of the conscious and subconscious minds, a daily practice of meditation is seen quite helpful in finetuning our RAS to do our bidding. Mindfulness meditation has been found most useful in this regard, as it consciously trains the mind to be aware of the various sensory signals and to control them without exerting. There are several other biohacks too that can help with both relaxation and concentration of the mind, that are critical for a healthy RAS, that involve nootropic supplements as well as specific yoga postures and breathwork. But such strategies should be carefully chosen, as per one’s genetic and metabolic uniqueness. If you really want to pursue peak performance by unleashing the full power of your RAS, I encourage you to opt for EPLIMO, one of the world’s first geno-metabolic lifestyle modification solutions for ensuring peak performance. EPLIMO involves a genetic test and metabolic assessment, based on which personalized lifestyle changes spanning diet, nutrition, supplements, nootropics, exercise, yoga, breathwork, meditation, detoxing, de-stressing etc that are research-validated to ensure peak performance, are suggested.

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