Brain Learning Personal Development relationships

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!

Brain Health

Age-Proofing your body

I came across a TV show called Body & Brain Overhaul and found it full of great information to help you become fitter and healthier. Here is the summary of key points I found from this show. This episode was focused on Age-proofing your body & brain. The 2 main presenters are Dr Roy Sugarman PhD (brain health expert) and Paul Taylor (exercise physiologist and nutritionist).

7 brain and body boosters

  1. Know it (bio age, brain assessment, got to know it before you can change it)
  2. Train it (exercise for both the body and the brain is essential)
  3. Defend it (against lack of sleep, drugs, alcohol and tobacco)
  4. Befriend it (do nice things for the brain)
  5. Feed it
  6. Manage it (resilience)
  7. Change it (self-belief)

According to Dr Roy Sugarman, his best tip for aging and the brain: Befriend it, socialising it. “As you get older if you want to build resilience and you want to age nicely, you’ve got to have close relationships, meaningful relationships, lots of people“. Paul Taylor chooses the Train it option, relating it to how the body responds extremely well to the ‘use it or lose it’ principle, and it applies equally well to the brain.


Systemic inflammation (at the cellular level) is the trigger for all chronic diseases. Triggers include stress, pollution, smoking, too much omega 6 and too little omega 3, too much sugar, wrong types of food, and critically, being overweight – fat produces it’s own chemical molecules that trigger inflammation. Also, if you live a sedentary lifestyle, you have much more inflammation in your body. If you adopt an unhealthy lifestyle, unfit and overweight, you’re slowly killing yourself through systemic (cellular) inflammation.

Before they die, cells replicate (make a copy of themselves containing the DNA). One of the key components in this process is the telomere, which gets a little shorter each time the cell divides. If your lifestyle is poor or you’re unhealthy, each time the cell divides it takes more off the telomere – when the telomere is gone, the cell can no longer divide, it dies and we die. We have to stop this process of look after ourselves through lifestyle!

It’s important to look after our cells!


If you ignore your emotions, the toxicity of what’s happening for you in your life, never recovering, always on the treadmill, puts a nice thick band of cortisol-based fat on your stomach, which feeds c-reactor proteins to your brain, all these toxins continuously throughout your life: that’s aging; that’s death.

Formula to be a peak performer

Lastly, there was an interview with the AFL Legendary coach, Tommy Hafey. Here are his 4D’s to becoming a peak performer:

  1. Desire;
  2. Dedication (practicing, working on sills, updating yourself);
  3. Determination (never giving up);
  4. Discipline

= Destiny

My notes

I found this series to be quite straightforward without too much hype, and reinforces many of the reasons why I started MyProactiveLife. The information presented is easy to understand and the show does not come over as being preachy. The aim of the show was to take 4 normal, but different people and give them an overhaul. If you get a chance to watch one or more of the episodes, I recommend you do as I’m sure you can get quite a lot out of it!