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...
The Dopamine Switch is the no-holds-barred, woo-woo-free, survival guide to the creative battlefield. The multi-media leadership manual that will pressure-proof your brain, declutter your mind, and give you the clarity, vision and unflappable mindset you need to create a creative life you never want to escape from. No matter how much shit hits the fan, or how intense the pressure to generate genius on demand gets.
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.
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. Not by a long shot!
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.
Through the latest findings in peak performance psychology and neuroscience, The Dopamine Switch will rewire the way you view, interpret, and respond to the pressures of the creative battlefield at both a conscious and subconscious level.
The conscious work is delivered through exercises you'll complete in your lunch break. And the subconscious work is delivered as short and powerful ‘subcongnitive-mind-recoding’ audios which embed the upgrades on your commute.
Here Matt talking about his journey from a burnout adman to a peak performance coach on Ben Kay's podcast
PART 1: INTRODUCTIONS AND BEST PRACTICE
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
- FORWARD BY SEAN THOMPSON
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.
- ONLY GOT A MINUTE?
One page overview of The Dopamine Switch’s top 5 big ideas.
- GOT 5 MINUTES?
Three page overview of The Dopamine Switch’s top 5 big ideas.
- BURNT-OUT ADMAN TO CREATIVE LEADERSHIP COACH
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.
- SUSTAINABLE VS UNSUSTAINABLE HIGH PERFORMANCE
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.
- HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
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.
PART 2: "CREATIVE BRAIN” SCIENCE 101
- ONE SKULL. THREE BRAINS
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.
- PRE-FRONTAL, LIMBIC & AMYGDALA
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.
- IN TWO MINDS
The difference between the brain and the mind and how the mind is divided into your conscious and subconscious.
- THE BLUEPRINT OF LIFE
“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.
PART 3: FLOWSTATE 101
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.
PART 4: LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS
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.
PART 5: CREATING MASTERPIECE DAYS
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.
PART 6: CLEARING OUT THE CLUTTER
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.
PART 7. POWERED FROM THE CORE
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.
PART 8: FROM DRAGGED TO DRIVEN
“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.
PART 9. MACRO VISION TO MICRO AMBITIONS
Change doesn’t happen in a day, it happens daily. So now you know what you want, whyit’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’.
PART 10. RALLYING THE TROOPS
“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.
PART 11. DEFAULT MODE: ‘FLOW AND EXCEL’
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.