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A Head Start Advantage: Understanding The Difference Between Mind And Brain
There’s a lot of talk about intelligence today. Parents worry about whether their children are going to be intelligent enough, and there’s a mania about getting them into the right schools and starting their training at the earliest possible age to improve their intelligence. Then, there’s the worry about competition, that some people are more intelligent than others.
Whenever there’s a lot of angst about a particular topic, I realize that we need to create some definitions that make it simpler to think about so we can see very clearly where growth opportunities lie.
The difference between mind and brain.
Your brain is the hard drive that you’re born with. Some people clearly have more brain power than others, but that doesn’t necessarily predict any kind of success.
You can have a high IQ but be too smart for your own good. In other words, your brain is too powerful, and it never translates into action and value creation. You have a big brain, but you don’t have a powerful mind.
The most important difference between mind and brain is that you can’t easily change your brain, but the size of your mind can change drastically. The brain is just a system that processes anything that comes in, but the mind has a choice to look outside of itself and even include the thinking of other individuals.
Include others’ thinking.
I know people who have modestly-sized brains and really big minds, because their mindsets tell them that other people’s thinking is really important. They’ve learned how to ask questions that lead to enormous amounts of information that’s useful to themselves and to others.
I’ve gotten incredibly “bigger-minded” over the course of my life because, more and more, I’ve surrounded myself with good brains. They’re not equal brains, but they’re used to create new things and to expand teamwork. My mind includes all of the different ways that other people create value and all of the different ways that other people form teamwork.
In this way, I’m much more successful in the world because of my brain, even though my brain is the same size. What’s changed is the experiences I feed into my brain because I’ve expanded my mind. Despite the difference between mind and brain, making the best use of one means you’re doing the most with the other.
“My mind is the thing I’ve created to take into account others’ thinking.” — Dan Sullivan
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Good leaders are big readers.
Another way to expand your mind is by reading. I learned this when I was very young. Within about a month of my starting first grade, my mother said to me, “Learning how to read is more important than going to school, because if you learn how to read, you can go anywhere with your mind.” She said that reading about the world, history, politics, geography, and so on really nourishes you and makes your mind really powerful.
She told me this when I was six years old, and I latched onto it.
Take control of your mind.
There’s no good reason to feel isolated or to be in competition with other people based on something you’re born with. You have the brain you have, and it’s a useless activity to make comparisons about something that you can’t really control.
What you do have control over is what you do with your mind. You can learn how to ask really great questions and get the full value of other people’s experiences and ideas. There’s a massive amount of thinking in the world that’s available to you every day. All of this knowledge and these ideas are opportunities to grow.
By expanding your mind, you’ll unlock the best advantages available to you in the world.
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