Skip to content

Don’t Be A Prisoner Of Your Past!

We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” – Rick Warren

The “Veli Ndaba Neuro-Engineering Effect” #VNNEE is all about helping people in organizations understand themselves better to unleash their brain power using the following framework with three phases. The three phases to the #VNNEE are:

  • Phase I (Awareness)Linking Leadership, Culture and the Brain: The Value of an Engineered Mind and How Neuroscience can make you a more impactful leader.


  • Phase II (Application)- Leadership in Action: Daily leadership strategies for team engagement – the Social Brain, Neuro-Leading- creating effective bonds and connections, overcoming biases, threats,etc.


  • Phase III (Advancing) Advanced, Competitive Brain Leadership: Leading with a competitive edge by understanding Emotional Intelligence, Growth Mindset, Locus of Control, Self-Mastery, etc.

John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” I found these words to be very profound. To add on these words, the experience should not necessarily be your own all the time, it can also be from other people’s experiences because life is too short and you can’t live long enough to make all of them yourself. The only real mistake in life is the one from which we learn nothing.

For a long time, it was thought that neuroplasticity was the unique gift of the young animals and humans, that it could only occur when we are young. The perennial myth “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” came from this limited understanding of the human brain. Sadly, this was embraced as absolute truth. When we talk about the plastic nature of the brain, we talk about a process by which neurons can change their connections and the way they work so that you can go from things being challenging and deliberate – requiring a lot of effort and strain, to them being reflexive. If there’s one truism to neuroplasticity, it’s that from birth to about age twenty five, the brain is incredibly plastic. Kids are learning all sorts of things, but they can learn it passively. They don’t really have to work too hard or focus too hard, although focus helps to learn new things, acquire new languages and acquire new skills. But, if you are an adult and you want to change your neural circuitry, it becomes so difficult and it requires a lot of deliberate action and strain.

Being the prisoner of your past means that situations or events have transpired that taints reasoning and behaviours in the present. For instance, children who grew up in dysfunctional families have learned to survive. But the challenge these children may have when it comes to functional families is that they may have a huge anxieties because they don’t know how to function well. They may even cause commotions because they know how to act during disruptions. Normal gives them stress. Dysfunctional past may make it hard to function.

This is part of the journey that The “Veli Ndaba Neuro-Engineering Effect” #VNNEE helps people, especially at leadership level to understand so that they increase their self-awareness level to function better at a personal level and in turn help those they lead.

When a person goes through a traumatic, terrible or challenging experience, something happens in the brain. The fundamental question is, what is it? Well, neuroscience has shown that when something traumatic happens, there’s a release of two chemicals/neuromodulators in the brain. One is for alertness and agitation and the other is for the intense focus. What this means is that when something terrible happens, these two chemicals combine to spike or increase your level of alertness and intense focus on what is happening, thereby shining a bright spotlight on it. The brain stops focusing on other things and channels everything to that experience. This creates a strong emotional neural connection between two nerve cells. This is one of the quickest ways the brain achieves neuroplasticity. During this process, certain neurons in the brain and body become much more active than others. This is just to give you some insights on what happens in the brain when one experiences especially something traumatic.

The two main brain functions are to keep us safe and run away from pain. It is therefore on this basis that when something terrible happens, the brain automatically suspends other activities and gives all of its resources, especially alertness and focus resulting to that flashing moment – like a camera’s flash light, to capture that special moment for future references. So, it keeps this intense emotional experience on file for future references. The subconscious mind  keeps on scanning the environment for any associations or similar incidents to keep you safe and protect you from experiencing the same pain. If it picks something similar or with any feature of it, it sits on an emergency button and the memory of that experience comes flooding back getting your body into an emergency/panic state.

While the brain has good intentions, its action becomes a double-edged sword because while protecting you, by keeping you stuck in the past), it also keeps you from exploring new things. This is how we because prisoners of our past.

The “Veli Ndaba Neuro-Engineering Effect” #VNNEE empowers organizations through Neuro-Engineering Talks, Neuro-Engineering Training Programs and Neuro-Engineering Coaching, to unleash their brain power and achieve Peak Performance.

Yes, you are a product of your past, but you should not be its prisoner. You have the power to live your dreams, claim your greatness!

Veli Ndaba is a Neuro-Engineering Leadership Speaker and Trainer, Neuro-Engineering Life & Business Coach and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773