Tibor Shanto asked me to review the book Emotional Equations by Chip Conley because he knows I have been studying the topic of emotional intelligence (EQ) over the past 10 years and have incorporated the importance of understanding one’s EQ into my corporate training business. The title of Mr. Conley’s book intrigued me. As I read it, I liked the idea of attaching equations to emotions to add meaning and to help manage the hold our emotions can sometimes have on us.  From an EQ perspective, labeling our emotions is the first step in being able to manage them effectively.

Despair = Suffering – Meaning

The above equation is the first one Chip (I’ll use his first name now as we are getting a bit more intimate with his story) uses to illustrate how this equation helped him rise above some extreme hardships he was experiencing in his life.

Within about a 2 year time span Chip lost 5 friends to suicide (one close friend who was also named Chip), his son was wrongly convicted and sent to prison, and his business was close to bankruptcy. During this difficult time Chip turned to a variety of sources that inspired him to overcome his despair. One was Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation which inspired a previous book Chip had written, Peak. The other was by psychologist Viktor Frankl who wrote the compelling memoir Man’s Search for Meaning which documents Frankl’s daily life in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.  I have read Frankl’s book and it is a powerful read. If you or anyone you know is currently feeling sorry for themselves, have them read this book. It illustrates the extremes human beings can endure and it is that perspective that led Chip to attach the above equation to his current experience.  As Frankl postulates in his psychological analysis of his 3-year concentration experience, man can endure virtually anything as long as he can find meaning to the suffering.  Chip applied this idea to his own situation and created the equation Despair = Suffering – Meaning.

Once Chip created this equation, he continued his research and sought out various experts in different disciplines including mathematics and psychology, and found that equations were used in a number of different ways. Chip continued his research by going to the Kingdom of Bhutan to study happiness where Gross National Happiness is an indicator of the country’s success. Chip clearly conducted a substantial amount of research prior to writing his book and cites many experts in a variety of disciplines.

Shortly after I finished reading Emotional Equations, my mother was hospitalized and while undergoing a procedure she experienced a heart attack on the table.  I was with her in the hospital before and after the procedure and as her only daughter wanted to do whatever I could to make the situation better.  My mother can be difficult, from her daughter’s perspective, at the best of times and while I was trying to do everything to assist her, it was very stressful for both of us. From my perspective, I felt I was bending over backwards to meet all her needs yet it never seemed to be enough. My emotions were being taxed. So this is where I tried to incorporate the main focus of Chip’s book and that is to attach an equation to a difficult situation in order to potentially see it in a new light and diminish the overall stress. The equation that developed for me over the stress with my mother is as follows….

Duty  = Compassion  – Resentment

In analyzing the situation, I felt I had a sense of duty to do all I could for my mother. She, again from my point of view, did not seem to appreciate my efforts, so while I was trying to be compassionate about her situation with respect to her poor health and the dynamics of working our way through hospital administrivia, I was feeling some resentment that I could not be fully appreciated by my mother. Once I documented my own emotional equation I did feel that it added a higher level of understanding to my situation and I was able to continue to perform my duty, by increasing my compassion and lowering my resentment.

Because of my personal and business interest in the topic of emotions and emotional intelligence, I did enjoy Chip Conley’s book. The timing with my personal situation with my mother, added a practical application which made it that much more meaningful.

Please connect with me for dynamic learning workshops on the Many Faces of Emotional Intelligence; Engaging Employees; Critical Decision-Making; Dynamic Teams; Exceptional Customer Service; True Colors; Leadership is a Choice….

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Linda Beck
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