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By Dr. Arthur Schwartz 

I joined the Character.org board in 2010 and one of the best decisions the board ever made was to encourage our staff to emphasize the different “gateways” where all of us learn about the importance of character. Beyond schools, character is surely formed in the home, while playing a sport, or being part of an after-school program. In addition, we know that emphasizing and modeling character enhances team performance in the workplace. 

When I became president in 2020, I started a podcast to talk to people across these different “gateways.” One of my favorite interviews was with Dr. Jim Loehr, a world-renowned performance psychologist and executive coach. 

Jim co-founded the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. He is the author of 19 books, including Leading With Character and the national bestseller The Power of Full Engagement

Jim recently sent me a copy of his latest book, Sapiens Reinvented. It’s completely different from all his previous books. It’s not about a particular component of leadership, character, or the science behind high performance. 

Rather, Sapiens Reinvented examines why humans have a propensity for violent aggression. Jim deeply fears that “our species is on a collision course with catastrophe.” He wrote the book to provide parents, teachers, and coaches with a “science-based training regimen” to help young people modify their propensity to use violence and aggression when conflict arises. 

I have a long standing habit of writing in books, and while reading Sapiens Reinvented, I couldn’t put my pen down. In less than 150 pages, Jim explains the science behind our “lizard brain” as well as the reasons why our species still uses pre-planned, predatory aggression. Throughout the book, Jim emphasizes the two competing codes at the core of our human nature: Our dual capacity to act with “extraordinary benevolence” yet also “chilling malevolence.” 

My favorite section of the book was Jim’s approach to “fixing the flaw” in our DNA. At the heart of Sapiens Reinvented is how we can rewire our “us vs them” instinct. 

Jim’s approach focuses on the insight that compassion and empathy are character muscles that can be strengthened like we can strengthen our physical muscles. What we need, he argues, is “repeated energy investment” — whether it’s talking about, visualizing, or writing about these (and other) character strengths. 

Jim knows it will not be easy for our species to replace our natural “me and mine” mindset with a more inclusive “we and us” orientation.  The final section of the book is a 20-week program for parents, teachers, and coaches that aims to create shared learning environments where kids can strengthen their compassion and empathy muscles, practice the skills of collaboration, and, most importantly, learn how to regulate their emotions to avoid reacting with aggression. 

I encourage everyone to read Sapiens Reinvented as well as share my post with family, friends, and colleagues.  

Finally, I felt impelled to write this article the moment I opened Jim’s book and read the handwritten note he penned to me: “Arthur, hope you find value in this read. I felt compelled to write it as I have a deep concern for the future of our species.

Jim’s “deep concern” has become his noble purpose. At an age when many retire, Jim wrote Sapiens Reinvented because he is committed to doing whatever he can to reduce future pain and suffering.

Jim Loehr’s noble purpose inspires me. And as I learned many years ago, I truly believe in the enduring wisdom of the expression: “To inspire, be inspired.”

Author’s Note: If a book, podcast, article, person, or organization has inspired you, I’d love to know about it. Email me at arthur@character.org  

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