David is a self-described "self-help heretic". But he's not just another critic. He offers a workable alternative. An industry-watcher for over 25 years he now recognizes why the public is not getting what they bargained for from many of the self-help techniques they spent their money on. In this blog he writes extensively about the state of self-help and how his H.E.R.O. eMachine invention is set to change the game entirely for the benefit of all.
I had never anticipated that I’d ever do a TED talk about the gut brain. Now, don’t get me wrong, I not saying that I never wanted to – that would not be true.
I’ve been watching TED talks for years now and, admittedly, I have thought about how cool it would be to tell my story on a TEDx stage.
Then, through another volunteer organization that my wife Lorna and I are members of, we came to meet Rachel.
Turns out she and her partner Mike are two of the organizers for TEDx Chilliwack 2016. I was shocked to learn that a TEDx event was being planned for our little city.
It wasn’t long before I jumped at the chance they gave me. I learned that I was accepted sometime in November 2015. A red-letter day in my calendar.
It was a lot of work writing and editing and, since I’m a graphics guy who loves visuals I had to have a slide deck to go along with what I’m talking about.
So, now I have it all done. I’ve sent in my slides this morning. There’s no turning back now. No time for revisions. Hardly any time for committing to my foggy old memory what the heck I’m supposed to be saying.
It that’s not enough the whole thing will be livecast on the net and video recorded as well.
But enough is enough. With just four days left I’d better get to it.
It’s only going to be one of the most important days of my life, but… no pressure.
Jim, an astute online friend of mine recently sent me this article. It’s about the work of Elaine Hsiao a scientist at Cal Tech. He saw the words “gut-brain” were in the title and he thought I might be interested in it.
He was right too.
First, some quick background.
In 1996 I became aware of a new article written by a New York Times science writer. It was about new research that had re-discovered a long forgotten second brain in humans. This brain was not at all like the one we’re all familiar with. This brain was found in the linings of the digestive tract and it was such an important find that it sparked renewed interest in an obscure branch of scientific inquiry called ‘neurogastroenterology’. They also gave this brain a name: “The enteric nervous system”.
To me the real kicker was between the lines. This second brain is a doer not a thinker. It can act on it’s own and it feels… everything! Gut feelings are real things. This is contrasted by the brain in the head that thinks wonderfully but doesn’t feel much at all because there are no pain receptors in the From that I could visualize an elegant reciprocal dual-brain system no one has ever thought of before. It takes the shape of a mobius. One brain that thinks but doesn’t feel, and another brain that feels but doesn’t think. The head brain is a conceptualizer the gut brain is an action taker.
Two acting as one — beautiful.
But here’s my main point. I’m kind of a self-help heretic. I’m working to help people who are in the ‘self-help’ category yet I’ve been a fierce critic of the main methods of the industry for a long time. What bothers me the most is it’s way too head-brain centric. Not surprisingly of course, there was only one brain to deal with.
I’ve read leading self-help practitioners say things sort of like this: “The brain thinks mostly negative stuff and that impacts a person’s success so, let’s teach them to switch-out negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.”
That’s been the cutting edge of most self-help for the last 80 years or so. But wait; hang on a second. We now know there is a second brain that’s been found. But have we seen any training developed for the gut brain? TM maybe?
TM requires a deep concentration of thought. Strictly head-brained stuff since you need a thinking brain for that. I was frustrated by all that same old same old, so instead I made this tool.
(End of background.)
The first thing I noticed when I read the article is that the words ‘gut brain’ are never actually used in the text. I did a [control + F] but nothing came up. Ms. Hsiao did talk a lot about digestion though and in the text it did mention the word “brain” twice but it was always in reference to the one in the head. So, I’m not entirely sure that she’s recognizing the fact that there’s actually a second brain located in the gut or not. The word ‘gut’ is found fourteen times since intestinal microbes are what her work is focusing on.
While the initial research carried out by Dr. Michael Gershon and published back in 1996 did show that the brain in the gut operates the various aspects of the digestion function on its own. Ms. Hsiao’s research added a new twist to it. She looked deeper into the workings of the microbiology of the ‘bugs’ in the gut and found connections to some of the pathology of autism in children. She and her team from Cal Tech have gone ahead and actually sequenced the entire DNA of these microbes and are now saying that, in all humans, there is another non-human genome – the “microbiome”.
Personally, I love the duality reference in all of that. I’m glad science has found something new here that helps people – in this case kids with autism. It’s been almost twenty years since Dr. Gershon ‘rediscovered’ the gut brain and I was wondering when new research would produce some more interesting results. The fact that we now have a dual-genomeinality (if that’s a word) is of particular interest to me. I’m always looking to make more sense of the duality of, and in, humans. This new finding helps me to better make the case for my theory of dual immunity – one physical and one ethereal. One that looks after the body (physical) and one that looks after the thinking (ethereal).
It’s basically this: If you as an individual can have two separate sets of brains and two vastly different genomes, then why not two unseen yet potentially active immune systems?
As you can probably tell my particular interest in the gut brain is in an area where scientists can’t ever go. Hobbled by the requirements of hard data and physical evidence science needs to ‘see’ real things. If they can’t it’s either not science or they tend to call it dark like “dark energy” or “dark’ matter”. Although those two terms are more for physicists not physicians.
What all this means is that investigating the unseen invisible ethereal properties of the gut-brain – the areas where the most potential exists – won’t ever be discovered by the experts in white coats.
But I’m not a scientist. So I’m not bound by such constructs. But I don’t see myself as a philosopher either so I’m not going to offer up just some flowery interpretations of what others have found. I’m going to investigate what’s going on down inside those rabbit holes that have driven better men than me totally nuts.
I know from experience that my work does bring forward real usable results in people who have used my tools. Massive beneficial behavioral changes in those whom I have worked with have attested to it. Things like a greater self confidence, a truer sense of their own life purpose, and the ability to set aside fear and worry and to power ahead with a reasonable amount of renewed vigor that seems to never peter-out.
And the beautiful part? I can now prove it to anyone as long as it’s done one-on-one. (Ready to try it? Let’s talk.)
By the way. This is not your mother’s personal development we’re talking about here so don’t even go there. This is different. I like to call it “Human Potential 2.0” because it’s a resetting of the old head-based paradigm to something that includes, in a big way, the gut brain as well.
Of course, it is my sincere hope that Ms. Hsiao, and other scientists like her, continue to uncover more of the mystery of our brain in the gut but first I’d really like them to clearly acknowledge that the gut-brain, which I see as one of the greatest biological discoveries of the last quarter-century, truly does exist.
I know it does, but surprisingly most everyone else hasn’t even heard of it yet. I guess I have my work cut out for me.
More power to you.
PS: I’m currently working on a new book “The Gut Brain Balm – How the strangest brain ever made saves us from death by stress”. If you’d like to see a sample chapter or two just leave a comment below and I’ll whisk it off to you as soon as it’s ready.
PPS: Need something more? Leave a comment in the box below and we’ll soon be in touch.
A friend of mine sent me an email the other day with this equation in it and, since they know I’m into human development, asked me my opinion of it.
Here is how I replied:
On the surface this looks like a serious scientific question. But in reality it has already been answered. It was answered in the shape of the mobius.
But let’s break it down to its component parts. There are two main parts to this:
Part one is the equilibrium argument. The important part here is the equal sign. I’ll be referencing this a little more in a minute.
Part two is the change segment. It is described by the (<) less than and the (>) greater than signs. This is about a movement from one condition to another. It’s about “change” and all change comes in two distinct polarities: Negative and Positive.
One type moves toward the challenge and the other shrinks from a challenge.
But let’s start with the “Equilibrium” argument first.
In the human body the immune system operates automatically to keep things close to a state of homeostasis. If the body gets too hot for example it tries to bring the temperature down by activating the sweat glands.
On a graph the process looks like a curve. It rises steadily upwards and forward until the system starts to respond. Then the curve starts downward and forward to arrive at the point of the mean temperature. That’s the ideal at which the system can operate at efficiency.
But in this equation it’s referring to the intrinsic attributes of a system (Capability, Ability/Willingness) as being equal to certain extrinsic values (Challenge, Danger/Opportunity).
I like this because it speaks about the duality that we see in so many things in us and around us. Now let me just address the actual components.
On the one side of the equation we have “Capability, Ability/Willingness”. This includes all our internal resources including our internal motivation.
On the other side we have “Challenge, Danger/Opportunity”. This includes all the extringent factors that make up our outside experience. In this equation these are equal because in a human system that is enervated by an internal ethereal energy, like the kind that is switched on by this, it expands to meet the level of the ongoing challenge.
When that happens the duality is balanced like a financial statement or a weigh scale. In the mobius strip the balance was the shape of the system itself. It’s an elegant reciprocal and continuous feedback loop. It’s totally equal in every dimension. That’s because the mobius is perfectly balanced in elegant dual harmony. No conflicts exist here.
Now let’s look at the second part of the question. The key word here is “change”. Positive or negative. This is the story of conflict and turmoil. Either one is not a secure state. It’s in flux. There are no guarantees. Not now, not ever.
Our best bet is to try to enervate the immune system that looks after the thinking (mindset immunity) because it’s usually far too slow acting in most people to do much good.
Once enervated from the gut drive, which by the way I believe is the same energy that’s behind the drive of persistence and determination, then it acts like a buffer against the extremes of over-hype on one side and depression on the other.
Hard to think straight when either one is taking over. Buffering of stress and worry, of the type that is offered via connection of the gut-brain with the head-brain, frees up energy resources and increases use of your natural capabilities and inherent talents.
It’s long been known that nothing that is worthwhile is easy to do or easy to get.
“There is no free lunch” is an old saying that’s been around since the 1920’s depression era.
Art Williams is a self-made millionaire who, having worked as a high school coach, went into selling insurance. He decided one day to start his own insurance company. In the early years it is said that he was so terrified of starting out each morning that he’d throw-up from the stress of it.
But he overcame all that and eventually built one of the most successful businesses in America.
Notice I said “eventually“. That word can describe some of the longest timelines one could ever imagine. You start out doing something worthwhile and soon the ‘eventually’ kicks in. From then on it’s work and toil without much gratification.
That’s the way it’s been for every accomplished person since the beginning. I know, believe me, I know.
If you’re setting out to do something new try not to think of how long a word “eventually” will be for you. Your true story of accomplishment will be written in your tears and your brave moments when something finally clicked.
“Easy” never could make much of a compelling narrative in comparison to “tough” anyway. That story of accomplishment, created through the act of endurance, is your story. It belongs to you, and what it presents to you is the hard evidence that builds a strong irrefutable belief in you that says “yes”, you are worthy. That alone makes the journey worth it.
More power to you.
PS: Did you know that persistence is not something that the head brain can produce but that the gut brain is fully in tune with? Find out how to train your head brain to know what your gut brain is doing to help you get through your “eventually”. Leave your comment below and I’ll tell you all about it.
“The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.” – Ben Stein
To truly know what you want is not an easy question to answer correctly. Henry Ford once said that, in the beginning, if he had ever asked his prospects what they wanted they would have said “a faster horse”.
To know what you truly want is often tricky but it’s worth the effort to seek out an answer because it can reveal what you’re truly passionate about. That can set the path for how your entire life unfolds.
In my own experience my dad comes to mind. While just a teenager he saw a family member greatly relieved from excruciating pain by an osteopathic physician and he immediately knew what he wanted to do with his life from then on. After a successful 35-plus year career helping thousands of his patients get relief from pain he retired as doctor of osteopathy. Only one of two in our entire city.
He was one of the lucky ones.
Many wander through time “sheep-walking” as business blogger Seth Godin calls it, and never making the decision to end the cycle of getting a job, staying at it for a while, growing tired of it, then landing another, and then repeating. All the while never quite hitting that high note. Only to one day get past the point of no return. Always missing that point of critical realization and now too late to make a difference. Too late to ever know the answer to “What do I want?”.
I think that, like my dad, in a way I was one of the lucky ones too. I knew I wanted to become an entrepreneur. But I wanted to find something new and then offer it to the world. I did actually find something but, of course, I just never knew that it would take me to the age of retirement before I could finally see it being accomplished in any real degree of scale.
But now that it’s coming to fruition it’s my passion and my hope that it helps deliver many people to a place where a new self belief can thrive so that the great question is finally answered for them before too much time has passed.
That’s why I’m soon launching my next new project. I’m calling it “Human Potential 2.0”. It’s being positioned to re-tool what has become known as traditional self-help or personal growth. The original model, which began 100 years ago, was to help us realize our own human potential. But over the years it has lost it’s power to effect useful and lasting change that matters.
I intend to fix that by reassigning our focus to more authentic intrinsic elements. To foster a fundamental change that I’m convinced must come about in order to make better choices in how we view ourselves.
For example the fantastic but widely under-reported bio-medical discovery, now almost 20 years ago, that confirmed the fact that humans are dual-brained – one in the head which can think but not feel and a lesser known one in the gut that doesn’t think but feels everything.
With this project we’ll begin with another great quote, this time from Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Most of this instruction is not too difficult to grasp. The “Do what you can… where you are” parts are no great mystery. Most of us know how to work hard and most should know who they are. The tough part begs another great question…
What is it that you really have?
Answering that is in essence what Human Potential 2.0 is all about. Because if we can answer that question in a way that resonates with our own thinking/feeling dual-brained personage then that will lead us to refine what it means to know what our passion is. And knowing your true passion leads to a tremendous sense of hope for the future.
Watch this space for my upcoming posts on this subject and the accompanying video series that follows.