33voices interviews David Rock
Your Brain at Work
I have to tell you, not only was I fascinated by your book but a lot of the work that you’ve been doing in this whole area of how your brain works has really been fascinating to me. I appreciate you sharing your time with me today.
I managed a large wealth management firm for over 20 years. My primary responsibility at that time was growing my leadership team and just as importantly, obviously, getting the right niche of talent to be able to market and sell our products.
So this whole issue of leadership that you’re addressing now; this whole issue of how to change people’s behaviors and how to change your own behavior has just been mesmerizing to me and I wish I had this kind of work or this kind of research, certainly, in the work that I was doing. I see the relationship between your coaching that you’re doing with the leaders that you’re working with and certainly how this work is evolving.
I have to ask you, it’s coming up on a year now for your book - Your Brain at Work. I’m really curious, what are the bigger insights that you’ve gained in just observing people that you’re working with who have really embraced your book?
It is for me too, I have to tell you.
I think it’s a positive addiction. We can get addicted to drinking. We can get addicted to carousing. We can get addicted to noticing internal experience. I think the latter is probably one of the more positive and least harmful. I think that’s something I have noticed. I probably want to write about that shortly. I think it’s a positive addiction. I think one of the reasons is it makes life interesting in a whole new way.
When you’re a kid everything is new. They say that kids are almost like being permanently on some psychedelic where everything is so vivid. I can certainly have some memory of that but as an adult everything fits in the same frame.
I think every new big insight about human functioning especially neural functioning tends to just give such a burst of energy and such an understanding of things that you didn’t understand. It sort of brings a real freshness and a novelty and an engagement to last. I think it’s a positive. I hope it’s a positive addiction.
When I go into to talk to 300 people and I say, who has read the book and what impact has it had on them. People are raving about it and how helpful it’s been. That’s wonderful. I’m excited about that. The responsibility is a bit scary sometimes too. But overall, I think it seems to stick. That’s the bottom line.
I definitely want to get into the work that you’re doing here in just a few moments. One of the biggest insights for me that I picked up is, I think that once, we as human beings, understand the science behind our behaviors is that perhaps it makes change a little bit easier or makes seeking positive change a little bit more inspiring. Am I totally off base on this thing?
No, you’re right. That’s one of the big things, is that you learn firstly, why change is hard and mostly it’s because you’re going in the wrong direction with it. We don’t even know that we’re going in any direction. We think that’s how you change. You learn that actually change is relatively easy. Your brain changes millions of times a second. You’ve got to focus on something that feels discomforting. You have to focus on something that is uncertain. The brain doesn’t like uncertainty. It’s pain. Uncertainty is read as pain.
You have to focus on something that’s uncertain which is where you’re going, you know, what you’re going towards rather than what you’re avoiding. The brain prefers to avoid, just prefers problem resolution.
But as you head toward solution, as you get comfortable with the uncertainty, as you head towards your objective, as you head towards your new circuitry rather than trying to get rid of circuitry, you discover that new circuitry is pretty easy to create. That’s one of the really refreshing and helpful aspects of it all.