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Why Smart People Do Stupid Things: My Change Nation Interview with Laurence Gonzales

Why Smart People Do Stupid Things: My Change Nation Interview with Laurence Gonzales

Are you a survivor? Laurence Gonzales, author of Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things, has noticed that people who do well in crisis situations share the same traits. Based on his research, survivors tend to:

- take responsibility for themselves in everyday situations, rather than whining, complaining or blaming someone else. They are rescuers, not victims.
 
- stay calm in the face of conflicting information and stress. Emotion and reason work like a seesaw—more emotion equals less reason.
 
- have an essentially peaceful core. A real survival situation strips you down entirely, like a Rorschach test.
 
- prepare beforehand—for example, by learning stuff—so they don't get into trouble.
 
Even if you don't have these qualities now, it's never too late to become a survivor. "You can spend a great deal of time rebuilding" your emotional system, suggests Gonzales. "The brain is very plastic; it changes all the time."
 
He recommends reading the diary of Anne Frank, whom he says behaved as a quintessential survivor. "It's a wonderful sort of model for people to read," says Gonzales. "All of these qualities that I've been talking about come out in there."
 
Listen to my entire Change Nation interview with Laurence Gonzales.

Posted: 2/26/10
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