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Behaving as US: The Art of Cooperation

The NYC Daily Post interviewed Kenneth Scherr, author of “Behaving as US: the Art of Cooperation” to learn more about his path from draft to publication. His recently published book covers behavior, belief, and American unity, among other modern issues. In his interview, Kenneth Scherr explains the motivations and challenges he faced from research to bookshelf. His book is available here.

In a few sentences, how would you describe your book?

This is a truly enlightening message much bigger than me or any one political party. I take a step back from my beliefs to see the bigger picture ideas of how we can all come together despite our passionate differences. These psychology tricks are ultimately liberating in all aspects of your life, especially politics.

What led you to write and ultimately publish your book?

During the 2020 US Presidential election cycle, politics was consuming much of my focus, I couldn’t stop reading about and getting enthralled in the political drama. That Christmas, my sister, knowing I would find its discussion of progressive liberalism very insightful, gifted me the book “Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities” by John Mearsheimer. Electrified with what I was reading and how it related to the psychology I study (behavior analysis), one day I ran to my laptop and started writing all the thoughts that came to me about the psychological underpinnings to the concepts in his book.

I then continued this process for close to a dozen books, until I ultimately had more than a hundred pages of scratch work arguing why my political beliefs were ‘the best’. But after a few months of editing and trying to make the scratch work into a book with a theme, I quickly realized that another book like this is part of the problem… The world doesn’t need another person going around preaching that his political belief is the best, ignorantly assuming superiority of belief over counterparts who feel different–unable to listen and be critiqued.

That is when I made a huge pivot and scrapped most of the hundred plus pages of scratch work and started over– this time, with a purpose bigger than myself. My goal now is not to show why my political ideas are ‘the best’, but to help people with such passionate beliefs and overwhelming emotional relationship to politics act with humility and a genuine curiosity to understand others so that we can simmer what seems like the boiling over of the Great Melting Pot.

What challenges, if any, did you face throughout the process of writing your book?

The first big challenge was starting over, like I mentioned earlier. I had to give up the attachment I had to the ideas I had already written and give myself up to a greater mission. This is ultimately what I want to model for the reader, the humility to put your own ideas on the chopping block and graciously accept criticism.

Where does your book fall in the political spectrum?

As much as I would like to say my book is completely unbiased and directly center politically, I can see that the framework under which I write is classically liberal (not progressive, please note the difference). This book will definitely ruffle the feathers of authoritarians, but after all, people who think they are so correct in their belief that they are willing to use force to implement their truth over all else is exactly the problem I am setting out to solve with my book… so it makes sense.

Can you walk us through your thought process in selecting material for your book?

As I said earlier, I started by writing all the connections I saw between the psychology I study and about a dozen books ranging from political philosophy, taxes, voting, and even “The Art of War” — that’s why the subtitle of my book is “The Art of Cooperation”.

Then, during my first round of editing and trying to piece together all the scratch work, I read “Behave” by Robert Sapolsky and it completely changed the trajectory of my book and my life. The title of my book “Behaving as US” is directly inspired from that book. From then on, my mission became promoting unity and humility. I spent the later part of two years digging into the recent peer reviewed research surrounding cooperation and wrestling out a simple yet powerful formula to help unite even the most segregated.

What, if any, information didn’t make it into your final draft?

This is a great question. Much of the time I spent proofreading the final draft was to see if there were any glaring topics I did not cover. And of course, there are. One big idea is generalization, and it is at the heart of why we are so divided into “us and them”. Generalization can be understood by the person who hears that their neighbor is pro-choice (or pro-life) and assume them to be some crazy libtard (or Christian wackjob).

It’s a natural thing to do, but sometimes if our generalization runs unchecked, we will think our neighbors are monsters simply because we’ve heard one simple idea about them but haven’t gotten to know them!

Which part of your book was the most enjoyable to research and write? Which part was the least enjoyable?

Everything was fun to work on and struggle with. I was setting out to learn and challenge myself, and that’s what I did! I will say, the hardest part was making sure none of my personal beliefs got unimportantly thrown in. I tried my best to make this message much bigger than myself and see the bigger picture.

Who is your book’s ideal reader?

Everyone can benefit from reading my book, but I am really trying to get the message to American voters who need a revitalized message of unity, love, and classic American values. I know my message will be worst received by the people most in need of hearing it, people who are the most zealous about their beliefs, the authoritarians, the far left, the far right, those with too much of their happiness riding on being right all the time.

That is where the people who share my mission come into play. I cannot do it alone. I need the help of people who want to see the world come together to get this message to those who need to hear the most.

Do you have anyone you would like to acknowledge?

I am very grateful to my parents who have always been encouraging in my dreams and telling me I can do anything I put my absolute focus into. I am grateful for my awesome friends who I talked with daily about my book. They gave a really great push back on all of my ideas and were wonderful critiques. I am also grateful for my siblings and others in my life I share great connections with everyone around me has helped in tremendous ways.

What types of books do you enjoy reading? What’s on your to-read list now?

I really enjoy reading about psychology, obviously, but I am equally enthused with finance, money, business, and entrepreneurship. On that note I would highly recommend reading “Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Survived Slavery and Became Millionaires” by Shomari Williams. Also, I would highly recommend reading “A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters” by Dr. Steven Hayes.

Which three words would you use to describe yourself?

Liberated. Curious. Human.

You can find the digital or paperback version of “Behaving as US: The Art of Cooperation” on Amazon.

Feature Image: Courtesy of Kenneth Scherr

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