How to Inspire Millions: Carry a Brain in a Hatbox

I was mesmerized by a woman in her eighties gently lifting a human brain out of a hatbox. And that wasn’t even the most surprising thing she did to inspire me.

It’s Not About The Hatbox

I know I’ve been exposed to Dr. Marian Diamond and her work throughout my life, we all have. Her research demonstrated the impact of enrichment on the brain and literally changed the world – and our paradigm of the rigidness of human brain. You may know this as plasticity.

I didn’t appreciate the breadth of her influence until I experienced the PBS documentary: My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond. (Luna Productions)

As I discovered the contributions she made, one after the other, I realized just how much influence one person can have. But how can the rest of us do it?

How to Inspire Millions

I’ve watched a few of her lectures, even though I’m not a medical student. I was inspired by her approach to teaching. Specifically one clip shared in the documentary pointed out her ‘old fashioned’ use of the blackboard.

And then it hit me.

This woman. This professor of neuroanatomy. This researcher of Einstein’s brain. This discoverer of plasticity…is deliberately using a blackboard. She specifically calls out her decision to ditch the powerpoint and write – longhand – on the board.


Because she wants her students to learn. And the best way for them to process and understand what she is sharing is for them to take time to read what she is writing, listen to what she is saying, and write (with pen and paper) their notes. All of this so they can better absorb the information.

Resist or Inspire: Which to Choose

This goes against the wisdom of many presentation experts.

My resistance lists the reasons it won’t work: the slow pace of presenting the idea; turning your back on the audience; difficulty of reading handwriting; the attention span of the audience, just to share a few.

Then I giggled. Seriously? The woman literally picked Einstein’s brain! She knows what works.

Let’s face it. We all need to challenge our assumptions about what’s working for us when we try to communicate important information to our audience.


What if we all put down the slide deck and picked up a piece of chalk?