23 July 2022

In this episode, William Green chats with Daniel Goleman, author of the blockbuster book “Emotional Intelligence.” It has sold over 5 million copies in about 40 languages, establishing him as the world’s leading expert on how emotional intelligence can boost performance and improve decision-making. In this conversation, he explains how investors can manage their emotions more effectively, so they can think more rationally, reduce stress, increase their focus, and strengthen their resilience.  

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  • How a famed Harvard psychologist inspired Daniel Goleman to study high performance.
  • How spiritual teachers like Ram Dass and Neem Karoli Baba led him to study meditation.
  • What neuroscientists have discovered about the impact of meditation on the brain.
  • How self-awareness helps us to manage our emotions and stay “balanced” amid chaos.
  • How to become more keenly aware of our fear and anxiety, so we can recover faster.
  • Why George Soros paid close attention to how he felt—emotionally and physically.
  • Why it’s risky to make big decisions when hungry, angry, lonely, tired, in pain, or stressed.
  • How the brain gets “hijacked” by sudden negative emotions—and what to do about it.
  • How Warren Buffett and Bill Miller succeed by reacting unemotionally to bad news.
  • How we can handle stressful situations by learning to think about them differently.
  • How a simple breathing exercise can help you to calm down and improve your focus.
  • Which meditation app Daniel Goleman and William Green both recommend.
  • How to deal with a barrage of information and distractions without losing your focus.
  • How meditation helps multibillionaire Ray Dalio think clearly and maintain his equanimity.
  • What Daniel Goleman has learned from his long-time relationship with the Dalai Lama.
  • How Daniel deals with difficult emotions by “sitting with them” until they dissipate.


Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

William Green (00:00:04):
Hi there. One thing I’ve learned over many years of interviewing great investors, is that they’re not just incredibly smart, they’re also remarkably good at managing their emotions. But, times when the average investor is getting yanked around by fear and greed or downright panic, the best investors tend to stay relatively calm and balanced. They’re not getting swept up in all those crazy short-term manic mood swings of the market. Instead, the most successful investors have the emotional self-control to think more clearly, and to stay focused on the long-term in a much more rational and dispassionate way.

William Green (00:00:43):
This ability to manage our emotions seems particularly important right now. As I’m sure you know, in the first six months of this year, the stock market got off to its worst start in more than half a century. A lot of investors are feeling pretty shaken up by these losses and now they’re increasingly worried about everything from surging inflation to the growing risk of a recession. So how can investors like you and me achieve the kind of equanimity, balance and peace of mind we need to succeed not only in financial markets, but in life.

William Green (00:01:18):
That’s really the key question we’re exploring in today’s episode of the podcast. Our guest today is Daniel Goleman, who’s one of the world’s leading experts on the science of emotion. Dan is the author of Emotional Intelligence, a blockbuster book that sold more than 5 million copies in about 40 languages over the last 25 years. He started out by getting his PhD in clinical psychology at Harvard, and he then spent many years writing about brain research as a science reporter for the New York Times.

William Green (00:01:51):
As you’ll hear in this conversation, there’s also another side of Dan’s life that makes him an ideal person to help us gain more control over our emotions. More than 50 years ago, he became a serious practitioner of meditation, traveling to India and Sri Lanka to study with famous teachers like Neem Karoli Baba. Back in those days, meditation seemed like a pretty eccentric and exotic activity to people here in the west, in the investment world. But, Dan was way ahead of the curve. These days, a lot of the most successful investors meditate regularly and routinely, including Ray Dalio, the hedge fund multi-billionaire. As Dan Goleman explains, meditation can be particularly valuable for investors because it helps us to make calm clearheaded decisions instead of getting sabotaged by our emotions.

William Green (00:02:44):
In this conversation, Dan shares a number of really practical lessons about what we can do when we’re flooded with emotion, including a very simple breathing exercise we can use to help restore our peace of mind. It talks about the benefits of recognizing early warning signs of stress and anxiety in your body so you can actually do something about it. He talks about how you can improve your focus in an era when we’re all being bombarded constantly by distractions. He also shares some of the most valuable lessons he’s learned from his friendship with the Dalai Lama. I hope you enjoy our conversation and find it as helpful as I did. Thanks so much for joining us.

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Intro (00:03:28):
You’re listening to the Richer, Wiser, Happier podcast, where your host, William Green, interviews the world’s greatest investors and explores how to win in markets and life.

William Green (00:03:48):
Hi, everyone. I’m absolutely delighted to be here with Daniel Goleman. It’s great to see you, Dan. Thanks a lot for joining us.

Daniel Goleman (00:03:54):
Oh, William. It’s my pleasure. I always enjoy talking to you.

William Green (00:03:58):
Thank you. I’d like to start by asking you about two people who I think had a very profound and probably life changing impact on you at a formative point in your life when you were working towards your PhD in clinical psychology at Harvard. And, in some ways I think these two people helped to set you on this extraordinary path that I would say, had an impact on many millions of people’s lives. So the first one is David McClelland. And in your book, Primal Leadership, you describe him as your first inspiration, and you say that his research and theories shaped much of your own work. So I wondered if you could tell us who he was, why he was such an important influence on you, and what you learned from him.

Daniel Goleman (00:04:35):
David was my mentor in graduate school. He was, at the time, probably one of the most famous living psychologists. He was known for his work on motivation. And, what affected me and set a direction for me was his later work, which was on the competencies that you find in star performers that you don’t find in average. This was a new idea at the time. He wrote a very influential article in the Main Psychology Journal saying, look, if you’re going to hire someone, don’t look at their grade point average, don’t look at their personality profile, look at someone in your own organization who exemplifies outstanding performance in that role. And then, compare them with people who are in the role who only have average performance, mediocre performance, and assess what competencies or abilities the stars have that you don’t see in the average, then hire people that look like the stars.

Daniel Goleman (00:05:29):
This became the theoretical or philosophical basis for what’s now called competence modeling. And, he was one of the pioneers of the competency movement. Most every major corporation in the world now has a competence model for its leaders. Sadly, too many of those models are made by asking leaders what they think matters instead of looking at empirical data on what matters so they may not be as sound, but I think McClelland’s work was so convincing and the others who became pioneers in the movement that companies everywhere now have these models. And I was able to look at more than a hundred of them when I wrote the follow up book, Emotional Intelligence.

Daniel Goleman (00:06:13):
Working with emotional intelligence, it was very clear that if you separated them in terms of which are based on purely cognitive ability, your IQ, technical skills and which are based on emotional intelligence, which means self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill, the top leadership is 80 to 90% based on emotional intelligence. That is to say the competencies that distinguish the star leaders from average are based on emotional intelligence. The reason for this is interesting, and it may make sense to your listeners. If you think about what it takes to get in the game, to be a successful investor, for example, you have to have a very high IQ, but you know what, so does everybody else.

Daniel Goleman (00:07:00):
That means that the threshold for entry into the field is a high IQ. So what’s going to distinguish you, isn’t your IQ, it’s going to be, how will you handle yourself? How will you tune into other people? It’s going to be your self-awareness, your self-management that sets you apart from the other high IQ investors that you’re, I guess, competing with in some sense. So when I wrote Emotional Intelligence, David McClelland was very influential. Along the way in graduate school, I ran into by sheer accident, a guy called Ram Dass, who was better known at Harvard as Richard Alpert. He was the first professor ever fired from Harvard University.

Daniel Goleman (00:07:42):
He was fired because he was famous along with Tim Leary for advocating the use of psychedelics. And when I ran into him, he had just come back from spending time in India and he was now going under the name Ram Dass, he wasn’t Richard Alpert anymore. He’d gone through a huge transformation. He was basically a Yogi.

William Green (00:08:02):
And he’d come from a wealthy family if I remember rightly right, he was a-

Daniel Goleman (00:08:06):
His father was CEO of the New Haven Railroad at one time.

William Green (00:08:10):
And when you met him, if I remember rightly, you met him in a farmhouse where he was playing the sitar and wearing white robes. This is a pretty big shift from the world of being a professor.

Daniel Goleman (00:08:20):
Well, it was actually his father’s country estate and Ram Dass was living in one little room, which probably was at one time the maid’s room, I don’t know. And he was all dressed in white and he had a long white beard. I didn’t know who he was when I met him. But then, when we started talking, it turned out, actually he had been very close to David McClelland. It was McClelland who hired him and McClelland was then the chair of the department. And McClelland also fired him because he was chair of the department.

Daniel Goleman (00:08:44):
And I invited Ram Dass back to Harvard for the first time since he’d been fired. And he gave a talk that was actually quite electrifying, but it wasn’t about psychology. Really, it was about the inner game of awakening, if you will. He went on for, I think, from 7 till 2 or something like that. And people were really entranced. But just to give you an idea of the difference between his view then, and that of the department I was in, remember I was in clinical psychology, so I was having lunch the next day with the professor who lean over to me and says, very conspiratorially really, “tell me, do you think he’s psychotic?” And I looked at this guy and I’m, who’s psychotic here, really? Because, what Ram said made a lot of sense to me. So anyway, those two were very influential.

William Green (00:09:31):
And what was so striking in being with Ram Dass that you didn’t see in other people, that you didn’t see in this kind of dry, slightly arid, but intellectually very rigorous world of the Harvard psychology department?

Daniel Goleman (00:09:43):
Well, Ram Dass had come from that world and he was a very popular professor. He was a charismatic lecturer already, and he continued to use that charisma as Ram Dass in his lectures. And I actually went to see his teacher whose name was Neem Karoli Baba, who was someone that unlike anyone I’d ever met before, he was absolutely centered, loving, present and actually didn’t seem to be motivated by the usual motivations. That was the expertise of David McClelland, motivation.

Daniel Goleman (00:10:20):
He told Ram Dass, don’t talk about me when you go back to the states. Ram Dass talked about them all the time. But, he wasn’t interested unlike a lot of the Indian gurus who came to America, not interested in power, not interested in money, not interested in all of the things that someone in that position could take advantage of. And he was just totally present in a way that I had never seen in my Harvard professors and some of the leading psychologists of the day, by the way.

William Green (00:10:48):
And so you just showed up at his ashram in India without an invitation without him knowing who you were. What did you do?

Daniel Goleman (00:10:55):
Well, I came with two other friends and we did what you do in India, which is called having Darshan, which we would call hanging out.

William Green (00:11:03):
It means something like, go and see, right? Something like that.

Daniel Goleman (00:11:06):
Just be with. Because, he radiated this interstate. And, when you were with him, you felt… as a friend of mine, Larry Brilliant who’s now a leading epidemiologist-

William Green (00:11:16):
Yeah and was head of the Google Foundation as well, right?

Daniel Goleman (00:11:19):
Yes, that’s right. Larry had also come to see Neem Karoli Baba and Larry put it really well. He said, “What was surprising wasn’t that he loved us, but then when we were with him, we loved everybody, too.” It was kind of an emotional contagion.

William Green (00:11:36):
Neem Karoli Baba if I remember had a big impact on people like Steve Jobs as well, right. There was something about him that was intoxicating to westerners who went to see him.

Daniel Goleman (00:11:45):
Well, Steve Jobs was the close friend of Larry, and I think it was Larry that persuaded Steve to go to India to see Neem Karoli Baba, but I’m not sure he ever actually saw him, but I know that his bedside reading included a book called the Miracle of Love, which is about in Neem Karoli Baba.

William Green (00:12:03):
And is Ram Dass’ book Be Here Now, which is kind of a fantastic book even now, a strange and kind of wonderful book, is that basically about Neem Karoli Baba as well? Is that the guru he’s talking about there?

Daniel Goleman (00:12:14):
Well, yes. That book, Be Here Now, was inspired by his stay with Neem Karoli Baba. And that book in turn became a best seller of the day. And I think was very inspiring. Ram Dass went on a lecture circuit after that and tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people went to hear him. What he talked about was the inner transformation.

William Green (00:12:35):
If I remember rightly Dan, you were actually bankrolled to go off to India and spend time researching this. And then, you came back and you wrote about meditation as an intervention for stress as part of your PhD program in the psychology department. Is that right?

Daniel Goleman (00:12:51):
It is right. But the detail’s a little more interesting. I had a fellowship actually from Ford Foundation that included a year of traveling study abroad, which I actually I didn’t know about. But then, I took advantage of when McClelland fronted for me saying, oh yes, he has serious research to do in India. And that allowed me to hang out with Neem Karoli and Lamas and Sufi and yogis. I was very interested in how meditative practices and related spiritual disciplines transform the mind and the heart.

Daniel Goleman (00:13:21):
And when I came back to Harvard, I thought I wanted to communicate this to other psychologists, but other psychologists weren’t very interested in the day. And, what I ended up doing was showing that meditation was a useful intervention in stress, which by now, decades later has been well established. But then, that was a radical idea.

William Green (00:13:43):
You said at the time that there were only three scientific papers on meditation, right? This must have seemed-

Daniel Goleman (00:13:50):
Well, William actually, by today’s standards, they were all somewhat dubious, they’re anecdotal reports. And two of them were anecdotal reports and one was a non peer reviewed publication. Our standards are higher these days. When I look at my dissertation, given the measurements we had decades ago, I don’t think it would be published today. Now, you would use brain imaging or you’d use much more sophisticated methodology. We didn’t have them back then.

Daniel Goleman (00:14:17):
So I would say this, that the hunch that I had that meditation really can help you be more calm and more focused has been tremendously well-validated. I finished a book published a couple years ago with a friend Richard Davidson, who was also a graduate student with McClelland at Harvard and Richie, as we call him, has gone on to become a world famous neuroscientist, University of Wisconsin. He and I wrote a book looking at the now thousands of peer reviewed articles on meditation, which shows very clearly there is a dose response relationship. The more you do it, the stronger the benefits are.

William Green (00:14:54):
It’s a brilliant book. We’ll hopefully talk much more about meditation later, but this is among other ways of controlling our emotions, both in investing and life. But this is a book called Altered Traits, which is on my table here behind me and I’ll put it in the show notes, but it’s a terrific book. So in a strange way, you were coming back as this exotic creature from India and I think Sri Lanka and coming back into this world that didn’t really know what had hit it, right? That wasn’t particularly interested in Eastern yogis.

William Green (00:15:21):
And so in some sense, is it fair to say that without maybe being conscious of it, you were somehow reconciling or bringing together these two very different worlds, the scientific realm of the Harvard psychology department and the realm of people like Ram Dass and Neem Karoli Baba, and their world of Eastern spirituality, where they’d been sitting around watching the brain for the last 2000 years. And, I think believed that you could change the brain, whereas Western psychology, am I right in thinking believed it was much more fixed?

Daniel Goleman (00:15:51):
Well, yeah, at the time when I came back, we didn’t have the understanding in neuroscience of neuroplasticity, that came much later. Neuroplasticity says, basically the more you exercise brain circuits, the stronger the connectivity between them becomes. This is now very well established. Then, no one even entertained that idea. Brain science was just beginning to emerge back in the day. And not only that, there was a lot of skepticism about the east when I wrote the book. So as you point out, I couldn’t really find a job that suited me in academia. After getting my PhD, I went into science journalism. I ended up at the New York Times and writing in science.

Daniel Goleman (00:16:32):
And, it was then that I wrote the book, Emotional Intelligence, which I was really thinking of people in the business world, in the education world. And the message was not one of, in Asia, they completely transformed their brains in mind, it was more, this will help you because the Western culture is very pragmatic. It’s like, what use is this? Can I focus better? Can I stay calm even in a turbulent situation? Think of an investor, your investment fails and all of a sudden you’re overwhelmed by fear or anxiety. How do you handle that?

Daniel Goleman (00:17:10):
Well, emotional intelligence speaks to that. And how do you stay focused, amidst all the distractions that we have today, emotional intelligence speaks to that. So I’ve really made a point of being more pragmatic, even though the way I think about it is deeply informed by what I’ve been exploring from Asia.

William Green (00:17:31):
So in a sense, you almost had to conceal the more spiritual part of your journey, because in a way it was so unconventional in those days, whereas now it’s probably much easier for you to talk about that openly.

Daniel Goleman (00:17:44):
Well, yeah, I think that the culture has changed enormously. Mindfulness is everyday news now. You mentioned I was in Sri Lanka, that was on a post-doc and I went to study with a monk named [Nana Panika Terra 00:17:58] who wrote about the mind and how to work with it and how to transform it, based on fifth century texts that were written as manuals for meditators. Nana Panika who actually was German by birth, but had been a monk since the twenties was a scholar of poly. And so he had access. And what I realized William, was there’s the psycho technology, which is well known in Asia, well established, it’s been functioning for thousands of years, literally, and that we know nothing about it in Western psychology until very recently. Very recently.

Daniel Goleman (00:18:35):
So, when I started looking into it, it was unknown. I faced a lot of actual open hostility about it, which probably encouraged me to be a little bit sub rosa at the beginning because things had not changed. And it may be that I and a host of other people had a hand in changing it. In India, I met someone named Joseph Goldstein who became one of the first major teachers of what’s called insight meditation and a whole generation. Sharon Salzberg, another name in that world.

Daniel Goleman (00:19:07):
I met Sharon and Delhi and I told her, hey, there’s this meditation course. So she went to Boga and learned what she now teaches. So, I guess I get some karma credit for all the good Sharon is.

William Green (00:19:17):
She’s an amazing teacher.

Daniel Goleman (00:19:19):
Yeah. But what I’m saying is that when we all started, this was very new in the west. And of course that small group can’t take credit for the transformation, but was part of it. And now it’s much easier to talk about these things.

William Green (00:19:33):
So you were at the New York Times, I think from about 1984 to ’96, and you were writing about this emerging behavioral science and all this new understanding of the brain. And my sense is, they weren’t particularly excited about some of this stuff. You started to want to write much more about this.

Daniel Goleman (00:19:50):
Well, what happened was, when I wrote the book, Emotional Intelligence, I went beyond what I had been able to write in The Times. I included actually some articles that I rewrote for the book, but most of it was based on a decade of research about emotions in the brain, which by the way, my friend Richard Davidson was a leader of that movement in neuroscience, which was very helpful to me. And I’ve always paid attention to the kind of scientific and neuroscientific underpinning of the things that I’m bringing say to the business world, because I think it’s important that it be rooted in something real, not just the fad of the day. And so my training as a science journalist has been very useful to me in the writings that I’ve been doing.

William Green (00:20:36):
I think it’s fair to say that all of us have been through a pretty stressful and challenging time over the last couple of years. And that all of us are kind of trying to figure out how to get our emotions under control. We’ve had the pandemic, we’ve the war in Ukraine, we’ve got inflation surging at the highest rate in 40 years, the stock market’s been plunging. If listeners, obviously, who are invested in cryptocurrencies are nursing pretty painful losses, we’re seeing extreme weather events, political mayhem, lots of social division. And so I’d like to talk in some depth about how an understanding of emotional intelligence can really help us to get control over our emotions and deal with stress. And I wondered if you could start by talking about something that seems like a real linchpin of your whole way of looking at emotional intelligence, which is the foundational importance of self-awareness.

Daniel Goleman (00:21:24):
So there are four parts to emotional intelligence. The first is self-awareness, which leads to being able to manage yourself well. And, those are the two abilities I think that are absolutely crucial in dealing with the chaos of the day. If self-awareness means you know what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it, how it’s impacting you, how it’s driving your thoughts, how it’s driving your emotions, how it’s driving your impulse to act. However, once you know that, maturity is widening the gap between impulse and action. So if you’re going to be a good investor, you don’t do what your emotions tell you, sell.

Daniel Goleman (00:22:02):
You say, well, I’m going to ride it out and the market will rise again, for example. To do that, you need a component of self-management, which is called emotional balance. Emotional balance means yes, you feel the emotion. You can’t dictate what you’re going to feel, how strongly you’ll feel it, when you’ll feel it, emotions just come to us unbidden. But, once you feel it, you have a choice point. And that is how you react. And emotional balance means you can feel the emotion, you can be with it, you don’t have to act on it. In fact, you can recover from it more quickly.

Daniel Goleman (00:22:37):
The operational definition of resilience is how quickly you recover from being upset. And once you recover, you can think about it more clearly. There’s an intimate relationship between our executive centers, the part of our brain that thinks about what to do and makes good decisions and the emotional centers, which can overwhelm it and hijack it. And so being able to recover from that hijack state, I think is absolutely crucial to anybody, particularly to an investor.

William Green (00:23:05):
So let’s break this down a bit. So if we want to, because we can go through this in really some granular detail, because you have a very unusual set of knowledge and experience here, both how the brain works and how this works in high performing people. So in terms of techniques, for how to become more self-aware, more aware of what we’re actually feeling, what are the questions that you can ask yourself that will actually make you pause and look at yourself and see, God, am I operating in a way that’s kind of a perfect precondition for me to make a really lousy decision?

Daniel Goleman (00:23:37):
Well, I think it goes back in one sense to some research I did while at Harvard, which is about how people experience anxiety and fear. Some people are very mental, very cognitive and their thoughts start going in this direction or that direction are usually worried, fearful thoughts, or they feel it in their body, somatic anxiety. Their stomach feels weird or they feel trembling in their knees, whatever. One of the things you can do is learn to pick up the early cues in yourself of, oh, I’m getting anxious now. The earlier you notice, the better you’ll be at recovery. It’s not to say that it’s too late if you never noticed, because then you can think about it and prepare for the next time this happens or you notice in mid arc, oh my God, I’m anxious, I’m sweating, my heart is pounding.

Daniel Goleman (00:24:30):
But, it’s interesting, the moment you can name yourself, what’s going on, you shift your neural functioning. When the emotions are dominant, fear, anxiety, whatever, they are the active circuits and they capture the prefrontal area. The part of the brain that thinks clearly and lucidly. As you go through the anxiety attack, however, and you can name, oh, I’m anxious, I’m fearful, I’m angry, you deactivate the emotional sitters and activate the verbal cortex, which is in the prefrontal area. It shifts the energy in the brain and starts to let you release the feeling. So, that’s part of the recovery. It turns out also that if you are a meditator, you’ll recover more quickly in general. So the combination is pretty powerful.

William Green (00:25:21):
It’s interesting because the greatest investors are actually very clued into, I would say, not only their emotional state, but actually their physiological state. So there’s a famous story of George Soros who talked about how he would start to notice the pain in his back and to realize that it was a physical cue that there was something wrong in his portfolio. And Jeff [Finnick 00:25:43] who managed the biggest mutual fund in the world in his early thirties. I once interviewed him. And he said that when he was buying a stock that had been plunging and he’s predicting that it would go up, he said he would feel physically nauseous. And he learned that, that sense of physical nausea was actually a positive signal from his body that there was so much fear in the market, that it was probably a bargain. Can you talk a little about that? About the sort of specifics of becoming very clued into your own body? What you would look for to tell whether you’re malfunctioning in some way or functioning right, but just in a way that is kind of unsettling,

Daniel Goleman (00:26:19):
There’s a very famous neuroscientist named Antonio Damasio who studied decision making in the brain and the body. He calls exactly what you’re talking about, somatic markers. And he says, the part of the brain which captures life experience when I did that, it worked, when I said that it didn’t work is very deep in a primitive area of the brain. It’s lower in the brain than the part that thinks in words. And it has no direct connection to the part of the brain that thinks in words. It has very strong connections to the body, to the gut. So it sends out signals, this feels good. It doesn’t feel good.

Daniel Goleman (00:26:56):
What he says is that if you’re going to make a sound decision, it’ll be even better if you can include gut sense. It’s not just what the spreadsheet tells you, it’s not just what the numbers are saying, it’s some deeper understanding of the context. So for example, outstanding entrepreneurs who studied at USC and they found that about how they made decisions, business decisions. They all said, well, I gather as much information as I can find. There are voracious gatherers of information. They went way beyond what other people might think was relevant, but they always checked it against their gut feeling.

Daniel Goleman (00:27:34):
Maybe I can’t trust these guys. In other words, maybe you know something that you don’t know you know that you need to pay attention to. That’s what those somatic markers are telling you. We know more than we can say.

William Green (00:27:47):
There’s a friend of mine called Ken Shubin Stein, who I write about at some length in my book, Richer, Wiser, Happier, who’s got a very unusual background because he was a doctor and then became a hedge fund manager and private equity investor, and then quit the investment business a few years ago and became a neurologist. And so, he has a very unusual, deep understanding of what’s going on in the brain, but also an understanding of the practical game of investing in the trenches. And one of the things that fascinated me about his kind of practical workarounds for dealing with emotions in the market was that he had borrowed an idea, I think from addiction scientific literature, where he said that he knew that there were various physiological states, emotional states that were going to be preconditions for making terrible decisions.

William Green (00:28:30):
So he said he had this mnemonic, which was HALTPS, which was when he was hungry, angry, lonely, tired in pain or stressed. He said, “I just went really slow. I’d look to see what was”… And, he’s a meditator. He would look to see what was going on in his body and his mind. And he took this actually during the start of the outbreak of COVID, where he had just had a baby, literally four days before and he has to go basically to stay in a hotel near this hospital so that he doesn’t expose his wife and his newborn kid. And he was treating COVID patients in a ward and he had a bad back from his wrestling career at college. And he said, the PPE equipment was incredibly painful and you would be unbelievably tired. And you’d be looking at all these patients on ventilators who were dying and you’d be having to call their family and you were exhausted.

William Green (00:29:21):
And so, he said, looking at his state, knowing that being in these conditions would lead him to make bad decisions, he just went really slowly and he made an extra effort to be compassionate. Because he said, I know that when I’m in pain and I’m upset and I’m missing my kid and he was furious about the government’s policies and the lack of PPE equipment. Can you talk a bit about that? Because, it seems so interesting the way that you can apply this knowledge, even with a simple mnemonic like HALTPS in different areas of your life.

Daniel Goleman (00:29:50):
So what he’s saying, if I could put it differently, is that when you’re upset and he listed six or seven different ways to be really upset, don’t do anything hastily. Widen the gap between impulse and action. That’s exactly what he’s saying. Think about it before you act. In fact, the school programs that implement emotional intelligence, they’re called social emotional learning. Many of them use a poster, which is of a stoplight; red light, yellow light green light. When you’re upset, think of the stoplight, red light, stop, calm down and think before you act. Yellow light, think of a range of different things you could be and what the consequence would be of each one. Green light, pick the best one and try it out.

Daniel Goleman (00:30:29):
That’s good advice for anyone, not just kids in school, investors or anyone can use that advice because we’re all dealing with the same central nervous system, the same susceptibility to overwhelming emotions. And yet, we have to function with those emotions. So he spelled it out very well, I thought.

William Green (00:30:50):
You had a phrase in, I think it was emotional intelligence that I loved that I don’t know if it was your own coining or someone else’s where you write about an amygdala hijack. Can you talk about that? What it is? What’s actually happening in the brain when we’re dealing with stress, when we’re dealing with these disruptive emotions that stirred up? And then, we can talk about what the antidote to the amygdala hijack might be.

Daniel Goleman (00:31:13):
The amygdala hijack refers to the situation where your brains radar for threat, which at the time neuroscience had centered on the amygdala realized that there was a danger, whatever it may be. Now, the brain was designed to help us survive. And it helped us survive in pre-history, which was when the brain took shape. And the threat in those days was actual life or death threat. Something in the bushes that either could eat us or that we had to chase it after and eat.

Daniel Goleman (00:31:45):
And so, we had a very quick sudden response. That is the decision role for this part of the brain, the circuit. And, it can take over the rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, where we learn, where we comprehend, where we plan, where we make good decisions. In fact, it captures it. That’s the hijack. The signs of a hijack are three. You have a very sudden emotional reaction. It’s negative, anger, fear typically. And when the dust settles, you really regret what you did. You didn’t widen the gap. There’s no gap at all.

William Green (00:32:18):
There’s a moment where I flush as you explain this and I’m like, oh yeah, haven’t done that in at least a day.

Daniel Goleman (00:32:24):
So today now brain sciences moved forward. We realize it’s not just the amygdala that… the amygdala is part of what’s called the salience network, which means what’s relevant to me right now. The salience network is the part of the brain, which instant by instant, by instant simplified life for us, by putting aside the huge amount of sensory information that we get constantly and picking out just the part that it thinks is relevant to what are the task at hand?

Daniel Goleman (00:32:53):
So, for an investor, it means what are the forces or what are the data, what’s the relevant information for this investment? The salience network is doing this for us all the time in every life situation. And the amygdala is part of that network. And if it thinks there’s a threat and the threat today might be, I’m feeling disrespected, I’m getting blamed, someone else is taking credit. In other words, they’re symbolic realities, not biological realities. So it turns out the amygdala and that salience network actually makes a lot of mistakes.

Daniel Goleman (00:33:27):
We get hijacked for things that if we thought about it, maybe we wouldn’t be so upset about it. It would rather be safe than sorry, essentially. So we end up getting hijacked all too often. And I would say that the hijack state is the worst state to invest from. I can’t think of anything worse.

William Green (00:33:48):
One of the things that’s very striking to me in the time I’ve spent with great investors over the last 25 years or so, is that the greatest of them don’t seem to have the same emotional response that most of us do. In some strange way, they’re actually wired differently. So I remember for example, something like… I think this must have been about 12 or 13 days after 9/11 when the markets had just had their worst week since 1929, since The Great Depression.

William Green (00:34:15):
And I was with this legendary investor, a guy called Bill Miller, who was in the middle of this streak where he’d beaten the market, I think, by then, by 10 or 11 years, which is kind of impossible. And it ended up being about 15 years. And I was with him when he calls his office. We went on his private plane, he had this leader jet that he got basically because he had an Irish Wolf found that he liked to travel with that was enormous. And so, we go to his alma mater, because he’s giving a speech and he gives this talk to the students and then he calls into the office and they say to him, this company you bought, it was an energy stock called AES.

William Green (00:34:44):
This company you bought yesterday that I think he put 50 million in, has just come out with its earnings, it’s disastrous and the stock has halved. And so, I think if I remember correctly, it had lost 50 million and it wasn’t even lunchtime. And Bill, I looked at my notes recently and I had this very vivid description of how he reacted and he gets very serious. He’s very focused and he’s on the phone and he says, let’s see where my cash is.

William Green (00:35:09):
Let’s see what my cash position is. And he just says, he says, all right, let’s double a position now. And he explained this later to me, but basically because he knew from behavioral finance that investors feel the pain of loss so much more intensely than the pleasure of gain, that his default position is to assume that people overreact to bad news. And so, there was some way in which part of his competitive advantage was the fact that when things went wrong, he was very dispassionate.

William Green (00:35:35):
He was a guy who’d been in military intelligence, right? He was a super unemotional guy. A lovely man, really nice man. But I’ve seen that again and again, that there’s actually some difference, I think, in the wiring of people like Charlie Munger, Buffet’s partner. Buffet, right, my friend Jason’s Zweig talks about how Buffet is inversely emotional. So when the market starts to go wrong and everyone’s panicking, Buffet actually is kind of joyful. So I think Buffet has invested some like 50 billion in the last couple of months while everyone else is in a panic. Can you talk a bit about that? I know that you’re not obsessed with investing in the way that I am, but are there people who are just sort of wired differently so that they’re dealing with intensity in a different way?

Daniel Goleman (00:36:14):
You can think about it this way, William, it’s a couple of things. First of all, the brain is designed to register more strongly negativity than positivity because that helps us to survive. You want to remember the thing that’s dangerous. You want to remember the thing that’s a threat. You want to remember the thing you should never do again. And so, the brain is designed to imprint that memory more strongly than the pleasant things that happen. So that’s why all people, not just investors, overreact to bad news. That’s why newspapers are full of bad news because it’s captivating. It’s what we want to read about. It’s what the brain wants to know because it wants to learn the lesson.

Daniel Goleman (00:36:51):
Oh, that happened to someone else. I don’t want it to happen to me. There are three ways that people differ, individual differences, in reacting to threat or bad news. One is how often they’re triggered. Some people are triggered a lot. Some people are a little. The second is how deeply they’re triggered, how intensely they feel the negative emotion. Some people feel it really deeply. Some people feel it very likely. And the third is how quickly they recover. I talked about resilience. So are you more resilient? Do you snap back? And what you’re saying or very interesting, is it perhaps the more successful investors are wired differently in those three ways, at least?

William Green (00:37:34):
Yeah. And, it’s nuanced. Because when I talked to Bill Miller about this recently on this podcast, he said, “Look, I’m actually pretty emotional.” Like, like he said, “When I listen to music, I can cry.” And yet when it comes to financial decisions, there’s this supreme rationality. I mean, I remember after 9/11, he said to me, look, the world is safer today than it was the day before 9/11, the threat has surfaced. We weren’t aware of the threat. Now we’re aware of the threat and we can deal with it. So he said, “There’s a perception that the threat now is elevated. But in fact the threat is lower now than it was before.” So it’s kind of like this, he’s this probabilistic machine going through life, looking at the evidence rather than being driven by his emotion.

Daniel Goleman (00:38:15):
So here’s the thing, in psychology, we call that reappraisal, cognitive reappraisal. It’s rethinking the situation and it turns out one of the best ways to handle stress or a stressful reality is to think it through and to reframe what’s going on exactly as he did. To take the upset and to think about it in a way that’s going to help you handle it better. That’s the reframe, that’s the cognitive appraisal. And that, by the way, can be a learned talent. All of these mental skills are learned and learnable. Emotional intelligence, unlike IQ is learned and learnable. So you can get better at any of these abilities. We haven’t even gotten to empathy in relationships, which may or may not matter that much for investors.

William Green (00:39:04):
No, they do. And we’ll talk about those later.

Daniel Goleman (00:39:05):
Yeah, but I think I just want emphasize that those two are learned and learnable. And in fact, I’m now writing a book about why learning this will benefit an entire culture of an organization. Having leaders who say yes, this matters, offering chances for development to people, putting it in a performance review. It’s not just your numbers. How did you get those numbers? Because if you got them in the worst ways, we’re going to lose talent. People will hate you who work for you. People cut corners, people lose their ethical sense if they’re being pressured too much just to get the numbers for the quarter. So leading in the wrong way can hollow out human capital. People don’t want to work for bosses they hate.

William Green (00:39:48):
You co-authored also a very interesting book, primal leadership that I haven’t read fully. I’ve just been grazing it, along with several other of your books over the last week. But you talk about that the importance of… you build on a chapter in emotional intelligence, right, about managing with heart, leading with heart?

Daniel Goleman (00:40:05):
Well, William, actually it’s advanced quite a lot since then. I was for 25 years co-director of a consortium for research on emotional intelligence and organizations. And now, the other director, Cary Cherniss and I, a professor Rutgers are harvesting more than two decades of research in the business realm, which shows that organizations that have more emotional intelligent leaders and have more emotional intelligent teams, because you can have this at the team level to have higher levels of engagement, higher productivity, higher performance, less turnover, whatever the metric is, it’s very positive.

Daniel Goleman (00:40:41):
And what we want to do actually is, bring this to companies. I have a group called the Goleman Consulting Group, which is helping companies do this, create a more emotionally intelligent culture. One of the ways is by having groups learn how to become more emotionally intelligent together. It’s great to coach at the top of the house, but there’s everybody else. All the managers and so on, they don’t get that. So we’ve found that there’s another methodology you can use to get this more deeply into your organization. That’s where my interests are going now with emotional intelligence.

William Green (00:41:15):
So to go back a bit to when we are getting flooded with these difficult emotions, these disruptive emotions, I’m interested in various practical techniques and resources that we can bring to bear. You mentioned reframing them. Someone sent me a question on Twitter for you who goes by the name Conservative Capital at Auditor Investor, who said, I love Goleman’s work and his demeanor. And he said, I particularly like this talk of his, where he shared the benefits of mindful breathing.

William Green (00:41:42):
And he was asking if there are resources for daily practice, whether it’s breathing techniques, happy yoga, whatever, that you found particularly helpful. And, we can get to meditation in more detail as well soon. But first, I’ve heard you talking about breathing exercises before. Can you talk about very practical, simple techniques like that, that can help us in these moments where we are getting kind of flooded?

Daniel Goleman (00:42:04):
Let me start though, by talking about a time… actually, it was the business autobiography of Andy Grove who used to be CEO of Intel when that was the company in tech. Intel inside every laptop in the day when everybody had a laptop and Grove said we could have died a few times. One was when we were blindsided by competitors. And other words, when we shipped a chip that had a flaw. He said, if how we survived depended on the emotional reactions of the top team. If we had denied what was going on, if we’re paralyzed with fear, if we had panicked, we would not be here today as a company. I think that’s a very strong argument for what you’re asking, which is how can people learn to handle the ups and downs and the stresses and the challenges and the shocks and the surprises of business every day.

William Green (00:42:56):
Yeah. And, this is for family as well with your kids, in the workplace, as an investor. What’s extraordinary is how many applications your work has actually had for raising kids. It’s absolutely critical to teach them these skills, right?

Daniel Goleman (00:43:10):
Jon Kabat-Zinn, another friend of mine from Harvard days, calls it the full catastrophe of life.

William Green (00:43:16):
Yeah. Didn’t he write a book, Full Catastrophe Living, which I think is-

Daniel Goleman (00:43:21):
But anyway, he starts with the same method. And let me just share it with your listeners if you don’t mind. This is kind of a generic attention training, which helps with becoming calm and focused even despite what’s going on. Very simple, you’re comfortable, you can close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath, to the in breath and the out breath, the full in breath, the full out breath. The sensation of breathing, maybe at your nostrils or rise and fall of your belly and then start with the next breath. Do it again, full in breath, the full out breath. Just keep your focus there on your breath and when your mind wanders and you notice it wandered, bring it back to the next breath. That’s all there is to it. You just stay with the breath, bringing back your mind when it floats away and open your eyes.

Daniel Goleman (00:44:13):
That’s the simple core instruction. But if you do it 5 minutes, 10 minutes in the morning, it resets your brain for the day. The longer you do it, the better the benefits and the benefits are very well established now. It makes people calmer, makes them better able to handle stress. It makes them more focused, better able to ignore distractions, makes them actually better learners. You can so-called multitask without losing concentration on what really matters today. So it has numerous benefits, but it’s like developing any skill, William, the more you practice, the better the benefit.

William Green (00:44:52):
One resource that I found very helpful when I was kind of even more of a nervous wreck than I am usually while I was writing Richer, Wiser, Happier was I used Dan Harris’s app, 10% Happier a lot, which has courses by both of those teachers you mentioned before, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, but also George Mumford, who I thought was terrific. Who was a teacher of, I don’t know, was it LeBron James and Michael Jordan, people like that. And I just found those courses incredibly helpful. Because I wasn’t, at that point, going to go off to Nepal or something or India to do a long retreat.

Daniel Goleman (00:45:25):
We’re really lucky these days that we have these apps. So you can put on your phone and do it while you’re commuting, if you commute or do it anytime you can find time alone and focus on it. 10% Happier is a wonderful app. And as you mentioned, yeah, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, two of the teachers on that app and they’re very good. I recommend it.

William Green (00:45:47):
You’ve been meditating since you were a junior at Berkeley, right? So this is well over half a century. And I think you’ve got more and more serious about it since you wrote Altered Traits and you studied the science of meditation and discovered the dose response, what it’s actually doing, the more you do. But for those of us who aren’t in the deep end of the game yet, what sort of meditation is most practical for people who believe in the Pareto principle, right, the 80/20. They want to get most of the benefits for the least amount of effort so that they can remain calm and focused, have less anxiety. So they’re more likely to make good decisions, whether it’s as an investor or with their colleagues or with their spouse or whoever it might be.

Daniel Goleman (00:46:28):
I’d recommend 15 to 30 minutes a day of that breath exercise. And as you point out at the beginning, it may be hard to do. You may be very distracted, which is why it’s beneficial to be able to listen to someone guiding you through it. So if you can get an app, if you’re just starting out, all the better.

William Green (00:46:45):
Yeah. And so you are basically just watching the breath and then as you catch your attention wondering, it’s kind of the mental rep of bringing back the attention, is that the main benefit there? What’s happening to your brain?

Daniel Goleman (00:46:58):
I suspect. And, there’s data that suggests this, that every time you notice your mind wandered and you bring it back, you’re strengthening neural circuitry for staying focused. Think about it, in your day, you’re reading a very important article, whatever it may be. And all of a sudden, you get a ping, I got a text, I got an email and you look at your phone and next thing you know, you’re on Twitter and you lost your concentration, which was up here. When you go back, it’s going to be down here and it’ll take you a while to get it up again. Unless you did that simple exercise, because what you’re doing is training your brain to pay full attention, to concentrate. And basically to let distractions go.

Daniel Goleman (00:47:44):
The moment of mindfulness, if you will, is the moment you noticed that your mind is wandered and you bring it back. It’s that simple. It’s like a rep in a gym, every time you lift the weight, you’re making the muscle that much stronger, same thing with your brain.

William Green (00:47:59):
This whole issue of focus obviously is hugely important to all of us. And particularly for a lot of investors who are voracious consumers of information, as Munger often refers to Buffet as a learning machine, even in his nineties. And you’ve mentioned, you wrote a terrific book called Focus, that I was reading last week, which I would have on my stack, but it’s in my Kindle. It’s called Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. And you were mentioning there, you were talking about attention as this mental muscle that grows with use or, or atrophies.

William Green (00:48:28):
And obviously this has become much more of a challenge for all of us because of technology with this massive influx of information and data that just consumes our attention. All of these nonstop emails and texts and notifications from Twitter. I get breathless as I talk about it. I am constantly in a state of scatteredness between all of these things. It’s very hard for me to sit peacefully on my own anymore. I’m like, God, I should check my Twitter notifications, I should check LinkedIn, I should check my email, I should check text messages. Or if I’m not doing that, I should be listening to a podcast or an audio book. And so, I feel like I’ve scrambled my brain. And I suspect I’m a sort of slightly extreme version of what most of us are like. Can you talk about how to deal with these constant distractions that are coming from technology?

Daniel Goleman (00:49:17):
There’s a saying in cognitive science, what information consumes is attention. A wealth of information means posity of attention. And today, some estimates are that we get about five times more information in a given time statement, a given day, for example, then we did 10, 20 years ago. It’s just been increasing exponentially, the distractions, as you point out far worse than ever. I heard a talk by fellow who was one of the designers of the first iPhone. He said, “We made it as seductive as we could. He said today I have kids and I really regret it.”

Daniel Goleman (00:49:53):
This is the problem that we all face is that we’re seduced constantly. And what we’re seduced for is attention. Attention. Our eyeballs is what advertisers want. It’s apps want, the longer we stay on it, the better for them. But that means that we’re being pulled away from what matters to us most that moment, that day. And so I think we all face the need to strengthen the muscle of attention. I think today more than ever, because it’s just basic self-defense. How am I going to stay focused on what matters to me in the midst of this ongoing wealth or this cloud of distraction?

William Green (00:50:32):
What do you do in practical terms with technology? Because, I’ve hung out with you and your lovely wife, Tara, a fair amount. And I’ve seen you in restaurants and cafes and the Aligned Center where I work and places like that. And I don’t think I ever remember seeing you reach for your phone or being distracted. There’s a kind of openness and presence to you and to Tara. Tara looks like someone who doesn’t even own a phone. She’s on a different level from us phone. She’s downloading directly from heaven. How do you deal with technology so that it’s not intruding in your relationship? It’s not distracting you in conversations. It’s not yanking your attention around constantly.

Daniel Goleman (00:51:08):
Well, William, I’m a little bit privileged in that I lead a life where I don’t have to be on alert all the time. I don’t have to be at the beck and call of a phone. So I’m like an industrial strength meditator. I don’t schedule anything before lunch. For example, I’d like to meditate and write in the morning and I don’t feel that there’s anything that important coming in on a phone. I’d rather be present for the person in front of me than looking at a phone. In fact, in 2009, there was an article in Time magazine, which was then the major magazine. The article said, there’s a new word in the English language. The word is pizzled. It’s a combination of puzzled and pissed off. And it’s how you feel when someone you’re with takes out their phone and looks at the phone instead of you.

Daniel Goleman (00:51:56):
That was 2009. The norms have changed enormously. People do it now all the time without thinking about it. Although now, I saw there’s a new word fubbing, which is snubbing with a phone, which may have the same thing, but it speaks to the tension between being present to the person you’re with or on Zoom with, whatever and all the incoming, whatever it may be. And I feel that it’s good to limit your attention to the incoming, whatever that means for you to certain periods, rather than letting it intrude, whenever it happens to come.

William Green (00:52:32):
I’ve been very struck personally, in seeing you in conversation. I was watching you a couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I were going for ice cream and we ran into you and stopped and had a chat with you. And you were chatting with Madeline. And, you’re very present in conversation. There’s a kind of calmness and openness. And I’m wondering, I’m assuming a lot of that comes from meditation, but also that you’ve been interviewing people for many years. And I’m wondering, what’s going on there? Where did that come from? What’s going through your mind when you’re in conversation that enables you to be so present?

Daniel Goleman (00:53:05):
So I think this has to do with the empathy aspect of emotional intelligence. Remember that’s the third part and there are three kinds of empathy. One is, cognitive, understanding how the person thinks. The second is emotional, understanding how they feel, sensing how the person feels. And third is concern, caring about the person. And I like to try to be present to the person I’m with because that connotes caring. Paying full attention to the person in front of you, sometimes it’s called executive presence in the business world, I think is very important. And your daughter happened to be particularly charming [inaudible 00:53:40] so it’s very easy to be fully present to her. I’m not sure I am to everybody else.

William Green (00:53:46):
She said to me afterwards, “I’d like to be friends with him.” And that was interesting. A 21 year old with a guy, I don’t know, I’m not good at math, but you’re somewhere in your seventies, right? Born in 1946, I think. So, yeah, that was kind of lovely. And I think it was because you’re very present. That’s something that’s had an effect on me, right, I see that. And I see it also with our friend, Matt, who introduced us, he’s another person who’s meditated for probably 40-something years. And there’s a kind of presence and a calmness that I don’t see in most other people. And is that one of the great gifts of long-term meditation, do you think?

Daniel Goleman (00:54:22):
Well, it’s hard to separate individual differences. Did Matt or I have this tendency earlier on, I don’t know, but it’s clear now from the data that, that calmness and focus, whether it’s on your project at hand, the numbers or the other person gets enhanced through meditative practice. No question about that.

William Green (00:54:44):
So coming back to this issue of empathy, which is clearly critical in which you’ve written about and spoken about a lot, I remember you saying once, it’s good to have empathy and compassion as your North Star. And there’s a listener to the podcast who wrote to me on Twitter, someone called [Flobertis 00:54:57], if I’m pronouncing this right or Charging Bull Capital is his other name, who says, can you ask Mr. Goleman what we can do to increase our empathy or our awareness of others? Is there, for example, a five minute exercise or moment of reflection that can make us a little more emotionally intelligent humans every day?

Daniel Goleman (00:55:15):
There’s a very interesting research coming out of Germany, actually. Like the MIT of Germany, where they had people practice and exercise, and I’d call a circle of caring, sometimes call loving kindness practice, where you might end your meditation on the breath with this daily, for example. You think of someone in your life that’s been kind to you that you’re grateful for and appreciate them, you wish that they’d be safe and happy and healthy, and that their life be fulfilled. You wish it towards yourself. You wish it toward the people you naturally love, your loved ones. You do this silently. Then, you extend it to people you know, your acquaintances, people you work with perhaps, and then to everyone everywhere.

Daniel Goleman (00:55:59):
And you spend a good deal of time doing this. Sharon Salzberg teaches this practice. And the Institute in Germany found that this seemed to strengthen the neural architecture for caring and concern, which seems pretty simple and clear to me because it’s just like with the breath meditation, that helps you be calm and focused. Well, it turns out the same neural circuitry does both those things. And then, there’s different circuitry for caring, concern, compassion toward other people. And that gets exercised by that circle of caring.

William Green (00:56:34):
I have a close friend who’s a… I’m slightly concealing this person’s identity, who’s a psychiatrist who’s specialized in dealing with adolescents and people who’ve gone through war veterans who have PTSD and the like. He’s a very extraordinary guy. And I remember him telling me that he would drive to his VA hospital every day, doing loving kindness meditation on the drive. And he said he had a particularly difficult colleague. And when this colleague would say stupid stuff that drove him absolutely nuts, he would just sit there in a meeting, silently kind of going through these meditations of things of may you be happy, may you be safe, may you live with these? And I could see the difference in him. Over the years, I was like, what happened to him? And he did become more and more… He was always a lovely guy, but he became more and more loving and joyful, I would say.

Daniel Goleman (00:57:26):
I think it does work. And, the data, there’s a lot of research on it now, shows people do become kinder, more generous, more altruistic, more outgoing and caring toward other people. So I’m not surprised.

William Green (00:57:39):
And again, I think Sharon Salzberg teaches that on the 10% Happier app, which I hate to be a sheal for. And I’m not being paid to be a sheal for it, but it really helped me. And I think that it’s a very helpful app. You have an extraordinary thing in Altered Traits where you talk about Mingyur Rinpoche, one of these great Tibetan yogis and what was going on in his brain when he was doing compassion meditation. This is the deep end of the pool. Can you talk a bit about what actually we saw in his brain?

Daniel Goleman (00:58:06):
So Richie Davidson flew these yogis over from Nepal and India and Europe. One by one. One of them was this Yogi Mingyur Rinpoche who at the time had done 62,000 lifetime hours of meditation. Well, if you do a traditional Tibetan three year, three month, three day retreat, you get credit for about 10,000 hours. So this guy had done huge amounts. And when they asked him to do a compassion meditation, the circuitry in the brain for that increased in a moment by 7 to 800%. Never been seen before in neuroscience, such a voluntary jump in the activation of a brain circuit. And, this is a circuitry for compassion. And so I thought it was pretty astounding.

William Green (00:58:51):
Yeah. I think one of the things that’s so remarkable that your book shows is that we are seeing scientifically this thing that people are sitting in caves for thousands of years in Tibet and the like, figured out experientially. And so you no longer need to kind of sound like you are a woo woo mystic, you can actually show what’s going on in the brain. And I see this as a woo woo mystic myself. So I’m not dismissive of that.

Daniel Goleman (00:59:16):
Here’s the thing, I kind of have a foot in both worlds, in the world of Asian spirituality and methodology and the world of science and psychology and so on. And at first, there was a huge gap between those worlds. But as science has investigated these practices, it’s finding, oh, you know what, this works. And it seems to me there’s an ancient psycho technology that’s been well preserved in many Asian cultures. It’s only now becoming known in the west. I think it’s very important.

William Green (00:59:50):
It’s interesting because Buffet’s partner, Charlie Munger, who’s this 98 year old problematic genius who studies all these different fields will say, I observe what works and doesn’t work and why. And this is one of those things where it’s really interesting. You observe it in the laboratory, you observe it in people’s behavior. And you’re like, oh, it works. And so, I’m struck by how many very successful investors meditate on this podcast. I talked with Ray Dalio about the fact that he’s been doing transcendental meditation 20 minutes or 40 minutes a day for 50 years, basically. And so, here you have the guy who’s made more money as a hedge fund manager than anyone else in history. And I think that’s interesting.

William Green (01:00:29):
He claims that it also makes him much more creative. But, he talks about amygdala hijackings. Actually, he talks about the fact that he’s less likely to get swamped by emotion. And he’s gone through a great deal, as we spoke about in my interview with him, he lost his son a year or so ago. And so he’s dealt with extreme pain. And so the fact that meditation has helped to make him more resilient, more clear headed. I think it’s curious when these pragmatists like Dalio start to adopt something that used to seem fringe.

Daniel Goleman (01:00:59):
Well, that’s the culture shift that I’ve seen over the last several decades is that people like Ray Dalio are doing it as a matter of fact, not a big deal. It’s, I go to the gym and I meditate, it’s self care.

William Green (01:01:12):
And I think if I remember rightly that he said that anyone at his firm Bridgewater, they would pay for them to go meditate, for them to take transcendental meditation and training, which is very interesting that they would regard it as sufficiently a competitive advantage that they would actually bankroll it.

Daniel Goleman (01:01:28):
Ah, I didn’t know that.

William Green (01:01:30):
So you’ve become friends over decades with the Dalai Lama and you wrote a book about him called A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for the World. And you’ve spent many hours interviewing him. And I remember you published a book on destructive emotions and how you can overcome them. It was based on a scientific dialogue with the Dalai Lama and he’s clearly fascinated by science. And I wondered if you could talk a bit about what you’ve learned from him. I remember, I was listening actually the other day to an old interview that you did with Oprah Winfrey who’s a master of emotional intelligence. You can see she’s extraordinary. And you said to her, “I think he’s the person I admire most in the world today.” And I was wondering, why, what’s been so impressive as you’ve got to know the Dalai Lama?

Daniel Goleman (01:02:10):
So, I don’t go out for beers with the Dalai Lama. It’s not like we’re buddies, but I’ve seen him over the years in a number of situations. And one thing I really admire about him is his openness to everybody. It doesn’t matter who it is, he’s absolutely present for that person; a begger, a prime minister, no difference I’ve seen. He really exemplifies love and kindness, presence. The Tibetan word for the Dalai Lama is not Dalai Lama, it’s Kundun, which means presence.

Daniel Goleman (01:02:41):
I remember, I was once at a reception in Hollywood and A-list stars were lined up to meet the Dalai Lama. And I was standing with a monk who travels with the Dalai Lama and he said, watch this. He said at about 8 feet or 10 feet away from the Dalai Lama, everybody’s going to break into a big smile because he has this aura around him that’s contagious. And you pick up that calmness and so on. And, I really admire that. And, I admire the fact that he has throughout his life, which has been very turbulent by the way, talk about ups and downs, he lost his country and his people are being tortured by the Chinese and many upsetting things come to him all the time, but he’s remained that calm, loving presence through it all. I really admire that.

William Green (01:03:32):
You also mentioned something in one of your books where you wrote about him, where he said something like act now, even if you won’t see the fruit of the action in your lifetime. I was very struck by that, that there’s a sense, I think you were talking about with him, that there were three types of kindness. So there’s kindness to oneself. I’m probably garbling this. Kindness to the people around you, helping the people around you. And then you said there’s kindness to the world at large, which includes the environment. So can you talk a bit about that, about that sense from him of wanting to engage with the world and actually having an impact?

Daniel Goleman (01:04:04):
Well, I think that he sees things in multi-dimension and one of them that’s really impressed me is that he’s a systems thinker. And so, he understands that for example, poverty is built into our economic system. He understands that global warming or the pollution of the environment is an everyday byproduct of the way we live and the way we produce things and the way we consume. He sees that the solutions need to be systemic as well as individual. And he sees also that each one of us has a sphere of influence. And for some people it’s very wide. You may be an executive, you may run a company, that’s a big sphere. Or, you may have friends and family who you can influence. That’s a smaller sphere. He says it doesn’t matter, do something, whatever you can, whatever you’re called to do, that will improve our situation. And don’t do something just for benefit now. The benefit may come after you’re long gone, but do it anyway.

William Green (01:05:05):
I think you once quoted him saying something along the lines of whenever you make an important decision, you need to stop and ask yourself. Again. I’m probably garbling this so you correct me. There was something like, who benefits? Is it only me or is it everyone? And is it now, or is it for the future?

Daniel Goleman (01:05:23):
He said, when you’re making a decision, think about this, ask yourself three questions. Who benefits? Is it just me or a group? Is it just my group or everyone? And is it only for the present or for the future, too? I found that very profound. He said that at a meeting at MIT.

William Green (01:05:42):
It’s interesting to me because when we were emailing before you kind of disputed the idea that there was this connection in some way, between the east and mystical, the spiritual tradition, that’s embodied by Ram Dass and the Dalai Lama and Neem Karoli Baba and your more scientific work that came out of David McClelland and the Harvard psychology department. And I would say, no, they’re totally connected. And, it strikes me when I look back at the book, Emotional Intelligence, that in a way it was a kind of stealth spiritual book that even though it’s incredibly practical, you wrote, even in that, there’s a line where you talked about the root of altruism lies in empathy.

William Green (01:06:19):
I think also the book you talked in there about offering hopeful remedies to a growing calamity in our shared emotional life. It strikes me that in some ways the book was a plea for civility, caring, empathy, and all of those things. They’re practical and they have tremendous benefits in your life, in the workplace, but it strikes me, they were deeply rooted in your spiritual life.

Daniel Goleman (01:06:42):
Well, William, I think that there is a spiritual dimension to emotional intelligence, but there’s a spectrum. There’s the absolutely pragmatic benefit of it. And then, there’s another end of that spectrum, which is spiritual. So for example, self-awareness. Absolutely crucial to handling yourself, to leading yourself. But, it also happens to be one of the core principles of every spiritual tradition, know thy self. Mastery over your inner world, same thing, has huge practical implications, but there’s a spiritual dimension too. Every spiritual tradition talks about this kind of need for a self-discipline, if you will, or following a set of ethics and morals. Empathy is the root of altruism and compassion, no question, and putting that all together to have beneficial interactions.

William Green (01:07:32):
So Dan, in terms of your own ability to handle your emotions over the years, have you got better at this? I remember seeing, for example, I saw you after the New York had wrote some, I thought, really unfair and clever, but slightly deceptive reading of Emotional Intelligence 25 years after it came out. And I was thinking, how do you deal with unfair criticism? How do you deal with disruptive emotions? When someone annoys you, when someone upsets you, are there ways in which you’ve become more effective at dealing with the slings and arrows of fortune?

Daniel Goleman (01:08:04):
William, it’s hard to tell if it has to do with my meditation practice or aging or something else. But yeah, I was attacked, I thought, very unfairly, but I did get four in the New Yorker. So, you can see it different ways. And I sat with the feelings, I didn’t do anything, but I felt them and they dissipated after a while and then I went on to the next thing. So that was how I handled that particular sling and arrow. I can’t say that there was a particular method, although I’d just been writing about something that one of my Tibetan teachers calls, handshake practice.

William Green (01:08:40):
Yeah. This is Mingyur Rinpoche’s brother, Tsoknyi Rinpoche.

Daniel Goleman (01:08:42):
His brother, Tsoknyi. When you have something that’s very upsetting or you get angry or whatever, you sit with the feeling, you don’t deny it, you feel it fully and you accept it. And, it turns out that has the power to actually dissipate the impact of that feeling. So I was using that method if you will. And I have a book coming out with him in the fall called the Why We Meditate, which describes that practice in detail.

William Green (01:09:13):
Yeah. I’m hoping to lure you back then with Tsoknyi Rinpoche himself, who’s an extraordinarily impressive guy. They’re quite a family, that family.

Daniel Goleman (01:09:21):
Yeah, absolutely amazing.

William Green (01:09:23):
So I wanted to ask you one last thing. There’s a lovely thing in your bio on your website, where you say over the years my private life has grown increasingly important to me, particularly as the years allow me to spend less time running around and more time just being. I find more and more that what satisfies me has little to do with how well one or another book does, though the good works I participate in continue to matter much. My wife, Tara, and I try to spend a good deal of our free time in meditation retreats or traveling together to places we enjoy that nourish this side of our lives. Life’s simple pleasures, a walk on a beach, playing with grandchildren, a good conversation with a friend, have more appeal to me than professional honors or ambitions.

William Green (01:10:03):
I wondered if you could just talk a little bit about this idea of just being, of relishing life simple pleasures, because for people like me in my early fifties, I’m still in the throes of chasing after these ambitions that I fear are never going to satisfy me. So can you talk about being and relishing rather than just chasing and trying to achieve?

Daniel Goleman (01:10:25):
I think that our accomplishments, the kudos we get over life, the money we earn as we are dying will matter not at all. The times that we’ve enjoyed with people we love or just being are what will matter, ultimately.

William Green (01:10:42):
You also said there was something on Twitter where you had quoted William James, I think, who said the great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. And then, you asked, what would you like your legacy to be? Do you think about that? Do you think about, as you look back now in your seventies, what this all adds up to and what you’d like your legacy to be?

Daniel Goleman (01:11:01):
Yes. I would be happy. I’m doing a memoir by the way, spiritual memoir. I’d be happy if people in the future got more interested in inner life in inner practice, meditation, whatever, because of what I’d left behind.

William Green (01:11:18):
That’s a great ambition. Well, I want to thank you. I know you have to go down. It’s been such a pleasure. And, when my daughter said to me the other day, we should really be friends with him. I said, well, I do regard him as a friend, but I kind of regard him as a role model and a mentor in many ways. And so I look at you as someone who embodies a lot of the qualities that I’d like to develop more. So, you’re further along on the path and higher up Mt. Everest. So keep planting good flags for the rest of us so that we can find our way.

Daniel Goleman (01:11:44):
Well, thank you for that perception. Don’t know if it’s true, but it’s always a pleasure to talk to you, William.

William Green (01:11:50):
Thank you. It’s been a real delight. Thanks so much, Dan. Take care. All right, folks, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Daniel Goleman. If you’d like to learn more from him, I’d definitely recommend his books. There’s a 25th anniversary edition of Emotional Intelligence that’s well worth reading if you haven’t read it already. Also, really enjoyed a book that he co-authored that’s titled Altered Traits. It explores scientifically how meditation changes the body and the brain, making you calmer and more focused and more emotionally resilient. I’ve included these and various other resources in the show notes for this episode.

William Green (01:12:25):
Meanwhile, thanks everyone who sent me questions for Dan over Twitter. I ended up asking a question from a listener in Canada whose Twitter handle is @auditorinvestor. Also, asked a question from a listener in Belgium named Martin whose Twitter handle is @chargingbullcapital. As a way of saying thanks, I’m sending each of them a signed copy of my book, Richer, Wiser, Happier, which is based on hundreds of hours of interviews that I’ve done with many of the world’s greatest investors over the last quarter of our century. If you’d like to connect with me on Twitter, you can find me @WilliamGreen72, and please do let me know how you’re liking the podcast. It’s always a delight to hear from you. In the meantime, I’m happy to say I’ll be back again soon with some fascinating guests, including Jim Grant, Thomas Russo and the Nobel prize, winning economist, Robert Shiller. Thanks so much for listening. Take care.

Outro (01:13:16):
Thank you for listening to TIP. Make sure to subscribe to We Study Billionaires by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Every Wednesday, we teach you about Bitcoin and every Saturday we study billionaires and the financial markets. To access our show notes, transcripts or courses, go to This show is for entertainment purposes only. Before making any decision, consult a professional. This show is copyrighted by the Investors’ Podcast Network. Written permission must be granted before syndication or rebroadcasting.


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