How To Grow Faster

This is the second part of the original post: I Want To Grow Faster.

The First Question.

Whats consists of the second type of knowledge, the kind of knowledge that would make it easier to do everything else?

My answer:

  1. Emotional maturity
  2. Rational maturity

Allow me to elaborate. Mostly on emotional maturity, since it’s what commonly gets dismissed.

The role emotional maturity (or emotions and feelings generally), is to provide a direction to contribute all your intelligence towards. This could be seen from the behaviours of psychopaths [1]. For those who are not familiar with the term, psychopaths are people who are born physically incapable of empathising. Like the colour-blind person, the psychopath lacks an important element of experience—in this case, emotional experience—but may have learned the words that others use to describe or mimic experiences that he cannot really understand. As Cleckley put it, “He can learn to use ordinary words… [and] will also learn to reproduce appropriately all the pantomime of feeling… but the feeling itself does not come to pass.” As a result, they are indifferent to the rights and suffering of family members and strangers alike. It’s not unusual for psychopaths to inflict serious physical or emotional damage on others.

But the interesting thing with psychopaths is: psychopaths are also incapable of having long-term goals.

  • They tend to live day-to-day and to change their plans frequently. They give little serious thought to the future and worry about it even less. Nor do they generally show much concern about how little they have done with their lives. “Look, I’m a drifter, a nomad—I hate being pinned down,” is a typical remark.

This makes sense on an almost curious level.

Psychopaths don’t care about other peoples’ opinions. Since they are incapable of feeling the suffering and happiness of others, to them, others are merely tools to be taken advantage of–whose opinions don’t matter the slightest. Therefore, due to lack of any social or emotional drive, the only thing that could give them a blast and make them feel alive, is the stimulation of excitement for the moment, the biological feeling of an adrenaline rush:

  • Some psychopaths use a wide variety of drugs as part of their general search for something new and exciting, and they often move from place to place and job to job searching for a fresh buzz. One adolescent we interviewed had a novel way of keeping his juices flowing: Somehow, weekend after weekend, he persuaded his buddies to play “chicken” with a freight train on a bridge over a river. The group would stand on the bridge facing the train, and the first to jump would have to buy beer for the rest. Our subject, a highly persuasive, machine-gun conversationalist, never once had to buy the beer.
  • Many psychopaths describe “doing crime” for excitement or thrills. When asked if she ever did crazy or dangerous things just for fun, one of our female subjects replied, “Yeah, lots of things. But what I find most exciting is walking through airports with drugs. Christ! What a high!”
  • A male psychopath said he enjoyed his job as an “enforcer” for a drug dealer because of “the adrenaline rush. When I’m not on the job I’ll go into a bar and walk up to someone and blow smoke in his face, and we’ll go outside and fight, and usually he ends up liking me and we’ll go back in and have a drink or something.”

As a result, psychopaths are easily bored.

  • The flip side of this yearning for excitement is an inability to tolerate routine or monotony. You are not likely to find them engaged in occupations or activities that are dull, repetitive, or that require intense concentration over long periods. Psychopaths might function reasonably well as air-traffic controllers, but only while things are hectic and fast paced. During slow periods they would likely goof off or go to sleep, assuming that they even showed up for work.

Their lack of emotion contributes directly to their lack of long-term motives. Psychopaths are physically incapable of caring about anything, therefore there’s simply nothing that could keep their interest long enough for them to put in the hard work required to get anything done.

More interestingly, this pattern correlates with people who are highly intelligent yet are not emotionally developed enough to yield their force [2]. “Easily bored with things and people” seems to be a reoccurring theme in their self-description:

  • …it is difficult to find a particular “calling” or not get bored…
  • life can become very bland. It’s easy to get bored of people…
  • For the most part, I spent a lot of time bored…
  • When I get myself to learn something, I usually get it with relatively less effort but I’ll be bored easily as well. Usually my excitement dies down once I start to understand that thing. The only thing that can keep me going then would probably be competitive peers or sheer willpower.
  • …it was a disadvantage when I was younger and expected to put up with grunt work, and the involuntary boredom reflex was taken as an attitude problem rather than a neurological disability.
  • I am bored very quickly. I look for intellectual stimulation to engage myself. Speed thrills me. Sometimes, I am very impatient.
  • After a week or two I got bored to death and started doing what I can to avoid boredom…
  • Just as illustration how bad this is: many years ago I qualified for Mensa. Came to a few meetings, got bored, went my own way.

These come from our brightest and sharpest. Their time spent being bored could have been contributed to building the most wonderful things. Yet. Their default position is inaction. This is prevalent, but fortunately not a rule, when it comes to highly intelligent people. Compare those to the smart kids who do have a direction:

  • …an ability to be interested in pretty much anything. I don’t get bored much. I can find something interesting in pretty much anything I have to do.
  • I’d figure out my job in 6 months, do it well for a year or two, and then get bored and quit. At Google, I have never gotten the chance to be bored, because they kept giving me more to do when I mastered something. I’ve been here 7 years now (after not having lasted more than 2.5 years at any other company), and can’t see myself leaving because they keep challenging me and the people here are smart enough to keep up.

My theory is that the more developed one’s ability to process information, the more emotional maturity one would need to possess to steer themselves in a certain direction. When everything is on fast motion, the brain won’t be occupied with lower level processing about execution as much, and therefore would have more time to wander in default state. Emotional maturity determines what that default state is.

It’s almost similar to why developed countries observe more suicide cases: the people who don’t need to spend 18 hours a day worrying about where to find their next meal would have to face the truly scary question–pass conquering famine, what do you really care about? What moves you? What gets you curious? What gets you excited? To which they answer, um.. uh… nothing, really.

That, is the importance of emotional maturity.

To sum up.

If getting through life is like sailing across the ocean, emotional maturity is like a lighthouse that gives one motives and directions, and rational maturity is like the ship one constructed for oneself over years. One can get to somewhere fast with an awesome ship. But without emotional maturity, that somewhere would be nowhere, and the only thing that ship would be able do is to drift in whatever direction circumstances pushes.

On the other hand, rational maturity’s importance in life is rather direct and easy to understand. It would be whatever tools that make it efficient for someone to get to wherever they want, provided that they already have a strong preference for direction.

So, The Second Question.

How to grow one’s emotional as well as rational maturity?

How to grow one’s emotional as well as rational maturity? Two approaches.

1. Spend time with the right people.

Human beings are social animals. We learn the “acceptable” way of interaction from interacting with other people, or watching other people interact with each other. The longer time we spend with someone, the more traits we pick up from them. And in most families, this means that our problem solving mechanisms’ starting point is the way our parents deal with problems.

Do you remember how your parents resolve conflicts between themselves? Do they stop talking to each other altogether, or shout at the top of their lungs? Do they go upstairs so as to spare you the farce, or sit down at the table and talk it out in front of you?

This is your starting point.

Studies show that the way children fight are more influenced by the relationship between two parents than by the relationship between parents and children. Also, to learn to safely resolve interpersonal conflicts, children need to witness the whole process of conflict being resolved. This means that parents who take the fight elsewhere actually make it worse for the children [3].

And this is only the “how to resolve conflicts” part of emotional maturity. It is important, but far from enough. The rest you’ll have to pick up from the right people gradually, with time.

2. Read. The right material.

The best way to learn is, of course, spend actual time with people who are kind, compassionate and open-minded. However, due to real world limits, this isn’t always an option.

This is where reading comes in. Reading someone’s carefully thought out words is the second best thing to actually spending time with them.

And emotional maturity wise, apart from all the non-fictions I read, if I had to give one person who influenced me the most, it will be Will Wister on Quora. He has written most answers on the topics of:

Quora is helpful in the sense that you see social situations post out in the form of questions, and people reacting to the same situation differently. You can tell what kind of person you are most likely to want to learn from. Stick with them. Flip through their answers. Think. Try. Do.

And of course, books.

I have written a post here, and will add exceptional recommendations from time to time (about 1 in 30 books I read): Book Recommendations. Looking back, I can definitely say that these books have changed me. The way I think, the actions I take. I am grateful for that.

Have fun living and growing.