What Neuroscience Says on Why Self Improvement is So Effing Hard (and What to Do About It)

What Neuroscience Says on Why Self Improvement is So Effing Hard (and What to Do About It)

Everything you do, or experience, or think is affected by the expectations you already have.

Take your arms, for example.

With both arms intact, your brain works swimmingly. It sends signals to your limbs, they move, they provide feedback, and your brain breathes a sigh of relief that the cycle is complete. When you expect your arm to move and it does, your expectations are fulfilled. All is well.

But if one arm were missing, this feedback loop doesn’t close. A variety of sensations, including pain, can follow.

In a fascinating book Phantoms in the Brain, Dr. Ramachandran explores the world of neuroscience through people who have lost a limb. Patients experienced phantom sensations in an extremity that no longer existed; some as simple as a fleeting tickle, others as irritating as an un-itchable itch and, in the worst of cases, pain.

The patient’s brain, having sent a signal to the missing limb, would expect a response. Without receiving one, its neural pathways would get confused, causing severe phantom pain where none should be possible.


Or take relationships, for example.

From Nice Guy to Respected Leader: 5 Tactics Nice Guys Can Use to Gain Respect and Avoid Finishing Last

From Nice Guy to Respected Leader: 5 Tactics Nice Guys Can Use to Gain Respect and Avoid Finishing Last

What he said to me was, “You’re such a nice guy, Mike. The nicest.”

What he meant was, “Everyone is trampling all over you. You’re not aggressive enough. You’re never going to get anywhere in life, and you certainly aren’t going to find success in this company.”

I’ve heard it a thousand times before.

“Mike, you’re such a nice guy.”


“Mike, you’re the nicest. So nice.”

Which would be great if it were a compliment. But it’s not.

Of course, there’s truth to what they say. I am nice. I do treat others with kindness. I would give you the shirt of my back if you needed it.

But their so called compliments are laced with an undercurrent of misgiving concerning my ability to get ahead in life or, at the very least, avoid the wrath of distrustful, self-interested sinners who would rob me of my possessions, my honor, and my virtue.

These stabs at my character disguised as flattery are enough to make me wonder if I should be more of an asshole.

Nice guys finish last, right

Need a Breakthrough? Try Working the Impossible...

For the longest time, I couldn’t squat more than 200 pounds. Though training 5 days a week had quickly pushed me from squatting zero to 195 pounds, adding five extra pounds to the bar felt like adding 1000.

I knew this limit was artificial, manufactured in my brain that tried as best as it could to preserve itself by not taking risks. Regardless, I couldn’t break through. So I looked to a friend and fitness coach for some expert advice:

“Throw 300 pounds on the bar,” he said. “Don’t try to squat it, just put it on your shoulders. Feel the weight, hold it, then re-rack it. Do this a few times, then drop back to 200 lbs and try squatting again.”

It worked.

In theory, nothing had changed. I hadn’t gotten any stronger. I hadn’t learned a new technique or used some new device to artificial increase my lift. I had simply forced my mind to believe that it was possible to hold more weight. And after holding 300 lbs, squatting 200 felt much, much lighter.

What seemingly impossible task are you dealing with right now? What is holding you back from taking that next step towards your goals?

Acknowledge it, but move quickly to build tasks that challenge you. If someone has achieved what you are trying to achieve before, study them. Open your mind to the possibility that, if they can do it, so can you. Push yourself to operate at a new level, even if only briefly. When you come back to your work, what seemed impossible before may be that much easier.

Sometimes, when you get stuck and can’t seem to break through to the next level—when you hit a plateau that prevents you from furthering your goals—showing yourself the impossible is possible can be the breakthrough you need.

About the Author

Mike Mehlberg

In Search of Breakthroughs

Mike is constantly searching for breakthroughs for high-achieving entrepreneurs. Contact him to find out how you can get more productive, align your passion with your vision and purpose, and crush your goals with a balanced, achievable plan for success. 

Faster, Better, Cheaper: Two to Survive, Three to Thrive

Faster. Better. Cheaper.

This was the mantra of our business.

In every customer presentation, every water cooler discussion, and every company memo, our CEO could find a way to weave “faster, better, cheaper” into the conversation.

These three things are, after all, what every customer wants. They are what anyone and everyone wants.

Faster. Better. Cheaper. Three words that perfectly summarize the desire of any modern human.


We want results, and we want them now. We want revenue immediately. We want products shipped and delivered same-day. We want our goals accomplished, and our visions realized tomorrow.


We want the best. We’ll settle for good, but we want great, and we crave the best. The best price (see below), the best food, the best information that will lead us to the best version of ourselves.


We want it all to be extremely affordable. The best goods available as quickly as possible, and cheap as shit. We want inexpensive products and free shipping. We demand free apps, customer service, and support.

Two Will Survive, Three Will Thrive

Faster. Better. Cheaper. Companies that can deliver two out of the three will survive.

Deliver the best service the quickest (but at a higher cost)? You’ll live. Build inexpensive products quickly (albeit with lower quality)? Your customers will buy. Provide the best coaching cheaper than your competition (but provide slower results), you’ll make a living.

But show your customers how you can be all three and watch your company thrive.

About the Author


Mike Mehlberg

Business, Productivity, and Organization Writer

Mike Mehlberg helps high-achieving entrepreneurs maximize their time with purpose-driven business, organization, and productivity tools and techniques. Contact him for strategies to transform your vision into goals, goals into action, and action into results.

Minimizing Risks vs. Maximizing Gains in Business

One word.

It’s the most common investment advice you hear.  

You do it with your assets, your wealth, investment types, even investors.  


Diversifying protects your downside. It prevents massive losses and minimizes risks to your portfolio. Diversifying is arguably one of the most important concepts for wealth management. After all, if all your eggs are in one basket, you can’t afford to drop it. 

But diversifying isn’t the way to maximize growth in business. Quite the opposite. 

In business, you must constantly stay ahead. You must find your unique perspective and use it to claim (and protect) a portion of your market. Then, with that as a foothold, you have to grow your market share and squeeze out the competition, or at least prevent your competitors from encroaching on your territory.  

To do that requires learning — continuous, focused learning.

Take, for example, a “diversified business owner.” He spends one part of his day selling technology, then rushes over to work on marketing for a bakery, finally finishing the day with a trip to his hair salon to manage the books.

Clearly this is not optimal.  

The problem is, this owner can’t apply the lessons he learned in from business to the next. His actions are fragmented and unfocused. He can’t use the experiences from one company to make the next better.  

Entrepreneurship requires focus.  

Focus on learning the right things. Focus on learning the right skills. Focus on applying what you learn to run a more efficient, productive, and profitable business. 

When it comes to your investments, diversify. When it comes to your business, focus.  

About The Author


Mike Mehlberg

Co-Founder | Focus Master

Mike just crushes focus and productivity in business for entrepreneurs. Right when they feel the weight of too many things to do, Mike can jump in and focus their efforts on achieving their vision and goals. Just don’t ask him about investing... 

Top Challenges (and Solutions) of 11 Business Owners Who Have Been Through the Grinder and Come Out On Top

Top Challenges (and Solutions) of 11 Business Owners Who Have Been Through the Grinder and Come Out On Top

The theme on Charles Street was hard to ignore, though most did. Hundreds of locals passed dozens of storefronts by the hour, largely oblivious to the marketing efforts of each business, silently trapped in their own heads. Their feet carried them mindlessly to their destination. Few stopped to shop.

I, on the other hand, couldn't help myself. Every window display captured my attention. Every smell from every bakery turned my head. The very bricks of the sidewalk, now cracked and gnarled and settled from over 200 years of foot traffic, guided me from one store to the next. While others were lost in their thoughts, I was captivated by the intersection of history and modern-day small business... and I wondered of the story for every small business on the street. 

Knowing from experience how difficult it is to start, run, and build and grow a business, I wanted to hear how they did it. How did they get started? What gave them the most success? How did they deal with the daily challenges of keeping their (literal) doors open? 

If only they could tell me, and I could share their experiences, the challenges they've faced and the problems they've solved could help thousands of business owners like themselves. 

The following article is that help. Not from the handful of brick-and-mortar stores in Beacon Hill, Boston, but from business owners running every kind of business throughout the world.

On Systems for Continuous Business Improvement

On Systems for Continuous Business Improvement

I remember the pain of losing my first sale.

I’d spent nearly $1500 on flights and hotels, taken two days out for travel, and spent another two days preparing for what I thought was going to be a slamdunk meeting.

As it turns out, if you want to slam dunk, you have to clear a path to the basket before you jump.

The funny thing was, my meeting went exceptionally well. I had my talking points, I answered all their questions, I was friendly, funny, and otherwise firing on all cylinders.

But in sales, that’s not always enough...

5 Warning Signs to Sniff Out Low Employee Engagement

5 Warning Signs to Sniff Out Low Employee Engagement

Can you spot the difference between and engaged vs. disengaged employee?

When employees are engaged with their work, they put in the extra effort and genuinely believe in the values of your organization. Disengaged workers, on the other hand, tend to dislike their jobs, don’t put in any effort beyond what’s necessary, and don’t care about the company’s vision.

Many experts believe it’s difficult to identify employees who aren’t engaged. That’s because, while some are “actively disengaged” making them fairly easy to spot, roughly half the United States workforce remains disengaged in subtle, less obvious ways.

Want to Grow Your Business? Find These 3 Numbers First...

Want to Grow Your Business? Find These 3 Numbers First...

I’m going to use two words that will quickly turn you away.

Your first reaction will be to close this article and search for greener pastures.

But you mustn’t…

Because these two words are going to be the root of your success. If used correctly, these two words are going to help you:

·       discover your niche,

·       find your ideal customers,

·       increase sales,

·       grow your business, and

·       crush your competition.

You’ve heard these words before. So has your competition.

Your competition has already used these two words to get funding, grow their startup, snag away your customers, and start encroaching on your company’s territory.

That’s because these words aren’t some hidden secret. They are widely used in corporate circles, necessary for business planning, and critical to any company’s success.

That’s why you’ll want to leave. Because you think you know what these words mean. Because you’re convinced that you’ve already gotten everything you can out of them. Because you believe you are too busy and have more pressing things to learn and bigger problems to solve.

But you don’t.

Because while you may have done this before, you haven’t used these two words since you started your business… and you haven’t used these two words to affect growth.

That’s what we’re going to do today.

We’re going to make your company stronger. Stronger from within (through a clear understanding of your customers, their buying power, and their problems) and from without (through increased presence, better customer targeting, and growth into new business areas).

Ready to hear them?

Top 7 Small Business Topic Posts of the Year

Top 7 Small Business Topic Posts of the Year

I’m a big believer in looking back, reflecting on what has gone well, and building on that in the new year to get closer to my goals.

When I look at Modern da Vinci, the growth we’ve seen is incredible. It’s a sign that we’re on the right track, but more importantly, it’s a sign that the small business community is as vibrant as ever.

Here are some incredible statistics from 2016:

  • Average reading time is up 21.45% over last year.
  • Bounce rate is down 35.14%.
  • 521.74% more page views this year over 2015.
  • 850.70% increase in new visitors in 2016!

These statistics are obviously exciting for Seth and me here at Modern da Vinci. But more so, these statistics should make you proud. Proud to be a small business owner. Proud to be part of an ongoing conversation with owners like yourself, all learning and growing together.

We’re excited for what’s to come in 2017. We’re looking forward to growing more with you and finding new small business owners like yourself to learn from.

But before we end 2016, it’s worth reviewing the top posts in each of the five areas for a growing, thriving small business.

How to Use Your Customers Fears to Increase Sales

How to Use Your Customers Fears to Increase Sales

Have your past marketing efforts fallen on deaf ears? Have your previous advertisements cost you way too much for far too little gain? You’re not alone. This is a common problem nearly every small business faces.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Growing your business is hard. If you could find just one additional customer today, I know you’d call it a win.

So let’s figure out how to do that, and let’s do it quick. Let’s get to the root of the problem nearly every small business has: finding their customers, adding new customers, and ultimately growing their business.

The Entrepreneurs Guide to New Year's Resolutions

The Entrepreneurs Guide to New Year's Resolutions

I'm going to do something that scares the hell out of me. I'm going to share something very personal. Something that took me hours of reflection to create. Something I hesitate to share with friends and family. I'm going to share my new year’s resolution. 

To be clear, you shouldn't care about my new year’s resolution. Sure, it's deeply personal so may be interesting in much the same way secrets and rumors are interesting. But beyond that, it's not the resolution that's important; it's the process by which this resolution is created that will affect your year for the better. 

Every successful entrepreneur I know is out there working hard, working long, and trying to work smart. They are thinking and creating and building. They are searching for a meaningful solution to their customer’s problems and purpose in their lives. Every entrepreneur I know has goals, lists, objectives, and to-do’s. But not many have created a yearly resolution for their business. Not one like this at least.

The new year’s resolution I'm recommending isn't your typical one. It's less of a goal and more of a statement... a guide of sorts. A word or two to live by. Something that, if you get it right, will change yourself and your business for the better in the coming 365 days. 

Reading to Remember

Reading to Remember

Looking back on shelves full of hundreds, if not thousands of books read provides a certain satisfaction for the intellectually inclined. Yet, while looking at the shelves, I realized that any effect these books had on me was fleeting. Some books were long forgotten, others a vague memory. My problem? I wasn't reading to remember. And for what other purpose do we read than to remember!?

Ask yourself, do you really remember what you read? Do you remember more than the overarching concepts of any book? Can you recite the inspirational quotes, the dozens of tidbits of knowledge that were supposed to change the way you think about life and work? If you're like me, your answer is probably "no".