Around holiday time, I always get to thinking about how I’m going to transform my life in the coming year. Some big changes in my personal and professional life have occurred over the last decade, but for the most part, life keeps unfolding fairly predictably, despite big resolutions, promises to reform, and perpetual dreaming and goal setting.
I’m sure I’m not alone, and that’s why I hope people will pick up the New York Times bestseller by serial entrepreneur Trevor Blake, called Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life (BenBella, 2012). I found this book incredibly helpful, inspiring, and fresh, because it presents a practical, straightforward approach to extracting oneself from “the quicksand,” as he calls it. Blake shows readers, once and for all, how to get unstuck and effect dramatic change in their lives, whether it’s remaking one’s career, becoming financially successful, or giving up a bad personal habit, such as overeating or smoking.
I’ve read dozens of personal fixer-upper tomes by business gurus and New Age self-helpers, but this one is different in one important way: Blake actually followed his own three simple steps to get to where he is today—a happily married multimillionaire businessman and philanthropist. Finally, a self-help author who’s done more than write self-help books!
A bit of background on Blake: He grew up poor in rural Wales with a mother who was seriously ill with cancer. Because he suffered severe bullying as a child, he used to hide in the public library and read autobiographies of self-made men and women. From them, young Blake got his early entrepreneurial education. When he was older, he consumed the latest research in neuroscience, particularly about newfound functions and abilities of the brain. As an adult, having moved to the U.S., Blake scraped together $1,000 to start his first biotech business, and later sold it for $100 million. Then he did it again a second time!
How did he do it? Blake combined the wisdom of self-made men and women with new discoveries in neuroscience to come up with three steps that lead to success.
Step one is to take control of your mentality. That means eliminating toxic thoughts, media, and people from your daily life; and feeding your brain positive, constructive, enriching information. It’s about becoming self-aware and super-protective of your brain and what goes into it. Blake includes fascinating brain studies showing how negative thoughts alter brain patterns, and how introducing new thoughts can create new neural pathways that ultimately change one’s behavior.
Step two is to learn how to generate moments of insight. Blake describes research that shows how certain brain states—states everyone has when they daydream or start to fall asleep, for example—are the most productive in terms of quality and quantity of creative ideas. We’ve been going about this all wrong, says Blake, by multitasking, overproducing, and straining our brains. He shows how you can learn to generate inspiration, sparks of originality, and brilliance using some simple techniques and strategies. Great thinkers such as Henry Ford and Ralph Waldo Emerson discovered this before the science was even known. If you want to make a big change in your life, you’ll need to learn how to generate lots of new ideas. I especially loved this part of his book.
Step three shows us how to transform ideas into real achievements. Working again with the laws of physics and nature, Blake’s scientific mind presents a very different approach to creating something (a successful outcome) from nothing (an intention or desire). This is more than positive thinking or goal setting, which he says doesn’t work. Blake explains how making intentions a reality is best accomplished by tricking one’s brain. That is, you visualize the details of your future success, and then say and think them daily. The brain, it turns out, doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination, as proven by a recent study where the brainwaves in study subjects who imagined practicing the piano were identical to those who actually did it!
There is so much fresh and helpful information in this book that a short review doesn’t do it justice. It’s an enjoyable read, on top of being useful. Peppered throughout his text are Blake’s lively personal stories, as well as lessons learned from famous self-made men and women, and the aforementioned “fun science” that one can easily understand and then apply right away.
If you know a chronic resolution maker or self-help addict, please put Three Simple Steps on their holiday gift list. This is truly a gift that keeps on giving. And speaking of giving, Trevor Blake is donating all of his book’s profits to cancer research and development.