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Power Up Your Mind – Book Review


Power Up Your Mind
by Bill Lucas
Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2001

This well-meaning and cheerful book is hard to resist, with its central premise that anyone can learn how to be an effective learner and through this come to lead a fulfilled life. Author Bill Lucas, founder and Chief Executive of the Campaign for Learning, has produced an excellent synthesis of modern thinking about learning. His book is packed with enthusiastically shared insights across a whole range of techniques, from mind-mapping and neuro linguistic programming, to the importance of memory and a healthy diet.

The essence of Power Up Your Mind is the belief that learning is learnable. Bill Lucas argues convincingly for the possibility of life change through acquiring the essential skill of "learnacy" - learning to learn. He begins with a fascinating whistlestop tour of our current understanding about the workings of the brain, including 10 tips for treating your brain right. (Sorry caffeine addicts, the best way to keep your brain alert is to drink lots of glasses of water each day!)

At the heart of the book is a model of how we learn - Ready, Go, Steady. Ready indicates the need for the right conditions for learning to take place, both internally through active engagement of the brain and externally via a conducive environment. We need to remain curious about the world and be emotionally ready to learn; to do this our basic needs must be met. However, even those who have a previous aversion to learning can learn how to replace negative self-talk by using positive words and visualising images of future success. Go is about understanding yourself as a learner and having the persistence to try new techniques to release your creative potential. Here Lucas quotes Plato: The worst of all deceptions is the self-deception that we no longer need to learn - a self-deception commonly encountered by those whose role in life is to encourage reluctant professionals to engage in CPD! Steady refers to the ability to reflect on your learning and to apply it effectively in order to introduce real change into your life.

Lucas argues that using all three aspects of this model, together with the "5 Rs" of Resourcefulness, Remembering, Resilience, Reflectiveness and Responsiveness, can help to transform and enhance individual performance. He also presents positively and persuasively the value of introducing learning into the workplace, and usefully flags up some of the barriers to creativity and reflection that are likely to be encountered. He is less convincing, however, about how to introduce these ideas in organisations resistant to learning and change, or how to overcome their intractable structures and hostile cultures.

Power Up Your Mind is well laid out and easy to follow, with chapter summaries and mind-maps to break up the text. There are plenty of useful exercises, tips and techniques to try out, with memorable stories and examples from business to facilitate the learning points being made. Who will fail to recognise the image of the modern workplace in which "the contemporary equivalents of the woolly mammoth… create a climate of threat around them", preventing the development of a successful environment for learning? Whether you are an individual seeking to develop your own learning skills or a practitioner working with individuals, groups and organisations to facilitate change through learning, you will find a wealth of invaluable material here.

Reviewed by Susanna Reece, Stile Associates, Personal and Professional Development Services.

About the reviewer

Susanna Reece has qualifications in law, management and training and is an experienced facilitator, trainer, coach and mentor. She has recently been awarded a Diploma in Performance Coaching for Business. Susanna previously worked for the Law Society and for the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries and is now a freelance consultant, providing personal and professional development services to individuals and groups, including professional associations. Her interests include CPD and professional ethics; individual, corporate and judicial decision-making processes; work-life balance issues; and bringing a spiritual and ethical presence to the workplace.

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