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Sometimes I wish I’d become a neuroscientist

Posted by Ilise Benun on

If I had discovered my interest in the brain and how it works when I
was young (and if I had developed the strength of character to do the
required), I may have become a neuroscientist.

Nonetheless, I am a huge fan of Oliver Sacks
and Jonah
Lehrer (whose "Frontal Cortex" blog (I
wish I had time to read more regularly) and I am consistently
fascinated by almost any brain research I read about, especially when
it relates to work.

So you can imagine my delight when I came across "In Hard Times, Fear
Can Imperil Decision-Making
" by neuroeconomist (that's what I
could have been!), Gary Berns, in yesterday's NY Times.

It's basically about how to keep fear from short-circuiting exploration
of the new and sound decision-making. Here's the crux of it:

The most concrete thing that neuroscience tells us is that when the
fear system of the brain is active, exploratory activity and
risk-taking are turned off. The first order of business, then, is to
neutralize that system.

This means not being a fearmonger. It
means avoiding people who are overly pessimistic about the economy. It
means tuning out media that fan emotional flames. Unless you are a
day-trader, it means closing the Web page with the market ticker. It
does mean being prepared, but not being a hypervigilant,
everyone-in-the-bunker type.

I don't care what your business is,
but if you think it will eventually come back to what it was — your
brain is in the grips of the fear-based endowment effect. What I am
doing is looking for new opportunities….This strategy keeps the
exploratory system of my brain active. And
right now there are incredible opportunities to do something
differently. Yes, they’re risky, and some will fail. But while others
wait for the storm to pass, I’m busy expanding into new areas.If I wait
for money to start flowing again, the opportunities will have passed.
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