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Justin Wright

Monday Velocity - The Seat of Resilience

Published about 2 months ago • 3 min read

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The Seat of Resilience

With the Boston Marathon occurring on the day this newsletter will hit your inbox, it's only fitting to talk about resilience. Running a marathon is a test of resilience. The physical preparation required is well-documented, we know that it's possible, yet there is no escaping the fact that you must do the work to prepare. Especially when training for Boston, you have to lace up the shoes on some truly awful, cold, wet days.

So what leads some people to embrace these challenges and others to run as far as they can in the other direction? It turns out, science is now starting to reveal something we didn't know before. There is a structure in the brain called the anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC) which can be considered the seat of resilience and willpower. Building this region specifically requires us to do things we don't want to do. Something about the discipline required to gut through theses tasks stimulates this area of our brain.

Studies have shown that older individuals who outperform their peers on cognitive tests are more likely to have a larger aMCC. The inverse is also true: those with neurodegenerative disorders tend to have a smaller aMCC. It also appears that this area of the brain is larger in athletes and smaller in obese individuals. In essence, developing willpower and discipline by choosing to do hard things can help make your aMCC larger.

I'm a firm believer in the anecdotal benefits from choosing to do hard things. Time and time again I've seen a direct correlation between willingness to tackle challenges and the ability to handle unpredictable life stressors. Until recently, however, there has not been enough evidence to scientifically back this claim. These studies investigating the aMCC are now starting to show that, in fact, doing hard things we don't want to do is another tool for building resilience as we age.

There is even a small group of individuals considered to be "superagers" who have highly developed aMCC brain regions. These individuals behave cognitively like those half their age, and it is believed that their increased resilience is responsible for this. The aMCC functions as a communication center for the brain, handling signals from several other regions. Increasing its size by overcoming challenges can make this communication more effective, leading to increased motivation and cognitive ability.

So choosing to do hard things has several benefits, but now we are starting to see evidence of it making us healthier as we age. If you want to stay mentally sharp and motivated as you grow older, build mental toughness now. Overcome challenges regularly, engage in activities you don't want to do in the short-term because you understand their downstream benefits long-term. Growing your aMCC may help you become a "superager" and maintain your health and vitality. As it turns out, building resilience may end up being the smartest thing you can do.


Hit List

The best things I've encountered this week:

What I'm watching: David Goggins and Andrew Huberman

This excerpt describes the aMCC and how it affects the body as we age. It's an interesting discussion about the benefits of building resilience with, arguably, one of the most resilient human beings alive.

What I'm reading: "To Succeed with AI, Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset" in Harvard Business Review

I've talked at length about having a beginner's mindset in the past, but this article does a great job of breaking down why it is so necessary when learning to use new technology. The reality is, we are all beginners when it comes to AI. Even those who have dedicated their lives to researching it have only recently made substantial breakthroughs.

What I'm listening to: "My $100m Schedule - How I Plan My Week" on Noah Kagan Presents

Noah Kagan is a successful entrepreneur who runs a $100m business. This podcast is a short and easily-digestible breakdown of some strategies he uses to manage his schedule. Some of my favorites include his index card system, his color-coded calendar, and his weekly review.


Screenshot of the Week:


Quote of the Week:

"The [mACC] is smaller in obese people; it gets bigger when they diet. It’s larger in athletes, it’s especially large or grows larger in people that see themselves as challenged and overcome some challenge. And in people that live a very long time, this area keeps its size.”- Andrew Huberman


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  1. Check out the latest episodes of my podcast 🎙
  2. Apply for 1-on-1 coaching 🏆
  3. Purchase my goal-setting course 🚦

Justin Wright

Former chemist, former pro athlete, and current film producer sharing the lessons I've learned along the way.

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