Podcast: Chris Barez-Brown on Why Leaders Need to Get Off Autopilot


How busy are you? Do you wear your busyness like a badge of honor, constantly filling up the tiniest bit of room in your schedule?

Chris Barez-Brown, author of Wake Up!: A Handbook to Living in the Here and Now and founder of Upping Your Elvis believes that most people are so busy they are on autopilot from the time they open their eyes in the morning to the time they close them at night. Busyness causes our brains to get so used to routines and patterns that they are not fully present in the moment.

So how do you snap out of autopilot to be present as a leader and not let routine navigate your workdays? In this episode of The Leadercast Podcast, Chris talks about what inspired him to write this book, the concept of being on autopilot, and how leaders can find a healthy balance between the conscious and subconscious parts of their brains.


Too Busy for the Present

Before writing Wake Up!, Chris noticed a trend that rings true across nearly every industry in the modern world: People are busy. Many times people start their days by checking their email immediately and are in their default routine all day until bedtime, reacting instead of responding.  

All of this inspired Chris to help people connect better with the world around them, become more creative and have more fun. When leaders stop operating on autopilot, they are no longer sleepwalking through their days and are tuned in to the people and environment around them. In his book, Chris helps people bring their brains back to life through 54 playful strategies that can be done on a daily basis.


Autopilot Defined

All of us have driven somewhere, only to walk away from the car not really remembering our trip to the destination. Autopilot happens because our conscious mind burns a lot of our energy and lets the subconscious mind take over. Our brain is a pattern-recognition organ, so it is constantly looking for what is familiar.

Autopilot is also a survival mechanism. When you touch a hot burner, for example, your subconscious mind takes note of that so you won’t make the mistake again. Next time, you don’t need to consciously think about keeping your skin away from the burner or checking to see if it is hot or not.

The problem with autopilot is when it’s active when it shouldn’t be—when we habitually live our lives and don’t make an effort to be in the present.

In the podcast, Chris explains that “we spend up to 80 percent of our lives on autopilot.” That’s a lot of time not thinking about our actions. Leaders need to be able to back out of that mode often each day to ensure time and talents are being used in the best way possible.  “We spend up to 80 percent of our lives on autopilot." — @BarezBrown

The three basic steps to activating our conscious brain are taking time to breathe, having fun and checking in with our surroundings. As mentioned, Wake Up! has 54 strategies that fall into these buckets. One of Chris’ favorites, for example, is he spends the first 10 minutes of every morning outside—just him and a cup of coffee, no distractions!

The biggest challenge you’ll face in getting off of autopilot is the addiction to busyness. There is a huge difference in the quality of thinking when you break that addiction, says Chris. But he adds, “When you do wake up, when you do escape autopilot, it can be equally addictive.” You might just trade your addiction for busyness for an addiction of being in the present moment.  “When you do wake up, when you do escape autopilot, it can be equally addictive.” — @BarezBrown


Finding Balance

As mentioned, our conscious brains burn a lot of fuel. Too much time in that mode will leave us exhausted. Too much time the other way leaves us operating like robots moving through our days.

The best leaders know how to navigate between the two: using enough of the subconscious mind to keep from getting exhausted, but also tapping into the conscious mind frequently to stay present in the moment.

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This post is based on an episode of The Leadercast Podcast with Chris Barez-Brown—you can learn more about Chris and all of his books HERE. To hear this episode, and many more like it, please subscribe to The Leadercast Podcast. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode on SpotifyGoogle Play or Stitcher.

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