The Neuro-Shifts of Advantage-Making

Your brain is a social organ…

Research has shown the same brain regions that directly indicate you are experiencing physical pain also indicate when you have been socially rejected…. OUCH

In your instinctive brain (brainstem), your well being is handled (fortunately)…and at times mishandled(survival fight or flight)

In your emotional brain (midbrain), your interactions are effective (good feelings) …and at times misunderstood (amydala distress)

In your cognitive brain (neo-cortex) your ideas are thoughtful(anticipate and make good solutions)…and at times misguided (a  narrow perspective reaches the wrong conclusions)


Are you using your brain to your advantage?

You have high stakes challenges, you need to influence your colleagues, you need to create a new strategy, you need to make a decision and get on with it, and balance work with LIFE so to speak.

To do so you need to make targeted neuro-shifts that will support your brainpower. You want your nervous system, the network of interactions, to find ways around the obstacles, When you allow circumstances to dictate your responses, it may be because you aren’t using your brain in strong ways…
Your brain is confident if you
  • a) don’t get in its way or
  • b) know how to move out of negative, counterproductive states…
  • c) shift to advantage-making frameworks…
There may be switching costs to get out of the non-productive neural pathways… but it is less expensive when you know the neuro-shift to make… and it takes a few seconds.
The faster you make the neuro-shift the better…
Your brain likes speed, its economical…
Wasting time repeating what doesn’t work expecting it to be different, is technically – insanity
Neuro-shifts are a quick, small action that can lead to a big gain…  it’s a brain-frame that adopt the right angle to gain a winning perspective
When you are up against an obstacle, limitation, constraint, make the quickest neuro-shift you can:
  • Neuro-Shift the question: The quality of the questions you ask determines the quality of your life…
  • Neuro-Shift  Time: you brain likes things you can do now… good or bad, but now…so do something good now for now or for your future…
  • Neuro-Shift Interactions: replace repeating mishandled interactions with a small opposite, ie. instead of pushing, ask
  • Neuro-Shift Perceptions: orient toward what you want while recognizing dangers; learn the social psychology of influence
  • Neuro-Shift Structures: structure shapes behavior, we have disabling and enabling structures, employing the neuro-structures of success leads to your advantage…

Each neuro-shift will increase your sense of confidence and advance your forward.

To your advantage…

# 42, Jackie Robinson – The Advantage-Maker

“Can you do it? Can you do it?”

asked Branch Rickey during his hiring interview of Jackie Robinson testing his heart, desire and inner fortitude.

The recent release of the movie 42, the story of Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson’s heroic

entrance into a racist all white professional baseball game in 1947 – America’s game, was a stark reminder of
what it’s like when the odds are truly stacked against you – and you prevail.
We’ve known the general outline of the story, Number 42, Jackie Robinson overcame
hatred, ignorance and blatant racism to become a star ball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie became a hero to millions of black children and the hope of their parents. He not
only won the game, he changed the game – a real Advantage-Maker.
But what most of us failed to realize is the scope and depth of insult to his dignity that he endured for the sake
of getting it right, not just for himself, but for the nation. While he was a good and decent man he did not
start out to change a nation, he was a gifted baseball player – his future was the Hall of Fame.
Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers (let it be known right here, that i’m an ardent Yankee fan who
rooted against the Dodgers often) was of equal import to transforming the game and America.
A real Advantage-Maker, he shared the pain, anguish and the delight by his unequalled efforts to integrate the sport of baseball.
One scene between Branch Rickey and Jackie typified the acid test waiting to be dealt with:
Rickey said the opposition and your own teammates will insult you, taunt you, throw insults and spike you. And try to break you, to call you names, and if you fight back they will say you started it, and blame you for anything that they do that’s wrong. What will you do?
Jackie says, “‘Mr. Rickey, Do you want a ballplayer who’s afraid to fight back?”
Branch testing Jackie’s inner fortitude, ‘I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!’
Jackie and Branch shifted the odds to their favor in the face of enormous obstacles. They changed the game, They didn’t accept the givens, instead they challenged them. Rickey was righting a wrong and Jackie was influencing the world of hatred into a new world of appreciation for his baseball talents and dignity as a man. His refusal to lower himself to the level of the racist fools drew the adulation of millions of sympathetic good people – who themselves wanted to punch the lights out of the indignant racists.
Everything about Jackie Robinson (and Mrs. Rachel Robinson who stood tall with quiet elegance supporting her husband as a man and in the cause of human rights) and Branch Rickey speaks volumes to the code of the Advantage-Makers.  Together they shifted the odds. They demonstrated what it means to literally be in a Different League. Ordinary men, under extraordinary circumstances, performing exceptional feats of courage and skill.
Can you do it? Can you do it?
when its your turn to face the high stakes challenges that matter to you
I know for myself, the Pride of the Yankees would be to root for these dignified men of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Apollo 13 and The Physics of Advantage-Making

How did they get the Apollo 13 astronauts back safely after the near disaster in space?

Remember the scene: deep space, spacecraft breaking apart, oxygen running out, producing more CO2 than can be handled by the crew. A deadly situation.
And then the Director of Operations Control brings the remaining parts that exist on the space capsule to the engineers on the ground.
This is all they have, nothing else; this is the distance and approximate time they have; make it work… Failure is not an option!
The rocket scientist were extraordinary and brilliant. They worked feverishly to figure out the trajectory, the velocity and arrange the parts to produce a big enough result (magnitude) that reduced the CO2 while they limped home to Mother Earth.
They did it!
Thank goodness.
So are you telling me i have to be a rocket scientist to be an Advantage-Maker?
But, all leadership advantages have 3 factors.
1) Trajectory, what is the direction, and if necessary, course correction.
2) Velocity, speed wins, reducing drag, getting rid of friction – I’ll bet you can work the metaphor here
3) Magnitude, big wins, big gains, failure is not an option, big expectations
When you take on a high stakes challenge, consider
1) the trajectory
2) the current and desired velocity
3) the magnitude of the gain you want to create.
This is the internal guidance system of Advantage-Makers.
How’s your guidance system doing?
Do you need to shift your trajectory?
You can work with the constraints to find advantages whether your
high stakes challenge is in space or on planet Earth.


You are an urgencist ™, aren’t you?

Breaking news. You mind is urgently revealing breaking news to you.

No, listen to your thoughts, what are you thinking about,

right now in your mind, without reading any further.
What you just thought is what is urgent to you.
You don’t necessarily take action on every thought, but
in the province of the mind, your thinking is what is urgent.
Your breaking news may not be on the TV news stations or
social media blogs but your thoughts have grabbed your attention
on the big screen news feed, in 3D within your mind.
So what is urgent to you?
Hungry, tired, desiring, more cash, more friends, one special friend,
better leadership, better follower-ship, making the sale, getting the job,
improving conditions at work or home, your health: What is urging you?
We are all urgencist’s ™ – we respond to what is most urgent in our minds.
Sometimes we overrule the thoughts but often our thoughts are reactions to what
isn’t working or what we perceive as most desirable or a best solution to
a problem or opportunity.
Urges, urgency, and urgent are all part of life, business, professional, personal
I’m not talking about emergencies that require life saving responses.
Urgency is a pressing importance, a pressing necessity.
In our minds, our thoughts act as if urgent, grabbing our attention, indispensable,
at least until the next urgent thought arises.
We take action on what we deem most urgent, don’t we?
We are an urgent species. While it is true we rise above our instincts and
quell our emotions, our urges – the good, bad and ugly are all still there
disclosed in our evolution and sophisticated urges.
What i urge you to consider is that the what is urgent to you is
reflected in what your model of the world thinks is possible and
what you think is probable – they are not always the same.
If your life is not what you want it to be, it most likely is because what
you believe to be urgent is acting like an anchor and diminishing your
experience and results.
If you are not able to influence your prospect, its because your haven’t
spoken to her, in the urgent ways she speaks to herself.
When you upgrade your urgencies the quality of your life upgrades as well.
Just remember the last vacation, the time when you just zoned out, took
a breather, felt refreshed, gained an easier perspective, a simpler approach.
Having shifted from the usual location or activity, you open to new urges
or reminders of what really matters.
On a daily basis the question becomes, what urges are worth your time?
And if you are influencing someone, how to tap the urgencies within them so
they perceive your offering an urgent solution.
There is a structure to urgency. Its the single biggest leverage that every great
advantage-maker has unconsciously employed in their pursuits.
We won’t stop the urges or perceived urgencies, there will always be something more,
but we might shift the odds in our favor when we shift the choice of
our urgencies.

Steve Jobs: A Ding in the Universe

Steve Jobs created the ‘ding in the universe’ he so desired.


When my book, The Advantage-makers: how exceptional leaders win by creating opportunities others don’t, was published in 2007, I also announced the FIRST Advantage-Maker of The Year Award: Steve Jobs

He was a transformational pioneer & game changer.

A profound learner who as we know was able to Think Different.


Advantage-Makers interact with the world differently. They shift the odds in their favor in the worst of times and best of times. Their capacity to shift is what distinguishes them. But is it genius and desire in Steve Jobs case, or is it something that we can do in our own lives?


Steve Jobs shifted the world by having us interact differently with his technological toys.

We experience the results of his genius but can we be inspired and encouraged to do it ourselves,

can we, at minimum, approximate and perhaps engage in the same type of thinking that led to the outstanding contribution?


The five shifts of Advantage Makers was evident in Steve Jobs

Shifting the question, time, interactions, perceptions and structures.


Shifting the question – a simple example that changed computers is his questioning the need for a fan in the computer, so computers are quieter, lighter and portable.


Shifting time – as Mayor Bloomberg of New York City said, “Steve Jobs brought the future to the present before most people could even see the horizon …”
Shifting interactions – we interact with the world differently because of the computer tools and technology toys he made user friendly for the consumer. With our smart iPhones we interact with everyone. Our iPads enable us to relate to information differently.


Shifting perceptions – masterful at influencing people to Think Differently. He kept everyone looking to the next cool thing Apple would create.

Shifting structure – here he changed the music industry with ITunes, taking a troubled industry and reviving it to an entirely new way to get your music.


His advantages made the complex, simpler; the hard, easier; the slow, faster; took the existing and multiplied the value; and took the mundane and make it engaging.  These are advantages we use daily.

He shifted the question by questioning the givens that led to new approaches beyond obstacles

He shifted time by imagining and creating the technological future before most of us saw it

He shifted interactions by changing the game and our relationship with technology

He shifted perception by influencing a generation to think different

He shifted structures to shape behavior by creating entire new markets


Thank you Steve Jobs for your legacy of engaging useable devices that changed the world, and for your inspiring Advantage-Making Leadership.


Let’s go out and create our future …


Fastest way to the Moon

Fastest Way to the Moon
Velocity is know-how
Efficiency indicates intelligence
Those in the know go fast, those who don’t go slow.
Tai Chi masters movements are efficient, smooth and ready for lightning fast moves
How to untie the Gordian Knot when your future depends on it?
Cut it.
Complexity belongs to the rocket scientist, not the rocketeers.
Making things complex is not smart, smart is making things simple.
Accelerate around, over, through, under, however you can move past obstacles. 
There is no time like the present to create the future!

How are you perceived? Increaser or knocker

Perception is outcome.

How people perceive you results in the outcomes you get.
I had a distant relative who was always knocking others down.
He found what was wrong in everything. It wasn’t that he was completely wrong,
its that he squashed the hope of young ideas and young dreams.
I didn’t much like being around him.
Neither did most of my relatives. They called him the knocker.
It was a terrible tag.
He taught me a lesson on what not to do with my life.
Whenever i get down on someone or a new idea, i think,
don’t be a knocker.
Contrast the knocker with the increaser
A young intern sits around the dinner table, like so many young adults at so many dinner tables.
He wants more from his internship. More excitement, more fulfillment, more money.
Is he wrong to want more?
Does he or she have to learn their place in the pecking order, put in their dues?
The young intern wants to be in charge. Youth in its irrepressible full glory.
I say Yes to their desire for increase, their desire to grow.
Nature says yes to growth, look around at the abundance of flowers and
verdant green growth for confirmation.
We want to affirm their desire for more, for increase, for multiplying their contribution.
And the best message you can convey to your ‘youth’ is to be a person who grows.
If they want to be successful, they must align themselves with growth, inner and outer.
Ask your young intern sitting around the dinner table,
“Who do you want to be around?”
Someone who diminishes you, who knocks you,  or someone who increases your hopes, dreams.
When they are perceived as the person who creates more for others,
they themselves will win and be able to run things,
as CEO, as leader, as professional, as contributor, as teacher,
Opportunities and gains will swing open to them.
Advantage-Makers are increasers
First comes the desire for more.
Simultaneously, comes the concept of self as an increaser,
 I am an increaser
I increase value, I build, I grow, I multiply the value to others.
Let’s here it for the increasers for they inhabit the earth.

The tactics of Gain

Gain, its at the core of everything we are after – whether pleasure, profit, or peace.

But how many of us really understand the tactics of Gain.
Gamblers understand the reality of winning and losing.
They bet they will gain or they wouldn’t play.
You are betting on gains in your stock portfolio.
You are betting on gains in your job.
Gains and losses are visceral.
My Dad was always gaining even when things didn’t work out.
Take the hit and move forward.
There is no time like the present to create the future
Those were all useful gains to appreciate and make part of life.
How do you gain insight into difficult challenges?
How can you gain by letting go?
These questions really go to the essence of being and becoming an Advantage-Maker.
When you can perceive gain and loss in a useful perspective you can adapt and create more effectively.
This is not just about resilience.
You can take everything you have and multiply and amplify the goodness.
If you have not appreciated what you have and then do appreciate it, you have just gained, and life is good.
You can gain in attitude, performance, outcome, experience, better strategy, better approach.
Tactics that gain.
Gain by making things simpler, making things faster, making things easier, making things more meaningful.
Here’s a week long task:
1. At the end of every day for the next 7 days identify what you have gained.
2) You can use the lens of faster, easier, simpler, meaningful, multiplied.
3) if you failed that day, and it happens to the best of us, what did you gain from that?
4) If you succeeded, enjoy the gain, it will multiply in meaning and your brain will want to
keep you on this gain track.
Failure as it relates to gain is not some Jedi mind trick or semantics –
you might have gained something invaluable.
Complaints will go nowhere unless you do something about it.
Did you learn not to do something in that failure?
I’ve asked my clients in the past to fail forward.
Let’s say you were trying to get more referrals but your efforts were less than adequate.
Did you learn to improve the way you approach the situation?
Can you improve how you use language to get referrals?
Did you learn that you need to ask for help?
What ever the effort you got a result – whether good, bad or …
Take a moment and make it a gain – not to deny the failure, but to make it a useful gain.
Advantage-Makers fail more quickly and learn faster than most.
You see, if your orientation is gain, then our failure can lead to something better.
By letting go of what didn’t work, you gain.
If you are lucky, you learn to stay with the unknown and open the door to the original
If our attitude is stinky, then the failure will only make it worse.
Don’t deny the reality, gain from reality.
And for those existential zen oriented, not wanting anything is a gain it itself.
so let me know if you develop a zen koan for gain.
I will be doing this exercise as well and hope to multiply my gains.
Shift the odds in your favor by orienting toward profitable gains.


The advantage-making tactic of shifting; the advantage of tactical shifting

People have been asking me why all this focus on shifting?

The implication is we don’t want to rock the boat in a storm.
While that is true, there are a couple of real world consequences.
1) 60% of opportunity is wasted on a daily basis because of failed shifts
2) A reactive mode produces different outcomes than a proactive advantage-making mode.
3) The level of uncertainly and waves of change now pulsating through the economy warrant shift skills at a new level of proficiency for survival and thriving. Being equipped to shift is a survival tactic.
So, how would an advantage-maker approach uncertainty and a sticky challenge?
How would you?
Here’s a scenario that approximates real world events.
You are running a huge banking operation and putting in new ATM machines. There is a technical glitch (that’s putting it mildly), customers can’t get their money, and newspapers are making it front page news. Most of the executives think you should slow down and reduce the customer complaints. Seems sensible, doesn’t it?
Select your action from below:
a) You agree and reset the workload and expectations to minimize customer complaints
b) You know that slowing down won’t help, but it’s important to reduce the level of customer noise and upset.
You select areas that you can proceed with quickly and areas you must slow down.
c) You disagree about slowing down, you go even faster to get the task done sooner. Your reasoning is that going slower will prolong the customer dissatisfaction and the papers will extend the story and perhaps elevate it further.
The conventional approach is answer A. Seems logical and common sense but the outcome is barely adequate.
better approach is found in answer B. Now you are figuring out the forces at play and trying to thread the needle. The likely outcome is improvement faster.
The Advantage-Maker approach is answer C. You have a good handle of the contextual forces – customers, newspaper, profitability, performance. The way to help customers faster is to go faster. You actually want to help the customer asap. The way to get off the front page faster is to go faster. The way to profitability is go faster. It’s counter-intuitive at first look, but standing back from the vantage points gives you an obvious edge.
In order to act with answer C, go faster, you must shift the tactics, and you must know what to look for to shift. This is the value of being equipped with the five tactical shifts. Shift the question, time, interactions, perceptions and structure.
Shift question and the givens – from get rid of customer complains now to get rid of them by going faster
Shift time – from go slower to go faster
Shift interactions – interact with customers differently and with the newspaper
Shift perceptions – this is key, shifting the winning strategy from going slower to going faster
Shifting structure – this is what you are doing with the entire implementation process.
If you didn’t answer options C, then look at the same situation with the lens of the 5 shifts.
This is the value of experience cycles with the right tools. With the wrong lenses, everything continues to be blurry.
To your clarity

Internships: The advantage of experience cycles

You are an intern at a company. Your boss doesn’t ever seem to have the time for you, he just tells you to do work you consider boring and worthless. And truth be told he’d say the same thing. You still have time left in the internship to make it all worthwhile.

Which is most like you and what would you do?
a. You ask for advice from your friends – this is an honest complaint, you really want this to work.
b. You are glad they are paying you but think what a waste of time and talent, hoping they will finally get around to you.
c. Initially put your head down in frustration wishing you were somewhere else but then you take things into your own hands. You figure out how to ask you boss – without offending him –  to work on areas that will be more engaging and which also will add significant value to the organization.
So which action and outcome do you get?
With the job market so tight and plenty of competition it is important that you build your resume, but equally important that you learn to add value fast. You have to be proactive, show initiative, be a leader. You’ve heard it a thousand times, you don’t need anymore preaching. But what are you really after?
This is real world stuff. I’m glad they are paying you but it won’t add to your experience cycles. You must have manyexperience cycles of different and useful activities to grow rapidly and prepare yourself for getting you first real job.
Complaining to your friends is certainly an outlet, but not going to get those experience cycles. You already probably know who from the experience cycles of drowning your sorrows in too much to drink. Let’s move on to experience cycles that will get your what you are after.
Taking this opportunity and learning all you can even what you know you won’t like doing is adding to your experience cycles. The faster you go through it effectively, by learning and adapting the faster you will be able to impress people when applying for the real job.
You want the experience of leading on
making the complex, simpler;
the hard, easier;
the slow, faster;
the mundane, engaging, and
the average outcome, multiplied in substantial gains.
That’s what you are after. Because by doing that you will be an advantage-maker and an opportunity spotter.
You have to take the situation into your own hands, and with the help of others. Shift the game. There are five ways to get the experience of advantage-making.
1) Shift the Question, don’t accept the givens. See if you can find a way to find a different horse to ride.
A different function or different boss or ask what would make a difference if they were going to hire you and do that job. Ask your friends what questions to ask and please try to avoid saying, “I did that already, they are too busy.” Use the early unworkable questions to trigger ideas that may work. Keep asking until you find a new way. That’s what the rest of us do who have made it in terrible times.
2) Shift time, reduce the amount of time being annoyed, and shift into finding quick things you can do for the company. If you don’t know what to do, and its not your fault since you are an intern, see if you can find someone who will give you 1 important thing to do for the day. Most of the time there is one person who will make a difference.  Shift the time you interact with the boss. If the boss is too busy in the middle of the day, see if you can come in a few minutes early or see if you can walk him out to his car after work.
3) Shift interaction, Have at least one question you want answered that only they can answer and interact with them. Showing them you understand they are busy and you want to get a good recommendation. Ask what will i have to have accomplished by the end of the internship that will make you want to hire someone in my position? (you are not forcing them into a hiring question, that would be a foolish push and not shifting the interaction skillfully) You interact from a position of willing to work and understanding that asking questions and getting feedback are part of being a good contributor.
4) Shift perceptions, this is key. Perception is outcome. Many people say perception is reality, well I don’t think so. Perception does drive behavior. And one important decision trigger for managers is not losing, money or anything else. If the boss sees something that could become a problem he will want someone to work on it. So instead of drudgery work, point out what could go wrong, what will cost more and offer to research a solution that can save money. When they see you will solve his headaches he will ask you to do more useful and what to you will be more meaningful work.
5) Shift the structure. Move to another desk that is in the line of site. Ask if you can work with the team of ‘cool’ people so you can get more out of them. Just make sure that you can still get a recommendation from the ‘boss’.
Suggest to him that you will work on all the things interns are supposed to do, but you most want to have at least one thing that will make a big difference by the end of the internship.
When they ask you how the internship went will you point to your experience cycles?