Why Every Entrepreneur Needs To Optimize Their Brain – Pt. 1 with Dan Sullivan

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

When Dan Sullivan, founder of the Strategic Coach Program, decided to come to Amen Clinics to learn about how distractibility affects the brain, what he discovered there changed his life. In the first part of a series on entrepreneurs and brain optimization, Dr. Daniel Amen talks with Dan about ADD, and what to do when it affects your learning process.


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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 AmenClinics.com.

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

Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome, everybody. I am so excited for this podcast, because I get to interview one of my friends and mentors and someone I've known for a number of years. Dan Sullivan is the cofounder and creator of the Strategic Coach Program. Since its inception in 1989, this lifetime focusing program has helped over 18,000 accomplished entrepreneurs to reach new heights of success and happiness. Actually, he's the coach to many of my friends, many of my most successful friends. He's a visionary, and innovator, gifted conceptual thinker. Dan Sullivan has over 30 years of experience. He's a highly regarded speaker, consultant, strategic planner, and coach to entrepreneurial individuals and groups. So, why would I have him on The Brain Warrior's Way? People completely forget about the brain at work. It was what, seven or eight years ago, Dan, that you came to the clinic?

Dan Sullivan: Yeah, yeah. It'll be eight years in November, so I was 66, and I came to the Newport, as it was then, the Newport office, Newport Beach. I did the questionnaire, the 200-question questionnaire online and then came in for the three days. So, it was a great discovery for me. I didn't go there to have a discovery for myself, but I came away with a discovery for myself, which has been phenomenal since I followed the Amen Clinic path.

Dr Daniel Amen: Why did you come?

Dan Sullivan: Well, I have a lot of clients, and I'm very conscious that if I have at any given time we're in the 2,500 to 3,000 range of entrepreneurs, and these are all successful entrepreneurs. We catch them when they've kind of achieved what they originally thought they were going to achieve, and now they want to jump to the next level. I was conscious that one of the big issues that a lot of them had was the distractibility, which reading up on it a little, we came across your book, we came across your videos. I said, you know, I bet if I went to the Amen Clinic, I would get a much bigger insight about some of the daily burdens that people carry inside their head that nobody really knows about, and sometimes it's so bad that people are aware outside themselves. So, I came actually to go through the testing so I would be in a position to advise other people.

Dr Daniel Amen: And what did you find? I know what we found, but what was the epiphany for you?

Dan Sullivan: It was really interesting, because I kind of breezed through the test, and the image that came across according to my consultant at the end of the three days, she said, "You know, there's a real, real wide gap between who you seem to be answering the questionnaire and what our tests have found over the last three days." She said, "You seem your life is simple, it seems very tranquil, it's kind of organized, lots of structure to it. You don't seem to have a lot of upsets, but the tests tell me that there's a circus going on inside, so what gives? What gives? How do you explain this radical difference?"

So, just briefly for Coach, it's that we get people to think about their thinking, and we've created a whole series of tools which are question-driven. They're open-ended questions where they have to do a time shift, where the way they are now and they compare themselves to where they were in the past, and then they discover that some things have gotten better and some things have gotten worse, and that's their knowledge. We simply ask them to go inside their own thinking, their own experience, and then we ask them to put together a plan of things they've discovered through their thinking. Now they're going to make a shift over the next 90 days.

Our main concept is called Who Not How, which is that you're tempted, when you see something bigger and better, to do the how to get there, but you're no good at that, and all of your frustrations is getting involved in activities that you're not any good at, and who you have to do is you constantly have to identify who's, and so just to make the whole point, I could talk to people about ADD and what I've discovered, or I can just send them to the Amen Clinic, so it's the who that does the how rather than me doing it. So just to bring it back to the Amen Clinic, and I think I can count 25 or 26 that I know personally and just others that I've talked about. It was actually a client who actually recommended the Amen Clinic, that he had been there.

So, what happened? The consultant, I'll just sum this up very quickly, she asked me what I do, and she said, "Well, I don't know who else you designed all these thinking tools, but I know the main person that you designed them all." She said, "You're a self-therapy guy, and you figured out a way over your first 66 years to kind of get yourself balanced and focused, but that isn't your life. Your life is actually chaos, and you've figured out a means to balance yourself, and then you found out that it was valuable to other people." That was a great ... I've never considered myself ADD.

Dr Daniel Amen: But your scan was very ADD, and so when we treated it with lifestyle interventions but also medicine, what was the difference?

Dan Sullivan: Yeah, well the big thing was getting off sugar, because I didn't realize how unbalancing sugar was. Between the time I did the scan, I didn't see you when I came in, then I saw you at Genius Network, where you pulled up ... You asked me if you could pull up the scan. You looked at it, then I'm going to say this for the record so that it's out there. Your response said, "You know, I've heard you're really smart, but I don't know how you could be with such a shitty brain." I got the words exactly, and I didn't consider it an insult, because I had seen the scans, and I grew up on a farm. Took a lot of knocks. I was a real rough-houser as a kid. I was in lots of fights, and I played football. In one game, I got knocked out in the first quarter and they put me back in the fourth quarter, and I got knocked out on the first play, but the next week I was back in. The protocols were a bit different in those days.

You could see where there was lights out. It was part of the city that had lost its power, and I suspect it was on the opposite side where I got hit, but you could just see there was a non-functioning part of my brain. Overall, it was like smog. There was no brightness to it, and then a year later when we came back ... And the other thing is that I had started taking the consultant who I met with at the end of my clinic visit, she said, "Look," she said, "I don't know if you want to do this or not, but you may find a pharmaceutical helpful. Here's the prescription." I didn't do it for three months, because I didn't know whether I wanted to. Did I need it? I'm a self-therapy guy, so before a workshop ... It was Adderall, you know. It was a very low dosage. It was five mg. I said, I'm just going to try it out.

I took it, and it didn't act immediately, so it was about five minutes before the workshop, and I went in. Literally, I don't know who's told you this, but it was like a bang, and everything went quiet. For the first time in my life, my whole life had been about noise. Inside my brain was noise. For seven and a half years, I've had quiet. First time in my life I've had quiet. The other thing is, things slowed down. I could stay on track. I could stay on schedule, and I've had, quite extraordinarily the most productive, creative seven and a half years of my life, and it shows. Everybody around me at my team notices it, our clients stay a long time. I've got 40 people who've been in the program for more than 20 years on a continual basis, so they notice. They notice changes and everything else.

So I said, if that can happen with the knowledge that you gave me and if it can happen with the lifestyle change that I did and a little bit of a pharmaceutical help, this is really something that I want to make available to our Strategic Coach clients, because there's a lot of them, I would say 50%, that are affected in some way. I know all the different types of ADD. It's not one thing, it's a whole ... There's many dimensions to this. There's many ... A lot of it's environmental, a lot of it is hard knocks.

Dr Daniel Amen: Super interesting, though, that one, you didn't know. You're highly successful. You're coaching highly successful people. You developed great systems, and your brain is nowhere near optimized. It's nowhere near healthy, which is why I used the term I did. When we gave you a stimulant, so Adderall is a stimulant, it actually quieted things down for you, so you could better use the great brain you have. When the brain is sleepy, a lot of people don't know, especially the front part of the brain, its job is to settle things down. It's the brain's brake. We call it the executive part of the brain.

When it doesn't work hard enough, when it's low in blood flow, it's like there's chaos inside your mind. It's not a choice. It's not like you ever wake up and go, well, I want chaos in my head or I want noise in my life. It's not a choice. And just balancing your brain can make a huge positive, long-term difference, which is why I'm so excited to have you on our podcast.

Dan Sullivan: Can I ask you a question about that?

Dr Daniel Amen: You bet.

Dan Sullivan: I sort of compensated with things that I was doing outside myself with the structures and the tools. Is there also a sort of compensating that the brain does? You know, I'm not using this part, but I'm going to move some functions over here, that was happening to me? I've always been known as smart, you know? Ever since I was a kid, quick and smart. That's generally the reputation that goes around with me, and I'm just wondering, because I have a suspicion that a lot of the damage happened early. Football, certainly, I think probably did it. I loved tackling. I really loved tackling. I loved ... It's kind of funny. Do you know the politician Kucinich?

Dr Daniel Amen: I do.

Dan Sullivan: Dennis Kucinich, he's a Democrat. He ran for president. But I knocked him out in a game. I actually knocked him out in a game when he was in high school, and I have to tell you, I really just loved that activity, but I probably diminished some of my future prospects by doing that.

Dr Daniel Amen: You bet. But when your frontal lobes are low, so probably they were low before the football hits, is people become excitement seeking, even conflict seeking, as a way to turn their brains back on. So, if you become the missile, if you will, in football, that's giving you adrenaline. It's giving you your internal juice. Unfortunately, you're hurting other people in the process. Where what the Adderall does is it just balances-

Dan Sullivan: He was a Democrat, Daniel. He was a Democrat, you know. Not to talk about-

Dr Daniel Amen: I religiously stay away from that.

Dan Sullivan: ... Not to disorient your client base, but so is everybody unique in this? There's my case ... You've got the greatest amount of mapping of anybody in the world about actually what happens in the head. Yeah, I think you're the one who said the statement that the psychiatrists and other people who are helping people with their brains are the only medical doctors who never examine the organ. It's a very famous line of yours.

Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, craziness.

Dan Sullivan: I get a sense that you have perfect pitch now about brain scans, and you can look at a brain scan and you can see 25 different things which 20 years ago you might see 10 or 15 things. What are you seeing now, because you're the champ in this particular area of science, and it really is science because it's measurable and it's predictable.

Dr Daniel Amen: Let's talk about that when we come back, because the podcasts tend to be about 12 or 15 minutes, and that's very important, but what I also want to talk to you about is the people around you, and what have they seen both personally and in your business. Stay with us. Thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review, and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of The Brain Warrior's Way and The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook we give away every month.