Teaching our kids to win the game of life

As I developed my skills at the Japanese abacus I realised that when I got a wrong answer, the mistake had been made, not by my hands, but by my head. You see, the brain is an amazing piece of equipment. It filters out things that it thinks you don’t need to see and it adds in missing bits if it thinks a picture is not complete. When you’re working at high speed adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing by moving beads that brain of yours can play crazy tricks. In one exam, I was working down a column of multiplication tests, knowing that the next column to the right was going to be division. Guess what, for the last multiplication sum I divided instead of multiplying. Why? My brain was already at the top of the next column!

I have found numerous quirks like that. If, for example, I flash read (i.e.take a mental photograph of) a number like this 4562.76 in order to add it into the abacus, the mistake that I make (if any) is to mis-read the first decimal (the 7 in this case).

So, we need to get to know our brains if we’re going to win at abacus. But the same is true of life.

When we were babies, our brain was our best friend. It had no worries, no regrets, no fears. It truly was a good friend, but very soon it became our worst enemy. It taught us to feel bad about the past, to worry about the future and to be dissatisfied with the present. It taught us to be nervous, shy, irritable, panicky. In fact, it taught us everything we needed to know to not win at life.

D’you train at the gym? When your trainer says do 25 reps, What is the absolute maximum that you can possibly achieve? 25! Not because your trainer knows you so well, but because your brain told you that you could only do 25.

Ever watch the finish of the comrades? Those who fall within sight of the finish? They just can’t take another step, but they’ve just done about 90 000 of them! Whose brain was that messing with them?


Way back when I was a young man of 31, I was taught by Sedley Burger, how to turn my subconscious from being my worst enemy into becoming my best friend and I have been practicing the technique ever since. I call it Mind Power Training.

Essentially, it works like this. You first learn to deeply relax and clear your mind using what I subsequently confirmed was a process close to self hypnosis. Then you vividly picture the person that you don’t want to be (heavy smoker, loser, shaker, always broke, whatever). You conjure up feelings of deep disgust for that character. Then you cast that person out and watch him/her leave, head bowed in shame. Now you picture the real you, without that characteristic. Walking tall, proud, happy, clean, wealthy. You get really excited about being that new person. Then you fade the picture and gradually return to normal awareness. When you get good at it, it takes about 10 minutes.

What have you done, and why does it work? You have embeded an idea into your subconscious. It only understands picture and emotions, so that’s how you have to “talk” to it. Once your subconscious takes the idea on board, your conscious can leave it to do the work. No further effort is required!

Of course, the technique requires practice, but it actually has a beneficial effect from the get go. Practice just makes it quicker (I can go there immediately without any “talk down”), deeper(the better you can focus, the better you’ll communicate with your subconscious) and needing less repeats.

After 16 years of smoking, I stopped, cold turkey, and never for a moment wanted to smoke after that and that was when I had first learned the technique.

At the age of 50, I decided to become a CA(SA). It takes a minimum of 5 years (3 for your Bachelors, 2 for honours and then the Board exam). I did it in 4, by leapfrogging over the first year of honours. I never failed any one of the 32 exams. How? My subconscious did it for me (although I did have to help a little).

Sports players use the technique to improve their swing, bowling, batting, sailing, jumping etc.

I use it to win at life. And, as patron of Gallagher Combined School, I encourage our teachers and staff to teach these same principles to all our students. Winning at life is about attitude, and attitude is something only you can control. Sure, there are plenty of other tools we equip your child with here at Gallagher School – such as good manners or a world-class education. But the true great leaders and innovators of our time are all people that simply decided that they will succeed and then acted on that decision. This is why we feel that this is an invaluable lesson to teach our learners.


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