Arthur Brooks -- The Science of Happiness

The Strategerist Podcast

We all seek happiness, but few of us know the science behind it. Author, Harvard professor, and philosopher of happiness Arthur Brooks is changing that through his insights, teachings, and best-selling books on how we can all build happy lives.

He joined host Andrew Kaufmann and the Bush Institute’s Anne Wicks to discuss why happiness is a direction, not a destination; how healthy regret can be productive; why love is so important in our lives; and how to put happiness into practice.

Hear more from Arthur on this episode of The Strategerist, presented by the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Transcript of the episode:

Podcast Introduction (Nicole Hawkins): We all see happiness, but few of us know the science behind it. Author, Harvard professor and philosopher of happiness, Arthur Brooks, is changing that through his insights, teachings and bestselling books on how we can all build happy lives. He joined host Andrew Kaufmann and the Bush Institute’s Anne Wicks to discuss why happiness is a direction, not a destination, how healthy regret can be productive, why love is so important in our lives and how to put happiness into practice.

Arthur Brooks Teaser: I do want to be happier, and that means I need to participate. It’s an engaged activity. Learn the science, change your habits, teach others, get happier. That’s the algorithm, that’s how it works. And I’ve gotten way happier since that epiphany.

Nicole Hawkins: Hear more from Arthur on this episode of the Strategerist presented by the George W. Bush Presidential Center.


Andrew Kaufmann: So, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call Arthur Brooks, one of the great thinkers around today. We love to butter up our guests a little bit, but I think it’s true. Whenever we walk around the office here, someone is always saying, “hey, we need to get Arthur Brooks on this podcast.” And we’re lucky enough today that he’s here to talk to the Presidential Leadership Scholars and said, “okay. I’ve got a few minutes here, let’s do this.” And, so, we’re really thrilled. Arthur Brooks, thank you so much for being with us.

Arthur Brooks: Thanks for having me. I’m delighted to be here.

Andrew Kaufmann: And, our co-host is Anne Wicks, the Don Evans Family Managing Director of Opportunity and Democracy, and she’s also a super fan. She’s read all the books.

Anne Wicks: Guilty as charged.

Arthur Brooks: Nice. Nice. Thank you.

Andrew Kaufmann: We all know you as the CEO of AEI, a think tank, one of our contemporaries, one of our peers here. And that was cool. But from there, you decided to be a philosopher of happiness, it sounds like. And you’re a columnist for The Atlantic, and you head up the Harvard University Leadership and Happiness Laboratory. You’ve written three books recently, Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier, Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life. Deep breath. And also, before that, Love Your Enemies, which is one of our favorite books here. So, let’s start with this. You went from a think tank to being a philosopher of happiness. Is that in our future, are we all going to be philosophers of happiness when we eventually move on from this think tank?

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, it’s inevitable. That’s the natural order of things for sure. Now, it’s interesting because when I left DC, I ran AEI for 11 years and Washington, newsflash, is not a very happy place. Especially right now. I mean, we’re in a time of polarization, a time of index populism. The political parties are largely being managed by activists. Activists are problematic always everywhere. Why? Because they have really one goal, which is power. That’s how activism works, that’s how it’s set up. And what you need is lots of search for truth and inquiry and trying to help people live in an environment of opportunity with a little bit of activism. But now what we have is mostly activism and politics, and the result of that is there’s a whole lot of misery. Leaving the think tank, which is all about trying to find solutions to policy problems, I thought, huh, how can I do something that can meet this moment? How can I use my life as best I can to meet this moment? The answer I thought was to help people demand something better. What do they want? Not from their government? What do they want from their lives? And then how can their country and their government be part of that? And what they want is to be happier. They want more love; they want more happiness. And so, I thought, okay, look, I’m a social scientist. I got my PhD in behavior. This is what I do. So, I said, I’m going to spend the rest of my life lifting people up and bringing them together in bonds of happiness and love using science and ideas. So that’s what I left to do and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Andrew Kaufmann: I love it. I love everything about that.

Anne Wicks: So, one of the reasons why I think we’re fascinated about your work on happiness is it’s not like platitudinal happiness. It’s actually grounded in deeply understanding unhappiness and the role unhappiness plays in happiness. And I wonder if you just talk about that a little bit.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah. So, I teach a class at the Harvard Business School called “Leadership and Happiness,” and it’s a science class. It’s about 30% neuroscience. I talk a lot about the brain, I talk a lot about the experiments that expose these theories to data. And then I take the big questions from philosophy, expose them to the science, and then say, “how can you use this in your life?” And also, how can you use this as a leader? Because leaders, great leaders, are happiness teachers. People need to understand how to teach happiness if they’re going to be leaders, corporate leaders, political leaders, community leaders, family leaders, whatever it happens to be. So that’s really what the goal of this class is. One of the big misconceptions that my students come in with, and they’re all on average, 28-year-old MBAs. I have 180 students and a huge waiting list for the class because it is happiness. I say, “okay, you don’t understand happiness—you don’t understand it?” They’re like, “what do you mean I don’t understand it?” And I say, “no, no, no, no, no. You think happiness is a feeling, it’s not. Feelings are evidence of happiness.” Second, you think that you can actually, you’re hoping that you can be happy. You can’t because part of life is having negative emotions which are appropriate. It’s very dangerous not to have negative emotions because there are things that you need to react emotionally negatively to, and you need negative experiences to learn and grow. And so therefore, to become a happier person, because happiness is not a destination, it’s a direction, you need to become a lot more comfortable with unhappiness. And we spend a lot of the semester talking about the learning and growth, the beauty that comes from suffering and sacrifice, the sacredness that actually comes from pain in our lives and what we’re going to learn, and we’re going to help other people who are going through the serious business of life as well.

Anne Wicks: It’s kind of like how we think people get a little more interesting after they’ve been kicked in the teeth. It’s a little more real perhaps.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of cases of that. So, the number one question, the number one unit that’s most popular in my class is the business of falling in love and staying in love. That’s the number one. I mean, they are 28-year-olds. By that time, I was married, but a lot of them aren’t. And they’re kind of, man, I know how to do a startup business, but I don’t know how to do a startup life. The currency of your startup life, by the way, is love. And they feel baffled by that because nobody’s ever talked to them about that. Their parents haven’t talked to them about that. And if they go to therapy, they just get a whole bunch of nonsense, mostly about how to stand up for your rights as opposed to how do you love somebody fully and be loved? So, I talk about that from the neurochemical aspects of what it means to fall in love. What is the magical thinking you should avoid so you can stay in love? How can you have a successful marriage, it’s not a merger, it’s a startup because merger marriages are not that great. I mean, it could be worse. You could have a hostile takeover or an acquisition or something that would be worse, but you get my point. And so that’s all the stuff that I talk about, and that’s really, really critical. That’s what they want to talk about. And so, over the course of the class, when we’re talking about what love actually means, we look at the science of love in these particular ways, and it’s very, very practical. That is by far the most popular thing I teach.

Andrew Kaufmann: There’s a great line in your book, “well astronomers study the stars. It doesn’t mean they can change them. But you can change happiness, you can be more happy.”

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, I did not know that. As a behaviorist, as a social scientist, I’ve been studying happiness forever. But for the first couple of decades of my study of happiness, I observed it. I wrote a book a long time ago that looked at what do happy people do, what are they doing differently than unhappy people? But idiotically, it never occurred to me that I should go do those things that the happier people do, right? It’s like, oh yeah, happier people do this, and unhappier people do that. Oh, isn’t that interesting? I was an observer. And that’s the wrong way, I need to be a participant. If you just study a book about golf, you’re not going to be a better golfer. You better go out and golf. I don’t know how to golf. I hate golf. But I do want to be happier, and that means I need to participate. It’s an engaged activity. Learn the science, change your habits, teach others, get happier. That’s the algorithm. That’s how it works. And I’ve gotten way happier since that epiphany.

Anne Wicks: How do you measure that? Not to make this business school about mergers and not show your outcomes?

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, show me your key performance indicators. So, psychologists have been figuring out how to measure people’s wellbeing for a long time. So, happiness, it is a little bit too broad, and people define it in different ways. Happiness is really a combination of an enjoyment of your life, satisfaction with your accomplishments, and a sense of meaning in life, the why of your life. And those are all really, really big things. Wellbeing is a mix of how much happiness you experience and how much unhappiness you’re experiencing, which are not the same thing as we talked about a minute ago, that unhappiness and happiness are not opposites, but they kind of mix together into a mood balance. And that’s what we’re measuring all things considered at this point in your life. And so, there’s lots and lots of good ways to measure it. There’s some that are very sophisticated. I can look at blood cortisol levels. I can interview the people who know you the best, like your mom or your husband or something, and say, tell me the truth. But the way that we can get really, really good data, it turns out much more easily as you get big samples of people, you ask them anonymously so that they’re not next to their spouse where they will lie about their happiness. You need people to answer honestly. And then you need to say something like this. Here’s the best way to measure this. Imagine a scale of one to 10 where one is the unhappiest person you’ve ever met. Think of that person. Got it. 10 is the most blissful person you’ve ever met. Think of that person. Okay, got it. All things considered at this point in your life, not this moment based on what you had for breakfast or how well you slept last night, but all things considered in your life, what’s your number? It turns out to be incredibly stable and accurate, and you can do a ton of measurement on that. And so that’s what I have data on. That’s how I look at how people’s happiness changed over the course of their lives, how happiness in America has been changing over the past 30 years. I have a lot of data on that. That’s how I look at how different cohorts and different demographic groups are changing. That’s how I compare the relative happiness of women and men. That’s all those interesting questions that I’ve got. That’s the data that I’m looking at because it’s the most stable and most accurate data you can get on happiness.

Anne Wicks: Okay, so I’m thinking, we always hear ignorance is bliss and I’m thinking of very blissful, ignorant people. And then something you said in your book about regret as maybe a great cognitive feature. I think you described it, and I have to say when I read that, I was like, “I don’t want to talk about regret.” And I was a little miffed, but then I read it and thought about it. So, what’s good about regret?

Arthur Brooks: It is a funny sort of contemporary philosophy that living without regret is the best way to live. And people, I mean literally tattoo at other bodies, no regrets. These are the people who should regret the most, generally speaking…

Anne Wicks: Especially if they spell it what it is. R-E-G-R-A-T-S.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, that’s not the best. But the whole point is that that regret is a funny, evolved emotion that has to do with how we’re trying to learn from past activities. So, we can time travel. We’re the only species that can time travel consistently because we have a big prefrontal cortex. That’s the meaty kind of bumper of brain tissue behind your forehead is 30% of your brain by weight, no other animal comes even close. That’s the reason that you’re conscious, meaning that you’re aware of your existence. Consciousness is, “I am alive right now and I know it.” And that’s a really, really weird thing. Philosophers have been kind of flipping out about consciousness for the longest time. And even neuroscientists are baffled by it because you can’t find any part of the brain that is the consciousness center. It has something to do with the size of the prefrontal cortex, but that’s one of the reasons that Isaac Christian believes that there’s something divine about consciousness and my awareness of my own existence. One way to think about this as an evolutionary biologist, if you were an evolutionary biologist, is to say that the moment when people became humans is when the prefrontal cortex made consciousness possible because then you could assess your life and know you were sinning. That’s the point. And so, maybe that’s the Rubicon neuro-scientifically that human beings crossed in our evolution where we went from not human to human. And there’s so much interesting stuff that goes around about this. So that’s the whole but tell me the key part of the question again. So, I want to make sure I don’t get off on a tangent.

Anne Wicks: No, no. I’m enjoying the tangent. But it was about the role regret plays in that consciousness.

Arthur Brooks: So, since we can understand our lives, since we can look in on ourselves, we can also look at our past and think about our future. That’s time travel. That’s called retrospective thinking, the past, prospective thinking, which is the future. And we don’t spend that much time right now. My dog spends all this time right now, scratch me, let me out, warmth, love, feed me. That’s it. Right? And it’s the reason that your dog is happier than you are, by the way, because he’s here now. You’re not here now. Most of the time you’re thinking about what happened yesterday. And even more of the time, depending on how ambitious you are, you’re thinking about tomorrow the average person spends 30 to 50% of their brain cycles thinking about the future, and that that’s time travel for all intents and purposes. If you’re a really ambitious person, it can be up to 80% of your cycles are spent in the future and it’s great, except that you’re missing now. Now what’s the important thing about thinking about the future? You’re practicing future scenarios, so you don’t make mistakes. Think, well, if I do this, I’m going to say this to her, and then I’m going to be like, “ooh, that’ll be bad.” Okay, come back to the present. I went and did that thing, made the mistake and came back without actually having done it, which is why humans can make so much progress so fast and dominate everything else in the world. We also can think back to the past, rehearse something that happened, do something different in the past and go forward and say, “oh, that would’ve been better.” That’s regret. That’s how regret works. And everybody needs to feel it so that you can learn from your mistakes. The problem is when you ruminate on it too much, there’s a part of your brain, it’s part of the limbic system of the brain, which is a console of tissue that produces all your emotions. That’s between two and 40 million years old evolutionarily. And there’s a part of it called the “ventral lateral prefrontal cortex.” And this whole job is for you to ruminate on stuff. It’s your regret machine. It’s also your worry machine. It’s also when you’re thinking over and over and over again about a poem that you’re writing or a business plan or you’re feeling really ruminatively depressed, that’s the part of the brain that actually does all that. So, it’s a super interesting part of the brain. Why? Because it’s actually physically larger for people who are depressed because they’re using it so much. Your brain will literally get bigger in the parts that you’re using the most. And so, the ventral lateral prefrontal cortex is muscular in depressed people, but it’s also really big in creative people because they’re ruminating on particular ideas and it’s most active when you’re falling in love with somebody. Why? Because you’re ruminating on the other person. That’s how you imprint on each other, which is part of permanent pair bonding. Humans are a permanent pair-bonded species, that doesn’t always work out, but we’re designed to be couples. We’re more like wood storks or something where we’re pair bonded. And one of the ways that we imprint on each other is by ruminating depressively and melancholically on each other using this ventral lateral prefrontal cortex. Okay. All this is to say that the brain is incredibly amazing and miraculous and wonderful, but it makes us pretty uncomfortable sometimes. And people who are especially good at ruminating, they tend to regret in a kind of maladapted exaggerated way. That’s why people are like, no regrets. No, no, no, no. Yeah, you need a tattoo that says “healthy regrets.”

Anne Wicks: Okay, we’ll campaign for that. Sorry. Could I transition us to your Strength to Strength book? Because your comment about regret is making me think about the title. I wrote it down for you, the first chapter, which again, I keep saying things I read miff me a little bit, but then it made me laugh. That was, “your professional decline is coming much sooner than you think.” So how do we take what you were just talking about with regret and think about our own, when our thinking changes from innovative creative thinking to more wisdom thinking, which I found fascinating, sort of how you framed that.

Arthur Brooks: So that’s based on a huge literature that talks about relative intelligences at a different time. We think of intelligence as just IQ, which is pretty boring. I mean, cognitive horsepower differs between people. We all know that, right? What’s really interesting is the different manifestations of intelligence that people naturally get in their lives. What you find is that when people are younger, their intelligence, it’s all about innovation, focus, working memory. In other words, you’re just a cowboy on your own figuring stuff out. And the more you learn, the better your schooling, the more your education, your greater your curiosity, your work effort combines with this to make you a superstar. And what you do in your twenties and thirties, that intelligence peaks in the late thirties at latest, early forties, and then it declines, which is why working memory declines and why focus tends to decline and why people don’t have their best original ideas after about age 40. Most people. What you get on the other hand is a second intelligence curve that comes into it. The first one’s called “fluid intelligence,” the second, it doesn’t require working memory. Thank God.

Andrew Kaufmann: I have a lot of notes in front of me for that very reason.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, totally. And how old are you?

Andrew Kaufmann: 45.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, you’re pretty high though, in fluid intelligence. Trust me, I’m turning 60 this year.

Andrew Kaufmann: It’s slowing down. I’ve noticed.

Arthur Brooks: What’s your name again? Yeah, it’s a problem, right?

Andrew Kaufmann: I’m Chris, you’re super fan.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, I got it. So, what happens is that people, they see that they’re less innovative, that their ideas were once more original, that their working memory is declining, and their focus and indefatigable energy isn’t as good. And so, they just think that things are worse. You got to pay attention to the fact that in your forties and fifties, there’s a second intelligence curve coming in behind it that has different strengths, that has nothing to do with those things. It has everything to do with pattern recognition, teaching ability, your ability to explain complicated concepts, to link people’s different ideas to each other, to manage teams, to mentor people. In other words, you’re not on your innovation curve, you’re on your instructor curve, and that gets better and better and better. That’ll increase through your sixties and seventies and stay high into your eighties and nineties, or however long God gives you your marbles. That’s a big deal. And so, everybody needs to think about, okay, I’m on my fluid intelligence curve, my twenties and thirties and forties, early forties. What am I going to walk over to? And in every field, you can exploit both curves. If you’re a lawyer, you should be a star litigator at 35, you should be the managing partner at 60, because you’re going to recognize you’re going to find, recruit, retain, reward the next generation of talent and train them up. If you’re a startup entrepreneur at 30, you should be a VC at 60, because VCs are just teachers. They’re talent scouts and teachers, no matter what you do. When I was 35, I was writing research, academic research that was so mathematically sophisticated. I can’t read it today. Today I write about other people’s research, and I put it in terms that’s not super technical, and I have an audience of 500,000 people a week in the Atlantic. These aren’t scientists. These are ordinary people that want to know about science, and I’m the teacher.

Andrew Kaufmann: It’s a hard transition though. I feel it when I used to be able to stay up until one o’clock and bang this stuff out and get up at seven the next morning. Now by 5:30/6:00, I’ve got nothing to give. And it’s hard to change who you’ve been your whole career.

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, for sure. Of course. But you notice that the people who do that the best, they wind up extraordinarily successful. I think about President Bush. So, President Bush was in the zone at 60. Why? Because he didn’t. That’s when I met him, and first meeting I had with him, he was like, “let me tell you all my whizzbang ideas.” No, no, no. He’s like, “I bet there’s a bunch of good ideas in this room. Let’s hear them.” Why? Because he was actually stitching together other people’s wisdom, using his judgment to figure out what was good and what wasn’t as good. And then coming out with a composite plan based on all that fluid intelligence from all the young guys like I was at that time. That’s incredible. So, there’s some people who are naturally really good at getting on that curve. And that’s, by the way, the reason that we want 60-year-old presidents and not 35-year-old presidents.

Anne Wicks: Yeah, very much so. Can we talk about the stoics for a real quick minute?

Arthur Brooks: Sure. Stoic philosophers.

Anne Wicks: Yes. So, I will confess, I’d forgotten about them since college until I was reading your books and I was like, “oh yeah, these guys, some of these tenants that you talk about in today’s context have been around for hundreds and thousands of years.” I mean, they all were living pre-Christ, and I think you reminded me of Seneca’s great line. What is it that, “believe me, joy is a serious matter which I always take to intentionality.” So, the world can feel really chaotic, moving fast right now. And it gave me kind of a strange comfort to know that some of these great ideas have been around for a long time and have stabilized people for a long time. So, I’m wondering if you could share with us, how would you recommend that we all think about some of that in today’s context? What kind of purchase can it give us when the ground fills wavy?

Arthur Brooks: Yeah. Well, the answer to that is that the answers exist, and we need to avail ourselves of the wisdom of the ages. It’s the most amazing thing. I mean, if you’re feeling down, you’re feeling rootless, you’re feeling anxious, read the book of Proverbs. How many people are like, yeah, yeah I always go back to the book of Proverbs. People say I don’t know the last time I read the Bible. Go read the Bible. Why? Because that’s the wisdom of the age. Even if you’re not a Christian, like me, it’s the wisdom of the ages and stoic philosophers of the same idea. So, the stoic philosophers were, originally, they were Greek philosophers, but none of the Greek stoic philosophy actually are extant. It’s all been lost. However, it was passed onto the Roman stoics, and there are three really famous Roman stoics. There’s some like Cicero and Aristotle that are sort of in the group, but that’s the really big ones. There was Epictetus who was a slave and a teacher. There was Marcus Aurelius who was an emperor. He was the emperor of the Roman Empire in the fourth century AD. And then there was Seneca, who was actually the right-hand counselor to the emperor Niro. That’s a bad gig, by the way, because that wound up costing him his life, as it often did.

Anne Wicks: Complex times, right?

Arthur Brooks: Totally complex times. And what they were talking about is basically this, look, the world outside is tricky. It’s just tricky and there’s no problems, no new problems under the sun. All these things that you’re feeling. It’s part of life and it is completely normal, and you’re not broken, and there’s nothing wrong with you because you’re sad or you’re angry, or you’re disgusted or you’re afraid. On the contrary, you have these emotions to look at aversive circumstances in the world around you, and that’s part of the world around you. Now, your own metaphysics and your own religion are going to explain why these things are happening. But the bottom line is you have onboard hardware that equips you to deal with it appropriately, starting with your negative emotions. Now, if you want to manage those emotions appropriately so they don’t manage you and make you nuts all the time, here’s the worst way to do it. Go change the whole outside world or wait for the whole outside world to change. But people do this all the time. It’s like, yeah, I’m not happy. “I’ll be happier when,” I don’t know, “the economy gets better.” “I’ll be happier when my kids grow up.” “I’ll be happier when these problems in my marriage, they resolve.” It’s looking for the exogenous solutions, and that’s futile according to the philosophers, the stoic philosophers, but common sense as well. What you need to do is work on you, work on the inside, work on your reaction to these issues, manage your limbic system and your emotions through a process that we call metacognition in modern science. But the stoic philosopher just talking about self-management. And guess what? You have tons of power. It’ll change your life. If you read the stoic philosophers, it will literally change your life. You’ll never be the same, and you’ll always be better off.

Anne Wicks: It is. It’s wherever you go. There you are.

Andrew Kaufmann: Well, we’ve got to let you go here in a minute to go talk to our Presidential Leadership scholars, who are a bipartisan group of people that are working together, and an important part of the Bush Center. And the Bush Institute is our strengthening our democracy work where we are one of the key tenets of this concept of civility. And a lot of that work is being done by Anne and your biggest fan, Chris. And so, we’ve got time for one last question, and I would love it if Chris could ask Arthur Brooks whatever he would like on the concept of civility. Come on up here. Chris, come on, we’ve got a mic for you.

Arthur Brooks: All right, Chris.

Andrew Kaufmann: We’ve got our staff here listening in here.

Chris:  When it comes to civility, I have found your work on the culture of contempt, which has been rising in our society to be spot on for identifying the problem. As we think about restoring civility as we think about using radical love in our society, willing the good of the others, as you have suggested, how do we fight contempt?

Arthur Brooks: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, thank you for that, Chris. I appreciate that a lot. First, let’s define contempt. Contempt is the conviction of the worthlessness of another person. That’s what contempt is. It’s a mixture of disgust and anger, which are two negative basic emotions that come to this complex emotion. When something is completely worthless, you have contempt for it. Now, that’s the single best way for you to have a permanent enemy is to treat somebody with contempt, because you have a million ways of showing that. And once you do, if you say that somebody is worthless, even if you do it with your expression and your manner, you will never have a friend in that person. This is how permanent enemies are made. The best way that you can do it, by the way, is by rolling your eyes when somebody says something, because you’ve said that’s worthless. That’s the main predictor of divorce, the biggest predictor. So, take note, all you married people, that when you roll your eyes, that’s almost as deleterious as physical abuse to a relationship because you’ve said, “you’re the person I should love and respect the most in the world, and I think you’re worthless.” That’s a big deal. It’s like, I don’t know. “Why is she so mad at me all the times?” Because you keep rolling your eyes dummy. That’s why. Because you’re expressing contempt. So that’s a contempt. And we have a culture of contempt when it comes to politics. And people do it all the time and their kids see it. You’re watching television on one of those dumb cable shows at eight o’clock where it’s just all people yelling at each other, and you turn it on so that your favorite host can say, you’re right and everybody who disagrees is a moron. That’s how they get their ratings and their advertising, and that your kids see you rolling your eyes at politicians that you don’t like and ideas that you think are stupid, and that’s where they learn it. That’s actually where they learn it. And that’s propagating this culture of contempt, which is really, really dangerous. So, the answer to that is acting with love. Love is a decision. Love is not a feeling. So, it’s not like, “okay, go feel love.” No, no, no. I don’t care what you feel. To love, as Chris just pointed out, is defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as to “will the good of the other.” Martin Luther King gave a beautiful sermon on this on November 17th, 1957, at the Dexter Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama on Matthew 5:44. That’s of course from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says, “you have heard that you should love your friends and hate your enemies, but today I give you a new teaching. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Literally the most transgressive teaching in the history of humanity and the most life-changing one at that. Because Jesus didn’t say like your enemies. No, no, no, no. Because as Martin Luther King points out in that famous sermon to like is a sentimental something, but to love your enemies is the decision for strong people. What do you want your kids to see you doing? Loving people with whom you disagree. Not agreeing. Agreement is just pure mediocrity, right? I mean, we live in a market-based society. I want the free market for ideas, man. And that means disagreement. But you can love somebody with whom you disagree. And when your kids see that, that’s when things actually change. And by the way, that’s when you change. So go looking for the contempt in our society and treat it with love. And if you can do that, you’re a stronger person. Your life will change, and then you have become the beginning of a new mission. How much will it spread? I don’t know. Depends on how much influence you have. But when people see you happier as a result of that, they might just follow.

Andrew Kaufmann: Beautifully said, sir. I don’t say this lightly, his books really can change your life. We recommend everybody give a read to build the life you want, the art and science of getting happier. Oprah Winfrey’s name is also on the cover if you were on the fence about it. So, Arthur, we thank you so much for the time that you spent with us. Thanks here with staff and also later on the Presidential Leadership Scholars. We appreciate everything you’re doing and for being one of our great thinkers.

Arthur Brooks: Thanks to the Bush Center for leading the way with ideas and doing it with a spirit of love for our country and love for each other. I really appreciate it a lot.

Andrew Kaufmann: Thank you.

Podcast Conclusion (Nicole Hawkins): We hope you enjoyed the episode. Let us know what you think at the Bush Center on your favorite social media platform. Thank you for listening.

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Anne Wicks
Anne Wicks
Don Evans Family Managing Director, Opportunity and Democracy
George W. Bush Institute