Daniel Goleman: “Focus: the Hidden Driver of Excellence” | Talks at Google

By | December 7, 2019

MENG TAN: My dear
friend Daniel Goleman is one of the world’s most
recognized experts on topics relating to emotion
intelligence. He is also an amazing author. He has written more than ten
books, and his book “Emotional Intelligence,” that
one book alone, sold more than 5 million copies. He has received
many awards, and he has been nominated twice
for the Pulitzer prize. On a personal level, Dan is
also the person most responsible for me becoming an author. So back in 2007, Dan
and I, with a bunch of distinguished friends,
co-created something called “Search Inside
Yourself,” which is became a very popular
curriculum in Google and beyond. And I remember in
2009, Dan and I were taking a walk right there. I remember the exact
place and exact time. We were taking a
walk where I was trying to convince him to
write a book on “Search Inside Yourself.” And what he told me was,
he said, I’d love to do it. I just don’t have the time. And then he looked at me,
he pointed his finger at me, and said, Meng, why
don’t you write the book? I was like, me? I’m an engineer, not a doctor. Dammit, Jim. Eventually, because of Dan’s
support and his confidence in me, I did end
up writing a book. So thank you so much, Danny. I’m really excited
about Dan’s new book, “Focus– the Hidden
Driver of Excellence.” Skillfulness over
attention is the foundation of all higher cognitive
and emotional abilities. Attention creates the conditions
for personal excellence. Attention is so important that
in “Search Inside Yourself,” it is the first thing we train. The first thing we
train is attention. Yet I think the
subject of attention itself is not getting enough
attention, ironically. And I cannot think of anybody
better to write a book on an important topic as Dan. So my dear friends–
my dear friend, Danny, I’m delighted that
you wrote this book. And I’m delighted
that you didn’t ask me to write the book. My friends, please
welcome my friend, and Google’s
friend, Dan Goleman. DANIEL GOLEMAN: Thank you. That’s sweet. I’m always happy
to come to Google. 2007, that reminded
me of something. In 2007, there was a short
squib in “Time” magazine. And it said, there’s a new
word in the English language. The word is “pizzled.” It’s a combination of
“puzzled” and “pissed off.” And it describes how you feel
when the person you’re with takes out their BlackBerry and
starts talking to someone else. Think about that. Both things have died. That word and BlackBerry too. Things change quickly. That says something. I remember when I went around
to publishers and said, I’d like to write a
book about attention. One of them said, that’s great. Keep it short. Because I think attention is
a capacity– a vital capacity, as Meng was hinting– that’s
really under siege today. I’m most worried about
our kids, actually, but I think we all
are kind of victims. Here’s something
rather provocative. Herbert Simon,
Nobel Prize winner, said, “What
information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of
information creates a poverty of attention”– to the
extent that you understand that there are two
kinds of attention. There’s the attention that
we voluntarily direct, and there’s the attention
that seduces us. There are actually different
systems in the brain. One is a top down system
from the prefrontal area. This is when we decide to
concentrate on our work. We’re applying that
kind of attention. But then there are
the little seduction– the endless seductions. And there are more and
more and more of them. I get– I’m writing away on my
book and I get a little pop-up, you’ve got an email. That’s a seduction. That’s an intrusion
in sustained focus. And because of the
excellence of our technology and the cleverness of people
who design technology– some of whom are
right in this room, I just realized–
our attention needs to be paid more attention to if
we’re going to maintain or even increase our capacity for it. This also– the fact that
attention is threatened, along with the fact that there–
in the last two or three years, there’s been an explosion
of neuroscience findings about the attentional
circuitry, which has vast implications for us. This has really, since
I’m a science journalist, enticed me to write the book
that Meng refused to write, perhaps luckily, now
that I think about it. And as I got into
it, I realized I had to rethink
emotional intelligence. You didn’t mention that
“Harvard Business Review” art– yeah, the next issue of
“Harvard Business Review,” which will be out next week,
has a cover article by me on the leader’s focus,
the kind of focus, intentional capacities, that
anyone who’s a leader needs. And we’re actually all leaders. I think of leaders as anyone
with a sphere of influence– not people on the
chart, necessarily. But to the extent
that we all need to get more control
over our attention, and it makes us good
at the things that matter in performance
these days, it’s led me to revise
emotional intelligence, or my thinking about it. And I’ll share that with you. There’s an effect called–
in statistics, many of you are probably familiar with
it– the floor effect. It occurs at a
place like Google. It occurs at an
Ivy League college. It occurs anywhere, for
example, that there’s a premium put for
admission on IQ. And it’s an
interesting phenomenon, because it’s rather paradoxical. What it means is that IQ,
which is a fantastic predictor of the level of cognitive
complexity that you can manage, and that you can understand–
and therefore sorts people into job roles
and so on– abilities. Once you get selected
for IQ, then excellence becomes defined largely
by things other than IQ. And it’s because of
the floor effect. And are you all familiar
with the floor effect? OK. So a little statistic– so
if you were to plot, say– how’s this going to be?– IQ
and emotional intelligence into a scatter plot, you get
a fairly random distribution, because those are largely
independent aspects of ability, and they partake of different
parts of the brain, largely. So you have this pool of people. And if this is the IQ axis, and
you select the 99th percentile, and this is the emotional
intelligence access, there’s much less range
of variation for IQ than there is for
emotional intelligence. And the way this manifests in
the organizational world more generally is that if you
look at what’s called a competence model–
does anyone know what a competence model is? Another term I should explain. So when I was a
graduate student, my professor at Harvard, David
McClellan, wrote an article. It was very controversial. He said, if you want
to hire the best person for a job, any
job in any organization, don’t look at their IQ. Don’t look at their GPA. Don’t look at their
personality profile. Look at people in your
own organization who hold the role you’re hiring for. Identify the top 10% by
whatever metric makes sense for that job,
compare them systematically to people who are only
average in that role, and determine the
competencies or ability set that you find in
the stars that you don’t find in the average. That’s now called
competence modeling. And it’s done by world
class organizations, pretty much worldwide. And what’s interesting about
competence model– at least what interests me– is if you
aggregate many different models and they’re all independently
derived– they’re proprietary, actually, because a company
or organization wants to know for competitive
reasons, what should we look for in our hires? What should we promote for? What should we
develop in people? And they want to
hold that closely. But I aggregated
100 or 200 models after I wrote “Emotional
Intelligence,” the follow-up book. And I only looked
at two dimensions in the competence models. One was, if you look at the
distinguishing competencies– not the entry
level competencies, but distinguishing, the
ones that mark the stars– and you separate them in terms
of purely cognitive abilities, like IQ or technical skills, and
on the other side of the ledger you have emotional
intelligence– which is how we manage
ourselves and how we manage our
relationships– it turns out that for leadership,
about 80% to 90% of the competencies
independently identified are on the emotional
intelligence side. Well, that makes sense,
because leadership is not about being the smartest
person in the room. It’s about helping other
people be as smart as they can, which is a people skill. And so emotional intelligence
has four parts– self awareness, self management,
empathy, and social skill. And when I looked at that
through the lens of attention, I realized that the first
and third components, self awareness and empathy, are
varieties of attention. And social skill,
actually, is a combination of how we manage
ourselves and what we read in the other person. So managing ourselves
turns out to be based on how aware
we are of ourselves. So I revised the model. I’ll walk you through some
of that in looking at– well, I’m going to share with you
this article that is coming out next week in the “Harvard
Business Review,” so you don’t have to
buy it because you got the “Reader’s Digest”
version already. So the first ability, or set
of abilities– inner focus, I call it, which is being aware
of what’s going on inside you. And that’s exactly what
you’re teaching, Meng, in “Search Inside Yourself.” You’re teaching self-awareness. And by the way, I see every
variety of meditation, including mindfulness, as
a retraining of attention. If you strip away
the belief system of any meditation from any
tradition in the world, you find an
attentional mechanism is being strengthened. Would you do agree with that? Yeah? Yeah, exactly. So for self-awareness,
self-awareness is really important in many
rather surprising areas of life, I think. I have a friend– I
grew up in the Central Valley of California, in the
horrible midwest of California. Don’t stop there. Just keep going to
Lake Tahoe, really. And there was a
guy who lived down the road in the next town who
I got to know pretty well. He was a really bad student. He almost flunked
out of high school. He managed to go to a
community college, found his way to a film course. He loved film. So he got into a film school. He did pretty well–
did a student film that caught the attention
of a director, got hired by the director. The director liked
his work so much that he let him direct a film. He did so well with
that that they let him– a studio actually backed him
to direct a script that he had written before, when
he was much younger. That one did so
well that a studio wanted to back him
to do another script. But he hated the fact that
the studio had final cut. That meant– he considered
himself a creative artist, and he hated what they
did in the final edit. So he said, no way am I
going to take that money. I’m going to use the money
that I got from the film, finance it myself. Everyone he knew in Hollywood
said, you are crazy. You do not risk your
own money on a film. He did it anyway,
ran out of money. Only the 11th bank he went to
gave him the money to finish. You have seen that film. “Star Wars.” George Lucas is someone
who considers himself, and considers himself,
first an artist. The factory he stumbled
into Lucas Film was an accident of his
living by his values. And one of the strengths
of good self-awareness is that it helps us
answer the question, is what I’m about
to do in keeping with my sense of purpose,
value, and meaning or not? And the way it does
it is by tuning us into subtle signals that
come from the bottom-up part of the brain– which is
involuntary, automatic, and out of awareness for the most
part– which also holds much more information
than the top-down. And parts of that brain
as we go through life extract decision
rules– when I did that, that worked pretty well. When I said that, that bombed. And when we face
a decision point, it summates that information
for us and presents its advice. Problem. It has no direct
circuitry to the part of the brain thinks in words. It has extensive circuitry to
the gastrointestinal tract. You get a gut feeling– feels
right or doesn’t feel right. Then we put it in words,
after we get the gut feeling. So George, I assume,
had a very strong gut feeling– I just
can’t do it that way. This is an ethical
rudder for us. Howard Gardner, a friend
of mine at Harvard, studies what’s
called “good work.” Good work combines
our best skills– what we’re excellent at–
with what we love doing, what engages us,
and what we believe in– our sense of ethics,
values, purpose, and meaning. In good work, when you align
excellence, engagement, and ethics, you have something
to do that you love doing, that it’s a pleasure to do. In fact, it gets you
in an attentional state which is the state
where– it’s called the state of maximal
cognitive efficiency, or maximum neural harmony. Simple schematic. This is performance. And this is stress
hormones in the brain. And the relationship between
stress and performance is very well known
in psychology. It’s curvilinear. It’s an inverted “u.” If you have good work, you’re
very likely to be up here. This is the state some of
you may know literature on. It’s called flow. The flow state was determined
to– was actually identified by researchers at the University
of Chicago who asked people in many, many areas of
competence and of work to describe a time you outdid
yourself– you were absolutely at your best. And they asked chess
champions and they asked basketball player and
they asked neurosurgeons. It didn’t matter who they asked. They’re all describing the
same phenomenological state. There was a neurosurgeon
who described a very difficult, challenging
piece of surgery he had to do. He didn’t know if he could
pull it off before he started, but he did it brilliantly. At the end of the
surgery, he looked around and there was a little
rubble in the corner. He said to the
nurse, what happened? She said, well, while
you were operating, the ceiling caved in over
there, but you didn’t notice. You were so concentrated. It’s 200% concentration
in a flow state. And one of the
pathways to flow is through developing and
enhancing concentration. Other elements of
concentration– it calls on your best skills. You’re challenged at the
top of your skill set. Another, you’re
totally adaptable. You’re very flexible. Whatever happens,
you can change. You’re not set in some
rigid behavior pattern. Another element of flow that’s
very important– it feels good. The things we
choose to do in life generally are things that
get us in some kind of flow or micro-flow. Flow is also where people
work at their best. Now, the state down here
is basically boredom. Because you’re under–
you have a skill set– you may be a
fantastic programmer, but you’re driving a
taxi or whatever it is. So you’re under-challenged. You’re disinterested
at what you’re doing. Actually, I doubt that
it’s true here at Google, but in the working
world at large, disengagement– which is what
this is called by HR people– is an enormous problem. People will just do
enough to keep their job. They’re not interested. They’re not engaged. It’s not good work. However, what they
do here is daydream. And daydreaming is
another attentional state that has value. Every kind of attention
has a purpose and a place. It’s when they’re out of
place they’re a problem. Daydreaming, it
turns out, is what the brain chooses to
do 50% of the time. There was a study–
psychologists at Harvard gave people an iPhone
app that called them at random times of the day
and asked them two things, what are you doing now, and
what are you thinking about? In other words, is your
mind somewhere else? Are you daydreaming? That’s the 50% data. The most daydreaming was when
people are commuting, sitting at a computer terminal–
I’m sure it’s not true of the people in this
room, but other people. And work, generally. The most focused? When people are making love. Who would answer an app
at a time like that? This is just totally
puzzling to me. It happens. So these are two different
attentional states. The third is when
people are stressed out. There’s actually an
article about this. By the way, this
axis– the metric for this is the levels
of stress hormones, particularly adrenaline
and cortisol, in the brain. So if you’re way
up here, it means you’re having what’s
called an amygdala hijack. The amygdala is the part
of the emotional brain which is the radar for threat. Our amygdalas right now
are answering the question amygdalas have asked
all through evolution. And it is, am I safe? Is there a danger? That’s what the
amygdala cares about. The brain, you have to remember,
was designed for survival. The neocortex, the part of the
brain that we use all the time, that was like a later–
it’s still a beta. That was added way later
in evolutionary history. And in fact, the brain
is designed still to give precedence to
the survival mechanisms. So if the amygdala
thinks there’s a threat, it can hijack the rest of
the brain, particularly the prefrontal area, the part
of the brain we take pride in– the part of the brain
that manages attention. And the amygdala has
a privileged position in the brain. One neuron-long connection
from the ear, from the eye, from the senses. So if gets an instant
picture of what’s going on. There’s a problem. I don’t know if many
people in this room are old enough to remember
when television had static. AUDIENCE: Yes. DANIEL GOLEMAN: You remember
the non-digital era. Some people do. OK. So that’s what the
amygdala’s looking at. It has a staticky picture,
because most of the signal actually does go up to
the top of the brain. But the amygdala has a
hair-trigger mechanism. It has a kind of “rather be
safe than sorry” point of view. So it calls emergencies when
actually there’s not really an emergency. And just to
complicate it, we now live not in the biological
reality, where there are saber toothed tiger type
threats, but we live in a complex
social reality. So the amygdala
is misinterpreting social signals– or
interpreting them. That guy’s not
treating me right. That’s unfair. The amygdala is
very childlike too. So the amygdala
might have a reaction like, this guy’s not
treating me fair. I’d like to slug him. That’s the way the
amygdala thinks. So the good news
is that that signal goes from the midbrain up
to the prefrontal area. And the prefrontal area
brings together information from all parts of the brain. So it might add something like,
oh, but this is your boss. So you don’t hit him. You smile and change the
subject or something. That’s called
emotional intelligence. So people who are in this
state– which, were there was an article in “Science”
about that state called “The Neurobiology of Frazzle.” People who are frazzled have
an attentional hijack going on, because one thing
the amygdala does is redirect attention to
whatever’s upsetting us. If you’re having a
problem in a relationship, you’re going to be thinking
about that problem at times that you might want to be
thinking about something else– like 2 AM, when
you want to be sleeping. That’s the amygdala. It forces our attention
away from where it might be if we were here to
what it is that’s upsetting us. It also reshuffles memory. Memory is in a hierarchy. So when you’re having a
fight with your partner, you can’t really remember so
well why am I with this person. That’s how the amygdala works. So this is an attentional state
which is very inefficient, particularly when
people ruminate. There’s a difference
between constructive worry and rumination. Rumination is thought loops you
can’t stop thinking about that are upsetting, and you go over
the same thing over and over. Constructive worry is
when you think about it– the amygdala wants you
to think about it– and you come up with
something you can do. And then you stop the thought. You can go back to having
more voluntary control over attention. So those are three very
important kinds of attention. I want to call your attention
to one aspect of this that I think is really crucial,
particularly for kids today. And that is the voluntary
ability to get here. It’s called “cognitive control.” When you do mindfulness, you’re
amping up cognitive control. Just mainly for
your information, yesterday I was in Chicago. And I gave a talk,
and Roger Weissberg was there from the Collaborative
for Social Emotional Learning. And he said he really sees this
as a next step, the integration of, basically,
attentional training with emotional intelligence. So cognitive control
is talked about, depending on people’s
point of view, in a lot of interesting ways. Sometimes it’s called the
delay of gratification, the allocation of attention,
working memory, the resistance to distractions, impulse
inhibition, goal focus, and learning readiness. The level of cognitive
control in a young child determines how well he
or she can pay attention to what the teacher is saying,
to the textbook, to the lesson. It’s absolutely essential
for comprehension. And there’s a bell
curve for this. One of the first tests of
cognitive control– actually, the most famous–
was done very near here, at Stanford,
in the Bing Preschool there, which is on campus. And they brought four-year-olds
in, sat them down at a little table, put a big,
juicy marshmallow on the table, and experimenter says, you
can have this marshmallow now if you want,
but if you don’t need it till I run an
errand and come back, you can have two then. And then she leaves the room. This is a predicament that tries
the soul of any four-year-old, I promise you. I’ve seen videos. Some go and lick it
and then jump back, like it’s a dangerous thing. Some just sing and
dance– you know, sing to themselves to
distract themselves. About a third can’t stand it. They just gobble it
down on the spot. Another third wait the endless
10 minutes or whatever and they get the two. The payoff finding
comes 14 years later, when they’re tracked down and
the two groups are compared, the ones who grabbed
and the ones who waited. And it turns out the
ones who waited still can delay gratification
in pursuit of their goals, which is what that’s a test of. But more interestingly, they
have a 210 point advantage out of 1600 points on the SAT. Now the SAT is an
achievement test, it’s a test of what
you have learned. It’s not an IQ test. And when I told
this to the people at Princeton that make the
SAT, they were stunned. Because they said, that’s
bigger than the difference that we see between kids
who come from a family where parents have only an elementary
school education and those where one parent at least
has a graduate degree. But these are all children of
people at Stanford University. So what’s emerging is
that cognitive control is an independent asset– the
ability to pay attention well. This was really
nailed by a study done in New Zealand, where they took
every child born in a city– I think 1,037 children–
over one year, between ages four and eight. They tested them rigorously
for cognitive control. And then they tracked them
down when they were 32. You can only do
this in New Zealand. Do not try this in Silicon
Valley, I assure you. And what they found was that
a child’s cognitive control between four and eight predicted
that child’s financial success and health in their
mid 30s better than IQ or the socioeconomic status
of the family they grew up in. Think about that. It’s very, very compelling. And it’s made me feel– that
and many other findings– that we should be
paying more attention to this aspect of
attention for children. It should be part of education. Because in the study
in New Zealand, they found that children
who between foreign eight managed to boost their cognitive
control had the same benefits. And one of the
conclusions was that, yes, we should teach this to kids. And in fact, if we
taught it to all kids, it would help the
productivity of the economy. People would be much more
effective in their work. So there are a number
of ways to do it. One of them I find
really interesting. I visited Sesame Workshop. Sesame Workshop is where they
put together “Sesame Street.” The day I visited,
they’re having a meeting where all the
writers were meeting with two cognitive scientists. Because it turns out that
every segment of Sesame Street is the translation of a finding
in developmental science wrapped in entertainment. So they told me about one
that’s aimed specifically at cognitive control
in preschoolers. It’s called “the cookie
connoisseur club.” I don’t know if you’ve
ever seen Sesame– how many people have
seen “Sesame Street?” So you may remember Alan. He has the store
on Sesame Street. Alan wanted to establish
the cookie connoisseur club, just like a wine club. You take a cookie. You examine it to see if
there are any defects. Then you sniff it. And then you take a nibble. Cookie Monster, of course–
this was meant for him. He wanted to be in
the cookie club. But he could not
manage to nibble. He only could gobble. So Alan used several
reframes for him. And the one that worked was
like the marshmallow test. “Cookie, if you can
just nibble now, you’ll get a lot of good
cookies to eat later.” And that was the one
that did it for him. That is a lesson in
cognitive control that’s aimed at toddlers,
because the way toddlers learn is through modeling. When little kids watch other
kids or grownups operate, their brain is
taking that all in. So if they see someone
manifest cognitive control, that helps them a little bit. Older kids. I was in PS 112 in Spanish
Harlem in New York City. And I watched the kids
who are from a really impoverished neighborhood. Is East Palo Alto still poor? Sort of? Not like it used to be? OK. So– anyway, in New
York, it’s a– the kids there live in a huge housing
project next to the school. The teacher in this
classroom said, you know, the other week, a child
came in really upset. And I said, what’s wrong? And she said, I saw
someone who was shot. And she said to the
class, how many of you know someone who’s been shot? Every hand went up. That kind of childhood– very
traumatic, very difficult. And typically you
would find that kids who come from such
a chaotic background manifest that in classroom. But this classroom was
absolutely calm and focused. And I realized why
when I saw them do what they call
“breathing buddies.” Breathing buddies
happens every day. Each child goes to
their cubby and gets their favorite little
stuffed animal, finds a place to lie
down on the floor, puts the animal on
their belly, and watches it rise and watches it fall. And they count one, two, three
on the inhalation and one, two, three on the exhalation. Basically, it’s
training in attention. When you train the circuitry
for sustained attention, you get a “two
for,” because it’s the same circuitry–
it’s intertwined with the circuitry
the brain uses to manage distributing
emotions and impulse. So that’s why you get the
calm along with the focused. There’s another way to do this. Meng might know about it. It’s from SEL. It was developed by a friend
of mine named Roger Weissberg. It’s called “the stoplight.” SEL is Social
Emotional Learning. Many schools now
across the country have a curriculum in
emotional intelligence. Basically in managing
emotions, being aware of them, in
empathy, in getting along and collaborating. The stoplight is on
the wall of every room. It’s a traffic light that
says, when you’re upset, remember the stoplight. Red light, stop. Calm down. Think before you act. Yellow light, think of a
range of things you could do and what the
consequence would be. Green light, pick the
best one and try it out. And that’s another way to
teach cognitive control. Yet another way, I
had my grandchildren play the beta version
of a video game that’s being developed for the iPad
at– a group at Wisconsin. Every time you breathe out,
you tap the screen once. And on the fifth breath
out, you tap it twice. And if you keep
doing that, it gets more difficult– in other
words, the challenge gets better and you learn more and more. And secondly, you
get a visual reward– like if it’s a desert
scene, flowers will bloom. They loved it. But that is also
explicitly designed to teach– to enhance
cognitive control. And then, of
course, the best way is what Meng has
developed for us. What’s that? MENG TAN: We developed together. DANIEL GOLEMAN: We
developed together. I’ll give you the credit. OK. So that’s inner focus. Inner focus is
both self-awareness and managing our inner
world, particularly our distressing emotions. The second kind of
focus is other focus– knowing what’s going on
with people around us. There are three
kinds of empathy. The first is– what
time is it now? MENG TAN: It’s 3:40. DANIEL GOLEMAN: When
am I supposed to stop? MENG TAN: 4:00. DANIEL GOLEMAN: You
mean I have 20 minutes? Is that right? Well, forget other empathy. OK. So there are three
kinds; cognitive, understanding how
a person thinks; emotional, understanding and
feeling what the person feels, and feeling with;
and empathic concern. Empathic concern is
not, I understand what’s going on in you, but
if you’re in pain, if you’re suffering, if you have a need
that I can help you with, I’m inclined to
help you with it. It’s the basis of compassion. And compassion,
by the way, starts with noticing what’s going
on with the other person. There’s a spectrum that runs
from noticing the person to tuning in to registering
what’s happening within them, empathizing,
and then, if you can help, doing so. And I have a lot more to
say, but it’s all in my book. Because what I wanted to get
to is the third kind of focus, because I think it’s
very salient here. And there’s a real
problem in the world that I think Google, or
the talents in this room and in this valley,
could really help with. Outer focus is a
systems awareness. And I think we all need
to be aware of systems. It could be
organizational systems. In an organization,
who do you need to influence to
get a decision made that you are trying
to put through? That’s a kind of
systems awareness. There are family systems too. Family dynamics are systemic. And then there are
the broader systems. And it’s the broader
systems I want talk about, because it’s really a mess. And I don’t know if
you know the terms “wicked problem” and “mess.” They’re actually
technical terms. A wicked problem
is not understood until after the
formulation of a solution. It has no stopping rule. You don’t know when you’re done. Solutions to wicked problems
are not right or wrong. Every wicked problem is
essentially novel and unique. Every solution to
a wicked problem is a one-shot operation. There’s no chance
for a learning curve. Now, to compound
a wicked problem, you have to look at what’s
technically called a mess. A mess is a wicked
problem that interacts with other wicked problems. Another characteristic,
there’s no authority in charge of
solving the problem. The people trying
to solve the problem are also creating the problem. And time is running out. Welcome to the
Anthropocene dilemma. The Anthropocene Age started
with the Industrial Revolution and has been increasing
in ferocity ever since. Geologists use this term
for the current epoch where we exist now to describe
the fact that one species is altering the global
systems that support life in the wrong direction. That’s the Anthropocene dilemma. The real dilemma is that there
are three systems operating that don’t mesh. One system is–
one domain, rather, is human systems– systems
of energy, transportation, construction, industry, and
commerce on the one hand– are systematically degrading
the eight global systems that support life on the planet. The poster boy, of
course, is carbon. But that’s just one of
many, many different kinds of problems. The real problem is that
the human brain is not designed to notice the problem. The human brain does not
have any perceptual apparatus that lets us directly
perceive this, because it’s too
macro or too micro. I mean, we’re– the human brain
is designed to register, honey, we have to talk–
that’s threat– but not what’s actually
happening to the planet. The amygdala doesn’t care. It shrugs. So this is a big, big problem. And, you know, it puts
us all in the predicament of collectively doing
evil, just by living. Because everything we
use has a footprint. And a footprint is
another way of saying it has some level
of destructiveness for natural systems. So there’s actually
a metric for this. It’s called life
cycle assessment. Some of you may
have heard of it. It looks at, for
example, these glasses. And it says, well, glass. In making– glass
is not a product. It’s a process. You could start the history of
glass when you get some sand. And you’re going to
mix it with chemicals. And you’re going
to transport it. You’re going to
bring it to a place where you cook it at
a high temperature for many, many
hours, all of that. At every step along the way, you
can break down what’s going on. And life cycle assessment does
it in a very fine-tuned way. It says there are almost
2000 discrete steps in glass, from beginning to end. And at each step,
you can analyze an array of emissions and
impacts on the environment, on the health of the people
who are connected with it, and on the social well
being of the people that are connected with it. And the metric–
there’s a science. It’s called industrial ecology. It’s a combination of
physics, chemistry, biology, environmental science,
industrial design, and industrial engineering. They are the ones
who have this metric. So now there is a way
to analyze precisely the damage we do just by living. So I have– this, by the way, is
the depressing, guilt-provoking part of my talk. Sorry. I have a friend who teaches life
cycle assessment at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has his students
analyze their footprint. And they say to him after, and
it’s a very depressing thing to do, the world would
have been better off if I hadn’t been born. Isn’t that right? And he says, that’s
the wrong conclusion. He says, instead of just
looking at the footprint, we should look at our handprint. The handprint takes the
footprinted baseline and then calculates the
metric for everything good we do, everything
that reduces our footprint. He says, instead of just moping
around about the footprint, think about how you can keep
building your handprint. People can do it. Families can do it. Schools can do it. Companies can do it. There’s an aggregate
handprint as well as an aggregate footprint. If we’re really responsible
to the generations who will bear the cost of
how we’re living now, we would take this
pretty seriously. And I’m hoping somebody will. My job is to tell you
about it and to tell you what I think some
fixes might be. But really, I don’t
have the answer. There’s a group at Berkeley
and in San Francisco that built something
called Good Guide. It’s a website. G-O-O-D-G-U-I-D-E. goodguide.com
evaluates consumer products in terms of their
footprint using LCA, and compares products against
each other so you can make a better choice. There’s one called “Skin
Deep” just for personal care products. Personal care products might
have 50 different ingredients you never heard of. They look in medical
databases to see, well, is this a carcinogen? Is it an endocrine disruptor? And it ranks lipsticks, eye
gloss, according to toxicity. Toxicity is one of the
dimensions in this. And that gives people choice. I feel it’s great
that these exist, but you have to look them up. I would like to see the
cognitive cost of finding out the impact of what we do
and buy reduced to zero. The cognitive cost
is the effort you have to make to
find out the data. So the cognitive
cost is high now, even though the metric
exists, because people have to look it up somehow. It should be– ideally, it would
be there and evident the moment that we are about to
engage in the activity or about to buy the product, or
B2B if we’re going to purchase for an organization from
another organization. So one solution is
transparency– at least, a partial solution. The second is handprints. The third– I think
we’re in this predicament because most of the platforms
that are used– chemically, industrial, and so
on– were invented before we knew about LCA, before
we thought about consequences, before it was really a factor. The chemicals we
used are largely based on petrochemicals. Well, petrochemicals,
excuse me, suck. The reason is that oil
and water don’t mix. They never die. Plastics, bad idea. Styrofoam, bad idea. Better idea? Two students at
Rensselaer Polytech invented a styrofoam,
which also never dies, that is made out of rice
husks and mushroom roots. And it works just as well. In fact, General Motors is
using in the dashboard of cars. Who knew there was styrofoam
in the dashboard of you car? But still, better they use
this than the other kind, because it decomposes. And we really need to
start thinking along the terms of bio mimicry. How does nature do
it so elegantly? We do it so crudely. We could be much better at it. There are wonderful
models everywhere. So that’s another thought I
had about what we could do, reinvent everything. Another thing I’d like to
see is systems education for kids in school, so
that this way of thinking came naturally to
kids because it’s embedded in the
curriculum, K through 12. And LCA is part of your math. You could be–
this whole science could be part of all
kinds of courses. And the other
solution, I don’t know. What do you think? I’m just leaving
you with a question. Because, just to wrap it up,
I went to a conference at MIT on global systems. And I struck by two things. One was John Sterman, who’s
the head of the systems dynamic unit at MIT, said, our biggest
problem is system blindness. And the other was what
the Dalai Lama said. He said, whenever
we face a decision, we should ask
ourselves, who benefits? Is it just me, or a group? Just my group, or everyone? Is it just for now,
or for the future? Thank you. MENG TAN: OK, we have about
ten minutes for questions. Jordan, do you have the mic? OK. So Jordan has access to Dory. He can ask the first
couple questions. And then the rest, if
you have questions, you can queue up behind Jordan. JORDAN: Hello. What’s the relationship
between focus and creativity? Often, if I pour all my
focus into a problem, I fail to see better
solutions that are obvious when
stepping back a bit. DANIEL GOLEMAN: Yeah,
you named the solution. Actually, it’s the good
side of this state. It’s daydreaming. Because the classical stages
in solving a creative problem are begin with focusing,
with effort, and gathering all the information, trying
out all the solutions you can think of. And if you’re still
baffled, you let it go. And you daydream. You go for a walk. You take a shower. The annals of
science and math are full of instants where–
for example, a mathematician grappled with an equation for
years, could not solve it, and the answer came to him
as he was getting on a bus. Because in that day-dreamy state
where your mind is wandering, you have more access
to the bottom-up part of the mind, which, remember,
registers everything you know. And that can put together
two discrete elements that have never been
combined, but that operates in a useful way,
which is a creative product. Then, of course, you have
to focus again to execute. That’s another– I mean,
then you need venture capital and oh my god, it’s
like a headache. Did you have another
question, Jordan? JORDAN: Yeah. Can you give us the
top three points from the “Harvard
Business Review” article on leadership
and focus, please? DANIEL GOLEMAN: That’s
what my whole talk was. It was that leaders need
the three kinds of focus– inner focus to manage
yourself and lead yourself, other focus to read
other people effectively and to be able to communicate
in a way which is persuasive, and that motivates and that
has the right impact– I mean, you could say the
art of leadership is helping people get
and stay in this state. And the third is the
systems awareness, because you need that
for strategic thinking, for example. You need to understand
what’s happening with the technologies. You need to understand what’s
happening with the economy. You need to understand
the larger systems that your organization
operates in. And so, for example, with
the economic problem, a lot of companies
promoted people who were very good at
getting the numbers but really trampled on people. And now they’re realizing
that that lack of empathy is costing organizations. So what I’m arguing is
that leaders need all three in balance. Will that do? JORDAN: One more. People with ADD are told that
they are most effective when they follow their impulses,
instead of forcing themselves to control their attention
in a top-down manner. How does this fit
into your model? DANIEL GOLEMAN: So ADD is a
big problem during the school years, when there’s
a premium on being able to focus on what the
teacher’s saying and so on. ADD also means
that people’s minds wander more, which is why it’s
a problem during the school years. But it turns out that
people with ADD tend on, average, to be more
creative than other people. They are more naturally
entrepreneurs, for example. JORDAN: Does anyone
else have questions? DANIEL GOLEMAN: Someone’s
behind you here. AUDIENCE: So my question
is about cognitive control. And you mentioned
a lot of studies where certain children
or certain people had better cognitive
control than others. And my question is, what
factors affect that? Do you think it’s something
people are born with? And is it affected by things
like their socioeconomic situation, by culture,
by the education they’ve already received? DANIEL GOLEMAN: All of it. In other words,
it’s both something that people have some level
of naturally– it’s innate. It’s genetic. But you know, the brain
is plastic through life. And the centers for
cognitive control are part of the brain that’s the
last to develop anatomically– doesn’t mature
fully till mid 20s. And during that period of
plasticity, roughly childhood and adolescence, what you
learn, and systematic training, has enormous effect. So the basic repetition
for cognitive control is you focus on one
thing, your mind wanders, you notice it wandered,
and you bring it back. Does that sound familiar? And every time you do that,
the neurons for that circuitry strengthen in
their connectivity. It’s exactly analogous to being
in a gym and lifting weights. And every time you
do a repetition, that muscle gets
a little stronger. So the more we can
help children and teens do that– which
reminds me, I actually have some instructional CDs
for kids and teens on this, from morethansound.net,
if anybody’s interested. Because I think
it’s very important that parents do this for
kids and that schools do it for kids. The more you do it, the better
you get at cognitive control. Then you asked about chaotic
childhood and all of that. And that is a negative factor. That’s why I was so impressed
by the school in Spanish Harlem. AUDIENCE: Hi there. I’m one of the fortunate
Googlers that has teens. And I would like to know a
little bit about the amygdala hijack and the response that
different teens may have. I have one team
when I think they’re hijacked that goes angry, and I
have another that goes tearful. Is that a relationship
to the amygdala hijack or something else? DANIEL GOLEMAN: Angry and
tearful, I don’t know. There’s a wonderful
book coming out by Dan Siegel called
“Brainstorms.” It’ll be out December 26. And it’s about the
adolescent brain. It’s actually written for
teenagers and their parents to read together. But one of the
things he talks about is the phenomenon that
during adolescence, there’s a wider discrepancy than
at any other point in life between two neural systems. One is the system for
instant gratification, which surges ahead, and the other
is for delaying gratification, which lags a little behind. And so individual
teens may differ in the gap between
that circuitry, but I’ve heard a
definition of maturity as widening the gap
between impulse and action. AUDIENCE: Thank you
very much, Mr. Goleman, for this incredible lecture. I’m wondering with
this structure that you have here and
traditional medicine and what they look
at in the mind. And as far as I can
tell, being an epileptic, this really doesn’t
apply much to us. We have cognitive problems that
cannot be corrected and have been heavily– heavy
medication has been used. I’m on medications that
are very dangerous. And I’m working with
a couple neuros, a Jim Fallon– I don’t know
if you know Jim, he’s a guy– and I’m told that
I don’t have much of a chance of doing
a lot of this stuff. And for me to focus actually
takes a lot of work. And I was wondering if you have
any suggestions for epilepsy? DANIEL GOLEMAN: I’m not a
neurologist, not a specialist. I have friends who are
in the same situation. But I think that– one of
the things I didn’t mention is that there’s a decline in
cognitive control with aging. And they’ve developed
a set of training tools which are web-based to
reverse or slow that process, and you might try those,
because the medications are like a shotgun in the brain. They hit many different systems. And the brain still
remains plastic. So you can go to the
mental gym and see– that just might help
you keep that focus. AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. DANIEL GOLEMAN: Good luck MENG TAN: With that, for
those of you interested in [INAUDIBLE], the
CEO, [INAUDIBLE] is sitting right here. Feel free to talk to him. The book is “Focus, The
Hidden Driver of Excellence,” for those in the
room, you can buy it fom the back of the room. Danny will do a book
signing after this. For those not in the room, it’s
available where books are sold. So with this, “Focus,”
Danny Goleman. Thank you, my friends. DANIEL GOLEMAN: Thanks, Meng.

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