Every new goal, business, or plan needs a concrete “why?” behind it. Without a solid answer, our focus and priorities are spread too thin, and the endeavor is either doomed from the start or takes much longer to get off the ground than need be.
Nurosene was no different, and I shared my “why?” in a previous post. I invite you to check it out to understand better who we are and what we value.
With that answered, the next obvious question is “what?”, but I’ve been struggling much more with this one. It’s harder to articulate. What is Nurosene?
Is it a technology company? Absolutely.
Is it a nutraceutical and novel compounds company? Yes.
Is it a research company? Definitely.
Is it an Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning company? Yep.
It’s all of those things and more.
But when I explain that to people, I’m usually met with an initial level of kindness followed closely by some well-meaning advice:
- “You can’t be a jack-of-all-trades, Danny.”
- “You gotta pick a lane, Danny.”
- “You can’t be all things to all people, Danny.”
Conventional wisdom agrees with them, but Nurosene is not aiming for conventional. The belief that you should stick to a single lane within a multi-disciplinary framework is valid if the underlying foundation in which it operates is a strong one.
That’s simply not the case with brain and mental health.
Current practical ethos still views the brain and behavior as immune to change. Can you force it? Sure. That’s what lobotomies did, and we all know how well that worked out.
Next, we thought we could simply medicate the dysfunction out of everyone. And while prescription drugs are an absolute lifesaver in some cases, medication is too often a band-aid solution that delivers an immediate, almost hedonistic sense of pleasure and/or happiness.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but we know that the true sense of who we are resides much deeper than that.
Let’s say you decide you want to start playing tennis.
You rush out to buy Serena’s racquet so you can serve like her and Federer’s shoes so you can move like him. You wear the latest sweat-wicking tennis shirt, designer shorts, and hire a well-known coach to teach you three times per week. Two months later, you feel ready and enter your first tournament.
And shortly after that, you’re diagnosed with tennis elbow or discover your knee is grinding up meniscus cartilage, so you drop the sport forever.
The same thing happens in the world of online mental health and wellness. It’s an artificial environment where success is virtually impossible. Sure, it’s aesthetically-pleasing, slick, and maybe even empowering, but there’s no fundamental systemic approach to get anything meaningful done.
We show up on a website or download an app, poke around a bit, find little to no value, and leave.
In fact, Allyson Chiu revealed in a recent Washington Post article that 80% of wellness apps are abandoned within the first ten days.
There’s no shortage of choice, but the majority aren’t giving us what we need.
Micro-actions for Macro-results
Let’s get real for a moment: making people feel better is easy.
If I give you a back rub or share a bowl of magnesium-rich salted caramel ice cream or lavish you with praise, you’ll feel better.
For a while.
But creating long-lasting behavioral change is much more challenging but not impossible.
With nearly two decades of experience in top-notch physical rehabilitation and elite performance clinics, I know these three things if I know anything at all:
- People want instant change and gratification, and their expectations are typically nowhere near their current physical or behavioral state. This is not necessarily their fault. We’ve all been coddled and seduced into believing that anything and everything is possible without a strategic approach for how to get there.
- Radical change is possible. From wheelchairs to running, debilitating injuries to World Series Champs, the human spirit never fails to amaze me. When you dig into the shared behaviors for these incredible journeys, you’ll recognize the importance of breaking it into hundreds if not thousands of achievable steps, regardless of both the start and endpoints.
- The brain and body are inseparable. The two are always working together to create your current state of mind. This may be the most important and underappreciated aspect of mental health. Ask anyone suffering from chronic pain or post-concussion syndrome about how it impacts them mentally. As neuroscientist/engineer Daniel Wolpert says in his TED talk, “We have a brain for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements.”
The 4x4 Model
In the beginning, I lived on one side of the fence.
On this side, I would occasionally push athletes up to and beyond their physical capacity. I drove lactic acid levels up to the point that forced their muscular system to dump the excess into the gut, and a puke bucket within arms-length was a requirement. Glamorous? No. But the goal was to take people beyond what their sport demanded of them and what they demanded of themselves.
It was simple, competitive, and primal. And I absolutely loved it.
Then there’s the other side. A different world. A world where patient drops-offs with noise-canceling headphones and black-out sunglasses revealed a brain hijacked by months of post-concussion syndrome. These people required a large amount of physical support and an even larger amount of behavioral support.
Over time, the underlying links that connected these seemingly opposite sides grew stronger and became more apparent.
- Patients needed to move better. So did the athletes.
- Athletes needed to take smaller steps. So did the patients.
- And both groups needed to prioritize sleep, nutrition, and support for each other.
I’ll never forget having an NHL player and a 16-year old girl out on the rehab floor. Two different individuals from two different worlds and sides of that fence. But both were suffering from post-concussion syndrome, and both were struggling with the recommendations put in place for them.
The hockey player sat down beside her and shared his difficulties. He softly explained to her the importance of moving and how he wanted her to move a little bit more than the day before. He reminded her that movement would help her brain, and her brain would help her move.
In living it alongside her, in sharing that experience with her, he surpassed my academic knowledge and clinical expertise. He quietly did more for that girl in those few minutes than I had done in weeks and put her on the path to success.
Nurosene’s 4x4 model aims to replicate that moment and put more people on the path to success, regardless of how that’s defined. Our approach combines the mind, body, and brain in a way that favors cooperation over competition.
The model is broken into four strategies directed at four targets, giving rise to the 4x4 moniker.
Many different components that ebb and flow within each category. And those components are designed to progress slowly but steadily, moving someone from where they are to where they want to be via a series of micro-actions. Baby steps. Easy wins.
Because consistent micro-actions generally lead to macro-results.
Research and Data Science
Nurosene’s in-house research initiatives use complicated analyses to identify patterns mimicked in nature, evolution, existing pathologies, current research, and a host of other variables.
This is where our Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and data science kick into gear.
The takeaway is that in order to tackle something as ambiguous and complex as human behavior and performance, you need to collect a lot of data on it. You need privacy protection and anonymity of the highest order. And you need to identify and separate the insights that are going to be most useful to people at scale.
That’s no easy task.
To do this, we need to put the necessary tools in the hands of enough people to see what’s working and what’s not.
As a fringe benefit, this essentially takes the patient/user from the backseat to the driver’s seat in their own healthcare process. They can begin to shape and direct their own physical and mental health journey.
Is it perfect? Not at all. There will always be detours and bumps in the road, but at least the individual will develop an understanding of what’s happening under the hood and how to get things running again when the engine stops. They become an informed driver.
Community at Scale
Collect enough anonymized data, and you eventually see behavior and trends begin to overlap from person to person to person. Patterns begin to emerge. Patterns not possible to find in small groups of 20–30 people within a carefully controlled environment.
Life’s not like that. It’s bigger. Messy.
Instead, our real-world data begins to provide real-world evidence that can then be shared with the community at scale.
This is what we’re doing with Nurosene. Technology-enabled. Radically fundamental approaches implemented in a precise, moderate fashion over time.
And as it does its thing, the community will show us what is working and what is not in real-time, allowing for quick and immediate fixes.
We’ll begin to see patterns emerge like tracks in the snow, and we’ll study those tracks, smooth out the path, and deliver course corrections along the way.
So start your engines. Let the journey begin.