Are you eating your brain?

are you eating your own brain?

I know — Are you eating your brain? — is a strange title…but stick with me here.

Sea SquirtI’m listening to an audiobook titled Understanding Complexity by Scott Page and heard an interesting bit of trivia about a marine animal called the Sea Squirt. What’s interesting about the sea squirt is the following:

…almost as soon as it stops moving, its brain is absorbed by its body. Being permanently attached to a home makes the sea squirt’s spinal cord and the neurons that control locomotion superfluous. Once the sea squirt becomes stationary, it literally eats its own brain.

Emphasis mine.

This little marine animal starts out life with a brain and spinal column. It moves around the sea until it finds its ‘home’ and then once it gets comfortable, it settles down and – because it never needs to move again – it eats its own brain.  It spends the rest of its life stuck in one place, day in and day out doing the same thing….without a brain.

Are you eating your brain?

When I heard about the Sea Squirt, I immediately began to think about a lot of people that I know who are ‘stuck’ in their lives.  These are the people who’ve told me how they feel like they’re not improving in their careers or their lives are just the same old routine.  These people are the same ones who don’t go out of their way to learn something new or volunteer to pick up a new project or new responsibilities at work.  These are the people who’ve found a level of comfort in their career and their lives and have – for all intents and purposes – eaten their own brains.  Of course, they’ve not really eaten their brains, but they’ve stopped expanding their ‘world’ by expanding their capabilities and experiences.

How do you ensure you aren’t “eating your brain”?

It’s quite easy actually. Just do the following:

  • Keeping Moving
  • Keep Learning

Easier said than done, right?

We’ve all been told to ‘move more’ in our lives by doctors, family and friends, especially if we’re a little overweight and they are trying to help us lose weight. When I say ‘keep moving’, I don’t really mean that you should exercise more, although exercise always helps.  What I mean is to keep moving in your career, in your relationships and an all aspects of your life. By moving, you aren’t letting yourself get too comfortable, which is the real danger here.

The other thing that you need to do is to keep learning. Learning is lifelong. Keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities to apply your skills in different ways. Learn new approaches to how to do your job. Learn new skills. Read books. Attend networking events. Meet new people. Additionally, one of the best ways to learn is to seek out different viewpoints than your own….there’s nothing worse than only learning things that fit into your world view.

When the sea squirt finds its ‘place’ it stops moving and that’s when its brain gets absorbed into its body. That’s when it eats its own brain.  Don’t act like the sea squirt. Keep learning and keep moving. Don’t eat your own brain.


About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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