David Brooks: The Social Animal

In February 2011, Writer, thinker and NY Times columnist  David Brooks presented “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement”. In this 18 minute presentation he touches on something that everyone should strive to understand. Watch the video and see if you can spot what this is:

Did you spot it? For me, it’s this point:

Reading and educating your emotions is one of the key central activities of wisdom

For many of us, we believe that our rational minds can help us live better lives, and that emotions or feelings are not important. This is not so. Neurologist Antonio Damasio noted that in a number of patients who had lost the ability to experience emotion were no longer able to make a decision. What should have taken a few seconds was now taking minutes. What should take minutes was now taking hours. David Hume (an eighteenth century Scottish philosopher) declared that “reason was the slave of the passions” (lifted from How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer). David Brooks supports this view as well, and urges us all to become better at understanding our emotions to not only become better individuals, but a better society overall.

Some other points from the video you may find interesting:

  • When we think about human capital, we think about things we can measure easily – things like grades, SAT’s, degrees, the number of years in schooling. What it really takes to do well, to lead a meaningful life are things that are deeper, things we don’t really even have words for.
    • The first gift or talent is mindsight – the ability to enter into other people’s minds and learn what they have to offer.
    • The second skill is equal poise – The ability to have the serenity to read the biases and failures in your own mind.
    • The third trait is medes, what we might call street smarts – it’s a Greek word. It’s a sensitivity to the physical environment – derive a gist.
  • Limerance. This is not an ability, it’s a drive and motivation. The conscious mind hungers for success and prestige. The unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence, when the skull line disappears and we are lost in a challenge or task.

Are you ignoring your emotions, or are you precisely tuned into them? I’ve shared some of my thoughts above and would love to hear yours in the comments below!

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