What really matters to most people? On a recent speaking engagement in Switzerland I had the opportunity to visit the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. The museum is interesting and after I left, a thought lingered in my brain. Let me put it to you as a question:
Can you name the winner of the very first gold medal awarded at the modern Olympic Games?
I couldn’t either. It was James Brendan Connolly for the triple jump. The first gold medal. Sorry Connolly, we forgot your name.
The above observation serves to remind us of an important aspect of how the brain works. Thinking is a process of electrical and chemical reactions that take place across a rich tapestry of connections in the brain.
In other words, thinking is a physical process. One of the great recent discoveries about the brain is that most of the neural messaging originates in the limbic system.
This is the emotional part of your brain. Not that many messages come back the other way from the cortex, or the rational part of your brain. Our brains remember what touches us emotionally.
I hear a lot of talk these days about leaving a legacy. So many times leaders, teachers, parents – all of us, get it wrong.
The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. You don’t have to actually answer the questions.
Just read straight through, and your brain will see the pattern.
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman Trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name 10 people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields.But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
Easier? The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.
They simply are the ones who care the most. They were just there. Pass this on to those people who have made a difference in your life, like I just did. And remember who you are. Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
Congratulations on learning something about your brain today. The Brain Bulletin is committed to help to do just that.
You are a genius! Enjoy your brain.
This article is also available in Chinese.