Traboule vs Your Brain



Most famous in Lyon, France, the Traboule is a covered passageway first created in about the 4th century. They were used to transport water to the La Croix-Rousse hill from the river Saone. Later during the silk trade years they were used to transport silks from the factories to the river for transport, and during WWII they were used by the french resistance to sneak back and forth out of German occupying eyes. While it is estimated there may be as many as 400, today only about 40 are "public".


While the history of the Traboules are fascinating, your own brain is much more so. There will never be a new Traboule, they are fixed. Your brain, on the other hand, is changing and adapting, a property called "plasticity". There is no plastic involved, but your brain can actually change, and does constantly, depending upon the stimulus it receives. So if you are learning English the pathways that store english are gradually expanded allowing your skills to get better and better and more automatic as the brain expands the number of pathways expand from a small path to a superhighway.


The same works in reverse. If you learned a second language years ago, while you may have been quite conversant, today the words are hard to find and the grammar is tricky and you pause a lot to try to dig up vocabulary. By your disuse you have allowed those passageways to shrink, though they still exist and can be amazingly quickly reestablished with some intense and focused training.


So, your brain is dynamic, growing in capacity where you focus your attention and effort..... and decreasing in capacity where you don't pay any attention. This creates one of the most amazing benefits for you as a being with autonomy and agency. You have the incredible opportunity to focus on virtually anything you want and achieve it by developing the parts of the brain that serve those purposes. The most critical aspect of this built-in ability is that you have to focus your attention to benefit, something called living intentionally.


I will talk more about intentionality in another post, but for now intent is the focus of your life. If your life has no focus, you have no intent, and likely no growth, peace, and limited happiness. Hopefully your intent is tied to your values, the things that you feel are most important and define you and how you would like to be remembered. As you consider what is important, what Steven R. Covey called "putting first things first" you unleash the innate ability of your mind to expand connections, pathways in your brain. It does take some effort, but the results are spectacular and lead to a life of accomplishment.


I want to dispel a common falsehood right now. Many of the posts you might see are about building wealth, getting rich, or other material goals. Even many posts about getting out of poverty have this vague intention about getting rich. There are fewer than 500 billionaires in the United States today. A good portion of them inherited their wealth, and most of the others did not set out to get rich, but to pursue some lofty goal and who happened to be at the right time and place. For every Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates there are 100,000 others who did not achieve the end of great wealth. Those who focused on the service they wanted to provide likely enjoyed some level of material comfort as well, but more critically did not leave their self-worth to be determined by their net-worth.


As you look at your values, and set your goals, I urge you to focus your attention on core skills, things that you can control. As you do this you prepare yourself for opportunities that certainly will present themselves, but that cannot reliably be predicted. Jim Rohn used to say "Set the goal of becoming a millionaire, not for the sake of having a million dollars, but for what it will require of you to achieve it." That is the best perspective, what it will require you to become. In this way, no matter the final outward outcome, your inner outcome will have been achieved, and if your preparation meets opportunity, you will certainly be in a better position to capitalize on it.


What an amazing ability every person has, including you. What you focus on, your brain will adapt to accomplish. No matter your race, education, gender, background, income, or any other external measure you have this capacity, this gift. I hope this builds your faith and hope in yourself. May you use your agency, values, and innate gifts to create your own, unique, best life.

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