The same is true for trading/investing, not just business:
by Peter Shallard
The entrepreneur stereotype has permanently changed.
The old school business archetype is all about smooth talking, pinstripe-suited, cigar smoking, deal brokering, power tycoons.
These captains of industry weren’t afraid to scream at subordinates, drown their sorrows in mid-afternoon whiskey or mortally wound their opponents at the negotiating table. They won huge success, fighting bitterly against all the odds.
It was always hard, never fun and once they “arrived” at success they promptly rode the gravy train all the way to the last stop: Divorce, Diabetes and eventually… Death.
It’s a dying breed. The good news? Even as these assholes fade into legend, a new paradigm of entrepreneurship has emerged.
Want to know the big difference between the new school of entrepreneurs and the old? It’s Emotional Intelligence.
The new, smart(er) entrepreneur knows that his (or her) emotional state dictates the success he creates. His mindful understanding of emotional psychology elevates him to the next level of brilliant business success and impact.
Emotion drives decision
Antonio Damasio, a professor of neurology at the University of Iowa, is a leading researcher in the neuroscience of emotion and decision making. His research shows that part of the human brain, called the amygdala, assigns emotional meaning to situations we encounter.
Damasio found startling phenomena in patients whose amygdala had been removed during brain cancer surgeries. Otherwise recovered patients would rapidly drive their business and personal lives into the ground by a series of rapidly made, terrible decisions.
One famous patient in Damasio’s studies, whose identity was protected with the pseudonym “Elliot”, showed the full impact of losing the neurological hardware responsible for emotional intelligence.
In a few short months, Elliot went from being a recognized and successful business person – with a stable and happy personal life – to divorced, re-married and divorced again. Meanwhile his financial performance declined so rapidly he lost his job.
It turns out the amygdala’s function is to make us act on our emotions – using “gut feeling” to make day to day behavioral choices. It forms rapid emotional associations with external stimulus – the stuff we experience as we’re walking around living life – taking a whole bunch of decision making and “behavior choosing” off the plate of our conscious mind.
Your number one decision making tool is an auto-pilot system powered by emotion
In healthy people (with functioning amygdalae) the idea is that your emotions – negative ones in particular – serve as a powerful early warning, radar detection system.
We feel twinges in our “gut” about upcoming situations as we anticipate them and the amygdala translates that feedback into tiny tweaks in our behavior. A classic entrepreneurial example is seen anytime you negotiate a deal: You’re constantly unconsciously assessing and tweaking your communication, based on what you observe… and what your gut tells you about that.
This isn’t just happening at the negotiating table – your emotional state is dramatically effecting all your behavior. In business and at home.
When you feel a certain way, you’re marinating your brain in a specific bath of neurological chemicals. That in turn dictates the focus of your cognitive powers – literally shutting down behavioral options and opening up ones that never previously existed in your perception.
Think of the last time you were angry. Or better, really furious.
Remember how, back then, when you were in the heat of the moment no other behavior seemed to make sense as an option besides continuing to let the fury flow?
Anger, as an emotion, has this weird habit of shutting down the doors of perception. It eliminates our choices and forces us to continue committing further to one treacherous course of action.
Or, think of the last time you were really sad. Depressingly so. Remember how you felt likeeverything was hopeless and you had nothing to be grateful for. Did you feel like you had an abundance of behavioral choices at the time?
Painful sadness and hurt does the same thing. It robs us of options and blinds us to find the (obviously still present) positive things in our lives. It destroys our perspective.
Emotion effects all of our decision making, even when we tell ourselves we’re being rational
People who allow themselves to dwell deep amongst their emotional baggage are constantly throwing off their emotional decision making ability. The neurological function that makes “gut” choices starts producing skewed results.
Which brings us back to the old school cigar toting tycoon. The classic Trump-esque power suit entrepreneur is constantly allowing their decision making to be swayed by a powerful neurological bath of chemical bias.
The enlightened entrepreneurs produce more success (and fulfillment) by using emotional intelligence to guide their decisions.
Using emotional intelligence means working rapidly to identify and work through any negative emotion as it presents itself.
Before the emotion gains a food hold as baggage, you’re using it – in real time – as highly tuned feedback to tweak the direction your behavior. You’re flexible, agile and adaptable. Meanwhile, the old school ignore their feelings until they’ve reached boiling point. Only then will they change something, and it’s often “too little, too late”.
Convinced you want to join the new school of emotionally intelligence entrepreneurs? Here’s how to get started…
Pay attention to the way that you feel, before the feeling becomes a problem
The first step is to identify emotions as they come up. There’s no real strategy around this beyond “mindfulness” but it’s not as hard as you might think.
Humans were actually designed to feel and act on their negative emotions.
It’s only the hangover legacy of Greek philosophy – the separation of body and mind – that gives the western world it’s peculiar aversion to negative feelings.
Negative emotions were originally designed to be experienced as a very sophisticated form of radar – advanced warning that something is coming up that we need to act on. I often talk about fear keeping us safe in the jungle – from tigers and whatnot – but all the other negative emotions have powerful, helpful meaning too.
So get a little warm and fuzzy with yourself and don’t be afraid to check in and see how you’re feeling. Any exercise of the mind/body variety will help you get good at this – yoga and meditation are king, but a moment of reflection or casual journalling will do the trick in a pinch.
This is just the first step in a series of emotional intelligence exercises I train almost all my clients in. I may write a follow up to this article, breaking down the rest in detail… but in the meantime, let me know how you access your emotional intelligence.
There are countless tactics humans can use to get in touch with (and use!) their feelings – so let’s get smarter together by sharing in the comment section. And if you want to know more about my process, drop a quick comment to let me know that I should write about it next week!