Last night at the cinema I watched the new release A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks, who portrays the life of the late American children’s television personality Fred Rogers.
Having grown up in Australia, I never watched the preschool television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and thanks mainly to Morgan Neville’s acclaimed documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I have only recently been made aware of the phenomenon which ran from 1968 to 2001.
With his efforts to educate both children and adults on the benefits of emotional intelligence (EQ), and how it can make the World a better place, Rogers was certainly ahead of his time.
After retiring from professional rugby 10 years ago, I struggled emotionally with my transition into the next phase of life, which led me on a path of self-awareness and growth. During this personal development journey, I discovered a passion for EQ, how it contributes to enhanced connected relationships, and it’s role in achieving excellence in my personal and professional life.
You can imagine my delight when Mr. Rogers appeared on my radar. Until then, my research had revealed Dan Goleman as the guru of EQ, after making the term popular with his 1995 best selling book Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ.
Goleman uses neuroscience to back up his theories of why EQ is so important for success and harmony in all aspects of life, and has sparked a revolution, particularly in the business world, where leaders are starting to understand and recognize EQ for being just as important, if not more than IQ, especially with regards to high performance and a winning team culture.
For me, Fred Rogers was already making EQ popular through his kids television program, long before it’s current day, science backed conceptualization. This is powerfully demonstrated in one of Mister Rogers’ children’s songs called “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”, the lyrics of which he recited to US congress while fighting to save the show amidst threat of PBS funding cuts. He nervously and passionately read the following:
What do you do with the mad that you feel? When you feel so mad you could bite. When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right. What do you do? Do you punch a bag? Do you pound some clay or some dough? Do you round up friends for a game of tag or see how fast you go? It’s great to be able to stop when you’ve planned the thing that’s wrong. And be able to do something else instead ― and think this song ―
“I can stop when I want to. Can stop when I wish. Can stop, stop, stop anytime... And what a good feeling to feel like this! And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a lady, and a boy can be someday a man.”
The rejuvenation of Mister Rogers’ legacy on modern digital media platforms, thanks to the acclaimed 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, has highlighted the need for EQ education in school curriculums, so that children may begin their conditioning into highly functional, cooperative adults. Surely this would help reduce the incidence of anxiety, depression and suicide in teens and young adults, as well as violent episodes such as the mass school shootings we are seeing with alarming regularity?
Today, Mister Rogers’ mission of spreading the message of empathy, kindness, acceptance and understanding throughout the world is being delivered on a much bigger stage, by Hollywood heavyweight Tom Hanks, with his stunning performance in It’s a Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood. Not only does this warm and feel-good production outline the correlation between emotional intelligence and happiness, it openly demonstrates how it is also a skill that is often difficult to execute and requires constant practice.
It is virtually impossible to finish watching this film, and not want to be a better person. Which leads me to my next question – How emotionally intelligent do you think you are? Here’s a quick test you can take right now to give you some baseline awareness.
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Inspiring emotional intelligence will be one of 3 game changing topics explored at the LA Workplace Summit on January 23rd. Get your tickets now before they sell out because places are limited!