With stellar creativity and evidence of extensive research David Brooks brings us significant understanding of human beings as creatures of society in his book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. Through the medium of story-telling, interlaced with citings from many scholastic books, he demonstrates that even though we may think and function as individuals we can never escape the reality that we process life as trained by cultural mind-sets. “If the outer mind highlights the power of the individual, the inner mind highlights the power of relationships and the invisible bonds between people.” [Brooks ix] This statement is wrapped in the Postscript when he says, “The research described in this book attests to a simple point: Our experience of ourselves is misleading.” 
A few highlights from the book:
First, Brooks makes his case regarding humans being social creatures as he tells the story of “Erica,” a four-culture young woman of Mexican and Chinese heritage, who grew up in the dangerous streets of America, being influenced in her thinking by individualistic American schools. One can see the inner conflict as this composite youth navigates life-choices, while hearing at least four cultural voices in her head. It is impossible for her to make her choices in isolation.
He states “We become fully ourselves only through the ever-richening interplay of our networks. We seek, more than anything else, to establish deeper and more complete connections.”  In America today bigger houses, on-line shopping, mail-in voter ballots; all contribute to decreased connections and increased isolation. If Brooks is right the trends in our culture work contrary to our design as social creatures.
Second, portions of The Social Animal parallel the writing of Manfred Kets de Vries and Edwin Friedman. They spoke of how much the life and decisions of executives can be affected by emotional health and differentiation.  In a similar way Brooks discusses the large percentage of our decision making process that is affected by our emotions placing value. He says, “…emotions measure the value of something, and help unconsciously guide us as we navigate through life – away from things that are likely to lead to pain and toward things that are likely to lead to fulfillment.” 
He illustrates this point highlighting the life of a man named Elliot, who suffered damage to the frontal lobes of his brain because of a tumor and lost his ability to feel emotion.  Following this time Elliot became “incapable of assigning value to different options,” and became virtually incapable of making choices.  Brooks states that this background operation of emotional valuations means we cannot assign primary credit to our rational thinking in our decision making processes.
Third, I must disagree with Brooks at one point. He says, “The United States is a collective society that thinks it is an individualistic one…if you actually watch how Americans behave, you see they trust one another instinctively and form groups with alacrity.” 
Even if Americans do instinctively trust one another, which I doubt, all of the behaviors of trust will still always serve individual interest, and given the need for a difficult choice, Americans will still choose what is best for the individual. Christian McCaffrey abandoned his Stanford football team in the Sun Bowl in December in order not to risk injury before signing a pro football contract. He and his teammates trusted one another on the field. But in the end, he did what was best for himself as an individual.
Furthermore, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement has more impact in American culture than it would in Chinese culture. The idea that our individual identity and thought processes are significantly influenced by society would not be news to someone truly enculturated into a collectivist society. Their self-identity and decisions are directly connected to the identity and interest of the community, not the individual. But what Brooks has written is an excellent and necessary word for Americans.
A reflective thought: Brooks dances back and forth between the mental process of the individual and what he calls “the shared scaffolding of the human mind.”  Is his understanding of human nature and our inter-relatedness as social animals an expression of humans being created in the image of God? We know that theologians have pondered and debated the nature of the Trinity since the days of Jesus on earth. One God as Three Persons: how does that work? Part of the mystery of the Trinity is that God is simultaneously One Being and also Three Persons as a Society.
If Brooks is to be believed, it is nearly impossible for humans to grasp the nature of their minds in isolation. He points to the difference between a brain, contained in the skull of an individual, and the mind, which is somehow the collective thinking of countless other humans in a vast network of societies and cultures.  It almost seems impossible to conceive of what it means to be human apart from society and culture.
To live and be a leader in a globalized world, we must deal with this phenomenon: we cannot escape being a part of some collective mind. This is not advocating being assimilated into the “hive” mind of the Borg, for we never lose our individuality and the capacity to think on our own. But particularly for individualistic Western cultures, we must give more attention to the possibility that, truly, no person is an island, as much as we might wish to be fully independent. Being a leader in a globalized world means recognizing the degree to which our self-understanding and thinking is the result of being social animals.
 David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (New York, NY: Random House, 2011), 377.
 Ibid., xiv.
 Manfred Kets De Vries, The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise (Harlow, England: Prentice Hall, 2006).
Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, (New York, NY: Seabury Books, 2007).
 Brooks, 19.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid,. 18.
 Ibid,. 156.
 Ibid,. 150.
 Ibid,. 43.