Nearly four years ago, a close friend shared some fascinating material: overlooked research on the brain and behavior. It captured my attention as a speechwriter for the groundbreaking things it says about persuasion, but it hooked me even more for the sheer, weird truth of it, connecting seemingly unrelated human behavior across politics, ambition, creativity, business, and even love.
We were so taken with this material that we decided to write a book about it. I know many of you reading this have written or ghostwritten books, so you know the routine: write a proposal, shop it, and if an agent miraculously picks it up, hope for a publisher to say “yes.”
We knew that too, but we did something different and risky. We were so smitten with these ideas, and so committed to presenting them without interference (though I’m a speechwriter, I trained as a physicist, and my co-author is a psychiatrist) that we did things backward: Before we made any inquiries at all, we worked for two years to complete the manuscript.
In February 2017 we pitched agents and were pleased (read “relieved”) to receive offers of representation within 24 hours. By spring our new agents had sold the book, and, on August 14, 2018, our manuscript will be available online and in stores in the U.S.—and, in the coming months, in 10 countries and eight languages.
Our book is called The Molecule of More: How a single chemical in your brain drives love, sex, and creativity—and will determine the fate of the human race. The ideas in our book will be a boon to anyone who’s thought about why we do the things we do, but speechwriters will find them especially intriguing. We present an answer, grounded in science, to questions that until now have had no satisfying answer:
Why are we obsessed with the things we want—and bored when we get them?
Why is addiction perfectly logical to an addict?
Why does love change so quickly from passion to disinterest?
Why are some people diehard liberals and others hardcore conservatives, no matter the argument?
Why do winners cheat?
What is the link between creativity and madness?
Even this:Why do kids at Christmas play with the boxes instead of the toys?
The answer? A single chemical in your brain, dopamine.
Dopamine ensured the survival of early humans by rewarding us not for possessing things, but for pursuingthem—mostly food, sex, and shelter. In a world of cavemen, that was a formidable force for keeping you above ground, because the dopamine drive is undeterred by danger, unmoved by kindness, and unconcerned with right and wrong.
But in the age of grocery stores and Tinder swipes, that desperate urge is no longer necessary—yet it’s still in our brains, and it must be directed somewhere. Today, its effects are often to our benefit, building culture, friendships, ambition, and progress, but not always.
The urge for more has a dark side. Dopamine is that bit of biology that makes an ambitious professional sacrifice everything in pursuit of success, and that drives a satisfied spouse to risk it all for the thrill of someone new. It is why we seek and succeed; it is why we discover and prosper. At the same time, it’s why we gamble and squander, and indulge our own greed. It even points to why the world may end out of nowhere, and over the most trivial matter.
From dopamine’s point of view, it’s not the having that matters. It’s getting something—anything—that’s new, and potentially useful. Analyzing human behavior with this in mind yields a revolutionary new way to understand why we behave as we do in love, business, politics, and religion, and gives us a more precise ability to predict those behaviors in ourselves and others. Bestselling author Daniel Pink put it this way: after this “riveting read… [y]ou’ll better understand the human condition itself.”
As individuals who write for many and diverse audiences, you and I have a professional interest in that knowledge, but we also have a passion for it. That’s why we came to this profession in the first place. In that spirit, it was important to me not only to get the facts right, but also to craft prose my co-author and I would be proud for other writers to read. That’s one of the biggest reasons I’m proud to share our new book with you, the community of fellow speechwriters. Your standards are not only among the highest, your work is tested in front of the public every day.
We hope you’ll buy a copy of The Molecule of More, and we hope you’ll find its insights as intriguing—and as useful—as we do.