I read Influence Is Your Superpower by Zoe Chance earlier this year. One of my big takeaways was a concept I had read about other places but I liked her description best. There are two processes for processing thoughts. System 1 is mostly monitors for threats and opportunities. It is mostly controlled by the amygdala, which means it is a lot of emotion and actions unconsciously and automatically. It bypasses the neocortex. She calls this Gator Brain.

System 2 is conscious and rational. This takes a little longer (sometimes only seconds longer, but often much longer). It weighs and analyzes. She calls this Judge Brain.

I am currently reading Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. He discusses the split a bit differently. A cocky samurai once approached a Zen master who was deep in meditation. Impatient and discourteous, the samurai demanded, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” The Zen master opened his eyes, looked the samurai in the face, and replied with a certain scorn, “Why should I answer to a shabby, disgusting, despondent slob like you? A worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything? I can’t stand you. Get out of my sight. I have no time for silly questions.” The samurai was deeply insulted and consumed by rage, he drew his sword and raised it to sever the master’s head at once. Looking straight into the samurai’s eyes, the Zen master tenderly declared, “That’s hell.”

The samurai froze. He immediately understood that anger had him in his grip. His mind had just created his own hell—one filled with resentment, hatred, self-defense, and fury. Setting his sword aside, the samurai put his palms together and bowed in gratitude for this insight. The Zen master gently acknowledged with a delicate smile, “And that’s heaven.”

I (and each of those authors) put those two together and say that it isn’t that there is no room for emotion. Rather, emotion is a necessary component of rational decisions. However, you need to be aware of it and when the Gator is taking over. By being aware, you then have the choice of 1) Acting on it right then, 2) Acting on it later, and 3) Letting it go.

This is helpful for us and how we choose to act. As business owners, it is often easy to let the Gator take over. It is fast and energy efficient (at the moment). However, it can often lead to short-term relief to have a decision made turned into long-term problems because full consequences have not been explored. Or as the Sun Tzu quote goes: “Who wishes to fight must first count the cost.” Gator Brain can be and lead to Hell if we allow it to take over the job of the Judge Brain. All the deliberations may not feel like Heaven, but if done well and often, the results are likely much closer to it.