DiscoverThe Retirement Wisdom PodcastSmarter Tomorrow – Elizabeth Ricker
Smarter Tomorrow – Elizabeth Ricker

Smarter Tomorrow – Elizabeth Ricker

Update: 2021-10-11


How can you get smarter about getting smarter? Our guest Elizabeth Ricker, author of Smarter Tomorrow, introduces us to neurohacks that can cognitive functioning. She explains her concept of scientific self-help and how to improve cognitive functioning through a variety of short exercises and experiments.

We discuss:

  • The story of her middle school math teacher

  • How neurohacking and scientific self-help work with how to improve cognitive functioning

  • What she learned from tracking her New Year’s Resolutions since 2011

  • What we need to know about cognitive functioning that may be different than we expect

  • The New IQ and the New EQ

  • Common Lifestyle Bottlenecks – and how they can be addressed and improve cognitive functioning

  • How Serious Brain Games can improve executive function

  • The MIND diet

  • How having an accountability partner can help

  • The key messages from her book Smarter Tomorrow

Elizabeth joins us from San Francisco.



Elizabeth R. Ricker is the author of the new book, Smarter Tomorrow: How 15 Minutes of Neurohacking a Day Can Help You Work Better, Think Faster, and Get More Done

Her work has been featured globally, including in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, on SiriusXM radio, and on public broadcast TV in Europe.

She has given talks on cognitive enhancement and neurohacking across the US and overseas. She is a sought-after expert by Silicon Valley venture capital firms, technology startups, schools, and the Fortune 500. She runs the citizen neuroscience, DIY, and neurohacking organization, NeuroEducate, and her consulting and speaking work goes through Ricker Labs.

Ricker received her undergraduate degree in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from MIT and her graduate degree in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard. In college, she worked in the neuroscience lab of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Susumu Tonegawa. Ricker was also a nationally ranked athlete and class president– the latter of which occasionally involved such serious duties as dressing up in a giant rodent costume to play Tim the Beaver, the MIT mascot.


Wise Quotes

On Neurohacking

“I think before you dive into all the things that the media is going to tell you that are falling apart as you get older, I think it’s really important to just start with the things that you are probably stronger at than you realize. This is a really important thing with neurohacking – to start with an understanding of where you’re strong and then understand what your personal bottlenecks are so that you can personalize everything that you do.”

On Scientific Self Help

“You can take a very scientific approach to your life and the things that seem kind of abstract and maybe not under your control, like life satisfaction or mental performance – these things seem uncontrollable. I think they seem like you’re either born with them or fate seems to play a role and you just don’t have control over them. And what I want to really introduce to people is that we actually have a lot of data, and we have this tool, which is self-experimentation, that can allow you to actually take control over it. And if it helps at all, when you look back at the number of Nobel prize winners who have won awards in medicine or physiology, a surprising percentage of them actually ran self-experiments in the exact area that they won the Nobel prize in. So you will actually be in pretty good company. This is not some [sci-fi] stuff. This is something that even very various data scientists have done themselves. So, [there’s] no reason why you can’t ask and approach things just like a Nobel prize winner.”

On Neurohacking 

“…When you start your neurohacking, I think of there being a pyramid. So before you get into the really fancy neurohacks, like later on in the book, I talk about neurostimulation, neurofeedback, these sort of lab-grade technologies that are now – due to the decrease in consumer technology pricing – available actually at home,  which is also very exciting. But you should really start with these lifestyle interventions – things like your sleep, things like your exercise, nutrition, [and] even things that you might not think of as being directly related to brain health. But we have increasing amounts of data that show that they really, really are – things like social connectedness because loneliness is absolutely correlated with a lot of health disorders that affect the brain very strongly.”

On Lifestyle Bottlenecks and Debugging Yourself

“I have a whole health and lifestyle survey that I introduce at the end of Chapter Six called Debugging Yourself that allows you to go through and see where you’re at. But in terms of what do I mean by a bottleneck –  there are general standards that you want to check to see whether you’re sort of falling above or below. So we’re all probably familiar with this idea that about 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day is a great way to stay healthy and stave off a lot of even age-related declines – just generally a very useful thing to do. But for each of these things, for any given person, let’s say you’re a marathon runner, maybe exercise is not your bottleneck, but maybe sleep is. So I have some unusual hacks that you might want to consider for each of these areas. So for instance, with sleep, sleep apnea is sometimes an issue for people. And there was a rather unconventional study that I saw in the British Medical Journal that showed that using the Didgeridoo, which is an Australian wind instrument, actually learning how to play this can, or at least in this randomized controlled trial it showed that participants had a significant reduction in their symptoms associated with sleep apnea. And this is bizarre, right? Why would that help? The notion is that you are strengthening the underlying core cause or one of the underlying core causes of sleep apnea, which is having the muscles in your throat be a bit too loose. And so it tones those muscles to play the Didgeridoo. So this is not recommended for extremely, severe sleep apnea.”

Note: The study mentioned from a university outside of San Francisco was conducted “in 2015 by psychologists at Dominican University of California who wanted to know how the act of writing down goals might change people’s goal attainment over a four-week period.1 They found that participants with an accountability buddy and written goals succeeded in reaching their goals significantly more often than those with only one of the two or neither. Those who told a friend about their goals and sent that friend weekly progress reports succeeded at the largest percentage of their goals.”


For More About Elizabeth Ricker

Smarter Tomorrow: How 15 Minutes of Neurohacking a Day Can Help You Work Better, Think Faster, and Get More Done

Neuroeducate Website

Apps and websites mentioned:


Brain HQ


Podcast Episodes You May Be Interested In

The Future You – Brian David Johnson

Successful Aging – Daniel Levitin

Design Your Life and Get Unstuck – Dave Evans

Practices for Brain Health – Dr. Krystal Culler

Chatter & Your Inner Voice – Ethan Kross

Tiny Habits Can Lead to Big Changes – BJ Fogg


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The views and opinions expressed by guests on The Retirement Wisdom Podcast are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the host or Retirement Wisdom, LLC. The Retirement Wisdom Podcast covers the non-financial aspects of retirement planning. From time to time we invite guests who discuss other aspects of retirement planning, solely for educational purposes. Listeners are advised to consult qualified financial, medical, and/or mental health professionals on those matters.













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Smarter Tomorrow – Elizabeth Ricker

Smarter Tomorrow – Elizabeth Ricker

Retirement Wisdom