Emmy Sobieski on Neuroplasticity
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Emmy Sobieski on Neuroplasticity

20 years ago, it was said, if you had a tough childhood you're going to struggle for the rest of your life. Now we're slowly starting to realize we can rewire ourselves to become resilient through neuro-plasticity.
 
Emmy Sobieski managed to rewire her brain after childhood to become resilient, become a better listener, a better speaker and a superlearner.
We also talk about following your curiosity, the importance of play, ultralearning and the compounding effect of consistency.
 
 
Find out more about Superlearning at https://dominiczijlstra.com/superlearning.
 
 
 
Transcript
dom: [00:00:00] 20 years ago, people said,  if you had a tough childhood, you're going to struggle for the rest of your life. Now we are slowly starting to realize that we can rewire our brains to become resilient through neuro-plasticity. Emmy Sobieski managed to rewire her brain after childhood to become resilient, become a better listener, a better speaker, and a super learner
In my interview with Emmy, we also talk about  following your curiosity, the importance of play, ultra learning and the compounding effect of consistency. Join me for the interview.
Hello, and welcome to another episode in the super learning professionals podcast. Today, I'm joined by Emmy Sobieski. Emmy is founder of "My 10 Min" and she specialized in active listening. She coaches, she does coaching courses and workshops. And she's also a fellow in the on-deck course grader fellowship .
Welcome Emmy.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:00:58] Ah, thank you for having me Dom. I really appreciate it.
dom: [00:01:02] All right. So let's talk a bit about your learning journey. So you're  an expert in listening and speaking. How did you get there?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:01:12] Well, actually had a tough childhood and was sick a lot , had pretty aggressive parents and I grew up very fearful and not a lot of connection with either parent always fearful that I would do something wrong that I would get yelled at.
And so I came into college really with two big problems. One is I lacked communication skills, connection skills, speaking skills. And the other is I was always seeking attention cause I'd never received that connection from my parents. And when you do that, then you're sharing all the time and not listening because  you're attention seeking.
And so it was both that I didn't know how to connect with people on the speaking end. And I also didn't know how to connect with people, the act of listening end, and at that time, It was basically said, if you had a tough childhood, you're going to have a whole lifetime of disease and bad relationships and all of this , but I just never believed it.
So I kept looking and learning and trying to get better. I had a friend that taught me  how to  interact with people better. I started diving into how to learn about listening, and now we found out that you can rewire your brain. You can rewire yourself to become resilient through neuro-plasticity.
I had that instinct about myself. And then it was even better when I found out now that it's actually true. You can completely rewire your self.
dom: [00:02:47] That's great. And  what led you to this instinct? How did you get this idea? Like, Hey, I can, I can actually change that. Was there a particular experience in your life that triggered this?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:02:57] So, that's funny that you ask.  I rode horses and horses, you're training them all the time. And then I had this great trainer and she's training me,  how to communicate with my horse better. And then my horse is getting better through different motions through me, teaching him. And then I'm learning better how to communicate with him.
So when I came to college, I would notice that when I was talking to other students or interacting with people, a lot of those interactions felt bad. They just felt like something was off. And so I said to my horse trainer,  can you observe me with other people and just  tell me, coach me on what to do, what I'm doing wrong.
What I could do better. Just if you see something, tell me what to do better, the same as you do when I'm riding a horse around and you tell me what to do better.
dom: [00:03:50] That's really interesting. So then how did you discover that, I have to focus on learning to listen actively, on learning to connect.
Was this something your trainer told you or something you figured out much later?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:04:03] Yeah,  that was  much later. I think the first thing was just being able to connect with people, interact, talk about something that they're interested in. So that was really  the first step. And then much later in life, I went to this yoga retreat and they had us walk side-by-side with another person.
And reflect on what they were saying, mirror it, say it back to them. And the experience felt totally different to me. It was just wild. And that was my first  introduction to really trying active listening for myself rather than just hearing people talk about it. And then my second introduction to it was when I took coactive coaching intermediate courses.
And I thought, wow, I can't believe they teach you all these specific tools on how to be a great active listener, but this shouldn't just be for coaches. To everyone that wants to learn how to really connect with people and hold space.
dom: [00:05:08] So  what you intuitively felt got formalized at that point,  was it also the moment that you decided that you actually want to be teaching this ?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:05:16] Exactly.  It had such powerful implications and you could see that, just with  a few tips and then practicing it, you could see just huge changes in how people felt when they were listened to. It's both sides. So when you're being an active listener, You realize it's so much easier and so much less effort required in the conversation, so much more relaxing.
So it's great for people who feel like they're an introvert or they're very technical and they're a little bit nervous about connecting with people. And then from the person who's being heard, it's just this amazing feeling of being held without being held.
dom: [00:06:00] So do you have any specific examples of how this skill of actively listening helped you in other areas of your life as well?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:06:10] Yeah,  for my employees, I always wore worried that I wouldn't be a good manager. I started my career 25 years in investment management. So I manage money, but not people.
And now in my career, I actually manage people and work with people a lot more. And I was worried about that. It's amazing how much easier it is to manage people when you listen. You want to figure out what's going to motivate them, ask them what they care about. It's incredible.
And the thing that I've found is it's not this, you've got to dive in and do 200 hours of this, it's the type of learning that you've been espousing as well, which is if there's a lot of shortcuts. If you just learn one thing, what is the one thing that'll get you 85% of the way there, what's the path.
You don't have to learn everything. And this is the same with learning active listening. What's the path. Okay.  Use three to five words. And you start with the word what, and I've given these tips to people and they've gone out and tried it and had just incredible transformations just in the space of a week.
One person I was talking to tried, just holding space, asking open-ended questions, being curious. And within five days, his wife came to him and said, I feel closer to you than we've ever been in our life. What's changed. Wow. Yeah. It's incredible. It's and that's so gratifying for me.
dom: [00:07:49] I can totally imagine that. So how do you inspire  your employees or others that you work with to, to acquire the same listening skill?  If everybody on the team has it, that would be even more powerful.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:08:02] Yeah, absolutely. So there's two things. One is to always want to be active listening, which I believe is driven by curiosity.
And then the other is that it's just not that difficult. There are just tips and tricks that you can try, really just get into doing it right away. And so the main thing  is to  start with that engine. And the engine is curiosity, and that really is parallel to what you're talking about in terms of general learning systems.
So my employees, I'm always asking them to be curious. So if they come to me and I ask them to start by just saying, come to me with any questions you have, if you're trying to figure something out and you can't figure it out, come to me with the questions. And so they come to me the questions and I say, Wow, that's a great question for you to go out and find the answer to, and then they come back with the next question. I say, that's a great question for you to go out and find an answer to, and pretty soon they're going out and they're having questions, finding answers, having questions, finding answers, having questions, finding answers.
And so they have this engine of curiosity that will then drive their entire career, their knowledge and their life. And so that's really what I try to instill in them.
dom: [00:09:18] I liked that a lot. You retrigger the childlike curiosity in your employees.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:09:24] Yeah. And then that is your engine for active listening, because if you have to take one thing away of how you could become a great active listener right today, it is to get curious about the other person. If you're truly just curious about the other person, everything else solves itself. So you use that same curiosity engine and that same sense of play that you're talking about.
And I found that also to be true when I tried to learn public speaking.
dom: [00:09:54] So how did you use that in public speaking? Are you curious about your audience or do you take a specific person in mind? How does that translate?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:10:03] Yeah, so it's really  the play aspect and it's more curiosity about your inner world and just what could happen if you gave up control and just went back to childlike play. So I had gone for years, not being a good public speaker and taking a bunch of coaching, spending a ton of money, trying to go to Toastmasters and stop saying, "and", And it just wasn't working.
I would just get more and more tense, more classes. I would take more coaching. I would delay all the homework. And then I read about this book, ultra learning, which I'm sure you've read by Scott Young. And the first chapter talks about Michael and Tristan who founded ultra speaking, and they took the ultra learning principles and applied it to public speaking and their foundation is play.
So their foundation is just say something, speak before you think and play all these games with your mind until you start basically being like you were when you were two or three, we've been speaking our whole lives. And then we just kind of get this governor brain, this critical brain. Imagine if you see some kids on a playground and they're playing, they're having a great time.
And then some adult comes over and says, you're doing it all wrong. You're doing this wrong. You're doing that wrong.  You just can imagine the kids would just stop playing completely. And so it's the same thing when you're speaking and it's not fun. And you're thinking you've got this governor brain, you know, critic, self-critic saying you're doing it all wrong.
You're saying, you're saying, and it just gets worse and worse. And so this idea of just bringing games and play and just throwing it out there and getting curious about what might happen completely transformed my speaking as well.
dom: [00:11:54] I'm just practicing doing these podcasts and I can feel I struggle sometimes to come up with the right words, but if I just am curious and  ask about whatever the person is telling me, then the conversation  starts flowing.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:12:06] Yeah, absolutely.
dom: [00:12:08] Yeah. So  the moment when you read  ultra learning, was that , when it clicked, between this problem that you have been struggling with about active listening, active speaking and the element of curiosity?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:12:20] Yeah, absolutely. And curiosity and play are so tied into each other, right? Yeah.  It's hard to be curious. When you're critical about yourself and you're hard on yourself, it's hard to be open-minded and curious at the same time. And so when you bring, play and curiosity back in yeah that really opened it up for me.
And it was kind of a one-two punch. The first I learned about play and ultra speaking , and obviously ultra learning says practice things over and over play with it a little. Ultra speaking kind of took that play to a whole new level in terms of, we just played games over and over.
And then you're all of a sudden, you're just speaking your authentic voice and you can't believe how fast you've improved. And then the next year I took the coaching course where they really focused on active listening and it reminded me how much I have enjoyed it and how much that had transformed me back when I did the yoga retreat. And so I see those two really fitting together in terms of play and curiosity as the flywheel for life.
dom: [00:13:28] That's great. And have you used  this play and curiosity elements also to  learn other skills in your life?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:13:33] Yeah, absolutely. I always thought when I was growing up that I wasn't good at languages and this goes back to the rewiring your brain. If you tell yourself you're not good at languages, you won't be good at languages. And and then later I found this great teacher for German and I was so curious to go live in Germany, ride horses in Germany, but the only great trainers there that I wanted to ride with at the time didn't speak English. And so I needed to learn German, but I was working at a hedge fund, 80 to a hundred hours a week. I didn't have time to do the normal way to learn German. So I got a tutor and we just went and played. And we talked only about things that I found interesting.
And in no time I knew German and I was living in Germany once the the firm I was at shut down and I was able to immediately move to Germany and no German  very little practice, but a lot of play and just focusing on the things that I was interested in and my curiosity.
dom: [00:14:36] Yeah.  It sounds like there are three elements that, right.
It's curiosity. And then the motivation, cause you want, wanted to go to Germany and then the necessity, cause you're actually going there and they don't speak English.  It's a really powerful combination, I guess.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:14:48] Yeah, it was fabulous. And then I could be over in Germany and be curious about other people and have the words to use, to really connect.
dom: [00:14:56] And I guess that kind of reinforced your motivation to keep learning.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:15:02] Absolutely. And then over there they could teach me more, but they were teaching me in German.  It was a funny story because. The guy that taught me  horseback, riding in Germany, taught me dressage, which is an English type of horse riding. He was this old farmer and had trained multiple horses that have been on multiple Olympic teams, but truly in his heart, he was just an old farmer and he would stuff his mouth with muesli and then blurt out words and muesli is flying in the air and he would just say all these things in German. And, and I was like yeah, I don't quite understand what he's saying, but you know, my Germans new or whatnot. So I looked at his daughter who he had trained his whole life and she's on a horse too. And I said, what did he just say? She said, oh, I don't understand.
Well, there's only so much you can do with the learning.
Definitely. And later I learned because I'm so curious and I want to learn from him I learned his special dialect of German, which was only his and a friend of mine that I had met in Germany, came down from the north  to see him training me.
And she's German. And she said, I don't understand a word he says. So you can learn anything.
dom: [00:16:18] Yeah. And you said you were very time constrained when you were learning German. Is there any tips or tricks  to learn a language, even when very tight constrained?
Yeah, absolutely.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:16:27] I think you have to love your teacher . Like all the great teachers that we see that are coming out on the internet.  The great teachers are the ones that really get a lot of people following them, et cetera. So I think that's,  super exciting. I had a great teacher and we focused on what I cared about instead of focusing on everything, instead of learning all the German language, we focused on the stuff at the bar and the horses, the stuff that I loved anyway, and it was what I was going to be learning and use it. So I think there's a real power to experiential learning . I met with her once every three weeks for a year. And she gave me homework, which sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. So I would just say it was one hour, every three weeks for a year. And then I went to Germany and I didn't know when I would go to Germany. I just had a feeling that the firm I was working at, wasn't going to stay open forever.
So I thought, well, why not?  If it closed, I would go to Germany. So I'll just start learning. And it was a really fun play with her. She would just ask me in German all about the things I cared about, horseback riding and dressage and what I was going to learn.
And I would joke with my friends in Germany, I'd say I can teach an entire dressage. I can teach a horse lesson. I can warm you up for a class and I can't order a meal.
Yeah. That's,
dom: [00:17:50] Really powerful.  Personalized curiosity, driven, learning . Yeah. So what do you think is necessary to be able to teach people more about first being able to rewire the brain, about neuro-plasticity, but then also, maybe specifically what you're teaching about active listening and speaking ?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:18:08] My message is, it's not that hard.  Even rewiring your brain.  I have an app, a 10 minute app, and it's literally 10 minutes at a time. it's not that hard, but you just stay really consistent and follow your curiosity.  Don't feel too overwhelmed, just do it  10 minutes at a time.
And that can be practicing using certain types of questions, doing followup questions, that can be building your resilience just by taking deep breaths and  Paying attention to your breath  how your breath is coming in or out, or your chest, or your body . All of this rewiring, whether you're rewiring to learn something new or you're rewiring to become more resilient.
All of it is just about consistency.
dom: [00:18:54] Taking those little steps, but taking them consistently, you're  making a habit .
Emmy Sobieski: [00:18:58] Yeah. Have you ever heard of Chris Nikic?
I haven't
dom: [00:19:03] heard of him.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:19:04] He is a young man with down syndrome and he had had four heart operations, like ear operations, all these different things and he was kind of gaining weight and his dad wanted something to motivate him.
So his dad said, well, is there some kind of physical exercise or activity that you'd like to do? And keep in mind,  he's a teenager and he's just had all these heart operations,  he's  bedridden. And he says,  I'd like to do an iron man.
And his father couldn't bear to break his heart and say, that's probably not going to happen. And so his father just wanted him to be motivated and excited for the future. So his father said well, let's make a plan. And they went to various doctors . And the doctors were like, no way.
And Chris came back and said, if you're going to be like that, if you're going to tell me I can't do it, then I need new doctors. And he basically came up with this idea if I could get 1% better every single day, why couldn't I do an Ironman? And then November, 2020, he was the first person with down syndrome to complete an iron man, iron man Florida.
dom: [00:20:22] Wow. Wow. Yeah. That's amazing.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:20:25] And that's that consistency like math, if you get better 1% every day , you could anything. Yeah.
dom: [00:20:34] Yeah. And it's compounds, right. The better you get, the more 1% is. That's amazing. Thank you for the interview.  Do you have any ideas who I should interview next on this series.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:20:44] I think you should interview the founders of ultra speaking.
dom: [00:20:48] That's a great idea.  I'll get in touch with them.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:20:50] Yeah. I'm happy to connect you with them.
dom: [00:20:53] Awesome. Yeah, let's do it. So Emmy, if people want to find out more about you, what's the best way to do that.
Emmy Sobieski: [00:20:59] You can go to "My 10 min", which is with a 1 0 or you can go to myhealth.mba, which has  courses, blogs, the app. So really, if you want to read up about all these topics, that's the place to go. And then of course you can find me on social media, Twitter, LinkedIn Emmy Sobieski or my 10 min will work Facebook, Instagram.
I'm pretty much anywhere that you are on there.
dom: [00:21:23] Yeah, I know that. You have a really powerful social media content machine, right?
Emmy Sobieski: [00:21:28] Yeah. So powerful I started the course on how to do it. Yeah, exactly.
dom: [00:21:33] That's amazing. All right. Thank you for the interview, Emmy.
Yeah. Thank
Emmy Sobieski: [00:21:37] you for having me Dom.
 
 
 
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