Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School


Abstract vector designed by Freepik

Ever wonder how your brain works? Or how you can turbo-charge your brain, making it more sharper and smarter?


Brain Rules is an interesting book that reveals twelve basic principles to help us make the best use of our brains, making it more efficient every day and enabling us to become better professionals, leaders, parents, students and teachers.


These 12 principles which form the core of Dr. John Medina’s book: Brain Rules, help you understand how your brain really works and how you can make it more smart.


Rule 1 : Exercise
Exercise boosts brain power – The human brain evolved under conditions of almost constant motion. From this, one might predict that the optimal environment for processing information would include motion. That is exactly what one finds. Indeed, the best business meeting would have everyone walking at about 1.8 miles per hour.


Rule 2 : Survival
The human brain evolved, too – The brain is a survival organ. It is designed to solve problems related to surviving in an unstable outdoor environment and to do so in nearly constant motion (to keep you alive long enough to pass your genes on). We were not the strongest on the planet but we developed the strongest brains, the key to our survival.


Rule 3 : Wiring
Every brain is wired differently – What YOU do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like – it literally rewires it. We used to think there were just 7 categories of intelligence. But categories of intelligence may number more than 7 billion—roughly the population of the world.


Rule 4 : Attention
We don’t pay attention to boring things – What we pay attention to is profoundly influenced by memory. Our previous experience predicts where we should pay attention. Culture matters too. Whether in school or in business, these differences can greatly affect how an audience perceives a given presentation.


Rule 5 : Memory
Repeat to remember – The human brain can only hold about seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds! Which means, your brain can only handle a 7-digit phone number. If you want to extend the 30 seconds to a few minutes or even an hour or two, you will need to consistently re-expose yourself to the information. Memories are so volatile that you have to repeat to remember.


Rule 6 : Music
Study or listen to boost cognition – There’s a commercial from the 1970s, starring actor and director Orson Welles, about a California winery’s fastidious production philosophy. “We will sell no wine before its time,” Welles intoned. That tagline could easily be applied to our subject. Ideas about how music affects the brain long have been the providence of anecdote. But the research has been maturing for a while now. Now it is of sufficient quality that a few solid things can be said about it.


Rule 7 : Sleep
Sleep well, think well – When we’re asleep, the brain is not resting at all. It is almost unbelievably active! It’s possible that the reason we need to sleep is so that we can learn. Sleep must be important because we spend 1/3 of our lives doing it! Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.


Rule 8 : Stress
Stressed brains don’t learn the same way – Your brain is built to deal with stress that lasts about 30 seconds. The brain is not designed for long term stress when you feel like you have no control. The saber-toothed tiger ate you or you ran away but it was all over in less than a minute. If you have a bad boss, the saber-toothed tiger can be at your door for years, and you begin to deregulate. If you are in a bad marriage, the saber-toothed tiger can be in your bed for years, and the same thing occurs. You can actually watch the brain shrink.


Rule 9 : Sensory integration
Stimulate more of the senses – Our senses work together so it is important to stimulate them! Your head crackles with the perceptions of the whole world, sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, energetic as a frat party.


Rule 10 : Vision
Vision trumps all other senses – We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. Pictures beat text as well, in part because reading is so inefficient for us. Our brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures, and we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them. That takes time.


Rule 11 : Gender
Male and female brains are different – What’s different? Mental health professionals have known for years about sex-based differences in the type and severity of psychiatric disorders. Males are more severely afflicted by schizophrenia than females. By more than 2 to 1, women are more likely to get depressed than men, a figure that shows up just after puberty and remains stable for the next 50 years. Males exhibit more antisocial behavior. Females have more anxiety. Most alcoholics and drug addicts are male. Most anorexics are female.


Rule 12 : Exploration
We are powerful and natural explorers – The desire to explore never leaves us despite the classrooms and cubicles we are stuffed into. Babies are the model of how we learn—not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion. Babies methodically do experiments on objects, for example, to see what they will do.


For a detail summary on each of these rules, including videos, check out ‘The 12 Rules‘ by John Medina, on the Brain Rules website.