Jim Kwik Unlocks Your Potential in Uncertain Times, with “Limitless”

Under stay-at-home requirements, many of us have been trying out new skills or hobbies (baking sourdough, anyone?). And The Guardian reports more of us have picked up the classics for a closer read, as well. Although new recipes and novels may seem like simple pastimes, current circumstances make anything new transcend the mechanics of measuring ingredients or turning pages.

Jim Kwik recognizes that fact, and his latest book, “Limitless”—already a New York Times bestseller—helps us understand how to use this time to transcend our own boundaries.

Celebrities and millions of people alike already rely on Kwik’s proven methodology for boosting their reading and comprehension. But Kwik does more than build skills; his techniques are tools that can lead to personal enrichment and much more. He shares a simple model for how our mind works, and concrete steps to liberate our potential. He explains to Lashaun Dale, 24Life contributing editor, why each element in that three-part model is important and how, once they’re integrated, we’re free to achieve.

Lashaun Dale: Why did you write this book?

Jim Kwik: We’re born with a blank slate, but we all learn through experience, through the expectations of others, through our environment, that something is holding us back. Growing up with my brain injury when I was five years old, having my learning challenges and delayed reading abilities, I felt like I was limited. And in fact, one of my teachers noticed I was slowing the class down, pointed to me, and said in front of the whole class, “That’s the boy with the broken brain.” I wasn’t born with that label, but that label became my limit.

Over several decades, I’ve experimented with a lot of the content that led to this book. It’s the mindset, the motivation, the methodology—not only how to learn faster, but really, how to untap and unleash human potential. The one infinite resource on planet Earth is the human mind: There’s no limit on our imagination, there’s no limit on our creativity, there’s no limit on our determination—and the mind doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. But more people upgrade their phones—and the apps on their phones—more than they do their brain.

For a lot of us, there’s some areas of our lives where we feel constrained but deep down, we feel like there’s something more. It could be our health and fitness, it could be in our careers, in our relationships or our level of satisfaction, joy and fulfillment. “Limitless” is not about being perfect. It’s about advancing and progressing beyond what we believe is possible. Not only is this book based on the latest science on elite mental performance, but also just a few decades of field-tested training that I’ve done.

LD: What is the Limitless model?

JK: The framework has three parts that are the forces that hold you in that box where you feel like you’re stuck. The three parts are Mindset, Motivation and Methods.

Mindset is the attitude and assumptions we have about something: what we believe is possible, what we believe we’re capable of, what we believe we deserve. These are powerful ideas about how the world works and how capable we are. And so, the first evaluation is to check in with our mindset. Do we even believe that this thing is possible, or do we believe that we deserve it?

LD: And is motivation a question of changing our mindset?

JK: Motivation is a loaded word. Some people think of motivation as going to a seminar and jumping on chairs and getting very excited. I think there are some lies around motivation. Some of the lies we tell ourselves are things like, “I’m not smart enough.” Or it’s, “I don’t have the intelligence or the IQ. I’m getting too old.” For me, “L-I-E” is an acronym that stands for limited ideas that were entertaining. It’s not necessarily true, for example, that your potential and your intelligence are fixed.

One of the big lies about motivation is that it’s something we have or don’t have. Motivation is something you do, and there’s actually a process for it. Another lie is that to be motivated, you have to enjoy the thing that you need to do. It helps, actually, to bring joy into an activity and then find the joy. But joy is not required for motivation.

LD: What’s the process for motivation?

JK: In the book, I give a new formula for motivation which is, in summary, reasons times energy times small, simple steps leads to motivation. Reasons are not just intellectual—they’re also feelings. Try asking yourself, “What will happen if I don’t?” Or, “How would you feel five years from now if nothing changed?” Really allow yourself to feel the regret or feel into the pain.

If I’m clear about my reasons but I still don’t do what I need to do, then maybe I’m missing the second step of the formula which is having energy. We rarely talk about energy when it comes to motivation. In the book, we document 10 scientifically proven ways to generate good energy, from the best brain food to sleep optimization to stress management.

I noticed the third element that’s missing for some people is they don’t have small enough steps to take action. If something is too big or intimidating or confusing, the confused mind doesn’t do anything. Taking small steps requires very little energy: Inch by inch it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s too hard. So I talk about habit design, in the book.

LD: Those small, simple steps are just part of your third “M,” Methods. What are the circumstances that make us feel stuck?

JK: People get stuck when they are missing or need to adjust one of those three elements—Mindset, Motivation, or Methods. Where mindset combines with motivation, you get inspiration. But without methods, you don’t know what to do and nothing happens.

Mindset and methods may lead to ideas, but without motivation, you just have ideas without action. Motivation and methods may lead you to implementation, but without mindset, you’re only going to be able to achieve what you feel like you’re capable of—or what you feel like you truly deserve.

This model is an explanatory model to help people understand where they’re falling short. If you’re falling short in an area, you don’t have to judge yourself. You can just ask yourself, “Is it an old-thinking mindset, or do I need to upgrade my motivation? Am I optimizing my energy? Can I make some simpler steps? Is it the method I’m using that’s not getting me the results?”

LD: Once people have figured out where to make changes, how do they figure out what to do?

JK: In addition to the actual methods that I teach, I focus on five processes for learning. There’s a chapter in the book on focus, something that should’ve been taught in school. How do you concentrate in a world full of distraction and get things done productively?

Another chapter is on study. Nobody’s ever taught us how to study technical material, whether it’s in school, in our industry or in our career. How do you study it in the shortest period of time and have long-term retention?

The largest chapter in the book is on memory. What’s the best method for remembering names? What’s the method for learning a language? What’s the method for giving a TED Talk from memory?

The last two chapters focus on speed reading and critical thinking. We already spend four or five hours a day processing information. It’s possible to double your reading speed using the technique I teach, and still have the same or better comprehension. With the digital deluge we are experiencing, we’re dependent on our smart devices to remember everything for us … and we’ve lost the ability to remember a conversation or what we just read.

Finally, we teach critical thinking skills so you can make better decisions, solve problems and be more creative.

LD: What happens when we’ve got all three elements working together?

JK: When mindset, motivation and methods connect, you experience integration. When all these things combine and you upgrade your processes for living and learning, you redraw the boundaries around what’s possible, that’s you achieve your limitless state. The good news is that all of our limits have been learned.