Meet the man who’s superhero to some of the brightest minds in business and entertainment.
What should the Southern California home of a superhero look like? Consider a spot that’s just beyond the noise and bustle of LA traffic, with a comfortable sofa for reading and thinking, an elegant stone fireplace, art for contemplation—and some cherished and quirky mementos from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Hugh Jackman and world leaders like Obama and Clinton.
But the most significant feature of this superhero’s home is its floor-to-ceiling windows, with views of Creative Artists Agency and the Hollywood sign; glimpses of charming old Los Angeles neighborhoods; and a view of the city’s skyline that shifts to a more urban outline as the city extends east.
It’s the perfect spot for Jim Kwik, with a view to the many different people he serves. The creator of Kwik Learning, a highly successful program to boost brain performance including recall and retention, and most recently, the “Kwik Brain” podcast, Kwik is a superhero in his own right. The likes of Jackman and the cast of the X-Men film series, high-profile industry executives, thousands more professionals, students—and everyday students of life—well beyond LA are following Jim Kwik’s brain coaching with great results.
A personal trainer for the mind
Kwik says your brain is just like a super computer, except it doesn’t come with an owner’s manual and it’s not always user-friendly. It’s the most important tool for success that we have, yet it’s vulnerable to information overload and digital distraction. “It’s like we’re losing our memories because we’re outsourcing our brains to our smart devices,” Kwik says, “and our brains aren’t getting the mental activity they normally would get.”
So Kwik helps people upgrade their “software” (their brains) with easy, fun, usable, practical tips to catch up, keep up and even get ahead. But Kwik’s methodology is not a magic formula. The secret to his highly praised program is its focus on how we learn, not what we learn.
Kwik had a double epiphany that transformed his way of thinking about himself and learning. When he was 5, he hit his head and suffered a brain trauma that left him with learning difficulties. Hard work carried him through high school, but he couldn’t keep up in college. He was prepared to drop out, when he accepted an invitation to visit a friend and his friend’s family before going home to tell his parents his news.
His friend’s father took Kwik for a walk around the family property. He asked Kwik how he was doing in school. (Kwik confessed his plan.) Then he asked Kwik what he wanted to do. When Kwik started to answer, he stopped the young man and made him write it all down. Kwik started to fold up and pocket the list when the man quickly took it and began reading.
Kwik was astounded. His friend’s father stopped and positioned his index fingers about 7 inches apart, placing them on either side of Kwik’s temples, and said, “Jim, you are this close to everything on that list.” Meaning all that was holding him back, Kwik says, was “between my ears—it was my brain.”
When he tells the story, Kwik is still moved by the confidence this stranger expressed in him. Next, the man opened the door to his library and began stacking books on top of books for Kwik to read in 30 days—a book a day. Kwik protested that it was too much, and the man said, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” So Kwik took the load of books back to school and began his assignment.
It was a heavy burden on top of his reading for school, but Kwik didn’t want to fail. He stopped sleeping, eating, working out, and spending time with friends and family as he pressed on. “I was living in the school library” trying to finish the reading, Kwik says. Then, one night, he passed out from sheer exhaustion and fell down the stairs. He woke up days later in the hospital.
That’s when Kwik had a breakthrough.
“I felt like I had died. I was hooked up to all these IVs. I was malnourished. I thought, ‘There’s something that has to change.’” The nurse came in with a mug of tea that had a picture of Albert Einstein and the quote, “The same level of thinking that’s created your problem won’t solve your problem.”
Kwik asked himself, “What’s my problem?” His answer to himself was, “I’m a very slow learner,” and then, “Well, how do I think differently about it? Maybe I can learn how to learn faster so I can have a quicker brain.”
There weren’t any classes that taught him how to learn. So Kwik pursued this research on his own and says after about two months, “a light switch just flipped on.” He was able to focus better, his retention improved, and he was able to apply his understanding of material. His grades improved, and so did his health and his relationships.
Learn how you learn
Now Kwik works tirelessly to “reverse-engineer genius.” He knows firsthand that “intelligence is not fixed, like your height or your shoe size.”
The problem is that we’re accustomed to a performance mindset about learning, in which you either can or you can’t do it. “Most people tackle it by going after the behavior,” he explains, “but there are logical levels of change that you need to take into account. So really, it begins with self-awareness.” There are multiple dimensions of self-awareness.
- How do you identify yourself? The two most powerful words in the English language are “I am.” I am. Two very small words. Anything you put after that determines your destiny.
- What are your beliefs about yourself? If you believe that you’re not smart enough, then the behavior won’t stick.
- What are your capabilities? These are your habits, and you might need to develop new skills to change or adopt a new behavior.
- What’s the environment? “I can teach you to read 300 percent faster with better comprehension,” Kwik says. “But if you’re trying to read in a place that has poor lighting, or there’s too much noise or no place to sit, or the people you’re with keep interrupting you (deliberately or not), those environmental issues will keep you from you reading faster”—or reading at all.
Kwik is clear: If you control your brain, you control your life. “Your brain controls your intelligence, your influence, your income and the impact that you want to be able to make on the world,” Kwik explains. He’s working on a book that will bring together these insights and teach readers how to transcend—and by transcend, he means “end the trance.”
“End the trance that you’re not good enough, that you’re not smart enough, that your intelligence or your potential, your income is somehow fixed because it’s not,” Kwik says. He plans to help each of us step into the best version of ourselves and “reclaim your brain there, so you can live a life that you desire and you deserve.”
Photo credit: Todd Cribari, inspirostudio.com
Grooming: Mariah Nicole, mariahnicole.com