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This is the first of a series of comments on David Brooks’ book.

David Brooks nails it with his new book,The Social Animal.  After looking at all the great research going on these days into human behavior, one of his core conclusions is that the emotional connections we make throughout life determine who we are, and who we can become.

Brooks cites several research studies about the importance of student-teacher connection when it comes to student achievement. One comment from a great interview on San Francisco’s KQED radio show, “Forum” with Michael Krasny: “I came across one researcher who said that if you want to know who is going to drop out of school, go into… when you go into a school and ask the kid, ‘Who’s your favorite teacher?,’ and if they give you an answer to that question, that kid will not drop out.  If they look at you as if that question is absurd then those kids are at risk.”

That human connection is even more important than grades and SAT scores.  It’s about self-determination, which is so critical to happiness and productivity.

When asked about how to help children develop good character, Brooks advised an East Bay teacher to be herself, because “When I think back on my teachers it’s not really the curriculum that I remember. It’s the way, their way of being in the world that I could emulate.”

Think about your way of being. It’s my strong conviction that each of us can cultivate a stronger, more genuine and singular way of being. And if you do, you’re well on your way to an autonomous, self-directed life—a life that’s more yours and thus more joyous.

There are many ways to become more autonomous: listen and act on your daydreams, and as Joseph Campbell advised, “Find quiet time alone every day where “you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation.”

And most of all, to be autonomous, emulate those people who have an appealing way of being.

Below, David Brooks’ recent TED talk:

Coming soon: more commentary on David Brooks and The Social Animal. Please follow me on Twitter, too, for additional comments.

Cheers from Sonoma,
Donald Van de Mark

I want your feedback!  Which of the 19 traits are you studying, and how are you incorporating them into your daily life?  Connect with me on:
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About the author

Donald Van de Mark
Donald Van de Mark is the author of The Good Among the Great: 19 Traits of the Most Admirable, Creative and Joyous People.



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One Response to “Your Way of Being —Trait #1, Autonomous”

  1. […] intuitive to most of us, we do have options all the time to be good, bad or lax. And as David Brooks writes in his marvelous book, The Social Animal, “We are born with moral muscles that we can […]