EQ Reflection: Monuments

Due to the foibles of flight schedules, I had some unexpected downtime in DC, and found myself wandering the Mall. I don’t think I’ve been here since I was in eighth grade, and it made a very different impression on me now. I suspect that the first time, I was much more concerned about the pressing matters of who I’d sit with on the bus, and what those girls were whispering, and when we’d be able to shop for trinkets that made us feel somehow more complete.

Now walking through these monuments I thought about the sweep of history. About the times of great challenge when exceptional women and men stand up and stand out, not for themselves but in service of hope. About Martin Luther King Jr standing on this very place, his magnificent voice booming over this wide arcade and around the globe. Giving himself utterly to a higher purpose, his message echoing through the hearts of those for, neutral, and even opposed, calling something deeper in them.

And in that same park, stones with golden signatures from the Declaration of Independence. People standing up for something “impossible,” something bigger than their own gain — and in so doing galvanizing hope and reverence and the power of human spirit. Again, in giving to a larger vision, these leaders opened a door wide enough for allies and enemies alike.

Sprinkled though this garden are monuments to wisdom and to sacrifice. It’s so difficult to tell in the moment-to-moment of our daily lives, but in the sweep of history it becomes clear. Great purpose requires the most exceptional commitment, but there’s a razor-edge between sacrifice for pride and sacrifice for promise.

On a more personal scale, I finally saw the Vietnam Wall — it wasn’t here when I was a boy-hoping-to-be-a-man. I thought of Hank, my father, and how many of these shipmate’s names were carved into his heart as indelibly as they are carved into the granite. I thought of all these other men who’s names are carved in the granite, who now might be grandfathers too.

In the brilliance of this monument I couldn’t help but see generations reflected in the stone. The passing crowds of all ages, bright colors dancing on the wall. Some faces closed in loss, some somber in reflection, others chatting about the pressing matters like who they’d sit next to on the bus… Then finally I willed myself to look at my own reflection in the stone, and thought of the legacy of war and how it’s a part of my own story. I could see myself through the names of those who died so far away fighting for a myth of pride and arrogance and fear.

I wondered what kind of monument we will make for the women and men fighting today. I wondered if those who toil in the marble corridors of power take time out to look over at this somber granite and consider the way their choices will reflect outward in the lives of ordinary people, into the faces of future generations who walk by remembering. It’s so easy to point a finger at “them,” but if I’m going to learn something here I recognize I also need to look at myself in this wall.

Here we are in an era of upheaval, with fear and uncertainty rampant, with nearly desperate problems on every side. Perhaps the most profound challenges humanity has ever faced. What can I do, one ordinary man, amidst all the difficulties we face? Isn’t there a new hero who can save us?

Perhaps in times of greatest challenge it takes both the most ordinary and the most exceptional women and men stand up and stand out, not for themselves but in service of hope.

In the past, we’ve needed someone stand on the marble steps and call forth our commitment. Perhaps today’s challenges will also require us each to do so. There is a quiet voice of wisdom that dwells in every one of us, but it is easily shouted down by the clamor of what we each want now. That quiet voice of wisdom speaks quietly through a feeling of what’s truly precious — we know when we are in integrity because we feel it.

So where do we find the wisdom to step out from those compelling immediate concerns of daily life and to commit to something larger? This commitment is not comfortable, it’s much easier, and perhaps even more in our nature, to attend to the “seat on the bus matters” rather than the “sweep of history matters.” In either case it’s emotion driving us, but perhaps there are multiple voices of those feelings. For example, fear can sweep us unconsciously into matters of unimportant urgency, into a bid for comfort. But if we use emotional intelligence and look deeper, that same fear can tell us something truly vital is at stake.

When we do get that deeper insight, we also get an important benefit. Emotion is information, and it is power. When we tune up our awareness and attend to what’s truly important, we liberate the energy of those strongest of convictions. Then we can use the power of our feelings to commit, to sacrifice for what matters.

Perhaps in a hundred years there will be a new monument here, not commemorating a great woman or man, and neither honoring lives cut short, but reminding future generations of how people like you and I did what was right. About how we shifted our attention away from comfort and convenience and toward the survival of our communities. Away from being right over others and toward caring-in-action. Away from taking and toward healing our shared home.

Are you ready?

Emotional Intelligence Helps NFL Players “Win at Life”

“We’re learning that emotional intelligence is an important ingredient in helping professional athletes live healthy and successful lives”
– National Football League Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw

A study of retired NFL players and EQ compares players’ emotional intelligence with life success — including good health, positive relationships, avoiding drug/alcohol use & violence, financial strength, and quality of life.  Among the 30 athletes we studied over 60% in the variation of these important factors are predicted by emotional intelligence scores.  So there is a massive correlation between high EQ skills and life success.

This is an important study because NFL players are extremely influential as role models – and despite their incredible success in making it to the top of the  game, there are so many struggles off the field. We can now pinpoint specific, learnable skills that will make a difference for these guys – for life.  While the NFL is a very big, economically driven business, the growing interest in emotional intelligence could be a sign of commitment to the larger impact of the sport in our society.

6S Network Meeting in Italy

Last weekend we had our first Six Seconds EQ Network meeting in Italy. Max Ghini (Director of the 6S-Italia office) and I presented – here’s Max (and look at the lovely room in the basement of an old old building, just off the main square of Bologna):


And me… I talked about using emotions and emotional intelligence to create change – with some personal stories of starting Six Seconds and our commitment to change starting with ourselves. I also shared stories of paradoxical feelings about my father, and finally the legacy of a Hawaiian woman committed to rebuilding a community space.


Here’s more of the wonderful Italia team, from left: Lorenzo, Dani, Federica, Veru:


Max introduced the Corporate Social Responsibility campaign and we all discussed the vision of partnering with business to create a context for thriving. It seemed simple and natural that we could help businesses meet their essential goals by bringing EQ to the communities where they operate:


Then teams started working on how to bring EQ to all the children and adults of Italy and beyond:


Thank you to the 50+ who joined the meeting! I look forward to the next one – which will be the Choose to Change conference in San Jose, CA, Oct 4-5 ’08.

Rational Thinking = Better Decisions? Not.

A new study released in Applied Psychology found that people with a highly rational thinking style actually became more biased as the stakes went up.  The authors suggest that in an escalating situation, the highly analytical thinkers were less able to tune into the dissonance that would cause them to challenge their own assumptions.

In other words:  They ignored the feeling that they were on the wrong track.

The common view is that we need to be rational to make optimal decisions, but it’s just not true.  The last century has been driven by this paradigm and the results are clear – while we have incredible technical excellence, we are failing as a species.  My contention: “Analytical = Better” is one of the most pervasive and destructive myths of our era.

If wisdom is to be found, it is not within the paralyzing prison of logic alone.

Source: Kin Fai Ellick Wong, Jessica Yuk Yee Kwong, Carmen K. Ng (2008) “When Thinking Rationally Increases Biases: The Role of Rational Thinking Style in Escalation of Commitment,” Applied Psychology 57 (2) , 246–271  (Article Abstract)

Experimenting on Students

Recently I read a critique of the “SEAL” initiative in the UK, a government mandate to ensure all students systematically and consistently learn about emotions. The critique is poorly grounded, sensational, and self-promotional — but there was one point that’s been hovering. It said, in essence: This approach has never been fully tested so it is unreasonable to experiment on a generation.

On the one hand, this is eminently reasonable. We ought to look before we leap. So we do a great deal of research (both empirical and observational) and use that to define best practice. There is now a substantial body of research on SEL (see the case), but of course not enough for certainty.

On the other, we are already experimenting, so the question isn’t “experiment or not,” it is, “do our best to rationalize this experiment or bury our heads in the sand.”

The experiment underway is a tsunami of social change. As a society we’re in the midst of a chaotic, uncontrolled experiment — introducing variables from GMO foods to youth who average 60 hour of TV time to instant messaging to billions spent on marketing to children (versus 1/50th only two decades before).

In the face of these unprecedented, chaotic, and stress-inducing forces, we must find ways to balance — like surfing on tidal waves. HopeAs educators, we do not have the luxury of certainly. We need both the immediate intervention — our best efforts crafted from a blend of reason and compassion — and the carefully considered and well-evaluated response.

But we can’t wait too long. Each year we spend contemplating and debating, millions of children miss another year of opportunity… and then the experiment changes again.

Further, it occurs to me that education has always been an experimental journey.

At one point, the field of education had never tested the teaching of anyone but nobility. At another point, the use of pencils had never been tested. Or teaching of girls – and girls and boys together – and teaching of people of multiple races together… more recently, education had never tested the effect of raising a generation who used electronic typewriters. I remember the joy when my parents bought an IBM Selectric which would re-type a report from memory! And the consternation of some of my teachers when I was bringing reports without white-out-corrections (was I cheating??)

To teach at all requires a certain arrogance — based in a belief that we know what will help the next generation solve the problems they will inherit from us (that’s right – those very problems we have patently failed to solve).  Ideally we balance that arrogance with incredible compassion, not just for humanity but more for these individual people, these delightful, confusing, challenging, and unique humans. In the abstract we can research and debate — but when it comes down to the mat, there are children who need us, and they are the promise, the one chance for tomorrow, and they can not wait for us to figure it out.  So in the end, teaching is an act of hope.

The Economics of Happiness

Continuing on David’s theme about happiness… I completely agree that we’ve got “happiness-seeking-run-amok” and that sadness is good too! Does real “happiness” mean the absence of sorrow? I suspect it means “being more alive.” It certainly doesn’t seem to come from ease.

I haven’t read it, but thought the premise of this book sounds right on! The Economics of Happiness. Have you read it? Please comment!

Why, in spite of increasing economic prosperity over the past 50 years, are many conditions of well-being in decline and rates of happiness largely unchanged since the 1950s?

It seems we have so much to be happy about – but not the happiness! I remember as a teen visiting my sis and bro-in-law who were teaching in rural Kenya. We walked around the village where they worked and people had next to nothing, but seemed so happy. At the time I though it a strange paradox then, but moved quickly onto the pressing matters of growing up.

Now I see there’s some essential secret we’ve missed, and I wonder if we can get it back?

Hilary’s tears: weakness or strength?

Challenging questions for Hilary Clinton and our society in an emotional intelligence meets politics moment — a Newsweek article (Hillary Tears Up: A Muskie moment, or a helpful glimpse of ‘the real Hillary’?) asks if Hilary’s display of emotion will be seen as a sign of weakness, or of honesty?  And in any case, the emotion trumps the facts:

No one will remember the hour of detailed policy talk that preceded Clinton’s emotional moment

Will Americans confirm that:

anyone who needed to carry Kleenex in her purse was unfit for the highest office in the land

or will the conclusion come that emotion helps

a candidate who is seen as aloof and too tightly scripted appear more vulnerable, more human and more appealing

What do we really want in a leader?  This brings up so many questions about trust and emotion — do we trust people who hide their emotions or show them?  Do we prefer “false strength” to authenticity?  I suspect that genuineness+moderate strength goes further than appearance of big strength.
I also enjoyed reading comments on this video on youtube – which raise the question: Was it real anyway?

What do you think? Fake or real tears? Weak or strong?

A Hunger for Change

1.1 billion people in the world live on less than $1 a day (World Bank). Using this measure, global poverty is decreasing; as of 2004 “only” about 1 in 5 people world-wide lived in poverty (but almost half of the world’s population lives below $2 per day). 850 million people, right now, are going hungry.

Unfortunately, the world just can’t afford to feed these people. After all, it would cost over $24 billion per year for 10 years to end hunger (Food and Agriculture, UN, World Food Summit: five years later, in June 2002).

Oh – but wait – let’s put that $24b in perspective.

Worldwide, there are over 15 billion cigarettes sold – about $2.25b – per DAY. Plus, smoking adds huge costs to healthcare ($76b per year in the US), drops productivity, and increases waste (World Health Tobacco Atlas)

In 2002, the US spent $22b on potato chips and salty snacks (World Watch Magazine, March/April 2005).

And the “first world” throws out far more than $25b/year. For example, the UK alone uses 8,000 tons of wrapping paper each Christmas (Guardian).

So if you’re keen to make a New Year’s resolution – consider this: While 1.1 billion live on $1/day, many of us spend over $100/day. If all of us in this category were to put just 5¢ per day into a fund, hunger could end in under 10 years.

It’s not a financial problem – it’s problem of will. Again – emotional intelligence needed here!! Maybe it’s time for us to be hungry for change.

leaf in the river

With Age Comes Wisdom? Emotional Intelligence Through the Years

More about this…

The new White Paper by the Six Seconds EQ Network found that there is a correlation between age and emotional intelligence — but it’s slight and not true for all parts of EQ. Previous research by BarOn and Salovey & Mayer also showed that EQ increases with age. What’s new here is that on the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment there were some areas that did not increase.

Researcher Lorenzo Fariselli of Six Seconds Italia (www.6seconds.it) conducted the analysis,

“The finding suggests emotional intelligence is a developing ability; it is likely that accumulated life experiences contribute to EQ.”

The study also challenges many popular beliefs about “with age comes wisdom” and the widespread perception of a “generation gap” in motivation and altruism. The relationship between EQ and age is very slight – meaning there while a majority of older people are higher in EQ, there are many young people with higher EQ scores than their older counterparts. In addition, some of the aspects of EQ can only be developed through training. So in an era where emotional intelligence is a critical competence for success, this finding shows that young people committed to their own development have a edge.

Massimiliano Ghini is President of Six Seconds Italia and a leading authority on using emotional intelligence to improve business results. His hypothesis of the link between “Give Yourself” and age comes from the responsibilities of adulthood:

“For many people, adulthood and aging introduce increased need and opportunity to connect with and lead others – for example engaging a team or developing an organization’s vision. As people age they have more opportunities to practice these skills.”

Again, the link between age and Give Yourself is modest – so age is no guarantee for vision and wisdom.

Read the White Paper: Emotional Intelligence and Age.