Neural Pathway Highways and Ruts: Change Your Habits

Neural Pathways - Christian Espinosa

Isn’t it amazing how the human brain can be so powerful? You can even rewire it to achieve things you didn’t know you were capable of.

Before I understood how my mind works, I used to believe that events from my past will always have an influence on what I will become in the future. I thought I couldn’t possibly change my behaviors, especially when those behaviors were instilled in me since I was a child.

But when I discovered that it’s possible for our brains to create new pathways, I recognized how powerful it is and how this can improve a person’s behavior, health, and mindset. Keep reading for an in-depth understanding of how our minds work!

What Is NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming?

From the name itself, it basically means organizing and understanding the language of the brain. It involves taking control of both the conscious and subconscious mind to change one’s behavior and thoughts.

The practice of NLP started in the 1970s as a treatment for schizophrenia, phobias, depression—even allergies and flu. It is also used to help improve one’s work performance and discover how one perceives happiness. So, how does it work?

There are different tools and techniques in NLP that are used to control how we see negative things from our past and change our perception of them. As an example, if someone has hurt me with their words before, distorting their voice and how they said it may make me perceive the words in a more comical way.

Now, I’m going to compare NLP to the so-called ‘placebo effect’, also called the power of belief. If I strongly believe that I won’t live a long life, chances are I will really die young. But if I put my mind to outliving my grandmother, then there’s a higher chance I will do so.

Now, I will compare that to neuro-linguistic programming. In contrast to the placebo effect, NLP is about setting goals for ourselves. It is the power to control beliefs and visualize them in other ways. It also focuses on asking and answering the right questions—so, If I want to outlive my grandmother, I need to ask myself, “How can I outlive her?”

NLP is about having the right communication with our subconscious, which is believed to be more powerful than our conscious mind. NLP helps with sending the right messages to our subconscious so that it can interpret our goals better and understand what we want in life.

There are a number of studies that prove NLP works in treatments. In a study done by Structured Clinical Interview for DSM‐IV Personality Disorders (SCID II), a therapy group who underwent NLP had a significant decrease in clinical illness and an increase in their quality of life as opposed to those who hadn’t.

Understanding NLP presuppositions can increase your awareness and make you a better leader of yourself and others.

Neural Pathways

Another way we can change our behaviors and thoughts is by understanding how our brain works. The human brain is composed of thousands of neurons that are connected by dendrites. When we develop a new habit, these dendrites increase in number and form new connections in our brain.

These connections are called neural pathways. I sometimes think of it as a road—if I do something for the first time, the neural pathway is like an unpaved road. The more I repeat the task, the more it’ll turn into a habit. And when that becomes a habit, the neural pathway will finally be a paved road, much like a highway—strong and well-formed.

For every discovery I’ve had ever since I was a child, a neural pathway has been formed in my brain. When I saw a bike for the first time, a connection in my brain suddenly began to take form. When I first rode it and practiced with it, that connection slowly became thicker. And when I finally learned it, the neural pathways became dominant—the transmission of connection has gotten faster and stronger. Because of this habit, I was able to ride a bike on auto-pilot.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat Until It’s a Habit

Repeating the same actions or behaviors for at least three months or more helps develop a habit. However, that usually depends on the person. Not only that, it usually takes at least 10,000 repetitions to make a strong neural pathway. Similar to that, the more we think about something, the more our brains will make a dominant pathway of that thought in our brain.

Now, I’m going to get back to my bike riding skills. If I suddenly decided to stop learning it, that connection or neural pathway that formed in my brain would slowly deteriorate and eventually disconnect.

How Do Neural Pathways Affect Our Behavior?

As a kid, many of us grew up afraid of certain animals. We had an unnerving fear that somehow they would hurt us because that’s what some parents told us, right? That is why many people are still wary of adopting animals because of the pathway of fear that has formed in our minds.

Now, I will take that example and turn it into a good one. If I grew up believing that I am good at English, my brain will form a connection that associates me being good with words and in terms of communication. That connection will get stronger and stronger, creating a positive impact on me as an adult.

To put it simply, these connections influence our behaviors. The stronger the connection is, the more difficult it will be for us to change. The inability to change a pathway can lead to compulsive obsession and even addiction.

How Do We Turn Weak Neural Pathways Into Strong Ones?

Creating a new habit can be difficult, as it is part of human nature to focus on the negatives.

“I can’t do it.”

“I am too old for this.”

“How can I possibly change when I’ve been doing this for so long?”

However, there are tips and tricks on how to easily form new behaviors and change the perspective of the mind. Here are some:

  • Be mindful and take in all the good things. Don’t rush it; habits take time to build, so just enjoy the process.
  • Think of the positive emotions that are connected with a new habit. For example, a new habit in baking can be associated with a grandmother who also enjoys the same activity.
  • Thinking of the future outcome helps the mind build willpower, reinforcing the habit. If a new habit is associated with fitness, think of the physical changes and the positive effects that it will have on the body.
  • Repeat it until it becomes a habit. The key here is to create new neural pathways that will be strong enough to turn into superhighways.


It is possible to change our neural pathways by changing how we perceive things through neuroplasticity. In fact, we can consciously change by reorganizing our own thoughts. We think of our old thoughts and ideas—for example, being scared of the animals before—and turn them into positive notes. “Well, these animals are so cute and fluffy after all. And they won’t hurt me as long as I respect their space.”

So, when it comes to bad habits or the ‘ruts’ in our superhighways, how do we turn them into new habits? The first key to this is consistency and practice.

For example, a student who’s not so good at math has a bad habit of not turning in her assignments. However, with consistent practice and assistance from her teacher, her brain has reordered her perception of math, and her brain has created a superhighway, one stronger than the pathway of her bad habit.

With her new and developed habit, the old one becomes a choice—an option that she can opt to live without. And once the brain has chosen to use the superhighway because it’s stronger, the old pathways will turn into rubble.

The second key is commitment. Here’s another example.

Smoking is a bad habit. However, a chain-smoker feels a certain sense of happiness whenever they smoke a cigarette. For this reason, they find it hard to leave old habits and start with new ones.

As much as consistency and practice are important, it’s also necessary to start. By start, I mean create a pathway—even just a small one—in the brain that can eventually turn into a superhighway. It’s hard to create new habits, but commitment needs to start somewhere. There are many things our brain can accomplish once we’ve committed.

Final Thoughts

It can be challenging to put an end to our ruts and change them into superhighways. However, once we’ve fully accepted and embraced the power of our mind, we can unleash its optimum potential to improve our goals and personal life.

Check Out The Smartest Person in The Room

Cybersecurity “Professionals” – Reboot Needed

cybersecurity certifications


The cybersecurity industry is broken. What we have very loosely defined as a cybersecurity “professional” is not cutting it. The organizations that need cybersecurity deserve better.

This article focuses on cybersecurity certifications, yet addresses a larger issue with the overall cybersecurity industry – stringent license requirements, as opposed to certification exams that can be easily “gamed”.

Cybersecurity Certification Trend

I’ve noticed a trend that seems to be getting worse.

The trend is this:

Fewer people seem to care about the cybersecurity profession – they just want to learn what’s on a certification test so they can get “certified” and get a high-paying cushy job where no one holds them accountable.

This trend bothers me in a number of ways:

  1. Cybercriminals are winning. Cybercriminals, at least the good ones, take their trade seriously. Otherwise, they’d get caught more often. Many certified cybersecurity professionals, the “good guys”, are not really professionals anymore – they don’t take their trade seriously. This is the primary reason the cybercriminals are winning.

  2. It’s apparent the “instant gratification” wave is here. Many people don’t want to put in the effort to learn a trade anymore. They just want to study the bare minimum, pass a certification exam, get hired, then fake it at a job as long as possible.

  3. B Players hire C Players. C Players hire D Players. We’ve ended up with an industry filled with C and D players. Certified people that don’t really know what they are doing can’t make proper hiring decisions and, most of the time, let their ego get in the way. Their ego prevents them from hiring someone “smarter” than them; a new hire that actually knows what they are doing might find out that the person that hired them doesn’t know much, and has been faking it.

  4. Inflated salaries. Salaries for people that have a certification (such as the Security+), no experience, are paper tigers, and could care less about cybersecurity are grossly inflated. This perpetuates the problem, as the lure of money attracts people, like moths to a flame, to a career field that they have no passion for and, therefore will not develop skill towards.

  5. Cybersecurity certification classes. People that just want to pass the test are not ideal students and are difficult to deal with as a trainer. They constantly ask “is that on the test?” and say things like “why are we learning that, if it’s not on the test?”. I often wonder if certification courses are helping or hurting the industry. Alpine Security’s trainers are awesome and really enjoy helping people that want to learn, pass the exam, and make a difference, but it is demoralizing, draining, and damn-right frustrating dealing with people that don’t care about cybersecurity and just want to pass an exam though.

Who “just wants to pass” the certification exam?

There are two main categories.

  1. People that heard cybersecurity pays well, just want to make money, and don’t care about the industry or profession.
  2. People that are mandated by their employer to have a cybersecurity certification for their job. This could be private or public sector.


I can’t point out a challenge, without offering some solutions…

Licensing Requirements

Add licensing requirements for cybersecurity professionals. Many cybersecurity professionals protect your health records (PHI), intellectual property, and sensitive data (PHI – credit card data, date of birth, SSN, etc.). Just about every other industry has federal and state licensing requirements. If a barber needs a license to cut your hair, shouldn’t a cybersecurity professional? A cybersecurity professional protects your identity and medical records and may also be responsible for securing a hospital network and the life-sustaining medical device connected to your grandmother.

Cybersecurity has no license requirements. If I want to become a “Cybersecurity Analyst”, I don’t need a license. I can just start promoting myself as such, study brain dumps or exam crams, pass a few cybersecurity certification tests, become the “expert”, and provide ineffective cybersecurity for my organization.

cybersecurity certifications licensing

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at the licensing requirements to become a barber. A barber license is required in all 50 US states to work as a barber. The barber license requirements vary by state, so I’ll just pick one for comparison to a cybersecurity analyst. I’ll go with Arkansas because I grew up there from age 12-18. Here are Arkansas’s Barber License requirements (https://www.barber-license.com/arkansas/):

Step 1. Complete a Barber Education Program

As a candidate for an Arkansas barber license that has not been licensed in other states, you must first complete a formal barber program that is at least 1,500 hours in duration.

Step 2. Apply for an Arkansas Barber Technician Certification

The Board issues barber technician certifications for students who have completed at least 20 full working days of study in an approved school of barbering and at least 20 hours of study in the sterilization of tools and the barber laws of the State of Arkansas.

Step 3. Apply for an Arkansas Barber License and Take the Required Examinations

Once you have completed the required barber program, you must apply for a barber license at least 10 days before the date of the next barber examination. The Board furnishes all applicants with the appropriate forms.

The barber examinations include both a practical demonstration and a written and oral test. You must submit a completed application, along with a certification of your completed barber school hours, before you are eligible to participate in the examination process.

Step 4. Learn About Job Opportunities in Barbering and Keep your Arkansas Barber License Current

Your Arkansas barber license must be renewed every odd-numbered year, before your birth date. There are currently no continuing education requirements for licensed barbers in Arkansas.

So, to sum it up, to be a barber in Arkansas, you need:

  • 1500 hours of training. This is the equivalent of 37.5 forty-hour weeks.
  • 20 FULL working days of study in an approved barber school
  • 20 hours of sterilization training
  • Pass required exams (plural):
    • Practical demonstration
    • Written Test
    • Oral Test

To become a cybersecurity expert in ANY state in the US, you need:

  • This section intentionally left blank…

If licensing requirements are tied to risk, it seems the risk is greater with cybersecurity professionals. I mean I certainly don’t want to get a bad haircut from an unlicensed barber. But, I’ll take the bad haircut any day over an unskilled paper tiger not securing the medical device that is providing life support to my grandmother in the hospital.

Certified cybersecurity paper tiger

Make cybersecurity certifications practical-based

This gets rid of cybersecurity paper tigers. You generally can’t pass a practical unless you know what you are doing. EC-Council is taking this approach with CEH Master. Licensing requirements would fix this too.

Industry leaders need to step up and put purpose before profit

At Alpine Security, we are making an effort to attract our ideal students and repel the others. This is a bit risky, as we are a business and need to generate revenue. I cannot, however, in good conscience support a broken system that hurts the cybersecurity industry and those the industry support. I’ve thought about pulling Alpine Security out of the cybersecurity certification training business altogether. This only hurts the students and professionals that actually care though, as I believe we offer outstanding training with trainers that are passionate about cybersecurity.

Downsides of Changing the Status Quo

I know, I know…but, what about the cybersecurity skills shortage…the skills gap we hear about incessantly every day? Won’t licensing requirements, practical exams, etc., make this worse?

Not really.

The “skills gap” primarily exists because cybersecurity is considered “white collar” (an antiquated term), where a college degree (any degree) matters. As if a college degree in political science or history makes a person qualified for a cybersecurity job? Really? I’d rather take someone “blue-collar” that has gone through 1500 hours of focused cybersecurity training, an apprenticeship, and passed a practical, written, and oral exam.

Yeah, but that’s 1500 hours? Isn’t that a lot? True, but a 4-year college degree is more than 1500 hours of time (mostly wasted) and a hell of a lot more money.

As for the skills gap, I’d rather have one person that is a professional, is passionate about what they are doing, and has a license in cybersecurity, than 15-20 people that are paper tigers.

One real tiger can easily take out 15-20 paper ones. I don’t know what the real cybersecurity skills gap number supposedly is, but if we divide it by 15-20, it isn’t that big of a deal.

What we are doing now, the status quo is not working. It’s time for a change.


I don’t have all the answers, but I think it’s worth opening the dialog and working to address this cybersecurity “professional” challenge, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist. Perhaps cybersecurity licensing requirements are the solution. I am willing to commit some of my time to make this happen. Alpine Security will also be more selective of students. Our goal is to help the industry and our clients, not contribute to the problems in our industry.

Here’s a simple list we developed to attract the right students and repel the rest for Alpine Security’s cybersecurity training:

Not a good fit for Alpine Security’s training:

  • Think of what you do for work as a job, rather than a career
  • Have a fixed-mindset
  • Make decisions based on your ego, rather than what is right and adds value
  • Are lazy and value short-cuts

Good fit for Alpine Security’s training:

  • Believe in a career, not a job
  • Have a growth-mindset
  • Want to make a positive difference
  • Willing to put in the time to learn a trade and become a true professional

Check out Alpine Security’s Training Schedule.