Ever since watching Bradley Cooper take the pill NZT-48 in the movie “Limitless”, I’ve wanted it. Well, not the drug itself, but the effect — the mental clarity and performance enhancement it seemed to bring.
I guess as an author, I resonate with the desire of Cooper’s character to break his writer’s block. When he takes NZT-48, he discovers that he has perfect recall and ability to cross-correlate information quickly. To his astonishment, he finishes writing his new book in just a few hours, overcoming years of deliberation and procrastination.
That would be a dream of mine. That little pill improved focus and memory, and clarified thinking, turning the human brain into a racehorse. Can you imagine what you could accomplish with a similar competitive advantage?
I’m fascinated with understanding how I can gain a competitive advantage in my work, which comes from inspiring words and enhanced thinking. You could label this advantage as cognitive ability: memory, focus, thinking and communication. In the same way that an athlete manipulates his diet and exercise to bring his body to its ultimate performance, you should be thinking about your competitive advantage — be it speed of work, ability to think, problem-solving or creating ideas.
For most white-collar professionals, the brain is their competitive advantage. An athlete knows that he wins through strength, fitness and determination. While, I’ve always been on the healthier side of life, attempting to eat right and exercise regularly and rigorously, I’d never given any thought to my health being a way to gain an edge at work.
That is, until I watched a client take a handful of vitamins and minerals. I was about to discover that I wasn’t the only one fascinated with creating a brainy advantage.
“What are you taking?” I asked him. “Oh this? It’s my advantage.”
Before he could finish his explanation, I thought to myself, “What are you talking about? Advantage?” Then he shared how he sees his brain and ability to think as his advantage when he’s working. “In business and negotiations, I compete by out-thinking others.”
He does everything he can to keep his brain at its peak. He was fuelling it with the same level of care that a trainer who creates the perfect mix for his horse.
I was intrigued, actually, hooked. Maybe, I had found what I was looking for: a way to get that edge that Cooper’s character had.
A couple of day later, the client asked, “How are they working?” referring to the exhaustive list of vitamins and minerals he had given me. My intrigue hadn’t turned to action yet. I hadn’t started taking them, but given that he was asking, I knew I should give them a try. So, off to the pharmacy I went to buy turmeric, ginger, Ester C and a host of other supplements — enough to be broken into a breakfast, lunch and dinner regime.
My vitamin venture piqued a wider desire to understand how to feed, fuel and maximise the brain so that it becomes a person’s competitive advantage. This interest led me to Dave Asprey, the Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur who spent two decades and over $300,000 (Dh1.10 million) hacking his own biology.
The result was the discovery of Bulletproof coffee — adding a tablespoon of butter and XCT oil to your coffee — designed to give the consumer an unfair advantage. Sure enough, they are now part of my daily routine.
Until now, I haven’t spoken much about health and white-collar performance. The reason being that some people consider it cheating or being weird. But it’s not. If you’re as serious about your career as a jockey is about his race, then you need to comprehensively think about your performance.
You need to get serious about your brain.
Improve your biochemistry and mind to help you execute beyond what you currently are and even dream of. Health, diet and fitness is a hidden differentiator in the business world.
How you treat your health and brain is completely in your control. It’s like how you use time, you can choose how to manage it. Choose smart.
— The writer is a CEO coach and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.