Observing and Learning From Stories

Experience is not what happens to a man;

It is what a man does with what happens to him.

                                                                Aldous Huxley


Our brains are influenced by bias.  We know how hard it is to see new things accurately because of our automatic “blinders”.  But, as it turns out, our brains have a compensating mechanism:  our brains are shaped to learn from stories. Stories are universal.  They capture our attention and teach us.  When you begin the process of building your Mindful Compass, you will use your own story to show as positively as possible, how you understand relationships, even during your childhood.  Such personal stories, thoughtfully written can influence your mental heath.[1]. (Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson Sep 8, 2011).  In addition, stories help us reflect on how social systems work and may give us ideas on how we can alter our participation in them. Reflection deepens our knowledge base.


Listening to stories makes it possible to think for self.  You are turning things over in your own mind.  You are not doing it for anyone else. If you do it well you derive patterns from stories that help you to see and to be more aware of relationship traps and how principles are useful during difficult times.  This is completely different from someone telling you that “these are the eight steps to becoming a great leader”, which you can memorize and spout back for Monday’s test.


Reflection, in the moment, allows us to manage our feelings.  Let’s say you are mad because someone taunted you, but instead of feeling and then acting you reflect and consider your past.  It is easier to gain control when you see this moment is built onto many other memories. Once you recall how your sister taunted you, and that the person taunting you now is not your sister, managing your feelings becomes easier.  You have taken the time to learn from your life story.  This makes it possible for you to identify your sensitivities, strengths and values.  History is a guide to seeing when we fall into traps or are on automatic pilot.  Being mindful allows us to see the system around us, almost in slow motion. This gives us time to adjust our actions and reactions.


I am sure some will still ask, is this really so important? And what about when my family stories are not very accurate? Can stories really be useful in understanding social systems?  What have stories taught us over the ages?


First, there is a long tradition of stories in human culture.  Stories have been used through the ages to convey lessons. There is also evidence that stories are appealing and fit well with the way our brains developed.  There is a natural process of emergence, of defining a self, for each person. It is far easier to see this unfolding of one’s essence in other forms of life, as when a flower grows.  This flower grows in Maui, reminding us of the beauty of growth. But is there a way to see ourselves and to see others better to help us with the pains of growth?


From the Greeks to Alice


Let’s go back to the earliest recorded stories, the Greek myths, so we can see how stories helped people understand nature. The battles of the gods helped people understand the importance of social standing among one’s peers, to see and fear jealousy, to know about revenge and to see what happens when one decides to undertake a quest. In addition the Greeks told us stories that explained the changing seasons.




These fictional stories presented the Greek people with an entertaining, cognitive map that explained in a simple way why the seasons changed.  The stories may not have accurately explained the reason for the changing seasons, but they did help people calm down and prepare for changes in the weather. And they were accurate enough to give future scientists something to build on.




Bit by bit, science threw out the subjective part of the story and saved the testable, repeatable facts.  So now we know that every six months, winter will come.   But to feel winter, to taste fresh falling snow, to smell the clean air, to enjoy the thrill of sledding down a hill, to enjoy the warmth of a fire, that is all subjective.  Stories often take us on an enjoyable journey while we learn the facts.




These kinds of old stories often gave our ancestors guidelines for how to live. Be wary of false pride. Be thrifty. Take care of your neighbor. Seek wisdom. Many of these take away points are still useful.  So we know that values are transmitted in stories and still hold as important and useful over time.




We also learn from the characters in our more modern day stories like Alice, in her story, Alice in Wonderland.   She tells us about her journey and gives us insights into the strangeness of life.  Happily her adventure entertains, warns and does not really scare us. With Alice, we fall down the rabbit hole, meet various characters, and observe how she relates to them. She must stare down the wicked Queen to emerge as solid self and she does.  By identifying with Alice, we too are encouraged to withstand difficulty while learning, even in the midst of chaos and confusion.  Alice is a fictional character who makes us smile and gives us hope that in the search for who we are and how we can get to where we want to be, the smiling Cheshire Cat will be on our side.




Much of what we learn in telling out own story reduces fear and negative stories about others.  Consider that without knowledge people react negatively to even frogs, but with knowledge we learn frogs have a fascinating history and might even be good to eat.

“ Frogs are symbolic of re-creation, and keepers of the secrets of transformations. The Olmec tribes created images of a toad god of rebirth, eating its own skin. It is reborn by consuming itself, caught in a cycle of death and rebirth, like people, and like the natural world itself. In many ancient Chinese tales and legends, the toad is a trickster and a magician, a master of escapes and spells. But he is also the keeper of the real, powerful secrets of the world, such as the secret of immortality. Many legends involve a wandering wise man called Liu Hai and his three-legged toad companion Ch’an Chu. The toad knows the secret of eternal life, and for his friendship reveals the secret to the wise man. In Japan a similar legend involves the Gama-Sennin, also known as Kosensei, a wise old man with a hunched body and a warty face. Kosensei wanders the land with his toad companion, who teaches him the secret powers of herbs, including the secret of immortality.  Interestingly, many of these Asian tales refer to the secret of immortality as a fungus growing from the toad’s forehead. It has been suggested that this may be a link to the many shamanistic traditions of the Americas, where hallucinogenic compounds derived from frogs and toads are used for religious rituals of communion with the spirit world and self-transcendence.” (http://www.exploratorium.edu/frogs/folklore/folklore_2.html)

Solving problems is a big deal.  In his book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998), E.O. Wilson notes that stories can help us solve problems. His hypothesis is that the universal human disposition for art, religion and stories functions to allow the brain to cut loose from rigid programmed instinctual behaviors. He gives us the following important insight into the function of stories as the brain copes with the challenges, uncertainty and confusion that come with confronting problems. Stories work, because they are useful.


“The human needed to ritualize and express through magic the abundance of the environment, the power of solidarity, and other forces which mattered the most to survival and reproduction.”

Stories are an art form, allowing us to communicate all at once, many levels of knowledge. Forces are understood in a simulated reality. We infer profound knowledge from stories. Stories create mental models that enable us to see new ways to solve complex and emotionally disturbing problems.


Harvard professor Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct, Words and Rules, talks about stories as mental models. Now there is a new field, evolutionary psychology, which David Buss explores in his book, Evolution: The New Science of the Mind.  It considers how evolutionary principles shaped the mind, allowing for the adaptive function of imagination, including stories.


On the psychological level, an individual’s life story, as reported by Annie Murphy Paul in her book The Cult of Personality, is far more reliable than any of the many more popular personality tests. One’s life story is the best predictor  of what the future might bring for an individual. Plus, there is the stunning finding that there is a positive relationship between the coherence of one’s story and one’s psychological well-being.


The lives of spiritual teachers such as Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Mother Theresa and others, demonstrate the importance of principles in developing one’s Mindful Compass. Look at the lives of these people and you will see that their values were matched by their actions. And the principles that are communicated in their life stories continue to be used for inspiration and guidance.


Family systems therapists encourage individuals to rebuild relationships within their family and thereby have a better story to tell.  Since relationship changes are possible, then of course your dreams and aspirations will change as you better understand your life story. The more resilient and flexible you are the more adaptive your Mindful Compass will be because it holds the knowledge base you are building.


Are Your Ready to Write Your Personal Stories:


A good starting point to help you see how relationships have influenced your leadership skills is to look at your relationships with five people who played significant roles in your life. (You do not have to start with your family, although you can if you want to.) Who deeply and positively influenced you? Growth does not happen in a vacuum, it happens in the middle of significant relationships within a social system.


Understanding how to improve your functioning in a social system does not require you to be a political scientist, but it does ask that you be more aware of the way you think about and react to the people in your work, family, recreational and other environments.


However, it is the nature of social systems and our brain to blind us to the wired nature of these very same social systems. But for those of you who wish to have more control over your internal guidance systems, and thus an enhanced leadership position within your group, identifying five people who have influenced you is a celebration of your individual wisdom.


In your relationships with these five people you may have been dealing with a difficult challenge, an opportunity, or you may simply have been negotiating your particular role or place within a system. It does not matter what the events were, only that they were important to you and caused you to change in some way.


After you identify these five people who have been important to you in your life, write a brief summary/story of each of the events involving them. (If you want to skip ahead a few pages, you’ll find helpful hints on how to do this and suggestions about how to get started.)


What you learn from your stories will show you how to state your intentions, beliefs and goals without high emotionality, making it less likely that you will be sideswiped by emotional ambushes.


The goal is for you to be a leader who is not limited by your past. Instead, you will be able to build on the knowledge that comes from understanding your part in the charged interactions of everyday life that occur within any wired system.


There’s another bonus: Leaders know that people are looking for their hot buttons. Wouldn’t it be great to have a mute on your hot buttons? You will: It’s called disciplined self-knowledge.


Understanding how your strengths and weaknesses developed from interacting with various people in your life is the foundation for your future growth. Remember that the periods of fruitful growth (times when you were able to advance your goals or ideas) and the times of necessary retreat (when you felt overwhelmed by the odds against you) are equally significant. Who were the important people in your life who made a significant difference at those times? Write their names in the box below. (This is, after all, your book.)






Every name will connect you to a story.  The story may be about something you heard or saw or something that someone said or did that affected you in a positive way that made a significant difference in your life. It may have been a parent, a teacher, a friend or even an enemy who (perhaps unwittingly) taught you to see, think or act differently. Little by little, as you tell yourself these stories, you will be describing the emotional forces that influenced you then and continue to influence you today.


One way to begin retracing your emergence as a leader is to pick any conflict in which you remember making a breakthrough change in your way of dealing with people. Remember, it’s not always what happened to you that is important, but how you responded that makes the difference. Whatever the experience, reflection and awareness are the keys to profiting from it.


If you find this task somewhat daunting, encourage yourself by remembering that once you have formulated your stories about the five important people in your life, and have seen afresh how you reacted to important others during times of challenge and growth, you will have a better idea of how you became who you are today. You will see how those individuals and your interactions with them helped shape the way you react to events now. This newly heightened knowledge of yourself will enable you to make any needed changes as you begin to rely more on your personal and proven strengths.


You may be thinking, “So what? I have thought about these stories and these people millions of times.” If so, consider Schopenhauer’s words: “Thus the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.”


One example: Five Essential Elements in My Life Story


I have distilled the components of a life story to five essential elements, phrased as questions, to help you write your own stories, and I’ve given examples from my own life to help you get the gist.


1.  Was there confusion or conflict that led you into a relationship with someone who became important to you?


  • When I was sent away to boarding school, I was at first confused but was then befriended by a nun, Sister Mary de Sales, who saw that I had the potential to be a good athlete. She came into my room one morning and said she had a dream that I was going to be the best athlete in the school. I asked her how she knew and she said she had seen me playing kickball the night before. I asked her what I had to do to become the best athlete and she told me.


2.  How did this relationship help you to build on your strengths (and perhaps decrease your annoyance with your own foibles)?


  • Sister Mary de Sales actually played kickball with me. She helped me laugh at my shortcomings (especially spelling and grammar) and encouraged my strengths (athletics and humor) to persevere.


3. How did this person enable or encourage your desire to change for the better?


  • Sister Mary de Sales was the faculty representative to the athletics department on campus. She came to all the games and gave me realistic feedback on my performance.


4. Were you able to incorporate your new behavior into a leadership position in your group?

  • Sister Mary De Sales’ belief in me made it easier to go early to practice and stay late. This increased my ability to perform well on the field. Also, because she was a prominent person on campus, my peers noticed her encouragement and belief in me. This probably helped my standing and may have influenced people to elect me president of the athletic association.


5. Was there any negative kickback from the group or from the relationship system as a result of your new position?


  • In this case, there was no reaction that I knew about. Some of the kids teased me about being a teacher’s pet. But overall, the risk of being teased vs. the training I received made me think being teacher’s pet was a positive thing.

Sister Mary De Sales and Andrea at my Georgetown Visitations 50th High School Reunion 2010.


Managing Emotional Reactivity

Although my story about Sister Mary de Sales is told without a great deal of emotionality, this relationship made a significant difference in how I was able to perform throughout my life. I saw the valuable impact that one person can have on another’s life. It is very possible that this experience enabled me to see the importance of choosing a profession, family therapy, which would allow me to have a similar influence on the lives of other people.


If I had chosen a more difficult relationship to use as an example, maybe with my mother, father or brothers, one that revealed adventures and disasters before the age of separation from my nuclear family, the story would very likely have contained both more emotion and more meaning.  But anyone thinking about these sorts of stories, even the simplest, most straightforward stories, needs to understand that grasping their meaning takes time. It takes time to integrate any emotional experience into a positive way of thinking.  To see the ups and downs of life as an adventure is a long-term advantage to our health. Each emotionally important story represents the tip of an iceberg of knowledge, and it takes effort to clarify the deep significance.


Deep Reflection on our Reactions to Life

I’ll add just one other’s person’s thoughts about stories and their significance before you start writing. Robert McKee, winner of 18 Academy Awards, writes in his book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting that, “Experience is overrated for a writer. … For most writers, the knowledge they gain from reading and study equals or outweighs experience, especially if that experience goes unexamined. Self-knowledge is the key—life plus deep reflection on our reactions to life.” McKee encourages us to write our stories “around a perception of what is worth living for, what is worth dying for, what is foolish to pursue, the meaning of justice, truth—the essential values.”


So go for it!  Write your stories as best you can, and have some fun doing it. Then keep them in mind as you read the rest of this chapter.  Once you have written and thought about your stories, you can move on to the next level of challenge. Ask yourself if these vignettes are good enough to present to the people who were the players in them. Are you curious to know if these people like your memories? Do you wonder how they might react to them? Do you think they remember the events your stories depict the same way you do? Or will their memories be different? By now you probably realize that the others involved will not remember your stories just as you do, and that their feelings about them will differ from yours.


So perhaps you hesitate, and with good reason. Checking in with these people to find the relationship “facts” can put you in the middle of a storm as each of you sorts out divergent memories. However, despite the emotional cost, talking to the other people involved in your stories is the best way to see how factual your own memories are.  This in turn can give you valuable insight into just how much you have been or are being influenced by other people’s viewpoints. (And by now you know this is important information about how you function as a leader in any social system.)


This is not an easy assignment. When you go in search of the facts you will be stepping out of character, stepping off Shakespeare’s stage, so to speak, and not performing your usual, expected role. This can upset the others involved and provoke a strong response from them. When that happens you can really feel what it is like to be in a social system. Do you want to react or not?


If your goal is to grow, then you do not want to react by climbing back on Shakespeare’s stage and resuming your old role. Whatever responses you get to your story, be they big or small, your job is to remain as neutral and calm as possible. The goal is to try to be emotionally separate (remember East on your Mindful Compass) as you explore the dimensions of the social system you see emerging around you.


If you have a relationship with someone that goes back in time, you already know that there are expected ways of relating. Often a dominance order has been established. This is true in friendships as well as in family and work situations. If, in the process of telling your story and experiencing the other person’s reactions, you can keep from reacting by re-creating the old relationship dynamic, you will know at a cellular level that you have created a healthy space between yourself and others, a space from which you can observe and think and plan ahead.


The Love Lock

It is this new space that can help reduce the influence of automatic systems alignments, or what I like to call the force of the “Love Lock.”  Getting in step with others whom you know, love and appreciate, or perhaps even need, is automatic. It is dynamic, yet it can be dangerous because it blinds you to what is really going on.


Are you a leader who can maintain a detached, non anxious and objective stance while gathering information and interacting with others in a sometimes highly charged atmosphere? If so, you have an extremely valuable skill. There are many leaders who can’t do this, and who are not even interested in trying. Leaders who have trouble maintaining a separate self that is strong enough to deal with others who have differing opinions tend to create corporate “yes” cultures. Surrounded by yes-people, these leaders lose all ability to deal with dissent, which in turn makes it almost impossible for them to take in new or contradictory information. This is one way in which leaders become isolated and find themselves in serious trouble. Just recall Enron, where the lack of information that diverged from the party line weakened the system and surely helped bring it crashing down.  (And the people who were raising the warning flags were systematically ignored or “punished” for not being team players.)


Separating Fact and Fantasy

It can be hard to reflect about our past to say nothing of ourselves, but perhaps a new trend is developing. Perhaps understanding how we gain our strengths is going to become commonplace. It may be that all good to great leaders will know and be able to easily tell us, short versions of their stories. In fact, we can find examples of that today.


For example, in the July 2, 2006, issue of The New York Times, I saw a story titled “Descendent of Strong Women.” In the article, Sharon L. Allen, Chairman of Deloitte & Touche until recently, recounted the strengths in her early family relationships. Her great-grandmother was one of the first women in the Idaho State Legislature. No one expected Sharon Allen to become the Chairman of an $8 billion organization, but she knew that her nightly walks with her Dad to check out the crops on the family farm had given her first-hand knowledge of the value of attention to detail and how hard a person must work to make things turn out right. Her parents always stressed the importance of independence, saying she could do anything she set her mind to do. So there it was, an entertaining personal story of how one woman used well her family-gained strengths.


Stories can be a quick way to look at our degree of factual orientation. Can we find evidence supporting the so-called facts in our or others’ stories, or is the “information” suspect? In Sharon Allen’s story the fact is that she discovered a link between her life and the history of female leaders in her family. We don’t know exactly what happened on her walks with her Dad, although her current life points to something positive. But we can find out the facts of her great-grandmother’s life as a political leader.


We all tend to either idealize or to be overly negative about our relationships with our near and dear.] So be prepared: As you write your family stories, you may find that some of what you are writing is more fantasy than fact. This discovery is not necessarily a bad thing, however. There is nothing better that becoming more accepting of our selves and of others as we really are, something the truth can help us do. Another advantage to listening to our own and others stories is that the soft spots in our lives can translate into greater empathy. This is important because legitimate leaders have the dual challenge of being clear about who they are, while remaining open and somewhat empathetic about their own and others’ foibles.


The Comfort of Blinders

Most people would agree that it is our thinking that directs each of us because our thinking determines our actions, which in turn give life to our deeply held beliefs and goals. As I noted earlier, goals can become reality only in the context of a social system. Social systems are made up of complicated, entangled, wired relationships. Once you define a goal and begin taking steps to accomplish that goal in relationship to others and within social systems, you will begin to discover (whether you want to or not) just how provocatively social systems are organized.


For one thing, you will encounter resistance to your goals and ideas, (“South” on your Mindful Compass). I sometimes kid people, saying, “You don’t have to look at the resistance. You can put on those old-fashioned relationship blinders any time you feel like it. But if you want to learn in order to create a better future, just peek out from those blinders once in a while to see what is really going on.”


Blinders, as I mentioned earlier, have a purpose and an advantage. Mother Nature gave them to us not only so that we could focus exclusively on that lion about to pounce, but also so that we would not have to be constantly looking for and trying to solve relationships problems. Blinders allow us to relax and let our so-called “unconscious mind” work on problems for a while. Many of yesterday’s problems are solved in the shower. It is funny but true, that while we are preoccupied with some other, more mundane task, our brains will solve difficult problems in surprising ways. That’s just how the mind works.


In the best of all possible worlds, we might put on these comfortable blinders as we attend to some automatic task, and then slowly take them off to assess the swirl of relationship activity going on in our social system. You can peek out and see the people around you knocking into one another, or assess the effects on someone you just accidentally ran over.


In the not-so-best of all possible worlds, we keep the blinders on too long or, even worse, never take them off. People who do this are pretend leaders, blind to the activity and events happening in the swirling social system. The seriously blind say, “People do not influence me,” or “They made me do it.” The more thoughtfully aware individuals are able to take the relationship blinders off, and see both the part they play in events and just how others influence them.


Social Influence: To Pay Attention or Not

One of my favorite social psychologists, Robert B. Caldini, described in 1984, the weapons of influence:  reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity.[2] He encourages us to take a stand against those who seek to influence us by tricks. So read his books.  He gives us great examples of how our “free will” is eroded by the short cuts embedded in our brain.


We are all subject to undue influence and have no defense against it other than awareness of the ways our brains are subject to social influence. The togetherness force is powerful, relying on many social tricks.  (Come this way Alice, everyone else is going.  Try Facebook, you will  love it.)  But these and other social blinders are necessary.  We need shorts cuts: the food is over there; the jobs are available in that building.  But people can also use short cuts, like the “let’s all do it”, leading to spontaneous riots in our cities.   These kinds of short cuts, like following the crowd, enable us to react quickly and to narrow our focus.  We can act without thinking knowing others are with us.


Too much information can be a serious handicap in some situations, such as when your office building’s fire alarm is clanging, or when you have to spend some serious time balancing your checkbook. In those instances, you have to look only at the problem and block everything else out. Yet these sometimes comfortable and very functional blinders can also become a burden, especially when they keep us from noticing the clues to changes occurring in the systems in which we live and work.


The Force Is Inside the System

Getting back to that best of all possible worlds, it’s clear that, to accomplish your goals, you need to be able to adapt and alter your “blinder” status when conditions change. (And conditions change constantly in social systems.) You also need to know about the very real forces inside social systems that can limit or enhance your ability to accomplish your goals, depending on how well you are able to respond to them. (And that, of course, has a lot to do with your blinder status.) For example, the assignment of roles in a social group appears to be a function of deep and impersonal social forces.


Research suggests that many such unseen relationship forces and pressures are impersonal, but that the ways in which we respond to them become personal and are hard wired into our brains. Once we perceive a threat or even a need from the group, our automatic response system kicks in. This is not necessarily a good thing, since it might mean that we respond in anger or in fear, from an emotional base rather than from a rational look at our feelings and reactions. But someone who is paying attention, who has the blinders off and is therefore more aware, might be able to control the tendency to react automatically and instead think his or her way through or around such needs, threats or other social problems.


The well-documented fight-or-flight response gives us clues to the automatic nature of our primitive guidance system. Most of the time, we respond and react to the forces and events around us without much thought, just as we do in a fight-or-flight situation. Only when a crisis challenges this automatic way of responding do we have to stop and look and listen, and then often, if we have no compass, just hope that we make the right decision. Then later, some of us will be able to reflect on the experience and try to learn from what went right and what went wrong.


There are some general characteristics of the ways our brains have been sensitized to perceive the world around us. As I said earlier, we are cause-and-effect thinkers. We have great difficulty seeing how one thing is connected to another without making the one thing (or person) the cause of the other or the cause of the problem. But once you get beyond this limited perspective (blinders off), you can enter the world of systems thinking where small moves, like the wings of a butterfly, can make big changes.


Resistance, and Learning from Relationships

Whenever a leader introduces a new objective or goal to the group, some degree of resistance to that objective or goal is sure to occur. Something similar happens when a leader tries to tell his or her story. It’s almost inevitable that the other people who were “players” in that story will resist, or disagree with some fact, or part of it. So telling your story becomes an exercise in communicating your viewpoint, knowing full well that there are a lot of other viewpoints out there that are just as legitimate as yours.


Your memory of exactly what happened during any critical life event is not going to be the same as the memories of the other people involved. There are a few exceptions. No one argues with Mother Nature when she tells the story of how relationships influenced her position in the cosmos. “That’s just the way it is,” says Mother Nature. But for the rest of us, telling our story can be a workout or a discovery of our deeper passions, or both.


People learn so much in relationships that it seems unbelievable that we do not focus more attention on just how this “learning” takes place. Yes, personal learning is costly in terms of risks, and being open is never easy. But having the strength to share your story with others without being invested in gaining love and approval as a consequence is a good workout. You can do it only when you see it as a way to enable yourself or others to learn.


Thinking about how important relationships have been to you in your role as a leader (and in becoming a leader in the first place), and reading about other leaders who describe the significant difference that relationships have made in their lives, will, hopefully, help bring this kind of personal learning into clearer focus. The goal is to show how the details of a life can reveal a person’s level of awareness about relationship influences and, to some degree, predict the person’s ability to function well in the future. Stories allow people to build on their underlying strengths and even to learn from their weaknesses.


We know that one key to becoming a more successful leader is to gain awareness of the automatic forces occurring within our business (or political, academic or family) systems. This awareness allows a person to make decisions based on facts, not as a reaction to something happening or to pressure from within the system. You could even say that being a thoughtful leader is about strategy versus shooting from the hip.


The assumption here is that social (and leadership) skills emerge and improve almost serendipitously as a person begins to understand more about his or her life and the principles underlying the various social systems we all inhabit. We can take on this adventure at the personal or intellectual level. It does not matter where you begin or how you proceed.  It only matters that both these bodies of knowledge become more integrated and useful to you.


It is as clear as a bright summer day, or a beautiful sunset, that those of us who aspire to do better than meagerly survive must pay close attention to how we manage self in relationship systems. Social research is also clear that the more we know about what makes social systems tick, the greater the probability that we will be happier, more effective individuals in them. Knowledge does count. But this book is not about the wise controlling the less wise. It is about becoming wise through trial-and-error learning. It embraces the notion that there is more to a successful life than the luck of the genetic draw and the circumstances of our early lives. For those of you willing to act for self by learning about how you have managed or mismanaged relationships, there is a new opportunity knocking at your door.



I am very appreciative to Judy Ball, for her editing patience and expertise.




1)Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson (Sep 8, 2011)

2) Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting,Robert McKee

 3) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, 2002, Malcolm Gladwell

4) Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature and Literature, 2004, Joseph Carroll (2004)

5) The Cult of Personality Testing, 2005, Annie Murphy Paul

6) The Language Instinct, 1995, Steven Pinker

7) Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, 1977, Murray Bowen, M.D.

8)Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, 2011, David Buss

9) Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1999, E.O. Wilson

10) Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, PhD,


I am very appreciative to Judy Ball, for her editing patience and expertise.



1) Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1999, E.O. Wilson


2) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, 2002, Malcolm Gladwell

3) Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature and Literature, 2004, Joseph Carroll (2004)

4) The Cult of Personality Testing, 2005, Annie Murphy Paul

5) The Language Instinc, 1995, Steven Pinker

7) Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, 1977, Murray Bowen, M.D.

8) Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind,  2011, David Buss

9)  Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson (Hardcover – Sep 8, 2011)

[2] Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, PhD,


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