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Summary: Activate Your Brain: How Understanding Your Brain Can Improve Your Work and Your Life by Scott G. Halford

By understanding more about how the brain works, we can learn to orient our brains toward positive signal responses, helping us adapt more easily to change and creating greater opportunities for success. This book summary breaks down the elements of the brain that determine how and why we respond the way we do to uncertainty and shows us how to redirect our thinking to influence the brain’s signal response system.

How orienting your mind toward curiosity and growth can lead to success.


  • Need more confidence in tough situations at work or at home
  • React negatively in stressful situations
  • Want to make a good impression in social settings


Our brains work hard to create opportunities that bring us comfort and pleasure and to avoid situations that cause distress. The brain works around the clock, never taking time off. Even while our bodies sleep, our brains are at work, performing mundane (yet essential) administrative tasks, like sorting new information and storing new memories.

There are two things our brains really enjoy having: choice and control.

The greater the choice, the greater the control. When we have the option to select our own path, we increase our chances of achievement and success — and the brain likes these things, too.

How do we know that the brain prefers these qualities? Neurochemicals are released, sending signals through pathways in the brain. We know how to decode the brain’s signals because of the way we feel when the chemicals are released. Certain neurochemicals, like norepinephrine, give us feelings of satisfaction or reward. Others, like cortisol, tell us that things are not so good through feelings of stress, sadness, or anger.

These chemical messengers are activated by the emotional part of our brain, which can override all other signals with priority access to signal pathways. In this sense, our emotional brain rules our bodies. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the situation.

Unfortunately, the emotional brain is completely dispossessed of reasoning. Infants are a good example of a brain that communicates almost exclusively through emotions. Certain kinds of stress can also cloud our thinking or make us feel less in control. In work or social settings, acting on emotion instead of reason can lead to dire consequences.

Fortunately, there are other functions of the brain to help us. In this summary, you’ll learn more about how the brain works and how to create more opportunities for the brain to activate positive-feeling neurochemicals.

Book Summary: Activate Your Brain - How Understanding Your Brain Can Improve Your Work and Your Life

The Science of Being Successfully You

The functions of the brain can best be described in three parts:

  1. The subconscious brain performs background tasks that don’t require conscious activation, such as breathing. Processes that occur subconsciously don’t require reasoning and happen automatically, whether we are awake or asleep.
  2. The emotional brain is dispossessed of rationality. On its own, this part of the brain can run rampant with feelings, such as passion or rage.
  3. The “human” part of the brain introduces reasoning, thought, and logic. The evolution of this brain component is what distinguishes us from every other species on the planet, and this is the place where we can make changes to improve our lives.

Neurochemical signals released by the brain influence our perspective, behavior, and mood. If we’re in a building and a fire breaks out, adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body to alert us to take appropriate action. Conversely, success in our lives — whether at home, in the community, or in the workplace — translates into the release of norepinephrine or oxytocin, which signal reward or pleasure.

The brain is continually working to match new information with established patterns already in its memory. If the information corresponds to a familiar and comfortable memory, all is well. Remember, our brains trend toward comfort, which comes from the familiar and the certain. If these conditions don’t exist, our brains signal an alarm and stress levels begin to rise.

Stress in our system is elevated whenever we enter unfamiliar or uncertain territory. But we learn by facing uncertainty and by acquainting ourselves with the unfamiliar. The collision of interests between the emotional brain and the human brain can sometimes create a temporary mental block. Finding ways to settle the emotional brain and activate the human brain can improve our response to challenging situations.

Emergency dispatchers are an example of people skilled in de-escalating highstress situations. In February 2018, a 9-1-1 dispatcher in Florida received a call from a panicked driver who lost control of her car and landed upside down in a muddy ditch. Mud and water were slowly encasing the car. The reassuring manner of the dispatcher helped the driver calm down, while first responders searched through the fog to locate her vehicle.

Our brain is a singularly valuable resource that can drive us to experience both success and failure. When our brain releases positive-feeling chemicals, we have a greater chance at experiencing success. By reframing the conversation, the dispatcher was orienting the caller’s brain away from looming disaster and toward rescue, altering the chemical balance of her brain.

How do we reframe our thought processes? We can focus on positive actions, identify something good about a situation, or create fairness and options. Next, we’ll learn more about reorienting the brain to activate the neurochemicals that signal pleasure and reward.

Controlling Your Success

Most people would prefer to have some level of control over their lives. Having control allows us to direct the pace of events, giving us more time to think through a situation before responding. But how can we be successful even when we don’t have control?

Control is all about perspective, and the right perspective can shape your success.

Control resides in the emotional brain, and not having control can take us out of our comfort zone. In November 2018, forest fires raged out of control in California. Firefighters struggled to manage the situation, at times unable to predict where the fire was heading. As a result, efforts to evacuate some communities were hurried and chaotic.

This moment illustrates the need to restore a chemical balance to the brain by reshaping our thoughts. In this example, nature had complete command of the situation, leaving first responders and residents feeling confused, anxious, and uncertain. The emotional brain superseded all other signals and selected a wellworn pathway — flooding the brain with stress-inducing neurochemicals.

There are two types of control in this example:

  1. The fire represents external control. From this perspective, success lies in conquering the fires and restoring safety to the community.
  2. Our emotional brain represents internal control by essentially hijacking the brain’s entire neural network. The fire was a problem that needed a solution. But problem-solving skills reside in the human brain, and it was overtaken by the emotional side. From this perspective, success lies in bringing the emotional stressors down to more manageable levels, allowing the human brain to go into action.

Getting our emotional brain to yield control to the human brain takes effort and energy. The same is true when orienting the brain to try new things, which probably explains why most of us gravitate towards habit. The nature of habit is repetition, which leads to familiarity. And the emotional brain prefers the familiar.

Ironically, the mental exercise of learning something new can create better habits and increase our chances of success, both of which motivate the brain to produce positive-feeling neurochemicals.

How, then, do we steer control of the emotional brain toward success? Building confidence, which resides in the emotional brain, helps restore balance to our neurochemical pathways.

It’s important to build confidence because it already resides in the emotional brain and can be activated more readily in times of crisis.

By building confidence in our abilities to handle situations, stress levels can be reduced, and the human brain can think more clearly. Confidence means more than being certain that we know something or can do something — it also means that we believe in ourselves enough to face the unknown.

There are two ways the brain helps build confidence:

  1. The brain strengthens neural pathways through thought and experience, so try something new. Simple activities, like reading a book or talking with friends, exercise the brain and keep it active. Essentially, being curious about life is the best way to become confident in life.
  2. Another method of building confidence is through repetition. If we start a new job, for example, we want to fit in and do well as quickly as possible. To do this, we repeat the same task over and over until our work is on the same level as everyone else’s.

Building confidence sometimes takes willpower.

Willpower is an attribute that requires focus and constraint. On the other hand, habit and avoidance reside in the brain’s comfort zone of familiarity, and they represent the opposite of willpower. So, willpower takes energy.

Ideas for practicing focus and constraint include quiet time, meditation, or even just a few seconds of intense, uninterrupted focus on a simple object.

Another aspect to controlling our success and gaining confidence is goal achievement. Setting goals and experiencing accomplishments keeps the brain satisfied because the act of completion releases neurochemicals that produce positive feelings. Successful, goal-oriented people set parameters that are realistic and sustainable. They also set small, incremental goals to sustain the feeling of accomplishment.

In the next section, we’ll learn how to build brain stamina to support our success.

Building Your Stamina

Our brain continually reshapes itself by building new neural connectors each time we learn something new. Managing stress, exercising, and getting sufficient rest all contribute to the brain’s ability to reshape itself. For example, physical exercise increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, contributing to its longevity. And even our emotional brain responds positively to exercise. In addition to rest and exercise, a proper balance of nutrients is needed to sustain a constant level of energy and build brain stamina.

When we’re stressed, our brains send chemical messengers to put our bodies on high alert. As we learned, the emotional brain can take over when this happens. What’s more, our brains don’t immediately discern the types or levels of stress, so managing stress of any kind is important. Some people are better at responding to stressful situations than others. The 9-1-1 dispatcher is a good example of a person who remains present and focused in a stressful situation, which helps to reduce stress levels.

Rest is an effective means of reducing stress, and there are two ways to give our brains a rest. When we sleep, the brain sorts through the day’s events and stores new learning experiences into memory banks. Adequate sleep keeps our minds conditioned for learning, decision making, and memory recollection. Sleep also affects our thinking, creativity, and mood. Even short naps can help restore brain energy to help us stay alert throughout the day. A lack of sleep, on the other hand, compromises our immune system, affects our ability to learn and recollect, and can impair our ability to think.

Throughout the day, our brains rest differently. Whether alone or with a friend, being quiet or talkative, the brain rests by switching to a less focused mode. In this state, our minds might wander, daydream, or meditate. The idea is that the brain accesses a different neural network, giving the goal-oriented neural network an opportunity to relax.

When we’re stuck on a big problem, small changes can make a difference. Even the act of moving from one setting to another could give the brain enough rest to rejuvenate the thought process and inspire creative thinking.

Nourishing the brain also increases stamina. Our bodies, including our brains, are made up of mostly water, so remaining hydrated throughout the day is important. Using the brain also takes energy, usually in the form of carbohydrates. Eating simple carbs from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are best. Vitamins, minerals, and a flow of oxygen also help the brain to perform optimally.

Brain stamina even influences our ability to succeed in the social world. In the next section, we’ll learn more about how this works.

Finding Significance

The brain seeks to make connections and create patterns. The amount of information that passes through our brain is more than it can hold, so it needs to decide what to keep and what to throw away. To do this, the emotional brain uses trust to determine the validity of information it stores.

The source of the information influences its validity.

Over the course of our lives, we make many acquaintances. However, our brain has a limited storage capacity, so only a small subset of those people will earn a place in the brain’s trust memory. When new information or experiences are introduced to us, our brain releases chemical messengers, like oxytocin, to indicate whether the information can be trusted, or caution is advised.

In a business environment or social setting, meeting new people presents a challenge to our brain’s trust filter. Finding ways to overcome apprehension in situations like this is one key to achieving success.

Signaling the release of positive-feeling neurochemicals can provide a quick remedy to this situation. We can look for clues about the person we’re approaching and try to find something that speaks to their interests, strengths, or desires. Remember, familiarity is a positive attribute of the emotional brain. We might also try telling a joke — laughter is a great way to activate a quick release of goodfeelings.

Ego also influences the level of trust our brains are willing to assign to others. We all possess an ego, and it’s how we present ourselves to others that influences a successful interaction. In business, as with other aspects of life, it’s important to work with others toward a common goal. Being quick to assign blame or just as quick to claim credit is problematic in life, but more than that, it’s a problem for the health of the brain.

Remember, the neuroplasticity of our brains depends on creating new neural connections, and this occurs through mental expansion. An open mind leads to a healthier ego and builds the confidence to explore the unknown, learn from mistakes, and laugh at ourselves. A little more effort and energy can influence the chemical messengers in our brains, as we teach ourselves to tolerate uncertainty with the promise of increased knowledge and potential success.


Of the three parts of our brains, our emotional brains and human brains play the greatest role in achieving success at home, in the community, or in the workplace. The emotional brain gravitates toward protection and comfort, and it regards unfamiliarity and uncertainty as potential threats and releases neurochemicals that introduce stress.

When situations arise that trigger emotional stressors, gaining the proper perspective helps control our success. Small shifts to our thought processes brings a restorative balance to our neurochemistry. Confidence is one emotional attribute that quickly restores this balance. Willpower is another tool that, when developed, can be activated to avoid unpleasant consequences down the road.

Rest, exercise, and proper nutrition contribute to restoring the brains stamina. In addition, trying new experiences or processing new information increases our brain’s neuroplasticity by creating new neural connections.

Our brains work hard to provide comfort and protection, but they also serve to help us successfully navigate through our social world. Small, simple shifts of thinking can result in uplifting, positive, and successful results.

Orienting our brains to tolerate curiosity opens the door to growth and success.

About Scott Halford

Scott Halford is a writer, producer, and public speaker. Combining his communication skills with his knowledge of brain-based behavioral science and achievement psychology, Halford effectively teaches others how to leverage their brains to achieve success. Fortune 500 executives consider Halford to be a valuable tool in fostering success in the workplace. Scott is the co-founder of Competitive Intelligence, LLC.


The book is a practical guide that teaches readers how to use the power of their mind and emotions to create the reality of their dreams. The book is based on the author’s personal experience, divine guidance, scientific research, and a decade of work as a manifestation expert and coach. The book consists of four parts:

  • Part One: The book introduces the concept of the unsold mindset, which is a way of thinking that challenges the conventional wisdom and stereotypes about selling. The author explains how the unsold mindset can help readers overcome their fears, doubts, and insecurities about selling, and how it can help them create more value, trust, and influence with others.
  • Part Two: The book provides nine core concepts of the unsold mindset, each with a corresponding principle, story, and exercise. The concepts are: intentional ignorance, teammate not coach, pathological optimism, embrace the obstacle, the power of no, the art of asking, the paradox of persuasion, the gift of feedback, and the joy of service.
  • Part Three: The book helps readers apply the unsold mindset to various scenarios and situations that they may encounter in their personal and professional lives. It covers topics such as networking, pitching, negotiating, closing, referrals, testimonials, and follow-ups.
  • Part Four: The book encourages readers to reflect on their journey with the unsold mindset, and to share their insights and experiences with others who may benefit from them. It also urges readers to keep learning and growing with the unsold mindset, and to embrace their greatness and potential.

The book is an informative and engaging resource for anyone who wants to learn more about manifestation or improve their skills and results in it. The book is written in a clear, concise, and friendly tone that makes it easy to read and understand. The book also uses vivid examples, anecdotes, humor, and emotion to convey its messages and invite its readers to reflect and relate. The book does not impose any judgments or prescriptions on its readers but rather encourages them to explore their own paths and perspectives.

The book is not only a guide but also a game that challenges the reader to think outside the box and have fun with the possibilities of manifestation. The book provides a variety of scenarios and options that readers can choose from to create their own unique stories and experiences. The book also allows readers to go back and forth between different paths and outcomes to compare and contrast them. The book is interactive and creative that stimulates the reader’s curiosity and imagination.

The book is not only a game but also a tool that empowers the reader to embrace their own identity and expression of manifestation. The book provides valuable information and insights that readers can use to understand themselves and others better. The book also offers practical tips and exercises that readers can use to improve their confidence and skills in dealing with manifestation issues. The book is supportive and inspiring that motivates the reader to celebrate their diversity and potential.

Overall, I think the book is a valuable addition to the literature on manifestation and personal development. It is suitable for anyone who wants to learn more about manifestation or improve their skills and results in it. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in this topic.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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