In the 1991 movie Defending Your Life, advertising executive Daniel Miller (played by Albert Brooks, who also wrote and directed) dies tragically and arrives in the “afterlife,” where he must face trial and defend his lifelong fears in order to “move on” to the next phase of existence—or be sent back to Earth to do it all over again.

Daniel’s “defense attorney,” Bob Diamond (played by Rip Torn), explains that people from Earth use so little of their brains (only 3-5 percent) that they spend most of their lives functioning on the basis of their fears. “When you use more than five percent of your brain, you don’t want to be on Earth, believe me,” says Diamond.

If the court determines that Daniel has conquered his fears, he will be sent on to the next phase where he will be able to use more of his brain and thus experience more of what the universe has to offer. Otherwise, his soul will be reincarnated on Earth to live another life in another attempt at moving past his fears.

Our brains, as situations within our country and world demonstrate, appear to be quite underutilized. I’m not sure if the current threshold is as low as 5 percent, but I believe that skillful, lifelong learning and ongoing brain development help to seed the cultivation of our key thinking capabilities.

And bring sustainable careers to fruition.

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