Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning
Dr. John Dunlosky on “Improving Student Success: Some Principles from Cognitive Science”

Dr. John Dunlosky on “Improving Student Success: Some Principles from Cognitive Science”

January 20, 2020

This is episode #37 with Dr. John Dunlosky, a Professor of Psychology at Kent State University, who has contributed empirical and theoretical work on memory and metacognition, including theories of self-regulated learning and metacomprehension. You can watch this interview on Youtube for the visuals.

Welcome to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator whose been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Each week we bring you an expert who has risen to the top in their industry with specific strategies that you can implement immediately to take your results to the next level.

I’m so excited to introduce you to Dr. John Dunlosky. John’s research has focused on understanding three inter-related components of self-regulated learning: (1) the monitoring of learning, (2) control of study time, and (3) the application of strategies during learning.  These three components of learning fall under the rubric of metacognition, which is about people's cognition (the mental processes like thinking, knowing, remembering, judging and problem-solving, all involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension).[i] By studying metacognition in students across the life span, a major goal of his research involves developing techniques to improve student learning and achievement.

Welcome John! Thank you so much for taking the time away from your important work to be here to share your research and thoughts for improving student learning.

Question 1: I first heard you back in 2016 on an Edweek Webinar, speaking about “deliberate practice” being one of the most effective learning strategies, vs cramming, and I wrote that down and that concept has ended up in all my presentations for the K-12 school market ever since. I recently watched your presentation from the McMaster Symposium on Cognition, Learning and Education[ii] where you dive deep into your research. Can you give an overview of what launched your research with learning strategies and do you think that we can learn ANYTHING with enough deliberate practice over time?

Question 2: When you were doing your research to find which learning strategies work the best, what surprised you the most, and what feedback did you hear about your discoveries?

Question 3: Knowing what strategies scored the highest in your research (distributed practice—spacing study sessions out over time vs cramming) and retrieval practice or practice test taking using multiple choice, fill in the blanks, or essay type recall) do you see that these methods are used more frequently now by students? What have you seen with the application of your research?

Question 4: What happens next? Once a student uses distributed practice and retrieval practice, what is successive relearning?

Question 5: It caught my attention that a major aim of your research is to develop techniques to improve the effectiveness of people’s self-regulated learning because self-regulation is the most requested topic I see when working with schools, especially with older students (middle school and high school) and it seems to be the skill that challenges most adults (thinking where we are at the start of the year setting new goals for ourselves and many goal-setter fall off their plan before January is complete).  Why did you choose self-regulation opposed to let’s say growth mindset or something, and what are your current goals with your Metacognition and Education Lab?[iii] Note- Self-Regulation is one of the six social and emotional competencies that we dive deep into here on the podcast (episode 14).[iv] 

Question 6: I was reading your book on the weekend, the first textbook to be written on metacognition, can you share what metacognition is, and why it’s so important for the learning process?

Question 7: Is there anything else that’s important that you have uncovered to help improve student learning and achievement that I might have missed? 

Thank you very much John, for taking the time to be here today to share your knowledge and wisdom on these evidence-based learning strategies. If someone wants to learn more about your work is the best place through Kent State’s website? [v] I’ve also included your full study from Sage Journals[vi] in the show-notes. Thanks John.



[i] The Basics of Cognition and Mental Processes by Kendra Cherry June 16, 2019

[ii] Dr. John Dunlosky McMaster Symposium on Cognition, Learning and Education (YouTube Published Dec. 12, 2013).


[iv]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #14 “Self-Regulation: The foundational Learning Skill for Future Success”




Creator of The Learning Pit, James Nottingham, on “The Importance of Challenge with Learning”

Creator of The Learning Pit, James Nottingham, on “The Importance of Challenge with Learning”

January 13, 2020

This is episode #36 with the creator of The Learning Pit®,[i] a sought-after keynote speaker and author of 9 books about teaching, learning and leadership, James Nottingham,[ii] from Northumberland, UK. Within a few minutes of posting about this interview on my social media channels, I had good friends who are deeply invested in teaching and learning from around the world, message me about how excited they were to hear this interview. You can listen to the interview here, or watch the visuals on YouTube. It’s not surprising that The Swedish Teaching Union describes James as “one of the most talked about names in the world of school development.”

James’ most recent book, Challenging Learning (2017) describes the theory and practice of guiding students through the “Learning Pit” encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone. This practical book is filled with ideas for making lessons engaging, thought provoking and collaborative.

Welcome James! Thanks, so much for taking the time to be here today all the way from the UK.

Q1: James, we all know that our educational system worldwide has been under a microscope of discussion for transformation the past few years and that some countries that you are working with are leading in this transformation over others. Just a note, here in Arizona, USA, we are ranked near the bottom[iii] which is scary for me as a parent, but it motivates me to want to do more. Where did your vision to improve education begin and did you ever imagine that you would be creating such an impact?


Q2: I dove right into your book, Challenging Learning,[iv] this weekend, and should have known from the title that I would be drawn in as challenge is actually one of my Top 5 values. I don’t work well without it and now have a completely different perspective as to why. Can you explain a bit more about how you Challenge Learning with The Learning Pit®? 

Q3: Why is challenging students “to question, to wonder, to challenge together”[v] such an important life skill? How does this improve their self-esteem, help them to become more self-reliant and achieve more?

Q4: I saw your TEDx about Labels that Limit Learning[vi] and it did surprise me as I thought we are on track over here with our 2 girls, implementing Growth Mindset now, being careful not to tell them they are “so smart” (Carol Dweck) and now I see I’m going down the wrong path with labels even with ones I would think were positive. I often say “just do your best” (with school or sports) not thinking at all that they might translate for them into “they must be THE best” dropping their expectation. Can you explain the research by Jacquelynne Eccles about how labels can lower expectation and impact the effort someone will put into something?

Q5: I’ve heard before that we always remember the people in our lives who have challenged us to “think” differently or think at all. And I had some early influencers who impacted me this way, and from reading your book, I can see that you have also.  Can you share some of your early influencers and how you went from idea to action with the Ready, Aim, Fire concept with your work? (Clay Shirky/Michael Fullan-who was the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto when I was in teacher’s college in the late 1990s)?

Q6: What is your vision with your company Challenging Learning and The Learning Pit® with such a broad audience and staff in 6 countries. Where are you going with this vision in the next few years?

Q7: Is there anything else that you think is important that I might have missed?










[v] James Nottingham, Learning Challenge (Learning Pit)




How to Use Your Brain to Break Bad Habits in 2020

How to Use Your Brain to Break Bad Habits in 2020

January 11, 2020

This is EPISODE #35, focusing on understanding how the brain works to break those bad habits that zap your energy so you can have a highly productive 2020. Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years.

As we are well into our New Year, and new decade, I am sure you have been thinking about ways that you want to improve this year over the last. Have you thought about what specific actions you’ll take? Have you thought about the activities that you’ll start, stop, and continue? This is a good place to start as we are evaluating what worked for us last year, and keep doing more of what’s working, with an awareness of what didn’t work. Once we know what we want to change, then we will look at how the brain forms habits, so we can break them.

WHAT YOU WILL START THIS YEAR: Think about positive behaviors that you would like to implement in your life. Do you want to be more self-aware? More proactive? More forgiving? Do you want to take more action, or more doing vs thinking and planning? Look at the START/STOP/CONTINUE graphic in the show notes and think about what actions you want to begin this year.

WHAT YOU WILL STOP: Do you have some habits that you need to let go of? You know what they are, the ones that zap your energy, with an impact on your productivity. If you have some habits that are draining you, you’ll be well aware of what they are. Write them down. There’s never a better time than now to become aware of what needs to go this year.


WHAT YOU WILL CONTINUE: Think about the things in your life that gave you energy, joy, and happiness. You will probably want to keep those things on your list for 2020. Whatever brought you focus and inspiration, should stay this year.

How Exactly Do We Break Bad Habits?

This article was originally published on blog.

We Must Understand How the Brain Learns to Forms Habits, in Order to Break Them.

I learned the idea of "neurons that fire together, wire together" from Mark Robert Waldman, (from EPISODE 30)[i] the world's leading expert on communication, learning and the brain. If you think about it, it’s kind of obvious—where your attention goes, your energy flows. Never underestimate your own power and be mindful of where you place your attention, especially when you want to improve your focus. This year be intentional about where you are placing your attention. When "neurons are out of sync, they fail to link"[ii] so when you are not working on or thinking about something that you want, maybe because your attention is being taken away by something else, the neurons will not link, the neural pathways will not be formed, and eventually the neurons for what you want will prune away, since you have not applied the correct focus with your attention. This is exactly why people fail to achieve what they want. They have not properly applied their attention. So how can we safeguard ourselves from this happening in 2020?  

Let’s dive deeper into our brain to see what’s happening.  

We have around 100 billion brain nerve cells called neurons that connect the brain to the body. "If you took 100 billion sheets of paper and stacked them on top of each other, it would be 5,000 miles high. That's the distance from Los Angeles to London!" (Dr. Joe Dispenza, TED TALK, Feb 8, 2013). This puts the vastness of your brain into perspective.

Each neuron has one axon with many tails (terminals).  When you are learning, the axon terminals send electrochemical messages to other neurons across tiny spaces called synapses.

Learning creates a synaptic connection when you are thinking, feeling, or actually doing something new. New neural pathways are formed. This is how you create a new habit.

Breaking a habit is just the opposite; by avoiding certain thoughts, feelings or actions, your impulses or neural connections become weaker and weaker. Just as knowledge and skills are constructed in our brain with focus, they also diminish without the focused attention. As we learn, our dendrites actually grow as they make new synaptic connections. Learning something new happens when we forge these new connections.

"Neurons that fire together, wire together" and "neurons that are out of sync, fail to link." 

It is easy to see now that "we are what we think about" or "we create our reality" as we do reinforce our neural pathways with attention to the habits or goals that we want. We even reinforce what we don’t want when we are thinking " I don't want that piece of pie" or " I don't want this project to fail" or “I don’t want to lose that game” and so on. The neural pathways for “I don’t want this or that” are being formed! See how tricky this can be. Our brain only knows what we tell it, so we must be very careful with our thoughts, feelings, and actions, as they will cause our conditions, and circumstances.

Are You Ready to Break Some Bad Habits?

Now that we can clearly see how the brain works, we must now apply this to our daily lives if we expect change. This is the hard part. Change is difficult, uncomfortable, and hard work. Most people won’t do this, but if you are ready to take your results to the next level, stay with me here. Anyone can break out of old habits and personalize this new knowledge for new results. Once we are aware of what we want to change, then we must take the action steps needed for this change to take place. To mentally prepare for a whole new way of thinking, being and taking action, I highly recommend reading John C. Norcross’ book Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions.[iii] This book will prepare you to accomplish something that you have never done before. You can find a PDF overview[iv] of the book to get an idea of the 5 steps he takes you through in pursuit of what change you want to tackle.

Here Are 5 Ideas for Breaking Habits that No Longer Serve You

1. Replace the bad habit with a good habit and begin to strengthen the new neural pathway. If you want to give up coffee in the morning, replace it with hot lemon water. With time, the neural pathway of the old habit of drinking coffee will prune away with the new habit of drinking hot lemon tea. Write out any bad habits that depletes your energy, and beside the habit, write out something more positive that you will replace the habit with.

Put This into Action:

Here’s an example: Every year, at the start of the year, sometimes over the summer, I do a no sugar, no alcohol challenge, for at least for 30 days. This year, to launch the new decade, I am doing the challenge for 90 days. If you have never done this, it really is a powerful activity. When you cut out toxins, or foods that are known to be bad for our bodies and brain, something amazing happens. After the first 2 weeks, the cravings go away, and you won’t miss the food you used to enjoy. It will actually taste bad if you sneak a taste because your brain and body has become used to the clean, healthy foods, making the bad foods feel poisonous, which helps to continue with the new habit.

You will gain some new awareness about yourself with this challenge. When I cut out drinking wine with my dinner, I replaced wine with carbonated water, (following the tip of replacing the bad habit with a more healthy one) but I drink the water in a wine glass. I realized that it’s not the wine I miss, it’s actually the glass! I would love to hear about any new awareness’s you have had if you have eliminated toxic foods from your diet to help others to perhaps give it a shot.

2. Try brain-training. Over time and repetition, you can change old habits, and beliefs with guided meditations or affirmations. I use John Assaraf's programs at and Dr. Daniel Siegel’s (EPISODE 28) Wheel of Awareness. [v]There are many different meditation or relaxation apps you can download and use on your phone. The key is to use something. Visit our episode #25 where Mick Neustadt discusses how meditation and mindfulness changes your life.[vi]

Put This into Action

If you want to change your brain, old patterns, habits or beliefs that operate within your subconscious mind, brain training is an excellent first step, but it’s not a quick fix. Results with brain training will come with time, effort, practice, persistence and daily application. One day, you will be able to articulate the affects, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Brain training definitely has helped me to relax about certain things, bringing me more peace and has been well worth the effort. If you are pressed for time, you don’t need to spend a long time doing this. Just a few minutes a day will allow you to calm your brain to improve your results and give you a sense of peace. You can search for mindfulness apps[vii], or play music that relaxes you.

3. Create a daily habit tracking sheet to keep track of your daily habits. If you recall from Kent Healy’s episode 33[viii] that we all have the same amount of time, and that the most successful people in the world manage their time really well.

Put This into Action

To better manage your time and activities block off your activities that are non-negotiable on your calendar, and then you can add in negotiable activities around what you must do. Be clear about what could possibly take you away from the activities you have blocked off so that you don’t just cancel the important parts of your day when you are called to do something else. Protect your time, as it is your greatest asset. With the proper use of your time, you will see your results will soar.

 Click here if you would like to access the tracker that I use.

4. Replace negative thinking with positive thinking. In order to break negative thought patterns, or ruminating, use something in your head to break this destructive pattern. 

Put This into Action

An effective strategy used in cognitive behavioral therapy[ix] is to say the word “SWITCH” in your head as you focus on switching the negative emotion that you feel to something more positive. We all have automatic negative thoughts that come into our head at times, but we must have a strategy to stop them from ruminating or continuing in a loop, since we know that switching off these negative thoughts is an important step towards moving us towards our goals. I’ve always used the strategy of saying “STOP” when this happens and changing the thought pattern in my head to something more productive.

5. Find an accountability partner who you can count on to keep you on track with your goals. Entrepreneur, investor, author and public speaker Gary Vaynerchuk did this when he wanted to lose weight. His trainer followed him around every minute of the day to keep him on track. You should be able to change your habits without having to go this extreme, but if you are still struggling, there are many ways to reach out to others and ask for help.

I hope you have found these tips helpful and would love to hear from you if you do implement any of these ideas. I’m excited about the next few guests to launch the New Year with ideas, research and strategies that are being implemented around the world to improve performance in schools, sports and the workplace. Stay tuned! Happy New Year!


[i] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE 30 with Mark Robert Waldman


[ii] Dr. Joe Dispenza and Lewis Howes “Where Your Attention Goes, Your Energy Goes.” (YouTube Published July 25, 2019)


[iii] John C Norcross Changeology


[iv] PDF Overview of the book Changeology









[ix] What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Therapist Kati Morton YouTube uploaded Sept. 23, 2013

Lifestyle Entrepreneur Chris Farrell on “Actionable Strategies of High Achievers to Improve Daily Results”

Lifestyle Entrepreneur Chris Farrell on “Actionable Strategies of High Achievers to Improve Daily Results”

January 7, 2020

This is episode #34 with Chris Farrell, host of the podcast “Setbacks and Success”[i] where Chris, a former radio/TV presenter turned lifestyle entrepreneur, shares the struggles, obstacles and hurdles in life, and how we can overcome them. Be sure to check out Chris’ podcast  where you will see his first episode with the creator of Baywatch, who I am sure I recall he met on an airplane, who shares how this billion dollar brand almost failed, and his second episode is with one of my favorite podcasters, Lewis Howe’s with his School of Greatness[ii]. You can hear this flashback interview here, or on YouTube.

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Our guest today, Chris Farrell is one of the most respected and successful internet marketers in the industry. Chris’s training products and websites have already helped tens of thousands of people create and grow their online business and I was blessed to be mentored by Chris when I was creating our online courses for Achieveit360. 

Chris is a popular in demand public speaker – having worked with and spoken on stage with Brian Tracy, the late Dr Stephen Covey, Gary Vaynerchuck, Robert Cialdini, Daymond John, and Harv Eker amongst others. In 2017, Chris began his podcast Setbacks & Success, showcasing the highs and lows of business owners, entrepreneurs, and people doing great things. He travels the world and has one of those personalities where he is drawn to meet people and when he gets to know you, he’s always looking for ways that he can bring value and wants to genuinely help others reach those higher levels of success.  He’s Originally from London, England (which explains his accent) – but relocated to Los Angeles.  I hope you enjoy this flashback interview, that I felt was very relevant for the launch of this New Year.  Even though this was at the start of the year in 2014, I am sure you will find his success strategies helpful and inspiring.





Author Kent Healy on “Managing Time: Our Greatest Asset”

Author Kent Healy on “Managing Time: Our Greatest Asset”

December 31, 2019

This is episode #33 with Kent Healy, the co-author of The Success Principles for Teens[i] with Jack Canfield and the co-creator of The Uncommon Life[ii] where you can go to learn more about this phenomenal writer, thinker, entrepreneur and now family man. You can listen to the podcast here or watch Kent's visuals on YouTube.

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets SEL” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Today we have a flashback interview with Kent Healy, someone I discovered by chance, over 14 years ago, when I was researching the most popular books for teens and success, before the release of my first book, The Secret for Teens Revealed. [iii]I came across Jack Canfield’s “Success Principles for Teens” and since I owned his National Bestseller The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,[iv] (if you have never looked at this book—I highly recommend it). After seeing Kent’s connection to Jack Canfield,[v] who is the co-author of the Chicken Soup for Soul Books with Mark Victor Hansen, I thought I had better find out who Kent Healy was, and get to know him better. Back then I wasn’t on Facebook, and don’t remember how I searched to learn more, but I did find out that Kent had written a few books, and he was in his 20s.

After a few minutes of thinking about the time I had wasted in my 20s, before I started to manage my time, I read his books and was blown away by the dedication, awareness and motivation that this young man had at an early age. Since I was always looking for high performers, I knew that he could help inspire some of the young people I was working with at the time, and when I needed help with launching Achieveit360 (2012), Kent was the first person I asked to say a few words of inspiration to help this next generation of learners.

I hope you enjoy Kent’s thoughts on how the most successful people in the world manage their time, our greatest asset, and think of some ways that you can better manage your time in 2020.

Kent Healy: Welcome to my name is Kent Healey. I am the co author of the Success Principles for Teens and the cocreator of So I assume since you're on this website you're looking for more, maybe more from yourself, more from your life. I really respect that-- the challenge is, you know, in order to get more, we often start with this question, do I have what it takes to get me to that next level? The problem with this question is it usually leads to a game of comparison, a game that we usually end up losing. So it's one thing to look at somebody else and appreciate and respect, you know, the talents and the skills that they've built. It's another to look at it and then compare yourself to those talents and skills that you're still in the process of building. Basically to say that you're not a leader is to compare yourself to somebody else and focus only on those differences.

But if we had to focus on what was most common, one thing that we often overlook is the fact that we all have the same amount of time. It doesn't matter who the person is, you know, whether they're a successful athlete, or a successful business owner or successful in any other way. It's not that they have more hours in a day or more days in a week. It's that they use that time extremely well. And this is why I always say that talent is overrated. So hands down, time is the greatest asset that we have. Time is really the great equalizer more than anything else. It's how we use our minutes that matter most. Successful individuals realize that time is more valuable than skill, than money, than almost any other resource there is. Because with enough time you can hone skills, you can raise capital, you can nurture relationships, and you can summon whatever is required to lead an exceptional life or to achieve the specific goal that you're after.

So you may ask, well, is it really that important to obsess about the seconds and minutes that make up my day? Well, rather than just give you my opinion, let's look at some specific numbers. So I don't know about you, but I've been guilty of saying, eh, whatever, it's only 10 minutes. Well, in the course of a year, that's two and a half days. In five years, that's almost two weeks. But 10 minutes is such a small period of time. I mean, let's look at something more realistic, like 30 minutes. Maybe that's the length of a TV show that you love to watch. Well, just 30 minutes every day in one year is a week in five years, that's 38 days. So you can see how time adds up and why it really matters. So what's really alarming though is the number of people that really can't answer or identify where their time goes, especially in increments of say like five to 10 minutes.

I mean, just think of yesterday, for example, what were you doing at 2:00 PM? You know, it's hard to really identify and it gets even worse the longer we go back. So the problem is we usually write off these lost minutes as no big deal, but it really does add up. I mean, let's use this fun example. So imagine that every morning a deposit of $86,400 was added to your checking account, but with each deposit came two unbreakable rules, number one, at the end of each day, your account balance is completely wiped, meaning that you know everything you don't spend and on that day disappears. No transfers allowed. Number two, the game can end at any time without warning. So the questions you have to ask yourself is, what would you do with this money? How might you act differently? And what would your days look like? Okay, so truth be told, this is not an exercise in finance.

It's actually much more sobering than that. Metaphorically, this is your game of life. So the daily deposits I mentioned of 84,600 are actually the number of seconds that we're given each day. So money or not, the same rules, right I mean, at the end of the day, we don't get to use those seconds in a different way and the game may end at any point in time. So we have to be in the moment and appreciate every second that we're given. That's what makes the difference. So I'm currently in my twenties now and when I look back over the last 10 years or so, you know, I'm very pleased with the amount of stuff I've been able to do in that period of time. But I'm also smart enough to know that I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. There's a lot of people who are born with more natural talent and ability than I am.

But it's funny that this awareness has actually changed my life in a surprisingly positive way. Instead of focusing on this like obscure, immeasurable, and inheritable concept of talent, I've turned my attention to maximizing what we all have that's equal. And that's time. So over the years I've developed this healthy obsession for these 84,000 seconds that I get given in a day. And that to me has made all the difference. So here's the thing. No one else can make you care. No one else can make you care about these 84,600 seconds that you're given every day. But in the end, that is what makes the difference. It's not innate talent. The best tips and the best insights will do absolutely nothing if not proceeded by the willingness to take action and apply what it is that we learn. So let's stop looking at things in which we can't control and start focusing on what we can.

It's the passing of time combined with just an effort and a commitment to be a better person is all that we need is all the opportunity necessary to accomplish the goals that we want. We just have to demonstrate that commitment each and every day. Look at nature, even the largest mountains, the hardest rocks are no test against the tenacity of time. And the reality is we have far more time than we know what to do with or that we care to admit. So do you have what it takes to succeed? Well, if you use your time well, the answer of course is yes. If you could just spare 15 minutes each day to work towards your goal, then that equals 3.8 full days at the end of the year. That's a lot of time to start, you know, building a new skill to start networking with other successful, extraordinary individuals to start raising capital or to start doing whatever necessary for you to reach a goal. The only question remaining is, will you, nobody can force you to take action, but most importantly, will you stop focusing on this arbitrary idea of talent and start focusing on what you do have control of it, which is time. I hope you enjoyed this video and be sure to check out the other amazing resources here at 


[i] The Success Principles for Teens by Jack Canfield and Kent Healy (April 15, 2008)


[iii]The Secret for Teens Revealed by Andrea Samadi (September 15, 2008)

[iv] The Success Principles by Jack Canfield (10th Edition January, 2015)



John Assaraf on “Brain-Training, the Power of Repetition, Resourcefulness and the Future”

John Assaraf on “Brain-Training, the Power of Repetition, Resourcefulness and the Future”

December 22, 2019

This is episode #32 with John Assaraf, one of the leading mindset and behavior experts in the world, who has appeared numerous times on Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. You can watch this Flashback interview on YouTube.

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets SEL” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Today we have John Assaraf—he has built 5 multimillion-dollar companies, written 2 New York Times Bestselling books and has been featured in 8 movies, and today, he is the founder and CEO of NeuroGym, a company dedicated to using the most advanced technologies and evidence based brain training methods to help individuals unleash their fullest potential and maximize their personal and professional results.

In 2014 when my company was awarded grant funding to run character programs in Arizona schools, I knew I needed to find someone who had a proven path for business success to make sure I had the right systems in place, so I immediately looked up John to see what courses he was teaching and applied to join his “Cloning for Business Success Class” that he was teaching at the time. For those interested, you can see a similar business acceleration mastermind he is currently accepting applications for called The Escape Velocity Mastermind.[i] I had no idea that this class would lead me to brain-training (I was given a FREE course to try that has been a part of my daily routine for the past 6 years), and that this decision would lead me to Mark Robert Waldman, and eventually adding the most current neuroscience research to my programs. It all started with John and with anyone who has met him, or knows his work, you would know that this was a pivotable point in my career as he has such a wealth of knowledge, is an expert at helping people change their behaviors to get the results they want, and he sincerely wants to see other people succeed.

To learn more about John, go to and enjoy this Flashback interview from 2016. Keep in mind this was 4 years ago, when he speaks about research that has just emerged. We apologize for the sound quality, but sure you will agree with me that this information is powerful.

[i] See John’s most current course Escape Velocity 212 Mastermind


Andrea Samadi: So John, can you explain your story. What were you doing that wasn't working and what made you decide to choose a different path for your life?

John Assaraf: You talking about when I was younger, the kid getting myself into a whole lot of trouble.

Andrea Samadi: Yes. What made you decide to move past that and stop going that direction that you were going, to the pathway that you're on now?

John Assaraf: Well, I grew up with loving parents who taught me right from wrong. What they didn't teach me is how to overcome or even recognize my low self-esteem and that I didn't think I was smart enough or good enough and I don't think, they knew that I thought that way. And I don't, no. That they have the tools to know themselves to grade three and grade five is where my parents finished school. I knew that when I was getting myself into a lot of trouble and that it was the wrong thing to do. But I also didn't know that there was a better way. And it wasn't until I was 19 years old where I met a mentor, somebody who saw a good young kid who was just doing the wrong things. That showed me that there was a different path and he showed me that I could do something that I really loved to do instead of doing what I thought I had to do, which is well, and I had a job, a company that was an electronics company is Phillips Electronics.

John Assaraf: And that as the scenario, you know, for eight hours a day and the little three by five cards writing when inventory came in and when inventory went out, and that was, it was mindless. And so I knew that I didn't want that, but I also didn't know that there were other options for me. So the first thing that he did was he had me, Oh, if I could do other things, what would it be? What would my life be like? What would I feel like? What would I be doing? Where would I be going? Who would I be helping? And as soon as I started to think about that side of it, even though I didn't know how, even though I didn't have the knowledge or the skills, he then said, well, those who gain after you decide what it is you really would love to do.

John Assaraf: And so he gave me a little glimpse, of hope. And then he backed off of the hope with a plan. And every day he had me focusing on my goals every day have me listening to (back then)cassette tapes every day have me reading things that fertilized my mind, and showed me how people overcome obstacles, how people can overcome their lack of confidence or certainty. They're not good enough or smart enough or deserving enough. And each day he showed me that it was possible. And in him guiding me and him loving me and caring about me to take this time to show me the path, I started to see that maybe I could. And then my maybe turned into a lot more. And I started to learn the process, but I never learned before for self-acceptance or self-love for gaining more knowledge and upgrading my skills because I was never afraid of work. I was just doing the wrong work. I was never afraid of thinking. I was just thinking the wrong things. I was never afraid of my emotions, but I just didn't know what to do with the ones that I had.

Andrea Samadi: Wow, everyone can have access to your mentor. That changes your thinking.

John Assaraf: But that's the work I do today with understanding, you know, many of these concepts. No, they're real life things that we can start to help individuals understand. At 19 he put me on a path, learning how I could become more so I could do more and give more and heal more. And it's been a journey of learning and growing and overcoming obstacles and achieving some great successes, favorable, wonderful failures that, you know, are some of my best lessons and all of that. You know, the painting of my life has been developed and that that's what makes the smiles. It's all the good, the bad, the ugly, the challenging, the amazing, the downright, Oh my gosh. And and ashamed and guilty and, and blame and all of that stuff. And learning how to navigate through that is really what helped me.

Andrea Samadi: Wow, that's a great, great story and excellent lessons. What are some strategies that really helped you because I know a lot of people have an idea, they set goals and then they only know what they know. I know how you found a mentor, but how, how would just any regular person out there figure out what to do next?

John Assaraf: Yeah, I think there's a couple of fundamentals that are really critical.

John Assaraf: Machio Kaku, a quantum scientist from New York University who is being interviewed with a group of other people on what is genius. And he said something really profound and he said in his University, he has many childs prodigy toward geniuses and let's say mathematics or physics. And it says a genius in an area without the will to the drive, succeed in the past, succeed will fizzle out. And so one of the things that I learned early on was setting goals is one part of the equation. And while I'm talking to you, I'm going to get up because I just saw a signal that my battery was dying. So give me one second.

John Assaraf: And I will, just plug in my computer and then, okay, excellent, share while I shift my office here. And so a couple of things that I, realized, that I think sports gave me the benefit of, was the power of repetition. So if you were to learn the alphabet, if you were to learn how to walk, if you're to learn, language or your low spots to learn guitar there are the basics. You practice the basics, which allows you to then move to a little bit more complex, know the activity or action, which allows you to go from knowing, conscious effort to unconscious competence. And so I learned the power of perfect practice when I was very, very young because you have to practice the layup perfectly. You have to practice getting the puck in the net for hockey perfectly.

John Assaraf: You have to practice doing it right, not just doing it. So when I've gone into the world of business and the world of sales and the world, I wasn't afraid to practice and to fail and to stand back up. But I also learned a really important lesson. And that was around being resourceful when you don't have resources. Yes. So one of my earliest lessons when I was 16 years old is I wanted to go to basketball camp and my family didn't have money to send me to a basketball game. I lived in Montreal, basketball camp was in New York. It was with a professional basketball player. And the camp was like, you know, $1,000 and my family couldn't afford $1,000. And so somebody said to me, well, why don't you just see if you could work at the camp. So I called the campus and said "Hey, is there work?"

John Assaraf: The camp said, "no." I said, "I really want to come to the camp. What can I do to come to the camp?" And I remember the gentleman's name, Alex Robinson, I'm telling you this is 39 years ago. 39 years ago, Alex Robinson said to me, "I'll let you come for a discounted price if you can bring four other kids with you." I said, "okay." So I started to ask every kid that I knew who may want to go to camp, to go to basketball camp. That's why I got all the kids and they paid, their parents, paid for them. And Alex let me come to basketball camp for $500 of which I paid $250 because I had a paper route and my father and mother came up with the other $250. The point that I want to make is when you don't have resources, you have to think of being resourceful. And there are so many ways to achieve something. So if you need knowledge or information, Google it, go to Coursera, go to all of the places that offer free knowledge and information. Start there if you need, in order to upgrade your knowledge and skills on sales, marketing, management, finance, health, relationships, career, business, spirituality, you don't need to spend a nickel and you could keep busy for the next five years. That's right.

John Assaraf: And nobody has, nobody has the right any more to say, you know, I can't, I don't know. it's too hard. Baloney! And so resourcefulness is really, really, really critical. The other part of it was to learn how to not take rejection personally. And again, I'll go back to when I was a kid. I wanted, to win the school raffle contest for selling the most raffle tickets. Some kids sold chocolates, but we sold raffle tickets, the deal you buy for a dollar or $5 for a book of 10, whatever the case is. And the first prize was a bicycle and my family couldn't afford to buy me a bicycle. And so I was taught by the gym teacher how to ask people to buy raffle tickets. And so where most kids went "Hey, do you want to buy a raffle ticket?"

John Assaraf: I said, Hey, how would you like to help me win a bicycle while you help our school paint the murals in the school so we'd have a much more wonderful environment?" He taught me one line, one line! Some people don't want to buy a raffel ticket. But it might help you, you know, win a bicycle, they might help the school paint the wall so that the environment is better for the kids. So in one simple sentence I was able to sell 5 or 10 times more raffle tickets than any other kid, because I asked for help. And that really is the second or third part of this is why are so many of us afraid to ask for help and say, "I don't know. Could you please help me?" And the reason I suggest that is there are so many people with the knowledge, the skills, the contacts, the resources, the blueprint, the map, that want to help others.

John Assaraf: But they don't ever get asked or people are just afraid because they're afraid of being rejected. And so I learned many years ago that when people reject, they don't reject you, 99.9% of the time they reject what you may have offered them. They may reject the product, the service the request, but not you. And rejection of a product, service or request is something that either works for them or doesn't, but also could be that you didn't ask the right way. And so that's where hour yours my responsibility learn how to do whatever it is that we need to do at the highest level possible. And in the world that we live in, in the world of whether it's sports, music, money, business,

John Assaraf: there are people that do at the kindergarten, okay. Level. I don't mean teaching at the kindergarten level, but being in average kindergarten teacher, there are people that do it at a very, very, very high level. And I decided many years ago I want to play whatever game I was playing at a high level. And so playing at a high level is a decision that you need to make and then you need to reverse engineer. How do I need to think, what I need to feel What are the knowledge, what are the skills that I need to upgrade to play at that level if I have the aptitude

Andrea Samadi: Wow. Wow. So anybody can be successful, John. Absolutely. Which gives us, which really does give everybody hope. If you're watching this video that John has, I've known who you were for many years--since the late nineties and it's just amazing when I come across some of my notes from eight years ago that you were working on the brain back then, so I just wonder what made you change from what you were doing back then to helping people retrain their brains? Where did that come in?

John Assaraf: I was looking for the missing link to advancing people's results and consistently when I used to teach people,

John Assaraf: well, I used to have business owners pay me $100,000 I would help them create a blueprint of science, strategies, tactics, timelines and they wouldn't do it. You just paid $100,000, you turn $1,000 or $500,000. You know, whether to buy a franchise or get this knowledge and get what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and you didn't do it. I was fascinated. Why aren't people taking action? And it boiled down to a couple things. Once we knew that it wasn't knowing what to do, then it came down to mental and emotional obstacles. Right! And when we broke it down even further, what constitutes, you know, mental abilities-- Well, your ability to focus, your ability to have, your perception and, and so either people, were focusing on the wrong thing. Their attitudes were wrong. They were, they, they framed things in a negative way all the time instead of positive.

John Assaraf: There are mental reasons why people didn't take action. And then that caused certain emotions to stir up. So, people have fear of disappointment. People felt they weren't smarter, They felt they didn't deserve success. Some people felt like were afraid of failure, afraid of disappointment. There were all of these emotional obstacles of why they weren't taking action. So, I said "Hmm, okay, well those are all skills you can learn, right?" Those are all skills. Everybody's brains the same. Wow. It's all brain based. And so, could you teach somebody how to look at things differently? Absolutely. Could you teach somebody how to focus? Absolutely. Could you teach somebody to expand their mind? Absolutely. Could you teach somebody the difference fears that there are and how to navigate through them? Absolutely. Could you teach somebody the different emotions of sadness, guilt, shame, fear? Absolutely. Those are skills that were never taught in school. So I said, "okay, so if they are skills we can teach people. I want to teach them and I'm going to find out the latest in neuropsychology, neuroscience, and molecular biology anything that we could research to find out how do we help people change the way they look at things, so that the things that they look at changes, including themselves."

Andrea Samadi: I love it. I love it because I'm in your group and and I can see what's happening with people. So what do you see? How, how does it make you feel when you look at the work that you're doing to change people's lives?

John Assaraf: Do you know I, I feel like I'm living my life's purpose. And for whatever reason, I've been fascinated with this part of myself. Being a father of two boys and a husband, I'm just fascinated with behavior perception. Why people do what they do, whether it's ISIS and the level of conviction. They have to have to want to kill, you know, entire societies, or people that jump out of, you know, airplanes or people that are petrified at home when they've got three PhDs. I'm fascinated with why. And the more I learned about myself, the more I know about you, the more I learn about others, the more I know about myself. And so I've just been fascinated with the question of how can I help, you know, and on my, on my own goals, how do I help billions of people? And so I'm looking for the answers to be able to take what we discover, what I find is my passion and what my life's purpose is and take it to the world in a way that there's many people who want to learn, learn, and have access to it.

Andrea Samadi: I love it. So what's the best place if someone's watching this and they want to learn more about brain training? Is it that's the best place?

John Assaraf: is the best place and we'll be releasing some really neat things in the next year, two years, three years that we believe will help individuals who really want to pass their lives and do what I'm what I call deliberate conscious evolution of themselves.

Andrea Samadi: I love it. John, do you ever think that we're going to have like some of these neat equipment things in classrooms virtual (augmented) reality? Do you think that's ever gonna be discovered?

John Assaraf: It's already happening! There's already, computer brain interfaces that are being installed in people's brains right now. Mostly individuals that, need help because they have a paralysis or stroke victims or Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. So we already know this computer brain interfaces as they're happening. They just in the last, 30 days, they were able to just transfer, a behavior from one mouse or a laboratory rat to another and they were able to transfer information from one brain to another so that the second rats had a neural pathway, for a certain behavior without having had gone without having gone through the exercise that the one rat had to do in the learning that the one that had to do. So there is, there already is the early phases of that happening. Now, our brains, there's no question in my mind that in our lifetime our brain will be connected to the internet and have information disposable at any time.

John Assaraf: Second, we won't have to have the information reside in our own brain as part of our memory system. We will be part of its collective memory system. But also I believe that just like in The Matrix, you're were able to in character Neo, download the program for jui jitzu or kung fu and go "Oh, I know kung fun" it's a neural pathway. You would figure out how to create a neural pathway, no different than or you know how, now they've already started doing research and, and studying on how to take a memory that somebody hasn't had and erase the memory. It's a neural pattern. So if you can erase the memory, you can insert a memory, but also we are in that era right now.

Andrea Samadi: Fascinating John! I look forward to continuing my studies with you and thanks for all you're doing for the world. (John) It's my joy and thanks for being such a great student and advocate and  helping many people as well. Thanks, John. You're welcome.


Civilian Astronaut, and Extreme Adventurer Nik Halik on “Overcoming Adversity to Create an Epic Life!”

Civilian Astronaut, and Extreme Adventurer Nik Halik on “Overcoming Adversity to Create an Epic Life!”

December 10, 2019

Welcome to EPISODE #31, this is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Today we have a flashback interview from 2016. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some of our high-level interviews that are hosted in our online learning portal for schools and the workplace. These interviews are eye-opening with some of the most powerful insights from world leaders, and high achievers from around the globe. This interview was audio only, but there are some visuals on YouTube of Nik's work.

Today I want to introduce you to The Thrillionaire® Entrepreneurial Alchemist, Civilian Astronaut, Extreme Adventurer, and Keynote Speaker. Nik Halik is the founder and CEO of Lifestyle Revolution and 5 Day Weekend®. He became a multi-millionaire and amassed great wealth through savvy investments in property, business and the financial markets. Nik’s group of companies have financially educated and life coached over 1 Million clients in over 57 countries.

Nik has trekked to over 157 countries, dived to the wreck of the Titanic to have lunch on the bow, been active as a mountaineer on some of the world's highest peaks, performed a HALO skydive above the summit of Mt Everest in the Himalayas, climbed into the crater of an exploding erupting volcano [1,700 Degrees Fahrenheit] for an overnight sleepover and just recently, entering the hermit kingdom of North Korea to expose a sweat shop factory operating illegally for an American conglomerate. To learn more about Nik Halik visit or find him on Twitter @nikhalik or Facebook Nik Halik. He was the back-up Astronaut for the NASA / Russian Soyuz TMA-13 flight to the International Space Station in 2008. He currently remains in mission allocation status for a future flight to Earth's only manned outpost in orbit– the International Space Station with the Russian Federation.


Andrea Samadi: He has a crazy background. If you look him up, you can see, and when you get to know Nik, you learn that he's humble down to earth with zero ego. He just wants to do as much as he can to help others. Take a listen to what Nik has to say. His story is so powerful, it will blow your mind on how he's taken his vision for his life and created a screenplay for that vision and how he's living that out now.


Question 1: I’ve never seen anyone who has set and achieved such high goals for themselves. What was the situation that ignited your passion to live life to its fullest?

Question 2: How did you heal your body so you could go out into the world and accomplish your goals?

Question 3: Nik, you make everything look so simple. Was what you have done difficult? How do you approach the obstacles you have faced?

Question 4: Do you still count down each day in your life so you live each day to it’s fullest? NOTE: The ticker website is no longer working, but the concept or idea is valuable.

Question 5: What do you do in your down time? Do you watch tv and if so, what are you watching/learning from these days?

Introduction: For the first decade of his life, Nick Halik was medically confined to his bedroom, so at age eight he drafted the screenplay of his life, including his top 10 list of goals. At age 14 he opened up his very first business. At age 17 he relocated to Hollywood, California to perform live on stage. At age 19 he bought his very first investment property. Five years later, he became a multimillionaire. Now he owns private homes in the most beautiful places on earth, nature versus the planet and pursues exciting how your adrenaline and Epic adventures. He has summited the highest mountains in the world and visited over 100 countries. He's dived down five miles and had lunch on the bow of the ship wreck Titanic. He empowers thousands of individuals, passionately sharing his life story and insights on how to live a true life. In 2009, he wrote an additional goal to create and inspire 1 million new thrilling airs across the globe and to sell fund the building of educational schools in poor remote villages across South America and Africa. Nik became a flight qualified and certified civilian astronaut. Now he's set to rocket to outer space, live on a space station and with future plans to walk the lunar surface of the moon, completing the remainder of his original top 10 list of goals. Let's give a warm welcome to global wealth strategists, successful entrepreneur, national speaker, astronauts, high adrenaline adventure and best selling author.

Andrea Samadi: Nik, we are thrilled to speak with you today where we reached you today.

Nik Halik:  I'm just basically, you know, in a airline lounge right now. I've just been traveling around the world. I've been in Iran, Italy, and Brazil the last,  10 days. I've been in a whirlwind tour. And, right now I'm just making my way to Asia and Australia the next few days.

Andrea Samadi: So exciting. Now, Nik, the purpose of this call is to inspire young people who study the Jumpstart to Success program. So they're motivated and empowered by your story to create their own exciting ethic following your lead in example. Now I'm going to give a quick background for those who are listening and have not heard of Nik Halik yet, but if anyone goes on Google and just looks up your name, you'll be blown away by what he has accomplished in his lifetime. Now, Nik, I've never heard of people who've set goals like this. Can you go and explain to our listeners what situation influenced you to set such extraordinary goals for yourself

Nik Halik: Definitely you know, like, I mean for the first 10 years of my life, for those who are not really privy to my life story, but,  I was medically confined to my bedroom. I had chronic allergies, debilitating asthma, and I pretty much led that the boy in the plastic bubble type life kind of thing. I never really joined academia until about age 10. So I believe my initial conditioning was somewhat different because I sort of grew up, I mean my, my initial mentors where the encyclopedia Britannica and the world of Tintin who was this animated cartoon hero, this Robin reporter going into most craziest adventures around the world. And it's amazing how sort of reflect on my life. I mean there's the articulate side, but there's also the, the, there's also the,  the kaleidoscopic adventurous side gang on wakey crazy adventures and all sorts of this kind of things.

Nik Halik: So for me, I sort of grew up differently because the world, to me, that, I will never be able to lead, live a ordinary life. I mean, I'll always be played by medical complications, medical hurdles or whatever. So for me, I've, I just changed the polarity on the whole world. I mean, I just changed my whole map of the world. In fact, you know, basically everybody knows, I just perceived it as a temporary. Yes and I just, I kind of, I just changed the polarity of my thinking. So an actual fact as opposed to being tired, I was going to live a very ordinary lifestyle. I knew that I to extract more out of my life in order to live a more extra ordinary type life. So at age eight, I drafted the screenplay to my life and those top 10 list of goals, is basically consumed over 32 years of my life and I'm still acting out those goals, those very same goals.

Andrea Samadi: Wow. What a story.That's just amazing. I can understand how it happened because I'm a mom and I had a daughter who was ill, very ill, young, and so I'd had to pull her out of school so I understand how it happened, but in my head, at age 10, how did you, did you heal yourself, do you think?

Nik Halik: Here's the thing, I mean, I was placed in an incubator round about 30 days old and I mean I was, I was actually born a 10 pound five ounces and I, and I lost a lot of weight. I got really sick, was in and out of hospitals for like for the first, you know, the first eight years kind of thing. And that was tough and for a long time there, you know, in incredibly paranoid parents as you can imagine. But here's the thing, you know, say pharmaceutically,  doped, you know, addicted and it wasn't around until about age 10 that I basically just stopped taking all the pharmaceutical drugs. You see. The thing was my immune system was so addicted. These debilitating and chronic allergies and asthma.

Nik Halik: What have you, I mean, You are so weak that I'm even a sick of dust and in cental Poland. But, I stopped, I changed the polarity thinking I stopped, I refuse to go the doctors and the hospitals and I refuse to take the medication. And, it wasn't like an overnight turnaround. But, it was a gradual process and I just, you know, I mean, I really healed. But here's the thing, I, I believe that the doctors and the pharmaceutical industry had sabotaged my health and all I basically did was, you know, I gave life to that particular you know, mindset I guess. And I, I had personally altered that particular paradigm and change it. So I can just, I can do things more on my terms as opposed to being dictated to by the pharmaceutical industry.

Andrea Samadi: absolutely. So you really did find and prove the mind body connection,

Nik Halik: And it's like a particular frequency. Once you dial into it, it's like bottles of the bag. It's like there was just, you know, there was a whole world that that appeared to me kind of thing. And, for me, what really kept me going was when I, when I sort of digested and absorbed every page of the encyclopedia Britannica, I knew there was a world that that existed outside my bedroom windows kind of thing. And that was the one of those that was that captivating, caliber budding type energy though that kept me going because I wanted to like, you know, live their life that existed in the encyclopedia Britannica. And I knew that all's all up to me and that's an actual day. And the crazy thing was a, I wrote down my top 10 list of goals and as I reflect on our same top 10 list of goals, inadvertently what I did was I drafted the screenplay to my life because, and, and since age eight, you know, I've been the actor, the producer, and a director of my top 10 screenplay that I wrote down as an eight year old.

Nik Halik: And you know, I'm still accountable to their young eight year old. They're still resides in my heart because here's my coach and I'm still the student because it's the little, this little eight year old kid still inside me, they're still dictates and drives my life.

Andrea Samadi: Wow. Nick, it's such a powerful story when, when I read what you've accomplished, I was curious how you got past and healed your body to start blowing out all your goals so at age 14 opening your first business. It couldn't have just happened. Like it seemed like it was so easy for you.

Nik Halik: I mean, trust me, I've had every medical, every medical hurdle and obstacle. I mean, I'm going to want, I embrace obstacles. I love obstacles. I look, I seek obstacles where most people actually feel and a deterred by them. For me, it's the only way to grow and for me. And so I'm so fortunate, even though I had all these, I had all these medical dramas, I'm so fortunate to have had that type of experience because it extracted more out of my life. It extracted more out of me because, you know, being pharmaceutically addicted, I lost my faculty of thinking. Whereas I claimed ownership on my thinking and you know, and you know. And an interesting thing was, you know, those top 10 list of goals. I didn't view it as a, as a bucket list because I don't believe in bucket lists.

Nik Halik: I think, I think buckle is a very negative because you know, why have a buckle list and you know, and then you know, be told you've got terminal cancer and then one day decide to live a life. I mean, I became the assessment on my own life. In other words, they become this. I became like an assassin going out there to make sure that I extract the most kaleidoscopic adventures and just add as much color into my life and nothing because I was deprived of that in my first book and using my life. Trust me. I mean, you know, I've just, life has just reciprocated with interests for me.

Andrea Samadi: Absolutely. I actually saw an interview that you did on 21st century TV with Lou Hardy that you mentioned that you had somewhere a ticker. Do you still do that Are you still, um, timing each day as if it's your last

Nik Halik: yeah, I've actually got a, I'll put up a website a number of years ago and it's basically my, my countdown clock to my life expiry enough basically every day. I mean, I'm, you know, I, all my life I've always, I've always done the most extreme things, but I've always polarized and changed the polarity of how I basically view life. NOTE: The ticker is no longer on Nik's website, but the idea is still valuable.

Nik Halik: I mean, look, there are statistics out there that basically tell how long I'm going to live for, for example, a female in America is about, uh, about 81 and for a male 77 is the average. Well, here's the thing, why do people buy into this? What do people bind to these statistics? And what I view, you know, these are invested interests, is, is there an agenda. And it turned out to a lot of individuals when they do retire with continues in retirement, most people tend to die because they've lost it. They've given up a purpose led life a lot without purpose, basically all you're doing is you'll, you'll, you're retiring and you'll find your job securing preparation to dichotomy. So for me, I love life because I knew that the first 10 years of my life were very, very young and very tumultuous kind of thing.

Nik Halik: So for me, I love live and I've gone to great lengths to make sure that I loved my life and live my life each day as if it's my lines kind of thing. And genetically wise, looking at my family tree, my great, great grandparents, my grandparents, and you know, really exemplary the family tree and examining my culture, the foods that I eat, how I live my life. I sort of worked out a particular age that I see foreseeable in relation to my light's expiring date. And I created a, I created a countdown clock.

Nik Halik: I've got a thousand of clients who are using my philosophy and they've taught me that the productivity levels have skyrocketed over 200% because they're getting more done on the day. They're this, they're smiling, they're more happy each day because they're approaching age days. If it's the last day. And think about it, if today was your last day, what would you do differently You'll extract more out of it. You'll tell people that you love them, you know, your contact friends they haven't seen in years, and take them out to lunch, you'll go down and do dates, point of vigils without the accolades kind of thing. You'd go in there and make a difference. So that's exactly how I approached my life on a daily basis. So, I mean today, I've got you can, you can probably, I'll tell you exactly how many, how many thousands of hours I've got to go.

Nik Halik: Um, It's probably about, I mean, you've probably got a you could probably say for yourself, but it's a very, very unique social experiment that's really had a great impact on my clients.

Andrea Samadi:So there is no television watching on your end? I see you don't waste your time?

Nik Halik: I'll look, I'll watch probably television at nighttime kind of thing. But for me it's gotta be, um, it's going to be educational. It's gonna be something, it's going to be insightful. And it's unfortunate. I mean, I live in the United States in an 85% of American television is all reality TV. I mean, you know, there's, here's the thing, the system right now, the way it works, there's, there's a, there's an agenda right now about the dumbing, the dumbing down and the numbing, the numbing down on the world's population. Because when you dumbed down the population, you keep them in field and then capitalism kicks in and you make sure that, um, uh, society basically takes on way too much debt.

Nik Halik: Now they live in fear of losing their house, their job, their car, and whatever kind of thing. And now you're, you're dumbing down the population. You feed them crap on television, which means you're now able to control the population. It control the faculty of their respective thinking. And what happens People die on time. Why Because it's, it's, I mean, look, there's, there's a lot of thinking around this. And the way I look alive is I'm not gonna allow anybody else to dictate their perception of me. I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna allow anybody else to define my reality. In other words, I've drafted my own screenplay of my own date, my own expiry date. Uh, in life. There are two rules. One of the one, there are no rules. One, number two is don't forget rule number one. And that's pretty much how I view live.

Nik Halik: And I, I can control anything in the world except the weather and traffic. But I want to, I want control. I want total dominion about everything in life. And for me, it's all about I'm living, love my own terms and conditions at all times.

Andrea Samadi: Absolutely, did anyone discourage you or laugh when you showed them your goals?

Nik Halik: You know what, And it only served the purpose of energizing me further. And I love it. I, NASA is a lab dream still is. A lot of individuals are say no because I perceived a person's no as a temporary. Yes. Because ultimately I will always get in my way. Right. You know, you know, I'll negotiate my way out of any particular circumstance in life. I'll always get to my way because, you know, for me it's, it's, it's, it's not about changing my life.

Nik Halik: I want to impact other people's lives because in the words of Socrates, Socrates said in life, and let it be measured by your contribution. You know So for me, I view myself and my teachings as a bottle break for, you know, for freedom seeking free spirit of visionaries, change agents, rebels, rockstars, entrepreneurs and pioneers. And that is my why. That's what defines me. That's what drives me and me. That's what I'm, you know, that's what really calibrates me because there are individuals just like me who says they are different, you know, I mean, you know, I mean, I've cut a part of my life now to the highest order right now. You know, why Because I sensed the disturbances in the fabric of human society and I knew there was something there. And I'm new and I'm, and I view my teachings and my, my, my role as a leader right now, you know, uh, I'm a big enough light, Illumina and a path for others to follow. I want to be a lighthouse. I want to inspire them so they in turn can inspire the next generation and the next generation kind of thing. Because, you know, the way I look at it, there's a brain rewarding neural pathway, which gives access to that reckless life quality that produces this particular calibration of energy.

Andrea Samadi: Absolutely.  How did you, who mentored you to get to this level of thinking I know the adventures of Tintin on television, the Britannica, but, who, who got your mind to this level?

Nik Halik: Yeah. Well, here's the thing, right Um, you know, for the age of the men, I've always been inspired by a lot of individuals. I've always been inspired by a lot of individuals, um, historical figures who then became part of my virtual mastermind in my teenage years. I used to have cutouts on my virtual mastermind individuals from the history. And I would always, I would always recount back to them and go, what would he say What would he do What would they say So I had my virtual mastermind. They were pretty much a part of my life and my teenage years. But it wasn't until I arrived in the United States as a teenager that I'm Bob Proctor's teaching. Bob, we had a great kaleidoscopic influence I have in my life kind of thing. And, you know, Bob gave me a set of You Were Born Rich and Bob Proctor also exposed me to Napoleon Hill or all in the same year.

Nik Halik: And mind you, I was only a teenager at this particular point. And the funny thing is being exposed to Napoleon Hill's work by Bob Proctor, I'm now an advisor for the Napoleon Hill Foundation. I've actually partnered with them and I've been involved at a couple of projects with them, in a couple of their, products, which is, which has been a great, a great testimony to their particular calibrating mindset kind of thing. But being exposed as a young teenager and now being an advisor for their sane Napoleon Hill Foundation,  and absolute buzz. But definitely I actually, Bob Proctor is my, in a Bob's like the alkaline battery of the personal development industry kind of thing. And Bob Proctor, you know, I call him my godfather, but, he's had his, an amazing impact on my life too. And I love the guy. I mean, I'm going to be with him in a couple of months time. We'll be speaking together in Toronto, in Canada. But, he truly is an Epic individual.

Andrea Samadi: Absolutely. We share the same mentor. He's behind the whole Jumpstart to Success program through videos. And he's definitely the one that I met in my late twenties that changed my path.

Nik Halik: Right. Definitely. It like, you know, he drills deeper than anybody else in the industry kind of thing. And like is a, is it really is a, it's just a, is this a wonderful noble individuals, a wonderful person.

Andrea Samadi: Exactly. Now, Nick, what are you doing now with your time What's your next step

Nik Halik: Well, for me, I'm, I'm on this constant quest to basically, visit every country on the planet. I've now been to 135 countries. I've got 63 more countries remaining. You know, I've climbed the highest mountains in the world. You know, I've had lunch in the Titanic, I've rocketed into space. You know, I've, I've explored the deepest caves with the largest crystals on the planet. So for me, it's all about adding more color to my life, you know, and I've got, all those remaining 10 goals that are right down as a young eight year old, eight down, two to go. I've got to fly to the international space station in the coming years that I've already negotiated with the Russian government. And the bigger hurdle, which will be number one, will be toward the lunar surface of the moon. And, um, I've got a backup plan if my life was to expire for whatever reason, I've already paid an American consortium to rock and my crematory remains to the literal sense of the moon.

Nik Halik: That way I will get to walk an event because on the moon there is no atmosphere, no rain, no wind, meaning where my ashes are sprinkled on the moon, I will get to walk on the moon irrespective, I guess, you know. So for me it's all about, um, you know, um, there's so much I want to do and it's like I'm, I'm just, you know, I'm, I'm blessed to live this life and I don't waste each day. I, man, I make each day count, you know, I want to impact people's lives on a daily basis kinda thing. And for me that's, that's what's really, um, as what's calibrated very, very strong in me ever since I was a young boy kind of thing. And, you know, ultimately it's my responsibility to leave the world a better place. You know, it's the legacy, it's the footprints that I'll leave behind and I want to keep that big and of light, still illuminating for the next few centuries. That is

Andrea Samadi: absolutely. Well, Nick, you're incredibly inspiring and we want to follow you and keep up learning from you as you keep moving forward. What's the best way for people to learn and watch you?

Nik Halik: Definitely

Andrea Samadi: Well, you're such an inspiration, Nick, and I want to thank you so much for taking the time as you're traveling on the road and all over the world to speak with our students that will study the Jumpstart to Success program. We're going to follow you and I'll keep everyone updated on where Nik is and we just want to thank you so much. You're an amazing individual, so inspiring and you're definitely making an impact on the world.

Nik Halik: Thank you so much. Definitely. So, you know, in passing, just, you know, dare to dream, Liberty, passion, define your smile and just monetize your passion and monetize your life. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.



Neuroscience Researcher Mark Robert Waldman on “12 Brain-Based Experiential Learning and Living Principles”

Neuroscience Researcher Mark Robert Waldman on “12 Brain-Based Experiential Learning and Living Principles”

December 2, 2019

This is episode #30 with Mark Robert Waldman, one of the world’s leading neuroscience researchers on consciousness, communication, and spirituality, and his discoveries have been published in journals throughout the world. You can listen to the podcast here, or watch the interview and presentation on YouTube.

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Today we have one of the leading neuroscience researchers in the country who I was blessed to be mentored by 5 years ago when I needed to add the most current brain research to my programs. Mark has an international practice as a NeuroCoach, training students and business leaders how to use the latest discoveries in neuroscience to enhance personal and professional development.  I can say that if I was able to learn this information, well enough to teach it to others, that anyone can. Mark took his time and was patient as I learned the basics of neuroscience and he taught me in such a way that I never once felt that the information was too difficult to grasp though it did take effort and focus to learn these new concepts.

Mark has authored 14 books, including the bestseller How God Changes Your Brain, an Oprah pick in 2012. His new book called NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success contains 100 evidence-based strategies, with guided audios and videos, showing you how to manipulate and balance the major networks of consciousness, awareness, and imagination.  These tools are now used in schools, health centers, and businesses throughout the world.  He teaches at Loyola Marymount University and his work has been featured in Time Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Oprah Magazine. He has been on hundreds of radio and television programs including PBS and NPR. For more information, go to  You can find Mark on Twitter @MarkRWaldman, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Welcome Mark! It’s always fun to speak with you. I’m so grateful for all that you’ve taught me.

I know you have a presentation planned and will share your screen with us. Before we dive into your lesson:

  1. Can you explain what exactly “Neurowisdom”[i] is (the title of your most recent book) and how we can discover this new voice to guide us towards a greater sense of awareness?

Questions Mark will uncover during presentation:

  1. Can you explain the new research that shows “you can consciously teach your brain to lower neural activity that generates negativity and fear and increase neural activity that generates confidence and positive decision-making?”[ii]
  2. Why is mind-wandering essential for problem-solving and decision-making? “If you don’t allow your brain to enter this highly imaginative state of mental activity before a challenging task, your memory, performance and mental health will be compromised.”[iii] Last summer, I watched the baseball player Wilson Ramos[iv], from the NY Mets, sit and meditate before his game while the other players were warming up. His performance in this game was phenomenal with a homerun and focused play and I did wonder about the science behind his focused mind before the game.
  3. What exactly do you mean when you say that “Daydreaming and mind wandering give you direct access to creative talents that are unique to human beings?”[v] Is this our intuition? What talents do we have? When we get flashes of insight how do we know what they mean? Can we misinterpret what we see? How can we best use this talent/skill?
  4. How do you teach mindfulness to your Executive MBA students, so they learn to “remain calm, relaxed, and highly focused on achieving more goals with little stress?” [vi]
  5. Can you explain what happens when your values are not aligned with your work and why this causes “increased neural stress, happiness fades away, and burnout is more likely to occur?”[vii]
  6. Why do we experience deeper levels of happiness and satisfaction with “self-awareness and social awareness?”[viii]

  You Will Learn:

  • What is Brain-based Experiential Learning and Living
  • How to use your Intuition
  • Brain-Network Theory
  • New Brain Science for Overcoming Anxiety
  • How the Brain Learns
  1. Discover how your brain likes to learn (it will surprise you and has nothing to do with what you’ve experienced the classroom)
    2. Find out why mind-wandering and daydreaming are essential for psychological health. Right in line with Srinivasan Pillay’s book “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try” that talks about the default network in the brain and the power of “unfocusing” your brain. Mark’s book “Neurowisdom” was the first book to talk about the default network mode and provides many practical examples for using your brain to improve finances, happiness and success.
    3. Learn how Brain Network Theory is changing the world of neuroscience…and your health!
    4. See what living neurons and networks actually look like.


Mindfulness Bell App (search in the app store)

[i] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)

[ii] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)     Page 23

[iii] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)     Page 24


[v] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)     Page 24

[vi] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)     Page 27

[vii] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)     Page 28

[viii] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)     Page 82


How to Re-Wire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning

How to Re-Wire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning

November 25, 2019

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets SEL” podcast EPISODE #29, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Let’s dive right into this topic on “How to Re-Wire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning.” You can watch this episode on YouTube for the visual effects for more impact and learning.  

I’m sure most of us are aware that stress is the number one cause behind anxiety, depression, low energy, work burn-out, and cardiovascular disease[i], but do you know how stress impacts our brain? Did you know that:

  • Chronic stress and depression causes measurable brain shrinkage?[ii]
  • “51% of us will have a mental health issue (post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive, personality, anxiety, addiction, or an eating disorder to name a few) at some point in their life”[iii] and
  • that 1/5 students struggle with depression, while ¼ struggle with anxiety which means we have reached epidemic levels with today’s youth.

And these shocking statistics impacts society with:

  • Work burn-out
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Neurological Disorders and eventually leading to
  • Death

Also Impacting our Students:

  • A recent study[iv] shows that if the educator is stressed, the student will also be stressed
  • Stress is impacting our ability to learn
  • Student behavior was also impacted, contributing to more stress for educators

Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist of the Amen Clinics[v] and the father of Chloe Amen from podcast #25 with “Strategies to Change Your Brain to Change Your Grades”[vi] explains that “if you struggle with attention, focus, sadness, anxiety, worry, flexibility, stubbornness, or impulsivity, welcome to the club—this is normal.”[vii] These days it is more normal to have a problem, than not have a problem. Most of us will have a mental health issue in our lifetime—and when it happens, we think that we are the only one and that no one else understands. Dr. Amen has a book coming out in March 3, 2020 called “The End of Mental Illness: How Neuroscience is Transforming Psychiatry and Helping Prevent or Reverse Mood and Anxiety Disorders, ADHD, Addictions, PTSD, Psychosis, Personality Disorders and More.”[viii] If left untreated, these brain disorders can have “serious personal, interpersonal, occupational and social consequences.”[ix] 

In this podcast episode, we are going to look at the neuroscience of happiness, anxiety, stress, learning and retention with some ideas and strategies to naturally improve each area, so that we can get a handle on life’s largest challenges with an understanding of our brain chemistry. Our goal is to intentionally set ourselves up for success with this new level of awareness.

We will cover:

  • A reminder of the recipe for peak performance (fun, fear, focus) from episode #27.
  • What’s the neuroscience of happiness—and how to boost our serotonin levels to generate more happiness.
  • What’s the neuroscience of anxiety (our body’s natural response to stress that can become a mental disorder when someone regularly feels unusually high levels of anxiety) and stress (which is our body’s response to a challenge or demand) with strategies to calm our limbic, emotional brain.
  • What’s the neuroscience of learning and how can we be sure that our brain is primed to learn?

All of the answers to these questions can be found within the chemistry of our brain and with how active or hard certain parts of the brain are working. The best course I have taken to understand how my own brain is working is Dr. Amen’s Thrive by 25 Online Course[x] where he outlines some of the most common problems he sees within the brain with natural solutions to overcome each challenge. The most interesting fact I found was that diet and exercise were solutions to the most common brain problems he spoke about, (anxiety/depression/emotional issues) so if you are eating healthy, getting enough sleep, taking supplements and exercising, you are on the right track for preventing the most common brain problems.  

Have you ever thought about your brain with regards to your work, learning, success or productivity? What about your happiness, personal life or relationships? “Your brain controls everything that you do, so when it works right, you work right.”[xi] It’s only been the past five years for me, where I’ve been learning about the importance of my brain and its health and I’m not surprised that the recent advances in neuroscience have led to an emerging field of educational neuroscience—bringing together researchers in cognitive neuroscience, educational psychology, and technology to create new programs for the classroom. Why not look at the application of these ideas for the workplace and our personal lives as well?

Mental health is something that society still doesn’t talk openly about. When I look at my personal family situation, with my 2 parents and 2 sisters and myself—my parents and both of my sisters struggled with depression at one point. You can add me to statistics as I didn’t figure out healthy eating habits until my late 20s when a doctor[xii] recommended I cut sugar out of my diet, (I’m talking about all sugar, including high glycemic fruits) and it completely transformed my life, cleaning up every health issue I had. Although our family didn’t talk about the importance of our mental health growing up, or the importance of diet and exercise (I remember begging my Dad to let me go running in an ice storm because exercise has always been my solution to improve well-being) my Mom  taught us about the importance of using our mind to attain our goals.  I’m sure no one was surprised when I decided to take move from Toronto (where half the year we dealt with dark, gloomy days and freezing weather) to the sunny, bright and warm climate in Arizona, with year round sunshine and vast mountains for daily exercise, --what research shows combats the most common brain problems.  The environment you live in impacts your happiness, but if you don’t have the ability to pick up and move somewhere else, there are many other strategies you can incorporate to boost your mood, which is turn will boost your results. As a kid, I also wondered if helping my parents more with tidying the house would help offset some of their stress, but I know now, that there was much more involved with what was happening to them than just needing help with housework. Understanding the chemistry of our brain, and what brain type[xiii] we have is important, and then we can look for strategies to help promote our brain and body health for optimal results in our life.

NOTE: Look up and take Dr. Amen’s Brain Type Assessment[xiv] to get an idea of what type of brain you have. You will receive an email with a video explaining your brain type, characteristics of this type of brain, dietary suggestions for your specific brain type and a full report with your brain fit score. My Brain Fit Score was 82/100 and Brain Type 1 and I’m fully aware of the areas I can improve on. The dietary suggestions were also right on the mark for me. Awareness is the key so that we can take action for these improvements to occur. Try it out!

Remember the Neuroscience of Success: Dopamine, Noradrenaline, Acetyl Choline (Fun, Fear, and Focus)

In our podcast #27 with Friederike Fabritius, we covered the DNA of success or peak performance[xv] which is that brain state where we lose the presence of time and are the most productive. She mentioned the importance of having fun with your work, releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, having just enough fear or a challenge to release the neurotransmitter noradrenaline and that with these two factors, focus will occur, and the neurotransmitter acetyl choline will be released. These three factors must be in place for peak performance to occur and when we hit this level of performance, it’s important that we are able to manage our distractions so that we can stay here for as long as possible for those higher levels of productivity.

Throughout the episodes on this podcast, I’ve been focused on finding those leaders who are doing important work in the field of social emotional learning and neuroscience—to show how these two emerging fields can impact our cognitive abilities. It’s clear that people are drawn to this work, not just in schools, but this understanding has implications in different areas of society like economics, law and security.[xvi] It’s interesting to see how understanding how our minds and brains work in addition to self-awareness is spreading around the world as more and more people are looking for solutions to life’s challenges from within. I also noticed that listeners to this podcast are increasing rapidly as we now are in over 42 countries. I do appreciate the feedback and support for these ideas, and it does help me to hear what you think as we move ahead.  Each of these episodes are currently being transcribed and will be released as my next book.

What is the Neuroscience of Happiness? Increase Serotonin with that 5:1 Ratio of Positives to Negatives

We all want to experience happiness, and there is a neuroscience to happiness. Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and New York Times Best Selling author, is one of the leading experts in the neuroscience of happiness. In the 2019 Mindful Peace Summit, he opened his session by explaining that he got into the work of mindfulness and began searching for answers to the neuroscience of happiness because in his youth he “wondered why people were so unhappy, including himself. He wanted to be less lonely, and more proud of himself”[xvii] and recalled that most of his childhood consisted of feeling “less than” others so he grew up lacking confidence in himself. If we don’t get the acceptance we needed growing up, that will translate into an emptiness that lingers in your mindset and will impact our future performance. Dr. Hanson explains that if you want to be more confident, you must “embrace experiences that bring out your confidence.”[xviii] We see many young people, like the successful podcaster Lewis Howes,[xix] (Who does The School of Greatness Podcast)[xx] who were bullied as a kid, turn to boxing or wrestling as a way to fight back and gain this confidence back.

Dr. Hanson noticed in college that when he ignored how he was feeling, he just kept feeling bad about himself, but when he had a positive experience, and stayed with it, over time he was able to build more positive experiences than negative, building up his confidence. He explains that “neurons that fire together, wire together” and he was actually rewiring his brain from being insecure and negative, to confident and positive.  We also know that you can “name it to tame it”[xxi] and when you are able to express what you are feeling, these feelings and emotions become manageable. There is also the negativity bias to be aware of where the brain must have at least a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative interactions so that the negative interaction won’t cause an impact. As parents, teachers, coaches and co-workers we must remember that when giving someone feedback, we must have at least five positive things to say to every one negative thing since “good experiences bounce off the brain like Teflon and bad experiences stick to the brain, like Velcro.”[xxii] Be sure to consciously focus on the positive experiences so you won’t let that one negative experience stick around, or it will impact your mindset and future results.

Remember: The brain has mood chemicals called neurotransmitters that are “chemical messengers sent into the synapse (of a neuron) by an electrical charge in the axon, released at the synaptic gap to communicate with dendrites of another neuron, impacted heavily by exercise, and nutrition. Levels of the different neurotransmitters have a profound effect on emotion, perception, memory, alertness, and energy.”[xxiii] If you are someone who enjoys intense exercise, you will notice the benefits of endorphins that are released in the brain and reduce our perception of pain.  Researchers are still not sure what causes us to have chemical imbalances in the brain, when we don’t feel right, there are some things we can do to change the chemistry of our brain. 


  1. Embrace experiences that bring out your confidence. Do you know what makes you happy? This takes self-awareness. Do you know what makes other people happy? Do you ask them? Learn more about other by saying “Hey, how’s it going today?” and listen to what they say. Taking this extra step will strengthen your relationship with your co-workers, friends or relationship.
  2. Remember the 5:1 negativity bias and say at least five positives to every one negative piece of feedback since good experiences bounce off the brain like Teflon and bad experiences stick to the brain like Velcro.

Remember that “neurons that fire together wire together,”[xxiv] so stay with the positive feelings more and eventually the negative ones will fade away since neurons that are out of psych, fail to link.

  1. Think of news ways to “generate”[xxv] happiness and start practices that make you feel happier and better about yourself. It really is our responsibility to generate our own happiness. No one can do this for you.
  2. Diet and nutrition, supplements and exercise are also important to boost serotonin levels, increasing happiness naturally. You can take “saffron supplements, 5 HTP, exercise, eat low glycemic, healthy carbs (hummus/berries), and keep your gut healthy with probiotics.” [xxvi]


The Neuroscience of Anxiety: Calming the Basal Ganglia

Within our Limbic System, our emotional brain, is the Basal Ganglia that when revved high, makes us feel anxious. Do you know the difference between anxiety (our body’s natural response to stress that can become a mental disorder when someone regularly feels unusually high levels of anxiety) or stress (which is our body’s response to a challenge or demand)? Some anxiety is normal, and the same goes for stress.

We know there are 3 levels of stress response.

  1. POSITIVE: Brief increase in heart rate, mild elevations in stress hormone levels (what happens when we need to speak in front of a crowd, play a sport, take a test, or that nervous energy we feel before a job interview).
  2. TOLERABLE: Serious, temporary stress responses, buffered by supportive relationships. The key is to have support systems in place for this type of stress.
  3. TOXIC: Prolonged activation of stress response systems in the absence of protective relationships. This is the one we are most concerned about as this type of stress causes the most damage.

We must have strategies in place to help us to reduce anxiety and stress so that they don’t interfere with our day to day life.


  1. Exercise, meditation and deep belly breathing to increase oxygen to the brain.
  2. Go for a walk outside-research shows that different brain regions are activated when you’re outside. Getting out into the sunshine increases the production of Vitamin D and serotonin—plus it just feels good. If you can’t go outside, look out a window.
  3. Zone out-let yourself do nothing for a while and just let your mind wander. Research shows that “creative incubation” happens during mind-wandering. You are more likely to problem-solve successfully if you let your mind wander and then come back to the challenge. Dr. Sriny Pillay writes about the power of the unfocused mind in his most recent book “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try” where you sharpen your ability to think and get things done using your ability to make your mind wander. Flashes of insight and solutions to problems often show up at this time, but we must be willing to allow these breaks.
  4. Unplug from technology—silence is good for the brain.
  5. Mental imagery—warming images (like a cup of hot chocolate) if you are feeling stressed, or a place that makes you happy (the beach).
  6. Dietary supplements like fish oil, magnesium, l theanine (in green tea) and gabba supplements are known to help calm the brain.

The Neuroscience of Learning: Acetyl Choline, Dopamine, Serotonin, Noradrenaline

As far as learning, think about this: 

  • Why is it that I can forget some words I used to know in French (but haven’t practiced in a few years) but that I will never forget my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Walker, teaching me to play basketball, or doing math equations.
  • Why is it easier for me to learn a second language at age 5 versus age 55?
  • Why do I learn better after a good night’s sleep?
  • Why is my creativity enhanced when I run up and down a mountain before I sit at my desk?

If there is a formula for peak performance, (Fun, Fear, Focus), a neuroscience to happiness and anxiety, then there must also be one for learning. Bruce McCandliss, professor in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and the director of the Stanford Center for Mind, Brain and Computation, believes that brain-imaging technology is revolutionizing the study of educational experiences and their effect on the brain. These brain images are showing new insights in how children are learning to read. He talks about the fact that “when you focus your mind, you actually amplify the circuits in your brain that lead to learning and amplify information processing.”[xxvii]   This is something we spoke to Dr. Daniel Siegel[xxviii] about (episode #28) with his “Wheel of Awareness” Meditation. When we are focusing intentionally on something (whether it’s our health, relationships, business or learning) we amplify the information processing and change the structure of the brain in this area. We actually re-wire the brain with the activity we are doing. Remember: Neurons that fire together, wire together and neurons that are out of psych, fail to link. Dr. Siegel mentioned that the research was there to show that this practice improves health in addition to many other benefits.

Let’s see if we can take our understanding to the next level with how neuroscience impacts the learning process so we can create more impactful lessons as an educator, thoughtful skill-building drills as a coach, or connect our employees to new ideas and information in an engaging and enjoyable manner.


USE EMOTION AND FREQUENCY OF USE: To help memories stick and “motivation, cues, context and frequency of use can all affect how accurately you remember something.” [xxix] It’s the reason I remember my 6th grade teacher, and frequency of use is the reason I have forgotten most of the French words I used to know.  When learning a new skill, how will you make it memorable?

FIND YOUR FOCUS: If you are a teacher who can creatively get your students to somehow “focus” on their work, you will be re-wiring their brain which will lead to learning.  Whether it’s putting their finger under each word they read or using a pointer on their finger as they read, however you can get a student to focus on what they are learning, is where the magic happens.  If you look at some of the most successful modern workplaces, you will find they have meditation and exercise rooms, dream walls to record vision and goals, plenty of relaxation areas, and of course, a place to grab a cup of tea, water or coffee. Think about starting meetings with a clear intention for the meeting to stay on track and focused on the outcome.

MORE HAPPINESS, JOY, LAUGHTER: The brain thrives with happiness, joy and laughter. The more we can create fun with our learning, we have seen with peak performance and flow states, we will be encouraging learning in a way that time will be lost.  Remember that the recipe for peak performance includes fun! 

Major Neurotransmitters that Impact Learning:

  • Acetyl Choline - plays an important role in learning and memory.
  • Dopamine - involved in conscious and emotional response and basis of the brain's natural reward system, associated with positivity.
  • Serotonin – brain balancer, involved in arousal, temperature regulation, sensory perception, regulates melatonin, involved in relaxing, mood, emotions, learning and memory, affected by exercise, eggs, lean meat contains L-tryptophan which helps make serotonin.
  • Norepinephrine/noradrenaline – arousal, involved in fight or flight stress response, metabolic rate, blood pressure, and mood.[xxx]

On our next episode with Mark Waldman, we will uncover new brain research documented in Mark’s new book Neurowisdom[xxxi] showing that relaxation, creativity, imagination and intuition are essential for learning and problem solving.

  1. Discover how your brain likes to learn (it will surprise you and has nothing to do with what you’ve experienced the classroom)
    2. Find out why mind-wandering and daydreaming are essential for psychological health. Right in line with Srinivasan Pillay’s book “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try” that talks about the default network in the brain and the power of “unfocusing” your brain. Mark’s book “Neurowisdom” was the first book to talk about the default network mode and provides many practical examples for using your brain to improve finances, happiness and success.
    3. Learn how Brain Network Theory is changing the world of neuroscience…and your health!
    4. See what living neurons and networks actually look like.

If we can intentionally practice strategies that reduce our stress and anxiety, while increasing our happiness, we will be well on our way to retaining what we are learning. See you next week!


These suggestions have been compiled as I am researching these areas to offers ideas, strategies and suggestions to bring more awareness to the topics. Please do know that the ideas and strategies I’m sharing with you should not replace seeking professional help[xxxii] if needed.

[i] Chronic stress disrupts neural coherence between cortico-limbic structures João Filipe Oliveira, Nuno Sérgio Dias, Mariana Correia, Filipa Gama-Pereira, Vanessa Morais Sardinha, Ana Lima, Ana Filipa Oliveira, Luís Ricardo Jacinto, Daniela Silva Ferreira, Ana Maria Silva, Joana Santos Reis, João José Cerqueira, Nuno Sousa Front Neural Circuits. 2013; 7: 10. Published online 2013 Feb 6.

[ii] 72 Amazing Brain Facts (Deane Alban, January 2018).

[iii] Brain Thrive by 25 Online Course by Dr. Daniel Amen

[iv] “Social and Emotional Learning, Teacher Well-Being, and Student Success: What Do We Know? And Where do We Go From Here?” Webinar June 5th 2018 with Dr. Mark Greenber, Penn State and Dr. Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl


[vi] 15-year-old Chloe Amen Reveals Strategies on how to "Change Your Brain, Change Your Grades"

[vii] ibid

[viii]Dr. Daniel Amen, March 3, 2020 The End of Mental Illness: How Neuroscience is Transforming Psychiatry and Helping Prevent or Reverse Mood and Anxiety Disorders, ADHD, Addictions, PTSD, Psychosis, Personality Disorders and More.


[x] Brain Thrive by 25 Online Course by Dr. Daniel Amen

[xi] Brain Thrive by 25 Online Course by Dr. Daniel Amen

[xii] Dr. Richard Jacoby and Raquel Baldelomar “Sugar Crush” (Harper Wave, 2nd Edition April 2015)

[xiii] What’s Your Brain Type Quiz by Dr. Daniel Amen

[xiv] What’s Your Brain Type Quiz by Dr. Daniel Amen

[xv] Friederike Fabritius: "Fun, Fear, and Focus: The Neurochemical Recipe for Achieving Peak Performance" | Talks at Google Published Jan.15, 2019

[xvi] Educational Neuroscience Michael Thomas Published July 5, 2018

[xvii] 2019 Mindful Kids Peace Summit

[xviii] Rick Hanson “Hardwiring Happiness” YouTube Published Nov. 7, 2013 TEDx Marin 2013


[xx]Lewis Howes School of Greatness Podcast

[xxi] Dr. Dan Siegel “Name it to Tame it” YouTube Published Dec. 8th, 2014

[xxii] Rick Hanson “Hardwiring Happiness” YouTube Published Nov. 7, 2013 TEDx Marin 2013

[xxiii] Neurotransmitters and Learning by Joseph Georgic April 22, 2015

[xxiv] “Neurons that Fire Together, Wire Together, So Simple” by Andrea Samadi on LinkedIn published Nov. 17, 2016

[xxv] Brendon Burchard “The Secret to Happiness”

[xxvi] Brain Thrive by 25 Online Course by Dr. Daniel Amen  (Lesson 4 Cingulate and Cognitive Flexibility).

[xxvii] Bruce McCandliss “The Neuroscience of Learning: Thinking Big About Learning” YouTube Published Nov. 3, 2015

[xxviii] Dr. Daniel Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence”

[xxix] 72 Amazing Brain Facts by Deane Alban

[xxx] Lizzy Brown Learning on the Move: Brain Parts and Neurotransmitters

[xxxi] Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success by Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning PhD. (Jan.31, 2017).


Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence”

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence”

November 5, 2019

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets SEL” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. This episode is available on YouTube and we highly recommend watching the visuals that go along with this interview for a more immersive experience.

This is episode #28 with Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute where you can find his courses, workshops, books and tools to help anyone understand and apply what can sometimes be complicated scientific concepts and make them easy to understand and applicable to our daily lives. He has dozen books the last time I counted with his most recent parenting book with Dr. Tina Payne called The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired[i] coming out Jan. 7th, 2020. Be sure to pre-order your copy as it has already hit the top 20 books in cognitive neuroscience, child development and neuropsychology. Also, he is working on the 3rd edition of his book The Developing Mind.

Welcome Dan!

Dr. Siegel, I can personally say that I’m a more mindful[ii] parent, more aware[iii] of myself and others, have learned some no-drama discipline[iv] strategies, feel prepared for when my 2 girls reach their teenage years[v], with the reassurance that I don’t have to be perfect, and that I can repair relationships when my buttons have been pushed—all from reading your books the past few years. It’s such an honor to have you here—your influence is significant with the thousands of people around the globe you’ve been helping with your books, mnemonics to remember your strategies, and tools like your Wheel of Awareness Meditation.  Thank you for being so accessible so we can take a deeper dive into some of the important concepts of your work.

Q1: Dr. Siegel, before I get into the questions I have for you, I wanted to ask what led you to write all of these books and create tools to help our next generation become more aware and connected to each other?

Q2: I know we can’t train the next generation of students for the old world; we must do things differently. On our podcast we have been speaking to leaders about the emergence of social and emotional learning skills in our schools and emotional intelligence training programs in the workplace (with people like Casel’s Clark McKown on measuring SEL to Marc Brackett and the importance of Emotional Intelligence and recognizing and naming our feelings.  I know you have been working with the Blue School[vi] in New York City. What skills do you think have been missing in our schools and how do we bring these missing skills back for our next generation of students so that we can prepare them for success in the workplace? (3Rs and what else is missing?)

Q3: When I was in my late 20s I started to study the mind with a motivational speaker and learned some strategies that really helped me as an adult related to thinking positively, having a good attitude, awareness, you know those skills we used to call “soft skills” but 20 years ago, there just wasn’t the research behind SEL and mindfulness. Then I heard you mention that when you began surveying mental health professionals around the world who should know about the mind that “95% of them had never even been given a lecture on the mind, and probably couldn’t even tell you what the definition of the mind was”[vii] ) so you wondered how can we expect to develop it, without this understanding and explore the concept of the mind in your book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation[viii] where you prove that you can define what a healthy mind is, not just describe it.

In your book Mindsight, you say that “Mindsight is the potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence.” What is Mindsight?  What does the research tell us about our ability to change the structure and function of our brain by using this “Mindsight” and how can this potent skill can set up our next generation for success? How are you using “Mindsight” at the Blue School[ix] is NYC? What are some other ways that Mindsight could be used in schools, homes the workplace or any examples you’ve seen in the field of medicine/health?

Q4: In preparation for this interview, I did a podcast (episode #23) on “Understanding the Difference Between the Mind and the Brain”[x]  and this episode rose to the top of our episodes, showing me that listeners are really interested in this topic. Can we look at your definition of mind as “an embodied and relational process—since it’s in the body and it’s in our relationships with one another—that regulates the flow of energy and information”[xi]  and can you explain why relationships are so important for our well-being health, and an integrated brain as you describe it?

Once we know what the mind is, then how does the mind differ from the brain and what about the fact we have a brain in our gut, not just our head? 

Q5: We know that in order to have well students in our classrooms, we need well teachers, just as to have well children in our homes, the parent’s mindset matters. We are coming to grips here with what “the mind” is but we still have a society that struggles with health. Can you explain the best way that we as adults can stay on top of our health and well-being so that we can avoid burn-out and also keeping in mind the research you said has come out of Harvard and McGill University with Martin Teitcher[xii] and Michael Meaney[xiii] on epigenetics and how the stress felt by our grandparents can be passed on and impact our lives? How can we take this new research and use it in such a way that we prevent more stress in our lives and our children’s lives and our student’s lives to create an integrated brain versus a non-integrated brain of chaos or rigidity?

Q6: I have been practicing your Wheel of Awareness meditation[xiv] for the past 2 months while I have been preparing to speak with you. I actually downloaded it from your website in 2015 but didn’t make this a part of my daily routine until recently. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my own thinking process since incorporating this practice. Can you explain why this reflective meditation is different from using let’s say a relaxation app like or just listening to peaceful music? What is happening to our brain as we focus inwardly on the four parts of this wheel? What are the outcomes are you seeing of this practice on society?

Q7: Is there anything important that you think I have missed with my questions today to give listeners some tips on how they can be more aware, practice using Mindsight and find a deeper meaning and connection and purpose in this world? 

Thank you so much Dr. Siegel for coming on the show to dive deeper into your work. I really could talk to you all day, but know I’ve got to let you go. For those who would like to learn more about Dr. Siegel you can go to (where he has a ton of tools, books and resources that you can use immediately like the Wheel of Awareness Meditation) or find you on Linkedin (Daniel Siegel), Twitter @DrDanSiegel Instagram @drdansiegel and Facebook. He has a new book coming out The Power of Showing Up[xv] in Jan 2020 with Dr. Tina Bryson that I mentioned in the beginning that is already hitting the TOP 20 books before its release! Thank you again for all you are doing to promote well-being and health in the world. You are a true difference maker and it’s been such a pleasure to have this opportunity to speak with you. 

BIO: Daniel J. Siegel received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.  He served as a National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow at UCLA, studying family interactions with an emphasis on how attachment experiences influence emotions and behavior. An award-winning educator, he is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of several honorary fellowships. Dr. Siegel is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization, which offers online learning and in-person seminars that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. His psychotherapy practice includes children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. He serves as the Medical Director of the LifeSpan Learning Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Blue School in New York City, which has built its curriculum around Dr. Siegel’s Mindsight approach.

Dr. Siegel's unique ability to make complicated scientific concepts exciting and accessible has led him to be invited to address diverse local, national and international groups including mental health professionals, neuroscientists, corporate leaders, educators, parents, public administrators, healthcare providers, policymakers, mediators, judges, and clergy. I was referred to Dr. Siegel’s work when a neuroscience researcher was helping me to add brain-based concepts to my work and I quickly learned the 3 parts of the brain and their functions and was able to teach others using his “Hand Model of the Brain.” [xvi]



[i] The Power of Showing Up by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (Ballantine Books, January 7, 2020)

[ii] Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human by Daniel J Siegel October 18, 2016 (W.W Norton and Company)

[iii] Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence by Daniel J Siegel August 21, 2018 (Penguin Group, USA)

[iv] No-Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

[v] Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain Daniel J Siegel January 7, 2014 (Penguin Group, USA)


[vii] Mindsight: The New Science of Transformation Dr. Dan Siegel

[viii] Mindsight: The New Science of Transformation Dr. Dan Siegel


[x] “Neuroscience Meets SEL” Podcast #23 Understanding the Difference Between Your Brain and Mind for Increased Results

[xi] Dr. Dan Siegel Defines The Mind Published Feb. 11, 2010 on YouTube




[xv] The Power of Showing Up by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (Ballantine Books, January 7, 2020)

[xvi] Dr. Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain Published on YouTube August 9th, 2017