Successful people have this kind of brain. And I don’t. Here’s what my shitty brain needs to know about itself.

I want to saw off my scalp, pull out my brain, and kick it in the pituitary gland. Because the pituitary gland has to be the brain's scrotum. What's it doing up there, looking like that?

I don't want to hurt my brain's scrotum for pleasure's sake. I'm not into that. I made it one blink through the pain Olympics (peer pressure is a bitch), and I still have night terrors.

I want to hurt my brain's scrotum, rather, as punishment. Because I can honestly say that my brain, the conscious part, the “me” part, is the biggest reason why I'm not the person I want to be.

Or, at the very least, its the one thing that consistently holds me back from becoming a better version of myself.

Or whatever. I don't know. This is the age of absurdity. I'll probably never be happy with who I am.

But, still…

Most successful people (whatever that means to you at this point) don't have the kind of brain I have. Their brains work opposite of mine, which is like being stuck in a maze and always turning left when being told to turn right.

I might run into David Bowie, eventually, which would be kind of cool, but I'd rather get out of the damn maze and stop hating myself so much.

bowie labyrinth

Although there are many quirks in this here brain of mine that are holding me back, one I'm dwelling on hardcore as of late: my OWW brain.

I'm trying to turn it a WOW brain.

We all have these because we hate our current lives 

The OWW and WOW dichotomy begins with the biggest sham of the 21st century: the promise of potential. Nothing tastes as sweet as the idea of a better tomorrow.

So everyone in the cloud of capitalist-consumerist culture strives to obtain things they don't yet have. Put in terms more bland than Wonder Bread: they have goals.

  • I want to lose fat
  • I want to gain muscle
  • I want to do the splits
  • I want to make money

To work through this OWW and WOW stuff, I'm going to use one example that'll serve as allegory for any goal.

Your goal: getting to the Dark Tower

You're in the desert. You're miles away from a tower. (Perhaps the Dark Tower!?) You can barely see it in the distance. You want to get to this Dark Tower. This is the goal.

If you're like most people, you put this goal in your back pocket and never think about it again. Because the promise of a better tomorrow is, in itself, the drug. And it's much more energy efficient to get high on promises. Performing is the hard part.

But you're not going to be most people. You're going to perform. So you have to dig one layer deeper and identify the how.

The first step towards achieving your goals: asking how

How are you going to get to the Dark Tower? Given the Dark Tower is south of you, you, using your immense brain power, decide that your methods are as follows: walk south. Gee, you're brilliant.

Achieving your goals is simultaneously that simple and, well, not that simple. But this paradox of simplicity is a conversation for another day best served alongside my entire goal achievement framework.

Stopping at the methods is good enough for this example because we have all we need. We've loosely defined a desired goal and a way to achieve said goal. Call these two things whatever you want.

  • Product and process.
  • Summit and climb.
  • Foreplay and climax.

Whatever. Anthony always appreciates alliteration, but I'm not going to use product and process because the Internets ruined those two word for me. I'm going to use climb and climax. Seems original. Fresh. Orange juice. Pulp. w00t.

When robots are better than humans

The hunch here is such that climb will inevitably lead to the climax. Pretty solid assumption in this make believe Dark Tower example. Climbs leading to climaxes aren't always as straight forward, but that doesn't matter right now.

All you have to do is go. Walk. Put your head down, put one foot in front of the other. Don't question. Work. Action. Verbs. Action verbs. Verbal actions.

But things aren't that easy. Humans (unfortunately) aren't robots. You can program a robot to walk in a certain direction, and it will. No matter what. It'll just walk. Each step will be identical.

But that's not how humans are.

It should be no surprise to hear that OWW brainers, when compared to WOW brainers, have a tougher time putting one foot in front of the other. But you still need some puzzle pieces before this picture comes to life.

Why you have sex with married people, but not on top of hot stoves

You like to believe you are the captain of your behaviors. In control of everything you do. But you aren't. What you're attracted to and repulsed by, most of the time, is a product of the ooey gooey touchy feely emotions and feelings you associate with behaviors and situations.

On one hand, there are phillics. Consider phillics to be motivators. Pleasure, for instance is usually a phillic. When something gives you pleasure, you're more likely to engage in the behavior again. And the easier it'll be for you to re-engage with the behavior in the future.

Think of sex. It feels good. Humans love committing adultery. Phillics. 

On the other hand, there are phobics. Consider phobics to be demotivators. Pain, for instance, is usually a phobic. When something is painful, you're less likely to engage in the behavior again. And the harder it'll be for you to re-engage with the behavior in the future.

Think of touching a hot stove. It hurts. Fried flesh for dinner. Phobics.

Genetics aren't everything

Pleasure and pain have primitive, biological roots. But you can't always assume biology is a winner. Culture can reprogram your brain's stock associations. Sometimes pain can be pleasurable, just as pleasure can sometimes be painful.

It's tough to say that something is ALWAYS going to be a motivator or demotivator. But, in general…

phillics. Motivators

growth, adventure, discovery, demystification, pleasure, pain as pleasure, learning, happiness, excitement…

phobics. Demotivators

fear, judgement, criticism, pain, pleasure as pain, shame, sadness, stagnation, uncertainty, dread…

This isn't an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. Or maybe you don't. Either way, I'm finished with my explanation.

On the way to the Dark Tower

You're on your way to the Dark Tower. There are the climb and the climax. There are phillics and phobics.

You can assume that everyone with a goal has some kind of phillic association with the climax. There's some expected pleasure or reward at the finish line.

But, the climb…

The climb is where you see the difference between OWW brains and WOW brains.

OWW brainers attach negative emotions and intrinsic demotivators onto the climb. 

WOW brainers, by contrast, attach positive emotions and intrinsic motivators onto the climb.

Now, there are a million and one ways in which this difference manifests itself. Perhaps its easiest to explain everything with a few examples.

The painful difference between OWW brains and WOW brains

You're climbing to the climax, the Dark Tower. You take a break from walking south, you pause, and you look up. You see that you're half way there.

If you're an OWW brainer you might say something like, “OH FUCK ME. LOOK HOW MUCH FURTHER I HAVE TO GO. MY FRIEND, FRED, WOULD HAVE BEEN FINISHED BY NOW.”


See the difference?

Imagine the same situation, only your legs start to fatigue.

If you're an OWW brainer you might say something like, “MY LEGS HURT. THAT'S NOT A GOOD THING. I SHOULD STOP. THEY AREN'T STRONG ENOUGH TO KEEP GOING.”


Same difference as before.

The other difference between OWW brains and WOW brains

I could go on and on with examples, the point being that OWW brainers see through a phobic lens. And the real bitch is that, even if the information or situation at hand is positive, it still gets filtered through the same phobic lens.

For instance, if you're trying to lose 20 pounds of fat and you've lost 10 pounds, by all objective standards, you're winning. The situation is positive. But an OWW brainer will make it negative. LOOK HOW MUCH FURTHER I HAVE TO GO. UGH. I WISH I WAS ALREADY DONE WITH THIS. 

Of course, WOW brainers are the opposite. Even if the information or situation at hand is negative, it still gets filtered through a phillic lens.

Same situation. Trying to lose 20 pounds. Didn't lose any. By all objective standards, the situation is negative. But a WOW brainer will make it positive. AT LEAST I KNOW WHAT DOESN'T WORK. AT LEAST I'M TRYING. I'LL FIGURE THIS OUT SOON ENOUGH!

Why the difference between OWW braind and WOW brains is important

It's worth noting, overtly, why this dichotomy between OWW brainers and WOW brainers is so important.

Phobics are demotivators. You don't want to engage in behaviors filled with phobics. You don't want to touch a hot stove. You don't want to eat dog poop.

If you're an OWW brainer, your climb is nothing more than repeatedly force feeding yourself to dog poop. You can use willpower and push through, initially. But, in general, willpower is a finite resource that'll eventually fail you.

So OWW brainers prematurely quit most of the things they start. Even though they value the peak, the climb is too painful to endure. Because of this, an OWW brainer often feels stagnant and stuck. They are bored, yet they struggle pushing past their comfort zone. They have an overwhelming need to feel safe.

The story is different for a WOW brainer. The climb, for a WOW brainer, is like sex. It's filled with pleasure and phillics. They are drawn to continue the climb.

And, in some sense, the climb is more valuable (and enjoyable) than the peak. This creates feed forward loop. When a WOW brainer reaches the peak, the fun part is over. They want to experience the fun part again, so they dive into another challenge.

Exponential OWW brain death

What makes the OWW brain a real bitch is the winner effect. The winner effect, in a nutshell, says: when you win, you win more; when you lose, you lose more.

OWW brainers lose a lot. They start a lot of things because they're genuinely interested in climaxes, but they quit a lot of those things because of the punishing climb. This doesn't go (subconsciously) unnoticed. Losing becomes a part of their DNA.

So when an OWW brainer goes to start something new, his unconscious whispers sweet nothings in his ears. “You know what's going to happen. You're going to get all motivated and hit it hard for the first week, and then you're going to quit.”

The prospect of starting anything new soon becomes demotivating.

How to turn an OWW brain into a WOW brain

I've broken down the two brains for you, and I'm guessing you know which kind of brain you have. It's not looking good.

So i'm going to tell you how to change. How to turn your OWW brain into a WOW brain. Which, apparently, is an important thing to do unless you want to be a perpetual loser… or something.


All humans have intrinsic gas pedal and intrinsic break pedals. We all have the same demotivators, just as we all have the same motivators.

The difference between an OWW brain and a WOW brain lies within the interpretation of the situation at hand.

Jim might see skydiving as a risky unsafe behavior. Tim might see skydiving as an adventurous learning experience.

It's not that Tim doesn't have demotivators. He does. Ge still has fears. It's just that he doesn't associate those fears with the situation at hand.


You might be wondering what accounts for the differing interpretation of a situation. Or if there's a “right” interpretation versus a “wrong” interpretation.

There's is no right or wrong. If Tim dies skydiving, you're lucky to be Jim. But that doesn't mean Tim was “wrong.”

Your feelings and thoughts are a product of both nature and nurture. Instead of dwelling on how you got to where you are, you're better off trying to change. Because you can. You can rewire your brain.


Most of the time, you're presented with an objective piece of information or an objective situation.

Here's an example I used earlier:

You take a break from walking south, you pause, you look up. You see that you're half way there.

There's no personal, emotional, or moral weight attached to this information. It's just information. Objective information.

But your brain kneads it into something else. A reflection of who you are and what you're capable of. A cesspool of phillic and phobic thoughts.

So you need to recognize when your brain is taking an objective piece of information (or looking at an objective situation) and making subjective sloppy joes.

This will take conscious effort. It won't be easy. But it's necessary.


Once you consciously recognize the charade, you need to flood your system with phillics to drown out the phobics.

Think about the good. Think about what you've learned. Think about the adventure. Think about how this will make you grow.

In general, keep the phillic focus on yourself. OWW brainers have a tendency to focus on others and compare themselves to other people. WOW brainers, in contrast, focus on themselves and compare their now self to their former self.

How to rig the deck in your favor

The picture I painted above is pretty nice, you don't have to tell me. But you're human. So you're going to nod your head and forget every last word of this in about… ten minutes.

So here's the 1-UP. Make this happen now. Create a tiny goal. Something you can achieve in less than one week. Flood this experience with phillics.

This is general advice, I know. But I feel better for including it here because I don't know how to conclude this.

Don't say OWW, say WOW.

So cheesy.


I got this OWW and WOW brain model from Todd Herman. Credit goes to him. He's taught me a lot about performance psychology.

Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

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