Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Like it or not

Twilight at Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich, CT. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015. Very warm summer day, less humid, yesterday in New York. JH went up to Tamarack Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club in Westchester to play golf for the Alan T. Brown Foundation's 27th Annual Golf & Tennis Tournament. I went over to Sette Mezzo to lunch with an old friend. We talked about the world, the climate, the changing behavior and the madness of crowds. And Donald Trump.

There were those who expressed surprise to read about his Presidential bid on these pages. Many misinterpreted it, or didn’t really read it. It was not proposing or supporting his candidacy; it was pointing out that he has brought many issues with the voters up to the surface. Like it or not. His numbers reflect the growing dismay the voters have with all politicos. That is why there is a large positive response showing for him in the polls. I even know people who are writing checks for other candidates but say they will vote for Trump.
Where politicos are long forgotten. I got an email yesterday announcing a 90 minute Walking Tour here in Manhattan this coming Saturday, led by writer Peter Salwen entitled “Mark Twain’s New York.”

The tour includes stops at more than two dozen Twain-related landmarks and sites, including the house in Greenwich Village where he composed his “Autobiography.”The tour will start at 500 Broadway, between Broome and Spring. The ticket is $20.

For more information and reservations, email MTNY@salwen.com or call 917-620-5371.
Mark Twain on Fifth Avenue, accompanied by his daughter Clara Clemens.
Also visit the website: www.MarkTwainsNewYork.com. I did that immediately and soon found myself steeped in a piece by Mr. Salwen about Mark Twain in the city. Mark Twain would have had quite a bit to say about the upcoming Presidential election and Donald Trump and all the rest of them. You’d be laughing, surrendering agreement by the time he was finished.

He was at his peak as a best-selling, highly recognized American author in the last quarter of the 19th century, and died at 75 in 1910. If you know nothing about Samuel Clemens a/k/a Mark Twain, this article about him and his time in New York will make you understand why a century after his death, his “Autobiography” was a best-seller. It will also make you want to take the tour. And be glad you’re in New York in the United States of America.
14 West 10th Street, where Mark Twain lived from 1900 to 1901.
Last week in the Big Apple. I had lunch on Wednesday with Joan Kingsley who is in from London with her husband Philip to spend the month of August in Quogue. This was a sort-of social visit, as we are old friends. We met doing Summer Stock together in Lake Placid in 1967. Joan is easy to befriend. She has one of those accessible personalities that people feel comfortable with almost immediately. She is an empathic character. She likes people and she’s interested.

Joan and Philip Kingsley.
Joan Kingsley and her daughters, Kate and Annabel Kingsley.
Our professional paths diverged. She met Philip Kingsley sometime after that and eventually moved to London where Philip has his headquarters in Mayfair. They have two daughters, Kate (Katherine Kingsley), an author; and Annabel, who has joined her father in his business. In the meantime Joan became a psychotherapist. I don’t know much about her practice as I never ask a shrink about their patients/clients, but she did tell me that she has many professional men.

The subject at lunch: Joan has co-authored a book with Paul Brown and Sue Patterson called “The Fear-Free Organization; Vital Insights from Neuroscience to Transform Your Business Culture.” I’ve been hearing about it for more than a year, and now it is completed and published and she’s out there publicizing it.

This didn’t sound like a book that I’d pick up – a text-book about business organization lives, etc.? Honestly? No. Joan, understanding, told me specifically that she didn’t expect me to read it; that she knew it wasn’t my must-read. Frankly, I’d never given a conscious thought to life in an organization, business or otherwise.

My only fulltime colleague is JH and we don’t work in the same building and never have. So no one’s around to annoy one. Needless to say, it’s been a very successful collaboration. However, last night, thinking about this day’s Diary and writing about my lunch with Joan, I felt compelled and/or obligated to at least have a look at what’s inside.

I started with Dr. Brown’s preface. He is a professor of Organizational Neuroscience; Joan my friend, a psychotherapist, has long had an intense interest in the links between brain systems and our psychological lives; and Dr. Patterson is an oil and gas professional with more than 3 decades working in business development, leadership development, learning and recruiting.

I learned in the first paragraph that this book is about neuroscience and its practical applications in one’s life. I recently read Oliver Sacks’ memoir “Moving Ahead.” Dr. Sacks, an eminent neuroscientist, a researcher as well as an MD, introduced me to it in a way that I could vaguely grasp. I learned how it has everything to do with all of us, all of us in the animal kingdom -- on a moment to moment, day to day reality.
DPC and Joan Kingsley at Michael's.
The name “neuroscience” is always intimidating to us non-scientifically inclined readers. There’s an easy chance you could wade in over your head. Yet the subject itself is so simple (yet complex) and in many ways so accessible to anyone’s understanding.

So I kept reading. Here is a taste of it. The subject is our emotions and their relationship to our brains where they have evolved and developed.

“Socially we have come a long way from our distant social origins. But it’s still our biological origins that drive us. When we understand ... the escape/avoidance  emotions are easier to trigger than the attachment /growth emotions, then we can easily see the single simple reason why organizations find it easier to run on fear.... the emotion easiest to trigger because it’s the one most closely connected with survival. It’s also the fastest route to burnout.”

Click to order "The Fear-free Organization: Vital Insights from Neuroscience to Transform Your Business Culture."
“... We will see that is much more productive in an organization to trigger the attachment emotions of excitement/joy and the trust/love than it is to encourage any of the fright/flight/fight emotions, with fear being the most destructive.”

I plucked those quotes from the early pages because they may as well have been addressed to me personally. This book is about me. It’s about you too. It’s about everyone – not as parts of an organization but as individuals --  because it’s about the human brain and how We are It.

Then I read the introduction which began with this quote from Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Aha! The opening sentence after that quote is: “Fear is one of the most powerful motivating forces in our working culture today. It is what an overwhelming majority of bosses use, deliberately or mindlessly to keep order ...”

It goes on to declare that the first quarter of this new century will be defined by advancing in biology taking place, especially “the brain sciences, from which an understanding of the neurobiology of the ‘Self’ – an understanding of the way the brain construct the person – will come.”

It’s about us. You, me, him, her. It’s about the You you know and what you don’t know about You. It’s an exploration you can’t resist, because it’s Yourself.

“The Fear-Free Organization; Vital Insights From Neuroscience to Transform Your Business Culture” is the title. From what I’ve read – and I’m nearly finished, I’d say the ideas therein might just transform your own mental culture just as well.