We are living through one of the greatest revolutions in human history. Microprocessors have given us the internet, mobile phones and more recently, artificial intelligence (AI).
AI has the potential to dramatically influence and disrupt the workplace in the coming years. Self-driving cars are the obvious next disruptive technology, but AI will also impact law, banking, medicine and other industries.
With the advent of AI, creative thinking becomes ever more critical.
The stream of breakthrough ideas that will make the world a better place relies on us developing novel strategies, techniques and experiences that leverage new technologies. As Bob Moritz, chairman of professional services firm PwC, said recently at the World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland, “We’re still looking for creativity, because that can’t be coded. Robotics and computers and coding actually gives you a very straight and narrow path to go down a fine course. The world we’re living in today is a lot more zig zag, and people are going to be important to that equation….”
Creativity does not happen by accident. Advances in physiological research can provide us with insights about how we can spark our own agile thinking and problem solving.
A good place to start is to sleep more, not less. When we are under pressure, it can be tempting to claw back some hours in the day. If you need to solve a problem or come up with a new creative approach, reducing your sleep hours is the opposite of what your brain needs. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and had a “Eureka!” moment — a deep insight? I certainly have; it’s one reason I keep a notebook by my bed. I need to ensure that I capture the insights generated during sleep.
Creative problem solving appears to happen during the REM phase of sleep, which typically occurs more in the second half of your sleep, if you’re getting the recommended 7.5 hours. In a 2009 study at the University of California, San Diego, researchers found that REM sleep “directly enhances creative processing more than any other sleep or wake state.” So, if you need to build more creativity into your life, give yourself permission to sleep a bit more.
You can also sprinkle physical activity into your day to improve your creativity and learning. Scientists at the University of California, Irvine found thatexercise can increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and other growth factors, stimulate neurogenesis, and improve learning and mental performance. As little as 15 minutes of exerciseimproves mental performance, so why not add this to your day, before important tasks? Go for a short walk before a presentation. Have a walking meeting if you need to problem solve. Or, if you can start your day with a workout, you’ll prime your brain for excellence and begin the process of remodeling the areas of your brain that will help you think more clearly.
If you’re wondering what kind of exercise is best for creativity, research suggests that aerobic activities like walking, swimming, cycling and running are best. Exercising in nature appears to be specifically helpful for problem solving. That can be as simple as a brisk walk in a local park.
One last idea to consider is adding deliberate mindfulness practice and meditation to your daily routine, especially on days when you need to spark your creativity. Practising mindfulness and meditation has been shown to improve attentional control, problem solving, concentration and creativity. New imaging techniques — including functional magnetic resonance imaging, which shows brain activation, and diffusion tensor imaging, which shows the neural networks in the brain — demonstrate that mindfulness and meditation can improve brain function.
Think of meditation as strength training for the brain. Just as you would lift weights to build and strengthen your muscles, you can use meditation to build and strengthen your brain and then, in addition, control and sharpen your mind. Try apps like headspace.com or calm.com to get started.
As a leader in business, you’re probably pushing the limits on a daily basis. Adopting deliberate practices that improve your creativity and mental agility will allow you to perform at a higher level more easily and more consistently. Putting these ideas into practice does require a shift in mindset and a reallocation of your priorities. It will be challenging in the short term, but the long-term benefits will be powerful for you personally and for your career and business.
You stay up late cramming for exams (or you did, when you were in school). Big presentation or performance? Be honest—you’ve rehearsed over and over, sometimes until the second you take the podium or stage. But when it comes to preparing for a marathon or other race, the best strategy is exactly the opposite, exercise scientists and coaches say.
Tapering—dialing back your training right before a big competition—can give you an edge on race day, exercise physiologist Greg Wells, Ph.D., author of Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the World’s Best Athletes, tells SELF. “It’s counterintuitive, because a lot of people want to train right up until the last minute, get in that one last workout,” he says. “But the research and evidence suggest that that’s probably the last thing you actually should be doing.”
This week I chat to creativity genius Todd Henry. Todd is an arms dealer for the creative revolution. His first book, The Accidental Creative, teaches people and teams how to build practices that lead to everyday brilliance. We explore the processes behind creativity in this conversation and there are loads of brilliant nuggets that will help you take your game to the next level in this interview.
Hi everyone! This week I chat with one of my mentors – Dr. Joe Fisher. Joe is a brilliant scientist and inventor and it was a blast having this conversation.
Dr. Fisher is a co-founder of Thornhill Medical and Professor in the faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He is currently a Staff Anaesthetist at the University Health Network and Senior Scientist, Human Physiology & Clinical Investigation, at Toronto General Research Institute. He has published over 120 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and designed and consulted on products for NASA, Government of Canada, United States Marine Corps, and various companies. He is an inventor on over 25 issued and pending patents, including the core technology behind Thornhill’s technologies.
We do a deep dive into creativity and the process of invention.
This week I talk with my friend and partner in world-wide adventures Ray Zahab. Here’s a little more about Ray.
On November 1, 2006, former “pack a day smoker” turned ultra runner Ray Zahab and two friends, Charlie Engle and Kevin Lin, both accomplished runners, set out on an expedition to cross the Sahara Desert by foot. 111 days and 7,500 kms after leaving the coast of Senegal, Africa they completed their journey by stepping into the Red Sea.
The expedition had the trio running an average of 70kms a day without a single day of rest, for 111 days. National Geographic tracked the expedition by web, as well as the documentary film ‘Running The Sahara’, produced by Matt Damon and directed by Academy Award winner James Moll, was created in an effort to raise awareness for the drinking water crisis in North Africa. After witnessing and experiencing this water crisis in North Africa, Ray decided to leverage his future adventures to help raise awareness and funding for causes, like this one, that he supports and believes in.
In fall 2007, Ray ran the three coastal trails of Canada back to back and virtually non-stop, for a total distance of 400 kms. Logistics were as much of a challenge as the run, and Ray ran The Akshayuk Pass on Baffin Island, East Coast Trail Newfoundland and West Coast Trail in British Columbia, with just enough time to travel in between.
In spring 2008 Ray partnered with the ONExONE Foundation for a unique ultra running project. Accompanied by a team of runners, Ray ran an average 80 kms per day in each of Canada’s 13 Provinces and Territories in 13 days. Once again logistics were a huge challenge. School visits were arranged along the way, students participated and communities became engaged in the run which supported the work of ONExONE, which supports various charities addressing children’s issues globally. In Saskatoon alone, several thousand students and 27 schools were involved in school rallies and a city wide relay with Ray and the team.
In 2008, Ray founded impossible2Possible (i2P) (impossible2possible.com) an organization that aims to inspire and educate youth through adventure learning, inclusion and participation in expeditions. Youth Ambassadors are selected from around the world, and then participate, at no cost, in all aspects of the expedition, from logistics and running to creating educational content and team support. All of the i2P Youth Expeditions have included various challenge based initiatives through an Experiential Learning program, in which thousands of students participate as active ‘team members’ during the expeditions, from classrooms all over the world. This program and its technology is also provided at no cost to the students or schools participating. Since its inception, i2P Youth Expeditions have included 14 gruelling expeditions; Baffin Island, Tunisia, the Amazon, Bolivia, India, Botswana, Utah, Peru, Chile, Italy, California, Greece, Death Valley and Canada. The programs and expeditions are 100% free of cost.
SOUTH POLE QUEST EXPEDITION
In 2009, Ray and two fellow Canadians, Kevin Vallely and Richard Weber, broke the world speed record for an unsupported expedition by a team to the Geographic South Pole. In the process, Ray trekked this traditional route from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, a distance of 1,100 kms, solely on foot and snowshoes, without the use of skis. Students from all over North America joined the team on a daily basis, a program provided through impossible2Possible, as the trio continued their southern trek. The students received daily communications and actively took part in every step of the trek. Essentially becoming “teammates” of the expedition, and teammates of the Guinness World Record achieved.
In winter 2010, Ray and Kevin Vallely ran the length of frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia, 650 kms, over the course of 13 days, totally unsupported. Once again communication with satellite video conferencing to schools brought the expedition into classrooms, and classrooms onto the expedition.
ATACAMA EXTREME EXPEDITION
In February 2011, Ray ran the length of the “driest desert on Earth”, the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Temperatures exceeded 50c as he ran 1,200 kms in 20 days with minimal daily re-supply and with emergency supplies on his back. Thousands of students joined this journey, again under his i2P organization, via live web and video conferencing.
In August 2011, Ray and Will Laughlin ran from the north park boundary to the south park boundary of Death Valley National Park, totally off-road. The 237 km run saw temps reaching over 120 degrees F.
Beginning June 23rd 2013, Ray ran over 2,000km across Mongolia and the Gobi Desert. He was accompanied by both a film crew and photographer who recorded not only the expedition, but also created an archive sharing the stories of the people and culture of Mongolia to schools around the world. The expedition marked the beginning of the “To The Edge” series chronicling the stories and people and that Ray comes into to contact with on expeditions… at the edges of the Earth!
In Winter 2014 Ray completed his 4th unsupported crossing of Baffin Island on the Akshayuk Pass (he would go on to complete 6 unsupported crossings in various seasons).
In January 2015 Ray ran 1,000km across the Patagonian Desert, and then in summer 2015 Ray did a partial crossing of Death Valley National Park, his second project in the area.
ARCTIC 2 ATACAMA EXPEDITION
In February 2016, Ray Zahab (CAN), Jen Segger (CAN) and Stefano Gregoretti (Italy) set out on a unique and challenging expedition that spanned 100 degrees celsius on the thermometer. The team journeyed from -50°C (-58F) to +50°C (120F) over 1,500km, on mountain bikes and foot, crossing both Baffin Island in Canadian winter, and the Atacama Desert in Chilean summer. This would mark Ray’s second crossing the length of the Atacama Desert.
In February 2017- Ray Zahab and Stefano Gregoretti would go on to complete the second and third stages of a three part expedition in the Canadian Arctic after a near disastrous start in which Ray broke through a frozen river in the Torngats Mountain Range. The duo rallied back to ski unsupported across Baffin Island, and then fatbike across the Northwest Territories along the Mackenzie Valley Winter Road (500km).
Ray has also found the time to write two books about his life and adventures. Running for My Life published in 2007 and Ray’s second book, geared at youth readers, Running to Extremes, which recently became a National Best-Seller in Canada. He is currently writing his third book.
In addition to being an adventurer, youth advocate and runner, Ray speaks around the world at events such as TED, IOC World Conference, Idea City, The Economist World in 2010 and 2011, World Affairs Council, and numerous Apple Distinguished Educator events internationally, and numerous corporate events. He has been interviewed and appeared on several talk and news programs including CNNi, CNN, The Hour, CBC, CTV, BBC, Jay Leno, OLN and Discovery. He has also appeared in print media globally, and has been interviewed on numerous popular podcasts.
Outside of his own organization Ray has volunteered as a board member – now an advisor to the Ryan’s Well Foundation, volunteered as Athletic Ambassador of the ONExONE.org, and SpreadTheNet. He continues to volunteer with Run For Water, and various other initiatives. Ray received the ONExONE Difference Award in 2007, and the Torchbearers Award in 2010. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Royal Canadian Geographical Society. In spring 2012, Ray was invited by H.E. Tsogtbaatar Damdin (Minister of Environment, Mongolia) to join their Internal Advisory Committee. In 2015 Canadian Geographic recognized Ray as one of Canada’s Top Explorers. In December 2015 Ray was presented with the Meritorious Service Cross of Canada by the Governor General of Canada.
He continues today with life as an adventurer and as a volunteer with impossible2Possible. ‘Running The Sahara’ would begin a lifelong journey of discovery. A journey of learning that some of the greatest barriers to achieving our goals are the ones we put upon ourselves. By breaking these down, Ray has learned that we are all capable of achieving truly extraordinary things.
In this episode I’ve posted my chat with @charlesadler on Living with Passion, the Art of Public Speaking & Being Present. Here’s a little more about Charles:
Charles Adler is a 40-year radio and television broadcast veteran, who’s career has seen him tour Canada working in Montreal (CJAD), Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto (CFRB), London, Hamilton, and Winnipeg (CJOB).
In the U.S.A., Charles hosted a nationally syndicated radio show out of Tampa, hitting more than 120 markets, and a nightly primetime television show out of Boston, for which he won a Best TV Host for New England Emmy.
Charles has hosted national radio and television programs in Canada, including Global Sunday for Global TV, The Charles Adler Show on the Corus Radio Network, The Charles Adler Show on SiriusXM Canada, and Charles Adler on the Sun News Network. Charles has made numerous appearances on Canadian national television news and current affairs shows and he has also guest hosted in the U.S.A. for Sean Hannity on Fox News Channels’ television show Hannity and Colmes. Charles’ articles have been published in Sun Media papers across Canada, and he was a regular columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. Charles currently is host of Charles Adler Tonight on the Corus Radio Network that is heard in Western Canada.
Physiologist and exercise medicine researcher at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, author of Superbodies and The Ripple Effect.
The skill of communication in the era of social media, leading without a title and brand awareness has never been more important. Steve Jobs knew how important a speech can be. He practised for days before presentations. More recently, Elon Musk has delivered presentations for Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity initiatives. These talks have led to the exponential growth of his companies and, possibly, a different future for humanity.
Despite the importance of communication (or maybe because of it), public speaking remains one of our greatest fears. Jerry Seinfeld said once that an average person at a funeral prefers to be in the casket than give the eulogy.
I don’t think it has to be that way. If you apply the science of human performance, you can improve your ability to deliver powerful messages, and improve your mental and physical health at the same time. Here are a few tips to get you started.
This week I chat to Dr. Sarah West from Trent University and the Hospital for Sick Children about Bones!
Here’s why this topic is so important:
All kidding aside bones are so important for our overall health, but they’re often overlooked. Hence Dr. Sarah West! Dr. West is an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology at Trent University. Her primary research interest is understanding the interaction of chronic disease and exercise, and how this is related to various outcomes – with bone health being her primary outcome of interest.
This is a very special conversation that I recorded while walking through an olive farm in the Algarve area of Portugal. Here’s what it looked like on our hike:
We went for a walk with Tim Robinson, a highly successful business leader who now spends his time taking care of land in the Algarve. This is a deep conversation about life, farming, olive oil and living a life in alignment with your values.
This week I’m sharing a keynote presentation I did at a school on building healthy high-performance teams.
It’s common knowledge that productivity increases when people collaborate well. That goes for businesses, schools, universities, families, even social groups like book clubs. High-functioning teams are good for profitability, student achievement and even fun get-togethers.
But what makes a terrific team? Is it putting the greatest minds together? Socializing outside of work? Grouping people by experience? Having the same level of education? Having a strong leader?
Hi podcast universe!!! I’m back from vacation and ready to take on the rest of 2017. To kickstart the fall I’m sharing a small part of my presentation at the Titan Summit last year on How to Live to 120.
This is a different format so let me know what you think @drgregwells on social!
Welcome back! This week I had the chance to interview 11 time Ironman Champion Lisa Bentley. Here’s a little more about Lisa!
Lisa Bentley raced for 20 years as a professional triathlete. In the course of her career, she has won 11 IRONMAN races, 11 IRONMAN 70.3 races (1/2 IRONMAN), several top 5 finishes at the IRONMAN World Championships, represented Canada on multiple National Teams and at the Pan American Games and was ranked top 5 in the world for a decade. She competed at the highest level despite having Cystic Fibrosis – a genetic lung disease resulting in chronic infections and limited lung capacity. Her CF was very controllable for much of her career and ironically, Lisa saw it as a blessing, which fuelled her passion for sport and excellence. In Lisa’s words, “every time I raced, I knew that my race served a higher purpose to give families hope that their children with CF could achieve similar things in life. And sport kept my lungs healthy so it was a double blessing!”
Since she retired from professional sport, Lisa has been running marathons, doing motivational speaking, television commentary (CTV Olympic marathon running and swim coverage, CBC Triathlon coverage, Sportsnet Ironman coverage), coaching and sales and marketing work with Ironman triathlon. Lisa was inducted into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and to the Triathlon Canada Hall of Fame in 2014.
Lisa has an honors degree from the University of Waterloo in Math and Computer Science and a Bachelors of Education from the University of Western Ontario. She taught high school for 7 years prior to pursuing sport full time in 1999 and now uses those teaching skills to coach and mentor athletes in pursuit of their goals in sport.
After all, not everyone thinks the same way—even top performers. Their motivations differ, as do their work processes. Some are collaborators, others work best alone. Some are procrastinators, others thrive on a deadline. Some love a bustling work environment, others put on headphones to block out the buzz.
But leaders can make it a goal to help all those diverse personalities find the “highest-performing version” of themselves, says Dr. Greg Wells, author of The Ripple Effect: Eat, Sleep, Move and Think Better.
“There are general changes you can enact in the workplace that can speak to the very specific needs of every member of your team,” says Wells, a scientist who specializes in extreme human physiology and has spent 15 years working with Olympic athletes. He suggests:
This isn’t about running out for a quick cigarette. Quite the opposite. Wells says office breaks can have a healthy bent—anything from providing an hour of tai chi instruction to offering a tranquil garden setting for quiet reflection. “Make sure you take some time to break the stress cycle and allow people to rest, recover and regenerate,” he says. “Doing this not only will help them perform better in the moment, but it also recharges the body and brain to stay healthy over the long-term.”
Walking is especially powerful as it has been shown to improve creativity. Exercise in nature, such as going for a walk in the park has been shown to improve problem solving. Creativity and problem solving are essential for success in today’s work environment so moving breaks can be very helpful for you and your teams.
Being mindful is key to success in any discipline, be it music, sports, drama, or business. “Yet we live in the age of distraction,” Wells says. Emails, social media, text messages and YouTube compete for our attention, not to mention the job we’re supposed to be doing. “Athletes who are able to stay on task despite pressure and distractions perform to their potential,” he says. “Those who fail to ignore the distractions make mistakes or don’t perform to expectations.”
Your team can start by turning off the electronic noise for an hour at a time. Or try “single-tasking”: Ask them to choose their most important task to work on first and to perform that task as exclusively as possible. Wells says he’s a huge fan of Robin Sharma’s 90 : 90: 1 principle—for 90 days, take the first 90 minutes of each day to work on your life’s most important work. Try that tactic out and you’ll be amazed and the exponential gains you make in your life and career, he says.
Focus on “micro-improvements”
Wells says one of the best approaches he’s seen for turning good into great is focusing on “1 percent gains.” “What sets elite athletes apart from the pack is a commitment to being just a little bit better each day,” he says. “A 1 percent change might not seem like much, but small improvements in the way you live each day will amplify your life.”
One percent of your day is 15 minutes, and 15 minutes of exercise can reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer from 24-40 percent. The micro changes add up over time and can have a powerful effect on your health and performance.
Of course, workers are notoriously averse to change—whether they’re in an office, a factory or behind the counter at a fast-food restaurant. But with positivity and patience, Wells’ believes his suggestions should be an easy sell.
“Each employee will benefit in his or her own way,” he says. “But the end result will be a more engaged and more productive group.”
Dr. Greg Wellsis an authority on high performance and human physiology. Dr. Wells is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Toronto where he studies elite sport performance. He also serves as an Associate Scientist of Translational Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children, where he leads the Exercise Medicine Research Program.
If you, like many others, are struggling with your energy levels, here are twelve things you need to know to better understand and improve your energy levels.
1. Sleep restores energy.
While you’re asleep, a lot is going on in your body to recover, restore, and rebuild it. Sleep is a highly active metabolic process that helps optimize our brain structure, repair damaged cells in the body, and restore energy levels.
2. Increase body temperature to increase energy.
If you want to increase your alertness and concentration at a time of the day when you normally feel sluggish, increase your body temperature by doing five to ten minutes of light cardiorespiratory exercise, such as a brisk walk.
3. Take it outside for a few.
Walking in nature improves measures of revitalization, self-esteem, energy, and pleasure, and it decreases frustration, worry, confusion, depression, tension, and tiredness far more than light activity indoors does. So take your walk outside.
4. Add some exercise.
When you exercise at an intensity that is high enough to cause your body some physiological stress, the body will adapt and improve. You will get stronger, faster, and fitter. You’ll also get smarter and happier. You will have more energy.
High fiber foods take longer to digest, provoke less of an insulin response, and leave us feeling satiated with nice, even energy levels. Go for complex, slow-digesting carbohydrates packed full of nutrients and fiber to ensure a consistent supply of mental energy.
6. Stay hydrated.
No water, no energy. You know that sluggish feeling you get in the afternoon? For most people, the afternoon crash is caused by dehydration. So do yourself a favor. Give yourself more energy by drinking some water. Tired? Drink some water.
7. Eat protein at every meal.
It’s a good idea to eat protein at every meal. High-protein foods can help you maintain your attention and focus.
Yoga and tai chi decrease stress and anxiety, increase energy, and boost the immune system. They also give you more stamina—needed in stressful times—and improve the quality of your sleep.
9. Trying single-tasking.
The concept behind single-tasking is that you start with the most important task—not the most urgent one—and work on it exclusively until it is either complete or you are out of time. By managing how you spend your mental energy, you help ensure that you excel at whatever you do.
10. Low energy levels are usually between 1 and 4 p.m.
This three-hour span is the time of day most people have their afternoon crash, and their energy levels are the lowest.
11. Keep a log to learn more.
When are you at your best mentally? When do you feel most energetic or lethargic? To figure this out, keep a daily log, and note your energy levels each hour throughout the day.
12. Design your day around your energy levels.
Once you know when you have the least and most amounts of energy, you can craft your ideal day. Align your tasks and schedule to take advantage of your high mental and physical energy times. You’ll perform better, and you’ll also be much healthier.
This was a HUGEly awesome experience. I was interviewed on the unmistakable creative podcast all about how to leverage physiology for ultimate human performance. You have to check out this show and all the amazing guests that they have had on including Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek among others.
My mission in life is to solve a billion person problem. I want to help the people who struggle with sleep. People who are inactive. People with chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And people with mental illnesses. Ultimately when I do this, it will make the world a better place for my kids.
The billion person problem that I want to solve: sleeplessness (~25%), mental illness (~20%), obesity (~60-70%) & physical inactivity (~85%) pic.twitter.com/9642rnzGeK
To help make this happen, I want to share with you my approach to healthy training. Basically – this is my weekly plan and the 4 types of fitness training I try to get in each week. Unless you’re training for the Olympics in a one sport, this can also serve as your training plan. I hope it helps you in a huge way.