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Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

The one thing you need to understand about the brain to help you perform at your best

by Executive Coach, Bernice Lee, teaching entrepreneurs how to make more money by being better leaders

I was soaked from head to toe. I looked up the stone steps next to the old Chinese temple and watched dirty rainwater rush down like a waterfall. I was calf-deep in it.

A typhoon had caught me on the way to one of my first gigs.

Today, I’m known as a coach and trainer who helps entrepreneurs make more money while still having work-life balance. Back then, when I started my business in 2013, my original plan was to teach everyday etiquette to children.

So there I was, wet, miserable and wondering why I was on my way to teach English to a 5-year old Japanese girl for HK$250/hour (about US$30). After transportation fees, travel time and teaching materials, I was barely making any money.

It didn’t make sense.

I had two Ivy League degrees, 10 years of management experience in marketing and human resources in the US and Asia, I even held a regional role in a multinational company overseeing the HR function in eight Asian countries. So how the heck did I get here?!

Let me tell you.

I had a crazy dream to develop poised and confident leaders of tomorrow.

I abandoned ALL of my world-class schooling and work experience to learn a completely different subject (etiquette) and teach it to kids which I’d never done before. On top of it all, I started a business from scratch.

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Despite being trained and certified to do the work, I was terrified to market myself as a children’s etiquette consultant.

I thought tutoring kids would “train me up” and give me confidence.

Yet, five months into my entrepreneurial journey, I was still in ‘getting ready’ mode, as well as dealing with feelings of disappointment and getting paid peanuts.

That night as I rode home on a green minibus, and decided that I wasn’t going to allow my own limiting beliefs to hold me back. No more ‘I‘m not ready yet’ or ‘This is what I deserve’. And I was done with letting other people tell me what I was worth.

The next day I started doing proper business development and within one month I was teaching formal Western table manners to kids at the prestigious Hong Kong Cricket Club.

The Power of Thoughts: A Brain-Based Approach to Business and Leadership 

Your business is a direct reflection of you: your strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and values.

If something’s working in your company, it’s because of you.

If it’s NOT working…well, it’s also because of you.

That’s why I invite you to become more aware of how you THINK. Mastering your thoughts is the best, easiest and fastest way to get better results in your business.

The Concept

This concept was developed by Dr. David Rock, who originated the neuroscience-based Results Coaching System, which helps leaders bring out the best performance in themselves and others by literally improving the way their brains process information. This is what I help my clients do.

This approach works by referring to the Iceberg model, which is used in cognitive behavioural therapy. It describes how our performance is driven by our sets of behaviours. Our habits are driven by our feelings, which in turn are driven by our thoughts.

In the Iceberg model, our performance and some of our behaviours are visible, while other behaviours, feelings and thoughts are below the water line. There’s a lot more driving our performance than just the few habits we see on the surface. And at the base of all this, is the way we think.

What we achieve at work is driven by how we think. Yet when someone wants to improve performance, they tend to stay at the surface and focus on the performance itself. They rarely consider the habits that might be driving the performance, discussing feelings, and even less often consider things at the level of thinking.

The Example

Let’s analyse the story I told you. These were my thoughts at the time:

What I’m offering is new to the market. I’m not sure it’s going to work.”

I don’t have enough credibility or experience.”

“What if I screw up?”

These thoughts triggered me to feel unproductive emotions:


Fear of judgment and failure

Frustrated that I wasn’t achieving what I wanted

The Result

The resulting behaviour from my thoughts and unproductive emotions? I tutored kids in English instead of marketing my etiquette consulting services to organisational clients. Which led to me making less money than I wanted and providing services I wasn’t passionate about. How crazy is that?  

I imagine so many of us have experienced derailment of this sort at one time or another.

Thankfully, the moment I directed my attention to more empowering thoughts, I gained the motivation to take the necessary actions to move my business in the right direction.

So my friend, you create your own reality. Choose your thoughts carefully. They can lead you down the right path – or the wrong one.

Have you had a similar experience? Where you realised your own thoughts had hijacked you?

I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line on and let me know your own experience.

Your coach,


Bernice Lee is Zegal’s columnist about leadership and executive presence for entrepreneurs. She is a coach based in Hong Kong. A former human resources manager for a Fortune 100 Company, she teaches clients how to make more money by being better leaders. Sign up here for her free 7-Step Checklist to Improve Your Team’s Performance and to receive other regular tips.

This article does not constitute legal advice.

The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.

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