The LA Times recently completed an interesting four-part series on how learning and memory work. And the New York Times wrote about the importance of physical exercise for neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells). Did you even know it was possible to do something that would help your body create new brain cells?

A few years ago, I got hooked on reading about how our brain works, when I stumbled upon a fascinating book called Brain Rules, written by John Medina, a molecular biologist. In the book, Medina writes about things we can do to improve our thinking skills through improved cognition. That book started me on a quest to discover as much as I could about the brain and how it works.

Did you know there are lots of things you can do to improve the effectiveness of your brain? If your brain is working better, you’ll make better decisions. And better decisions lead to a more successful business. In other words, a brain that works better can help you make more money! The whole concept intrigued me, so I now read everything I can find on how to improve and strengthen my brain. (Trust me. I need all the help I can get — just ask my kids!)

Here’s a short list of things I’ve discovered — from a wide variety of sources — that you can use to have a better brain.

  1. Learn to appreciate the beauty of your brain. It’s a dense forest comprised of billions of neurons and synapses that are constantly developing in order to help you survive (and thrive) in your daily life.
  2. Eating good stuff is smart. Did you know your brain only weighs 2% of your body weight, but it consumes over 20% of the oxygen and nutrients you intake? Good nutrition will make you a better thinker.
  3. Things that exercise your body can also help sharpen your brain. In fact, physical exercise improves and enhances neurogenesis.
  4. Travel is good. Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment and make new and different decisions.
  5. Develop and maintain stimulating friendships. Social interaction is one of the best ways to stimulate your brain to think quickly and respond appropriately.
  6. Thrive on learning and mental challenges. Once new neurons are created in your brain, where they stay and how long they survive depends on how you use them. “Use it or lose it” doesn’t mean “read the sports page in the newspaper every day.” It means challenge your brain often with fundamentally new activities.
  7. Practice positive, future-oriented thoughts until they become your default mindset and you look forward to every new day in a constructive way. Did you know that stress and anxiety induced by your own thoughts actually kill neurons and prevent the creation of new ones? Negative thinking is the opposite of exercise: it prevents the creation of new brain cells.
  8. Because we were created with such a large, well-developed brain, we’re the only self-directed organism on this planet. Aim high. Once you graduate from college, keep learning. Your brain keeps developing, no matter what your age, and you can accomplish far more than you realize.
  9. Don’t outsource your brain. Not to media personalities, consultants, industry leaders, or your smart business partner. Make you own decisions — and mistakes. Then learn from them, and adapt quickly. That way, you’ll be training your brain, not your neighbor’s.
  10. Laugh. Often. Especially to cognitively complex humor, full of twists and surprises. Did you hear about the band that called themselves 1023MB? They haven’t had any gigs yet.

My name is Mike Stevens, and I am a printer.

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“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”
- Henry David Thoreau

Are you like I once was? Do you ever think that sometimes you make the simplest decision more complicated than it needs to be?

Are you so addicted to trying to make things so perfect and impressive that they turn into a nightmare rather than the dream you had in mind?

Did you know that most of the little details we struggle over in our printing firms are the ones no one else notices anyway? Sometimes, those numerous details are what keep us from enjoying a simpler, happier life — and a more successful company.

I remember one time when I was designing a new sales brochure to help us promote our brand-new digital color copier. At the time, it was so important to me to make sure that we printed that sales brochure on EXACTLY the right paper. I remember looking at dozens of paper swatch books and even calling several of the paper companies to ask them questions about a particular paper. In the meantime, my customer service reps wanted me to hurry up and get the brochure printed so they could give it to our customers. By over-analyzing what should have been a simple choice, I really slowed things down dramatically.

One day a few months later, one of my project managers came to me and told me that it was time to reprint the same sales brochure. She said, “I remember how important the paper choice was to you, and I wanted to ask you firsthand what the name of the paper was and where we got it from.” Well, guess what? I couldn’t even remember the name of the paper or what mill it came from. Now that is sad.

Since the sales brochure was printed full-color on both sides, my project manager asked me if it would be okay if we just printed it on our 80-pound gloss house paper. We did… and you know what? No one even noticed the difference in paper. I learned a valuable lesson that day.

If choosing exactly the right kind of paper is important to you, spend all the time you want, but if in the long run it doesn’t make much difference, choose something that looks good and get it printed!

My suggestion: Don’t be complicated. Work at having a simple approach to everything you do. Life is too short to live that frustrated.

Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge… let your learning lead to action.

My name is Mike Stevens, and I am a printer.

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The 10 Commandments for a Printer’s Marriage

July 16, 2014

1. Don’t place others before one another. 2. Let nothing on earth become more important than your marriage. 3. Don’t bring a bad day at the print shop home with you. 4. Remember to worship together. 5. Love and accept one another’s family as your own. 6. Don’t harm one another with words, attitudes, or […]

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Don’t be a perfectionist

July 8, 2014

I have a deep commitment to quality and excellence. I try to do everything the very best way it can be done — but I work hard at not allowing myself to become a perfectionist. Why? Because trying to get it perfect will slow you down, frustrate your coworkers, and sometimes cause you to miss […]

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Don’t Let Others Steal Your Joy

June 17, 2014

You’ll always have grumpy customers, equipment breakdowns, slow payers, and bad weather. And then, of course, every printing company seems to have one irreplaceable co-worker who always seems to see the “negative” side of things or who makes a point to tell you all the reasons your new ideas won’t work. My solution: Keep smiling […]

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One printer’s story about losing weight and beating type 2 diabetes

June 3, 2014

Hi everyone, over the last two weeks, I shared my plan on how I was going to lose “10 pounds in 10 days.” As I blogged my daily progress each day, I often received feedback and encouragement from many of you. Many of the letters I received told stories about how others were also struggling […]

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Day #10 – Losing 10 pounds in 10 days

May 28, 2014

Beginning weight at the start –   210.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #1 –   208.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #2 –   206.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #3 –   205.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #4 –   204.75 pounds Weight at […]

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Day #9 – Losing 10 pounds in 10 days

May 27, 2014

Beginning weight at the start –   210.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #1 –   208.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #2 –   206.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #3 –   205.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #4 –   204.75 pounds Weight at […]

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Day #5 – Losing 10 pounds in 10 days

May 24, 2014

Beginning weight at the start –   210.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #1 –   208.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #2 –   206.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #3 –   205.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #4 –   204.75 pounds Weight at […]

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Day #4 – Losing 10 pounds in 10 days

May 23, 2014

Beginning weight at the start –   210.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #1 –   208.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #2 –   206.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #3 –   205.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #4 –   204.75 pounds Total weight […]

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