The connection between physics and self-awareness and emotions
People often ask me if I use my physics education today. As I see it, whereas physical sciences aim to make the world a materially better place, by studying and sharing what I learn about self-awareness and emotions I aim to make the world an emotionally better place.
To me, physics is the study of the most fundamental parts of nature—time, distance, gravity, charge, mass, and so on. It also includes the human side of observing, honestly sharing results, and accepting improvements to past work, which I consider essential parts of science.
People study nature for different reasons, some personal, some social. I expect many share my most personal reason—to find more and deeper beauty in nature. That is, something about learning about nature creates feelings of wonder and aesthetic pleasure when we learn more about it. That sensation feels as strong as when viewing art or listening to music, sometimes more so for me for the challenge you have to overcome just to understand the math we need to explain it.
I also expect many share my social reason, which most people share as a general life goal—to make the world a better place. Learning about nature helps turn mysteries into things we understand, which allows engineering to use that understanding to create things we can use.
When I started to learn the social and business skills I call self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and leadership, I was surprised to find how well it worked. Professors told me, “Behave this way and people will respond that way.” I did and got the responses they predicted. This predictability and reproducibility told me science should be able to explain what happened.
I found no simple, coherent theory to predict or explain the reproducibility. My training in studying nature suggested that if I studied this behavior I’d find beauty and be able to make the world a better place. That’s what I’m doing. To me, my leadership work differs from my earlier science work only in what I apply my focus. My goal is still to find new theories to explain nature—in this case, human behavior and emotions—to enable later people to work engineering with my results. Also to do some engineering with my results too.
People here and there knew how to lead thousands of years ago, since long before Alexander the Great, but individuals simply figured things out that worked for them. No one figured things out that they could explain that others could use forever, like Euclid, Newton, or Darwin did. Some would say Aristotle, Buddha, Laozi, and their peers did so. I guess I can’t argue against that point, but people don’t seem happier today than before then. We haven’t built on their results like we have on Euclid’s, Newton’s, and Darwin’s.
I believe we can make leadership, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness as understandable and ready for engineers to create works with as other fields of science. I think we can ultimately create textbooks that describe not just how to “win friends and influence people” or to make yourself happy, but to understand and simply explain why the principles work based on fundamental principles. As I said, whereas physical sciences aim to make the world a materially better place, by studying and sharing what I learn about self-awareness and emotions I aim to make the world an emotionally better place.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees