In the book The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens, David Brooks uses story to bring understanding to the way in which human progress happens and its relationship to the depths of our inner unconscious mind. Throughout the 22 chapters of his book he intertwines economic, political, social and psychological theories as he walks us through the lives of two characters Harold and Erica. He writes “The unconscious is impulsive, emotional, sensitive, and unpredictable. It has its shortcomings. It needs supervision. But it can be brilliant. It’s capable of processing blizzards of data and making daring creative leaps. Most of all, it is also wonderfully gregarious. Your unconscious, that inner extrovert, wants you to reach outward and connect. It wants you to achieve communion with work, friend, family, nation, and cause. Your unconscious wants to entangle you in the thick web of relations that are the essence of human flourishing…Of all the blessings that come with being alive, it is the most awesome gift.”
Chapter 3 focuses on the formulation of our mindsight beginning as a fetus in the womb and how it progress in various stages of human development. It is amazing how our brains work and collect information. In the narrative he tells the story of Julia Harold’s mom and the relationship that began at conception. She was charaterized as a socially free person. One that lended toward a different moral compass than most. When she was pregnant it began a shift in how she related to the world. I found it interesting how he told the story of how our minds develop and how our unconscious mind models love based on our early engagement with our parents. For Julie this was a true learning experience because she didn’t understand what it all entailed but her and Harold discovered this new life together. Brooks talks about the debated theory of Mirror Neurons. It is the brains ability to recreate mental patterns based on what we experience. It is not that we have special neurons but we were fashioned with the ability at a young age to be able to master the skill of imitating our surroundings. While I am not thrilled by some of his examples, Brooks used the example of a baby sticking out his tongue as a way of responding to an adult who stuck out their tongue. Without hesitation the baby understood how to respond when they saw an adult stick out their tongue. What I loved about this chapter, although I have yet to birth a child, is the developmental stages he introduces as he tells Harolds story. He give importance to moments that most of our culture may objectify or even overlook. I do not want to assume he gave proper presence to the early stages becaue again I have not lived this reality. What I have come to obsever is that he was attempting to connect modern day human development theory with the storyline. I also acknowledge that he only told chapter 3 from Harold and his mothers point of view. He chose not to insert his father’s impact into his early development to sure up the point he was intending to make. So while I found particular moments engaging, I also felt it was a bit short sided.
To be transparent it was hard to follow this book without reading it all the way through. Brooks wrote it in such a narrative form that made it so that each chapter pulled through the story line from the previous chapter. So to comment soley on one chapter means that you inject yourself awkwardly in Harold or Erica’s story.
With all that said, I do think that our make up as human beings and how we think, live and breathe is a direct influence to how we lead. With that said, this book offers an opportunity to insert yourself into a narrative and reflectively process youw onw life in the process. I actuallly look forward to reengaging with certain chapters and sitting with my thoughts about how it relates to leadership and my life. I will say I do not believe all of it is beneficinary to the discourse of leadership. In saying that I am showing bias in the fact that I can only speak from my own context. What I do again affirm and appreciate is that discuss complex theories in story allows for the masses to find connection points and be able to relate in a way that welcomes openess of understanding without forcing people to remain guarded and unwilling to explore the other side of many philisophical and theoretical discussion.
 David Brooks, The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens (London: Short, 2011), 16.