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An insider reviews...

Scott Mcculloch is editor of Families in Business

The Mind Gym – Wake Your Mind Up
by Octavius Black and Sebastian Bailey, Time Warner Books

We were all born with an amazing gift – our brains. This gift can help us accomplish anything we desire. In fact, scientists believe that we can condition our brain to consistently produce the results we want to achieve in our lives.
 
According to Amazon, the online retailer, sales of self-help books increased by 40% in 2004. The Mind Gym – Wake Your Mind Up has long been a best seller. According to the latest research, more than 75% of us would rather be more intelligent than better looking.
 
One of the latest mental fitness offerings is the Mind Gym – a corporate training manual meets self-help book. Devised by the British duo Octavius Black and Sebastian Bailey, the concept was launched as a series of punchy 90-minute interactive workouts for small groups. The workouts cover 60 topics in seven categories, including creative problem-solving and memory improvement. There's even advice on how to say "no" to a client.
 
Sam Clemmit manages The Mind Gym's Australian operation in Sydney. He says the main reason for publishing the book is that only 6% of the population get access to corporate training, which is where the majority of its workouts have been offered.
 
"People talk about the trinity of the mind, body and soul, buy there's little outside the academic arena on how we can improve the way we think or use our mind to be better at things such as dealing with other people," he says. "We're a lot more in control of our ability to choose how we think in different situations, and we tend to underestimate that."

Cynics might say the Mind Gym offers nothing new. But the workouts are endorsed by highly regarded professors of psychology and learning at Bristol University in the UK, and the techniques have worked for 100,000 people across 20 countries.
 
If there's anything readers should glean from this refreshingly plain-English book, it is to think – and therefore behave  – in ways they normally would not do in order to "get what you want" or "be respected".

There is a tale of the older boys, the authors recount, in school teasing a younger one by offering him a nickel (worth 5 cents) and a dime (worth 10 cents), and telling him he could have whichever one he picked. The younger boy would always choose the nickel "because it was bigger". The older ones would give him the coin and laugh at him for being so stupid. It was a game they would play again and again, and each time the younger boy would choose the nickel,  "because it's bigger", and each time the older ones would give him the coin and laugh at him.

A kind teacher spotted this and, feeling sorry for the younger boy, said: "Did you know that a dime is worth more than a nickel?"

"Of course."

"So why do you keep picking the nickel?" asked the teacher.

"Because if I took the dime, they'd stop offering me the money."

The expertise of the older boys and the teacher told them that a dime was worth more than a nickel. The younger boy was able to "remove this filter" to get one over his tormentors by continually picking the less valuable coin.
 
The key to becoming smarter is to spot which mental short cuts or filters are getting in the way and changing them.  "Becoming more intelligent," say Black and Bailey, "is not so much about changing what we think, as changing how we think".

There are 20 sections to the book. "Read a chapter that appeals you and leave it at," the authors advise. For all its wisdom, practicality and sense of fun the Mind Gym is uncannily like a conventional gym – you must turn up to get a result. But it's worth it.

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