'The Dopamine Switch'

How to crush it at work without work crushing you, your teams, or your marriage.

Eradicate the self-defeating head chatter and self-destructive childhood beliefs that are hobbling your true, creative leadership potential.


Crushing it as a creative leader has never been more crushing. The pressure to generate genius-on-demand continues to rise as the resources to do so continue to dwindle: less time, less money, less brains to put on the job. You know the drill.

It's enough to make your want to jack-it-all-in and take a job in the post office. Only don't...

This is the survival guide to the creative battlefield you've been waiting for. The no-holds-barred, woo-woo-free leadership manual that will pressure-proof your brain, and reignite your passion for work, by giving you the tools, techniques and unflappable mindset you need to create a creative life you never want to escape from – no matter how much shit hits the fan.

From firsthand experience, Matt knows all too well the chaos and carnage an unpressure-proofed brain can inflict on your personal creativity and your ability to lead, love, and think straight. 

He was in his mid twenties, at the top of his career, winning major international awards, and writing commercials for some of the coolest brands on the planet. 

Until BANG!!! 

His brain blew a fuse and his confidence took a bullet.

He didn't know what hit him. One minute he was creatively on fire, cracking briefs and coming up with the goods, and the next he was on fire mentally, emotionally and physically. 

And not in a good way. 

He had hit the wall behind the wall: burnout. But being a guilt-riddled creative in an industry obsessed with masochistic work ethics, he wasn't gonna let double lung pneumonia and an appetite for self-destruction stop his race to the knackers yard. 

To show weakness was to turn up at work naked. Not allowed.

So he kept on soldering on until he unceremoniously crashed through the next great wall inside: Burnout 2.0. 

And this one REALLY fucking stung.

In an effort to 'fix himself' he began drinking beer out of a coffee cup when others were eating cornflakes. Started detonating his securest of relationships, at both work and at home. And told anyone who’d listen that he was "just fine", and that it was they who were fucked. 

As a high-achieving creative leader in a position of power, you probably also know what it feels like to have a spotlight on your front and a target on your back. You understand the monumental pressure that generating genius-on-demand puts on your brain, soul, and sense-of-perspective. And you know what happens if you step off the gas. 

For years you’ve had it drilled into your skull that “You’re only every as good as your last piece of work”, and “Don’t think you're above being replaced." Because as you and your colleagues both know, your job is never safe – no matter how great you are, or how brilliant people say you've been. 

This kind of angst and suffering, in an industry dripping with so much glitz, glamour, and public envy is completely and utterly unacceptable, and completely and utterly unsustainable. 

But thanks to the science of sustainable high performance, and the psychology of building rock-solid creative flow, “suffering for your art” is the biggest piece of nonsense ever written.

After decades of firsthand experience as a leader, psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist and peak performance coach, Matt knows that the creative brain is far more anti-fragile than we sometimes give it credit for. But right out the box, as Mother Nature intended, it is not fit-for-purpose. Not for the ultra marathon that is a long and illustrious creative career.

To pressure-proof it (and you do need to pressure-proof it) you need to rewrite your ‘subconscious blueprint of life’. You need to rewire your default mode to pressure, from 'fight or flight', to 'flow and excel'. And you need to eradicate the neurological clutter and self-defeating childhood beliefs that are hobbling your true, creative leadership potential.

In other words, you need to flip the switch.

When you do this, and only when you do this, you can stop beating yourself up when the going gets tough. Stop pickling your liver in alcohol or Red Bull. And do the best work of your creative career, for as long as you choose, no matter how far along that path you are, or how demanding the industry gets.


The Dopamine Switch pressure-proofs creative leaders' brains by rewiring the way they view, think and respond to life on the creative battlefield, at both a conscious AND subconscious level. 

The conscious work will be delivered through exercises that the reader will complete in their lunch break. And the subconscious work will be delivered as short and extremely powerful  ‘subcongnitive-mind-recoding’ MP3's which they can listen to on their commute, or at night when they're finally alone. 



After 20 years working for and running some of the most exciting and innovative creative businesses in the UK and Australia, Matt retrained as a peak performance psychologist, psychotherapist, and clinical hypnotherapist at King's College London, before launching the creative leadership coaching company, Leading Left.


As well as being an owner of a pressure-proofed creative brain, Sean Thompson is one of the most highly-awarded creative leaders in the world, and co-founder/creative director and commercials director at the the ad agency, Who Wot Why.


One page overview of The Dopamine Switch’s top 5 big ideas.


Three page overview of The Dopamine Switch’s top 5 big ideas.


How Matt Follows went from a multi-award-winning creative at the top of his career, to one of the world’s most in-demand creative leadership coaches: via a spectacularly public and incredibly painful creative burnout from hell. The scars he earned and the lessons he learnt, are peppered throughout this book, with no fluff, filler, or New Age woo-woo.


There’s a dangerous myth knocking around the creative industries: ’Pressure Creates Diamonds’. Whilst a certain degree of pressure is needed to "get up and get shit done", science has proven that it is not a sustainable way to run the creative marathon that is your life and career. Sustainable High Performers live a life in flow not fear, and as such, they're fuelled by a neurochemical cocktail of dopamine, serotonin, endorphin, anandamide and noradrenalin, not the immune-system-bashing-stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This book will show you how to flip the Dopamine switch, and keep it switched on no matter how much shit gets flung at the fan, or how intense the external forces of your world become.


Sustainable high performance is not a spectator sport, and neither is it an exercise in mindful academia. Your brain is a neurocomputer as well as a muscle, which means it needs to be strengthened and reprogrammed from the unconscious mind out, not just from the prefrontal cortex down. So, to get the most out of The Dopamine Switch, you need to do both the cognitive exercises in each chapter, as well as the mindrecoding sessions which accompany them. You can complete this book solo or with a partner. 



How our three brains evolved over the past few million years, and what their main roles are today, through the lens of sustainable high performance for pressure-proofed creative leaders.


Unpacking the three main brain regions we’ll be focusing on in order to pressure-proof the creative brain; how they work together; and what happens to your creativity, sanity, and sense of perspective when it all goes wrong.


The difference between the brain and the mind and how the mind is divided into your conscious and subconscious. 


“Until you make the unconscious conscious it will dictate the course of your life and you will call it fate.” — Carl Jung

Your subconscious Blueprint Of Life contains the empowering and disabling beliefs, core values, world-views, and self-image your brain defaults to a whopping 95% of your waking life. This blueprint dictates the course of your life, and was written before you reached the tender age of seven. So, you need to know what’s written on that gospel according to brilliant and bitter pre-conscious learning, and upgrade or delete what’s no longer working.


But there’s a problem. The bouncer at the door to your unconscious does NOT want you to add, modify, or delete anything from the blueprint; no matter how much grief, stress, or mindless head-chatter it may be causing you. But, you CAN change it when you know how to bypass the bouncer through brainwave modification.  

- 4 TO 8-Hz 

The brain frequency required to bypass the bouncer and rewrite the blueprint is the same brain frequency we call Flow, ‘The Zone’ or ‘The Pocket’: famously referred to as “the optimal state of human consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” It’s no coincidence that every mind-recoding track you listen to on this pressure-proofing program is compounding your creative brain’s ability to default to the flow-state under pressure and on-demand.


When put under pressure an anti-fragile creative brain defaults to ‘flow and excel’ not ‘fight or flight’. But what exactly is creative flow? Why is it so critical to creative leadership? How does it manifest chemically, biologically and electrically in the brain and wider nervous system? And how can you use your brain’s ability to reshape itself and grow new neurons to hardwire a Flow-Trigger in your creative brain? You'll find all the answers in this chapter.


As high-achieving creative athletes we need to work with our biology, not against it. We learnt this back in1905 and the business world has been blind to it ever since. In this chapter Matt unpacks The Burnout Model™ and gives you the science behind Ultradium Rhythms and the pressure-proofing framework you need to make dopamine-fuelled, sustainable high performance business-as-usual.


If you leave the structure of your days to chance you’re destined to live a life of full of frantic half-sketches, rather than back-to-back masterpieces. Building on the previous chapter, you will now be given the conscious and unconscious tools you need to fully-optimise your days by structuring them around your internal ‘flow clock’ and in alignment with your heart-brain’s on/off cycles and bio-rhythms. 


All the negative head-chatter and self-defeating bulls**t that’s rattling around in the back of your head comes from a cluster-f**k of subconscious limiting beliefs; unhealed wounds; small T traumas; other peoples baggage; and if you’re like most people on this planet, a less than stellar self-image. Yes, it’s that Blueprint we’re talking about, and this is when we clear out the clutter, and bring it into alignment with the pressure-proof creative leader you want to be TODAY, not the scared little kid you were back at pre-school.  


Less than 1% of the population knows what drives them at a deep unconscious level. Your Core Values are your most deeply-held beliefs. The unconsciously drivers that dictate where you invest your time, energy, and effort. They are the things that drive you forwards, or drive you up-the-wall. The things that make you feel ‘on purpose’ when met, or frustrated, angry or ‘lost’ when violated. Once we make the unconscious conscious you can stop leaving happiness to chance, and use your values as an internal compass to confidently set and attain goals that will energise and satisfy you, as you design a life you never want to escape from.


“If we have our own why in life, we shall get along with almost any how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosopher 

Most people never reach their full potential because they don’t know what it is they actually want. Sure they know what they don’t want (stress, anxiety, overwhelm, fear, self-doubt, a steady slide into irrelevance etc.) but what they want, that’s something they’ve not thought about since high-school. In this chapter you’ll get crystal clear clarity about your ‘wildly important goal’ and be given the mind-recoding session you need to program it into your brain’s subconscious SatNav. And why is this important for sustainable high performance? Because it puts your wildly important target on auto-pilot, and stops you going round a round in ever-decreasing circles of anxiety-inducing unfulfilment.


Change doesn’t happen in a day, it happens daily. So now you know what you want, why it’s deeply important for you to have it, how it’s driven by your core values (critically important!) and what a pressure-proof life will look, feel, and sound like, it’s time to switch your focus from ‘outcome driven’ to ‘process driven’ by hardwiring new power-habits which will help you automatically achieve your ‘step’, ‘stride’ and ‘stretch goals’. 


“A part of me wants X, but another part of me wants Y.” 

Different parts of our identity have different beliefs, motivations and motives — we all have them written on our blueprint. And as well as leading to frustration, confusion and procrastination, ‘parts conflicts’ are the fastest way to self-sabotage your dreams and burn yourself out; with no clue as to why it’s happening. Problem is, how do you negotiate with parts of you that are unconscious? In this chapter, eliciting and aligning these parts is exactly what we’ll be doing, so that you can be confident that all parts of you are in agreement with your target, and will propel you towards it, rather than pull you off course.


As you know from the brainwaves chapter, the alpha/theta border is the mental platform from which you’ll consistently and effortlessly generate creative genius on-demand. So, for the next few weeks, we want to keep grooving that switch into the architecture of your brain so that it becomes the hardwired state you automatically drop into when you’re creating the work, evaluating the work, or improving the work. We'll do this through an extremely powerful mind-recoding process I call F.A.S.T.E.R. THETA™.

PART 12. BONUS: M.A.G.I.C. B.U.L.L.E.T.S.™ 

Now you’ve completed all the exercises in this book you have everything you need to continue leading and loving the creative life you never want to escape from: a pressure-proof life, full of sustainable courage, confidence, and ferocious curiosity. So as a bonus for all the work you’ve done, I’ll now give you the mind-coding secret to making ANY further changes you want, or feel you need to make, to your vastly improved blueprint of life; the M.A.G.I.C. B.U.L.L.E.T.S.™ formula.







The Dopamine Switch is aimed at creative leaders and those on their way: the bold, brave and brilliant brains who work in film, TV, music, advertising, marketing, fashion, design, publishing and tech. 

Let's look at the size off that market:

  • The creative industries employ more people than the automotive industry in the United States, Europe and Japan combined 

  • Global revenue from the creative industries stands at $2.25 trillion, exceeding the entire GDP of India, Russia and Canada

  • In 2016 the UK’s creative industry generated £10 million an hour to the Treasury: more than the automotive, oil, gas, aerospace and life science industries combined

  • The UK’s creative industries are growing at twice the rate of the economy, and are on track to creating a million new jobs between 2013 and 2030

  • Creative services are decoupled from the rest of the economy, growing strongly during the 2008 global financial and economic crisis

  • The World Economic Forum said that by 2020 the top 3 skills all businesses need to survive will be Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking and Creativity — with creativity jumping from number 10 to number 3 in just 5 years

The people who lead this magnificent charge are in their 30/40's and are looking for a robust and reliable way to dramatically increase their creative firepower; regain their sense of personal purpose and perspective; and sustain peak levels of creative excellence: on demand and under the ever-increasing pressure the creative battlefield puts on them — and they on themselves. 

Growing up, these leaders battled their way through the trenches on a cocktail of adrenaline, cortisol, and caffeine at best, and alcohol, nicotine, and class-A at worse. 

But over time, the side effects of those stimulants has caught up with them, and they know that living on the edge, is no longer a desirable or sustainable  way for them to hold the creative fort together: either inside their head, or outside in their world.

"SO WHAT IS???", they ask. 

Something needs to change, because the pressure to “be on and always on it” is driving them insane... 

Earlier this year a study by NABS revealed that a quarter of workers in the creative and media sector find their working environment overly stressful most of the time. Two-thirds said they'd reached points in their career where they felt so stressed they were unable to cope. And 84% of advertising and media employees say demands on them have risen over the past year, with one in seven now working more than 55 hours a week – and that's the lucky ones.  

Couple that with the fact that a report by the World Health Organisation recently warned that workplace stress is the health epidemic of the 21st Century, and maybe like Matt you see the Jupiter-sized elephant sitting in the room. Especially when you drop the socially acceptable name tag called 'workplace stress' and call it for what it truly is, FEAR!!! 

Professional problem-solvers, artists, authors, designers and entrepreneurs know all too well what happens to their creative confidence and emotional stability when the fog of war moves into their head; they know where courage goes when doubt creeps into their trigger finger; and they know the negative impact fear and frustration has on their personal and professional relationships, not to mention their health.

  • Organisation workplace stress costs US businesses $300 million a year 
  • Annual excess health-care costs them $46 billion: with work-family conflict costing $24 billion, long work hours $13 billion, and low job control $11 billion
  • One survey reported that 81% of respondents checked e-mail on the weekends, 55% logged in after 11 p.m and 59% looked at e-mail on vacation. Fearful anyone?

As every neuroscientist, psychologist, therapist and stressed out creative will tell you, fear and creativity go together like electrical sockets and tiny hands. They don't mix! 

Not good when we know we need creativity more than ever.

But the reality is this: the pressure-cooker's not coming off the boil anytime soon. Business competition is rising. Audience expectations are rising. And clients are more demanding than they’ve ever been before. And this is an accident waiting to happen inside our creative leaders brains. 

They've got mortgages to pay, kids to put through school, a car or two in the driveway, and they’ve been on the frontline long enough to have seen friends, colleagues and heroes buckle, bend, or break in two under the pressure (if they haven't done so themselves).

Quite simply, our reader can't afford to go off the boil or burn themselves out. And that post office job, is most certainly not an option. So they want change fast, they want change permanent, and they're sick to death of reading self-help books which promise so much, but deliver so little. 

Our reader wants, and deserves, a step-by-step pressure-proofing system that will lead them out of their fear and back into their flow. With courage, confidence, ferocious curiosity, and the unbridled sense of possibility, hope, and swagger that they had when they were started out.


For over 20 years Matt has worked with, led, and now coaches some of the best-known and highly-respected creative leaders in the world: from CEO’s, CCO’s, CSO’s and COO’s to MD’s, CD’s, DJ’s, multi-millionaire VC’s, and tech entrepreneurs. 

He is an in-demand trainer, facilitator and speaker for advertising, marketing and PR agencies; film, commercial and production companies; design, fashion and architectural studios; and global super-brands all across Europe, where he specialises in injecting breakthrough thinking and sustainable high performance into their heads, hearts and hands. 

Most recently he has been (and still is) embedding flow-driven cultures and pressure-proofed mindsets at Toyota, Lexus, Westfield, Twinning, Joules and Fox.

Prior to hacking flow, demystifying the zone, and face-planting the myths that surround creative genius, Matt was a copywriter and creative director in London, Amsterdam and Sydney Australia where he worked at Wieden + Kennedy, M&C Saatchi, Naked and Clemenger BBDO. 

Here he helped build and lead world-beating creative departments which produced multi award-winning work for brands like Nike, Honda, Coca Cola, Apple, Virgin and Google.   

His work as a writer and creative director has been awarded all over the world at the most prestigious award shows going, including D&AD, Cannes, One Show, Campaign, Spikes and numerous others.

However, in 2005 he decided to rock the apple cart by stepping out of the creative department and hitting the textbooks. At King’s College London and the Institute of NLP Trainers Association (INLPTA) he graduated with first class diplomas in clinical hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, performance psychology, energy therapy (EFT, Matrix Reimprinting), stress and trauma release (EMDR), sports psychology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness. He also became a Master Practitioner and Master Coach of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) as well as a complete and utter neuroscience geek.

After spending two intense but hugely fulfilling years as a stress and complex trauma specialist, he made the move back into the creative industry where he became the first high-profile adman turned creative leadership coach in the UK. 

Today, Matt calls himself ‘The Subconscious Bullshit Eliminator’ and through his company Leading Left he takes all that he does out of the academic realm of heresy and theory, and into the world of rock-solid results. 

As you can probably guess by now, he is NOT a fan of pop-psych, coaching cliches, or New Age woo-woo. So you can rest assured that everything you'll learn from him has been creative battlefield tested, and is backed up by the very latest findings in neuroscience.  


Matt is the founder, CEO and head coach at Leading Left, and you can find out more about him and his work at: leadingleft.com

Over the past few years he's travelled up and down the UK and flown all over Europe speaking about the creative brain, sustainable high performance, and the science and psychology of breakthrough thinking at numerous industry events, companies and conferences; including D&AD, Creative Social, The How To Academy, The Hospital Club, the School of Communication Arts (SCA 2.0) and The Berlin School of Creative Leadership. 

And he's also had articles in Forbes, Campaign Blog, Creating Genius and Scamp — which at the time was the most read creativity blog on the face of the planet.

Over the past 18 months Matt has trained over 300 employees at Toyota and Lexus (from the President and board of directors to the greenest of interns), and most recently began coaching the management team (Directors and VP’s) at Fox Networks Group.   

In June 2018 he will begin training high-potential global leaders at Twinnings. Needless to say, at these workshops and group coaching sessions he talks about the impending arrival of the Dopamine Switch at all opportunities.

This summer (June) he did a sellout Ted style talk on sustainable high performance for the creative brain at the Cannes Festival of Creativity with former Wieden + Kennedy colleague  and friend Sean Thompson (Chief Creative Officer of 180 Amsterdam turned founder, CD and director of the ad agency, WhoWotWhy). 

To support that talk they also had an article about the Creative Brain in the last ever print edition of SHOTS magazine, which was heavily publicised and distributed at Cannes. 


Following this print article Matt and Sean will be writing a monthly piece for the online edition of SHOTS, and this will be another opportunity for him to raise awareness of the book. 

Other opportunities for publicity will come from tapping into Matt’s long and illustrious list of current and former corporate and creative clients. These run into the hundreds and each one also has their own global network of thousands. 

His highly targeted LinkedIn connections currently stands at 2,319 (https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattfollows/), with over 95% of them directly involved in the creative industries at extremely high levels: founders, CEO’s, and chiefs of creativity, strategy, and operations etc.

He can also be found on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/mattfollows/) with 296 followers and Twitter (https://twitter.com/mattfollows) with 2,072 followers

Matt doesn’t currently have any corporate sponsors but he will seek to secure one, and will also ask his contacts for a PR company to help out.


  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, by Steven Kotler
  • Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work, by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal

These books are all awesome, no doubt about it. But the Dopamine Switch is very different and much more practical.

Points of difference:

  • Matt has spend his entire life as a high-profile creative leader at some of the greatest creative agencies in the world, so everything he talks about is from firsthand experience and personal survival
  • Matt knows his reader better than they know themselves: he's fought the battles they fight, wrestled with the self-doubt, fear and insecurity they face, and has risen from the ashes and then some
  • These books are excellent at teaching the theory of flow, but they don’t give you the battle-field tested tools you need to reshape the architecture of your brain and reprogram your subconscious mind – the addition of audio to the Dopamine Switch will deliver this critical, missing element 
  • Csikszentmihalyi’s books are classics, but because they’re written by an incredibly smart academic they can be a bit of a chore to get though, The Dopamine Switch is going to easy to digest and even easier to apply
  • Matt is heavily trained in the cutting-edge performance psychologies which directly work with, declutter, and strengthen the subconscious mind, not just the theory that aids conscious understanding
  • Flow is the state we will ignite, amplify and sustain in our readers brains and lives, but the language Matt will wrap it in will be Sustainable High Performance and Pressure-proofing the Creative Brain