This is the happiest story you’ve ever read. It’s about two people who led wonderfully fulﬁlling lives. They had engrossing careers, earned the respect of their friends, and made important contributions to their neighborhood, their country, and their world.
And the odd thing was, they weren’t born geniuses. They did okay on the SAT and IQ tests and that sort of thing, but they had no extraordinary physical or mental gifts. They were ﬁne- looking, but they weren’t beautiful. They played tennis and hiked, but even in high school they weren’t star athletes, and nobody would have picked them out at that young age and said they were destined for greatness in any sphere. Yet they achieved this success, and everyone who met them sensed that they lived blessed lives.
How did they do it? They possessed what economists call noncognitive skills, which is the catchall category for hidden qualities that can’t be easily counted or measured, but which in real life lead to happiness and fulﬁllment.
First, they had good character. They were energetic, honest, and dependable. They were persistent after setbacks and acknowledged their mistakes. They possessed enough conﬁdence to take risks and enough integrity to live up to their commitments. They tried to recognize their weaknesses, atone for their sins, and control their worst impulses.
Just as important, they had street smarts. They knew how to read people, situations, and ideas. You could put them in front of a crowd, or bury them with a bunch of reports, and they could develop an intuitive feel for the landscape before them—what could go together and what would never go together, what course would be fruitful and what would never be fruitful. The skills a master seaman has to navigate the oceans, they had to navigate the world.
Over the centuries, zillions of books have been written about how to succeed. But these tales are usually told on the surface level of life. They describe the colleges people get into, the professional skills they acquire, the conscious decisions they make, and the tips and techniques they adopt to build connections and get ahead. These books often focus on an outer deﬁnition of success, having to do with IQ, wealth, prestige, and worldly accomplishments.
This story is told one level down. This success story emphasizes the role of the inner mind— the unconscious realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, character traits, and social norms. This is the realm where character is formed and street smarts grow.
We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness. Over the past few years, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, and others have made great strides in understanding the building blocks of human ﬂourishing. And a core ﬁnding of their work is that we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking. We are primarily the products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness.
The unconscious parts of the mind are not primitive vestiges that need to be conquered in order to make wise decisions. They are not dark caverns of repressed sexual urges. Instead, the unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind— where most of the decisions and many of the most impressive acts of thinking take place. These submerged processes are the seedbeds of accomplishment.
Excerpted from David Brook’s excellent book, “The Social Animal”.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
|—||Desiderata ~ Max Ehrmann (via ethandesu)|