The Lizard Brain

Hi I’m Ben (“hiiiii Beeeen”) and if you didn’t know by now – I really love writing, so naturally, when I see people that I know publishing books, releasing blog posts or writing articles – I get extremely jealous. Why? Because I know for a fact that I have at least two good books inside me, ontop of the +-1 million blog posts that I can still whip out, and seeing other people do what I want to do – fills me with the deepest of envy.

So why aren’t I writing?

Why aren’t I publishing my book, contributing articles or writing more blog posts? Well it’s definitely not due to writer’s block, because I have thoughts and ideas on all the wonderfully insightful things that I could be writing about, literally every single day of my life and while I do currently write occasionally (admittedly some months are much better than others) I could and should be writing a whole lot more. The problem is that I keep coming up with excuses for not writing a blog post, for not adding a chapter to one of my books and for not contributing an article to an online publication. The excuses range from either not having enough time, being too busy working on my businesses, not having quality material to push out or being too afraid of exposing my vulnerabilites for all to see and while these all seem like valid reasons in the moment – at the end of the day, it is all a form of fear, laziness, procrastination and self-doubt – and as much as it pains me to admit it, these are all symptoms of a man being over-powered by the lizard brain.

What’s the lizard brain?

Your lizard brain is essentially the amygdala, which forms part of your limbic system. Your lizard brain (also known as the reptilian brain) is one of the oldest parts of your brain and it is responsible for fear, anger, hunger, negativity and arousal – it is responsible for your fight or flight responses  – it tries it’s best to keep you safe, risk-free, stable and comfortable. Now while this is good, because it keeps us alive – it is bad because it keeps us from trying new things, from venturing out into the unknown – for taking risks, for being creative and from truly making a difference.

Seth Godin details it a lot more elegantly in the following excerpt of his book, Linchpin:

“The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny.
The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.
The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.
The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.

A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain.

The only correct answer to ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is ‘Because it’s lizard brain told it to.’ Wild animals are wild because the only brain they posses is a lizard brain.

The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The Lizard brain works hard to get you to shut up, sit down and do your (day) job.

The lizard brain is the source of the resistance. The resistance is afraid of what will happen if the idea gets out, if your ideas are received – if the magic happens.”

Fear and complacency is our default

When I initially found out about the lizard brain and the resistance via Seth Godin, I assured myself that I would never let the lizard brain take over – that I would never let the resistance win. But unfortunately, over time I have clearly relapsed (in certain areas of my life). So despite the fact that I have taken a lot of risks, journeyed on the road less travelled and formed my own path over the course of my life, I have somehow still fallen victim to complacency, risk aversion and the fear of succeeding and being great – and this is the overwhelming truth – regardless of how nicely I coat it in excuses, reasons and supposed rational. As humans we seem to always fall back to timidness, hesitation and fear – it’s our default and this a big problem. But it is a problem that we can and should overcome.

What should I do to overpower the lizard brain?

Well, awareness is the first step, you can only fix an issue once you become aware of it. And whats the next step? The next step is to ship. Because real artists ship.

So what does that mean for me and my love for writing? Well I need to write more, and excuse a lot less, It’s pretty simple. Oh and of course, I need to ship ship ship. One of the weird things I have realized about myself, is that more often than not, I am afraid of success more than I am afraid of failure. And this is because of the lizard brain and the resistance.

We shouldn’t let the lizard brain take control, we shouldn’t give-in to the resistance.

Videos worth watching:

  1. Your elusive creative genius – Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. Quieting the Lizard Brain – Seth Godin

Books worth reading:

  1. Linchpin: Are you indespensable? – Seth Godin

“The lizard brain is … fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.” – Seth Godin

“Real artists ship.” – Steve Jobs


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