Find out the mindset that transformed Ben Carson’s life, from a poor performing student to one of the greatest neurosurgeons in the world. Allow these quotes to inspire you to think bigger.
On the power of the mind:
1. I grew up in dire poverty. I said, “I can make myself into anything I want to be. I think I’ll become a brain surgeon and I want to be one of the best brain surgeons that ever lived.” And, then when I got there, I found out that it wasn’t so great because there was all this managed care stuff, and it no longer paid to be good. It only paid to be cheap.
2. I came to realize that the person who has the most to do with what happens to you is you. It is not somebody who’s outside, it’s not some environmental factors, it’s you and the choices that you make and once I realized that in poverty it didn’t bother me anymore because I knew I could change that – nothing really bothered me.
3. First, we cannot overload the human brain. This divinely created brain has fourteen billion cells. If used to the maximum, this human-computer inside our heads could contain all the knowledge of humanity from the beginning of the world to the present and still have room left over. Second, not only can we not overload our brain – but we also know that our brain retains everything. I often use saying that “The brain acquires everything that we encounter.” The difficulty does not come with the input of information, but getting it out. Sometimes we “file” information randomly of little importance, and it confuses us.
4. The fact of the matter is, once I developed confidence in myself and began to believe that I was smart, then all of those innate abilities began to come out. Everybody has them, everybody, who has a normal brain because there is no such thing as an average human being. If you have a normal brain, you are superior. There’s almost nothing that you can’t do.
5. Nobody can hinder you from doing what you want if that’s what you set your mind to. You can always find a hook to hang excuses on, but they’re only excuses. You don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. Nobody else makes you fail.
6. I came to realize that if people could make me angry they could control me. Why should I give someone else such power over my life?
7. I started reading about people of great accomplishment… and it dawned on me suddenly that the person who has the most to do with what happens in your life is you.
On feeding your mind with positivity:
8. Don’t let anyone turn you into a slave. You’re a slave if you let the media tell you that sports and entertainment are more important than developing your brain.
9. Well, when I was a particularly bad student my mother turned off the TV and made us start reading books. One of the early books that I read was called Up from Slavery. It was the autobiography of Booker T. Washington. How he was born a slave and still learned to read. He read every book in sight and became an advisor to Presidents. So I started reading a lot of books about animals and science. I just got very interested in the whole concept of science and mathematics and technological things. In high school studies, I started getting involved in science fairs and started working in science laboratories. I just basically steered my life in that direction.
10. A lot of people say, “I can learn everything I need to know. I can watch this video or I can watch this DVD,” or what have you, but that’s like saying you can develop your muscles by watching somebody else lift weights. You have to actually exercise your mind in order to get it to be active and to get it to be creative and reading is a tremendous way to do that.
On surrounding yourself with positive people:
11. My mother was a person who would never accept an excuse from my brother or myself. It didn’t matter what the situation was. If you came with an excuse, she would always say, “Do you have a brain?” And if the answer was yes, then you had a way to get around it. Maybe you should use the brain. That was her point. After a while it became clear to us that no excuse was acceptable, so we became pretty creative.
12. I would say that it’s extremely important to find out who you are. In order to do that you need to spend time using the greatest gift that you have. And that’s your brain. That means you talk to intelligent people, open your eyes, observe, and see what is happening around you. One of the things I recognized when I was a kid is the people that we admired were the drug dealers – they had the fancy cars with those big white sidewall tires and had the chains and everything and they just looked so cool and they brought candy for us and we loved to see them coming – but I realized that none of them ever got old. And that was a huge negative reality.
On seeking wisdom:
13. You need both. You need both knowledge and wisdom.” But I know a lot of very knowledgeable people who are not very wise because wisdom tells you how to apply that knowledge—how to acquire and how to apply it. I seek wisdom from the source of wisdom, which is God. It’s a matter of looking at people who are around you who are successful, looking at people around you who are not successful, figuring out: What are the traits that tend to characterize the unsuccessful people? What are the traits that tend to characterize successful people? And if you can then learn from that—inculcate that into your pattern of life—you’re a wise person.
14. I’ve had many opportunities to sit down with President Bush, have dinner at the White House, and various things. He’s always saying: “You know, all my opponents think that I’m stupid, but here’s the funny thing: They’re out there, and I’m in the White House.” And he actually reads 90 minutes every night before he goes to sleep.
15. You only have so much time in your life, and you only have so much energy. So you have to select very carefully how you’re going to spend that time and how you’re going to spend that energy. If you waste it spinning your wheels on things that are not going to change, then it deprives you of an opportunity of utilizing it on things that are going to change.
16. Do we have a brain? Then use it. It’s all you need to overcome a problem. That’s the secret. That’s my simple but powerful prescription for life, love, and success in a dangerous world.
17. Every time I open a child’s head and see a brain, I marvel at the mystery: This is what makes every one of us who we are. This is what hold all our memories, all our thoughts, all our dreams. This is what makes us different from each other in millions of ways.
Learning from failure:
18. Thomas Edison said he knew 999 ways that a light bulb did not work. He didn’t give up, and along with his right-hand man, Lewis Lattimer, they eventually came up with a successful light bulb. There’s a cleaning formula called Formula 409. Of course, the reason they call it that is because the first 408 didn’t work, but they didn’t give up and they kept going. I always say, “If something doesn’t work out, make sure you analyze it and try to find out why it didn’t work and don’t repeat that.” It’s like people who are always late. You can always count on them being late. They never seem to learn that if you get organized and you leave 15 minutes earlier, you won’t be late. They just don’t seem to be able to understand that. And, a person who can learn from their mistakes is a person who is going to be successful.
19. We need to learn from the past. We need to look at history and understand how the great empires of the past went into decline. Many of the things that they did are things that we are doing now. I believe that we’re smarter than that as a people and that we do have the ability to turn it around. That’s my real goal in life. Neurosurgery is only a vehicle whereby to do it.
20. No matter how good you are at planning, the pressure never goes away. So I don’t fight it. I feed off it. I turn pressure into motivation to do my best.
21. Even if you’re Bill Gates, you’ve got problems. I’m sure he would probably easily give a few billion dollars to get rid of all the problems that he has.
On the importance of self-belief:
22. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to be a valuable person. You become valuable because of the knowledge that you have. And that doesn’t mean you won’t fail sometimes. The important thing is to keep trying.
23. Let me make it very dramatic. There was this book that came out a couple of years ago called, The Bell Curve. I’m sure you remember that. It said black people were, perhaps, not intellectually able to do certain things very well, but that they were particularly good at some other things — basketball, maybe. What an absurd thing that is! If starting today, all the young black girls in America said, “We’re not going out with you guys unless you can work a calculus problem,” the next edition of The Bell Curve would come out saying, “Black people have this innate ability to perform calculus problems. They can’t play basketball very well, but they’re really good at calculus.” It’s a matter of what a person concentrates on. It’s a matter of what a person feels is important.
On placing his trust in God:
24. I have come into conflict sometimes with people in the scientific community who say, “How can you believe in a God? Somebody who was brought up in the sciences, you understand evolution and all of these various theories, and natural selection, how can you believe in God?” And I say, au contraire. Because when I look at my belief in God, and I look at the order of the universe, when I look at how the earth goes around the sun, and then I look at all the other things that are orbiting, I know that that doesn’t just happen. When I look at the human brain with hundreds of billions of interconnections, much more sophisticated than anything that we can create and call a computer, I know that that didn’t just happen.
25. The most important thing for me is having a relationship with God. To know that the owner, the creator of the universe loves you, sent His Son to die for your sins; that’s very empowering. Knowing Him and knowing that He loves me gives me encouragement and confidence to move forward.
26. I’ve had experiences in my life that leave no doubt in my mind about the fact that God exists. I’m quite willing to debate people who don’t think so because I want them to explain to me how did our solar system get so organized and how is the universe so complex and yet well-organized that we can predict 70 years hence when a comet is coming?
27. You’ve promised that if we come to You and ask something in faith, that You’ll do it.
28. Do your best and let God do the rest.
29. God cares about every area of our lives, and God wants us to ask for help.
30. God has given us more than fourteen billion cells and connections in our brains. Why would God give us such a complex organ system unless he expects us to use it?
On the book that influenced him most:
31. That’s an easy one to answer. That would be the Bible, specifically the book of Proverbs. That’s what I start each day with and end each day with. There is so incredibly much wisdom in there and it was the thing that profoundly changed me as a teenager – when I began to read in the book of Proverbs the description of a fool. It sounded just like me, and I decided that I didn’t want to be a fool. I’m going to stop living the life of a fool. One of the things the book of Proverbs talked about was how fools think they know everything and they don’t listen. And I remember saying to myself at a young age, “You know what? I’m going to listen. I’m really going to listen to my mother. I’m going to listen to what she says.” Reading the Bible has made a huge difference in the way I have lived my life, and it continues to impact me on a daily basis.
32. The thing that gives me the most hope is the human brain. Knowing that we can learn from the present and the past and we can project that into the future. I combine that with the fact that I know that God is in control. It says in the book of Romans that if God is for you who can be against you? So I really don’t find myself fretting about a lot of things because I know He is in control. He can control virtually any situation, and I can’t. But I also know that God loves me and it is a wonderful feeling to know that the most powerful individual in the universe loves you and cares about you every moment of every day. It gives us great confidence.