The Formula that makes it Impossible to Fail even during a Pandemic

“I hope this email finds you and your family safe and well…”  That’s how work emails start these days, and I was afraid to reply with the truth: “To be honest I’m hanging in there by a thread trying to juggle my day-job (which I’m lucky to have), home-schooling three kids under seven years, and […]

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“I hope this email finds you and your family safe and well…”  That’s how work emails start these days, and I was afraid to reply with the truth: “To be honest I’m hanging in there by a thread trying to juggle my day-job (which I’m lucky to have), home-schooling three kids under seven years, and supporting my elderly mother who has been sensibly cocooning since March. 

I was utterly exhausted made worse by living under the guillotine of job losses.  I worried that at any moment my husband’s business could go under or indeed I could lose my job or my hours could be cut back.

But things are never as bad as they seem at three in the morning and this is what I told myself as I slipped into what seemed to be a lunatic’s dream sequence.  It struck me what I needed was a passive income, preferably something that would make me money while I slept, or didn’t sleep, as was the case. Or a winning lottery ticket…

At dawn I got up and began to hike the mountain behind my house. Nature has always been my reset but for the last 10 years I had a job which involved a 4 hour round trip to work (this was balanced out by the fact that I loved this job), and I also had three small demanding kids (also balanced out by the fact that I loved them), however, there wasn’t much time for hiking.

On this morning I left the house and began to hike the mountain behind my house, a mountain that I hadn’t set foot on since I was a kid. It was harder to ascend that I remembered but the struggle upwards was a welcomed distraction from the thoughts in my head.  By the time I reached the top something happened that would probably never have happened if I hadn’t given myself this headspace to shut off my thinking, because that’s what happens when you do a hard hike (especially when you’re unfit).  You have to concentrate carefully on picking each step so you don’t slip or fall; there’s no space for other thoughts as you concentrate on safely putting one foot in front of the other.

As I took a deep inhale at the top of the mountain I realised two things:

  1. I’d no phone signal so no one could get me, or ask me to do anything, or make any demands on me, this was bliss (as long as I could get down the mountain…).
  2. And secondly, it struck me that the solution to my problem had been right in front of me all along but I’d been too frantic and freaked out to see it.

For the last two years I’d been carrying out academic research on the exceptional 10% of employees and entrepreneurs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, 90% of employees are less productive and more stressed than ever before in history. However, 10% of employees are exceptionally productive and mentally resilient to stress.

A decade of independent academic & clinical research in the area of high performance (specifically looking at the exceptional 10% across different industries, cultures, demographics) revealed that the exceptional 10% have a certain way of working which challenges our deep-rooted social and personal work norms.

For example, the exceptional 10% do not work long hours, they never work late or at weekends.

My meta-analysis of these studies focused on one specific question: What exactly are the exceptional 10% doing differently to outperform everyone else?

It was clear that exceptional has a pattern which is fully replicable.

So I used this pattern to create framework – a step-by-step course, so anyone can learn and replicate the strategies, skills and approaches of the exceptional 10% and increase their productivity so they too can outperform everyone else.

The framework is summarised with the acronym B.R.A.I.N. R.E.S.T™ (An appropriate acronym since taking effective breaks were the number one thing that the exceptional 10% did differently to everyone else, but most us, 90% to be exact, take ineffective work breaks – like grabbing a coffee and giving out about colleagues or work projects).

I had been doing all this research, which lay in my laptop, of no use to anyone else as I hadn’t finished it or published it, but I did have a framework and now I could be the first one to see if it truly was replicable.

I used the B.R.A.I.N. R.E.S.T™ framework to launch an online business, and even though I’d no business background, no tech know-how, no investment money, and perhaps scariest of all – no childcare – I launched in six weeks and made a profit of €20,000 in the first month.

The business was an online course called Mum to Mogul that teaches other mothers, like me, how to launch their own courses based on their expertise or life experience. I’m a third level lecturer and course director of a BSc so I do know about course creation and I know what makes compelling content as I’ve been a TV producer for over a decade.

I showed my students how they could create a course once and resell it over and over again on automation – and make money while they slept.

The B.R.A.I.N. R.E.S.T™ framework can be applied to any business and this is it in its most flexible and broadest form:


Breaks: Take an Effective Breaks.

There was only one consistent habit present in everyone, without exception. They took breaks, however, not all breaks are created equal. 

The exceptional 10% take effective breaks and the other 90% take ineffective breaks.

An ineffective break is scrolling through social media feeds, or going for coffee with your work colleagues and speaking critically about a manager or work project.

An effective break is anything that clears mental clutter and has a positive bias leading to brain rest. When the brain rests it works out problems in the background, connects the dots, it’s often why after a night’s sleep we wake up with a solution to a problem.

The exceptional 10% never work for longer than 52 minutes without taking an effective break.  An effective break is different for everyone, in the course we have a method to help clients discover what would be an effective (and enjoyable) break for them and how to interweave it into their day.

Examples would include walking outdoors (without a phone),  or any type of low to moderate exertion provide the most benefit to productivity, other effective breaks include meditation; slow yoga; listening to a podcast that has a positive bias; listening to high frequency music; breathing exercises (these are commonly used by the Special Forces for effective breaks). 


Results: The exceptional 10% do not measure their success by the number of hours they log, but by the results they get. They work for significantly less hours than their colleagues yet they outperformed on every scale.

Across the world’s richest countries, higher productivity correlates with lower working hours (see also OECD data). 

There no evidence to suggest that working for longer increases productivity, in fact there’s a whole slew of research out there that demonstrates the opposite. Those who work for 70 hours a week will only get the same amount of work done as those who put in 50 hours. Standford economics professor John Pencavel found that productivity per hour decline sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week. After 55 hours, productivity drops so much that putting in any more hours would be pointless.

Countless research has proven we are only productive for 4 hours a day and working beyond this time does not increase productivity. However, how the exceptional 10% worked during these 4 hours was focused and intense, they adopting a number of tactics to make these 4 hours exceptionally productive.


Assign work to others:

CEOs who excel in assigning work to others generate 33 percent higher revenue than those who fail to delegate or if they do, they micro-manage hindering productivity.

Research shows micromanagement is one of the main reasons employees resign, it kills creativity, breeds mistrust, causes undue stress, and demoralises your team resulting in decreased productivity and high staff turnover.

The B.R.A.I.N. R.E.S.T programme teaches: how to effectively assign work, in particular how to assign the right tasks to the right people , so you can concentrate on the most important tasks at hand. And how to set clear expectations and foster creativity (the key to problem solving).

Invest in Engagement: The majority of the U.S. workforce (51%) is not engaged, these employees are indifferent and neither like nor dislike their job. Many employees who are not engaged want a reason to be inspired. They are the “show me” group that needs an extra push to perform at their best.

Simply put, engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees do — across industries, company sizes and nationalities, and in good economic times and bad.

The B.R.A.I.N. R.E.S.T ™ programme focus on how to engage employees through concrete performance management activities and promoting positive co-worker relationships and self-development.


The exceptional 10% were leaders who fostered high-trust teams.

Employees in high-trust organisations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.

Paul J. Zak is the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies who created a mathematical relationship between trust and economic performance. Has found that people at high trust companies were 50% higher productivity, 74% less stressed,  and 76% more engagement with 40% less burnout.

Our programme teaches how to create high-trust in your team and organisation, and even in your family, once you learn these skills once you can apply to endless situations.


A common feature of the exceptional ten percent’s work week included working remotely at least one day week for what they described as ‘deep focus’.

A Stanford University study support this trend as it found employees were able to increase their productivity by 13% by working from home another Harvard study found similar results as well as it been seen as a factor in retaining valuable and talented employees and decreases corporate costs

We focuse on teaching how to set up and facilitate ‘deep focus’ at home and help companies and employees understand how remote working can be mutually beneficials.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE is crucial component in high performance.

It’s been found that people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into what many people had always assumed was the sole source of success—IQ. Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets the exceptional 10% apart from the rest of the pack.

SPACE: Let others into ‘your’ Space to collaborate

The exceptional 10% understood that it is important to be flexible not only in their own proposed plans but also when listening to their team members.

Many executives begin meetings in a directive manner: “This is where this project should head and here are the key steps you need to take to meet a  deadline of…” That gives a meeting focus, but it also discourages participants from voicing concerns, insights or opinions.

Research shows actively inviting team members to collaborate with you and participate in the decision making process can lead to innovative solutions.

In the digital age productivity means problem solving and problem solving is powered by creativity. The more diverse the thoughts and opinions are around the table, the more innovative/creative your solutions will be.

However, for this to work, the facilitator has to be somewhat of a communication ninja knowing exactly how to manage small group communications which is what our programme teaches, giving participants a clear template they can follow and adapt to any meeting or collaboration scenario to foster effective collaboration.


The exceptional 10% are often fast-tracked to leadership positions where they thrive because intuitively have the skills necessary for teamwork.

Companies are increasingly shifting from hierarchical to team-based organisational structures in an effort to be more agile and efficient. Among companies undergoing such transitions, 53 percent report a significant increase in performance, however learning the skills that work effectively in a team is crucial to its success, this is the final element of our programme.

I hope these tips help you stay safe and well and if like most of the rest of us there are moments when you’re not doing so well, go for a walk alone, let nature be your reset, and for the love of God don’t get stuck up a mountain without a phone signal. It was a muddy nightmare getting down, but easier as a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.


Trina Rea is a best-selling author, a Fulbright TechImpact Scholar, former visiting Scholar to New York University, and is currently a third level lecturer and course director of a BSc in Ireland. She’s founder of which helps corporates apply the B.R.A.I.N. R.E.S.T™ framework to increase their productivity and innovation, and she’s also founder of which teaches ambitious women how to create a passive income online.

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