About Dr Dilip Jeste
Dr. Dilip V. Jeste is Director of The Stein Institute for Research on Ageing, and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego, and a neuropsychiatrist with particular specialism in successful aging and schizophrenia.
He is author of Wiser: the scientific roots of wisdom (and 13 other books). His 625 published scientific papers are among most cited in the world (he’s in the top .5% of publishing researchers). He is also a former president of the American Psychiatric Association. He was the first Asian-American elected President of the American Psychiatric Association in its 175 year history which has over 40,000 members. He is listed in “Best Doctors in America.”
He has published a number of influential papers detailing the neural activity associated with wise behaviours and you can watch his fascinating TED talk Seeking Wisdom in Graying Matter.
Lesson 1: If you think you’re WISE, you aren’t 04m 45s.
Lesson 2: Anyone and everyone can become WISER 08m 05s.
Lesson 3: Don’t give up your accent 11m 50s
Lesson 4: Spend some time with people you DISLIKE 16m00s.
Lesson 5: Controlled PESSIMISM is better than uncontrolled OPTIMISM 21m 10s.
Lesson 6: ONEliness is good, LONEliness is not 26m 06s.
Lesson 7: Finding YOUR fault is harder than finding THEIR fault 30m 41s.
Lesson 8: Too much of a VIRTUE can be BAD 36m 05s.
Lesson 9: BALANCE: Feel sad when happy; feel happy when sad 39m 19s.
Lesson 10: Act OLD when young; act YOUNG when old 44m 00s
Dilip Jests: [00:00:00] Wisdom has been a philosophical and religious concept for many years, but we have focused on wisdom as a scientific construct and shown that it is based in specific parts of the brain. We can measure it and yes, anybody and everybody can become.
Duff Watkins: [00:00:26] Hello and welcome to the podcast. 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn where we dispense wisdom for your career and your life. My name is Duff Watkins and I’m your host. Our guest today is Dilip Jeste neuro psychiatrist and expert in AGN. Also, an expert on wisdom. It was just a few weeks ago I was strolling down the beach here in Brazil and listening to the audio book of ‘Wiser, the scientific roots of wisdom’ and I thought we’ve got to get this guy on the show, and now we are welcome to the show Dilip.
Dilip Jests: [00:00:55] Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be on your show Duff.
Duff Watkins: [00:00:59] Well, it’s our pleasure. So let me tell the listeners about the Dr. Jeste and his background. He is the author of 14 books. He has published over 625 scientific research articles, and about those articles, there are some of the most cited and quoted in the world. Dr. Jeste is in the top 0.5% of publishing researchers, which makes him one of the world’s most cited authors. Now let me explain that listeners in the world of science and in medicine you write stuff, it has to be recognized. It has to be appreciated.
It has to be quoted cited, and basically, it’s a massive form of peer approval. And that’s what we’re talking about. But wait, there’s more, Dr. Jeste is also listed in the best doctors in America he’s won way too many awards for us to mention on this show. So, we’ll just get stuck right into your wisdom, or actually, let me see if I can do a one sentence summary of your book.
‘Wiser, the scientific roots of wisdom’ which you wrote with Scott Lafee, both of you, you were a professor at the university of California at San Diego, and Scott works there as well. And my one sentence summary of the book Wiser would-be wisdom is biological. It can be measured, studied, and enhance. How would I do?
Dilip Jests: [00:02:15] You did absolutely perfectly. You hit the nail on its head. Thank you Duff.
Duff Watkins: [00:02:21] It’s a very interesting book. It’s well worth reading it. And so once again, ‘Wiser, the scientific roots of wisdom’, but today we want to talk about personal wisdom, the things that you have acquired in your life. Now you come from a small town in India. And it seems like very early on, you decided you wanted to be a psychiatrist now at the time there’s about 550 million people in India.
There were maybe a hundred psychiatrists in the whole country and, and you didn’t want to be an engineer like everybody else, you didn’t want to be just a doctor. How did you latch on to psychiatry?
Dilip Jests: [00:02:55] Yeah. So, when I was a teenager, I loved reading books. I was a bookworm and the book I loved most were Sigmund Freud’s interpretation of dreams.
What Freud did was he would take a dream or a slip of tongue and then use the clues from the person’s behavior and personality, to interpret those, and Freud was a neuropsychiatrist. And although he was a father of psychoanalysis. He believed the psychology rode on the back of physiology. So, he believed that actually there was a basis in the brain for all these different things.
And I thought it was just so fascinating that I decided that I needed to and wanted to study brain and mind. And so, my goal was to do research. And so, the first step of course, was to become a psychiatrist. So, I went to medical school in order to become a psychiatrist. And I’m sure many of my friends questioned my sanity, why would you want to do that?
And but after doing my training there. I said that I really want to do research on that. And the maker of research in medicine, including psychiatry is the national institutes of health in the U S. And so that’s the way my wife and I decided to migrate to the U S.
Duff Watkins: [00:04:24] And you’ve been there for a very long time. And I believe your wife is also a psychiatrist for children?
Dilip Jests: [00:04:29] Yeah. She has a child psychiatrist. So. So I learned a lot from her about childhood and how to bring up kids. And then we have two daughters and they’re also doing very well. Thank you.
Duff Watkins: [00:04:42] Well, you’re first lesson number one. I have to say, I have to say Dilip I was very discouraged by this. It rocked my world. Lesson number one is, if you think you’re wise, you’re not.
Dilip Jests: [00:04:53] Yes, Actually that’s something that had been known for quite some time. Socrates, one of the first philosophers to talk about wisdom. He famously said the only true wisdom is knowing, you know, nothing.
I can actually relate to that. When I started doing research, as the young scientist I would begin research on a given topic by doing some quick literature review and then doing some small pilot study at the end of that, I thought I knew the field really well. I knew the entire literature. I knew what the science was like.
And slowly but surely. And that’s true. How and why is that false? That there are so much more to know that I was really not even close to getting what was needed and that time I read something that Isaac Newton had said, he said that what we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean. And I’ve increasingly realized that the more I knew about something, the less I knew about it.
Because I realized how much there was to know, and that was actually it’s wisdom that there are times when, if we do something and we think we acted very wisely and that’s why we are wise and slowly, but surely it turns out that that’s not the case. And we also need to keep that in mind for about other people.
Sometimes there are people who seem to be very confident, and they claim to be wise, and one may fall for that. But when you look at it, you realize that they have some important limitation. Usually example is, you know, people often say that I predicted something. Nobody else did. I predicted and it came true.
It’s like somebody predicting that there will be economic recession, when they are expecting growth and they say, I proved, right. Well, maybe they were right. However, what we don’t hear is nine out of 10 times, they were wrong. And they’re not thinking about that. They’re not talking about it so that when our bias perception comes into play.
We remember the thing that we did right and that’s why we are wise, but we don’t remember the numerous times that we did things that were wrong and showed that we were not quite wise.
Duff Watkins: [00:07:20] Several years ago. It became a motto in my life. A new motto in my life became don’t be so sure because so many things that I was banking on just thought were rock solid, steady, turned out not to be.
And Ellen Langer, who is a world-famous psychologist. Also, one of the most cited authors on the planet, she said on this show, on this podcast, that the correct answer to any question is ‘it depends’. It just depends on so much. And I think I’ve come to learn the hard way that that’s very true. So, lesson number one, if you think you’re wise, you’re not.
Lesson number two. Now this is a ray of sunshine into my life. Anyone and everyone can become wiser.
Dilip Jests: [00:08:08] Yes, that’s really true. Wisdom is modifiable. Unlike IQ. IQ, it’s hard to change, but wisdom can be changed. It can be increased in anyone. You know, I was thinking that in high school, there are the yearbooks that we keep, and we predict that one who is most likely to succeed or least likely to succeed.
If you follow these people a few decades later, you often find that what was written was not always right, that the prediction didn’t come true. And often the least expected people did really well. You know, there are examples of college dropout, so went on to become business wizards and billionaires and Steve Jobs and you know, Ted Turner and Bill Gates and so on.
And there are also some convicted criminals who later on became heroes that after they got out of jail. They totally changed themselves. So, they went from being totally antisocial to being really pro-social. They learned in the process, and they have become really the community heroes. So that kind of a radical change normally we won’t expect that does take place. That’s the inspiring things. I find that. So, the lesson related lesson is don’t give up on anybody. That mind is a terrible thing to waste. So, you want to when you think that somebody is not going to do. Be prepared for surprise. So sometimes I see children who are so shy, so, so self-effacing, and they want to stay out of the glare, and they don’t want to talk to other people, and we don’t know how they’re going to do when they grow up to be adults.
They grow up and they become great speakers, for example, the great leader. So, we should never forget that anybody and everybody can become wiser.
Duff Watkins: [00:10:10] You make the point in your book that this is not a function of intelligence. We’re not talking about crystallized intelligence or just being smart. Wisdom is much more, more complex than that.
Dilip Jests: [00:10:23] Yes. Wisdom is much more than intelligence. Wisdom is a personality trait. However, it has different components. And the most important component is pro-social behavior, things that we do for others than for ourselves empathy, compassion, altruism.
Second component is self-reflection have the ability to look inwards and try to understand ourselves another is emotional regulation control over emotion. I mean, we still have emotion, but not let them go to the extreme. One thing that is rare these days is the acceptance of diverse perspectives that we can disagree with somebody, but we can respect that person for having a different opinion.
At the same time, we have to be decisive when we need to be. And finally, spirituality now that’s somewhat controversial component of wisdom. Not everybody agrees with that. However, spirituality means connectedness. Connectedness is something that is always there. You may not see it. Whether you call it nature, consciousness, or God but you feel connected and that’s why you don’t feel lonely. So, these are the components of this job, which are different from just intelligence.
Duff Watkins: [00:11:35] Taking notes as we speak here. So, I’m learning on the job. Excellent. Okay. Lesson number three is also a very big boost for me. I’ve lived in born and raised in the U S I’ve lived in Australia, 40 years, most of my life, but when I opened my mouth people think I’m a tourist, you know, so lesson number three from you is don’t give up your accent.
Dilip Jests: [00:11:55] Yes. So, I’m proud to say that. So, I became president of the American Psychiatric Association in 2012 and I was the first Asian American president. This is an organization that is more than 175 years old, the largest organization of psychiatrists.
And yet there were no Asian American psychiatrist as a president, although there are many of them currently today. And so, in my presidential address, I began by saying that I was born and raised in India, and I moved to the US, and I didn’t have too many financial resources or connections in this country, but I had three resources that I brought with me or that came with me first is my wife.
Second is my love for psychiatry and third my Indian accent. And I said that I’m happy to report that none of them has deserted me.
Hmm. People actually remember that and reminded me of that. Yeah, actually, I’ve been thinking about this because accent is something we don’t talk about. We talk about rate ratio, and it think differences and regional differences, religious differences, but accent actually plays a role and often it plays more negative roles than positive role.
There is a bias against people with accent. And part of that is justified. I mean, I do see that, for example, if people can understand what I’m saying, then they have a reason to not want to hear me. And when I first came to US, actually, I had a very heavy accent. And people had difficulty in understanding me and I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t understand me as the only time I realized that and I felt for them and the reason actually my accent was heavy, was because I didn’t learn ABC until seventh grade. I didn’t go to English medium school. I’ve underscored that taught my language and I live in India for 20 plus years. So, by the time I came to the US, I was there for such a long time and my English was very accented and yet actually I love languages.
I love languages. I write really well, English but speaking. So, I think I came there appreciating people’s difficulty in understanding the accent. And sometimes I wonder if I should have taken some lessons to reduce my accent. As some people do, and I actually have nothing wrong with that, but at the same time, I think it is broadly good to have that because it becomes useful for other people who are like me, that they can still retain their culture in a way.
Accent is a presentation of the culture. And there’s nothing wrong in having still my culture while I’m totally Americanized now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have Indian background. And I sure disowned that you know, the US is often called a melting pot. I don’t think that’s a right analogy.
I consider it more as a salad bowl. That it is one thing it is one salad. No question about that, but different elements has their own uniqueness. They bring something. And I think to that extent, the accent is useful in showing that.
Duff Watkins: [00:15:29] Very true. My personal experience is very true. My wife is Brazilian and when she travels to would travel to the U S or to Australia, People from different countries, see the world differently than you.
And I find that. So, enriching. Now this next one, it must be a misprint, something I must’ve missed. Miss copied; Lesson number four spend some time with people you dislike. Why the hell would, I want to spend more time with people I dislike?
Dilip Jests: [00:15:55] That’s a really good question. And you know what happens in today’s world, especially there is so much polarization, and of course we know at the political level that the right and left, so people watch either Fox or MSNBC.
There is nothing in between for most people. Not only that, but if somebody does both, that is considered a weakness in that person. By people on their side. And so, this kind of acceptance of diverse perspectives instead of being lauded is criticized as being something bad. That doesn’t mean someone doesn’t have the principles.
And I think that is so wrong. Because things change. I mean, in sports, actually, it’s an interesting thing, but so I was to Washington DC for a number of years and with a big red skins fan some of my friends actually more productive. And so, Dallas Cowboys
in Washington, Dallas is enemy and Dallas, Washington is the enemy, football wise. And so how do you switch your loyalty? And people are so loyal. I mean, it is sometimes it goes to gross extent when you see the player from the opposite side. hurt And people are happy in their mind, which is so bad. And yet that kind of extreme loyalty, the problem is you’re forced to change it.
So, you may as well do that before. You’re forced to do that. I really think it is necessary to have understanding and appreciation of opposing views. So, in terms of empathy, understanding. So, there are two types of empathy when it’s cognitive. One is affective. Cognitive means just understanding somebody’s rationale, affective means feeling or sharing that emotion and sharing that emotional may not always be easy, but at least understanding the rationale I think is really critical.
That’s why I love school debates that you have, you know, two sides on the opposite. And especially when you’re given a side at the last moment. And you say that this is a topic of debate, and you have to speak on that because that trains your mind to think about both sides. Similarly in science actually debates are really common, and they should be common. I mean, that’s how science advances. I search all opinions, and somebody has to say it that not that that’s wrong. So, I think understanding that it’s useful for ourselves because our mind broadens, but also to keep in mind that sometime later we may be, we may not have a choice. But to change that position.
So, you may as well start learning that from the beginning and best way to do that is actually spending some time with people who think differently people who disliked and. There’s no reason necessarily to dislike them. We don’t get to like them. You don’t have to love them, but we can respect them. So, I think mutual respect is critical.
Duff Watkins: [00:19:00] Let me ask you about that. That’s a very real problem nowadays. I think in the U S and also with me, even though I don’t live in the US anymore, I consider myself to be abroad minded, well educated. I got a high school diploma and everything, and traveled around old enough to know better, but there are some people on the other political party that I just cannot stand and that’s okay. But I have found myself, lumping them all together and now just wanting to physically avoid them online and in person. And I say to myself, this is not right. It goes back to your first point. If, if I thought I was wise, now I know I’m not.
And you know, I’m not proud of this, but, and I think, well, how, how do I counter this when I had this visceral reaction against not only what they believe, but how they behave.
Dilip Jests: [00:19:48] I think we need to find the right people on the other side to debate. I think I agree with you a hundred percent that there are people that as you said who don’t want to listen to the other side at all.
And so, form the believers in their own thinking that may not be worth talking to them, but I’m saying that there are people who can have a different opinion. I mean, innovators like the Supreme court I mean the US Supreme court that are. Conservative justices and liberal justices. And they disagree vehemently. I mean, they have obviously, and they come up with something. So, you’re right. We need people on the other side who are like us and this, and there has to be opening for debate on both sides. Otherwise, it won’t work. Yeah. People like time and again, because of being perceived as a weakness, people don’t come out and say sometimes that yes, they agree with both the sides. So that’s where the trick lies. So that’s what I think probably what needs to happen is we need to grow that group.
Duff Watkins: [00:20:51] Let’s move to lesson number five. Control pessimism is better than uncontrolled optimism.
Dilip Jests: [00:20:59] Well, again, I’m a big sports fan and I said, that’s a good analogy that I can give.
So, I’m a, I’m a football fan. So, in San Diego, I became a charger fan and we bought season tickets and found out that the chargers had a great knack of losing game at the last five minutes
Time and again, when they were winning something, they will do something, some cap or something like that. And it becomes really hard. And. So, so my daughter is also a big football fan and then, so we used to go and then we would talk about that. And then I said, I must do something, but I really, I, I like watching football, but I don’t come up feeling angry, depressed, anxious, this is not good.
So, I decided for next year, when I started going to the game, I expected that Chargers will lose. So, with that expectation I could never lose because if they lose this is what I expected, but if they’re one, gosh, I mean, this is fantastic, amazing. So, what I was doing was actually I was being, I had a controlled pessimism about Chargers.
But that’s an important thing to stress here is that this is pessimism about things over which we had no control. I don’t want to be pessimistic about things I have control over. For example, if I am preparing for an exam, I need to be optimistic that I will study hard and then I will pass the exam. But once the exam is over, then I don’t know what is going to happen.
Then I have no control over that. So, then I start thinking that, you know, if things don’t work out, I will not pass, or I will not get good grades, and then when I get my grades and they are good and I’m fairly happy, but that is an important thing to remember that things over which we have control. We must be optimistic again, realistically optimistic, not stupidly optimistic, or optimistic. Right. But we should be optimistic, but think over which you have no control. It doesn’t help to be optimistic. I mean, I have no control over the way how different countries are going to react to a world crisis, or what the election results are, et cetera, et cetera.
Right. So, I like Kenny Rogers, the song. (The Gambler) If there’s one line there where he says every hand is a winner and every hand is a loser, that’s what happens actually in life that anything we get into we can succeed, or we may not succeed. So being too optimistic, doesn’t help being too pessimistic obviously is not a good idea.
But if we keep that optimism under control for things not under our control, I think that makes for happiness.
Duff Watkins: [00:23:47] And I think optimism should be defined. This clarify optimism is not a psychotic break from reality. Just we know you see some people who just now I suppose all. All sports fans suffer from this by definition, including me.
And, but that’s okay because it doesn’t really matter. And I remember watching a football game in Sydney and, and evidently, I was yelling at the television and my friend said, you know, they can’t hear you. I said, well, you know, what makes you, what makes you so sure about that? Anyway. So, but that’s just part of being a sports fan and it’s fun.
And it’s, it’s not that serious. But your distinction I think is very good between you be optimistic, but the thing is over which you have some control and pessimistic about reasonably pessimistic, about the things over, which you have no control.
Dilip Jests: [00:24:37] Talking about sports on TV, along that line. So, my wife because he’s a big fan of Duke basketball, our daughter went there.
And then, so she has a belief that when she’s watching the game Duke starts losing. So, she wouldn’t. So that makes her feel good. But obviously she has no control over what happened, but, but that’s, again, an example of how our behavior is affected, by our perception. But your point is well taken, that optimism is not unbridled optimism. Optimism just means a more positive attitude.
Duff Watkins: [00:25:13] Your session with your wife and your daughter? Remind me of. We were in Sydney and the, and every time my wife sat down to watch Australian rules football with the Sydney swans, they won, and they ended up playing in the grand final that year.
So, every time they come on and say, honey, the game starting got to get that good karma happening.
All right. Lesson number six, Oneliness is good. Loneliness is not.
Dilip Jests: [00:25:43] Yes. So, this is something I read a year ago or so Freya Albertie, she’s a British historian. And she said that the word loneliness did not exist in English language until 1800. Yes. The word that existed was oneliness. So that is loneliness without the L it does not just absence of L.
It had different connotations, oneliness. Mean being by yourself, but being happy, being contented, you can do a bunch of different things when you are by yourself, and you can be creative. You can have fun on your own. You can relax, you can explore new things. Loneliness on the other hand is when you are alone, you feel distressed.
That distress is a critical component of loneliness. So, you’re alone, but you are severely distressed, and the loneliness has been increasing since 1800. So why? Because she thought it was, if she thinks that it is industrial revolution which sort of made the family smaller moments increase the competition, increase more divorces and so on and so forth.
I personally think that loneliness that increased in the last 20 to 30 years a lot. Because of globalization and really rapid rise of technology, but it is not actually that loneliness has doubled in the last few decades. And loneliness is really bad in a sense, numerous scientific studies have shown that loneliness is a major risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, major depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementia loneliness as bad to health and longevity, as smoking and obesity. So, loneliness is really something that is a major problem, but it doesn’t mean being alone. Being alone can make you happy if we had that positive solitude. So, so that’s why oneliness is good loneliness is bad, but it also means that it’s something you can do for that.
And the cure for loneliness is not having hundred different friends. It actually reflects on the quality of your relationship. So, you may have say two friends and I have five friends. So, I shouldn’t be less lonely than you are, but in reality, I may be more lonely because my five relationships are not close whereas your relationships are really close and deep.
So, so that is what is needed is close relationships. You, if you had that kind of a security, you’re happy when you’re by yourself, you can do something. If you feel insecure, then you need to be with others. If you feel secure, you don’t need that.
Duff Watkins: [00:28:32] That reminds me of a quotation by Alfred North Whitehead, a mathematician philosopher from last century, he said, religion is what one does with one’s solitariness.
And that reminded me of your word oneliness. It’s not being alone that is the problem necessarily. It’s what you do with, and religion is a practice. And actually, it reminded me of what you were saying earlier about spirituality. That sense of connectedness, the very word religion is like ligament. It connects it binds it ties you to something and something larger than yourself, usually. So, so there is sort of a theme developing here, at least in my mind about, well, as you just said, Oneliness is good. Loneliness is not.
Dilip Jests: [00:29:18] Right. Right, exactly right. I think it is a sense of being connected. And so, in religion, you are connected with the god that you believe in, in spirituality. It doesn’t have to be God it can be nature, consciousness, whatever. Some abstract construct, but you feel connected and that’s why you are never lonely.
Duff Watkins: [00:29:39] And that’s the key, it’s the feeling connected. And this goes back to when you will know this, but going back to people, you disagree with people, you dislike what everyone wants, what everyone needs is to feel understood, not just be understood, not intellectually cognitively, but to feel understood once you have that connection with a person which is invaluable, then, then there is room for debate progress, synergy, whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Lesson number seven, finding your fault is harder than finding their fault. Ain’t think that the truth.
Dilip Jests: [00:30:17] I like Michael Jackson song ‘The man in the mirror’ he says that I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.
And that’s really the crux in a way when something goes wrong, it’s easy to blame somebody or blame the surroundings or the environment, the circumstances and that gives you satisfaction that it’s not my fault that happened. And. So that is useful in the shorter run, but actually harmful in the longer run, because if I’m making some mistake, that is creating problems and need to find out what the problem is on my side, because that’s something I can control, but it needs self-reflection and honest self-reflection that is the thing.
Sometimes we are not honest to ourselves. I mean, we may not be honest, to others because we want to come across as having all the perfect virtues in the world, but we’ve got to be honest to ourselves. By cheating ourselves who are we helping? Nobody. Right. And of course, it’s not that easy, because sometimes just, if we keep on defending ourselves to others, we start believing that that’s really unhelpful.
So as a scientist, for example, I mean I write papers and grants and sometimes the paper is rejected, or grant is not funded. It’s really easy. And that’s a common reaction, actually. You blame the reviewers, oh, the reviewers didn’t understand what I was saying it was so clear and how did he not understand? Well, if it was that clear, they would have understood it.
So, there is something that maybe you didn’t make it clear. I didn’t make it clear and so on. So, if I keep on blaming them, I’m not going to go anywhere, the paper will never be published, and the grant will never be funded. I had to accept that I did something that didn’t come across, right. It may be, it’s not that my idea was that wrong, but I didn’t present it correctly.
So how do I improve it? How do I do something better? So, one of the things I learned again, as a scientist, so now when I write a grant and I presented to my group, I begin by saying that don’t tell me what is right about this grant, don’t tell me how creative I want to hear what is wrong with it. And the more you tell me the better it is for me, because then I can correct it.
So, when I submit it, it’s going to be so much better. That’s what we need to do, do for ourselves that when we are undertaking an action or something like that, Think about where we can go wrong and how we can prevent that.
Duff Watkins: [00:32:45] You are so right. Facing reality, unflinchingly is difficult and it takes courage.
And in my experience, it takes practice. My summation, my version of that lesson, is five words, five words. This is, this is psychotherapy in five words. Just tell yourself the truth. You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to tell anybody. And you can even do it, looking in a mirror, say it aloud, just tell yourself the truth.
And the only true here you’ll ever really know is how you feel about something at any particular moment. Start with that. And that will just lead you to the next. And you’d be surprised how many problems get resolved very quickly if you just tell yourself the truth.
Dilip Jests: [00:33:28] Right, right, right. No, that’s exactly right.
And so, one thing I suggest for self-reflection. Is people usually say they’re so busy. They have no time to sit down and think about anything. Well, you can make time for it when you need to. So, one should be very, self-disciplined just like, we need to be self-disciplined in terms of physical exercise, right?
So, we need to set aside say half an hour to three times a week, say during breakfast or before going to bed, our while doing exercise where we just think about what stressed us out or what made us happy during the last two, three days. Just think about that, event that made us happy. And event that stressed us out, if we do that over a period of days, you’ll find there’s a common pattern that emerges.
There are some things that bothered us and something that makes us happy. What are they? And what is the underlying thing? Forget about the person and the situation we are the common element. Right? So that how to actually get better understanding of ourselves and our limitations. as well as strengths.
Duff Watkins: [00:34:32] What you’re describing it, it just isn’t that hard.
It just isn’t that difficult, the psychologist, Jamie Pennebaker said on this show, he’s the founder of expressive writing. And he said, you can do it in two minutes as little as two minutes a day for four consecutive days. And originally it was 20 minutes and then they’ve done studies with 15 minutes, and he says to me on the show, two minutes a day has been proven to be effective.
And you know, you can’t tell me, you can’t find two minutes to self-reflect and, but again, it does take a bit of a courage, motivation, and a willingness to uncover what yourself self-reflection reveals, I suppose.
Dilip Jests: [00:35:12] Right? No, exactly. And self-discipline. Because it’s always easy to find excuses why one can do it. But that’s not going to help.
Duff Watkins: [00:35:21] That’s the bottom line. It won’t help. But what you’re describing, what we’re talking about will help. Alright, lesson number eight, this may be my problem. Lesson number eight, too much of a virtue can be bad. Is that it? Am I just too virtuous for this world? Is that what it comes down to?
Dilip Jests: [00:35:37] Well, the example I give you a serious example, is compassion. I mean, it’d be good to be compassionate because compassion is not good. And I can remember, you know, when we were flying, plane takes out, the security video comes on and the security video says that if the air pressure falls masks will come down, put down your own mask first before helping those near you. And so, I’m in the middle seat there’s a child on one side, a disabled person on the other side. And I can say, can I have, and I should be compassionate. I should help them before I help myself bad idea because it will take only five seconds for me to put on my mask and then I can help them.
But if I did them, then actually in the process I will suffocate and then I won’t be able to help anyone. So that principle is really important that we need to take care of ourselves while we are taking care of others. It is like caregivers, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s cancer. It’s really difficult life they live, they provide so much care, but they have to care for themselves. There must care for themselves in order to be useful for their care recipient. And if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. And I often find people, I mean, among physicians, among priests and various other professionals, that people are some people who are very compassionate toward others that harsh on themselves.
That’s not good because if you constantly feel guilty about what you have not done, regret your mistake, you’re not going to be useful to others. So, you need to be self-compassionate of course not too much self-compassionate, because then it becomes narcissism that everything you do is right. And so that’s not good, but every component of wisdom that I mentioned.
I can tell you how it can be bad if it is too much. For example, let’s say self-reflection is good. Right? We talk about that, but say somebody is constantly self-preoccupied. Spent all the time analyzing his own behavior. That’s not good. Sometimes that’s a part of obsessive compulsive. We started OCD, right?
So that’s not good. Emotional regulation is good, but say somebody so regulated emotionally that doesn’t show any emotion. So that person becomes like a zombie or a robot. They’re not real wise person. Right. So, I mean decisiveness again, if you are very quickly decisive, you will make wrong decisions on the other hand procrastinate all the time. That’s not good either. So, the balance is the main thing. And so, one of my favorites is actually the serenity prayer, you know, gave me the courage to change the things I can and to accept the things I cannot and wisdom to know the difference. Anything has to be in balance.
Duff Watkins: [00:38:28] Well, which takes us to, to the ninth lesson, which is very Zen.
You will have to unpack this for you me. Lesson number nine balance feel sad when happy feel happy when sad.
Dilip Jests: [00:38:45] Yes. Yes. I know. So, I can give you an example of a friend of friends. So, this is a couple of we had known them from medical school. So very long-time friend, very close friends and the husband and wife, but different in the personalities that husband is more pessimistic.
The wife is more optimistic. So, after we moved to the States the first time and subsequently also, when you go back to India, when you’re going there, you are really excited, happy to see your family, friends. You haven’t seen them in a long time and coming back, if you’re feeling sad, I mean that, you know that again, you won’t see them for a long time.
So, the husband, he said that when they were going to India, she always talks about the return flight. And he felt bad that, that I’m just going to be there for a few weeks and then I come back and be all sad. And the wife said on the way back, she always thinks about next trip to India. And so, in a way a person should be combination of the two that we should think about both.
So, when I’m going to India, I feel happy, but I also have to keep in mind that I’m going to be there only for a few weeks. Then I come back and likewise, when I come back, I’m sad, but I know that it will be coming back in a few years, just as an example of how things changed. Part of the reason is that the short-term or long-term costs, sequences of anything are very different.
So, what is good today, may be bad tomorrow, good again the next day. And so, there is this fable of a small village in which there was a farmer and his family, and they had a cow, and the cow was very important for the family, for farming, et cetera. One day, the cow died. And it was a disaster. It was a disaster for the family, how were they survive and so on and it was clearly so bad, but the villagers got together, and they said, oh, look at this poor farmer, he needs help.
We go to buy him two cows. So, they bought two cows for him, and he was really happy. That actually that it was good that we got two cows which we never would have gotten there. They were very happy. So, then they had to actually domesticate the cow and we’re domesticating, a son fell and broke his leg. So, they said, oh, this is bad.
This is really, the whole thing is so bad. And then few months later there was a draft. And they recruited everybody into the military except for him because he had a broken leg. So, they were happy that he’s. So, when you get the point that what is good is bad is good, is bad. So, when we feel happy, we have to remember that things may not stay happy for long, they will change, and you will become sad. But when you are sad again, things will go back to being happy some point and you will feel happy. So, it’s important to have that both emotions, to some extent. All the time.
Duff Watkins: [00:41:44] It’s very stoic, what you’re describing. They were very big on reframing your current event, whatever, whatever the current event was and remembering both the positive, the negative components of it that it’s this too shall pass, whether it’s good or bad that change is coming, get ready because here it comes, you know, it’s going to, whatever your situation is, it’s going to alter or reverse, or, and that is life.
And you need to learn how to ride that out.
Dilip Jests: [00:42:12] Right? Exactly. That that protects us from extreme sadness because we are expecting that it protects us from being too relaxed, too lenient, and not expecting that something could go wrong as to prepare for that. So, it is important. Again, in sports again an example, coaches do that even when the team is leading by so many points at halftime, they know that the other team will come back.
And so, so you have, you expect the opposite of what is happening. And so that’s, that’s critical for success.
Duff Watkins: [00:42:46] Is that resilience? Is that what we’re describing?
Dilip Jests: [00:42:49] No doubt. It is partly a resilience, but it is also anticipation. And so typically resilience is described as response to a stress that you get over it, but here, even before the stress, of course you are anticipating it. So, in a way you’re right it’s sort of proactive resilience.
Duff Watkins: [00:43:07] Proactive resilience. Okay. We’ll go with that lesson number 10. Okay. I think I’ve got this one down pat Dilip. Lesson number ten. Act old when young act young when old because I’ve been immature my whole life. So, I think yeah, I think I’ve got that one.
Dilip Jests: [00:43:24] Yeah. So personally, I mean, I think this is true. This is not bragging about myself, but when I was a teenager, I couldn’t understand why these other teenagers that constantly complaining about others, what they were not getting. And I said that there was so much to do, they could read book. There are so many opportunities. Why are they wasting this time?
They were just complaining, complaining about things that is not going to help. As I’m getting older, actually, I don’t like to spend time with other older people who are constantly complaining about their physical elements and then how that it’s ages. And they can’t do anything. I mean, I like to work with younger people because there is some energy vitality learning new thing, and that makes me energized.
So instead of spending time with people who are aging, who are depressed and anxious, I want that energy because that, that comes to me. And so, I really believe that that, that we should have generations have complementary strengths. Younger age is associated with, of course youth physical health, but also processing speed and being able to learn new things and so on.
But at the older age is associated with wisdom as we saw, but not we slow down with age ability to learn very new things goes down, so we lose something, but we gain something. And that’s why one thing that I stress in all my work is intergenerational activities are critical for the society. They’re complimentary strength and innovators in intergenerational activity should also be in one’s own mind.
We always have, we should have just like we have right brain and left brain. We should have young brain and an old brain, you know, sense of their essence. Which should be very helpful.
Duff Watkins: [00:45:12] Intergenerational you mean one generation playing with the children or the grandchildren or different ages interacting like one big community or I’m thinking of like a church or, or a social club or for me, I mean, I’m thinking of the guys I played basketball with or used to play basketball when I was back in Sydney, we have guys show up with, I’ve seen guys get married, have children. Those children grew up and I ended up chasing them on the basketball court. And I just think this is just the best thing. And the fathers are playing with their kids in a basketball game in an intense, serious basketball game.
I just think that’s wonderful.
Dilip Jests: [00:45:50] I agree. A hundred percent. Yeah, it is absolutely wonderful. I mean, it is great. And I remember I used to, I used to play tennis when the younger and then, so I used to teach my daughters you know, in the beginning. And slowly they got better and better. And finally, my job was to be a ball boy.
That is so great to see them play so well. And in the meantime, of course, we played with each other, and it was fun and there is no loser then. That, you know if I want that, that’s great. But if I lost that’s great. I lost my daughter. And so, it’s exactly these intergenerational activities, but they are also from grandparents to grandchildren.
I think that also is really important because it’s a work on wisdom that there’s something I stress is that our society, modern Western society devalues the usefulness of older people for children. We need older people and that is actually one evolutionary basis. Something I call a grandmother hypothesis of wisdom.
I mean, I don’t think this is actually well-known phenomenon. Whereas older people help the younger generation be happier, live longer, be more fertile and when people are involved, raising younger children, they have far fewer problems, but there is a little transmission of wisdom, transmission of culture from one generation to another.
Duff Watkins: [00:47:19] And your book has cited evidence of that in different cultures, different times different. And, and I remember that because it had never occurred to me, the simple presence and interaction of grandparents, specifically, grandmothers had a very salubrious, a Palliative effect on the entire society or social band or whatever group we’re talking about.
And I was quite amazed by that. And I don’t know why I was amazed. I just wasn’t. I just never even thought about it.
Dilip Jests: [00:47:48] Yeah, yeah, no, no, no. There is solid research, that totally support that, and it is mutually beneficial. So, if the older people, and younger people, they’re the ones studied called experience core.
Where they had older people who had retired from their jobs over 65, they had to agree to spend at least 15 hours a week in an elementary school in downtown. And so, these are kids who don’t have grandparents sometimes not even functioning parents. So, when these older adults spend time with them after the one year, the kids did really well, of course, their grades went through the roof, they were happy.
Importantly, older people became not only happier physical health, improved their biomarkers of stress and aging improved, and the hippocampus did not decline. It did not shrink. Unlike the control group, it’s really mind boggling.
Duff Watkins: [00:48:41] Yeah. Let’s just go over that hippocampus part of the brain did not shrink as it normally I would have thought inevitably does in these older people. So, the payoff to acting and participating in these inter regenerative activities. The payoff is for me. That is for me, for me, the more I do it. I’m the beneficiary.
Dilip Jests: [00:49:04] Right. That’s the nice thing because a mutually beneficial, I think again, in the modern society, there is a tendency to pit one generation against another. Saying that if we spend money on older people, we don’t have enough money to spend on children.
That’s so wrong, actually what we need intergenerational activities, because they help both the generations. So, you’re absolutely right. That’s what is needed.
Duff Watkins: [00:49:26] Let me finish up by asking you one last question. We’ve been talking about wisdom, things that you’ve learned. Let me ask you about what have you unlearned lately?
Something you absolutely positively knew to be true then, but now know, it’s just not the case.
Dilip Jests: [00:49:44] As a scientist in the beginning for years, I avoided the media general media because of the concern that they would misinterpret and then they would have their own biases and they would present along that line.
It doesn’t matter what you say. They would write whatever they wanted to and I fond that’s actually not the case. Again, there are, there are some barriers, but by and large, actually they are reasonable. I may disagree with them. However, they do a good job of representing you. And if I was misrepresented, it could be because I didn’t present myself well.
And so, I became much more empathic about them, that their job is to publish something that is newsworthy because they are competing with other people. So, they need to have some story that is publishable. That is exciting. That is surprising. I understand that. So, I need to tell my story in a way, that’ll make it publishable for them.
And because they are definitely, most of them, their job is to educate the public. Or at least steer the public in one direction, or at least let them know whatever they did. And again, when we talk about some major media, did most reporters are, the reports are pretty balanced. So, I realize increasingly that actually I need to work with them.
They are helpful. So, in terms of learning and unlearning, what I’m describing you is my impression about whole group of people was wrong because I was projecting onto them, what I heard from other people, but I, myself didn’t experience it. So, I based on that, but my experience has assured me that that is not the case.
So, when you used to be open minded, How about judging another constituency or another group of people that we should not assume, or we should not inherit the prejudices recess from our colleagues. But the colleagues may be wrong. So, it is useful to give a chance, work with people and see what you get.
Duff Watkins: [00:51:47] The key to that I think is I hear you is that you were empathetic towards them.
You took the effort to appreciate to try and understand what is it they need, what is it they want? What is their job? How can you help them do their job better? Look better. Meet them halfway and understanding that seemed to dissipate all the potential anxiety that was lurking in there. Not, not based on fact, not based on your experience.
Dilip Jests: [00:52:13] I, that that’s exactly right. And you know, I mean, I had a similar experience when I was running for the APA presidency. National election, of course, among the members of the APA and the largest psychiatric organizations some 40,000 members and so on. And when I decided to run, actually any people said that most of the members are clinicians and they said you are a researcher.
And so, you know, people won’t related. And you won’ t relate to them because you are living in an ivory tower of research and this is not the everyday practice that, that you are concerned with. And another thing they that told me it was when you talk to an audience, they’re not interested so much in learning about you, what you do.
They’re interested in learning what, what you think about them and how you are going to help them. That is what they want to hear. And just like we are talking or the media, that approach that I am here to understand what you want, and I’m going to try to meet those needs. Then I want you to meet my needs, which has to work for me or whatever, to write something, et cetera.
That really was really helpful that you need to give something to others before we expect them to give something for you. And it just starts with the empathy. You just grab their emotions, and they get yours.
Duff Watkins: [00:53:28] It starts with empathy. And we will finish on that note here today. Folks you’ve been listening to the podcasts 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn, our guest today has been Dr. Dilip Jeste author of a ‘Wiser, the scientific roots of wisdom’. You’ve been listening to us. So, we’d like to hear from you, you can contact us, email us firstname.lastname@example.org . Podcast at the number one, zero lessonslearned.com and we love to hear from you. This episode is produced by Robert Hossary, and it’s supported as always by Professional Development Forum, PDF, professionaldevelopmentforum.org.
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