Is Information Overload Making Us Less Smart? with Jim Kwik

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

Memory and speed-reading expert Jim Kwik was forced to change his approach to learning after suffering a traumatic brain injury as a child. However, this change helped Jim to develop a revolutionary approach to help educate people how to optimize their brains for learning. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by Jim Kwik for a discussion on how we process information, and why life in the new digital age is making things more difficult for all of us.

Read Full Transcript

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome, to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcasts we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalized treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome, everybody. We have a very special treat for you. Our friend Jim Kwik is going to talk to us about learning and procrastination in these next two episodes. Jim is the founder of Quick Learning, and widely recognized as a world expert in speed reading, memory improvement, brain performance, and accelerated learning.
He's spoken all over the world to huge companies. But we have called him a friend for many years. And just really grateful to have you on the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Jim Kwik: Yeah, thank you. I love you too, so much. And the work that you're doing is so, so important. I don't know, what's more important than really understanding and optimizing this incredible gift that we have between our ears called our brain. So I'm excited about this conversation.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So how did you get involved in wanting to know about the brain and get involved in teaching people about reading and memory?
Jim Kwik: I mean, a lot of times and the three of us have shared stages around the different places around the world. I do these demonstrations, and I'll have maybe 100 people stand up, introduce themselves, and I'll remember their name. Or they'll give me 100 words or 100 numbers, and I'll memorize them forwards and backwards.
But I always tell people I don't do this to impress you, I really do is to express to you what's possible. Because the truth is, we all have the potential to do this. We just weren't taught if anything. We were taught somehow, like a lie. Somehow our intelligence or memory potential focus is somehow fixed like our shoe size.
But we've learned, as you've pioneered this we've learned more about the human brain in the past 20 years than the previous, maybe 2000 years combined. And we found is we're also grossly underestimate your own capabilities. And school didn't necessarily prepares for this digital world that we live in.
We live in a world of electric cars and spaceships that are going to Mars. But our vehicle of choice when it comes to learning and education. It's akin to a horse and buggy and it hasn't been updated. And I know this is possible because I grew up with learning difficulties. And you know this because you've scanned me
At the age of five, I had a traumatic brain injury. I had a very bad accident and had learning challenges. I didn't understand things as well as everybody else did. Teachers repeat themselves three, four times, poor focus, poor memory. It took me an extra few years learn how to read even.
And I didn't know. And I just didn't know what I didn't know. I suffered, and I struggled all through school and then around 18 I had a breakthrough. I started studying. I ended up in the hospital because I was just not eating, not sleeping working on all ... And I felt actually, I passed out in the library one night, I fell down a flight of stairs, I hit my head again.
And I woke up in the hospital couple days later, and I was wasting away, lost all this weight, but it made me think there has to be a better way. And I wanted to understand this idea of how does my brain works so I can work my brain better. How's my memory works so I can work my memory.
So I started studying everything from the latest adult learning theory, multiple intelligence, to mnemonics, to ancient like, what did the ancient Greeks do back when there is no printing press and there was no smartphones? What Native Americans do? How did they pass on history around campfires back then.
And everything in between and then I just really turned my brain back on. And a light switch flipped on, and my grades improved. And with that my life improved. And one of my various for students though, the reason why I'm doing this, even to this day, over a quarter century later.
Is one of my students, who's a freshman in college, she read 30 books in 30 days. And I wanted to find out, not how I know how she did it, but why. I found out her mother was dying of terminal cancer was only given a couple months to live. And the books she was reading were books, to be right, books to save her mom's life.
And she ended up doing so and that I realized that if knowledge is power, learning really is our superpower. It's just not a superpower we're taught. School teaches us what to learn and what to think, but very few class on how to learn and how to think. My goal is no brain left behind. I want to show people the power that they have within themselves.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so how can people ... What are some of the big things you've learned that our audience can take away?
Jim Kwik: Well, I've learned a lot from the two of you over the years, in terms of ... I found a lot of the research suggests that maybe one third of our potential when it comes to, for example, our memory is predetermined by maybe genetics and biology, but two thirds is in our control.
So I've learned a lot from the two of you in terms of good brain diet, in terms of killing automatic negative thoughts, in terms of power of movement and exercise. And the power of supplementation, positive peer group, clean environments, sleep, brain protection, wear that helmet, avoid those extreme sports, stress management, new learnings, everything.
So that's the hardware part of it, right? Because I could teach somebody how to read faster and improve their reading rate three times. Or remember names or learn languages fast. But if their hardware is not in place-
Dr. Daniel Amen: It won't stay.
Jim Kwik: Exactly. What I teach is once the hardware is in place, when people, through your teachings, then I could teach them the software. So for example, for learning if somebody has, I think, in this digital world, there's like the super villains there's digital overload, too much information too little time. We're drowning in it.
It's like taking a sip of water on a fire hose. And it's creating a health challenge called information anxiety, higher blood pressure-
Dr. Daniel Amen: So I love super villain. And my new book, the End of Mental Illness, actually close it with the evil ruler, versus the good ruler, and I think of Darth Vader versus Yoda. I see myself like Yoda, bald, big ears. Want to be that voice in your head that helps you do the right thing. But we live in a society of super villains and evil rulers stealing our attention.
Jim Kwik: It does. Digital overload is too much information, increased information is higher, higher blood pressure and compress your leisure time, more sleeplessness. It's getting worse because amount information is doubling at dizzying speeds. So that's one super villain digital overload.
Another ones digital distraction. We have these smart devices and every app notification social media alert, it's training our distraction muscles, and people are picking up their phone when they wake up, it's the last thing they see when they go to sleep. And when you wake up first thing in the morning ... I have a video, it has over 28 million views, is just talking about don't touch your phone in the first hour of the day and see what happens.
Because there's training us to be number one distracted, like, share, comment, cat video, dopamine flood on. We wonder why we can't have a conversation and remember what we just read or something simple like that, because of our distraction. But also is training us to be reactive.
Our friend, Brendon Burchard, says your inbox is nothing, but a convenient organizational system for other people's agenda for your life. And we're just on defense. So we get a text message, voice messages, first thing in the morning, where we're extremely suggestible, we just woke up.
And it's just training us to just react to things as opposed to proactively do something. But the third thing is something I've learned from the two is, not only digital overload, digital distraction, but digital dementia. This idea where we're so dependent on smart devices and they're making us stupid.
Tana Amen: Oh, that's interesting.
Jim Kwik: They're doing these cognitive test, to do, and they schedule all those things, and we're not forcing the ability-
Tana Amen: You can't remember the message on your phone.
Jim Kwik: Exactly. And so in terms of learning faster-
Dr. Daniel Amen: And did you know, the dementia is actually being diagnosed later because of our smartphones. So it used to be 30 years ago when we first started Amen Clinics I would get these calls from family members saying, "Mom couldn't find her way home, she's crying. I had to go find her and we need to work this up." And now because her phone will tell her-
Jim Kwik: GPS.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... step by step how to get home, she's actually not diagnosed two years later when she is [crosstalk 00:08:45] less likely to respond to the treatment.
Jim Kwik: Because if you have a device, third party device, tell you when and where to turn. You're not realizing when you would have memory lapses.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And many people don't even know their own phone number because or the wife's phone number.
Jim Kwik: And not that I want to memorize 500 phones numbers I certainly I can. We lost the ability to remember just one number or conversation or what we just read or what hotel room we're in. Those kind of memory lapses, they're debilitating it impairs every area of our life.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're interested in coming to Amen Clinics, give us a call at 855-978-1363.