The Impulse Factor: Why Some of Us Play It Safe and Others Risk It All

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9781423375128: The Impulse Factor: Why Some of Us Play It Safe and Others Risk It All

In his work as research and development director at cutting-edge think tank TalentSmart, Nick Tasler realized that the recent discovery by scientists of a potential-seeking gene could have a remarkable impact on how we understand decision making. Those who have this gene – about one quarter of the population – are endowed with impulsive tendencies that can lead to fast and decisive action or to foolish choices. The cautious majority that Tasler calls risk managers can make carefully considered decisions or become hopelessly lost in the fog of details. Now The Impulse Factor offers listeners a unique online opportunity to analyze their own decision-making style and harness it to improve their everyday lives. With examples from business, psychology, and Tasler’s own research at TalentSmart, the book also vividly illustrates how susceptible we are to the events around us and how our reactions often run contrary to our best interests. By combining his research with real-world examples of extreme decision making, Tasler teaches listeners how to thrive when faced with difficult choices. More than just an audiobook, The Impulse Factor provides a clear understanding of why you make the choices you do – and the tools to make those decisions change your business and your life.

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About the Author:

Nick Tasler is the research and development director for think tank and consultancy TalentSmart. He is the author of the Impulse Factor™ online assessment and the head of TalentSmart’s global research. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his family.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE

Origin of Seekers:

From Cavemen to Cage Fighters

According to the official program, Nick Wernimont stands just under six feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. He looks like the kind of guy who, if you saw him walking down a dark alley...well, you would probably think he got lost looking for the VIP entrance to a night club. What's most striking about his appearance is how much he does not look like a ruffian compared to the other raw slabs of beef lumbering around inside the ring. Although he appears to treat his trips to the gym with due respect, Wernimont reminds you more of an underwear model than a cage fighter. Even from the cheap seats (which describes pretty much every seat in the house at an amateur boxing match), you can see Wernimont's sparkling rows of white teeth. He has a day or two's collection of stubble sprouting on his face, where an aspiring beard will have its hopes dashed by a razor as soon as tonight's fight is over. The shadow beard is presumably an attempt to draw attention away from his other metrosexual features, like the suspiciously perfect tan and what I can only guess are well-manicured nails. In truth, it just makes him look even more like Brad Pitt, but less like Pitt's demented character in the movie Fight Club and more like his dapper Dillinger role in Ocean's Eleven. Either way it's a thinly veiled effort to deceive, which probably fills his rough-looking opponent with confidence. Unfortunately for his foe, that confidence will prove to be painfully false. And then I start to think that maybe that has been Wernimont's strategy all along.

There is definitely more to this guy than meets the eye. Wernimont has been training with his boxing coach, his world champion Jiu-Jitsu coach, and his Muay Thai coach twice a day for six days a week for the last year, with just three exceptions. He took one week off to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain...on all five of the five days he spent there before returning home to Chicago. He spent a week in Florida in late December getting his skydiving certification. Then there was his trip to Brazil to experience the festival of sensory excess found nowhere else in the world except at Carnivale. Wernimont has no shortage of friends, but it seems right that the only person he could find to join him on his wild adventures should be a member of his own gene pool. His brother Chris's work schedule helps. He works two weeks on, two weeks off as a helicopter pilot carting roughnecks from their New Orleans homes out to drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. But the average person would agree that spare time alone isn't a good enough reason to go on these types of adrenaline binges. Nick and Chris have far more than flexible schedules in common.

Tonight's boxing match was arranged as a warm-up bout before Wernimont's first full-contact cage fight in a few months. The arena is alive with murmurs of bloodthirsty fans hoping to see a pretty-boy pummeling. When the bell sounds, the pugilists dance around the ring for a few seconds and size each other up. Wernimont's face reveals what could best be described as a controlled ferocity -- aggressive yet strategic. After a swing and a miss from his opponent, Wernimont makes his strike. A couple of hard blows reach their destination, and it isn't long before a cut opens up under his opponent's eye, causing a rivulet of blood to run down his cheek. The second round offers more of the same. The referee eventually intervenes, calling for a standing eight count to let Wernimont's opponent regain his composure. By the third round, the fight is all but over. Shortly after the bell sounds, the referee decides he's seen enough and the fight is called. Wernimont is officially one and oh in his fight career. His first full-contact fight is on the horizon.

Full-contact fighting (or mixed martial arts) is the closest thing America has to ancient Roman gladiators. Except for biting, hitting below the belt, and finger torquing, no violence is spared for the audience.

"Five wins and I can start making some money at this," he told me with a wink. Five wins on the sanctioned amateur full-contact circuit qualifies a fighter for a professional bout where they can actually get paid for doing something that most people would ransom their firstborn child to avoid doing. The real joke, however, is that Wernimont will have to become the world Ultimate Fighting champion before he begins to make the kind of money he does now at his day job. In this way he is like the rare few ancient gladiators who were not slaves, but free citizens who simply enjoyed the thrill of the games.

Wernimont's career, just like the rest of his life, is marked by short bursts of intense activity and radical changes. After graduating from the University of Iowa, he moved to Los Angeles, where stimulation is never in short supply. Once there, he spent his days at Morgan Stanley, clocking in as a financial analyst and earning their number-one new salesman award. He moonlighted as a bartender at the Saddle Ranch on the Sunset Strip. After narrowly missing final selection as one of the cast members for MTV's The Real World: Chicago, he decided to pack up and head to the Windy City on his own, leaving bartending and financial planning behind. Now he spends his days working as a successful sales manager for a dental implants manufacturer (an ironic selection for the future cage fighter) and buying real estate. His evenings are spent at the gym sparring with world-champion martial artists.

Getting to know Nick Wernimont only creates more questions. Of course, anyone who voluntarily chooses cage fighting as a hobby is a rather intriguing individual. But he is extraordinary even compared to his cage-fighting peers. This is what makes Wernimont's foray into full-contact fighting so compelling. He is not a former Olympic gold medalist who wants to make a living doing what he knows how to do best, nor is he a deluded dock worker who has seen one too many Rocky movies. His collar is as white as his teeth, and the only gold he owns is wrapped around his wrist and tells time with amazing accuracy. He lives each day in a waking, postmodern American Dream -- young, smart, good looking, and financially successful, with no visible regrets about any of it. It just doesn't seem to make sense. With all of this going for him, why would he subject himself to the kind of punishment inherent in a crazy sport like full-contact fighting?

1. The Novelty-Seeking Gene

At the turn of the millennium, the world buzzed with anticipation about the possibilities and pitfalls in store for Y2K. Inside the walls of Jim Swanson's research lab at the University of California in Irvine, the level of anticipation was no exception. Two courses of fascinating research were about to collide in an unexpected way that would cause scientists from around the world to drop what they were doing and take note.

Jim Swanson is a humble man who insists that much of his success as a scientist is owed to his "collaborations with other great scientists." Nevertheless, Swanson is still recognized as one of the world's foremost experts on child development. His research center in Irvine was one of the first seven labs chosen as a Vanguard Center for a very ambitious project called the National Children's Study that will stretch across the country with the aim of understanding the biggest problems facing American children. Over the span of the next twenty years the centers will collaborate to study more than 100,000 children and their families. Swanson's recognition is due in large part to his groundbreaking work on the rising occurrence of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Most people today recognize the disorder by its original name of just ADD, which first came into vogue in the 1980s after it was formally recognized as a psychological syndrome rather than a behavioral problem. The term ADD has since infiltrated the everyday lingo that Americans use to describe kids who are unfocused or inattentive. Now psychologists have officially thrown hyperactivity's hat into the ring to describe the fidgety aspect of the disorder. As Swanson's team was about to discover, the hyperactive element of the syndrome is a key piece of the puzzle that may help explain a lot about ADHD, and also about human history.

Like many other mental illnesses, treatment of ADHD was very rudimentary once it was first recognized. But as the number of children diagnosed began to skyrocket, there was a need for treatment and understanding to catch up. From 1994 to 2004 the number of paid doctor visits for treatment of ADHD nearly tripled. This alarming increase has had many doctors and educators wondering how big the next wave of this possible epidemic might be. For researchers like Jim Swanson, the clock was ticking on finding some answers.

Early in 2000 Swanson's team sat a group of ADHD kids down to play a few brain-teaser games. One of these games is called the Logan stop-signal test and resembles the popular children's game red light/green light. Each child was given a task such as watching a light or pressing a button on a computer keyboard. When instructed to do so, the child had to stop whatever action he or she was engaged in. Children with ADHD usually take much longer to complete this task than typical children, because they react more slowly to the stop signal. What Swanson's team found when they tallied the results surprised everyone, including Jim Swanson.

Before the experiment, Swanson's team had split the kids into two groups based on whether or not the children carried a specific variation of a gene called dopamine receptor gene D4. The function of D4 is to tinker with the levels of dopamine in the child's brain. (As noted earlier, dopamine is the brain chemical that makes us feel happy and vibrant.) Every person has this gene in one variation or another, but we don't all have the exact same variation of it. This is standard practice in the world of genes. For example, we all have a gene that determines what color ou...

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Published by brilliance Audio, Grand Haven, Michigan, U.S.A. (2008)
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