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You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G.

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Eight proven principles to help you overcome your self-doubt, conquer your fear of the future, reverse negative thoughts about yourself, and hurdle any other obstacles standing between you and your dreams.

But instead of letting his circumstances control him, Dr. Carson took control of his attitude and actions, leading to his discovery of eight straightforward but revolutionary principles that helped shape his future.

In You Have a Brain, Dr. Carson unpacks the eight important parts of T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G.—Talent, Honesty, Insight, Being Nice, Knowledge, Books, In-Depth Learning, and God—and presents the stories of people who demonstrated those things in his life.

Through the advice and real-world examples laid out in these pages, you will learn how to incorporate these T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. principles into your own life so that you, like Dr. Carson, can embrace an amazing future filled with incredible success.

You Have a Brain:

  • Includes discussion questions at the back of the book
  • Unpacks the eight essential parts of Thinking Big: Talent, Honesty, Insight, Strong People Skills, Knowledge, Books, In-Depth Learning, and God
  • Is written by Dr. Ben Carson, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, former presidential candidate, and current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Teaches great life lessons for young men and women
  • Is the perfect gift for high school and college graduations, birthdays, and confirmations, and a great addition to YA book clubs and YA study groups

ISBN-13: 9780310749455

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: 08-09-2016

Pages: 240

Product Dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D., became the chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1984 at the age of 33, making him the youngest major division director in the hospital's history. He has written and published nine books, four of which were co-authored with Candy, his wife of 40 years. Dr. Carson was the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal. In June 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. U.S. News Media Group and Harvard's Center for Public Leadership recognized Dr. Carson as one of "America's Best Leaders" in 2008. In 2014, the Gallup Organization, in their annual survey, named Dr. Carson as one of the 10 Most Admired Men in the World.Dr. Carson and his wife are co-founders of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments. In addition, Dr. Carson is now the Honorary National Chairman of the My Faith Votes campaign and continues to work tirelessly for the cause of the American people. Gregg Lewis is an award-winning author and coauthor of more than fifty books, including Gifted Hands, The Ben Carson Story, Take the Risk and The Big Picture. Deborah Shaw Lewis has authored or coauthored more than a dozen books, including Gifted Hands, The Ben Carson Story, has taught school, does professional storytelling, speaks on motherhood and family issues, and holds a master's degree in early childhood development. She and Gregg are the parents of five children.

Read an Excerpt

You Have a Brain

By Ben Carson, Gregg Lewis, Deborah Shaw Lewis


Copyright © 2015 American Business Collaborative, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-74599-0


The Amazing Brain

When you saw the title of this book, You Have a Brain, you probably thought: Well, duh, of course, everybody has one!

Most people haven't given their brains much thought. I have. In more than thirty years as a brain surgeon, I have performed in the neighborhood of 15,000 surgical operations. Counting the scans I've studied, I've examined more than that. I had to know a great deal about the brain before I began my career as a neurosurgeon and I've learned much more since. My patients have been a most significant part of my education on the brain.

Christina was the oldest hemispherectomy patient I ever operated on. We'd had excellent results for years with young children, but I'd never considered the operation—the removal of half a brain—for a twenty-one-year-old. The younger the child, the more elastic and adaptable their brain and the easier it is for the remaining hemisphere to assume the responsibilities of the one that's been removed.

No one was sure how a twenty-one-year-old brain would respond.

But Christina had more than fifty violent seizures a day centered in one side of her brain—and that was under anti-seizure medication. Without the medication, she experienced even more seizures that wreaked havoc on her physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Her quality of life was poor, and the damage caused by the seizures was slowly, but surely, killing her.

So I told her and her family we'd give it a try. She did so well that within just a few months she went back to college. Where she'd struggled to do C- and D-quality work before, after the hemispherectomy, she made As and Bs. Her academic achievement had improved significantly. She finished college, became independent, and started working and making a living. Last I heard, she'd gotten married.

One of the joys of my life right now as I travel around the country is that so many of my former patients seek me out. Most of them are long past childhood now, in their twenties or even their thirties. "I have a family now," they say to me. "This is my wife; here is my son. I wanted them to meet you, and I want to say thank you."

Some of these encounters make me feel old, but aside from that I feel grateful that I get to see some of the fruits of my labor. To be reminded again and again of the brain's resiliency and the amazing potential in even once-damaged and diseased brains. A gift so remarkable, you can have a normal life with only half of one.

Just how amazing and remarkable is this human brain you have?

• Inside each human brain are approximately 86 billion neurons interconnected by more than 100 trillion synapses (estimated since no one has counted them all yet), which science has only barely begun to understand.

• Your brain started developing almost immediately after conception. During the first months of your mother's pregnancy, your body was creating neurons at the rate of about 400 million per day.

• Your brain generates electricity constantly, enough every waking minute to keep a low-wattage light bulb fully lit. So when you say, "That's a bright idea," your statement could be literally as well as figuratively true.

• Sensory signals move along an alpha motor neuron in your spinal cord at 268 miles per hour (mph). This is the fastest transmission of this type in the body. Skin sensory receptors, which travel at about 1 mph, are among the slowest in the body because they do not have a myelin sheath, which would insulate them and boost their speed.

• The brain of a normal twenty-year-old human possesses 100,000 miles of myelin-covered nerve fibers.

• Your brain can feel no pain because it has no pain receptors. The organ that controls the whole nervous system, and it can't feel pain! This is why we can operate on the brain without worrying about the pain level of the patient. It's also the reason we can perform surgery on people who are awake, as they feel absolutely nothing.

• Harvard University neuroscientist Jeff Lichtman, who is attempting to map the brain, has calculated that several million petabytes of data storage would be needed to index the entire human brain.

When scientists try to quantify the capacity of the human brain, the numbers get so high that we can't get our minds around them. The potential of your mind is literally mindboggling.

My respect for the human brain has deepened over the years to an attitude I can only describe as awe. Every time I've opened a child's head and seen a brain, I marvel at the mystery. This is what makes every one of us who we are. This is what holds all our memories, all our thoughts, and all our dreams. This is what makes us different from each other in millions of ways.

Do you realize that no super computer on earth can come close to the capacity of the average human brain? The most complex organ system in the entire universe is a tremendous gift from God. There are hundreds more neural connections in our brains than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

I tell audiences of several thousand people that if I could bring one person up on stage, have her look out at the crowd for one second, then lead her away, then fifty years later I could perform an operation to take off the cranial bone and put in some depth electrodes, stimulate the appropriate area of her brain, and she could not only remember where everyone was sitting but also what they were wearing.

The brain sorts, organizes, and warehouses that deluge of sensory data flooding in at millions of bytes per second. It's the control and command center for all of our senses, all our other organs, our body temperature, and the operation of every system in the human body—respiratory, circulatory, and more. Much more. Most of this work the brain does automatically without a thought (literally) from us.

On top of all that, the brain enables us to imagine, to create, and to solve problems. A human brain comes programmed with the ability to extract information from the past, gather information from the present, integrate that data, and project it into the future—which means we're the only creatures on earth with the capacity to analyze, strategize, and prioritize so we can alter or improve the world around us. This is unlike other animals who only react to what's going on around them.

Yet, when I was a child, I did not think that my brain was capable of doing much of anything. My classmates considered me the class dummy, and I saw no reason to debate their conclusion.

My mother, however, always believed in me. She knew I had a brain, and she was convinced that brain could be my ticket to a bigger, better world beyond our tiny home and life on the big city streets of Detroit.

And she was right.


Think Beyond the Can

I don't recall the first time my mother asked me, "Do you have a brain?" I heard it voiced or inferred so many times growing up that it's impossible to remember all the occasions, let alone arrange them chronologically.

However, one childhood incident always leaps to mind whenever I think about that all-too-familiar question from my youth. My brother, Curtis, and I had received a BB gun as a gift, and we were anxious to try it out.

After scrounging an empty tin can out of the kitchen trash, we headed outside for a little target practice. I took the can, and Curtis, since he was older by two years, carried our BB gun. In no time, we spotted the perfect set up. Instead of simply standing the can on a flat surface, we turned it upside-down over the wire prongs sticking up from the woven wire fence across the alleyway. That way the can might rattle and vibrate, or maybe even spin on impact, without sailing off the fence. We'd save ourselves the aggravation of chasing or picking up the target each time we hit it.

Curtis took the first turn. I don't have any idea how many shots he fired before the can finally pinged. I'd watched The Lone Ranger and The Rifleman on television and had good coordination and a steady hand. How hard could this be? I was certain I could do better than Curtis on my first round.

But I didn't. I don't recall (and never really want to) how many of my shots missed before I finally heard the first tinny ping of success. It was harder than it looked on TV—and downright impossible to adjust my aim when I couldn't always tell which way I'd missed. And it didn't help my concentration to have to tune out my brother's voice constantly offering advice.

Still our target practice became more fun and less frustrating as the frequency of our hits steadily improved—until we ran out of BBs and headed back into the house, discussing where we might collect enough change to purchase additional ammo. We still hadn't settled on a workable solution to our monetary shortage when a neighbor walked over to our house early that evening wanting to speak to "Miz Carson." He was carrying something long and flat. I couldn't tell exactly what it was—until he tipped it up to show my mother.

I'm not sure she realized right away exactly what he wanted her to see—or why. But I did. And if I'd had a magic wand at the time, I would have waved it and poof! Curtis and I could have disappeared. I realized our neighbor was holding a section of screen from his back porch. A screen with lots of little holes in it. BB-sized holes. Clearly, the screen had been in a direct line behind the fence and the tin can we'd been shooting at much of the afternoon.

From the look on the neighbor's face, he was not a happy man. Nevertheless, he politely inquired, "Miz Carson, would you, or perhaps your boys, be able to explain this?"

Curtis and I made eye contact. Mother hadn't been home earlier, so she knew nothing about our target practice. And we seriously doubted she'd had enough personal experience with BB guns to immediately recognize the damage for what it was. When she turned to us in search of an explanation, we had no choice but to confess. We were not going to lie to our mother. And we didn't want our neighbor to think she might have known anything about it.

We admitted full responsibility. Apologized profusely. Explained what we'd done with the tin can and exactly how it happened. We desperately hoped the neighbor and our mother believed we hadn't intentionally damaged his screen. In fact, we had no idea that we had until he'd shown up with the evidence.

Mother didn't say much. She looked more disappointed (and maybe a little embarrassed) than angry. The neighbor listened to our explanation and apology. He evidently believed our account of the incident because he accepted our apologies, but he wasn't about to shrug off the consequences of our behavior. "I'm gonna have to replace this whole section of screen," he told us. "And I can't do that for free."

Curtis and I told him we didn't have any money to pay for the damage. Looking back, I'm sure he already realized that, which might explain how quickly he proposed a solution. He'd buy the replacement screen. And once he knew how much it would cost him, Curtis and I could work off our debt by doing odd jobs around his house and yard until he thought we'd fulfilled our financial responsibility.

We agreed that sounded fair to us. We realized, though, that Mother didn't think it was entirely resolved.

No sooner had the man left than Mother turned, looked at us, and inquired, "Do you boys have a brain? You were shooting a gun toward someone's house! Did it not occur to you that you might miss the can sometimes? Did you not realize those BBs would have to go somewhere? Obviously, they went a lot farther than you intended for them to go. Or imagined they would go. They could have hurt someone! But boys, you are both smart. You need to use the brains God gave you and learn to think beyond the can!"

Then she looked right at Curtis for a few seconds before she shifted her gaze to my eyes. "Do you boys understand what I'm saying?" We both assured her we did.

We didn't feel quite so understanding when she ended the conversation by confiscating our BB gun and keeping it until we worked off our debt to the neighbor and showed her we could be more responsible.

* * *

That certainly was not the last time our mother asked us, "Do you have a brain?"—any more than it was the first. My mother would pose it like an unannounced pop quiz on all-too-frequent occasions throughout those first eighteen years of my life. And I probably wouldn't have to think too hard to recall occasions she's asked that same question since then.

A majority of my friends today would not be surprised to hear me say that most of the time I was a pretty nice, laid-back, easy-going, basically-get-along kind of kid growing up. But I did have a temper—which got me into more than my share of trouble at school.

For example, I got into a scuffle one day with a boy who called me a name. Ordinarily, that wouldn't have bothered me. But this day, that particular name—long forgotten now—ticked me off. So I called him a name in return. He called me another name. One of us shoved the other. Someone yelled, "Fight!" And we went at it. We did a lot more pushing and grabbing than actual fisticuffs before a teacher pulled us apart. I suspect any scorekeepers in the crowd gathered around us probably judged it a disappointing draw.

Of course, we both got sent to the office anyway, and the school called our parents. My mother couldn't get there to check me out, so I stayed until the end of the school day and walked home as usual. When Mother got home from work later, I saw concern and disappointment all over her face.

She looked at me and said, "Let me get this straight. On the basis of somebody making a silly comment, calling you some name, you got into a fight that resulted in all this trouble at school?" I began to tell her how the other kid started it, but I hadn't finished my first sentence when she shut down my explanation by asking, "Bennie, do you have a brain?"

I knew the response she expected, but why did she bother asking? I raised my eyes to look at her and softly replied, "Yes, ma'am."

"Then you need to think, Bennie!"

She wasn't through yet. "And I don't care what that other boy said or called you. His words shouldn't matter at all. They won't matter to anyone else tomorrow. They only mattered to you today because you let them! What really matters is how you respond—your behavior! And you are the only one who can determine and control that—but only if you use your brain to look beyond the moment ..."

* * *

My mother had a lot of ways to say the same thing. But I was struggling to put into words my own frustration and indignation that it was ... unfair how she always wants to shrug off others' role—even when they are clearly to blame—and focus on my response instead. Why can't she see?

Mother was still talking, and as her words interrupted my internal argument, it seemed almost as if she was hearing my thoughts. "If you let others' actions and words determine what you do, there's no real point in having a mind of your own. Use that brain God gave you ..."

There it was; I knew that was coming.

"... to make your own decisions, to choose your own path. Don't let anything other people say or do rob you of that choice—that responsibility. Even in the heat of the moment you need to use that brain to think. Don't let anyone else push you into doing something foolish or wrong that you'll regret as soon as the moment is over. Or tomorrow. Maybe even forever."

In other words, think beyond the moment. Look beyond the can.

An awful lot of what Mother desperately wanted us to learn about life seemed to relate to that overarching theme of "You've got a brain—use it." She was big on taking responsibility. God had given us our brains. And with those brains came the ability to figure out which way the wind was blowing and maybe even how to harness it for our own benefit.

So Curtis and I didn't hear that familiar question only when we'd gotten into trouble. It was often mother's immediate (and sometimes only) response when one of us would run to her complaining about something the other had said or done. "Do you boys have a brain?"

Yes, of course. We didn't even have to answer out loud. We might nod or simply lower our chins.

"Then surely you have the intelligence to settle this between yourselves."

Or we'd be whining about a bike or something else that was in need of repair before we could use it. She'd just look at us and ask, "Do you have a brain?" (Pause for effect) "Then I bet you can figure out what needs to be done to fix it." Sometimes she wouldn't say a word, but just give us her "use your brain" look.

It got to the point that we didn't even bother to inform her about a lot of little things—like the fact that an essential piece of some game was lost. We'd just use our heads to figure out something we could use as a substitute.


Excerpted from You Have a Brain by Ben Carson, Gregg Lewis, Deborah Shaw Lewis. Copyright © 2015 American Business Collaborative, LLC. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Amazing Brain 7

Chapter 2 Think Beyond the Can 13

Chapter 3 Gone 21

Chapter 4 How We Got Smart 29

Chapter 5 Bookworm 39

Chapter 6 Taming My Temper 49

Chapter 7 Expanding My Options 59

Chapter 8 The Smartest Choice 69

Chapter 9 Off to College 79

Chapter 10 The Challenge - Medical School 89

Chapter 11 Becoming a Neurosurgeon 97

Chapter 12 More Twins 107

Chapter 13 Mother's Influence 119

Chapter 14 Talent 133

Chapter 15 Honesty 145

Chapter 16 Insight 157

Chapter 17 Nice 167

Chapter 18 Knowledge 179

Chapter 19 Books 189

Chapter 20 In-Depth Learning 199

Chapter 21 God 211

Chapter 22 Think Big 219

Appendix: Personal Talent Assessment 227