In our latest episode of the 3 Pillars Podcast: Wealth Management Series, host Peter Harper and special guest author Phillip Campbell discuss Brain Habits – The Science of Subconscious Success.

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Transcript TL;DR

Peter Harper: Hello and welcome to the Three Pillars podcast. I’m Peter Harper, the managing director and CEO of Asena Advisors. If you’re not familiar with the business, we’re a multifamily office advising foreign family offices and private clients on US direct investments in mergers and acquisitions.

Peter Harper: So, folks, welcome. Thanks for joining today. We’re here with Philip Campbell, the author of Brain Habits – The Science of Subconscious Success. Philip, thanks very much for joining.

Phillip Campbell: Yeah. Great to be with you, Peter, and excited to do this podcast with you. So yes, it was really interesting writing the Brain Habits book for anybody who’s looking at doing it does take you longer than you think. So, budget the extra time. And look, the reason behind it is that I’ve got a cognitive science background which looks at the way the brain and mind works. And there’s been a lot of research in cognitive science and neuroscience to lift the capability and performance of people. We work with everybody from one-man band up to some of the largest organizations, such as the Boston Consulting Group in New York, et cetera. And people said, this is so new and so different, you’ve got to get this down into a book format. So that’s exactly what I look to do because we just to give a little bit of cognitive science 101; the brain’s made up of two hemispheres. So, the left hemisphere is what we call deals with Routinization. So, it’s where language is, it’s serial processing, it’s where we store our past experience. It’s our subject matter, expertise, and crystallized knowledge. Whereas the right hemisphere deals with novelty, and it’s nonverbal, it’s parallel processing. It’s where you adapt, learn new things, and are pretty agile. And most of our training, coaching, etcetera, is focused on left hemisphere language based. And what that does is it improves your comprehension of a topic. But what we’ve found is somebody can comprehend a topic but not necessarily turn that new knowledge into capability and capacity to put it into action as leaders of an organization. So, we work on that right hemisphere, that fluid thinking, which is the ability to solve new and novel problems that you’ve never faced before. And there’s just so much change going on in business these days that unless your brain’s at the top of its game on fluid thinking, you’re always going to be playing catch up. So that’s the reason or the catalyst for writing the book there, Peter.

Peter Harper:  Yeah, fantastic. I’m sure that, you know, I know that you’re someone who loves statistics and data, some stuff that you can measure. What type of increase of optimization of someone’s brain are we looking at by, you know, or increase capabilities by learning to train or rewire your subconscious with respect to these items?

Phillip Campbell: Yeah. No, it’s interesting because you’re right; we’re very quantitatively based. So, the first thing we do is to do an actual assessment, which is a test, and you get answers right or wrong, or you get somebody done in a period of time, unlike so many assessments which are. Peter So tell me, do you think you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you know, which is all about your self-perception? So, this is actually a scientifically based test. And what we can do is test things like what’s the ability of a person or executive to control their attention and their focus. Now, this is really, really important for any executive because The Economist magazine did a report back in 2020 on the cost of distraction and lost focus. And they found that 28% of a working day, a person is distracted by other things rather than their key priorities. And you imagine what difference it makes to a person if they can focus much better and for much longer. And we’ve had clients give us feedback. We tested their focus thinking. Interestingly, 90% of people have low to moderate focus thinking. So, they come in, they look at the emails, and instead of answering just the key ones, all of a sudden, they’re answering most of them, and three-quarters of an hour’s gone, and somebody says, “Hey, Peter, can I have half an hour of your time or five minutes of your time?” and you go “Oh yeah, yeah, I’ll give you five minutes of my time.” Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour, and you’ve outsourced your priorities to somebody who interrupted you and distracted you. So, our clients, when we get that improved, they get we commonly get feedback, they get an hour back in their day, their productivity goes up, they’re less doing less, wandering down the rabbit hole and then wondering where did the day go? Three-quarters of the day’s gone, and I’m not even halfway through my key priority. So that’s one example. And there are other examples if you’d like me to give you those.

Peter Harper: Oh, sure. I mean, for those listeners I’ve been going through the process with Philip. And one of the things that kind of was, really apparent to me as I went through it was think as humans, we tell ourselves at some stage in our development there are certain things we can’t do just because we think we’re not good at it. but the reality is a lot of that is driven by education methodologies, development at a particular point in our life, right? But then there be some sort of gap in our brains that’s been wired in as far as why we think we’re bad at certain things, right? Interestingly when working with Phil, I was saying to him, listen, I’m a terrible test taker at certain things, so I had to go through and do this stuff, which was a story I told myself. But having gone through the process and full disclosure, I didn’t probably stick to it at the level that I should have, but it really did help with the comprehension side of things. So, I think, Phil, bringing this through to listeners, folks that are exposed to family offices, family businesses, that are thinking, okay, this is interesting, but where is the relevance? I think for me, the part of this that was so impactful for me was it was a mindset change, right? It was this process where I went, no, that’s some story I’ve told myself around my inability to do things. I’m a smart individual. You just need to have the tools to be able to do it right. So, what do you think about that?

Phillip Campbell: Yeah, no, I think that’s a great summary, Peter. And it’s actually more than just a mindset. So, if you do things repeatedly in a particular way and you tell yourself things repeatedly in a different way if you do that action over and over again, you’re actually coding, if you like, your brain’s mini-computer programs, right? Once you code them in. That’s why the book’s called Subconscious Success, their subconscious. And it’s very hard, if not impossible to change it just with conscious thinking. So, for example, on that focus thinking, we might say, well, I know I get distracted, but I’m going to be really focused today. It’ll last ten minutes because you’re talking about a Pavlovian computer brain program. Once that gets triggered, the distraction comes, and that’s what happens. So, what we do and where it’s relevant to family companies is we literally recode that brain habit of focused thinking or analytical thinking or strategic thinking so that things were tough and hard and took a lot of mental energy and avoided. It was just due to the way the person’s brain is wired, right? So, we test those. The effectiveness and efficiencies of those ten individual mini subconscious thinking habits and then we recode them by doing deliberate practice and doing things harder and harder again. And where it pertains to the family companies is that often what can happen is a company can go through good growth, and then it plateaus. And then the issue is, well, if you want to go have additional growth.

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Phillip Campbell: Like Einstein says, you need to change your thinking to change your world. So, what we do is change that thinking so they’re much more strategic that communication is better, their delegation is better because again, for family companies, it’s not just a company, it’s part of who they are. Sometimes it’s hard to let go. And unless you rewire the brain to improve that strategic thinking communication delegation style, it’s like a speed truck limiter. You know, the speed truck limiter is 60mph. You can put your foot down harder and harder, but it’ll still only go 60 miles an hour. And that’s what we do. So, we rewire, we increase it to bring it up to 80 or 100km an hour, but also using much less mental energy. So that’s the way that it works. And also, what we’re finding is it can help with succession planning. So, a lot of family companies leave the succession planning way too late. And the thing is, they might have some family members or close people, and they’ve already put them in a box. You know, they got good potential, they’ve got moderate, and they’ve got low potential. But what we’ve found is that we can actually improve a person’s potential by rewiring the subconscious thinking habits. And the better your people and potential successors have got their subconscious thinking habits working, the more value they’re going to be able to add to the company and help take it to the next level.

Peter Harper: Yeah, Phil, it’s massively impactful. I mean, for everyone, as I said, I went through a process with Phil, and part of mine was around test taking, and a certain format of tests that I’ve just never liked. And the most recent one I took was a dramatic difference. Right. and it was really the way in which the framework that Phil had set out in the way in which I was processing the questions, right? Again, it was stopping myself from repeating a certain format that I’d always done in the past. And so, when I see this in the context of succession planning, I totally get it. I mean, we tell ourselves certain things, you know, this is as truth, whether that’s come from, our own education or family reinforcement, you know, situation, particularly within sort of family businesses and family offices, right? If your objective from a legacy perspective is to give whoever is taking over the best chance of success, then they’ve got to find a way to overcome those challenges. And I think this is a great tool to kind of start that process, right? Where it’s like if your belief system and whether the belief system, you know, again, there’s science in the belief system. But when people understand that the belief system can be recoded, that’s a pretty powerful message.

Phillip Campbell: Yeah. And it’s both the belief system and the capability system. Right. And I’ll give you a couple of examples of what I mean by that. So, one of the family companies, there’s a person going to do an MBA. And part of what we test when we test these ten subconscious thinking habits is we can do a read on how on somebody’s learning agility. So how easy is it for them to learn and then apply the knowledge? And this person had a couple of areas which were significantly holding back their ability to learn, and they were doing an MBA, and we worked with them to get that learning agility up. And, like you said, it was like chalk and cheese. What I did in the past with the way my brain was wired, it took me a long time, took a lot of energy, and was very mentally tiring. And once we upgraded the computer brain habits, they were able to do the whole MBA a lot quicker, get better marks, but more importantly, they understood the concepts much better, and they were able to apply them to the business much better. There’s a lot of people can get an MBA but not take it back to the business and add value to it because again, it’s due to these subconscious thinking capability habits.

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Phillip Campbell: And then the other example, Peter, was one thing about fluid thinking. It’s like an upside-down u; a bell curve. So, fluid thinking, that ability to change and adapt to new situations peaks at young adulthood. And then what happens is as the brain ages, it drops off. And that’s why you get people that, you know, in their 90s or something like that, they just hate change because their brain’s not able to cope with them. And so, we’ve worked with the most senior members of family companies to upgrade their fluent thinking to higher than it was even when they were a young adult. And the phrase I love best is the number of times I’ve heard I didn’t think you could teach an old dog new tricks and it gives them a new lease on the way they want a lease on life and the way they want to lead the company and encourage and build succession, etcetera. So, it applies at both levels there, Peter.

Peter Harper: Yeah. I can understand and appreciate that. Right. and I use this language when I say, it’s kind of like retooling it. there’s a scientific element of this where you are actually delivering change to the brain and how it processes and how it thinks. Right, which is extremely powerful. So, even if you don’t understand that if someone doesn’t understand the science behind that. Right. I think there’s a lot out there in the current environment where folks are talking about this as something where we should be focusing on. But I think everyone can appreciate this notion of limited thinking, right? Or some type of limits through their past where they’ve told themselves, hey, I just can’t do this. I’m not good at this. Right. when I think about the power of this, that kind of mind shift change and what you were just talking about with these more senior family members, when people finally do understand that the scientific role that this can play to change the way people perceive limitations, I think that’s where the power is. it’s a pretty dramatic shift.

Phillip Campbell: Yeah, no, I would agree with you. And again, what we’re talking about here is the way the brain is wired. We’re not talking about psychology. No, sure when we do the program, because I think it’s important to explain that.

Peter Harper: So, I think about it from a psychology perspective. This is why I say science and psychology maybe because I think most people that don’t have Phil’s experience and they come to this, I know I’m processing this in that kind of context, but it’s a very important point. this is a scientifically proven process.

Phillip Campbell: Yeah. And the way we differentiate it is if you’re talking psychology, you’re generally talking with somebody about something, and you’re very conscious and aware of what’s going on. When we talk subconscious thinking habits, we’re talking below the conscious threshold. So, we’re having a conversation and the brain you have today is predominantly driven by the activities and games you or any person did as they were growing up because that’s how the brain codes it. So, if you did lots of games, whether it was problem-solving, you’d probably be good at analytical thinking and conceptual thinking. And if you might work on a farm, you might be pretty good at innovative thinking because you had to. You couldn’t always have, you know, all of the instruments and the tools. Et cetera. There. So, you had to brainstorm; how can I fix this? So, what I want to make clear to people, the brain they have today is an accidentally designed brain developed in an ad hoc manner by what they did. And they shouldn’t.

Peter Harper: Unless we’ve got very intentional parents from a young age. it is like Andre Agassi, giving an example. Well, yeah.

Phillip Campbell: Well, yeah. No, and that’s a physical skill, and we’re talking gun-in-the-brain skills there. But I do appreciate that.

Peter Harper: But isn’t this relevant with the brain skill? Right. As far as the subconscious thinking, you think about really amazing athletes; a lot of their talent is subconscious, right? Because they’ve learned that through repetition.

Phillip Campbell: Yeah, it is, absolutely. they talk about muscle memory, but it’s really, you know, wired in; it’s the practice; it’s so often that they can do it without thinking, and that’s what we do on these mental habits. So let me give you an example of, I don’t know, if you recall when you first went to learn how to drive a car, your brain goes into cognitive overload because you’ve got to kind of look forward, you’ve got to look to the side mirrors, you’ve got to look to the rear vision mirror. And if you’re lucky enough to learn to drive in a manual car, you have to do the clutch. And there’s just too much cognitive processing going on in the conscious mind, and it gets overwhelming. And then what happens is you move into an area of deliberate practice, so you get a professional driving instructor who shows the technique of driving. And then you go out with family members, and you practice the driving. And that’s what we do in our thing. We kind of like that. Professional driving instructors show you the techniques and how to apply it, and then you have to do the practice. And then what happens? The more you practice, the more you’re putting it into the subconscious autonomic part of your brain.

Phillip Campbell: And then one day you’re driving the car, you’re looking out at the beautiful view. You’ve got the radio on, and you’re talking to your friends and the car’s almost driving itself, right? That’s the experience that we give to people. So, people have a lot of difficulty analyzing detailed pieces of data and making sense of it. We had one client that said, I can’t believe it. The numbers are just jumping off the page and talking to me. I’ve never had this experience before, right? So, what we do is we do the program takes about eight sessions over a couple of months because what we’re doing is we’re doing fun and challenging fluid thinking exercises that get harder and harder. And that’s the way the brain rewires itself. So, we don’t even need to kind of analyze why something’s a strength or why something’s interference factor. We just deal with all the things that are slowing you down or interference factors. This is the way we work with them, so you can become much more effective, much quicker, and much better at leading and dealing with all the changing environment that the world’s continuing to experience at the moment. Right? Does that explain it, Peter?

Peter Harper: Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Well, Phil, where do people get your book?

Phillip Campbell: Uh, yeah. If you go onto Amazon and type in Brain Habits, The Science of Subconscious Success, you’ll be able to get the e-book there, and the paperback will be coming out soon. And also, what we’ve done, Peter, is if people want to get a flavor of how we test these ten subconscious thinking habits, they can test their own fluid thinking.

Peter Harper: Is that on the website?

Phillip Campbell: Yeah, it’s just at, and it’ll take you to our site. They click a link, and they get a free one and then if they want to test the whole ten subconscious thinking habits then that’s just an investment for them to do that. But it gives them a chance to try before they buy. And then if people are interested in the program, they can just send me an email at info at, and I’ll send that information through to you as well.

Peter Harper: Yeah, great. And we’ll have all of this information will be posted with the podcast on our site. Well, Phillip, thanks. Thanks very much for joining as always. It’s a fascinating topic, and it was great to learn more about the book. Congratulations. It’s a huge milestone. Anytime anyone finishes a book, it’s a credit. So, so great work, and thanks for joining.

Phillip Campbell: Thanks, Peter. Appreciate you having me on. And I’ve enjoyed that. And hopefully, we’ve been able to share some new success habits with your colleagues there.

Peter Harper: Thanks, Bill.

Phillip Campbell: Okay.


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Peter Harper