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My Optimal Thinking Brain

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In the last decade or two, there has been remarkable discoveries of the workings of our brain. I started off at school being a slow learner, thinking I must have a slow brain and had to work very hard to keep up with what was expected of me at school. Based on the latest discoveries, experts began criticizing the traditional methods of education as being inadequate for developing or using the whole brain of the child. You can imagine how much that boosted my self confidence about my own brain.

In 1981, Roger Sperry won the Nobel Prize based on findings of his split-brain research. While severing the corpus callosum (the bridge that connects the left and right brain hemispheres), which at that time was the only cure to help individuals suffering from epilepsy, Sperry's team discovered evidence to support that the two hemispheres control vastly different aspects of thought and action. They found the left (controlling the right side of the body) is dominant for language & speech and analytical & logical thought, while the right (controlling the left side of the body) seems to be much better at non-verbal,visualizing, holistic and unstructured tasks. (This was two years after I had completed my undergraduate studies in Australia.) Negative commentaries about the traditional education system being too focused on the left brain only began soon after and was a revelation to me that perhaps the lopsided usage of my brain was the cause of my slow learning ability. I had managed somehow on my own to develop a peaceful and optimal mind.

This breakthrough in brain research was followed by brain dominance research by Ned Herrmann and many others. Ned Herrmann collected data using a forced-choice paper and pencil test that he developed at General Electric. He found that his data did not fit neatly into Sperry's left/right categories. Instead, the data was distributed into four distinct categories thus producing a quadrant model of the brain named as A,B,C and D as follows :

A D

 Logical 
Analytical
 Fact-based
Qualitative

 Holistic
 Intuitive
  Integrating
   Synthesizing

Organized
 Sequential
 Planned
  Detailed

 Interpersonal
Emotional
Kinesthetic
Feeling-based
B C

Research does show that each hemisphere serves special functions and the quadrant model does reveal specific patterns or preferences in our way of thinking. However we cannot say for example that creative activity is the result of the functioning of only a particular part of the brain as it may involve functions of both hemispheres and parts of all four quadrants. What is clear is that there are distinct parts of the brain that serve a particular function and different activities will involve using different configurations of those parts.

The research itself may not therefore be of much use for one trying to improve a particular skill, activity or performance and merely serve as an 'awareness' purpose for one in answering the 'what' question. Perhaps the 'How' question is the more valuable one and that is something I have been researching on for answers by using my Heart and Mind to analyze the myriad of experiences I have acquired in my life and the hundreds of books & web pages I have gleaned from. Meanwhile, take a look at the table below which does show the different personalities of anyone with a preference in each of the four quadrants in the model and thus being labeled as being analytical, an organizer, emotional or creative.

The Personality description from our Brain Dominance
Quadrant
A - Analytical
B - Organizer
C - Emotional
D - Creative
Strength

Logical approach to problem solving
Fact-based situational evaluations
Conducting research
Ideas and concepts

 

Control-orientated
Routine
Detail orientated
Linear processing

Action orientated
People focused
Visual
Team/group oriented
Brainstorming
Free flowing activities
Driven by personal values

"Big Picture" Thinkers
Innovative/creative
Tolerant of ambiguity
Making connections
Intuitive problems solving
Weakness

Too focused, missing synergistic opportunities
Unable to admit if wrong
Favors individual over group work
Difficulty delegating
Tends to place facts over people

Reluctant to change
May not see or appreciate innovative ideas
Uncomfortable in dynamic environments
Tends to miss the "big picture"
Like to talk
Spontaneous - tend to act without evaluating all available facts
Easily distracted
Impatience with routine or structured activities
Overlook details
Dislike routine or repetitive tasks
Tend to procrastinate
Have problems prioritizing
Optimal Learning
Information gathering
Debating issues
Evaluating and testing theories
Applying logic and analysis
Strategy formulation

Focus on one thing at a time
Learn & Apply new skills quickly
Controlled dialogue
Testing and evaluating concepts
Structuring and sequencing content
Team-oriented activities
Emotional stimulation
Action-oriented activities
Making connections
Researching "what-if" scenarios
Individual initiative
Systems analysis
Keeping an open mind
Solving problems intuitively
Respond best to
Technical or financial information
Formal, no-nonsense approach
Data-driven content
Theories, Charts and Graphs
Rapid pace and complex case studies
A roadmap (specific agenda)
Clear goals and objectives for each activity
Structured, impersonal examples
Simple Case studies
Simple charts and graphs
People-oriented discussions
Brainstorming
Experiential activities
Visuals and music
Unstructured, free-flowing activities
Brainstorming
Experimentation
Fun or humorous activities
Visual displays
Challenging/thought provoking activities
Future-oriented activities

Development of my Brain by experience

All the brain theories were not available to me when I was young. I was taught just to work and study hard and you will find success in life. It did work. I studied hard and it definitely improved my academic performance. However, through time my mind became opened to the fact that there was more to life than just academic knowledge

I began to learn not just to work hard but there was a need to work smart. This involved the element of knowing how to apply our knowledge to everyday situations and become better problem solvers. There was something called experience that would teach me more than just stuffing my brain with the required knowledge and I had to be willing to try it.

However there are obstacles to gain new experience even though we are willing to try it. New experience takes us out of our comfort zone and puts us into a position of risk that FEAR begins to hold us back. One can really fear all kinds of things. We fear to fail, to be hurt, to be embarrassed or simply have the fear of heights or darkness or fear of the unknown. Thus one can even fear the consequence of being rich as well as the opposite of being poor as with other conflicting situations of life that can freeze our brain from optimal performance.

Thus fear can paralyze one to end up not doing anything at all to change one's current position though desire is there. This is indeed a state of helplessness that like a whirl pool, draws one to imminent destruction by external factors or self destruction through internal factors of the mind leading to suicide. A child has less fear and as I grew older, I knew I had to overcome this FEAR factor. Willing was not good enough, I had to Do It for the way to overcome fear itself is by doing it anyway.

As I developed more self confidence in life, I was able to expose myself to more experiences that life offers to me which helped me developed my Whole Brain and become a more Optimal Performer and Thinker. Below is the analysis of how I developed my brain through experience and the exercises I did to overcome FEAR:

The Experiences that helped to balance my Brain

Well I was a slow learner in the education system in my early years of school but through time I was taught the system by a caring brother. It's all about knowing the syllabus and feeding the answers to the expected questions into my head so that I could bring them out at the time of examinations.

I was also advised to read widely to gain more knowledge beyond the text book. He encouraged me to travel to learn even more and gave me financial incentives to score in my exam to make my first overseas trip! From a more Intuitive and Feeling-based mind of quadrants C & D, I was to become more organized and logical and exercised quadrants A & B of my brain!

There wasn't much technology in Malaysia for me at that time that I could use to be organized. I depended on 3" X 5" cards in my pocket to remind me of things and in the exam years of my life, they would be filled with mathematical formulas that I could keep pulling the card out wherever I am to register them in my brain!

I believed in hard work as that was what I observed in my family that brought results and achievement. My father was a hard worker and so was my mentor brother. Even back from the government office, my father came back to do gardening or carpentry work and at night, he consistently sat on his desk to do paper work. It was from his disciplined manner of working to file documents that I became an effective Accountant who could always file away a piece of document and retrieve back when required.

His style definitely was a B quadrant thinker, very organized and routine orientated. I think I emulated this trait of my father to this day except that today, I would have a computer or two in front of me with a mobile PDA to help me! This would reduce my time in back-room work and allowed me much more time to be in the frontline engaging with people to problem solve and achieve common aim objectives by working with them closely. My father didn't emphasize on quadrant C or D activities and was more a quiet worker who spent more time alone with his work or hobbies while I would be more involved with people and experiencing new things to have time with the masses as well as have adequate quiet time to engage in quadrant A & B activities

I seemed to get better and better academically. I was surprised to win a prize in English in Primary 5 and when I got into secondary school, after a year in Secondary 1, I got promoted to a better class. Following what my good brother had advised me, I prepared well for the Form 3 exams and scored a string of 6As to get into the Science Stream. Here is when my logical and analytical mind was developed further. I realized the power of quadrants A & B thinking.

Unfortunately, my creative side subsided. There was little influence of Art in the family and the schools kept emphasizing on the sciences and to be advanced in technology. I became a very logical and methodical student and figured out the world pretty much on this foundation. The opportunity to travel, due to the incentives given by my brother that enabled my first overseas trip to Europe, kept my mind open. I created more opportunities to travel in my latter life and soon, I became a more creative person of type D quadrant and not just a controller type person of Quadrant B

Since kindergarten, my mother had always been the driver to school. Around the time of Primary 6, I felt one day the desire to become independent. I told my mother I would catch the bus to school instead. After much persuasion, I was allowed to and felt a great change in my life. I wasn't protected from the community or competition anymore but struggled with the other local boys to try to get a seat in the bus or stand all the way in a crowed bus to school and back. It made me feel good that I was no longer the pampered youngest child but one that changed to become a Man!

I would later have my own motorcycle when I turned 17 to go to College with and I never stopped riding even till my 50s, including riding the bicycle. The brain doesn't seem to forget what it learns in life! I can't tell which quadrant of the brain does wanting to be independent fall in. Maybe the sum or all its parts or quadrants? Mastery of all the potential of our brain surely will help one to develop more self confidence to become independent.

I remember in Form 4 & 5, we had a senior teacher who taught the 6 formers chemistry and was also our chemistry teacher. He didn't know how to adjust his teaching style to us younger students and spoke in terms that I couldn't understand at all. However there was one student who could understand him and that made me wonder why he could and I couldn't? I had worked hard to read our Chemistry textbook to try to understand what was going on but still couldn't figure it out. So I went to this student for help who was friendly and helpful . He told me to check out some other books from the library and when I did, it blew my mind to realize that a different textbook could be more informative! I was so happy to be now conversant with the teacher on advanced chemistry terminology and got an A for it.

Thanks to a good friend who has remained a friend to me to this day, I learnt to seek for more options or sources of information. Keeping this 'open mind' was a quadrant D function with strategic thinking from quadrant A. I find that the computer and internet technology has sharpen my quadrant A and D parts of my brain.

After mastering the sciences in 5 years of secondary school, my father suggested one day that I should plan to become an Accountant. He thought that it would be a good profession as one could have work in both boom times or recessional times. I therefore followed his advice and instead of continuing Form 6 in my school, I would enroll into a matriculation course of 1 year to study accounting and economics in preparation for further studies in Australia. I had to work my brain hard again to learn these new Commerce subjects, remembering how my slow brain was trying to figure out the debits and credits of accounting. Fortunately I was smart enough to stick with the girls who would always gather together after classes to study together or do homework.

Thanks to these girls and my Quadrant A B & C mind set, I could relate and learn from them to be good enough to master the new commerce subjects in just one year to finally score in the Australian matriculation exams. This qualified me for free University education in Australian, then offered by the government led by the ruling labor party leader, Gough Whitlam. My experience in Australia would also sharpen my quadrant D skills too.

On the plane, after saying my good byes to family and friends at the airport, I sat on the seat after take off feeling very homesick. It just suddenly dawned on me that I was going to be alone all by myself in Australia. I never felt this type of feeling and it was really like a sickness that made you feel very uncomfortable inside your body. A kind of paralysis came over me with even a loss of appetite for the food served in the plane. I had to overcome this sick feeling inside me. My mind began to start working, telling myself that I should enjoy the adventure in the new country. I would be making new friends, enjoying new scenery and the new life at the University. I reasoned that Australia was not that far from home and I could always go home during the holidays.

When the plane landed I told myself that the moment I walked out the door, I would leave my homesick thoughts in the plane and moved forward with life which I did! Oh a logical mind of quadrants A & B creating a belief that turned negative feelings to positive instantly with long lasting effect? Strong logic or belief can manage our emotions so it seems. Is it the left brain strength overcoming the fuzziness of right brain thinking or the right brain suggesting more creative alternatives to my narrow negative thoughts of being away from home?
Living in Australia was a good test of my self reliance abilities. I had a good mentor, a fellow Malaysian who was the older brother of my best friend back home. He picked me up on the first day I landed in Australia and I found him a great influence to me. Firstly he was known to be the fastest reader in SE Asia and was an architecture student doubling with a major in computer science. He was a very outdoor adventurous person too and brought me snorkeling the seas for abalone and up the mountains in winter to snow ski down the slopes. He had a part time job too and could fix his own car himself.

I emulated him by working part time myself, buying a motorbike to ride on adventure trips and got a manual to see if I could take the engine apart and put it back again which I did! I even did a dual major of accounting and computer science at the University which was tough. Most computer students failed the accounting paper and the accounting students failed the computer paper. I believed that my brain had been sufficiently trained to take the challenge of change and I did pass several exams of both subjects to qualify with a Bachelors degree with dual majors in the minimum of 3 years. I believed it was an act of balancing my left and right quadrants of my brain.

In the final year of my University, another change would come into my life. I had left out religion as my family had little to do with it. Two missionaries knocked on my door which started months of investigation into Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It took so long as my analytical quadrant A brain had to have all the facts to make a decision. I can say I made a decision to be baptized purely on a 'need to know' basis, a work of quadrant A thinking as I wanted to experience God as a fact for myself and I did.

To my surprise he called me to go on a voluntary mission for 2 years which brought the challenge to explain to my family. I overcame all the obstacles and did manage to serve a successful mission and came home to start off another new life of the working and business world. I think I had developed what I call the Spirituality of Imperfection. God helped me become aware of who I am, an imperfect man. With his knowledge and miraculous powers that my quadrant A mind had analyzed and experienced, my quadrant D brain soon saw visions of what an imperfect man can achieve and I became charged up to help others see the same vision and become an achiever.

I was to find a a job after my mission to qualify as a professional chartered accountant and also found a girl to date. My mother passed away suddenly due to her long illness of diabetes which left me with a choice by Chinese tradition to marry my fiancee within 3 months or wait 3 years. I was only 24 and she 20 but we felt our minds sufficiently mature and compatible to embark on the commitment and we did marry. Close relationship with a woman was a new experience for me as becoming responsible to care for her needs and that of the future family would be also. This would surely require all 4 quadrants of the brain to be functioning. I guess I had reached a stage of sufficient confidence in Self and God to know that I can measure up to whatever else would come before me. I just needed to continue to have consistent faith in Self and God to do whatever that is right for others and myself.

The church not long after I was married put more responsibilities on my shoulder by calling me to be the Branch President of the Church in Kuala Lumpur. Later I was called to be the District President, providing leadership for other branches. Leadership roles provided me a Quadrant B challenge and focus for me. It led me to many other responsibilities that soon kept all my 4 quadrants active.

I creatively visualized for myself a future beyond that of just being an Accountant. I had self confidence to capitalize on my Optimal Thinking brain to further acquire new knowledge and skills I needed to position myself in sunrise industries of a global nature. I would embark into the computer industry with some friends as business partners and would make a living for ourselves and a name. From computer hardware we began to specialize in softwares and training. The ITC name for our business was an appropriate acronym to represent the group of companies that were created with the keyword INTEGRATED combined with Technical or Trans and Consultancy or Corporation.

Eventually I became a multi disciplinary management consultant providing solutions for businesses, organizations and individuals. The 4 quadrants of my brain were constantly taxed and well exercised. As our family grew in numbers and age, I made sure they had their brains constantly updated by my discoveries and experience told to them in personal stories directly or indirectly through my web journals like this one. The fruits of this INTEGRATED theory of development can only be seen in the results of our children in our family in years to come as they mature from childhood to full grown adults. Everyone is different as I always say but performing and thinking optimally is all within our natural abilities. The T of ITC became the balanced center scale of Integrity on the left and Competence on the right to represent the important attribute of TRUST that is the outcome when you have both in balance. In simplicity, it is the Heart and Mind of our network of consultants, coaches or facilitators that sets us apart from the rest as we forge characters of integrity with our high competencies in our areas of expertise.

My consulting business received a client one day that was poorly performing in the local Direct Sales and Marketing industry. I was not familiar then with this particular industry but believed that I was sufficiently trained in all my 4 brain quadrants to become helpful to the client to turn around the business.

I eventually did and from there I realized my multi disciplinary skill sets were useful in the management of a direct marketing and sales environment. Being in relationship marketing and sales are many emotional activities so the quadrant C of my brain was probably well exercised. Marketing and sales companies need strong leadership and management, a quadrant B strength. It needs Creative marketing and development of programs, a quadrant D offering. Operational systems and processes including products and campaigns need to be constantly analyzed for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, a quadrant A function. I thought the computer industry was a good exercise to integrate all the 4 quadrants of my brain but so is leading a direct sales company to world class performance is what I have found. There are opportunities to integrate not only the 4 quadrants of our brain but also the 4 corners of the world with the borderless plans that are a vision of modern direct sales companies today in a globalize playing field.

I ventured to participate in several other non profit organizations besides Church to share my acquired skills and talents or keep them sharpened. In the field of communication and leadership, I found that the Toastmasters organization was ideal to keep me challenged to speak with different hats i.e. to inform, to entertain, to motivate or to gain commitment. I started to get more involved in real community problem solving such as apartment management starting in my own apartment complex in Kuala Lumpur. My zeal to continuously learn and share never left me and I believe my brain like my body muscles if continually exercised will stay optimal and effective.

Dealing with many residents of the community, each with a different cultural, ethnic and educational background helped me relate better to them though not without challenges. I needed to be more open minded and have better empathy instead of simply trying to organize them by implementing logical systems and using analytical data of the left brain. Both the right brain quadrants of C & D became further exercised. As a result I could connect with them better to gain rapport, find synergistic ways to work effectively together and be more successful in futurizing our community for the better. In the process, I further matured to better understand the politics of groups and saw the visible manipulative maneuvers of those seeking for power for benefits and how supporters continue to get sucked in to feed the corruption process that carries on which is no different from how governments and institutions become corrupt eventually if unchecked. I saw how fence sitters who were owners with voting rights were no help at all to create change for the better when the quadrants of their brain performed sub optimally and worse of all when fear is in their hearts to exercise their democratic rights given to them to bring about change! Yet they would not cease to continue to make complains and air their unhappiness as if that was all a democractic system or freedom was about. Such is the problem of the uneducated in the developing countries of the world to make democracy work for them in place of former kings and tyrants who ruled them. It took me awhile to understand democracy in Asia myself as I see Asian versions of the fatherly leaders declared as democratic.

Experiences that helped me overcome FEAR and become an Optimal Thinker and Doer

Martial Arts

Faith in God

Entrepreneurship

Public Speaking Contests

Pushing Physical Limits

Physical Work

Mental-Physical work

Mental-Physical-Emotional work
The extreme haircut

Off-road biking

Night Mountain Trail Bike riding

On-road biking

Taming uncontrollable dogs

Jeeping on Snow

Jeeping on River

Mastering the water

Mastering the Snow

Mastering the dive

Cheating Death

Cheating Hooligans

Facing TV and Press reporters

 

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