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

Red origami boat

On the Relationship between Leadership, Improvisation, and Trust

By Dr. Stan Amaladas. In times of uncertainty and unpredictability, what is the relationship between leadership, improvisation, and trust?

Jan 31, 2023 10 Min Read

Joan of Arc in New Orleans

Leadership Lessons from Joan of Arc

Roshan Thiran, Founder and CEO of Leaderonomics, shares the leadership lessons he learned from Joan of Arc.

Dec 26, 2018 28 Min Podcast

A man siting

Be Responsible For Yourself And Your Team

The Leaderonomics Show host Roshan Thiran caught up with Datuk Sulaiman to learn more about his personal leadership journey in the banking industry.

Sep 21, 2017 29 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader