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It’s Not About You + Want to Be Better Looking + Does it Hurt the Mother?

Good Morning from Warren Grove, Prince Edward Island

Thank you for allowing me into your time and space today. Put the kettle on, two cups please, I will be a little longer than usual. 

Today, I am going to do something different. I am not writing as much per se'; I am sharing from a podcast that I listened to earlier this week.

I enjoyed the conversation Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks had with Tim on this Tim Ferris Podcast

Tim is a masterful interviewer. His homework (research) about his guests is evident and worthy of top marks. 

I found the clarity and wisdom Rabbi Sacks shared through the conversation helpful. Understanding is the first step in removing some of the fog or noise responsible for adding low grade but constant anxiety. 

Rabbi Sacks is a frequent and sought-after contributor to radio, television, the international press and a renowned public speaker. He has degrees from both Cambridge and Oxford universities, as well as 18 honorary degrees. He was knighted by HM The Queen in 2005 and took his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009.

Earlier in the interview, Rabbi Sacks mentioned that one of the most powerful sentences ever written at the beginning of a book was, “It’s Not About You.” It came out of Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I pick up their conversation from here. 

I will share with permission parts of the transcript from the interview. 

The quotes in bold are my contribution to this post.

Tim Ferriss: What was the opening line that you mentioned in The Purpose Driven Life? Could you repeat that line for a moment, please?

Rabbi Sacks: “It’s not about you.”

Tim Ferris: This seems to segue nicely to a number of things that I’d love to discuss with you. And in one of the constructs or more frameworks, I’m not sure if that’s the right label that I’d love to have you introduce listeners to is the I/we construct, right? Not about you, it’s not about the I. And there are probably 100 different avenues into discussing this, but feel free to take whatever you think is a good starting point.

Rabbi Sacks: Yeah. I always, when I want to explain things, talk about the joke that Benedict Cumberbatch makes in The Imitation Game when he’s playing Alan Turing.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, great movie.

Rabbi Sacks: And Keira Knightley tells him, “Go and tell them a joke, show them you’re human.” And so he goes along, and he says, “There are these two explorers in the jungle, and they suddenly hear a lion roar. And one of them starts looking for a place where both of them can hide. And the other one starts putting on his running shoes. And the first person says to the second person, “You’re crazy. You can’t run faster than a lion.” And the second one turns to the first one and says, “I don’t need to run faster than the lion. All I need to do is run faster than you.” So now this is where Darwin arrived at, that natural selection, where there’s competition for scarce resources, where you have to outpace others in order to survive, came to the conclusion that it’s the selfish guy, number two guy, who is putting on his running shoes, who will survive the lion. Whereas, it’s the first guy, the altruist, who’s looking for a way of saving both of them, who gets eaten by the lion.

So the ruthless survive, and the altruists go extinct. That was Darwin’s conclusion. And Darwin was sharp enough to see that that conclusion is simply not true. Because, in every single society that you ever find, it is the altruists who are admired. So how did altruists survive at all when natural selection seems to favour the egoist? 

And eventually, Darwin found a solution. He didn’t write it in Origin of Species; he wrote it in his book The Descent of Man. And he said, “Any tribe whose members were altruistic, who were always willing to come to the aid of one another, would be stronger than any tribe whose members were not altruistic.” Or, as we would put it today, we pass on our genes as individuals, but we survive as groups.

Groups only exist when we put the “we” before the “I” when we accept collective responsibility for the common good. There is no other way of survival. And since we are social animals, since our existence depends on being in groups, we need altruism in order to survive. Most traditional societies have made space for egoism and for altruism, for self-interest and for collective interest, the common good.

So the self-interest is, today, in the market where we are competing for wealth, and in politics, where we are competing for power. 

There, it’s all about the “I.” But there’s such a thing as family, or community, or congregation, or charity, where we are there not to compete, but to cooperate, to function as a collective we.

Now, what has happened in the last 50 years is that the market is still strong. The state and politics are still strong. But families, communities, congregations, and the rest have become weaker than they once were. And the end result is that we have too much I and too little we. It’s all gone out of balance. And that is to say that we have pushed, in the West, radical individualism simply too far. What does radical individualism look like? I don’t know. Are you into soccer in the States, Tim?

No one has become poor by giving. ~ Anne Frank

Tim Ferriss: Well, I used to play soccer, and then spent time in South America where it’s a religion. So I think I’m more exposed to it than most. Some Americans care about soccer, but we tend to view our football as something you throw around by hand. But please continue with soccer since the audience is international.

Rabbi Sacks: Just imagine you have a soccer team that contains the 11 greatest players in the world, but they’re all radical individualists. That team will never win a single match. Because soccer is made by your ability to put the team ahead of the individual player. And imagine an orchestra of radical individualists. The result will not be music but will be noise.

So whenever I takes over from a place that should be about we, you get catastrophe. Now, Tim, look at this catastrophe. And I’m surprised not more people have noticed it. Two of the countries that have done worst in the world in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 have been the two most individualistic societies in the world today, the United States and the United Kingdom. The United States, far more infections than anywhere else, far more fatalities than anywhere else. Britain, a terrible record of fatalities per million of the population and a terrible record of economic collapse.

Now you ask yourself why these two countries, which were the greatest defenders of liberty in the 20th century, Britain and America, have become the worst at dealing with a catastrophe like a coronavirus. And the answer is they have too much I and too little we. It is the countries that maintain that balance, like South Korea, like Taiwan, like Singapore, like New Zealand, like Germany. Those are the countries that have coped really well.

When you have a country that is all I, for instance, you have political leadership that keeps saying, “I, I, I,” instead of saying, “We, we, we,” a relationship that can sometimes be very damaging indeed to the social fabric. 

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
~ Martin Luther King

Listening to epidemiologist-in-training Sophie Rose, I am impressed with her desire to help the world. In April 2020 she volunteered to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. As a young, healthy adult, she's offering to take part in a human challenge trial, a study where participants are intentionally exposed to SARS-CoV-2 to test vaccines and gather critical data. Explaining how challenge trials could speed up the development of effective vaccines, Rose shares why volunteering was the right decision for her.

If you want to be better looking, look at the science behind giving. 

Giving is good for you.

For years, researchers have found that people who support charities or volunteer for causes can benefit from being generous.

For example, they might learn new things, meet new people or make others whom they care about happier. Researchers have also found that giving may make the givers themselves more joyful, more confident and even physically healthier.

If you are up for reading an article from The Conversation, a newsletter with academic rigour with journalistic flair, take a read, Doing Good May Make People Look Better

This week, I have been listening to my favourite piece of classical music, Goldberg Variations by Bach. Wait a minute Bruce, that was the same as last week! Yes, but this is the first time I have heard it performed on harp. Gorgeous.  

Parker Ramsay on Harp. Sample Listen Here. 

Taking Care of Business: New Gift Box Ideas

I hope you have a lovely weekend. 

With love from Prince Edward Island. 


Bruce & Millie

ps. Your Morning Smile 

A mom and her children watched a PBS special showing the birth of a baby.

One fascinated child asked, "Mom, does that hurt?"

"Oh, yes, it does," she said, remembering her difficult deliveries.

"Wow," said the kid. "Does it hurt the mother, too?"

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Sarah Hucks - December 1, 2020

I’ve seen this emphasis on I put into action concerning wearing masks. “I’m not wearing a mask; I refuse to let anyone take away my personal freedoms.” This attitude is so selfish. And sadly, one of the main stages upon which it’s being played out here in America is the church. “ Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. “ Philippians 2:4 NLT

Murdock Morrison - November 22, 2020

Great blog Bruce and now we have a great mind to follow (Rabbi Sacks) as it was a wonderful read and such clarity on “I” and “We” and creative altruism as we are all experiencing so many ups and downs today with covid and life in general. I had quickly identified the “I” as we all look at the attempted destruction of democracy that is taking place in the United States because of an “I” president. Thank goodness for the “We” as we could have never endured another four years with “I”. Enjoyed this very much and it was a nice way to change the script and be introduced to one of the world’s great minds.

Nari - November 21, 2020

Hi Bruce, thank you sincerely for another inspiring blog post. I learnt of the recent sudden passing of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks via the On Being podcast last week – a podcast I discovered through your blog. Krista re-played her wonderful interview with him from a couple of years ago. What a tremendous man he was. If you have not seen his presentation ‘How To Lead a Good Life In Divided Times’, I highly commend it to you: Thank you for your inspiration, Bruce. Kind regards, Nari. Australia.

Bernadette - November 21, 2020

These are really great ! Will
Read more of them 😃❤️

Karyn Halls - November 21, 2020

Thank you for being part of ‘the good’ and for sharing uplifting and heartwarming thoughts and ideas that inspire others to join in and be part of ‘the good’ too!!

althea - November 21, 2020

Beautiful blog, Bruce. And to Tati: ditto. Blessed thanks to both. Peace.

Mikel and Kay Stevenson - November 21, 2020

As always, Bruce, we value the insightful, timely thoughts you share. Thank you.

With warm appreciation and wishes for a fulfilling week ahead for you and yours,
Mikel and Kay, Spokane, WA

Tati - November 21, 2020

Thank you. This morning your blog has sent me off to read more, listen more, do more and give what I can. Thank you.
Your blogs are part of my Saturday morning quiet moments. I look forward to them, and in many ways they set me up for my week….centering and recalibrating the inner reality a bit so my outer actions are motivated by values I embrace. …like a weekly tuneup! It echoes what happens when we are on the island. How appropriate that you deliver that gift!

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