Book Report – Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel Goleman, 1997.

Distilled by Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes. Quotes from the book, quips from Joe.

“What factors are at play, for example, when people of high IQ flounder and those
of modest IQ do surprisingly well? I would argue that the difference quite often lies
in the abilities called here emotional intelligence, which include self-control, zeal
and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself.”
~ Daniel Goleman from Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligence

“At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces…
Even Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, whose book The Bell Curve imputes a primary importance to IQ, acknowledge this; as they point out, ‘Perhaps a freshman with an SAT math score of 500 had better not have his heart set on being a mathematician, but if instead he wants to run his own business, become a U.S. Senator or make a million dollars, he should not put
aside his dreams. … The link between test scores and those achievements is dwarfed by the totality of other characteristics that he brings to life.’
My concern is with a key set of these ‘other characteristics,’ emotional intelligence: abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think to empathize and to hope.”

I think it’s that 80/20 rule popping up again. Hilarious. But, seriously, the power to motivate oneself  and persist through frustrations is huge. Hard parts of life make your life amazing. You never want your life to be hard; it just happens. And when it happens, your reaction to facing it down, and making it an accomplishment, is the success in life. Delayed gratification is also planning to me. You decide to do something that isn’t great for today but is great for 10 years later. Regulating one’s mood is moving ahead emotionally. Leaving frustration behind. Stop beating yourself up about everything. I go to bed when I have a bad day. That ends my bad day. I recognize that tomorrow is a different day, it has all the possibilities of being awesome. None of the crap that happened today, has to mean that tomorrow has to suck. I have an inherent optimism that there is always the possibility that tomorrow will be awesome. Do you ever that those Red-light days? When you hit every single red light? Most likely on the day that you overslept and are running late. Well, it may suck for that day, but let it roll off your back, and don’t let it make tomorrow suck.

My second thought on this section was that I have met many rich and/or successful people, who are self-proclaiming idiots/low IQ folks. Success and wealth do not correlate with IQ. Smart people does not equal rich and successful people. Rich Dad Poor Dad put that whole argument to bed years ago. There is financial smarts that is completely independent of the current US educational system. I was raised with ZERO financial smarts. My wife was raised with a lot more than I.

“‘The time has come,’ [Howard] Gardner told me, ‘to broaden our notion of the spectrum of talents. The single most important contribution education can make to a child’s development is to help him toward a field where his talents best suit him, where he will be satisfied and competent. We’ve completely lost sight of that. Instead we subject everyone to an education where, if you succeed, you will be best suited to be a college professor. And we evaluate everyone along the way according to whether they meet that narrow standard of success. We should spend less time ranking children and more time helping them to identify their natural competencies and gifts, and cultivate those. There are hundreds and hundreds of ways to succeed and many, many, many different abilities that will help get you there.’”

How refreshing! I learned in high school and college how to take tests. I was good at it. I never studied. My mantra was that a test was an opportunity to learn. But, seriously, the real goal of school should be to foster your kids “natural competencies and cultivate them”. Wow. That’s awesome. I truly believe it and love it. We’ve been going through a lot of this at home lately. My daughter is entered high school next year and we’re trying to figure out her next 4 years of school curriculum. In my mind I know that it’s important to get to college and be validated by the school system and recognized by society. It’s also true that I want her to find her natural gifts and go with it, wherever that may lead her. Passion and gifts can accomplish and fulfill more of one’s heart than money and success.

“Although there is a logical distinction between being aware of feelings and acting to change them, Mayer finds that for all practical purposes the two usually go hand-in-hand: to recognize a foul mood is to want to get out of it.”

“Self-awareness is not an attention that gets carried away by emotions, overreacting and amplifying what is perceived. Rather, it is a neutral mode that maintains self-reflectiveness even amidst turbulent emotions.”

Self-awareness is huge. It’s humbling and freeing at the same time. When I can see outside myself, I can feel how silly the choices I’m about to make. I can choose better words to calm my wife. I can choose better words to soften and encourage a disgruntled tween. I can smile and breathe and let the ick wash out of me. I can recognize a bad mood and let it go. [Frozen song, “Let it Go” is so over played now, it’s stuck in my mind.] I learned 16 years ago, when I got married, that fighting gets you nowhere but down. So, if there’s in inkling that there’s something bad brewing, face it, say it, correct it, apologize, turn around, move on. Getting stuck and any point only delays resetting the situation. Fights don’t make you closer. They only delay unity. The longer you delay it, the less likely it will be as good. It way harder to grow closer; while it’s super easy to drift apart.

“A sense of self-mastery, of being able to withstand the emotional storms that the buffeting of Fortune brings rather than being ‘passion’s slave,’ has been praised as a virtue since the time of Plato. The ancient Greek word for it was sophrosyne, ‘care and intelligence in conducting one’s life; a tempered balance and wisdom,’ as Page DuBois, a Greek scholar, translates it. The Romans and early Christian church called it temperantia, temperance, the restraining of emotional excess. the goal is balance, not emotional suppression: every feeling has its value and significance. A life without passion would be a dull wasteland of neutrality, cut off and isolated from the richness of life itself. But, as Aristotle observed, what is wanted is appropriate emotion, feeling proportionate to circumstance. When emotions are too muted they create dullness and distance; when out of control, too extreme and persistent, they become pathological, as in immobilizing depression, overwhelming anxiety, raging anger, manic agitation.”

Passion and self-mastery make an amazing success to me. No passion is dull and boring. Kill me now. Self-mastery alone is dull and robotic. Again, kill me now. The virtue of controlling yourself is that you can stay on target and accomplish the big things in life, in work, at home, on a life project, on a personal quest. Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment, because of all the training before hand required. Getting all your life in line to make that happen is what’s amazing. I find athletes like Craig Alexander amazing, because he has a beautiful and healthy happy family. He didn’t win an Ironman and lose his whole family. I discredit the pursuit of Ironman at the personal cost of family. As Rich Strauss puts it, life is a box and you can only manage what’s in your box. Self-mastery is being an expert at organizing your box. Uncontrolled emotions are pointless. Screaming at your box doesn’t do anything to fix the box that is in disarray. I used to vent alot. I used to complain alot. But, in reality, it did no good. In 2009, I decide to be happy. Hence, the name of my blog. I started following Gretchen Rubin’s blog called Happiness Project. Her book of the same name, changed my life. I decided to never complain again. I decided to make my life better, actively, positively, every day.

“Consider the role of positive motivation—the marshalling of feelings of enthusiasm, zeal, and confidence—in achievement. Studies of Olympic athletes, world-class musicians, and chess grand masters find their unifying trait is the ability to motivate themselves to pursue relentless training routines… likewise the best violin virtuosos of the twentieth century began studying their instrument at around age five; international chess champions started on the game at an average age of seven, while those who rose only to national prominence started at ten. Starting earlier offers a lifetime edge: the top violin students at the best music academy in Berlin, all in their early twenties, had put in ten thousand hours’ lifetime practice, while the second-tier students averaged around seventy-five hundred hours.

What seemed to set apart those at the very top of competitive pursuits from others of roughly equal ability is the degree to which, beginning early in life, they can pursue an arduous practice routine for years and years. And that doggedness depends on emotional traits—enthusiasm and persistence in the face of setbacks—above all else.”

Enthusiasm and persistence in face of setbacks was the tipping point to rise to the very top. With similar abilities, the zeal and doggedness put the winners ahead. They wanted it more. They chased more. They may have had the talents to back it up, but it wasn’t the raw talent that made them winners above all the others.

“Students who are anxious, angry, or depressed don’t learn; people who are caught in these states do not take in information efficiently or deal with it well.”
~ Daniel Goleman

That was me in junior high, high school and college. I had some natural ability and the nack for taking tests. But the anxiety, anger, and depression kept me from absorbing and really learning while in school. I used to blame the school system that it was boring and I was above it all. But, probably, as Goleman say, my emotions were interfering with my abilities.

“Just imagine you’re four years old, and someone makes the following proposal: If you’ll wait until after he runs an errand, you can have two marshmallows for a treat. If you can’t wait until then, you can have only one—but you can have it right now. It is a challenge sure to try the soul of any four-year-old, a microcosm of the eternal battle between impulse and restraint, id and ego, desire and self-control, gratification and delay. Which of these choices a child makes is a telling test; it offers a quick reading not just of character, but of the trajectory that child will probably take through life.”

Yeah, but if I was that kid, I’d be skeptical that the guy would be there after the errand to hand out the marshmallows. It’s easy for me to be skeptical. I struggle to keep it in check. I bite my tongue all the time to keep from letting out the skepticism.

“The number of worries that people report while taking a test directly predicts how poorly they will do on it. The mental resources expended on one cognitive task—the worrying—simply detract from the resources available for processing other information; if we are preoccupied by worries that we’re going to flunk the test we’re taking, we have that much less attention to expend on figuring out the answers. Our worries become self-fulfilling prophecies, propelling us toward the very disaster they predict.”

Love this. I used to worry about everything. It’s stupid. Plain and simple. And, by Goleman, it’s worse than stupid, it makes things worse! If you cannot change it, then don’t worry about it. The worry is a waste of time and energy. I don’t want to waste my time and energy, which are very precious resources. Worry is focusing on something. It’s capturing all your mental energy. If you can’t change it, then you’re wasting your time. Rather, focus on what you can change, what you can do next. Change the subject. Do something productive and fun. Flush out the worry.

“Hope, modern researchers are finding, does more than offer a bit of solace amid affliction; it plays a surprisingly potent role in life, offering an advantage in realms as diverse as school achievement and bearing up in onerous jobs. Hope, in a technical sense, is more than the sunny view that everything will turn out all right. Snyder defines it with more specificity as ‘believing you have both the will and the way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be.’”

Hope is amazing. Songs of hope are my favorite, whether Christian hymns or Broadway show tunes, the songs of hope are the ones that resonate loud with me. I cry at church during those songs. I belt them out loud in my car with Ethel Merman.

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