Brain Coach Jim Kwik’s Top Tips for Upgrading Your Brain

After a childhood fall damaged his brain, Kwik Learning founder and CEO Jim Kwik was plagued by learning challenges that would follow him to college. Today, Kwik is a premier brain coach who helps people of all ages enhance their cognitive performance. His clients have included SpaceX, Facebook, Google, Nike, WordPress, Virgin, and Harvard University. His book, Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life, published in April 2020, became an instant Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller. Here, Kwik offers insights into how people can read and remember more to achieve more.


When I met with Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates, we bonded over books. The average person only reads two books a year, while the average CEO reads four books a month. If someone condenses decades of experience into a book that you can read in a few days, it’s an incredible edge. For four years, I read a book a day. Classic books that were pivotal for me when I first started my journey of self-development were Think and Grow Rich, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Magic of Thinking Big, As a Man Thinketh, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, and Man’s Search for Meaning. My more recent favorites include Principles, Zero to One, Blue Ocean Strategy, Delivering Happiness, Good to Great, The Lean Startup, Mindset, The Element, and Start with Why.

The two most costly words in business are “I forgot.”

Although I sometimes listen to audiobooks and podcasts when driving or working out, research has shown that reading is better for comprehension than listening because when someone is listening, they will usually be splitting their attention with something else. 


More people upgrade their phones, laptops, and tablets than upgrade their most important technology—their mind. If you want your business or brand to grow, your brain needs to grow. The two most costly words in business are “I forgot.” When you forget things, you lose credibility and respect. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” People remember people who remember them. That’s why remembering names and remembering things about people is the No. 1 networking skill. 


In Limitless, I describe four horsemen of the digital age that reduce brain performance: digital deluge, digital distraction, digital deduction, and digital dementia. Digital deluge is information overload. Digital distraction refers to every ding and ping and like and comment taking away our ability to focus. Digital deduction is the idea that technology is now thinking for us, so we don’t have to think. Seeing things from different perspectives, however, gives you an advantage. Digital dementia, which is using our smartphone devices as our external memory drives, is one of the reasons we can’t remember phone numbers. To become mentally fit, guard against these four horsemen. When it comes to memory, there is no such thing as a good or bad one, just trained and untrained. 


  1. Improve your brain diet: What you eat matters for your brain matter. Avocados, blueberries, broccoli, olive oil, eggs, spinach, wild salmon, sardines, turmeric, almond milk, dark chocolate, and walnuts are just some of the foods that are good for your brain health.
  2. Kill ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts): Your brain is like a supercomputer, and your self-talk is a program it will run. If you tell yourself, “I’m not good at remembering names,” you won’t remember the name of the next person you meet because you’ve programmed your supercomputer not to. Keep it positive. Words make a difference.
  3. Exercise: As your body moves, your brain grooves. Don’t be static. Get up from your screen every hour to go for a walk and get some fresh air.
  4. Take nutrient supplements: The most important one to take for your brain in case you may not be getting it from your diet is omega-3.
  5. Find a positive peer group: Who we spend time with is who we become. We start imitating the same language, words, and habits of the people around us. If you’re around nine broke people, be careful because you’re going to be number 10. 
  6. Clean your environment: Clean your office desktop to have clarity of thought. Your external world is a reflection of your internal world.
  7. Optimize your sleep: When you sleep, you consolidate short- to long-term memory. If you’re having long-term-memory issues, check your sleep. It’s the time you clean out plaque that leads to dementia. Sleep is also when you dream and innovate. Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein in a dream. Paul McCartney dreamed up his song “Yesterday.” 
  8. Protect your brain: Speaking from experience, brain injuries can be traumatic, so protect your brain.
  9. Learn something every day: If you want to age with grace, always be learning some new skill or idea. 
  10. Manage stress: Chronic stress shrinks your brain. We all need something to be able to cope with stress. When you’re in a stressful stage of fight or flight, you won’t perform at your best.