I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich, and I have to say that rich smells different. Money represents happiness in the abstract; a perfect pursuit for those of us incapable of direct happiness. Thus, having a lot of money carries particular challenges, many outlined in the book, We Gave Away a Fortune. That book intimately details the struggles of the heirs of the Pillsbury, Rockefeller and other massive American fortunes as they tried to go against family tradition – they actually gave away principal (God forbid!), the hoard of money that earned much of the interest customarily given away to charity.
For me one central difficulty with having a lot of money was distressingly summarized one day when I picked my daughter up from elementary school. She was crying because the other kids didn’t want to come over to her house and play, “because you’re rich!” Wealth can isolate and powerfully foster the illusion of separation, individually and collectively in my experience. The rich keep their distance from the poor, and the poor envy and aspire to become like the rich.
With a Little Help from my Friends
Becoming rich was never a high priority for me. We got that way seemingly by accidental good fortune, and a lot of help from family, friends and strangers. One stranger was the town manager of Atherton, one of the wealthiest communities in the San Francisco Bay area. Our social “resonance circuits” somehow connected up with his, and of his own accord he volunteered to personally mentor my wife and me through the town’s complex subdivision process. When the planning commission initially nixed our substandard subdivision request, the town manager pointed us to a little-known Ordinance that would tie their hands. The end result was that this one property that we maxed our credit cards to buy in the go-go days of real estate, became two, both ultimately worth several million dollars.
To this day I continue to explore and grapple with the issues of wealth and poverty, pulsating perhaps too frequently between those poles (I filed for bankruptcy protection shortly after 911). Some recent neuroscience studies have helped me bring things into considerably sharper focus, however.
Pinging the Pleasure Centers
I’ve written and published seven books in the last six years, and what I notice is that donating them to individuals and organizations that will make good use of the information they contain, feels MUCH more satisfying than simply selling them to folks at talks, conferences and on the Internet. Stanford neuroeconomist Brian Knutson (pictured on the right) and Dharol Tankersley and her colleagues at UC San Diego have discovered the possible reasons for that: the pleasure centers in the brain and the altruism centers in the brain of most people tend to be two very different, independently operating networks. The nucleus accumbens is considered to be the centerpiece of the pleasure center, while the posterior superior temporal sulcus fires up to fuel altruistic activities. In most people, when these two centers go head to head, the pleasure centers rule the brainpan. I suspect the opposite is true for me – the pleasures I receive from altruistic activities like working with Hearts and Hammers, making charitable book donations and writing this free blog far outweigh the pleasure I get from simply peddling merchandise. But that’s me. It also seems to be Bill Gates, who recently exhorted his fellow billionaires to give away their billions. He’s mistaken though, about them enjoying it. They won’t, unless they’ve somehow wired up their brains as he has – to find great pleasure in the giving.
Now Pitching for Parents
So, now comes the pitch: I’ve just published a new book. It, like the six others before it, have one objective – to inform parents of the fact that the role they play in the lives of their children during the first three years is all-powerful: it will impact everything for better or worse across the whole lifespan! Social neuroscience, trauma and attachment research suggest that parenting for optimal brain development during these first three years will have enormous benefits, ones that will pay big dividends both for individual children and for the larger culture as well. Here’s my new book based on much of that research:
Wait, There’s More!
And so, I’d like to get the word out. I think learning about the brain and how it works, even just a little, can make a great difference for parents and children. If you’re one of the first 25 people to send an email with your name and address (email@example.com), I’ll send you a book free of charge. And if you want to simply buy one outright, that’s okay, too.
And, if you know of young parents (or old grandparents, or daycare providers) who might benefit from learning how to optimally parent with the brain in mind, I’ll be happy to supply five or more copies at a 50% discount. And I’ll gladly ship directly to anyone you designate. Might such an action ultimately be something best for the children?
The brain-minded parents of these children told me they think so: