Brain Science business Business Science entrepreneurship Health Life Lessons small business

5 Things That Separate Successful People From Everyone Else


By Bradley Stockwell

Marketing Director Merchant Capital Source

As I’ve said several times before, bettering your business begins with you. Every investment in yourself is an investment in your business. If you’re looking to transform yourself into a successful business owner and entrepreneur, you need to begin acting and thinking like one—and it’s not easy. In some cases it can mean some major life and brain hacking, but once you’ve made these transformations, you’ll wonder how you ever operated any other way. If you don’t know where to begin, you’re in luck. After reading hundreds of articles, biographies, advice columns and using myself as a guinea pig, I’ve narrowed down the five essential things successful people do that others don’t. After all this research and testing you’ll be surprised to learn there’s no great secret. Success comes down to five simple things that you most likely know you should already be doing.

1. They Read More & Watch Less Television

All great thinkers and innovators read and I can’t express the difference it’s made in my life personally as someone who was once a very casual reader. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, I insist it is this. While it may be hard to start, once you’re in the habit you’ll find it’s much more fulfilling than other forms of media because neurologically it’s the healthiest thing you can consume. Numerous studies have shown reading requires, stimulates and strengthens several regions of the brain.

Television on the other hand has shown to decrease brain activity in regions that are particularly important to business owners. When watching television, brain activity switches to the right side of the brain. This is significant because the left side of the brain is responsible for logical thinking and critical analysis. It also decreases activity in your frontal lobes which is responsible for decision making. Brain scans have shown that when people watch television brain activity mirrors that of someone under hypnosis. Maybe all those rumors of television being used as a brainwashing device have some merit. While I’m not saying to stop watching television altogether it’s good to practice moderation and be selective with the programs you consume.

2. They Sleep

While it may be tempting, and sometimes necessary, to tack a few more hours onto your busy day you should calculate the repercussions sleep deprivation can have on productivity, not to mention health.

Studies have shown that reducing sleep by even 1.5 hours for one night can reduce flexible decision-making and innovative thinking by as much as 32%! Also when sleep-deprived your perceived exertion level for the same tasks done while fully awake increases by 17-19%.

I myself have read and tried many methods on supposedly how to operate on less than six hours of sleep and found unless you’re superhuman, they simply don’t work. For me personally, sleep is essential to my creative process. Some of my best ideas have come from my dreams or middle-of-the-night epiphanies. While the amount of sleep needed varies for everyone, sacrificing it for productivity, in my opinion, is counterproductive. So sleep—you’ll be healthier, happier and much more successful.

3. They Learn

Although you may not be in school anymore, there’s no reason why learning should stop. In fact I’ve found learning to be much more enjoyable outside the confines of formal education because I can learn what I want, when I want and how I want. And it doesn’t always have to be a business-related education; learning anything new creates new neural pathways in the brain and as I’ve said previously, the more neural pathways your brain has available the better it works.

Granted this doesn’t mean learning about the latest celebrity gossip is just as valuable as learning how to play an instrument. I’m sorry to tell you, but if it doesn’t feel like your brain is stretching it’s not. The reason why something is perceived as challenging is it requires you to alter your way of thinking, or neurologically speaking, to create new neural pathways.

While this is difficult, finding something you’re curious about is a great motivator. And you’ll find the more you challenge yourself, suddenly the easier and more enjoyable it becomes to learn new things. Intelligence in my opinion is much more an exercise than a gift. While you may think you don’t have enough time to educate yourself, I began dedicating just my lunch break to learning and in the last year I’ve learned how to play the piano and taught myself enough courses in physics to keep a regular blog on it. The world is a wonderful and mysterious place and I encourage you to poke and probe at it as much as possible.

4. They Write

Something you’ve probably noticed if you keep up with business publications is that most successful business owners and CEO’s write. Whether it’s in a journal, book, blog, or guest article, they do this for two reasons. One being that writing is simply a great cathartic release and the other to retain information they’ve learned.

Writing is great for your mental and emotional health. Keeping a journal can give you a safe place to vent stress and process problems. Studies have also shown it improves creativity, self-esteem and memory retention. Like reading, this can be difficult to start but I think what most people get caught up on (or at least I did at first) is that you have to make an entry every day for it to be effective. I’ve found that even one journal entry a week can suffice, however I tend to write more when my life is stressful or eventful.

Writing is also an essential adjunct to learning. It requires you to not only recall something you’ve learned but to also process and analyze its applications. In my opinion, this makes the difference between knowing and understanding something. As Einstein once said, “Any fool can know; the point is to understand.” This is the primary reason I keep regular business and physics blogs whether or not anyone actually reads them.

5. They Exercise & Eat Well

If you want to be a highly productive individual you’re going to need the right fuel. While most people say they don’t have enough time to accomplish the tasks they intend to (so they do counterproductive things like not sleeping enough), the truth most likely is they don’t have the energy to. Just like a race car can’t run off low octane fuel, successful people cannot run off low-grade food. Like any machine, your body is an energy processor and if you input high quality energy, the greater your output will be. As with all these changes it’s difficult at first, but once you make a habit of it you’ll find you’ll actually start craving healthy food over junk.

The second part of this is making your body as energy efficient as possible and that means working out. Once again, don’t get hung up on setting unrealistic goals and think you need to work out every day. You’ll be amazed at what just a little walking, or bicycle riding can do. If you’re close enough to work to commute by these methods, do so. Beginning and ending your day with a little exercise can do wonders.

The biggest nemesis to productivity is stress, hormonally known as cortisol. Your body releases cortisol when stressed and without exercise to burn that cortisol, stress compounds on itself and leads to impulsive behavior and anxiety. Exercise also releases endorphins which help you rationalize problems and increases optimism, energy and memory retention—not to mention you’ll live longer. Also while exercise may be physically exhausting, mentally it is relaxing. Treat it as your alone time to distress from work and home life.


business Business Science entrepreneurship Health Life Lessons

Why You Are More Valuable Than Any Salary


By Bradley Dowies

Marketing Director Merchant Capital Source

Even with surmounting evidence of the importance of a good social life, getting exercise and decreasing stress, people continue to prioritize their salaries over their health. However when you apply monetary values on good health it becomes obvious that money is far from everything. A study from the Journal of Socio-Economics used “shadow pricing” (an economics term to estimate the price paid for increments of addition production) to estimate monetary values of potential life satisfaction gained by interactions with friends and family. Here’s a breakdown of what the study found:

  • Going from poor to excellent health: +$463,170/ year
  • Having a better social life: +$131,232/ year
  • A happy marriage: +$105,000/ year
  • Seeing friends and family regularly: +$97,265/ year

That means you could potentially be missing out on $796,667 worth of life satisfaction due to your time and social life consuming job. Now ask yourself again, is that long commute, or that 60 hour workweek really worth that high salary? Despite numerous scientific studies in support of this, I personally had to learn on my own and thought it more potent to share my story than to state studies.

I graduated from college in 2009 in the midst of the “Great Recession” at a time when the job market had been decimated. Although my degree was in advertising and I had intended to enter the field, I was left to make suffice with what was available, and what’s available after an occupational apocalypse? The cockroaches of the professional job market: sales positions. It seems no matter how bad things get, there’s always a need for a good salesperson. I had student loan debt and bills to pay, so at the time I felt I had no other choice. Fast forward two years and I had found financial success in my unintended sales career; I had been promoted twice and had a healthy managerial salary. While my finances were healthy, I was not. I had gained 20 pounds, I was working on average 55 hours a week and had to work most Saturdays. Most days I’d have to skip my lunch, or work while eating it and I was drinking heavily on the weekends. This was the type of atmosphere that was bred at my job; you give your life to the company, otherwise there’s hundreds of other saps willing to replace you because there’s nothing else out there and you should consider yourself fortunate to even have a job.

In late 2011, I had a life changing moment, or what I called my quarter life crisis. I had to ask, “Is this really what life is supposed to be?” After 18+ years of schooling, you get a job and learn to do one thing very well and do it everyday until you either retire, or die. While I had gained financial independence, I had lost my life in the process. I was good at my job, but my life was stagnant. I was no longer learning; no longer challenged and the adult world seemed empty. This was when I realized money would never bring me happiness, only buy the drinks I needed to cope with its misery.

The tipping point came when I was offered a very lucrative position in medical device sales in which I’d be making the coveted six-figure salary at 24 years old. After a long life contemplation I decided not only to decline the position, but to quit my career in sales altogether. Although the job offer was admittedly very tempting and everyone thought I was crazy, I knew I’d be committing my future to a life I never intended to have. I wanted to be in advertising and marketing because it was challenging to me; it was my passion, my joy; it fulfilled me.

After quitting I moved in with my grandmother and took several part-time jobs and internships throughout 2012. Also against the advice of many, I took the savings I had accumulated and traveled to Europe—something I told myself I would always do in my twenties. The trip only galvanized my commitment to the value of my life and was my motivation while I rebuilt my career over the next two years. In that time, I was able to go from a minimum wage intern to a marketing director. While I am not quite making a six-figure salary yet, I feel immeasurably richer than I ever have. My career is now based on my talents, knowledge and ideas as opposed to learned repetitive routines. Your job takes up the majority of your waking hours and if you’re miserable, or not challenged, your life will suffer. Simply summed up by Confucius “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” When I am getting paid for a passion, the work it takes to be successful seems a lot more effortless.

Along with finding a more fulfilling career path, there are a few simpler choices I’ve made that have also contributed to my success. The first was moving closer to work—close enough that I can walk, or bicycle. I never realized the difference starting your day out with a little exercise as opposed to sitting in traffic could make. Instead of struggling with other drivers on the road, I’m struggling with new ideas and planning out my day and by the time I arrive at work, my first hour of work is done. Secondly, a healthy exercise and diet regimen. Being healthy simply allows me to have the energy and mental focus I need in order to be more productive at work. Thirdly was utilizing my lunch as a time to take my mind off work. Whether it’s reading a book, or learning something new, I’ve found when I get out of the office and away from my desk I come back renewed and the second half of my day is more fruitful than if I had not. Lastly, learning and challenging yourself doesn’t have to stop just because you’re out of school. Creating new synapses in your brain helps with problem solving and creative thinking and while it’s not related to your work, you’ll inadvertently find yourself better at it.