How To Make Your Brain Your Competitive Advantage At Work – Pt. 2 with Dan Sullivan

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

When it comes to success in the workplace, focus is the name of the game. In the second part of a series with Strategic Coach Program’s Dan Sullivan, he speaks with Dr. Daniel Amen about the importance of focus, not just in terms of moment to moment attention, but also in choosing to target the areas in which you have the most expertise.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're here with my friend, business coach, strategic coach Dan Sullivan, who is the coach to people like Joe Polish and Peter Diamandis and so many great entrepreneurs. Dan and I met after he came to the Amen Clinics. We scanned his brain, and I told him he had a shitty brain. I actually don't remember that phrase, but Dan remembers that phrase. So, with a bad brain you can do amazing things, but it's so much easier if you get it right, if you work on optimizing your brain. In the last podcast, you asked me some of the things we've learned, and yes, after almost 140000 scans, I look at them, and I immediately see what works too hard, what's not working hard enough.

Yesterday I got to see a very famous person on TV. He gave me permission to use his name, but I won't right now. I will. His brain was so bad when I first saw it, but just doing what we asked him to do, three months later it's so much better. That's the hope. You're not stuck with the brain you have. You can make it better. My goal is to get people to love and care for their brains. But I want to know, what's different? What do other people notice about working with you, both in your personal relationships and as strategic coach?

Dan Sullivan: I would say to sum it up, the extent and quality of my teamwork with other people has easily gone 10 times, and that would be team members who are ... We call all of our staff at Strategic Coach, they're members of teams. The whole central aspect is where people, we have a central concept which is called unique ability that you're doing this amount of activity, but you're actually only great in a much smaller circle. So, your growth in coach is to focus more and more time where you're great and then we'll find other people to do the things that you're not so great at. So it fits in. I mean, philosophically we were very much in alignment before I met you. The alignment approach technology is ... I mean, the teamwork is really big.

The other thing is that I'm taking longer. In other words, now I just turned 74 last week. My framework ahead is, well I have a project where I write a new book every quarter, and I'm gonna do it for 100 quarters. They're small books. They're books you can read in an hour and they're single topic books, but I feel very comfortable in making that commitment, which I've made very publicly, for the next quarter. When you come into your workshop, there will be a brand new book. I'll have a brand new book for you. So, I'm thinking much longer.

But the other thing is that I'm just conscious that I'm really, really good at certain things, and the things that I'm not really good at, I really shouldn't be bothering other people. I have this enormous sense of not wasting other people's time with not valuable activities for them that isn't going to move forward. Then on the client side, I'd say the other say, my ability just to sit and listen to people and then ask them great questions about how they're thinking about something and they'll ask me a question and I'll say, "Well I'd like to ask you something about your question." And then I'll ask a question which has a bigger scope to it. They actually discover their own answer that they questioned me simply by my asking the question.

I remember at the Genius Network, you explained what was going on with regard to your own future and I drew you a diagram. I said, "Well, this is where you are right now, but you might be here later on." So, I'm very graphically ... I see thoughts in terms of graphics. I always have. I see diagrams when people are talking to me. I see a diagram and I can actually talk to them about the diagram. I can draw the diagram out for them and I can talk. That's gotten probably super charged since I went through the Amen Clinic. My ability to do these diagrams and listen to people and actually feed back to them what I'm seeing and then I ask them questions about the diagram that I'm drawing for them.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, there's so much in here. Your productivity is better. Your insight into yourself is better. Your ability to say no so that you focus on what you're really good at is better. I love that. What I'd really love for you to take a few minutes and teach people more about your concept of are you doing the right things, and are you getting other people to do the things that you're not good at. Could you talk about that for a second?

Dan Sullivan: Yeah. I have to tell you I had an experience once where I was a consultant on a project and it was to actually talk about all the different ways that society could be improved to help people who are disabled and handicapped. I'm American, but I split. I have two passports. This was in Canada. I went across Canada for about three months, and I was interviewing disabled people. With the exception of Autistics, you could actually ... you know, there were extreme Autistics and you really couldn't interview them, so you would have to interview their parents. Let's say there were 40 and I did 39. When you read the transcripts of the interviews, you couldn't tell that there was anything wrong with them. I had one woman who said, she says, "You know I'm very, very slow." She said, "I want to tell you, Mr. Sullivan, I'm very, very slow. You're going to ask me a question and it may take me five to 10 times longer to answer the question, but I'll give you a good answer."

It was the interview, I had to change tapes because in those days there were tapes and everything. When we got the transcript back, she was completely lucid and she says, "My biggest problem is the world won't wait for me." So I was thinking about this. I said, you know these are visibly disabled people. These are visibly handicapped people. You can tell when you interact with them. They're missing a limb or they've got some sort of paralysis.

I was coming back on the plane and I said, "But I'm disabled in a lot of areas." I said, "I'm good in certain areas, but anytime I go outside my circle, it's frustrating. I have conflict. I don't interact with people. I have personality problems." When I'm in my circle ... and I've got three things that I do. I'm a good coach and I can create brand new concepts almost at will. I can listen to a conversation and create a concept out of it that other people find meaningful. The other thing is I'm good front of stage. I have an eight podcast series. I do videos. I really like the front stage. That's my value in the company, but outside of that, that's 95% of my time in the year. The other 5% are just unscheduled time, but the scheduled time I just do that.

We do this for all of our teams, so everybody. We use [Kathy Colby 00:09:54]. You probably know Kathy Colby with her Colby profile, which profiles how you take action to get results. The way I take action to get results is I take action and then I do the research in motion. Some people have to do a lot of research before they'll go into action, but doing research before a decision or research before an action is wasted time for me. You take action and then you figure out real quick whether you've done the right thing or not. So, that's the research.

What we show the entrepreneurs, and this is prior to them actually coming to grips with ADD or a thing, we simply say, "You're continually putting yourself in zones where you're sabotaging yourself, and what we want you to do is just identify," and we have a whole process that we take people through to identify where they always feel confident, where they always produce good results. We say, "Quarter by quarter, the amount of time you're spending in the bad zone is gonna be reduced. The amount of power that you're exerting just to the unique ability zone is going to increase, but then you're going to see as you understand your own unique ability, you're going to start seeing other people's unique abilities and you can do teamwork with them." You're only going to ask them to do what they're great at, and you're only doing great. Then you're going to do teamwork. I said, "As far as I can see, this is how the world works. It's unique ability teaming up with unique ability."

Dr. Daniel Amen: Do you have a story about how you helped someone do that and it transformed their life?

Dan Sullivan: Well, Joe. I mean, I've been working with Joe for 20 years. I said to Joe, "Anytime you're not front stage, you're doing harm to the world."

Dr. Daniel Amen: You're talking about our friend Joe Polish who is-

Dan Sullivan: Joe Polish, yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The founder of Genius Network.

Dan Sullivan: Joe is how am I gonna do it. He'd be backstage, and how are we gonna do this and how are we gonna do this. I said, "Joe, you being a backstage expert is like a rice farmer in Nepal telling a Sherpa how to get to the top of Mount Everest." I said, "You have no comprehension how organizations work. You have no comprehension how you can make things recur, set up systems." I said, "It's not your thing, but your ability just to trade front stage realities and create things," I said, "it's unsurpassed. Your ability to connect with strangers," and I said, "I've not seen it's equal in my entire life with 18000 entrepreneurs. I've not seen the equal of you as a connector." He's just unfailingly gracious. He's generous and everything else. I said, "You can't organize your life where you keep putting yourself in a mine field. You've got to get into this."

When I came across your videos and I came across your books, I said, "Well this is the scientific side of what I've developed as a craft." That's why it was so valuable to me, is that you have the scientific measurements, which verify why people get into trouble when they're not in their unique abilities. So that, you've been extraordinarily valuable to us.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you. When we come back, I would love, Dan, for you to talk to us about what are the big four or five lessons you've learned from coaching all these people for a long time that our listeners can put in their lives, starting right away. You can learn more about Dan's work at and Dan has a podcast and lots of videos. He's just an amazing mentor. Stay with us.

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