Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

Mar 30, 2013 3 Min Read
images of books on a table in a library

Photo credit: Abhi Sharma | Flickr

I spoke to 189 audiences about the brain in 2007. My sessions are filled with science, strategies, stories, and lots of real learning. With all that, this is my most requested piece from people who have heard me speak. I think I know why:

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter 5: I walk down a different street.

You are never stuck. Your brain is capable of great change!

Neuroscientist George Adelman, notes that your cortex alone has 30 billion neurons which can make one million billion connections.

Edelman states,

If we consider the number of possible neural circuits, we would be dealing with hyper-astronomical numbers: 10 followed by at least a million zeros. There are 10 followed by 79 zeros of particles in the known universe.


These staggering numbers explain why your brain is the most complex, 1.3 kg lump in the universe. Your brain can change itself and a brain changed is a life changed.


You are a genius

This article was first published on

This article is also available in Chinese.

Watch more of Leaderonomics content here:

Be sure to check out Happily (or Budaya for those from Indonesia). It is an amazing engagement app built for organisation to drive engagement amongst employees. It has amazing analytics and also provides activities for employees to be fully immersed in the organisation's culture and values. To find out more, click here or email

Share This

Terry Small is a brain expert who resides in Canada and believes that anyone can learn how to learn easier, better, and faster; and that learning to learn is the most important skill a person can acquire.

You May Also Like


The RPMs of Capacity Management

By Julie Funt. Prioritising certain qualities can help the team project their commitment in upcoming projects. Read more to discover this framework of capacity management.

Jul 20, 2023 5 Min Read

Close up of a dog's face (employee loyalty)

Are Organisations Giving Millennials Enough Reasons to Stay?

Connie Lee, Head of Leaderonomics Youth, shares the 5 key areas to building the foundation of employee loyalty within millennials.

Nov 19, 2018 24 Min Podcast


Datuk Sheila Majid Says Glamour Is Only Skin Deep

Dato' Sheila Majid is one of the gems of the Malaysian music industry. From a teenage girl who loved to sing at friends' parties, she has become one of Malaysia's most successful singers

Nov 19, 2014 29 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader