A Life's Work: Learning to Overrule My Mindless Brain

by: Shep McKenney (0)

A Life’s Work: Learning to Overrule My Mindless Brain is the journey of Shep McKenney’s lifelong effort to figure out why it was so hard to find happiness and the surprising result when he finally did.

It tells how, having exhausted the traditional paths of philosophy, psychology, religion and external material success, Shep began to pay attention to the ongoing drama in his inner life. When he did that, he realized that most of his thoughts, and much of his external behavior, were not what he wanted. That, in turn, drove Shep to learn about the origin and nature of his brain, leading him to conclude that his brain, for all its indispensability, is a mindless computer that doesn’t care about him except at the most physical, existential level. Having recognized his brain for what it is, Shep describes a practice he has developed to manage the thing, which has led him to become happier than he’s ever been.

A Life’s Work is filled with thought-provoking stories, each revealing a valuable lesson in which you, too, can learn to overrule your mindless brain and find happiness.

The Reviews

It takes courage to write a book like this one. The book offers three journeys, each one fascinating on its own: the autobiography of an outwardly highly successful entrepreneur, the internal struggles of a human being wondering why outward success has not translated into happiness, and a way a living and viewing life that results in redemption and peace.The author achieves what so many of us aspire to – success in business, a loving wife, and a close extended family. That story alone is well told and captivating, and free of the usual “here’s how I conquered the world” bravado. Chapters are concise and from the heart, touching vignettes that paint an accessible picture.On a parallel path, McKenney shares intimate details about his struggles with doubt, fear of failure, and feelings of inadequacy. It takes courage to share so openly, and he does so in a way that most of us can relate. This is not a man telling us about his accomplishments, but rather a man sharing his failures and shortcomings. Most lack the courage to admit these to oneself, let alone publish it. For many of us, his journey is our journey.As the story unfolds, the author shares more and more about he came to understand the source of his struggles and how he found a way to resolve the suffering. McKenney dives into our understanding of the brain, and how it sabotages our happiness. He then shares his personal experience, how he learned to work with his brain rather than be enslaved by it. McKenney sums it up this way: “We should think of our brains the way we think about inanimate tools we use in everyday life. So, for example, we can compare them to a washing machine, which comes with an owner’s manual, the very first pages of which warn you that this thing can hurt you if not used properly.”McKenney offers a practical path, one available to all of us, once we understand what we are up against. I found the personal story compelling and the wisdom invaluable. This is not a “how to book” offering platitudes and promises for a better life. Rather, it is written from the heart, a humble tale of one man’s path to peace, written out of a genuine hope that sharing his experience might help others.Steve Zimmerman

We all go through life at a rapid pace, rarely stopping to understand why or to examine if the speed at which we operate is how we want to spend our lives. Shep's mind clearly runs at 110%, always redlining. In this book, he examines why and attempts to turn inwards to examine why his mind is always racing and if that is the best way to navigate the good and the bad that our lives experience. In telling his story, Shep shares intimate and heartfelt perspectives on the ups and downs of his life. It is a brutally honest and open conversation that he has had with himself over his lifetime. In taking the time to write this memoir, he invites us in to the conversation and shares the lessons he has learned.As a successful businessman (many times over!), a loving husband (twice) , a doting father and grandfather (of dozens!) Shep has approached each decade of his life with vigor and interest. He shares his story with us, but rather than merely recounting the details of his life, he shares with the reader the introspection and internal questions that he is constantly asking himself about how and why life is what it is. His candor, humor, humility and curiosity make for a delightful read that will help you examine your own thoughts from new angles.Hats off to the author for being honest about his thoughts which allows him to teach us a lesson with each chapter. It is a bold and admirable approach to opening up.

“A Life’s Work: Learning to Overcome My Mindless Brain” is Shep McKenney’s finest piece of work. It is a unique and deeply personal look at how to manage our brains, which have evolved slowly over millions of years and are now dealing with a rapidly changing world full of rapidly changing norms. Shep tells his story in a clear, concise, entertaining, and educational manner that makes it difficult to put the book down. I wish “A Life’s Work” had been around when I was an insecure, high-strung, adolescent, teenager, husband, and father. I am certain that having read it, I would have stopped to think about what is most important before my brain’s over-reactions took control.My fondest hope is that readers particularly young ones will enjoy and learn from this book. If nothing else, you will learn that overcoming a mindless brain does not have to be a complex process filled with reading self-help books and visiting specialists. As Shep learned, overcoming a mindless brain can be fun and that fun leads to happiness.You are about to purchase a book that will both entertain and enlighten you. Go for it.

A Life’s Work by Shep McKenney is not just a memoir from a very successful lawyer, businessman, entrepreneur and innovator. It is truly soul work. Sharing a cascade of vignettes from a lifetime of professional and personal experience, the author carefully illustrates how our brains, designed to simplistically protect us from perceived threats, often lead us astray. Concise, even surgically precise chapters, headed by delightful, carefully chosen quotations lead us to a clearer understanding of the master organ of our bodies. Exploring relevant science, religion, mythology, and literature, the author demonstrates how our runaway brains function and dysfunction in binary, algorithmic ways that lead us away from the authentic true selves we aspire to be. Do not despair! The author does not leave us as victims of our own brains’ artificial intelligence. He provides clear examples of how we might recognize when our brain has hit the default key. We have the power to confront the process and reassert control. There’s a lot of wonderful information in this little book. I can’t wait to read it again.

A Life’s Work is the story of a man who has achieved a happy life – not because of, but in spite of great personal and professional success. He did this by discovering that the brain is not the essence of one’s self, but rather, a tool – useful for some things and counterproductive for others.Drawing from the fields of evolutionary biology and computer science, McKenney explains how the inner workings of the brain are essentially algorithmic; a collection of “if this, then that” rules developed over the course of millennia since the days of our prehistoric ancestors, when the brain’s foremost purpose was to keep its host alive. But happiness is not found on the other side of a mathematical function, and there is much more to a happy life than mere survival.Left unsupervised, McKenney warns, your brain will sabotage your pursuit of happiness for the same reason that it has so capably elevated our species from caves to skyscrapers, from anarchy to civilization, from constant existential danger to unprecedented prosperity: it refuses to be satisfied with what we already have. Through a profoundly intimate and unfiltered account of key moments in his life, McKenney shows readers how he “got to heaven and it wasn’t there.”This book is moving, thought-provoking, enjoyable, and (perhaps most of all) useful. In the days since I finished reading it, I feel a greater awareness and understanding of my own thoughts and insecurities. I feel more conscious of the processes and calculations driving my thoughts. I feel more present.

A Life's Work: Learning to Overrule My Mindless Brain
⭐ 4.9 💛 25
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paperback: $17.99
hardcover: $24.79
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